Monday, 29 December 2014

Frozen Snowflake Iced Biscuits & Christmas Pinnies and Petticoats

Christmas came to Aberdeen's Pinnies and Petticoats Baking Club at the end of November but I'm only now getting round to sharing. Such is the whirlwind of December. My own creation for our festive meet were Frozen themed Snowflake Iced Biscuits. Elsa? Knock, Knock, Knock. Do you wanna eat a cookie?
These came about as a result of a course that I attended run by Karen McCormack of Sucre Coeur. I'd first met Karen back in 2013 when she created an amazing Gingerbread Village for the Crail Food Festival. I'd been stalking her on social media ever since so was delighted to see that she was offering classes and wasted no time booking myself on to "Decorating Cookies with Royal Icing"



I spent a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon in the East Neuk learning the basics of biscuit decorating with royal icing. Karen of course made it all look so easy. Plenty of tips and hints shared along the way the first being to wrap the gap between your mixer and bowl with clingfilm to avoid an icing sugar cloud. Secondly to add small amounts of water to the icing with a plant spray bottle. However the absolute genius tip is to use a clippit to seal off the nozzle of a piping bag as you fill it so the contents doesn't immediately come straight out. This is a lifechanger.
All too soon it was our turn. Firstly paper to practice on, then rich tea biscuits before finally moving onto real biscuits. We were able to try out lots of different techniques and colours and get plenty of advice along the way. I was pretty chuffed with what I managed to create by the end of the afternoon and took my pizza box of cookies home with pride.
All very well decorating under Karen's watchful eye but would I be able to create anything worthy of Pinnies and Petticoats. As always we had a fantastic bumper selection of cakes, bakes and other goodies for our Christmas meet.
Ginger Stars
Gingerbread Men
Stained Glass Ginger Biscuits
Stilton, Parma Ham and Chutney Spindles
Bacon, Brie and Chilli Jam Pinwheels
Goats Cheese & Tomato Pastries
Pigs in Blankets
Chocolate Trees
Cornflake Wreaths
Savoury Candy Canes
Spinach, Cranberry & Goats Cheese Tartlets
Chocolate covered Stollen
Stollen
Snowballs with White Chocolate & Coconut
Sour Cherry Amaretti
Gingerbread Swiss Roll
Yule Log with Maple & Pecan
Bourbon & Honeycomb Yule Log
Gingerbread Latte Fudge
Cranberry & Hazelnut Biscotti
Christmas Pudding profiteroles
Candy Cane Marshmallows
Mincemeat Pies
The secret in decorating cookies is to get the consistency of your icing correct for each different element of your biscuit design. This is the part I worried about getting right at home. I don't have a stand mixer so had to use a handheld one. I was rather short of the right sizes of nozzles and didn't have a plant sprayer that hadn't been used for spraying plants. What's that saying about a bad workman always blaming his tools? I did however manage to use my oven on a very low temperature to dry my work-in-progress biscuits. After some stressful outlining and flooding moments I did finally manage to produce something recognisable as snowflakes and even got a reasonably close colour match to Elsa's dress. Thank goodness for edible shimmer spray and silver balls to bling them up a bit.
The first 2015 meet of Pinnies & Petticoats takes place on 14th January and the theme is to bake something from a book received for Christmas or with equipment/ingredients received. New bakers are always welcome. Check out their Facebook page for all the information. New Year, New Recipes!

