Thermomix Hot Cross Buns

April 20th, 2014
Hot Cross Buns become an everyday treat thanks to Thermomix

Hot Cross Buns become an everyday treat thanks to Thermomix

I made my first batch of hot cross buns in my Thermomix about three years ago and haven’t looked back since. My best friend in the kitchen makes short work of a sometimes complex recipe and allows me to make these tasty treats more often – as if I needed an excuse ;-)

I use this recipe from the UK Thermomix recipe collection which you can find here. Many thanks to UK Thermomix, Janie Turner and recipe creator PaulKaju!

Grinding flour, salt, spices,  rind and sugar.

Grinding flour, salt, spices, rind and sugar

Hot Cross Buns – Paul Kaju
Thermomix owner Paul Kaju lives in Singapore and can’t easily find some ingredients available in the UK like chopped mixed peel and mixed dried fruit, so this recipe uses fresh citrus peels and individual dried fruits instead. The flavour is wonderful, and they won’t last long. Makes 12.

I used dried cranberries and a mixture of dried fruits and nuts for my Thermomix hot cross buns

I used dried cranberries and a mixture of dried fruits and nuts for my Thermomix hot cross buns

Ingredients
450 g strong bread flour (white or brown or a mixture)
1 tsp salt
2 rounded tsp ground cinnamon
3 heaped tsp whole allspice berries or 2 rounded tsp ground allspice
15 g fresh yeast or 2 tsp activated dry yeast (do not use instant yeast)
thinly peeled rind of 1 orange, 1 lemon and 1 lime, preferably all organic
110 g granulated sugar
50 g unsalted butter, softened
260 g milk
1 large egg
2 tsp vanilla
150 g raisins or sultanas (I used dried cranberries for added tang)
75 g natural glacé cherries

Paste
40 g plain flour
1 Tbsp sugar
50 g water

Here I am piping the paste onto my hot cross buns before baking - with a plain old plastic bag ;-)

Here I am piping the paste onto my hot cross buns before baking – with a plain old plastic bag ;-)

Glaze
2 Tbsp brown sugar
3 Tbsp milk
1 Tbsp marmalade or jam

Method

1. Mix flour, salt, spices, (dried yeast if using dried), rind and sugar. Grind 30 seconds/Speed 10.

2. Add butter, milk, egg, (fresh yeast if using fresh) and vanilla. Mix 20 seconds/Speed 3.

3. Add raisins and cherries (or use 230 g mixed dried fruit instead). Knead 3 minutes/Dough Setting. Tip out into a greased large bowl and leave covered to rise slowly in a cool room for 6 hours or overnight.

4. Punch down the dough to release the air. Divide into 12 buns and place into a greased roasting or baking tin about 15 x 25 cm. Cover with a damp tea towel and leave in a warm place to rise for 90 minutes or until doubled in size (may take 2 to 5 hours if using dried yeast).

5. Place a bowl on top of the TM lid and weigh in the paste ingredients. Whisk with a fork until smooth and place in a small plastic bag. Make a very small snip in one corner of the bag at an angle then squeeze out the mixture to pipe a cross on each bun. Bake at 180°C/350°F/gas 4 for 10 minutes then reduce to 150°C/300°F/gas 3 and bake further 15 minutes. Aga Ovens: bake 12 to 15 minutes on the rack set on the floor of the Roasting Oven.

6. Mix glaze. Brush hot cross buns with glaze straight after they are removed from the oven. Leave in the tin about 30 to 45 minutes then serve slightly warm or cool.

Glaze your Thermomix Hot Cross Buns as soon as they come out of the oven

Glaze your Thermomix Hot Cross Buns as soon as they come out of the oven

 

Bon appétit and Happy Easter!

Bon appétit and Happy Easter!

 

Happy Thermomix cooking!

Happy Thermomix cooking!

 

Bon appétit !

PRINT THIS RECIPE FROM THE UK THERMOMIX RECIPE PAGE

 

Three-Chocolate Bites

April 16th, 2014
Luscious three-chocolate corks are just one of the things it's easy to make in your Thermomix!

Luscious three-chocolate corks are just one of the things it’s easy to make in your Thermomix!

Easter is nearly upon us and those of you who have observed Lent will be looking for a satisfying reward for your sacrifices – while others will simply be delighted to tuck into these subtly superlative chocolate creations. The three layers of different chocolates – dark, milk and white – make for a wonderful combination that appeals to lovers of all three kinds. The almonds lighten up both the texture and the flavour and because they’re full of good oils and fats, they make me think I’m eating something healthy ;-)

And Easter makes me think of chocolate Easter eggs and other Easter chocolates in all those lovely shapes we traditionally see, such as chickens, rabbits, bells, and lambs. For my first batch of Easter treats I only had Champagne cork moulds so I am rewarding myself with really big bites of three chocolates! Also, my Champagne cork moulds are hard plastic, which makes it all the harder to release them. For my second batch I used brand new silicone “cannelé” moulds, in the shape of a traditional French cake from Bordeaux plus an old silicone heart-shaped ice cube tray and boy, was it easier to remove my finished bites! So if you have silicone moulds you’ll be a happy bunny – and maybe even a Happy Easter Bunny ;-)

I also got inspired at the hypermarket the other day and created a variation on this recipe by using caramel chocolate instead of the milk chocolate. I looooooove caramel and I can’t wait to dive into one of these tempting bites!

