Thursday, 21 July 2011

Boys Christening Cake

OK, I realise I'm a little late with this boastful blog post, but you'll be pleased to hear it's another short but sweet entry. It's so late because I was waiting for my wonderful husband to give me the SD card for the camera on which I was sure to find some glorious pictures of my creation. But no, while I was carrying out my Godmotherly duties, he forgot. How lovely. So, All I have is this terrible picture of the case I made for my gorgeous Godson on his Christening.... It doesn't do it justice, I know....

(The Gin in the background was to sterilise the cake board.... I don't have a problem, honestly!)

Until next time...

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Baby Girl Christening Cake

It's a Girl! Actually, it was three girls for my friends sister and she asked me to make three cute christening cakes. How could I say no!?

I didn't of course, and I spent a good while over the last month or so fashioning the decorations for three identical cakes, the only difference being the flavour of each, and the names.

It was a labour of love, but just to show off, here's one of them.



And that's if from me today! This is nothing more than a post to show off something I'm proud of.... and there is another show off post tomorrow.

Until next time.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

I'm alive! And living the dream with the Ultimate Chicken Sarnie

It's been a good couple of weeks, maybe more, since I lasted posted - very unlike me. I've been a bit poorly with a kidney infection and feeling well and truly sorry for myself and, frankly, just not in the mood for food (shock, horror I hear fellow foodies exclaim!).

I'm still quite poorly but am missing my blog, so I'm taking advantage of the fact that I'm actually fancying something to eat rather than eating to basically to survive, and writing about it.

I was quite dissapointed with myself to realise that what I really, really, really wanted was a simple chicken sandwich. Not only would I not be able to write something decent about a humble sarnie, but it wouldn't satiate my desire to ramble on about the food I dream up and cook. So I got creative. What if I make the ULTIMATE chicken sandwich?

With an idea forming, I reached for the yeast and made a basic sandwich dough, made to the adapted recipe of Michel Roux Jr. that can be found here, but instead of plonking it in a loaf tin once risen and knocked back, I made a large round... what!? Now this is where the arguments start.

Is it a Muffin? Bun? Cob? Barm Cake? For arguments sake, I'm going with bread roll, but do let me know your regions variation in the comments below.

This Ultimate Sandwich was made for Sunday tea time using left over roast chicken and served four, but the possibilities are endless. Imagine this - You’re hung over. The bread is fresh and stuffed with bacon, sausage, friend egg, tomatoes, mushrooms…. Mmmm… A perfect hangover cure.

This sandwich does mean you end up with a hunk of bread from the middle of the roll that could potentially go to waste. I either make breadcrumbs and freeze, bake it to make croutons, dunk it in soup or make Nigella’s bread salad.

I know you don’t need a recipe for a sandwich, but please, indulge me. Traditional, wholesome, fresh, English. What’s not to love? Read it and weep my friends. And could you ask for more when trying to get your appetite back?

Bea’s Best Bap – My Ultimate Sandwich


Ultimate Chicken Sarnie - perfect for a pick me up or a picnic
  • Half of Michel Roux Jrs Bread recipe, shaped into a large roll, baked and cooled
  • Half a bag of spinach, rocket and water cress salad
  • 250 ml tub of crème fraiche
  • Leftover roast chicken (Mine has lemon, garlic and herbs up its bum before being covered in butter and roasted at 180 for 1 hour 20 mins for a 1.5kg bird).
  • 2 tomatoes, sliced
  • Avocado, sliced (only if you are serving immediately)
  • 4 slices cooked smoked bacon

1. Cut the top off of the large bread roll off and dig the bread from the inside to leave you with a bowl.

2. In a food processor, whizz the salad with the crème fraiche (adding lemon juice to taste if you have some to hand). Spread a third of the mixture over the bottom of the bread.

3. Layer the chicken and tomatoes, season with salt and pepper, spread another third of the crème fraiche mixture over the tomatoes and finish by layering the avocado and finally, the bacon.

4. Place the ‘lid’ back on the bread bowl and carve into wedges.

Enjoy!

Saturday, 25 June 2011

For The Love of Nutella - Chocolate and Hazlenut Muffins

Nutella, nothing makes my heart warmer, my teeth stickier. It's my not-so-guilty secret and I'll let you into another secret. A confession, if you will.  


Imagine this.  It's a bad day at work and thankfully I'm working from home and it's about 5.25pm when I'm thinking about packing up and going for a walk. The phone rings. Last call of the day, I tell myself, then I'm off.

So I answer it and the shouting begins. Let me be clear, it wasn't at me as such, more in my general direction about the general state of the World in which we work, but clearly it's all my fault. Throw in world hunger and poverty and we'd have had the full set, apparently. Much as I tried to get a word in edgeways, it was never going to happen so, I put the phone on speaker and raided the cupboards to dig out my trusty jar of Nutella and a very big spoon.  I sat back down and I ate. I ate, listened (ish) and took responsibility as I consoled myself in the depths of the nutty, silky, so-bad-it's-good jar of spread. I don't know how much I got through but needless to say that 1kg jar of Nutella didn't last the household very much longer. And it hadn't been open for long before my 'episode' either.

Nutella-gate 1 with Tess

I know.  It's bad, but worse is that, this wasn't my first time. The first time this happened I wasn't alone. It wasn't even sparked by the need to console myself. This time it wasn't personal. This time it was a joint effort. I hate to name and shame, but my friend Tess and I got through a whole 1 KG jar. In one night.

