Unico Gelato & Caffe Launch

I was very excited to receive an email last week inviting me to the official Unico Gelato & Caffe launch!

My blog is a little blog. I only have a few readers and I’ve never received any kind of freebie as a result of having a blog, like being sent something to try out or read to review. So being invited to an official launch was quite something. It’s probably because they’ve spotted I’m a bit of a fan even before the launch…

It was a bit daunting to be at a real launch with bloggers and cameras and things. Being 8 months pregnant, I was kindly offered a seat alongside other bloggers (proper bloggers!) in front of the gelato bar, a place I am familiar with.

Unico Launch
Andrij Shevchenko, Gianfranco Zola, Roberto Di Matteo and Dennis Wise

Gianfranco Zola is one of the co-founders of Unico Gelato & Caffe so yesterday he officially launched it, bringing a few of his friends along to try it out too. Hubby joked in the morning that perhaps I should wear a ‘baby on board’ badge but Dennis Wise spotted that I am (quite obviously) pregnant and asked when I’m due. Zola was listening in so I suggested that, should I go into labour during the press launch, I could get free gelato for life! I’m sure that if I was a football fan I would have been quite nervous speaking to them. Even so, I’m not the kind of person to interrupt a conversation to ask for an autograph!

Zola said that, as a gelato-lover, he was fed up of travelling to and from Italy just for decent gelato, so he got behind the idea to open up a gelato shop in Bromley. Good plan!

There were various yummy products to try including, of course, the gelato. I had pistachio and crema bologna. Amazing! Apparently Magic Box, ‘pine nut custard gelato with whole toasted pine nuts’, is Zola’s favourite flavour. Dawn from MealsOurKidsLove.com was sitting next to me and tried Magic Box. She said it had a salty taste but that it was delicious.

Unico Launch
Zola telling us about gelato, and you can see our gelato cake in the freezer behind him!

Unfortunately I had to leave early to pick up our son from pre school so I missed out on a brief one-to-one interview with Zola along with whatever else happened after I left. Before I left I was given the choice of taking home free gelato or cake. I chose cake thinking it wouldn’t melt on the walk to pre school and then home. Oh was I wrong! Well, it didn’t melt, but the cake was a gelato cake!

We had considered buying a gelato cake for hubby’s 30th birthday celebrations but went for two large takeaway boxes of gelato instead. Our son, and his pre school teachers, were intrigued when I turned up with a box from Unico containing a pistachio and cioccolato gelato cake. I am still shocked that it is sitting in our freezer! Of course we tried some last night and it was delicious. I don’t think it will be in our freezer for long though.

Unico launch
Pistachio and cioccolato gelato cake!!!!

So far, Unico has surpassed our expectations. I remember back in May seeing a sign in the white-washed shop window announcing that it would be a gelato bar, the same day that our offer was accepted on the house we now live in, and wondering when it would open and how good the gelato would be. Well, it’s mid-November and they’re doing a thriving business selling ice cream! Initially they didn’t even mention that Zola was involved, they just got going with it and the amazing gelato spoke for itself.

Unico are currently stocking Italian panettone from a particular bakery in Italy and also sell various home made cakes. And of course there is true Italian coffee which I am looking forward to getting a real taste of once I’ve had my baby!

Oh, and a big ‘thank you’ to baby for staying put so that I could attend the launch 🙂

Married to a ‘proper’ person

I am married to a 30-year-old. How did that happen?! Hubby was 21 when I married him and I often think of us as still being about 24. So how he’s got to be 30 I don’t really know. Our son ‘bought’ him a Star Wars Lego set containing Storm Troopers which kept them both entertained for a while, so he’s still young at heart.

When we’ve been to friends’ weddings in the last few years I’ve often thought, wow, the bride/groom (whichever one I don’t know very well) seems old and like a ‘proper’ person. By old, I mean the same age as us or maybe a couple of years older. I just don’t see myself as that old! And yet, next year I too will be 30.

Anyway, birthdays mean cake. And at the moment, birthdays mean two cakes.

So for his actual 30th birthday, instead of making the traditional cricket cake I made a chocolate Victoria sponge decorated with chocolate fingers and Aero mint bubbles.

Chocolate birthday cake
Chocolate birthday cake

I’ve seen this sort of cake around a lot recently and thought I’d give it a whirl. It was a nice easy one for our son to help me decorate, too! You need about three packs of chocolate fingers and if you have a pre-schooler helping you, your supply may diminish quite quickly as you decorate, leaving a few gaps. It’s also a hard cake to cut due to the bubbles.

A few days after his birthday, we had all of hubby’s immediate family round to celebrate the big 3-0. We decided to have takeaway pizza (from an Italian restaurant) and takeaway gelato (from Unico) to save me racing round the kitchen at 8 months pregnant cooking for 20 people. I’m so glad we did!

