Friday, 29 April 2011

Royal Wedding Scone Baking Workshop - How Very English!

To coincide and celebrate the Royal Wedding of the decade (you know the one), Blackheath Cooks have been running free scone baking workshops.What a delight! I cannot recall the last time I made scones so I couldn't resist the opportunity to put my memory and cooking skills to the test.
The Finished Article: Tea and Scones, a perfect
Blackheath Cooks opened in December 2010 and doubles up as a shop selling the latest culinary gadgets at the front with a practical work kitchen at the back.
Blackheath Cooks Shop
Blackheath Cooks is owned and run by the lovely Joy Neal who is responsible for Munchkins Kids Cooking, set up to get kids excited about eating healthily.
Upon entering the shop, the warm waft of cupcakes and scones fills the air and immediately you know you are not going to leave disappointed.
Today's class has 8 participants which is just the right number; everyone has enough workspace.
Joy breaks the ice by getting us to introduce each other and to reveal how much we know about scones and making them.
We learn that in fact, the Women's Institute stipulate that there are only 3 constituent parts to scones:
1) Flour
2) Butter
3) Milk
We also discover that the Women's Institute are very strict about the cutters that are used for scones;
Fluted for those that contain fruit (i.e. raisins,sultanas) Round for those that are plain and Triangle for cheese scones.

However, we decide to live life in the fast lane and break a few rules.It is all about having fun after all!
Joy starts by giving us a very thorough demonstration on how to make the scone mix and although she has done this 3 times already in the past 24 hours, she maintains her enthusiasm and makes the task look very easy. She describes the texture and consistency to be achieved at different steps and carefully alludes to the quantities to be added during certain stages of the preparation.
When she puts her scones in the oven, it is over to her "trainees" to have a go!
Blackheath Cooks' mission is "Putting the fun back into cooking" and they very easily succeed. I really enjoyed the atmosphere in the class; it's informative, delivered in a friendly and professional style. There is no stuffiness that you may experience from some culinary courses and you feel that you are there to really enjoy and embrace the experience. This is of course helped by the good nature and humour of Joy and Alice. They are extremely approachable and always available to provide advice and tips during the workshop.

I made Fruit Scones and here is how:

225g of Self Raising Flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon butter
150ml cold milk
1 tablespoon caster sugar
100g raisins or sultanas or dried cranberries
1 egg to glaze the tops

Portion Control:
Serves 8

1) Measure the flour into a large mixing bowl
2) Add the butter and use your fingers to rub the butter into the flour until it disappears
3) Stir in the sugar and raisins or dried fruit
4) Pour the milk into the dry ingredients stirring with a fork until you have a soft dough. You may not need all the milk and you want to achieve a sticky consistency.
5) Very gently press the dough together, touching it as little as possible (if you touch it too much, the scones turn out hard and chewy)
6) Gently roll the dough out to the thickness of 2 fingers (about 5-8 cm) with a rolling pin dusted in flour (if necessary), and use a fluted cutter to carve out 8 scones.
Joy's scones served with jam and cream

7) Place the scones on a greased or lined baking tray, brush the tops with beaten egg (add some some salt to the beaten egg to ensure the wash does not become too stringy)
8) Bake in a pre-heated oven at 200 degrees Celcius for 10-12 minutes until they are golden brown and sound hollow on tapping the bottom.

While we wait for our scones to bake,we sample scones pre-baked by Joy. No doubt about it! Scones taste best when they are fresh out of the oven; crispy on the outside, soft and fluffy on the inside. Joy and her team generously serve us tea and coffee while we tuck into the scones and smother them in jam and cream.
Apparently there are even regional differences between how scones are taken in the UK; in Cornwall it is butter, then jam, then Cornish clotted cream,while in Devon it is strawberry jam and clotted cream only.
I'm quite content to have my fruit scones just with jam.
For presentation purposes, the Women's Institute recommend that flour should be dusted over the scones, but Joy uses icing sugar - I think this is a much better idea and gives a sweeter taste.
My fruit scones - fresh out of the oven

Once we have finished nibbling away at the tasty treats, it is time to check the oven and low and behold, mine are ready to be taken out. It just takes a few minutes for the scones to cool down and we can take them away. It is going to be such hard work eating all these scones, but I'm prepared to give it my best shot!

