Joanna Buckingham

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Smoked Salmon and Chives Puffs

Jo - Week 12

Smoked Salmon and Chives Puffs

Week 12 – The final countdown!

Jo 12L

The morning of my final challenge, I am in the kitchen having breakfast and flick on the TV. I hear a familiar voice as I prepare my cereal and look up to see none other than Ben on the telly, teaching children to cook.

Jo 12PEssentially, I want to carry on cooking. Thank you Kenwood for coming to my rescue - Buzz is a true superhero and as his sidekick we really have gone on a culinary journey to infinity and beyond!

The children seem terrifyingly advanced – they are making a soufflé. I stand frozen with a spoonful of cereal halfway to my mouth, with the other hand blindly grasping at Buzz for comfort. I also cannot help but notice that the children look very clean – their aprons are not coated in flour and the floor doesn’t look like it will have to be immediately mopped. Hmmm. This is adding to my nerves about the final somewhat.

Later in the day, I am ready to begin. I prepare the choux paste using the method I learnt last week and Buzz helps the mixture cool slightly using the K-Beater before I add the eggs to complete the paste. I realise I have forgotten to borrow my Mum’s piping bag but then remember that it says on the greaseproof paper packet that it can be used for piping. Frankly, I think that is the very least it can do after the trouble it caused me last week. I fashion a bag as best I can, loosely using Ben’s cartouche folding technique. It doesn’t look quite right, but it does the job. I pipe out the circles and smooth them down before putting them into the oven, this week on my new fit-for-purpose baking paper. 15 minutes later they are golden and well puffed and I am able to lift them off the paper with no effort whatsoever to cool on the rack where, as they are so light, they cool in no time.

Whilst they were cooking I prepared the filling by giving the smoked salmon, cream cheese, seasoning, lemon juice and chives a quick whizz in the food processor attachment. In seconds it is a smooth pink paste and when I lift the lid I am hit by the delicious smell. Once again, I fashion a piping bag out of my seemingly endless roll of greaseproof paper. I use a sharp knife to cut a hole underneath each to pipe the filling in, and assume the ready position. It is at this point I am let down yet again by the poxy greaseproof paper which is clearly not that greaseproof as, once I apply a small amount of pressure, the salmon filling simply seeps through and bursts out of the paper. Why, oh why, do they bother having it on sale at all?!  I am forced to revert to my old method of a sandwich bag and manage to separate the filling from the greaseproof remains and transfer it across – it looks a bit of a mess, but I do manage to make just the one hole this time. I squirt the filling in, which is very satisfying, although no doubt would be much easier with a proper piping bag and nozzle.

I brush the tops of the profiteroles with rapeseed oil and scatter some chopped chives over them before presenting them. I am amazed at how easy and quick this recipe was to prepare, yet it looks really advanced.
Now that I have completed the 12th challenge, I cannot believe how quickly the weeks have gone and that next weekend I will be in the final (Arrrgh! Similar in panic level to my driving test) but also just how far I have come. I have learnt so many skills along the way, such as:

- Always read the recipe all the way through in advance of starting to make it.
- Don’t tip into hysteria – simply ask yourself ‘what would Ben do?’  The answer always being ‘proceed in a calm manner’, and not ‘comfort eat the raw ingredients’.
- Greaseproof paper is NOT the same as baking paper and is in fact good for nothing.
- Most importantly, DO NOT ATTEMPT ANYTHING without Buzz!!

I’ve not only made things that I have failed at in the past, but also things like pasta and choux pastry that I would never have dreamed of attempting. I have really enjoyed the process, and my new found confidence means I have been looking through recipe books and I feel that I could invite people round without having to show James all the food before serving so that he can try to rescue it.

Essentially, I want to carry on cooking. Thank you Kenwood for coming to my rescue - Buzz is a true superhero and as his sidekick we really have gone on a culinary journey to infinity and beyond!

Your reviews

  1. Wow!!! Can't believe all the amazing things you've made!!! The profiteroles look amazing!!

    Posted: 12/10/2013 09:01:46 / Louise Fox

  2. Jo, I'm well impressed with everything you've done! I'm tempted to have a go at choux myself now! Excellent blogging too! :) xx

    Posted: 12/10/2013 17:35:23 / Jess Hill

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Chocolate Eclairs

Jo - Week 11

Chocolate Eclairs

Week 11  - Éclairs – a pipe dream?

Jo 10L

I am no stranger to a cream cake, and the éclair is a particular favourite of mine. However, I would never ever have entertained the idea of making it myself and so I am very nervous about this challenge. Before seeing the recipe I had absolutely no idea how to make choux pastry, although I would certainly have considered it to be ‘advanced’.

Jo 10 P

I am really pleased with the result and cannot believe that I have made éclairs!

It feels really strange to be making the pastry in a saucepan and I have no idea if I am doing it correctly. When I first add the flour to the water and butter liquid I doubt that it will properly bind, but very quickly it becomes like wallpaper paste, as promised by Ben. I quickly pop it into Buzz’s bowl and he gets to work with the K-Beater, not only does this improve the texture further but it helps it to cool. I add the eggs and for a moment it looks a bit like they are scrambling, but after a few seconds the mixture becomes glossy and smooth.

