First of all I made it onto the front page of The Times supplement this Thursday with my Strawberry Jubilee Cake. Very exciting for me and especially my Mum who does the crossword and sudoku in this supplement every day.
Secondly, I’ve been selected as a member of The Sainsbury’s Bank for Family Bloggers. Recently they ran a competition for their favourite blog and I was surprised that nearly all of the finalists had very personal blogs sharing lots about themselves. I’ve always concentrated on the recipes, and food information rather than on myself and realised maybe I should give a little bit more of me.
So this weekend I thought I’d share a personal moment for me. This photo is of my husband and I going out together for the evening. This is something of a personal triumph for me and I am celebrating today because since my son was born over 3 years ago I have hardly ever been out in the evening with my husband. I have always suffered with anxiety, but once George was born it went off the scale and I had post-natal depression. I have been up and down ever since and socialising is one of the biggest problems for me. Certainly going out for the evening to a bar with music and friends would be perfect for some, but for me it is just filled with a whole host of my own phobias and can make me feel unwell for days before and after. However, this time it was my sister-in-law’s 30th birthday and she was jointly celebrating her husband’s 40th birthday. I wanted to join everyone instead of staying at home by myself and I did it! I put on a dress, makeup, did my hair and practised all of my positive thinking, all of the things I’ve learnt at counselling and I did it! We went to a place I would never choose to go in, the music was loud, it was hot and it was a long way from a tea room, vintage sale or a visit to a National Trust property, but this was one step closer to knowing that when I need to I can do it. I’ve also learnt to share my feelings so when I know I’ve tried and given it a go I can happily say it’s time to leave and my family and friends know that I’m not boring or rude but that I’ve done my best and I can’t do anymore. So if you’ve ever suffered with anxiety or depression there are others of us out there and we are just taking one day at a time.
My George designed these Jubilee cupcakes. I kid you not! When I asked him what type of cake he would make for the Queen’s party he replied he’s like to make her face on a cake. This is what we came up with and I think they are quite effective, certainly they are something the kids can get involved with making for any Jubilee parties you are having.
Here is my recipe:
1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup (130 grams) caster sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 1/2 cups (195 grams) self raising flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup (60 ml) milk
2 cups (230 grams) icing sugar sifted
1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 tsp milk
Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy (a food mixer is good for this job).
Add the eggs, one at a time and beat well each time, mix in the vanilla extract and lemon juice.
Take a separate bowl and sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
Slowly beat in the flour mixture and the milk, in three additions: flour, milk, flour.
Fill the muffin cups with the mixture, bake for approx 18-20 mins or until a toothpick inserted into a cupcake comes out clean.
Remove from oven, place on a wire rack to cool.
Decorate cupcakes when they have completed cooled.
For the Icing:
Cream the butter until smooth and well blended (it is best to do this with a electric whisk or food mixer).
Add the vanilla extract and with the mixer on a low speed, gradually beat in the icing sugar.
Add the milk and beat on high speed until icing is light and fluffy approx 4 mins.
Decorate with strawberries, blueberries etc to make a face a crown on each cupcake.
Things have been busy here, my lovely Aunt has been visiting from Australia and I’ve been busy entertaining, some of those recipes will make it onto my blog. One Saturday for dessert I tested out my Jubilee Cake, which I designed for the The Times Jubilee Cake Competition. My official name for my Jubilee entry is The Sovereign Strawberry Cake. I class strawberries as the best of British fruit, they are delicious, colourful, typically British and in season in June. Strawberries can be a bit more expensive than the usual fruit you might add to a cake, it’s not like adding a handful of raisins, a ripe banana or even chopped apple. Adding plenty of delicious ripe strawberries is, to me, a luxury and something to be saved for a special occasion – nothing more special that a cake to celebrate the Queen’s Jubilee.
My recipe is easy to make and easy to decorate, but looks very regal with its strawberry crown and silver “diamond” decorations. I hope this inspires you to get baking for the Jubilee weekend.