For my first batch I used dark, milk and white chocolate as on the right, but in my second batch I used caramel chocolate instead of the milk. I can't wait to taste!

For my first batch I used dark, milk and white chocolate as on the right, but in my second batch I used caramel chocolate instead of the milk. I can’t wait to taste!

Three-Chocolate Bites
I first had these gorgeous chocolates at my local Thermomix demonstrator team meeting in France and fell in love with them at first bite. The recipe originally appeared in the Vorwerk Thermomix France quarterly owners’ magazine. Makes 30 to 48 bite-sized chocolates, depending on the size of your mould – and your bite!

Ingredients
210 g Thermomix icing sugar, divided 70 g + 70 g + 70 g
390 g whole almonds, divided 130 g  + 130 g + 130 g
150 g dark chocolate, 70% cocoa solids, broken in pieces
150 g milk chocolate, broken in pieces
150 g white chocolate, broken in pieces
a good pinch of salt for each type of chocolate

Equipment
Chocolate moulds, preferably silicone, such as corks, Easter eggs, chicks, bunnies, bells, etc.

Each indentation of my rigid plastic cork moulds represents half of one champagne cork so I filled half of them with dark chocolate plus milk chocolate and the other half with a dark layer topped with a white chocolate layer. Then I assembled them and made life-sized chocolate champagne corks!

Each indentation of my rigid plastic cork moulds represents half of one champagne cork so I filled half of them with dark chocolate plus milk chocolate and the other half with a dark layer topped with a white chocolate layer. Then I assembled them and made life-sized chocolate champagne corks!

Method

Before you start, make the icing sugar: Weigh 210 g sugar into TM bowl and grind 30 seconds/Speed 10. Tip out and set aside, or leave in one TM bowl and use your second for the rest of the recipe.

I used a plastic bag as a piping bag to fill these small cannelé moulds

I used a plastic bag as a piping bag to fill these small cannelé moulds

  1. Weigh 130 g of almonds into your TM bowl and chop 30 seconds/Speed 10. Scrape sides of bowl with spatula.
  2. Add 70 g of icing sugar and a good pinch of salt and mix 10 seconds/Speed 10. Scrape down.
  3. Add the dark chocolate pieces and chop 5 seconds/Speed 10, then melt 3 minutes/60° C/Speed 1. Fill your moulds 1/3 full with this dark chocolate mixture and place in the refrigerator to set. Wash and dry your bowl.
  4. Repeat the operation with the milk chocolate: Weigh 130 g of almonds into your TM bowl and chop 30 seconds/Speed 10.
  5. Add 70 g of icing sugar and a good pinch of salt and mix 10 seconds/Speed 10.
  6. Add the milk chocolate pieces and chop 5 seconds/Speed 10, then melt 3 minutes/60° C/Speed 1. Fill your moulds to the 2/3 full mark, adding the milk chocolate mixture on top of the dark chocolate and place in the refrigerator to set. Wash and dry your bowl.
  7. Now repeat the operation with the white chocolate: Weigh 130 g of almonds into your TM bowl and chop 30 seconds/Speed 10.
  8. Add 70 g of icing sugar and a good pinch of salt and mix 10 seconds/Speed 10.
  9. Add the white chocolate pieces and chop 5 seconds/Speed 10, then melt 3 minutes/60° C/Speed 1. Make a third layer in your moulds by adding the white chocolate mixture on top of the milk chocolate and return to the refrigerator for 1 to 2 hours to fully set.
Where's the impostor?

Where’s the impostor?

Serve with coffee, port, or a sweet red wine such as a Maury. Be careful, these lovely Thermomix creations are very, very hard to resist!

Bon appétit !

Madame Thermomix’s tips:

  1. The original recipe calls for melting each chocolate mixture at 50° C but I found the chocolate much easier to work with when melted at 60° C so I have modified the recipe in this way.
  2. It is sincerely easier to get your chocolate mixtures into the moulds using a piping bag or just a simple plastic bag with a hole or a slit in it. Just don’t make the hole too big ;-)
  3. Don’t overfill your moulds with the dark chocolate or you won’t have room for the other layers. Make more, smaller chocolates and spread the joy!
  4. I’m sure you’ve seen this trick on TV and it really works: give your mould several good taps on the bench to get even layers of chocolate. Go on, give it a whack!
  5. Be sure to remove the blade when you wash your bowl so you don’t mix your chocolates from one layer to another.
  6. Vary the flavours of your next batch – believe me, there will be many next batches! – with other nuts such as walnuts, hazelnuts, pistachios, peanuts, etc. Use your imagination and share your favourite combination with us by leaving a comment.
  7. Vary the flavours again by using different cooking chocolates such as caramel. I’m drooling just writing this and can’t wait to taste the batch that’s in the fridge setting. Patience is a virtue as they say…

 

Here are my dark-caramel-milk bites in little cannelé moulds in the foreground and little heart moulds in the background. Happy Easter, bunnies!

Here are my dark-caramel-milk bites in little cannelé moulds in the foreground and little heart moulds in the background. Happy Easter, bunnies!

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Marion’s Fabulous Scones

April 14th, 2014
Marion's Scones are fast and easy to make in your Thermomix!

