Category Archive: Food

Sep 04 2014

Food: Going Gluten Free With Ilumi

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Kerala Chicken Curry

Going gluten-free isn’t as hard as it used to be, it even has its own section in most supermarkets, but talking to a number of my friends who have had to cut out cereals wheat, barley and rye for medical reasons, there are still not enough tasty alternatives especially when it comes to ready meals.

That is where my seven-day gluten-free challenge with Ilumi comes in. This amazing online food store is not only a haven for great meal options for people with coeliac disease, but their products are also great for people with nut and milk allergies. Or if like me you are looking to be a little healthier and are fed up of that bloating feeling you some times get after eating too much bread.

The seven-day plan literally takes all the worries about what you are going to eat and when, plus they are super quick to prepare in the microwave. I loved that the food was delicious, of course, but also really loved the structure and ease of the plan. As a freelancer sometimes I can miss meals because I am glued to my computer, this plan meant I ate properly for a whole week.

The plan covers brekkie, lunch and dinner, and even provides gluten-free snacks, though to be honest I really did feel full after every meal that I didn’t always need them. The only downside I could see with the plan is that in the height of summer I am not sure you would want so many hot lunches, there are a lot of soups on offer, but then again I can’t rave enough about the Butternut Squash and Tomato and Red Pepper soups, they were both two of my favourite dishes.

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Tomato and Red Pepper soup

For me though the treat of this menu had to be the tasty curries for dinner, whether it was the mild and creamy Kerala Chicken Curry, the Moroccan-style Zaatar Chicken, or the spicy Thai Red Chicken Curry. The only thing I would say is don’t bother with the supermarket-own gluten-free naan bread, so tasteless and a waste of money. I also loved the addition of the gluten-free beer, Celia. Now I am not a beer fan, so to me it tasted like any other beer, but a friend did say it was less bloating.

The weekly plan, provides all your meals – breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well snacks and beer for curry night, for £45 and that includes free P&P to your door. All you need is a microwave. It really is that easy. It is also a great way to try Ilumi’s dishes, see which are your favourites so you could just stock up on those for nights when you are after a quick gluten-free meal.

But Ilumi is much more than the seven-day plan, the shop has everything from gluten-free gravy to stir-in sauces and even offers endorsed products such as pasta and noodles. I really want to try the Sweet Soy & Ginger Stir Fry Sauce, with wheat-free soy.

Are you gluten-free? Would you try Ilumi?

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Geng Gari Curry with Butternut Squash

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Celia gluten-free beer

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Zaatar Chicken

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Thai Red Chicken Curry

**I was gifted with a week supply of Ilumi dishes to review – but as always if I didn’t like, enjoy or think you would all love it as well – I wouldn’t share it**

Jun 28 2014

Fashionista Barbie Bakes: My Summer Pavlova

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I am a dessert junkie, I have such a sweet tooth that I get so excited about pudding, I am one of those who will skip starters so I have enough room for afters. Winter for me is all about anything dripping in custard, I love hot desserts, so it is always nice when the sun is shining to make a truly summer pudding and I don’t think you can get more summery than Fruit Pavlova, it is sweet and fresh with the added crunchy-yet-gooey vibe of the meringue that makes it perfection, well in my eyes anyway.

I can make a cake, muffins, pies, crumble, tarts, trifle, brownies and generally most other cake-like desserts, but it seems that making a meringue is going to keep alluding me. So if like me you can’t seem to get your meringue crunchy on the outside and fluffy on the inside opt for a shop-bought meringue, it isn’t really cheating and it really does then make this a quick dessert to make. If however you want to give meringue a go check out this one on the BBC.

The beauty of a pavlova is that you can really include any fruit you like on the top, I went with strawberries, blueberries and raspberries as we had them in the fridge, but I also love blackberries, pomegranate seeds, mango and blackcurrants, I also one summer experimented with plums out the garden. I find that anything goes, just go with fruits that everyone enjoys.

Fruit Pavlova

Ingredients:

1 x meringue pavlova

Fruit – strawberries, blueberries and raspberries (enough to cover the pavlova)

300ml double cream

300ml Greek-style yoghurt

A few drops of vanilla essence

Instructions:

Wash and prepare all fruit.

Place the meringue on a pretty plate or stand, once finished it will be more difficult to move.

Whip the double cream along with a few drops of vanilla essence until it just holds its shape, I find it easier to use my K-Mix but you can also do by hand.

