Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Penny Reviews: Restaurants-The Aqua Hotel Restaurant

Remember a while back I said I'd be doing restaurant reviews? I didn't? Well I'm sure I did a Top Ten Tips regarding writing them. Here's the review on the Aqua Hotel in Shanklin, on the Isle of Wight. I'll leave a link to their website at the bottom of the review. Let me know what you think!

Approaching the Aqua Hotel, I was excited to see a sign outside with some seafood specials. I love all seafood, so was keen to try one of these seafood meals. 

When walking up on the stone steps to the hotel, the general look is clean and modern. The outdoor seating area was full of holiday makers who were happily sipping drinks and eating meals. The atmosphere in the bar area and the outside seating area was relaxed and casual. The views here are also fantastic. Your practically sitting on the beach! Seriously, the views are amazing (but I'm not clever enough to take a picture erg..). 

My party decided to chill out in the bar area for a drink (lemonade, pint of Guinness and a glass of chardonnay), and again the friendly bar staff made the ordering process like a breeze.

When entering the restaurant, the whole place was buzzing with customers. Its clearly a popular place! I was very pleased to find that the tables, chairs, cutlery and everything was spotless. Seriously, this place did not have a speck of dust or dirt on anything. I think the modern minimal décor enhances how clean the place is, as well as giving off the illusion of more space in the restaurant.

The young lady who was our waitress for the evening, was thoroughly pleasant and gave us nachos and a sweet chilli dip to nibble on while reading the menus. I scanned the menu and found that it was very limited so, I looked over at the specials board and found one seafood dish: Baked Salmon. To be frank, I could make that at home. The seafood specials which I had seen on the board outside of the restaurant was no-where to be seen. One may assume that the specials were not available that evening.

Many of the dishes on the menu were simple and un-complex, which is refreshing to see once and a while. There was something for everyone, however I argued to my dining party, that I could make some of the dishes at home. I was promptly told that I was being too fussy and pick something! (Which can sometimes be true, coming from a hospitality background and all). The dishes were reasonably priced and inexpensive for the quality and service of the food. (Again had a stupid moment for not keeping the receipt to work out how expensive the meal was. Won't happen again!)  

The waitress was polite, well-spoken and very helpful when I couldn't decide on what to have. I settled on Farmhouse Pate with Melba Toast for a starter and for my main, Mushroom and Spinach Penne Pasta with Chicken and Bacon.
The waitress topped up our drinks and gave us some chilled water, and popped our order straight through.
We didn't need to wait very long (6 minutes approx.) for our starters to arrive! I was a little surprised that I got doorstop sized bread instead of melba toast with my starter. Pate itself was course rather than smooth which added lots of texture and I think it was a pork pate but was a little unsure. The pate was a little rich for me and tasted like a standard pork pate but that doesn't mean I didn't enjoy it.

The waitress again was on the ball, and waited a few moments before taking away our starter plates and asking us if we needed any more drinks. Much like the starters, the main course came out swiftly.

I was shocked at how large my main course was! The pasta was piled on and there must have been at least one chicken breast and quite a lot of bacon too. The pasta was ladled with a creamy white wine sauce which was a little watery but did not lack in taste. I felt that it that more spinach could have been added, rocket was used as a substitute, but that's just my taste. Popeye had the right idea. As I was consuming the main course, the bulk of the dish bet me and I had a "shouldn't of had a starter moment". If you like big main courses, this is the place for you! I just could not finish it. It was that big. After that, dessert was out of the question and we got the bill.

Overall the service and friendliness of the staff really made the evening complete. I have to say that the food menu didn't stand out for me but its a popular place and the food was simple but good and with stunning views of the beach, it really makes a dining experience more special when you've got great scenery to stare at.  

If you'd like to visit the restaurant here is the link to the website.
This review was not sponsored in any way and is my 100% my own opinion.

This is my first review and I know it wasn't as good as I would like but I'm going to do much better next time.