Marion’s Scones are fast and easy to make in your Thermomix!

Tea time… afternoon tea… scones and clotted cream with clotted cream on the bottom and jam on the top… or is it jam on the bottom and clotted cream on the top?? Sweet scones, savoury scones, classic scones, wacky scones. Big scones or bite-sized scones. Whichever way you like them, scones are fast and easy to make in the Thermomix!

I was doing a bread- and baking-based Recipe Date with my lovely Scottish neighbour Marion when my “Fast and Easy Cooking” magically fell open to the scones recipe page. When Marion said to me “I’m famous for my scones” I couldn’t resist using her recipe and my Thermomix to create this superb result. Marion’s recipe in the Thermomix produces light, fluffy, beautifully risen scones that she can be proud of. I’m not at all surprised that she’s famous for them!

Making the dough for Marion's Fabulous Scones

Making the dough for Marion’s Fabulous Scones – click to see full size image

Marion’s Fabulous Scones – Thermomix style
Marion’s recipe calls for much less butter than other recipes I have seen, and it uses an egg for added richness. It can be adapted for sweet or savoury scones for a real afternoon tea treat. Makes 10 to 12 thick, gorgeous scones or dozens of bite-sized ones! 

Ingredients
450 g self-raising flour
50 g butter
50 g sugar for sweet scones or 1/2 tsp salt for savoury scones
1 egg
250 g milk or buttermilk

Method

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 210° C. Weigh butter and flour into TM bowl and Turbo pulse for 2 seconds to cut the butter into the flour.
  2. Add egg, milk and any other ingredients and knead 20 seconds/Dough setting. Scrape sides of bowl and knead again 10 seconds/Dough setting.

    When you take them out of the oven, cover your scones with kitchen roll and a tea towel to keep them moist when cooling

    When you take them out of the oven, cover your scones with kitchen roll and a tea towel to keep them moist when cooling

  3. Turn your TM bowl upside down on a floured work surface, release the base and allow the weight of the dough to pull the blade out. Carefully remove the blade from the dough and set aside. Gently pat the dough into a thick round and use a biscuit cutter, a cup, a clean tuna tin or a glass to cut out your scones and then place them on a floured or paper-lined baking tray.
  4. Bake 7 minutes/210° C or until scones are just golden brown. Remove the baking tray from the oven and place on a cooling rack. Cover your scones with some kitchen roll and a tea towel to keep them moist as they cool. Serve warm or cool.
Be sure to cut the scones without twisting your cutter so they rise evenly

Be sure to cut the scones without twisting your cutter so they rise evenly

Get creative
Scones are hugely versatile and suit all sorts of occasions and taste combinations. You can make them “normal” sized for a sweet or savoury afternoon tea, or make small, bite-sized scones for a cocktail party, a “café gourmand” or just a quick bite. Here are some quick thoughts:

Classic dried fruit scones:
raisins, sultanas, currants, chopped  dates, dried cranberries, dried apricots

Not-so-classic dried fruit scones:
dehydrated apple, pear, peach or other fruit

Marion's scones are as fabulous as she is!

Marion’s scones are as fabulous as she is!

Savoury scones:
Grated cheese – cheddar, Swiss, parmesan
Crumbled cheese – blue, Roquefort, goat
Herb scones – basil, parsley, rosemary, thyme, etc.
Pesto scones – add up to 1 Tbsp Thermomix pesto and a bit less milk
Italian scones – chopped sundried tomatoes and oregano or herbes de provence
Seedy scones – sunflower seeds, chia seeds, linseeds, etc

Please leave a comment and let us know what your favourite scone combinations are!

I like Marion's scones with clotted cream on the bottom and jam on the top. How do you like yours?

I like Marion’s scones with clotted cream on the bottom and jam on the top. How do you like yours?

Bon appétit !

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Courgettes Stuffed with Finn Crisp for a tasty Nordic crunch

March 25th, 2014
Start with some Finn Crisp Original Thin Sourdough Rye Crispbreads, add some veg and seasonings and make a super healthy dish

Start with some Finn Crisp Original Thin Sourdough Rye Crispbreads, add some veg and seasonings and make a super healthy dish

By choice I haven’t eaten any bread or gluten for over two months now, so when some lovely samples of Finn Crisp Original Rye Crispbreads arrived for me to create a recipe with, I have to admit I left them in the cupboard until the spirit moved me, as they say. Today, however, a couple of plump, juicy round courgettes caught my eye and begged me to stuff them with something interesting. My inspiration was found and my spirit was moved to create this super easy, super healthy, super tasty Thermomix recipe with Finn Crisp Thin Sourdough Rye Crispbreads.

I hollowed out my round courgettes with a spoon

I hollowed out my round courgettes with a spoon

Courgettes Stuffed with Finn Crisp Thin Sourdough Rye Crispbread
Serves two. Can be varied infinitely according to what you’ve got in your larder or refrigerator. Remember, with Thermomix especially, your only limit is your imagination!

