COMPTOIR LIBANAIS {restaurant review}

I have been to pretty much every restaurant on the Riverside and even ones that aren't there any more. However, there are only a few I actually go back to time and time again. Now this was my first visit to Comptoir Libanais (literally means Lebanese Counter) since it opened last year on The Oracle's Riverside - it is literally on the river and has a nice view of said river. That aside the food was good and I don't think it will be my last visit to this restaurant. 

My friend and I were in town and decided we were hungry, but we didn't know what for? It's a common thing with us never being able to agree or decide on what to eat. The only thing we did know and agree on was the fact that we hungry, but not that hungry and were looking for a reasonable meal with a reasonable price. 

Eating out is a luxury and that's why it's important to have a good experience. We were greeted when we walked in and pretty much seated right away. The waitress was informative and helped us decide on final choices. The food came so quick and it was delicious. 

As I mentioned above we were hungry, but not that hungry so we both went with a wrap. I went with the Chicken Taouk Wrap - it was stuffed with marinated chargrilled chicken, pickled cucumber, tomato & garlic sauce. My friend went with the Falafel Wrap (he is a vegetarian) which has chickpeas, broad beans, coriander, garlic, peppers, tomato, pickled turnip, parsley and a tahini sauce. 

By the recommendation of our lovely waitress we tried the Batata Harra or Lebanese spiced fries with red peppers, fresh coriander, garlic & chilli. They were good and we dipped them in garlic mayo and I believe a chilli mayo. 

I think on my next visit I will be trying the hot and cold Mezze (a selection of dishes). I think I would visit here again, I don't go out all that often and it's nice to know where you can go to get a good meal. 

The Riverside
The Oracle Shopping Centre
Bridge Street

*I was not asked to visit nor review this restaurant I just figured as it was literally the only one I hadn't visited on the riverside and I had a good experience there that I would share it with you! If you have been let me know what you like to get in the comments below! 

The Only Brownie Recipe you will ever need! (Raspberry & Toffee Brownies)

I have been blogging for a long time and at one point it was almost an obsession. But blogging was easy because I loved everything to do with what I was blogging about - baking.

I still enjoy baking and I still love reading cookbooks - it's why you still see quite a few book reviews on here - I even enjoy writing and taking photos, but my life now has limited extra time for those things, I have different priorities, hence why my frequency of posts has dropped so dramatically.

The one thing I don't enjoy is the stress and anxiety of social media. So, I have found a platform I enjoy (instagram) and use it as and when I get an opportunity I go on twitter and facebook and update things, but I no longer stress about how many likes or retweets I get.

I was asked once why I blogged and I answered mostly for me. And for my love for baking, reading, writing, photography etc.... blogging was and is my creative outlet and if I get a few loyal readers or lots of people dropping by great! But it's not why I blog.

The internet is a hard place to live in and understand.

These brownies are a recipe that I have tried and tested over and over again and thankfully aren't that hard to understand. I originally got this recipe from a BBC Good Food Magazine and the other day I opened up one of their issues and it was in there again, because it is literally that easy and good.

It has been adjusted over and over and to be honest this batch of brownies I couldn't even tell you what I put in them exactly. I just sort of threw it all together. But if you want to throw a batch together this is how you could do it.

Brownies: raspberry & toffee

200g dark chocolate chips
100g milk chocolate chips
250g salted butter
250g light brown sugar
150g dark brown sugar
4 large eggs
140g plain flour
45g cocoa powder
10g espesso powder
100g fresh raspberries
100g toffee, chopped

Preheat oven to 180C/gas4 and line a brownie pan or 8in square pan with parchment paper.
Very gently melt both chocolates with the butter and sugar in a medium saucepan. Just before the chocolate is completely melted, take off the heat and gently stir until it’s completely melted.
Then add the eggs one at a time to the melted chocolate mixture. Sift the flour, cocoa powder and espresso powder into the pan and stir until just combined.
Gently fold about half of the raspberries and toffee into the mixture, pour into the prepared pan and sprinkle the remaining raspberries and toffee over the top.
Bake in the pre-heated oven for a minimum of 35 minutes. If you are using the 8 inch square pan you may want to give them an extra 5 minutes, if you are using a brownie pan or a 9 inch pan then I would still closer to the 35 minutes.
Cool completely before cutting into squares and eating!