Bake On! Penny x

Monday, 20 October 2014

Monday Catch Up: Back Ache Suck

Welcoming me to Monday catch up! My weekend has honestly not that great. On Thursday, I had a little bit of a twitchy back. I ignored it. Stupid, stupid, stupid. I ignored it to the extent that I even carried a suitcase to visit my granparents. I'm absolutely regretting it. Friday-back hurt a little more so I went out and walked around. Saturday-I could just about walk and I got dizzy when I walked around for too long. Which is not great when you're on an shopping trip for Christmas presents. So I'm pretty much bed bound :( . On the plus, I'm being waited on hand and foot! but seriously lesson learnt: don't push yourself to hard, or you'll hurt yourself :/ 

On a more positive note, I've started Christmas shopping early this year. I'm thinking of posting a top ten tips about how unbearably organised I'm am during the festive season. I've only got a couple of gifts so far but the Christmas cards are done. 

I've also been sorting out my Halloween bakes, I'm definitely baking pumpkin pecan bars, and maybe some chocolate cupcakes? 

Whatever I'm baking it's going to be very yummy and won't go to waste. 
Do you have any Halloween plans this year?
Bake On! Penny x

Friday, 17 October 2014

Fat Friday #12 Rice Pudding Soufflé served with Candied Pecans

This weeks Fat Friday is quite special because its one of the first desserts that I've made in my pastry class. It will be need to be made at least the night before. Don't worry it sounds a little complex but it makes a good dinner party dessert. Its a twist on a traditional soufflé, its made with rice pudding rather than crème patisserie (but if you want a traditional recipe here it is from a couple of weeks back!) (sometimes called pastry cream). Its very impressive sounding and looking but easy to make. Its worth making the French spiced breadcrumbs and the rice pudding in advanced.  Serve with the candied pecans, for an additional crunch to the light and airy soufflé.

Recipe: Makes 6 souffles with lots left over
1 batch of Pain D’Epices (French Spiced Bread):

Candied Pecans:
·       500g pecans
·       114g granulated sugar
·       30g water

Rice Pudding:
·       50g Butter
·       110g pudding rice
·       500ml double cream
·       500ml whole milk
·       90g caster sugar
·       2 bay leaves
·       1 vanilla pod, seeds scraped out

·       200g egg whites
·       80g sugar

·       Chopping Board
·       Heavy-based saucepan (that can be used in an oven)
·       Saucepan
·       Wooden Spoon
·       Measuring Jug
·       Teaspoon
·       Tablespoon
·       Foil
·       Timer
·       Liquidiser or blender
·       6 Ramekins
·       Tray with a damp teatowel
·       Baking sheet
·       Pastry Brush
·       Whisk
·       Fork
·       Loaf tin lined with silicone paper
·       Piping Bag
·       Scissors
·       Bowls x 3
Candied Pecans:
1.    Roast the pecans on a baking sheet for about 1 minute.
2.    Dissolve the sugar in water a pan and add warm pecans and mix until crystallize.
Preparation for the Ramekins:
1.    Chill ramekins in the fridge for as long as possible.
2.    Melt a little butter in a saucepan.
3.    Meanwhile get a tray lined with a damp teatowel ready.
4.    Using a pastry brush, brush the bottom of the ramekin and the sides using vertical strokes. Chill the ramekins in the fridge.
5.    Line the ramekins with the pain d’epices crumbs and place in the fridge until needed.
For the Rice Pudding:
1.    Pre-heat the oven to 170c fan/190c/375f/Gas Mark 5.
2.    Melt the butter in a heavy based saucepan. Sauté the rice for about 30 seconds in the heavy based saucepan.
3.    Add the milk, cream, sugar and bay leaves. Scrape the vanilla seeds and the pod into the pan. Bring to the boil and turn the heat down. Simmer for about 20 minutes stirring frequently.
4.    Cover the top with foil and bake in the oven for 1 hour and 30 minutes, stopping every 15 minutes to stir the rice pudding.
5.    The rice pudding should be thick and glutenous when done. Pick out the bay leaves and vanilla pods out of the pudding.
6.    Transfer the pudding mixture to a blender and blend to a smooth puree. Place into bowl, cover with cling film and place in fridge to cool down.

