Tuesday, 16 December 2014

The Missing Blogmas Day 11 Post: The Food of Prague

So in the stress of trying to catch up with the posts I missed in Prague and writing two a day for the last week, I forgot to post this one, so I'm having to go back on my word about my last Prague post, because it's actually this one (sorry). 

When you think of Prague, it's beer and fairytale buildings that come to mind. At least that's how it was for me. I asked as many people who'd been to Prague as I could about the food, but no one really had anything to say, which was strange considering I loved it so much I wanted to dedicate a post to it. 

I was so pleasantly surprised with the variety, the flavours and the combinations and I just wanted to stay until I'd tried every dish possible. 

From street food to traditional stews and back-street cafe treats, this post will have you salivating. 

Street Food

When doing my Prague research, I'd read that the place to find the staple street food was the hot dog stands, and I instantly thought of New York hotdogs. You know, the ones that are pretty grim but everyone says you have to try at least once. Well I couldn't have been more wrong. These were proper bratwurst sausages wrapped in the traditional rohlik (long bread roll). This was the first thing we ate upon landing in Prague, and it filled us right up. 

That cute little swirly roll-thing up there is called a Trdelnik. It's made from rolled dough which is very similar to that which makes a pretzel, wrapped around a stick, then grilled and topped with sugar and sometimes walnuts. These were everywhere. EVERYWHERE. Every second stall at the Christmas market was selling them, and you couldn't walk down a single street without coming across a shop dedicated to selling only them. Having tried one though I can understand why. They're so moreish and will appeal to anyone with a sweet tooth. 

Staromacek Restaurant 

Tucked down one of the backstreets of Old Town was this cosy, little place. A lot of the restaurants around Old Town are quite touristy and don't offer a lot of authentic Czech cuisine, and they're not cheap either. This place was packed and the menu was both authentic and reasonable. Kurtis ordered 'Meat on a Pin' not knowing what to expect. When the above showed up, we were the centre of the whole restaurants attention. That's one fancy kebab. 

I ordered pork stuffed with ham, leeks and Roquefort cheese. It was so scrummy but didn't really look that appealing to the eye, so I thought I'd leave the yummy ingredients to speak for themselves. 

Kolonial Restaurant

This was my favourite meal of the entire trip. After a good 5 hours of sight-seeing on the coldest day (-4) we were starving and desperate for somewhere warm and something to eat. We weren't picky. But we were so lucky to stumble across this gem in the Jewish Quarter. It's actually a cycling restaurant, as you can tell by the quirky decor. Random, yes, but it'll definitely stay with me. I loved how they'd used bike parts to make up dinner themed artwork on the walls, and the hanging bike chains above the bar. 

For starter we ordered the cheeseboard. We weren't aware however that as you progressed up the board, the stronger the cheeses got. That 3rd cheese, OH MY LORD. I love my cheeses but that was stronger than I could handle. It tasted amazing, but was definitely best in moderation. It also made me fingers smell like feet. I loved their take on a classic cheese on toast, with spring onions and sweet chilli, and the jar contained Camembert with garlic. 

For main, I had the classic, traditional goulash in a bread bowl, and Kurtis had Babicino "Hoopla Popl"which was cubes of roasted potato dumplings with homemade boned duck, smoked pork flank and white cabbage. 

As hungry as I was, there's no way I could have finished mine, even though it was the tastiest thing I had out there. Just like the British beef stew really, but containing caraway seeds and both sweet and smoked paprika, giving it a warm, spiced taste.  

I only had a spoonful of Kurtis' but the rabbit (which I'd never had before) was so good, and the dumblings were just like gnocci, but with a crispy outside.  

This is definitely one meal I won't ever forget. 

Christmas Market and Cafes

The best thing about the Christmas markets for me is the variety of food and sweet treats on offer. From roasted nuts and marzipan in every flavour you can imagine to hog roasts and giant rounds of cheese, it's no place for anyone on a diet. The spectacle itself is a feast for the eyes. 

