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Friday, 21 December 2012

Easy Prosciutto, Pear and Blue Cheese Party Canapes

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A couple of weeks ago I was invited to a Champagne and macaron event, courtesy of Air France, at the Institut Français in London. It was a weird, but thoroughly enjoyable evening culminating in something rather exciting, which I'll get to in a bit!

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We were treated to some rather interesting glittery macarons, created by experimental food aficionados, The Robin Collective. The macarons were sandwiched together with several different flavours from around the world, and spinning a large wheel determined which flavoured fillings went into the macs. Mine was a South American chilli chocolate and Far East jasmine tea macaron, other flavours were North American NY cheesecake, Central American vanilla, North African dates, West African cocoa, British strawberries & cream, and of course France's flavour was candied chestnuts (marrons glacés).

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I also got to inhale a creme brulee flavoured balloon, yes really! (I did say it was weird!)

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Then came the Champagne. We were to try 4 different ones and see if we could taste the difference. There was a supermarket own brand (produced to the specification of a major UK supermarket chain), a growers' Champagne (produced by a small family firm), a value for money Champagne (produced by one of the largest co-operatives in the Champagne region) and a grande marque Champagne (produced by one of the leading Champagne houses). Easy? NO!! Nobody got it right. Not one person in that room managed to work out which Champagne was which. But I can tell you that the majority favoured the supermarket own brand, coming in at about £20 a bottle. 

Before the evening ended, there was a raffle - we had been given tickets on the way in. I was standing next to a lovely lady called Laura, who informed me that although she never wins the raffle, anyone standing next to her usually did. The girl to her left won a bottle of Champagne for being the closest in the Champagne tasting, and... yep... I won the raffle which was 2 Air France tickets to Paris! PARIS!!!!! (Weird or what??)

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There was food, delightful little French canapes, including a prosciutto, pear and blue cheese one, which I made at home because it was very good.

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Prosciutto, Pear and Blue Cheese Canapes
Amounts are a bit vague, it depends on how thin you slice the pear and cut the cheese etc! You could also add some basil or cress leaves if you wanted.

Prosciutto slices
A pear, quite firm and cut into 5mm batons
A couple of ounces of blue cheese

Cut the prosciutto into strips, long enough to roll up and enclose the filling.
Lay a slice of pear and a little crumble of blue cheese onto the prosciutto and roll up, secure with a cocktail stick if needed.

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Disclaimer: I was invited to this event but was not paid or asked to write this post, all views are my own. 
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This content belongs to Nic at Cherrapeno. All writing and photography copyright N Fowers © 2007-2012 unless otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Strawberry & White Chocolate Christmas Cookies

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Melted white chocolate and a sprinkling of freeze dried strawberries.
Sweet. Tart. Simple.

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This content belongs to Nic at Cherrapeno. All writing and photography copyright N Fowers © 2007-2012 unless otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Crumbed Avocado with Mango Salsa

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Avocados are A-M-A-Z-I-N-G-!

Did you know that avocados have the highest protein content of any fruit, AND that they contain more potassium than a banana?

Did you also know that you can fry an avocado?
My mum: "What?"
Me: "Heh heh - yep, you really can! There's more to an avocado than guacamole..."

Here's my recipe for crumbed avocado, served hot with some mango salsa on the side. If you are thinking about making a different kind of starter this Christmas, or want something for the vegetarians, this could be the one. It's equally good during the summer months, when the mangoes are really ripe and juicy. Or try serving the crumbed avocado slices with a spicy dip.

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Crumbed Avocado with Mango Salsa
You want to use a slightly firmer avocado for this recipe, not a really soft one, save those for guacamole!

Serves 2 as a starter.

1 avocado, slightly under ripe
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons plain flour
1 egg, beaten
50g fine breadcrumbs, seasoned with salt & pepper
Sunflower oil & unsalted butter for frying

Mango Salsa:
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
3 teaspoons olive oil
Pinch of ground cumin
Pinch of ground coriander
1 tablespoon fresh coriander, finely chopped
Half a ripe mango, finely diced
Half a small red onion, finely diced
Half a chilli pepper, finely diced
Half a red pepper, finely diced

First make the mango salsa. Put the red wine vinegar, olive oil, ground cumin, ground coriander and fresh coriander into a medium bowl, mixing well.
Add the diced mango, red onion, chilli pepper and red pepper, stirring gently until all combined. Place in the fridge until ready to use.

