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Wednesday 19 December 2012

Last Minute Gift Ideas

I'm not going to lie. I am in a state of panic that I haven't quite yet got Christmas in the bag and I have less than 48 hours to get myself ready. (Can one ever be ready for Christmas?)

Since I cannot be the only person in this position, and since I would never suggest anybody attempt a visit to 'the shops' at this late stage, here's a quick selection of ideas should you be needing them. I am doing the biscotti this afternoon, so don't think I'm all mouth and no trousers about this.

My criteria is simple: multiple gifts from one kitchen session, easy-to-grab-from-the-local-shops ingredients and less than an hour to make from start to finish. Hope you are soothed!

This year's biscotti are flavoured with orange and contain hazelnuts and almonds - use whatever nuts you fancy in this recipe, and don't bother with the egg wash. I mean, do you really have time?

Make some jam. Grab a bag of frozen berries from the freezer of the supermarket and some jam sugar, and you're good to go.

Macarons are so much easier than you think. Don't be scared. Not for the faint-hearted, but cheap and impressive.

This gingerbread is the best recipe on my blog for Christmas gift giving. Help yourself. Treacle can be a pain to find - use golden syrup, or at a push, marmalade. You'll just have orange gingerbread instead. Who wouldn't like that?

If you have the power tools (a blender will do), make some peanut butter. I would love a jar of this!

Am I crazy to suggest this ice-cream? Flavoured with spices and brandy, it would be a great Christmas gift. Just package it up in paper cups with lids. Brilliant. No ice-cream maker required.

Have a wonderful Christmas if I don't get to post again beforehand!

Friday 14 December 2012

OXO Salad Spinner Winner (What a great title!)

Now. By my reckoning we had 45 comments for the salad spinner giveaway. I need to think of a new system for this. Writing all the names down is killing me.

Anyhoo, we have a winner: Number 36, who is Laura. She told me, in no uncertain terms that -

My favourite salad would have to be a simple, rocket, Parmesan & balsamic vinegar - oh with a pinch of rock salt.... so simple and delicious!

Now, I disagree. Rock salt can break teeth. But the rest of it sounds great! Laura, please get in touch so I can get your spinner sent out to you. 

The rest of you, have a great weekend. I'm off to buy a tree tomorrow!

Thursday 13 December 2012

Pink Grapefruit Marmalade

There's a lot of Christmassy stuff happening on the Internet right now. Hoardes of people are posting on Facebook about what they are buying for who, and some of the blogs I follow have posted gift buying guides for the greedy gourmets in your lives.

I'm not dismissing their efforts (who wouldn't want one of these?), and I am NOT deliberately being a bore, but I can't help feeling the need to point out that it does not mean that you have to spend money on over-priced tat to show someone that you love them at this time of year.

Make them something instead.

There's been a rule in my family since time immemorial that we don't buy gifts for everybody. It's a complicated system based on age (as opposed to merit), and since I am now thirty, I don't qualify as a child by any means. Historically, we've never bought gifts for extended family (aunts, uncles etc.), so that puts me in a pickle as an adult, because I'd like to. Cooking is my way of getting around the ban.

I haven't always been successful at making things people actually want. The first batch of chutney I ever made was completely un-delicious (although my family ate it). But I got better. And there are things I've made that some people actually get in touch with me about in early December to see if I'll be doing them again. I might round them up later this week actually, since some of the recipes are on the blog.

That's pain poilâne, btw, and I have a terrible OCD relating to its consumption. 
The curved, top crust has to be facing my right and the flat bottom, my left. 
This way I can nibble from the top of the loaf to the bottom. Am I making myself at all clear?

This marmalade is a new addition to the hamper hit-parade. I wanted to make some in January with Seville oranges, and add dried cranberries to it, but it never happened. So this is my pink grapefruit version. It's delightfully bitter (Campari Soda alone cannot keep me in this perpetual bad mood), and can be personalised easily. You say you'd prefer thicker shreds? Slice accordingly. Don't like the idea of grapefruit? Use limes (maybe add some ginger!), lemons, oranges or even clementines. Or a mixture.

A pot of marmalade and a loaf of gingerbread is the perfect way to say Happy Christmas. Especially to the people who hated your chutney and ate it anyway.

Pink Grapefruit Marmalade

You will need:

750g pink grapefruit (2 of them)
1.5 kg granulated sugar
juice of 2 lemons

  1. Half the grapefruits. Juice them, and then slice the rinds (literally, the whole thing - everything that's left after juicing) as thinly or thickly as you like. I think very thinly is better, but will allow you the freedom to choose.
  2. Put the juice, rinds and 1.9 litres of water into a large bowl, and leave to soak overnight.
  3. Transfer the grapefruit, water and juice to a large (LARGE!) pan, and cook gently for a few hours until the rind is soft. The liquid will have reduced by about a third.
  4. Add the sugar and lemon juice. Stir until the sugar has dissolved. Then boil rapidly until the setting point (* see note) has been reached. This took about 30 minutes for me, though start checking at 15.
  5. Turn off the heat. Stir gently for a few minutes, to disperse any bubbles, and pour into hot, sterilised jars (* see note). Seal immediately with new lids. Use within 2 years.
NB: To check for setting point: when you start boiling the marmalade, put a saucer in the freezer to chill. After boiling for the required time, drop small dribbles of the marmalade onto the saucer and wait a moment. If, when you poke the puddle of marmalade with your finger the surface forms a wrinkle, the setting point has been reached.

I re-use jars. This recipe will fill 6-7 regular sized ones. To sterilise them, wash the jars (remove any labels) in hot soapy water, then rinse them. Place right side up on a baking sheet and dry them off in a 100°C oven. I leave them in there at that temperature until I'm ready to fill them. I also sterilise the lids by boiling them for 10 minutes. I buy my lids new. Get them from your local kitchen supply store.

