As some of you may have noticed I’ve been using a new kitchen gadget recently in some of my recipes. The Optimum ThermoCook from Froothie is a multi purpose kitchen appliance that can do pretty much any job that needs doing. I’ve been putting it through some of its paces and here’s what I think of it so far.
Knives are an integral part of any kitchen, but how many of us actually have a good set of Chef’s knives? I’ve been using a motley collection to chop, cut and slice most of my life and living in a Cornish cottage, I never expected to see a contemporary and stylish knife set, such as this one from Edge of Belgravia, sitting on my kitchen counter top.
When I lived in Leamington Spa many years ago, there was a captivating kitchen shop which I liked to wander around and dream of one day being able to buy some of the lovely things it held. Pastry forks and cake servers weren’t even on my radar then, but I did have my eye on some classic Arthur Price cutlery.
It’s been a while since I showcased some of the products that have made it into the Tin and Thyme kitchen in recent weeks. This post is all about the gadgets.
Yes, a new and powerful beast has taken up residence in my kitchen. It has such a commanding presence that I can’t help but use it again and again. What, you may well ask, is she wittering on about now? I have a new blender, a Froothie Optimum 9200A Next Generation to be precise.
Finely grinding many foods, especially fruit, vegetables and nuts enables the body to more easily absorb any available nutrients. Whilst my old blender was useful for making basic smoothies, it wasn’t very efficient at grinding up anything course. This meant, when making smoothies with goji berries for instance, I’d end up with a reddish bitty sludge at the bottom of the jug that wasn’t desperately appealing. I was also unable to make ‘green’ smoothies. I tried with some of our home grown kale once and it was just not meant to be – coconut water with large pieces of kale floating about in it was rather hard to drink.
An old hand at bread-making I may be, but I was a little daunted when I was recently sent an automatic Panasonic bread maker to try out. I have never used a machine to make bread before, other than an oven and I was a little concerned I would fall at the first hurdle. In truth I’ve always been a bit wary of bread makers as I’d heard they weren’t great for the flours I like to bake with – spelt and rye.
The collection of teapots in our house is steadily growing. This suits us fine as we now have the right teapot for every occasion. Or at least I thought we did. When I was sent an ingenuiTEA to try out from Adagio Teas, I realised our collection was by no means complete. This contraption brews loose leaf teas, letting out the steeped tea from the bottom rather than through a spout. Tea leaves are placed inside the pot and hot water added. As soon as the tea is ready, it is placed atop a cup; the valve opens and the clear tea filters through. Once you have finished with your tea leaves, they can be tossed away and the ingenuiTEA washed up – by hand or in the dishwasher.
What I liked
- The see through nature of the container – it’s fun to see tea leaves unfurling and the water changing colour as the brew progresses.
- The non-drip nature of the design – unlike many teapots, you can stop the process at any point and put the ingenuiTEA down without a single drip.
- No need for heat proof surfaces or protective mats – the pot is elevated off the surface with no hot bottom to burn your precious table.
- Neat design – I like the simple look.
- Works with any cup up to 9.5 cm in diameter.
- The material used – I am not a fan of plastic and would have preferred glass. It is, however, BPA free.
- No way of determining the volumes – unless you are using a clear cup, it’s not obvious when to stop the flow. I had tea overflowing all over the place with the first cup I made, though I very soon got the hang of it.
- The capacity is 450ml (16 oz) which is not quite enough for two regular mugs and too much for one. It is, however, perfect for two tea cups. Maybe I just need to be a little more refined in my tea drinking.
- Brand stamping – I would prefer to have the device completely clear of all writing and logos.
The more teas I sample, the more I’m amazed at just how different they all are. I’d requested a variety of teas, some of which I was familiar with and others I’d not tried before. These sampling packs struck me as a particularly good idea; you can try before committing to a more extensive purchase. Each pack is resealable and contains enough tea to make a good ten cups. They come with instructions which include brewing times and water temperature, although being an American company, this was in degrees fahrenheit rather than celsius.
I had to try this one first, of course. I’m not normally a fan of black teas, but I will partake of chai, Earl Grey and the occasional speciality tea if it’s on offer. This was a black Ceylon tea with cocoa nibs, dark chocolate chips and a natural chocolate flavour. I’ve tried several chocolate teas now, but never one which contained actual chocolate pieces. This is the only one I tried adding a dash of milk to as I thought it would work well with both the black nature of the tea and the chocolate. I was right, although it worked equally well without. The chocolate flavour shone through with fruity notes and a slight astringency.