Using the OXO Good Grips 3-in-1 Avocado Slicer,  slice the avocado in half and remove the stone.
Press the slicer into the avocado to remove the flesh in slices.
Gently toss the slices of avocado into the lemon juice, then into the flour.
Beat the egg in a small bowl and dip each piece of avocado into the beaten egg, and then into the seasoned breadcrumbs, coating well.
Heat 1cm of oil in a frying pan, along with a knob of butter. When the oil starts to sizzle, add the avocado pieces and fry until they are golden, turning over to colour evenly.
Remove the avocado and drain on kitchen paper before serving with the salsa.

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I was sent an avocado slicer to try. Made by OXO, the 3-in-1 Avocado Slicer is a nifty kitchen gadget, designed to cut, stone and slice your avocado. The plastic blade is sharp enough to cut through the skin of the fruit, but not sharp enough to cut yourself on it.
I heard Jamie Oliver talking on TV a couple of days ago, and he said that there are more injuries resulting from cutting an avocado with a sharp knife than any others in the kitchen!

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There is an ingenious pitting tool which easily removes the stone with a simple twist - I've been doing the 'sharp knife whacking it' thing... then chase the slippery stone as it drops off the knife and rolls across the floor. No thank you, I love this new method.

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Slices on the left were made using the slicer, the ones on the right were sliced with a knife

Then there is the scooping blade. It's designed to scoop out the flesh of the avocado into perfect slices. I found it quite good for my guacamole and other dishes where the slices didn't have to be so neat. Maybe it depends upon the type of avocado (and ripeness), or I need more practice!

If you use a lot of avocados, this is a another cool gadget for your Christmas list.

Disclaimer: Even though I was sent an OXO Good Grips 3-in-1 Avocado Slicer to try, I was not paid or asked to write this post, all views are my own. 

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This content belongs to Nic at Cherrapeno. All writing and photography copyright N Fowers © 2007-2012 unless otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.

Friday, 30 November 2012

Diwali Banquet 2012

Bitten by the Instagram bug yet? Yeah, me too! (Although I also love Snapseed and Big Lens as well.) Everyone seems to be snapping their food these days - it's NOT JUST ME!! The great thing is it's instantaneous, take the photo with your phone or iPod and ta-da!

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Pecan praline chocolate fancies. Choc + cake = love!

This photo of my pecan praline chocolate fancies won me a ticket to the Diwali Banquet (Festival of Lights), held at Cinnamon Kitchen, London. The banquet is a gala dinner uniting 6 of the country's top Indian (including 1 Mauritian) chefs, in aid of Action Against Hunger, an international humanitarian organisation committed to ending child hunger.

For the competition, which was in aid of the annual Love Food Give Food appeal, you had to snap a picture of your food and upload it to Instagram with the hashtag #lovefoodgivefood and a hashtag of one of the three blogs where you read about the competition, in my case it was English Mum's post, hashtag #offthetable, saying what the photo meant to you. There were over 200 entries, so I was thrilled to hear that I was 1 of 3 winners. I decided to buy my husband a ticket so he could go too, it's a great charity to support.

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It wouldn't be right if I didn't share the amazing food that was served at the banquet with you. Indian food is one of my favourite cuisines - and this wasn't your average Indian take-away food, believe me! Beautifully presented, every dish had it's own unique flavours, served with Indian wines and beers, it was a delicious night.

This year, the chefs were Vivek Singh and Abdul Yaseen of the Cinnamon Club and Kitchen, Sriram Aylur of Michelin starred Quilon, this year's Masterchef winner, Shelina Permalloo, Head Chef at Benares Sameer Taneja and food writer and broadcaster Anjum Anand.  

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The evening started with a Champagne reception, sponsored by Taittinger, which was accompanied with canapes, from Abdul Yaseen.

