High Tea At The Victoria Room

New Holland sent me this lovely book to review. The Victoria Room is a restaurant and bar in Sydney where High Tea is served Saturday and Sunday. High Tea At The Victoria Room by Jill Jones-Evans and  Joe Gambacorta is a collection of delicious recipes from sandwiches and scones to Cornish pasties to cocktails!

This recipe book is high tea with glamour, the book oozes luxury and every picture makes my mouth water. When it came to choosing a recipe to try there was almost too much choice! The obvious solution was to make one of their signature dishes ‘The Original Victoria Room Scone’. George and Nanny helped me baking the scones and George is getting quite independent, he doesn’t need much help rolling out and cutting the scones all by himself! We served our scones with butter and blackberry jam. I always test a recipe when reviewing books, it can alter my opinions quite a lot and testing this recipe has made me want to get going on cooking everything else in this book. The scones were the best I’ve made myself, light, delicious and so moreish after trying this recipe I can’t even imagine how good the others will be. I’ve shared the scone recipe with you below – it is to die for!!!!

Recipe:

The book says this would make 18 scones (I don’t know what I did differently but I had nearly double this amount!)

Ingredients:

  • 800g self-raising flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt170g unsalted butter, chopped and chilled
  • 150g castor sugar
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 300ml milk
  • 1 tbsp vanilla essence
  • extra milk for glazing

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 180c, line a baking tray with greaseproof paper.
  2. Sift flour, baking powder and salt together, add sugar and lemon zest along with the butter and rub together to resemble breadcrumbs.
  3. Make a well in the centre of the mixture and slowly add milk and vanilla. Use a fork to bring the flour and milk together to make a soft dough.
  4. Form the dough into a ball and roll out on a floured surface. Roll to approx 2.5 cms. Cut into rounds with a 5cm scone cutter (do not twist as you cut). Alternatively if you do not have this scone cutter you can, like I did, form small balls out of the mixture to make larger scones.
  5. Place scones on the tray and brush with the milk to glaze. Bake for approx 15-18 mins. Turn out onto a wire rack to cool.

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Less Meat More Veg by Rachel de Thample

I was lucky enough to be contacted personally by the author of this book and asked if I would like a copy to try out. Naturally I jumped at the chance to review it and have really enjoyed reading through the recipes. The reason Rachel de Thample wanted me to see her book is in the name of my blog ‘i love meal plans’, I do love meal planning, it makes life easier and Rachel’s book is based around four weeks of meal plans. The idea is similar to mine in that you cook a good roast and then use the meat from the roast during the week to make other meals. This is a great way to organise your weekly meal plan, it means you stretch your Sunday roast to make several meals, something that I regularly do here at my house.

Rachel’s idea is that we should eat less meat, but in return better quality meat, something I blogged about a while ago after reading Jamie Oliver’s ideas on eating better quality meat. You can read that blog post here. Eating better quality meat means it is more nutritious, better for the environment and animal welfare is placed high on the agenda. Rachel says “to keep up with..meat and dairy-heavy diets, animals are intensively reared…quite often these animals don’t see the light of day, and they are not fed the diet that nature intended…eating food from such animals cannot be good for our health. Rising obesity levels, increasing cases of cancer, heart disease and diabetes show that it’s not.” I agree 100% with Rachel, we need to care and consider where our food comes from and ‘Less Meat, More Veg’ by Rachel de Thample helps us to do just that, to eat better, more nutritious food.

The biggest impact this book has had on me is to consider how healthy my diet really is. I think I cook good healthy meals, but Rachel’s book reminds us of the importance of at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day. I try to include as much fruit and veg as possible in my cooking but Rachel de Thample has got me thinking more carefully about this. The introduction to her book provides an extensive table detailing the amounts of each fruit/veg needed to make up a one portion of your 5 a day. It really makes interesting reading; you need to eat 5 florets of broccoli, 2 kiwis, 7 cherry tomatoes, these are much larger amounts than I had been consuming. I’ve now started trying much harder to add greater amounts of vegetables into my cooking and to try to include a wider variety.

