How to keep a happy heart.

Could  it be down to ingredients?

Could  it be down to ingredients?

Can you remember the first time when that special someone walked in to the room and your heart missed a beat? What was it? Their eyes, curves, smile, hair, that joke that kept you smiling or something you can’t quite put your finger on? Did they simply ooze that je ne sais qu'ait? That said, I’d like to find out more.

A heart missing a beat is an endearing moment and one we all would like to repeat time and time again. Valentine’s comes around but once a year and it has become a time to try and encourage such moments – or for those in longer term relationships, to rekindle heart felt moments.

Good food typically creates fond memories, forges friendships and makes the heart grow fonder. And of course, it makes for good dinner table conversations – why else has C4’s Dinner Date become so popular?

Moreover a few googles or bings will lead you to believe that both men and women are definitely more responsive to romance after food. Could it be down to the foods eaten? Could we increase our chances of love if we eat certain foods?

Enter the aphrodisiacs.

Some foods contain properties that increase testosterone or oestrogen levels and thereby increase sex drive; others are considered sexy purely because of their appearance. So to stack the chances for jumping heart beats in your favour, choose foods you and your partner find sensual! Our top tips for heart beat success are: hot chillis, figs, asparagus, avocado, banana, chocolate, oysters. All have different reasons – why not try?

 

For us – we are off to make a Banana and Chocolate cake? How about you?

What's so special about Toad in the hole?

The perfect - the ultimate combination of crisp and soggy

The perfect - the ultimate combination of crisp and soggy

Anticipation is the word that springs to mind when embarking on any Yorkshire pudding recipe including Toad in the Hole. Precious time is spent making the batter; once made you pour it into your preheated dish, pop it in the oven and prey that it will go forth and rise.

It’s akin to when the princess kissed the toad – would the toad turn into a prince or she a toad?

Applying this to a Toad in the Hole experience – when you shut the oven door… what will happen? 20 mins later will there be baked sausage resting on something that looks more like an omelette or an explosion of crispy light batter nestled around golden brown sausage?

… So yes it’s fair to say it can go wrong, and this can be mainly attributed to not enough batter. If it’s too thin, it simply doesn’t rise so don’t be frugal. Following a good recipe from a chef that likes hearty suppers would be a good recommendation – such as Jamie Oliver.

Once mastered – let your imagination run wild and get creative:

  • Add some hidden vegetables;
  • Add a kick – chilli;
  • For a taste of the country, add some rosemary and sage.

4 top tips for Toad in the Hole ensuring you get a prince not a toad!

  1. Precook the sausages;

  2. Use a deep dish such as the Judge Bakers in our Judge Table Essentials Range. The handles on this make it easy to place in and out of the oven;

  3. Heat fat in the pan for a good 10 mins before adding the batter and sausages;

  4. Leave the oven door shut for at least the first 20 minutes as a rush of cold air could lead to a toad and not a prince.

What's your signature ingredient  to make it special?

Air-pop your popcorn

Only 30 calories (1).png

The explosive fashion of eating popcorn has to be understood if you plan to include it in your diet as a healthy snack. It is only as healthy as the way you cook it and serve it – so if you cook it in butter and cover in sugar, it should be considered a treat.

If you have a popcorn maker like ours that uses hot air to cook it and then eat it plain, it is very healthy as a full cup only has 30 calories. If you are looking for a good source of fibre, antioxidants, Vitamin B, manganese and magnesium, then popcorn is the snack for you.

popcorn.PNG

Freshly popped popcorn can last days in an air tight container so you can be super organised, cook a big batch at the weekend ready for adding to the whole family’s lunch boxes throughout the week. Making popcorn is so much fun that this can easily be something you get the teenagers to do, make sure you show them a few times and then be nearby just in case.

If you don’t have a popcorn maker, you can simply pour kernels in a paper bag and fold top over a few times and microwave until popping stops. Saucepans also make great popcorn, but you will need oil or butter for this. Choose one with a glass lid so the children can see the explosions – this always gets some exciting screams and loads of laughing!

Movie Time

It’s a tradition that requires healthy ideals to be ignored just a little because everyone loves the classic buttered or sugar-covered warm popcorn in front of the TV. Or maybe you have a savoury tooth and use toppings like herbs, cheese, spices or garlic to flavour it. If you do love the sweet version here is a link to the most gourmet popcorn recipes we’ve found. Which flavour makes you want to head into the kitchen? Mint chocolate, marsh mellow peanut or gingerbread caramel crunch?

