Yesterday, I had the great pleasure of indulging in Afternoon Tea at The Athenaeum Hotel on Piccadilly. Afternoon tea at such an iconic London hotel would be a real treat at the best of times, but this was a special tea in honour of Paddington Bear. Paddington, the movie, was released yesterday and London has got Paddington Bear fever, it would seem. There is a Paddington trail around the city with 50 statues of one of the world’s most popular bears. I managed to spot two of them during my brief 24 hour stay including the one we are all familiar with at Paddington Station.
It may have been afternoon tea that Fiona of London Unattached and I sat down to, but it was a lunchtime sitting as my train back home to Cornwall left at 3pm. Afternoon tea at lunchtime was a new concept for me and I was surprised to find we were not alone. In fact all the tables in the Garden Room, where tea is served, were fully booked. Given that The Athenaeum won the Tea Guild’s award for Top London Afternoon Tea in 2012, this shouldn’t really have been a surprise.
Elegance and luxury at such a top class hotel, I was expecting, but there was also comfort and ease – no starchiness and disapproving looks here. The waiters were friendly and attentive and the service was good, if slightly disorganised. The soft light wasn’t great for taking photographs, but it created a relaxing ambiance, which is what it’s all about really. The tea more than lived up to expectations.
We were shown to our table by a window, complete with comfortable sofa and arm chairs. Whilst sipping on a glass of very nice Lanson Black Label champagne, we were offered the tea menu to peruse. Being a bit of a tea purist, I was delighted by this. There was a good variety of loose leaf teas on offer, but interestingly there were samples of the actual tea leaves on display too. No wonder the Tea Guild were impressed. Fiona chose Japanese Sencha green tea and I opted for a pot of Pai Mu Tan white tea. Both duly arrived in silver teapots with an accompanying silver pot of hot water, all of which were regularly inspected and topped up as necessary, without either of us having to ask.
The food soon arrived, elegantly laid out on a three tier cake stand. After doing a big of oohing and aahing over the contents, especially the top layer which included cute chocolate cups filled with mousse, we hungrily tucked into the finger sandwiches. No marmalade sandwiches for me, but there was clementine marmalade to accompany the ham for Fiona. I didn’t take too much notice of the meat fillings, but I was pleased to see cucumber and cream cheese on offer together with egg mayonnaise. I was also presented with a plate of five vegetarian finger sandwiches laid out in a star shape. I would have liked to have seen something a bit more creative than tomato and lettuce, but I enjoyed them nonetheless.
Marmalade, not surprisingly was a key theme of the tea and for the first time ever, I had marmalade with my scones and clotted cream, rather than jam. Both Fiona and I were a little dubious about this particular change to tradition, but when we tucked in, we were pleasantly surprised. We had a choice of plain or cranberry scones and I found the marmalade to be particularly delicious atop some of the latter; cranberries and orange have a natural affinity. Jam was served alongside the marmalade if required.
Starting to feel a little full, there was still some room left for that enticing top layer of treats. I’ve already alluded to the chocolate cups which were topped with a little marmalade and were quite delightful. There was also orange macaroons, an orange bakewell tart and an adorable little glass of orange and passionfruit jelly.
At regular intervals we were offered further sandwiches and scones. We politely declined as we already had more than an elegant sufficiency, but it gave a feeling of abundance which was a nice touch for such a rare treat. We were just finishing off the last few goodies when the cake trolley was wheeled over. Well, neither of us could fit in another morsel, but everything looked so pretty and enticing, we asked if we could take something away with us. My thoughts turned to CT who had missed out on all this indulgence, so I chose a little something with him in mind – a chocolate log filled with salted caramel cream. It was very thoughtfully placed in a gold cardboard box for easy transport. It made the long journey home in tact and was gratefully demolished fairly soon after I arrived. I did get a little taster and it was as good as it looked.
The Paddington Bear Afternoon Tea costs £39.50 without champagne and £47:50 with it. £5 of this is donated to the official Paddington Bear charity, Action Medical Research for Children. Everything looked fabulous and was beautifully presented and it all tasted pretty good too. For a top class afternoon tea with as much as you can eat and more, I would describe this as good value. I waved good buy to the suitcase of bears at reception with a full stomach and wasn’t entirely sure I was in a fit state to run for the train if it proved necessary.
Thankfully there seems to be a growing trend in the UK and elsewhere towards high quality independently produced food. Just as farmers’ markets have grown in popularity, online delicatessens offering artisanal products are also springing up; these delights are now much more accessible to those of us who don’t have a fantastic deli just around the corner – it’s a great time to discover excellent products you’ve never heard of before, especially with Christmas just around the corner. I’m all for it.