What I found most refreshing about Rachel’s book is that as a Texan woman married to an Englishman her cooking repertoire is different to mine. She presents an array of recipes, new ways to use up my Sunday roast that I hadn’t considered before. It is good to have some new ideas to add to my meal plans and as well as that ‘Less Meat, More Veg’ has added something new to my cookery book collection.

Look out next week for my blog entry on the recipe I cooked from ‘Less Meat, More Veg’ by Rachel de Thample – Mexican Cold Remedy (a delicious spicy chicken and lime soup).

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Valentine’s Day Shortbread Cookies

Next Monday it will be Valentine’s day and now I’m a food blogger I thought I better treat my husband to something homemade and something sweet. I wanted to use a recipe I blogged about for my sister-in-law’s baby shower, Fiona Cairns’ shortbread. This recipe is great to use with cookie cutters. Often I find an ordinary recipe for using cookie cutters is a bit boring but using shortbread, which cuts out well, is a good alternative. Today I experimented and tried to make some chocolate shortbread. Decorate the biscuits anyway you like, sometimes I use a piping bag with the smallest nozzle to decorate using icing in detail. The shaped shortbread would be a lovely accompaniment to a dessert served for a Valentine’s meal or pop into a cellophane bag to give as a professional looking gift.

These biscuits are ideal for kids to make and give as gifts. My son decorated the shortbread in my photos and gave them to his grandparents this week as an early Valentine’s gift, how cute would was that!?! I made the biscuits myself and he decorated them with the icing and sprinkles. Older children could make and decorate the biscuits so this recipe is really flexible for using with kids of all ages.

A top tip for giving biscuits as a gift is to save the clear wrapper that blank birthday cards often come in and I reuse these wrappers if I give biscuits as a gift – they look really nice in the clear plastic wrapping.

Recipe:

Makes approx

Ingredients:

  • 250g baking margarine
  • 100g caster sugar, sifted
  • 250g plain flour, sifted
  • 125g cornflour, sifted
  • 15g cocoa powder
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla essence

Recipe:

  1. Cream together margarine and sugar.
  2. Sift together plain flour, cornflour and cocoa powder.
  3. Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter and sugar, mix thoroughly each time.
  4. Add vanilla essence.
  5. Sprinkle a clean surface with flour and roll the mixture into a ball, wrap in clingfilm and chill for 30 mins.
  6. Place dough on your clean floured surface and roll out to approx 1cm thickness. Use cookie cutters to make your choice of shapes.
  7. Place shortbreads onto a baking tray lined with baking paper and cook for approx 15-20 mins. Sprinkle with sugar once out of the oven.
  8. Leave to cool on a wire rack.

Icing:

I iced my biscuits with lemon icing.  You can read about my icing in my post about Gingerbread men and their decoration: A Gingerman. Add a little more lemon juice to make a more spreadable icing to cover the whole biscuit if you like the decoration in my photos.

* The beautiful wood background in the photos is the dining room table my lovely husband made for us.

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Jewish Penicilline: Why is Chicken Broth so good for you?

In my last post I talked about making your own fresh chicken broth; I do, just like my Mum always has and I know it is really healthy for you. A few months back I was unlucky enough to suffer for over a month with colitis, at one stage I could only eat dry toast for 10 days. By the time I was starting to recover, as you can imagine, my body was showing all the signs of nutritional deficiency. I wanted to get started on eating a range of healthy foods, but they had to be slowly reintroduced. My saving grace was the chicken broth I made and drank three times a day. Using free range chicken and lots of vegetables to make the stock I recovered more quickly than expected. It was also interesting to see how after a couple of days of watching me knocking back chicken broth my two year old son wanted to drink it too! What a great way to get lots of goodness into him!

So now I’m more enthusiastic about chicken broth than ever and see it as a healing food, in fact my brother informed me it is known by many as ‘Jewish Penicilline’! I started reading up about chicken broth and found out it can…

  • Improve the immune system.
  • Have anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Release an amino acid (cysteine) which resemble the properties of drugs prescribed for respiratory problems.
  • Soothe sore throats and open blocked nasal passages.
  • Provide a range of vitamins through the vegetables included in the broth.
  • Help in the production of glutathione, an antioxidant, which has detoxifying properties.