The last thing we need to share with you on the subject of popcorn is using it as an ingredient. A couple of interesting savoury ideas: adding to granola, whether for breakfast or in bars, or using as topping for soups as a healthier alternative to croutons! The sweet ideas are endless – rocky road, sprinkles on ice cream/doughnuts, a thick crunchy layer on top of a decadent chocolate brownie.

What is your preferred way to eat it? Popcorn is so versatile you won’t need much persuasion to cook up a batch.

Rocky road topped with popcorn

Rocky road topped with popcorn

Veganuary

Picture Credit The Vegan Voice.png

After the excesses of the festive period, there’s never been a better time to try something new and healthy. So this January why not consider giving Veganuary a go – a new year and a new start.

It may not be too difficult to convince environmentally-conscious, animal-welfare-rights-promoting friends and family members about the benefits of veganism. The fact that it’s the easiest and most effective way to help our planet and stop the cruelty and suffering inflicted on animals is a good enough reason to give it a go.

For others, thinking about the excesses of the festive period could do the trick. Cutting out cholesterol will lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of diabetes and heart disease – and these are only some of the benefits of a vegan diet.

It may be trickier to persuade our meat-loving, exercise and gym-obsessed friends… but did you know that the Williams sisters have been vegans since 2011?

So if you are going to give it a try, search out some new tasty recipes and get cooking! The dishes you can find on The Vegan Society website are a great place to start and, once you begin looking, you’ll find delicious vegan recipes everywhere.

https://www.vegansociety.com/

Inspired we tried this recipe (with a minor changes) https://veganuary.com/recipes/thai-vegetable-red-curry/ the main change was substituting the chick peas for berlotti beans

So come on – embrace your inner vegan and give Veganuary a go this January 2018. A very happy and healthy New Vegan Year to you all!

Do we pull out all the stops at Christmas Time?

Christmas Etiquette

Christmas Etiquette

Is Christmas time the occasion to show off our hostessing skills and use all your  table etiquette or do you simply enjoy your favourite food in in front of the telly?

The big Christmas dinner comes but once a year and it’s fair to say we celebrate in many different ways, firstly with the foods we devour. Regardless of where we are and who we are with, we try to make it special – this may be as an intimate occasion for 2 or 3, but some may end up feeling they are setting up a temporary restaurant as family and friends pitch up to share this special day.

No matter how you celebrate, we think it’s quite possibly the one day that you go all out and set the table as festively as possible and as correctly as your equipment allows. Moreover, this may be the one day that everybody tries to install as much table decorum as we have table etiquette knowledge. 

Generally speaking – even in the most formal households – we think we’re all a bit more relaxed today than we were 50 years ago, but this is a time when you want to ‘do things properly’, so what are the do’s and don’ts at the Christmas table?

Top Tips

·         Equally space people around the table; (We have used our Judge Essential Tableware in these pictures and simply dressed them up to create them festive).

2017-12-12 14.18.56 edit.jpg

·         Encourage cracker etiquette – with a group everyone crosses their arms to pull all the crackers at once, by holding their own cracker in their right hand and pull their neighbour’s cracker with their free left hand. We suggest to pull the crackers at the beginning of the meal – this way all have a hat, a corny joke to tell and a gift that we will probably never use (and a mountain of rubbish to clear away!);

·         Laying the cutlery – knives and spoons go on the right, forks on the left, and line up the cutlery in the order you will use it. If you have two sizes of forks and knives, then save the larger for the main course. The Judge Windsor Cutlery Collections offers a choice of pack sizes suitable for 4 to 8 people, some of which also include extended items such as dessert knives and soup spoons, with additional sets which you may like for Steak too, please take a look here. With a 25-year guarantee – you’ll be enjoying fine dining for lots and lots of Christmases;

2017-12-12 14.18.43.jpg

·         Napkins – there is a debate over fabric v paper, but for the best etiquette fabric probably wins. They should be placed on the lap as soon as you are seated and never tucked in the front of your shirt… even if soup is being served!

·         Sit up straight will aid the onslaught of food and position yourself  at a comfortable  distance from the table and allows for the best cracker pull – at the end of the day, it’s all about winning that cracker gift, isn’t it?

·         And remember what Grandma always says “Keep your elbows off the table!”

2017-12-04 15.06_cropped1.png

Finally, making your Christmas table unique will certainly add to the occasion. We suggest: a gift tag to each place setting, lightly scented candles to add atmosphere, fresh flowers and holly or berries. Lastly, a table runner certainly adds a sense of festivity and can be easily created with foliage, paper or fabric. Are you already envisioning your beautifully decorated dining room with a noisy crowd having a great time?

