Leicester College Court

Now and again I have to attend conference dinners, most of the time they are like “just okay” mass produced meals that are served without care, then there are those meals which become a really nice memory. At a recent training programme in Leicester College Court I did have a really nice meal. As well as being really well cooked and presented it consisted of things I hadn’t eaten before.

For the starter we had ‘Life on Mars’ this was described on the menu as planet’s surface with the fresh Leicestershire goats cheese, pickled mushrooms, herbs and porcini soil.

planet’s surface with the fresh Leicestershire goats cheese, pickled mushrooms, herbs and porcini soil

The “surface” was a savoury sponge that I have seen before on cooking programmes, but not eaten. It was a nice texture to add to the flavoursome goat’s cheese. I wasn’t enamoured with the pickled mushrooms, but they did add a contrast in flavour. The porcini soil added a nice taste and another texture.

For the main course we had pan fried spiced Gressingham duck breast with a duck leg pastille, salsify, sweet potato and Romanesco.

pan fried spiced Gressingham duck breast with a duck leg pastille, salsify, sweet potato and Romanesco

The duck breast was perfectly cooked, but I felt lacked seasoning and my portion was a little on the small side. The first plate I was given had a decent duck portion but was missing the pastille, so I was given a different plate, but a smaller portion of the duck breast. The pastille was interesting, cooked duck leg in filo pastry, something that might be called a spring roll. Again lacked flavour. I do liked grilled Romanesco, but when grilling something like Romanesco or cauliflower it really needs to be served straight away. It had been left too long since cooking and as a result was a little soggy and lacked the crispness that grilling can impart, nice flavours though. I enjoyed the sweet potato done two ways, a nicely cooked disc and a puree. The salsify was interesting but didn’t add much to the dish.

Desert was described as a chocolate and honeycomb moon, though to be honest it looked more like that space station.

a dark chocolate sphere, filled with a white chocolate mousse, honeycomb, mango and chocolate crumb.

It was a dark chocolate sphere, filled with a white chocolate mousse, honeycomb, mango and chocolate crumb. I was worried it might be over sweet, but actually was just right, a clever desert full of interesting flavours and textures and great presentation. A really nice end to a nice meal.

I want candy…

During my lunchtime walk, I noticed a new shop in Broadmead, actually I am not sure if it is a new shop, or had just moved from the Galleries. It is an American Candy store.

American Candy

As might be expected the store is full of American candy and chocolate, as well as some British sweets and European treats.

American Candy

As well as the candy, there are a few American products on sale, such as Lucky Charms cereal and Jack Daniels barbecue sauce.

I do wonder about the attraction of such a place (and to be honest it was rather busy) especially when you notice the pricing. I saw a peanut chocolate bar for £3 and the cupcake bites were £3 per box.

American Candy

The Jack Daniels barbecue sauce was ten pounds.

Did I buy anything? Not today. I have found in the past that American chocolate is over sweet and not to my taste, it has too much sugar in it. As for other things, again way too much sugar.

American Candy

I have noticed that these kinds of places are popping up all the time and even shops like WHSmith are selling American candy bars.

Do you buy and enjoy American candy?

Reindeer Cupcakes

Reindeer Cupcakes

These are the Reindeer cupcakes we baked last year, we are intending to bake them again this year. Lots of fun to make and the salted pretzels add a little something different.

The first stage is to make some chocolate cupcakes, I have a simple recipe that I use for cupcakes and the quantity can be increased quickly and easily simply by increasing the number of eggs.

The recipe is based around a single egg.


One egg
Same weight of self-raising flour, butter and caster sugar
One tablespoon of cocoa powder

Cream the caster sugar and butter together until smooth.

Add the egg and a little of the flour. Mix until smooth and then fold in the remaining flour and the cocoa powder.

Place spoonfuls of mixture into cupcake cases and bake in a medium oven for ten minutes. Once cooked, cool before decorating.

The cakes are covered in chocolate buttercream icing. Pretzels are used for the antlers and marshmallows for the eyes, spotted with black icing. The noses are homemade biscuits with a giant chocolate button, except for Rudolph who has a red icing nose.

