Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Monday, 29 November 2010

grandad crumble.....

Yesterday was monumental for 2 reasons. Firstly, apparently we are experiencing the earliest, heaviest snowfall for 17 years! Its crazy, I just thought it had finally stopped and then I looked out the window and its coming down again. The weather also seems to have something to do with my horrifically expanding waistline. It just makes me want to eat mashed potatoes and stew....constantly. I think I have put on approximately 90 stone, give or take a few pounds... but yes, nearly 90 stone. The second thing was that I actually got my grandad to come to my house for dinner! If you can get him to leave his own house and have something to eat you have a success on your hands of epic proportions. So with him coming over for his dinner there was some nostalgia hanging in the air I think, part grandad visit, part heavy snow! So for dessert I cooked up what is surely one of the classic childhood staples- the crumble. When I was a child though sadly it was usually apple crumble which i detest. Just based on the fact that I cant abide cooked apples! Don't like the the texture, that grainy baby pulp- blurgh! Now this crumble on the other hand, with its cheek suckingly sour berries and crunchy almond flaked topping is heaven! 

Ingredients- makes 4 deep filled individual pots or 1 large in a pie dish

  • 600 grams of berries.  I used a frozen selection of raspberries, blueberries and morello cherries
  • 3 tablespoons of caster sugar
  • 150g of plain flour
  • 1tsp of baking powder
  • 110g of unsalted butter, cold and cubed
  • 3 tblsp of vanilla sugar
  • 3 tblsp of demerara sugar
  • 50g or flaked almonds, half chopped, half whole

  • preheat your oven to about 190°c 
  • allow your fruits, if your using frozen ones to defrost and sieve off the juice that has come off. alot more will come off during the cooking and you want a thick sauce, not a watery mess. Stir in the 3 tablespoons of caster sugar and leave to rest and absorb 
  • put the flour and the baking powder into a bowl and then rub in the cold cubed butter with your fingertips. You can't rub it with your palms or it will melt the butter and you wont achieve the sort of oatmeal texture that your looking for

  • stir in your demerara and vanilla sugars then the 25g of chopped almonds with a fork so that you keep all the grains seperate and theres no clumping, then add the rest of the almonds and give it another quick forking

  • divide the berries between their ramekins if thats what your using, or tumble them into a pie dish
  • cover the pies with the crumble topping, making sure it goes right up to the outside edge of the dish so that the filling doesn't bubble up too much and give you a soggy topping
  • put your ramekins or pie dish on a baking tray so that any juices that do bubble over don't run all over your oven and then bake for 30-40 minutes or till the topping is golden and scorched in places.
  • remove, serve and enjoy! I like mine with vanilla ice cream.


Sunday, 28 November 2010

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow...

So its still snowing away here in Hull. I went out in the car today and a trip that usually takes about 10 minutes took me 50! Its a nightmare! So after a few days of this weather I have decided that I very much like the snow as long as I am inside and not actually anywhere near it.... It looks great through the windows but is just an epic fail when your in it. Someone who clearly doesn't agree with me is baby Winnie as she has turned into my little outdoor adventurer! 


Saturday, 27 November 2010

oh I heart so much!

These Marilyn Monroe pictures by Eve Arnold are just a bit lovely....this woman was so endearing, she sort of makes my day and breaks my heart at the same time....


something for a snowy day....

Today the snow in lovely old Hull has been coming down a treat! Noah especially loves the snow and has been rolling about in it for ages, he's a very excited puppy!

Snow may make the puppy want to go out and play but it makes me want to do the complete opposite.
I go into hibernation mode and want nothing more then to cocoon myself on the sofa with something delicious and some Glen Miller on the record player! Yes I am only 23 i know that, but it makes me happy to be a nana! My highest aim is to be one of the grandparents from Charlie and the Chocolate factory! 