Gloves on – we are entering the oven!

Roasting 1.jpg

You can find ranges of textiles for the kitchen in so many shops,  the choice is huge! But how often do you actually use the correct item for the job? Are you someone who reaches for the nearest t-towel to get something out of the oven rather than taking the 5 seconds it needs to put on an oven glove?

We all know using an oven glove or mitt is the most sensible thing as they are made of the correct fabrics to withstand high temperatures. Another feature we use is hybrid silicone which reduces slippage, providing you with even more grip on the tray and a barrier to any unwanted  hot fat.

Gloves, mitts, double ended mitts, which would you choose?  It is important that you choose a style that suits the way you handle cookware. If you often cook heavy items in heavy trays you should use both hands to make sure you have a firm grip, you need either the double ended mitt or two single mitts. 

We don't want to patronise as everyone is aware how hot an oven is, we just want to make sure you have suitable equipment to keep you and your family safe. (Stop grabbing those t-towels and use the proper oven gloves!).

Top tip- t-towels even when folded are not thick enough to with stand oven temperatures! Use an oven mitt!

Judge Textiles Mix.jpg

What is it we like about Yorkshire Puddings?

Untitled.png

I like the the mixture of crispy top and slightly soggy bottom.  How about you? Do you like a totally crisp Yorkshire?

Perhaps another reason, we love them so much is, it's the challenge of making them, and perhaps we see it as a measure of our baking prowess?

I find when I make the effort to make them, I like that magical moment when I look in the oven 10 mins after putting the mixture in, and they’ve started to rise, and even more magical is when I look back 10 minutes later, they’ve double in size again. And finally about 25 mins after I've have popped them in the oven – they are ready and I simply lift them out and pop them on top of your Sunday roast as the perfect finishing touch.

I must admit when I take them out of the oven,  I do like them to be still slightly soggy at the base, it’s the mix of textures I like.  How about you? I also like to hollow centre, so that I an fill it with Gravy.

Here are my Top Tips for Yorkie Success 

  • Place a small knob of lard, or a teaspoon of veg oil in each muffin tin, (or you could use the Judge Yorkshire pudding tin), and place in a hot oven.
  • Once the tin and oil is hot, take the tin out, and pour the mixture into the tin
  • Cook on a very high heat about (220 °c) for the first 10 mins and then reduce heat to about 190°c for the remainder of the time.

When I've read about making Yorkshire puddings, there’s lots of pro’s and cons for making the mixture early,  to let it stand, or use it freshly made.  There's no consistency,  so I’d make it when you have time to make it.

I often use Jame’s Martin’s recipe for making Yorkshire puddings, after all as a Yorkshire man, surely he must be qualified to know what's best?

My final thought is, when is it appropriate to serve Yorkshires puddings? Our household tends to serve them with Roast beef only, but I know there’s many of you that will serve them far more often – can you share when you do?

Yorkshire pudding (5).jpeg

Kitchen Knives - top tips, using, buying, caring and storing.

Judge Sabatier IC knives - Bolster Detail.jpg

You can't live without a knife, even the people in the stone age realised that. The problem is buying knives can be confusing as there's so much choice.  Judge offers you variety,  because we understand, everyone has a different way of doing things, people prefer different sizes and styles.  

Which is your go to knife? 

Buying knives

If you are just starting out in your first house then a set of knives may well be your best option, (as they include the most commonly used knives). We have designed these sets to cover all the usual cooking requirements. 

Once you have been cooking for a few years,  you will know the style, size, and weight of knife you prefer so adding to your collection should be simpler but it might not be. The materials used in Knife manufacture are evolving.  When deciding to purchase a new knife, we would recommend seeking advice in the store, or visit our website to see the stand out characteristics, look for guarantees too, all Judge knives have a 25 year guarantee as we are confident they will last a lifetime. 

Storing

IV60 Sabatier & Judge 5 Piece Knife Block Set - 2017 - Detail.jpg

A popular choice is a knife block, but worktop space tends to be a premium area in all kitchens so, it may not always be best solution. You may consider hanging them on a metallic rack or if you do store them in a draw please buy a special insert as the worse thing for knives is to be thrown in a draw with all the other kitchen utensils. They will go blunt very quickly.

