Friday, 29 May 2015

Feta and Pomegranate Cous Cous Salad

Summer just can't make up it's mind this year.  One day we're barbecuing, next we're stewing, so when asked to make a salad to go with a barbecue, I put my mind to work for something that can used another time.

Let me explain.

I always make enough to feed an army; I cant bear the thought of someone coming to our home for dinner and going home hungry, or the thought that I might take food to someones house and be seen as stingy. No, no, no.  So invariably, no matter how delicious the food, I always end up with leftovers.

I also can't bear the thought of eating summery salads on a freezing cold, blustery day; food must match the surroundings (think tapas in the sun in Spain, or a steaming cappuccino in a piazza in Italy).

Finally, I love leftovers; I love opening my fridge and seeing cling filmed bowls of good food good to go - it makes me happy.

So this salad had to be good for this changing weather.

With all this in mind, I went for a glorious cous cous salad, emboldened by the sprinkle of pomegranate and brought back to earth with mint and feta.  Perfect on a summers day with a barbecued chicken thigh or two and actually, even better served up alongside a lamb Tagine on a blustery day, which the next day just happened to be - you could say I planned it that way....

Feta and Pomegranate Cous Cous Salad (Serves 6-8)

  • 300g cous cous
  • 450ml chicken or vegetable stock
  • A fat clove of garlic (or two, depending on taste)
  • A good squeeze of lemon juice
  • 250g pack feta, crumbled into large chunks
  • Olive Oil (extra virgin if you have it)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Large bunch Mint, leaves chopped
  • 2-3 salad/spring onions, snipped into rounds about 5cm in width
  • Seeds from one pomegranate

  1. Pour the stock over the cous cous in a large bowl, cover with cling film and leave to soak for 5-10 minutes
  2. Fluff the cous cous with a fork and add the garlic, lemon juice, feta, olive oil, mint, spring onions and a good grind of salt and pepper and stir well, taking care not to break up the cheese.  You can make ahead until this point.
  3. Tip the salad into a serving bowl and top with the pomegranate seeds just before serving so the colour doesn't bleed.
  4. Tuck in


Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Salted Caramel Brownies

As news arrived that we could be moving in just two short weeks, euphoria was quickly replaced by panic when I realised I'd no longer be able to get my weekly (OK, daily) Salted Caramel Brownie from the local bakery.  Argh! So when I agreed to make dessert for our Bank Holiday Monday BBQ with our friends-who-have-given-us-a-place-to-live, I knew what needed to be done.  I need these in my life.
IMG_8366The bakery brownies, dense with a slither of salted caramel running through the middle were perfect apart from one thing - they were less than an inch high but quite large in shape, more like a flapjack. No good.  Brownies, to me, are a large squidgy cube allowing for maximum fudginess and little chance of going dry, so I made that change first by using a 20cm square tin (I'd prefer 23cm but the damned thing is in storage). The brownies I made were indeed chocolatey with salted caramel running through the middle but were sweeter than their bakery counterparts snd much, much fudgier.  They were also much saltier than I'd like and I have a thing about salt in my boys diets, so I'll made sure I use a little less next time - the recipe below uses less salt than I used (for that intensely salty hit, use a full teaspoon of salt in your caramel).  I'd also be tempted to put all of the caramel in the middle and not bother with the topping - one to try next time I guess!
I've another brownie recipe in mind to use for those who enjoy something sweet but don't have a hugely sweet tooth (such as me). However, should you be the sort who enjoys the feeling that their teeth may fall out straight after chowing down on their sweet treat, like The Man, punctuated and tamed by that seriously salty hit, then this is the recipe for you my friend.
How to:
  • First, take 200g unsalted butter and melt in a pan over a low heat. Once melted, add 100g each of 70% cocoa and 50% cocoa chocolate, broken into pieces (no less or you wont get that lovely fudgy-ness) and take off the heat.  Leave until all the broken chocolate has melted.
  • IMG_8353Next, take 175g Carnation Caramel from a 397g tin and mix in half a tsp of flaked sea salt - make sure you use the good stuff here, not your 30p saxa table salt. Set aside.
  • Take the remaining caramel and whisk together with four medium eggs at room temperature and 200g golden caster sugar, until all mixed together
  • Add your melted chocolate and butter concoction and beat until smooth
  • Finally, weigh 130g plain flour and 50g cocoa and sift together over your chocolate and caramel mixture. Beat until just mixed - no more!
  • In a greased and lined 20-23cm square tin, add half of your mixture and smooth. Take half of your caramel and sea salt mixture and make five 'stripes' across your brownie mixture, then finally top with the rest of your brownie batter.
  • IMG_8360
    Recipe adapted from BBC Good Food
    Take the second half of your salted caramel and make a further three thick stripes then, using the end of a knife, drag it through the caramel to make a feathered effect, taking care not to disturb the mixture below. Sprinkle with a further half teaspoon of sea salt.
  • Bake at 180 for 25-30 minutes, until the brownie has risen but still has a slight wobble to the centre.
  • Leave to cool, or if you're feeling rebellious (or simply didn't make this early enough in the day because your kids were being 'challenging'), eat just warm with a dollop of vanilla ice-cream.
  • Brush your teeth. Well.
Keep an eye out for the less sweet recipe to follow, should you feel the need.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

