Tag Archives: Review

VonShef Stand Mixer – A review

VonShef Mixer

Photo courtesy of Domu

Domu sent me a stand mixer to put through its paces. The VonShef stand mixer has a 1260w motor and comes with a dough hook, whisk and paddle.  It has a similar styling to the KitchenAid with its curved body and stainless steel bowl.

I was interested to see how it would perform against my KitchenAid. I use my KitchenAid mixer daily, mixing bread doughs for the family, making cakes and occasionally I use it for students at my bread courses who want to learn how to mix their doughs in their stand mixers.

The Vonshef is a fraction of the price of the KitchenAid, but then it doesn’t have the sturdy workmanship that you expect of a stand mixer in the KitchenAid price range. The VonShef is made of plastic and so does not have the heavy, sturdy feel of the KitchenAid, but the benefit of this is its portability – the VonShef can easily be lifted in and out of cupboard if you don’t have the workspace to store your stand mixer on the worktop. The VonShef’s plastic is slightly more lightweight than the cheaper Kenwood Mixers on the market, but the VonShef is also cheaper than the cheapest Kenwood.

I have been thoroughly testing the VonShef over the past couple of weeks. It has made cakes and mixed the enriched doughs and pizza dough ahead of a bread class. I have been impressed with its performance.

It managed to mix five doughs consecutively (1 white pizza dough and 4 enriched doughs), using the mix and rest method, without any difficulty. The mix and rest method replicates the stretch and fold in the bowl by hand method that I use during the bread classes.  Both take advantage of allowing the gluten proteins time to develop (as soon as you add liquid to flour the two proteins that make up gluten, (glutenin and gliadin), start to form chains) and then giving them a helping hand by mixing (machine) or folding (hand), allowing to rest and then another mix or fold.  Both methods prove equally effective to a long knead by hand or running the mixer for 5-10 minutes.   The instructions for the VonShef mixer advises that you don’t run the mixer for longer than 5 minutes to avoid overheating the motor and the mix and rest method avoids this. Although, I think a five-minute knead at speed 2 is more than sufficient to develop the gluten of most doughs.

The VonShef has a few features that really stand out.  The splash guard fits well and makes adding ingredients mid-mix easy.  The pulse action is very quick and is great when you have added eggs to a cake mixture. They are mixed evenly and efficiently.  When I was making the cake, I found that I had to scrape down the bowl after each addition of a new ingredient, but I have to scrape down my KitchenAid too. The mixer worked perfectly well at mixing a light airy sponge.

It wasn’t just any cake either, but my eldest’s thirteenth birthday cake. A very important cake indeed.

Unicorn cake

So how do I rate the VonShef stand mixer? Well, it is noisier than my KitchenAid and nowhere near as sturdy or, let’s admit it, as beautiful, but for a mixer in the price range that it is in it is a great piece of equipment that makes great cakes and works perfectly well for mixing bread doughs. If you are looking for a budget mixer rather than a once-in-a-lifetime purchase then I can recommend the VonShef.

Disclaimer: I was sent a VonShef mixer free for the purposes of this review.  The opinions expressed are my own and honest after thoroughly testing the mixer. 

 

 

EasiYo yoghurt maker

EasiYo Yoghurt Maker

Sometimes the stars shine down on you. I have wanted to try making my own yoghurt for ages and over Christmas I was looking at getting a yoghurt maker, but I wasn’t sure it would be worth the investment. Then I get an email asking if I would like to review an EasiYo yoghurt maker. It arrived and I have been playing with it and perfecting the art of making my own yoghurt. Actually you don’t need to do that as you can buy a powdered yoghurt that makes the whole process easy. These powdered yoghurts comes in lots of flavours, including strawberries and cream and pineapple with coconut bits and full instructions for making the yoghurt are given on the sachets. However, if you are a regular reader of these pages you will know that a powdered yoghurt is not really me.

