Cookie Decorating

I had my first try at decorating cookies/biscuits with royal icing. I made these duck biscuits just before Easter and my son loved them. For days afterwards he kept coming into the kitchen saying “Any more duck biscuits?”

For some time I have been looking at the beautiful presentation other bloggers have been achieving, using their decorating skills to create intricate designs. Well you can see my first attempt, unfortunately I did need to buy some more piping equipment and needed a lot of time and patience, but I’m sure I’ll get quicker. After my first attempt I changed the average royal icing recipe and made it my own. I found the plain icing too sweet and with very little flavour. In order to make it my own I used lemon and vanilla essence instead of water in my recipe.

If you want to see how I created these biscuits take a look at Sweetopia.net This is a fantastic blog written by a woman in Canada. Her online videos are so easy to follow, clear, concise, but packed full of helpful tips. This really is the place to learn online about decorating with royal icing. Check it out!

My own royal icing recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 225g icing sugar, sifted
  • 1 tbsp powdered egg whites
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp vanilla essence

Method:

  1. Place all ingredients in to a large bowl and whisk together by hand or with an electric whisk.
  2. The mixture should become smooth, lose its shine and become matt and be runny but quite thick and stiff to mix.
  3. You can add more liquid later if you need a different consistency.
  4. Add food colouring, mix well and transfer to a piping bag.
  5. Decorate biscuits as desired. *

*Watch online tutorials at Sweetopia.net to learn how to decorate biscuits with royal icing.

My favourite choice of biscuit to decorate is, rather than plain sugar, is either my gingerbread recipe or Fiona Cairn’s (Royal Wedding baker to Kate & William) shortbread recipe.

Share
Posted in Biscuits & Cookies, My Life, Recipes, Recommended Products | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Royal Wedding Party Meal Plan

I’m taking meal planning to a different place this week. My near hysteria at the quickly approaching Royal Wedding is, while slightly annoying to my husband, becoming infectious with most people I meet! I wouldn’t say I’m a Royalist, but I do think the Royal family bring a good source of money via the tourist trade to our country. The reason for my excitment is I love a good wedding, a love story and in this case a real life fairy story with an ordinary girl marrying a prince.

Anyway, back to party planning. Here are my ideas for a hassle free party, both for a morning/breakfast party and a lunch/post wedding party.

Royal Wedding Breakfast Party:

  • Try out my Royal Wedding Breakfast Cakes – delicious savoury cakes topped with bacon, sausage and tomato sauce. These treats featured in The Times top cakes for their Royal Bake Off competition!
  • Smoked salmon & scrabbled eggs
  • Croissants
  • Champagne/Cava & orange juice

Royal Wedding Lunch Party:

My easy, delicious and British theme is the Sandwich Buffet. Plenty of gorgeous sandwich fillings laid out for guests to make up to their own preference. I think this buffet is perfect for a small gathering, anything over 20 and you may find queue developing at your ‘sandwich making bar’

Here is how to do this:

  1. The day before cook several joints of meat (beef, chicken, gammon), slice thinly ready for sandwiches. (Alternatively go totally hassle free and head off to your local butcher for some good quality freshly sliced meats).
  2. Provide plenty of good quality sliced bread (you could pre-butter these or leave guests to do this)
  3. Layout a selection of condiments, pickle, mayonnaise, mustard, horseradish and remember butter or margarine.
  4. Prepare and slice a range of salad ingredients.
  5. Add a cheese board to ensure vegetarian fillings are available.
  6. Provide several bread boards for sandwiches to be cut.
  7. Allow guests to make up sandwiches to their own choices.
  8. For dessert/cake make my version of the Royal Wedding Reception Cake – Royal Wedding Tiffin.

There you have it: a fun Royal Wedding lunch party with a sandwich buffet of traditional British ingredients. Easy for any host to prepare and a unique experience for guests who can try a variety of fillings at your ‘Sandwich Bar’.

Share
Posted in Meal Plan Topics | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Royal Wedding Cupcakes To Your Door

Wow! Take a peek at these gorgeous cupcakes; designed specially for the Royal wedding day. This time it is not me telling you how to make these cakes. Instead, these are cupcakes you can order and have arrive to your door already done for you!

They are made by Gill at Cupcakes To Your Door, an online company which delivers homemade cupcakes nationwide. Gill has been one of my Twitter friends for a while now and I’m lucky enough to be trying some of these cakes out at my Royal Wedding Party. I’ll be writing a taste review on my blog post the wedding day, but I’ve been looking at customer feedback on the website and I’m so excited to finally be trying them for myself and not only that, trying them out with my family, at our Royal Wedding Party.

