Madame Gourmand
07. 09. 2014

Black Forest Cupcakes

Black Forest Gateau instantly reminds me of my grandfather, we often used to have it for dessert on a Saturday afternoon when I was younger after eating one of his mammoth dinners, I haven’t eaten it for years so when I was cleaning out one of my kitchen cupboards last week and came across a bottle of kirsch that we got for Christmas I had a huge urge to eat a black forest gateau.

I wondered if I could somehow transfer the black forest flavours of the gateau to cupcakes instead as they seem to go down much better in the Gourmand house than a huge cake and thus my black forest cupcakes were born.

My recipe made exactly 12 delicious cupcakes (made in muffin cases) and if like me you’re a fan of the retro black forest gateau you might like to give these a try.

70g unsalted butter

170g plain flour

250g caster sugar

50g cocoa powder

1 tbsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

201ml whole milk

2 large eggs

12 tinned cherries

a good glug of Kirsch

300ml whipping cream

12 glace cherries

1 square of dark chocolate for grating

Preheat the oven to 170C. Line a muffin tray with muffin cases, I pulled my 6 hole tray out first so made two batches.

Beat the butter, sugar, cocoa powder, flour, baking powder and salt together in a mixer until they form a crumb consistency. In a jug mix the eggs and milk.  With the mixer on slow gradually add half of the liquid into the crumb mixture and speed up the mixer to medium to ensure the mixture has no lumps. Turn the speed back down and add the remaining liquid until the mixture is smooth.

black forest cupcake mixture

using an ice cream scoop place a small scoop of the mixture into the muffin cases, pop in a cherry and half a teaspoon of kirsch, add another small scoop of the mixture to cover the cherry and bake for 18-20 minutes, or until springy to the touch.

When the cakes have cooled, remove from the oven and place the cakes on to a cooling rack.

Pierce the cakes with a skewer and carefully pour about a teaspoon of the kirsch over each cake.

black forest cupcakes

Once the cakes have cooled pipe the cream onto the cakes, top with a cherry and grate over some chocolate.

Black Forest cupcakes Black forest cupcakes

This post is my entry for the Betta Living competition

03. 09. 2014

You may recall that back in July I took part in a collaboration with Alaska Seafood and was sent some delicious Salmon to compare the taste of.  I advised in my blog post that I would be sharing the recipes with you that didn’t make the actual post and this is the first of these recipes.

The lovely warm summer we were enjoying was the inspiration for this dish, I’ve never actually been to Greece but I’ve eaten in quite a few Greek restaurants and wanted to recreate a meat kebab I’d had with fish.

Salmon kebab


I started off by placing my salmon and vegetables in a bowl with some olive oil, black pepper, garlic, thyme and rosemary and left it for an hour to let the flavours infuse.



While my fish mixture was basking in it’s fragrant mixture I started on the Tzatziki.  I’m not sure how authentic this sauce was but it tasted pretty good to me.  To make this you will need 350g plain yoghurt, 1 large cucumber seeds removed and chopped finely, 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, 3 crushed garlic cloves and a handful of chopped fresh dill.  Combine in a bowl and pop in the fridge until you need it.

greek salad


I made a Greek salad to serve as a side dish, again I have no idea on the authenticity of this but it tasted delicious.  To make this you will need a handful of tomatoes chopped, 1/2 a cucumber sliced, 1/2 a red onion finely sliced, a handful of black olives and 150g feta cheese diced.  I mixed in a small handful of freshly chopped mint.

The kebabs were cooked under a grill until the fish was cooked through but you could also pop them in the oven or even barbecue if the weather is nice.

salmon kebab


I served my kebabs on warmed pitta bread and if I do say so myself they were delicious, so much so that I had 3! They don’t call me a gourmand for nothing.


31. 08. 2014

crisp crumbed mackerel

This month, the people at Seabrook Crisps are celebrating National Crisp Sandwich Week, and as they were looking for favourite crisp sandwich recipes I thought I would share mine.

