Category Archives: Cooking

Cupcake Decorating Class with Chepstow Cupakes

Baking is a sort of secret passion of mine, I love to do it but I seem to always struggle to get the time and always say “Im going to give Christmas baked gifts this year to family”, but my words never really turn into reality.  This year I am really making an effort with baking and trying different cakes,tray bakes and lately having been really wanting to do more cupcakes.  Now making the basic cupcakes are not that difficult, but the decorating which separates this standard fairy cake sponge to a true beautiful cupcake is the great decoration.  I started looking around Devon for various cupcake decorating classes which I thought would be vast and many being run, however I was soon disappointed to find these are extremely difficult things to find.  I tried all sorts of places from garden centers, to even emailing the various bakers around to see if they could offer a class.

All of these efforts and emails did not turn up a single class, I did however find a single class being held at a local garden centre, but typically it was being run on a weekend I am in London on my food tour! (Always my Luck).  I gave up all hope at this point and decided it was just not going to happen.  Several weeks past when one morning I was checking the various tweets of people I follow, I noticed a re-tweet of Chepstow Cupcakes doing a class near Ashburton in Devon.  I quickly emailed “Helen” who explained the class would be covering the various different styles of decorating from icing to piping, I managed to secure a place for 1Pm on Saturday 13th November and is being held in a small garden centre.

As I drove into the car park and parked the car I couldn’t help but feel slightly nervous, as I really didn’t know what to expect.  When I walked into the small garden centre cafe I was quickly greeted by “Helen” who was waring an apron covered in pictures of Cupcakes so I immediately knew I was in the correct place.  Looking at the table before me in the room, it was full of different bags, piping kits, paint brushes, knives etc.  Helen quickly put me at ease as she is very welcoming and invited me to take a seat while we wait for the others.

In front of me lay a box infront of each decorating “station” it had 6 plain sponge cupcakes ready to be decorated and these are what we would be working on.  Various other little piping nozzles and other items I don’t even know the name of.

Soon after the rest of the class arrived consisting of one older woman (Considering im 24, she could be between 30-100, Im not getting in trouble for guessing), and 2 young girls which Helen did say normally she does not allow but considering the class was so small it shouldnt be a problem.

The class should have last 2 hours, however Helen was very helpful and was happy to provide any specific help we needed and it actual over-run until I had to leave to due to a prior arrangement.  I am sure the class continued on well after I left. In the end I produced the above, which my Pirate I am still extremely fond of, I think I really need to find a way of somehow flash freezing him to preserve it.  The other attempts I tried were mainly playing around and I think I need much, much more practice with the use of the piping bag and the various nozzles.

Overall this was a great afternoon spent and was alot of fun, Helen provided a great class and left it very open to everyones different requests to the point we could taylor it almost to what we wanted.  I will definitely be wanting to attend these classes again, and hopefully make a even better pirate 2.0.

More information on these classes etc can be found out on http://www.chepstowcupcakes.com.

Matt’s Baking – White Chocolate & Banana Blondies

Tonight being friday and being the sad Foodie I am decided to do a small spot of baking, being a particular interest of mine.

I decided to try something abit different from the usual Brownie and being a great fan of White chocolate decided to hit the Blondie devision of my cook books and found the below recipe.

White Chocolate & Banana Blondies

Ingredients

  1. 250g golden caster sugar
  2. 100g butter
  3. 100g caramel , from a jar or tin (Nestlé Carnation Caramel works well) plus 2 tbsp for the top
  4. 100g white chocolate
  5. 2 eggs
  6. 200g self-raising flour
  7. 2 ripe bananas , sliced

Method

  1. Heat the oven 180C/fan 170C/gas 4. Melt the sugar, butter, caramel and chocolate together until smooth. Cool a little, then add the eggs and fold in the flour and banana.
  2. Pour into a lined 20cm square tin and add a few blobs of caramel to the top, bake for 45-50 minutes or until risen and set.