I guess you can tell I’m pretty excited about the Royal Wedding day and planning the food for my party is keeping me occupied until the big day arrives. Thank you Gill for asking me to try out your cakes! If you’d like to serve something special on the Royal Wedding day be it for a party, to take to as a gift for the host of a party, or just to scoff in the privacy of your own home while you watch the footage, get on to the website and and order asap! Here’s the link: Royal Cupcakes To Your Door

Share
Posted in Cakes, Recommended Products | Tagged | 3 Comments

Royal Wedding Tiffin

Prince William’s has chosen his favourite cake for the Wedding Reception. It is interesting that this cake seems to be a favourite of almost every other person I know. While Prince William calls it Chocolate Biscuit Cake, I’ve known it called Refrigerator Cake, Tiffin and No-Bake Chocolate Cake. Whatever the name is it is always delicious!

Often this cake comes as a slab or tray bake, but to make it fit for a Royal Wedding Party I’ve perfected my own recipe and piled it into gold cupcakes topping it off with honeycomb. The gold colour theme makes these cakes even more indulgent and very regal. This cake is so popular it is ideal for any Royal Wedding Party. As the Royal family are enjoying their own Chocolate Biscuit Cake this choice lets the rest of us feel we can share just a little of their reception.

Ingredients:

  • 25g plain chocolate
  • 25g dark chocolate
  • 50g unsalted butter
  • 1tbsp maple syrup
  • 2oz digestive biscuits, crushed into small pieces
  • 3oz sultanas
  • 50g honeycomb, crushed

Topping:

  • 50g dark chocolate
  • 50g honeycomb, crushed

*foil cupcakes hold their shape best for this recipe

Method:

  1. Melt the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water.
  2. Stir mixture until combined, add syrup and remove from the heat.
  3. Add the crushed biscuits, sultanas and half of the honeycomb.
  4. Mix all ingredients together until well coated with the chocolate.
  5. Spoon into each case and press the mixture down with the back of the spoon.

For the topping:

  1. In a clean bowl melt the rest of the chocolate over the pan of simmering water.
  2. Spoon the melted chocolate over each cake and quickly top with honeycomb.
  3. Place cakes in the fridge* to set for approx 15-20 mins.

* These cakes are best stored in the fridge.

Share
Posted in Cakes, Quick Easy Recipe, Recipes | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Royal Wedding Breakfast Cakes

Not long to the Royal Wedding! Yeah, I am excited! I am having a Royal Wedding party with my family so we can enjoy watching the big event together. So, when The Times newspaper ran a competition to design a cake or cakes for such an event I decide to enter. My party will start around 10.30am so we can get ready to watch all of the television footage together so cake, in the usual sense, did not seem appropriate, hence my invention of my English Wedding Breakfast Cakes. After all what is more English than a full English breakfast?

Guests may not be ready to tuck into wedding cake so early in the morning instead they are sure to welcome these savoury cupcakes. Now I do not have to choose between making cake or serving breakfast, instead I can combine the two.

If your party starts early on Friday 29th then try serving these cakes I think these they are ideal for every age:

  • Kids will love the breakfast cakes (as did my little boy, who asked “Is it my birthday?” when shown my competition entry),
  • Adults will think they are fun
  • Diabetics can enjoy them as they have very little sugar

They are easy to make, kids can help to decorate them and nothing says English food more to me than a bit of bacon, sausage and tomato sauce!

Ingredients:

  • 125g white self-raising flour
  • 1/2 tbsp caster sugar
  • 2 medium eggs, whisked
  • 110ml milk
  • 50g melted unsalted butter
  • pinch salt & white pepper

Icing/Topping:

  • 125g full fat cream cheese
  • 2-3 cooked chipolatas
  • 2-3 cooked slices smoked bacon
  • handful roasted cherry tomatoes
  • tomato sauce
  • brown sauce

Method:

  • Pre-heat oven to 180°c.
  • Sift dry ingredients together.
  • In a separate bowl mix eggs and milk.
  • Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in egg and milk mixture, fold together and then slowly fold in melted butter.
  • Sprinkle salt and pepper into your cake batter and fold gently to combine ingredients evenly.
  • Spoon into cupcake cases, filling to approximately half way.
  • Place in the oven for 12-15 mins or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  • Leave to cool on a wire rack.
  • To ice with cream cheese either spread cheese with a palette knife or lightly beat cheese with a spoon until smooth, then fill into a piping bag and pipe onto each cake.
  • Top each cake with your choice of English breakfast items, use tomato sauce to pipe a K & W!