Now for the piping – needless to say, I have never done this before and do not have a piping bag, so I improvise with a sandwich bag. Unfortunately the corner is gusseted and so when I snip the end off, it turns out I have actually made two holes rather than one – it is quite hard work trying to control the flow and leads to a ‘plait’ type effect, but I hope this will be okay and just look ‘fancy’. I put the pastry into the oven on to a lined tray and turn my attention to the pastry cream. This part won’t involve Buzz, so it is high pressure.
I manage to separate the eggs using the ‘master shells’ technique I learnt previously and add the other ingredients. I carefully boil the milk, trying to do this very slowly so that I don’t burn it, and then add the egg mix and whisk again. Once back on the heat the mixture really quickly thickens into a type of custard – it smells great and is really starting to look like crème patisserie.

I get the pastry out of the oven and I am pleasingly shocked to see that they have started to look like éclairs – the plaiting seems to have evened out in the oven. However, I hit a stumbling block when I try to get them off the lined tray, which is very difficult – they seem to have fused to the paper. This is where I learn a new culinary lesson – greaseproof paper is NOT the same as baking paper. I feel they should make more of this on the packaging.  After a long wait I manage to prise the éclairs from the liner and cut them open using a sharp knife.

Now it is time for some more piping using another sandwich bag – once again this quite tricky due to not being able to make just the one hole. However I manage to get most of the mixture where is it supposed to be. I add some raspberries to the pastries and then melt the chocolate. I originally intended to dip the éclairs in the chocolate as Ben did, but they seem quite fragile so I wimp out and instead drop the chocolate on off a spoon.

I am really pleased with the result and cannot believe that I have made éclairs! They are delicious, although I feel that this new knowledge could be dangerous indeed – particularly if I get a proper piping bag and actual baking paper. Bravo Buzz!

Your reviews

  1. Whoa whoa whoa! Where are the ones for your colleagues. I reckon they'd have been enough leftover to make a little "cakence" for each of the team? Well done. We have no spare spaces left on the minibuses for next weekend! Team Jo on Tour!

    Posted: 03/10/2013 13:22:21 / Nathan Pittam

  2. I was lucky enough to be invited to lunch to eat these! They were light,chocolatey and very moreish. Well done Jo, keep up the good work.

    Posted: 04/10/2013 21:41:43 / Kate Hart

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Fresh Tomato and basil pappardelle

Jo - Week 9

Fresh Tomato and basil pappardelle

This week I am joined by my friend Amy who has offered to act as camerawoman – Amy has bravely eaten her way through a number of my previous attempts at cookery and so I assure her that I have bought some garlic bread in case it all goes wrong. I have been feeling very daunted about this week’s challenge – I love pasta, but never in a million years did I think I would ever make it from scratch.

I start by making the pasta dough using the dough hook. Easy peasy and it is soon in the fridge. I am slightly worried that the dough is a bit smaller than I thought it would be and so I wonder if it will make enough pasta.

Now to fit the pasta roller attachment. Stupidly, I have paused Ben’s video before this is demonstrated and instead try to figure it out for myself. It takes longer than anticipated – it turns out that I was expecting it to be harder than it actually is and so don’t believe it when it is in place. However, after Amy’s advice of “don’t let yourself go straight to hysteria” and having watched Ben’s video, it clicks in really easily, particularly if the Chef is turned on to a low speed first.

I really enjoy using the pasta roller – it is much, much easier then I had envisaged and the pasta passes through smoothly and steadily – although it is quite fast, it is under control. The roller is really handy as it means you don’t need to hold the pasta at both ends and helps to feed the dough into the machine straight.  Suddenly the dough starts to look like pasta!

I fold the pasta up, although not as neatly as Ben has done, and then cut it into wide strands. I can see why it is important to use a sharp knife to prevent the folds sticking together when you cut them. I unravel the strands – the ones at the end of the dough are a mix of widths, due to my poor folding, but I tell myself this will add visual interest. While they rest I make the sauce. Ben’s tip for chopping the onion is great and I soon have uniform small pieces which I soften with the garlic. After adding the wine and then the tomatoes I am ready to cook the pasta.

I can’t believe how quickly the pasta cooks, literally less than 3 minutes, and soon Amy and I are sitting down to try the fruit of my labours. It is much more filling than dried pasta and so less is needed, but it tastes so much nicer and has a lovely texture. The sauce is lovely and the flavours are simple enough not to overwhelm the pasta. It would be really easy to customise the sauce in the future by adding other ingredients, like mushrooms, and I will definitely also have a go at adding herbs to the pasta dough in the future too to make it really ‘fancy’.

Amy’s verdict: “This is really nice…. It actually tastes like pasta!” 

Once again I feel that the Kenwood Chef has produced triumph from what would definitely have been disaster if it was just down to me. Is there no end to Buzz’s talent?

Your reviews

  1. Hi Jo. It really does sound as if your culinary skills are going from strength to strength. Long may the spiral upwards continue. Hopefully, your holiday will give you a real boost for the challenges ahead.

    Posted: 27/09/2013 15:15:09 / Carol Chandler

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Week 8

Jo - Week 8

Savoury Pancake

Week 8 – Flipping fantastic

Served with a salad this would make a really nice lunch for four and my Kenwood Chef and I will definitely be making them again!