Sharpening

Some places say you should sharpen your knife before each use but we do not think this is realistic.  Our knife sharpeners are easy to use and we would suggest running the blades through 5-6 times to keep a good edge, every 2 weeks. Steels are excellent for sharpening but you will need to practice to make sure you get the correct angle - here's a good demo

Top tip - be aware of what surface you are chopping on,  ceramic, glass or marble will quickly blunt a blade. We recommend using wood or plastic boards. 

PP468 Judge Sabatier IV 5 Pce Knife Block Set - Sharpening SQ.jpg

Fish tips from "A wee pinch of sugar"

Stellar Rocktanium  Salmon  Rachel Gillon(7).JPG

Top tips

From Rachel at  "A wee pinch of sugar"

We are delighted Rachel from A Wee Pinch Of Sugar, she has joined us to share her tips on buying and cooking fish as part of Seafood week. Rachel's blog reflects her passion for local connections to food, particularly Scottish food which is fresh and seasonal, and she likes to support small independent food producers. With fish in abundance who could be better to share her knowledge for Seafood week?

Rachel writes ;- Seafood week is underway, and, for fish lovers it's an opportunity to celebrate the fantastic range of fish available in the U.K. The best and tastiest way to get involved is to cook and eat more fish.

Scottish Salmon is my favourite and features in family meals every week. Salmon is such a healthy fish; full of Omega 3 fatty acids and a great source of protein. Whether you’re buying a few fillets or a whole fish, here are some tips for buying and cooking.

Whole fish - look for nice clear bright eyes as that’s a good indicator of freshness. Gills should be bright red and the skin should be shiny and moist. Flesh should be firm to touch and the tail stiff.

Fillets should be firm, shiny and wet as well as neatly trimmed. Really fresh fish will be slippery and smell of the sea.

Storage -  remove the wrapping, rinse in cold water, pat dry and store near the bottom of the refrigerator.  Storage time for an oily fish like salmon is 1-2 days but do refer to the label on the packaging.

Fresh V Frozen Salmon - It's really a matter of preference but I prefer fresh salmon as it's so readily available; but, for convenience it may suit your lifestyle to keep a bag of frozen fillets in the freezer.  

Skin on or skin off. Salmon is rich in omega 3 fatty acids and the fat is concentrated just under the skin. It’s healthier to cook with the skin on and eat every last tasty morsel.

Top tips for cooking

Stellar Rocktanium  Salmon  Rachel Gillon(4).JPG
  1. Pan Frying - Oil the fish and season. I prefer to use a non stick pan such as the Judge Radiant as I’ve never quite achieved crispy skin in a stainless steel pan. Heat the pan, place the fish skin side down and cook for 4-5 mins. Turn and continue cooking for 2-3 minutes.
  2. Grilling - Oil the salmon and season. Place fillets on the grill pan, skin side up and cook for 4-5 minutes each side.
  3. Baking - Preheat the oven to 200C Fan 180C Gas 6. Oil and season the fish and place in an oven proof dish and cook for 10 -15 minutes.

Here are a couple of my recipes

Salmon with puy lentils and beetroot

This healthy and delicious salmon dish makes good use of seasonal British beetroot and the recipe easily doubles for a family meal. The marmalade and mustard add a real zing to the fish and the earthiness of the beetroot and puy lentils are perfect winter ingredients that make a great accompaniment for the salmon. For quickness I used a pack of ready to eat puy lentils but feel free to use dried if you have more time.

Fragrantly and mildly spiced Thai salmon

Salmon works really well with Thai flavours and this fragrant and mildly spiced salmon ticks the boxes for my quick and healthy midweek meals. I made a homemade paste for the recipe and although it will work equally well with shop bought Thai green curry paste,  you will find it much spicier than my homemade version.

Meat and 2 veg, oh how its changed, or has it?

DFPMGN.jpg

I know my granddad was obsessed with his meat and 2 veg dinner although I'm not sure why potatoes are always missing from this title because ALWAYS included potatoes too! My grandparents now in their late 80's do enjoy a variety of dinners but when they come over I always choose to cook a meat and 2 veg dinner for them.

Homemade steak pies with their initials on top!

Homemade steak pies with their initials on top!

The funniest thing is that, my sons, aged 8 and 6 love curry, fajitas, pizza, jambalaya but they really LOVE the British traditions too; pie, toad in the hole, casserole and steak all served with (of course) a choice of 2 veg AND the potatoes.  I get a bit keen and like to add their letters on the top of homemade pies- see the photo (geeky I know).

