Monthly Archives: February 2014

Dinner At Mine By Chris Smyth

Journalist Chris Smyth’s debut novel Dinner At Mine is the reading book which has accompanied me on my way to work for a week – and it definitely made the bus trip seem a lot shorter which must mean that I enjoyed this book immensely!

One of the reasons why I picked up this book was because it’s loosely based on the concept of TV’s Come Dine With Me; a show of which I’m a massive fan. To be honest, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like Come Dine With Me and many countries actually have their own version of the show – some of which I’ve seen and enjoyed. Even though the show has been around since 2005 (nearly ten years. My goodness!) it’s still as popular as ever with viewers despite slight changes to the format and for a while the nation went Come Dine With Me crazy, hosting their own dinner party events with friends.

 

And that is basically the concept for this book: a group of friends get together and compete to see who can hold the best dinner party. Even though they got the idea from the TV show, there are some fundamental differences:

  • Dinner parties are hosted in pairs rather than by four or five individual hosts.
  • Dinners are hosted once a week over a four week period rather than on consecutive nights.
  • There is no cash prize – they’re competing purely for glory!
  • Sadly, there is no voiceover from Dave Lamb. Shame!

The couples hosting dinners are: happily-marrieds Rosie and Stephen, proud parents of baby Jonathan; career couple, secretly-yearning-to-be wed Sarah and her ultra-competitive boyfriend Marcus; socially conscious vegetarian Justin and his beautiful,  American, artist girlfriend, Barbara, and reluctant singletons, Charlotte and Matthew who are thrown together by Rosie  in the hope that dinner won’t be the only thing cooking between the two of them!

 

The competition is Rosie’s idea and she is the one responsible for selecting this eclectic group of people, some of whom are good friends, while others are acquaintances and some are meeting the others for the first time. What should be simple and straight-forward proves to be anything but. Despite Marcus being the most competitive, determined to find fault with the other teams, friendship counts for nothing as everyone wants to be the best and win despite there not being any prizes – and they will go to any lengths to achieve their moment of glory.

 

The actual dinner party events are secondary to the tensions and problems in the lives of the competitors which is further exacerbated by the competition causing jealousies, insecurities and hostilities to come to the fore thus creating friendships and relationships to collapse faster than a cheese soufflé. There is tension between best friends Matthew and Stephen regarding lawyer Matthew’s former relationship with Rosie while the three friends were at university; Sarah is questioning her career and relationship choices;  Barbara’s career is in decline and she’s having trouble renewing her visa, both of which impact heavily on her relationship with Justin, and trouble-making loudmouth Charlotte can’t help stirring the pot every opportunity she gets.

 

I found this book to be a real page-turner; I couldn’t wait to get to the end. I really liked how the novel was divided into four parts, where each part focused on a different party which gives the reader a real sense of where they are in the story. The characters decide the best way to deliver votes is by email and I thoroughly enjoyed reading their overly frank comments and ridiculous reasons for why points were being deducted (tactical scoring of course!) And there were a few twists in the tale too – some of which really surprised me.

 

Smyth tells a great tale of what happens when an element of competition is introduced within a circle of friends. It could even be a metaphor for modern day society in which manners; honesty, and consideration towards others count for nothing as it’s every man for himself, and indeed many of the characters do exactly as they please and take what they want at the expense of the others. All the characters are flawed in one way or another but I have to say that  by the end of the novel, I really couldn’t stand most of them. Gossipy, bitchy, uptight, highly-strung, back-stabbing… all thanks to a three-course meal! It also seemed quite obvious to me that one character had an alcohol problem while another seemed to be suffering from a mild form of depression but neither of these issues were touched upon. I was also quite disappointed that the endings to some of the sub-plots were not neatly tied-up but were just left hanging.

However, I really did enjoy reading Dinner At Mine. It was thoroughly entertaining. I’m sure many of my fellow commuters thought I was a bit of a lunatic, grinning away to myself, but there were also moments were I felt quite sorry for some of the characters, and believe me, if I could have climbed into this book and given some of the characters a good slap – I would have!

A great book published by Simon and Schuster in 2012. I can’t wait to read Smyth’s next novel.

 

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Saying It With Chocolates And Roses

 

 

I love the pairing of chocolate and rose as a flavour combination. It works really well and tastes divine. So you can imagine my delight when I came across some recipes featuring the two.

