Monthly Archives: May 2012

My new love…..a Magimix 5200 XL and a recipe for vegan chocolate mousse cake

My husband has this theory. He says that there a male power tools and female power tools. Male power tools go in things (like big powerful drills) while things go in the female equivalent (like food processors and vaccum cleaners). I think he’s talking a load of sexist crap myself, cement mixers (male tool) have stuff put in them and hand blenders (female tool) goes into stuff. He does have a point though when he says I have developed a very male obsession with my new power tool (because, while were on the sexist crap theme, men do become rather obsessed with their tools, don’t they?)

My new obsession borders on love actually, and my brand new girly power tool, a lovely new Magimix 5200XL food processor, is the object of that love. From the moment it arrived, as I ripped open the packaging to see its sleek, shiny, good-looking body, I was in awe. It looked good in and out of its packaging, but at the same time its strong, sturdy and practical design (like the perfect man perhaps? the perfect combo of substance and style) suggested it would stand the test of time. Yep, you got it, I’ve fallen for it big time!

For years I’ve wanted a Magimix. I’ve stared in desolation at images online longingly desiring that unattainable bit of eye candy for the kitchen. I’ve seen other serious cooks use them and tried them out myself. It made me want one even more. Now that I actually have my own I’m like a giggly, nervous teenager experiencing my first crush.

Of course like every new relationship it has to be tried and tested, and this weekend I certainly put through its paces. I’ve grated, shredded, blended and pulsed. Since it is an extra-large model, designed for catering as well as household use, it has three bowls in one, all of differing sizes. I’ve tried out each. The smallest is perfect for smaller quantities of blended sauce or puree. I made a sauce verde with parsley, coriander, mint, a squeeze of lemon juice, some salt and some olive oil. I only needed enough to marinade my chicken for the barbecue and the machine managed it admirably.

The next size bowl is designed for use with a grater or shredder attachment, I guess it’s so you don’t have to wash the large bowl every time. My lovely machine grated and had plenty of room for 500g grated carrot (and I could have fitted in more). It also grated it in super fast time compared to my poor old machine that has been on its last legs for a while, and took forever. The teen watched,

“Woah, has it done it?” she said, not quite believing how quick it was.

For its next test I let the teen have a go. Smoothies are her favourite. I’m sure she would live on them given half a chance, but as my smoothie machine blew up a while ago (after she used it I might add) she’s been sadly deprived and longing for an adequate replacement. This was the perfect opportunity to see how it fared.

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We threw some mango, strawberries, banana and a handful of frozen blackcurrant’s in to the largest bowl along with a splash of semi-skimmed milk and some apple juice. If you like it sweeter you can also add a trickle of agave syrup or honey. I clicked the lid in to place (even doing this feels smooth and efficient) and the machine switched on. Less than two minutes later we had four glasses of perfectly smooth, thick smoothie.

For our last test of the weekend I decided to experiment. With another wedding coming up, for which I need to cater for half a dozen vegans, I thought I’d have a go making a vegan chocolate mousse cake. I’d recently been sent a couple of blocks of Willie’s Cacao (made by Willie Harcourt-Cooze) and thought it the perfect opportunity to try it out. Willie’s cacao is a serious cooks chocolate and not for the faint hearted. Its strong, pure cacao, quite expensive, but I love it and its worth it. Plus it sounds like you are buying something elicit with names like Madagascan Black and Venezuelan Black!! It’s not a chocolate you can eat straight from the wrapper so don’t even try! Its sharp and bitter because it has no added sugar or sweeter like other chocolate and although the hint of fruitiness is still in evidence, it’s strictly for adding to dishes.

I found a recipe on Vegan.com that I tinkered with to create something that suited our palate. It consisted of a thin cake layer topped with a chocolate mousse, plus a layer of fresh fruit.

For the sponge I used:

100g flour (I used dark rye but it made the cake too heavy so I would use half rye and half white next time)

half a teaspoon bicarb of soda

a good pinch of salt

2 tablespoons cocoa powder

95g caster sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

3 tablespoons sunflower or ground nut oil.

1 teaspoon cider vinegar

up to 100ml cold water

Mix all the dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Make a well in the centre then add oil, vanilla and cider vinegar. Stirring lightly with a fork, add enough cold water to make your cake batter. Turn into an oiled and lined 7 inch loose bottom cake tin. Bake in a preheated oven gas mark 4, 180 degree C for around half an hour. Keep checking after 25 minutes.