Jo 8L

It says much for my growing confidence that this week I am attempting the recipe after work, and not at the weekend as usual, where I can devote hours to its preparation. Even so, I make an effort to get home promptly and begin at once. I love pancakes, so have high hopes for this recipe.

I prepare the batter in Buzz – the ingredient ratio for this are different to when we did the Toad in the Hole batter and at first I am worried that I have made a mistake, as there seems to be a lot of flour and I worry there won’t be enough milk, but it turns out fine – the wholemeal flour is of a rougher texture and I think it would be quite hard to whisk it well enough by hand, but of course it poses no problem for Buzz. Whilst he gets on with it, I chop up the ingredients for the filling, allowing myself a little quality control tasting of them as I go.

I start to prepare the Béchamel sauce, although realise I have accidentally used the whole milk for the batter leaving me with only semi skimmed for the sauce. Oops. Ben has told us that the key to a good Béchamel sauce is patience when waiting for it to thicken – I find this difficult. I stir the sauce constantly, as I am so worried about it burning, but manage to get it thickened and smooth without any burnt bits. I add the grated cheese and turn the heat down to keep it warm.

Then for the major challenge – the making of the pancakes themselves. I heat up and oil a pan and then add a ladle of the batter, which is very thick. Unlike ‘normal’ pancakes, the batter stays still and doesn’t really move when I tip the pan to try and spread it around. Remembering seeing a wooden rake type implement being used when buying a crepe on holiday, I improvise with a spatula and move the batter around – this works well and the pancake is soon ready to turn over. After making a couple I work up the nerve to attempt a flip – which astoundingly lands back in the pan!

I am left with four large pancakes, so I divide the filling and some of the sauce between them, roll them up and drizzle with the rest of the sauce. They are delicious – the cheesy sauce stops them from being dry and helps the flavours in the filling bind together. Being wholemeal they feel more filling then normal pancakes and it makes a satisfying meal. I think this is a brilliant recipe, which you could easily adapt to other fillings – served with a salad this would make a really nice lunch for four and my Kenwood Chef and I will definitely be making them again!


Your reviews

  1. I have just planned out the meals for next week and was going to do savoury stuffed pancakes but cheat and buy the pancakes... Having heard of your success Jo, I now think I will give making them a whirl in our Buzz. I will let you know how I get on! Yours sound delicious, also eager to try the toad in the hole recipe too x

    Posted: 13/09/2013 21:21:47 / Gemma Wheeler

  2. Another excellent cooking attempt Jo! As you know, I'm a huge fan of pancakes, so may well be troubling yourself (and Ben!) for the receipe. Whether I can recreate the dish without the help of the Kenwood Chef, is of course, a different matter....

    Posted: 15/09/2013 17:51:34 / Amy Perkins

  3. I have to confess my mouth was watering as I read about this week's challenge. It has reminded me that I haven't made savoury stuffed pancakes for years. Thank you Jo - you have inspired me to reintroduce a very tasty dish to my repertoire!

    Posted: 15/09/2013 20:35:47 / Lesley Sortwell

  4. Pancake success and also flipping fantastic! Having been spurred on by your success I too made pancakes in our Buzz and they were delicious! Thanks Jo and Ben for the inspiration and for giving me the confidence to try t make pancakes again.

    Posted: 20/09/2013 12:52:46 / Gemma Wheeler

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Leek and Mushroom Pie

Jo - Week 7

Leek and Mushroom Pie

Fancy enough for guests!

jo 7l

I’m so pleased (and very shocked!) to be through to the final stages of the competition. I’ve really enjoyed the journey so far and can’t wait to continue with the recipes.

jo 7p

As always, I shouldn’t have underestimated the Kenwood Chef as it makes light (and almost hypnotic to watch) work of the slices

I have never made Béchamel sauce before and I’m nervous about the fact that the sauce itself will be made without the chef and so will be out of Buzz’s control.
I fit the slicing plate onto the food processor and prepare to put the leeks and mushrooms in. I am a bit dubious about this, as when I have used food processors to slice in the past it has ended up with mangled bits of vegetable trapped between the lid and the slicing plate. However, as always, I shouldn’t have underestimated the Kenwood Chef as it makes light (and almost hypnotic to watch) work of the slices – in seconds I have perfectly even sliced bits of leek and mushroom with no mangled debris.
Now, onto the sauce itself - I am very worried about it burning or being lumpy so I watched over it like a hawk, stirring constantly. I’m not sure how thick to let it get, so I continue heating it until it starts to resist when I stir. I add it to the softened vegetables and, in order to avoid another ‘enforced vegetarianism’ rant, some cooked chicken. The thyme makes the whole thing smell delicious.
I then prepare the dish – I’m not very good at estimating quantities by eye, so am a bit unsure which size dish to use, resulting in my worktop looking like some sort of dish X-Factor. I roll out the pastry and cut a thin strip to go around the rim of the dish. I put the filling into the dish; fill it up, and eggwash the top – trying to do a more thorough job than when I made the pepperoni slice. I pop it into the oven, making sure that this time I make a note of what time it goes in.

After 25 minutes, I get it out and am really pleased with how it looks – golden and risen. I cut it open and the sauce is thick enough to not run everywhere. We eat it and it is delicious – the thyme and mustard in the sauce give such a lovely flavour and it looks and tastes ‘fancy’ enough to make for guests  (although to be honest, any guest of mine would be thrilled enough just to have something edible!). I’ll definitely be adding this to my regular repertoire, now up to seven!