So anywhooo with all this cold weather I felt that me and the man friend needed something chocolatey and warming to see us through and therefore my crispy chocolate fondants 

Ingredients- makes 8

  • 3 medium eggs
  • 45g caster sugar
  • 60ml extra light olive oil (good quality) 
  • 30ml water
  • 150g dark chocolate
  • 110g soft brown sugar
  • 75g plain flour
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 20g ground almonds
  • 1 tbsp good quality cocoa powder

  1. Start by warming the oven to 180°c. Grease 8 ramekins and set them aside on a baking tray
  2. Separate your eggs and put the yolks aside. Whisk up the egg whites so that they start to form fluffy peaks but are not firm. Add the caster sugar in thirds and keep mixing for a minute or so. Set aside
  3. Melt the chocolate either in a bowl suspended over a pan of  boiling water or in a microwave set at half power. It should take about 3 minutes in the microwave, but stop it half way through and give it a good stir.
  4. In a separate bowl combine the egg yolks with the olive oil, water, soft brown sugar and melted chocolate. Sift in the remaining dry ingredients-flour, baking powder, bicarb and cocoa powder. Finally stir in the ground almonds. This should give you a very thick batter.
  5. Fold in the egg whites, a third at a time. The first third can be firmly combined as it is a thick batter that your trying to incorporate it into. For the other 2 thirds, try not to mess with it too much, we want to keep as much of the air in as possible. 
  6. Decant the mixture between your 8 ramekins and bake on the middle shelf, center of the oven for around 12-15 minutes depending on your oven. I check every 2 minutes after the 12 mark, just by prodding a skewer into the center of your sponge. It should look crisp and cracked on the top, be slightly wobbly to the touch and there should be a chocolatey goo that comes out on the skewer! Done!
  7. Serve straight away, either on its own with a dusting of cocoa powder or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a scattering of fresh raspberries- perfection! 

Vintage Queen...

Anyone who knows me knows that i am obsessed with the 1940's and 50's. I just think it was the most beautiful few years . A time of true romance and true fashion. Music that I never tire of hearing and films that I never tire of viewing! The years where Vivien Leigh and Rita Hayworth reigned supreme. Where Marilyn Monroe and Lauren Bacall plotted to marry a millionaire and Judy Garland was bound for St. Louis....
So last Halloween I donned my 1940's housewife dress with such gusto it was quite scary! I was giddy for about a month before it verged on the ridiculous, but one problem was that i was really struggling with what to do with my hair and make up.. that was until i stumbled across this lady:

The lady literally saves my day! Her hair and make up tips are AMAAAAAZING and I've been using her pages religiously ever since! She has a video for literally every occasion and there all really clear and simple and practical to follow. She has also converted me to a huge amount of products that my face would be now miserable without! Also the woman's a fellow red-head! Us ladies gotta stick together and represent! 

A few of my favourite videos are:

Fun and Festive look- Will most definitely be rocking this look for my christmas eve meal with the ladies. 

Since I write a blog on cooking and hair could this video be more appropriate!?! I intend to make this Lemon Ice Box Pie asap, but I'm going to have to make it a bit more english because i can't get hold of Eagle Brand Condensed milk anywhere! 

The Judy Jetson!!!! Easy advice on how to achieve the look of surely the most glamorous mum on television! 

The Video that started off my Lisa Obsession.... The 1940's Pageboy! I've repeated this look so many times now, the method is fool-proof and never lets me down!

This is a great everyday hair! I wear it sooo much and it works a treat if you probably should have washed your hair but need to get another day out of it.

So i urge you to go check her out, she has a blog here on blogspot: http://www.lisafremontpages.blogspot.com/ or just search Lisa Freemont Street into youtube, you will not be disappointed and there's a look for everyone! 

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

christmas spice girl....

