Monday, 13 April 2015

#237. Recipe: Lorraine Pascal's yummy chocolate mousse pots

I've got quite a sweet tooth but don't often have desert in all honesty and recently I've been finding if we are out for dinner, I would much rather have a starter than something sweet to finish the meal off. But, I LOVE making desert when we have pals coming round for their tea as it means I get to experiment and try new recipes. Anyone who knows me will be able to tell you of my love for Lorraine Pascal. I think she is just amazing, is so gorgeous and all her food is incredible. We have all her books in the house and I enjoy just flicking through them, choosing imaginary meals, my mouth watering over all the pictures.

I've made this little chocolate mousse pot a couple of times now and it is always such a crown pleaser, but is so easy to make and you can be done in 20 minutes. It really is the perfect desert for having pals over as you can make it in advance and keep it in the fridge, ready to bring out when it is time. It's not too heavy either but gives a good chocolate fix. The one thing to note though is that it uses raw eggs, so not really suitable for wee ones or pregnant ladies.

This recipe makes enough for 6 so to make these delicious little pots you will need:
  • 3 fresh eggs
  • Dark chocolate (150g)
  • Milk chocolate (50g)
  • Double cream (200ml)
  • Punnet of raspberries
  • Caster sugar - 2tbsps
  • 6 ramekins (all of ours are leftover from GU puddings! haha)

First of all, pour the cream into a pot and leave to warm up over a medium heat. Then break the chocolate into small chunks and once the cream starts steaming, remove the pot from the heat and add the chocolate. Now this is where it gets really difficult as you don't need to do anything else with it for now, no stirring, no mixing...just let it do it's thing. ie. No touching!

Next up, break your eggs and separate the whites from the yolk. Pop the whites in a large bowl and keep the yolks to the side as you will need them later. Then using an electric whisk on high power start to mix the egg whites until the whites become a bit thicker to medium peak. You aren't looking for the whites peak to stand on end, like you would with meringue, rather they should flop over slightly to look like a sortof pixies hat. 

Once you have reached that consistency add a tablespoon of caster sugar and whisk some more until all the sugar has been fully mixed in and the whites are shiny. Then add another tablespoon of sugar and keep whisking, again until all the sugar is dissolved and the whites are glossy and thick.

By this point, the chocolate will all have fully melted, even if it doesn't look like it. Give the chocolate and cream mixture a good stir to mix everything together. Next add the egg yolks to the pot and mix in.

The next step is to take a spoonful of the chocolate mixture and add it to the egg whites. Mix well as the heat from this mixture will make the egg whites easier to work with. Then gradually fold the chocolate mixture into the eggs whites, trying not to overmix to keep as much air in it as possible so you get the lightness and fluffiness of the mousse. You should still see little air bubbles on top, like the picture above once you are done.

Now that your mousse is all done, spoon the finished mixture equally into your ramekins and garnish with a few raspberries. 

Your mousse will need a little time so set, so cover each ramekin in cling film and pop it in the fridge to cool. As I mentioned above you can make these ahead of time, so earlier in the day or even the day before for cool as a cucumber dinner party. Just remember to take the puddings out 10-15 minutes before you would like to serve them.

I like to serve the puddings on a small side plate with raspberries at the side, dusted over with icing sugar. Just delicious! If you aren't a fan of raspberries, the puddings would also go down well with other soft fruit, like strawberries or blueberries.

I hope you enjoy making and eating these puddings as much as I do. They really are so simple to make, but so tasty. Thanks to the wonderful Lorraine Pascal for the recipe.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

#236. Review: The History Boys

Now, I had heard of Alan Bennett's The History Boys before but had never been to see it, read the play or watched the movie. I had heard really good things though about how it was a classic piece of British drama and a must see, so Robin and I were looking forward to a another wee night at the theatre. 

The History Boys tells the story of a group of talented and promising pupils at school who are being coached for the entry exams at Oxford and Cambridge. They are assisted by their inspiring English teacher, Hector and Irwin, who has been employed especially to help them pass. The play follows the boys relationships with each other, their teachers and the themes of education and learning, in an enjoyable way. This production was created by Sell a Door theatre company.

