Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Quick and easy breakfast for people on-the-go // REVIEW // Pulsin porridge oat bars

Golden leaves. Chunky knitwear. Pumpkin spiced candles. Steaming bowls of porridge first thing in the morning. These are just a few of my favourite things about autumn. So when the wonderful people at Pulsin sent me some of their porridge oat bars for review purposes, I was excited to mix up my morning porridge routine and instead try a portable on-the-go version!


Super Seed & Maple

I thought that perhaps this one would smell sweet (it did not). I was pleasantly surprised by the sweetness levels as I sometimes find maple too sickly sweet. The Super Seed & Maple porridge oat bars contained a hint of sweetness, without being too much. It wasn't too dry, and was a good of mix of chewy and crumbly. It did indeed taste oaty and like porridge - which is great for a porridge oat bar product!


Apple & Cinnamon

You can't get any more autumnal than the harmonious pairing of apple and cinnamon. Think smooth apple puree in a crumble or pie, with a little touch of cinnamon to make your taste-buds sing. Or chunky pieces of apple in a wonderfully flaky strudel with lashings of custard.

This was the bar I was most excited about! Admittedly I didn't taste a whole lot of apple, but the cinnamon really came through. This was drier than the other bars, and had more of crumbly texture than a chewy one. The Apple & Cinnamon porridge oat bar tasted wonderfully festive. Bring on Christmas!


Orange Choc Chip

I was a little nervous about trying this one because I don't normally like orange and chocolate as a flavour combination, however as this contained a subtle hint of orange which wasn't too strong, this converted me! The Orange Choc Chip porridge oat bar had a good texture and was a good mix of chewy and crunchy, without any dryness. The chocolate chips in it were lovely, and there was something in the smell and taste of the bar that felt quite festive. A nod to the Christmas clementine perhaps?

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I tried Pulsin's raw chocolate brownies before, however these porridge oat bars were even better and definitely something I'll be adding to my weekly grocery shop. Containing all the benefits of porridge, but as an easy grab-and-go sort of breakfast, these bars are great for those cold mornings where you can't be faffed with making actual porridge and opt for extra time in bed instead (we've all been there!). Oats provide slow releasing energy which is great for maintaining your energy levels throughout the morning and keeping you full for longer  - great for people like me who are serial snackers!

* Pulsin very kindly sent me the bars for review purposes, however all opinions and love of extra time spent in bed in the mornings all my own!

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Dining at the Gilbert Scott at the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel

If you ever find yourself in King's Cross, no doubt you would have marveled at the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel. It's architecture is a thing of beauty and is subject to many a tourist photo. I handed my notice in back in February and my ex colleagues knowing full well that I am a massive foodie, gave me Marcus Wareing restaurant vouchers as my leaving gift. There are several of his restaurants here in London, however I was drawn to the Gilbert Scott, intrigued to see inside this beautiful building that I walk past so frequently.

FOOD

Goosnargh duck breast, girolles, broad beans and smoked pea

Perfectly pink in the middle with crispy skin, this was a beautifully juicy piece of meat. My only slight criticism was that it could have done with a little more seasoning - I always find salt really helps compliment duck skin. I wasn't sure what the little crispy things were ("are they mealworms?!"), but they added a nice crunch to the dish. One of the few foods I don't like are peas however these was beautifully smoky which helped detract away from the fact that I was eating peas!

Dorset crab. nectarine, cucumber and sesame

I used to be a dessert girl through and through, but nowadays I have more of a savory palette and prefer a starter over a dessert. I don't like a heavy starter as I find it ruins your enjoyment of the main course if you feel full early on! This crab salad was the perfect choice. I'd never dreamed of pairing crab with fruit, but it was a beautiful pairing.  The lightest, freshest starter - and pretty as a picture.

Confit duck raviolo, tamarind, cashew and radish

I love ravioli, but wasn't sure how I felt about a single piece of it. But to be fair. it was the best I'd ever had. Rich, melt-in-the-mouth goodness. I just wish there was more of it.