It’s no secret that I’m a huge chocolate fan – who isn’t? But I also really like the delicate flavour of rose – the sweet fragrance alone is deliciously tempting. It’s not a common flavouring in most parts of the world, being more popular in Asia and the Middle East. In the UK, it’s probably more commonly known for being used to flavour Turkish delight and rose creams. However in the Far East where my mum comes from, it’s used to flavour a whole variety of sweet things including cakes, biscuits, ice-creams, jams, jellies, milk puddings and drinks. One of my favourite drinks is a rose milkshake made with a delicious rose syrup. My mum prefers to dilute the syrup with water to make a type of rose squash.

 

I’m not surprised that it’s not as popular here in England as it’s a very difficult flavouring to get right: too little and you won’t be able to taste it; too much and it will taste as though your food has been laced with air freshener! It’s got to be spot on. But when you get it right it’s just like the flower itself – beautiful.

So I found three gorgeous recipes which combine both chocolate and rose together. They’d be perfect for Mother’s Day, St. Valentine’s Day, romantic meals – any occasions in which roses and chocolates are synonymous. But of course you can make them any time you want simply because they look and impressive and taste amazingly good!

CHOCOLATE WHOOPIE PIES WITH ROSE MARSHMALLOW FILLING

Makes 10-12

 

INGREDIENTS:

COOKIES

  • 60g – 2¼ oz unsalted butter diced plus extra for greasing
  • 120g – 4¼ oz golden caster sugar
  • 1 medium egg
  • 20g – ¾ oz cocoa
  • 125g – 4½ oz plain flour
  • 1 rounded tsp baking powder
  • pinch sea salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 tbsp milk

MARSHMALLOW FILLING

  • 1 medium organic egg white
  • 75g – 3oz white caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp sieved fresh orange juice
  • ¼ tsp cream of tartar
  • 5 pink marshmallows halved
  • pink food colouring optional

METHOD:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6.
  2. Butter two baking sheets.
  3. In a food processor, cream together the butter and sugar until well blended, then incorporate the egg.
  4. Sift together the next three cookie ingredients and add to the mixture followed by the remaining cookie ingredients.
  5. Mix until well combined.
  6. Drop rounded teaspoons of the mixture on to the baking sheets spaced about 7cm l 2¾ in apart to allow for spreading.
  7. Bake until just risen and firm without crisping at the edges – they should be soft and slightly cake-like in texture.
  8. Loosen them immediately with a spatula and leave to cool.
  9. If not assembling on the day store in an airtight container.
  10. Place the first four filling ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk using an electric hand-held whisk until combined.
  11. Set the bowl over a pan containing a little simmering water and whisk the filling at high speed for 5 minutes or until thick and moussey.
  12. Add the marshmallows and stir for several minutes until beginning to melt.
  13. Then whisk until smooth and combined, adding a little food colouring if wished to achieve your desired shade of pink.
  14. Remove from the heat.
  15.  Sandwich the cookies in pairs with about a teaspoon of the filling, matching the top and bottom sizes as evenly as possible.
  16. Set aside for an hour for the filling to set.

CHOCOLATE AND ROSE PETAL JAM VICTORIA SPONGE

 

Makes 1 x 20cm (8″) cake

INGREDIENTS:

CAKE

  • 225g (8oz) diced unsalted butter
  • 200g (7oz) golden caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp golden syrup
  • 200g (7oz) self-raising flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 25g (1oz) cocoa sifted
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 100ml (3 ½ fl oz) milk

FILLING & TOPPING

  • about 125g (4 ½ oz) rose petal jam or good quality pink or red jam of your choice
  • 350ml (12 fl oz) double cream
  • pink food colouring optional

METHOD:

  • Butter a 20cm (8in) loose-bottom cake tin at least 7cm (2 ¾ in) deep.
  • Heat the oven to 190C/170 C fan oven/gas 5.
  • Place all the cake ingredients in a food processor and cream together, about 3-4 minutes, until completely smooth.
  • Transfer the mixture to the cake tin, smoothing the surface.
  • Bake for 50-55 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
  • Run a knife around the cake and leave to cool in the tin, then turn out.
  • For the filling, work the jam in a bowl to loosen in slightly.
  • In another bowl, whisk the cream with a couple of drops of pink food colouring until just starting to form soft peaks, taking care not to let the cream turn buttery.
  •  Slit the cake horizontally into three layers using a bread knife.
  • Spread the bottom layer with half the jam, and then half the cream. Repeat with the middle layer using up the remaining jam and cream and set the top layer of cake in place.