I must admit that I enjoyed Act 2 a lot more than Act 1. I found bits of the play confusing and hard to follow. The musical interludes (although I enjoyed them) and the quoting of long bits of literature interrupted the flow of the play and the action, although I understood their purpose to show the wide education of the boys and how they are talented enough for Oxford or Cambridge. I couldn't really lose myself in the story and found things quite slow paced. I struggled to grasp the meaning of the bits of literature and appreciate their context at each specific point in the play and felt quite silly when the whole cast were speaking French and acting out a scene in one class. Now I don't speak French apart from the basics and although the cast were quite physical in their comedy, I still felt quite remote as everyone around us seemed to be laughing and I just didn't understand. I've never had that from a theatre experience before and that decreased my enjoyment of the play quite a bit, which was a shame.

Overall though, I found the play witty and entertaining. I thought the cast were good, funny and adept at capturing the teenage angst of being in school, love, heartbreak and every other emotion in between. Steven Roberts as Posner and Kedar Williams-Stirling as Dakin particularly stood out to me. The confidence of the pupils was something that I found quite hard to believe though and as I am unfamiliar with the play I'm unsure if that was in the writing or the direction. I don't know any 17 year olds with that much confidence, all so loud, chatty and cheeky in lessons or who are so outwardly comfortable with their sexuality and of others at such a young age. It may be to show that they are a really interesting and unusual group of young people, very in touch with their emotional intelligence as a result of Hector's teaching, but surely they couldn't all have been like that to such an extent?

I thought the teachers were really good, particularly Richard Hope as Hector and Mark Field as Irwin. I understood how inspiring a teacher Hector was and his unusual ways of teaching, allowing the pupils to learn by default rather than by traditional lessons. Irwin was the complete polar opposite and this made for some nice contrasts, in both age and teaching method. But both are flawed; Irwin teaches the pupils to question and dissect knowledge, to flip things on their head but to such an extent that it can border on the right side of wrong. Hector, although a brilliant teacher gives his pupils seedy bike rides home. Both actors portrayed these roles well.

I did think that the pupils relationship with Hector was quite unusual and disturbing, which is testamount to the acting, writing and direction, it made me uncomfortable. The boys all like him as a teacher and are all very protective of him, but yet he isn't all that he seems and was a complete perv. When the other teachers find out, they all laugh and shrug it off, Hector doesn't end up losing his job but is encouraged to retire instead and there are no repercussions for the abuse of trust. It just shows how relaxed this sort of thing was previously and how issues could just be brushed under the carpet and forgotten about. It's all quite scary and so relevant given the findings of Operation Yewtree. I know it was a different time, but that is still no excuse and for me, I just didn't understand why the boys were protecting him. 

Finally, I liked the set, a basic school English classroom complete with desks, shelves of books and a piano for the musical elements of the show. There was also a motorbike hanging above with marquee lights that lit up at various stages and walls plastered with book covers. It was perfect for telling the story and complimented the action well.

Overall I enjoyed the production of The History Boys but I wouldn't say it's my favourite play. I thought it was interesting and at times funny, but found the musical interludes and quoting of long pieces of literature and poems interrupted the flow of the action. There were some great performances though and I would be quite interested to see the film now.

Have you seen The History Boys before? Did you enjoy it? Oh and if I'm missing something behind the play, please let me know! Everyday's a learning day - wee geek me!

**Disclaimer - I was invited to the show in return for a review. Whilst the tickets were complimentary, I was under no obligation to write a positive review and the post above reflects my true and honest opinion of my experiences.

Friday, 10 April 2015

#235. Friday Fitness - An ode to avocado

I bloody love avocado, I really do. It's just so deliciously creamy and uber yum on it's own and makes any salad instantly tastier, not to mention the joy that is guacamole. It's also really good for you and one of those healthy fats that you often read about and is packed full with vitamins and essential fatty acids. Happy times all around!  

My favourite way to have avocado is mashed, with a sprinkle of chili flakes on a slice of wholemeal toast, topped with a poached egg. Bliss on a plate, right there. I've also made a Tone it Up guacamole style dip before which went down a right storm with pals. But in all honesty, I will pair avocado with anything I am cooking, be that a stirfry or a chili bowl. 

I'm always on the lookout now for healthy recipes that I can use an avocado with, so here are some of the recipes I've found that I'm am keen to try soon.