To Complete the Souffle:
1.    Whisk 200g of egg white with 20g of sugar. Continue to whisk and gradually add the remaining sugar until the egg whites are very fluffy.
2.    Place 250g pureed rice pudding into a bowl and carefully fold in the egg whites.
3.    Divide the mixture into the prepared ramekins using a piping bag, level with a palette knife, then pinch the sides to create an even soufflé bake.
4.    Bake at Gas Mark 4/350c/180c for 9 minutes, turning carefully once after 5 minutes they should be golden and very fluffy. 

What do you think about this new twist on a French classic? Have a great weekend!

Bake On! Penny x

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

The Cake and Bake Haul 2014

I'm so excited to be writing this (finally) after the Cake and Bake show (2014). I did set a budget and totally broke it...erg. Can't even follow my own rules..
Some great Halloween Showstoppers
My friend and I got to the show at 10:30am to bet the crowds. I'm not going to lie, it got insanely busy by 1pm. I had no idea people loved baking so much... or maybe its people love eating cake? Either way its good.

This is my Cake and Bake haul. I know this is a kind of a beauty/fashion blogger thing, with the make-up and clothes haul. But I'm all about breaking the rules and why not a do a haul post? (Also just want to point out that I didn't get paid or sponsored for this post, its all my honest opinion. I just want to point out some really great companies.)

So lets start off with something not even related to baking at all.
Heck Foods is a new company to me and specialise in making "damn good sausages" (all gluten free btw). They have a range of sausages and we got to sample them all. Honestly, there very meaty and plump, I opted for something a little different which was Smokey Chorizo Style Sausages. At 97% meat, I was expecting something really good and I was not disappointed. The smokiness of the paprika really came out and the taste really resembled chorizo. The only critique I have is that it was a little oily, but again that's the style of a chorizo sausage.

The next things I got my crumbly hands on is some amazing biscuits from Furniss biscuits. They boast traditional Cornish baked biscuits and Great Taste Awards. When Lucy and I walked past the stall at Cake and Bake, I was really sceptical because they were just biscuits. But there were free samples calling us over and we decided to stop to have a nibble... good thing we did! I fell for the West Country Cheddar biscuits, it was a cheese heaven in biscuit. I can say you don't need any sort of cheese with these biscuits. The other biscuits I settled on was the honey and ginger biscuits for those moonching on the sofa in the warm while its cold outside. Both a balanced in flavours and great addition to add into the biscuit tin. I would have liked to have seen more biscuits in a pack (8 biscuits to a pack) but the flavours make up for it.  

Its almost Halloween so obviously, Halloween sprinkles! I've been using Scrumptious for a couple of years now. I love the range of cupcakes cases, sprinkles and glitters. I recommend that you check the site out for the full range. This year I've settled on some cute Halloween sprinkles which is ideal for topping up some Halloween treats.

Another treat that Lucy and I both got was orange chocolate brownies. Now that may sound a little standard but, quite simply, BEST ORANGE  CHOCOLATE BROWNIES. Hands down. I mean it takes a lot for me to say  this (type?) but honestly, it really does rival my own brownies. Chocolicous Cakes, don't ever change this recipe, its the best.  Its rich, dark and with that orange flavour hiting you at the end.

I got a couple of moulds from The Crafty Mould Company, who were so friendly to chat too. They can do custom moulds which is something unusual. I fell in love with the dios de la muerte skull and vintage button one as well. Both are super adorable and I'm finding excuses to use them. I can't wait!

I also got 12 of super freakin' cute mini cupcakes from one of my
favourite London cupcake companies, Crumbs and Doilies!
There so lovely and with a variety of flavours all packed in one box. I've even got their cookbook. I would say that it was a shame that the card machine was busted and it was a little inconvenient to get cash out for the box, but the cupcakes made up for it. Ok, the flavours I got in my box:
  • Vanilla
  • Oreo
  • Buttered popcorn
  • Rolo Cupcake
  • Chocolate
  • Eton Mess
  • Pumpkin Spice
  • Breakfast
  • Lemon mess
The other flavours I didn't get to taste because my boyfriend scoffed them!