Your reviews

  1. Looks scummy Jo, well done for getting through to the final six, well deserved and earned! Your cooking has come on leaps and bounds with Buzz :-)

    Posted: 06/09/2013 17:46:31 / Gemma Wheeler

  2. Looks amazing! I'll sign up for a slice of that, especially if I get to see the chef in action. And by that I mean the kenwood - I feel you definitely pass as a chef yourself by this stage of the competition and am considering getting you a proper chef's hat...

    Posted: 08/09/2013 21:00:22 / Amy Perkins

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Week 6

Jo - Week 6

Toad in the Hole

Week Six - a Hole in one?

Jo L

I’m sure it will come as no surprise to hear that I have attempted told in the hole in the past and failed. The result was sausages atop what looked like a very thin pancake.

Jo 6PI have complete faith in the Kenwood Chef now and am sure that Buzz will steer me away from trouble, guided as ever by Ben.

This week we are joined by a special guest – my Mother-in-Law’s Kenwood Chefette, circa 1970, which has been specially brought out for me to see. It still works and she was an exceptional cook, so I’m hoping that some of the Kenwood magic will rub off on me and that the Chef Titanium will still be going strong in 50 years’ time.

 I can’t believe how quick and easy it is to make the batter – it’s all done in about a minute. Having browned and removed the sausages, I heat the oil and then return them to the dish with the batter – it makes a pleasing sizzling noise. I put the dish back in the oven and crack on with the gravy. I can’t help but notice that, in the video, Ben doesn’t have to stop slicing the onions and stick his head out of the window because he is crying so much. I fry the onions and rosemary, add the wine, then the stock and let it bubble away. It smells delicious.

I find it very difficult to observe Ben’s rule of ‘no peeking’ whilst the dish is in the oven, particularly as I did not make a precise note of what time I put it in. After what I hope is 25 minutes, I open the door and am amazed to see the result – the batter has puffed up perfectly around the sausages and there is no doubt that this time, the toad is definitely in the hole!

The meal is delicious and the flavours in the gravy go really well. I’m so impressed that I made this, and I can’t believe how quick and easy it was – I’d always thought that toad in the hole would be time consuming, but I could definitely do this after work.

I never would have predicted I would have been able to make the recipes that I have done over the last six weeks. I’m so grateful to the Kenwood Chef for showing me that there is light at the end of the tunnel – I feel like I’ve improved no end since it came into my kitchen and we have made edible dishes together that I never would have succeeded with alone.  However, I think that my husband and family are probably more grateful still!

There is no doubt that the Kenwood Chef has a permanent (gleaming) place  on my worktop -  I’m sure that, in the next millennium, ‘Time Team’ will be digging them up, probably still in working order,  as an example of an essential part of 21st Century meal preparation. Thank you Kenwood!

Your reviews

  1. What a triumph! Love the old and new photo!

    Posted: 08/09/2013 21:01:55 / Amy Perkins

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Plum Upside Down Cake

Jo - Week 5

Plum Upside Down Cake

Week Five – A piece of cake?

Ah, cake. Cake is my world. However, I have not enjoyed much success when making cakes. In general my cakes have often looked like they have been dropped from a great height.

My fears are allayed slightly by the welcome re-appearance of Ben, or ‘the voice of reason’ as my husband calls him. Ben says that this recipe is a simple combination of ingredients – Ha! Simple eh? We’ll see.

I start by creaming the sugar and butter – this is very easy and the Kenwood Chef Titanium soon produces a light, creamy mixture. I start to add the eggs, along with some flour and vanilla extract and, moments later I have a smooth cake mix. Once again, I really feel the splashguard inventor should be publically acknowledged – I’d normally be wearing most of the mix by now. 

I then turn my attentions to lining the tin, making the ‘cartouche’ – this seems, in theory, much simpler than the usual ‘draw round and cut out’ method I have employed in the past. However, I fail to fully grasp Ben’s folding technique and despite re-watching the clip several times, somehow I end up with a piece which is two back-to-back joined semicircles, rather than one circle. Eventually, with some pointers from my sister, I manage to get one circle.

Having recovered from that palaver, it is time to de-stone the plums. Mine aren’t that ripe so whilst Ben assures us that the stones should come away with ‘no trouble at all,’ sadly, I do not find this to be the case and end up with mauled plum pieces which look like I’ve de-stoned them by running them over.  I arrange them as best as I can in the pan and dollop the cake mixture over the top, smoothing it down to make it even.

I put the cake in the oven and wait 30 minutes – it smells lovely.  I’m glad that we will be shown how to tell if the cake is done – this is where I have fallen down in the past.

The cake comes out of the tin easily and it looks really ‘fancy’ - although I nearly manage to ruin it whilst transferring it into a bigger tin to drive to my parent’s house. I serve it up at lunchtime and hand it around. I’m amazed to say it was a success – everyone remarked how tasty and light it was.

I am amazed at how easy this was to make, and what a difference the Kenwood Chef Titanium makes to the quality of the mixture.