So I have been making yoghurt the traditional way with milk and a live yoghurt culture. Whilst you could do this in a thermos flask, the EasiYo yoghurt maker does make it easier and all I have to wash up is the plastic container that I have made the yoghurt in, rather than a thermos, which I always have trouble getting scrupulously clean (from experience bicarb is the way to go by the way). So in answer to my own question over Christmas then yes, I think it is worth making the investment to buy a yoghurt maker. You can see the full range and buy your own yoghurt maker from the EasiYo online shop.

Bear in mind that when you are culturing milk, hygiene is important. Make sure your pan, thermometer and the plastic container are clean and as a precaution I rinse them all with boiling water.

By making yoghurt this way you can choose the milk that you like best, whether that is whole, semi-skimmed or skimmed, organic or if you can get it raw milk from your local farmer.

Unhomogenised milk is always better than homogenised when making dairy products as it has the fat globules intact. The homogenisation process forces the fat globules through very small holes breaking them up under pressure and the surface area of the fat globules increases to such a degree that they can’t bond back together, meaning that the cream is dispersed evenly through the milk. Unhomogenised has that lovely creamy layer at the top and adds an extra richness to your yoghurt.

Once you have chosen your milk then you just need a starter pot of yoghurt and it needs to be a live yoghurt. The one I use didn’t have “live yoghurt” listed on the pot but it is a pot of plain greek style yoghurt and works well as a starter culture.

You need to heat the milk to almost boiling point (85°c). This will improve the chances of your yoghurt not having the wrong bacteria in it and it will improve the texture, making it richer and smoother. Heating milk unfolds its proteins enabling them to stick to the fat globules and to each other. Heating your milk slowly is always better for the finished yoghurt. Give the milk a gentle stir regularly through the gentle heating process.

Then you need to cool your milk to finger hot (47°c). It is best to do this slowly, by taking it off the heat and giving it a gentle stir from time to time.

It is also better if your yoghurt starter has been out of the fridge and is up to room temperature, otherwise the temperature of your milk will drop quickly and your yoghurt will take longer to get going.

500ml milk
3 tbsp live yoghurt (brought out of the fridge a couple of hours before so that is close to room temperature)

You also need a milk pan, a thermometer and an EasiYo yoghurt maker

Method
Pour the milk into a pan and place over a gentle heat. Place a thermometer in the milk and heat gently to 85°c. Take the milk off the heat and leave to cool to 47°c. Stir the yoghurt into the milk until well combined.

Put your kettle on to boil. Pour boiling water into the EasiYo container that sits inside the insulated container to sterilise. Tip this water into the insulated container to the level indicated on the side. Pour the milk and yoghurt mixture into the plastic container and seal the lid,  then sit it inside the insulated container and put the lid on. Leave to ferment for about 8 hours until the yoghurt has thickened. If you leave it for longer it will be thicker and stronger tasting. When it is how you like it just place the container in the fridge and it will be ready to eat once it has cooled.

I like my yoghurt thick like Greek yoghurt so after it has had eight hours fermentation I pour it into a sieve lined with muslin (or you could use a clean tea towel) and sit it over a bowl until it has drained to the consistency I prefer. It doesn’t take long to do this. Then I place my finished yoghurt in the fridge.

Remember to keep 3 tbsps back for your next batch of homemade yoghurt.

Disclaimer: I was sent an Easiyo yoghurt maker for review purposes. This review is based on my own experience and honest opinions and does not contain any text given to me by the PR agency that sent me the yoghurt maker. 

Homemade yoghurt

Rex London review

Rex London (formerly Dotcomgiftshop) very kindly sent me a voucher to buy myself a few early Christmas presents. They have lots of lovely things for the kitchen, home and kids and lots of unusual gift ideas. It was very hard to choose how to spend my voucher.  Being practically minded though I decided on buying a few of their gorgeous aprons. These will come in useful for the bread making courses that I run. It’s just a shame that they don’t sell some with a more masculine design. Lots of men come to my courses and lots of men enjoy cooking.

Here are the aprons I chose, hanging ready for the next bread course. The eagle-eyed amongst you will spot the matching flour shaker that I also chose. Again, something that will come in very useful at Veg Patch Kitchen.

aprons

I am really pleased with these aprons, they are excellent quality made from 100% cotton and feel like that they will wash and wash. The adjustable neck straps means that one size fits all and they have a very handy front pocket. I think my favourite is the Vintage Apple design, but the Mid-Century Poppy comes in a close second.