This meant I only had to worry about making the birthday cake and providing food for tea time. So I made the usual cricket birthday cake (plain Victoria sponge with green buttercream icing and cricket figures), only I made it larger than I would usually so that everyone could have a slice. It’s a very easy cake to make. The only issue is usually placing the cricket figures in the right place.

Cricket birthday cake
Cricket birthday cake

One of my sisters-in-law helped me this year however in all the excitement of blowing out candles and being given his main birthday present (tank paintballing!), I have no idea if they were in the right place. Oh well, until next year…

Mary Berry cookies with a twist

Guess the twist?

I have made Mary Berry’s mega chocolate chip cookies from her Ultimate Cake Book many times. Sometimes I add nuts for a nice crunch. But yesterday I was feeling a bit crazy (a.k.a. sleepy) and made a few changes to it.

I remember back in the day when I started trying this no sugar thing and all recipes for cookies omitted normal baking ingredients like flour, eggs and butter. Since I wasn’t avoiding these, it was a bit annoying as other things were called for which I wasn’t necessarily going to use up. I was happy to move to wholemeal flour but I wasn’t going dairy or gluten free. So I attempted a fructose-free cookie, based on a normal cookie recipe.

To start with, I only made half the recipe and therefore half the cookies. Second, I used wholemeal plain flour and subbed some for cornmeal as an experiment – my mum gave me some at the weekend and I haven’t really thought about how to use it yet. Thirdly, I used dextrose instead of regular sugar. I added a splash of milk to help the dough come together as it seemed very dry. Finally, I only had a very small amount of dark chocolate so I also added the rest of the chopped fudge pieces I used on our son’s birthday cake.

And guess what? They taste ok! Not very sweet as I used exactly the same amount of dextrose as the recipe stated in sugar – dextrose isn’t as sweet as sugar so normally you’d add more. But hubby is happily gobbling them up. One tray came out like cookies and the other tray came out more cake-like. They also really spread out! This might be down to our son’s squashing down technique.

But hey, I’ve made edible no fructose, nut free cookies using slightly crazy ingredients but not so crazy that hubby won’t eat them. Hurrah. Let’s get back on the no sugar wagon!

Trying a friend’s recipe – ‘quin and cheese’

I am slowing down. I have random surges of energy but generally I’m doing things slower. Even putting my socks on is becoming something of a chore at almost 8 months pregnant. I’m also getting clumsier – I broke a glass and a plate in less than 24 hours over the weekend.

I’ve been batch cooking one meal a week so that, in our little freezer, we have about 3 meals for after the baby is born. And I’ve washed baby clothes up to 3 months so we’re kind of ready.

Whilst I am still relatively ‘with it’, I thought I’d try a new recipe. I tried a friend’s recipe which she recently wrote up on her blog and uses up some of the quinoa in the cupboard which has been neglected since we moved house. It’s called butternut squash ‘quin and cheese’.

Butternut squash 'quin and cheese'
Butternut squash ‘quin and cheese’

I thought I was making half the recipe just for the three of us but it made enough for the three of us plus two portions of leftovers for lunches! This could easily have been due to baby-brain. It was really yummy and nice the next day, too. There were a few variations, such as I used cow’s milk and cheddar in the cheese sauce as we had no parmesan, and I used frozen spinach. I also attempted to make the cheese sauce in the microwave on recommendation from another friend, but it doesn’t quite work if you don’t measure your ingredients first!

GBBO – The Final

So it’s all over for another year. Hubby knew who had won when we watched it on Thursday evening and told me that apparently it was a very ’emotional’ episode. And there were a lot of tears from the bakers and even Mary Berry!

We felt it was a disappointing final. I think the right person won, but the challenges weren’t that challenging really. I’m sure that in previous series’ the bakers have had to make several items for their final showstopper rather than just normal cake made pretty. But hey, it’s still good TV.

20151010_190607
Dairy free chocolate tart

Onto the chocolate tart that I wanted to make and, for a change, have actually made. We had friends coming over on Saturday night and one is lactose intolerant so I thought I’d look for a dairy free chocolate tart, and BBC Good Food did not let me down! Unfortunately I’m still getting used to the oven in our new house so the pastry was a bit overdone and the filling was probably a bit overdone too, but it tasted nice with some cream and none of the guests were Bake Off judges.

I’ve also had a go at making a sugar free banana bread using up some coconut milk, based very loosely on a Mary Berry banana bread that I normally make. When I say very loosely, I used it to find out how much flour and how many eggs would normally go into banana bread. It doesn’t have any honey or maple syrup, so is really sugar free. All the sweetness comes from the bananas, so make sure they’re over ripe.