As mentioned the original recipe was not mine own, however this recipe only resembles the original, as was modified to fit what was in my cupboards! 

If try these out let me know how you adjust them in the comments below, I am always looking for ways to make the different! 

Here are a few of the adjustments I have made over the years: (Each one is linked to the relevant post if you want to see pictures!)

The Cook's Atelier: Recipes, Techniques, And Stories From Our French Cooking School by Marjorie Taylor and Kendall Smith Franchini {book review}

When I moved to the UK from the US I was and still am constantly told I was brave for making that move. At the time I was young and the opportunity was there so I took it not really thinking about it as anything but that, an opportunity.  However, when reading or hearing of other people's stories I think "gee they are brave" forgetting I have done it myself.

Looking back at my own story and reading the story of Marjorie Taylor and Kendall Smith Franchini I can't help, but concur it is actually a big thing. A huge life changing decision that does take bravery and a lot of faith that things will work out.

Both mother and daughter have always loved France and French food so, it's no surprise they have ended up in France. Both have professional backgrounds in food and wine so they combined that passion with their love for French food to create something truly inspirational. A cooking school in a town called Beaune, in the heart of Burgundy's wine country.

The Cook's Atelier is so much more then just a cookbook, it's a record of their joinery so far. It not only shares more then 100 recipes, it shares classic French techniques as well as introducing the people in their community, the people who support them and whom they support and are essential to their cookery school.

If you have ever wanted a proper look into French cuisine and life look no further!

At this point I list all the recipes I'd like to try. I do this one to share with my readers what sort of recipes to expect to find inside, but also as a record for me to go back too. However, there are so many delicious looking recipes and my list was so long I narrowed it down to my top 10!

Savory Tart with Spinach & Mushrooms
Shortcakes with homemade Strawberry Confiture
Green Garlic Souffle
Chocolate Layer Cake
Butter Cake with Peaches & Raspberries
Vegetable Tian with Fried Basil
Summer Berry Tart
Nicoise Pan Bagnet
Orange Cake with Candied Citrus
Braised Endive Gratin

Please note that I am a baker at heart and although I list more sweet then savory please know there are a lot more savory recipes to admire and try out!

If I ever have an opportunity to visit and explore France, I think I will be checking if they have a space in one of their workshops!

Want to know more - grab your own copy of The Cook's Atelier and/or visit The Cook's Atelier website!!

* I was provided a digital copy of The Cook's Atelier by Marjorie Taylor and Kendall Smith Franchini to review by the publisher, Abrams, retails at £35.00 and available now from your local book retailers or online! All opinions are my own, I was not given any other compensation nor was I asked to give a positive review, please see my contact/policy page above for more information.

Scandikitchen Summer by BRONTË AURELL

It is finally spring and it has brought us summer like weather! With the sun shining and the clouds hiding away it's probably about time I shared this great book with you. 

Last year I had the opportunity to review North: How to Live Scandinavian by Bronte Aurell and was delighted to have a chance to read her latest book Scandikitchen Summer and the book I am about to tell you all about.

When we think of the Scandinavian countries we think of snow, ice, and darkness. Well, I can't speak for you, but I know I do. It's hard to remember that although yes there is a lot of darkness in that part of the world, but they also have a lot of light and this book celebrates that.

Bronte gives us an idea of what would be in a Scandinavian Summer Pantry in her first chapter and then follow that chapter up with a chapter on Breakfast & Brunch. Continuing with chapters on Open Sandwiches, Salads & Sharing Plates, and then Larger Plates & Mains to get you through the summer days. The last few chapters are my favorite, because they all have to do with baking and sweet treats; Cake & Fika (fika is what the Swedes call a coffee break), Breads,  and last but not least Desserts & Drinks.