Have the veg options changed much from my granddad's? We have fine trimmed green beans rather than runner beans. I occasionally roast the carrots (just to be exciting) and sweetcorn is a regular choice for my boys, but I don't think they would make Grandad's top 10 - it was what ever was in season.  My grandparents boiled veg and used a pressure cooker for potatoes, I use a hob top layered steamer. (I have heard pressure cookers are making a come back though!). 

Meat wise, I might be making huge assumptions as I'm not a food historian but I think my boys eat a lot more meat per dinner and I would like to think it's good quality. When I next see my grandparents I will have to find out more about their diets 70 years ago. 

Top tip- start a veg patch, and shop at a veg market to eat seasonal, fresh vegetables.

My grandparents have always had a veg patch and shopped local as it was the only option for them years ago so the Love British Food fortnight values will seem logical to them. We do have a small veg patch but I would say 90% of the time they have no idea where their food is produced or how far its travelled to get to their plate. My plan during this fortnight will be to chat about this during meal times and find out where they think their food comes from. I might have to break my no technology at the table rule as we may need google's help and even get an atlas out! 

Seriously British- toad in the hole. 

Seriously British- toad in the hole. 

Cupcakes to make the day brighter

Can you smell that freshly baked sponge? 

Can you smell that freshly baked sponge? 

Even as a grown up having a cupcake for lunch makes the day better. Is it because we all have memories of your mum adding a homemade bun to your lunchbox during your school days? It's not the done thing to call them 'buns'- now they are called cupcakes! 

Which cupcake would you choose?

Which cupcake would you choose?

I have complete envy when I look at the beautiful icing designs on cupcakes- do you have the attention to detail and the skills needed to make them? Make sure you're not hungry before searching the #Nationalcupcakeweek on twitter because you will be afterwards.  This is as good as my designs get- which one out of these would you choose? 

 

I bake cupcakes weekly to give my boys a tasty treat in their lunchboxes. Some weeks I'm good and make a healthy apple recipe and other weeks it's a butter icing topped cake dipped in sprinkles. You have so much flexibility with ingredients, favours and design so you can make them to suit anyone.

Top tip- eat an extra serving of fruit by hiding it in a cupcake! Banana or beetroot in a chocolate mix is difficult to taste.

What is in your lunchbox?

What is in your lunchbox?

Who knows someone who's off to Uni?

Steph and her Uni Students

Steph and her Uni Students

We are delighted to have this blog  from Worcester's Steph Harrison from www.howtocook.org.uk. She provides educational cooking classes, for all age groups. They are taught in a fun and friendly way, with all equipment and ingredients provided. Today she talks from experience about her godson who'se just been awarded his university place.

"I've congratulated my godson on his A’level results! Now he’s off to Uni, living in shared accommodation! So what do I buy him that will get him through Uni and stand the test of time?

Well his all-time favourite supper is mac “n” cheese - cheap, tasty and filling! So a non-stick pan, which will stay intact if a metal spoon accidentally gets used instead of a wooden one, is Number 1 Gift (plus a grater for very useful cheese sauces).  I’m so going to show him the all-in-one method of making sauce in minutes...none of that using a jar malarkey.  Pasta will be another staple which can be cooked in the non-stick pan.

COOKERY SCHOOL 3.png

Another favourite is Bolognese, perfect for making in bulk and freezing in portions or turning into chilli the day after.  A super-duper frying pan is a must for cooking large quantities for sharing with flatmates.   I will share my simple flat bread recipe (100g yogurt and 100g SR mixed and shaped) which can be dry fried in the pan. His flatmates will be so impressed and it’ll certainly make a change from pasta, pasta and pasta! 

He laughs when I say “Onions are your best friend in the kitchen!”   Onions can give the blandest recipes va va voom so he’ll definitely be having a vegetable knife, that’ll stop the tears and avoid cut fingers, together with a chopping board that will cope with a little neglect and accidental shoving in the dish washer"

COOKERY SCHOOL .png

So its exciting times are ahead for so many - Why not look out for an Off to Uni Cookery course?  Steph runs a  Uni Survival Course!  You will learn how to plan, budget, shop and cook on a student’s income (pennies). The class will provide the essential survival kit needed to cope on your own! You will learn where and when to buy the best foods, how to plan a week’s menu, practise cooking quick simple tasty recipes and finally, learn the skill of cooking in bulk and freezing meals.  

You can catch with Steph on her website  and follow her on Facebook here and on Instagram  here

Ingredients guaranteed

Burgers JEA58, JEA81, Judge Slate (18) (1).jpg

Burgers are a firm favourite in my house, whatever the time of year. The trouble is, you can never be quite sure what’s in shop-bought burgers so I like to make my own with nothing added that we don’t know about! 