November can be a bit of a miserable month, so thank goodness for Random Recipes which lights the darkness on the downhill run to Christmas. Dom tasked us this month with rifling through our magazine cuttings and other such clippings to pick a random recipe. I was hoping to strike lucky with something suitable that I could make as a thank you to our fabulous next door neighbours. Not only do they take most of our parcels when we’re away, but they helped us out in a real crisis last Saturday; part of our bedroom window fell away, ripping off some tiles in the process – not great at the best of times, but especially not in all the wind and rain we’ve been experiencing this month, with a lot worse to come.
So I gathered together my various ‘chocolate’ clippings and asked CT to close his eyes, have a root around in them and pull one out. I couldn’t have wished for a better recipe, it was Claudia Roden’s Gateau au Chocolate torn out of an old issue of the Food Magazine.
Coincidentally, Chocolate Log Blog has been shortlisted for the Food Reader Awards from this very same magazine and I would of course love to have your votes. It’s a very quick process, you do need to leave an e-mail address, but you don’t have to sign up for anything.
This is a rich flourless chocolate cake, so perfect for anyone on a gluten free diet. It is also simple to make and quite delicious. Although I have made similar cakes to this in the past, I put a little of the batter into a muffin mould so I could try it – quality testing is sooooo important. I decided to use my chocolate cake mould for this and to top it with a chocolate sauce, the idea being for it to run down the gaps and look shiny and decadent. Things didn’t quite go according to plan and I have to confess this is not a looker. However, our neighbours were very happy with it and the empty plate came back in less than an hour along with a beaming smile and a report that it was very good and had been polished off rapidly.
This is how I made:
Claudia Roden’s Gateau au Chocolat with my Chocolate Sauce
- Melted 125g 70% dark chocolate in a pan over gentle heat along with 50g unsalted butter and left to cool a little.
- Separated 3 duck eggs.
- Whisked the yolks with 35g cardamom sugar (golden caster sugar) until the mixture was thick and pale.
- Folded in the chocolate butter mixture along with 50g ground almonds
- Whisked the egg whites in a clean bowl until stiff, then folded into the cake batter.
- Scraped into my silicone chocolate mould (an 18cm or 20cm pan would probably be about right) and baked at 180℃ for 20 minutes when the cake was well risen and a skewer inserted into the middle came out clean.
- Allowed to cool in the mould for a few minutes, then turned out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
- Melted 50g of 70% dark chocolate in a pan with 75ml water and 1 scant tbsp golden syrup.
- Brought to a simmer and let bubble for a couple of minutes.
- Removed from the heat and added a small knob of butter.
- Allowed to cool a little, then poured over the cake. Annoyingly I had allowed my chocolate to bubble away for a little too long, so the mixture was a bit too thick to pour well.
Well this is a first for me. I’ve heard much about the rise of real chocolate in the USA, but I have not had the opportunity to try any of it – until now, that is. As the name suggests, Paris Truffles is a company offering elegant and fashionable chocolates. It also has an interesting and quirky range of flavoured 85g chocolate bars which I find particularly appealing. Husband and wife team Robert and Paige Leavitt established the company back in 1984. Robert spent his childhood hanging around in French chocolate shops (somebody’s got to) while Paige travelled the world. They’ve combined their passion for chocolate and world cuisine to make a range of bold flavoured bars. Kettle corn and maple bacon may not be for me, but an emphatic yes to any of the others. I’d certainly like to try the chilli crunch bar – 35% milk chocolate with toasted tortilla and the world’s hottest chilli.
I was sent six bars to try and although I didn’t get the chilli bar I’d hoped for, I received two others that contained this indispensable spice. I found the bars really interesting and great fun, but if subtlety is what you’re after, these are probably not the ones for you. These flavours are strong and punchy and I loved them. The smooth couverture chocolate is mixed with the key ingredients in their natural state for added texture.
When I was perusing the Paris Truffles website, the Thai satay bar was the first one that grabbed my attention. How very interesting. So when I found it was in the parcel of bars I received, I was delighted and it was the very first bar I tried.
Thai Satay (35%) – sugar, whole milk powder, cacao mess, cocoa butter, soy lecithin, vanilla, peanuts, sesame, coconut, cayenne, Thai birds eye chilli, sea salt.
This had an almost savoury scent that was indeed reminiscent of satay sauce. Salty peanut was the first flavour to make its presence felt, followed by the coconut and sesame. It was then the chilli decided to say hello and wow, it had a kick. Not one but two types of chilli in this bar. All this wrapped up in 35% milk chocolate which helpfully allays the chilli – just a little. As regular readers will know, I am a chilli fiend and am often disappointed at how mild some chilli chocolate can be. I was not disappointed with this bar, my mouth and throat glowed for quite some time. Not subtle, but totally moreish.