There really is a gift for everyone at Rex London. I was very tempted by their tableware, some of the plates are just gorgeous, particularly the Moorish Stoneware and the Japanese inspired range. Pop over and take a look and see if you can tick off a few items from that Christmas list.

Disclaimer: I received an incentive of vouchers to write this post, however, all the opinions and content are my own and honest. 

Hotel Chocolat Easter treats

Easter is almost upon us and in this house that means an Easter Egg hunt on Easter Sunday. I  (cough) The Easter Bunny writes a load of clues and hides them round the garden, each clue having a little pile of eggs next to it. The girls love it, although the eldest might feel a bit old for it this year. However, the Easter Bunny stands for none of this “I am too old now” malarkey.

It was a great treat, then, when I received a gorgeously presented package in the post from Hotel Chocolat.

Hotel Chocolat gift bag

Especially when hiding inside were their Dozen Quail Egglets. These are very tempting bite sized (if you have a big mouth like me) chocolate eggs. Two each of Salted Caramel, Peanut Butter, Raspberry Supermilk, Hazelnut Praline, Strawberries & Cream and Mousse au Chocolate.

I admit to having snaffled most of them all by myself, well, the girls will have enough chocolate eggs next Sunday. All of the chocolate eggs are as delicious as the next. My favourite though is probably the peanut butter flavoured. I am a sucker for anything that has peanut butter in it.

Hotel Chocolat has a fantastic range of Easter goodies available and they come in such lovely gift bags that whoever you buy for will feel very spoilt indeed.

NB: This post is a review of an item sent to me for free for review purposes by Hotel Chocolat. All opinions are my own and are honest.

 

Rex London

Rex London (formerly Dotcomgiftshop) recently listed twenty-five of their favourite baking blogs and I was thrilled to be included in the list. They also kindly sent me one of their recipe tins, which is very handy for keeping all of those cuttings in order, and a voucher to choose some lovely things off their website. They have a wide selection to choose from. I was most interested in their kitchen and baking related items but there really is something there for everyone in your family. So, if you still have that special person to buy for get yourself over to Rex London for a look. Ordering is easy and delivery was quick.

These are the items that caught my eye.

Dotcomgiftshop items

I love those little milk bottles. If we manage to sort out something for friends over Christmas I plan to serve a cocktail or two in them. The sugar pourer is something I have been coveting for years. I always get a little over excited when I  find one on a café table. The butter dish appeals to my nostalgic side. We had one very similar when I was a child. The tea cosy will be much used and is very pretty. There are lots of matching items available in the same paisley pattern too.  I might have added a few extra items to my basket too but as they are destined to be under the tree on Christmas morning I thought it best to not show them on here.

Disclosure: I was sent a voucher to buy items for this review. All opinions are my own and are honest.

 

Make it Easy Cookbook

Make it easy cookbook

I was kindly sent a copy of Jane Lovett’s Make it Easy Cookbook to review. The introduction to Jane’s book leaves you in no doubt that this is a woman that you can trust to deliver recipes that will work for you. Having been classically trained at Cordon Bleu she has worked at Leith’s School of Food and Wine, run her own catering company and has tested and developed recipes for cookery books, magazines and TV. She runs regular cookery demonstrations from what looks like a beautiful home and garden in Northumberland.

The book is designed to help you plan ahead with your cooking, and will give confidence to any unconfident cook. It is brimming with top tips, hints and do’s and don’ts to help you cook a dinner party from scratch without fuss and ending up frazzled. Every one of the recipes has a tip on how to get ahead, perhaps by preparing it a day ahead,  and most recipes have a hint or tip which helps guide the novice cook, or the more experienced, towards success.

Jane Lovett Cookbook

The recipes that struck me as must-makes included her stuffed marrow recipe, a great way to use up that glut for the veg grower. Her recipe for slow cooked Chinese duck legs sounds delicious and easy and can be made two days in advance and happily sit in the fridge developing a richer flavour.

