Bake Off Bake Along: Week 3 - Soda Bread

I am thoroughly enjoying baking along with this series of the Great British Bake Off. Although I intend to try something different each week, I can't help but feel that things have been okay. So far, so good.

Of course, that's getting a little too carried away and week 3 marked bread week. The difference in making bread at home and making bread to be judged is vast. Who am I kidding?

I do make bread from time to time, but mostly nothing spectacular. I've had every result going from the perfect crust but no rise to free-form loaves that never hold their shape. Thing is, you can make toast or a sandwich from any shape of bread. I don't seem to be able to get the best of both: technically good and looks good.

Paul, if you'd like to show me the errors of my way, you'll have to eat a few less buns to fit in my tiny kitchen!

So, it may seem like a bit of a cop out going for the 'easiest' of the recipes from the week. Alas, I have work to do and burgers to eat so a bread sculpture isn't really going to happen. And, baguettes? They scare the life out of me, think I'll leave them to the French for now.

I've heard a lot of people saying that soda bread is easy, so perhaps I should have gone all out and added some moist fillings like cheese or fruit to make things a little more difficult.

But why overcomplicate things! I've never made soda bread before and the fact that its free-formed scares me enough. I used Justin Gellatly's recipe which can be found, here.

So here's my tips in making the easiest loaf ever (as proven by me)
  • for dry ingredients, stick to the basics. Wholemeal bread flour, self raising flour, oatmeal, a dash of bicarbonate of soda, salt and brown sugar. Here there's no yeast so everything is much quicker, the self raising flour and bicarbonate of soda give act as the raising agent.
  • for wet ingredients, all you need is water and buttermilk. Except I rarely have buttermilk in, and if you want to make a fancy pants loaf at the drop of a hat, then chances are neither do you. So here's where the Internet steps in and offers some buttermilk hacks, here on Epicurious. The easiest of options being to water down yogurt or sour cream, or to add lemon juice or cream of tartar to milk. I chose to whisk in cream of tartar to my milk, pretty nifty.
  • for mixing and forming, there's no real knack. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry and you'll get a big sticky mess. Sprinkle with some more flour and then you should be able to flop it out onto your work surface. Get your hands stuck in and work on shaping it into a smooth ball. As previously my loaves haven't had any height to them and have just shrunk down, I ensured to make my dough as tall as possible.
  • lovingly rub some oil over the top to ensure a nice crust, sprinkle with oatmeal and score a cross on the top. I always find it easier to use a large serrated knife for this. A bread knife perhaps! This will also allow a little air to escape from the shape you've just worked at. Don't fear, give it a few more prods and squidge in the sides again till it proudly sits a little taller again.

Here's some ideas of what to serve your soda bread with:

The Crafty Larder's pumpkin chutney; Little Sunny Kitchen's 10 minute strawberry jam; Fab Food 4 All's gooseberry and apple jam; Tin and Thyme's chocolate cashew nut spread; Supergolden Bakes' spicy yellow pepper jam; They Called It the Diamond Blog's blueberry jam; The Veg Space's morello cherry and raspberry jam; Its Not Easy Being Greedy's home-churned butter; Recipes from a Pantry's strawberry rhubarb and basil jam.

Take a look at how I got on with the rest of the challenges

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Review: Kerb, Southbank

Donostia Social Club - seared scallops with pisto and green chilli sauce
When the sun is shining, one of my favourite places to be in London is near the river. Combine this with friends, food and a few drinks and it can't get much better.

For a few weekends this summer, Southbank is hosting Kerb and all 13 of their traders. The next weekend they will be around is 4-6th September, so get your appetites ready.

Donostia Social Club - goats cheese with balsamic and strawberry
To start, Persephone, Flick and I went for some tapas from Donostia Social Club. The aim was to start small and work our way through as many of the traders as we could.

I really do wish that the guys at Donostia could park their van up outside my flat and feed me all day long. Those seared scallops were incredible and anyone that's generous with cheese is a winner to me.

Next up, a round of Camden Hells and a Kamm & Sons Spritz for me.

Bill or Beak - chicken caesar burger
Unfortunately, my burger soulmate (Bleecker St) was closed for maintenance on the weekend we went, so I was forced to try another burger. 