Lastly, I got really excited about this from Sugar and Crumbs, again this is a company that I haven't heard of but I wish I had! I managed to try practically every flavour of the icing sugar (made into buttercream) I fully wanted them all! I did settle for Salted Caramel and Sugar and Spice flavours, which tastes like cinnamon toast. Its such a good concept and why has no one jumped on this?! Its such a time saver. I'm definitely going to use the mix for Halloween or maybe even Christmas, this year. Give the icing sugars a try, I really recommend the pink lemonade-oh wow!

Also a big shout out to On Macaroons and Loretta Lui who do the most kawaii macaroons ever. There is a new cookbook coming out really soon, which might be on my Christmas list.

And of course, I want to say Lucy, it was such a bloody blast! I had so much fun and I can't wait to hang out again soon!

Did you go to the Cake and Bake Show this year?

Bake On! Penny x

Monday, 13 October 2014

Monday Catch Up: Planning my Halloween Bakes

I had such an epic weekend. I finally dragged Rob to watch Box Trolls, which is definitely worth a watch as the story is quite different and really original. No spoilers, but totally watch it. If not for the great Laika animation style. I love all of the Laika films, in fact, I'm dressing up as one of them for Halloween. That's all I'm revealing for now...

So I'm still planning my Halloween bakes. I definitely want to use some bits that I bought at the Cake and Bake Show. But that will be posted on Wednesday, because I've been neglecting Baking Basics 101 lately.

Blog wise-I'm planning to pick it back up soon, but for now, I've got some ideas... Also, I'm hoping to write more recipes that expand the baking and sweet world as well soon. Also I'm thinking of writing restaurant reviews too. I'm publishing a dummy one that I wrote in the summer and I've been itching to publish. Stay tuned for that.

I'm thinking of joining a gym because ever since my holiday in August, I've been getting super lazy >.< and I defos need to get my lazy butt off the sofa and into a treadmill. Not that I'm a good example of gym bunny. I don't like the concept of gym but it keeps you fit and I guess it beats having a treadmill in a cramped flat.

I'm also happy to say that Humpy the Slug has moved on to another house or maybe he found a lovely slipper to settle down with and make sluggy-slipper babies with. So that shoe humper is gone!

I hope you all have a great start to the week!
Bake On! Penny x

Friday, 10 October 2014

Fat Friday #11 Sweetcorn Cream Dessert with a Caramel Ice-Cream and Popcorn Brittle

Week 11, who have thought it? This weeks Fat Friday is quite an unusual dessert. Its a sweetcorn cream which is almost like a pannacotta like dessert. Its based on gastronomy type of thinking and its got an interesting taste. Want to try it yourself? The recipe is below!

 Recipe: Makes 4 (plus extra ice cream and popcorn brittle) (Recipe kindly provided by my pastry tutor)

For the Caramel Popcorn Ice-cream
  • 50ml sunflower oil
  • 30g pop corn kernels
  • 300ml milk
  • 200ml double cream
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 75g sugar
  • 2 teaspoons of liquid glucose
  • 30g unsalted butter
  • Salt

For the sweetcorn cream
  • 400g sweetcorn, cooked and cut from the cob
  • 400ml milk
  • 250ml double cream
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 50g sugar
  • 2 ½ leaves of gelatine

Popcorn Brittle
  • 200g sugar
  • 25ml water
  • 100g double cream
  • 100g butter
  • 300g freshly popped pop corn

  • Saucepan with a lid
  • Sieve
  • Whisk
  • Bowl x 3
  • Sugar thermometer
  • Ice cream machine
  • Knife
  • Baking sheet lined with 4 Chef circle moulds lined with cling film at the bottom
  • Blender
  • Silicone matt

For the ice cream
1. Heat the oil in a pan and add the popcorn. When it starts popping shake the saucepan constantly until the kernels are cooked. 
2. Place the milk, cream and popcorn in a pan and bring to a gentle simmer. Gently bring to the boil again. Take off the heat and leave to infuse for 2 hours.

3. Strain through a sieve, pushing hard to get most of the liquid goes through. Bring to a boil again.
4. Whisk the eggs, sugar and glucose until pale and creamy. Pour half the popcorn liquid onto the eggs whisking to combine. Pour this back into the saucepan.
5. Stir the liquid until it reaches 84c on the sugar thermometer, whisk in the butter, salt and strain through a sieve. Leave to cool and place in an ice cream machine.