While reading through a great cookbook I always book mark a few recipes I would like to try and if I am reviewing it, I like to list them here for you to get an idea of what sort of recipes to find in the book. So, here is a list of some of the recipes I have book marked -

Crispy Wholemeal Waffles
Cinnamon Bun French Toast (pictured)
Simple Salmon Open Sandwiches
Cottage Cheese, Cucumber, & Radish Open Sandwiches
Fish Cake Open Sandwiches with Tartar Dressing (pictured)
Black Rice & Salmon Salad
Curried Cauliflower & Rye Grain Salad (pictured)
Pea Puree Dip
Dill Pesto Potato Salad
Easy New Potato & Dill Salad
Crispbread Pizza (pictured)
Mushroom Paj
Lena's Danish Meatball
Brown Butter & Toffee Cookies
Summer Berry Tart (as seen on the cover)
Elderflower Everything Cake (pictured)
Blueberry & Vanilla Buns
Beetroot & Walnut Buns (pictured)
Carrot & Rye Rolls
Swedish Mess
Vanilla & Cloudberry Ice Cream
Easy Elderflower Cordial (pictured)

There are a lot more recipes to browse though and inspire you to celebrate and eat like the Scandinavians and prove that although their winters are dark and magical their summers and bright and wonderful!

Bronte Aurell is an amazing author her words and recipes make me feel like I have been transported to another country. A country I hope to visit one day, but until then I can soak up her words and recreate her recipes until I get there.

If you would like to know more about Scandikitchen - check out their website here

* I was provided a copy of Scandikitchen Summer by Bronte Aurell to review by the publisher, Ryland Peters & Small, retails at £16.99 and available now from your local book retailers or online! All opinions are my own, I was not given any other compensation nor was I asked to give a positive review, please see my contact/policy page above for more information.

Happy Accident - Chocolate Orange Cake Bombs {Cake Truffles}

After my cake didn't come out as expected (see Cake Disaster) I physically stepped away from it; left it in a room and walked out. That is how mad I was at it. Ridiculous, I know. But it allowed me the time I needed to chill and approach it with a new look.

I first tried to get the top half of the cake out in one piece, but it kept crumbling. Which is when I thought what do you do with edible cake crumbs. Usually make cake pops. I didn't have any sticks so, I made Cake Bombs or Cake Truffles if you like.

So, to make these delicious cake bombs use the cake recipe in the previous post or any cake of your choice. If you are using the whole cake you will want to double this recipe of butter cream -

Cake Bombs

1/2 of chocolate orange marble cake
1 portion of butter cream (below)
 Dr. Oetker Easy Choc Milk or any chocolate melts in any color
sprinkles, optional

Beat together until just combined. Roll into balls about the size of a walnut. Put in the freezer, I left mine over night because of time reasons, but an hour should be enough time. Then melt your candy melts or Dr. Oetker Easy Choc according to the instructions given on the packaging. Dip each 'bomb' into the chocolate and leave to set, decorate quickly if using sprinkles or other decorations.
Once set you can enjoy at any time!

Vanilla/Orange Butter Cream

250g icing sugar, sifted
80g unsalted butter, room temperature
2 tbsp whole milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp orange extract

Place everything into the bowl of a mixer or a medium bowl and beat together until light and fluffy.

Life doesn't always turn out how we expect it too, neither does cake. I could have easily thrown it in the trash, I wanted too, I was so annoyed. But I managed to turn my cake disaster into a happy accident, whoever says cake is just cake doesn't understand baking at all.

Cake Disaster - Chocolate Orange Marble Bundt

Bundt cakes are my favorite, when they actually come out of their tins properly. It's so annoying when you have taken the time and lovingly mixed a cake and greased the bundt pan and floured it like you always have only to have the cake stick.

In fact it's infuriating.

When I tell people this they act like it's the craziest reason to be annoyed and/or angry. According to them it's just a cake. In reality that's exactly what it is, cake. But yet it's not just a cake.

You know the saying "it's not the destination, it's the journey' and that's the same for baking. It's not just about the delicious treat at the end it's about the process.

To start with there is a craving or a need to use up an ingredient or two in your cupboard, so there is a need to bake. Then it's gathering, measuring, and mixing all the ingredients in a specific order to make a smooth batter that gets poured into a tin and baked to a perfectly risen golden cake that springs back when gently prodded.

