Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Frosty the snowman cake - Baking Mad recipe

This is the snowman cake I made for December's Clandestine Cake Club event, the theme was 'secret santa' and this meant you could bring any cake you liked, without telling anyone what it was. I am not at all fond of Christmas cake (or Christmas pudding, either for that matter) so as well as hoping that my fellow cake clubbers do not make 10 Christmas cakes (they didn't I'm pleased to say!!) I am always looking out for suitable Christmas cake alternatives; well any good cake recipes really and with little ones visiting at Christmas its good to have something that has a good visual impact.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Red & Green tomato chutneys - recipe - book review

Question: What do you do when you are walking around your local market one glorious Saturday in November late in the afternoon, and you spy a BOX (10lb approx weight) full of green and red (seemingly homegrown) tomatoes for £1? Yes £1!!!
AND then when you get home you spy your chilli plant groaning with chillis?
Answer:  Look to 2 famous food writers and make glorious homemade rich chutneys for Christmas of course!

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Toffee apple topped chocolate marble cake - recipe

We should cocoa...this months challenge hosted by Chele, at Chocolate Teapot has been going round in my head for weeks...chocolate and apples...apples and chocolate...milk chocolate...dark chocolate...white chocolate...anyway not an obvious me anyway! What to make?

Sunday, 20 November 2011

An Eggsistential Crisis - can you help?

Not a recipe or a review but a bit of info...and I hope as many people as possible will share this...

In case you don't know, we have rescued/adopted 2 lots of hens from the British Hen Welfare Trust (BHWT) in the last 18 months...9 hens in total; its one of the best things we ever did. We love having those hens, they are cheeky, intelligent, funny, mischievous and they reward us EVERY day with the best eggs. Anyone who has been lucky enough to have any of our eggs will testify they have never tasted eggs like them, and with such golden creamy yolks. The girls are happy, we are happy, its a win win situation. But before we had hens I always bought free range eggs and from a reliable source. I have encouraged others to do the same too, so I was pleased about the ban on battery caged hens (mind you there is still work to do on housed hens and the conditions...but that's another story).

Anyway, this came to me this week from our BHWT coordinator Adele...
As the impending ban on barren battery cages draws ever closer, we have access to a lot of battery hens from farmers who are looking to empty their barren cages before the ban comes in on January 1st. We want to take as many hens as we can and rehome as many as we can but we can't do it alone - we need help! Facebook and Twitter are excellent for reaching lots of people; could you tweet or post about our appeal for homes, blog about it or add it to your website? Maybe you have an intranet at work on which you could post, letting people know that BHWT are looking for rehomers to take in the last UK battery hens.

To make things even more difficult on the rehoming front, at this time of year, our bookings traditionally slow down although as mentioned above we do have access to lots of hens at the moment and I am hoping this appeal will also generate more homes for hens coming out of their cages soon.

Sophie, our new Wigan co-ordinator, (@OneLittleEgg on Twitter) has lots of space to fill her rehoming day on 3rd December and the farm she is accessing is closing down so she obviously wants to rehome as many hens as possible before this happens. I have a rehoming day on 26th November although this is almost full but if I can get enough bookings, I may be able to hold another before year end; otherwise likely early January.

Hens can cope well with colder weather provided certain precautions are taken (BHWT will provide this and other helpful info) although the hens we are currently taking out are mostly well feathered already.

So its simple...we all want to eat free range eggs...right...and we are in favour of giving hens a better life...right? Then its quite simple, we all have to do our bit and help find these girls new can you please share this with friends/colleagues/family etc, and if you can take some hens then please get in touch with BHWT? Although this plea is specifically for my region and beyond, the BHWT re home hens all over the country through a network of volunteers, if you can help by taking hens please contact them. Tel: 01769 580310 OR this link gives details of rehoming.
Thank you...
Edith, Vera, Pat and Irene on the day we brought them home (above) and below enjoying a better life, with Goldtop and Dizzie Lizzie (who we have had for 18 months now).

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Roast butternut squash, red lentil and chilli soup - recipe

Home made soups are the best thing ever, especially at this time of year. A lovely bowl of soup is warm, its comforting, it makes everything better with the world (just about) it is great and its good for you. When we were children if we were ill we would be given a well known brand of tomato soup to help us get better I  still have to have a tin in the cupboard now, just in case, even though I make my own tomato soup!