Now I have to admit that boiling up a load of chicken bones isn’t my favourite cooking activity, but boy is it worth it! I’m pleased to say that using the chicken bones from your Sunday roast to make broth/stock is a great money saver and stretches one meal to make several for your meal plan.

I hope I’ve convinced you it is worth taking the time to make your own chicken broth rather than opening a salty stock cube; if you don’t do this already I challenge you to give it a try!

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Posted in Food Thoughts & Nutrition | 6 Comments

Chicken Noodle Broth

This recipe is a major hit in our household since I invented it last year and it is regularly included on our meal plans. It really is like having your own Chinese takeaway at home, with one exception, rather than your average high calorie takeaway this is incredibly healthy and low fat. I suggest that you make your own chicken broth, which is best made after having a roast chicken, if you don’t want to do this buy some good quality chicken stock. The best thing about this recipe is if you have your chicken broth ready you can make it in under 10 minutes and use only one pan – barely any washing up!

How to make chicken broth/stock:

This is a very rough recipe. I suggest to add chicken bones to a large pan of water with a handful of bay leaves, a teaspoon of black peppercorns, some garlic cloves, an onion, fresh rosemary, a few carrots and some sticks of celery. Boil up the pan and simmer for at least an hour. Strain the stock through a sieve and you have wonderful healthy fresh chicken broth.

Chicken Noodle Broth:

Serves approx 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 liter chicken broth/stock (approx)
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp worcester sauce
  • 2 large blocks of noodles (I use chow mein noodles)
  • 1 bag of stir fry vegetables (a pack with plenty of beanshoots)

Optional serving suggestions : cashew nuts, sesame seeds, sliced spring onions, chilli sauce.

Method:

  1. Bring the chicken broth to boil in a large saucepan.
  2. Add soy sauce and worcester sauce, stir.
  3. Turn heat under broth down to simmer and add noodles, simmer for approx 3 mins (or as stated on noodle packet).
  4. Tip contents of vegetable pack into saucepan and place on a lid. Leave to simmer for approx 3 mins or until vegetable have softened but still have a crunch.
  5. Serve in a bowl with toppings of your choice from the ingredients listed above.

Top tip: I make this recipe after we’ve had a roast chicken, I can then add any leftover meat in with the noodles to cook through, this stretches your Sunday roast to make another cheap, easy dish for your meal plan. If you want more ideas for leftover chicken check out my blog post ‘Use Your Roast Chicken’.

Please leave feedback. I love this recipe and I’d love to hear what you think of it!

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Posted in Quick Easy Meals, Quick Easy Recipe, Recipes | 3 Comments

Posh Lunchtime Scones

Awhile ago I blogged about some delicious cheese scones that my good friend Jenny introduced me to. I soon realised that you can make scones with only a few store cupboard ingredients and this means they are very cheap recipe. As you can see I got really enthusiastic about scone making, they are so quick, easy, yummy and ideal to make with kids. I sat down and thought of as many scone flavours as possible, it came to approximately 101! However, since then my scone making was put on hold while Christmas took all my attention. This weekend I got back on with my 101 scone recipes and here is recipe number 2, a fantastic savoury scone filled with Gorgonzola! You can eat them as an afternoon snack with some butter or chutney, for lunch with cheese, maybe some ham and a salad or serve them when you have people over for dinner instead of starter bread.

Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 80g butter
  • 200g self-raising flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • 50ml milk (probably less)
  • 1/4 tsp dried mixed herbs
  • 50g cheddar (2/3 grated, 1/3 diced into small cubes)
  • 50g gorgonzola (broken into small chunks)
  • salt and pepper
  • a little parmesan for topping (optional)

Method:

  1. Lightly grease a baking tray (or use a silicone muffin tray as I did)
  2. Preheat oven 200*C (180*C fan)
  3. Rub butter into flour, until it feels like breadcrumbs.
  4. Add egg, salt, pepper, gradually add milk to make soft, not sticky, dough (do not overwork the dough).
  5. Mix in herbs, cheese and seasoning.
  6. Roll into little balls, make approx 10-12.
  7. Add some grated parmesan on tops of each scone.
  8. Place on baking tray.
  9. Bake in oven for 10-15 mins.

Enjoy!

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Posted in 101 Scone Recipes, Quick Easy Recipe | 2 Comments

My Coronation Chicken

Lots of people have been asking me for the recipe of my coronation chicken. It makes a fantastic sandwich filling and is a yummy topping for my quick jacket potato recipe. I’ve always made it up as I go along, but I’ve taken the time to work out the recipe and write it down. My recipe is really easy, but just requires a bit of chopping before you get going, after that you just mix it all together and it’s done! This makes it a good recipe to make with children, if you find time to do the chopping first they can add everything to the bowl and mix it up for you.

In the recipe I’ve suggested using a cooked chicken breast which you can easily buy prepared for you at most supermarkets, this is a quick and simple way to make this dish. However, I like to bake some chicken thighs on the bone or chicken drumsticks in the oven. Once it is cooked it only takes a few moments to take the meat off the bone and it makes juicy moist chicken which adds lots of flavour.

The other possibility with this dish is to use up leftovers from your Sunday roast chicken. You can read more of my ideas for leftover roast chicken here.

Well lets get on with the recipe:

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp lemon juice (approx)
  • half an apple, chopped
  • 1 cooked chicken breast chopped into small chunks (or equivalent in drumsticks or thighs)
  • 2-3 dried apricots, chopped into small pieces
  • a small handful of raisins
  • 1/2 tsp gara massala (or curry powder will do)
  • 1/4 tsp ground coriander
  • 1.5 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 2 tsp mango chutney
  • ground black pepper (to your taste)

Method:

  1. Pour lemon juice over chopped apple to prevent it from discolouring.
  2. Put all the ingredients into a bowl and mix well.
  3. Taste your mixture, add a little more gara massala, black pepper or mayonnaise as you wish.

Top tip: Add some fresh chopped coriander to give it an extra special flavour.

If you try this recipe please leave a comment and let me know how my measurements work out, I can make adjustments on your advice!

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Posted in Cooking with kids, Quick Easy Recipe, Recipes | 1 Comment

Super Easy Meal Plan

A few weeks ago I planned my easiest ever meal plan. It went like this:

  1. 10 minute Steak Stir fry (inspired by recipe from First Flat Cookbook by Tiffany Goodall)
  2. Jacket Potatoes with cheese, ham and beans, served with a salad.
  3. Omelettes with cheese and spinach (inspired by recipe from First Flat Cookbook by Tiffany Goodall)
  4. Macaroni and cheese with bacon and tomatoes served with salad (will blog recipe soon)
  5. Smoked mackerel salad.
  6. Pot roast chicken
  7. Smoked salmon pasta served with a rocket salad.

During winter I’ve been cooking a lot of hearty warming meals but for this week I felt like some really simple fresh dinners. It may seem like we ate a lot of salad, but it was quick, easy and tasty. Everyday I tried to put a slightly different salad together by adding things like grated carrot, apple, raisins, avocado, homemade coleslaw, pepper, beetroot, cress, potato salad and so on. Varying what you put into a salad not only keeps it interesting but makes sure you are getting a variety of vitamins and minerals in your diet.