Share
Posted in Cakes, Recipes | 5 Comments

Samphire Returns

The news has been out for a little while now, but I’m still pleased to announce Samphire is back at Blickling! After many sad months without a visit to the estate I will finally return on my next trip to Norfolk and I am so excited, a trip to Norfolk without eating a Samphire pie is not a proper trip! We love to stock up and then enjoy a picnic in the walled garden, watching my son play in the walled garden. Happy days!

Samphire’s new location will be in the courtyard close to Blickling Hall’s bookshop. For my husband and I this couldn’t be a better location, we love the second hand bookstore and haven’t visited since Samphire left. Samphire will have a pop up stall every weekend and bank holiday from this coming Saturday, April 16th until the end of May. The stall should open at 11am – 5pm. I stress that this is a trial period so it is really important that all Samphire devotees make a trip during this time if not every week! I live in Essex but will make sure I visit at least once during this time and will ask my family to do the same. Please spread the word and share this blog post using the share button at the bottom of the post. If we want Samphire back at Blickling permanently then this is the way to show the National Trust, by turning up and supporting Samphire every weekend.

I asked Karen to write something to alongside my blog entry and I was very flattered what she sent me to publish. Here are Karen’s thoughts:

When we had to close our shops and leave Blickling Jeff and I were prepared to mope off home and leave it at that. We didn’t know if we would be able to carry on at the smallholding as the income from Blickling had been paying our mortgage for the past five years. It was a worrying time and we felt quite sorry for ourselves.

And then Victoria wrote this amazing blog. Not only was it a completely rational, well thought out piece asking some pertinent questions, it also made us realise we weren’t on our own. Gradually more and more people found out about it and added supportive comments and each one bolstered our flagging confidence. How lovely that all these people had taken the time to tell us how saddened they were by the loss of the shop and offer us their support. Not just customers, suppliers and staff members also added their comments making us feel that we were all in it together and that maybe, together, we could do something about it. One customer even started up a ‘Save Our Samphire’ facebook page which has over 260 members.

I confess that I didn’t hold out much hope of a change of mind but Victoria kept plugging away. She followed up emails from the NT, wading her way through endless corporate responses to reiterate her initial questions, asking that we be reinstated at Blickling.

All of this effort on our behalf finally sparked enough enthusiasm in me to put together an idea that I thought may be acceptable to Blickling. I sent off the proposal to set up a ‘pop up shop’ and after three weeks we were told they would consider it. We had a meeting to discuss a possible site and terms were agreed.

On 16 April we will return to Blickling for weekend and bank holidays, albeit in reduced form. Our little pop up will be situated by the second-hand bookshop and we will be stocking a lot of old favourites like our pork pies, sausages and of course tiffin ! It’s a trial for a few weeks but if it works out for both us and the NT then hopefully they will let us remain over the summer. If that happens we can start to bring in a few more things from other people.

Things have really turned around for us and we are delighted to be back at Blickling, we look forward to seeing some familiar faces and I’m sure they will be happy to see that Roberta and Katie are also coming back to help out when Jeff and I can’t make it.

It all started with this blog and Victoria’s determination to get the NT to reconsider. Thanks Vicky you’ve been a star ! x

Please use the button below to share this blog and inform others that Samphire is back. Remember this is a trial period and we need to show our support!

Share
Posted in Random, Recommended Products | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Bacon & Cabbage Pasta

I first cooked this dish at university. It was originally a recipe from Jamie Oliver, at that time he was only on his second recipe book and my housemate Jenny and I loved to cook things from his new TV show. Since then I’ve cooked this recipe so many times that I can’t remember the original and I’m sure I use different ingredients, however it is as delicious as ever and gets my 2 year old eating cabbage! The first time I cooked this for my husband he seemed a bit unsure about eating cabbage with pasta, but once he heard about the smoked bacon, cream cheese and white wine he was open to try it. Now this is a family favourite, especially as it only takes 15 minutes to make. Try it, it is a real winner.

Serves 2 (and a toddler):

Ingredients:

  • 150g pasta (fettucine/spaghetti)
  • olive oil
  • 3 rashes smoked bacon, chopped into small pieces
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 150g savoy cabbage sliced thinly
  • 1 glass white wine (optional, otherwise use water)
  • 100g cream cheese
  • handful finely chopped rosemary
  • pinch black pepper

Method:

  1. Cook pasta according to instructions on packet.
  2. Heat a little olive oil in a saucepan, add bacon, garlic and oregano, stir and cook for a few minutes until bacon is starting to crisp.
  3. Add savoy cabbage and wine (or water) stir, turn heat to lowest setting and place a lid on the pan. Leave the cabbage to cook/sweat until pasta is cooked.
  4. Drain pasta, keeping back about 1 tbsp of the cooking water.
  5. Add pasta and water in with the cabbage and bacon, spoon in cream cheese and stir until it has coated pasta.
  6. Sprinkle over rosemary and pepper before serving.
Share
Posted in Quick Easy Recipe, Recipes | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Mothers’ Day

I’ve put together some of my past blog entries that are perfect for spoiling Mums on Mothers’ Day which is this Sunday here in the UK. If you are reading this and you are a Mum try leaving my blog open on your computer, maybe your partner will take the hint.