Good quality white tea is my favourite version of Camellia sinensis. This one was a new one on me. The unopened tea buds are harvested along with the two newest leaves. This freshness really comes through. It has a light fruity aroma with a delicate taste. Floral and fruity tones shine through and it isn’t in the least bit bitter. Really it is quite delicious and an excellent accompaniment to afternoon tea.
Ti Khan Yin
I know very little about oolong teas, other than they are complex in both production and flavour and are thus correspondingly more expensive than many other teas. They are a speciality of South China and although they come in many varieties are all oxidised to some degree or other. To my knowledge, this was the first oolong tea I’ve ever tried. Ti Khan Yin being greenish in colour is a lightly oxidised tea. It has both a grassy and floral aroma and a fresh sprightly taste that both CT and I really liked, yet, the notes left lingering on the palate are woody ones. This is a nice refreshing cuppa which works particularly well as a breakfast tea we thought.
This red South African tea, not to be confused with the more commonly known rooibos, has an aromatic fruity scent with honey notes. It is not a true tea, being the leaves of a legume called Cyclopia rather than what we commonly know as tea, Camellia sinensis. It contains no caffeine, is low in tannins so there is no bitterness if over brewed and it is said to lower cholesterol and fight respiratory infections. CT, who has fond memories of his trip to South Africa many years ago, thinks it encapsulates the smell of the bush and transported him back there almost immediatley. The tea is the colour of honey and has a pleasant sweet and fruity flavour, not overpowering, but refreshing. This has been a firm favourite of ours for many years.
Jasmine Phoenix Pearls
Tight clusters of curled green tea leaves form little balls known as pearls. As soon as they come into contact with hot water they unfurl in a rather beautiful way. Also beautiful is the aroma generated from the Jasmine which quickly scents the room. The flavour is prominent, but not overpowering as can be the case with some jasmine teas. We both thoroughly enjoyed this one and it works particularly well as an after dinner refresher.
Thanks to Adagio for the ingenuiTEA and tea samples. There was no requirement to write a positive review and as always all opinions are my own.
To me waffles have always seemed the height of elegance and sophistication. I’ve never eaten them here in the UK, but I have fond memories of the light and crispy delights offered to us at elegant establishments in Europe. On our visit to Ghent we had them served mit slagroom. Slagroom for the uninitiated is the Flemish for whipped cream. Jolly delicious they were too.
I think of waffles as a 3D pancake, with their neat little reservoirs which hold lots of butter, cream, syrup or whatever else you fancy to shorten your life. When I was sent some silicone waffle moulds from Lékué to try out, it didn’t take me long to drop those eggs and flour into a bowl and start mixing.
My enthusiasm for Lékué remains unchecked with this, the third product I have tried. You can read my previous posts on the bundt mould and the bread maker by clicking on the links. Having used silicone bakeware for years, I have experience of the good and the bad. The performance of cheap silicone moulds I’ve used in the past really isn’t that good. Thin material results in uneven baking with the bottoms getting burnt and the batter not being properly cooked. The Lékué silicone is sturdy and you can tell the products are of good quality by the look and feel of them. To boot, they come with a ten year guarantee. The pack contained two moulds, each with 4 waffle patterns. The waffle indentations were well defined and turned out perfect looking waffles. I found the moulds very easy to use and they gave a good result with a fluffy interior and a nice crispy exterior. I was slightly concerned about how easy it would be to release the waffles, but they slipped out of the moulds with no trouble at all. Not only that, but you don’t get all the smoke associated with hot metal, grease and batter – or is that just me?
I’d also been sent some Clarks maple syrup to try out and waffles seemed the perfect vehicle to do so. Just in time for Pancake Day, I was sent four small 180 ml plastic bottles with squirty tops. These were nice and easy to use, though I found the syrup to be rather more liquid than I was expecting. Two were pure maple syrup and two were blended with carob fruit syrup, which seemed a little odd and unnecessary to me. I would rather have my syrup pure and dilute or mix it in whatever way I wish, rather than have it done for me. In this instance, I didn’t want to adulterate the pure syrup and simply drizzled it over some of the waffles and served with a little whipped cream and pomegranate seeds. However, I had designs for the vanilla version, which I thought would help to make a luxurious chocolate sauce. For the chocolate sauce, I was also keen to use some of the premium couverture dark chocolate I’d been sent from Cacao Barry, 70% Ocoa pur noir, which I thought would give a particularly rich and fulsome flavour. The aroma wafting up from the packet was of chocolate, caramel and tobacco and the taste lived up to the promise that these smells evoked with multi layered notes hitting the palate in succession.
