Sunday, 28 September 2014

Gluten Free Lemon Cake Bars & Reviewing Oxo Kitchenware

Readers, I'm sorry! Blogging again seems to have taken a bit of backseat these last few weeks. I’ve just about managed to find some time to bake but blogging, well that’s another story!

We did a bake sale for Macmillan earlier in the week, raising over £200 for the  charity so at least the cake eating is for a good cause!

Yesterday my Godmother came over for lunch and I was challenged to produce an entirely gluten free meal for her visit as she’s coeliac.  I was conscious of not making two of everything so did a teriyaki salmon dish with rice noodles for main and then these oh-so-cute lemon cake bars for dessert.  Everyone said you couldn’t even tell they were a gluten free substitution. 

Oxo UK very kindly sent me a batter bowl and baker’s dusting wand for review and I thoroughly enjoyed using them in this bake.
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Oxo have over 200 kitchen items available in the range and the items are designed not to hurt your hands and be accessible to all.  Genius!  Spending a fair bit of time in the kitchen – this is something I really appreciate.  Their marketing must work: having been a Oxo virgin until last week – I bought an ice cream scoop in Sainsbury’s on Friday after saying “ooh look, it’s an Oxo product!”

Their universal designs are perfect for lefties like me.    Oxo was founded on the principals of designing products which work for as many people as possible. Something I really like.  Why should arthritis stop you from having fun in the kitchen?!

I do have a big ceramic baking bowl which I use for cakes, but I was pleasantly surprised by the batter bowl.  It’s lightweight, so easy to work with, has an easy grip handle which is great when you have a hand mixer in the other hand and it also sits on the worktop without moving, even when you have the hand mixer going at full pelt!

The bowl is a decent size and the high sides are great to ensure you don’t splatter cake batter halfway across the kitchen.   I made the cake bars in an 8in x 8in tin and there was no sign of hitting the top of the batter bowl with the mix.  
The mix also came away from the sides of the batter bowl evenly and with the help of my trusty spatula was transferred to the cake pan with ease.

I’m absolutely certain this will become a staple in the kitchen going forward and at £13.00 is a worthwhile investment for any cook or baker.  It’s available online directly from Oxo.

The second piece of kit I received was a baker’s dusting wand which I used to finish my cake before serving.  I forgot to take an action shot, but you’ll see from the finished article it evenly distributed the icing sugar as a decoration on the black plates.
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I never even knew such a thing existed before last week but now I can’t wait to use my baker’s dusting wand even more.  I enjoy making bread and pasta and can see this coming in so handy when flouring my board or my pasta dough as I need it.  Expect further reference to my “magic wand” in future. No jokes please!  And I promise to show some action shots next time!

But for now, here’s the finished article...

Gluten Free Lemon Cake Bars

Gluten Free lemon cake bar Ingredients

makes 5 finished desserts


125g gluten free self raising flour
2 large eggs
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
125g caster sugar
125g unsalted butter


250g icing sugar
75g butter (softened)
Few drops of Sicilian Lemon flavouring
30g cream cheese


1. Preheat the oven to 190c/170c fan/Gas 5.
2. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
3. Add the eggs one at a time, with a teaspoon of flour as you go to prevent curdling.
Mix the eggs as you go to incorporate into the mix.

4. Grate in the zest of 1 lemon and mix to combine.
5. Pour in the juice of 1 lemon and mix to combine.
6. Sift in the flour and mix to combine to form your cake batter.
7. Transfer the batter into a prepared (buttered) 8in x 8in square silicone baking pan.  Smooth out the top to form an even cake.

8. Bake in the oven for 18-20 minutes until golden and a skewer inserted comes out clean.
9.  Now the science bit.  Switch off the oven and open the door slightly.  Leave the cake in the oven for now.  After a couple of minutes, open the door fully.  Then, pull the oven shelf forward several minutes later and cool half in half out of the oven for a few moments.  Then remove from the oven and cool on a rack, in the tin for a few moments.  Once the cake has firmed up, you can transfer it to the cooling rack.
10.  When cool, slice the cake into 10 equally sized pieces.
11. Prep your topping and filling by creating a buttercream with the butter and icing sugar.  Then, stir in the cream cheese at the end and a few drops of lemon flavouring.  Top tip – grate the butter or let it sit for a while. It makes your life much easier when making the buttercream!
12.  Sandwich together two equally sized slices with the filling, then decorate the top of each cake with some more of your frosting mix.  Finish each with a  little decoration.
13. Serve immediately with a scoop of lemon sorbet and dust each plate with a little icing sugar using your baker’s dusting wand. 
Gluten Free Lemon Cake Bar
Add caption

Disclaimer: I received the kitchenware from Oxo to review and bake with.  Any opinions expressed are my own. 