Monday 10 December 2012

OXO Salad Spinner Review and Give-Away: Carrot and Peanut Salad

I hate this blue-hued photo. But I had to leave the house soon afterwards so we're sticking with it. There's a cake I can post in a few days that will rid the front page of this monstrosity and all will be well at Delicious Delicious Delicious once more.

I look back at this salad series and I think 2 things. The first is that my efforts look pretty half-arsed, which I don't like, because I don't DO half-arsed, I do full-force. The second is that I think it's really obvious from looking at them how I treat a salad. It's rarely the centre of my meal, but then it's not just green leaves at the side of a plate either. I like to load my salads with vegetables and fruit. They're my vehicle for getting 5-a-day.

This  one, despite my dislike of the photo, is my absolute favourite. My mum used to make it, but I never tell anyone that because I like them to think it was my idea. If you take this to a friend's BBQ, people you meet for the first time there will come and tell you how amazing you are for thinking it up. I promise. And you don't need to tell them you got the idea from me, since, well, everything tastes better with peanuts. Right? It really COULD be something you just thought of.

You can add ginger too - a little fresh, grated stuff makes all the difference. Literally: it turns it into something quite different. But it's perfect with just these two ingredients, so don't sweat it if you have none in.

RE: the fabulous Give-Away - I'm not home until Wednesday, so take an extension if you like. It's not like you'll turn into a pumpkin if you comment after midnight or anything, is it?

A re-hash of the giveaway rules, because rules control the fun:

  • Leave a comment on this post letting me know what your favourite salad is. Maybe you hate salad and you want this for someone else. That's fine. I'm not going to judge you.
  • If you prefer, leave the comment on the Delicious Delicious Delicious Facebook Page. You can like us as well! We'd love it if you did.
  • Comments will close at midnight on Monday 10 December 2012 Wednesday 12 December 2012. Winners will be selected at random shortly after. 
  • Open to all people, everywhere.
  • Email entries not accepted. 
Carrot and Peanut Salad

You will need:


  1. I don't mean to be stupid about this, but well... Peel and chop the carrots. Stir in the nuts. You're done.

Monday 3 December 2012

OXO Salad Spinner: Review and Give-Away - Beetroot and Grapefruit Salad with Wild Rocket

Giving away one of these, blah blah blah.

So many people are anti-grapefruit and even more anti-beetroot that I don't really know if I dare do this. But, well, I have the picture, we ate the salad... It sort of makes sense to continue.

Rocket does fall into both the 'ridiculously overpriced' and 'bagged' categories of the salad world, but despite this, also seems to sit at or near the top of the unspoken hierarchy that exists among leafy greens. I both love and hate it. Love it for it's peppery kick; hate it because it's become so frickin' trendy that it's all the supermarkets will stock anymore. You want radicchio in my area? Chicory? Well, get an allotment, Baby Doll, because The Co-Op's not going to help you.

Rocket always reminds me of when Perce and I were visiting our friends Dorota and Szymon in Poland and they drove us to Hel (all very Chris Rea, I know, but bear with me). They had a, well, a bit of a disagreement on the way over where to stop and eat (so glad it's not just us who argue in front of other people!), and while staring out of the window waiting patiently for them to finish, I noticed that the whole of one side of the peninsula was covered in a thick, green carpet of rocket leaves. I felt quite pleased with myself for identifying it (a hunter gatherer through and through, that's me) but was even more pleased to try the spear-shaped leaves 'in the wild'. They are crazily hot. 'Peppery' doesn't really describe what proper wild rocket tastes like - if you ever see some, make sure to pick a little to make a salad, because it's nothing like cultivated stuff. I know how annoying it is to hear things like that, but I'm just telling you the truth.

A quick note: this salad looks prettier un-tossed, which is why it's not in the photo. But the dressing is what makes it, so don't skip that step.

Beetroot and Grapefruit Salad with Wild Rocket

You will need:

(For 2 people.)

2 hands full of rocket leaves
2 grapefruit (I like pink - don't look so surprised)
2 or 3 small cooked beetroot, chopped into chunks
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

  1. Put the rocket and beetroot into a bowl.
  2. Peel and de-segment the grapefruits over another bowl to catch the juice. I cut the fruit away from the membranes too, but you don't have to: just sliced is fine. Add the grapefruit to the bowl of rocket and beetroot.
  3. Make a dressing of oil, the reserved juice and salt and pepper. Make sure to taste it. It should be sharp and not too oily. Add a little lemon juice if your grapefruit are very sweet.
  4. Dress the salad and toss well. Serve immediately.

Wednesday 28 November 2012

OXO Salad Spinner: Review and Give-Away - Winter Salad of Red Cabbage and Walnuts

Eek. I am so busy that I can't even bear it. However, I promised salad, and you'll damn well get one.

In case you weren't aware from the title, the lovely people at OXO are giving away one of their amazingly fantastic salads spinners. You can read all about that here. But here's the first of my favourite salads to share with you.

I say 'favourite', though this is actually a stripped down version of the one I'd usually make because I didn't have any dried cranberries. Somebody had eaten them all.

I shall save the pointing finger of accusation for later.

I love the idea of a 'Winter' salad. I recognise that on some level using cabbage instead of lettuce takes this mere baby steps away from coleslaw, but as someone who loves to eat that particular plasti-tubbed delight late at night, standing in front of the fridge, I make no apologies. Anyway, the spices in this dressing make it taste completely different to how you might think.

A salad spinner makes cabbage salad a breeze to prepare. I find you can often get grit in between the leaves of red cabbage, despite them being so tightly packed together (like in the insides of leeks - how does it get in there?), and a quick spin does the job of deep cleansing (not just for skin care, folks)  nicely.