It all started with a few drinks one sunny day in Dusseldorf. That German beer is strong and by the time it came to get ready to go out for dinner, frankly, we just couldn't be bothered and decided to make the most of the weather with a barbecue on Tessa's sunny balcony. We went off in search of meat and along the way, we found waffles and, 'Oh Look, Nutella! Wouldn't they be lovely together!', we exclaimed? (Waffles and Nutella that is, not meat and Nutella... although.... - another day, another post). And would you know, the 1kg pot was on offer and it seemed daft not to. And that's always how it starts.


Along with our meat, waffles and Nutella, we grabbed a couple of bottles of wine and sensibly had a lovely meat barbecue. Not so sensibly, we dismissed the waffles with the flick of a wrist and hit the Nutella with a spoon, while we sat on the balcony, talking, laughing, eating, drinking.  

We Ate. The Whole. Blimmin. Thing.

But what can you do? We all have our weaknesses. And Nutella's mine!

So when I was flicking through the new Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days book and clumsily dropped it, I just had to make the Hazlenut and Chocolate Cupcakes the booked opened at as it hit the floor.  Surely it was a sign?

So the recipe below is not mine.  It's adapted from the book (and only ever so slightly changed to be fair).  They are cupcakes in the book but to all intents and purposes these are muffins in my mind, and muffins they shall be.

And how indulgent a muffin can you get!? I think they are actually made of magic - certainly my husband thought so when he couldn't figure out how the squidgy Nutella got in the middle of the muffiin in the first place (tut, roll eyes. Men.)  And please, please serve these warm - the Nutella is gorgeously runny then.

Please don't judge me.  I licked the spoon.  And the bowl.  And ate four in one go.

To save my soul from Fat Camp, I made only six (otherwise I'd have eaten more), and the recipe below reflects this.  

Chocolate and Hazlenut Muffins



  • 150g plain flour
  • 55g caster sugar
  • 1/2 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • Pinch salt
  • 125ml whole milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1 egg
  • 40g melted butter
  • 75g Nutella
  • 15g hazelnuts, left whole of chopped

1. Preheat the oven to 180 and line a muffin tin with cases

2. Sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and salt into the bowl of a mixer, with the paddle attached,

3. Whisk together the milk, egg, and vanilla in a jug and, with the mixer on slow, add the wet ingredients into the dry. Scrape the bowl with a spatula to catch all the ingredients then mix on medium - high until combined. Add the butter and mix a little more.

4. Add 40g of Nutella to the batter and mix thoroughly.

5. Spoon the batter into the cases until a quarter full. Put a teaspoon of the remaining Nutella in each case, on top of the batter and then add the remaining batter so each case is 2/3s full.

6. Sprinkle over the chopped nuts and bake for 25-30 minutes until they are risen and bounce back when pressed.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Let Us Eat Raspberry Trifle Cupcakes, and the Story of a Beautiful Wedding

I love the summer. I love lovely summer weddings, even more lovely when they are for your brother-in-law and his gorgeous fiancée-now-wife. They are even more lovely (if it were possible) when they are held in France in the beautiful countryside of Brittany, Dinard to be precise. And that's where I've been and explains my lack of blogging and tweeting. I'm sorry, but then I did have a good reason.  I was eating cake and drinking champagne.

And so with a lovely summer wedding comes a blog post. 


Dave & Barbara
What was't so lovely was the weather, which was just as temperamental as it is here in Blighty (I was quite pleased that it's not just us afterall!). My word did it rain. It rained when we got off the plane, as we were driving through Brittany, as we were climbing the steps into tree houses (yes, you read that right - although hubs and I were in a hotel room - relief! Running Water! I'm not a girl that takes kindly to camping in a tree).  It rained as we ate a wonderful dinner in a creperie with our friends and family.... but as the owner of the hotel said that night, 'for every rain drop that falls today, it will not fall tomorrow'. Was he going to be right?

It seemed so; we woke the following day to clear blue skies and glorious sunshine. Would it hold so Dave and Babs would get the French countryside wedding they dreamed of?

The wedding in the Town Hall of Dinard was followed by a marriage ceremony in the local church, only a five minute walk away.   Yes, you are guessing right dear reader.  It rained as we were leaving the town hall. Actually, It THREW it down. I had no cover, no brollie, no cardi - but I was soon warmed by the sight of Barbara walking down the aisle; what a sight! A Babs was beautiful bride, looking stunning and chic.  The rain slowed and held off throughout the most beautiful wedding ceremony I've been to, and we were warmed by the thought of these two people celebrating their love, committing themselves and growing old together. The rain that threatened the rest of the day ceased to matter.

The rain came back as we drove to the reception venue but it became clear that someone was looking over this pair. The sky cleared as they got out of the car and the sun shone for their photographs. And the guests? Well, we were soon warmed through with the wonderful fare laid on for us.

Sushi, Prawns, Squid, Oh My!
Champagne, Cocktails, Oysters, Oh My!

Champagne at the reception
And that was just to start whilst mingling with other guests looking at the frankly stunning table settings, resplendent with pink and white flowers intertwined through the spokes of vintage bird cages, with little pots of strawberry jam made by the brides mother for favours (needless to say, I cleared the tables of leftover jam the next morning!)