This years christmas dinner is taking some thought... I have an uncle who is categorically refusing to eat a traditional christmas dinner and a granddad who would eat nothing else... so where is the happy medium. I've been stressing about it for weeks and the day is already stressful enough for the cooks without adding more pressure, so I think i'm going to have to do 1 Turkey, 2 roast veg trays. Last year i faffed about making a million separate little dishes from pickled red cabbage, about a million different potato dishes, roast carrots, boiled carrots, regular brussel sprouts, brussel sprouts with chestnuts and bacon... it was too much to say the least. For an extra large picture-book style christmas with 10, 12, 15 people round the table this is sort of fine. You feel like your doing it in substantial enough quantities but this year I will be cooking for 3 and its just not worth it, so im going to have to do something else to make it special and I think its going to be roast veg based. The premise is brilliant, one tray, a host of different veg all cooked at the same time giving chef Bea more time to sit around in my christmas Pj's watching The Wizard of Oz. This week i've been practising the non-traditional uncle's tray. He wants spice and flavour to his food so i'm basing his around sweet potatoes, onion, carrots and peppers. Sounds slightly plain I know but these four simple vegetables shall be transformed I promise!! And they shall be transformed  into something along the lines of this...

spicy moroccan style vegetable tray bake

ingredients- for 2 people as a main meal or 4 as a side dish...

  • 1 large sweet potato
  • 2 medium carrots
  • 1 medium yellow pepper
  • 1 medium red pepper
  • 1 large red onion
  • 3 fat garlic cloves
  • 150g of feta
  • 2 tsp of chilli flakes (less or more depending how firey you like it)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon 
  • rind of 2 satsumas, juice of 1
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp paprika 
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • sea salt
  • 2 tbl sp olive oil
  • handful of fresh corriander

  • pre heat the oven to 200°c
  • cut up your vegetables into nice wedges, leave the skins on the carrots and potato, just make sure you've given them a good scrub. the wedges should be about the size of a fun size mars bar...odd reference i know but its the only sort of object that i can think to compare them to...
  • put all your vegetables in a large roasting tray and cover with the chilli flakes, cinnamon, cumin, paprika, ginger, satsuma rind and sea salt
  • in a small bowl, mix together your oil and 1/2 of the satsuma juice then pour this over the veg
  • get your hands in there and give the veg a good rub making sure that all the pieces are coated
  • wash your hands!!! chillies + eyes = bad times....
  • make sure the veg are more or less laid in a single layer, this will help with the roasting so that they don't steam and crisp up beautifully! 
  • sprinkle to veg with a generous pinch of sea salt
  • tent the roasting tray in a sheet of tin foil and put in the oven for 30 minutes
  • after the 30 minutes remove the tin foil and pop back in the oven
  • with 10 minutes left, take the tray out of the oven and hunt down and remove the garlic cloves then scatter the roast with chunks of feta and return it to the oven till it is slightly blistered and gold speckled
  • as soon as it is has had its last 10 minutes, or the feta is sufficiently browned, remove from the oven and sprinkle with the remaining satsuma juice and handful of chopped coriander
I served mine with a crisp toasted flat bread as we had it by itself for our dinner, but it will make a great side dish to go with a host of different mains. It would be great with a piece of oven roasted salmon, i think that will be a dinner next week so i will report back with my findings, but im sure it would be fantastic!! So thats Ian's veg for christmas dinner sorted. Although it's not very traditional, it really makes up for it in the flavour stakes and i should be happy i suppose that ive got some veg in there somewhere!


Get well soon Charlotte!!!

Well today my lovely bff decided to go and trap a nerve in her neck a bit and has rendered herself practically immobile. To give her a bit of a relax and put your feet up I decided that me and the man friend should take her little one off her hands for the day and go do some playing. Well the trip to Kinderland (think climbing frames, slides and ball pools, 90% ball, 10% wee and poo..) was quite a success,but i think it was my baking that really did the trick! Seen as it was very last minute I had precious little time to get ingredients so it was a bit of a raid the cupboards job but luckily i came up trumps with a new recipe I flung together. Going back the success to the christmas spice and clementine cupcakes which she loved, i thought i would try and convert them into a tea dunking-on sofa-with duvet cookie! Who wouldn't feel better??
 Here are my -