Obviously add more dressing as you eat. I was in a rush to take a photo!

Oh yeah, one last thing. A re-hash of the giveaway rules:

  • Leave a comment on this post letting me know what your favourite salad is. Maybe you hate salad and you want this for someone else. That's fine. I'm not going to judge you.
  • If you prefer, leave the comment on the Delicious Delicious Delicious Facebook Page. You can like us as well! We'd love it if you did.
  • Comments will close at midnight on Monday 10 December 2012. Winners will be selected at random shortly after. 
  • Open to all people, everywhere.
  • Email entries not accepted.  
Winter Salad of Red Cabbage and Walnuts

You will need:

1/4 red cabbage
1 carrot
a handful of dried cranberries, should you have them
the same of walnuts
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp coriander seeds
6 tbsp natural yogurt
salt and pepper

  1. Shred the cabbage and wash. Spin dry.
  2. Peel and chop the carrot - I like mine in big, irregular chunks. Mix with the cabbage.
  3. Toast the walnuts lightly in a dry frying pan. Set aside.
  4. Toast the spices in the same pan; grind them to powder in a pestle and mortar and add to the yogurt. Season with salt and pepper. This is your dressing.
  5. Layer the cabbage and carrots on a dish. Top with walnuts and optional cranberries, and as much or as little dressing as you wish. Serve with hot flat breads (God bless my local Lebanese store!).

Monday 26 November 2012

OXO Salad Spinner: Review and Give-Away

Salad: it's a dirty job, but somebody has to do it.

I might just change your life today. And then you'd forgive the fact that YET AGAIN I have left it far too long without an update.

Earlier this year, I had one of those conversations that start out of nothing with an elderly lady in my local supermarket. Want to know what it was about? Bagged salad.

I hate those stupid packets of pre-washed leaves that seem to spoil as soon as you open them. They are so, so, so ridiculously expensive. Do me a favour and compare the price (do the maths properly and work out the price per hundred grams!) of bagged lettuce or whatever versus its whole, shrink-wrapped cousin next time you're shivering in front of those overly effective chillers. You'll see.

Clearly my old lady friend was thinking the same.

'In my day, ' she said, somewhat gravely, 'we used a salad spinner. These bagged up ones (the salads - she was holding a packet of frisée as it happens) go bad after a day of being open.'

'My mum used to have one of those.' I offered. 'It was day-glo orange plastic and made a growling noise when you turned the handle.'

I couldn't tell if she was listening or not.

We both chose a packet of two Little Gems and went our separate ways. I wondered if she still had a salad spinner and if it was a day-glo orange model, and promptly resolved to steal my mum's cranky old one when I next went home.

As it happens, I forgot to and much time passed. I forgot all about spinners and continued washing my salad and draining it in a colander as usual, not minding the slightly limp leaves that this method produces. After all, I'd been eating salad like that for years (and if I'm honest, I always try and get away with not washing the lettuce anyway. The French always seem to get away without.)

Then, months ago now (I'm a slacker) I had an email from a rep for OXO, asking if I would like to try any of their range of baking products. I use a few already - I love their dough scoopfor portioning cookie dough before baking - and was looking through their range online when I noticed they also made rather funky looking salad spinners.

In a flash of inspiration I asked to give one a trial, thinking that the humble salad could take centre stage on the blog for once. We really can't always have sugar on the front page. It's not a good way to live.

Happily, OXO are letting me give away a brand spanking new Good Grips Salad Spinner(the link is to a slightly different model, the spinner is actually like mine in the pictures) to one lucky reader. We'll get to that later. First, let's check out what's so great about said salad spinners.


Here's the empty spinner. You'll notice straight off that it's not day-glo orange, and I can only apologise to you for that. Please remember that I am not the designer.

You'll also notice that there's no cranky little handle to turn. That's because the OXO spinner is automatic! You just push down on the lid, and your salad will spin away until all the water (or nearly all of it) is no longer clinging to the leaves, but instead collecting at the bottom of the bowl leaving you with dry, crisp salad to dress as you wish.

Look at it go!

The little point of design genius, as far as this salad maker can tell, if the little ridged point in the centre of the bowl. This keeps the leaves in their basket above the water level, so you get dry salad for no effort whatsoever. Amazing. You can also (or at least, I did) dress the leaves and serve the salad right out of the plastic bowl itself.

I noticed that a reviewer on Amazon has said what I am trying to get across in a much more efficient and direct way. Let's enlist the help of our good friends the quotation marks!

"be honest. can you live your life without a salad spinner? you probably can. but should you? no.

so if you're going to get one then this is the one for you. the central button you just push down and it spins your bits inside like there's no tomorrow. no longer do you have to contend with a rotating handle like on old-fashioned salad spinners that tend to fly off your counter and pierce you in the eye.

the oxo rocks."

I know you want one. Here's how (short of just going out and buying your own) you can get it.

I will be posting a mini-series of salads. Most likely there'll be three of them, but heck, I might do more. Simply leave a comment on any of those posts, or this one, telling me what your favourite salad is.

The rules (must have rules) are as follows:

  • Leave a comment on this post letting me know what your favourite salad is. Maybe you hate salad and you want this for someone else. That's fine. I'm not going to judge you.
  • If you prefer, leave the comment on the Delicious Delicious Delicious Facebook Page. You can like us as well! We'd love it if you did.
  • Comments will close at midnight on Monday 10 December 2012. Winners will be selected at random shortly after. 
  • Open to all people, everywhere.
  • Email entries not accepted. 

Monday 12 November 2012

Chewy Treacle Spice Cookies

 I'm not suggesting you eat this many cookies at once. Honestly.

