Thursday, 17 December 2009

Menu for Hope 6 and Cranberry Apple Spice Cake

Menu for Hope 6 3

There’s only 9 days left on Menu for Hope people!! The great news is that, as of this morning, it’s already raised over $12,000. But I’m hoping that we can do WAY better than that! Spread the word! Shout it from the roof tops! Blog! Tweet! Facebook it! Whatever you do, make sure people know about it.

And hey, if you’re not a baked goods fan (although I do think that makes you certifiable) there’s a whole bunch of other stuff you can bid on!! We’re thinking of spending a few days in Paris for our honeymoon, before heading to a little chateaux somewhere with yummy food and vineyard tours so here’s a few of the items I’m going to bid on…

EU02 – Tour of France wine – An afternoon of tasting French wines? Yes please!
EU03 – Wine and cheese lunch - my two FAVORITE things! Mmmm, French cheese…
EU05 – Cooking Class in Paris – oh yes. That sounds INCREDIBLE!
EU19 – Personalised one-day Paris Itinerary. Ooo, I really want to win this one.
EU31 – Market Tour and Cooking Class in Burgundy – ok, so I’m actually DESPERATE to win this one!
EU34 – Private Chocolate Tour and Tasting in Rococo Chocolate in London. I know, it’s not France, but this chocolate is A-MAZ-ING.

But then there’s this one, this one, this one and this one too! Argh, I’m so torn! I have no idea how I’m going to narrow it down. Oh well – maybe I’ll just have to put a ticket on each. It is for charity, after all...

So basically, if my entry doesn’t float your boat, PLEASE don’t let that stop you from helping to support this fantastic cause. It’s only about £6.20 (US$10) for a ticket - that's the price of a cocktail in London.

There's also a great new widget to make donating even easier - just click on this link.
Menu for Hope 6 2

But to hawk my entry a little, Here’s a little something to whet your appetite. This beauty not only tastes delicious but lasts really well. Actually improves in flavour if left until the second day so will be perfect for me to post to wherever you are!
cranberry apple cake

Festive but (unlike most festive treats) it’s not crazy heavy or crazy sweet. Moist, spongey and filled with tart cranberries and apples. Practically a health food! Ok, that might be stretching things a little too far, but it can’t be as bad as a mince pie.

Cranberry Apple Spice Cake

Adapted from Joy the Baker

375g plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp salt
1 ½ cups (375ml) flavourless oil (sunflower, vegetable or similar)
3 large eggs
300g caster sugar
110g brown sugar
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1 tbsp rum, bourbon or other spirit you have on hand. Or orange juice if you’re out of the hard stuff!
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 tart apples (granny smith, bramley, something along those lines) peeled, cored and cut into little cubes – about 1/4 “
1 cup (probably about 125g) fresh cranberries, very roughly chopped. You could swap in dried fruit like raisins or apricots if you can’t get fresh cranberries.

Preheat the oven to 350F or 180C or Gas Mark 4.

For this, I used a bundt pan as, on a whim, I bought one recently. It does look super cute in a bundt pan but this could equally make 2 loaves or a 7” square tin. Whatever you choose to use, butter and flour the tin (or line with greaseproof paper) and knock the excess flour out.

Then – easy as anything – in one bowl, mix up the oil, eggs, sugars, cinnamon, nutmeg, alcohol and vanilla. In another, sift together the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt. Then fold the flour mix gently into the oil mix, until only just combined. Remember, overmixing once the flour is in there develops the gluten and leads to rubbery cakes! Yuck.

Carefully fold in the fruit before transferring the mixture to the prepared pan. Bake for about 1hr 15mins until a skewer comes out clean. Then leave in the tin to cool for 30 mins before transferring onto a cooling rack to finish cooling. As I baked mine last thing at night, I actually left it in the tin to cool with a tea towel over the top and it was absolutely fine.

Dust with a light snow of icing sugar before serving.

Rosy xx

Monday, 14 December 2009


Menu for Hope 6 3

As I may have already mentioned, I love the blogging community. There’s so much community spirit and just a whole tonne of love (in baking form) going around. I’ve met some absolutely incredible, like minded people who have fast become firm friends and who make my days that little bit brighter with their blogs and stories of their culinary adventures! So imagine my joy when I discovered that there’s a way that my little blog could help feed the world! Ok, so that’s a slight exaggeration, but when I heard about Menu for Hope 6 I knew I just had to participate.

So this is the deal. Menu for Hope is an annual fundraising campaign, hosted by Chez Pim, which raises money for the UN World Food Programme, helping to feed hungry people worldwide. Isn’t that just about the best cause ever?? Specifically, it’s the Purchase for Progress (P4P) initiative. P4P enables smallholder and low-income farmers to supply food to the World Food Programme’s global operation. P4P helps farmers improve farming practices and puts more cash directly into their pockets in return for their crops. This will also help buoy local economy by creating jobs and income locally. We food bloggers understand the importance of buying locally and supporting our local farms, P4P helps do the same for farmers in low income countries around the world. All about building sustainable communities. For more information, check out their website

Menu for Hope 6 2

This year, in all my Christmas-induced enthusiasm, I decided to donate a bid item! So. Here goes. It is…(Drum roll please)

A box of home baked goods delivered to you every month for a year! Yes, that’s 12 batches of delicious home made cakes and treats, chosen by you, delivered to you every month for ONE WHOLE YEAR! I’ll even pop in the recipes so you can recreate them. That’s a whole lota love in homebaked form.

You could either choose to have 12 regular deliveries or it could be grouped into fewer, larger deliveries if you prefer (Christmas or Easter pressies, maybe?). I will personally deliver the items if you live in London and will entrust them to the Post Office for the UK and the rest of Europe. Ooo, or you could even make this a present for one of your bestest friends or family memebers! That would be SUPER sweet.

As for what the baked goodies are, the only limit is your imagination. Well, and the post-ability and perish-ability! So what floats your boat? Tickles your fancy? Gets your tastebuds a-tingling?

Some gingerbread maybe?


Maybe your sweet tooth craves vanilla fudge?


