Tag Archives: Review

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. 

Hotel Chocolat Pasta and Pesto

Hotel Chocolat pasta and pesto

I was recently approached to review items for Hotel Chocolat. There were some lovely Christmas chocolates that I could have quite happily chomped on, but what really caught my eye was their cocoa pasta and pesto. I was intrigued. They arrived beautifully presented and the girls were immediately interested. Well, of course they were, the bag had the word chocolat on it. I had planned roast chicken for tea and the girls were eager to try the cocoa pasta. The pesto is what it says on the bottle – a basil pesto with added cocoa nibs. So I boiled the pasta and stirred in the pesto. A simple, quick solution for an unusual dinner. I have to admit the first taste was unusual. The pesto is quite bitter. But, a few bites in and I was more convinced and Mr OC agreed saying that he thought I had gone mad at first but that the pasta/pesto combo was really quite delicious. I think the slight bitterness of the cocoa nibs in the pesto was a step too far for the girls though with their less adventurous palates.

I made a dip to go with the chicken too, by mixing an equal amount of mayonnaise and natural yoghurt together and adding pesto to taste. This edged out the bitterness of the cocoa nibs and made a very good dip indeed. I will be having this a lot.

The next day, the family were coming for fireworks in the garden and so I cooked the remaining pasta and made a chocolate custard, mixed the two together and served cold with brandied cherries that I had frozen after making cherry brandy. This was a great success, the pasta adding a bit of bite to the dessert. The cherries made a lovely addition but the dessert would stand well enough on its own.

cocoa pasta and chocolate custard

125g cocoa pasta

100g 70% chocolate
300ml double or single cream
4 egg yolks
1 tsp cornflour
1 tablespoon caster sugar

Method

Boil the pasta in a large pan of boiling water until al dente (it must have a slight bite to it). Drain and set aside.

Melt the chocolate in a bowl suspended over a pan of simmering water or in the microwave.

Pour the cream into a heavy based saucepan and bring just to the boil. In the meantime combine the egg yolks, cornflour and caster sugar in another bowl. Add the hot cream in a steady stream to the eggs and whisk all the time to prevent the eggs from scrambling. Wash out the saucepan and then add the cream and egg mixture to the pan and whisk over a gentle to medium heat until the custard thickens. Whisk in the slightly cooled melted chocolate. Add the pasta to the custard and place into a serving dish. Grate chocolate over the top. Place in the fridge until you are ready to serve.

I really enjoyed trying these items, so thank you to Hotel Chocolat for the opportunity.

I received the items in the top photograph for free from Hotel Chocolat for the purposes of review. I was not paid for this review. All opinions are my own and are honest. 

Chef’s Jacket from Viking

I was approached by the PR team from Viking to see if I would review an item from their culinary range . I had a look through their online selection and there were a lot of things I wanted to try out, but my eye was caught by the chef’s jacket.

I have a plan. In my last post I explained how I have been a stay at home mum for the past five years, keeping my hand in with this blog and volunteering at the local museum and my girls’ school. It’s time for a change though, before I get too stuck in a rut. We have the summer holidays hovering ahead of us. I am going to take this time to decide which way I should go. I can try to get back into the old career and get a full-time job. This option would mean a big life change for all of us but especially the girls.

The second option is to set up my kitchen and dining room as a home bakery, selling bread and cakes locally and running cookery lessons. This would allow more flexibility around the girls.

I have been doing my research into this second option and getting organised so that I can launch shortly after the girls start school again in September.

I have taken my Food Hygiene training in preparation which highlighted the importance of wearing clean, tidy clothing and preferably something that covered your ordinary clothing to protect the food from contamination.

The chef’s jacket then will be my uniform. It is manufactured by Alexandra and is unisex so can be buttoned either the female or male way. It is long enough to protect the bread from contact with my normal clothing. It appears to be tough enough to withstand the regular washing that it will need. I am pleased with the quality of it for the reasonable cost of £14.39 inclusive of VAT. I look forward to testing it fully in the future.

chef's jacket

I was not paid for this review but I did receive the chef’s jacket for free from Viking. All the opinions are my own and are honest.

Review of Urban Coffee Connoisseurs

I was asked if I would like to review the coffee available to members of the Urban Coffee Company’s Coffee Connoisseurs Tasting Club. They sent me a free sample of this month’s coffee selection; 2 x 125g bags of ground coffee with tasting notes.

I accepted because I like coffee and I like the idea behind this company, a locally grown independent coffee company that wants to compete with Starbucks and Costa. They currently have two cafes (they prefer the word emporiums) in Birmingham. I haven’t visited their emporiums yet as it is a rare event for me to visit Birmingham these days ( I used to spend a vast amount of time there before I stopped work to look after the children), but I like the idea of their knit and natter events on a saturday very much.

I like the idea of a coffee tasting club too.  There are chocolate tasting clubs, but this is the first time I have heard of a coffee tasting club.

The box arrived and the smell emanating from it was intoxicating. One coffee is from Nicaragua and the other from Mexico, both have use by dates of one month and by two weeks from the date opened.

The tasting notes give details of the coffee farms including their sea level and a little general information about Nicaraguan and Mexican coffee. I like this bit very much.  It is interesting to know exactly where your coffee comes from. The Head Barista then gives you his take on the coffee. The Nicaraguan has “a caramelised sugar, nuts and chocolate taste, with a cinnamon stick spice note. It’s quite balanced, not overly acidic, with very pleasant bitter-sweet qualities”.  There is also advice about the best way to make and store the coffee.

Both coffees are good, but my favourite was the Nicaraguan.

The coffee comes ready ground, unless you request beans at the point of ordering.  The beans have been ground to medium/coarse which they state makes them perfect for most types of home brewing, although they recommend a coffee press, drip brewer or siphon. I have used my Gaggia and a cafetière  with these coffees and I found that the Gaggia worked OK but the grind was too fine for my cafetière, leaving grinds in my coffee, which I could taste throughout the cup.  I would prefer beans that I could grind myself to the grind that suited either my Gaggia or my cafetière. Having beans would also mean that the coffee would stay fresher for longer than the two weeks they recommend.

If I was stuck for buying a present for a coffee lover then I think this would be a good gift. Although, depending on the length of subscription each bag will cost you between £5.00 and £4.25, which is on the expensive side for a 125g bag.  The tasting club concept is a good one though.  It gives you the opportunity to sample coffees that you probably wouldn’t otherwise try.  I understand that you also receive a scorecard, but I didn’t have one of those in my free sample.  So, if you are that way inclined you could give a score for each coffee and submit your score back to the Urban Coffee Company.  I think they could develop this aspect with tasting club members giving their feedback via social media.  This would give a greater value to the members of the tasting club as you could see whether you agree with other members and would benefit the company giving their tasting club greater PR visibility.  Perhaps they should employ me as an ideas person?

I was not paid to do this review, but I did receive a free sample of 2 x 125ml bags of coffee. I have included links to my Amazon store, which if you purchase the items after clicking from my site I will receive a referral fee at no cost to you.