A Food Revolution - A Review

  • WhereRevolution Macclesfield  
  • When: Wednesday, 12.30pm
  • Who: Myself, my husband and our baby in his pram
  • How Much: Less than £10 for a main course on average
Think Revolution. Think sticky floors, chilli vodka and cheesy Saturday night music? Think Again.
Revolution. Now that brings back some memories - hazy ones, but memories none the FullSizeRender_1less.  Often a destination for a start out drink on a Saturday evening, more often an 'ended up' place - 'Oh, we ended up in Rev's, cracking night' etc etc, Rev's has been the scene of many a messy evening, always sponsored by Absolut Vodka Cocktails. Now, it seems, Rev's is also the scene of style, fabulous food and innovative drinks with a new menu to boot - their new relaxed sharing style of dining that 'is at the centre of the foodie scenes in New York and San Francisco', was one I was keen to try when invited.
You can't have a post about Revolution without a Disco Ball
Never having been in Revolution during the day, I entered with my baby with trepidation, but they were more than happy to accommodate us, moving chairs for the pram and making sure we had enough room without causing a fuss.  There aren't any children's menus (that I could see) which is to be expected in a bar, but I was reassured they could accommodate our little man when I looked around and saw lots of happy families enjoying the chilled out music coming from speakers, the funky, industrial inspired interior and, of course, the food.
So, on to the menu.  
I'm ashamed to say I was expecting classic chicken in a basket, everything-tastes-the-same-deep-fried platters and still-radiating-with-microwaves-when-it-arrives Lasagnas.  I'm happy to say I was very wrong; they stuck to their promise of American Deli-style produce with salt beef sliders, buttermilk chicken, burritos and shrimp all gracing the menu with nothing microwaved in sight.  Fabulous choice for those more adventurous (popping candy and Armageddon sauce on a burger, anyone?) and just as much to choose from for the more picky amongst us.
I REALLY wanted one of the sharer crates I spied on a neighbouring table, involving  pulled beef sliders, viper dusted fat chips, buttermilk fried chicken and dough dogs, but I knew I'd struggle to share and had to turn my attention to the wider selection with an initial reluctance.
Fruit Water
BBQ Crackling Puffs
With this in mind, we perused the menu whilst sipping on water (stylishly served in a carafe bearing chopped fruit - very now, very Pinterest) and munching our BBQ Crackling Puffs, deliciously salty, devilishly crunchy and decided, after much deliberation to start with a few Sharing Plates. At 3 for £13 they struck me as the perfect way to start a night out with friends or a quick snack break with a chilled Prosseco whilst shopping. We devoured Dough Dogs (inspired by corn dogs, hot dogs on a stick, bloody gorgeous, my son would kill for them), Crispy Goat's Cheese Bon Bons (perfect with their homemade Armageddon sauce - which will knock your socks off) and Butterfly Breaded Shrimp (which happily took me back to a drunken afternoon on a pier in San Francisco).  I normally avoid 'breaded' thanks to many heavy, oil-soaked experiences, but these breaded bites were gently battered and fried to give a light taste and texture, not a drop of oil to be seen.  We were impressed.  We were surprised.
Sharing Plates (CW from top) - Battered Shrimp, Crispy Goats Cheese Bon Bons and Dough Dogs
For our main course, despite the extensive menu, we both headed for the burger section. He chose the Smokin' Bacon, resplendent with Wotsits (yes, the crisps - they work), dripping with cheese and bursting with BBQ onions.  I plumped for the healthier San Fran Chicken, fresh as dawn, laden with beetroot, sunblush tomatoes and avocado - right up my street.  More choices were to be made - Normal skin on fries or sweet potato? Vapor dust (spicy I'm told) or BBQ dust? (he went for normal with BBQ, I had plain sweet potato.  Good fries all round).
San Fran Burger with Sweet Potato Fries
FullSizeRender_2 (2)
Smokin' Bacon Burger with Skin On Fries with BBQ Dust
Chocolate Fluffwich
Chocolate Fluffwich
Banoffee Fluffwich
Just when we couldn't eat another bite, the dessert menu appeared and two 'Fluffwich'es were ordered; Chocolate for me, Banoffee for him; The fillings, wrapped in a sweet bread and gently fried until molten, were sickly sweet and gorgeous.  Both were stuffed with Fluff, that marshmallow stuff you see in the American section of Selfridges, then mine with Nutella, his with banana.  Only one complaint - mine could have done with a bit more Nutella, but then even with a 1kg jar on the side I still wouldn't be happy!
This review wouldn't be complete without a review of the impeccable service, from the smile from Shelley as we arrived, to the asking if we'd like to wait for our mains or go ahead, through to the attention with the drinks - not overly fussy, friendly and attentive.  Perfect.
Blue Moon Cocktail
We were both hugely surprised at what we found at Rev's; memories of those sticky floors were quickly fading to be replaced with memories of style, good food and good service. But, whilst I and Revolutions may have evolved, grown and matured over the last few years, a trip to Revolution wouldn't be compete without a Absolut vodka based cocktail now, would it?
  • Who should come here?: Anyone; families, friends, colleagues; but I'd avoid bringing your gran and avoid children after 6pm ish.
  • Is it value for money?: Absolutely - you get plenty of grub for your GBP and won't leave feeling you've been 'done'. You could go to a chain competitor and send much more for microwaved fare. And on Monday's, there's 50% off certain dishes - see you there!
  • Revolution kindly invited me to review their menu and the meal was free of charge - thanks guys!