My favourite crisp sandwich is the Crisp Crumbed Mackerel sandwich, it has to be made with fresh Mackerel, the smoked stuff just doesn’t work.

To make a sandwich for one you will need:

2 Slices of white bread

1 Mackerel Fillet

4 Green Beans

1 handful of crisps and extra to serve

1 spoonful of sweet chilli sauce

Crush a handful of crisps with some sweet chilli sauce and apply to the Mackerel fillet.  Pan fry the fish until cooked.

Par boil the green beans and allow to cool, slice each bean into 3-4 pieces.

Break up the fish with a fork and place on a slice of the bread, scatter over the green beans and add some extra crisps for crunch. Place the second slice of bread on top and slice.

 This recipe is an entry into the National Crisp Sarnie Week competition with Seabrook crisps

18. 08. 2014

We first visited The Moorings 2.5 years ago when Mr Gourmand was contemplating taking a job in Warwickshire, not knowing the area at all we had asked someone for a recommendation of somewhere nice to go for lunch with an interesting view and was told that there was no better place than The Moorings.

I’ve lived in Leamington Spa for two years now and The Moorings is still one of my favourite places to take visiting family and friends, I love to sit outside and look at the canal and on a colder day it’s just nice to sit and chat inside enjoying the comfortable surroundings and of course the food is pretty special too.

Grandma is currently visiting us and at the weekend we decided to take a stroll along the canal which of course just happened to take up to The Moorings. Mr Gourmand swears this wasn’t pre-planned but I’m not so sure.



Once we had ordered and received our drinks and had finally decided what we wanted to eat we were presented with a fabulous bread and olive board which was compliments of the house.  I’ve spoken on numerous occasions about how little touches make you want to return somewhere for food or drinks and this little touch was one of them.  A couple of wedges of bread and a spoonful of olives doesn’t cost much at all and it always surprises me how many places charge for such a small thing.  In many of the European countries we have visited, a small bread board, bowl of olives or plate of cheese and mustard is standard.



The first time we visited The Moorings Mr Gourmand had ordered the Ploughmans (£9.50) and he enjoyed it so much that he ordered it again this time.  A couple of things really stood out for all of us, first of all the boiled egg had a runny yoke which doesn’t happen often enough for Mr Gourmands liking, secondly the slices of pork pie and Wookey Hole cheddar were certainly not scrimped on which again is unusual.  The ploughmans comes with a choice of chips or soup of the day which during our visit was mushroom and tarragon.  This is the second time Mr Gourmand has ordered soup as his side and each time it has been creamy and delicious.

Although I don’t eat pork I would be tempted to order the ploughmans for the pickled onions alone which for me are the best thing about the whole platter, next time I might just order a bowl for myself.

Beef Burger Bacon Relish


Grandma ordered The Moorings homemade cheeseburger (£10.95) which was served with bacon jam, pickles and chips.  Grandma was asked if she would like her burger pink or well done which I’ve only seen happen once before, the pink option was selected because let’s be honest if you’re eating good quality meat you want to be able to enjoy it don’t you and not have to eat through an inedible piece of charcoal.

Grandma declared that this was probably the nicest burger she had eaten, she loved the addition of bacon jam which added a whole different flavour level to the burger.

Crayfish sandwich Crayfish Sandwich Doorstop


I wasn’t really in the mood for something huge as I had eaten quite a large breakfast so I thought a sandwich would be a good option. How wrong I was.  I ordered the Crayfish sandwich (£7.50) which like the ploughmans came with a choice of Chips or soup of the day, I picked the chips.

I’ve taken a side view just so you can see how huge the sandwich was!  I managed to eat half of this mammoth doorstop and had to ask for the other half to be wrapped up so I could take it home.  I don’t think I’ve ever been defeated by a sandwich before and even Mr Gourmand agreed that he probably would have struggled too.

The sandwich was actually really delicious, the lemon mayonnaise really complemented the rocket and crayfish and gave a lighter taste to the filling, I could have done without the chips if I’m honest but I doubt I would have finished the other half without them.