Or chocolate biscotti?

Maybe this delicious apple and cranberry spice cake is more your cup of tea?

cranberry apple cake

Or how about brownies? Oh, how I love these babies...


Maybe a touch healthier, could do some of this pecan almond granola…

Pecan granola

I could go on forever about possibilities… Handmade chocolates, pistachio cardamom shortbread, fudge, chocolate buttercrunch toffee, muffins, marshmallows, ginger chewies…. The list goes on. And those are just if I have to post them! Imagine if you’re in London. Cupcakes, lemon tarts, rich iced chocolate cakes or moist coffee cake to really give you that morning coffee kick!

Or, if you just can’t choose, you could make it a surprise! I’ll pick something lush each month to bake and send to you. Do mention if you have any major dislikes or allergies though!

ginger chewies

So I’m REALLY hoping that this has got you oh so excited about Menu for Hope and just about falling off your seat wanting to know how you can help a great cause and (finger’s crossed) win a whole heap of baked treats. You’ll be about the most popular person in the office – should you choose to share of course. Me, I’d probably just spend a Sunday afternoon with some cheesy chick flicks and a mountain of cake… But hey, I’m just a little selfish like that.

So, what you need to do now is…

1. Choose a bid item or bid items of your choice from our Menu for Hope main bid item list (yep, there’s LOTS of other super exciting prizes to choose from!)

2. Go to the donation site at Firstgiving and make a donation*.

3. Please specify which bid item you'd like in the 'Personal Message' section in the donation form when confirming your donation. You must write-in how many tickets per bid item, and please use the bid item code - for my item, it’s EU13.

Each US$10 (about £6.20 at the moment) you donate will give you one raffle ticket toward a bid item of your choice. For example, a donation of US$50 can be 2 tickets for EU01 (chocolate basket! YUM!) and 3 tickets for EU13 - 2xEU01, 3xEU13.
4. If your company matches your charity donation, please check the box and fill in the information so we could claim the corporate match.

5. Please check the box to allow us to see your email address so that we can contact you in case you win. Your email address will not be shared with anyone.

Menu for Hope 6 2

Important things to note:

This runs from TODAY (14th December 2009) to CHRISTMAS DAY (25th December 2009) with the lucky winners being announced here on 18th JANUARY 2010.

We don’t touch any of the money – through using the Firstgiving website, they do all the collection and payment processing and then at the end of the event, transfer the proceeds to the World Food Programme in one lump sum. For more details, go to Chez Pim’s website. Or ask me a question! We want to be as transparent as possible in our fundraising.

If you’re not in Europe, not to worry! This is a global fundraising event and all the other areas that are covered are listed here.

Phew! That’s one monster post. Although I’ve tried my absolute best to cover all possible questions, I’ve probably missed something, so do feel free to ask me a question, either in the comments or pop me an email on And go! Get some raffle tickets!!! Share that Christmas spirit. Here's to a super successful Menu for Hope 6! And do please check out all the other super cool bid items here. Many thanks to David and Sara for hosting for the UK and Europe.

Love Rosy xx

* Please note that Firstgiving only accepts credit cards. This is due to the international nature of this fundraising event - I'm hoping that this isn't a problem for too many people and apologies if it is! I have spoken to them about making it debit card accessible but it doesn't look like its going to be possible for this year's event.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Gingerbread Party!

Mmmm, gingerbread... Isn't gingerbread just the perfect holiday baked good? It fills the house with the most warm and comforting festive scents and you just can't help but feel that swell of excitement, knowing that Christmas is just around the corner.

So easy to make too! The dough comes together in a matter of minutes and, unlike pastry, can put up with a fair amount of handling, so perfect for a cold Sunday afternoon activity with children. Or even a group of 20-something year old adults in this case! Not that you'd think that from the fruits of our labour...

Ahem, yes, children made this... That's the reason for the somewhat vibrant decorations! (rather large children) There's a cool 1kg of icing on top of this baby. And that doesn't include the 5 bags of sweet that were placed thrown on the outside. I do love the tree with all the little pressies under it though...

So that's what we made at the end of an afternoon drinking copious quantities of mulled wine (with a VERY generous slug of brandy added!) and eating nothing but sugar. In our more sober moments, we did do some more regular decorating.

LOVE his mustache. Like Poirot the snowman...

Here's the recipe - very simple, and the gingerbread keeps well for a good week or so in an airtight container. I'm going to whip up some more of these and tie red gingham ribbon to them to hang from our Christmas tree. Eeekk, getting SO excited about Christmas now!!


Adapted from Delia's Book of Cakes

75g soft brown sugar
2 tbsp (50g) golden syrup
1 tbsp (30g) black treacle - I think this is also called molasses
1 tbsp water
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger, or a touch more if you like them spicy
1 pinch ground cloves
finely grated rind of 1/2 orange
95g butter, cut up a bit
1/2 level tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
225g plain flour

Put the sugar, golden syrup, black treacle, water, spices and orange rind in a saucepan. Pop over a meduim heat and stir until it comes up to the boil.

Take off the heat and add the butter and bicarb of soda. Mix well until the butter melts - it can look a bit like its separating at this stage, but just keep on stirring and it will come together into a gorgeous, slick, gingery syrup in no time.

Gradually add the flour, stirring well, until it forms a smooth dough. You can add a little more flour if you think it's necessary but do bear in mind that when it's cooled down a bit, it will become much firmer and easier to manage. I normally find that this is the right amount of flour. It should come together nicely and leave the sides of the pan (fairly) clean.

Wrap the dough in cling film and pop in the fridge for about half an hour, or up to a couple of days if you're making it ahead.

When you're ready to bake the gingerbread, roll it out onto a lightly floured work surface to around 1/8th of an inch (3mm) thick (or thinner if, like me, you like thin, crispy gingerbread) and cut out whatever shapes you fancy. For trees decorations, make a hole using the tip of an icing nozzle or a skewer. I tend to avoid making men or angels for the tree as I'm not a fan of making holes in their heads! Place on a greased baking sheet, spaced well apart as they spread a bit on cooking.