Ingredients
2 round courgettes
6 Finn Crisp Thin Sourdough Rye Crispbreads
1 spring onion, cut into 5 cm/2 inch lengths
1 clove garlic, peeled
¼ of a red pepper/capsicum
¼ of a yellow pepper/capsicum
pinch of smoked paprika or other spice
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
¼ tsp. salt
several turns of freshly ground pepper
300 g water or stock

My courgettes stuffed with Finn Crisp stuffing are in the Varoma and ready to be steamed

My courgettes stuffed with Finn Crisp stuffing are in the Varoma and ready to be steamed

Method

  1. Break the Finn Crisps into your TM bowl and crush 8 seconds/Speed 10.
  2. Cut off the tops of your courgettes and scoop out the flesh with a spoon. Add the flesh to the TM bowl along with the other ingredients and Turbo pulse once or twice to create a stuffing.
  3. Fill the hollowed-out courgettes with your Finn Crisp stuffing and place in the Varoma dish, leaving some stuffing in your TM bowl to create a sauce. Add 300 g water or stock  and steam 20 minutes/Varoma setting/Speed 1 or until the courgettes are tender but not mushy. Check that your sauce has reduced enough/not too much (the courgettes render quite a bit of extra liquid) and cook some more on Varoma if required. If you’re not looking for a fat-free dish, stir a spoonful of crème fraîche into the sauce. Serve as an accompaniment to meat, fish or poultry and enjoy the lovely rye flavor coming through. Add some protein to the Varoma for a Low Fat All-in-One Varoma dish and use this most precious part of your Thermomix to its best advantage.
Look at these beautiful babies! My Thermomix can't wait to get them steaming in the Varoma

Look at these beautiful babies! My Thermomix can’t wait to get them steaming in the Varoma

These Finn Crisps are a tasty treat at breakfast or lunch, spread with butter and jam or topped with a savoury filling as an open-faced sandwich. They would also make another great stuffing for chicken or lamb roulades, such as I made in my Low Fat All-in-One Varoma Chicken Supper. Finn Crisps are high in fibre and I was amazed at how delectably crunchy they are. I loved the sourdough flavor, too. Look up some interesting recipes on their website or try your hand at your own recipes and let me know what you come up with.

I added some fresh spinach  to the Varoma tray towards the end of the steaming time to bulk up our vegetables. Add some protein to the Varoma dish and make yourself an all-in-one Thermomix Varoma meal

I added some fresh spinach to the Varoma tray towards the end of the steaming time to bulk up our vegetables. Add some protein to the Varoma dish and make yourself an all-in-one Thermomix Varoma meal

Here's one of my Courgettes stuffed with Finn Crisp Thin Sourdough Crispbread stuffing, waiting for its sauce

Here’s one of my Courgettes stuffed with Finn Crisp Thin Sourdough Crispbread stuffing, waiting for its sauce

Bon appétit !

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Easy Mushroom Rub

March 23rd, 2014
Dried mushrooms, butter and chicken make Madame Thermomix and ThermoHubby John very happy!

Dried mushrooms, butter, chicken – and Thermomix, of course! – make Madame Thermomix and ThermoHubby John very happy!

Chicken. Chic-ken. Chic-KEN. CHICKEN!!!

We just love chicken in our house, especially roast chicken. It’s our Sunday favourite, a meal we look forward to. Even so, I like to vary my roast chicken with natural flavours and ethnic combinations such as lime, ginger and chilli for an Asian kick; sun dried tomatoes, herbes de provence or oregano and garlic for a Mediterranean twist; or I’ll stuff the cavity with lemons and rub the skin with olive oil and loads of black pepper for an even different taste sensation.

My Thermomix helps me with another fast and easy taste boost that you can use for roast chicken, in gravies and sauces, or as a rub on meats, poultry, or strong-flavoured fish. It takes less than a minute and gives the most amazing tastes. I spread it under the skin of the breast of the chicken and it adds moisture as well as flavour. Try it, you’ll like it!

Dried mushrooms have a wonderful concentrated flavour which Thermomix helps to release

Dried mushrooms have a wonderful concentrated flavour which Thermomix helps to release

Madame Thermomix’s Easy Mushroom Rub
Make any quantity you wish; these proportions make enough for a small to medium-sized chicken plus some gravy.

Ingredients
30 g dried mushrooms
60 g butter

Method

  1. Grind dried mushrooms 1 minute/Speed 10 or until you get a fine powder. Scrape sides of TM bowl and lid; a pastry brush is very helpful to get it all.
  2. Add butter and mix 20 seconds/Speed 4; scrape and repeat if necessary.
Thermomix grinds your dried mushrooms into a fine powder

Thermomix grinds your dried mushrooms into a fine powder

Spread this gorgeous gooey rub on the skin of your chicken or even better, slide your hands between the skin and the flesh on the breast of the chicken to loosen it and create a space which you then fill with your rub. Leave a bit of rub in your TM bowl and don’t wash it yet. Roast your chicken in your usual way, starting with the breast side up and then turning the chicken breast side down for the last half of cooking. This moistens the bird in the first instance and locks the juices into the breast in the second half of cooking. Then – woo hoo – add the chicken roasting juices to the mushroom rub in your TM bowl, add water to make up 1 litre, and cook up some fabulous gravy 12 to 15 minutes/Varoma setting/Speed 2.

In about a minute, Thermomix transforms some basic ingredients into a fabulous taste sensation

In about a minute, Thermomix transforms some basic ingredients into a fabulous taste sensation

Bon appétit !

