Friday 28 May 2010

Nutella, Speculoos and peanut butter cupcakes

My three favourite spreads incorporated into cupcakes. Nutella-and-Speculoos and Nutella-and-peanut-butter. I had minimal Speculoos left so only managed to make a couple with the Speculoos and was also running low on the peanut butter! The Nutella, however, was abundant in my kitchen so used this bad boy in both types of cupcake. I also used Nutella to frost them.

Unfortunately I can't exactly post a recipe for these on here, due to the fact that I actually guessed the quantities of each ingredient because there are no scales in my house in Leeds! I used a basic chocolate cake recipe for the cake mixture, then literally added a small spoon of Nutella with a smidgen of Speculoos or peanut butter. I then added a little more cake mix on top and baked until they looked as though they were done!

The filling of the cupcakes seemed to have sunk during the baking process, probably due to its high density compared with the cake mix. The first cupcake below is Nutella and Speculoos, the second is Nutella and peanut butter.

Speculoos has a stronger flavour than peanut butter, so although there was a smaller portion, there was still a significant taste. I think that personally, I preferred the peanut butter cupcakes, but loved both.

Perfect for an afternoon treat with your favourite cup of tea or coffee. Hazelnut coffee or Earl Grey for me, please!

This last photograph may seem completely unrelated to the rest of the post, but I made these cupcakes for my friend Hana's birthday and this was the card I bought for her.


Wednesday 26 May 2010

Revision fuel

You may not believe this, but this tasty and nutritious lunch was made using 'leftovers'. I will be finishing my second year exams in a week (thank the lord) and will be moving out of my house in Leeds shortly after. I need, therefore to start eating up all my food that remains in the kitchen!
Here you have baked salmon on a bed of spinach mash topped with an olive, chilli and triple tomato pesto sauce. I say triple tomato because I baked my four remaining mini plum tomatoes with my salmon and mixed them with sliced sundried tomatoes and a tomato and chilli pesto. I happened to have some black olives that I bought a while ago which suited the dish perfectly. I had some mash and spinach in the freezer, so literally combined the two when defrosting in the microwave and....voila!
Lets hope that these omegas help my brain through these last three exams!

Monday 24 May 2010

Why Chicken in a Cherry Sauce?

Since high school, I have frequently used the term "chicken" to call my loved ones. For many years, I have owned a long cherry-red coat. My lovely friend Andy Farmer, from high school, used to see me walking to school in my cherry-red coat, and with his knowledge of my passion for food (cherries in particular), he came up with the metaphor "chicken in a cherry sauce". It immediately became my MySpace screen name and after many years it remains. It would seem ridiculous not to use it as the name of my food blog!

Friday 21 May 2010

Salvo's - Headingley, Leeds

I am so shocked that I have lived in Leeds for almost two years and have only recently experienced Salvo's. For some reason or another, any plans I had previously made to go to Salvo's had fallen through. I've wanted to dine at Salvo's even before it became famous by its well deserved win of 'Best Local Italian' on Gordan Ramsay's F word, which only adds further to my attraction.

My Grandparents happened to be in Leeds for the weekend and so we arranged to meet for dinner. Fortunately, they agreed to follow my recommendation of Salvo's.

We arrived on a very humid Friday evening just after 6pm and were preparing for about an hour's wait (because we were aware that Salvo's is exceptionally popular). We were warmly greeted and to our surprise we were seated immediately!

As soon as we were given our menus, three slices of freshly baked doughy focaccia drizzled with olive oil arrived at our table to nibble on while we contemplated every delicious dish on the menu. I had previously looked at the menu online before we went, (massive loser, I know) to try and speed up my decision making process. I always struggle to make choices in a restaurant, as I pretty much love everything!

As my family generally do, we agreed to sample each others dishes. This (you would think) should have helped speed up my decision... but after much deliberation, I decided on my choice.

As my Grandparents hadn't seen their eldest Grandaughter for three whole years, they decided to go all out (brilliant news!!). We ordered the pizza marinara for our 'pre-starter' - pizza style bread with tomato, garlic and oregano.

I chose my starter from the daily specials; seared scallops with pancetta, roasted red peppers and rocket.

The scallops were cooked to perfection, and there was a successful subtle balance in flavour combinations.

I also ordered my main dish from the daily specials; char-grilled venison with mash, creamed leeks and a red wine sauce topped with two grilled king prawns.

I can't remember the last time I ate red meat and have been dying to eat venison for years. This was the first time I had seen it on a menu so went for it! The waitress recommended I had it served pink. It was so tender and juicy - totally satisfied my craving!

After attempting to finish off my Granny's king scallop and langoustine risotto (truly stunning - how they can make something that looks so plain taste so divine is beyond me!), I truly felt the stretch in my stomach, however, there is always room for dessert!

To save deliberation, we ordered the dessert taster platter. This included the Sicilian lemon sorbet, amaretto-soaked cherries, Sicilian lemon cheesecake, dark chocolate truffle torte, panna cotta and tiramisu.

The Sicilian lemon sorbet had invigorating fresh and zesty flavours, it had a tanginess that made it unique compared with any other sorbet I have tried. The amaretto cherries are always a winner with me. Panna cotta would never be my first choice for dessert, however, this panna cotta melted into a luscious creamy vanilla puddle in your mouth - heaven! The moisture of the tiramisu was well balanced, not soggy and not too dry.

It's not hard to believe that Salvo's own the title of 'Best Local Italian' when every dish served was so well executed.

We topped off the meal with a spot of liqueur - Frangelico for me (hazelnut and herb flavoured liqueur flavoured with cocoa and vanilla berries) and Strega for Grandad (sweet and bold with strong minty notes).

The meal, the atmosphere and the company were faultless. It was exactly what I needed during the horrific stress time of summer exams. Thank you Gramps! :)

Sunday 9 May 2010

"Chocolate curry?!" "Yes - chocolate curry!"

Akmal's Tandoori Bistro is a fantastic student-friendly curry house, located on Hyde Park (AKA Woodhouse Moor Park) in Leeds. It can be easily recognised at night by its beaming blue lights.

Every time I have been to Akmal's I have ordered the 'Chocolate Delight' (with one exception that I deeply regret as it's actually the best curry on the menu!).

Every person I have told about the chocolate curry has been bewildered by the combination, chocolate and curry, together?!

The only way I can describe it is that it has a similar consistency and creaminess to a korma, yet has the added warmth of subtle spices and the distinctive flavour of chocolate. On first taste, it has the unexpected power to blow your mind. The exhilarating aromas and familiar chocolate flavour literally lift your senses and heighten your ambience.

The curry is made with chicken and comes with your choice of Tandoori naan or rice. I always choose the peshwari naan (contains coconut, sultanas and sometimes almonds) for ultimate indulgence.

Every person I know who has tried the curry has admitted that, surprisingly, it's absolutely stunning.

If you haven't tried it - get to Akmal's now! Nom nom nom!