Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Fruity Christmas Biscotti

Right, before you read any further, if you're anti-Christmas or think mid-November is too soon to talk about it then bugger off. I LOVE Christmas. Don't get me wrong, Summer days, BBQs, al fresco daytime drinking are also great but it doesn't beat the atmosphere of the lead up to December 25th. To get in the festive spirit, I decided to do some Christmas baking last weekend. Usually for this blog, I try to do recipes which are suited to certain dietary requirements or that are a little unusual, but it's Christmas and I decided to make whatever the hell I wanted with gay abandon. The fact that it also meant two hungover and/or hungry men in the house had something yummy to munch on definitely means I deserve pride of place on top of the Christmas tree. 

FYI: no real reason for the picture above, apart from the fact it is just TOO DAMN CUTE! Anyway, first up, Fruity Christmas Biscotti. This is such a good all rounder. Easy to make, it can be eaten for your own personal pleasure with a nice hot beverage, or you could choose to give it to family and friends as a stocking filler. As long as you don't burn the stuff, the fact you've made a gift for someone should definitely earn you some present-points for next year. 

You Will Need:
-350g plain flour, plus extra for rolling
-2 tsp. baking powder
-2 tsp. mixed spice
-250g golden caster sugar
-3 eggs beaten
-coarsely grated zest of 1 orange
-85g raisins
-85g dried cherries
-50g blanched almonds
-50g shelled pistachios

Before you begin, heat the oven to 180C/160 fan/gas mark 4 and line two baking trays with parchment paper. Put the flour, baking powder, spice and sugar in a large bowl and mix together. Stir in the beaten eggs and zest until the mixture starts to form clumps. At this point, use your hands to bring the rest of the dough together to the point where you can pretty much wipe the bowl clean. Add the fruit and nuts and continue using your hands to mix until they are evenly distributed throughout the dough.

Use some flour to spread lightly across a clean surface and turn the dough out onto it. Divide into 4 equal sections and use your hands to roll each section into roughly a 30cm long sausage shape . 

Place two sausages on each tray, spread far apart and bake for 25-30mins until the dough has risen and is firm to touch. There should be no colour to the dough at this point. Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack until cool enough to handle. Prepare the oven for phase two of the baking by turning it down to 140C/120 fan/gas mark 1.

When cool enough, use a bread knife to cut into diagonal slices which are 1-2cm thick. Lay the slices flat on the baking trays and bake for 15 minutes. Turn the slices over and bake for another 15 minutes or until dry and golden. Turn onto a wire rack to cool. They can be stored in an airtight container for up to a month! However, if the smell of the baking biscotti is too hard to resist, then prepare to dig in.


Thursday, 6 November 2014


If you're looking for something with a touch of class and romanticism, but still affordable, then look no further than Kettner's. I'm due to make my fourth visit here next week and I have no doubt that it'll be as amazing as the previous three; both in style, delicious food and just for it's overall atmosphere.

Kettner's prides itself on its history. Originally opened in 1867, it has survived two world wars and has had such historical figures as Oscar Wilde, Agatha Christie and Bing Crosby walk through the doors, as well a fair few royal faces! What I love so much about Kettner's is you can make it what you want. You could dress up to your hearts content for a super swanky evening, or simply put on your comfy hangover clothes and no one would bat an eyelid. It's impossible to get bored here too as they cover all areas. They have a range of afternoon teas on offer (including a free-flowing prosecco one...eeeer HELLO!), brunches, pre/post-theatre and, best of all, a Gin, Fizz & Jazz night every Tuesday featuring live blues singers and £6 gin cocktails. If I can't have free gin then £6 gin cocktails is surely the next best thing?! 

Anyway, this particular visit was on a Wednesday so I'll focus more on the food than the gin (booo). But even so, it's not disappointing! When you're having a midweek dinner accompanied by a man on a grand piano, there's not too much to complain about really is there...

So onto the food. With a regularly changing menu, it's always easy to try something different. Knowing that this was going to be a 3-course affair, I went for the lighter option of fresh buffalo mozzarella with red peppers and an black olive tapenade. The tapenade is what sold this to me, and it didn't disappoint. Mozzarella can quite often be bland in flavour but the saltiness from the olive emphasised everything else.

Also on offer was chicken liver parfait with homemade piccalilli and crispy sourdough. The presentation of this made the, lets face it, "pate and toast" really stand out. 

Next up, the mains. As you probably have guessed by now, I'm an absolute lover of all things from the sea. So I was more than happy with this pan-fried pollock with Jerusalem artichoke puree and sauteed wild mushroom. Although it was a nice dish overall, the pollock was slightly overcooked due to how big the fillet was. I'd preferred to have had a smaller amount that didn't need to be cooked for as long.

My regular partner in crime also went for a fish based dish: pan-fried fillet of stone bass with squid ink tagliolini, prawns and mussels. I have to admit, I had major food envy over this. I definitely lost out!

Finally, dessert. As per, it was a pointless case of overindulgence here but these things have to be done! I was having a bit of a rough week at this point (get the violins out) and there was only one think that could make it better....sticky toffee pudding. Simple! The addition of peanut ice cream gave a slight twist to a British classic. Absolute blood perfection.

So overall, another successful visit to Kettner's! This is such an easy place to enjoy, no matter what the occasion. I'll be back... (booking already in for next Tuesday. Keen).