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Savoury Red Pepper (Capiscum) Sorbet

March 20th, 2014
Thermomix Savoury Red Capiscum Sorbet brings a touch of freshness to many a meal

Thermomix Savoury Red Capiscum Sorbet brings a touch of freshness to many a meal

I’m always one to try new flavour combinations and sensations, and red pepper/capiscum with a hint of curry powder in a palate-cleansing sorbet is a big hit in my book. Adapted from a recipe for red pepper sorbet published in Thermomix France’s beautiful cookbook, “Recettes des 4 Saisons,” I wowed some French friends at a dinner party the other night with my variation. Enjoy the recipe!

Start with fresh red peppers or capiscum

Start with fresh red peppers or capiscum

Savoury Red Pepper Sorbet with a Hint of Curry
Since this sorbet is made from fresh peppers as opposed to the usual Thermomix sorbet made from frozen fruit, it has a tendency to freeze quite hard. I recommend making it only a couple of hours before you’ll serve it, or else freezing it in quenelles or ice cube trays and re-mixing it just before service. Serves 8; can be easily halved with good results.

Ingredients
1 lime, peeled and cut into sections (i.e., just the flesh)
200 g of fresh red pepper (capsicum), deseeded and cut into large chunks
4 sprigs of fresh coriander leaves plus more to garnish
1/4 tsp. Stevia
1 tsp. curry powder
650 g ice cubes

Method

  1. Place the flesh of the lime and all the other ingredients into the TM bowl and grind 30 seconds/Speed 6, using the spatula through the hole in the lid to help push the ingredients onto the blade. Scrape sides of bowl.
  2. Grind again 30 seconds/Speed 10 or until all the ice cubes have been crushed. Transfer to a shallow container and place in freezer for about 2 hours before scooping into serving dishes and garnishing with more fresh coriander.
Add ice to these lovely fresh ingredients and crush into a frosty taste treat

Add ice to these lovely fresh ingredients and crush into a frosty taste treat

Madame Thermomix’s tip: Pre-form quenelles of sorbet and freeze them on a flat tray before plating up. I actually could have served this sorbet as soon as I made it and next time I’ll see what the consistency is like and maybe take my chances ;-)

Fresh red peppers and ice cubes combine to create a savoury sorbet, the Thermomix way

Fresh red peppers and ice cubes combine to create a savoury sorbet, the Thermomix way

Bon appétit !

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Nespresso®-compatible coffee capsule comparison test/review

March 20th, 2014
Original Nespresso capsules are delivered straight to your home or office door

Original Nespresso capsules are delivered straight to your home or office door. I ordered these Wednesday at 13:00 and they were delivered Thursday at 09:30!

It’s Friday and the postman rings the doorbell instead of just leaving the post. “That’s interesting,” I think. “What could this be?” To my surprise and delight it was a rather large package containing five boxes of 10 Nespresso®-compatible coffee capsules by Fine Coffee Club. Wow, they mean to impress. (By way of comparison, Gourmesso sent me 8 single capsules, one of each of 8 of its flavours. They may not have the clout of the big coffee producers but they’re extremely friendly and very switched on.) This was handy because we had guests arriving Saturday evening so we could do a taste test and compare the Fine Coffee Club capsules with original Nespresso® capsules.

Fine Coffee Club capsules come in recyclable, reclosable sleeves

Fine Coffee Club capsules come in recyclable, reclosable sleeves

Fast forward to Monday, and once again the postman rings the doorbell instead of just leaving the post. “That’s interesting,” I think. “What could this be this time?” To my surprise and delight it was an even larger package containing five boxes of 10 Nespresso®-compatible coffee capsules by Carte Noire in a luxurious, gold-ribboned presentation box, plus two double-walled espresso cups by Bodum, bearing the Carte Noire logo. Gosh, Carte Noire wants to impress even more. And yes, Dear Reader, this is a double-whammy sponsored post where I will give my honest opinion about the free samples of Nespresso®-compatible coffee capsules that were sent to me. Do read on, you’ll find it interesting I think.

A generous and luxurious sample from Carte Noire

A generous and luxurious sample from Carte Noire

Back to the weekend taste test. First off, Fine Coffee Club capsules come in a recyclable cardboard box that you can actually reclose and neatly store, as opposed to the Nespresso® box that you basically have to rip open and then are left with this messy-looking ripped hunk of cardboard hanging off the end. So that’s one point for Fine Coffee Club, and a lesson for Nespresso®. Second, the first capsule I took out looked a bit dented but I tried it anyway. Fatal mistake. I mopped up water for ten minutes afterwards due to the damaged capsule getting jammed in my compatible machine. Oops, take that point away from Fine Coffee Club for not delivering undamaged capsules despite the heavy outer cardboard shipping box.

Hooray for Fine Coffee Club's reclosable sleeves!

Hooray for Fine Coffee Club’s reclosable sleeves!

 

Fine Coffee Club's capsules were designed to lock freshness in so you get the first fresh taste every time.

Fine Coffee Club’s capsules were designed to lock freshness in so you get the first fresh taste every time.