Bake for 8-12 mins (this depends on thickness so do keep an eye on them) until they feel firm when pressed with a finger tip. Leave to cool and go nuts with the decorations!

Rosy xx

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Carrot Apple Pecan Muffins

One major US export to the UK has to be muffins. When I was a girl, muffin translated as a flat-ish buttery, rich bread, fairly plain, that went equally wonderfully with lashings of jam (I'm trying to live up to the British stereotype and use words like lashings. Makes me feel all Swallows and Amazons. Love it) as with a poached egg and hollandaise sauce. Absolutely delicious – neither sweet nor savory and I shall forever have fond memories of Sunday supper with the family, sitting in the living room with a pot of tea, a stack of toasted muffins and watching the BBC adaptation of the Chronicles of Narnia.

American muffins could not bring to mind a more different picture. I always think of blueberry muffins, maple syrup, brunch and a typical US dinner, full of booths and shiny metal. American muffins are rarely basic. They come in a huge variety of flavours – the only limit to what hasn’t been included in a muffin is the kitchen sink. Not to do them a disservice, for I very much enjoy the American muffin, but often times home made versions have lots of flavour but the underlying texture is just not right at all. Too heavy or dry or just a bit cloyingly sweet.

These are those muffins which stopped one step short of said kitchen sink, but dry or cloyingly sweet they are not. They’re packed with yummy ingredients and flavours, plus you don’t feel horribly unhealthy eating them as the bulk of the mix is made up of grated carrots and apples. Must count for at least a couple of your 5 a day, right??! The crumble element does add a fair amount of sweetness though, so depending on how you like your muffins, omit or include as you see fit. Works well either way!

Carrot Apple Pecan Muffins

Adapted from The Ottolenghi Cookbook
Makes about 12 muffins (very generously!)

300g Plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
pinch of salt
4 eggs
160ml Sunflower oil (or other flavourless oil)
280g caster sugar
2 tsp vanilla
220g peeled carrot, grated
200g bramley apple, grated (or Granny Smiths - any tart apple)
100g Pecans, roughly chopped
100g Sultanas
50g flaked coconut (the recipe calls for flaked, I used desiccated)

Crumble Topping:
50g Unsalted butter, cut into cubes
75g Plain flour
25g brown sugar
50g rolled oats
15g sunflower seeds
25g pumpkin seeds
1 tsp water
1 tsp sunflower oil
1 1/2 tbsp honey

First, make the crumble topping. Rub the butter into the flour and sugar with your fingertips until its in nice small pieces, like breadcrumbs. Then mix in the oats and seeds and then the water, oil and honey. It should resemble wet sand in texture. Pop to one side while you make the muffins.

Preheat the oven  to 170C/340F/Gas Mark 3. Line a muffin tin with paper cases.

The method for making the muffins is the classic mix the wet together and the dry together and then very carefully fold the dry into the wet. So...

Sift the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt together.

In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, oil, sugar and vanilla essence together. Stir in the apples and carrots, then mix in the pecans, sultanas and coconut. Then gently fold the flour into the wet ingredients, only mixing JUST enough. Gluten, which makes the muffins chewy, is developed through over working of the batter. So mix as little as possible and they'll be just yummy!

Spoon them into the paper cases, filling to the top so you get the classic muffin tops. Crumble over the topping generously and bake for 25 mins. They're ready when they're springy on top and a skewer comes out clean. I made them a week or so ago so I can't remember exactly how long mine took to cook, but I have a feeling that they took a touch more than 25 minutes... Anyway, they actually taste better when they're left to sit for a couple of hours to let the flavours develop.

Normally, the WORST thing about home baked American muffins is their shelf life – I don’t think I’ve ever eaten a muffin which lasted beyond a day. But these are oh so different. I think it must be the carrots and apples again because they improve in flavour after a few hours of sitting and were just delicious several days after baking. Would be perfect for a brunch as they're wholesome, hearty, and taste just as great the next day.

Rosy xx

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Chocolate Brownies

Last night I needed brownies. Yes, there are some nights, especially around this time of year and with an impending wedding, that baked goods need to be frozen for a later date, but there are some nights when brownies are needed! And last night was one of those nights. I realised just how much I needed them when I was walking home from the supermarket and found myself praying - yes, actually asking the Lord himself - that the recipe wouldn't call for softened butter as I just simply couldn't wait that long.

And it didn't!! Aaahhh, melted butter, you are my saviour on cold winter nights when butter just won't come to room temperature fast enough and the microwave's exploded so I can't speed the process along...

I discovered David Lebovitz via the fabulous blogosphere and I love his blogs. I have to say his recipes are some of the most dependable around - always delicious! These were absolutely no excpetion to that rule. Brownies can be a tricky thing to master. Having read this article on what makes the perfect brownie, I was very pleased with the results but they lost out on speed and ease of baking. These, on the other hand, are wonderful. Moist, deeply chocolatey and just about as supernatural as a baked good can get! For the recipe, pop on over here and enjoy - although I'm sure it's VERY bad for my health that I have such a quick brownie recipe to hand...

Rosy xx

Ps the recipe actually says to leave the brownies overnight. Of course, I simply couldn't do that (who on earth has that kind of restraint?!) and they were great warm out of the oven with a dollop of cream... Ahem, please excuse the bite mark!

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

A very VERY late Golden Almond Fruitcake

I think I might actually be loosing my marbles!! I was determined to make this week's Sweet Melissa Sundays cake, even though the weekend left me no time to do it. I figured, as I need to cut down slightly on the amount of cake I'm eating (so I can gorge at Christmas, of course!) I'd bake this, pop it in the freezer and it would be perfect for the Church christmas coffee morning in a couple of weeks. So I rushed home from work last night and ploughed on with double the quantity in order to fit in to my big square cake tin rather than a loaf tin. I even remembered the marzipan and carefully laid out whole almonds on top in a neat pattern, rather than just scattering them on as the recipe called for. Out of the oven came a gorgeous, golden cake, filling the house with the warm smells of Christmas (I used allspice instead of cardamom) and I figured I'd snap a few shots of it this morning in the day light.