Fold in the yoghurt.

Pile the cream mixture on top of the pavlova and place the fruit on top, I went for a layered approach – strawberries then blueberries and finishing off with a pile of raspberries.

To serve – dust with icing sugar.

I always find that it is best to serve alongside an extra bowl of fresh fruit so your guests can add on some more to enjoy with the delicious creamy mixture.

Do you love pavlova? Let me know in the comments below what your favourite summer desserts are.

Jun 16 2014

Food: Gizzi Erskine’s Salted Caramel Chocolate Tart

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For part one of my cooking with Gizzi Erskine I showed off her fabulous Sweetcorn Fritters, which I tried out again this weekend and they were just as easy to make as at the Nescafe Dolce Gusto event, I might have found my speciality!!! Well you can’t have brunch without finishing it off with something sweet, so Gizzi shared her delicious Salted Caramel Chocolate Tart, which I have to be honest isn’t an every weekend kind of dessert as it does take a couple of hours to prepare and make.

I enjoy making this dish, it would be easier with a mixer, but it still requires a lot more patience than I generally have, and one major tip I would have is don’t take your eyes off the caramel as this is the bit that can easily go wrong. But what I will take away from this recipe is a new confidence in using pastry, I have always been a little scared of pastry, but I did get some great tips from Gizzi and the use of the ceramic baking beans for the blind bake is something I had never heard of before. 

Are you confident enough to try Gizzi’s salted caramel chocolate tart?

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Salted Carmel Chocolate Tart

Ingredients for chocolate tart:
150g unsalted butter
1 x pack of ready to roll short crust pastry (based on 200g pastry used for tart – 25cm)
160g good quality chocolate (lindt or green & blacks 70%)
8 tbsp cocoa powder
small pinch of salt if required
4 eggs
180g caster sugar
3 tbsp golden syrup
3 tbsp single cream

Ingredients for the caramel:
150g caster sugar
65g unsalted butter, diced
100ml single cream
1 tbsp sea salt

Instructions:
Grease a tart tin (25cm) with butter and then dust flour inside, place the pastry inside and blind bake in the over on 170°c for 30-35 minutes.

Cook the tart without the blind bake for the last 5 minutes of cooking. When the pastry is cooked and starts to get a little brown take it out and leave to cool. In the meantime, make the caramel by melting the sugar and a splash of water in a saucepan on a medium heat until it is a light golden colour, then whisk in the butter and then the double cream.

Finish with the salt. pour the caramel into the cooked tart and place in the fridge to set for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 140°c.

When the caramel has almost set, start making the chocolate mix by melting the butter, chocolate, cocoa powder and salt in a bain marie (a bowl held above a saucepan of simmering water) stirring until it’s smooth.

In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and sugar together until light and well creamed, followed by the golden syrup and double cream. Add the chocolate mixture and mix well.

Pour the mix into the tart on top of the set caramel and bake in the oven for 40 to 45 min.

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**Join other Dolce Gusto lovers over on Facebook at The Pod**

 

Jun 11 2014

Food: Cooking Brunch With Gizzi Erskine – Sweetcorn Fritters

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Normally when it comes to featuring food on Fashionista Barbie it is limited to something sweet, you see I can bake but not cook, so when Nescafe Dolce Gusto asked me if I wanted to attend a brunch cooking class with TV chef Gizzi Erskine I have to be honest I jumped at the chance. An added bonus was that the recipe we would be cooking was sweetcorn fritters, one of my favourite brunch dishes that I have always wanted to learn how to cook, and I was really surprised by how easy it was – I really can’t wait to make this again when friends come to stay. 

The recipe we did also came with roasted chorizo, tomatoes and an avocado salad, but if like me you don’t eat much meat you can just leave it off, trust me you won’t need it the freshness of the avocado really is a great addition with the sweetcorn and cherry tomatoes. It is an easy recipe to make, hey if I can do it anyone can, the only thing I would say is that to get your fritters to cook you really have to keep an eye on them and flip them only when ready, one of our fritters kind of crumbled.

What I loved most about this recipe, other than the amazing taste it really was refreshing and filling, was that it didn’t take that much time to get it prepared, which is important when cooking brunch. It took 15 minutes prep time with 20 minutes cook time, less if you discount the meat, and I think you will agree it also looks visually pleasing as well so you will have all your guests Instagramming this easy-to-make dish.

Do you think you will give Gizzi’s sweetcorn fritters a go?