275g unsalted butter, softened
275g golden caster sugar, sifted
1tsp vanilla extract
275g self-raising flour, sifted
150g strawberries, chopped
2-3tbsp strawberry jam
125g unsalted butter, very soft
125g cream cheese, very soft
250g icing sugar, sifted
1tsp vanilla extract
6 large strawberries
Line and grease a 20cm round cake tin and pre-heat the oven to 180°c
Beat the butter until soft and smooth, add the sifted caster sugar and cream together, adding the vanilla essence and mixing well.
Add half of the beaten eggs and half of the flour, at a time, gently folding this into the butter and sugar, until all is incorporated.
Spoon in the chopped strawberries and stir gently to distribute evenly throughout the cake batter.
Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin and place in the centre of the oven for 40mins. Check on the cake towards the end of the baking time, the golden caster sugar will give it a darker colour, but gently insert a cocktail stick into the centre, if it comes out clean, remove the cake from the oven, otherwise continue to cook for another 5 mins.
Leave the cake in the cake tin for approx 5-10 mins before removing to a cooling rack.
Wait for the cake to completely cool and then heat the strawberry jam in a saucepan over a low heat until it becomes liquid, you may need to add a couple of teaspoons of water.
If your jam is thick with strawberry fruit use a sieve to strain the jam. Take the sieved jam and using a pastry brush cover the whole cake, this adds to the delicious strawberry flavour and seals the cake of crumbs for icing later.
Leave the jam to set and dry while you make the icing.
Beat the butter until completely soft and smooth, there should be no lumps or it will not mix smoothly with the cream cheese (I prefer to do this in a food mixer).
Add the cream cheese and beat until smooth and combined.
Add a little icing sugar at a time until all is incorporated, finally adding the vanilla and mixing it thoroughly. Place in the fridge until ready to use.
Once the jam has had at least an hour to set on the cake, use a palette knife to add the first layer of icing to your cake. Gently spread on the icing, wiping the knife each time on kitchen paper so that you do not put jam or crumbs from the cake into the fresh icing.
Leave the first layer of icing to set on the cake by placing it in the fridge for 30 mins. Then add a thick second layer of icing and smooth it over by dipping the knife into hot water, wiping it on kitchen paper, and then gently gliding it over the icing.
Next slice the strawberries into half and arrange as a crown on the centre of the cake. Carefully arrange the silver dragees around the crown and the edges of the cake, a pair of kitchen tweezers are helpful for this task. To add the dragees to the top of the strawberries put a tiny dot of icing on the tip of each strawberry and then add the dragees.
Display your cake on a beautiful cake stand or a pretty plate and enjoy!
Meal planning saves time, money and space in your head; working out what is for dinner every day and having to shop for it every day is too much for me to handle. Over the last few weeks I have been very poor with my meal planning and it has not made life easy for me. When I meal plan my day flows so much better, I have the food I need and I know what is on the menu. With a 3 year old to feed it is not easy to dash out to the shops and so meal planning is a must.
When I feel I cannot get my head around thinking up another week of recipes, I turn either to my own pre-written meal plans on my blog, or I cheat and use a plan from another blogger. My blog friend Michelle at UtterlyScrummy does a weekly meal plan and with 3 children she chooses similar recipes to me which are healthy and money saving.
This week I’m following her meal plan and here it is:
Creamy Bacon & Vegetable Pasta
Bacon, Cheese & Vegetable Frittata
Michelle helpful provides all her recipes and the costings of her weekly shop. You can check it all out here.
I have been watching a lot of online recipes recently through youtube. Today I saw this delicious recipe that looked very quick and easy to do. I wonder whether people think it should make it onto my next Supper Club menu? Of course I would use free range chicken. See what you think, maybe it could go on your meal plan next week…
I went food shopping today and I was reminded of my blog post about saving money on the food bill. Have you read it? Do you have any other tips to share? Please leave a comment.
Swap olive oil for cheaper sunflower or rape seed oil when frying.