I think I remember once reading an article about how Tina Turner starts every day off by chanting and that she thinks that's what keeps her (and her legs) looking young and in tip-top condition. Or maybe that's what she says in What's Love Got To Do With It. I can't be sure.

It's odd what comes to your mind while you sit waiting for your computer's anti-virus to update 'quickly' and 'hassle-free'. (Ha! Whatever. I've been here hours and am sick of restarting...)

That's a harrowing film in some parts by the way. Not Sunday afternoon viewing, that's for sure.

Anyway, the chanting. The chanting is related to today's post. Do me a favour? Repeat after me:

"My mixer is powerful. It must be used with care."

Chant it. Feel it.

It's not just Tina who needs to start the day off right. If you aren't careful, and don't keep the speed low, your stand mixer will chuck sugar all over the place when you start to make these cookies. If you're not actually using a mixer, well, you can skip the chant if you wish. You'll be just fine, although your elbows won't thank you.

It came upon me, last week, as I put together the little menu at the side over there to help visitors to this site better find what they are looking for (in the middle of a sleepless night, without the heating on - I hope someone actually uses the thing!), that we don't have enough cookie recipes around here. Keen to put this right, I'm offering these in some ways seasonal treats. They were born out of a cupboard clear out, but I am beginning to think they might be the best cookies I've ever made.

I wanted to make a treacle toffee flavoured biscuit. I missed Bonfire Night this year, and thus got no toffees. I'm not going to lie, the first week of November was as a result tinged with a certain melancholy, but I managed, luckily, to pull myself together, put on my best heels and find for myself the happiness I was seeking in the bottom of my mixing bowl.

The answer is always in baking, my people. Always.

Just treacle, though, seemed a little dull as far as flavour was concerned. I know there will be those of you who are waiting for me to say that I added chocolate to the mix, and will be upset that I didn't. But I say to thee, and not for the first time, that chocolate is over-rated; I find it difficult to get excited about.

Spice though, drives me wild. There's a moment in the making of this cookie dough (when you add the dry ingredients at the end) that scents the air so strongly with the fragrance of brown sugar, cinnamon and cloves that it is just... Indecent. I nearly passed out.

I've had these knocking around in the tin for a week now (the recipe makes around 30 cookies) and can confirm that not only do they keep very well, they actually improve with age. So I'd say you need to plan your cookie craving about three to four days in advance.

That will be all. Thank you.

Chewy Treacle Spice Cookies

You will need:

125g butter
200g granulated sugar (plus a little extra for later, around 50g will do)
120g soft dark brown sugar
2 eggs
150g treacle
250g self raising flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or just a large bowl, and use a wooden spoon - I'll award you 5 old skool cool points accordingly), put the butter and sugars. Mix on low speed until smooth. There's a lot of sugar so it won't turn creamy, but you do want everything to cohere.
  2. Add the eggs and treacle; beat on medium speed for 2 minutes or until thoroughly combined.
  3. Mix the dry ingredients together in a separate bowl and add them, a scoop at a time, to the treacle mixture, beating on low speed the whole time.
  4. The dough will be very soft. Chill in the fridge for an hour (or overnight, or for up to three days, if you'd rather spread the process over several days) to firm slightly.
  5. Pre-heat the oven to 160°C and line two baking trays with parchment. Form balls of dough about the size of a golf ball and roll in the extra granulated sugar (you could add a little cocoa to it if you wanted a gentle chocolate flavour as well as the spice); bake well spaced apart on the baking sheets for 16 minutes or until the centres are set. Cool completely on the baking trays.
  6. Store airtight. Will keep for up to a week, no problem.

Thursday 8 November 2012

Adagio Tea Set Winners

I am pleased to be able to announce that we have winners to announce.

I realised halfway through this whole tea shizzle that I didn't really consider the best way to get you all to comment. It would have been MUCH easier for me if I had said that you could all leave me a message in the same place. But no. I stupidly wrote three posts and accepted Facebook entries as well. I am a fool.

So here's what I've just done. I made myself a hot Ribena, slapped on some Leona Lewis (I sing along to try and widen my vocal range!), sat down and copied out the names of all the commenters. From all 4 (!) locations. I only wrote your name down once if you left several comments; it felt too mean to discount people entirely since my instructions perhaps weren't that clear.


Witness the list!

Enter Random.org and my screen grabs. Took me ages to figure out how to get those. You can tell I haven't worked in an office for years, can't you?

Our first winning comment came from Commenter #8, Mr. Rolfe, who said:

'I would like a taste of Ti Kaun Yin. As one of China's most beloved oolongs, her intriguing lingering floral aroma is enough to make anyone scream "Ooooh Darjeeling!" :)'

Well, quite, Mr. Rolfe. Quite.

 Next up is #18, World In A Cup, who commented:

 'When I first moved to England I thought I'd hit the jackpot: a tea-lover moving to the promised land of tea -- it was a match made in heaven! That is, until I set out to re-stock my tea cupboard (OHYES I have one of those!) and was sorely disappointed... The tea bag is ubiquitous! It's an abomination! Loose leaf tea is the only way to go. So, rather than getting lost on the fashionable streets of London trying to ferret out the very best of loose-leaf tea the capital has to offer, I settled on the easy option: every time I go home to my frost-nipped Sweden, I bring pound after pound of the most beautifully scented loose leaf tea with me. (For survival purposes only, of course)

I'd love to try the White Blueberry, since white teas otherwise tend to be sold in an unadulterated state. I'm ready for some excitement! (And I would love to see the look on my family's faces when I tell them this Christmas that I won't be filling my suitcase up with tea... I have been made fun of long enough!)'

I want to visit Sweden - if there's a space in your suitcase that won't be getting filled with tea, let me know. I'll hop in!

