Easter Caramel Cheesecake Feat. Hotel Chocolat

Easter Caramel CheesecakeThe last time I blogged an Easter baking recipe was three years ago when I shared a lovely, but rather garish, green cake. Bright green icing, fake mini eggs, butterfly sprinkles and Malteser bunnies, it was delicious but not the classiest looking of desserts. When these glorious looking Easter treats* landed on my desk from Hotel Chocolat I decided to put them to good use and make a more grown up, but still eye-catching, dessert.

Easter Caramel Cheesecake Easter Caramel Cheesecake

In my package I received A Dozen Quail Egglets which include two each of the flavours Chocolate Mousse, Salted Caramel (one of Hotel Chocolat’s best flavours IMO), Peanut Butter, Raspberry Supermilk, Strawberries and Cream and Hazelnut Praline. This is an extremely nice set with a wide range of flavours that would make a perfect gift for any adults you have to buy for this Easter. I also received a set of the Caramel City Bunnies, a sophisticated take on the ever popular Easter Bunny motif. I love his little tie, he looks like he is ready to take the Caramel Bunny out on a date – which gave me my inspiration….

Easter Caramel Cheesecake

…Lets make No-Bake Caramel Cheesecake with caramel, Caramel, and even more caramel!

Ingredients

For the (buttery biscuit) base you will need:

300g biscuits – I like digestives and especially chocolate digestives best but you can use any that gives a good ‘rough’ crumb, such as Oreos for a richer flavour

125g melted unsalted butter

For the filling you will need:

284g (family pack size) full fat Philadelphia or similar cream cheese – mascarpone is also a good one to go for

75g icing sugar

100g  Carnation Caramel or similar

150ml double cream

150g Dairy Milk Caramel (chopped up)

To decorate, I used:

Carnation Caramel

Canned whipped cream

Hotel Chocolat Caramel City Bunnies

Hotel Chocolat Salted Caramel Quails Egglet

Galaxy Golden Eggs.

Method

  • Blitz your biscuits in a food processor (or smash in a bag with a rolling pin if you’re old school/have something you’re cross about). How fine is up to you, I like quite fine but don’t mind the odd chunk, especially if it still has chocolate on.
  • Stir into the melted butter.
  • Press into the bottom of a 11 inch loose base baking tin. Leave in the fridge to set while you prep the filling

Easter Caramel Cheesecake

  • Whisk together the cheese, caramel and icing sugar until smooth. Remember to taste it during this and the next step: if you need it to be sweeter, add more sugar; if you want it to be richer, add more caramel.
  • Pour in the double cream and keep whisking until it thickens. It needs to be thick enough to form peaks so best to use an electric whisk for this one. It is ready when the peaks stand on their own:

Easter Caramel Cheesecake

  • Next, stir in your chopped chocolate.
  • Spoon over the biscuit base and spread evenly. Return this to the fridge for at least 5 hours.

Easter Caramel Cheesecake

Finally, we have reached the most fun stage – the decorating and the eating! I added the Caramel drizzle before removing it from the pan (for tidiness sake mostly). You may need to put a knife round the pan to loosen the biscuit base when removing it. Then I added some squooshy cream, the lovely little bunnies and a golden egg nest.

Easter Caramel Cheesecake Easter Caramel Cheesecake

I think it looks lovely. Still lots of fun, but a distinctly grown up affair for adult who kind of wish the Easter bunny was real. I love how the cream gives the look of little cotton tails on the bunnies. And because I did all the work, I’m definitely going to make sure that Egglet ends up on my plate…

I hope you enjoyed this post and that it has put you in the mood for Easter – tell me, what is your favourite Easter treat?

 

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Hotel Chocolat | The Everything Collection & Gift Guide

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For me the perfect winter night consists of a few key ingredients – heating on, cosy pyjamas and fluffy socks adorned, David Attenborough on the telly and some chocolate to hand. Usually it’s whatever sharing bar was £1 that day in ASDA, but for a proper treat there’s nothing quite like a box of chocolates to dip into. And for the ultimate indulgence, for that box to be from Hotel Chocolat.

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Hotel Chocolat invited me to try something from their current gifting range and I knew I had to plump for the appropriately named Everything Collection*. A beautifully presented mini hamper, The Everything Collection offers samples of Hotel Chocolat’s most loved products, from white to dark chocolate, their take on popular desserts and a good dose of the ever popular ingredient  – salted caramel.

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For gifting, this set is a perfect present in itself at £25 but as the products are all individually wrapped they can be split up and given as small hostess gifts, stocking fillers, or that ‘in case of emergency’ back up present.

 

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Hotel Chocolat also have a tonne of special Christmas items at the moment. They have a wide range from £1.95 chocolate lolly stocking fillers to a £300 ultimate hamper stacked with chocolate and booze. Wow! Here’s my own wishlist/mini gift guide from the Christmas collection:

Hotel Chocolat Gift Guide

All items from £1.95 – £36. Shop the Christmas collection here.