If you’re going for a stroll along the canal in Leamington I would definitely recommend popping in to the moorings for a drink or bite to eat, you can find The Moorings on Myton Road in Leamington Spa.

14. 08. 2014

I’ve featured a few quiches on this blog in the past, it’s something I love to eat and to be honest I don’t mind making them either it’s just the pastry I have an issue with.  I have a love/hate relationship with pastry, I love to eat the stuff but I hate to make it and I always struggle with all aspects of the process.  I find the initial making of pastry tedious, I hate how sticky my hands get, it always seems ages to make and I just don’t get it when people talk about how much satisfaction they get from making pastry. My second hate when it comes to pastry is rolling it out and turning it into the base of a dish, I always end up with splits and cracks and my third and final hate is the cooking of the pastry specifically the blind baking.

Ok. So I’ve spent far too long talking about my pastry hatred, I usually just buy ready made but on this occasion and because I would like to get over my phobia I made my own pastry and I’m so glad I did because it turned out to be the most tasty pastry I’ve ever made.

To make the pastry you will need:

225g Plain Flour

150g Butter

115g grated cheese

Soft the flour into a large bowl and rub in the butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.  Mix in the cheese and enough cold water to bind the mixture together.  Wrap the dough in cling film and pop in the fridge for 20 minutes.

Roll out the pastry on a floured surface and use it to line a tart tin or in my case a Tefal Ingenio pan as I’d misplaced my flan dish and chill for 30 minutes.

Line the pastry with baking paper and baking beans and bake for 15 minutes


My weekly Abel and Cole vegetable box provided me with a great selection of green vegetables to use in the quiche which I sautéed until just cooked through. You will need 500-550g of vegetables in total to make a good sized quiche.

To make the custard for the quiche you will need:

4 free-range eggs

200ml/7fl oz double cream

100ml/3½fl oz whole milk

Beat the eggs, cream and milk in a large bowl and season well.  Place the vegetables in the pastry case and pour over the egg mixture.  Bake for 30-40 minutes or until the filling is set.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool before removing from the tin.


plate quiche

14. 07. 2014

We have visited The Fat Pug in Leamington Spa on a few occasions now and it never fails to disappoint.  The surroundings make you feel at home, the staff are friendly and the portion sizes are great – what more could you want?

I just love the little touches like mini milk bottle to hold the milk for your drinks, Jammy dodger biscuits with your coffee and fresh brewed coffee in a mug rather than a teeny tiny cup.


fat pug coffee


Mr Gourmand thought it would be rude not to try the Fat Pug Breakfast (£7.50) and it didn’t disappoint.  We have waxed lyrical about our love of local butcher Aubrey Allen so you can imagine Mr Gourmand’s delight that the two sausages in his frying pan were from our favourite butcher.  I have a hatred of plum tomatoes unless they are being used to make a pasta sauce, unlike me Mr Gourmand just loves plum tomatoes with his breakfast so the Fat Pug ticked yet another of Mr Gourmand’s boxes.  Not everyone likes black pudding but Mr Gourmand loves it especially a big fat slice of it which was another box ticked – in fact nothing on the breakfast disappointed including the huge slice of freshly cut bread.


fat pug breakfast


I ordered the Veggie Pug breakfast (£7.00) which like Mr Gourmand’s meat filled pan was filled to the brim with delicious food.  I love scrambled egg especially when it is laced with salted butter, this was a mammoth portion of scrambled egg so much so that it filled half of the pan.  I’m a bit of a picky person when it comes to liking things a certain way and I do often have a bit of a problem with baked beans when they touch other food, had the beans been in the pan and touching the egg I would have been a bit put off (I’m strange like that) so you can imagine my delight to find that my beans were in a separate ramekin.  I was so full after eating this that I skipped lunch which NEVER happens.


fat pug veg breakfast


Bread costs very little, everyone knows this and it really annoys me when places charge extra for toast.  When you buy a hot drink at the Fat Pug you can have FREE toast, it’s not supermarket value bread either it’s delicious fresh bread – breakfast providers please take note, it’s the little things like this that make a huge difference.


fat pug toast


Would we go back to the Fat Pug? Damn right we would in fact we have been back since sampling this breakfast and have also visited the sister pub The Royal Pug which is equally great.