Champagne soaked, we took our seats for the Wedding Breakfast of Veal, and we munched our way through mountains of fresh French bread. Yes, yes, it was delicious, but I was impatient for the cheese that was to follow. Oh how I love cheese. Brie, goats and emmental cheese were served with yet more fresh bread. For the first time that day, I was quiet as I munched and savoured. So. Good. Finally, Wedding cake and fruit rounded off a delicious meal. The slice of cake I ate was almost embarrassingly large. But not quite embarrassingly enough as I polished the lot off, complete with an icing rose..... I was sure my dress would split.

So there you have it, the tale of a Wedding in France where the rain didn't dampen our spirits and the beautiful couple had the time of their lives.

And I ate cake.

Speaking of cake (seamless link), I was chuffed to see that Random Recipes this month from Dom at Bealleau Kitchen was to randomly choose a recipe from the cookery book most recently given to you as a gift. What wonderful luck it was that it was my birthday in May and my gorgeous friend, Ellen, gave me the new offering from The Hummingbird Bakery 'Cake Days' as a part of my gift (thanks Love, it's gorgeous!).

My way of choosing randomly is to flick the book and get my hubs to shout 'STOP'.  It was at this point that I happened across these delicately beautiful looking Raspberry Trifle cupcakes, leaving hubs grinning - trifle is his favourite. I then managed to drop the book and it fell open on the Chocolate Hazelnut cupcakes. Oh what a shame! Clearly, in the spirit of the challenge, I had to make both! Any excuse eh?

So we'll start with the trifle cupcakes, not only because they were first I randomly chose, but because they go beautifully with the pink and vintage colour scheme at Dave and Barbara's wedding.

Congratulations Darlings x

Raspberry Trifle Cupcakes

Raspberry Trifle Cupcakes

This recipe is adapted from 'The Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days'.  I made a couple of changes from the original recipe. I can't help myself.  In addition, the recipe below makes 6.  The original recipe makes 12.  

For the Cake
  • 40g soft unsalted butter
  • 140g caster sugar
  • 120g plain flour
  • 1/2 tbsp baking powder
  • pinch salt
  • 120ml whole milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1 large egg

For the Filling and Topping
  • 250ml whole milk
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla essence
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 15g plain flour
  • 15g cornflour
  • 100ml double cream
  • 12 fresh raspberries
  • 50g raspberry jam

Note: the first 6 ingredients of the 'Filling and topping ingredients make a custard.  You could cheat and buy ready made fresh custard... which when I make these again I will do. 

1. Preheat the oven to 180 and line a cupcake tin with cupcake wrappers.

2. With the paddle attachment, beat the butter, sugar, flour, baking powder and salt on a slow speed until the ingredients are mixed and look like breadcrumbs.

3. In a jug, whisk together the milk, vanilla, and eggs by hand and pour 3/4 into the dry ingredients with the mixer on a slow speed.  Once incorporated add the rest of the liquid. scrape the sides of the mixer bowl with a spatula to make sure it is all mixed and beat until combined and smooth.

4. Divide between the cases and bake for 18-20 minutes until golden and bounce back when pressed.  Leave to cool on a wire rack.

5. If you are making your own custard, place the milk and vanilla in saucepan and bring to the boil.  Meanwhile, mix the egg yolks, sugar, flour and cornflour to make a paste, adding a little hot milk to thin if needed.

6. When the milk has boiled, remove from the heat and mix 2 tablespoons of milk with the egg mixture and then pour it all back into the remaining milk.  Return to the heat and bring to the boil, whisking continuously and continue to boil for another minute to cook the flours.  Pour the custard into a bowl and leave until cool covered with cling film (about 40 minutes).

7.  Nearly there. Beat the cooled custard to get rid of any lumps and in a separate bowl, whisk the cream until soft peaks.  Fold the whipped cream into the custard.

8. Make a hollow about 2cm across and 3cm deep in the cakes, keeping the cut out sponge.  Place a raspberry in each hole, top with half a tsp of jam and half a tsp of the custard mixture.  Trim the cake and place back in the hole so it is level with the rest of the cake.  Top with a swirl of the custard frosting and top with a fresh raspberry.

Enjoy!

Let Us Eat Raspberry Trifle Cupcakes, and the Story of a Beautiful Wedding

I love the summer. I love lovely summer weddings, even more lovely when they are for your brother-in-law and his gorgeous fiancée-now-wife. They are even more lovely (if it were possible) when they are held in France in the beautiful countryside of Brittany, Dinard to be precise. And that's where I've been and explains my lack of blogging and tweeting. I'm sorry, but then I did have a good reason.  I was eating cake and drinking champagne.

And so with a lovely summer wedding comes a blog post. 


Dave & Barbara
What was't so lovely was the weather, which was just as temperamental as it is here in Blighty (I was quite pleased that it's not just us afterall!). My word did it rain. It rained when we got off the plane, as we were driving through Brittany, as we were climbing the steps into tree houses (yes, you read that right - although hubs and I were in a hotel room - relief! Running Water! I'm not a girl that takes kindly to camping in a tree).  It rained as we ate a wonderful dinner in a creperie with our friends and family.... but as the owner of the hotel said that night, 'for every rain drop that falls today, it will not fall tomorrow'. Was he going to be right?