In a the large bowl of the new food processor in placed 1 block (about 300g) silken tofu, 1 teaspoon cocoa powder, 1 teaspoon vanilla essence, a pinch of sea-salt, 2 tablespoons vegan milk (soy milk) which I blitzed for a couple of minutes. To this I added 1 block of Willie’s cacao (I used the Madagascan Black) which I had melted in an oven proof bowl on the lowest shelf of the preheating oven and between 1 and 4 tablespoons (or as much as you need) Agave syrup.

The texture was fantastic. Mousse like, smooth and creamy. My old processor would never have managed to blend the tofu so effectively so I was over the moon with this.

The mixture was then smoothed over the cooked and cooled cake base which was then placed in the fridge for a couple of hours.

Finally I removed the mousse cake from the tin and decorated it with sliced strawberries.

The verdict? Well, apart from the base being a little firm, it was a great hit!. The mousse itself was light and creamy with enough dark chocolate taste to satisfy the hard-core chocolate lover. Hubby was less impressed. He’s not that keen on very dark chocolate, but then he doesn’t have much of a sweet tooth anyway. Teen loved it, as did the kid. Sadly we didn’t find any vegans to help us out, but it would never have lasted that long anyway.

So a weekend of success? Yes very definitely. I would recommend a Magimix to anyone. Perhaps not such a large model for the average kitchen, but they do lots of smaller models in gorgeous funky colours. Is my affair going to last? Well so far so good….but I will let you know after I’ve made hummus and salad to feed 500 next weekend!!

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Looking for an alternative to the Jubilee? Try Kaya Festival in sunny North Wales

If you are looking for something different and eager to avoid the plethora of union flags and street parties, look no further, Kaya festival is where you want to be. Set against a backdrop of beaches, mountains and lush greenery on the Vaynol Estate in North Wales, it’s about as far from the Jubilee hype as you could hope for.

That is certainly where I will be next weekend as we set up shop to sell our hot and cold food. Kaya is a brand new festival that fuses African & Caribbean music from around the world, with acts and talent from closer to home. It is a festival that really is drawing inspiration from every part of the local community and that includes food and drink provision!

As well as selling good home cooked food I will be hosting cookery demonstrations along with Andrew the chef from Cottons Caribbean restaurant in London. The demos will take place on SUNDAY where we will showcase Caribbean cooking alongside dishes made with local Welsh produce. I will be taking my favourite ingredients from our local producers and using them in quick, easy to prepare dishes. Andrew will be talking us through how to cook good old Caribbean favourites such as jerk chicken

On the stall we will be selling freshly made summery dishes, salads, baps and wraps made with local cheeses, chorizo and lamb merguez sausage and cold drinks from the Anglesey Apple company.

As you can imagine its all systems go!!….orders are placed, a new team of young cooks has been trained and were all raring to go. All we need now is a healthy dose of sunshine plus some friendly faces to come and say hello, buy their lunch and watch us cook!

Thanks everyone and see you there

Denise xx

Tickets for Kaya are still available here

Weekend camping tickets cost £75  (£55 for students and unemployed) and day tickets cost £45 (£40 concessions).

Trains run directly from London Euston to Bangor and take about three and half hours, or four hours with one change at Crewe. Check out the trainline  or National Express for times and tickets.

Vaynol Estate…the location of Kaya

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Orange, herb and wild garlic flower salad

This salad is a variation on a recipe sent to me by Lee from The Beach House Kitchen. He helped us out at supper club the other weekend and since he’d spent a time living in Spain, I thought I’d ask him to create a traditional type of salad to go with the rich meaty main course for our Spanish themed evening.

He did a bit of research and came up with this. A riot of colours and flavours it complimented the pork and bean Fabada Asturiana perfectly, the citrus, garlic and herb elements cutting through the deep earthy flavour of the stew and refreshing the palate before dessert.

Lee’s salad made with wild garlic for the first supper club

First time round we substituted wild garlic for mixed leaves as it was still running riot in our garden. On Saturday we went for early lettuce (which is just as good) as the wild garlic has just about finished and all that remains are the flowers, tiny white balls of petals which still give a big garlicky kick, but with added attractiveness.

This is a perfect spring or summer salad and now that we finally have a little bit of sun it makes an ideal healthy lunch or barbecue accompaniment.