Then I got up, promptly forgot all about it and whacked it in the freezer before even taking so much as a before shot! So you're going to have to take my word for how lovely this cake looked and maybe I'll get a pic or two of it at the Christmas fair to add to this post!!

For some other gorgeous shots of this cake, have a look over at the other bakers' sites, and many thanks to Karin of Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice for such a wonderful pick! She has the recipe up on her site if you fancy a fruit cake that isn't quite as dense as the usual Christmas cake!

I promise I shall have a hunt for said marbles this evening and get some pics up on this blog again soon...

Rosy xx

Monday, 23 November 2009

No Raised Waffles with Warm Brown Sugar Bananas from me I'm afriad....

Hello! No Sweet Melissa Sundays from me this week I'm afraid. My reasons are several fold:
  1. I don't have a waffle maker. It's for the good of my health that I chose not to purchase one - I would in all likelihood form an unhealthy attachment to waffles and, rumour has it, man can not live on waffles alone. Oh how I wish we could though!
  2. I don't really like bananas. Controversial, I know! Banana cake, yes. Fresh banana chopped on top of cereal, sometimes. Cooked banana and banana on stuff? Not so much.
  3. We were in Oxford this weekend visiting friends and going to a fancy pants black tie dinner so I was super tired on Sunday.
  4. When I say tired, I mean hungover.
  5. I crave foods when I'm hungover and I was craving muffins - so I baked apple, carrot and pecan muffins instead which were YUM! But I haven't taken a pic of them yet so watch this space.
  6. JJ had to go away on a business trip so I got to have TOTAL control over the TV I watched! It was amazing.
Ok, the last one's less of a reason and more just how amazing Sunday afternoons are when you've just baked muffins and you have free reign over Sky - yes, I watched Wedding TV and it was the best.

Anyway, promise I'll get the recipe up soon as you really want to make these muffins!

Rosy xx

ps Do have a look at what the other bakers cooked up though - I've been drooling over their creations! And thank you to Lauren of Fried Pickles and Ice Cream for this week's pick. Shall be back again with SMS next week.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Christmas Pudding Stuffed Pheasant

Last night I made christmas pudding stuffed pheasant. A little unusual, granted, but there was method to my madness, I promise! I spotted this competition, run by Matthew Walker, over on the UKFBA website and couldn't resist giving it a go. Many thanks to Matthew Walker for posting me 2 christmas puddings to play around with! There was probably enough for more than one experiment but I'd be lying if I said I didn't sample a bit first... Well it was important to identify what the flavours were in order to inspire my creative side!! Honest!
Not wanting to be totally predictable and make a dessert with my lovely christmas puds, I decided to make a savory dish. And I have to say, it was really tasty! JJ did look terribly worried when I was explaining last night's dinner whilst wandering around the supermarket but he was a very good sport and went along with my random plan. He's very good like that! I tend to have a lot of random plans and I wish I could say that stuffing a bird with a pudding was my most random to date...

Anyway, what I did...

To make the stuffing, I fried up half an onion (finely chopped) with about 4 rashers of streaky bacon and the sausage meat from one large sausage. Once this was lovely and golden, I put it to the side to cool a little. I then mixed up about 200g of christmas pud with some chopped chestnuts, parsley (a good tablespoon), some lemon zest and the onion and bacon mix. I mixed this all up with my hands to make sure there was a good even distribution of the pudding and tasted and added seasoning. Then I took my pheasant and stuffed the cavity with the stuffing before fastening with string, placing in a small roasting tray with half an onion, sliced up, and laid pancetta over the top of the bird. That went into a hot oven (220C) for 50 minutes and voila! A beautifully roasted bird. (Definitely cooking up one of these suckers again - really quick to cook and very tasty).

I served this with buttery mash with spring onions mixed through and brussel sprouts topped with the pancetta from the bird (crumbled up a bit). I made a quick gravy from the roasting juices, just by deglazing with brandy and mixing in a spot of bramble jelly and beef stock.

I would have to say, I was very prepared for this to be a total flop - I'm new to totally inventive cooking like this and I've never even cooked a pheasant before, let alone made up a stuffing! But my gut instinct that the rich fruit of the pudding would go well with the rich game meat of the pheasant proved spot on and we finished up the whole thing! Really was very good.

So anyway, that's something a bit different to my normal baking-related waffle but (poor JJ) I'm thinking of doing more experimental cuisine now that this was such a hit... Have you ever done any crazy combinations before? Were they successful??

Rosy xx

Monday, 16 November 2009

Butter Toffee Crunch

It's Sweet Melissa Sundays time again! On a Monday... There is a reason for this - the recent break in left us laptop-less at home so I have to be in the office to upload any photos. But normal business should resume soon.

Anyway, back to the more important subject of toffee!! Kaitlin from Kait's Plate picked this week's choice and I for one was really looking forward to making it. I'm organising our church christmas coffee morning this year and the plan is to have lots of crafty stalls with bits and pieces of christmassy goodies. So I thought that me and one of the Sweet Supper Club groups could make up lots of little bags of sweeties and gingerbread to sell. These were super easy to make and delicious so a definite addition to the stall! And super cute in their little bags, don't you think?

The only very minor modifications I made were using pecans on the base (but still almonds on the top) and I used granulated sugar rather than brown. I've heard that brown sugar is a lot harder to make caramel and toffee out of as the impurities in it tend to burn. I didn't want to risk it!

Many thanks to Kaitlin for hosting this week and check out her blog for the recipe and all the other bakers' blogs for their take on the toffee.

Rosy x

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Hot Chocolate Pots with Cardamom Cream

I had my very lovely cousin and her boyfriend over for dinner the other night. As I'm going to attempt to look half way decent in a wedding dress in about 10 months time, I figured I'd do a nice, light dessert. My one golden rule for dinner parties (no matter how casual or fancy they are) is to make dishes that can be largely prepared ahead of time. I want to sit around and drink with my friends, safe in the knowledge that a delicious meal is just a few moments from ready in the kitchen. They're there to see you, after all, not sit around whilst you get into a fluster in the kitchen. So, with this in mind, I decided to make poached pears - they could be poached the night before and served gently warmed, maybe with some prunes that had been steeped in the poaching juices too. Ooo, and then a big dollop of cardamom cream alongside to add a note of richness... So went my thought process, anyway.