If you are watching the calories you can make low fat and low calorie versions of most soups, but here I'm going for the full fat version, so to speak. If you want to impress you can't fail with a swirl of cream, or homemade croutons as a final flourish. If you want to go the whole hog, make your own bread to have on the side, as I did this week (it didn't last 5 minutes).

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Food Bloggers (Unplugged) - for fun!

Something a bit different, not a recipe, a review, a cake, or a book...but instead more about other food bloggers and a game of tag. I know its Christmas pre-baking prepping season and we've not time to dust a rolling pin, but what the heck, lets have a bit of fun!

I'm tagging 5 other bloggers to answer the questions below about themselves on their blog...the idea is simply to learn more about the people behind some of the fantastic food inspired blogs that we are all drawn to. 
I'll tag 5 people they can tag a further 5 others on blogs that interest them, and so it goes on...
I may even do a round up of some of the best answers...

Here are the questions...

1. What, or who inspired you to start a blog?
2. Who is your foodie inspiration?
3. Your greasiest, batter - splattered food/drink book is?
4. Tell us all about the best thing you have ever eaten in another country, where was it, what was it?
5. Another food bloggers table you'd like to eat at is?
6. What is the one kitchen gadget you would ask Santa for this year (money no object of course)?
7. Who taught you how to cook?
8. I'm coming to you for dinner what's your signature dish?
9. What is your guilty food pleasure? 
10. Reveal something about yourself that others would be surprised to learn?

Finally...tag 5 other food bloggers with these a hot baked potato...pass it on!

Use this home made expensive Food Bloggers Unplugged  logo (below) on your blog and link up with the hashtag #foodbloggersunplugged on Twitter.

1. What, or who inspired you to start a blog?
Vanessa Kimbell did! I offered to test one of her recipes for Prepped, I didn't have a blog so guest posted it on hers; then set up my own from scratch, and the rest is history. Thank you Vanessa!
2. Who is your foodie inspiration?
So tough to answer this one...but the honest answer is...other food bloggers, they have so much knowledge/skill and imagination, it blows me away!
3. Your greasiest, batter - splattered food/drink book is?
How to be a Domestic Goddess - Nigella Lawson - Amber (dog) ate my first copy, so I bought another from e-bay second hand but like new, or it was!
4. Tell us all about the best thing you have ever eaten in another country, where was it, what was it?
In France in Bayeux (as in Bayeux Tapestry) a pizza, have never forgotten that pizza (and its not my favourite type of food either!).
5. Another food bloggers table you'd like to eat at is?
 Silvana de Soissons (from The Foodie Bugle)
6. What is the one kitchen gadget you would ask Santa for this year (money no object of course)?
 An ice cream maker please.
7. Who taught you how to cook?
My mum, but I don't know how! :-))
8. I'm coming to you for dinner what's your signature dish?
Gammon (Ham) cooked in coca cola.
9. What is your guilty food pleasure? 
Fish Finger butty sandwich on white fresh crusty bread with butter and ketchup.
10. Reveal something about yourself that others would be surprised to learn?
I have seen The Beatles for real (all 4 of them).

The people I have chosen to start this off are a mixture of really lovely well known food bloggers and those equally lovely and more local to Lancashire. 

Here they are...will they accept my challenge to be 'unplugged'? (more importantly...will they have time to answer?!!)
Choclette @ Chocolate Log Blog
Claire @ Good Egg Foodie
Linzi @ Lancashire Food

If you have been tagged link up your entry below...

Monday, 14 November 2011

Breakfast Club #16 - Stars and Stripes - the round up

This month's Breakfast Club challenge was a Stars and Stripes affair; the brief was to create and blog about an American inspired breakfast are the entries and thanks to everyone who cooked/blitzed/baked/blogged and took part by making American themed goodies. (please shout out if you have entered and have been missed off!)

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Sunday lunch - dining out locally (in pictures)

Not so much a review or a recipe, or a lot of words, but a snapshot of our Sunday lunch, a rare event for us as we dined out this Sunday with my sister and brother in law at a local restaurant
This is the first time I have mentioned a restaurant on this blog, there is a reason for that, I'm very fussy and if I don't like it or cannot recommend it to others then it won't feature on this blog, that's my mantra. 
We had a really lovely lunch here, we were well looked after in such a lovely setting.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Farmison - heaven in a box - review