For dessert I would be hard pushed to choose between the stem ginger ice cream or the ginger creams with pistachio brittle. I have a thing for ginger.

Jane’s book is full of wise advice and would make a great Christmas gift for the keen cook in your household and would prove endlessly useful for those times when you need to plan a meal ahead.

Jane Lovett’s Make it Easy Cookbook is published by IMM Lifestyle books and is available at all good high street and online retailers priced at £12.99.

Disclosure: I was sent a complimentary copy of the book for the purposes of this review. All of the opinions are my own and are honest. 

 

Hotel Chocolat treats for Christmas

I have been holding off from using the word until at least November. I am the sort that starts to think about Christmas about mid November-ish. But I think about chocolate most of the time. Hotel Chocolat kindly sent me a selection of the gorgeous treats that they have available this Christmas. To be honest when I was asked which chocolate I would like to try I couldn’t make up my mind. My youngest had no such problem. Straight away she asked if we could try the marzipan and the mint selections. She is very different from me in many ways, as all children should be, but we have the exact same taste in chocolate. Here is what arrived in a beautifully presented gift bag.

Hotel Chocolat

The youngest dived straight in and she and I both agree that it would be hard to choose between the marzipan or the mint if we had to. The little solid Santas would also be lovely to find tucked under the tree come Christmas morning.

Hotel Chocolat

Which would you choose?

Disclosure: I was sent these items free of charge for the purposes of review. All opinions are my own and honest. 

 

Singing Hinny

I was kindly sent a Kitzini silicone baking mat to review and I have been giving it a thorough test over the last couple of weeks. I started with a jammy dodger recipe, but the recipe needs more tweaking before it’s ready to share with you. They spread too much and needed to be a bit more substantial to be jammy dodgers that I would be proud to tell you about.  I made some buckwheat and almond cookies that are really good and will be shared at some point in the near future.

Jammy dodgers about to go in the oven

Jammy dodgers about to go in the oven

Buckwheat and almond cookies

Buckwheat and almond cookies

I have been impressed with the Kitzini mat. It has even heat distribution and is easy to clean, much easier than a buttered tray. Any spills wipe off very easily. The mats are oven, microwave and freezer safe and can also be used as pastry mats. They are available  at Amazon and are currently on sale.

I also made a Singing Hinny which worked really well with the mat on the simmering plate of the Aga. I have made a Singing Hinny a few times directly on the simmering plate and it works fine, but using the Kitzini mat did mean that it didn’t need turning as often to prevent the bottom scorching.

Singing Hinny

Singing Hinny dough with the underside cooking on the Aga

The Singing Hinny gets its name from the singing noise it makes when it hits the heat of the griddle. I sadly, have yet to experience a hinny singing to me yet. Maybe, one day.

The Singing Hinny is delicious served warm, sliced into wedges, split and buttered. Jam is optional but good.

Singing Hinny

Singing Hinny cooking on the Aga

This is supposed to cut into 8 wedges but Mr OC and I can eat it all in one sitting.

225g self-raising flour
½ tsp salt
50g butter (lard is more traditional but I don’t often have it in the fridge)
50g caster sugar
75g raisins or currants depending on what you have in the cupboard
1 egg
6 tbsp milk

Method

I make mine in a food processor which makes it very quick and easy. Put the flour, salt and butter into the processor and whizz together briefly. Add the sugar and whizz again. Add the egg and milk and whizz, then add the dried fruit and whizz very briefly. It should now be easy to bring together into a ball using your hands.

If you don’t have a food processor, rub the butter into the flour using the tips of your fingers. When it resembles breadcrumbs stir in the sugar and salt. Add the dried fruit, egg and milk and work gently together with a spoon or your hand until it forms a ball.

Place onto a lightly floured work surface and flatten to a disc using your hand. You can cook it on the simmering plate of the Aga or in a heavy based pan over a low-medium heat. Turn after about 8-10 minutes when it should be well browned. Cook for another 8-10 minutes. Leave to cool for a minute or two on a wire rack and then cut into wedges, split horizontally and spread with butter.

I was sent two silicone mats by Kitzini for review purposes. I received no other payment and any opinions expressed are honest and my own. 