For the savoury option, you can make Cheese and Herb scones, omitting sugar and replacing the fruit with a generous handful of grated cheese (Mature Cheddar or Emmental). Add a couple of tablespoons of Basil or Chives for the herbs element.
Blackheath Cooks has a range of cookery courses from "Simple Suppers" to "Foodie Fridays" and it is a great way to refine or harness a skill, pick up handy tips and meet people who have similar foodie interests.

Who knows, I may even be tempted by the cupcake making class, (their most popular class), that way I could cross off number 6 on my Food and Drink Wish List.

I would like to extend my thanks to Joy and the team for providing such a fun class!

To find out more information or to book a class, visit

Aprons and refreshments are provided and you don't even have to do the washing up!

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Spicy Chicken Salad with Coriander, Mint and Noodles

We have been spoiled with the long hot sunny days recently and during the warmer periods, there is nothing better than cooling down with a fresh, tasty, zingy salad to treat our taste buds.

The ingredient list may be lengthy but it is so easy to make!

Spicy Chicken Salad with Coriander, Mint & Noodles
Portion Control:
Serves 4

450g/1lb skinless chicken breast fillets
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 teaspoon of medium curry powder
1 tablespoon of muscovado sugar
2 tablespoons of dark soy sauce
2 tablespoons of shredded fresh basil
2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
100g of vermicelli (rice) noodles
1/2 red onion, chopped very finely
large handful of fresh coriander leaves
large handful of fresh mint leaves
50g of mixed baby salad leaves
1 red pepper, cored, seeded and cut into fine strips

For the Dressing:
2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons of dark soy sauce
1 teaspoon of caster sugar
1 tablespoon of chilli sauce
2 tablespoons of vegetable oil


1) Cut the chicken into 2.5 cm strips and place in a shallow, non-metallic bowl. In a separate bowl, blend the garlic with the curry powder, muscovado sugar, soy sauce, chilli sauce, basil and vegetable oil.
Pour the marinade over the chicken and use a spoon to ensure all the chicken is coated in the marinade.
Cover the bowl with cling film and leave in fridge for 2 hours. For best results, leave the marinade overnight.
2) When you are satisfied that the chicken has been adequately marinated, turn on the grill to high.
Arrange the chicken pieces on a foil-lined grill rack and cook for 4-5 minutes without turning.
Remove from the grill and cover with foil to finish cooking and to retain heat.
3) At the same time, place the vermicelli (rice) noodles in a large bowl and cover with bowling water. Leave until soft, about 8-10 minutes.
4) Place the sliced red onion in iced water; this will make the onion crisper and slightly mellow the flavour.
5) Drain the noodles and the red onion well and place in a large bowl. Add the coriander, mint, salad leaves and red pepper.
6) In a separate small bowl, mix together the balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, chilli sauce, sugar and vegetable oil.
7) To serve, add the chicken strips and remaining juices with the dressing to the salad. Toss the salad gently before serving onto plates.

Has this inspired you to make the same dish? You can always use prawns as an alternative to chicken.
Let me know what you think ;-)
Bon Appétit!


Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Fabulous facial and pedicure at Bliss Spa, London