As well as using the maple syrup on the waffles and in the sauce and subsequently in a number of other ways, we tried them neat to get a real sense of their individual characters.
Original (blended with carob fruit syrup) – strong smoky, caramel, rich. Wouldn’t want to eat too much at any one time. Very sweet.
Vanilla (blended with carob fruit syrup) – reminded me of cough medicine that I used to have as a child – something I always viewed as a treat. Aromatic, with a strong vanilla flavour. Very sweet. I used this one in the chocolate sauce to good effect.
Pure Canadian (No.1 Medium Grade) – less runny than the previous two and not as overpoweringly sweet. Smoky and tanniny with a drying-in-the-mouth feel. It was this one that we used on our waffles and it worked well.
Pure Canadian (No.2 Amber Grade) – this proved to be my favourite. It was sweeter than No 1 with a more rounded “maple flavour” but still with the tannins coming through.
The moulds came with instructions and a recipe for sweet waffles and one for savoury. The savoury waffles sounded quite delicious with an addition of Parmesan, oregano and paprika. I am quite keen to try these, but for my first attempt I decided to make waffles that were neither sweet nor savoury so we could add the maple syrup and chocolate sauce without them becoming too sweet. I based the batter on the recipe provided, which gave the perfect amount to fill the eight waffle moulds.
|Just out of the oven – see that steam rising?|
This is how I made:
Waffles with a Maple Syrup Chocolate Sauce
- Sprayed the moulds lightly with oil (not something I normally do with silicone, but it is recommended for the first time of use). Placed them on an oven tray.
- Melted 110g unsalted butter in a pan over low heat.
- Sifted 240g flour (half wholemeal spelt, half white) into a bowl with 2 tsp baking powder and a pinch of pink rock salt.
- Made a well in the centre and broke in 3 medium eggs.
- Started stirring this, slowly adding 410 ml milk until a smooth batter had formed.
- Added the butter and stirred until incorporated.
- Ladled the batter into the moulds – there was just enough to completely fill them, but with none left over.
- Baked in the lower half of the oven at 200°C for 10 minutes or until set.
- Removed from the oven and turned out onto the oven tray. Placed back in the oven with the pattern side up for a further 5 minutes or so until the waffles were crisp and golden.
- Melted 150g 70% good quality dark chocolate (Ocoa pur noir) with 200g double cream in a pan over low heat.
- Added 2 tbsp maple syrup and stirred until all incorporated and smooth.
- Poured the warm sauce over the hot waffles and scattered some pomegranate seeds over the top.
We just loved these. Two each was plenty, but very greedily and because we had them for brunch, we polished off all eight of them. Crisp on the outside and fluffy on the inside, I shall be making these waffles again very soon. Next time, if there are only two of us, I shall try freezing half of them for a quick and easy breakfast, brunch or dessert another time. The chocolate sauce was indeed rich and quite delicious too with a faint hint of maple that gave it an air of added luxury. Having said that, we also enjoyed eating them with cream and pure maple syrup.
Pancake Day is on the 5th of March. I’m seriously thinking of renaming it Waffle Day. maple syrup is, of course, a must – as is chocolate.
Lékué also sent two fabulous stretchy covers that will fit over various sized containers from a half used tin of tomatoes to, in this instance, a bowl of chocolate sauce. They are also good for covering half eaten pieces of fruit such as an orange or melon. The reusable covers act as temporary lids creating a vacuum seal to keep leftovers fresh – a much better option than clingfilm in my opinion. As there was plenty of chocolate sauce left over, I used one to cover the bowl. It was both easy to put on and easy to take off. The remaining chocolate sauce was used to make the truffle icing for my chocolate Valentine cakes.
Thanks to Lékué for sending me the waffle moulds and stretch tops to try out and to Clarks and Cacao Barry for the maple syrup and chocolate. I was not required to write positive reviews and as always all opinions are my own.
Bread is such a fascinating bake. There is so much variety in taste and texture to be had. Thankfully there has been a revival of interest in real bread in recent years, spearheaded in Britain by the Real Bread Campaign. New techniques and methods are being invented or rediscovered all the time it seems. I’ve been making my own bread since I was a teenager – on and off. But it wasn’t until I attended a bread making course with Andrew Whitley a few years ago that I discovered, when it comes to water, more is definitely best. Wet doughs may be harder to knead, but generally give a much better result. I’ve been hearing about no knead breads for a while now. My own rye sourdough requires no kneading, but could this really work for wheat breads I wondered? I really kneaded (get it) to try it out for myself. Thanks to the unexpected delivery of a Lékué bread maker, I finally managed it.