  • 110g of unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 20g of caster sugar
  • 35g of soft brown sugar
  • zest of a clementine
  • 1 generous tsp of cinnamon
  • 1 tsp of allspice
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 4 tblsp of icing sugar
  • 1 tblsp of runny honey

  • warm your oven to 200°c 
  • grease a large baking sheet
  • congratulate yourself on an excellent greasing!
  • cream together your butter, spices, honey, clementine and sugars till they form a fluffy ochre heap
  • sift in the flour and mix till the ingredients combine and start to stick together
  • bring the mixture together with your hands to form a yielding ball of dough. don't play with it too much or you will spoil your pastry, pastry hearts cold hands!! 
  • pop you pastry ball in a food bag or in a piece of cling film and let it rest in the fridge for half an hour
  • find something meaningless to potter about with for half an hour ( I'm a secret arrow word addict!!)
  • roll out your dough on a flour sprinkled surface- were talking snowflakes not blizzards- to around a pound coin thickness, no more...
  • Use any cutter of around 3inches. Obviously the size of your cutter dictates your eventual bounty but i get a comfortable 14 cookies.
  • place on your greased baking sheet and then bake for 8-12 minutes, until a beautiful deep beeswax shade
  • leave to cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack 
  • whilst the cookies are cooling, in a bowl mix together the icing sugar with around 2 tblsp of water, its hard to say the precise amount, just add a little water at a time till you get a pourable icing
  • once the cookies are completely cool dribble with the icing in any manor you feel, i like a nice zig zag action
  • eat&enjoy!

why cats are excellent....

Monday, 22 November 2010


  • Originally, me and the man friend were doing the big white wedding business BUT when we actually got up in it and found out how much planning and stressing and extreme dieting it takes, well, it has to be said that's just not us. So now we are having every little girls dream- an Elvis wedding in Las Vegas! I have always said that the only way i would get married was Vegas style, so I don't know why we ever tried planning anything different, when Elvis beckons, resistance is futile!! One thing that I do not regret was that when we thought we were doing a big wedding was that I simply refused to buy a wedding cake. I figured when you love baking as much as me, it would be a sin to not at least try. So i equipped myself with Peggy Porschen's "Cake Chic". For anyone who doesn't know who she is, she's a bit of a cake goddess and counts Elton John, Stella McCartney and Madonna as clients, so the girls got the stats to back it up... I based my cake on her basic "Large Cake" recipe. One thing that i was completely oblivious to is how long it actually takes to construct one of these bad boys! She says that, for tiered cakes you need to start preparation 5/6 days before your event. The basic strategy is, say you need a cake for a Saturday
  • Bake the sponges on the Monday before
  • Layer them on the Tuesday
  • Cover the cakes with marzipan on Wednesday and leave overnight so that the marzipan has time to dry
  • Thursday  cover the cakes with sugar paste and let them set again overnight
  • Friday is applying decorations

This at first sounds ridiculously daunting but in actuality I think it helps. So the cake starts with a basic Victoria  Sponge recipe which you can utilise for Fondant Fancies or Cup Cakes... This however, in a 20cm cake tin makes 1 half a tier layer. 

  • 200g salted butter at room temp
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 4 medium eggs at room temp
  • 200g self raising flour
  • 100ml sugar syrup

  • Warm the oven to 180°c, baking time is 12-15 minutes for the cupcakes and fancies or 20-45 minutes for a large cake depending on size
  • So there's the basic cake recipe. If your not going for the whole iced variety like i was, just layer up the sponges with some jam and butter cream and you have the most amazing Victoria sponge you've ever eaten! Its the sugar syrup that keeps the cake moist for days on end. Its the best cake tip I've learnt in a long time and now i don't bake a cake without doing it! 
  • Right, so you've done a little sleepy and your cake has firmed up nicely and drank in all you yummy sugar syrup. Sooooooo your gonna need..
  • approx 600g of butter cream 
  • approx 600g of jam (your favourite- I like a Raspberry jam here- strawberry can get a bit sickly, whereas Raspberry has a nice sour twang to it)
  • 200ml of sugar syrup
  • icing sugar for dusting 
  • 850g of marzipan
  • a shotglass of clear alcohol ( i used vodka as its taste neutral)
  • 850g sugar paste