It seemed so; we woke the following day to clear blue skies and glorious sunshine. Would it hold so Dave and Babs would get the French countryside wedding they dreamed of?

The wedding in the Town Hall of Dinard was followed by a marriage ceremony in the local church, only a five minute walk away.   Yes, you are guessing right dear reader.  It rained as we were leaving the town hall. Actually, It THREW it down. I had no cover, no brollie, no cardi - but I was soon warmed by the sight of Barbara walking down the aisle; what a sight! A Babs was beautiful bride, looking stunning and chic.  The rain slowed and held off throughout the most beautiful wedding ceremony I've been to, and we were warmed by the thought of these two people celebrating their love, committing themselves and growing old together. The rain that threatened the rest of the day ceased to matter.

The rain came back as we drove to the reception venue but it became clear that someone was looking over this pair. The sky cleared as they got out of the car and the sun shone for their photographs. And the guests? Well, we were soon warmed through with the wonderful fare laid on for us.

Sushi, Prawns, Squid, Oh My!
Champagne, Cocktails, Oysters, Oh My!

Champagne at the reception
And that was just to start whilst mingling with other guests looking at the frankly stunning table settings, resplendent with pink and white flowers intertwined through the spokes of vintage bird cages, with little pots of strawberry jam made by the brides mother for favours (needless to say, I cleared the tables of leftover jam the next morning!)

Champagne soaked, we took our seats for the Wedding Breakfast of Veal, and we munched our way through mountains of fresh French bread. Yes, yes, it was delicious, but I was impatient for the cheese that was to follow. Oh how I love cheese. Brie, goats and emmental cheese were served with yet more fresh bread. For the first time that day, I was quiet as I munched and savoured. So. Good. Finally, Wedding cake and fruit rounded off a delicious meal. The slice of cake I ate was almost embarrassingly large. But not quite embarrassingly enough as I polished the lot off, complete with an icing rose..... I was sure my dress would split.

So there you have it, the tale of a Wedding in France where the rain didn't dampen our spirits and the beautiful couple had the time of their lives.

And I ate cake.

Speaking of cake (seamless link), I was chuffed to see that Random Recipes this month from Dom at Bealleau Kitchen was to randomly choose a recipe from the cookery book most recently given to you as a gift. What wonderful luck it was that it was my birthday in May and my gorgeous friend, Ellen, gave me the new offering from The Hummingbird Bakery xxx as a part of my gift (thanks Love, it's gorgeous!).

My way of choosing randomly is to flick the book and get my hubs to shout 'STOP'.  It was at this point that I happened across these delicately beautiful looking Raspberry Trifle cupcakes, leaving hubs grinning - trifle is his favourite. I then managed to drop the book and it fell open on the Chocolate Hazelnut cupcakes. Oh what a shame! Clearly, in the spirit of the challenge, I had to make both! Any excuse eh?

So we'll start with the trifle cupcakes, not only because they were first I randomly chose, but because they go beautifully with the pink and vintage colour scheme at Dave and Barbara's wedding.

Congratulations Darlings x

Raspberry Trifle Cupcakes

Raspberry Trifle Cupcakes

This recipe is adapted from 'The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook'.  I made a couple of changes from the original recipe. I can't help myself.  In addition, the recipe below makes 6.  The original recipe makes 12.  

For the Cake
  • 40g soft unsalted butter
  • 140g caster sugar
  • 120g plain flour
  • 1/2 tbsp baking powder
  • pinch salt
  • 120ml whole milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1 large egg

For the Filling and Topping
  • 250ml whole milk
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla essence
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 15g plain flour
  • 15g cornflour
  • 100ml double cream
  • 12 fresh raspberries
  • 50g raspberry jam

Note: the first 6 ingredients of the 'Filling and topping ingredients make a custard.  You could cheat and buy ready made fresh custard... which when I make these again I will do. 

1. Preheat the oven to 180 and line a cupcake tin with cupcake wrappers.

2. With the paddle attachment, beat the butter, sugar, flour, baking powder and salt on a slow speed until the ingredients are mixed and look like breadcrumbs.

3. In a jug, whisk together the milk, vanilla, and eggs by hand and pour 3/4 into the dry ingredients with the mixer on a slow speed.  Once incorporated add the rest of the liquid. scrape the sides of the mixer bowl with a spatula to make sure it is all mixed and beat until combined and smooth.

4. Divide between the cases and bake for 18-20 minutes until golden and bounce back when pressed.  Leave to cool on a wire rack.

5. If you are making your own custard, place the milk and vanilla in saucepan and bring to the boil.  Meanwhile, mix the egg yolks, sugar, flour and cornflour to make a paste, adding a little hot milk to thin if needed.

6. When the milk has boiled, remove from the heat and mix 2 tablespoons of milk with the egg mixture and then pour it all back into the remaining milk.  Return to the heat and bring to the boil, whisking continuously and continue to boil for another minute to cook the flours.  Pour the custard into a bowl and leave until cool covered with cling film (about 40 minutes).

7.  Nearly there. Beat the cooled custard to get rid of any lumps and in a separate bowl, whisk the cream until soft peaks.  Fold the whipped cream into the custard.