As you'll know I love baking, and I'm so interested in cakes from different countries. I can't quite remember the name of the swirly pastry packed full of cream, but it was hella tasty. 

The last cake is honey cake (Medovnik) , and you can buy it from any cafe in Prague. It's butter, nut and honey heaven. 

As you can see, we well and truly embraced the food of  Prague, and I can't wait to go back and try even more food! 


Thursday, 2 October 2014

Great Blogger Bake Off: Week 9 - Mango and Lemon Entremet

Jesus Christ this week was hard! I kinda brought it on myself though, choosing to do an entremet. It was a massive mountain to climb trying to pull this off, and I can't describe how ecstatic I was getting it out of the tin yesterday to find that it had set, because it so easily could have gone the other way. I was even more surprised to see that it was the cake of choice for the Showstopper Challenge on the Bake Off yesterday, which gave me a huge sense of achievement. 

I want to apologise for not being as vigilant in photographing the baking process this week. I would get so caught up in the complication of this behemoth of a cake, that i'd do two steps of the recipe without even realizing, or having taken a photo, but hopefully you get the gist if you want to give it a go yourself.

I don't want to take all the credit for this recipe. I need to thank Pastry Workshop Blog for the flavour inspiration and method as well. I found with this cake, no matter what recipe you follow, you're going to have to make your own changes. When working with temperamental consistencies such as mousse, ganache and glaze, you'll end up doing whatever you can to make it set, regardless of what the recipe says. 

Pastry Workshop got the flavour combination on point! The sharp lemon mousse combats the sweetness of the mango mousse and white chocolate glaze, and you get a really subtle hint of lime from the ganache. You can't quite put your finger on it at first, but you know it's there. 

I am dead chuffed with this, and urge any of you to give it a go. It's time consuming and you'll pull out most of your hair making it, but the result is well worth it! 


Poppy Seed Sponge
6 egg whites
A pinch of salt
150g sugar
100g poppy seeds
50g shredded coconut 
3 tbsp plain flour
1 tsp baking powder 
1 tsp vanilla extract

Lemon Curd
5 egg yolks
215g sugar
100g butter
15g lemon zest
90ml lemon juice

Mango Mousse
350g mango puree
100g sugar
45ml water
2 egg whites
6g gelatine (plus 30 ml cold water) 
250ml double cream, whipped

Lime Infused White Chocolate Ganache 
150g white chocolate, chopped
100ml double cream
20g butter
zest from 1 lime

Lemon Mousse
80ml lemon juice
Zest from 1 lemon 
Half of your lemon curd
7g gelatine (plus35ml cold water)
2 egg whites
100g sugar
45ml water
280ml double cream, whipped

White Chocolate Glaze 
300g white chocolate, chopped
300ml double cream
3g gelatine (plus 15ml cold water) 


1. Preheat the oven to 170C 

2. Whip the egg whites with a pinch of salt until they're stiff. Gradually stir in the sugar, mixing until the whites are nice and shiny. 

3. Stir in the vanilla extract

4. In a separate bowl, mix the poppy seeds, coconut, flour and baking powder together, and then fold this into the egg whites. 

5.Spoon the batter into a round cake tin (I used 23cm to start with, but after baking it shrunk from the sides, so to make the stacking compact, I moved it over to a smaller one). Place into the oven for 30-40 minutes or until lightly risen and golden brown. 

6. When the cake's done, let it cool down in the pan then remove and cut the cake in half lengthways to get two equal sheets of cake. 

7. Place one sheet of cake back in the cake ring you're going to use for the stacking process, and put the other half to one side. 

8. For the curd, combine the egg yolks, sugar, butter, lemon juice and lemon zest in a bowl. Place the bowl over a pan of hot water and cook the mixture, stirring constantly, until melted, thick and creamy. It might take around 20 minutes so be patient. 

9. When the curd is done, strain it through a sieve and then split the curd into two equal portions. You will use half in the lemon mousse, and the other half for decoration. 