  • using a serrated knife trim off the crusts from the top and bottom of both sponges
  • slice each layer in half so you now have 4 layers of approximately 2cm depth
  • place your first layer on a cake board and if you have one and i would a million percent suggest in buying one, there not expensive, a cake turntable! I don't think i could have done the cake without it, it makes spreading a doddle!
  • spread a thin layer of butter cream over the top of the sponge and put on layer 2
  • soak with syrup in the same way you did after baking
  • keep layering away, next with jam and then butter cream until all 4 layers are assembled.  When all 4 layers are built up, gently but firmly press down to make your cake level

  • coat the outside of your cake with butter cream. Start from the center and spread outwards and towards the sides rotating the turntable as you go
  • push the butter cream down the sides and spread it in a nice even layer
  • chill for at least 2 hours, I did mine overnight, so that the cake has time to firm up
  • now your cakes set, dust your work surface with icing sugar and roll out your marzipan into a circle that's going to be big enough to cover the tops and sides
  • dust the marzipan with another light sprinkling of icing sugar and roll it over a rolling pin to help you transport it to the cake

  • trim off any extra marzipan around the bottom with a knife or scissors if your comfier with them
  • polish the marzipan with a cake smoother to help it adhere to the butter cream and use the palm of your hands to smooth in the edges

  • let the marzipan set overnight, go have a bath, get some bubbles on the go and be un-cakey for a while!
  • return to cake fresh as a daisy
  • so now its set nice and firm, brush the marzipan with a frugal coating of alcohol. It works like an edible prit-stick and glues the icing to the marzipan. Also as if by magic the alcohol kills any nasty bacteria that could have built up on your cake during the setting periods. 
  • repeat steps 10-13 but this time using your rolled out sugar paste instead of marzipan
  • voila! one perfectly iced cake. Decorate and layer and repeat and play with as you see fit, i did......



Christmas is coming, the cupcakes are getting fat....

So when I logged into E bay today I was more then a little scared when I was informed about the fact that there are 33!! Yes count them, 33 days till Christmas...... For most people Christmas preparations are getting the presents bought and wrapped but for me the Pre-Christmas build up is about getting the food right and seen as it is Christmas that's coming up, I felt I needed a Christmas cupcake in my repertoire. I don't think its just me, I think for a lot of people after a huge Turkey dinner, a dense and stodgy pudding is just tooo much and renders me unconscious and unable to leave the sofa for about three days... These cupcakes could happily be used as a desert but seen as I have someone at my table that cannot eat flour, Im having to re stratergise and I think that I will be using them with the girls on Christmas eve as a little party snack with a glass of something delicious... It seems to be the creme fraiche icing with all its freshly zested clemantines that gives these cupcakes the kick they need and evokes that wonderful yule- aroma.

Christmas clementine&spice cupcakes

Recipe makes 12 generous (and who would want anything other) cupcakes...

For the cupcake batter:
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 45g caster sugar
  • 70ml extra light olive oil (good quality) 
  • 30ml water
  • 1 generous tablespoon of runny honey
  • 110g muscovado sugar
  • 75g plain flour
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 50g ground almonds
  • 1 1/2 tsp allspice 
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • zest of 2 clementines
  • 30ml clementine juice

 For the icing and decoration

  • 200ml of creme fraiche (I use the weight watchers version but some bakers may say this is a sin..)
  • 6 tbl sp icing sugar
  • zest of 1 clementine 
  • few tablespoons of chopped nuts