Monday, 18 May 2015

Combat Boredom - Jammy Biscuits

n Mondays, I have two children with me, a five month old and an inevitably bored-for-some-of-the-day three year old.  Today, to combat said boredom, satisfy my/his sweet tooth and take my mind off the fact we STILL haven’t heard from the solicitor, I took to Google to figure out what could be done to rectify the situation.  Today I'm cooking for necessity - there is no room for error here; one mistake resulting in less than perfect produce will inspire a tantrum worthy of, well, a three year old.  Anything that takes longer to do than ten minutes results in flour, butter or anything else he can get his hands on being flung about the kitchen and on to the dog.  So, no making up of recipes here!
FullSizeRender (2)We ended up making some deliciously gooey Jammy Biscuits to pass some time; just five ingredients and a pair of clean hands and you’re off (NB in our house clean finger nails and no sight of bogies passes for clean – his bogies that is), with lovely, time saving instructions from  Hard to get wrong, this forgiving dough allows little hands to abuse it and still turn out a biscuit you’d give to a friend rather than an enemy… and the fact that these particular little hands made less than perfectly shaped biscuits (those on Good Food were clearly made by, oooh, say, a five year old), makes them all the more endearing.  The only thing I’d note is to use bloody good jam – is it worth doing any less?
How to?
  • Measure out 200g self-raising flour100g sugar (recipe calls for caster but only had granulated so it had to do) and 100g butter and get your little hands to rub
    together to make a breadcrumb like texture – ‘i said rub, not throw!’
  • Finish off for them when they get bored.
  • Dribble in a lightly beaten egg and get those hands in again to form a dough – I left this to the little hands – I have nice nails and I’d like to keep them that way.
  • Roll said dough into a sausage about 5cm in diameter and cut into 2cm thick rounds – you’ll end up with 12 or so.FullSizeRender (1)
  • Stick your little ones finger in the middle of each to make an indentation into which you’re going to plop a teaspoon of jam (alternating a spoon full for yourself of course).
  • Put them on a baking tray, leaving a good 3cm around each one for spreadage and bake for 10-12 minutes at 190 degrees.
  • I don’t need to tell you that hot jam is like molten lava, so make sure you leave them a bit before you get greedy and shove one in in one go…. erm I mean allow your little horror to eat one delicately (I’m not talking from experience here or anything…).
May your day pass a little faster, if not sweeter.

Monday, 16 April 2012

I'm back Baby! Peanut Butter and Chocolate Pie

It's been a while, hasn't it? You may be wondering where I've been, why I stopped writing my beloved blog, what happened to me. Or maybe you're not, but the answer is simple.

I went off food (cue gasps of horror from my fellow foodies).

I couldn't face the thought of cooking even to satisfy mine and my husbands basic need for nutrition, never mind for fun. I just didnt fancy anything to eat, and if I did eat, I generally felt a little bit sick. And then, when I managed to cook something worth writing about, I barely had the energy to log onto blogger nor the imagination to make it witty, entertaining or informative. My mind was completely elsewhere.

Now, all the mums out there probably have a light bulb pinging above t your heads as you realise what's going on here. Yes, you guessed it, in February I had a beautiful, beautiful Baby Boy (if I was the type to have smilies in my blog, I'd pop one in here!).