Don’t buy prepared vegetables/salad, a bag of salad costs around the same as two whole heads of lettuce.
Weigh each portion of rice and pasta so you have less wastage.
Grow your own herbs, even a pot on your windowsill will save you buying expensive packaged fresh herbs.
Compare the price per kg(lb) of products to find the real bargains.
Make your own flavoured yogurts by buying plain yogurt and adding jam, fruit, nuts, muesli, chocolate chips etc.
Say no to ready meals, make meals in bulk from scratch and freeze them in portions so you have your own ready meals at a fraction of the price.
Eat less meat, choose several nights a week to eat vegetarian.
Don’t buy brands, instead try supermarket own brands.
Make your own bread (dig out your breadmaker from the back of the cupboard, or buy a cheap one on ebay). Bread made at home costs only a few penies and you can make flavoured breads at a fraction of the shop bought price.
Meal plan – plan a whole week of meals so there are no last minute calls to the local takeaway.
Check the fridge, freezer and store cupboard before shopping so no duplicates are bought by mistake.
Dilute fruit juices to make them go further – this also makes them more refreshing as the fruit provides vitamins and the water hydrates.
Check out local shops – at my local Chinese supermarket I can by the same products 3x cheaper than leading supermarket chains.
Don’t buy gravy granules – use some cornflour to thicken sauces.
Make your own muesli with oats and dried fruit, it is cheaper and healthier as there are no hidden sugars or salts.
Use a teapot to make tea, it will provide more than one cup per tea bag.
Make lunches to take out – shop bought sandwiches are expensive and unhealthy.
Don’t thrown away leftovers make bubble and squeak or soup.
Look at the low shelves in the supermarket – items at eye level are more expensive and budget ranges are on the lower shelves.
Find out what time of day your local shop/supermarket reduces the price of items close to their sale by date. At my shop it is 11am, if I go after that I find lots of reduced items I can buy and then freeze to use at a later date.
Do not go food shopping when hungry it will encourage you tol buy more than you need!
Here is a fun recipe, not for food but for play dough. This recipe is for anyone out there that has kids, grandkids etc. This is a really easy recipe and kids can help make the play dough before they start using it. The big bonus is making play dough yourself is really cheap!
Thanks to my new friend Elisha Sing for sharing her play dough recipe and photo. I have not made my own play dough before and her recipe looks easy to follow.
Elisha is a qualified childcare worker from Australia and she is over here visiting us while she is looking for Nanny work in the UK.
Here is her recipe:
1 ½ Cup plain flour
1 cup salt
1 tablespoon oil
1 tablespoon Cream of Tartar
1 cup of warm water, preferable on the hotter side.
Food colouring of whatever colour you want.
1. Boil the kettle, when the water is hot wait for it to cool down a little or just add some cold water to the hot water.
2. Place flour in a big mixing bowl then add salt, oil and cream of Tartar than give it a good mix.
3. Add the water and the food colouring, depending on how coloured you want it add a little for some colour or add lots for a fun effect.
4. Mix all the ingredients together well until the dough is nice and firm, a good tip is to pull parts of the dough apart and add flour if it seems too wet or slimy.
5. Once you have your coloured dough, when not in use, wrap it well in cling wrap and place in seal tight container.
Today with my son we quickly baked some Easter cakes to give as gifts. While George decorated his with tiny Easter eggs and little chocolate rabbits I wanted to try something a little more elegant.
I found an online tutorial about making daffodils from fondant icing or gum paste and adapted it to what I had available. You can see the tutorial that inspired me here.
These cakes will be lovely with a cup of tea tomorrow on Easter sunday, but since daffodils are spring flowers these cakes will be great to make any time over the next few weeks. Use a basic cupcake recipe, if you like chocolate add some cocoa powder, and either use some glace icing like I did for speed or spend some time and pipe buttercream icing before placing on your daffodil icing flowers. I have more information on piping with butter icing in this blog post.
Enjoy, these cakes look good but are easy to make so satisfy you and your guests!
