Panasonic Ideas Kitchen with Rachel Allen

We’re now 4 months into our house build and while it’s had its ups and downs (more on that later) we’re at the stage where we need to start seriously thinking about what to do with the kitchen. We spend a lot of time in there as we both cook, and with the new layout we suspect that family life is probably going to revolve around that room. Cooking, eating, covering the table in glitter, glue and paper. And that’s just me!

Thanks to Panasonic I’ve had an easy decision about what microwave will be replacing our battered old one. It was already high on the shopping list as we’ll need it when the new addition to the family arrives (in November) for sterilising bottles and the like. I think most people use a microwave for a fairly limited range of functions, which is something I was guilty of (reheating food, melting chocolate, sterilising). But there are microwaves, and then there are certain slimline combi oven microwaves…

Panasonic microwaveWe had a brilliantly fun evening with Rachel Allen at Cactus Studios for a Panasonic Ideas Kitchen cookery class, and I was paired with the lovely Becky from Munchies and Munchkins.

We had a full menu to cook between all of the assembled bloggers (and well done to Becky for remembering we needed to make salsa verde, when we got caught up in watching what everyone else was prepping) and we were assigned the Lemon Drizzle Cake, to be made in the Panasonic SD-ZB2512 Breadmaker, and the beef.

Yes, that’s right. Roast Fillet of Beef with Salsa Verde. Cooked in a microwave. As it turned out, cooked to perfection, beautifully pink throughout, and with a caramelised crustyness and crisped fat outside. I really wouldn’t have thought it possible.

IMG_0600Just out of the (combi) ovenIMG_0602Slicing and serving up

Beef ready to be devoured

The full menu, created by the lovely Rachel, showcased the combi oven and breadmaker.

Baked Potatoes with Sour Cream, Chives and Smoked Salmon

Baked Potatoes with Cheese and Bacon

Roast Fillet of Beef with Salsa Verde

Assorted Bruschetta

Herb and Onion Focaccia

Dulce De Leche Brownies

Lemon Drizzle Cake

I know I’ll get schtick for saying this, being Irish, but the baked potatoes were one my highlights of the evening! Crisp outside and fluffy inside, and cooked in a fraction of the time that a conventional oven would take. I proved my Irishness again by wanting to know, specifically, what kind of potatoes they used… Rachel understood the need.

Another outstanding moment was the unveiling of Rachel’s Dulce De Leche Brownies. Attractively marbled and with the perfect amount of ‘squidge and wobble’ which I think is a technical term, no?


IMG_0598Cleaning up

IMG_0610Won’t last long

I’ve been trying to avoid relying on wheat recently (along with a few other dietary changes while pregnant, because reasons) but I was intrigued to hear that one of the breadmaker’s new functions is Sourdough, including making a starter! Makes me want to find space in the new kitchen for another appliance.

You can read about what the others cooked on Lavender and LovageMaison Cupcake and Mummy is a Gadget Geek.

Great fun evening, I’m off now to tweak the kitchen plans and figure out where the microwave is going to go!

Thanks Panasonic and Rachel for a fun and informative evening. I will be receiving a Panasonic combi microwave oven for review. All opinions my own. 

Cold Brew Coffee

God, I bloody love this stuff.

Because I love coffee. And I am fussy about coffee. But I don’t always have time to be fussy about coffee. 

Even making an Aeropress can sometimes take too long if the toddler is rampaging. Also I quite like the small ceremony of the Aeropress routine, and to take my time with it.

I also, slightly freakishly, like coffee when it’s gone cold. Again, useful when there’s a toddler around. But yeah, it’s sometimes more bitter than you’d ideally like (more on the science here).

So I decided to make some cold brew. Which sounds like beer to me but it’s actually an immersion method of slowly brewing coffee.


I coarsely ground some Union Hand Roasted* coffee, 110g of their Abahuzamugambi ba kawa microlot from Rwanda. Cold brew can give a smoother taste but only if you’re using decent beans in the first place, and these are amazing.  Candied orange and milk chocolate notes. 


Then I put the grounds in a huge Kilner with 2L of water, gave it a good stir – and you can see it start to bloom, above –  and left it 12 hours. To strain, I lined a sieve with two Chemex filters and poured the whole thing through, which took about 15 minutes.  Then bottled it and put it in the fridge: beautiful coffee concentrate. Depending on who you talk to, it keeps anywhere from two days to two weeks. But it’s not difficult to make so I think we’ll aim to prep a batch every three to four days. 


Since then – sun or not – I’ve been throwing a cup of it over ice and usually adding a little whole milk. It’s amazing coffee flavoured rocket fuel. Can’t imagine I’ll be brewing any other way until there’s frost on the trees!  




*Union are a client but I choose to buy from them anyway, and pay for my coffee myself

Fancy making real bread?