So, after all that time and effort to have your cake ruined because it didn't come out of the tin as expected it's annoying. Then if you are a blogger and like to write about these things you have this pressure that it should be perfect.

Life isn't perfect, but on the internet we like to portray it as such.

Like life this cake isn't perfect either, but it was delicious. There is a perfect balance of orange and chocolate. Because it was a marble cake it pretty much came out in half as you can see below. One half I ate as cake and the other half I made Cake Bombs - want to know more check out the following post.

Chocolate Orange Marble Bundt Cake

228g butter
300g sugar
4 large eggs, separated
340g flour, sifted
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 salt
160ml milk
grated zest of 1 orange
1/4 tsp orange extract (optional)
60g cocoa powder
60ml of water

Heat the oven to 170C/350F - grease the bundt pan with butter or a tasteless oil (veggie/sunflower) and sift a little flour to cover it and gently tap it out, leave to the side.

Then beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Separate the eggs, trying to leave the egg yolks in tact and then beat the egg whites into stiff peaks, leave the egg whites to the side and add the egg yolks one at a time and beat until just combined between each one.  Mix the sifted flour, baking powder, and salt together - then add 1/3 of it to the butter mixture mixing until just combined, then add half of the milk again beating until combined, then the flour, milk and lastly the flour. Gently fold in the beaten egg whites.

Split the batter into two - add the zest and extract to one batter and gently fold in and then mix the cocoa powder and water together before adding to the other half of the batter. Alternate adding to your well greased and floured bundt pan - resist the urge to mix them together.
Bake for 50-60 minutes, using the skewer test to make sure it's cooked through. Leave to cool for 10-15 minutes before inverting the bundt pan on a wire rack to cool completely - if using a proper Nordic Ware bundt pan they can take a while to cool so just leave it until cool to the touch.

As mentioned above the cake is actually delicious and worth a go. I have not tested this cake in cake pans, but it is an option, I would stick to the same oven temperature, but would vary the baking time depending on what size cake pans you use. But if it all goes wrong you can make cake bombs! Post to follow on how to make them! Because even after a cake disaster, there is always a way to turn it into a happy accident.

Superfood Energy Balls & Bites: Nutrient-rich, healthful & wholesome snacks by Nicola Graimes

I love how the author starts by saying that "Although 'superfood' may have become a buzzword in recent times, certain foods are undeniably blessed in that they provide superior nutritional value for the amount of calories they contain." because it is a buzzword. One that I generally roll my eyes at whenever I read it, as it's usually accompanied by someone who uses it to feel superior.

Drawn to the book, despite my assumptions on the word 'superfood,' I was pleased to have those same assumptions erased by the time I read through this book! Nicola Graimes, an award-winning writer, shows us how to use these superfoods in a variety of snacks and treats to get us through our day.

The author gives us an A-Z list of all the superfoods used in the book, most I have heard of, like the avocado and quinoa and some I haven't like guarana which is a powdered berry from an Amazonian plant. Then we get chapters that cover raw and cooked superfoods as well as savoury superfoods and it covers other snacks and treats!

A few of the recipes I would like to try are:
Blueberry Bites
Carrot Cake Balls
Morning Mocha
Berry Bounty Balls
Double Raspberry Maca Balls
Chocolate Goji Bars
Lemon Bliss Bites
Coconut & Cherry Drops
Banana Oat Bites
Raspberry, Coconut, & Lemon Bars
Cauli-Chickpea Power Balls
Sweet Potato & Quinoa Bites
Japanese Rice Balls
Satay Rice Balls
Cashew 'Cheese' Balls
Wasabi-Roasted Edamame
Cauli 'Cheese' Bites
Raspberry Kefir Gels
Fruit 'n' Nut Chocolates
Strawberry & Cream Balls
Salted Caramel Banana Bites
Mango & Brazil Nut Wonder Balls

The majority of the ingredients can be found in your local supermarket. There are nuts and dried berries and a few of the not so common ingredients are easily sourced via health food stores or online. They are also very straightforward and simple to put together. 

This book gives us every reason to indulge in our snacking! A nation who loves to snack it's nice to have an alternative to all the sugar or salted ones that line our supermarket shelves. If you like me are weary of the word 'superfood' please do not let it put you off this title, it's full of delicious looking snacks and treats and can change your snacking habits for good! 