I can't wait to get cooking and try some of these recipes soon. It's not long to go until our wedding now (3 weeks tomorrow!) so keen to stay well and truly on the healthy eating and exercise bandwagon! 

Do you like avocado as much as I do? 

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

#234. Review: Steak on Stones, Edinburgh

A few weeks ago, I had a cheat day from Project BB and went with Robin to new Edinburgh restaurant, Steak on Stones. The little sister of Steak, Steak on Stones is in the same building on Piccardy Place across from the Playhouse Theatre.

We were greeted at the door and taken into the bar area, whilst the bartender made us drinks. The bar is lovely and cozy and we were encouraged to wait there for as long as we fancied, heating up by the roaring fire (it was a completely minging night, boo!). We stood chatting to the bartender, Simone, for ages and he spoke through the cocktail list with us and generally about the business. It was his first day working at Steak on Stones and already he was so passionate about the restaurant. The bar is quite little but that means you really do get the personal touch and a chance to really chat to the staff. I could have stayed in the bar all night, drinking lovely drinks beside the fire. Everything was just so relaxed.

The decoration of the restaurant and bar is modern and really nice. There are fireplaces in each room, with wooden floors and red brick walls with interesting paintings and prints hanging and shelves with empty cans. Once we were ready to go for dinner (which wasn't long as both of us were quite hungry), we were seated next to the fire, yeay and the waitress chatted us through the menu. The menu is small but everything sounds so delicious. If you do want the restaurants namesake then you choose multiples of thinly sliced 200g of Orkney rump steak  and can compliment that with a selection of five side dishes and sauces. If you aren't in the mood for steak, there is also a small selection of alternative main meals such as fish and chips or a crowd pleaser, macaroni and cheese. The special thing about Steak on Stones is that you cook your own meat on a hot lava stone that is brought to your table, so you can cook it as raw or as rare as you fancy. It is such a lovely idea and a very social way to eat.

Robin and I were really excited to try cooking on the lava stone. After a sprinkling of salt, we were good to go and laid the meat on, happily watching it cook while dishing up our sides. Each of the sides sounded delicious but in the end we went for sweet potato mash, mixed chili greens and a side salad, all of which came in a small clay bowl. The sweet potato mash was fluffy and creamy and had some sort of caramalised nuts on top, walnuts I think which worked so well together. The mixed greens were cabbage, kale and other leafy greens which were tasty with the hint of chilli. For sauce, Robin and I went for the sambal (a north indian spice mix with chilli) and the jerk mayonnaise, both of which were delicious and complimented the steak and our sides really well. The sauces were in a wee clay pot which was good as it meant we didn't overindulge ourselves as I have a tendency to do that and make myself sick from sauce! It was just the right amount.

It was a lot of fun working our steak on the stone and trying to get it perfect. The stone obviously cools down as you go, but we didn't need a replacement. The steak was lovely and tender and the 200g was the right amount for us both. This is the minimum amount you can order and it was enough for us - Robin had quite a bit of mine as well. I don't think I could have eaten any more, as delicious as it was! You can imagine how much would be on the table when there are larger parties eating together.

Steak on Stones also has a small desert menu consisting of doughnuts. That's right, doughnuts and not your usual hole in the middle covered in sugar kind, no no. The whole, deep filled kind - noms! There was a choice of raspberry, fudge, apple or custard, which was a really difficult choice. We ended up going with the fudge to share and it came warm and delicious on a plate sprinkled with icing sugar. The pasty was lovely and buttery and the fudge filling was more chocolatey than we were expecting, but sweet and delicious and spilled out when we split the donut. Even with a half of it only, I was in a slight sugar coma afterwards, so let that be a word of warning to all you sugar fiends. It was the perfect way to round off our meal.

Overall, Robin and I had a great time at Steak on Stones and will be back, hopefully soon. The food was just delicious and the staff were so friendly and attentive. It was such a novelty cooking food on the lava stone and both of us enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere of the restaurant. You can find out more about Steak on Stones here, and for all you Edinburgh based pals, book a table soon - you won't regret it!

**Disclaimer - I was invited to Steak and Stones in return for a review. Whilst our meal was complimentary, I was under no obligation to write a positive review and the post above reflects my true and honest opinion of my experience.