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Gizzi’s Sweetcorn Fritters

 Ingredients: 

200g sweetcorn, freshly cut off the cob
2 spring onion, finely sliced
1 green chili, halved seeded and thinly sliced
1 large egg
1 egg yolk
75ml buttermilk
30g polenta
15g corn flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
oil for frying

4 cooking chorizos (optional)
250g cherry tomatoes on the vine
1 avocado
The juice of 1/2 lemon or lime
Sea salt
Coriander
olive oil for drizzling

Instructions:

Heat the oven to 200°c. If including chorizo, rub the meat with oil and pop in the oven to roast for 20 minutes for the last 10 minutes add in
the cherry tomatoes drizzling them with some oil too.

Mix together the corn, spring onion, chili, egg, buttermilk, polenta, corn flour, and seasoning in a large bowl. Now leave covered in the fridge to rest for 15 minutes.

Heat a frying pan and add a little oil. Spoon into the hot pan a half of the fritter mixture into 2 -4 dollops (they will spread out), and cook it for 1-2 minutes until it is golden underneath, and it starts to bubble up. using a wide spatula, flip it over carefully and cook on the other side for a minute, then remove to a warm plate while you cook the rest.

Serve the fritters between 4 plates. Top with chorizo, roasted tomatoes, avocado, squeeze over the lemon juice and serve with fresh coriander.

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May 25 2014

Food of Life: Birds Eye Date Night With A Difference

Birdseye Fishfinger tacos 5 Food of Life: Birds Eye Date Night With A Difference %tagWhen Birds Eye asked me to take part in their Food of Life challenge the first thing I thought of was Fish Fingers, I know I should have been thinking about their fancy new Inspirations collection, which by the way is yummy, but for me Birds Eye will also be the go-to brand for my Fish Fingers, oh and they have to be the 100 percent cod ones as well.

Not content with just sending me over products from their collection, which is huge, my freezer is now stocked with goodies from fish chargrills, which can actually be grilled on the barbecue, chicken grills with a garlic and herb sauce and the most delicious, easy-to-cook rice fusions. They also sent me over a new table-cloth, mats, napkins, candles to set the mood, and even a hilarious Come Dine With Me CD. I even got a new dress and accessories for the occasion, which I promise to share soon.

The hamper also included Tacos, with the suggestion to try them with Fish Fingers, something I had never considered, but for date night this Bank Holiday my fiancé and I with friends decided to give it a go, as come on they sound amazing.

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For me Fish Fingers, whether they are in a sandwich smothered in ketchup, teamed with creamy mash potato and beans, or even with boiled new potatoes, peas and sweetcorn – there is never a bad combination. Maybe it is to do with great memories of having them as a child, the ease in which they cook, I can bake nearly any dessert but for the main dish I really need something I can just throw in the oven, and Fish Fingers are perfect for that.

With the weather being semi OK this weekend, we had a rare glimpse of sunshine in between the rain that we decided to take our date night to the garden, and I have to be honest Fish Finger Tacos, which I call great ‘picnic’ meal, where I get to play with my food, is perfect to enjoy outdoors, as it is casual and fun without being a BBQ, which is what we normally have.

So armed with our Tacos, a plate staked high with Fish Fingers we added everything from cheese, lettuce, cherry tomatoes and even coleslaw. What I have learnt is there are no rules, you can place anything and everything in, as long as it fits. I would totally recommend just Fish Fingers and coleslaw, so good.

Have you given Fish Finger Tacos a go?

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May 22 2014

Afternoon Tea: The Park Lane Hotel – Wedding Dresses

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I love Art Deco architecture and fashion, so when The Park Lane Hotel in London got in touch to ask me to review their exciting new collaboration with the V&A for their Wedding Dresses exhibition I couldn’t say no, especially when I heard it was a special afternoon tea inspired by wedding fashion.

Created by The Park Lane Hotel’s Pastry Chef, Sarah Hartnett, the Wedding Dresses Afternoon Tea is a real treat that starts with ‘Tuxedo’ strawberries, which look as gorgeous as they taste, and a glass of Moët & Chandon Champagne to get you into the wedding spirit, while sitting comfortably in the Palm Court lounge of the hotel, I think I could have sat on that sofa all-day long.

Unlike other afternoon tea’s where everything is displayed together, the savouries, the scones and the cakes, I really loved how the Palm Court’s waiting staff take you on a journey through the courses, much like a wedding breakfast I suppose, only revealing the next course once you have finished with the last.