A good point for Fine Coffee Club capsules is that they have apparently been designed to protect the aroma, as are Nespresso®’s aluminum capsules. The coffee has a proper coffee colour, produces a fine crema and has a reasonable aroma once brewed. I thought the Fine Coffee Club capsules were better than the Gourmesso capsules previously reviewed, but there stops any comparison. In a side-by-side blind taste test between similar strength Nespresso® and Fine Coffee Club coffees, Nespresso® won hands down. Nespresso® coffees have more body, better taste, more aroma and a lovely lingering taste on the tongue. Fine Coffee Club ships to Australia, Canada, France, Ireland, the UK and the USA, plus to other parts of Europe. Their website states that you can “Save over 20% compared to the main brand” so if budget is your main consideration then Fine Coffee Club capsules are worth a try.

For us, Carte Noire is the best alternative to Nespresso capsules but this N° 9 Intense left us longing for a more lingering taste

For us, Carte Noire is the best alternative to Nespresso capsules but this N° 9 Intense left us longing for a more lingering taste

Now we come to another taste test, between original Nespresso® and Carte Noire Nespresso®-compatible capsules. Of all three compatibles I have had the good fortune to test, Carte Noire are the best alternative. I do worry that the Carte Noire capsules are individually wrapped because as soon as you open the cute little envelope you get a big hit of coffee smell, which means that less of that aroma stays in your cup. We blind tasted Carte Noire’s N° 9 Intense alongside Nespresso®’s Ristretto with intensity 10, and while the Carte Noire was a nice brew with good colour, reasonably strong aroma and lovely crema, the taste didn’t really go anywhere and left your mouth feeling abandoned. The Nespresso® Ristretto (brewed to the same 40ml espresso shot as the Carte Noire and therefore not a true ristretto and a fair comparison) had more body, a more intense aroma and a gorgeous lingering taste. This afternoon I brewed myself a Carte Noire N° 3 Elégant and I’m happy to say that it was really quite good, with reasonable body and a good length of taste.

Carte Noire is out to impress and to take the coffee capsule market by storm

Carte Noire is out to impress and to take the coffee capsule market by storm

Carte Noire’s selling point is convenience because their capsules are available in supermarkets across the UK. However, as Carte Noire capsules are only compatible with Nespresso® machines bought in the UK before July 1, 2013, you need to check your machine first. Despite my new Nespresso® machine being officially compatible, one of the capsules I used got stuck and made rather a bit of a mess on the coffee bar. Retailing at £2.79 for 10 capsules there is a small difference in price between Carte Noire and Nespresso® whose capsules retail from £2.90 to £3.50 per sleeve of 10 but for my money I will stick with the superior, consistent quality and taste of original Nespresso® espresso capsules.

Here is my ranking of the espresso capsules I have tested:

Ranking Brand Positive points Negative points
First place Nespresso®
  • Consistently excellent body, aroma, colour, crema, taste and length of taste across all varieties
  • Delivered straight to your home or office door. Shipping charge waived on orders of over 200 capsules
  • Freshness sealed inside recyclable aluminum capsules
  • Scruffy packaging!
Second place Carte Noire
  • Reasonable body, aroma, colour, crema, taste for most varieties. Good body and length of taste in N° 3 Elégant
  • Supermarket availability may be attractive to some
  • Not all machines are compatible
  • Freshness/loss of aroma; individual envelope creates additional waste
  • Risk of faulty capsules
  • Bulky packaging requires more storage space
Third place Fine Coffee Club
  • Well designed re-sealable outer packaging
  • Capsules designed to lock in freshness
  • Available in many countries
  • Price point at 20% less than Nespresso®
  • Makes a decent cup of coffee if you’re on a budget
  • Risk of faulty capsules
  • Not as high quality coffee or capsules as Nespresso®
Fourth place Gourmesso
  • Really friendly company with good customer service
  • Offers the widest alternative range with ten espressos, two Lungo offerings, three flavoured capsules as well as limited specialities
  • Free shipping on orders over £40
  • Price point at 30% less than Nespresso® Capsules
  • Makes a half decent cup of coffee if you’re on a budget or if your taste buds haven’t been spoiled by Nespresso®!
  • Freshness/loss of aroma; individual envelope creates additional waste
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  • Not as high quality coffee or capsules as Nespresso®

Sponsored post; all opinions expressed here are those of the author and you are welcome to form your own. Why not order some capsules from each of these sponsors and let me know what you think?

 

Curried Mussels in the Varoma

February 27th, 2014
Madame Thermomix's Curried Mussels are fast and easy in the Thermomix and Varoma!

Madame Thermomix’s Curried Mussels are fast and easy in the Thermomix and Varoma!

It was a beautiful day today, there was a seafood extravaganza at the local hypermarket, I was thinking of the seashore and I wanted something different for dinner. Organically-grown mussels from Ireland were on special so I picked up a container of them and started thinking about dinner.

I had not yet made mussels in the Thermomix and today was the perfect opportunity. Moules Marinières are a classic recipe with white wine, onion and parsley, but I fancied something a tad more exotic so I plumped for a tasty curry sauce that would enhance yet not overpower the delicate mussel flavour. Here we go:

Mussels are easy to steam in the Varoma

Mussels are easy to steam in the Varoma

Madame Thermomix’s Curried Mussels
This recipe brings out the best of our Best Friend in the Kitchen’s functions with a sauce (chopping, sautéing, and cooking) and the mussels themselves, delicately steamed in the Varoma. The sauce itself may seem a bit thick at first but the natural juices from the mussels drip down through the Varoma dish and turn it into a fragrant soup. I made this a fat-free meal since I used no oil to sauté but you may add some if you wish. Serves 2 as a main dish or 4 as a starter. A traditional accompaniment is frites or chips/French fries; pasta is also nice and you could even cook dried pasta shapes in the sauce on Reverse Blade for an all-in-one Varoma meal.