Well this all looked extremely simple, having decided that these will just be an extremely sweet treat decided to leave my Hotel Chocolat white chocolate with vanilla on the side, and choose the wonderful and old faithful Nestle Milky Bar.  (If its good enough for the Milkybar kid, its good enough for me)  Having an abundance of what seems lower quality chocolate when compared to the likes of Hotel Chocolat etc its always a good way to use the likes of Milka and Nestle.

Having only taken 15minutes to melt down and prepare, the tin was quickly filled and entered the oven, now only the long long wait approach.  At this time I was getting excited as its dinner time and they could be ready to coincide with dessert perfect.  The only thing better than white chocolate blondies, Warm white chocolate blondies.

My hopes soon become true as my dinner is finished and lay before is the this:

They were incredible crispy on the top with a lovely crust, however the insides were very goey and moist.  Excellent.

Only downside being that the white chocolate didn’t really come through at all and i couldn’t tell it was in the mixture, next time im going to try and use Chocolate chips instead and maybe apricots.

Ode Restaurant – Shaldon – Review

This evenings restaurant review is of the quite small and quant restaurant “Ode”.  Upon arriving and first inspection looking at the front entrance, which looks more like a small town house. With large open windows with small A4 pages listing menu’s etc, and also a lovely stain glass window door the centre of the bay windows.  Just to the left hand side is the entrance and upon entering you then turn a corner and walk directly into the small eating area.

Ode is slightly different from other restaurants as the whole Eos about the place, is organic locally sourced produce, but this does not only mean about the food. This also includes the building its self, I can only guess that upon purchasing the building the owners stripped it back to basics and then filled the place with local materials/goods. A list of such local products can be found on their website site which includes things such as:

  • Tumbled kale travertine floor in restaurant – natural stone from Europe.
  • Tables made from European ash wood from sustainable sources and made locally in Prince Town, Dartmoor.
  • Sourced reclaimed timber and driftwood from salvage yards.

They are also very dedicated to providing only organically sourced produced, although I’m not a fan of the organic type food etc (I’m just not that interested in it), i am pleased to see a restaurant/chef/owner show such caring in his produce and his working environment. This shows a good first impression and I haven’t even seen the food yet!!

Table was booked for 7:45, as this was the only time slot available to me, which shows the popularity of this restaurant as i booked a week in advance.

Upon entering the restaurant i was immediately greeted by a friendly waitress and showed a table which was by the window and had a lovely view out onto the street so great for people watching. The restaurant is very small and cosy and only doing 24 covers, you can imagine has an intimate feel of good homely cooking. Unfortunately I was 15 minutes earlier than my booking however this was not a problem and the waitress was very friendly. Upon seating Claire (Head of Front of House) greeted me and she was a fabulous guide to the paper sheet printed menu.  She was very kind with guiding me through the menu and some of the most popular dishes and personal favorites, I found this wonderful and something that is really lacking in restaurants today, without having to ask.

After having made my selections some flat bread with cumin with an olive paste was served, this was a nice change to the regular bread with oils/butter and the bread. Fabulous and crisp and a real good strong flavour of cumin.

A complimentary amuse bouche was then served of sand eel’s in Japanese breadcrumbs and lemon, with a home-made tartare sauce, this was extremely tasty combined with the sauce worked well on the palette. The tartare sauce was particularly quite acidic which I am a fan of and worked well.  Also with the use of the Japanese  breadcrumbs these were not greasy and had a good dry feel.