 

Eats | The Horse & Groom Bourton-on-the-Hill

Eats | The Horse & Groom Bourton-on-the-Hill

One thing that Gloucestershire definitely has going for it is an abundance of really great pubs. When David’s parents were visiting recently we decided to take the short (but scenic) drive to the village of Bourton-on-the-Hill to have lunch at The Horse and Groom. A traditional country inn, The Horse and Groom has won many awards over the years, the most recent being The Good Pub Guide Pub of the Year, and the Gloucestershire Dining Pub of the Year for 2016. Quite the accolades.

The atmosphere was very relaxed, as busy as you would expect for a weekend lunchtime but not overcrowded. The menu changes very regularly so instead of printed menus, it is written up on a large chalkboard and you order at the bar.

Eats | The Horse & Groom Bourton-on-the-HillHorse & Groom Starter

For a starter I had the feta, roast sweet potato, spinach and caramelised red onion salad with a chilli and lemon dressing. Oh my, this was just glorious! Really delicious and the portion size was good for a starter. I totally could have eaten three of these and been happy though.

David and his dad both had the Tamworth pork and chicken croquettes with piccalilli and rocket salad. This was also beautiful, the croquettes were packed with flavour and a really good texture.

Eats | The Horse & Groom Bourton-on-the-Hill

For main I had the bunless griddled Dexter beef burger with red onion marmalade and horseradish mayo.

Eats | The Horse & Groom Bourton-on-the-Hill

David had the griddled Longhorn ribeye steak with a garlic, shallot and parsley butter. (Couldn’t wait for me to take a photo before digging in!)

Eats | The Horse & Groom Bourton-on-the-Hill

Chris went for the pan-fried Middlewhite pork chop, roasted fennel, bacon pangrattato and a green sauce.

Eats | The Horse & Groom Bourton-on-the-Hill

Trish had the roast fillet of hake with curried leeks and steamed mussels.

Eats | The Horse & Groom Bourton-on-the-Hill

We also got sides of chips, dauphinoise potatoes and veg. Some of the dishes come with potatoes while with others you do have to order them separately.

Overall, all of the food was great. We did wait a long time between the starter and the main being served (and the dining area was getting busier and busier in the interim), but we did forgive them for it pretty quickly. Everything was very well cooked, David’s steak was medium-rare as he likes it, and the dishes were all well-balanced flavour-wise. And, as you can see, there is something for everyone on the menu.

Eats | The Horse & Groom Bourton-on-the-Hill

Of course, we had to have desserts! Trish had Granny G’s toffee meringue which came with whipped cream.

Eats | The Horse & Groom Bourton-on-the-Hill

David had the apple and blackberry flapjack crumble with vanilla ice cream.

Eats | The Horse & Groom Bourton-on-the-Hill

And I had the pecan and maple syrup tart with Jersey cream.

Again, all delicious. My tart was super, super sweet (as I like it) with a good short crust pastry and absolutely loads of nuts. Nothing worse than too few nuts. David’s crumble was a lovely seasonal pudding and the flapjack topping put a bit of a twist on the traditional dish. Lastly, Trish said of Granny G’s meringue, and I quote: “That was the best dessert I’ve ever had”. High praise indeed! I tried a bit, and she’s right, the ratio of cream to meringue to sauce was perfect. Kudos to Granny G.

I think this dish sums up The Horse and Groom. It’s a family business with impeccably high standards, but retains its charm. It’s definitely worth the trip through the Cotswolds (which is hardly a hardship anyway). I love the seasonal menu and the focus on local produce and I’m excited to see what’s on at other times of the year. As long as it still includes Granny G’s dessert that is!

As always, if you have any recommendations for places in the Gloucestershire area (or Bristol or Birmingham), please do leave them in the comments.

Eats | The Swallow Bakery in Cheltenham Spa

The Swallow Bakery Cheltenham Spa The Swallow Bakery Cheltenham Spa

Since moving to Gloucester nine(!) months ago, I’m a bit ashamed to say that we still haven’t explored it much. We’re tending to stick to what we know and going to chain restaurants when we go out, but I know that the area has loads of hidden gems so I’m determined to find some of them. The Swallow Bakery is somewhere that we’ve passed a lot but only visited for the first time a few weeks ago. We went on a quiet Monday lunchtime and were greeted by a counter full of delicious looking food, so of course we over-ordered!

The Swallow Bakery Cheltenham Spa The Swallow Bakery Cheltenham Spa The Swallow Bakery Cheltenham Spa The Swallow Bakery Cheltenham Spa

I had an egg and cress sandwich on thick, white bread. I’ve not been eating bread much for the last few month and this was heavenly! Soft with chewy crusts – just how I like it! David went for the open sandwich with cream cheese, salami, roast peppers and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar which again seemed to go down well.