This recipe from, my meal plans, is continuously the most popular recipe on my blog. The pasta recipe is unbelievably quick. I even surprise myself how quickly dinner is on the table when I make this dish, and despite salmon appearing like a luxury food you can buy it cheapily. I like to use smoked salmon trimmings which are very reasonably priced. Tesco sell a pack for around £1. This makes smoked salmon a cheaper protein than chicken or bacon. Sometimes I buy a large pack of smoked salmon and cut up into smaller portions and freeze. You can defrost on the day you want to use it and this spreads the cost of a ‘normal’ sized pack. I also look out for special offers on smoked salmon, then I buy several packs at once, cut and freeze as above.
This is one of my husband’s favourite meals and I cooked it for my little boy for the first time today. He happily ate the salmon, since it is packed full of omega 3 I’m glad he’s made it an addition to his diet.
1 pack (120g-150g) smoked salmon trimmings
100g cream cheese or creme fraiche
2 spring onions
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp mixed herbs
if possible fresh herbs (basil, chives, parsley)
200ml liquid (white wine or milk)
Pasta 350g (any type, spaghetti or fettuccine work well)
1. Cook pasta in boiling water.
2. Fry spring onion with garlic and mixed herbs on a low heat, add black pepper – as much as you like.
3. Take cooked drained pasta and add to frying pan.
4. Add cream cheese and stir continuously until the cheese has melted and covered pasta, add liquid now to loosen mixture.
5. Mix salmon into pan stirring well, leave on a low heat with a lid (or you can use a plate if your frying pan does not have a lid) for 3-5 mins.
6. Stir in chopped herbs, if using, and serve.
Salad of rocket, tomatoes and grated parmesan.
5 a day additions:
As in my photo you can add green beans to this dish, pop them in with the pasta when it is half way through cooking, then it can be added into the sauce alongside the pasta at stage 3. Cooking the pasta and green beans together saves on pans and washing up!
Now I’m a food blogger I love to give people beautiful and yummy presents. Every time it makes me try something different and work a bit harder on my presentation skills. I have been trying to improve my icing skills and for about 9 months now I’ve been researching and trying out butter icing recipes, and different piping nozzles. Finally, with the help of Gill at Cupcakes To Your Door, I managed to bring all my research together to make what I call Cupcake Roses.
These particular cupcakes were made for my Mother-on-laws’ birthday. I was secretly very proud of myself, I don’t think they could have looked any better if I’d bought them from a shop.
I used my basic cupcake recipe and my new butter icing recipe, plus all natural food colourings from Queen Quality Decorations, which seems to be an Australian firm but I found mine in my local Waitrose. Please leave a comment on this blog if you know of any good ranges of natural food colourings – I would like to find some more types to try out.
Here’s my recipe:
Makes approx 8 cupcakes
4 oz softened unsalted butter
4 0z sifted caster sugar
2 large free range eggs
4 0z sifted self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 tbsp milk (approx)
Pre-heat the over to 180°c.
Cream butter and sugar together until smooth.
Add one egg and mix well, add half the flour and mix again.
Add the second egg and the rest of the flour, baking powder and vanilla essence, combine into a smooth mixture.
Pour a little of the milk into the mixture, you need the mixture to be ‘droppable’, this means it should fall slowly from your spoon. If the mixture is too thick and sticks to the spoon add more milk, if the mixture is too runny then add a spoonful or two of more flour.
Gently spoon the mixture evenly into each cake case, make sure that the tins are not filled more than halfway (or it will overflow as it rises and end up on the bottom of the oven floor!).
Cook in the middle of the oven for 20 mins. Test if the cakes are cooked by touching the top of one cake, it should spring back up and not leave an indentation. Leave to cool on a wire rack.
4 oz unsalted butter, softened
4 oz icing sugar, sifted
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Beat butter and icing sugar together until smooth, add vanilla and blend.
Add a few drops of food colouring, mix until colour is evenly distributed.
Either pop into a piping back and pipe icing onto cupcakes or use a palette knife to spread icing on.