Burgers JEA58, JEA81, Judge Slate (27) (1).jpg

We all enjoy experimenting with different tastes and flavours and personalising our burgers by adding extras such as Red onions, fresh herbs and bacon. Sometimes we go one step further and mince our own mince – it’s easy with Judge’s Electric Meat Mincer and Sausage Maker which has fine, medium and coarse mincing discs for all cuts of meat.

Top Tip: for a delicious alternative to beef, Why not try pork, chicken, quorn and lamb burgers too!


With summers like ours, you can’t rely on being able to barbeque your burgers but Judge’s Non-Stick Table Grill is just as much fun and, because it’s non-stick, it’s far easier to clean! Even when you need tea on the table as quickly as possible, burgers are an ideal meal. They take minutes to make and are quick and easy to fry if you have a good quality frying pan - I use Judge’s Non-Stick Frying Pan as it’s easy to use, easy to clean and gives me excellent results every time.
So here’s my advice, forget the supermarkets and High Street burger chains and have a go at making the real thing – delicious, fat, juicy, homemade burgers with definitely no nasty hidden extras!
 

Taste of the Caribbean

Which flavour most says Caribbean to you?

Which flavour most says Caribbean to you?

BBQ’s are a common choice when the weather hots up but why not mix it up a little with the taste of the Caribbean. There are some fabulous dishes inspired by many cultures and countries to cook for the family or share with friends.

The most common ingredients are rice, plantains, beans, cassava, coriander, bell peppers, chickpeas, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, and coconut among others. 

Recipe and image from BBC Good Food

Recipe and image from BBC Good Food

Along with these key ingredients, learning how to make your own ‘Jerk’ recipe is vital! Traditionally, it is a dry, very spicy rub used to flavour meats before flame grilling them. Have a look at this recipe.

Used for many dishes, ‘Mojo’ is another secret of Caribbean cuisine. Ingredients may include garlic, onions, scotch bonnet peppers, celery, green onions, and herbs like coriander, marjoram, rosemary, tarragon and thyme.

There is a really simple recipe here which goes very well with meat or vegetables.

If you’d like to experiment for the whole family, you can still use spice for the flavour but reduce the heat (no Scotch Bonnets!). You could try the infamous Chicken and rice. Wildly popular where Spanish influences remain strong, this deceptively simple dish is a savoury mix of flavours that include tomatoes, garlic, peppers and more.

Lastly, it wouldn’t be a Caribbean theme if there were no cocktails! How about trying a Planter’s Punch Rum, a Jamaican inspired cocktail combining dark rum, lemon juice, grenadine syrup and Angostura bitters. To make it truly authentic, serve in a pineapple!

You could also opt for the classic Mojito which originates from Cuba. It is claimed that Sir Francis Drake and his comrades first discovered the combination of mint leaves, fresh lime and Rum over 400 years ago and it still remains a popular choice today.

So, what are you waiting for? Invite some friends over, put on some Caribbean music and spice up your Friday nights!

Don't let the weather stop you- BBQ inside

Bring the outside in with our table grill

Bring the outside in with our table grill

How many times have you been stranded out in the rain under an umbrella doing the BBQ? Or just as bad, - it's a gorgeous summers day and you're left manning the BBQ whilst all your mates are drinking cold beers and chilling out. Even with all this the lure of BBQing is just too strong- the smell of char-grilled meat just has to be consumed! 

Are the days of just having a burgers and sausages  gone?  Recently there's been some serious chef skills on display at BBQs I've been such as delicious steak, racks of ribs, marinated chicken and the fish, it's just awesome. What would be your perfect cut of meat to cook over the flames?

Let's ignore the meat (I know its hard) for a second and look at the vegetables- every gourmet burger needs some char-grilled veg, maybe pepper, onion or aubergine to layer up in the bun. If your friends are happy to get messy then throw some corn on cobs on to. Do I mention the squeaky cheese- you know the joke. . .

What did the cheese say when it looked in the mirror?  

If you don't know the answer, comment below, tweet me and I will tell you! 

Now we have your mouth watering and ready for a BBQ- don't let the rain stop you. Let's face it, we live in the UK,  it's bound to rain. Don't cancel, grab your table grill out, put down a table cloth (if you have sausages they will spit grease) and move all your plans inside. This really works and provides the BBQ feel to any gathering.