Monday, 22 December 2014

#MakeItSpecial at Christmas with Ask Italian. Review & Giveaway

Having spent our last two summer holidays in Italy we are all big fans of Italian cuisine. As such it was a no brainer to take up the offer to visit the recently refurbished ASK Italian in Aberdeen's Union Square Shopping centre. We went en famille for an early dinner on the Saturday before Christmas. Foodie Loon, Boy and Girl had spent the afternoon Piping, Drumming and Bag Packing in the local supermarket so were in dire need of sustenance. I suspect the shoppers and colleagues were in dire need of earplugs.
My absolute top tipple when on holiday in Italy is an Aperol Spritz. Delighted to see it on the menu as many Italian chain restaurants for some reason don't serve this typically Italian aperitif. Loved the chunky glass that it arrived in but would have like to have had it authentically served with an orange slice and green olive. The Alternato glasses were also used as wine glasses and were available to buy. We spotted two sets being sold during our visit. Secretly hoping that some were bought for me when I was at the loo.
The refurbished restaurant looked great and was also bedecked with stylish Christmas decorations. We particularly liked the utensil rails with foodie girl loving the rotary egg beaters. The atmosphere was buzzing and there never seemed to be an empty table. Service was fast, friendly, knowledgeable and unobtrusive. Time to peruse the menu and make our choices.
Antipasto, Arancini and Panzerottini were chosen form the standard menu and were all delicious. Girl discovered that her cheese doughballs were actually cheese and chilli, she should learn to read the menu better but she finished them regardless and promptly ordered a glass of milk to cool her mouth. I ordered Zuppa Di Aragosta from the Christmas Menu. It was fantastic. Lobster soup made with brandy and champagne. Totally up my street.
Pizza all round when we came to mains. Again I opted for a Christmas Special with a Prima Pizza Bianco Natale. I love a white based pizza and this one was festively adorned with Luganica sausage, mixed mushrooms, spinach, chestnuts, Fontal cheese and dollops of crème fraîche. A great combination of flavours. I'd have loved to have seen it Christmassed up a wee bit more with the addition of some cranberry sauce for a touch of sweetness. Girl aged 10 is at the difficult stage of being somewhat in between a Child's Menu and an Adult one. She perused both but opted to go large and made a very good attempt at finishing the whole of her Pizza Pollo e prosciutto. Strombolini with added Chillis and Calzone con carne piccante were our final two choices. All tasted great but not sure about the 'smiley face' salad presentation with the Calzone. 
Iced glasses for all drinks was a fab touch. I'm not sure if my Peroni even touched the sides. Nothing beats an ice cold beer. I should point out that the pathetic pouring was mine not a member of restaurant staff! We were all pretty much stuffed after starters and mains so bar Girl who had Mango Sorbet we all skipped desert in favour of hot drinks. Cappuccino and a festive Hot Chocolate Orange. 
The total bill for our meal came in at £105 for 4 starters, 4 mains, 2 alcoholic drinks, 6 soft drinks, 1 desert and 3 hot drinks. We thoroughly enjoyed our meal and the whole ASK Italian #MakeItSpecial experience. It was a great opportunity to spend time as a family before the onslaught of Christmas week. As we were too full for desert I'll share with you one of my own Italian influenced festive pudding recipes.
Pannetone and Ginger Bread and Butter Pudding

500g Panettone
Butter
Spiced Ginger Preserve
200ml milk
150ml single cream
50g Caster sugar
3 eggs
Freshly grated nutmeg

Slice the Panettone horizontally and spread bread generously with butter and spiced ginger preserve. 
Cut each slice into quarters and lay upright in an ovenproof dish.
Whisk together the milk, cream, sugar and eggs and pour over bread.
Top with nutmeg.
Bake for 30-40 minutes at 180 degrees.

Ask Italian have provided a £50 voucher as a giveaway for readers of Foodie Quine so you can have your own #MakeItSpecial experience. Entry is via the Rafflecopter widget below. 


To enter, let me know in a comment "What's your favourite Italian Dish?" For additional bonus entries you can follow me and Ask Italian on our social media accounts and tweet about the #MakeItSpecial Giveaway. Closing date is 05/01/15 Good Luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure - ASK Italian commissioned and compensated me for my time in creating this post. All views expressed are my own.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Reviews - New in my Kitchen - December 2014

Today I'm sharing some of the new items that I've been sent in the past few weeks for my Kitchen. Nothing in itself edible in this roundup, but all very useful and well worthy of a place in my kitchen. 


I've always fancied the idea of an oilcloth tablecloth but for some reason have never actually got round to getting one. Wipe Easy Tablecloths got in touch to offer me one for review and I jumped at the opportunity. Then came the difficult decision. Which pattern to choose? I pondered over a Christmas cloth via an everyday one but in the end let my head overrule my heart and after much deliberation opted for the Alium Teal Oilcloth.
"This is a beautifully fresh and modern design with a Scandinavian influence. With bold flower head colours of teal blue, mustard yellow and charcoal on a natural background, a great all round wipeable tablecloth, that will make a real statement."
I am absolutely delighted with my oilcloth and kicking myself for not getting one much sooner. It arrived via courier on a roll which keeps in in perfect ccondition and crease free during the delivery process. The pattern is stunning and looks very much at home in my kitchen. The cloth is wipeable and water resistant - no washing required. The oilcloth coating stops any fraying but still allows a soft drape effect. There are some items which may stain the cloth (tomato based sauces/curry sauce/ink/shoe polish/nail varnish/lipstick/newspaper print) however as yet I've had no issues in keeping it clean. Its already proved to be a fantastic backdrop for photos on the blog and my social media so no doubt you'll spot it making regular appearances online.
The cloth I received measures 135cm by 250cm priced at £42.47 plus £4.99 delivery

A trivet set may not sound like the most exciting of kitchen gadgets but with a new kitchen, new tablecloth and sparkly new work surfaces it's an absolute essential. The 3 piece interlocking trivet set from Oxo provides a snap together solution. Made from durable silicone with raised non slip feet so air can circulate. Its a really clever design which can be used together or separately to accommodate a range of pans and oven to tableware. The open centre means they can be hung up for storage. rrp is £12
My only gripe? They only come in red which doesn't match my kitchen colour scheme. More colours please!