Speedy Golden Cupcakes – these can be whipped up in no time, taste great and look pretty.

Luxury Chocolate Fridge Cake – as part of my review of Fiona Cairns’ Bake & Decorate I’ve supplied her recipe for a delicious Fridge Cake packed full of sweets. Fiona Cairns is the Royal Baker for William & Kate’s wedding so this recipe is sure to make your Mum feel extra special.

My Chocolate Cheesecake Brownie – this totally indulgent cake is the ultimate treat.

Victoria’s Sponge – serve afternoon tea this Mothers’ Day with this classic sponge.

Share
Posted in Cakes, Recipes | Tagged | Leave a comment

Savoury Cupcakes

George and I had a playdate last week and we invited our friends to come for lunch. I decide to bake my latest invention: the Savoury Cupcake, which is based on the theory that kids should eat most things if they are made to look like cake. My Savoury Cupcakes are a basic recipe that allows me to add various ingredients and ensure that something gets eaten at lunchtime, because empty bellies usually means a grumpy afternoon. This time I added cheese and olives. Olives are, strangely enough, a favourite amongst some of the kids I know; while most think of them as an adult taste, I reckon it is the salty flavour that some children love. My little boy will eat lots of olives in one sitting and often requests them at dinner time.

This lunchtime my Savoury Cupcakes worked a treat and all the kids snaffled them up, as did the adults! They are also great served instead of biscuits with cheese, with soup instead of a roll or warm with cream cheese. Here is the recipe if you’d like to try my Olive & Cheese Cupcakes:

Makes approx 8-10 cupcakes

Ingredients:

  • 100g white self-raising flour*
  • 2 tsp caster sugar
  • 2 medium eggs, whisked
  • 110ml milk
  • 50g melted unsalted butter
  • 1/4 tsp mixed herbs
  • pinch white pepper
  • 75g grated cheddar
  • 75g sliced green olives

Method:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 180°c.
  2. Sift dry ingredients together.
  3. In a separate bowl mix eggs and milk.
  4. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in egg and milk mixture, fold together and then slowly fold in melted butter.
  5. Sprinkle herbs, pepper, cheese and olives into your cake batter and fold gently to combine ingredients evenly.
  6. Spoon into cupcake cases, filling to approximately half way.
  7. Place in the oven for 25 mins or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

*I substitute some of the white flour for stoneground wholemeal flour which is higher in nutrients as well as being a complex carbohydrate which is better for slow releasing energy.

Share
Posted in Cakes, Cooking with kids, Food Thoughts & Nutrition, My Life, Quick Easy Recipe, Recipes | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Utterly Scrummy Brownies

I love to read other bloggers recipes and stories. Today I share with you my latest find  – Michelle of UtterlyScrummy.blogspot.com She blogs a whole host of delicious, realistic recipes that are easy to follow. I found Michelle through Twitter. She is a Kiwi Mum living in England and I had  so much emphathy for her as she shared the loss of family back home when the earthquake hit New Zealand.  This is why I love blogging, it is more than opening a recipe book at home in your kitchen, it is sharing stories and ideas with other passionate homecooks across the globe!

This week I tried out Michelle’s Easy Chocolate Brownie Recipe:

  • 125g unsalted butter
  • 200g dark chocolate, chopped
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup plain flour
  • 3 eggs, lightly whisked
  • 1/2 cup dark choc bits
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C. Line a 20cm square cake tin with non-stick baking paper.
  2. Melt butter and chocolate together in a medium saucepan over low heat. Stir in brown sugar and vanilla.
  3. Add flour and eggs and beat with a wooden spoon until well combined. Stir in choc bits and nuts.
  4. Pour into prepared tin and smooth surface. Bake for 40 minutes until set. Remove from oven.
  5. Cool in tin for 5 minutes then transfer to a wire rack. Cut into squares to serve.  Store in an airtight container.

I served this brownie to my little boy with greek yogurt and chopped pears. It was delicious!

Share
Posted in Cakes, Recipes | Tagged , , | Leave a comment