For the first salad you will need:

Mixed salad leaves or wild garlic

As many oranges as you want (one to two per person depending on size of orange), de-segmented and juice reserved (see instructions below)

a handful of garden herbs (We used fresh marjoram, mint and flat leaf parsley) chopped roughly

1 pomegranate separated from all the bits that hold it into the skin

Bunch of spring onions chopped finely

Kalamata olives, halved, stones removed

A dessertspoonful of sesame seeds

a simple dressing made from juice of half a lemon, olive oil and salt and pepper.

For the second: We left out the sesame seeds and olives but added more orange and herbs. Our dressing was an orangey french dressing made with

85ml olive oil

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

half a teaspoon Dijon mustard

a small clove garlic crushed

half a teaspoon honey

some of the reserved orange juice

Put into a screw top jar and shake well. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

To make both:

Lay the leaves on a large platter or serving dish.

To de-segment an orange use a sharp knife and cut off the top and the bottom. Place on a chopping board and hold firmly. Cut down each side of the orange removing the skin and as much of the pith as you can. You don’t want any skin or pith in the salad as it will make it bitter. Cut each segment from the skin that holds it in place holding it over a bowl so you catch the juice. Toss the segments over the mixed leaves.

Then simply scatter over the rest of the ingredients, only adding the sesame seeds (if using) at the last-minute before serving.

You can also add a couple of peeled and sliced avocado’s.

Our mixed lettuce and wild garlic flower variation

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An in-between salad

Ok so it’s supposed to be spring. The sun is out but it’s just not that warm yet. Part of me wants to dispense with the winter dishes as I crave fresh light summery salads, but my body stills yearns for a warming and comforting dinner. I am a creature of habit and I like a nice roast dinner in the Autumn and Winter and maybe a barbecue and salad in the spring and summer, but that is just not happening yet. Apart from a few hardy friends who have braved the chill I’m not quite ready to brave al fresco dining.

This Sunday was just such a day. The sun was shining but a chilly wind blew. I wanted to eat light, but I had all the ingredients for a roast and it was that for which I yearned. But I couldn’t go the whole hog so instead I decided to go half and half with a salad that was both spring like, but also most importantly,  hot. I used the last of the purple sprouting broccoli from the garden which I combined with early Jersey Royals, red onions and peppers. It was perfect. Served with a rare pan braised fillet of beef and mini yorkshire puddings. Best of both worlds I’d say.

Winter / Spring / in-between salad:

500g Jersey Royals

1 red pepper and 1 yellow pepper deseeded and thinly sliced

half a red onion

200g purple sprouting broccoli

juice of half a lemon

four fat cloves garlic

olive oil, salt and pepper

Wash the potatoes and put in a roasting tin. Pour over a good glug of olive oil, some salt and pepper. Toss well and roast in a hot oven gas mark 7/200 degrees C.

Finely slice the onion and pepper. Wash and trim the broccoli. After 45 minutes of the potatoes roasting heat some more oil in a pan. Toss in the onion and peppers and cloves of garlic which have been lightly crushed with the blade of a knife. Fry gently until starting to soften. Add the broccoli and fry for another five minutes or so depending how thick it is. My broccoli was the last from the plant and was quite thin stalked. When they are all half-cooked take the roasted new potatoes out of the oven and throw in the vegetables. Return to the hot oven for about 6 to 10 minutes. Tip everything on to a serving plate and dress simply with some salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice.

Trust me it ticks all the boxes.

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A nice cup of rosy

Aahhh…how many of you would agree with me that the first drink of the day just has to be a nice cup of tea?

Don’t get me wrong, I love coffee, but as my family and friends will confirm, it’s a cuppa all the way. But not any old cuppa. I’m afraid I’m a bit of a tea purist / philistine (call me what you will) and I must have it made a certain way. Hot, sweet (one and a half sugars please) and a decent colour. Not too strong and not too milky.

Why you ask? Because my tea drinking tastes are totally and inextricably linked to childhood memories. For me tea falls into the realms of ‘comfort food’. Every sip evokes a reminiscence. Sitting sipping milky sweet ‘builders’ tea from my granddad’s pint mug as I listen to the goon show on his 1970’s plastic sofa. Coming in from his garden after playing on the swing and warming myself by the gas fire. Tea takes me back in time as well as waking me up for the day ahead.