* I was provided a copy of Superfood Energy Balls & Bites by Nicola Graimes to review by the publisher, Ryland Peters & Small, retails at £9.99 and available now from your local book retailers or online! All opinions are my own, I was not given any other compensation nor was I asked to give a positive review, please see my contact/policy page above for more information. 

Bakeland: Nordic Treats Inspired by Nature by Marit Hovland

There are a lot of cookbooks and baking books on my shelf and all of them are as unique as the authors who wrote them, but it does take something truly special to stand out and impress me as much as this book has.

Bakeland is the baking book I never knew I wanted or needed in my life. Marit Hovland has a website that is titled Borrow My Eyes. It is the most perfect title for her site as she sees such incredible things in nature and the things around her. I am glad she has loaned us her eyes through her photography and her ablity to recreate what she sees in her baking.

It's a breath of fresh air, literally and figuratively! The fact that it is not a book full of rainbow everything and over the top sprinkles I adore it. There is a place in the world for those sorts of things and don't get me wrong I do like shiny sparkly things, but I also love the colors of the world around us as they are just as effective if not more so.

As in the sub title of the book and my description above the pages of Bakeland are filled with treats inspired by nature.

Unlike other other baking books that break the recipes into seasons Hovland gives us her recipes for the changing of seasons. The first chapter being Winter into Spring, followed by Spring into Summer, Summer into Fall, Fall into Winter, and ends with recipes for the New Year.

A few of my favorite recipes that I am bookmarking to try are:
Coffee Ice Cream Cake with Chocolate Meringue
Chocolate Almond Cookie Eggs (pictured)
Cardamom Macarons with Blueberries and Cream Cheese
Birch Bark Cookies
White Chocolate Seashells with Raspberry Filling
Cinnamon Bun Cake with Rum Glaze
Lime and Strawberry Macarons (pictured)
Soft Pistachio Cookies with Strawberry Glaze
Walnut Brownie Cake with Whipped Cream and Blueberries
Vanilla Cloudberry Macarons
Pistachio Brownie Cake with Troll Cream (on cover of book)
Cinnamon Macarons with Apple Filling (pictured)
Chocolate Cinnamon Tree Cookies
Raspberry Mousse Cake with Mint Chocolate
Spice Cake with Cinnamon Almonds
Apple Pie with Caramel and Chocolate Leaves
Gingersnap Macarons with Cream Cheese
Gingersnap Pinecones with Cocoa (pictured)
Chocolate Coffee Mousse
Cheesecake with Cinnamon-Chocolate Crust (pictured)

I wish I could show you every single one of these recipes with you, but I suggest  your own visit to Bakeland  by picking up your very own copy at your local book store, I like supporting books stores, but it is of course available online and for more delicious recipes check out the authors blog linked above! 

*I was provided a copy of Bakeland: Nordic Treats Inspired by Nature by Marit Hovland to review by the publisher, Greystone, Retails at £22 and available from the 13th March 2018 from your local book retailers or online! All opinions are my own, I was not given any other compensation nor was I asked to give a positive review, please see my contact/policy page above for more information.

Ferrero Rocher Brownies

OMG right? 

I have to admit that these were not of my creation, but come from a creative youtuber Cupcake Jemma. I love watching her videos and if you haven't before you should start with the video I have linked below! These brownies again wouldn't have been my first choice as I am not a fan of hazelnuts. They aren't terrible, just not a huge fan. 

However, my baby baker, not a baby any more having celebrated her 8th birthday last week, likes them and loves Nutella even more. Something I discussed a few posts ago when I made Nutella brownies and since I only just made them I couldn't make them again. 

So, on the hunt for what else I could make her I came across great recipes featuring Nutella like 
Nutella Bueno Cupcakes from The Baking Explorer and an Ultimate Chocolate and Nutella layer cake from supergolden bakes and I also came across a No-bake Ferrero Rocher Cheesecake from What Jessica Baked Next. It was this last one that made me think of Ferrero Rochers and went on another hunt before coming across these brownies from Cupcake Jemma. 