At the end of the video Ben says to remember that ‘the machine is doing all the hard work for you’ – never a truer word. I can bake! An actual cake which was nice! I’m pleased that I have some plums left over as I’m definitely making another to take to work to try and reverse my reputation. Another win for the Kenwood Chef Titanium! 

Your reviews

  1. Having watched you tackle this weeks challenge 'live' the difference in your confidence is marked. You and the Kenwood seem to be working as one - you are the Ernie to his Bert! The cake itself was light and absolutely delicious - please make it again!

    Posted: 16/08/2013 07:43:15 / Steph Hart

  2. I have a confession to make – I am the one who took Jo to one side and told her not to make the savoury muffins ever again. I also have a second confession to make….on one occasion on being confronted with Jo’s speciality – a form of upside down apple cake – I felt the need to feed it to Jo’s pooch Harvey whilst Jo was out of the room – the panic really set in when Harvey appeared reticent about downing the cake and it sat soggily on the floor for 20 seconds being sniffed at by the pooch – luckily Harvey isn’t a particularly ‘precious dog’ and once he’d assured himself it was safe he gobbled it down and Jo was handed back a nice clean plate and a statement about how the cake was lovely . That was back in 2011 though and how things have changed. I was moderately excited about the news of cake being brought into the office but then my heart did sink when the term “upside down plum cake” was mentioned but I thought I’d have to just ride it out. So it came to Wednesday and the cake arrived and I’d mentally prepared to give a “happy face” when the cake was revealed but there was no need, the cake looked nice and like that guy Paul Hollywood says “it doesn’t have a soggy bottom” and I have to say that it tasted as good as it looked. Progress indeed.

    Posted: 16/08/2013 09:09:14 / Nathan Pittam

  3. Great tip on the circle, I too usually draw around and cut out, this is a much better method! Do you feel ready to try the Dr May's fruit cake Jo? An original kenwood chef recipe from 35 years ago! The k beater is a must! I coveted my mum's kenwood, which is why I was thrilled with my chef for my birthday last year, now saving seen your exploits and my tales of the chef she is seriously considering getting one and saying goodbye to the old friend...

    Posted: 16/08/2013 22:09:14 / Gemma Wheeler

  4. I work with Jo and I have a bit of a reputation for responding quickly to my colleagues when they say they have brought in cake! Some might call me Mr it was no surprise when Jo told me she had prepared the cake that I lept to the front of the queue to grab a piece!. I have to say the cake was fantastic! I returned for a second slice in the afternoon but the final piece had been reserved for another colleague. Well done Jo!

    Posted: 16/08/2013 22:45:26 / Matthew Bullock

  5. Wow Jo, I'm very impressed. Comparing where you started and where you are now there's been a huge improvement not only in your results but in your confidence. As my family knows, I tend to hang on to things - like the 31 year old pram that I knew would come in handy one day - recently used by my 6 week old grandson for the first time in 29 years - vindicated! However, I have also held on to my first and only Kenwood Chef, (complete with liquidiser, dough hook, 'K' beater and whisk) given to me even longer ago as a 21st birthday present. (I don't think we need to go into how many more years here). Since then, the Chef has been used pretty much weekly, along with the more occasional use of the bean slicer, mincer and cream maker attachments with pretty good results. That said, the family have been urging me to update my stalwart friend and replace him with a newer model. I have nonetheless resisted the temptation (on the same principle as tempting though it might be, it would be wrong to replace my husband of 36 years with a younger model). I wasn't even spurred into a change by my daughter getting a Titanium model (Kenwood, not husband). Having read your blogs, I am now convinced it is time for me to change up to a Titanium Chef to get not just good, but excellent results. What to do with my trusty old friend though? I can't just dump him at household recycling after so many years. Is there a retirement home for pre-loved Chefs I wonder...? While I ponder the question, congratulations on your achievements so far!

    Posted: 17/08/2013 13:15:43 / Lesley Sortwell

  6. Very impressive Jo, since you seemed to be reclining horizontally to create this masterpiece (on the video)! Sack the camera man/woman!! Well done for persevering through the baking paper hiccup. The end result looked great. You seem to be warming up for the start of 'The Great British Bake Off'. Mary Berry watch out...

    Posted: 17/08/2013 23:34:22 / Catherine Rossiter

  7. Well, that looks delicious! Video cracked me up - baking skills have definitely seen an improvement, but may I suggest that origami still has some way to go... Aside from that, feel free to come on over and I will make a cup of tea while you serve up a slice of the cake!

    Posted: 18/08/2013 17:59:45 / Amy Perkins

  8. Jo made this cake and brought it to my birthday barbecue.It was vey light and the plums made a juicy, fruity contrast to the fluffy sponge.Well done Jo, a resounding success.

    Posted: 18/08/2013 20:54:08 / Kate Hart

  9. I have to confess to probably being the "other colleague" referred to in an earlier comment and was fortunate to have been the lucky recipient of the last piece of upside down plum cake. It just so happened that I was working in the next office on that day. What a treat Jo!. As my colleagues know I am always up for some cake and yours was particularly good. My husband bought me a Kenwood Chef many years ago for my first ever Christmas present from him (he was such a romantic) and I have never looked back since. Although I wasn't fortunate enough to have the luxury of a splash guard at that time, but hey, I love cleaning up the worktop after it has been splattered with flour so what does that matter. Maybe it is time I upgraded, I have to admit that I have secretly admired the much newer model that sits comfortably in my big sister's kitchen. Best of luck for next effort Jo and I hope to be in the office on the appropriate day again.