Fun Bliss Branding*
As my sister was approaching a very special birthday; the big four zero, I wanted to mark the occasion by treating her to some luxurious pampering. Being the only one in the UK, I thought a trip to the Bliss Spa in London would fit the bill nicely.
I had been there before to use up some gift vouchers on the Betweeny Wax and the Hot Milk and Almond Pedicure. Both treatments were excellent; the waxing was effective and pain-free and the pedicure left my feet feeling very soft and silky smooth.
I really like the whole Bliss branding and it's light hearted approach to treatments and products. I think it's image is fun, girly, appealing and removes the stuffiness you can sometimes experience when going into beauty salons (especially in Chelsea dah-ling!)
The Bliss Spa menu is extensive and their treatments range from facials to "guy maintenance" for men.
For my sister's birthday, I booked the Fabulous Facial and the Hot Milk and Almond Pedicure through the on-line reservations system, where I chose a session time and a therapist. Quite a unique selling point from my perspective! Some spas that I had approached earlier were either fully booked or would not take bookings until 2 weeks before the treatment and since my sister was travelling down from Scotland for the weekend, I wanted to have the treatments guaranteed.
My sister is too generous, she insisted on me having a Fabulous Facial at her expense (crazy girl!) so it would just be plain rude to decline her very kind offer.
On arrival, we were taken downstairs to the Locker Room and Lounge.
Inside Bliss Spa Lounge*
We were assigned a locker equipped with waffle-style robe and flip flops. Post de-robing, you can either enjoy the sauna or hang out in the tastefully decorated Lounge area where we pondered over the selection of cheese and crackers, fruit juice, herbal teas and the brownie buffet. There is also a huge selection of magazines including Cosmo, Marie Claire and Vogue and in those few moments you do feel as if you are experiencing something rather special!
It wasn't too long before the beauty therapist popped in to escort me to the treatment room.
The room was a nice temperature and I tucked myself underneath a snug blanket on the treatment bed. Although I was having a facial, part of the treatment also involves a shoulder, neck, arm and foot massage so it is best just to wear underwear for the treatment.
Suffice to say, the dim lighting, ambient temperature and relaxing music does set the scene for you to drift off.
As you would expect, the therapist asked me what my usual skincare routine was and did I want to focus on anything in particular etc. Then a light with very high intensity shone on my face as she was able to fully examine all the pollution my face had been exposed to since my last facial.The therapist was very friendly and she spoke with a very soothing voice – all to put me at ease.
As with most salons, I appreciate as well as providing the treatment, the therapist has a duty to promote relevant Spa products or additional services. Part of this facial has the option to customise it further with "build-ons". My therapist offered me the refining fruit acid wash for an additional £15 or the super-smoothing enzyme peel for £55. Double eek! I was already paying £112.40 for the facial, which is the most I have paid for any facial, so to pay extra for "build-ons" was I thought, a touch excessive.
The facial itself was very nice. It started with what smelt like a melon scented cleansing milk, followed by a refining scrub and then an “extraction” process. I have never actually experienced this before and it is perhaps this process which distinguishes the Bliss facial from the others I have had to date. It involves using a tool to remove blackheads.I had a few on my nose and forehead and I did squirm quite a bit as she set to work squeezing out all the dirt. But you know what they say; no pain, no gain and although it may have been slightly uncomfortable, the result was well worth it!
After the extractions a menthal soothing balm was applied to the skin which serves as a type of cooling agent. This was followed by a customised moisturising mask.While the mask sets, a mini massage on arms, neck, shoulders and feet is given. Just lovely.
The removal of the mask signifies the end of the treatment and my skin felt clean, refreshed, hydrated and soft.
Inside Locker Room in Bliss Spa*
I went back to the Lounge just to top up on my refreshments before heading back to the Locker room.
They have so many products you can help yourself to in this area such as :
Not to mention a plentiful supply of cotton wool, combs and hairspray.
Back upstairs, my sister was waiting at the Quick Service Station for her toes to dry.
Quick Service Stations for manicures and pedicures*
She agreed that this was indeed a real treat. Soaking your feet in a warm bath of almond scented milk while your feet are given the utmost care; scrubbing and focussing on the really dry skin areas of heels and the balls of your feet, moisturising and cuticle clipping. All this before an undercoat and two coats of colour are applied. Like me, she feels that it is the best pedicure she has ever had!
Did I mention while having a manicure or pedicure you can tune in and watch TV? I think she watched Gossip Girl (when I was there it was Sex and The City) and you can also induldge in one of their many fruit cocktails.
Before leaving the salon ,one of the assistants applied an oil to my sisters' nails and wrapped them in clingfilm before she put on her socks and boots to minimise any damage. I thought this was a very nice touch!
Bliss Pedicure: The Finished Article
One month later, and my sister tells me that the polish has maintained its quality finish. No chipping -what a fabulous result!
Priced at £61.30, it is expensive but you get what you pay for.
If planning a pedicure for your summer holiday, it would be worth considering the Hot Milk and Almond Pedicure  - if only for its resilience!
I think Bliss is an ideal place to spoil someone. I couldn’t actually afford to visit the spa as part of my regular beauty routine but perhaps if I mention the Hot Foot Pedicure, number 3 on my Health and Beauty Wish List to hubby often enough, perhaps a voucher will appear in my Christmas Stocking! Stranger things have happened!