Boy and Girl were both very excited when this parcel arrived. The prospect of making their own smoothies meant they couldn't wait to try out the Breville Blend-Active Family Pack. Up until now we've occassionally made smoothies in the food processor or with a handheld blender. Neither of which worked particularly well in terms of convenience. I was interested to find out if the Blend-Active could provide the promised quick and easy clean solution. 
The Blend-Active is a really clever piece of kit. The family set comes with two large and two small bottles. The difference between this and other smoothie makers is that you blend and drink from the same bottle just swapping out the blade for a lid. Another huge plus point is that it is super easy to clean. It's also really powerful and makes fast work of frozen fruit although I quickly found out that using too much frozen items left me with ice cream rather than smoothie!
Its great for the kids to use and seems very foolproof and we've had no issues with the bottles leaking. I'm definitely planning to try out its cocktail making abilities over the festive season. However come January when it will be back to reality after Christmas excess it will be time to put it to very good use in a healthy eating plan where I think it will work very well in combination with my juicer. 
rrp is £40 for the family size pack, whilst single cup is £25 and dual cup £29.99


Disclosure : Thanks to Wipe Easy TableclothsOxo and Breville Blend-Active for providing the above products. I was not obliged to review positively in return. All views expressed are my own. 
If you're a brand who'd like to have your product featured here, please do get in touch claire@foodiequine.co.uk

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Quick & Cute Christmas Foodie Makes

I love creating cute food at any time of the year and Christmas presents plenty of opportunities to get creative in the kitchen. Alas I simply didn't have time to come up with 24 new ideas for a 2014 Foodie Advent Calendar but you can still access all of my 2013 recipes and instructions on the blog via the links below


Foodie Advent Calendar Days 1-12

Foodie Advent Calendar Days 13-24

I've not been completely resting on my laurels however and do have a few new suggestions for this year...

Cornflake Holly Wreaths
Melt white chocolate, add green food colouring - gel works best, then mix through cornflakes. Shape into mini wreaths on greaseproof paper and leave to set. Adorn with red fondant icing berries.

Mini Roll Reindeer
This one was courtesy of the December Asda Magazine. Not quite as easy to make as they first appear! You'll need mini rolls, matchmakers, pretzels, melted white and milk chocolate, black fondant icing and red smarties.
Using a skewer make four holes in the base of the mini roll for the reindeer's legs. Cut a matchmaker into four and secure the legs in place by dipping them in melted milk chocolate then inserting them into the skewered holes.
Do the same with broken pieces of pretzel to make the antlers.
Dip the face of the reindeer in melted white chocolate and attach black fondant eyes and a red smartie nose (or pink if you've run out of red!)

Marshmallow Snowmen
Olaf in marshmallow form! You'll need marshmallows, matchmakers, cocktail sticks, orange tic tacs, fizzy belts, rolos, giant chocolate buttons and black writing icing.
Secure three marshmallows together with a cocktail stick. Attach the hat made from a giant chocolate button and a rolo using melted chocolate or icing. Insert matchmakers for arms and an orange tic tac carrot nose. Draw on eyes, mouth and buttons with black writing icing and finally wrap a fizzy belt scarf around your snowman's neck.


My kids after school cookery class at Aberdeen's Inchagarth Community Centre made a fantastic job creating wreaths, snowmen and reindeer's, including some fab freestyle creations. 

Snowman Eggs
Do you wanna eat a Snowman? He might look too cute to eat but this wee guy that I created for the Good Family Food Facebook page would make a tasty addition to any festive breakfast. Slice a wee bit off the top and bottom of two hard boiled eggs and secure together with a cocktail stick. Use two carrot slices to create a hat and stick it on the cocktail stick. A triangle of carrot for the nose and black peppercorns for eyes and buttons. Poke in some sprigs of parsley for arms and serve with bacon and sausage.

Champagne Cork Reindeer
Not exactly food, but a by product from all those Christmas bottles of Prosecco, Cava and Champagne! Skewers, googly eyes, pom poms, twigs and a hot glue gun will give you a whole lot of Rudolphs!

TamingTwins

Disclosure - QMS commissioned me and compensated me for my time in creating a Christmas idea for their Facebook page. 