My baby boy, 7 weeks old
You may now be wondering why I didn't write about my pregnancy and how that affected my love for food and I'll be honest and say my innermost thoughts about my pregnancy were not something I wanted to share with people I didn't know. I wouldn't have minded sharing something basic and primitive; heck, my bump pictures went to everyone I knew, but that wouldn't have made nine months of blog posts. How I felt inside, my fears, my upas and down,s now that would have made some interesting posts, but it just didnt feel right. Iwas also in shock for the first eight months!! I was terrified about what was happening to me, to us. It all happened a little quickly and took me by surprise (strange really as I know all about the birds and the bees). Let me explain - last May, my husband and I thought 'maybe we should think think about starting a family'.... Baby Boy came along in February. You do that math. To say I was taken aback was an understatement and it took until I held my baby for the first time to realise what it meant to me. It meant the World then. I can't even put into words what it means to me now.

So, now you maybe wondering, given the enormity of bringing a child into the World, what on Earth made me decide to write my first post back in the world of Blogging about a Peanut Butter and Chocolate Pie (I'm wondering that that myself right now as I can't abide peanut butter. I digress). Not exactly Earth shattering stuff to anyone else but it is to me. Let me explain.

Having a baby puts a strain on every single relationship you have. Your parents, your friends, your boss, but most importantly and significantly, your partner. Whilst pregnant, I read article after article telling me to be prepared for the worst to hit us. Your relationship will change, they said. You will fall of of love (albeit temporarily), they advised. You wont have time for each other, they preached. On the first point, they were (unsurprisingly) quite right. It has changed, but for us, it's for the better. The decisions we make together as parents have given us confidence in each other, the way my husband is with our little boy fills me with awe, as does his complete and utter devotion to us. I love that he gives his time to us and looks after him without being asked, or even hinted at, so I can have some time back given the all consuming nature of having a newborn. Most recently, he took our baby boy whilst telling me I had to get back to my blog. He knew how much I missed it and he let me have that time for the newborn fog to clear and re-discover my love for food.  
My Boys

A big part of cooking for me is feeding those you love and for that reason, I chose to make something I knew he would adore, as a thank you for him just being him. A massive treat , even though it's not at the top of my wish list for a pudding. But one bite of this and I wonder what I don't like about it. I think it's just the thought of the peanut butter. I hate the cloying consistancy for a start, but this delicious pie takes away that particular consistency and leaves behind that crunchy texture and gloriously peanutty taste that I have to admit, I rather like. Add to that some of the best dark chocolate, double chocolate chip cookies and a mountain of cream, and what's not to love? Just don't think about the calories (pah, who cares about Baby Weight anyway?)

I wrote once that in a years time I wanted to change my life... I didn't for a second think it would change in this way but my God, am I pleased it has.

Peanut Butter and Chocolate Pie
(Adapted from the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook).

  • 250g double chocolate chip cookies
  • 40g unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 tbsp cornflour
  • 160g caster suagr
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 500ml milk
  • 180g peanut butter
  • 120g dark chocolate
  • 250ml double cream
For the topping
  • 350ml double cream
  • 50g icing sugar
  • Grated dark chocolate to decorate

1. In a food processor, whizz the cookies to crumbs, before adding the butter and whizzing again to combine. Tip into a 20cm tin and push down into an even layer covering the base of the tine, with the back of a spoon. (A springform tin gives the neatest finish, but I couldn't find mine so used a loose bottom tin. Just expect the finished product to not have such defined layers until you cut into it). Chill for 30 minutes.

2. Whilst chilling, start the filling. Mix together the egg yolks and milk and tip into a saucepan containing the cornflour and caster sugar. Place over a low heat and bring slowly to the boil, stirring all the time. As it reaches boiling point it will thicken and look like wallpaper paste, which is exactly what you are looking for. Take off the heat and stir in the peanut butter.

3. Take half of the mixture and pour over the chocolate. Stir until the warm mixture has melted the chocolate and you have a chocolately/peanutty gloopy mass. Pour this on top of your biscuit base, smooth out and cover with cling film (push the cling film into the tin to rest of your topping. It wont stick, it will just stop a skin forming. Pop back in the fridge for another 40 minutes.

4. Cover the remaining peanut butter mixture with cling film as before and leave to cool. Once cool, whip the cream to soft peak consistency and fold into the remaining peanut mixture. Pour this on top of your chilled chocolate and pop back in the fridge for a further 50 minutes.

5. Finally, to make the topping, whip the cream together with the icing sugar, again to soft peak, and spread across the top of your pie and top with the grated chocolate.

Now, you can serve the pie straight away, but it will benefit for being in the fridge overnight. Besides, you wont fancy the pie straight away as you'll feel sick from all of the spoon licking you've just done. Don't try to tell me you didn't. I know you did.

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.


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.


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.