    Posted: 20/08/2013 23:06:46 / Sarah Russell

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Week 4

Jo - Week 4

Sunblush Tomato Bread

On a roll?

Jo 4 L

So, this week we are going to refine our dough skills. I feel relatively confident as the pizza last week was a success – however, a bombshell is now dropped. We are doing this WITHOUT Ben. It’s a bit like that first drive without your driving instructor, although I will have the Kenwood Chef Titanium trying to wrestle the wheel from me and steer us away from trouble.

Jo 4 PI sift the flour into the bowl of the Kenwood Chef – this seems to take a long time, in fact so long that my warm water has gone cold, so I re-boil the kettle and prepare a new batch. I put it into the Kenwood Chef, pleased to give the pirate tool another go, and once again it makes light work of it.

I love that the Kenwood Chef just gets on with it whilst you get on with other important tasks – in this instance, I have a cookie.

I love that the Kenwood Chef just gets on with it whilst you get on with other important tasks – in this instance I have a cookie (medicinal - to get my strength back after the sifting), carry out a lengthy search for the scissors (having had to rip the yeast sachet open with my teeth, pirate style) and try and clean up some of the sifting debris.

On returning to the Kenwood Chef I check to see if the dough is elastic and silky smooth as per the recipe. It seems very dense and pulls the hook off when I try to remove it. I manage to wrestle the dough off the hook, cover it and pop it in a sunny place for an hour. In the meantime, I bravely use the food processor attachment to chop up the other ingredients. I was bit reluctant to use it as it looks complicated, but it’s really easy to fit and the stuff is chopped in about three seconds!

When I return to the dough it’s huge and is much more elastic. I put them in with the other ingredients for the second knead and hope for the best.  The mixture turns a cheerful red but is now quite wet and so I add a bit more flour to get it back into one ball. It’s also smaller again - is this ok?  “Where are you Ben?” I wail, but to no avail. I shape the dough as best I can into eight rolls, although they vary a bit in size, and leave them to rest for 30 minutes. Happily, they expand again.

I put them in the oven and, 25 minutes later, listen for the hollow sound when tapped to check they are cooked. They smell amazing. We eat them with dinner and they are delicious – crusty on the outside but soft and chewy in the middle with a lovely flavour.

“These are nice – really nice” my husband says, sounding very surprised – and then the frankly amazing “will you make me a loaf of it?” – Now I’m the one who is surprised! I rush into the kitchen and give the Kenwood Chef a pat - success! I hope I never burn the kitchen down … but if I do, I’m saving the Kenwood Chef!

Your reviews

  1. These sound amazing Mate! I'll be needing to test some of course, just to check! Seeming much more confident in the kitchen already (and without the trusty Ben!) Well done!

    Posted: 08/08/2013 09:23:15 / Amy Perkins

  2. Sounds like you are on a roll, quite literally! Well done for going sans Ben. :-)

    Posted: 08/08/2013 12:34:01 / Gemma wheeler

  3. Very good, although I woudl rather that the second picture was set up "puppet style" with a pair of wobble eyes.

    Posted: 09/08/2013 12:18:42 / Nathan Pittam

  4. Marvellous job, Jo. Am impressed. Most definitely a big improvement in your dough making. I'll have a bakers dozen if you please...

    Posted: 10/08/2013 14:28:52 / Catherine Rossiter

  5. Well done Jo! Having tasted Nathan's attempts at bread previously, and also having tried myself and failing I'm very impressed with the bread success!

    Posted: 12/08/2013 14:18:29 / Catherine Pittam

  6. They sound lovely Jo! I love fresh baked bread and proper butter, mmmmmm hang on to that recipe please!

    Posted: 14/08/2013 21:26:19 / Gemma Niven Reed

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week 3

Jo - Week 3

Vegetarian Pizza

Pizza perfection?

Jo 3 L

I feel like this competition has turned into a battle between me and the Kenwood Chef Titanium. We both want to do well; the Chef must constantly struggle against me, in my role as the bungling sidekick, to pull success from the jaws of failure. Actually, it would be fairer to describe it as a battle of wits – the Titanium vs. the halfwit.

I do occasionally ‘make’ pizza (if you can class the ‘just-add-water’ mix as ‘making’) but usually encounter my regular problem of leaving one or more of the ingredients in the microwave, to be discovered the next day. It doesn’t help matters that I have never made dough from before.

I start by bringing the yeast ‘back to life’ (woohahaha!) by adding it to warm water and sugar. I’m not sure how warm the water should be so mix boiling water and cold, sustaining a minor burn in the testing process, to try to get it to bath temperature. I leave it for ten minutes and it foams up in an alarming manner.

I put the flour, oil and salt into the Kenwood Chef Titanium, having fitted the Dough Hook, or pirate tool as I prefer to think of it. I allow myself a little pirate, “Arrr!”, with the hook before fitting it, to cheer me up after the burn. I add the yeast mixture to what I guess is the right consistency and leave it to knead for ten minutes. Once again I’m amazed at how still the Kenwood Chef Titanium stays – I would expect it to have juddered off the worktop by now, but no. This is so much easier and quicker than kneading by hand – the Chef is giving the dough a really good kneading  (or arrrrr-ing) whilst I get on with prepping the veg.