If you have any quick easy recipes please share them in my comments section or email me at victoria@ilovemealplans.com

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Victoria’s Sponge

Here is my version of a Victoria sponge; I find the key to making this cake magical is the way you combine the ingredients, so follow the instructions carefully! The cake in this picture was made for my husband’s 30th birthday (hence the picture of me, for once, in front of the camera, plus this is a Victoria sponge). To feed all our guests I made a 10 oz sponge. I would normally make a smaller cake and so the recipe below is for a 4oz cake. The measurements of this recipe are easy to increase or decrease as necessary. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • 4 oz softened unsalted butter
  • 4 0z sifted caster sugar
  • 2 large free range eggs
  • 4 0z sifted self raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1 tbsp milk (approx)

Method:

  1. Line two round sponge tins with baking paper and grease them with a little butter.
  2. Pre-heat the over to 180°c.
  3. Cream butter and sugar together until smooth.
  4. Add one egg and mix well, add half the flour and mix again.
  5. Add the second egg and the rest of the flour, baking powder and vanilla essence, combine into a smooth mixture.
  6. Pour a little of the milk into the mixture, you need the mixture to be ‘droppable’, this means it should fall slowly from your spoon. If the mixture is too thick and sticks to the spoon add more milk, if the mixture is too runny then add a spoonful or two of more flour.
  7. Gently pour the mixture evenly into each sponge tin, make sure that the tins are not filled more than halfway (or it will overflow as it rises and end up on the bottom of the oven floor!).
  8. Use a palette knife to spread the mixture across the sponge tin to give it a flat surface.
  9. Cook in the middle of the oven for 20 mins. Test the cake is cooked by touching the top of the cake, it should spring back up and not leave an indentation. If the cake is ready gently remove from the tins and leave to cool on a wire rack. If the cake needs longer leave for a few minutes in the oven and test again.
  10. Sprinkle the hot cakes with caster sugar, this gives a nice topping to the cake, but if you want to decorate your cake like I did use the icing recipe below.

Icing:

Ingredients:

  • 40z softened unsalted butter
  • 8 oz sifted icing sugar
  • 2 drops vanilla essence
  • Strawberry jam

Method:

  1. Beat butter and icing sugar together until smooth, add vanilla and blend.
  2. Spoon icing onto cake and smooth with a palette knife.
  3. Sandwich the cakes together with butter icing and plenty of strawberry jam.
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Posted in Cakes, My Life | Tagged , | 5 Comments

Field Guide to Cookies by Anita Chu

A big thank you to Quirk Books for sending me The Field Guide to Cookies by Anita Chu. This cute pocket sized book follows the design of a field guide not only in size but style too. This is not your average cookery book; each cookie recipe comes with detailed information, such as its history, storage suggestions and serving suggestions. In many ways this book is an encyclopedia of cookies, from A to Z and with 100 global recipes this is a handy kitchen reference tool.

With so many different recipes to try you can easily imagine there are cookies that you have never heard of before. I wanted to try something really different and picked a South African recipe, that I had never come across before. What I enjoyed about this recipe was when people commented on it being an unusual recipe, I was able to fill them in on the history and origin of the recipe. The Field Guide makes you able to turn your cookies from snack to share into a conversation piece too! This is fantastic book for a food blogger, cooking writing and photographing food are all second nature, so cookie conversation starter is a must!

Here is the recipe I tried:

South African Spiced Wine Cookies (Soetkoekies)

  • 250g plain flour
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1.5 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1.5 tsp ground cloves
  • 225g light brown sugar
  • 100g chopped almonds
  • 120g unsalted butter, cold cut into cubes
  • 2 eggs
  • 60ml port, sherry or red wine

Method:

  1. Sift flour, baking powder and spices together in a food mixer.
  2. Add sugar and chopped almonds, mix until combined.
  3. Add the butter and combine for a few minutes on a medium speed until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
  4. Add eggs one at a time and beat until incorporated.
  5. Add port and mix to combine.
  6. Turn out dough onto a piece of plastic wrap and form into a disc. Wrap tightly and chill in the fridge for about 30 mins until firm.
  7. Preheat the oven to 175°C. Line baking tray with baking paper.
  8. Roll the dough on a lightly floured surface to about 1/8 inch thick.
  9. Use a 2 inch cookie cutter to cut out rounds from the dough. Place on baking tray and 2 inches apart.
  10. Bake for 10-12 mins. The cookies are done when they are golden brown. Cool on wire racks.

This book is written by a fellow blogger, check out her website here.

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