CHOCOLATE ROSEWATER MOUSSE

 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 125g – 4½ oz dark chocolate about
  • 70 per cent cocoa broken into pieces
  • 2 medium organic eggs separated
  • 25g – 1oz caster sugar
  • 100ml – 3½ fl oz double cream
  • few drops rosewater to taste

METHOD:

  1. Gently melt the chocolate in a bowl set over a pan containing a little simmering water.
  2. Allow to cool to room temperature.
  3. Whisk the egg whites in a large bowl until stiff using an electric whisk, then sprinkle over the sugar a tablespoon at a time, whisking well with each addition until glossy.
  4. Fold the egg yolks into the whisked whites.
  5.  Flavour the cream to taste with rosewater and fold into the chocolate in two goes.
  6. Now fold in a third of the egg mixture to loosen it, and then the remainder in two goes.
  7. Spoon or pipe the mousse decoratively into dessert dishes or glasses.
  8. Cover and chill for several hours or overnight.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10 Years Of Facebook? No Way!!!

I couldn’t believe it when a friend informed me that Facebook had recently turned 10. 10? Already? NO WAY!!! At this rate it’ll be old enough to start buying drinks in no time!

 

In 2004, Mark Zuckerberg started to kick some real social media butt when he introduced Harvard college kids to the social networking site. The rest of the world gradually caught on and became Facebook crazy; Zuckerberg became a multi-billionaire and was played by Jesse Eisenberg in a movie about the rise of Facebook – and the rest is history.

facebook

There’s no denying that Facebook has become synonymous with the early twenty-first century and has changed the way in which we use the internet and communicate with family, friends, schoolmates, colleagues – even people we’ve never met! Anyone who’s got a business or product to promote has discovered the benefits of Facebook; bands, actors and authors have used it to build their fan base; we can join groups and speak to people who share our interests and we can play games with – or against – other Facebook users. And who says it’s just for kids? Even grandparents got in on the act, using it to keep in touch with grandchildren living abroad.

 

Facebook may sound like a little piece of paradise in cyber heaven but as everyone knows there’s a downside to the social networking phenomenon which has been well-documented in the press: tales of spying on ex-partners verging on stalking to trolling and hate-campaigns to concerns about data protection and privacy and even being cited in divorce cases – it would appear that Facebook isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.

like-facebook

I first heard about Facebook back in 2007 when it was slowly surpassing MySpace, the social networking site du jour. I wasn’t in any great hurry to get an account because back then I wasn’t really into social networking. I preferred to go out there and do things rather than sit at my PC. I also didn’t like the ‘nosey’ aspect of it where people would know your business and where you’d get to know things about them that you wish they’d kept to themselves. Furthermore, the people I came across who were avid Facebookers were hardly an elite group I wished to join.

However three years later, I did join! Many of my friends were moving abroad and insisted that I got a Facebook account for us to keep in regular contact. I value my friendships with them so much that I did just that. And I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I was wrong about Facebook. Whatever the negatives might have been, I found that the positives outweighed them greatly. I got to keep up-to-date with events in my friends lives; organizing events via Facebook proved to be very convenient; I enjoyed looking at friends’ photos, and best of all I was able to find friends I’d lost touch with ages ago – and in no way is that a bad thing! Furthermore, my friends say that my posts – usually regarding my one million and one mishaps – have them in stitches.

Then last year I decided to set up another Facebook account for professional reasons in order to promote my work and network with people from the arts industries. It has been a huge success. I’ve publicized my numerous blogs and best of all been able to talk to people who share my passion for writing,  blogging,music, history, travel and the arts – basically anything that involves creativity. I’ve forged some pretty close bonds with some of the creative crowd and I’ve even been called upon to lend a helping hand which I’m always happy to do.

