Sunday, 24 November 2013

Gourmet Gadgetry: Cupcake and Muffin Maker

The other day, Marcus surprised me by sending me a little present to congratulate me on obtaining a place on a graduate scheme I'd applied to (yay!). I excitedly opened the rather large box to reveal a cupcake maker by Gourmet Gadgetry! 

So, if you're wondering how exactly a cupcake maker works, it's essentially a toasty maker, just for cupcakes. It supposedly creates perfectly formed little cupcakes in a fraction of the time they normally take to bake. I couldn't wait to try it out and so cracked on with some baking!

I baked some very simple lemon cakes. Here's what you'll need if you fancy doing the same:

For the cakes:
100g Butter
120g Self rising flour
120g Caster sugar
2 Eggs
1 tsp Vanilla essence
1 tsp Baking powder
Juice of half a lemon

For the icing:
100g Butter
200g Icing sugar
A few drops of food colouring

Just blend the mixture all together until it's of a smooth consistency. Then, pop your mixture into either your cupcake cases and into the oven (I tend to cook mine at 180C for about 15-20mins) or into your cupcake maker, wait for them to go golden brown and then remove and leave to cool.

While you're waiting for them to cook, you can whip up some icing. Pop your butter into a bowl and whisk until it's smooth. Then gradually start adding your icing sugar and your drops of food colouring. I normally taste it as I go along to see when it's sweet enough. You can then just smear your icing onto your cool cakes or ice them with a piping bag like I did!

I found that the cupcake maker did make the entire process much quicker. The moment I put the batter into each little well, I could see it starting to cook. Once the lid was on, I only had to wait about seven minutes before they were done. Not only that, each cake slid easily out of their well and each was golden brown and identically shaped. Decorating them was very easy as no cake had been able to 'rupture' or had risen oddly. 

I'd definitely recommend Gourmet Gadgetry's cup cake maker (especially to students fighting for oven space!) as it made baking just that bit quicker and easier. There was also no need to buy cupcake cases! I churned out around 28 cupcakes in the end since I just put in more batter once the first round were finished. Luckily, I have three hungry housemates who will be more than happy to eat them all!

Monday, 18 November 2013

Maze- Gordon Ramsay

Over the weekend, we celebrated Marcus' 21st birthday and so as a special treat, Marcus' parents took his family, my mother and I out for dinner at Gordon Ramsay's restaurant, Maze.
Maze, situated in Mayfair, is a wonderful Michelin star restaurant serving 'French and Asian influenced' food. I had heard exciting things about Maze and so couldn't wait to dive in and experience what was on offer!

We met everyone in the cocktail bar, where I tried a delicious drink called 'Jasmine Garden', which was infused with a number of ingredients including jasmine tea, pear and almond syrup. I found it delicious and rather hard to keep my paws off! As the others arrived, they ordered equally interesting sounding drinks which were all simply but beautifully presented. The evening was off to a good start!

Before long, we headed to our table. We were presented with a rather long menu of savoury dishes, split into four sections. Our maitre d' explained that we were looking at a tasting menu and that the dishes went from light to heavy as you progressed down the menu. Eagerly, I started scanning the menu and instantly picked out a number of dishes that looked delicious!

We ordered and I excitedly awaited the first course. Then, the plates started arriving. Each was exquisitely presented and we were all peering around to see what the other had ordered. I had gone for the 'Maze sushi platter', while Marcus has chosen the marinated yellow fin tuna. My dish looked so pretty I (nearly) didn't want to eat it! However, before long I dug in- the sushi was delicious and wonderfully light- I enjoyed every mouthful! Marcus' also tasted amazing (of course I stole a mouthful but shhhhhh...!). Unsurprisingly, I was very happy there were to be three more courses coming our way.

The second dish I chose was 'pressed duck and foie gras terrine' (served with poached pear and walnuts), whereas Marcus went for the (in my opinion, perfectly cooked) 'beef fillet tataki'. Again, both were scrumptious- I particularly loved my duck!

For our third dish, we both opted for the 'dumpling of lobster, tiger prawn and salmon' which came in a deliciously fragrant lemongrass broth. The little parcels were melt-in-the-mouth and the broth had me slurping up every last drop!

For our fourth and final dish, we again both chose the same- the 'braised beef feather blade' which came with little shimiji mushrooms and again, was amazing. The beef was succulent yet just fell apart in your mouth!

The beef and a few of the other dishes on the table

Feeling very happy and rather full, I sat back in my seat and marvelled at the dishes I'd just consumed. I'd enjoyed every single one and had only just restrained myself from licking the plates clean!

However, it wasn't over yet- Maze had one last surprise for us! They brought out a beautiful birthday cake for Marcus, complete with chocolate shards and (of course) candles! We all sang 'Happy Birthday' as he blew out his candles. The cake was then whisked away and reappeared moments later, cut into small pieces, each with a little dome of vanilla ice cream on top. My eyes thoroughly bigger than my belly, I tried to trough my entire slice. However the last mouthful may have defeated me- the cake was incredibly rich!

All too soon, the experience was over and it was time to leave. We rolled ourselves out of our seats and through the front door, incredibly content with the little feast we'd just consumed.

I really enjoyed my trip to Maze. The decor was lovely (mostly pinks, aubergines and lime greens), the service was quick and attentive (I'm pretty sure my water glass never fell below half full!), the atmosphere happily relaxed and the food was fantastic. I couldn't have enjoyed an evening more, although I admit, that may have been more than partly due to the delightful company!

Happy 21st Birthday Marcus!

Monday, 4 November 2013

Bonfire Night and Diwali!

Every year when the leaves start turning golden and the wind starts nipping at your heels, you know it's soon time for Bonfire Night. Scarves are tightly wound, toffee apples are bought and wellies are dug out of the backs of cupboards and dusted off, ready to go stomping through a muddy field to watch sparkling firework displays.

However,  this year my mother and I decided to do something different. We went to a Diwali celebration!

Diwali is the 'Festival of Light' and one of the most important festivals in the Hindu calendar. Traditionally, Diwali is marked by the lighting of small clay lamps, the setting off of firecrackers to keep away evil spirits and celebrating with family and friends. It's also often celebrated by setting off fireworks. Luckily for us, the Diwali celebrations in Leicester are some of the biggest outside of India and so Mum and I set off to watch the firework display and soak up some atmosphere!

The 'Golden Mile' in Leicester was bustling with people all heading down to the display. The street was all lit up with Diwali lights and the Hindu temple was covered in twinkling lights!

We settled ourselves in the park and got ready to watch the fireworks. Before long the first one shot into the air. The whole crowd (around 35,000 people!) all 'ooh-ed' and 'ahhh-ed' as it burst into showering sparks.

The display was wonderful- there were a huge amount of fireworks and the display lasted at least 20mins. Not only that, it was free!

I'd definitely recommend going to Leicester for the Diwali celebrations- it's not something you'll see anywhere else in the UK and it's lovely to get involved with traditions from other cultures. Not only that, since Diwali happens around Bonfire night, you can get a double dose of fireworks!

Happy Diwali Everyone!