Absolutely, hands down, without a doubt the best chicken burger I've had. Bill or Beak's chicken caesar bun with plenty of parmesan, tempura capers and the BEST brioche bun I've ever set my chops on. I did not want this to end!

Bill or Beak - shredded duck and pork burger
For research purposes, I coerced Flick into lending me a few bites of her shredded duck and pork burger - tempura shallots, spring onions, chilli and plenty of coriander. I wouldn't usually go for duck, but this is incredibly tender and I loved the crunch of the tempura shallots.

Bill or Beak - chicken caesar burger
We hadn't initially set out to complete the Ker-bingo challenge. But with so many different traders to try, we couldn't resist. The aim is to get 5 stamps from different traders in order to get a 6th meal or drink free. Alternatively, for a full house, you can bring 5 friends back to another Kerb weekend and you'll all get a free meal.

In order make some room for more food we set off for a stroll along the river...

...took plenty of photos and came to the conclusion we'd all been ultra savvy in choosing for outfits with lots of room for food!

Ice Kitchen - Mojito & raspberry and lime ice lollies
The sun was shining down on us, with not even a breeze coming in from the water. Ice Kitchen was the perfect palate cleanser. Perhaps not for Flick after I made her eat the lime wedge in the centre of her Mojito lolly. Persephone played it safe with raspberry and lime (to match her lipstick obv).

Anna Mae's - The Don Macaroni
Persephone well and truly passed her initiation (not really, anyone can come eat with us!) but was seriously impressed when she went full out for her final order of mac n cheese from Anna Mae's - The Don Macaroni, mac n pesto, crispy bacon and basil oil.

Born and Raised - pepperoni pizza
Flick and I shared our final meal, so I opted for a pepperoni pizza from Born and Raised, sourdough pizzas made in the back of a Land Rover on a wood-fired oven, pretty epic.

Slightly more messy to share, but so worth it, Flick chose a beef burrito from Kimchinary for us. Ain't no party like a kimchi fried rice party that's for sure.

Feeling a little like extras in Gossip Girl we sat on the steps and traded yogurt for carbs, digging into each others and getting covered in kimchi and cheese. Its a hard life.

And just because I cannot control myself and say not to food. On the way back to Waterloo I stopped in Yo! Sushi to try their latest YOLO, the Japple Pie. Hot apple and vanilla gyozas, black sesame ice cream, chocolate pocky, rapsberry crumble in a waffle cone with a miso salted caramel syringe. Incredible!

Kerb will be returning to Southbank 4 - 6th September, find out more here.

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Bake Off Along: Week 2 - Arlettes

Things are hotting up on the Great British Bake Off and its getting pretty intense in the tent. Before I brave the bread challenge (no lions here I'm afraid) its time for the Bake Off Along biscuit challenge.

During week two contestants were asked to make biscotti in the signature challenge, arlettes for the technical and a showstopper biscuit box. In a bid to try making something I've never done before, I opted for these cinnamon arlettes.

Not only are they not so flattering to photograph, they are deceivingly fiddly to make!

I used a classic Paul Hollywood recipe, here.

They do taste pretty great, so I'm keen to make them again perhaps by cutting corners and buying some ready rolled puff pastry to speed up the process.

Some tips and tricks I learnt along the way:
  • skip Paul's numerous steps on butter layers, make the pastry and roll into a rectangle. Brush with melted butter and scatter over a generous layer of cinnamon and sugar
  • in order to roll the dough really tight, use clingfilm
  • the dough needs to be really cold in order to slice thinly, if impatient, 20 - 30 minutes wrapped in cling film and plonked in the freezer will do
  • gentle sawing motions when slicing them into 1cm slices helps them to keep their disc shape
  • depending on size, you'll get 6 - 8 on a cookie sheet/baking tray, give them lots of room. Sandwich the discs between two sheets of baking paper and roll until 0.5cm
  • keeping the arlettes tucked inside the baking paper, transfer onto a baking tray (using a flat cookie sheet is ideal). To ensure they don't rise, weigh them down with another tray on top
  • from a few practice rounds, I'd say the arlettes need anything between 5 - 8 minutes per side. Bake one side, flip the tray upside down and bake the other side
I can hear it now, Paul saying my bakes are not even and consistent. Well you know what Paul, neither were yours on the recipes picture! Like I said, these are deceivingly fiddly.

