Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Waitrose mushroom and mascarpone pizza

So a while ago top blogger and general genius woman Ms MarmiteLover commented that I'd not written about any quick and interesting convenience products (or rather in her words 'junk food') for a while. Of course not even MasterChefs can be bothered with creating delicious and flavoursome food everyday, so here's a ready-made alternative- namely this mushroom and mascarpone pizza from Waitrose. I previously thought that this number from Tesco's Finest range was my favourite supermarket pizza, but it has been easily usurped by this offering from Waitrose. It has a really thin but chewy base, heaps of mushrooms which taste fresh and are packed full of flavour, and the mascarpone adds a little extra richness to the whole thing. It doesn't even need anything else adding to it (as I would normally do with other ready-made pizzas).
So until someone builds a proper wood-burning pizza oven for me, or an establishment with such an item starts delivering to my house, this is going to be my pizza of choice.

Waitrose mushroom and mascarpone pizza
I rate it 9/10

Cost: £3.99 (for enough to feed two)

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Adventures in Masterchef-land

So a couple of weeks ago I received a very nice email from the people at Miele inviting me to a Masterchef event at their showroom in London. A number of food bloggers would have an hour to cook two courses for John Torode and Gregg Wallace and be judged on our efforts. I don't normally go in for competitive cooking, but in the spirit of 'what the hell' I said yes, and then forgot about it for a while.

But as MC-day neared I settled on a menu of Indian spiced salmon, vegetable pilau rice, and aubergine raita, with a nectarine 'crumble' for pudding. I'd cooked all those things before and they took around an hour or so to make, didn't they? Then, feeling fully prepared, I got on with doing some other stuff. I did think that perhaps I should write up a plan of the order in which I needed to do things to make sure my one hour cooking time was used appropriately but kept putting this off. I had everything fully set out in my head though, and thought I could just put this mental plan to paper while on the train to London. Unfortunately I fell asleep on the train. Oh well. So on arrival at the Miele London Gallery what had initially seemed to be a bit of fun became something that was actually quite scary.

However my mind was taken off the task ahead by spotting my fellow competitors and the people behind some top food blogs-Meemalee's Kitchen, Food Urchin, Maison Cupcake and Fuss Free Flavours. I was also pleasantly distracted by the contents of the Miele showroom, with their swanky appliances and sleek surfaces. And then MC judges John and Gregg, men known for their love of cardigans and puddings respectively, arrived.....and we were off and cooking!

At this point the mental plan went out of the window and I began chopping the first thing in sight with a slightly trembling hand. I did compose myself after a while though and started being a bit more logical about things. I don't really like cooking under pressure in any circumstances and having John and Gregg suddenly appear behind my shoulder didn't help my stress levels much. I also missed having my usual spices at hand, as though I'd brought what I thought I'd need with me, it was a little frustrating not being able to add a few extra bits of this and that as I normally would at home. However the major bonus of being in the Miele kitchens was the presence of their exceedingly lovely home economists who ensured I had the oven at the right setting, discretely whisked away used pans, appeared with any extra equipment I needed and provided a few calming words. Anyway, it all came together in the end, although I hadn't really thought about presentation so things were a bit plonked on the plate.

And then onto the judging. There were some impressive looking plates of food from my fellow bloggers with mackerel on a bed of spring onions and potatoes with calcot sauce and pea shoots, and a gooseberry pudding with soft meringue peaks from Danny; MiMi's Burmese coconut chicken noodles (ohn-no khao swe), and a blueberry and orange zest shortcake, with whipped cream and a blueberry and orange coulis; Helen's veal on a Mediterranean sauce of garlic, onion, raisins, capers & olives with a rocket and broad bean salad, and lime and elderflower posset with berries and an Irish Lace biscuit; and Nutella and mascarpone macarons and an apple, pecan and chocolate chip cake from Sarah. My salmon and rice got some quite nice comments, though Gregg and John weren't entirely convinced that it all went together with the raita. Gregg did seem rather keen on my incredibly simple nectarine crumble though, and even said he'd like to 'stick his face in it'. Though I do believe he is contractually obligated to say that at least once whenever he is within ten feet of any pudding. And the end result? Rather unexpectedly I won. Errr, huzzah!

So overall, stressful moments aside, this was a rather fun day. The off-screen John and Gregg seemed pretty similar to the on-screen John and Gregg which I guess is reassuring, and luckily neither of them made me talk about my passion for food or the life changing journey I'd been on. Winning was nice but an undoubted highlight was getting to meet MiMi, Sarah, Danny and Helen who were as nice in the flesh as in blog form.

Thanks very much indeed to all the lovely people at Miele for organising this event, (and for giving me serious kitchen-envy).