They turned out beautifully (please ignore my cracked ganache) and were loved by all who tried them! If you'd like to have a go I have listed the ingredients you will need, watch the video for instructions and I made some notes on what I did differently below it. Enjoy!! 

Ferrero Rocher Brownies

2 small eggs
165g caster sugar
80g dark chocolate
80g unsalted butter
25g cocoa powder
60g plain flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
30g chopped roasted hazelnuts

Nutella Nougat
25g unsalted butter
100g caster sugar
30ml evaporated milk
40g nutella
100g marshmallow fluff
60g chopped roasted hazelnuts
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

for the topping
75g double cream
75g dark chocolate
8 or more Ferrero Rocher

There were a few things I changed to suit my needs: first I made them in a 7inch circle cake tin as I wanted it to be cake like for my daughters birthday. Because of this I cooked it for 25 minutes instead of the 15-20 that she suggests in the video. However, that could be because of my oven so if you too are making them in a round tin then check them at 15 minutes. 

Second I didn't pipe more Nutella in the nougat. Just an extra step I couldn't be bothered with, but would totally be worth it if you are a Nutella fan! 

Third I didn't decorate with more hazelnuts and gold lustre although I wish I had as my ganache cracked a bit. That was only because I was impatient and didn't let it all sit before taking it out of the tin. 

*Want to see more of Cupcake Jemma's delicious treats? Follow the video above or visit her website here

Afternoon Tea at the Bramble Cafe by Mat Follas (book review)

If you are lucky enough to live in Dorset then there is a chance that you may have visited the Bramble Cafe and Deli in Poundbury and if you haven't then at least you have an opportunity too being so close. For the rest of us unless we are planning a visit the only way we can try Mat's delicious treats is by trying them at home with his new book Afternoon Tea at the Bramble Cafe. Mat was the winner of Masterchef in 2009 and opened the cafe with his wife and business partner Kate in 2016.

Each chapter covers the essentials of a perfect afternoon tea. Most importantly the Introduction teaches us how to make the perfect cup of tea. Although I have lived in the UK for 12 years this is something I still struggle with. After the tea the most important part of any afternoon tea is the cake and scones, which is why it's the first chapter. All the classic cakes like lemon drizzle, coffee walnut, and Victoria sandwich are covered in this chapter 

The next chapter covers a wide range of slices and tarts - brownies (my favorite), Millionaire's shortbread, white chocolate & strawberry tiffin, jam tarts, and bramble cheesecake. Biscuits and Cookies are in the next chapter and you can't go wrong with buttery shortbread, but Mat gives us a couple variations to spice it up. He also gives us recipes for treacle oaties, macaroons, and bright colored fairy rings. 

Dainties & patisserie is what we have next and is usually the chapter that seems daunting to me, but Mat has eased my fears and given me confidence to try out a few of the recipes like lemon posset & raspberry terrine, crème brûlée spoons, macarons, Camp coffee & caramel eclairs, and raspberry meringue kisses. 

Afternoon tea isn't just about the cakes and I love that this book covers Savouries & sandwiches. Not only does it cover things you can put between bread like cucumber & mint and smoked salmon & dill mayonnaise, but he gives us a recipe for milk bread to put those fillings in! There is also a recipe for Welsh rarebit, which if you are like me wasn't 100% sure what that is it's essentially cheese on toast Mat makes his with a ale-infused béchamel sauce between the toast and cheese. 

The last chapter covers Preserves & cordials, it might the chapter you over look, but with anything it's the attention to details that makes something absolutely perfect. So, don't over look this chapter because the recipes for bramble & rose jam or strawberry & elderflower jam look amazing!! And as for the cordials, not everyone is a tea drinker and on a hot sunny day cordials are a nice alternative. There are recipes for blueberry, elderflower, apple & pear, and raspberry & blackcurrant cordials and all of them look so refreshing and delicious. 

* I was provided a copy of Afternoon Tea at the Bramble Cafe by Mat Follas to review by the publisher, Ryland Peters & Small, retails at £16.99 and available now from your local book retailers or online! All opinions are my own, I was not given any other compensation nor was I asked to give a positive review, please see my contact/policy page above for more information. 


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