Teavivre

I was recently sent some tea samples for review purposes from Teavivre. I have to say that it has been a real treat. We British have a reputation for being tea drinkers and that is certainly the case in this house. When we go abroad on holiday I make sure I pack enough teabags for at least two cups of tea for me and Mr OC a day. You can’t get more British than that.

Despite our love of tea in this house we are prone to buying the tea that comes in teabags in a box from the supermarket. Some of these teabags, it has to be said, make a comforting cup of tea. We do also buy loose tea from our local teashop and at weekends we make a proper cup of tea – in a pot and using a strainer, as opposed to a bag in a cup, but beyond that we are not very adventurous with our tea.

So, it was a real treat to receive these teas. Take a look at the Teavivre website to see their full range of exceptional teas. I was sent a range of black and white teas to try, which included Yun Nan Dian Hong Black Tea Full-leaf, Bailin Gongfu Black Tea, Premium Keemun Hao Ya Black Tea, Organic Nonpareil Silver Needle White Tea (Bai Hao Yin Zhen), Da Hong Pao (Big Red Robe) Wuyi Rock Oolong Tea Fujian.

Teavivre teas

They are beautiful teas to look at and the taste is exceptional, whether it is the rich, almost chocolatey taste of the oolong or the delicate floral taste of the silver needle tea. There is a tea for every occasion and for every taste in the sample pack that I received and that was only a selection of those available on the Teavivre website.

The website itself makes for fascinating reading with its advice for brewing the tea in the traditional Chinese way. One thing that I have learned is that you do not pour boiling water over tea, but rather boiled water at 90°c. After thirty odd years of making tea (well, I was only seven when I made my first cup of tea) this parcel of tea has been responsible for me changing my tea making habits.

Teavivre send their teas direct from China and delivery takes between 6-10 days. Their website is available in British Sterling, just select the currency at the top of the webpage. They also have some lovely teapots and teacups that I have been admiring.

Teavivre sent me teas for free for the purposes of review. I was not required to give a positive review and all opinions are my own and honest.

VonShef Popcorn Maker

Domu asked me to review something from their range of kitchenware and cooking equipment. I selected to review their popcorn maker. My eldest daughter loves popcorn and would invariably buy a bag when we called into the sweetshop on the way home from school. This was quickly becoming an expensive habit and with expensive presents requested for Christmas we came to an agreement that there would be no more visits to the sweet shop after school until after Christmas so we could save some money to put towards the presents that they had requested. It is a lot cheaper to buy a 500g bag of popping corn and make your own than to buy the ready popped variety. Each day before school pick-up I was popping corn in a pan with a spoonful of oil. This can get messy if you happen to start another job and forget your pan of popping corn.

The VonShef Popcorn Maker in action

The VonShef Popcorn Maker in action

I hadn’t considered the option of a popcorn maker. In fact, I hadn’t realised that you could get one for the home. I have to say, I am very impressed. The popcorn maker is reasonably priced at £22.99 and is well worth the purchase price if you eat a lot of popcorn.

The popcorn maker is very easy to use and requires no oil. The corn is popped by hot air circulation and it takes about a minute to pop a bowlful of popcorn. It is quite noisy when operating but no noisier than a food processor.

The popcorn is much fluffier than when popped in an oiled pan and there is less waste. I tend to find quite a few unpopped corns in a pan and the most I have found in a full bowl of popcorn made by this machine is ten unpopped corns. There is less washing up too, particularly when you don’t have burned pans to wash up.

You can add whatever flavour you fancy to the popped corn. The favourite in this house is butter melted with golden syrup and a grind of sea salt.

The popcorn maker comes with a 500g packet of popping corn and four cardboard popcorn boxes. It has recipes on the side of the box too, including one for popcorn with bacon and maple syrup. That might be one we will be trying over the Christmas holidays if we get the chance to put our feet up to watch one of the Christmas films.

The only problem with having a popcorn maker in the kitchen is that it nearly kills you to buy popcorn at the cinema when you go to watch Paddington.

Domu sent me the VonShef popcorn maker for free for the purposes of review. All opinions are my own and honest.