BBQ champ – the introduction

Well, lots of you know that I am a huge fan of grilling. Recently I got into it through visiting some North American relatives who had a book which put grilling beyond the open fire blackening of sausages and meats.

I’ve been taking it seriously for a couple of years now, and am a proud owner of a Weber MasterTouch 57cm and a Weber Smokey Mountain 47cm. I’ve also been frequent viewer of YouTube videos of barbecue and smoking technique, and a member of the British Barbecue Society forum. In fact, there I saw a form inviting applications to this new show revolving around barbecuing, and I briefly considered it before deciding that I didn’t have time this summer. Plus, I had no idea what it would be like!

But I can’t resist commenting on it as I watch it, so starting tonight, I’m going to be watching it, watching it on repeat, and then giving my thoughts.

Happy grilling!

The Great Brownie Experiment – The Results

So, the results are in. (For the introduction to this important experiment click here.)  The data has been collated and we have a clear winner. I was planning on presenting the findings by writing a brief review of each recipe and announcing which category they had won. However, it turns out that one single recipe won in every single category. I did not see this coming. But it wouldn’t be fair to just tell you about that brownie, and I want to make some graphs. So, here we go:

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The Great Brownie Experiment – Introduction

I started trying to write this up in the style of a science experiment report but I got a bit confused by which bits should go in which section, and the fact I was meant to write in the third person etc. But don’t be fooled – just because this is not written up in Official Science Format, it is still Very Important. This is probably the most important experiment I have ever undertaken. Some would argue that it is the most important experiment ever undertaken, full stop. I think they are probably wrong, but we are all entitled to our opinions.

So, the aim of this Experiment was to find The Best Chocolate Brownie Recipe. An important and challenging task, but one which somebody must be willing to undertake. But where to begin? There are so many brownie recipes out there, and so many claiming to be The Best. Well, I started off by asking friends who were willing to share their ‘Best Ever’ brownie recipes with me to do so. I was inundated with recipes, as mentioned in previous posts. After a brief detour via some healthier and ‘free from’ brownies, I collated all the recipes I had received and picked out 6 with which to make a start. I tried to include recipes which included a range of ingredients and cooking techniques, but stuck to the basic ‘chocolate brownie’ theme. (I will do a later experiment on exciting additions and slants on chocolate brownies, but for this experiment the only additions consisted of chocolate chips, chocolate chunks and Minstrels.)

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Higgidy Pies review

In recent years there has been a bit of a spate of ‘home-made’, friendly, fun things to buy – and this is a good thing. Smaller food producers have the need to stand out from their larger, more established competition, and therefore often create interesting products, forcing the other companies to revisit their recipes or products.

Recently I bought such a product: Higgidy British Beef, Stilton and Sussex Ale pie. Sounds great, doesn’t it? It forms, in my mind at least, the thought of gentle cows on green British hills being looked after by a kindly farmer, wearing a flat cap; a hardworking cheese-maker who has honed his trade over a number of generations crafting the finest Stilton ever; and then perhaps all of them gathering together (including the cows) for a drink at the end of the day in a traditional Sussex pub.


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In Praise of the Full Fat Brownie

A few months ago I began a journey to find The Best Brownie Recipe, but I got a little side tracked. Side tracked by things like black beans and sweet potatoes. I was inundated with brownie recipes which were packed full of sweet sounding delights, lashings of butter, mountains of sugar, and more ‘best quality’ chocolate than you could ever dream of. But for some reason I decided to try out some of the ‘healthy’ or ‘free from’ alternatives. I’ll keep going on that detour, but this evening I returned to The True Path.

I was baking 4 batches of brownies for a wedding this weekend. Initially I thought this would be a great time to try out 4 different recipes. I even picked 4 from my friends and made a little hand drawn spreadsheet of the ingredients, detailing how much of each thing I would need for each recipe and then totalling it up at the end. But then I realised this was possibly not the time to undertake this experiment. For the experiment to be Truly Scientific I will need Score Cards, and I will need everyone to try every brownie. I’m not sure that it would be right to turn the wedding into a Highly Scientific Brownie Experiment. So, I put my spreadsheet to the side (it will be used later, don’t you worry) and stuck to my trustworthy recipe.

And, you know what, it was a bit of a relief to return to this old friend. A brownie recipe that contains chocolate. And sugar. And flour. And butter. And even eggs. And lots of all those things. (Except the flour – there’s not much flour). Maybe one day I’ll be a Healthy Brownie Convert, but for now I’ll just run further tomorrow*.

(*I will in actual fact not run tomorrow at all, I haven’t run for about 2 weeks. A girl has to prioritise and sometimes Baking wins. But it’s the thought that counts….)

Anyhow, here’s the recipe that I’ve been using for all these years:

200g butter (or marge, or stork, or value spread – it’s all the same if you ask me!)
200g dark chocolate (again, value is just fine!)
3 medium eggs
250g caster sugar
112g plain flour
200g white chocolate (value fine, again!) chopped into chunks
0.5 tsp salt
0.5 tsp vanilla essence

Bake in:
Approx 12.5 x 8 inches baking tin lined with baking parchment

-Preheat oven to 170 degrees C and line tin with parchment
-Melt dark chocolate and butter together in microwave
-Beat eggs and sugar together until pale. Add the melted choc and mix well until blended
-Add flour, salt, white choc, vanilla essence and stir all together
-Pour into tin and bake for about 30 mins, poss a bit longer. Top will look cracked and you want it to be ever so slightly gooey still on the inside.

Three simple kitchen gadgets that have improved my life

At the risk of sounding incompetent, lazy and paranoid (although I am, in fact, all of those things) I would like to share with you 3 simple kitchen gadgets that have improved my life.

In third place:

The Rice Cooker

No more over-cooked or undercooked rice; no more soggy or dry rice. We have a small 2 person rice cooker which makes cooking rice a breeze. I’d used them in the past when cooking for large quantities, but it’s just as effective for 1 or 2. Make sure you rinse and soak and rinse and soak and rinse and soak and rinse the rice well before hand for the ultimate rice experience.

Coming in at number 2:

The Tea Tongs


So simple, yet so effective. No more burnt fingers (come on, we’ve all done it – taken the tea bag out with our fingers. trying to grab that little bit that’s floating up above the surface, only to have the bag keep sinking under the hot tea. Why am I so lazy as to not just go and get a tea spoon?!); or having to squeeze the tea bag between the cup edge and back of the tea spoon; or dripping tea across the floor as you carry the tea bag to the bin. Not with these nifty little tea tongs. Simply use them to pick up the tea bag, squeeze it out and then carry it to the bin. I know it might sound a bit ridiculous. I thought it was at first, but I am thoroughly converted.

And, in first place:

The Meat Thermometer



After years of dry chicken and chewy pork; overly cooked sausages and other unidentifiable meat; all driven by an irrational paranoia of poisoning my friends, we got a meat thermometer. Such a simple little device and what a difference it’s made! Now, instead of waiting until the juices definitely run clear; and there is no hint of pink; and the meat is therefore rather dry, I just pop in the thermometer and check the temperature. Once it’s hit the right temperature (generally about 74 degrees C – but look this up – it varies from meat to meat) in the middle it’s ready. And the result is much tastier, less dry and much better meat, which isn’t going to cause me to lose sleep, wondering if I might have poisoned people.