You can find the Fat Pug on Guys Cliffe Road, Leamington Spa

07. 07. 2014

The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI) recently asked 5 bloggers to try to create recipes for both farmed and wild salmon the purpose of which was to see what taste differences if any we could taste.  I was really excited about this because I don’t think I’d previously ever eaten wild salmon before so I couldn’t wait to try it and relay my thoughts to my readers. The ASMI say “Alaska seafood is counted among the best in the world. All fish from Alaska’s waters are wild and natural providing a wealth of health benefits, not to mention flavours and textures. What’s more all Alaska seafood is 100% sustainable so it can be eaten with a clear conscience that the ocean’s stocks are being preserved for the future”. “In terms of taste and flavour, Alaska seafood is very different to that of its farmed counterparts”. Most people will be familiar with farmed salmon as it’s the one usually found in restaurants and supermarkets, it contains fewer omega-3 fatty acids while the levels of pesticides in farmed are significantly higher than wild salmon and the fat content of farmed ranges between 11% and 20% vs. 7% for wild. Farmed salmon is distinctly oilier and had less fishy flavour as a consequence of the limited movements in its aquatic cages, Mini Gourmand doesn’t particularly like fish that has a ‘fishy’ taste so I can usually get her to eat farmed salmon at home. Wild Alaskan salmon has no artificial colouring, preservatives, pesticides and GMOs and so retains all the goodness from when it is frozen to when it ends up on the dinner plate. Since it lives in the cleanest waters in the world, wild Alaska salmon is firmer, fitter and a more vibrant fish. It is coloured by the natural food it finds in its wild free range environment and people are often surprised to find that some wild Alaskan salmon is more red than orange. image When I received the salmon the first thing I did was to do a blind taste test for the family.  I pan fried both the farmed and fresh salmon and we all had a taste and gave our verdict. Mini Gourmand couldn’t work out which was which but she did enjoy both pieces of salmon.  Mr Gourmand guessed the difference instantly, he found the wild salmon to have a more delicate flavour and different texture to the farmed salmon.  I personally preferred the wild salmon, the taste for me was better and I agree with Mr Gourmand that it was delicate.  I found the farmed salmon to be meatier in texture and thought the farmed salmon melted in the mouth. image image   My next challenge was to create a recipe using both types of salmon, this was to be a blind taste test again.  Both Cajun salmon tacos were cooked the same way and the same ingredients were used but could the Gourmands tell the difference this time? Mini Gourmand thought they both tasted the same, I think my use of spices tarnished her taste buds so she was unable to guess the difference.  My Gourmand thought that although they both tasted very similar the wild salmon stood out as the texture wasn’t as meaty and I agree, it was very close but the texture gave it away at first bite. Cajun Salmon Tacos are really simple to make and you can throw any vegetable or salad ingredient into the soft flour taco, I used red onion, avocado, green tomato, sweet corn and coriander.  To make the salmon marinade you will need: 4 Tablespoons of smokey Tabasco, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1/2. Teaspoon coriander leaf, 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika, 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander. Marinate the salmon overnight and pan fry until just cooked through. image   My second dish was Teryiaki Salmon which was super easy to make and used very few ingredients. To make this dish you will need Teryaki sauce for marinating the salmon which I left overnight. Soba noodles, pak choi, cashew nuts, sesame seeds and soy sauce. Cook and drain the noodles, add to a hot pan with a splash of oil and pak choi, stir fry for a few seconds until combined, add a splash of soy sauce and a handful of cashew nuts. Add the salmon strips to a hot pan and cook on both sides, the timings will vary depending on how thin your strips are. Place the noodles on a plate and top with salmon, sprinkle with sesame seeds to finish. I enjoyed both types,of salmon but wild salmon will definitely be purchased more frequently in our house from now on.  In the past I have sometimes struggled to eat a whole piece of farmed salmon as I’ve found it either too meaty or got bored with the flavour and this is something that I’ve not experienced with the wild salmon. I really enjoyed trying salmon in recipes that I would usually cook with meat, I’ve got three more recipes planned so please do check back to see those. *I am a member of the Mumsnet Bloggers Network Research Panel, a group of parent bloggers who have volunteered to review products, services, events and brands for Mumsnet.  I have not paid for the product or to attend an event.  I have editorial control and retain full editorial integrity.