I was recently sent a box of fruit and vegetables by Farmison to review. Farmison put together boxes of fruit/vegetables, meat and cheeses and deliver these straight to your door, the idea is simply the normal veg box notion with a few pluses, unfortunately veg boxes are something I have not found easy to access in the past because of where I live. Farmison will deliver within days of placing an order, you can check on the website if they deliver to you.These are the 7 core values of the company (taken from the same website).
1. Farmison provides home cooks with fabulous foods that would normally only be found in the kitchens of discerning, ingredient-aware chefs.
2. Farmison provides a lip-smacking alternative to the year-round monotony of supermarkets.
3. Farmison constantly changes what it sells to reflect what's in season. When foods are not at their best, we don't stock them.
4. Farmison supports biodiversity in our food chain by promoting rare breed meats and searching out less common fruit and vegetable varieties.
5. Farmison gives small-scale food producers a UK-wide platform to showcase and sell their products, complementing their own local initiatives.
6. Farmison sources food from the UK first and foremost and only chooses imported food if there is no British equivalent.
7. Farmison sells foods produced in a way that respects farm animals, producers and the environment. 

Friday, 11 November 2011

Lets Make Christmas - heavenly scented shortbreads - recipe & book review

Its a tradition in this household that I buy a 'nice' tin of shortbread every Christmas, not sure why as I don't buy it the rest if the year I like it, but I just don't buy it any other time. I think my mum bought it at Christmas when we growing up so its become traditional. A bit like the tradition my sister was telling me about today, she only puts the tangerines and chocolates out on Christmas Eve, but she's not sure why, whatever the reason we do such things these habits make Christmas what it is. Anyway this year, breaking with tradition, for once, I'm making my own shortbread as we have grown very fond of homemade biscuits here. I did think about festive spices to flavour it but wanted something different and lighter, a different flavour for Christmas and really there is enough spice around at Christmas. So how about something floral instead?  Just imagine boxing day afternoon, a pot of tea and a plate of this loveliness, enjoy this vanilla, rose and lavender shortbread and 'Lets make Christmas'!

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Cake International NEC November 2011 - (Pt 2)

 Christmas cake (magazine stand display)

Its part two of my Cake International account, its part two as I have far too many photos to post in one go! These are the Christmas cakes (not all of them, only a small sample here) and if you scroll down you'll see some international entrants for one of the competitions and then finally the floral sugarcraft work.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Cake International NEC November 2011 (Pt 1)

One of the cakes dispalyed by Renshaws. (trade stand)

This post is all about some of the sights at the Cake International event at Birmingham NEC this weekend, my photography is not too great and this is due to the overhead lighting at the show. 
Cake International is an annual event aimed particularly at cake makers (of course!) and providers of all things cakie. Cake makers/fans, presenters, judges and stall holders come from all over the country and all over the world for this event. The show is a combination of trade stands where you can buy everything from cake pop sticks to oven cleaner and everything in between, all the way through to demonstrations and judged cake competitions; some cake decorating competitions happen live during the event each day.
Its a very very busy event and this year seemed busier than last year to me, it gets very hot and the standard of cakes  and sugarcraft entries in competitions really is overwhelming to see. 
You have to see these cakes for real to fully appreciate them.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Curried sweet potato and ginger soup - recipe/book review

I love soups, has to be homemade, its the best thing ever anytime of year but especially now in the autumn. Its so warm and comforting; and nutritionally it can be the best thing, if made with the freshest ingredients and homemade stock! I have made soups for an age and have quite a repertoire that I have perfected over the years, and I can make them in all kinds of consistencies, low calorie, rich and creamy, the whole range. I seldom follow a recipe but seem to get good results, but this week I followed a recipe from a new book I have been sent.
1tsp olive oil
1 onion chopped
3 cloves garlic crushed
1 thumb size of fresh ginger (Include peel) grated
3 large sweet potatoes peeled and chopped in chunks
2 vegetable stock cubes
sea salt and black pepper
1 tsp Garam Masala
1.5 litres boiled water
Turmeric Finishing Yoghurt:
3 Tbsp (I used low fat) live Greek style yoghurt
1 tsp Turmeric
1 tsp Mango Chutney (and/or lime chutney)
Fresh Coriander 

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Chocolate chunk biscuits - recipe

One day in the not to distant past, I did something a lot of people would find unforgivably bad. But I couldn't help myself you see, the temptation was just too great, every time I opened the fridge it was staring at me, begging me almost. I realise now I was weak, and it was a moment of utter madness...the Great British Bake Off was on TV at the time and I think I had delusions of becoming the new Lancastrian Pink Whisk (I can never match Ruth's skills and creativity, I know it deep down) or maybe I just had the urge for something heavenly to devour eat while watching the programme?