#46, Katerina Kigitzi, is next:

'I love them (from Greece)'

 And then we have #41, Ondrej Srb:

'I would love to try some of the green tea but what I'm really after is the teapot LOL.'

It's a great pot! You're going to love it.

Our final winner is Lily Beltain, who was #25 on my list:

'I've never had White tea, but it looks quite exciting. I've just started buying proper tea after finally getting around to procuring a teapot! One of my earliest tea memories was making my Mother her daily cup of Earl Grey, but misunderstanding the instructions, and putting 3 teaspoons of tea-leaves into her mug rather than the pot! At least she pretended to drink it :D'

I've never tried white tea either, but it's on my list! Let me know how it goes.

Congratulations guys, and get in touch with your delivery details so I can pass them on to Adagio. Thanks to all who entered, and to Adagio for their kind offer to provide tea not just for review but also to give away to you lot!

Friday 2 November 2012

Review and Give-Away: Adagio Tea Sets

 Golden Monkey

Today, we continue The Adagio Trilogy. Reflecting on what has past, I feel sad that this is coming to an end; one wonders how Francis Ford-Coppola felt after The Godfather Part III.

Incidentally, I don't really like those films. I know many of you will be shocked, and perhaps even take offence, but I can't help you. People regularly slate Pretty Woman and I have to deal with it.

Today's tea, I confess, was selected by yours truly as a sample because of its name. I adore it; tell me you don't feel the same.

I was initially thinking that the 'Golden Monkey' may have been harvested by long-fingered primates, like those oolong teas you sometimes read about, but apparently all that stuff is poppycock. Shame. I rather like the idea.

This is a black tea from China, and has a great scent. I get a definite cocoa fragrance, and whereas I personally wouldn't add milk to it, I can see that it would taste great with a little added.

The liquor (had to get that word in one of these posts somewhere!) is a deep, rusty brown, and tastes good and strong. A small mug of this in the afternoon has made a fantastic pick me up over the last three days and I suspect it will do the same tomorrow as well.

I wanted just to point out (since I forgot to in my last posts) another great feature of Adagio's website: the cost per cup information. I doubt many people can visualise what 85g of Golden Monkey tea looks like. Thanks to the clear pricing, you can easily see that it would make 38 cups, at a cost of 32 pence each. That might sound treaty, but there are so many teas to choose from that I think most people would find something unique and to their taste without too much fuss. The Earl Grey Bravo, for example, is only 11 pence a cup. When you think about how much you pay for teas in chain coffee stores, it's actually quite shocking. Treat yourself at home instead, I say.

Adagio are kindly giving away 5 starter sets comprising of 4 teas (details below), a glass mug and an ingenuiTEA teapot to 5 lucky readers. The teas that are up for grabs are:

If you do the maths, you can see this is a serious haul, equal to £50 per set. For your chance to win, here's what you need to do:
  • Leave a comment on this post letting me know which tea you'd most like to try and why. Don't think you need to write an essay. This is just fun! I like silly answers just as much as serious ones.
  • If you prefer, leave the comment on the Delicious Delicious Delicious Facebook Page. You can like us as well! That's fine too.
  • Comments will close at midnight on Monday 5 November 2012. Winners will be selected at random shortly after. 
  • Open to all people, everywhere.
  • Email entries not accepted. Nor are multiple entries. But you can ask friends or colleagues to enter on your behalf if you like.

Wednesday 31 October 2012

Review and Give-Away: Adagio Tea Sets

Freshly brewed gyokuro

I'm just going to say right now that even though it is out of focus, I love this photo. So pretty and green.

In keeping with my giving away 5 sets of Adagio tea (US website here - I am nothing if not internationally minded), I present to you the second of my three samples: the gyokuro.

You might ask me, 'Mr. P, whatever, pray tell, is this gyokuro of which you speak?', or indeed, you might simply ask, 'Gyoku-what... Eh?'

Gyokuro, my dears, is the Bruce Springsteen of the tea world, the ne plus ultra of Japanese greens. I am happy to drink pretty much any green tea at least once or twice, but I always come back to gyokuro. I love the colour of it (the characters used to write the word gyokuro mean 'jewel' and 'dew', which just gets my inner poet right off, let me tell you), and I love the more pronounced flavour it seems to have than, say, standard sencha, which makes up the bulk of the Japanese green teas you tend to find over here. And indeed there. Once when I was buying some in a department store in Nagoya, the lady who served me at the counter explained that what makes this tea special was not so much the way it is processed, but how it is grown; several weeks before picking, the tea bushes are shaded from the sun with special screens. This is supposed to make the leaves a darker green and probably explains the gorgeous colour of the brewed tea.

An aside, for those who are baffled: I studied Japanese at university and lived in Japan as a student and after graduating. I know I normally mostly focus on cakes and sugar, but I wasn't lying when I said I loved tea in my last post. Some of that stems from my host family, who took tea quite seriously, or so it seemed to me when I lived with them. But anyway, the point is, I'm totally on the Japan side of things when in comes to green tea. I once took a tea class in Singapore, with Mr. Other P, and I think I annoyed the guy running it who said the best stuff came from China. But to me, Japanese green is fresh, deep and complex; Chinese can be, in my experience, a little too woodsy and heavy.

But to each their own! Let's not start something we can't finish...

This actually leads me back to Adagio. When I saw they carried gyokuro, I was really excited. You never see it in tea shops in the UK, or at least I don't, and it had never occurred to me to try an online supplier.

I just wish I'd known sooner; this tea is delicious. It has that sharp, bitter note in the background that good green tea should always provide, and a sweet, rounded fragrance.

Based on this tea alone, I really can see myself being a regular Adagio customer when my stash runs out, and if you are at all curious about Japanese green tea, I can say without doubt that this would be a great place to start. It isn't actually the best I've ever had, but then, I'm brewing it in Cardiff and I never thought my P.G. Tips tasted the same as it does here when I was drinking it in Nishinomiya years ago.