8. Make a hollow about 2cm across and 3cm deep in the cakes, keeping the cut out sponge.  Place a raspberry in each hole, top with half a tsp of jam and half a tsp of the custard mixture.  Trim the cake and place back in the hole so it is level with the rest of the cake.  Top with a swirl of the custard frosting and top with a fresh raspberry.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

A Berry Happy Breakfast - Part 2 - Berry Bread.

Bread. Berries. Breakfast.

Need I say more?

No, but I will - this is me after all and I don't think I've ever written a short post. 

This is the second recipe from my berry haul at the weekend, of course not including the not insubstantial amount of blueberries I ate on the way home.... ahem.  And my second entry to the Breakfast Club, ran by FussFreeFlavours and hosted by Simply Food.  Told you I like berries!

When I look at this recipe I think it's more of a cake than a bread, but to eat bread for breakfast makes me feel better than if I scoff cake first thing (mentally that is, not necessarily physically!). It doesn't have much sugar in it, the berries are sweet enough - and it's perfect for those berries that have seen better days. In fact, my major berry haul went bad quite quickly (well the strawberries and blackberries did, raspberries are still perfection in a punnet) which I guess is why they were so cheap - another reason to not feel guilty for eating cake bread for breakfast! I feel a list coming on.

There is no yeast in this recipe either, but I don't believe you need yeast to make a cake bread (See bacon and cheese bread here). What do you think?

To be fair, it's irrelevant; it was gorgeous for breakfast with a cup of string tea and yes, I'll admit it, I dunked. Who wouldn't? It was still warm and slathered with salted butter, which ended up creating a little film on my tea. Sounds gross. It wasn't. I guess the guilt factor evens out the health factor of A Berry Happy Breakfast - Part 1. Everything in moderation I say!

So, enjoy baking this cake bread... then please, please enjoy eating, guilt free as a Sunday morning treat (or Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday....)

Look at that. A short post after all.

Berry Bread

Breakfast Berry Bread... Cake... Bread.
Whatever!

  • 250g plain flour
  • 150g vanilla sugar (or add the seeds of 1 pod)
  • 200g chopped nuts (I used walnuts and pecans, very roughly chopped)
  • 2.5 tsp baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 40g butter, melted
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 200ml milk
  • 150g mixed berries, chopped to the size of a raspberry if needs be.

1. Pre heat the oven to 180 and line a loaf tin (min is approx 8" long).
2. In a bowl, mix all of the dry ingredients to combine.

3. In a separate bowl, lightly whisk all the wet ingredients with a fork before pouring into the dry ingredients and mixing until combined.

4. Stir in the berries.

5. Bake in the oven for 50 - 60 minutes until a skewer poked into the middle comes out clean
6. Eat warm


OK, I realise this second to last instruction makes it a cake. I give in.

Enjoy anyway!

Monday, 13 June 2011

It's a Berry Happy Breakfast! Part 1 of 3 - Berry Breakfast Trifle

One of the best thing I've found about blogging are the Events and Challenges other bloggers have devised (and I may do my own one day - who knows!?) because they challenge you to try new things and blog about recipes you wouldn't normally blog about. And that's why FussFreeFlavours Breakfast Club challenge is one I look forward to - My brekkies are generally boring - and when I saw that this months host 'Simply Food' had chosen Berries for their theme, I jumped with joy. I love 'em!

Juicy, tender, sweet, in season, and most excitingly, LOCAL! Best of all this adds up to CHEAP! Sadly, this also meant I went a bit mad at the grocers at the weekend and bought:
  • 3 punnets of juicy, shiny red strawberries, 
  • 2 large punnets of dusky dark pink raspberries, 
  • 3 punnets of juicy blackberries 
  • 2 punnets of blueberries. 

That's a lot of berry goodness.  And how much did I pay!? Well, if I'd have been in Sainsburys, I would have closed my eyes at the check out and just handed over my credit card. But no need with my local grocer, as the whole lot came to a very tidy £6.50! That won't get you far in Sainsbury's I tell thee.

As I walked home (feeling rather sumg... again), I began to think about recipes as I picked away at my purchases, munching my way home. There would be a lot of berry goodness in my kitchen that afternoon (hence why this post is Part 1 of 3)!

I'll save the other two for later in the week, but I planned a gorgeous breakfast for hubs and I of Berry Breakfast Trifle followed by Blueberry Pancakes.

I got home and unpacked my shopping, planning to make the pancake batter to rest overnight and... oh dear.   I'd eaten ALL of the blueberries (except a sorry looking few left in the punnet that I quickly wolfed down when I saw them - does anyone else feel sorry for foods left behind so have to gobble them immediately? Or is it just an excuse for gluttony?).

I digress. But the pancake idea fell as flat as a.. well a pancake.  So, we are left with just a Berry Breakfast Trifle.  Not a bad consolation prize bad though - it was a real treat and a half, a healthy one at that. Perfect for healthy breakfasts that look like you've put a lot effort into - they look great. The only downside I can see to these gorgeous breakfast treats is that you can't make them in advance - if you do, you get gooey granola, and no one wants gooey granola.

This recipe uses my Gorgeously Good Granola (available for sale on Etsy too, I'll have you know!), so make a big batch and it'll last you the week (or just buy some of mine - yum!)