10. Place aside to cool down completely. 

11. Combine the gelatin for the mango mousse and the assigned amount of water in a small bowl and let it bloom for ten minutes. 

12. Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Cook the syrup until it begin to thicken - about 5 minutes. 

13. Whilst the syrup cooks, whip the egg whites until stiff.  Begin pouring the hot sugar syrup into the egg whites, mixing all the time (preferable with an electric whisk). Mix until glossy. 

14. Reheat the gelatin for a few seconds and stir it into the mango puree then combine the puree with the egg whites. 

15. Whip the double cream then fold it into the egg whites. Then pour the mousse into the cake ring on top of the first layer of poppy seed sponge. 

16. Place back into the fridge and allow for the mousse to set. I allowed 2 hours. 

17. For the lime infused white chocolate ganache, bring the heavy cream to the boil. 

18. Remove from the heat and stir in the lime zest. Let the mixture infuse until it's completely chilled.

19. Strain through a sieve and then bring back to boiling point. 

20. Remove from the heat and stir in the white chocolate. 

21. Mix until melted and smooth and then stir in the butter.

22. When the ganache is at room temperature, pour it over the mango mousse and put straight back into the fridge to set. 

23. When the ganache is set, place the second layer of poppy seed sponge on top and put the cake back into the fridge. 

24. For the lemon mousse, mix the gelatin and water in a small bowl and allow to bloom for ten minutes. 

25. Combine the lemon juice and zest in a small saucepan and bring to boiling point. Remove from the heat and let the mixture cool, then strain through a sieve. 

26. Warm up the lemon curd and add to the juice and zest. Set aside. 

27. Mix the sugar and water in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Cook the syrup for 5 minutes until thickened. 

28. Whip the egg whites until stiff and then gradually add the hot sugar syrup, mixing well with an electric whisk until stiff and shiny. 

29. Stir in the melted gelatin then add the lemon curd. 

30. Whip the double cream. 

31. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature then fold in the whipped cream. 

32. Pour the mousse on top of the ganache and put back into the fridge. From this point, it's up to you how long you leave it in the fridge for. 2 hours will be enough for the mousse to have set, but I wanted to leave it in for as long as possible before adding the glaze, so I left it overnight. If it's your first time making this, overnight is best, just to make sure. 

33. For the glaze, combine the gelatin and water and let it bloom for ten minutes. 

34. Pour the cream into the saucepan and bring it to boiling point. 

35. Remove from heat and stir in the chocolate until melted and smooth. 

36. Add the gelatin and mix well. 

37. Allow the glaze to come to room temperature then pour over the cake. 


Wednesday, 3 September 2014

The Great Blogger Bake Off: Week 5 - Pecan Pie

If you don't like pies, I don't want to be your friend. 

I would rather have a wedding pie than a wedding cake, so I was so excited to get pie making. 

Now pecan pie is actually a large part of my childhood. Mum used to buy a pecan danish from the supermarket and it was my favourite dessert, but then they stopped making them and I haven't had one since, so anything remotely close to it has nostalgia in every mouthful. 

It's a classic, and is surprising easy to make (I'm pretty rubbish at dough) and the spelt flour gives the base a light, digestivy taste. 

This pecan pie is soooo bad for you, but is brilliant for a special occasion where you can justify having a naughty treat. 

225g spelt flour
75g golden caster sugar
125g unsalted butter chilled and diced
1 medium egg separated
200g pecan nutsw
juice and finely grated zest of 1 lemon
300g golden syrup
3 medium eggs plus 2 egg yolks
300ml double cream
pinch of sea salt
icing sugar for dusting (optional) 

1) Place the flour, sugar and butter in the bowl of a food processor and give it a quick burst at high speed to reduce it to a crumb-like consistency. 

2) Add the egg yolk and then, with the motor running, trickle in just enough milk for the dough to cling together in lumps (a teaspoon or two should do it). Bring the dough together into a ball using your hands, then pat into a flattened patty. Wrap in cling film and chill for at least 1 hour or overnight. 