I noticed in the comments on my Facebook page that some people think the ingenuiTEA pot that is part of the tea sets Adagio have provided me to give away looks a little odd. Maybe that's my pictures! Here's a nice stock photo for you to see better how it works.

Prettier than my hurriedly thrown together efforts, no?

Adagio are kindly giving away 5 starter sets comprising of 4 teas (details below), a glass mug and an ingenuiTEA teapot to 5 lucky readers. The teas that are up for grabs are:

If you do the maths, you can see this is a serious haul, equal to £50 per set. For your chance to win, here's what you need to do:
  • Leave a comment on this post letting me know which tea you'd most like to try and why. Don't think you need to write an essay. This is just fun! I like silly answers just as much as serious ones.
  • If you prefer, leave the comment on the Delicious Delicious Delicious Facebook Page. You can like us as well! That's fine too.
  • Comments will close at midnight on Monday 5 November 2012. Winners will be selected at random shortly after. 
  • Open to all people, everywhere.
  • Email entries not accepted. Nor are multiple entries. But you can ask friends or colleagues to enter on your behalf if you like.
I'll be posting about another tea later this week. See you back here for that!

Monday 29 October 2012

Review and Give-Away: Adagio Tea Sets

Earl Grey Bravo

I am something of a tea addict. It goes beyond being British, because although I know that, along with complaining, sipping the hot stuff is one of our national pastimes, few people I know have a whole cupboard dedicated to tea. Admittedly, I keep a few other dry goods in there, but it's mostly loose leaf teas. I should actually keep the rice elsewhere, because recently when I cooked some for a friend, it had bergamot topnotes. I kept quiet about it, and I don't think he noticed, but I suspect I have too many Earls hanging round in there.

Must act soon.

It had never occurred to me to buy tea online until I was contacted by someone from Adagio Teas who asked if I'd like to try some of their range. I suspect that's because I tend to buy speciality teas by weight, from tea shops, where I can see, smell and touch the tea leaves before deciding which ones to buy. My colleagues will attest to this: I have bored countless many of them to tears doing so. What can I say? I am picky.

As a result, my first instinct was to turn down the offer, but having had a snoop around the company website, I quickly realised that Adagio take tea even more seriously than I do. So I did the right thing and agreed to try some. The good news is that you are going to get to as well. I asked if Adagio would allow me to give some tea away to readers of Delicious Delicious Delicious, and they've only gone and given me 5 (5! Count them!) sets to offer you. We'll get to how you can win one later. For now, let's check out the tea!

Choosing which ones to try was quite difficult. Adagio carry a huge range, and each tea has its own story, descriptions and a cool review feature which gives feedback from people who have bought and drunk the variety in question. I asked to try out three teas - the Earl Grey Bravo is what we'll be brewing up today. Check back later in the week to find out about the rest.

I have to say up front, before we even put the kettle on, how much I am impressed by the way these teas are packaged. People of the Internet: how annoying are those traditional, paper lined cellophane packets you find most loose leaf teas in? I cannot stand them! Fortunately, help is here: the heavy duty bags that Adagio use are resealable, which means that I can use my clothes pegs for hanging out wet laundry and keep my tea super-fresh as well. It might sound odd to talk about packaging, but as a tea drinker, this was one of the first things I noticed. The people who run this company obviously care about the products they sell and have thought about the end user.

Each packet of tea is also printed with recommended brewing times and temperatures for the contents, though so much of that is about personal preference anyway that, ever the rebel, I didn't pay much attention.

Earl Grey always reminds me of my friend Rish and Lucy. They drink it like it's going out of fashion, and they have a preferred brand. I can't wait to see what they make of the Earl Grey Bravo you see here. Because, honestly, if you'll forgive the pun, this is truly a stand-up-and-clap-worthy cup of tea. It's not just that it tastes wonderful (fresh, light and with a real zing; I really wouldn't add milk) and smells great (you get a real aroma of tea as well as bergamot, which is the whole point after all), but it's beautiful too. The tea is littered with blue cornflowers and pieces of orange peel. This is why I love loose leaf - it's so much more exciting than dumping a bag into a mug and adding hot water is.

I know a lot of people will say that loose leaf tea is fiddly and time consuming to prepare, and I can't really argue with that if you only have delicate chinaware. But Adagio also sent me one of their award winning ingenuiTEA teapots (and will be giving 5 of them away as well!), and it has changed my perspective entirely.

Full disclosure: I expected this to be gimicky and ineffective. But honestly, I know people who are now going to get one for Christmas. I like it that much.

Hopefully my dreadful pictures will illustrate why. You simply take the tea pot and add tea. Then pour over boiling water and wait until the tea is brewed to your taste; the pot is transparent so the tea's strength can be judged easily. Next, and here's the magic, place the pot onto your mug of choice and watch the tea filter through the fine mesh bottom. The leaves are left behind, can be emptied quickly and easily, and then you just pop the pot into the dishwasher.

Honestly, this pot is amazing. I use it at home and I've even brought it with me to work in my suitcase. I never thought I'd be brewing leaf tea in hotel rooms, but that's what I've been doing. It would be ideal for the office too. Or for camping. Or anywhere.

I'm sensing you might also want one. Well, as I said, Adagio are kindly giving away 5 starter sets comprising of 4 teas (details below), a glass mug and an ingenuiTEA teapot. The teas that are up for grabs are:

(Yes, they have a tea called Ooooh Darjeeling!)