Because tea takes me back I’ve never really got on with other types of tea. Green tea, mint tea, camomile…nope sorry. I like the occasional Early Grey (although I couldn’t stomach it when I was pregnant and that put me off for a while) and English breakfast. The rest of the household is less rigid in its approach. Sean likes mint and ginger teas. The teen would live on anything fruity (although she hates ‘normal’ tea) and the kid…well he’s up for trying anything!

I have discovered though that Clipper tea’s come closest to satiating my need for ‘comfort’ and taste, while also being ethical and principled. I find it amazing that they have been in business since 1984 (and yes I do remember them in the early days!!) and they were the first to introduce fair trade tea in 1994.

Their organic everyday tea is our household tea of choice and has been for a long time, but this week we got the chance to try some of their other teas when a large parcel with a multitude of different flavours arrived through the post.

We unpacked the box with great excitement wondering what was hidden within. Teen immediately spotted the Berry Infusion and pounced on it. Before we knew it she’d filled the kettle, lit the gas and the water was soon bubbling away. Teen and the kid stood ready, berry infusion bags in hand, Sean opted for lemon and  ginger and I being ever the stickler opted for English Breakfast.

The verdict? Well the Berry Infusion bags disappeared within the week and declared ‘fruitier’ than similar bags from different brands; so I’d say they were a hit.

The lemon and ginger certainly hit the spot too. Full of flavour and zing.

We shared our bags with 100 wedding guests and the customers of the Ogwen Produce market. Most popular? well I’d say it was English breakfast and Earl Grey, but I think that’s probably because it’s the most recognisable kind. At the market the lemon and ginger worked wonders for Morgan’s hangover, I think he had three cups! A couple of people opted for the redbush tea, which is like black tea, but I’ve never been that fond of the taste which is slightly sweet, but bitter at the same time.

The kid appears to have tried all the teas with equal relish. If you take the word of a nine-year old that means they are all good!

So, what did we discover from our week of tea drinking?

1. The fruity infusions are brimming with flavour. More so than other brands we’ve tried.

2. The most popular tea at a wedding is English Breakfast, followed closely by Earl Grey

3. Lemon and ginger tea is great for a hangover

4. I’m still a rubbish (boring) tea drinker although I have rediscovered my love for Earl Grey….and yes sorry, I do still put milk and sugar in it….but I don’t care, that’s just the way I like it!

5. Tea is, and always will be, best served with cake

Thank you to Clipper Teas for letting us try a selection of their products. We tasted Organic Redbush, Early Grey, English Breakfast, Green tea, Camomile, Berry Infusion, Lemon & Ginger, Peppermint Infusion, Decaf everyday.

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The Irrational Season

No, i’m not referring to strange voting strategies, Olympic hype or Jubilee madness when talk about what Madeleine L’Engle calls the irrational season, instead I refer to marriage.I read this passage at the last wedding I attended, my brothers last year,

But ultimately there comes a moment when a decision must be made. Ultimately two people who love each other must ask themselves how much they hope for as their love grows and deepens, and how much risk they are willing to take…It is indeed a fearful gamble…Because it is the nature of love to create, a marriage itself is something which has to be created, so that, together we become a new creature.

To marry is the biggest risk in human relations that a person can take…

If we commit ourselves to one person for life this is not, as many people think, a rejection of freedom; rather it demands the courage to move into all the risks of freedom, and the risk of love which is permanent; into that love which is not possession, but participation…It takes a lifetime to learn another person…

When love is not possession, but participation, then it is part of that co-creation which is our human calling, and which implies such risk that it is often rejected.

We kicked off our very own ‘irrational season’ this weekend with the first big function of the summer.

Jonathon and Viv’s wedding was held at Nant Gwynant, a campsite with a stunning complex of converted barns in the middle of North Wales. The beautiful, dramatic, lakeside location is undeniably scenic, surrounded by a circle of  craggy mountain peaks rising and falling and is the perfect backdrop for a wedding. Having said this, the location is not for the faint hearted and only the brave and hardy would take a risk on the weather so early in the season. This is because the ample guest accommodation is in tents, camper vans or the bunk house above the barn! You could reasonably predict that a mid-summer wedding would have warm dry weather, but not so early May.

Luckily for the wedding party the weather was good to them. It was dry and mostly sunny, although the temperature was not so forgiving. We all shivered even in the kitchen where our hands went numb chopping tomatoes and avocados. Eventually we decided to light the open fire which warmed us up a little.