So the night before, I carefully prepared and poached 8 sweet little pears. The result? Thoroughly underwhelming. I'm not sure the pears were ripe enough and I'm certain that red wine wasn't the right thing to poach them in. Didn't work for me at all! And so at this point I'm stuck. Last minute desserts are so often a rubbish cop out and I so desperately didn't want to be chained to the kitchen.

And then the answer came to me - individual hot chocolate pots. YUM!!!! Ok, so they don't fall into the slimming catagory but hey, it was an emergency! And boy, were they good. The crowning glory? The cardamom cream. A total revelation!!! I had to take it away from JJ to prevent him eating the whole lot with a spoon. A fantastic contrast to the deeply chocolatey chocolate pots - don't be fooled, these pack one hell of a chocolate punch - and an interestingly different flavour without being too crazy or out there. I could quite happily devour one of these a day for all eternity. Plus they're sooooooooo easy and quick to make. In fact, I'm making them again tonight to take round to one of my friend's houses! So you can see that the wedding diet lasted about 20 seconds...

Hot Chocolate Pots with Cardamom Cream
adapted from David Lebovitz

Chocolate Pots
285g Chocolate - I used Green and Blacks 70%. You want the good stuff. Trust me.
60g Butter (unsalted or salted - just also add a pinch of salt if you use unsalted)
50g Sugar, divided into 2 lots of 25g (roughly)
4 large eggs at room temperature, separated
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
slosh brandy
1 tsp instant coffee granules

Take 6 little pots. Espresso cups that can withstand the oven are just darling, although I don't have these so I used ramekins. Basically, whatever you have will be just fine. Grease these lightly and dust with caster sugar.

In a bowl set over a pan of simmering water (don't let the bottom of the bowl touch the water!) melt the chocolate and butter together, stirring until beautifully smooth and glossy. Remove this from the heat and stir in one portion of the sugar (25g). Allow to cool slightly before mixing in the egg yolks - you don't want them to cook yet! Then mix in the flavourings - I used vanilla, brandy and coffee, you could use whatever makes you go weak at the knees*.

In a nice, sparkley clean bowl - if there's even the faintest hint of grease the egg whites won't whisk up properly - whisk up the egg whites. Bits of yolk and shell also prevent them from frothing nicely, so take care with this bit. It's not hard, just not the time to play it fast and loose with the eggs. In case you ever do that...

Ahem, anyway, so whisk the egg whites up until fairly stiff. Then add in the other half of the sugar and whisk until they form soft, floppy peaks. Fold one third of this into the chocolate mix, then fold in the remainder until just incorporated. You don't want to overmix as you don't want to loose all of that lovely air you just worked so hard to get in there. Divide the mix up between the 6 little pots.

To cook, pop them in a 220C preheated oven for 10-12 mins. Mine cooked in 10 - the tops want to be firm but don't overcook as you want a yummy, molten centre.

They can be left at room temperature for an hour or two and cooked at the last minute or in the fridge for a day or so and brought up to room temperature before cooking. Perfect for dinner parties as you can be super organised!

Cardamom Cream
250ml double cream
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
2 tbsp caster sugar

Sieve the cardamom as you don't want any gritty bits in the cream. Then simply whip everything together, up to soft peaks and dollop on the hot puds. Or eat straight from the bowl if you're JJ...

Rosy xx

*Being a long time fan of Ina Garten, I tend to always add vanilla and coffee to chocolate as she says it just makes the chocolate taste more chocolately. And she's amazing so who am I to argue?! But David adds a bunch of very interesting flavours to his spiced version of these - cinnamon, chilli, cloves and black pepper. He's amazing too so I totally think that would be awesome! Just go nuts. Only one word of warning - I didn't go with the spices as I had the cardamom cream and was adding a very distinctive flavour in that way. If you have complex flavours in the chocolate pots, you probably want to pair them with something more neutral, such as a simple vanilla icecream or creme fraiche.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Cauliflower Fritters with Lime Yoghurt

Ah, the humble cauliflower. Le chou fleur. Das blumenkohl. A much maligned vegetable that even I don't really like that much (and I eat most things. Apart from aubergine but I'm working on that. And fresh coriander but is it me or does it just taste like soap?!). Sure, smother it in cheese sauce and bake with a breadcrumb top and it's great, but then what isn't improved with cheese sauce?

Enter the fabulous gentlemen at Ottolenghi. Ottolenghi is a bit of a London institution, run by Yotam Ottolenghi and head chef Sami Tamimi, and I have been head over heels about their food ever since JJ gave me the recipe book last Christmas. Definitely my most used recipe book! Love it. Now, I don't know how they manage it, but they can take something as ordinary as a french bean and make a salad with it that you just long to eat forever. Or broccoli - I like broccoli but I like it even more when seared and mixed with garlic and chilli! But I doubted that even they could make a cauliflower tasty. But boy, was I was wrong! Oh how wrong.

These are just delicious - easy to make, wonderfully flavoured and so filling. And if you can't be bothered with the yoghurt, just grate a bit of garlic into some mayonnaise and mix with a bit of seasoning. Although the yoghurt is REALLY good...

Cauliflower Fritters with Lime Yoghurt
Adapted from Ottolenghi: The Cookbook

1 small cauliflower
120g Plain flour
3 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 shallots, finely chopped
4 eggs
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 1/2 tsp salt (don't be afraid - it needs a very generous season)
1 tsp ground black pepper
ca. 500ml sunflower (or other flavourless) oil

Lime Yoghurt
300g Greek yoghurt
2 tbsp chopped mint and parsley (the recipe states coriander but I'm just not that keen on raw coriander)
Grated zest of 1 lime
Juice of 1 1/2 - 2 limes
2 tbsp Olive oil
salt and pepper

First, make the yoghurt by mixing up the yoghurt, herbs, lime zest and some of the juice, olive oil and seasoning. Taste and add more lime juice or seasoning until you have a 'vibrant, tart, citrusy flavour'. Refrigerate or leave out for up to an hour.