See how I got on last week with the cake challenge:

Bake Off Along: Week 1 -  Black Forest Gateau

Take a peak at how the others did last week and Ala's biscotti, here.

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Review: Tanya's Cafe, Chelsea

Tanya's Cafe in Chelsea is gorgeous. Filled the brim with flowers, greenery and positive affirmations (from the plants) if that's the sort of boost you're looking for. Everything on the menu is raw and ethically sourced. Sounds good, right?

I popped over for a sunny afternoon with Emily for a catchup. First up, we both ordered a matcha latte (£8.95) - my first ever! Honestly, I wasn't convinced. It tasted fatty and had bits in. I wouldn't have minded if it was dry lumps of matcha powder that hadn't fully mixed, but it seemed to have more woody pieces in. I made an initial attempt at drinking through my teeth (given the price tag, I thought I needed to give it a fair chance). But I gave up shortly, the meaty taste wasn't worth it.
For food, Emily went for the California Rolls, a raw version of her sushi favourite - nori roll, sunflower rice, avocado, cucumber, carrot, walnut meat, sprouts and a tahini dip. They looked seriously impressive; bright and colourful and a good size for lunch/light dinner.

I went for the Superfood Salad - broccoli, grapefruit and watermelon with a creamy lemon dressing. The menu has changed since our visit, I seem to remember this being around £13. It was nice, particularly the dressing, but for me I don't think a plate of leaves and raw veggies is quite worth the money.

To finish, we both opted for a chocolate hazelnut tart from the fridge of dairy, gluten and refined sugar free fridge. A nutty base, nutella-esque middle and crumbly topping. Its not overly sweet but definitely nice to have something almost guilt free for dessert. They do homemade peanut butter cups too, which are great to take away and keep in your bag for snacking.

Curious to try as much as possible, we also ordered a juice to takeaway (£6.35) - I was still a little hungry so this helped to fill me up on the train home (more due to my incredibly large appetite!). I'm going to be honest and say that I was perhaps a little disappointed to see that these are pre-made, bottled up and sitting in a fridge. I'd perhaps prefer something freshly made with a few add-ins if needed.

In total, everything totted up to £32 each (plus service). 

You know what? It is expensive for a lunch. But we'd both seen the menu and decided we were still up for trying it as something a little different. 

So yes, I'll pay £13 for a salad and £6 for a juice from time to time. But I was a little disappointed to see that their smaller café in Parsons Green has slightly different prices. A matcha latte is £4.35 instead of £8.95 and salads £6-7 instead of £11-13. Juices and smoothies are still the same.

I think Tanya's is a great place for those with limited diets/allergies; somewhere perhaps where you don't have to worry about the menu and whether there's going to be something you can eat or not. 

I'm not ruling out going back again for a regular latte and some peanut butter cups. But, can someone could explain why the prices differ between cafés? 

Find Emily's thoughts on our lunch, here.
Find out more on Tanya's Cafe on their beautiful webstite, here.

Click to add a blog post for Tanya's Cafe on Zomato

All views are my own. Emily and I paid for our lunches and were not asked to write this.

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Review: Quorn BBQ, Healthy Protein

Hidden away behind Peckham Rye station, through a maze of outdoor food venues, bars and a rooftop cinema, you'll find the London Barbecue School. Host of this year's Quorn BBQ*, a chance to try some new recipes and products from their range.

The school offers a series of classes and events to enable you to be king (or queen) or the BBQ. You can learn anything from how to use a ceramic BBQ, cooking paella or just classic BBQ skills.

To start, owner Alastair prepped us by walking us through how to get these BBQs going and how to manage the temperature through the air vents. Its probably quite important to listen intently and to remember everything he says...for if you leave your BBQ lid open, the flames will roar uncontrollably! (Our group felt terrible for paying more attention to prosecco and pepper chopping than to his singed arms!!)

Once prepped with the how-to's, we set off into groups to make our recipes. First up, Swedish style meatball kebabs. 