Berry Breakfast Trifle


Berry Breakfast Trifle



  • One big handful of Granola per person (do you like my precision here?)
  • Selection of juicy berries, large ones chopped. (I used raspberries, strawberries and blackberries. Sadly not blueberries).
  • A large pot of natural yoghurt (you'll need 150g-200g per person
  • Drizzle of honey

1. In a large glass (I used a chunky wine glass, but squat tumblers would looks fantastic), put roughly 2cm of granola in the bottom. Top with yoghurt (just a small dollop) and sprinkle generously with berries.

2. Continue to layer until you have filled the glass, finishing with yoghurt, and topping with more berries, a sprinkling of granola and a drizzle of yoghurt.

And that's it! I feel a fraud calling this a recipe; let's go with an assembly, an idea to create a filling, impressive low fuss, low fat, full flavour brekkie.

Enjoy!

Sunday, 12 June 2011

The Spice Club Manchester

It was a cold Saturday in June (yes, June. Summer. I know.) Hubs and I made our way to North Manchester for dinner with friends. But this wasn't any old dinner with friends. We had just discovered The Spice Club, an underground Indian restaurant ran by Monica, with her mum Anita doing the cooking and brother Anjay the ever attentive Maitre'd. Opening in September 2010, The Spice Club is going strong, starting out with Clubs once a month, now increasing to once per week and always a sell out. They're now moving onto Sunday Brunches too!

Monica and her family welcome you in to their lovely home in the leafy suburbs, with introductions and a welcome drink as they show you to the large and lovely dining room, table perfectly set for dinner for 13 with a menu to guide you through the evening. A lovely touch to keep referring back to, but as we were given the dishes, Monica introduced them so we knew exactly what we were eating, how it was cooked and the traditions behind the food. But more on that later.

I always worry that, with Supper Clubs, you are in someone elses home so could feel rushed - after all of that cooking and hosting wouldn't you just want your bed? But not at The Spice Club. The evening was wonderfully relaxed and by sitting around the large table we met some truely lovely people who were enjoying the experience just as much as we were. And that's why there are no photographs in this post. So carried away were we with the evening and enjoying a shared experience, it wouldn't have felt right to whip my camera out. So I didn't.

Monica invited any foodies to have a wonder around the kitchen if they felt the need to see what was going on. How could I resist! So after our starter, an indian street snack I'd never come across before but can't wait to try again, I up and left the table expecting to find, if not panic, then a hub of activity.

I was wrong.

Monica and her mother were stood chatting, enjoying the sound of laughter coming from the other room. The plates and bowls were being heated as Monica stirred the entrees. Salivating with anticipation I fought the desire to jump on the food and chatted with Monica and Anita, not once feeling in the way, mainly because everything was prepared and they had the time to chat. I may have just stumbled upon the Actual Hostess With The Mostess (Damn it, I was going for that crown!) with the most fabulous food (ditto).

So onto the menu. I want to describe every dish but I won't, can't, do it justice. I only cook the odd curry at home keeping everything easy so I don't have any authority on the style of cooking or indeed the ingredients, but what I will say is That Was The Best Indian Meal I Have Ever Eaten. Officially.

No grease; no orange fingers; no chicken-that-could-be-other-animal; no lamb-that-probably-came-from-the-floor-of-the kebab-shop-next-door; no 'My mouth is on fire' syndrome synonymous with that 'Indian' (read 'English Lout') favourite, Vindaloo.

But we did get tender, juicy chicken slowly roasted in aromatic spices; Food cooked in olive oil; Spices so beautifully toasted the aroma was like expensive perfume filling the house; lamb so juicy, tender and flavourful we asked for seconds (and thirds. And we got them). We enjoyed traditional Indian, home-cooked fare, a delicious starter and five entrées, with salad, rice and fresh steaming chapatis followed by delicious fruity sorbets and chai cardomom tea to wash it all down with, nicely rounded off with a raspberry biscuit and an Indian sweet I wish I knew the name of.

The menu, in full, was as follows:

Welcome Drink: Fresh Orange & Mango Juice
Appetiser: Papdi Chaat
Entrées: Keema Mattar, Murgh Masala, Aloo Gobi, Sukhi Urad Dal, Raita
Dessert: Mango & Raspberry Sorbet with Mint Sugar
Cardamom Chai served with traditional Indian biscuits

All in all, a fantastic night; fantastic hosts, fantastic friends (old and new) and, most importantly, fabulous food (and the best bit? Unlike every Indian meal I've ever eaten, it's now 4 hours after eating as I type and I've not got Delhi Belly. Fabulous).

If you want a curry in Mancester, forget the Curry Mile and call Monica at The Spice Club to find out what a real Indian meal should taste like.

The Spice Club
Upcoming Events
Monica's Blog 'Spice Diary'

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Top 10 Father’s Day Foodie Finds

Blimey, shopping for boys is hard. Even harder when it’s a man of a certain age who just had a big birthday and got everything he wanted. So I’ve scoured the t’interweb for a foodie gift for my fantastic Father…. And here’s what I’ve found

I hope it provides you with some inspiration and saves you the hours I’ve spend searching….