The grill heats up seriously fast so you can get cooking within minutes, the temperature dial is responsive enabling you to adjust the heat for the different foods. Another massive bonus is the food can be kept hot by turning down the heat, or if you have extra mates suddenly arrive, then turn up the dial back up and start a new round of cooking - no need to wait for the coals to turn white.

 

Top tip- if you are sitting round the table cooking together, give everyone a turner as they will want to join in. 

 

Obviously I think this product is amazing, and I think you will too, just order one and try it out. I know you will be making some memorable evening with great food, drinks and friends. 

 

The mystique of Choux buns unveiled

Its easier than it looks..

Its easier than it looks..

Who can forget Mary Berry’s choux pastry technical challenge in series 4 when the bakers were asked to make eight perfect ‘religieuse’? (Miniature nuns made of choux pastry and vanilla crème patissiere and decorated with a frilly white collar of whipped cream and dark chocolate ganache, in case you didn’t know!) If you want to impress but don’t feel up to the challenge of eight ‘religieuse’, why not just call them choux buns and have a go? Actually, even the name ‘choux buns’ sounds scary but they’re really very easy to make. I’m making some for my mother’s annual summer party next week because, as choux is the lightest, crispiest, airiest pastry, it always seems just right for a summer dessert.. 

Even a novice baker like me can make impressive choux buns and there are so many irresistible recipes out there just waiting for you to give them a try. To make a basic choux pastry all you need to do is to place 50g of unsalted butter, 120ml of water and half a teaspoon of sugar and salt in a pan over a low heat (I prefer to use a non stick pan).. When the butter melts, bring the mixture to the boil and remove from the heat and immediately add 75g of plain flour (all in one go) and stir until you have a firm, smooth paste. Return the pan to the heat so that your paste dries out and forms a ball. Transfer your paste to a bowl and allow it to cool for about 10 minutes before beating in three eggs bit by bit, making sure that you incorporate as much air as possible. And that’s it! You don’t even need to pipe your buns – I find that a dessertspoon-sized dollop makes a perfect choux bun. Bake on a baking tray for 20-25 minutes - I use Judge’s non-stick baking trays as they come with a 5 year non-stick guarantee, they’re easy to clean and, most importantly, they give me excellent results time after time. 

Top Tip: Sprinkle your baking tray with water to add steam during the baking process – this will help your pastry to rise

Now for the fun part – the filling and decoration. I’m going for a summer fruit and cream theme for next week’s party but there are endless delicious options to choose from. So, go on, why not have a go yourself? You’ll be amazed at how easy it is to impress!
 

The classic, the posh and the healthy toppings for the simple piece of toast

Sweet potato toast topped with crushed avocado and a poached egg!

Sweet potato toast topped with crushed avocado and a poached egg!

However you top it- toast is one of the most versatile foods to eat. It was probably the first thing most of us learnt to make food wise all because using a toaster is simple and reasonably safe. We have a new toaster out- it is a toaster! What more is there to say, except it cooks evenly and the whole piece - no turning required.

So lets talk about the things you can make with the toaster because it's not just toast. Although in my opinion you can't beat toast smothered in butter and marmite. I reckon the marmite haters would have something to say about this though. Toasters can be used for crumpets, breakfast muffins and bagels. Any other suggestions?

Healthy and tasty- sliced banana on toast.

Healthy and tasty- sliced banana on toast.

You can even go posh and make our sweet potato toast- I sliced the sweet potato to about 1cm thick, it then needed 2 bursts of cooking on power setting 4 and it was perfectly done. Giving you plenty of time to poach and egg and crush half an avocado. A perfect lunch or starter.

The simple slice of bread popped in the toaster for a few minutes can be eaten for all meals and snacks throughout the day. Why not start the day off with our healthy toast topped with sliced banana and a sprinkle of cinnamon. Feel free to drizzle some honey on top!

On those lazy dinner times I am not adverse to beans on toast! I jazz it up with a hefty sprinkle of black pepper and grated cheese! What else do you love on toast?

 

Here's the paragraph for my mum- this toaster fits a slice of Kingsmill 50/50 perfectly! My mum has complained for ages that bread no longer fits in toasters. Does anyone else have this problem? I will continue to test all the different bakers bread sizes and let you know.

Did you know- the toaster was invented in Scotland in 1893!

Beans on toast- classic!

Beans on toast- classic!

 

 

Is it only women that can multi task?

Comes naturally to some

Comes naturally to some

I use baking as a way of relaxing and winding down from the stresses of the day but I still love to multi-task in the kitchen – I just can’t stop myself! That’s why I depend on a good food mixer.