(Serves 4-6, 253 cals and 5.3g fat per serving)

300g pack Quorn Meat Free Swedish Style Balls
3 tbsp red pesto
3 tbsp tomato puree
3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2 tbsp sugar
salt & freshly ground black pepper
142ml carton Greek style yogurt
1 tsp lemon juice
2 tsp fresh parsley/coriander, chopped
1 green or yellow pepper
1 red onion
6 cherry tomatoes
6 button mushrooms
kebab sticks (if using wooden sticks, soak in water for 15 minutes before using)

  • Place the pesto, puree, 2 crushed garlic cloves, sugar and seasoning in a bowl. Add the Quorn balls and mix thoroughly to coat each evenly. Cover and leave in the fridge until needed. 
  • Make the dip by mixing together the yogurt, lemon juice, herbs, remaining garlic and seasoning. Cover and chill until required.
  • Cut the peppers into 2.5 cm pieces and the onion into similar sized chunks.
  • Thread the peppers onto skewers/kebab sticks alternating with the Quorn balls, onion, mushroom and tomatoes using 3 or 4 balls for each kebab.
  • Place onto BBQ and cook for a few minutes each side. Alternatively, line a grill pan with oiled foil and grill for 10-15 minutes on a moderate heat whilst turning and regularly turning and brushing with any remaining marinade.

Next up, my favourite, sausage and vegetable sticky skewers.

(Serves 3, 243 cals and 1.1g sat fat per serving)

250g pack Quorn sausages
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tbsp lemon juice
1 rounded tsp wholegrain mustard
2 tbsp mango chutney
1 red onion, cut into wedges
1 red pepper, deseeded and cut into chunks
cherry tomatoes
kebab sticks (if using wooden sticks, soak in water for 15 minutes before using)

  • Mix the oil, lemon, mustard and mango chutney together in a bowl. Coat the sausages with the glaze, cut into bitesized pieces.
  • Thread the onions onto kebab sticks/skewers alternating with the sausage, peppers and tomatoes.
  • Place the skewers onto a BBQ and cook, turning frequently until the vegetables are cooked and sausages are piping hot throughout, brushing with any remaining glaze.
  • They are equally good roasted in the oven 200c for 10-12 minutes.

Still feeling peckish?

How about some chilli burgers with chipotle salsa? 

(Serves 2, 426 cals and 5.3g fat per serving)

For the burgers,
2 Quorn Chef's Selection Classic Burgers
2 tsp vegetable oil
2 ciabatta rolls
handful of pea shoots
1/2 red onion, sliced
2 tbsp sliced red jalapeno peppers
freshly ground black pepper
Corn salsa,
1 tbsp vegetable oil
200g sweetcorn
1 tsp chipotle paste, or to taste
1 tsp fresh coriander, chopped

  • For the chipotle salsa, heat oil in a pan and cook the sweetcorn for 2-3 minutes, or until just starting to brown, stir in the chipotle paste. Cool then stir in the coriander and tip into a serving dish.
  • Lightly brush the burgers with a tsp of oil and grill or BBQ for 8-10 minutes, turning frequently.
  • Meanwhile, slice the ciabatta in half horizontally; brush the but side with the remaining oil and place on the BBQ or under the grill to toast.
  • Place the pea shoots on the base of the bread, top with the Quorn burger and add some slices of onion. Finish with jalapeno peppers before seasoning with freshly ground black pepper.
  • Serve with the corn chipotle salsa.

There's one recipe I didn't get a chance to make, southern fried chicken burger and roasted vegetable wrap. Using the Quorn meat free Southern burgers, some roasted peppers, courgettes and onion served in a wrap with yogurt dressing and some rocket leaves. It looked pretty tasty!

I thoroughly enjoyed the evening of learning my way round a BBQ and trying out the recipes. I'll definitely be making these again at home as a healthier alternative to meat!

It goes without saying, these recipes can all be made with actual meat...but if you've been thinking about trying Quorn, or even for ways to jazz it up, then have a go at these recipes.

To find out more about Quorn's healthy protein and for some more recipes, take a look here.
For more information on the London Barbecue School, take a shimmy on over here.

Special thanks to Micaela from Reprise Media, Quorn & the BBQ school for having me and for teaching me some BBQ recipes to pass onto you readers. I hope you enjoy making them as much as I did!

N.B, some images are my own and some are a fancy photographer's - allowing us to get hands on with the BBQs and have a drink or two!

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