ATMOSPHERE

Inside the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel, it is as awe inspiring as its exterior, with high ceilings, and majestic staircases. I could happily have got lost in there for hours. But I didn't because food.

Initial reactions were good. We were greeted at reception with a smile and led to a lovely L shaped sofa, meaning we could sit next to each for once. Sometimes in restaurants it can feel a little claustrophobic, as despite all the empty tables, you can still be packed up close to other diners. This wasn't the case at the Gilbert Scott. Our nearest diners were two tables away, so being tucked away in our own little corner it felt deliciously private.

Image credit: David Collins Studio (please contact me if image removal required)

I think my greatest disappointment was with the sommelier. My wine of choice is usually a Malbec or a Côte du Rhone. On this occasion I chose a Malbec (which for the record, wasn't the cheapest of wines on their wine list!), but the sommelier directed us away from it. He suggested a Côte du Rhone, I pointed out my second choice wine (a Côte du Rhone), and he turned that down too, suggesting another Côte du Rhone (and yes, it was more expensive). I don't mind receiving recommendations for wine, however this sommelier had no idea what we were eating, and couldn't have known what would pair well. The Côte du Rhone he suggested was ok, but it was nothing special. It had no depth of flavour like a Malbec, didn't match brilliantly with the food, and was disappointing considering it cost us more. For improved service, I'd suggest their sommelier takes a little more time to find out what the guests are eating, and then make suggestions for pairings to compliment that specific dish. But at the same time, not push too hard. If a guest like myself wants a particular wine, let me have the wine I actually want. I am the one paying for the meal after all!

Sommelier aside, it was a lovely meal. Awe inspiring surroundings, delicious food and beautiful presentation. My advice: go on a quieter day of the week like a Monday or a Tuesday. Seated in such a magnificent room, it was serene, and as it wasn't busy, we didn't feel rushed or pressured.


The Gilbert Scott
St Pancras Renaissance Hotel
Euston Road
London NW1 2AR
For reservations click here

Monday, 2 October 2017

The autumn soup and bread recipes you KNEAD to have in your life // bread making class at the Jamie Oliver Cookery school

The other weekend I headed to Westfield in London for a bread making class at the 
Jamie Oliver Cookery School. But did I rise to the occasion? Read on to find out!


Before we started we were shown the kitchens we would be working in and noticed that the Jamie Oliver Cookery School kitchens were all fitted with Hotpoint ovens. A rep from Hotpoint spoke to us before our session and said that through customer research they identified that the one thing people find most frustrating with their ovens is a non-even bake. I for one know how annoying it is when a bake is burnt on top but also has a soggy bottom! People tend to blame themselves for a bad bake, however it's more likely the oven. Did you know that ovens' temperatures can vary up to 15 degrees? And this alone makes it all too easy to produce uneven bakes. Hotpoint’s new ovens offer Multi-Flow technology to regulate the temperature and to ensure better heat distribution and a good even bake every time.


Our bread making class was led by chef Gabby who gave us a demonstration of what we kneaded (ha!) to be doing that day. She taught us the signs of a good prove and how to work the dough so you get those perfect spider web like strands.


Fun fact: if you over work your dough or don't get the prove you were after, all is not lost. Bread dough is always salvageable. For example it can make a great pizza base

We were told we would be making bread rolls in different shapes to have with fondue and soup at lunch and also two focaccias. I did wonder how on earth we were going to make all those in the space of a few hours. I make bread at home and I know how long it can take to prove the dough. Luckily for us, the hard work taken out of bread making as Gabby had proved lots of dough in advance. That being said, we also made one dough ourselves which were able to take home with us. Mine proved very well on the Central Line. When I got home, the dough had essentially eaten the box and was making a break for it. I baked mine at home using fresh rosemary from the garden (because you can't beat rosemary focaccia!)

After our bread making 101, we were led away to individual work stations with the ingredients all pre-measured for us, which made things nice and simple regardless of if you were a seasoned pro baker or completely new to it all. It felt very Bake Off. But without the cameras and the pressure.

