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Thursday, 31 January 2013

Nespresso Coffee Machine

I received a Nepresso Pixie coffee machine for christmas and it's revolutionised my home coffee experience! I haven't bought a coffee in a cafe or a restaurant since christmas. It's so unbelievably simple. I chose the pixie because it has two straightforward buttons on the top which dictate the volume of water added to each coffee. I prefer 'push' buttons rather than 'touch' ones as I feel that it less likely that a fault will devleop. The machine itself is so simple to use and, helpfully, incredibly easy to clean.

I bought a separate milk frother (it keeps the machine simpler that way). Having done a great deal of research on the topic, I decided upon a manual frother which is heated on the hob. Both cheaper and easier to clean, it makes milk froth of almost marshmellow thickness. I can't recommend this model enough - it's a Judge milk frother and cost £15.95 on Amazon.

If you don't want to buy a separate milk frother, but own a filter coffee jug, you can simply add hot milk to the jug and froth it manually. I looked at other more original kinds of coffee machine. But, knowing how lazy I am, I realised that I couldn't buy one as the novelty would wear off after a couple of months and the machine would just be sat on the side of the kitchen, unused and gathering dust.

I've hughely enjoyed trying out all the coffees supplied as samples with the Nespresso machine. I think the five I tried on the first day was a little excessive though - i'm not sure my heart agreed too well with all that caffeine! My favourite so far are ristretto (for a strong, smooth coffee), roma (slightly less strong than ristretto) and decaffienato intenso for that coffee hit late in the evening.

Yes, at 30p a coffee this isn't particualrly cheap. However, in my opionion it is well worth it and also relatively economical. Firstly, I don't drink a lot of coffee (a maximum of two cups a day) so 60p a day on coffee seems reasonable. Secondly, I no longer buy coffee out. Most coffees are at least £3 so for me my Nespresso actually saves me money. I also really enjoy visiting the nespresso shop in Picadilly and sampling all the varieties of coffee. For me it's all part of the owning a Nespresso machine experience.

PS the milk frother makes incredible hot chocolate. My favourite hot chocolate powder is the straightforward Cadbury's one which you add hot milk to.

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Recipe of the week 30th Jan - Cinnamon buns

Ever since the success of my spiced apple buns I have been dying to make my current favourite bake, cinnamon buns.

I used the same recipe as written below in the spiced apple buns recipe but instead of using the filling mentioned below, I mixed together 50g softened butter, 50g light brown sugar and 1 heaped tablespoon of ground cinnamon. I then spread this mixture evenly over the dough before it was baked and continued with the original recipe.

No cinnamon bun is complete with a cream cheese topping. Simply add 50g softened butter, 50g cream cheese, one tablespoon of lemon juice and 100g of icing sugar to a bowl. Stir to combine and pour generously over the buns.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Recipe of the week 29th Jan - Spiced Apple Buns

Ever since I splashed out on a Magimix at christmas, I have been busy using every attachment it comes with. I still can't wait for the day I buy at KitchenAid mixer (space and money, alas!) but the dough attachment on my Magimix worked perfectly well for these buns. I have tried hand kneading many times before, but find my strength and kneading technique severely lacking! This recipe came from a Waitrose magazine and it really is divine. I especially like the inclusion of golden marzipan which melts and keeps the finished dough wonderfully moist.

Makes 10 buns

350g strong bread flour
7g instant dried yeast
40g golden caster sugar
1 large egg
100g butter
200g golden marzipan (refrigerate it first to ensure it grates well)
2 eating apples, peeled and chopped
75g raisins
1 tsp ground mixed spice
Splash of milk

Greased and lined 23cm cake tin.

1. Place the flour, yeast and sugar in a bowl. Make a well in the centre and add the egg.
2. Melt the butter and add to a jug, bring the volume up to 175ml using warm water.
3. Stir to bring the dough together.
4. Knead the dough by hand for 10 minutes or using the dough hook on your mixer.
5. Place the kneaded dough into a bowl, cover with oiled cling film (or an oiled hotel shower cap) and leave to rise in a warm place for two hours or until the dough has doubled in size.
6. Punch the dough a couple of times to deflate and then tip onto a floured surface.
7. Roll the dough into a 50x15 cm rectangle.
8. Scatter the marzipan, apples, raisins and mixed spice.
9. Roll the dough up into a long sausage and slice into 10 even sized pieces (a piece of dental floss apparently works well for slicing perfectly).
10. Place the pieces, cut sides up, into the tin and cover and leave to rise again for an hour.
11. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees celsius.
12. Brush the buns with milk and bake for 30 minutes until a deep golden brown colour. Cover towards the end of the baking time if the buns are browning too quickly.

image: buns pre-bake

Monday, 28 January 2013

Restaurant Review - Cucina Asellina

Excellent food - all three courses were sublime which is incredible as usually I find one course lets down the meal somewhat. The sharing meat and cheese platter was exceptional quality and had the additional surprise of truffle honey. This was so delicious that I will now try to find a supplier where I can purchase a bottle. We followed it with the wild boar pappardelle. The pappardelle was perfectly al dente - always tricky with fresh pasta. The wild boar sauce was divine - lovely slowly cooked chunks of meat in a rich red wine sauce which was not overpowering. Finally we shared a tiramisu - one of the best i've ever tried. A mention should also be made about the bread. It was plentiful and varied and served with some great tasting grassy olive oil. Unfortunately the meal was let down predominantly by the appalling music - far too loud and more suitable for a noisy, if dated, bar and therefore completely unacceptable in the plush restaurant surroundings. Secondly, the staff, although lovely were far too attentive. At one point we had three waiters at our table and they disturbed us three in times in the space of five minutes.