Ingredients
2 cloves of garlic
2 cm fresh ginger, sliced along the lines of the skin into 2 mm “coins”
2 medium onions, peeled and quartered
2 stalks of celery, washed and cut into 2-inch lengths
2 large fresh tomatoes, quartered – or – 1 x 400 g tin of tomatoes
1 Tbsp curry powder or to taste
¼ tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. salt
2 litres mussels, scrubbed and rinsed

Mussels steamed in the Varoma

Mussels steamed in the Varoma

Method

  1. Peel the garlic 4 seconds/Speed 4 ½/Reverse Blade Direction. Remove skins and cancel Reverse Blade. With the Thermomix running at Speed 5, drop ginger, onions and celery onto the blades and turn off. Scrape sides of bowl with spatula.
  2. Add tomatoes, curry powder, cinnamon and salt. Blend 30 seconds/Speed 7; scrape sides and lid of bowl. Cook 100° C/15 minutes/Speed 2. During this time, scrub, sort and rinse your mussels. Discard any that float or that have broken shells. Place the remaining mussels in the Varoma dish and rinse them one more time. Make sure some steam holes show through the bottom of the Varoma dish.
  3. At the end of the sauce cooking time, place the Varoma on top of the Thermomix lid and steam your mussels on Varoma Setting/10 minutes/Speed 2 or until all the mussels have just opened. Serve immediately in deep bowls and cover with the sauce, accompanied by chips, pasta, rice or salad. Make sure you put out big spoons to get all the delicious soup-like sauce!
Bon appétit with Madame Thermomix's curried mussels in the Varoma!

Bon appétit with Madame Thermomix’s curried mussels in the Varoma!

Bon appétit !

PRINT THIS RECIPE

 

Fat-Free Veal Sauté Provençal

February 23rd, 2014
Easy Fat-Free Veal Sauté Provençal is a delicious and healthy all-in-one Varoma meal

Easy Fat-Free Veal Sauté Provençal is a delicious and healthy all-in-one Varoma meal

It’s a lovely, sunny Sunday afternoon and we’ve just gotten back from a marathon trip to Ikea. Being the last day of half-term school holidays and a Sunday to boot, the crowds and crying children made us appreciate the relative peace and quiet of home. But hunger is lurking after this trek and a long dog walk this morning, so my trusty Thermomix needs to come up with something easy and filling.

I had a beautiful piece of stewing veal in the fridge and some vaguely Mediterranean vegetables so I decided to make a Provençal-themed dish. Thermomix’s constant gentle stirring makes it so easy to sauté ingredients without adding any oil or butter at all, it was perfect for my diet. I have been using my Thermomix to make stews and sautés quite a lot lately, and it really comes into its own, regardless of what ingredients you use. I had a rummage through the veg drawers and came up with leeks but otherwise would have used onions; I had lovely pointed sweet red peppers but regular red capsicum would have been perfect, too. I chucked in the somewhat wilted feet of some chestnut mushrooms and some wrinkly carrots that had seen better days and Thermomix showed once again how it helps reduce waste. About one quarter of a lovely courgette went into the stew in chunks while the rest got steamed in thick slices. A handful of herbs from the windowsill and some big, fat, juicy cloves of garlic added flavour, as did a tin of tomatoes. So that was how this dish came about. An hour on reverse at 100 degrees plus 10 minutes on Varoma to steam the veg, and we sat down to a tender, tasty stew that was all good for us. Genius!

The vegetables complementing the Veal Sauté Provençal are steamed in the Varoma tray with optional potatoes steaming in the Varoma dish underneath

The vegetables complementing the Veal Sauté Provençal are steamed in the Varoma tray with optional potatoes steaming in the Varoma dish underneath

For those of you who prefer to follow a recipe, here you go. Feel free to substitute whatever meat or veg you have in the fridge and create your own taste extravaganza!

Madame Thermomix’s Fat-Free Veal Sauté Provençal
The gentle stirring of Thermomix allows for fat-free sautéing and stewing, preserving all the tastes of your ingredients. Add some potatoes and you’ve got a fat-free all-in-one Varoma meal. Serves 4.