Prepare the cauliflower, dividing it into florets. Add to a large pan of boiling salted water and simmer for 15 minutes or until very soft. Drain into a colander.

Put the flour, chopped parsley, garlic, shallots, eggs, spices, salt and pepper in a bowl and whisk into a batter. When the mixture is smooth, add the warm cauliflower. Mix to break down cauliflower into the batter.

Pour sunflower oil into a pan – 1.5cm depth – and heat. When hot, spoon in the cauliflower mixture, I did about 2 tablespoons per fritter. Fry in small batches, controlling oil temperature so the fritters cook but don’t burn. They should take 3-4 minutes on each side.

Remove from pan and drain on a kitchen paper. Serve with sauce on the side. They're wonderful with pita bread and a green salad.
Rosy xx

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Blackberry Upside Down Cake for British Food Fortnight

Have I mentioned recently that I heart autumn? Love it. Me and autumn, we're besties. It's the cool air, the excitement of Christmas being just around the corner (although far enough away not to be in a panic about it just yet) and the leaves! Oh how I love the leaves. Our front door is just down the side of the main house and the little alley way fills up with crisp, russet sycamore leaves. Until we can work up the enthusiasm to sweep them away, we're knee deep in them! I love it. I kick them up every morning just before setting out to work, just as I take my first breath of the fresh, crisp air. Very refreshing!

Other people enjoy the season in other ways. Take my Dad. He's a very handy person and is always whipping up a new kitchen counter, pergola or, in this case, a little house! In his own words:

'In brief, the accommodation comprises: Entrance porch, leading to spacious vestibule with single bed/hibernation room off. The attractive development boasts a contemporary Forest Green finish. Set in large and well tended gardens to front and sides. Viewing essential!'

Of course, with the spec. he provided a picture...

All this for the cutest of (flea ridden) creatures, the hedgehog. I love that it even has a proper weather proofed roof! And the to let sign??! I hope those hedgehogs appreciate the effort.

As well as building hedgehog starter homes, my Dad is also an exceptional cook, as I've already shown you, and this is another one of his recipes.  Perfect for cool autumn days and using up the blackberries picked from the hedgerows (or bought in Waitrose if you live in London) and top of my list for the sweet week of British Food Fortnight! I've seen Ina Garten do something similar and call it a cake tatin but whatever you choose to call it, I urge you to give it a try! It's one of those great recipes that so simple yet yields wonderfully impressive results. Great served warm as a dessert or cold with a big cup of tea. Either way, creme fraiche or greek yoghurt is a perfect accompaniment to contrast with the sweet caramel covered berries.

Blackberry Upside Down Cake

Top/Bottom (depending on whether it's upside down or not yet!)
50g Butter
115g Caster Sugar
350g Blackberries (or plums, blueberries, apples, pears... Whatever you've got! Fruit that's a little tart is best though)

150g Butter
200g Caster Sugar
3 large Eggs
150g Self Raising Flour (or plain with 2 1/2 tsp baking powder added)
25g Ground Almonds
1 Tbsp Amaretto (or other liqueur. Or a bit of milk)
pinch salt (if using unsalted butter)

Preheat your oven to 180C/Gas 4. Grease a 10" round cake tin (springform is a definite plus!!).

Heat the 50g butter and 115g sugar for the topping in a small pan over a low heat, stirring well until melted. Simmer gently for 3-4 mins until it turns a delicious coffee brown colour. Pour into the prepared tin and spread to coat the bottom. Arrange the blackberries in one even layer on the caramel. It works best if all the caramel is covered as it looks slightly more impressive with a solid berry layer. I didn't quite have enough so you can see some sponge poking through.

Beat together the butter and sugar for the cake until pale and creamy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Sift in the flour and salt and fold into the batter, followed by the almonds and amaretto. Spoon over the fruit and smooth the top. Bake for 50mins until cooked through.

Cool for 10 mins then run a knife around the edge. Turn out onto a serving plate and serve warm or allow to cool. Turning out while warm is a must!! Otherwise all the berries will stick to the base. Serve with creme fraiche, greek yoghurt or cream.

One last thing, don't forget to check out Katie's blog for the British Food Fortnight summary!

Rosy xx

Monday, 9 November 2009

Pear Muffins with Gingersnap Crumble

Whoop!!! I have a new camera!! I feel whole again. Phew, those couple of weeks felt loooong. So I can get back to normal and bake with the lovely SMS bakers! I've missed my Sunday baking. This one's a touch delayed as we haven't got the laptop replaced yet so I have to be in work to post (sshhhhhh - please don't tell on me).

This week was pear and cranberry muffins with gingersnap crumble chosen by Jennifer of Maple N' Cornbread. I was so looking forward to these as I happen to think pears are just about the epitome of autumn and very tasty too!

I modified like crazy on this recipe. I would love to say that it was due to a rush of creative inspiration but no, it had more to do with me being unable (read: too lazy!) to go to the shops for all the bits I'd forgotten. Such as flour. Oops. So I swapped in wholemeal flour, buttermilk instead of cream and raisins instead of cranberries. I'm just not that much of a cranberry fan, unless it's in juice form poured over vodka with a slice of lime. I also upped the quantity of buttermilk to a full half cup as these muffins have been known to be slightly dry. Then I also thought that they needed christmasying up a bit (that's a word!) so I added ground all spice. And I replaced some of the baking powder with bicarbonate of soda due to the use of buttermilk*.

So. Not such a fan of these! I liked the texture, I just felt that the pear didn't really come through and there wasn't a whole lot of other flavour there. I think some other spices would really liven them up and yes, possibly cranberries would help! Or another berry. Anyway, the wholemeal flour was nice and the texture was a definite improvement.

I'm off to have a look at how the other bakers got on and see what yummy alternatives might improve these little babies next time.

Ahhh, it's good to be back...