If you do the maths, you can see this is a serious haul. For your chance to win a set, here's what you need to do:

  • Leave a comment on this post letting me know which tea you'd most like to try and why. Don't think you need to write an essay. This is just fun! I like silly answers just as much as serious ones.
  • If you prefer, leave the comment on the Delicious Delicious Delicious Facebook Page. You can like us as well! That's fine too.
  • Comments will close at midnight on Monday 5 November 2012. Winners will be selected at random shortly after.
  • Email entries not accepted. 
Check back to see some of the other teas I tried out later in the week!

Saturday 27 October 2012

White Chocolate and Lemon Macarons

Eek. I have terrible jet lag (in Europe as well - this isn't supposed to happen!), and it has occurred to me that I haven't updated in a while. It's not that I've not been thinking about doing so - I've got something so sexy and exciting coming up next week that you're all going to be sick - but more that I've been without anything photographed. People want to see deliciousness, not just read about it.

So you get some macarons that I was never going to put up on here. Ha! Sloppy seconds.

Does it irk you that I don't even take my own blog seriously? I think that's my prerogative. Also, I think that having even made macarons in the first place shows that I must be taking something seriously. But that's just me.

Anyway, Newsnight has just finished (love the fact that we get the Beeb overseas too - what did we do before?), I'm feeling suitably annoyed by the panel, and it's time to get you a recipe for these previously deemed unworthy treats. A-here we go!

White Chocolate and Lemon Macarons

You will need:

110g icing sugar
50g ground almonds

finely grated zest of one lemon
2 egg whites (60g), aged for 24 hours (just leave them on the kitchen counter, uncovered)

40g caster sugar

small dab of yellow food colour gel

100g cream cheese

100g melted white chocolate
  1. Sift the 110g icing sugar into a large bowl, and mix in the almonds.
  2. In another bowl, whisk the egg whites until frothy, then slowly whisk in the caster sugar until you have soft peaking meringue. Add the dab of colour gel, and carry on whisking until stiff peaks form.
  3. Add the almond and sugar mixture, and fold in. You are supposed to do this in exactly 50 strokes, and turn the bowl 45° after every tenth stroke. I don't think it's of paramount importance - you should just have a smooth mixture.
  4. Put this mix into a piping bag with the end snipped off, and pipe circles about 2 inches in diameter and well spaced apart on a lined baking sheet. You should have between 28 and 30 blobs of mixture. Let's call it 29.
  5. Let them sit for 30 minutes while you pre-heat the oven to 150°C.
  6. Bake for 12 minutes on the bottom shelf. Cool completely on the sheet, and then remove using a pallet knife.
  7. For the filling, simply beat the ingredients together. You could simplify this and just use lemon curd instead of the cream cheese and white chocolate mixture, but I don't think it's a good idea. This filling is marvellous!

Thursday 11 October 2012

Chewy Coconut Brownies and Paul Hollywood

Hey kids, guess what? Word on the street is that Mr. Paul Hollywood (#1 Secret Crush of millions, though not me... Well, okay, just a little. But don't tell.) is giving away 50 recipes from his new book, How to Bake, in a special series over seven days in The Telegraph. Starting October 13. That's the day after tomorrow, fact fans. So consider yourselves informed!

I know everyone knows him as Mary Berry's partner in crime, but Hollywood's actually a really great baker and the book seems pretty top notch (I am one of those sit-and-read-without-buying types). Filled with great tips and finally, some common sense about cooking with chocolate (for God's sake people - it doesn't have to be 70% all the time!). I'll definitely be collecting the extracts.

Since I don't like posting without a recipe for you, here's what I'll do today. You can have a photograph of Paul, but with a recipe of mine. It seems like a fair proposition.

Have any of you read Paul's new book? What do you think of it?

Chewy Coconut Brownies

You will need:

1/2 cup (113g) unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
3 oz (75g) dark chocolate, broken into squares (I used Bourneville, and so would Hollywood!)
1 cup (200g) caster sugar
2/3 cup (95 g) plain flour
1/4 cup (30g) cocoa
2 eggs
1 cup (150g) dessicated coconut

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 170°C and grease and line a 20cm square baking tin.
  2. Melt the butter and chocolate together in a medium sized saucepan over a low heat. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
  3. Add all the other ingredients and stir until smooth.
  4. Pour the batter into the lined pan and bake until set. I gave mine 28 minutes.
  5. Cool in the pan, and then cut into 16 squares.

Friday 5 October 2012

Nectarine Butter

3 jars of nectarine butter on my garden wall. Yes: I was too busy to take a nice picture!

Time to get that cake down off of the front page, it's been tempting me each and every time I log on here and there's not a single crumb of it left.

We're putting up again today folks. He's caught the bug, and you are going to be reading about it.

A bit of background detail before we begin. Last year, when we got married, we didn't really want to have a wedding list. I don't like the idea very much (in principle; in practice, it's wonderful, because as a guest, you don't need to put any thought into what you give), and was really at a loss as to what to put on one. How did I know how much people would want to spend?

12 chopped nectarines! 12 chopped nectarines!

Sometimes, when confronted with a gift registry card, I go daringly 'off list' and buy something else. It makes me feel coolly rebellious and quite, quite edgy. Some people did that to us, and all of them chose wonderful surprises that we never would have expected: a warm rug-blanket thing, a tea chest and hand made cake stands for instance. Percy's team (do I always have to call him Mr. Other P? My name is down the bottom there for all to see after all!) of colleagues even bought us a slow cooker.

I was elated. Or as elated as one can be with an appliance. I thought of all the amazing things we could make it it, with zero effort and no time spent in the kitchen. And then promptly did very little other than put it in the cupboard.

You see, I adore spending time in the kitchen. My job takes me away all the time, so whenever I can, I love to be at the stove. Perce slow cooks regularly, but I had, until recently, begun to feel increasingly disconnected from the little crock.

