Getting festive with a Mince Pie Masterclass hosted by Eric Lanlard and Meantime Brewing Company

There is no better way to get into a festive mood than making Mince Pies! However, what does beat that is when it is none other than “Cake Boy” teaching you how to make them. Yes….the legendary Eric Lanlard.

img_3917

I was lucky enough to be part of a masterclass hosted by Eric Lanlard and Meantime Brewing Company to make festive mince pies with a secret ingredient – a brand new ale.

What has been brewing behind the scenes (pardon the pun), has been a new flavour as part of the Pilot Series by Meantime Brewing Company in collaboration with celebrity chef and Master Pâtissier Eric Lanlard called ‘Cake Boy Hazelnut Ale’, a nutty dark ale that’s absolutely perfect for the festive season.

img_3981

The Pilot Series is a range of bespoke bespoke limited edition brews which have a variety of exciting flavours and beers that you wouldn’t normally expect.

Before we started our masterclass, we were all chatting while trying the new ale and I can confirm it is as delicious to drink as it is to use as an ingredient in mince pies! It would even work in cakes.

So to kick off the masterclass, we all positioned ourselves in Eric’s cookery class area and in front of us were already pre-weighed ingredients. Eric explained the importance of exact measurements and what a difference it makes in taste and output.

We all donned our aprons and started mixing the ingredients for the first part, before heating the mixture up on the hob.

img_3982

img_3896

Next we mixed in the ingredients for the filling and tried to resist not eating it out of the bowl as it smelt sensational.

img_3979

Eric gave us each some pastry cups ready for filling and we had great fun filling them with our mince pie mixtures.

img_3901img_3977

Next we cut out some fancy stars to decorate our mince pies with to make them look extra festive and away they went in the oven for baking.

img_3910

In true “these were made in advance” style, out came some mince pies for us to feast on while ours were doing their magic in the oven. We got to take ours home and they were greatly appreciated by the other half when I got home, who was also equally excited that he could try a bottle of the Cake Boy Hazelnut Ale too!

img_3966img_3963img_3914

If you would like to try these Mince Pies, you can do at either the Meantime Brewery Tasting Rooms or at Cake Boy until 22nd December. Trust me they are divine!

img_3915

Alternatively, you can have a go at making them at home and here is the recipe courtsey of Eric Lanlard:

RECIPE: CAKE BOY HAZELNUT ALE MINCE PIES

Ingredients

For the mincemeat

250 g golden sultanas
250 g glacé cherries, halved
250 g raisins
100 g mixed peel
1 tsp vanilla extract, such as Nielsen-Massey
orange zest, finely grated
lemon zest, finely grated
125g unsalted butter
250g dark muscovado sugar
250ml Meantime’s Cake Boy Hazelnut Ale
100gr ground roasted Hazelnut
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp mixed spice

For the pies
250 g shortcrust pastry
250 g puff pastry
1 egg, beaten

Method

1. Put all the dried fruit and spices into a large bowl and mix thoroughly. Place the vanilla extract, grated orange and lemon zest, butter, sugar and Cake Boy Hazelnut Ale in a small saucepan and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved (ensure you do not let it boil). Pour over the mixed fruit and stir gently, without breaking up the fruit pieces. Cover the bowl with cling film and leave to infuse for around 48 hours.

2. Once the fruit is infused, pack the mincemeat into sterilised jars and seal. Store in a cool dark place for a couple of weeks to allow the flavours to mature.

3. When you are ready to make the mince pies, preheat the oven to 180C (gas mark 4).

4. Grease 6 individual 10cm diameter loose-bottomed tartlet tins. Roll out the shortcrust pastry thinly on a lightly floured surface and then use the pastry to line the tins.

5. Once the tins are lined with shortcrust pastry, generously fill the pastry cases with the mincemeat. It is likely you will have some mixture left over for using again.

6. Roll out the puff pastry on a lightly floured surface. When it is around 4-5 mm thin, brush with a beaten egg. Next, cut out 6 shapes that will be used to top the tarts (this recipe uses a star shape for Christmas). Sprinkle the puff pastry shapes with muscovado sugar, place on top of the individual pies and bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes, or until the pastry is golden and slightly puffed.

Let me know if you do have a go making these and tweet me a picture!