3) Have ready a loose-bottom tart tin about 23cm x 5cm (9in x 2in ). Preheat the oven to 200c/180c fan/ gas 6. 

4) Lightly dust a work surface with spelt flour, knead the pastry until it is pliable, then roll it out thinly. Line the base and sides of the tin by slipping the base under the rolled pastry and then into the tin, gently pressing it in. 

5) Trim the edges and reserve trimmings. Line the case with foil and baking beans, securing the sides to the tin. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the foil and beans, brush the case with the egg white, patch any cracks with the trimmings and cook for another 10 minutes until evenly golden. 

6)Turn the oven down to 170C/ 150C fan / gas 3. Thinly slice two thirds of the nuts. Whisk the lemon juice and zest into the syrup in a large bowl, then whisk in the eggs and the egg yolks and finally the cream. Fold in the sliced nuts and salt. Pour the mixture into the the precooked pie case and arrange the remaining pecans flat-side down over the surface. 

7) Bake for 60 minutes until lightly golden and puffy at the edges  (if you move the tart around it should wobble without showing any signs of being liquid). 

8) Remove from the oven and leave to cool for a couple of hours. 


Friday, 29 August 2014

Y SPA at Wyboston Lakes - A Girly Retreat

So yesterday I had my first ever spa experience. At 22, I'm probably a bit behind on experiencing the fluffy towels and complimentary slippers, but I was like a little kid at Christmas. 

A girl at work is leaving, and had organised a spa day for a few of us.We managed to get a group deal that meant if we went in pairs, we only had to pay £27 each instead of £44. This included afternoon tea as well as free reign of the spa (treatments were extra). 

Having never gone to a spa before, I wasn't sure whether this was a bargain or a rip off, and I guess all spas differ as to what deals they offer, but this was most definitely a bargain. 

We started the day off with our afternoon tea. Now afternoon tea has become a major food trend recently, so you don't have to venture to some pretentious tea rooms in London for the 'ladies that lunch' experience. But there's nothing worse than a bad afternoon tea, so I was intrigued as to how nice this one was going to be. I was actually really surprised. Sandwiches are sandwiches at the end of the day, and if you get them wrong you're a bit of a numpty. It's the cakes that are the real test. This afternoon tea came with the classic scones, jam and cream, which were gooey and really filling, Victoria Sponge squares and a strawberry mousse cheesecake which was so yummy. It all looked really pretty and was so filling that I felt I was going to sink when I got in the pool. One of the girls that was with us was gluten and soya intolerant, and the restaurant staff really went out of their way to accommodate her, with her own sandwich selection and some gorgeous looking desserts in cute jars. 

After our tea, we heaved our full tummies over to the changing rooms to adorn ourselves head to toe in fluffiness. The changing rooms themselves were of a boutique design, with individual vanity booths which included a hairdryers that were free to use. 

The spa area itself was quite small, with a salty steam room, a soft steam room, a sauna, and showers dotted around for cooling down. I'm such a wimp when it comes to heat that I could only manage 5 minutes max in each room. The pool area was my favourite though. Again it wasn't very big, but we were lucky that it wasn't very busy either. It was stationed outside and consisted of a hydrotherapy pool, a jacuzzi, a chilled decking area with cozy sofas and a fireplace, and a 'Some Like It Hot' steam room that reaches 85 degrees (I stayed well away from this). The pool was lovely and warm so it didn't matter if it got a bit overcast. Once we were as wrinkled as prunes we had a cheeky glass of wine each by the fire and a lovely catch up. 

I'd say this is a perfect day out for a group of girls, or even couples, and if you're one of those people who can spend a good few hours doing nothing, you'll definitely get your money's worth. Due to size however I can imagine during weekends it will be a lot busier, and it will be harder for you to make the most of it, so if you can weekdays are best. 