Have I had any bad experiences? Well I’ve had nosey parker relatives, old school foes and hideous exes trying to add me as a friend. Needless to say, I didn’t accept their friend requests. But other than that I’m glad I’m a Facebooker. It’s great when you use it the right way i.e:

don’t over-obsessively check FB fifty times a day; don’t add all the people you get on the tube with every morning just to increase your number of friends, and not go running to update your posts every time you cough sneeze or pick your spots! It’ll be interesting what will happen within the next ten years. Will Facebook have get even bigger (if possible?) Or will it go the same way as Friends Reunited? Will a new social networking site come along and cause Facebookers to close their accounts? Who knows – but we’ll see! Right I’d better go check my inbox…

So happy belated birthday Facebook.  Hope the party was awesome!

 

Gym And Slimline By Emma Burstall

 

I’ve had a lot more time to indulge in my favourite pastime lately – reading! And I’ve just finished reading Emma Burstall’s fantastic Gym and Slimline.

I don’t normally opt for books with a sporty theme – not being so sporty myself – but I do enjoying reading books with an evident friendship theme which emanates from close-knit groups and that’s exactly what you’ll find in Gym and Slimline: a group of very different women who meet at the south-west London gym where they are members and soon forge a long-lasting bond.

 

The health and fitness element is actually secondary to the trials and tribulations experienced by the female characters in the novel: hard-to-pronounce Persephone is distraught to realise that her marriage is on the rocks, leading to a not-so-harmless flirtation and a secret addiction; former ballerina Carmen is desperate to become a mum especially as she’s pushing forty – but is her commitment phobic boyfriend really father material? Stunning Patrice is eager to add to her family but hasn’t been intimate with her controlling husband, Jonty, for years. The only lucky one is career woman Suzanne who manages to juggle motherhood with a high-powered job and she’s managed to bag a sexy, young husband – but is her wonderful life all it seems…

I enjoyed reading this book from beginning to end and was so sorry when I finished it (if only I’d read it slower!) There were moments where you laughed out loud; felt anxious for the characters, and felt the tugging of heartstrings. As well as friendships, relationships, and health and fitness, there was also a theme of forgiveness that runs throughout the novel.  A very dramatic and life-changing episode occurs in the middle of the novel which puts a huge strain on the women’s friendships: it divides two of the women drastically and pulls the other two in different directions. The ‘shock twist’ which creates the tension amongst the group isn’t really much of a shock as the preceding chapters had in fact been leading up to it but when the secret is revealed and the people involved exposed it still hits you like a roller-coaster. It was an original idea and very cleverly written.

But going back to the friendship theme, I love the strength of the women’s friendship that was illustrated in the novel – in fact you almost feel as if they’re your friends and feel quite protective of them. I hated the way Carmen’s ex, Simon, tried to worm his way back into her life when it suited him, and how Jonty controlled Patrice’s every move. Personally, I would have dumped him just for being called Jonty! But worst of all was Persephone’s – or Percy as she is known – predicament. A sweet, dependable lady who’s always trying to help other people, she cannot solve her own issues and you really feel for Percy when she becomes deeply entangled in her addiction. In fact there were times I wanted to scream at her to stop – but I would have attracted a lot of odd looks on the bus!

Gym And Slimline was the debut novel by author and journalist Burstall published in 2008 by Preface Publishing. A fantastic read – which I think might also make a great TV series.

 

Where Is The Love?

Every thing red, heart-shaped and fluffy has been removed from shop shelves. St. Valentine’s Day is officially over. And so it would seem is the romance…

 

St. Valentine’s Day has always been one of my favourite occasions. I’m a born-romantic and not afraid to admit it. I live, eat, drink, breathe, sleep and dream love and romance so naturally I love everything that St. Valentine’s Day stands for. Even when I was single, I thought St. Valentine’s Day was pretty awesome and couldn’t wait for the day when I’d be able to share it with someone super special.

 

For me, this has most definitely been the best St. Valentine’s Day ever and I’m so sorry it’s over. In fact it hasn’t been St. Valentine’s Day so much as St. Valentine’s Weekend! But then we’ve had a reason to go totally overboard – after five years, we finally got to celebrate our very first Valentine’s Day together and Mr. D. really went all out for this very special occasion. We’ve celebrated every other holiday together but never Valentine’s Day due to us being long-distance for so long or having to work in different parts of the country. And I have to say Mr. D. spoilt me rotten!

 

But at a risk of sounding as though I’m bragging (I suppose I am!) I’ve been very blessed with my gorgeous hubby. He’s never been lacking in the romance department. Right from the beginning he won me over with his romantic gestures. The romance usually fades the longer you are together but I’m thrilled to say that that hasn’t happened to us (yet!)