For further information on Meantime and The Pilot Series, please visit meantimebrewing.com

I was a guest of Cake Boy and Meantime Brewing Company. All views and photos are my own. The recipe is courtesy of Eric Lanlard.

Attending the Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurant Awards in Mexico City

I have just returned from a week long press trip which was in the colourful, vibrant and fantastic Mexico City, where I was invited by the Mexican Tourism Board to experience the culture, food scene and also to attend the 2016 Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants Awards ceremony, which was held in Mexico City’s Centro Cultural Roberto Cantoral on Monday 26 September 2016.

This was the fourth annual edition of the list, which is a subset of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, an important reference point for me whenever I am travelling abroad. When I first received the invite I was super excited and it has definitely been one of the most interesting and exciting events of the year!

The renowned World’s 50 Best Restaurants list is produced by the British magazine Restaurant and is based on a poll of  foodies which include international chefs, gourmands and restaurant critics. Most of the restaurants in the list have exceptional gastronomic twists and superb cuisine using unconventional and modern methods of cooking.

Our taster for the Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants experience started on Sunday 25th September at the St Regis hotel, Mexico City, where we had a lovely brunch, filled with scrumptious Mexican food, desserts and ice cream, which was followed by the #50BestTalks on Latin Liquids.

img_9299img_9281img_9217

img_9255

The 50 Best speakers, who were fascinating, included Leonor Espinosa from Leo in Bogotá, Enrique Olvera from Pujol in Mexico City, Kurt Schmidt and Chabi Cádiz from 99 in Santiago and Carlos García from Alto in Caracas. They talked about different drinks from their regions and it was a fantastic, interactive experience, whereby we got a chance to try various drinks and cocktails. My favourite was the Venezuelan Rum and Chocolate pairing.

img_9241

During my week in Mexico City, we also dined at several of the restaurants on the Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants list, and some of these restaurants also feature in the Worlds 50 Best Restaurant List. My favourite from these was definitely Nicos, which had guacamole to die for, prepared at your table, along with scrumptious dishes and a family run vibe.

img_9540

The awards ceremony itself was a glitzy affair, starting with a drinks reception, featuring some of the sponsors, followed by the unveiling of the new list. I attended as part of the media, alongside bloggers, journalists, tastemakers and restaurant critics from around the world.


img_9544

Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants 2016

Central, in Lima, Peru, was awarded the best restaurant in Latin America, and have retained their spot at the top for the third year running.

The full brand new list is as follows:

50 pure earth, Buenos Aires, Argentina
49 Andrés beef, Bogotá, Colombia
48 sweet homeland, Mexico City, Mexico
47 Tierra Colorada gastro, Asunción, Paraguay
46 la bourgogne, punta del este, Uruguay
45 tuju, São Paulo, Brazil
44 navel of the woods, Belém, Brazil
43 Osaka, Santiago, Chile
42 1884, Mendoza, Argentina
41 isolina, Lima, Peru
40 Harry Sasson, Bogotá, Colombia
39 heart of earth, Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico
38 Malabar, Lima, Peru
37 Nicos, Mexico City, Mexico
36 maito, Panama City, Panama
35 chila, Buenos Aires, Argentina
34 party, Lima, Peru
33 The Cabrera, Buenos Aires, Argentina
32 high in Caracas, Venezuela
31 Elena, Buenos Aires, Argentina
30 Rafael, Lima, Peru
29 criterion, Bogotá, Colombia
28 mocotó, São Paulo, Brazil (in the photo)
27 osso carnage and salumería, Lima, Peru
26 Aramburu, Buenos Aires, Argentina
25 Roberta Sudbrack, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
24 the house of the pig, São Paulo, Brazil
23 parador the footprint, José Ignacio, Uruguay
22 99, Santiago, Chile
21 Don Julio, Buenos Aires, Argentina
20 Ambrosia, Santiago, Chile
19 Pangaea, Monterrey, Mexico
18 lasai, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
17 Olympe, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
16 Leo, Bogotá, Colombia
15 Amaranta, Toluca, Mexico
14 gustu, La Paz, Bolivia (in the photo)
13 the learn some things, Buenos Aires, Argentina
12 the sea, Lima, Peru
11 South 777, Mexico City, Mexico
10 Biko Restaurante Bar, Mexico City, Mexico
9 Tegui, Buenos Aires, Argentina
8 Maní Manioca, São Paulo, Brazil
7 Astrid and Gaston, Lima, Peru
6 Quintonil, Mexico City, Mexico
5 Pujol, Mexico City, Mexico
4 Borago, Santiago, Chile
3 D.O.M., São Paulo, Brazil
2 Maido, Lima, Peru
1 Central, Lima, Peru

The whole experience in Mexico City, as well as the Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants Awards Ceremony awakened a desire for me to explore more of Latin America, particularly the food scene, so countries from this region now feature higher on my travel plans!