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

2014 Christmas Gifts for Foodies - Part 3

This is the last chance saloon for your Christmas shopping ideas for foodie friends (or to add to your own wish list!) 
If you missed my previous gift suggestion roundups you can catch up at Part 1 (Gillian Kyle, Tipplebox & Treat Republic) and Part 2 (Coast & Glen, North Hop, Ebury Press, Victoria Eggs, Edinburgh Gin

Rant & Stave

Based in Speyside, in the heart of Scottish Whisky County, Rant & Stave create beautiful and unique handcrafted and upcycled goods from vintage oak Whisky barrels. I'd already heard of them as they produced some wonderful branded items for North Hop Festival including cheeseboards and coasters. I was delighted to receive a parcel containing a bag of whisky barrel oak shavings to be used for food smoking and/or BBQ's, a personalised Foodie Quine Cheeseboard and the most adorable Gingerbread Man brooch pin. The products are beautiful to look at, wonderfully tactile and have an unbelievable smell!
I have a real thing about Gingerbread Men so the brooch is absolutely perfect and I suspect that my Foodie Quine Cheeseboard will become a regular feature on the blog topped with all sorts of goodies. All Rant & Stave products come with free UK delivery and while there are a range of standard items there is always the option of bespoke and personalised creations. I particularly love the distillery keyrings which come engraved with the coordinates of a Speyside distillery. Lots of ideal gifts for whisky lovers or those who just love beautiful handcrafted objects.


Here's a fascinating wee photo montage of the whole process transforming a battered old barrel head into a beautiful piece of wood ready to be upcycled.




Entwine Gifts

Based in Lancashire, Entwine Gifts provide a wine and cheese gift box service with a personal touch. They offer a selection of popular wine types from around the world and combine them with Lancashire Bomb cheese. I opted to try out their Prosecco and Green Olive Cheese combo, which is suitably entitled "The Diva"

My box arrived within the guaranteed 48 hour mainland UK delivery and the packaging and contents looked fantastic. The box is wooden effect cardboard and nestled within shred is the bottle and the glittery cheese bauble. A personalised message can be added to the accompanying gift card which also included tasting notes for both the wine and cheese. There's 15% off all boxes this Christmas with prices starting at around the £22 mark for wines and increasingly accordingly for Port and Champagne. Both the cheese and fizz tasted great and the sparkly bauble was a real talking point.


The Just Slate Company

Once upon a time the only place you'd find a slate was on a roof. Now however they now grace many a stylish restaurant table. A stunning range of slate tableware, gifts and homeware is available from The Just Slate Company all of which is handcut in Scotland. Pretty much all of their items would make fantastic gifts and look equally at home in a traditional or contemporary setting. I received an Oil and Vinegar dipping set and a Slate Tray with Antler Handles.



Both items are absolutely stunning to look at and came in stylish but sturdy gift boxes that will keep them safe between uses. I absolutely adore the antler handles on the tray. They will definitely be gracing my table over the festive period and beyond. No worries about any damage or scratching on surfaces from the slate as there's a foam backing on the base. I was unsure if the oil and vinegar dipping bowl would actually work but can assure you that it does. Proof in the photo with balsamic and olive oil.
Lots of lovely items on the website including coasters, trivets, place mats, cheese boards, cakes stands and adorable butter cloches. The Just Slate Company are offering a Foodie Quine 20% discount code on their website which is valid until 31st December 2014. To apply it, just enter FQ20 when it asked for “discount code” at the checkout.


Based in Foveran Aberdeenshire, The Store is somewhat of a local institution with its own butchery, farm shop and deli, kitchen and coffee shop. This year they are offering a #storetodoor full Christmas dinner service of Festive Feasts to take the hassle out of Christmas dinner. These can be delivered locally, nationally or collected. I received their Easy Turkey Roast which feeds a minimum of 5 people. Next step up is a Free Range Feast for 8 or you can go all out with the Bronze Banquet which feeds a minimum of 10 with plenty leftovers.
Also available are a huge range of hampers to suit every taste and budget featuring a fantastic range showcasing the best of Scottish produce and The Store's own butchery. Bespoke Hampers can also be created along with specific Cheese, Steak, Roast and Breakfast Boxes.

For the Aberdeenshire foodie who has everything, a voucher for a Butchery Masterclass would surely be the perfect gift. You start the day with Bacon Rolls & Coffee, followed by a tour round the butchery and maturation chill. The Store's Butcher will demonstrate his skills before you have a go for yourself. Finally a meaty lunch to finish off the half day experience. I really hope there's a voucher for this in my stocking.


Disclosure : Thanks to 
Rant & Stave, Entwine Gifts, The Just Slate Company and The Store for providing the above products to review. All views expressed are my own.
If you're a brand who'd like to have your product featured in one of my Christmas Gifts for Foodies posts, please do get in touch claire@foodiequine.co.uk