But the other day a very apologetic Mr. D.  said that he was sorry for not being romantic enough.

“How are you not romantic enough?” I asked.

“Well, I used to buy you flowers quite a lot when we were dating,” he said, ” I hardly ever do that now. I should be buying you flowers every day.”

“Oh please! I don’t need you to bring me flowers every day… and it’s probably just as well. I’d probably wonder what you’d done wrong!”

However, there’s a down-side to Valentine’s Day which takes the sheen off the rose-tinted view of my favourite holiday and some people are really squeezing the romance out of the most romantic day of the year.

 

I hate the fact that like Christmas, it’s become so commercial and is all about consumerism. Forget greeting cards, it’s more about credit and debit cards. Everyone knows that come 14th February, flowers, chocolates and dining out costs almost twice as much as it normally would – if not more. But for men who have forgotten the significance of 14th February until it it’s almost too late these little love tokens are exactly what’s needed to help them avoid a fate worse than a spell in the doghouse. I’ve seen their fearful and panicked expression while in Hallmark:

“Quick!Quick!” they would pant, ” I forgot what day it was. Show me what you have. Show me what you have before she kills me!”

 

Sad but true. But even sadder is that come 15th February everything will return to normal again – until next Valentine’s Day when romantic gestures are called for – or else…

And that’s exactly what my problem with Valentine’s Day is – the belief that you only need to be romantic for one day out of three hundred and sixty five and then for the rest of the year you don’t have to bother. Maybe it’s because notions of romance are equated with heavy spending. After all, weekends away, roses, champagne and the finest quality Belgian chocolates don’t come cheap. But who says gift-giving is what romance is all about? Does a generic teddy bear holding a red heart with a cheesy message emblazoned across it or a pair of um, fluffy, red handcuffs prove that you’re loved and desired? Well each to their own but give me little doses of sweet and adorable every day over shop bought madness once a year.

 

But the truth is, despite my love of St. Valentine’s Day I really don’t need the biggest chocolate box in the shop because Mr. D. does the loveliest little things for me every day and really is the most romantic man I know. He’s more than happy to cook dinner or do the laundry when I’m ill, tired or just plain lazy. He’ll take the same route as me to get to work even though it’s a longer journey for him just so that he can spend more time with me. He phones me as soon as he gets out off work for no other reason than he wants to hear my voice. Basically if there’s anything he can do to make my life better, easier, or happier, Mr. D. will have done it already! I really am a lucky lady and the things he does for me means more to me than flowers that are going to wilt and die or giant teddy bears which will take up space and collect dust.

 

So the moral of the story is that love is for life and not just for Valentine’s! As much as I love St. Valentine’s Day, it’s important to remember that it’s the icing on the cake – not the chocolate sponge itself! Romance doesn’t come wrapped in cellophane with a big red bow unlike many of the products at the gift shops; it comes from the heart (hence the little heart shaped symbols you see during Valentine’s Day!) So to make sure you’re prepared for next year, remember that it’s the little every day things you do that make St. Valentine’s Day so amazing.

 

Sweet Valentine

 

St. Valentine’s Day is about to descend upon us very soon and I couldn’t be more excited. It’s definitely one of my favourite holidays and it means all the more to me because I couldn’t wish for a better Valentine than Mr. D. And this St. Valentine’s Day will be very special indeed…

O

I’m a sucker for a romantic meal and having the kind of sweet tooth that keeps my dentist in employment, I can safely say that the dessert course is my favourite. But for such a special occasion it has to be a very special dessert – tinned fruit salad with vanilla ice-cream just won’t do! For St. Valentine’s Day, it has to be a dessert that screams love and romance from the rooftops.

So I’ve picked my top five romantic Valentine desserts which I think are the perfect finale to a St. Valentine’s Day meal. So why not make one of these for your beloved on Friday? And if you can’t make up your mind, why not make all five!

1. WHITE CHOCOLATE AND RASPBERRY CREME BRULEE

Who couldn’t love crème brulee? Lashings of creamy custard with a crisp caramelised topping. I often say that dessert isn’t dessert unless it’s chocolate. And as chocolate is known for having aphrodisiac properties, that’s just the perfect excuse for creating this classic pud with a twist. White chocolate, raspberries and crème brulee – could there be a better culinary combination?