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Cooking Venison with Jacqueline O’Donnell

Last week What Claire Baked and Grub Glorious Grub went on tour to the Eat, Drink, Discover Scotland Show at the Royal Highland Centre Edinburgh.

Originally we’d planned to go for a wander but took a last minute decision to book onto one of the masterclasses.  After looking through the options we settled on the venison masterclass on the Saturday morning… and we were in for a treat!

We turned up expecting a full class and discovered that we were the only ones booked on *concerned face*.  After a slight panic that it was going to be cancelled, the class went ahead anyway and we ended up in private cooking class with Jacqueline O’Donnell.

For those of you who don’t know.  Jacqueline is one of “The Sisters” who own The Sisters Restaurant in Glasgow.  She was also one of the contestants on the recent series of The Great British Menu.  And she couldn’t have been nicer.

When someone turns up for a class with a mini bottle of Prosecco and a straw for you, something inside tells you it’s a fun session ahead!

Jacqueline started our class by teaching us about the different cuts on the animal and the best ways to cook the cuts, to bring out the flavour and make sure you aren’t stewing a prime cut when you should be frying it.

We were also taught about sad pans and happy pans – making sure that you never put venison into a cold pan and that it should be a temperature where you can hold your hand above it without touching the pan and not feeling it’s too hot.

One of the other lessons we had was the importance of resting meat before serving.  The outside temperature and inside temperature should meet and come together when it’s resting.   

Jacqueline was more than happy for us to ask as many questions as we wanted to: not just about venison!  We asked her about getting into the industry, the issues she faced as a female running a kitchen in a male dominated world and what she’d learnt along the way.   She told us about the chaos of her opening night and that it was never advisable to book everyone in for 8pm!

But back to the cooking.  We used both the loin and the fillet in the masterclass from Seriously Good Venison, cooking the loin first.  One of the great things that came out of the session was leaning that it’s better to heat your pan, coat your meat in oil and season it, then drop into the pan rather than oiling the pan.  Now there’s something I didn’t know!
Asking lots of questions!

We also had to make sure that our meat was seared on all sides to seal it.  Getting my hands into a pan was a new experience! Note – I have asbestos fingers.

Then we began making our sauce.  We used local blackberries, which we cooked down with a bramble vinegar from Summer Harvest, based in Perthshire.  We then removed the meat to rest.

Once the berries had cooked down, we removed them from the pan and plated up in the middle.  We then let the juices and vinegar reduce into a shiny, gorgeous looking glaze, which was used to decorate the edge of the plate.  

We then got cracking with a very simple salad, lots of greenery, a little rapeseed oil and salt and pepper, which we mixed together.   Top tip: to shape salad leaves, one mixed, press together into your hands.  It looks much more professional.

We finished off by cooking the fillet for a few seconds on each side before resting it and plating up. 
Can't quite believe we made this!
Jacqueline was a fantastic teacher who was so down to earth, willing to answer our questions and even after our lesson finished, had some time to spare to sit and have lunch with us.   We had the opportunity to chat and she was so encouraging to us as foodies enjoy something we are passionate about.

All in all… it was an amazing experience.  Something we may never have the chance to do again.  It just shows you… the early bird really does catch the worm.  Or a private cookery lesson in this case!

Our next plan is to go for dinner at The Sisters in Glasgow… we might even take the boys if they are good! 

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Boozy Chocolate Raspberry Jam Brownies


After taking delivery of that delicious hamper from Thorntons Chocolates, I’ve been back in the kitchen creating another recipe.

As a side note, the one thing I didn’t bake with was the Dreamy Desserts.  We scoffed them.  I’ve never had dessert chocs before, but oh my, they were delicious…  A selection of your favourite desserts in little chocolate format.  Particular mention to the lemon meringue pie ones which I scoffed in under 5 minutes.

But back to the recipe!  In my hamper was a bottle of chocolate liqueur which I had no idea how to use.  I’m not really a big liqueur drinker.  A wee Irish cream at Christmas is probably as far as I’ll go.   So I figured it was best to incorporate this into a bake.  I also used the 35% milk chocolate and cocktail chocolates in this recipe, for the ultimate boozy chocolate brownie!