In the main barn a fire roared, but it needed a room full of bodies to really stop it being so chilly. The hall and kitchen acted as a wind tunnel funneling an icy breeze through the building. Ladies in strappy dresses shivered, including the bride who looked beautiful in her blue flowered dress but stood wrapped in a cosy shawl by our kitchen fire as she took a few moments to compose herself.

I didn’t envy the guests their tents.

The menu for the event was a two course vegetarian feast for 100. The bride and groom shunned the meat since they and lots of their friends were vegetarian, opting instead for a hearty choice of universally popular Vegetarian favourites and a few specials of my own.

We served a range of tapas style starters, plus home-made bread and extra buns. A white bean and traditional hummus sat side by side, a platter of marinated olives from Petros, goats cheese pearls with chill & garlic and herbs from Y Cwt Caws, semi-dried tomatoes with garlic/oak smoked tomatoes from the tomato stall, guacamole, baba ghanoush with smoked derimon paprika

One of five huge mezze platters

I made so many tarts I was sick to death of rolling pastry….Nantmor wild mushroom and thyme; asparagus and parmesan; tomato, red onion, basil and Welsh cheddar; Savory tatin with potato, cherry toms and feta from Y Cwt Caws, garden herbs and wild garlic with feta and a section of very hearty salads…..oasted beetroot, goats cheese and pomegranate, potato salad with French dressing, Moroccan couscous with fresh herbs, roasted vegetables, sun dried tomatoes and toasted pine nuts, Green salad, Italian farro with pesto (pearled spelt) salad.

A sample of dishes on the table

Guests baked cakes to bring for dessert, each labelled and served on one of what seemed like a hundred cake plates.I briefly wondered where they’d got them all. Surely no one person can own so many!

Cakes galore

We provided the Welsh cheese board served as either an alternative to cake, or an additional main course choice. On it were our favourites; Snowdonia black bomber, Green thunder, Y Fenni (mustard seed and ale), Camembert and Smoked brie from Derimon and green tomato chutney and red tomato relish from the tomato stall.

The piece-de-resistance was the enormous wedding cake. A huge three-tiered  chocolate creation adorned with the most amazing chocolate roses. This is a skill I have yet to master being a rather heavy-handed chef so I totally admire those with the ability and patience to create such masterpieces.

The meal finished with a selection of Clipper teas and coffee.

I was very happy with the finished table and we presumed we had plenty. It was only when my helper came into the kitchen in a panic saying

“there’s a man out there demanding more Quiche”

that we realised we’d been a victim of our own success. We made enough for a hundred and thirty, but everyone wanted some of everything!!

Lessons learned:

  • If the weather is a bit chilly people eat more.
  • No one sticks to one or two pieces of Quiche (if it looks nice and if they are eating it instead of meat)
  • bake more bread
  • and one for me…try not to cut your finger so badly it needs stitching the day you are starting wedding prep (in the end I didn’t have time for stitches so it was constantly wrapped in blue plasters and plastic gloves…but it hurt like hell and still does).

As we knocked off work and the guests (and my waitresses) ceilidh’d into the night all the stress melted away. I knew then we’d done a great job. The bride and groom were over the moon and we even got a round of applause for the food! I was extremely proud…How often does that happen at a wedding?

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Filed under baking, British food, cakes & Baking, event catering, home cooking, local produce, seasonal food, Sources and suppliers, Wedding catering, welsh cheese

Fellow North Wales dwelling food bloggers the beach house kitchen have nominated us for a Kreativ Blogger Award…were dead chuffed to be an inspitation to others and to be so well read xx

beach house kitchen

This is a beautiful thing, fellow bloggers VegHotPot and Lucy’s Friendly Foods have nominated us for a Kreativ Blogger Award.

We are understandably chuffed to receive such a kind nomination from two top bloggers.  I love their blogs, so it’s extra special that they like what is going on in the Beach House Kitchen.

The Kreativ Blogger Award is designed to get good bloggers together and spreading the word about each other.  I think it’s a top idea.

Here are the rules:

  • Thank the nominating blogger and provide a link to that blog.
  • Spread the love by nominating seven other bloggers, including their links here.
  • Tell your readers seven things they may not already know about you.
Here goes……………

Seven Blogs we like (alot and in no particular order):

We have only chosen food blogs (for obvious reasons) and only ones that are relatively new.  There are some amazing, established food blogs…

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