  1. Start by warming the oven to 180°c. Line a 12 hole, deep muffin style tray with paper cases or greeseproof squares
  2. Whisk up the egg whites so that they start to form fluffy peaks but are not firm. They need some bounce to them. Add the caster sugar in thirds and keep mixing for a minute or so. We still dont want stiff peaks, If the eggs are too firmly whisked they have nowhere to expand and this is one of the reasons a cake can fall back in on itself during cooling. 
  3. In a seperate bowl combine the egg yolks with the olive oil, water, clementine juice, honey and muscavado sugar. Sift in the remaining dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, bicarb and spices) and then gently mix in the zest and ground almonds. 
  4. Fold in the egg whites, a third at a time gently until barely combined. Don't mess with it to much, we want to keep all that lovely air in. 
  5. Decant the mixture between your 12 cases and bake on the middle shelf, center of the oven for around 20 minutes depending on your oven. I check every 2 minutes after the 20 mark, just by prodding a skewer into the center of your sponge. If the skewer comes away dry, your cupcake is cooked.
  6. Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes and then onto a wire rack until cold. DONT try to ice them whilst there still hot. This is a very loose icing and it will just melt and run off. Patience is sometimes a virtue.
  7. For the icing, combine the creme fraiche in a bowl with the sieved icing sugar and 1/2 the clementine zest. Chill in the fridge, covered for at least half and hour, by then your cupcakes should be cooled through.
  8. To decorate simply spoon a generous dollop of the icing on the top, followed by a fresh grating of the remaining clementine zest and a scattering of mixed nuts.

These candles perfectly say just how these cupcakes make me feel....


Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Nestle tollouse- c'est francais oui?

So before I start I have a horrible dirty secret! These TECHNICALLY are not Nestle Toll House Cookies...
Mr F. is coming home from work today and bless him I thought he deserved a little treat and what better welcome home present then Pheobe Buffay's famed "grandmothers secret recipe" cookies. Sadly with these being American this poses a slight problem to us Brits.. The amazing chocolates of our American friends are few and far between here in England and cost an absolute fortune if you can get your mits on them. Recently I was so overcome with nostalgia that I simply had to buy a box of "Lucky Charms" cereal that cost me five whole English pounds!! Its enough to make you not want to eat them (don't worry I did, that would be just sinful to leave them!!) So not being able to get hold of a bag of their Toll House chocolate chips, I used their regular chocolate  chips....pheeew I'm glad we got that out of the way. I now have on order from the ever reliable Amazon a bag of these elusive morsels at the slightly un appetising price of £4.95 for just over 300 grams..but these are famous cookies....

The recipe is as follows:

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels
  • 1 cup chopped nuts

PREHEAT oven to 375° F......(thats about 190 degrees C to you...)

COMBINE flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels and nuts. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets. 

What this recipe gives you is a very thick cookie batter. I didn't, as would pretty much anyone wouldn't, have a baking tray that would deliver the apparent 60 cookies this batter is meant to produce. Well I don't know if I'm a bit of a fatty fat fat but I didn't get 60 cookies from my batter, I got exactly half of that using their advised tablespoon methods. Soooo if your looking to provide the bounty of cookies this recipe is meant to, I would perhaps swap to generous, heaped teaspoon measurements. The other slight issue that i stumbled across was that instead of those slightly gooey centred, crispy edged American style cookies that I was perhaps wrongly expecting, this batter makes your cookies balloon almost to dense cake like proportions. My answer to this was pretty simple, if not only slightly aggressive and was to give them a light spanking with the back of a silicone spatula. It seemed to do the trick if I'm honest but I doubt its something that Delia would do! 

So I must go and do a bit of last minute tidying, feed the cats etc. before I go and pick him up from the airport, so we shall talk later. Hope he likes his present!!! Fingers crossed and I shall report back later with general Toll House musings... I've had one so far but it was quite honestly hotter then the sun and a rogue still lava-esque chocolate chip burnt my tongue so I shan't be eating another one until it it is officially cooled and deemed safe for human consumption...... 


Ps..your hair looks nice today!