When I turn it off, I see that my dough seems a bit wetter than Ben’s and slides off the hook. I put some more flour in and get it to knead again and, after repeating the process a couple of times, it seems to do the trick and all the dough stays on the hook. I leave it to prove for an hour whilst I worry about what to do with the leftover yeast mix – if I put it down the sink, will it bubble up again overnight?

After an hour I return to the dough – it’s now enormous; I’d be worried to leave it for longer! It feels really elastic and is much easier to roll out than the packet mix – I’m even able to (bravely) pass it from hand to hand, restaurant style. I start to spread the sauce on but realise I have forgotten the puree. I scrape it off the dough and back into the pan, put the puree in and give it a few minutes more. Then I re-assemble the pizzas and put them in the oven.  I’m sorry to report that there was a mild scene when James found out this was a vegetarian pizza, so I customised his with some chorizo slices.

Within about ten minutes they are done and starting to brown – I get them out and we tuck in. I’m really pleased with the result – they taste SO much better than the packet mix, which you also have to knead by hand for ages (obviously inadequately in my case!) and I will definitely make this recipe again.

The Kenwood Chef Titanium has done a much better job than I ever could and has rescued the dough even when I clearly put in too much liquid. I’m starting to feel like the Chef might well defeat me – and I hope it does!

Watch Jo's video here:-

Your reviews

  1. Well done Jo, pizza looked good and we liked the cling film over the laptop to prevent laptop disasters! The Kenwood chef seems to have made light work of dough making, and the splatter guard is genius. I would have been covered in flour and splattering yeast mix without it. You have inspired me with your efforts. Might have to invest in one of these little beauties!

    Posted: 02/08/2013 23:35:06 / Catherine Rossiter

  2. Mate! Am very impressed with the dough making - Pizza looks fab! I have to say I think the protective shield on the mixer looks like a fab idea - imagine Buzz may call this the 'mess minimiser'! all round to yours for pizza then? x

    Posted: 05/08/2013 21:45:48 / Amy Perkins

  3. Good efforts Jo, keep it up, if only to keep James healthy and in the work place!!!! Good luck with the next challenge - debs x

    Posted: 05/08/2013 23:08:52 / Deborah Board

  4. Looks yummy and a worthwhile 'treasure' for your efforts! I will give this a go with my kenwood titanium as I haven't used the dough hook yet and I love the idea of making my own pizza.

    Posted: 06/08/2013 19:22:49 / Gemma Wheeler

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week 2

Jo - Week 2

Eton Mess

Making a Mess

The gauntlet is down – having heard of the competition, Nana is coming to dinner to see for herself if I can be saved.

Jo landscape

Having got my fluid levels back up after eating the excess pastry last week, I have mixed expectations this week. I attempted a lemon meringue pie earlier this year (part of the problem being, as identified at the time by my husband James, that I don’t know my limits) and the meringue part had the appearance and texture of a layer of toothpaste. However, if there is one thing I can make without fail, it’s a mess.

I watched the video throughout. I have a bit of trouble with Ben’s ‘one good crack’ technique for breaking the eggs, and a lot of them shatter. However, I manage to retain two fairly good ‘master shells’ and use them to separate the rest. I transfer them to the Kenwood Chef Titanium, making sure I have the right attachment on it this time. So far, so good. I was a bit doubtful it would be able to whisk them as they just looked like water, but it does it really quickly (“Whisk this? No problem!” it would say in its Buzz Lightyear voice), whilst making a pleasing ‘preparing for take-off’ type noise.

Jo 2

Well done to the Kenwood Chef Titanium – looks like there’s a new Sheriff in town!

With trepidation I hold the bowl upside down, as instructed, and the whites stay put!  I add the sugar in – this is where it all went wrong during the toothpaste episode – and give it another whisk. Miracle of miracles, the mixture stays nice and thick. Whoever designed the splashguard should be knighted.  I then, using my own culinary term here, ‘dobble’ it out onto the trays and put them in the oven. I try to follow Ben’s tip about the towel but discover that unless the door on our ancient oven is completely shut, the fan won’t work, so I’m not sure if it will still cook them. I decide to go for a half and half approach.

As it turns out, it won’t cook them if the fan is off, so they don’t get the full two hours. However, they look good and seem fully cooked and dry – they are almost starting to brown. I’m amazed how many I’ve made and I’m so impressed that I keep opening the tin to have a look at them.

The next day I whip up the cream - once again I manage to get the recipe wrong by adding the sugar and vanilla essence straightaway, rather than just whipping the cream first, but it seems okay and I add the fruit and layer it into the glasses. I’m amazed – mine looks just like the one in the video! This has never happened! In the excitement I let myself down by preparing one less portion than I actually need by mistake, but everyone likes them and even Nana is impressed (having earlier told James that she supposes “work must understand if you have to have time off ill”).

I’m so pleased with the result – it was easy to make and looks impressive. Well done to the Kenwood Chef Titanium – looks like there’s a new Sheriff in town!