The addition of the liqueur made for a really moist gooey brownie.  Take note though – these are fairly boozy, so if you aren’t a fan, it’s probably best to leave the liqueur out!
Using ingredients from the hamper

Boozy Chocolate Raspberry Jam Brownies
Boozy chocolate raspberry jam brownies

Ingredients (makes one 20cm x 20cm pan)

250g unsalted butter
300g soft brown sugar
3 medium eggs
100g plain flour
50g good quality cocoa powder
½ teaspoon baking powder
3 dessert spoons Thorntons Chocolate Liqueur
2 heaped teaspoons quality raspberry conserve
White chocolate and Scrumptious Chocolate Cocktails to decorate


1. Grease and line a 20cm x 20cm tin. Preheat the oven to 190c/170c fan/Gas 5
2. Melt butter, chopped chocolate and sugar together in a pot and stir together.  Remove from heat when sugar is almost melted.   Break in the eggs one at a time and whisk into the mix until smooth and glossy.  Repeat with the remaining two eggs.
Make sure the mix is glossy
3. Sift in the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder.  Fold into the mix.
4 .Stir in the chocolate liqueur.
5. Pour the brownie mix into your prepared tin.
Ready to go into the oven
6. Transfer the jam to a bowl and stir to loosen.  Swirl blobs of jam into your mix, being cautious of not letting the jam sink to the bottom.
7. Cook the brownies in the oven for around 35 minutes until a crust has formed on top but the sponge is still gooey underneath.
Getting ready to decorate
8. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.  When cool, melt white chocolate in the microwave and drizzle on top of the brownie.  Stick the Thorntons Cocktail Truffles to the top of the brownie at even intervals then cut into squares.
Boozy chocolate raspberry jam brownies
Tasty brownies!
9. Serve immediately or store in an airtight container for 2-3 days. 

I'm entering this recipe into #recipeoftheweek over at A Mummy Too

Link up your recipe of the week

I'm also entering into #treatpetite, hosted this month by Cakey Boi

Monday, 8 September 2014

Melting Middle Chocolate Puddings

Readers, I was delighted to be approached by Thorntons a few weeks ago and be asked to take part in a recipe and review blog for one of their hampers.

I received a fantastic Indulgence Celebration Wicker Hamper.   I’m not going to lie, I was so excited when the big box came to the door.  Then there was a lovely wicker hamper inside the big box… THEN… I got to open the hamper and find all these delicious chocolate treats inside!

To view the great range of hampers, visit the Thorntons Online Store
A chocolate lover's dream!

Second confession, the Gooey Caramel Melts disappeared as we watched a film on the first night the hamper was delivered.    I’ll fully review the hamper soon, but in the meantime I have promised Thorntons that I’ll create some chocolate themed recipes, as well as munching my own body weight in my favourite cocoa substance.

My first recipe is a very simple melting middle chocolate pudding.  Turn out these are supposed to be made in ramekins, but after a midnight dash to my local supermarket to find I couldn’t buy them anywhere, I improvised and used a buttered muffin tin, pouring the mix straight into the holes.  The puddings turned out well!

These were delicious and I made them with the 70% Deliciously Dark Chocolate Block which was included in the hamper.

These are so simple and can be whipped up last minute for a dinner party (all it takes is 20 minutes to prep and cook them!)   I based this recipe on one found on BBC Good Food.

Thorntons Melting Middle Chocolate Puddings


Makes 4 mini puddings

90g Thonrtons Dark Chocolate (chopped)
100g butter (chopped)
150g light soft brown sugar
3 large eggs
Splash vanilla extract
50g plain flour


1. Preheat the oven to 200c/Fan 180c/Gas 6. Butter four holes of a muffin tin.
2. Put the butter and chocolate into a microwave proof bowl and heat at 30 second intervals until both ingredients are fully melted.  Stir the mix until smooth and set aside for 10-15 minutes to cool.
3. When cooled, mix in the eggs one at a time, whisking each egg in until the mix is smooth and glossy.  Once all eggs are added, stir in the vanilla extract and the sugar.
Adding the eggs - make sure the mix is glossy
4. Sift in the plain flour (with a little height to add air to the mix) and fold in the flour.
5.  Pour the mix into the pre greased holes and tap on the worktop to remove any air bubbles.
6. Place in the oven and cook for 10 minutes.   Tops should firm but the cake should be squidgy! Remove from cake pan and serve immediately with vanilla ice cream.

Great for making delicious desserts
Disclaimer:   I received the hamper from Thorntons free of charge to create recipes and review products. Any views expressed are my own.