DIY Dads - Tool Kit Biscuit Tin by Biscuiteers I defy any handy dad, or just hungry dad, not to be pleased as punch when given this box of edible tool treats. Having been the very lucky recipient of a box of biscuits before I can vouch for their sweet deliciousness. 

www.biscuiteers.com

Working Dads – Perfect for the 9-5 foodie dad who’s bound to be out when postie arrives. This cake embedded card from The Cake Nest will slip right through the letterbox. Let’s just hope he doesn’t stand on it when he walk through the door. 

http://www.thecakenest.co.uk/
Skillful (or not) Dad – Give your dad something to look forward to and a new skill to boot by booking him a course at a Cookery School. The Cheshire Cookery School has ‘A feast From the Far East’ course on 26th June – a week of anticipation for him, brownie points (and a good meal at a later date) for you. 

www.thecheshirecookeryschool.com

‘BYOB’ Dad – If your dad loves wine but doesn’t know his Chablis from his Chardonnay, get him vouchers for the Manchester Wine School, or tickets to a tasting. A full day course with lunch thrown in? Be a good son/daughter and accompany him along. I know I will. 

www.manchesterwineschool.com

Beer Swigging Dad – If your Pops likes his real beers, turning his nose up at Carling/Stella/insert other well known brands of lager here then this Fathers Day Case from Real Ale is just the ticket. A selection of hand chosen beers will hit the spot and widen his drinking choices down the pub on a Friday.  

www.realale.com

Posh Dad - Posh it up with a hamper from Fortum and Mason. This ‘Gentlemans Hamper’ is pricey, but if he’s a gentleman, he’s worth it, right?

www.fortnumandmason.com

Green Fingered Father – If your pops likes to potter in the garden, tickets to the RHS Flower Show in Beautiful Tatton Park would be a great gift. With vegetable competitions, garden displays, hints on tips to grow your own and endless foodie shopping opportunities, it’s a great day out for dad and family. 

www.rhs.org.uk

Connoisseur Pops – Treat your dad to these beautiful Cognac glasses from Bodie and Fou. I may get these chic glasses and hope he hates them so I can keep them. He won’t though – who would!? 

http://www.bodieandfou.com/

‘Grow Your Own’ Dad - I’m not suggesting you plant your dad in amongst the carrots and onions, I’m talking about dads who grow their own and would love this Wine and a vine crate from The Gluttonous Gardener. I’ve bought my dad a couple of these over the years. It takes time to grow, but rewarding when you pick your own English grapes (and have half an hour on the phone hearing all about it afterwards). 

www.glut.co.uk

Tea and Papers Dad – Personalised Tea in a Personalised Tea Caddy from The Tea Palace– could it get more personal than that for Fathers Day? Take Dads favourite tastes and let the Tea Masters (I want that job) do all the work while you take all the credit. 

www.theteapalace.co.uk
A Bonus Entry!

Some Dads Like it Hot – If you want to make your own gift – and why not - make it special with a chilli hamper containing a chilli plant, a big jar of homemade chilli jam and some chilli chocolate lollies – stay tuned, recipes to follow…

I have used the photographs from the websites I have linked to in the post. I have emailed every website/seller referenced. Please let me know if you would like me to remove the photograph.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Secret Vintage Afternoon Tea Party

Supper Clubs, old hat in London, new to Cheshire, is the name given to underground restaurants hosted by food lovers in their homes. I’d always fancied going to one, so when I found that there were two in Manchester, I immediately signed up, pleased I’d found some close by.  And yesterday, I was thrilled with the text message of the secret location - just how a supper club should be.

But If I thought I was pleased then, you should see me now having just arrived home from my first supper club experience, The Secret Vintage Tea Party, beaming like the cat that got the cream. And I did get the cream, lots of it, clotted, in a gorgeous bowl and spread on scones. 

Beautiful table setting
As I pulled up at the home of Gwyneth Brock of Vintage Afternoon Teas in South Manchester, I had butterflies in my stomach, not sure what to expect. I met my gorgeous friend Kate outside and knocked on the door as we stood in the drizzle South Manchster is famous for. But we were greeted by a burst of sunshine as Gwyneth threw the door open and welcomed us into her home, beaming from ear to ear, resplendent in a flowery dress and Cath Kidston \pron. After being greeted like old friends we were introduced to the two other Supper Clubbers already in the dining toom as Gwyneth pressed a glass of ice-cold home made lemonade into our hands. We made polite chit chat as we surveyed the scene in front of us inside Gwyneth's 400 year old farmhouse, a table set with the most beautiful vintage crockery I’ve ever seen - mis-matched linen, tea cups, saucers, plates, napkins, jugs, sugar bowls… I was in vintage heaven. I’m not into stealing but if I could get my hands on some of this I’d have managed to make peace with myself. 


Sandwiches

Just one of the many
vintage teapots

Kate and I hung our noses over the menu and place settings, tummies grumbling and mouths watering. The dining room soon filled up and the tea party began as we took our seats. Gwyneth introduced herself, told us it was her first supper club (you’d never have guessed – Gwyneth was the perfect, unflappable hostess) and welcomed us to her lovely home before bringing vintage tiers of delicate sandwiches, plates of tartlets and pots of tea in stunning vintage teapots. We all waited for someone else to start, politeness of the English stopping us from diving in as we wanted to, but once we started, we couldn’t stop. Kate and I sipped our tea chatted to other guests as made our way through the never ending pile of sandwiches – no one was going hungry here! 