I decided it was time to do something about it.

Having decided to treat myself, in the middle of one wakeful night, to a copy of Marisa McClellan's book Food in Jars, from the blog of the same name (and to which I am hopelessly addicted - she makes me want to move to Philly and can my body weight in tomatoes and dilly beans), I noticed that she advocates the use of slow cookers when making fruit butters. They're like jam, only better. We've made fruit butter here before though, remember?

(God, I hated that old kitchen!!)

You see: even a man, can can! Or bottle: we're British here after all.

Anyway, I was in! Out came the pot, and away we went. And you know what? It was fantastic. I spent the whole day pottering around doing chores, even being able to run out to the shops, and the whole time, my slow cooker was silently and efficiently doing what I could not (i.e. spend two hours stirring a hot pan). In the evening, I filled and processed my jars (more on that below), and at the end of the day I had 3 500ml jars of beautiful nectarine butter to stash away for when the days are cold and I need to taste the Summer.

I thoroughly recommend the method, and the book. It does involve using a water bath and proper Kilner jars, but this is far less scary than it sounds. Have a go.

Do you make fruit butters or jams already? What's your favourite?

Nectarine Butter (method works for plums, peaches, apples, pears: you name it!)

You will need:

12 nectarines (to make 1.7kg of chopped fruit)
1 lemon
2 1/2 cups sugar (500g)

  1. Chop your nectarines, or whatever you have chosen to make butter with, and put them into your slow cooker. Cook on the 'low' setting for one hour.
  2. Stir the fruit, and carry on cooking. You can use a wooden spoon to prop open the slow cooker's lid to help speed the process of cooking down (more water will be able to evaporate), if you wish.
  3. Cook for a further 6 hours, checking the fruit every couple of hours or so. When the fruit is soft, push it though a sieve or, even better, use a stick blender to purée it directly in the slow cooker, which is what I did. You can also then switch to 'high' if you like.
  4. When the butter is thick and spreadable (bear in mind it will thicken as it cools), add the sugar, zest and juice of the lemon, stir well, and cook for one final hour.
  5. Now get your water bath ready: wash your jars (the kind with a lid and ring: in the UK we call these Kilner jars, and you can get them in any kitchen supply shop)  and place them in a tall stockpot with a tea towel in the bottom (my make-shift trivet!). Cover with cold water and bring to the boil.
  6. Place the lids in a small pan of cold water, bring to the boil and remove from the heat. Leave the lids in the hot water until ready to use.
  7. Remove the hot jars from the water, and fill them with the fruit butter, leaving 2cm of airspace at the top of the jar. This recipe should fill three 500ml jars exactly.
  8. Wipe the jar rims, apply the lids and screw bands, and lower the jars back into the hot water. Boil hard for 15 minutes.
  9. Remove the jars and place on a wooden board or folded newspaper (cold surfaces could cause the hot jars to crack). You should hear the lids 'pop' pretty soon afterwards (meaning they have sealed). Marisa's book explains this process much more thoroughly, should you have any questions.
  10. Use within 8 months.

Wednesday 26 September 2012

Pumpkin Spice Cake

The Bundt Returns

A week or so ago, on one of my ill-fated and poorly planned jaunts around town on the day before I leave for a long trip and have to buy tickets, pay bills, pick up dry cleaning and iron my way to victory, yet still think there'll be time to meet a friend for coffee and/or bottle several kilos of President plums in honey, rum and cardamom, I saw something exciting.

It's always the ironing that doesn't get done, by the way. You know, I think the difference between Over-Achievers and the rest of us is that Over-Achievers make shorter lists. I should take note.

Anyway, I saw a man wearing a Linus T-shirt which read 'I Invented EMO', and immediately wanted to trade clothing. I love Linus. Realistically, I'm more of a Charlie Brown, but in my head, I'm a blanket holder. I even went as far as to find an online seller of the tee, but was deeply saddened to find that it comes only in XL. I'm not getting fat for a slogan. I'm sorry, but I have to draw the line somewhere.

Now, Linus always reminds me of pumpkins, and vice versa. Reading about him awaiting the Great Pumpkin in the pumpkin patch during the run up to Halloween in the daily comic strips when I was a child made the huge American squashes seem so exotic and enchanting. I think we did once make a pumpkin pie, but it we mistakenly used one of those Jack-O-Lantern carving pumpkins and our pie filling was watery and tasteless. I've since learned that American cooks unashamedly used canned pumpkin in baked goods and it's the best way to ensure you get that rich flavour.

I know that it isn't even nearly Halloween time, but thinking about Linus and the Great Pumpkin reminded me of all the pumpkins Mr. Other P and I saw in Monterey last year after our whale-less whale watching boat trip. If I can find a photo at home, I'll add it later. Point is, pumpkin seemed a great flavour for a cake to mark our anniversary.

This is a lovely cake. If you don't have a bundt tin, a 25cm by 25cm deep sided tin would do nicely.

I'll be busy this weekend, but hope to have some exciting posts coming next week. Come back for those!

Mr. P's Pumpkin Spice Cake

You will need:

200g plain flour
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
250g soft brown sugar
50g Brazil nuts, chopped
3 eggs
190ml vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 x 400g tin pumpkin puree

  1. Grease and flour a large bundt tin. Mine has a 2.5 litre/10 cup capacity. Pre-heat the oven to 175°C.
  2. Mix the flour, bicarb., baking powder, salt and spices in a medium sized bowl. Set aside.
  3. Beat the eggs lightly; add the sugar, oil, vanilla and pumpkin. Mix well and add the nuts.
  4. Fold in the flour mixture and scrape the bottom of the bowl to make sure everything is well combined.
  5. Bake for 40 minutes, or until a wooden skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out without crumbs.
  6. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
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