To make a dough all you knead (sorry!) is flour, water and yeast. At home I use dried yeast, however at the class we used live yeast. I had never seen it before in this form. It came as large blocks and smelt fragrant.

With the initial demonstration, it was a lot to take in at once. I wasn't sure how I was going to remember it all, but Gabby and her lovely sous chef were on hand, advising us when our doughs were done or if they kneaded (ha!) more work. Baking alongside other bloggers, there was a great sense of solidarity as we were all in it together. There were plenty of doh! moments when your mixture stuck to the table top because you hadn't floured it enough, and when you get more flour down you than on the table...

Rollin' with it

For our bread rolls, the dough was well proved and elastic (a good sign!), which made them quite difficult to shape as no sooner had you rolled out a shape, would it retract back. We were advised to use a knife with a little olive oil on the blade while making cuts to the dough (such as the score marks on top of the baguette) to make the dough easier to work with. One of the shapes we were shown was an Epi, but my dough wasn't having it (huge respect to anyone else who managed it!), so instead I made a spiral snail sort of shape. Which for the record, didn't look anything like the Bake Off "snail".  I also made a simple round roll, a baguette and a plaited loaf. The latter of which lost its definition when baked. Mine were egg washed to give them a golden colour and a sheen once baked. But we were advised that you could also use milk instead if you wanted more of a matte effect. If you are lactose intolerant, milk can be switched out for soy milk or other alternatives.


If you want to give these a go yourself, you can find the recipe below:

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Basic bread dough

Ingredients 
  • 1kg strong flour, or wholemeal strong flour
  • 30g fresh yeast
  • Water!

Method
  1. Making a well - Put the flour in a bowl and make a large well in the centre. Pour around 310ml of tepid water into the well, then add the yeast, 1 level teaspoon of salt and stir with a fork.
  2. Getting it together - Slowly bring in the flour from the inside of the well, being careful not to break the walls of the well. Continue to bring the flour into the centre until you get a stodgy consistency - then add another 310ml of tepid water. Continue to mix until it's stodgy again, then bring in all the flour, making the mix less sticky. With floured hands bring it together into a ball of dough.
  3. Kneading - Knead on a flour dusted surface for 4-5 minutes until you have a silky and elastic dough.
  4. First prove - Flour the top of the dough and place in a bowl, cover with clingfilm and allow it to prove for about half an hour until doubled in size in a warm, moist, draught-free place.
  5. Second prove, flavouring and shaping - Once the dough has doubled in size, knock the air out for 30 seconds by bashing it and squashing it. Shape it or flavour it as required - folded, filled, tray baked - and leave it to prove a second time for 30 minutes to an hour until it has doubled in size once more.
  6. Cooking your bread - Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius / 410 degrees Fahrenheit / gas 6. Gently place your dough onto a flour-dusted baking tray and into the pre-heated oven. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until cooked and golden brown. You can tell if it's cooked by tapping the base - if it sounds hollow, it's done. If it doesn't then pop it back in for a little longer. Once cooked, place on a rack and allow it to cool for at least 30 minutes. 

Makes a loaf - or in our case 4 rolls!

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We used an assortment of poppy seeds, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds for extra crunch. And what better topping to have with autumnal soup than pumpkin seeds?!

Focaccia gonna do?

The focaccia dough was a good work out. It was great to work out the week's stress and it felt very therapeutic.

We crushed the salt with rosemary to create rosemary salt, but also left some sprigs of the rosemary large. I love crunchy rosemary on my bakes. The kitchen smelt amazing during this time. There is no better smell that the smell of freshly baked bread and rosemary.