There’s a community project afoot near us, that is tantalisingly close to get funded… The Hornbeam Bakers Collective are a couple of hundred pounds away from their £3000 total. They’re building an oven in new premises near Blackhorse Road in east London and will be running a number of bread-making classes:

Hornbeam Bakers Collective

Basic loaf, Shaping breads, Speciality Breads, Sourdough Breads, Special Diets Baking (vegan/dairy free, wheat free, gluten Free, sugar free), Ancient and Alternative Grains, Pizza, Pastry, Cakes, Fermentation

There are lots of rewards for different levels of funding, or you could just sign up in advance for some of their classes – sounds like pretty good value at £30 a session.  The £3000 will pay for the oven and its installation, to allow then to get off the ground teaching more classes and baking more bread to sell.

Have you been to any of their classes? Would love to hear a first-hand account!

Stir Wars: May the winning bid be with you

With only a few days to go until Stir Wars: A Night at the Death Star Canteen, there are two rather brilliant announcements.

Firstly, a huge thank you to everyone at ASDA for joining the Rebel Alliance, aka our list of brilliant sponsors and donors. They jumped into the breach at this late stage to help us with our store-cupboard ingredients after we were let down, and we’re delighted that this means the maximum amount of cash from tickets sales can go directly to the Make A Wish Foundation.

Meemalee, Food Urchin, Arianna and myself are so grateful for the support from all our sponsors, and the fabulous forty of you lovely people who’ve already bought tickets.

Of course you all know that the event is entirely sold out… or is it? Yes, the rumours of this late-stage plot point are indeed true. We have four tickets available, and they will be auctioned as two pairs via Twitter and this blog tomorrow, Tuesday 1st May.

How will it work?

Blog Auction:

  • Leave a comment on this post which includes your bid amount, after 12:00 noon UK time on the 1st May, but before 2:00pm.
  • Bidding closes at 2:00pm (according to the WordPress clock) and late entries won’t count.
  • Bidding starts at £80.00 for a pair of tickets, i.e. face value as paid by the first forty people who booked.

Twitter Auction:

  • Tweet the following: “@Stirwars May the Force be with me, I bid £XXXXXX to win a pair of #Stirwars tickets!” and replace the XXXXXX with your bid amount during the eligible times as below
  • The Twitter auction runs from 5:30pm UK time to 8:30pm UK time (as per the time on our Twitter timeline).
  • Bidding starts at £80.00 for a pair of tickets, i.e. face value as paid by the first forty people who booked.
  • The highest unique bid over £80.00 in each auction wins a pair of tickets for Saturday’s events.
  • Only bids in excess of £80.00 for the pair of tickets will be eligible
  • You must leave your email address with your comment on blog entries (won’t be published) or for Twitter entries, be following @StirWars so we can get in touch.
  • Same criteria apply to these tickets as the first forty – we won’t be able to cater for any dietary requirements so these tickets would be best suited to curious omnivores. Or someone who would like to donate lots and lots of money to the Make A Wish Foundation and buys them in a gesture of sheer altruism.
  • You can bid more than once up to the closing time, and can participate in both auctions if you like.

Good luck to all, and Danny, Mimi and Arianna (along with our Front of House legends, Oisin and Phil from The Ship) look forward to welcoming you on Saturday. I can’t be there on the night, unfortunately – but I’ve been promised lots and lots of photos!

Back to life

Since last November when I found out I was pregnant, food blogging has been a bit of a challenge. I’ve got some classic pregnancy symptoms – in short, everything tastes “funny” and I go from craving things for about twenty-four hours to never wanting to see them again. Red meat and fish are off the menu, instead it’s as much fibre as possible. Thrilling. I’m occasionally making up for it with ice-cream, because I might as well bow to a few stereotypes.

While I may not be cooking as much, I am reading. Conran Octopus sent me a copy of Christine Manfield’s Tasting India which is utterly sumptuous. The recipes are nestled amongst National Geographic-worthy photographs from Anson Smart. These combined with the travellers’ tips at the back create a more fervent desire than ever to visit India. My odd tastes make me want to drink vats of her Ginger Lime Soda and for when I’m back to eating normally again, I’ve bookmarked about a dozen recipes. It’s a beautiful gift book, cook book and travel guide rolled into one.

Lucky me got to go to lovely Leluu’s Vietnamese Cookery Class just after Christmas. Although it wasn’t on the menu that day, one of my main staples now is her Hot and Sour soup. It’s perfectly balanced like all her recipes and it makes prawns palatable for me at the moment – so thankful for it!

Some of you may have twigged that there’s something afoot this May. I’m very happy to say that I’ll be cooking with the lovely Meemalee and Food Urchin for the shindig hereby known as Stir Wars taking place at Tsuru on the 5th of May.  Given that I’ll probably be lumbering about by then, I’ve asked the lovely Arianna Halshaw from Bittersweet Bakers to help me. We’ve been having hysterically good fun coming up with recipe ideas and I’m looking forward to making them, even though I won’t be there on the night to serve them – sob! You can buy tickets here and I recommend doing so early…