29. 06. 2014


I spend the best part of my day in the kitchen so as you can imagine it’s a bit chaotic sometimes.  We live in a rented property so the kitchen is not exactly how I would like it to be, the decoration is very dated and the appliances could do with being replaced.  I have a very old halogen hob which is dreadful, the double oven has seen better days and don’t get me started on the can-never-keep-clean sink.

In my kitchen I have 4 plug sockets which is more than enough for a medium sized kitchen, my issue is that the sockets are next to each other on one teeny tiny bench meaning that anything with a plug needs to be used separately.  I have bench space that runs the length of one wall with no plug and there is no plug on the bench next to the oven so I’m always carrying small appliances from one spot to another.

I do try and make my kitchen work for me and I’m happy that I have tons of cupboards to hide my spices and ingredients.  I’ve always wanted a pantry and I have great memories of going into my Great Grandmothers pantry as a child to get a slice of chocolate cake and looking in awe at all of her bottles, jars and ingredients, for the moment I have to make do with my tall cupboard.

I do the majority of my thinking in my kitchen and when I’m feeling particularly stressed I find that washing dishes or deep cleaning the tiles on the floor helps to alleviate it to some degree.

My favourite pastime aside from cooking is planning my dream kitchen, whenever I’m cooking anything that requires something more than a chopping board, hob or oven I like to plan how I would design my perfect kitchen to allow me to make best use of space and appliances.  I love the idea of a drawer dishwasher as I find loading my drop door dishwasher so much of a chore especially with being so tall.  A double drawer dishwasher would be perfect for me as I always seem to have so many dishes and sometimes when you’re short on time the last thing you want to do is stand scrubbing bakeware.  I’ve been trying Fairy Platinum over the past week and it really is an excellent way to keep your dishes looking their best, unfortunately I made the mistake of buying a set of pans that can’t go in the dishwasher so maybe I’ll trade one of my dream drawers for a kitchen hand in my dream kitchen.

“This post is an entry for the “My Kitchen Story” Linky Challenge, sponsored by Fairy Platinum” 

13. 06. 2014

Uniform Foodies App Pic


Most people have heard of Uniform Dating, if you watch UK Television you may have come across one of their adverts or you may have even used their site to look for love.  I don’t actually wan’t to talk about dating today, what I wan’t to talk about is a new partnership between Uniform dating and Michelin star chef Michael Caines – the Uniform Foodies recipe app.

The app features images and recipes of dishes that have been deemed favourites of uniformed professionals like Nurses, Doctors, Firefighters, Police Officers and members of the armed forces.  The recipes are affordable, healthy, hearty and above all tasty.  I wasn’t surprised to find out that the favourite food of a Firefighter was an Indian Curry, I always associate curry with being hot and spicy and as Firefighters deal with hot fires it seemed to make sense to me.

I was invited along with 30 other top UK food bloggers to develop a recipe for a uniformed professional using Michael Caines recipe for inspiration.

Three blogger’s recipes will be shortlisted and they will be invited to attend a blogger event and cook along with Michael Caines who will judge the dishes and announce an overall winner (please let it be me!).

After reading through Michael’s recipes I decided to take inspiration from his Chicken Tikka Masala fit for a Firefighter and cook a very similar dish but where Masala is a UK favourite this is favoured by the people of Australia. Ladies and Gentlemen I give you…..