Siena Fig Bar (64%) – cacao mass, sugar, cocoa butter, soy lecithin, vanilla, figs, pistachios, pine nuts, sea salt.
I am a fan of both figs and pistachios, so this was the second bar I tried. The first thing I did was breathe in the fruity aroma of figs that emanated enticingly from the packet. Then I broke off a piece and tasted. It was just right with a good balance of fig to salty pistachio, although the pistachios were a little too salty for my palate. The mild 64% dark chocolate showcased the flavours beautifully. A delicious Christmassy chocolate bar.
English Garden (64%) – cacao mass, sugar, cocoa butter, soy lecithin, vanilla, French candied violets, basil, Meyer lemon, olive oil, thyme, salt.
Thyme was the dominant flavour here, but I could certainly detect the others too. The rich dark chocolate had subtle violet overtones, a sensation enhanced by the crunchy candied violets. I didn’t feel there was a need for salt in this bar. I was, however, heartened to find leaves of thyme contained within the chocolate – a nice authentic touch.
Orange Passion (60%) – cacao mass, sugar, cocoa butter. soy lecithin, vanilla, orange zest, passion fruit powder, sea salt.
This bar had a strong zesty orange scent which livened up my tastebuds, even before it passed my lips. The chocolate was almost smooth and had a good snap. It tasted of real orange with bursts of tart passion fruit. As with the English Garden, I would have preferred this chocolate without salt – it really wasn’t needed.
Salted Almond Toffee (60%) – cacao mass, sugar, cocoa butter, soy lecithin, vanilla, almonds, pure cane sugar, butter, sea salt.
I think this was my favourite. Not too salty, and with a nice crunch from the chopped almonds punctuated with little bursts of toffee. The dark 60% chocolate was more noticeable for some reason and felt quite luxurious. It melded well with the caramel flavours. For some not entirely obvious reason, it reminded me of a sophisticated Snickers bar.
Raspberry Lime Espelette (65%) – cacao mass, sugar, cocoa butter, soy lecithin, vanilla, espelette chilli powder, raspberry powder, sugar, limes, sea salt.
The only word to describe the scent of this bar is gorgeous. It’s a seductive mix of rich chocolate and fruity raspberry that really had my mouth watering. It had a really good snap to it and was smoother than the other bars I tried, although it still had some bits in it. It had a nice level of heat, not nearly as powerful as the Satay bar, but there is no mistaking its presence. The raspberry and lime was a nice combination with neither flavour overwhelming the other, nor indeed, the chocolate. Really quite delicious.
Thanks to Paris Truffles for sending me some of their chocolate bars to try. I was not required to write a positive review and as always, all opinions are my own.
Some old friends rang the other day to say they were coming to Liskeard and could they call around for a cup of tea. Well of course. But I had no cakes or biscuits in the house. It was time to whip up a batch of something fast. Madeleines sprang to mind. Fresh from the oven, they are delicious treats indeed.
There is no doubt about it, Italians are proud of their food heritage and they have every right to be so. With its fresh flavours, vibrant colours and simplicity, Italian cuisine ranks as one of the world’s best and is one of my personal favourites. It’s had a massive influence on British food. Where would we be without our pizza, spaghetti Bolognese, lasagne, risotto and more recently the panini? But there is far more to it than these familiar dishes.
It’s been a while since I did any baking with matcha. Last week provided the perfect opportunity. We’d been invited to eat sushi with a Japanese colleague of CT’s which I was hugely looking forward to. A few little matcha cakes, I thought, would make a suitable post prandial snack. As I mulled over what flavour I should pair the matcha with (mostly in the early hours of the morning) I kept coming back to citrus which I thought would give a fresh and zingy high to the bitter notes of green tea. But, unusually for me, I had no fresh citrus in the house, not even lemons.
With time fast running out I made a last minute decision to add some of my mother’s marmalade to the mix. Two bitters together can work really well – think coffee and chocolate. I was hoping this would also provide some of the zing I was looking for.
Well I couldn’t have been better pleased with how these mini matcha marmalade cakes turned out – well maybe they could have been a bit greener in colour. They were light in texture, greenish, had a mild matcha flavour and a delicious marmalade hit. CT and I were hard pressed not to snaffle one on the train on our way to our hosts. Just as well we didn’t as they all disappeared with remarkable rapidity.
How anyone managed to fit them in is a miracle. We had the grandest sushi spread I’ve ever come across. It was a self-assembly job; nori seaweed was provided along with what seemed like hundreds of fillings. As the only vegetarian there, I was still well catered for – omelettes, mushrooms, cucumbers, natto, asparagus, okra, radishes, beans, cress and all the usual accompaniments and condiments. Four hours of eating and sake drinking and we were still able to knock back a few cakes and lashings of a flowering green tea. Mine were not the only cakes: there was a lush chocolate cake as well as a banana tarte tatin. How we managed to stagger back to the train station and home I’ll never know.