Your reviews

  1. Wow, they look great, well done Jo! Looking forward to an invite to dinner soon! My meringues never look like that, very jealous. I look forward to hearing all about it when we next meet and perhaps a culinary master class? To infinity and beyond for you! X

    Posted: 25/07/2013 16:15:12 / Gemma Wheeler

  2. I happened to pop around to Buckingham Palace the other night and was treated to one of the meringues along with Lemon Squash which I think Jo had offered to wash down the meringue....apart from slipping into a diabetic coma from the sugar I have to say that they were signficantly better than the old muffins that were brought into the office... If a bad work(wo)man always blames his this case I wonder how much of the credit goes to Mr Kenwood? We are all looking forward to "Cake Week" as we are hopeful that the products will be put to the test of us all.

    Posted: 26/07/2013 13:57:48 / Nathan Pittam

  3. Mmmmm, very impressed Jo - they look as good as M&S not just meringue meringues! :) xx

    Posted: 27/07/2013 13:31:38 / Gemma Niven Reed

  4. I was lucky enough to sample the Strawberry Ripple Eton Mess and the dish was delicious, the meringues were light and crisp - well done Jo and Kenwood !

    Posted: 04/08/2013 17:20:56 / Kate Hart

  5. Well done Jo! A satisfied Nana is not an easy job, must have been superb!

    Posted: 04/08/2013 19:19:25 / Carly Webber

  6. Mate, these look amazing. I may have to invite myself round for A) a taste of the lovely meringues B) a go on the Kenwood x

    Posted: 04/08/2013 22:54:37 / Amy Perkins

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Week 1

Joanna - Week 1

Spicy cheese and pepperoni slice

Week One: All the gear but no idea

I feel a fraud. Anyone looking through my kitchen window now would see a gleaming Kenwood Chef Titanium and a shelf full of cookery books, giving the impression of domesticity and culinary competence, but they wouldn’t know the terrible truth. It’s like someone having a selection of ‘great architecture’ books but actually living in a tent.


I am both terrified by and thrilled with the Chef. It looks very professional, like it means business, so I’m hoping that it will essentially take over as the brains of this operation.

If the Kenwood Chef Titanium could talk I’m sure it would sound like Buzz Lightyear. I am however terrified that I will break it, or that things will get out of hand and it will ‘mix’ me.

When I see what we are going to be making I am equally daunted; it seems we are to make our own pastry. Suffice to say I have always been a ‘ready rolled’ girl.

I carefully watch the video throughout – Ben seems very calm, as though this is totally achievable.

I put the ingredients into a bowl, then realise I have got the whisk head on instead of the K beater and have to stop and start again. Once I’ve added the water I get it into one ball – it doesn’t seem to do this as easily as Ben’s does. It goes into the fridge and while it rests I ring my Nana and tell her about the competition – she asks if I have got enough indigestion tablets in the house (thanks Nana!).

I make the filling – the tip for cutting the pepper is really good, no seeds! I get the pastry out of the fridge and try to roll it. It seems to still have quite big lumps of butter in – I think perhaps I didn’t mix it enough before adding the water. It’s very difficult to roll out and keeps breaking up. I eventually get it into the oven – they look a bit patchwork (rustic!) and not as neat as Ben’s – still perhaps they will transform during the cooking process…

Sadly they don’t. I realise that I have failed to trim off the edges so there’s quite a lot of excess pastry and I’ve obviously been a bit slapdash with the eggwash too. We sit down to eat them about 2 hours after I started cooking (most of that time was ‘rolling’) and they are, appearances aside, tasty. The Chef has made a much better job of the pastry than I ever would have, so ‘roll’ on Week 2.

Your reviews

  1. I have heard (from a reliable source) that Jo is a dab hand at producing toast at the dinner table by improvising with a tea light and an envelope.

    Posted: 13/07/2013 22:35:36 / Sarah Russell

  2. Poor Jo, I'm pleased her first dish was tasty if not aesthetically pleasing. She desperately wants to be a good cook and provide lovely meals. She has the will and perseverance to succeed. I look forward to next weeks update. Go Jo!

    Posted: 18/07/2013 20:03:33 / Gemma Wheeler

  3. Appears to be a very respectable first effort Jo, Appearance is just 'tweaking'! Still, i may wait just a few more weeks before begging a dinner invitation...

    Posted: 24/07/2013 10:54:48 / Steph Hart

  4. Jo - am so impressed! I am a definite believer substance over style (am left with nothing if that's not true!!!) and these slices sound like they were delicious (and to be fair look good too!). Keep it up and we look forward to coming for dinner (watch out Julian doesn't leave with the Chef - he is very keen for one!!) x

    Posted: 27/07/2013 13:29:15 / Gemma Niven Reed

  5. Well done Jo - sterling first effort! Bears some resembelance to the picture, maybe a few more attempts before the Michelin star is awareded?

    Posted: 04/08/2013 22:51:14 / Amy Perkins

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Joanna Buckingham

Despite carefully following recipes, when cooking for herself and her husband, Joanna always seems to get something wrong. She is constantly putting things in the oven then realising she has missed out a vital ingredient, resulting in everything ending up inedible.

Her biggest cooking mishap involved her attempting to make pumpkin muffins for her hungry co-workers. Though they appreciated her best intentions, she was politely taken to one side and asked never to bring them in again. Despite these many disasters, Joanna enjoys cooking and would love to be able to make some delicious dishes for her and her husband to enjoy.