In order to make a bit of an indoor picnic of it, we also shared a sausage roll and a scotch duck egg. Both were exceptional. The sausage roll had some sort of soy glaze on the ends which gave it a kick of sweet and saltiness and stopped it from being the usual boring stodge. The scotch duck egg was massive so ideal for sharing. The sausage meat was very tasty again – it looks like it has mustard seeds in the mixture, not so much to give it a strong flavour (which I dislike) but to give it an extra something. The crumb coating was perfectly crispy all over and very well done.

The Swallow Bakery Cheltenham Spa The Swallow Bakery Cheltenham Spa

We just couldn’t see the piles of cakes and sweets and not get something. Luckily we were able to take these away to eat later. We decided to share a lemon drizzle cupcake and a brookie (a brownie topped with a cookie of course!). The cupcake was a little dry, but the lemon topping was lovely and tangy so rescued it a bit. The cookie portion of the brookie was good, but the brownie was a bit overdone – most likely the concept of a brookie forces this unfortunately. It was tasty, but I think I’ll try something different next time.

And there will be a next time. The bakery also looked like it had a good selection of salad options alongside hot and cold items and is really conveniently located in Cheltenham for a lunchtime treat. It is definitely a treat type price point, we spent around £20-25 so it’s not cheap but it is in line with the quality.

If you’re a local or have visited, please leave me your recommendations for places in Cheltenham and Gloucester in the comments.

Eats | Ed’s Easy Diner Edinburgh

Ed's Easy Diner Edinburgh

Happy birthday to me (er… two weeks ago…)! For my birthday was back up in Edinburgh for the week. While I was there I managed to squeeze in a visit to the Fort to do a spot of birthday shopping and to check out one of the new eateries there. Ed’s Easy Diner is a chain of restaurants inspired by traditional 1950s American diners. The Edinburgh Fort restaurant was the first to be opened in Scotland but has since been joined by one is Glasgow with Aberdeen and Inverness to follow.

Ed's Easy Diner Edinburgh

We went along during a quiet Thursday lunchtime and enjoyed really quick service. I believe that the restaurant building was purpose built and I love that the included a bar and open kitchen area. And that the chefs have to wear those paper hats!

Ed's Easy Diner Edinburgh Ed's Easy Diner Edinburgh

Every table is adorned with a jukebox loaded with 50s and 60s music. Its 20p per song choice and all the money goes to Action Against Hunger which is a really great cause. We were definitely hogging the speakers with all the Beach Boys and Chuck Berry songs!

Ed's Easy Diner Edinburgh

I guess you’ll be interested in the book then? For a starter we went with the nachos to share and cherry cokes. For me, I was pretty happy that the guacamole came as standard (what is with guac always being extra?!) and that there was no jalapeños but spice fans might be a bit disappointed with the lack of heat.

Ed's Easy Diner Edinburgh Ed's Easy Diner Edinburgh

For his main, David went for the Pulled Pork Burger. It was a tasty burger with a decent amount of pulled pork but not overloaded. The pork was pretty saucy and had a lovely nutty flavour.

Ed's Easy Diner Edinburgh Ed's Easy Diner Edinburgh

I went with the original Coney Island treat – the Chilli Cheese Dog. It was loaded with spicy beef and bean chilli, creamy cheese sauce and diced onions. It was so, so good. A simple meal but done really well. It was very messy to eat though – in a good way of course!

The sides were coleslaw, onions rings and fries. All decent sized portions and well cooked. I especially enjoyed the onion rings.

Ed's Easy Diner Edinburgh Ed's Easy Diner Edinburgh

For dessert we decided on pancakes and of course we had to try their legendary milkshakes. The pancakes came with powdered sugar, vanilla ice cream and maple syrup and were lush! Thick, fluffy, proper American pancakes.

The milkshake I went for was the chocolate and oreo while David just had the oreo with a vanilla base. Both were really thick and delicious. They came in old school style  aluminium cups and each was two servings. Luckily, Ed’s have a supply of takeaway cups so you can save some for later – they are very filling!

Ed's Easy Diner Edinburgh

Overall, I really enjoyed our visit to Ed’s. It was a really fun environment with good, straightforward food done well. Luckily for us, there’s an Ed’s nearby in Gloucester so we’ll definitely be going again next time the hotdog and milkshake cravings hit.

OK, I’m hungry now….

Big thanks to Ed’s Easy Diner for inviting us along to enjoy a complimentary meal. As always, opinions are my own!

Flavourly Craft Beer Club | January

Flavourly Craft Beer January

If you’re a regular reader you’ll know that I love trying out various subscription boxes. This month though, instead of the usual beauty boxes, we have something a bit more exciting. Well, it is if you’re into beer. Flavourly is a gourmet subscription service where you can choose between their deluxe food box or the craft beer club (or both if you so wish!). David is really into craft beer and micro breweries so of course we ordered the booze box.