Retro Chocolate

How many of these can you remember? Which were your favourites?

Retro Chocolate

What I like about this image is to compare the old branding and wrappers with the versions available today. The Mars brands of chocolate, Mars, Twix, Topic, have hardly changed, whereas many of the Cadbury bars are very different. The Rowntree’s bars, except the KitKat, look very different to their contemporary versions.

There are also a fair few Cadbury bars that I don’t recognise.

My kind of Aero

Anyone fancy a coffee Aero?

coffee Aero

When I was a kid there were lots of coffee flavoured chocolate bars and treats. You may remember the coffee flavoured Walnut Whip?

coffee flavoured Walnut Whip

Of course in any box of chocolate there were always the coffee creams… which always seemed to be the ones that were left at the end, alongside the turkish delight.

So do you miss those chocolate coffee treats? Or are you glad that have been consigned to the dustbin of history?

Rum Aero

Looking over old sweet wrappers (online and for a charity quiz as it happens) I realised how much I missed out in the 1970s and 1980s on various flavours of Aero.

Rum Aero anyone?

Rum Aero anyone?

I don’t really like Aero now, I am not a fan of Nestlé chocolate which has too much of a nutty oily taste. But coffee and rum aeros, I could be tempted.

Cadbury Slides

Cadbury Slices

Chocolates come and go, many people reading this will remember Texan bars and the like. The Wispa disappeared for a while and then came back.

The Cadbury advert has a product I’ve not seen before, it’s merely a specific chocolate from a box Milk Tray and available in a pack of them that “snap open”.

Chocolate Cupcakes


5oz plain flour
1oz unsweetened good-quality cocoa powder
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
2¼oz unsalted butter, at room temperature
8oz castor sugar
2 large free-range eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
5½fl oz milk (the recipe actually calls for buttermilk, but I keep forgetting to buy it).

Preheat the oven to 350F/180C and line 12 muffin tin cups with paper cupcake liners.

Sift the flour, cocoa powder and bicarbonate of soda into a medium bowl and set aside.

Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the butter and sugar in a large bowl until smoothly blended – about two minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing until each is blended into the batter.

Add the vanilla and beat for another minute. On a low speed, add half of the flour mixture, mixing to incorporate it, then mix in the milk. Mix in the remaining flour mixture just until it is incorporated and the batter looks smooth.

Fill the cupcake liners half full.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the tops feel firm and a metal skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove the cupcakes from the oven and cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack, then remove the cupcakes from the pan onto the wire rack and leave to cool completely.

They can be topped with buttercream if so desired.

Not quite Chocolate Brownies

Homemade Chocolate Brownies

When the kids want to bake we usually make small cakes, however this time we decided to make chocolate brownies. However things didn’t go quite to plan as we didn’t have all the necessary ingredients.

The basis for my recipe was this one from BBC Food.

Ingredients for twenty brownies

375g/13oz butter, plus extra for greasing
375g/13oz dark chocolate
6 free-range eggs
350g/12oz caster sugar
1 tbsp vanilla extract
225g/8oz plain flour
1 tsp salt
250g/9oz white chocolate, chopped
2 tsp icing sugar

The problem we had was that the only chocolate we had in the house was milk chocolate, oh and we only had three eggs!

In the end I decided to use the following ingredients.

6½oz butter, plus extra for greasing
6½oz milk chocolate
3 free-range eggs
6oz caster sugar
½ tbsp vanilla extract
4oz plain flour
4oz milk chocolate chopped

I preheated my oven to 180°C.

I put some baking sheet and greased it with some butter before placing it in a baking tin.

Placing a bowl on a saucepan of simmering water I added the butter and the milk chocolate.

Once this had melted, I set it aside to cool slightly. I whisked up in another bowl the eggs sugar and vanilla extract. I added the butter and chocolate mixture and whisked this up.

I then folded in the flour until it was combined and then stirred in the chopped chocolate.

I poured the mixture into the baking tin and baked it in the oven for about 25 minutes.

After letting it cool for a while, but whilst the brownies were still warm I cut it into squares.

Not quite like proper brownies, but still very nice.