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 25 minutes

Serves: 6 (3 each! perfect!)

Ingredients:

  • 7oz /200g white chocolate
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 3 oz/75g caster sugar
  • 1 ½ cups/350ml double cream
  • ½ cup/125ml milk
  • 9 oz/250g fresh raspberries

Preparation:

  • Put the eggs, chocolate and sugar into a large heatproof bowl.
  • Heat the cream and milk in a saucepan until just boiling, then slowly pour over egg mix and whisk over a saucepan of barely simmering water, making sure the bowl is not touching the water, until thick.
  • Place in the fridge to cool completely. Divide 3/4 of the fresh raspberries between 6 individual ramekins (3″x 2″ deep, or 5″ x 1″ individual dishes) and spoon the brulée mix over smooth over with a palette knife.
    When ready to serve evenly sprinkle the surface of the brulée with a thin layer of caster sugar and blow torch, or place under a hot grill until golden brown. Repeat until you have a thick, golden and hard surface.
    Decorate with the remaining raspberries and a sprig of mint.

2. CHERRIES IN RED WINE

An unusual dessert but it’s still got that Valentine vibe going on. Red wine and red in colour for passion – what more could you want! Can be serves with sweet, vanilla flavoured whipped cream.

Ingredients

  • 425ml red wine
  • 1 vanilla pod, split lengthways
  • 100g demerara sugar
  • 500g cherries

Method

  1. Tip the wine into a medium pan, then add the vanilla pod to the pan with the sugar. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until the sugar has dissolved.
  2. Stone the cherries if you want, or leave them as they are. Add to the pan and cook gently for 6 mins. Remove with a slotted spoon to a bowl. Increase the heat, then boil the liquid for 8-10 mins until slightly syrupy. Pour over the cherries and serve warm or cold in glass bowls.

 

3. MARBLED ROSE CREAM

Roses are to Valentine’s Day what tinsel is to Christmas – you just can’t have one without the other! This fruity pud is flavoured with rosewater – one of my favourite flavourings. I found this recipe in  the National Trust’s Traditional Puddings by Sara Paston-Williams.

 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 250 gr raspberries
  • 75 gr castor sugar
  • 7 ml cold water (a good dash)
  • 150 ml double cream
  • 7 ml rose-water or Kirsch (a generous dash)
  • sprig of mint
  • glitter sugar, chocolate flakes or other topping

METHOD:

  1. First, put half the raspberries into a saucepan with 2/3rds of the sugar (50 grs), bring gently to the boil and continue to simmer until a pulp. Push through a sieve and allow to cool.
  2. Whip cream until thick and add the remaining castor sugar gradually. Reserve a few of the remaining raspberries to decorate. Mash the rest and mix with the whipped cream very thoroughly, then add the rose-water or Kirsch.
  3. Then add the cooked raspberry pulp, stirring just enough to give a marbled effect.
  4. Pour into a glass bowl (or bowls) and chill for at least three hours in the fridge.
  5. Add the mint sprig and decorate with the raspberries and glimmer sugar or chocolate flakes.

4. OUEFS A LA NEIGE/SNOW EGGS/FLOATING ISLANDS

Whichever name you decide to use, I absolutely adore this dessert. It combines soft, marshmallowy meringue with creamy crème anglaise and caramel. It looks so pretty and tastes divine. Crystalised rose petals can also be added for even more prettiness.

 

Ingredients

For the crème anglaise
For the poaching liquor
For the meringue
For the caramel

Preparation method

  1. For the crème anglaise, heat the milk and vanilla seeds in a saucepan over a medium heat. Simmer for 4-5 minutes.
  2. Whisk together the egg yolks and sugar in a mixing bowl.
  3. Pour the hot milk mixture onto the eggs and sugar, a little at a time, so the eggs do not start to cook, whisking continuously until smooth and creamy.
  4. Return the mixture to the saucepan and place the pan over a medium heat and stir continuously for 4-5 minutes, or until the mixture has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon.
  5. Strain the mixture through a sieve into a bowl, leave to cool and then refrigerate.
  6. For the poaching liquor, combine the milk and 500ml/18fl oz water with the sugar in a saucepan, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
  7. For the meringue, using an electric hand whisk, whisk the whites in a bowl until stiff peaks form when the whisk is removed, but the mixture should not look too dry. Add one tablespoon of the sugar to the egg whites, and continue to whisk until the mixture comes back to stiff peaks. Add the sugar one tablespoon at a time until it has all been used, and the meringue is thick and glossy.
  8. Using a serving spoon dipped in cold water, shape big quenelles of the meringue and gently poach in the milk and water solution, turning after 4-5 minutes to ensure they are cooked on both sides. Make sure the liquid doesn’t boil or the meringues will puff then collapse. When fully cooked, gently place on a wire rack to drain.
  9. For the caramel, pour the sugar into a clean pan. Melt the sugar slowly, stirring with a wooden spoon over a low heat until the sugar turns a dark copper colour. Remove immediately from the heat to ensure the caramel does not burn.
  10. Pour the caramel over the meringues. When set, take the caramel-covered meringues off the tray and serve in a generous pool of the crème anglaise.