My starter of “Salad of Lyme bay lobster and brown crab, with BBQ sauce and marinated courgette” arrived around 10 minutes after the amuse bouche was served. The style of the plating was quite modern, however with the use of the salad leaves managed to keep that home look but very sophisticated style of plating lay underneath. Upon trying the Lobster i found this to be sweet and have a lovely texture which was well cooked. The accompanying BBQ sauce was not what you have come to expect from the local pub, no thick dark brown sauces here. Instead was a lovely and mild sauce which had many different layers of flavour, however I would have liked abit of kick to the sauce and some heat to join the dish. The crab element of the dish was crab lightly bound in a dressing, which seemed to have quite a strong coriander flavour and worked well to refresh your palette, again if the BBQ sauce had a bit of kick to accompany this it would have worked even better. I did find four pieces of crab shell unfortunately while eating the dish, now some times this cannot be helped, however these were quite large but again when having crab one has to expect this some times. The dish was a very good and generous portion but this should be expected for a £13 starter.

My main course of sea bass then arrived, on first inspection I was dissipated by the portion size as this seemed rather small. However once moving the fish I found this to be a very thick cut and I was immediately impressed with the crisp skin and perfectly white rims of the cooked wish. Underneath the main star, was some various mixed vegetables of runner beans etc. This was then following by the spider crab, now having never tasted this before I was a very pleased with my menu choice, the meat was lovely and almost creamy to eat. The oil dressing provided was quite sweet and provided a nice contrast to the Quinoa mixed in within the crab meat. This turned out to be a much more filling dish than I expected and although I think the £22 price tag is quite steep this again has been caught only 2 miles away by the local line caught fishermen. So you need to expect a certain price premium for this quality and local produce.

A dessert menu was then presented to me and immediately my eyes were drawn to the chocolate cake, again Claire was fantastic and upon asking her about the chocolate % etc this was all answered from memory and quickly. The chocolate cake was made from 74% and both there dark and white chocolate come from the Uk and used Beans. However again this dish was quite an expensive example I thought upon ordering, but thought I would hold judgement until this was served. Praying that also I did not stave myself for the whole day to miss out on a lovely calorie ladened dessert. A black Americano coffee was also ordered as well.

When the desert arrived all my worries started to fade away in a chocolate coma.  It seemed how the chocolate cake took a serious back seat on this dish, and the Moose seemed to take more of the 1st place, with a large scoop curled on top of the cake.  The cake its self was very nice and moist and because the exclusion of flour, it was quite dense and seems to fall apart and break into nice little sections to eat.  The accompanying chocolate brittles again very amazing with a rich chocolate and sugar flavour, and were beautiful.  Now on to the moose which was in 2 words “Mind Blowing” the caramel flavours really did shine through this thick and dense moose, i savored every bite of this truly gorgeous element of the dish and found it to be particularly the star of the night.

My Coffee then arrived and was lovely hot and flavoursome, the accompaniments were a delightful fruit brioche which was brittle to bite but then turned into a lovely and chewy bread within the mouth.  Also the chocolate Ganache was very good and very rich and dense, however the over use of Coco powder did overpower the actual chocolate slightly.

Final thoughts:
Service – 9/10
The service here is nothing short but impressive, with your glass quickly and constantly topped up without even having to glance at a server.  The staff here are all very kind and polite and are welcoming to have a chat.  Claire was a particular star of the show whose knowledge of the food, produce and also the building was impressive.

Food – 8/10
The food tonight was a gallery of fine cooking combined with real caring of produce, the local produce and effort gone into finding such special elements really did show.  However little things i believe could have slightly been improved such as the BBQ sauce on the starter and the crab shells found at the beginning as well.  These issues aside though, the whole meal was very good with good and also new flavours being shown.

Value – 7/10
The entire meal came to a quite reasonable £52, which i was pleased with however if i was a larger group or with partner this could soon add up.  I understand the need to the premium prices due to the local produce but i think the costs could be looked at slightly to get the dishes more at even prices.  However at the end of meal talking with the owner i understand they do a “taste of the Teign” menu which is a set cost menu, but this is only served on Tuesday- Friday nights.

Overall – 8/10
A very impressive and cozy restaurant which local produce really is the main star of the show.  Anyone who decides to eat here will find welcoming staff and lovely sea food.