Something like Judge’s Twin Blade Mixer with Stand is brilliant because it has all the speed controls and attachments you need, without being so large that it takes over your work surface. I love the fact that I can leave it mixing while I get on with the 101 other things that need doing in the evening – cooking dinner, washing up, preparing packed lunches for the next day  . . . and so it goes on! 

It makes such light work of blending and aerating ingredients and it’s so easy to use that it’s great for getting children hooked on baking - rather than just eating the results! I think if you asked my children, they’d probably say that the best thing about Judge’s mixer is that it comes with an easily detachable bowl – not because it makes the bowl easy to clean but because it makes it easy to scrape or lick out!

 
We’ve made everything from scones and cakes to meringues in our mixer and it never lets us down.

Top Tip: if you’re using your mixer to make meringue, make sure you wipe it round with lemon first as this cuts away any residual grease for perfect results.


So, if you think you haven’t got time to fit baking in at the end of the day, think again. It just comes down to a bit of multi-tasking - and you’re already a master at that!

Please join our Afternoon Tea Debate

Hooray – the sun is shining and it’s Wimbledon fortnight. All that’s missing is the great afternoon tea that you get at Wimbledon! But if your only chance of watching the tennis is on the TV, why not do what I do and make your own homemade treat to enjoy that Wimbledon experience to the full?


In honour of tennis and British summertime, I’m doing some serious scone baking this week. I don’t know about you but my favourite is the traditional fruit scone - I’m also making plain scones for the fussier eaters in my house! What could be simpler than a scone recipe – rub flour, baking powder and butter together with your fingertips until the mixture looks like fine breadcrumbs and then add your sugar, sultanas (or not), milk and egg and mix until you get a soft (but not too sticky) dough. Knead lightly and then roll gently on a lightly floured surface before cutting out as many scone shapes as you can.


Top Tip: I recommend a 5cm cutter for scone perfection as it allows you to get plenty of jam and cream on! Judge’s set of six dishwasher-safe, crinkle-edged or straight-edged round cutters are just the job. Remember, don’t twist the cutter, push straight down into your scone dough and lift straight out to make sure of an even rise.

Of course, if you’re baking and eating scones, you really have to join in the great afternoon tea debate – jam or cream first? Whatever you decide, I suggest serving your scones split open rather than sandwiched together for double the jam and cream - or cream and jam! We‘re all enjoying trying to make up our minds on this one and, to be honest, our research looks set to continue long after Wimbledon is over – I hope yours does too!
 

Ice cream season is here!

Homemade chocolate ice cream straight from the freezer!

Homemade chocolate ice cream straight from the freezer!

With the fabulous sunshine we have been having over the past few weeks, summer is most definitely here and with that comes ice cream! As a family, we have had a variety of frozen treats recently including ice creams, ice lollies and even frozen fruit to keep us all cool.

Ice cream's origins are known to reach back as far as the second century B.C and it is said that Alexander the Great enjoyed snow and ice flavoured with honey and nectar. They have most certainly come a long way since then!

Ice creams are still very popular amongst most families and there are so many varieties to choose from nowadays. Today more and more ice creams have savoury flavours including Smoked Bacon and Egg, Black Pepper, Chilli and even Black Pudding! The Japanese also have horse meat and the Koreans Green Tea … lovely!

If you’re after an ice cream dessert, then it can’t get better than a Knickerbocker glory.

Did you know that the shape of the knickerbocker glory glass (wide at the top tapering down to narrow at the bottom) got its name from the knickerbockers of Dutch settlers who arrived in New York at the start of the twentieth century? The flared pants were worn tucked into trousers and inspired this now world famous dessert.

On average, each person here in the UK eats 9 litres of ice cream every year. If you’re keen on coming up with your own flavour combination, why not give it a go in our Ice cream maker? You can also use it for making frozen yoghurt too!

Top tip-If you fancy a cooling and refreshing alternative to ice cream, why not try a sorbet?

For a quick delicious sorbet, simply chop a few of your favourite fruits and pop them in the freezer. When the children fancy a cool and refreshing snack, get your frozen fruit out and pop in a blender! Banana, mango and berries are firm favourites in our household.

Ice lollies are also popular in our household and the children love it when there are ice lollies on sale after school on a hot day. We also make our own from their favourite fruit juices or smoothies.

Which frozen treat is your favourite? Are you in love with ice cream or a lover of lollies? Let us know of your favourite flavour too!