5. CHOCOLATE FONDUE

I absolutely love love LOVE chocolate fondue and in my opinion it was just made for St. Valentine’s Day. It’s delicious, chocolatey and designed to be shared – could anything be more romantic? It’s also so easy to make and you can choose the dippers you like most.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup  whipping cream
  • 3  (4-ounce) semisweet chocolate bars, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons  coffee liqueur or other flavoured liqueur
  •  Assorted cookies, pretzel sticks, fruit, marshmallows

Preparation

  1. Microwave whipping cream and chocolate in a microwave-safe glass bowl at HIGH 1 1/2 to 2 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds. Stir in liqueur.
  2. Transfer to a fondue pot; keep warm, stirring occasionally. Serve with cookies, pretzels, fruit, and marshmallows.

Happy St. Valentine’s Day!

 

Thank Tresemme! Keratin Smooth To The Rescue

 

 

In recent times my hair has been giving me cause for concern. Despite the fact that I suffer from irritating frizz (grrr!) especially when it comes into contact with slight drizzle, my hair has always been my fave feature. But over the years, constant washing, styling, overuse of heat appliances and styling products have really taken its toll on my soon lifeless locks  – making straw look soft, glossy and  manageable. In fact at one point the frizz was so bad and causing my hair to stick up, I swear I looked like Mr. Majeika’s love child! And no matter what I used, I couldn’t get it to lie flat.

But there were things I knew I had to do in order to get my hair looking and feeling at its best again. I used an egg and olive oil conditioning treatment; cut back on the washing and styling; used heat appliances only when necessary and used hair products as sparingly as possible. I ate healthily opting for foods that were hair-friendly and started taking the right supplements.

It all made a difference and my hair started to look and feel better. But just when I thought that there was nothing else I could do, Tresemme came to the rescue…
I’ve always been a huge fan of Tresemme products. Despite trying lots of other brands, I always come back to Tresemme. Their products are always reasonably priced and it does what it says on the tin. Mr. D knows me so well – when I asked him to get a new blow-dryer for me, he came home with a lovely one by Tresemme! Yes, I have the best hubby ever!

 

So while wandering around the shops, wondering what to do about my damaged-beyond-repair-hair, I stumbled across Tresemme’s keratin smooth hair range. It apparently eliminates frizz for up to 48 hours so hair becomes smoother, shinier and sleeker. The range of products have been infused with keratin – the key structural component of hair, skin and nails – so regular use will help hair to become soft, manageable and frizz-free. I figured I had nothing to lose by giving it a go as I selected the shampoo and conditioner and tossed it into my basket. “Let’s hope it works it’s magic,”I thought. Although if I’m honest, it was a miracle I needed more than magic!

So fast forward three months…

 

Am I loving my hair again? You bet! Although it still feels a teeny bit dry, it’s in much better condition. I’ve also started using the Keratin Smooth Deep Treatment Masque which has worked wonders. There’s just a smidgeon of frizz but it’s nowhere near as bad as it was before. At a risk of sounding like the voiceover in a shampoo commercial, my hair really does look healthier and glossier, and I’ve had some lovely compliments on how great my hair looks. In fact I can honestly say that after using products from the Keratin Smooth range, my hair straighteners are no longer essential – even though they are by Tresemme! If I need to, I just quickly run the straighteners over the front sections of my hair to iron out any minor kinks – and I’m good to go.

So if there’s anyone out there seriously pulling out their hair at the sorry state of it, give this hair-changing range by Tresemme a go. It could be the best thing ever to happen to your hair.

 

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