For the sweetcorn cream
1. Place the sweetcorn, milk and cream in a large pan and bring to the boil.
2. Simmer for 3 minutes then transfer to a blender and liquidize. 3. Soak the gelatine in cold water.
4.Whisk the yolks and sugar until pale. 5. Add half of the liquidized sweetcorn to the creamed yolks and whisk until combined.
6. Return the mixture to the saucepan and heat for about 1 minute. Meanwhile squeeze the water out of the gelatine.
7. Remove from the heat, add the gelatine and mix.
8. Pass through a fine sieve into a bowl. Allow to rest to allow the bubbles to rise.
9.  Put in the moulds and refrigerate until set.

Popcorn Brittle
1. Put the water and sugar in a pan, allow to boil until the colour changes from clear to a golden brown. Don’t be tempted to stir.
2. Mix in the popcorn to evenly coat.
3. Tip onto a silicone matt and allow the brittle to set.
4. When set break up into small pieces. Store in an airtight container.
To serve:
1. Carefully unmold the sweetcorn cream onto a plate. 2. Arrange the popcorn around the sweetcorn cream.
3. Drizzle the caramel artfully and scoop a little of the caramel ice cream on the top.

Have a great weekend! Happy Baking!
Bake On! Penny x

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Penny's Top Ten Tips #8 Living with the Other Half

Its that time of week again. TOP TIP TIME! Since me and Rob have finally moved in and we've settled down, it makes sense that we should do some hints on living with the other half.

1. There will be surprises-
Good and bad surprises that is. You'll learn that you both have odd habits, that you may be grossed out by, but fear not there will be good surprises too. I learnt that Rob can really cook an amazing pasta bake, which surprised me because I thought he couldn't cook (Sorry darling! I know you can :3)  

2. Bottling up is never a good idea-
We've both learnt that bottling up any comments or feelings is not a good idea. In any situation, just say what you feel, even if it upsets the other person. Its better in the long run to say how you feel rather then bottle it up and snap later.

3. Make date night important-
One day or one evening, just for the two of you. I know its a cliché, but setting aside one day for both of you to escape everyday life and to keep the romance alive.

4. Cherish each moment together-
Rob and I don't spend masses of time together, its not because we can't be bothered but we both work really hard. Its difficult even to work in our date nights. When we eat dinner or just watch TV we really make little moments we spend together count.

5. Learn how to communicate clearly-
If you have something to ask say it in a clear and effective manner to avoid arguments. Example: Rob: "Do you want the last cupcake?"
(I do want the last cupcake) Penny: "Erm... I don't mind..."
Rob: "Ok I eat it *nom*"
Penny: "Ahh!! I wanted that!!"
Rob: "But you didn't say..."

6. Help each other-
Whether its housework or cooking, its a team effort. You really  need to help each other out by not letting one person carry the weight.

7. Be extremely patient-
I'm sure that you and your partner have different personalities. You must have some idea of what their like already (hopefully if you've been dating for a while). Its getting used to seeing them, all the time, 24 hours a day, without a break. It will take time and patience when you move in. Even when the kitchen is left in a state... your partner may not feel that keeping the place tidy is important. You need to calmly say that its not acceptable to left the kitchen in a messy state and it would mean a lot if it was left clean. Rather then blew up over it, be patient and clear.

8. Personal Space-
Just because you live together doesn't mean that have to spend every moment together. You'll need your own time, to do your own thing-to keep you sane! For example, I blog and I bake a lot on my own. Meanwhile, Rob plays video games for some 'me time' (at the moment he's playing Shadow of Mordor, which looks like a pretty epic game). The message is that you'll enjoy each others company more, when you spend time apart. You know the old saying: "Absence makes the heart grow fonder".

9. Get a Hobby!-
While me and Rob do our own thing. When we have an hour to spend together we go to the cinema or we watch a TV series together (Its the Walking Dead at the moment). We've found a hobby together which we means we spend more time together and as a bonus we do something fun together!

10. Leave the frustration outside the front door-
When you leave work, mentally leave it. After a hard day at university, leave it at university and don't bring the frustrations home with you as that frustration can be taken out on your partner.

Bake On! Penny x
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