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Lamb mince kebab wrapped in roomali bread, corander chutney

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Grilled tilapia with coconut & mustard, red pepper relish

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Hunter style game fritters with mustard & green pea 'raita'

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Indo-Chinese chilli paneer

Then we sat down to a stunning 5 course main event:

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From Anjum Anand, Delicate yoghurt kebab

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From Sriram Aylur, Duo of black leg chicken - chicken sukke with lentil crust and coriander & curry leaf chicken

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The vegetarians had this instead of the chicken dish

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From Sameer Taneja, Sea bass ki kathi, Calcutta-inspired sea bass kathi, masala puff, peppers & free range eggs

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From Vivek Singh, tandoor smoked Kentish lamb saddle with saffron sauce & anise pilau

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My husband had this mega prawn dish instead of the lamb

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Naan breads with sauce

Check out the dessert!

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From Shelina Permalloo, tropical tapioca with coconut,
rose & palm sugar

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From Dhruv Baker, petit fours, pistachio rose & cardamom mini madeleines, mukhwas shortbread hearts

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The chefs line up with Action Against Hunger's Executive Director, photo credited with thanks to ©ACF_UK S.Haunstein-Swan

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A live performance from Mitel Purohit & S-Funk 

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There was a silent auction and a raffle

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The evening was hosted by Hardeep Singh Kohli

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The Diwali Banquet raised an impressive £33,995 for Action Against Hunger!
Did you know that if you enter a food photo that you took on your phone into the Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year Food Sn-apping category, £2 will go to Action Against Hunger and you could win £5000?!

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This content belongs to Nic at Cherrapeno. All writing and photography copyright N Fowers © 2007-2012 unless otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Mexican Supper Club

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Margaritas de Sandia

When we lived in Tucson, Mexican restaurants could be found on most of the street corners, and the supermarkets sold ingredients that I had never seen before - I had no clue what to do with most of them! Coming back after nearly 6 years (now knowing how to make a decent taco!) I was pleased to see that Mexican food was beginning to become popular over here, and that some of the ingredients could also be found if you searched for them.
Ten years on, Mexican restaurants are popping up all over London (and the UK) and it's never been easier to find tortillas, salsas and other Mexican style products, just look in your local supermarket.

Therefore, I was quite pleased to be invited to a Mexican Supper Club with Discovery Foods and Benito's Hat, hosted by The London Foodie Luiz Hara, along with other food bloggers.

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Table setting

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Head Chef Felipe Fuentes Cruz making the tacos

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Guacamole y Salsas

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We started off with freshly pressed watermelon margaritas, which were accompanied with homemade tortilla chips, guacamole, salsa verde, salsa brava and soured cream.

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A lovely warm oregano sweetcorn appetizer followed.

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Taquitos Dorados de Papa con dos Quesos
Then we sat down to a starter of cheese and potato filled fried corn tacos, served with avocado salsa. This was my favourite dish and one I'm going to recreate at home.

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Tacos de Camarón
The main course was garlic and paprika shrimp tacos with chipotle mayonnaise, the prawns could easily be replaced with grilled vegetables if you are vegetarian.

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A wonderful surprise was the dessert, a simple dish of cinnamon fritters with real vanilla ice cream and strawberries. Recipe below.

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All washed down with a Mexican beer

All the food was cooked by Benito's Hat's Head Chef, Felipe Fuentes Cruz, and the ingredients were supplied by Discovery Foods.

Buñuelos (Cinnamon Fritters)
Serves 2

4 Discovery flour tortillas
250ml/1 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons caster sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Vanilla ice cream to serve
Extra ground cinnamon to sprinkle over

Cut the tortillas into strips about 2cm wide.
Pour the vegetable oil into a saucepan and heat on medium until it is very hot but not smoking.
In batches, carefully slide the tortilla strips into the hot oil and fry for a minute or so until they are light brown, turning with tongs to prevent from burning.
Remove from the oil using the tongs and drain on kitchen paper. Repeat until all the strips have been fried.
Mix the sugar and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon together and dust over the tortilla strips until well coated.
To serve, scoop some ice cream into two small ramekins or bowls and place onto a plate surrounded by the tortilla strips. Add a dusting of cinnamon and some strawberries.

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Some of the discovery products available

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Preparing the cheese & potato filled tacos

With thanks to Discovery Foods, Benito's Hat, The London Foodie, and Wild Card PR for a lovely evening!

Disclaimer: I was not paid to write this post, all views are my own.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

This content belongs to Nic at Cherrapeno. All writing and photography copyright N Fowers © 2007-2012 unless otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.