Vintage cup and saucer
The bread, so soft and sandwiches freshly made, so fresh in fact that Gwyneth let us into a secret – only half an hour before she was still in her jammies making sandwiches! You’d never have guessed; the atmosphere was friendly, light and very, very relaxing. What better way to spend a Sunday Afternoon? The sandwiches were delicious – smoked salmon and cream cheese, Cheshire ham and mustard, Lancashire cheese and onion marmaldade, and free range egg and watercress – fabulous, classic and local.

As the sandwich plates were taken away, we waited with breath that was baited for what we were really there for.


The Cakes. 

Raspberry and White Chocolate Macaroons,
Scones, Guinness Tea Cake


And we weren’t disappointed, as I knew we wouldn’t be. All the guests were seated around a large farmhouse table and I was opposite a devout fan of Gwyneths Afternoon Tea business, who had my mouth watering with talk of macaroons, brownie and sponge cakes (oh my). As they arrived the room silenced as we watched cake stand after cake stand make its way into the dining room, the table groaning with the delights. No fear of politeness this time as we pounced upon the cakes like people who’d never seen the bubblegum pink of a raspberry and white chocolate macaroon before, never tasted the delights of a rum and mint brownie before, never gotten covered in clotted cream as they ate their scone before. 

Rum and Mint Brownies, Lemon Victoria Sandwich


And we hadn’t. Not in this way, with lust and greed over taking the desire to merely satiate hunger, with lust and greed quickly giving way to the desire to gorge on these beautiful home baked delights. And then there was the Guinness Tea Cake smothered with butter, a not-too-sweet exception to the sugar laden cakes surrounding it.

Have you ever seen a more
amazing sugar bowl?

Last but not least, taking pride of place in the centre of the table… a Victoria Sponge cake, fit to burst with lemon curd and fresh cream. And the cake wasn’t the only one fit to burst. I just couldn’t manage another bite and I could have cried with disappointment.

As the chatter died down and we all made promises to see Gwyneth in July for her next party, the magic words were spoken ‘Would anyone like to take some cakes home?’. Immediately, the room was alive with chatter again as we made our requests. Brownie and a macaroon for hubby, and thanks to Gwyneths hospitality, kindness and generosity, a piece of lemon Victoria Sandwich cake for me. Tears no longer necessary. 



Lemon Victoria Sandwich

Thank You Gwyneth, for a wonderful afternoon in your lovely home.

You can find out more about Vintage Afternoon Tea's here and more supper club dates here.  This supper club had a suggested donation of £12.  A bargain in my book.  I gave what it was worth - more!

Friday Night Chinese - Chicken in Black Pepper Sauce

Why is it that a four day week can feel longer than a five day week? Personally, I think it's because we expect it to be short, the days flying by and before you know it, it's Friday. But not for me and certainly not for hubs.

I stumbled through the door last Friday, heels kicked to one side, hair askew, ready for the weekend. Now, know this. I ALWAYS cook on a Friday night, stemming from the days when my husband would work Monday to Friday in London, coming home only at the weekends and I'd welcome him home with something with a nutritional value higher than zilch. And this weekend was no different, except for one little thing.

Hubs called at lunchtime, knowing I was knackered, and said, 'Let's get takeaway. Chinese? The Dragon do that one I love.' And yes, The Dragon does do good food, BUT I ALWAYS COOK ON A FRIDAY! Does he not realise he is breaking my moral code to feed my husband (and anyone else who passes over my threshold for that matter!)? Call me old fashioned, but I like a tradition.



So I got to scheming, what if I made him think he was getting a Chinese takeaway, that I picked it up just before he got home, only to have cooked it myself, feeding my obsession of knowing exactly what's going in our food and knowing that it's actually chicken we're eating, not re-constituted animal X.


So I made Chinese, knowing what he'd order and having most of the ingredients at home, just a quick stop off for chicken and veggies. I opened all the window so any cooking smells could be passed off as takeaway smells and set to it.

I even went so far as to put it in old takeaway tubs that I save for leftovers and dumping the food into a big bowl as I would normally do with a Chinese takeaway, spooning from bowl to mouth without removing my eyes from whatever rubbish happens to be on the TV.

But he knew.

The first comment was positive 'Oh God that smells good, I'm starving!'

But then, his second comment, upon spying the meal was 'oh, there are normally more onions than anything else, but this has peppers and mushrooms in it. Was it more expensive?'

And then 'The chicken's good. It's different. Not as stodgy. It tastes... less over the top Chinesey... you know what I mean?'

Busted.

But was it as good?

Yes, but rather than a takeaway, it tasted like it had come from a proper Chinese restaurant. It tasted like it was freshly-made from scratch with real ingredients with the love and attention food deserves. Funny that, because it was.

Chicken in Black Pepper Sauce



  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 300g chicken thighs cut into bit sized pieces
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 1 green pepper, cut into strips
  • Large handful mushrooms, chunkily sliced
  • 2 tbsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp maggi seasoning
  • scant 1/2 tsp sugar

1. Marinate the chicken in 1 tbsp soy sauce for 10-20 minutes

2. Heat a wok and oil, and stir fry the onions for 3-4 minutes on a high heat.  Add the pepper and mushrooms, cooking for another 2 minutes before adding the black pepper, chicken and marinade.

3. Continue to cook until the chicken is cooked through, about 8 minutes.

4. Add the remaining soy sauce, maggi seasoning and sugar, cooking until the sugar begins to caramelise, just a minute or two.

Serve with rice or noodles

Enjoy!