I am a strong believer that food and travel go hand in hand together and I have left Mexico City with a new love and appreciation for Mexican food, which is so different to the type of Mexican food we are exposed to abroad.

I tried things I would never try normally and I feel like I have learned so much! I now know how to make corn tamales too thanks to Casa Jacaranda in Mexico city.  If you are ever visiting, this is a foodie experience not to miss!

For more information on the Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants, go to: http://www.theworlds50best.com/latinamerica/en/

Disclaimer: I was invited by the Mexican Tourism Board to visit Mexico and attend the Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurant Awards. My trip was complimentary but all views and photos in this article are my own.

Pairing Comté with Bubbles

Fizz and Comté Cheese. Is there a more superior combination?

One evening, a group of press and bloggers gathered at Buchanan’s Cheesemongers near Marble Arch, for an evening of pairing different ages of Comté Cheese with different sparkling wines hosted by Patrick McGuigan, renowned food writer, and a self confessed cheese geek who also happens to be an international cheese judge. How amazing is that?


After a variety of delicious nibbles, all cheese themed, and of which the truffled cheese was my absolute favourite, we sat down at our pre-allocated seats, in front of wine flavour and aroma wheel cards, in anticipation for lots of cheese and fizz.

We were given a talk about Comté and the region it is from by Patrick. He told us that Comté comes from the Jura Massif region of Eastern France, where it is made under strictly controlled AOC regulations. It is required that the cheese is only made from raw milk of Montbéliarde or French Simmental.   There can’t be an overpopulation of cows per hectare and they can only be fed fresh, natural feed.


We were then given a slate full of different cheese, each of differing ages, and began our homage to French fromage.

Starting with the 5-7 month Comté paired with La Gioiosa Prosecco 2015 (Glera), we tasted each cheese, taking sips (and towards the end gulps) of each paired glass of bubbles.


The first cheese was light, creamy and pillowy, and would be perfect as a breakfast cheese. A young, light and straightforward cheese with a lovely milky flavour, complimented perfectly with green crisp apple.

This Prosecco was delicious, a neutral grape with soft, slightly fruity and floral simple flavours, available from Waitrose. This particular Prosecco actually won the best Prosecco award and it is truly delightful, and easy and smooth to drink.

We then moved on to the second pairing, a 12-14 month Comte, which is usually the standard Comté age, paired with Cremant du Jura 2012 (Chardonnay). This was a slightly drier, darker colour cheese and had much nuttier, toasty flavours and a caramelly aroma.

The third was an 18 month Comté paired with Les Pionniers Champagne (Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, Chardonnay). This had hints of more biscuit tones, nutty tones and aspects of mushroom were coming out for me. This was actually my favourite out of the various cheeses. The champagne was fruity and easy to drink.

Next was a 22 month Comté paired with Ridgeview Rose de Noirs 2013 (Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier), which I felt worked better with the 18 month cheese more. There seemed to be a split about this in the room. The cheese was sweeter, creamier and nuttier with an earthier aroma, and the Rose wine was lush.

The final pairing was a 30 month winter milk Comté paired with Billecart-Salmon Sous Bois (Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier Chardonnay). Comté is not usually made from winter milk but this was sensational, though a much bolder, stronger cheese. Winter milk made cheese is usually also whiter but this had a golden tinge. The sparkling wine had the body and texture to go with a stronger cheese.

The whole evening was such a delight and I learned so much about identifying different flavours within cheese and what type of sparkling wine complimented each cheese. I traditionally always have cheese with red wine so it was lovely to experience it with a different type of wine.