Focaccia is one of my favorite types of bread - especially when dipped in balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil.  For years my go to starter at Jamie's Italian has always been their selection of breads and oils. If you would like to try making your own focaccia, you can find the recipe for this below:

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Rosemary focaccia

Ingredients

  • 240g Italian tipo "OO" flour
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 10g fresh yeast
  • 1 sprig of rosemary

Method

  1. Combine the flour. yeast, 145ml of tepid water, 30ml of extra virgin olive oil, yeast and a good pinch of sea salt in a mixing bowl and knead gently for for 5-10 minutes until smooth.
  2. Cover the mixing bowl and leave to rest in a warm place for 45 minutes, or until the dough has doubled in size.
  3. While the dough is rising, prepare a baking tray by lightly oiling the base and sides with vegetable oil.
  4. Transfer the dough to the baking tray. Spread out evenly using the palm of your hands and gently expel the air from the dough, then rub 15ml of extra virgin olive oil over the surface of the dough using your finger tips.
  5. 'Dimple' the dough ensuring that you don't press all the way through to the base. Rip up your rosemary and poke them gently into the bread.
  6. Cover the dough again and leave to rest for a further 20-40 minutes, or until it has doubled in size.
  7. Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius / 410 degrees Fahrenheit / gas 6.
  8. Place the baking tray in the pre-heated oven for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown. Once cooked, carefully remove from the oven and drizzle with a little more extra virgin olive oil. Serve warm or cold.

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Whilst the focaccia was baking, we settled down for lunch with our bread roll creations. Naturally, the bread had baked perfectly - thanks Hotpoint! Our bread rolls were still warm and paired with fondue, a comforting bowl of soup each and red wine, we felt very toasty and autumnal (and sleepy!).


No doubt about it, I will be re-creating this soup at home. Hand on heart, it was one of the best soups I have ever had. If like me, you would like to try making this soup yourself, please find the recipe to this below:

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Roasted pumpkin soup

Ingredients

  • 2kg pumpkin or squash
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • 4 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 sticks of celery
  • 2 red onions
  • 2 chicken or vegetable stock cubes
  • 2 tablespoons crème fraîche
  • Extra virgin olive oil

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 170 degrees Celsius / 325 degrees Farenheit / gas 3.
  2. De-seed the pumpkin or squash, then chop into wedges.
  3. Place the wedges on a large baking tray and lightly drizzle with olive oil.
  4. Gently squash the garlic cloves in their skins and scatter across the baking tray with the thyme leaves. Season with sea salt and black pepper.
  5. Roast for 1 hour, or until caramelised at the edges.
  6. Meanwhile, peel and roughly slice the carrots, chop the celery, and peel and roughly chop the onions.
  7. Drizzle 2 tablespoons of olive oil into a large pan over a medium heat, add all the prepared ingredients, then cook with the lid ajar for 30 minutes, or until softened.
  8. Crumble the stock cubes into a jug, cover with 1.5 litres of boiling water, and stir until dissolved.
  9. Once cooked, add the pumpkin or squash to the pan and pour over the stock. Squeeze the garlic out of its skin and add to the pan.
  10. Bring to a simmer for a couple of minutes until hot through, then remove from the heat.
  11. Using a handheld blender, carefully blend the soup until smooth. Season to taste.
  12. Divide between bowls, add a dollop of crème fraîche and extra virgin olive oil to each. You can top with thinly chopped red chilli if you like.  

Serves 4

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We each left with a Currys PC World goody bag filled with items to continue that autumn feeling. You can't get more autumnal than candles and tea. This candle for the record smells out of this world!


In summary, I really enjoyed my first Jamie Oliver Cookery class. The main thing I took away from my experience is that it can be really easy (and satisfying!) to make your own bread and it really doesn’t take that long. The chefs there were so energetic and passionate, and were a pleasure to work with. The Bread Baking: Knead to Know class is priced at £65 per person and they do plenty of other classes too where you can learn to prepare sushi, fish, pasta, curries and so on. You can view their full range of classes here where it details times and the number of slots available on a given date.

Thank you so much to Currys PC World, Hotpoint and The Jamie Oliver Cookery School for putting on a wonderful #AutumnalBakes event. I feel really inspired to get back into baking bread. Because crust me, I'm on a roll.


#AutumnalBakes

This post is not sponsored but the cookery class was complimentary