It turned out ok. It’s not very sweet and I omitted butter for some reason. I chucked in some desiccated coconut as I had it leftover from making coconut macaroons for after dinner on Saturday. The nuts give a nice crunch. I think chopped up dark chocolate would make it pretty scrummy. Here’s the recipe in case you’re feeling brave:

banana bread
Sugar free banana bread

Banana Bread with Coconut Milk

175g wholemeal plain flour
50g oats
2 tsp baking powder
150ml coconut milk
2 eggs
2 bananas, mashed
50g chopped almonds
handful desiccated coconut (optional)
chopped dark chocolate (optional)

Preheat oven to 175C. Line a loaf tin.

Mix dry ingredients together. Add eggs and coconut milk. Mix well, then stir in the bananas. Add almonds, coconut and dark chocolate, if using.

Pour into loaf tin and bake for about 1 hour.

Another trip to Unico

This seems to be a theme… hubby has a day off for a good reason like our son’s birthday or going away for a few days, it happens to coincide with a day our son is in pre school and we end up visiting Unico!

Unico 2
White chocolate and Nettuno

On Thursday we visited for the second time and tested their outdoor seating, as well as a few new flavours. Hubby tried the white chocolate gelato and nettuno which is almond and amaretto. I had mixed berry and bacio, which contains whole hazelnuts! All very yummy. The mixed berry flavour was so intense. Really good. And it was nice sitting outside in the sunshine at the beginning of October!

We are yet to take our son to Unico. Partly because it would mean that every time we walk past it he’d be desperate to go in (he has good taste!). But partly it’s nice that it’s our little treat once in a while (or twice in two weeks…).

Unico 1
Mixed berry and bacio

They have a new website that is up and running. It shows exactly where they are and there is a list of their flavours.

Whilst we were away at the weekend we visited Morelli’s in Broadstairs. Morelli’s is a pretty famous gelateria as they were probably the first to bring the wonder of gelato to the UK. They’re even in Harrods. However we think Unico tastes even better! Hubby had blood orange and chocolate and I just had one scoop of Nutella. Unico tastes more genuine, so come to Bromley and visit Unico!

GBBO – Episode 9, Ramsgate and Chetna!

We went away for a few days at the end of last week so I only watched episode 9 of GBBO on Sunday night, but I already knew the outcome as I attended a food demonstration by Chetna from last year’s GBBO at Broadstairs Food Festival and of course GBBO was discussed.

A quick overview of episode 9 before Chetna…

Mmm chocolate. I love chocolate. I find it hard to resist anything with chocolate in it or on it. Mmm. Chocolate tart. Mmm. I really want to make chocolate tart. Well done to Flora for winning the technical but I already knew she left so I knew her showstopper wasn’t going to be as good as the other bakers’. I was really impressed with her though because all the way through she has handled criticism pretty well and didn’t cry. On camera, at least. I think the final tomorrow will be a close run between Tamal and Nadya.

Ok, onto our holiday and seeing Chetna. Before we moved we agreed we would try to get away for a few nights before the baby arrives so that we could have some quality family time and be away from house stuff. Originally we were planning to stay in Broadstairs as we had a lovely holiday there two years ago, they have gelato shops and it’s by the beach. However, it was Broadstairs Food Festival so it was hard to find somewhere to stay that was available and within budget. Instead, hubby found a lovely flat for us in Ramsgate which overlooked the beach and we could watch the boats in the harbour from the window. It was amazing!

Broadstairs Food FestivalWe had wonderful weather and quite a packed few days. We arrived on Thursday afternoon (after another tasting at Unico… more to follow), went to Dover Castle on Friday, spent the day in Broadstairs on Saturday at the Food Festival and on the beach, and after church on Sunday stopped off at the Hornby Visitor Centre. There were also trips to the harbour in Ramsgate to watch the boats and eat fish and chips.

Chetna
Chetna

Hubby had said I could go to the Broadstairs Food Festival to see Chetna as she was doing a demonstration at 10.30am. It was £5 so hardly breaking the bank, plus it was an hour of being on my own doing something I enjoy. Lovely!

I wasn’t as excited as I thought I would have been, perhaps because I woke up in one of those slightly sad and grumpy pregnancy moods. It was a small group, maybe 80 people and it was fun listening to her talk about GBBO, the application process, what she’s been up to and of course watching her make mango cupcakes.

Unfortunately I hadn’t clicked that there would be some discussion about the current GBBO series and so episode 9 was spoiled for me. Having said that, I thought Flora would probably be leaving in the semi-finals so it wasn’t too much of a surprise.

The rest of the Food Festival was made up mostly of local produce stalls. At 10.10am when I arrived it was fairly quiet and the ideal time to take a look around. Later on in the afternoon when we returned as a family it was packed and not much fun to look around. Most people seemed to be drinking local cider! Hubby bought two bottles of local apple juice but we didn’t buy anything else. We actually went to the bakery in Broadstairs to buy some cake!