Rosy x

*It's a whole acid thing - baking powder is neutral, bicarb of soda, or baking soda, is alkaline. You use baking powder if the mix is neutral and soda if you have acidic components. I like to think my chemistry degree comes in useful now and again!

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Seriously Good Stew

It's British Food Fortnight everyone!! Very exciting. In case you missed the original post, it's just all about getting involved with all the great seasonal ingredients around at the moment and celebrating British food. Sounds good, huh?

I thought I'd kick off with my absolute favorite beef stew in the whole wide world. Oh my word, this stew just makes the world a better place! Whenever I ask JJ what he'd like to cook for guests he always suggests this stew. Even in mid summer when I have to intervene and suggest that maybe, just maybe, people won't be in the mood for stew in 30 degree weather!

But it's definitely not summer here anymore and I'm loving dusting off all my comfort food recipes. Hearty squash soups, spiced apple cakes, crumbles and gingerbread. Definitely my favorite time of year!! We made this stew on Saturday and have been happily living off the left overs for days now. The great thing about stews is how much they improve after being left over night. This stew could not be easier (don't even have to brown the meat) but the depth of the flavours and the richness of the sauce is just amazing.

As I don't have a camera yet (sob!) I thought I'd demonstrate where on the cow the shin comes from. It's a fantastic and bargainacious cut of beef, perfect for recipes like this which just blip away slowly in the oven. Do use any stewing cut - we've used a few and they all work fine. I would say that meat from a decent butchers really does make a HUGE difference to the taste though. We didn't realise just how much it impacted upon the flavour until our butcher closed so we resorted to Sainsbury's meat but the flavour just isn't as good.

Here it is - promise me you'll make it soon!!

Rosy x

Shin of Beef Stew
Adapted from Jamie Oliver and serves 4 generously. I think we actually had 6 portions...

Olive oil

2 red onions, peeled and roughly chopped
3 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
3 sticks of celery, trimmed and roughly chopped
4 cloves of garlic, unpeeled
a few sprigs of fresh rosemary
2 bay leaves
a small handful of dried porcini
1 cinnamon stick
1kg shin of beef, trimmed and cut into 5cm/2 inch pieces
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon flour
2 x 400g tins good-quality plum tomatoes
⅔ of a bottle of red wine

Preheat your oven to 180ºC/350ºF/gas 4. In a heavy-bottomed ovenproof saucepan, heat a splash of olive oil and gently fry the onions, carrots, celery, garlic, herbs, porcini and cinnamon for 5 minutes until softened slightly.

Meanwhile, toss the pieces of beef in a little seasoned flour, shaking off any excess. Add the meat to the pan and stir everything together, then add the tomatoes, wine and a pinch of salt and pepper. Gently bring to the boil, cover with a double-thickness piece of tinfoil* and a lid and place in your preheated oven for 3 hours or until the beef is meltingly tender and can be broken up with a spoon. Taste and check the seasoning, remove the cinnamon stick and rosemary sprigs and serve.

*Note: don't forget the double thickness tin foil! I did once and the whole thing dried up in the oven.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Houston, we have a problem...

So... Tiny problem. A very nice person decided to burgle our flat and has stolen my beautiful camera! Amongst a load of other stuff as well which I won't bore you with. I'm feeling a little stranded as we no longer have our home computer or a camera to take pics of yummy food! At least not for a while - we have insurance so finger's crossed that it'll all be sorted at some point...

I'm honestly not sure when I'll be up and running again with blog related antics. I would still absolutely love to post the British Food Fortnight roundup though, so if anyone fancies helping with that and supplying some photos that would be all the more appreciated now!!

What do people think about blogging in the meantime without photos?? I know it's the cardinal rule of food blogging to have photos but I'm just not sure I can hold out until the insurance company gets their act together!

Rosy xx

Monday, 19 October 2009

British Food Fortnight

Autumn really is upon us. The leaves have turned, the air is cool and this Sunday the clocks go back... I love autmn. Never really been that keen on hot weather and, let's face it, autumn is the ultimate foodie season. Rich stews, flaky pie crusts, hearty soups and so many delicious baked goods to warm the cockles! Over the past few weeks, the very lovely Katie of Katiecakes and I have been emailing back and forth waxing lyrical on the wonderfulness that is this season when we struck upon an idea! 2 weeks of blogging related fun revolving around all things British and seasonal.

The idea - nothing fancy, just a good ol' cross blogging food event where you cook up yummy food that reminds you of this fabulous season and is a bit British inspired. There will be two roundups of said yumminess, the first will be on this very blog on the 31st October and will cover the savory side of things. Then on the 7th October, Katie will do a round up of all things sweet over here.

Wanna take part? We'd love it if you would!! Ah, making blogging friends is always so much fun... So if you have a warming soup to die for or a crumble that's perfect for curling up with on a cold Sunday, blog about it! Then pop your link on an email to us (or just the pic, that works too) and then there'll be a huge party blog-style (ie one big post...) of everyones creations on the dates mentioned above. Eek, I'm so excited already!

Where to email it to... Either me, Rosy, at rosy [at] rosylipsandlavender [dot] com for your savory dishes or Kaite at katiewantsapony [at] hotmail [dot] com with your sweet desserts or baked goods.

The aim is really just to have fun and to make some new friends so spread the word far and wide - go ahead and grab the pic above if you fancy and looking forward to catching up on the 31st!!

Love Rosy xx

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Spiced Pumpkin Cookie Cakes

Success! I've managed to organise myself enough to actually post... It's been a while, I know, but hopefully some photographic related breakthroughs will mean I'll be able to resume normal posting pace. That, and there's been the usual engagement distractions that have meant our diet has been largely based around pasta for the past fortnight - most of it definitely not blog worthy!!

Anyway, on to this week's Sweet Melissa Sundays. An appropriately autumnal recipe has been chosen by the wonderful Debbie of Everyday Blessings of the Five Dees. Spiced Pumpkin Cookie Cakes. Doesn't the name just make you want to dive into a big pile of crisp russet leaves?! I'm a huge fan of anything from the squash family - they're so versatile and the flavours develop wonderfully when cooked, especially roasted - so I was looking forward to a sweet application of the regal pumpkin. Us brits use pumpkins in cooking a lot but always in savory rather than sweet items. Our friends across the pond however are a lot keener on pumpkins in tarts, pies, mousse and, in this case, cookies. Well, cookie cakes. I'm not sure what the distinction is but heck, I was willing to give it a go in the name of an SMS adventure!