This costs £24 plus £2 delivery but they currently have an offer for £10 off your first order. £14 for 8 craft beers and two snacks is pretty good value. At full price you’re not necessarily saving any money, but I see this box as more about discovery so it’s good if you’re interested in craft breweries. Out of the 8, there were only 3 that we had had before – the Brewdogs and the Innis & Gunn – the rest of the brands we hadn’t even seen before, which is pretty good going.

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The box includes a booklet with information about the breweries and a location map. Like a lot of people, we’re keen to support small and local businesses whenever possible and it’s nice to know where your drinks come from, so this is a great touch.

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Here’s what we received and a very brief verdict:

Eden Brewery St Andrews, St Andrews Blonde: Fruity as you would expect and very enjoyable.

Eden Brewery St. Andrews, Shipwreck IPA:  Good but prefered the other one from St Andrews.

Brewdog, This. Is. Lager.: Brewdog is a favourite brand from Aberdeenshire and this is a good, straightforward lager.

Brewdog Dead Pony Pale Ale: A refreshing and zesty option

Innis and Gunn, Original Oak Aged Beer: Good sweet beer from Edinburgh, you can really taste the toffee and vanilla coming through.

Inveralmond Brewery, Sunburst Bohemian Pilsner: You can really smell and taste the pineapple and grapefruit,  which is surprisingly nice and very refreshing. Favourite of the bunch.

Crafty Dan, 13 Guns American IPA: Smooth but with a hit of hops from the Blackburn brewery.

Crafty Dan, Triple C Golden Ale: Most hoppy of the selection but crisp and tangy.

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To go with the beer, a few snacks are included. We received Lemon Sherbet popcorn from Portlebay Popcorn in Devon (more subtle than feared so very nice) and Sweet Potato Crisps from Fairfields Farm in Colchester. Both good snacks to go along with the beers, and again great choices of company to work with.

Overall, we were very happy with this box. We would definitely use this service again and are also thinking of trying out the food box – they look like they have a great selection every month.

Eats | Las Iguanas

Las Iguanas Edinburgh

It’s the middle of winter, it’s freezing and miserable. But on the corner of George Street, it’s still summer in Las Iguanas. Serving up Latin inspired food and a bevy of cocktails, it’s always sunny in Las Iguanas, so on a cloudy, grey day, it seemed like the obvious choice for a filling lunch last week.

Las Iguanas Edinburgh

The décor is bright and airy. A fun combination of colours and patterns add to the casual atmosphere of the restaurant, lending it the perfect ambience for sharing with friends – whether it’s tapas, a pitcher or just some gossip.

Las Iguanas Edinburgh

The cocktail menu is generous and ordered by country – Brazil, Mexico etc with additional Las Iguanas Favourites meaning you’re spoiled for choice. I went for the Strawberry Red – strawberry liqueur, Malibu Red, lemon and cranberry juice topped with lemonade which made for a fruity and refreshing combo. There is also a good selection of beers and my dining partner went for a Peruvian beer which complemented our mains.

Las Iguanas Edinburgh Las Iguanas Edinburgh

We decided to go for the tapas option and as our eyes are bigger than our bellies (and the table!) we got the 5 dishes for £24. As we had been seated at a small table we had to have the dishes brought out in two lots, but it was a quiet day and the service was swift so this wasn’t a problem. We had the nachos, calamari, chicken enchiladas, chorizo and fish tacos. It would be impossible to choose a favourite dish from these. The nachos were freshly made tortilla chips and came with guacamole as standard (thank God! Don’t you hate it when places think that guac is a privilege that you have to pay extra for – no, it’s a standard ingredient surely?!). The calamari and the chorizo were both cooked perfectly, so tender and not a hint of chewiness so probably the best I’ve had anywhere. The chicken in the enchilada was creamy with a good flavour. If I absolutely had to choose a favourite though, it would be the fish tacos. The fish (not sure of the type but it was white so possibly cod) was juicy with a lovely crisp but light batter. The dressing with corn and red cabbage was sweet and crunchy and complemented the soft fish brilliantly. I could eat that all day.

Las Iguanas Edinburgh

Even though we were feeling pretty full by this point we couldn’t resist the call of churros for dessert. Restraining ourselves by sharing the single portion (which we found to be plenty), they came out of the kitchen steaming hot, crispy on the outside and soft in the middle. They were accompanied by rich, thick dulce de leche which, alongside the cinnamon sugar of the churros made for a warming, filling dessert which required us to be rolled home.

As a huge fan of Latin food I knew that I would love Las Iguanas but the quality and freshness of the food far exceeded my expectations of a chain restaurant. I’ll definitely be back very soon, probably eating my weight in fish tacos.