I’ve named this year Super Sushi. I reckon I’ve eaten more of it this year than all the other years combined. It all started with our bloggers session at Yo Sushi and snowballed from there. Only two days after this sushi feast I got a surprise phone call from a friend who was dashing through Plymouth on his way back to Italy. “Can you make it to Koishii for a Japanese blow out in two hours time?” I dropped everything, so did CT.
I’m sending these off to Elizabeth’s Kitchen Diary for Shop Local as the wholemeal flour is Cotehele Mill’s own, the eggs are local as is my mother’s homemade marmalade.
It’s been a while since I submitted anything to #recipeoftheweek over at A Mummy Too, so off these go.
- 125g unsalted butter
- 50g white chocolate (G&B)
- 100g cardamom sugar (golden caster)
- 150g flour (half wholemeal, half white)
- 25g ground almonds
- 3 tsp matcha powder
- 1 heaped tsp baking powder
- 2 duck eggs or large hens eggs
- 2 heaped tbsp marmalade
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 12
There’s no doubt about it, chocolate making is fun. It’s also usually messy and results can be unpredictable – or is that just me? Chocolate at Home have taken all of the difficulties out of the activity but have cunningly kept the fun bit in place. They’ve created chocolate making kits that not only make the process easy, but turn out tasty and good looking chocolates. Perfect as a Christmas (or any other time) gift for a chocolate loving friend or relation, these would also be a fun activity for the whole family.
I was sent their entire range to try: two chocolate truffle kits, a dark and a milk, a dessert canapé kit and a reindeer chocolate lollipop kit. I wanted to save the dark chocolate kit and reindeer lollipops for Christmas, so I kicked things off with the milk chocolate truffle kit. This comprehensive kit contains everything you need to make 21 large truffles, bar a bit of basic kitchen equipment. The part that made this particularly easy was the provision of chocolate shells to pipe the truffle mixture into. This avoided much of the mess often associated with truffle making. But the fun part of dipping the truffle shells in melted chocolate is not omitted – phew! The final stage is to coat the chocolates in a crunchy mix of roasted and caramelised hazelnuts.
The kit costs £12.95 and can be bought direct from the Chocolate At Home website. The ingredients weigh 450g and include:
- 125g Belgian milk chocolate (32%)
- 200g milk truffle filling
- 21 milk chocolate truffle shells (35%)
- 50 chopped roasted hazelnuts
- 50g chopped caramelised hazelnuts
- Piping bag
- Instruction leaflet
I was tempted to go off-piste in my usual fashion and add some alcohol to the truffles, but in the end I thought I ought to just follow the instructions and see where they led me. They were both detailed and helpful, all but the melting chocolate part that is. It was assumed that everyone has a microwave, I don’t and suspect I’m not the only one; instructions on how to melt chocolate using a bain-marie would have been helpful. Luckily, I knew what to do and everything worked just as it should. I was very happy with the finished product.
I was impressed with the quality of the kit, which came in a sturdy reusable box lined with orange tissue paper. The piping bag was a good strong one and quite large too, which made filling it particularly simple. However, in addition to the microwave assumption already mentioned, I had a couple of quibbles.
- I would have preferred to have a higher cocoa content in the chocolate which would have made the chocolates a little richer and less sweet.
- The truffle filling contained vegetable fat, which I would rather not see added to chocolate. As everything else seemed to be of good quality, I can only assume this would have been part of the preservation process and that the kits would not be viable if fresh cream or butter was used.
The truffles tasted good and the nutty coating made them particularly scrumptious. I thought they might be overly sweet for CT, but he wolfed a couple down appreciativly and said they were delicious. They looked good too. I gifted a few to the lovely ladies down at Affina who give the best massages ever and always go out of their way to make you feel pampered and valued.
I had some melted chocolate and nuts left over at the end, so mixed these together and filled twelve dinosaur chocolate moulds that I was kindly given by Sisley over at Sew White a couple of years ago.
Thanks for Chocolate At Home for sending me their chocolate making kits to try out. I was not required to write a positive review and as always, all opinions are my own.
This is another recipe adapted from my vintage Christmas stocking present which I made back in January – yes I do have a few unposted recipes that have been hanging around in my drafts folder for far too long. I know Bonfire Night has now passed, but this seems a very suitable cake for this time of year, bonfire or no bonfire.
When I was sent the bar of Divine spiced toffee apple chocolate that I reviewed on Day Four of Chocolate Week, delicious as it was, I knew I had to make something with it – something suitable for bonfire night on 5th November. Read on for my spiced toffee apple bonfire cakes recipe.