Everyone needs a bit of time to relax, and when there's something like this on your doorstep, I say milk it for all its worth! 


Wednesday, 27 August 2014

The Great Blogger Bake Off: Week 4 - Tiramisu Trifle

DESSERT TIME. Before this week, I'd been eating pretty healthy but when I realised I had to make a dessert I looked through all my recipe books for inspiration and thought stuff it, this week I'm going all out. So I have decided to combine two of my favourite desserts: Tiramisu and the classic trifle. 

I'm a dairy addict, particularly when it comes to cream. The creamier the better (getting on the Bake Off innuendo band wagon). I don't think you can get more decadent than this dessert. It contains everything from coffee and chocolate to liqueur and lashings of mascarpone and custard. The brilliance of this recipe is that instead of sticking to traditional trifle layering, the custard is combined with mascarpone to make more of a Zabaione. 

175g sponge fingers
4 1/2 tbsp coffee 
12 tbsp boiling water
6 tbsp Amaretto liqueur
3 medium eggs seperated
50g golden caster sugar
500g mascarpone
1 tsp almond extract
50g dark chocolate
4 tbsp toasted slivered almonds
A handful of cob nuts (if you can get them) 

1) Select a suitable trifle bowl or serving dish. 
3)Take a handful of sponge fingers and chop them in half. This allows for an easier fit in the bowl. Line the bottom half of the bowl. This is just to figure out how many fingers you need for the first layer. 
2) In a tupperware container, pour 4 tbsp of boiling water and add 1 1/2 tbsp of coffee and 2 tbsp Amaretto liqueur. 
3) Add the halved sponge fingers to the coffee and liqueur mixture. Make sure both sides are coated, then re-line the bottom of your bowl. 
4) In a mixing bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar until combined, then beat in the mascarpone and almond extract until completely smooth. 
5) Whip the egg whites until stiff using an electric whisk, and fold into the mascarpone mixture in two goes. The texture of the mix should be a thick mousse texture. 
6) Smooth half of this mixture over the coffee soaked sponges. 
7) Repeat step 2, using the same measurements, but this time place the sponges on top of the mascarpone mixture. 
8) Grate 33g of the dark chocolate on top of the 2nd layer of sponges. 
9) Pour the second half of the mascarpone mixture on top of the chocolate, and smooth with a spatula. 10)Leave in the fridge for two hours or overnight to set. 


Wednesday, 6 August 2014

The Great Blogger Bake Off: Week 1 - Cakes

Evening all. 

This post is very different to what I usually write about, but this is something I couldn't resist doing. 
Now if you're an avid baker you're probably more than aware that the Great British Bake Off starts tonight. 
So in homage to this mouth-wateringly addictive show, the lovely Lawra over at I Love Crafty has organised a Great Blogger Bake Off, where once a week, alongside the show, bloggers bake something inline with the theme of that week's show. 

Now I love any excuse to bake, however I only found out about the whole thing this morning. I didn't want to miss out on the first post though. Now in true Come Dine With Me style, I'm going to come clean and say I didn't bake this today. However, this was a very recent bake of mine that was dedicated to the using up of my homegrown harvest of redcurrents, tayberries and blackcurrents. 

I'd never worked with these berries before and had no idea what to do with them, but was determined to make a cake. After a bit of research, I found this Good Food recipe. Alas, still no use of my berries, so I had to adapt it a little. 

First off, I didn't have a loaf tin so used a normal, round spring-form tin. Apart from that the majority of the recipe is pretty much the same. I had to add a bit more sugar than the recipe states when reducing the berries with the lemon juice, simply because my selection of berries were a lot more sour tasting compared to those in the recipe.  

I can only apologise for this very lackluster first post to what I would love to have been an icing fueled, bowl licking extravaganza. 

I do solemnly swear that my next post will contain more dedication. 

Enjoy the first show of this Great British Bake Off season!!

(Would still recommend this cake though, a great use of a homegrown harvest, and can really be applied to any berries you have lying around.)