Normally I instantly gushed about the sweeter side of an afternoon tea, maybe it is because that is what catches my attention from the get-go, but with it being served as courses I really think that the savouries was one of my favourite bits. As I am not a huge meat eater the hotel kindly did me a veggie plate, with the impressive looking and delicious cucumber vichyssoise with cucumber pearls, the cream cheese and chive sandwiches, the egg rolls and the best was the warm asparagus brioche. I really can’t fault anything from this course, everything tasted great and was presented superbly.

Next up was the romantic side of the wedding-themed afternoon tea, with warm, heart-shaped plain and apple and raisin scones, which were just so adorable and one of the best scones I have tasted, and I do love a scone! What made these, other than the Instagramable shape, had to be the preserves they came with, not content with just clotted cream and jam there was also lemon curd, such a delicious addition.

By this point I was feeling pretty full, well that was until I saw the ‘Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed and Something Blue’ cakes – with the ‘old’ vintage dress inspired vanilla and pear bavarois, the ‘new’ golden wedding ring of creamed passion fruit chiboust with orange shortbread, my favourite lemon and pistachio polenta Wedding Cake decorated with a ‘borrowed’ brooch, and finally, the ‘blue’ blueberry almond mousse with chocolate cream to represent a very fashion-forward groom in a blue suit.

Each cake was exquisitely crafted, I loved all the details, and the taste was very unique and flavourful, a perfect ending to a fabulous relaxed afternoon tea, well that would be if the hotel didn’t send you off with a ‘Top Hat’ wedding favour cake filled with coffee and white chocolate fudge as a memento of the day, continuing the wedding theme right through.

If you enjoy a themed afternoon tea, or like me a very excited bride-to-be I think you will really enjoy this special menu, I also think it makes a day of it when paired with the exhibition. If however you are after more traditional touches then I think you would probably much prefer the hotel’s regular offering, as the Art Deco Palm Court is a gorgeous place to enjoy afternoon tea in London.

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The Wedding Dresses Afternoon Tea at The Park Lane Hotel will be served until June 30, 2014, 3pm-6pm on weekdays and 2pm-6pm at weekends in The Palm Court and costs £45 per person or £53 per person including a ticket to the exhibition. Bookings must be made in advance. For more information visit www.palmcourtlondon.co.uk/wedding-dresses. To book, call The Palm Court on 0207 290 7328 or email palmcourt.parklane@sheraton.com
**I was a guest of The Park Lane Hotel – but as always my opinion is honest – if I didn’t enjoy it I wouldn’t have featured it**

May 16 2014

Food: Birds Eye Pop-Up Restaurant

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When I heard that Birds Eye were open its doors to the world’s first pay-by-picture restaurant I have to be honest I was intrigued. I’m not a food snob, I love the convenience and ease of a Birds Eye dinner, heck fish fingers are my go-to comfort food along with mash and beans, so I really enjoyed tasting the delicious dishes to launch its new premium Inspirations range.

I have to be honest I wasn’t expecting much, but hey who turns down a free lunch, but I have to say I was so impressed with the Birds Eye concept restaurant, The Picture House, nothing about it made you think this was a frozen food brand with its shabby chic interior and open kitchen.

As the concept was pay-by-picture on Instagram, technology also featured in the menu which was displayed on an iPad, there were three options for the dinner options – Fish Chargrills and Chicken Inspirations as well as a Rice Fusion dish for veggies.

I went for the veggie option with smoke aubergine, goats cheese and soft herb fritters on a bed of Mediterranean vegetable rice, which was delicious, oh and I tried my dinner companions chicken dish, which was also lovely.

As well as tasting good I loved the way the dishes were styled, the vibe of the restaurant, as well as the encouragement to snap our meals with tuition from top foodie Instgrammer Marte Marie Forsberg, you have to check out her Instagram feed, tips like embracing the light, framing the meal, as well as using props – it was interesting and fingers crossed my Instagram to pay for my meal was OK!!!

After a delicious main we were treated with dessert, it was either a strawberry based pudding or a chocolate pot with orange ice-cream, of course I went for the choccie!!! It was heaven in a little pot and I devoured every last bit. A cuppa to finish was the perfect ending to a lovely relaxed lunch.

I wish all restaurants accepted payment with a simple Instagram!!!

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**I was a guest of Birds Eye, but all views are my own**
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