The cheese was absolutely delicious, and even whilst typing this up I am now craving Comté Cheese again. I am however, slightly better educated about cheese and somewhat on my way to become an International Cheese Judge (one day). 

Have you tried Comté Cheese? Do you have a preference in age?

Busaba Eathai Summer Specials and Cocktail Making 

 

On a rainy evening, a group of bloggers and I arrived at Busaba Eathai in Bloomsbury, for an evening of amazing warming spicy food and cocktail making.  I took the lovely Georgina from Georgina Does along with me and was super happy to find my lovely friend Aftab from Fresh and FearlessFresh  was there too. It is lovely when bloggers become friends as the evening is even that much more fun!

Busaba Eathai is one of Alan Yau’s restaurant babies, and is a modern Thai eatery.  It is named after a Thai flower and is a casual dining venue, with minimum fuss and maximum flavours.

We were sampling dishes from the Summer specials menu, which included dishes such as Grilled chicken and mango salad, Patpong chicken noodles, Fish curry with starfruit, Thai slaw, Duck and pineapple lettuce bites and Bang-kick prawns.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It was quite a feast of summery, zesty, punchy flavours with a lovely balance between chilli and fruity tones. The dishes were light, fragrant and had vibrant colours and just really lovely!

My favourites were the grilled chicken and mango salad as well as the bang-kick prawns, which had a lovely kick to them.

Definitely a fantastic menu, inspired by Bangkok summers, to enjoy either on a date night or with friends, and is available at several different branches of Busaba.

After that incredible meal, we settled down at the other end of the long table for a lesson in cocktail making. We watched a demonstration on making a Thai Basil Martini, before trying to make it ourselves.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAimg_1777img_1781

This was such a delicious drink and I had never had basil sugar or basil in my cocktail before and it tasted amazing!! Might need to adapt a basil mojito at one stage!!

The cocktail making was lots of fun although during the taste test at the end it was apparent I had missed out a vital ingredient. Face palm!!!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I really enjoyed the evening and would definitely go back for the prawns while the summer menu is still going on. The food at Busaba is reasonably priced and they do fantastic cocktails too.

For more information, go to http://www.busaba.com

 

Symmetry Breakfast – The book launch of #CookLoveShare

My absolutely favourite Instagram account, Symmetry Breakfast, who tease us with stunning breakfasts everyday, finally has their first cook book out called Cook Share Love.

Filled with beautiful photos of breakfasts and amazing recipes, this is definitely a book to have and cherish forever. You would never struggle to find inspiration for a breakfast idea again!

This would make an amazing present too as its different, creative and has something for absolutely everyone. I was amazed to find idlis in it as I flicking through, and it truly encapsulates worldwide cuisine.

img_5056

What started off as a romantic gesture from Michael Zee to his boyfriend, fashion designer Mark van Beekin in the mornings when they first moved in together, has won hearts around the world and he now has a cult following of over 600K Instagram followers!

Every morning Michael posts a photo of a different breakfast laid out identically and with perfect symmetry. Just look at a snapshot from their feed below. How beautiful is that?

 

They recently celebrated their 1000th breakfast and here is to many many more wonderful, creative combinations!

We celebrated then book launch at the Hoxton in Holborn, complete with a beautiful cake by  Lily Vanilli,  which had an amazing rainbow interior. Such a pretty cake 🙂

Seriously how adorable are they? The cutest moment of the night was when Michael stood in front of everyone to say his thank you speech and actually proposed to Mark. There were tears in the room, it can’t get better than that! Congrats Michael and Mark ❤

img_5067

 

There were delicious cocktails available to drink on the night too! Loved the G&Tea.

Michael is one of the loveliest guys you will ever meet and is so humble despite the enormous success. He is so down to earth, always smiling and has an amazing personality.

I was lucky to have met him last year at an event at Smith & Whistle, and he has inspired me every single day since!

Thanks for a wonderful evening Michael and Mark and my signed book 🙂 Here is to many more amazing breakfasts, success and a wonderful future for you both in this new chapter in your lives.

If you aren’t already, follow Symmetry Breakfast on Instagram @symmetrybreakfast, and you can buy the new book, Cook Love Share on Amazon now.

An evening of amazing food and Chablis. Wine not?