Ingredients
2 or 3 cloves of garlic
1 large or 2 small onions, peeled and quartered
¼ red chilli, seeds removed if you wish
1 large or 2 small carrots, peeled and cut into 5 cm/2-inch chunks
2 mushrooms
¼ of a courgette, cut into chunks
500 g veal for stewing (or use lamb or beef)
1 tsp. salt or to taste
several turns of fresh black pepper
½ tsp. dried rosemary, or herbes de provence, or dried thyme or a mixture
1 x 400 g tin of tomatoes
½ tin water

to steam
2 sweet pointed red peppers
remaining ¾ of your courgette
4 large mushrooms
4 to 6 medium potatoes; peeled and cut into 2.5 cm/1 inch chunks (optional)

Method

  1. Peel your garlic, 4 seconds/Speed 4 ½ /Reverse Blade Direction. Remove skins and cancel reverse blade. Add onions, chilli, carrots, courgette and mushrooms. Chop 2 seconds/Speed 5. Scrape sides of TM bowl with spatula.
  2. Sauté 5 minutes/100° C/Speed 1. During this time, if required, remove all visible fat from your meat and cut into 2.5 cm/1-inch chunks.
  3. Add meat, salt and pepper, herbs and the tin of tomatoes to the TM bowl. Gently rinse the tomato juice from the sides of the empty tin and continue filling it half way with water; add this juice and water mixture to bowl. Cook 60 minutes/100° C/Speed 1/Reverse Blade Direction. During this time, prepare your veg for steaming. I cut my courgette into thick slices, quartered the mushrooms and cut the red peppers into large chunks. Arrange them on the top tray of the Varoma, making sure to leave some holes visible for the steam to flow through. If you want to bulk out your meal with some carbs, peel and cut up your potatoes and arrange them in the Varoma dish, also leaving some holes for the steam. (Depending on how fast you are at prepping your veg you may want to keep your potatoes from going brown by putting them in a bowl of water until you’re ready to steam them.)
  4. At the end of the hour, remove the lid of your Thermomix and check to see if your meat is tender and that there is enough liquid in your sauce to create some steam for your vegetables. Add a bit of water if you think you need it but remember that you’ll want a lovely thick sauce to eat. Replace the TM lid, place the Varoma on top and steam 10 minutes/Varoma setting/Speed 1/Reverse Blade Direction. Check that your veg are steamed through (especially the potatoes if using); just leave the Varoma closed on top of the Thermomix to gently finish cooking if they need a few more minutes while you get your table ready and call everyone to eat. Then serve up and enjoy your fat-free all-in-one Varoma meal!

Bon appétit !

 PRINT THIS RECIPE

Vegetables steamed in the Varoma retain colour and flavour while our stew cooks to a tender delight below. Be extremely careful if you heat your plates on top!

Vegetables steamed in the Varoma retain colour and flavour while our stew cooks to a tender delight below. Be extremely careful if you heat your plates on top!

 

Kusmi Teas at One Nation Paris

February 20th, 2014
My tiny collection of Kusmi Teas

My tiny collection of Kusmi Teas

It’s 06:45 and the birds are singing in a loop. Twice, three times, four… ThermoHubby John hasn’t quite emerged from his night’s sleep and I certainly haven’t. Ah, the birds have stopped; John has turned off the wake-up sound and it’s just the light now. Ugh, there’s something really heavy in the bed and I can’t move my legs! Oh, it’s Billy dog who has silently crept onto the bed in the night – again.

The Kusmi Tea boutique at One Nation Paris

The Kusmi Tea boutique at One Nation Paris

I just couldn’t get out of bed this morning and since I didn’t have anything pressing (lucky me, I know…) I let John bring me a cup of tea and get his own breakfast. When I finally dragged myself out of bed, another cup of Builders’ Tea with milk just wasn’t going to make my day. I needed something more fragrant and easier on the digestion. Ah, yesterday I discovered One Nation Paris, the new luxury outlet centre just outside Paris. My first stop was the Kusmi Tea boutique where I had a hard time limiting my purchases to just two teas to create an as yet tiny Kusmi Tea collection. So today I reached for my delightful yellow round tin of BB Detox and made a reviving pot of this grapefruit-scented blend. It was just what I needed.

Kusmi Tea's Detox blend and many others are on offer at One Nation Paris and other Kusmi boutiques

Kusmi Tea’s Detox blend and many others are on offer at One Nation Paris and other Kusmi boutiques

I had previously bought (also in Paris, at La Grande Epicierie during a trip I won with UK Thermomix – yay!) Kusmi Tea’s Detox blend, a subtle blend of maté and green tea with scents of lemon and lemon grass, so I knew I couldn’t go wrong with BB Detox. This one is a Beauty Beverage blending green tea, maté, rooibos (red bush tea), guarana and dandelion, scented with grapefruit. I’ve been drinking it all day and it’s gorgeous.

Løv Organic Tea blends are available at Kusmi Tea's One Nation Paris shop

Løv Organic Tea blends are available at Kusmi Tea’s One Nation Paris shop

Tonight I’ll try the new LØV IS GOOD Organic herbal tea available at the Kusmi boutique at One Nation Paris. LØV IS GOOD is a blend of organically-grown aniseed, fennel, liquorice, cardamom, ginger, cinnamon, pepper, and cloves. The aniseed and fennel add a bit of sweetness and the cinnamon adds some zing. It says it’s ‘invigorating’ and it also has digestive properties. I don’t think I’ll have any troubles getting to sleep after a cup ;-)

Join me in a cuppa and tell me what your favourite Kusmi Tea is – leave a comment here!

Bon appétit!

Helpful assistants at the Kusmi Tea boutique at One Nation Paris

Helpful assistants at the Kusmi Tea boutique at One Nation Paris

Classic blends at Kusmi Teas

Classic blends at Kusmi Teas

Teas and accessories at Kusmi Teas

Teas and accessories at Kusmi Teas

The Kusmi Tea boutique at One Nation Paris

The Kusmi Tea boutique at One Nation Paris

 

 


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