Butter Chicken or Murgh Makhani

I’ve cooked numerous variations of this dish over the years and have tried different meats but I find that Chicken works best with the sauce, I prefer to use chicken thighs on the bone when I make this recipe as I think you get a better taste but on this occasion I couldn’t get my hands on any so Chicken breast was used.

This is a two step dish and to get the best out of the flavour you should allow one day for preparation and marinading and the next day for cooking.  It does look like a lot of faff and a lot of ingredients but it really is worth it and tastes just as good if not better than anything you could buy from a takeaway.

butter chicken

4 large chicken breasts, each cut into 3-4 pieces or 8 Chicken Thighs with the bone left in.
Juice of 2 limes
1 tsp of chilli powder 
1 tsp salt
50g natural yoghurt 
50g double cream
4 cloves garlic
5cm ginger
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp turmeric
3/4 tsp ground cumin

Start by mixing the lime juice, chilli powder and salt together in a large bowl, add the chicken and mix well so it is all coated in the marinade, cover and refrigerate for 2 hours.

In a pestle and mortar crush the garlic and ginger, add the spices and when mixed well add to the yoghurt and cream in a large bowl.  Remove the chicken from the first marinade and add to the new mixture, coat well and leave for a minimum of 8 hours for the flavours in infuse into the chicken.

To make the sauce you will need:
50g ghee 
5 cloves garlic, finely crushed
5cm ginger, finely grated
350g tomato passata 
1/2 tsp chilli powder 
1/2 tsp ground coriander 
1/2 tspn ground cumin 
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp garam masala
2 tsp desiccated coconut
200 ml water
25g cashew nuts or pistachios
25g pumpkin seeds 
1 tbsp dried fenugreek leaves 
1/2 tsp caster sugar
45 ml double cream

Thread the chicken on to skewers and grill until charred or place on a wire rack and oven cook at 220C and cook until charred.

While the chicken is cooking, heat the ghee in a large pan over a medium heat, add the garlic and ginger and fry for a minute but don’t let it colour, add the tomato passata and simmer for a couple of minutes.

Add all of the spices, coconut, and 100 ml of the water and simmer for 10 more minutes.

In a pestle and mortar, blend the nuts and pumpkin seeds into a paste, if it’s too dry you could add a couple of tsp of water, once blended add into the sauce. (you can get a finer paste by using a mini food processor)

Add the chicken pieces into the sauce and if needed another 100 ml of water and simmer until the chicken is cooked through. Don’t forget you can always add more water if needed but it’s harder to rescue a watery sauce.

Once the sauce is cooked stir in the fenugreek leaves, sugar and cream and cook for a further couple of minutes until everything is combined.  Serve with chopped chilli’s for extra heat.



*I was supplied with a gift card to purchase ingredients to cook my meal*





09. 06. 2014

I recently purchased two fillets of Sea Bass which was a bit silly really considering there are four of us at home although Baby Gourmand doesn’t really eat a full portion so I’m not sure if I should count him, anyway I had two fillets of Sea Bass and four mouths to feed so I concocted this Mediterranean Sea Bass dish using some store cupboard essentials and it was surprisingly delicious.



This was one of my famous throw it together and hope it works dishes so there isn’t a real recipe as such but the ingredients used are as follows:

2 Sea Bass fillets cut into bite size pieces
1 Tin of Chickpeas drained
2 Courgettes sliced
1/2 tin of chopped tomatoes
2 large vine tomatoes
3 cloves of garlic
1 Tsp Italian Herbs
salt and black pepper

I combined everything apart from the fish in an ovenproof dish and when it was all mixed well I placed the Sea Bass pieces on top, I covered the dish with foil and baked at 200 degrees for 25 minutes.

The dish was served with fresh vegetables, I didn’t think we needed potatoes, pasta or rice as the chickpeas were filling enough.  The dish was deliciously garlicy, tomatoey and herby if they are even real words?

sea bass