If you fancy treating yourself or someone special, why not book an appointment at:

Tell them MeLikeyUK sent you!
Enjoy x

*Photographs sourced from Bliss website.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

A visit to La Maison de la Truffe, Rue Marbeuf, Paris

The last time I was in Paris was August 2008, I stumbled across La Maison de la Truffe in the beautiful Place de La Madeleine. There I was drooling uncontrollably at the menu and eager to have a truffle "foodfest" when I was dramatically pulled away to our next appointment. Since then, this restaurant has been etched in my memory and I promised myself the next time I was in Paris, I would treat myself!
Outside Maison De La Truffe, Rue Marbeuf
Maison de la Truffe, a family based business, was founded in 1932 to directly provide its customers with a way to purchase and sample all varieties of truffle and truffle products. In 1978, a new owner, and a chef, Guy Monier, added a tasting room so that the gourmets and truffle enthusiasts of Paris could meet and dine together.What a fabulous idea!
Following the acquisition of Maison de la Truffe by the Kaspia group in 2007, and a revamp to the restaurant and product lines, the second restaurant of Maison de la Truffe  opened up near The Champs-Élysées.
Similar to Place de La Madeline, La Maison de la Truffe in Rue Marbeuf doubles up as a shop selling luxury truffle related products. The restaurant is very neutral in colour; grey and taupe are the dominant colours with very clean lines and pictures showcasing the different truffles featured on their menu.
Neutral decor in La Maison de La Truffe 
Bottle of White Truffle Oil on every table
We arrive at 1pm for lunch with a few tables occupied.
The menu has a nice touch as it gives a bit of history about the restaurant and an overview of the characteristics of the different type of truffles sourced for the restaurant.
We start off with an amuse-bouche of mushroom tapenade and croutons. This has a pleasant aroma of truffle just enough to whet the appetite! Ah...we have finally arrived!
We both order the Carpaccio de Boeuf, Roquette et Parmesan ( Beef Carpaccio with Rocket salad and Parmesan shavings).
Carpaccio de Boeuf, Roquette et Parmesan
As you can imagine, the Beef Carpaccio is "melt-in-the-mouth" and works well with the peppery Rocket and the saltiness of the Parmesan cheese. You can definitely taste the truffle, but I add a bit more of the white truffle oil that is helpfully placed on the table just to heighten the truffle experience! All in all, a good starter; tasty, fresh and light, leaving enough room to fully indulge in the next course.
For the main course; I order 
Noix de Saint Jacques Bardées de Lard, Creme de Chataigne Truffée et son Ecrasée de Pomme de Terre.
(Scallops wrapped in Bacon finished with a Truffled Chestnut cream and served with crushed potatoes and seasonal truffle).
Hubby orders:
Risotto à laTruffe de Saison (Seasonal Truffle Risotto).
When the main arrives, I can’t wait to get started!
A very generous serving of 5 scallops wrapped in bacon – served with what appears to be more of a puréor mashed potato rather than crushed potatoes but I am not complaining. They work really well together! The sweet nuttiness flavour is bursting from the scallops which are enveloped in salty bacon heaven. The juices pouring from the meat run into the smooth textured, buttery, creamy and truffled mashed potato – YUM!
Noix de Saint Jacques Bardées de Lard, Creme de Chataigne Truffée et son Ecrasée de Pomme de Terre
I am really enjoying this dish but I am equally keen to try my partner’s truffle risotto and with not much begging, I am rewarded with something delightful!
What can I say? It is wonderful! Rich, creamy, moreish, unctuous and velvety. I can only remember tasting a truffle risotto of equal standing and that was at Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir Aux Quat' Saisons.
Risotto à laTruffe de Saison
The main courses are incredibly filling, so unfortunately, there is no room for dessert (although, I was tempted by the Sable aux Poires et Praliné) and we finish off with coffee.
Our lunch of two starters and two main courses with sparkling water and coffee cost us 107€.
I am so glad I included a visit to La Maison de la Truffe on my last visit to Paris. The menu is so varied and the food is of a very high standard that it is definitely worth a second visit!
I notice they have restaurants in Brussels and Taipei and are opening soon in Zurich and Geneva. You lucky people! Surely there must be demand in London.....please?
Oh! And I can cross item 5 off my Food and Drink Wish List!
If you are a fellow truffle fan and are in Paris, why not take a trip to:
Reservations can be made on line at

Tell them MeLikeyUK sent you!
Enjoy x