The one and only problem was the decision to make my own pumpkin puree. As Katie will testify, the cost of canned puree is crazy over here so I decided to roast and puree the flesh myself. This produced a very watery mush that, even after much draining, led to soggy batter and VERY flat cookie cakes! They tasted delicious and I'm considering popping to Waitrose tomorrow to see if I can produce a better result but as you can see, they weren't exactly the most aesthetic babies in my repertoire!!

Do check out the other SMS bakers though as I've had a peek and they look much yummier and less pancake like!!

Rosy xx

Monday, 5 October 2009

Apple Orchard Pecan Crumble

Ok, so I actually have a REALLY good reason for this being a bit late this week -

Jon PROPOSED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! So we're getting married which is just about the most exciting thing in the world EVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

So I was a little tied up this weekend what with all the accepting of engagement rings and all...... But I did manage to bake up these little beauties a few days ago so as not to let the SMS side down!! I did modify the recipe slightly - of course they are individual ramekins (as the photo shows!) and yep, that caused a huge volcano of treacley fruit juices to permanently affix themselves to the bottom of our oven, but worked really well (other than that!). The other modification that I did was switch the flour with half wholemeal and half oats. I really liked that - complimented the nuttiness of the pecans and was a definite hit.

Many thanks to Cristine from Cooking with Cristine (you can find the recipe on her blog) for choosing this week's Sweet Melissa Sundays recipe and don't forget to check out the other bakers.

Rosy xx

PS WE'RE GETTING MARRIED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Calling for help...

Ok, so my slightly more sporadic posting is in part due to a few busy work weeks, but I also have another slight issue - my photos! The nights have well and truely drawn in recently and my food photos don't look anywhere near as good in artificial light. I'm a bit of a novice anyway and natural light is my friend... What to do? Should I just settle for some slightly orangey photos for the winter months or is there something I can do about it? Any advice gratefully recieved!

Rosy xx

Monday, 28 September 2009

SMS - Caramelized onion, sage and cheddar muffins

Aaarrggghhh, time has well and truly got the better of me this past week!! I even did this week's Sweet Melissa Sundays recipe on the 22nd September as I knew I'd be pushed for time. But yes, a week early and I still managed to post a day late!!! It's totally my fault. And now this is only going to be super short post... Time management isn't going so hot at the mo but hey ho, I guess with a full time job there were always going to be some weeks where posting took a little bit of a back seat.

Anyway, back to these babies! When I first flicked through The Sweet Melissa Baking Book, this recipe was definitely one that caught my eye, although I think this combo wasn't really grabbing me. But how wrong was I! These are gorgeous. I caramelised a red onion slowly in a frying pan with some brown sugar and finished with a slosh of balsamic vinegar. Just yummy! We ate these for dinner alongside a simple salad and fresh out the oven they were just divine. The slight kick that the cayenne gives really adds to them. Can't wait to try some other variations!

Many thanks to Hanaâ of Hanaâ's Kitchen for choosing this week's recipe and don't forget to check out the other bakers.

Rosy xx

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Orange scented scones and some jam-related antics

I have a confession to make - recently I really seem to have lost my baking mojo. I came home from work the other night and had visions of a sweet, moist apricot frangipane tart. A couple of hours later, I had the toughest crust known to man in front of me with a heavy, eggy filling. Not what I had in mind at all! Then my attempts at a thin, crisp pizza base last night resulted in something much more like a large cracker. And pancakes this morning? Disaster! I mean, pancakes??! How can I mess those up? Hmmm. Not good.

So there was a part of me that was dreading this week's Sweet Melissa Sundays recipe. But I persevered! Not wanting such fearful follies getting the better of me, I bit the bullet. It helped that I had a group of close friends coming over for a jam making sesh (the first meeting of the Sweet Supper Club founders but more on that another time) and what goes better with jam that orange scented scones??

A sunday afternoon of jam making fuelled by tea from pretty cups and glasses of pink bubbly! What could be better? Here are some of the lovely ladies in question...

And here's Laura dutifully munching away on the scone. If only they'd been edible! But I fear the fault is TOTALLY mine. The dreaded baking curse strikes again! I did something I've never done before - I misread the recipe and added too much salt. Ew. Ew ew ew. Salty scone, anyone??! Didn't think so. But I have to say, the texture was divine! Once piled high with clotted cream and JJ's mum's greengage jam (ours wasn't quite ready) they were yum. But then cardboard is yum with that much cream and jam...

So many thanks to Robin of Lady Craddock's Bakery and I'm so sorry to have messed them up! I have to move on now otherwise I'm going to start sobbing over my keyboard...

The jam! Look as these furry fleshed beauties...

We made two jams - cinnamon peach (yes! Sweet Melissa's cinnamon peach preserve!) and plum jam.

Ooo, bubbly, peachy, cinnamon scented yumminess...

Here's Laura stirring the plum jam. Did feel a little bit like a coven of witches gathered around a steaming cauldron, but I get the feeling that if the only thing witches did was produce sweet preserves they might have a slightly better reputation.

I was less impressed by the plum jam. If I'm totally honest with you, the curse struck again (seriously, how much can I mess up in one week??!) and it's not really jam, more of a slightly gloopy plum sauce. Oh well!

The brightside is how darn cute they look!!! What a feeling of satisfaction, looking at rows and rows of homemade jams.

Sky requested that we fill up these mini jam jars. Aren't they just about the most adorable things ever?

Just perched happily atop its bigger brother. Too cute.

So apologies again for being a total muppet and messing up this week's SMS - hopefully the new week will bring better cooking vibes and I shall create some food to be proud of. I'll keep you posted!

Rosy xx

Ps Don't forget to have a look at the other SMS bakers!