They say an empty bottle (or bottles) of wine is filled with stories. Some which are made in grand rooms at the Andaz London like this one. Let’s just take a moment to admire the beauty of this room! Well generally if you walk a mile in my shoes you end up in a wine bar :p

Its time to wine down.

The reason I, and lots of lovely fellow bloggers and media found ourselves in this marvellous space surrounded by shiny unopened bottles of Chablis, was thanks to the very dashing Douglas Blyde. An email from him is always a pleasure to open and is generally related to wine :p

Our mission for the evening  (which we had all gladly accepted) was to enjoy lots of different varieties of Chablis paired with food from 3 prolific supper club chefs, at a Bacchus On A Knife Edge Supper Club.

 

Wine…because its not good to keep things bottled up.

They say its not good to keep things bottled up, and as Mitzie and I were the first to arrive, the unopened bottles situation was quickly rectified and we enjoyed a glass of Petit Chablis – Pas Si Petit’ Petit Chablis 2014 from co-operative; La Chablisienne.  As the name suggests, it is not that “petit’ having the characteristics of a good Chablis without the price tag.

Paired with this delicious wine, we ate stunning crab and avocado cucumber rolls, made by one of three supperclub hosts on the night; Nordish.

After nibbling on these, and Norwegian fish cakes, we listened to Douglas Blyde give us an introduction on the fabulous Chablis wine, dressed to impress as always. Douglas is a sommelier and a restaurant critic and an amazing writer.

Chablis comes from the northernmost district of the Burgundy region in France. The cooler climate produces primarily white wines, with less influence of oak. We tried 4 variants;  Petit Chablis, Chablis, Premier Crus and Grand Crus.

Given a pen, a book to make  notes in, as well as sufficient wine glasses waiting to be filled, we settled down to enjoy great food and wine.

 

Hana from Pickled Plates prepared a British starter of summer vegetable salad with roasted radishes, brown butter dressing, pan-fried whiting and tempura samphire.

This was paired with  with Alain Geoffroy’s 2014 richer Chablis, which comes from a family run vineyard, which Douglas said was well worth visiting as  Geoffrey family have a 1,500+ strong corkscrew museum.

img_3115

The food was stunning, light and flavoursome, and the wine complimented it perfectly and was slightly too easy to drink. I really enjoyed the roasted radishes, as these were something that just added such a nice dimension to the dish.

Next up was our main dish, prepared by Rosie of A Little Lusciousness. Inspired by a sting in Japan, she made Soy and miso-glazed pork chop on the bone with spring onion rice, Japanese raw slaw, rice vinegar and chilli dressing which as AMAZING.

Douglas choose Julien Brocard’s beautifully packaged Chablis, La Boissonneuse (2014) to pair with this dish which had a slightly oakier taste influenced from  being part fermented in oak foudres. The vineyard is one of the first organic vineyards in Chablis.

 

After stunning dishes, we culminated the evening with a cheese off – England vs. France, paired with older and stronger wines from Premier Cru and Grand Cru sites.

 

Our cheese selection was as follows:

Stichleton from Nottinghamshire vs. Bleu d’Auvergne

Baron Bigod from Bungay vs. Camembert from Normandy

Montgomery Cheddar from North Cadbury, Somerset vs. Comté

The wines,  included:

 Domaine William Fevre, Vaulorent, Premier Cru 2012

Jean Paul et Benoit Valmur Grand Cru 2012

Clotilde Davenne Les Preuses Grand Cru 2008

Domaine Laroche Les Blanchots Grand Cru 2007

Never have I seen such a large table go quiet and there was definitely lots of cracker stealing conspiracy theories going on (Sorry Mr Massey). The cheese was wonderful and the wine just gorgeous. Cheese and wine is literally a dream combination and judging by how quickly it was devoured, this went down extremely well.

Wine flies when you are having fun.

And before we knew it our wonderful evening had to come to an end (insert sad but tipsy face) and we had to leave the magical room at the Andaz and walk back the cobbled streets to Liverpool Street station.

It was fabulous to have an evening of different white wines as I am someone who usually reaches for red. I can say I am a convert to Chablis and am so glad to have a few bottles to try so more on that in future blog posts! The French definitely excel at wine making.

Have you tried any of the Chablis wines? Which is your favourite?

 I was a guest of Douglas Blyde and the #PureChablis PR team.