Friday, 31 July 2009

4 Day Weekend

Blueberry pancakes for breakfast - oh so good! I may not be able to get up off the sofa for the rest of the weekend. But that's ok because I have a FOUR DAY WEEKEND! WHOOP WHOOP! And JJ and I have such fun things planned. Very excited. Off to Borough Market first thing tomorrow - the only thing that will get me out of bed super early on a Saturday morning.

There's a bit of a lack of pics at the mo - I can't seem to get the thingumy to work in my computer, but finger's crossed the technical issues will be sorted in time to show you the AWESOMENESS of Borough! Eeeep, so exciting!

Rosy xx

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Cook Books

I love cook books. My absolute favorite activity in the WORLD has to be sitting curled up on our sofa with our super huge living room window wide open (on a nice day, obviously), enormous mug of tea in hand and a stack of cook books at my feet. Just so relaxing - it's the endless inspiration they provide. I think that's why I love food blogs so much. Food porn, really!

This is definitely not my full collection. These are just the current favorites that have escaped from the bookshelf and taken up residence on my living room floor. I'm terrible at buying really pretty books - the one on top, Apples for Jam, is a prime example of that! I did judge it by its cover, yes. But it's so good! With the courgettes from our garden we make this yummy courgette, feta and mint pasta that's a doddle. So fresh and clean tasting - a far cry from the heavy creamy pasta that I normally make (and love!). I'll take some pics next time we make it for you.
But my absolute favorite has to be the Ottolenghi cook book. It's what dreams are made of. I could wax lyrical about it all afternoon, but I won't. I shall just leave you with pics of two of my fave Ottolenghi recipes. I make these roughly 100 times a week so shall be providing recipes soon, I promise! If you can't wait, the Ottolenghi blog has some recipes on and is a lovely read.

Rosy xx
ps I'm despairing at the moment - how do I alter how big the images appear on my blog?? The formatting seems totally random!

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Strawberry Shortcake Cakes

Wow, that took a little longer than I thought to get organised! Sorry about that… The ol' recession’s hitting home at this end and it’s been a bit of a distraction this past week for several reasons that I won't bore you with. That, and a trip to Ascot on Friday where I was, ahem, a little ‘tired and emotional’ probably didn’t help! Ooops…. Anyway, I definitely won’t go into the details of that!

JJ has returned home in one piece and his camping stuff is now liberally strewn around the flat. I expect it’ll stay that way for a good few weeks until I cave and unpack for him. Actually, it’s going to have to be before then as in two weeks it’s my friend Laura’s birthday party and it’s being held in our flat! I’m SO excited. It’s Alice in Wonderland themed (but not fancy dress – too much hassle) and I’m busy designing the cup cake toppers. Any ideas welcome! I took delivery of the card suit cookie cutters yesterday and thinking up things to make. Really hoping I get some great pics to show you of that party. It’s my absolute favourite – an afternoon tea!! And, as Laura and I lived together at Uni, I know almost all of the people coming so SUPER excited to see everyone. Must not get ‘tired and emotional’ again though!!!! I’m getting too old for the morning afters.

Anyway, back to business. I teased you horribly with the pic of the mini cakes for Rachel’s afternoon tea – they are individual strawberry shortcake cakes. And they are soooooooooooo good. Fragrant, creamy, moist and sweet – just awesome. I got the recipe from the Pioneer Woman (who I’ve been totally addicted to since I started reading blogs about a year ago) but decided that they had to be individual for Rachel’s do. I mean, what isn’t improved by making it smaller and cuter?!! So the only thing I changed was to convert all the measurements into metric (can’t handle the inaccuracy of cups) and cut individual circles out of a square cake rather than making the one large round cake. I have made the round version before and it’s equally delicious. In fact, just the left over scraps of icing and cake are mighty fine too...

It does sound a bit fiddly popping it into the freezer after every step, but it really does make the process a lot easier. I actually made the cakes ahead of time, froze them into the little circles and then added the strawberries and icing the day of the tea. I’ve recently taken to making and freezing cakes and it’s such a useful technique as the cakes stay fresher and icing is so much easier.

Strawberry Shortcake Cake
(Adapted from The Pioneer Woman)

1 1/2 cups (225g) flour
3 tablespoons corn flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
9 tablespoons (125g) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 ½ (340g) cups caster sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 cup (120ml) sour cream, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 pound (225g) cream cheese, room temperature
2 sticks (1/2 pound, 225g) unsalted butter
1 1/2 pounds icing sugar (675g), sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 pound (ca. 500g) strawberries

Sift together flour, salt, bicarbonate of soda, and corn flour.To make the cake, cream the butter with the caster sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well each time. Add sour cream and vanilla and mix until combined. Add sifted dry ingredients and mix on low speed until just barely combined.
Pour into greased and floured 8-inch cake pan. Bake at 350F/175C degrees for 45 to 50 minutes, or until a cocktail stick comes out clean. Remove from cake pan as soon as you pull it out of the oven, and place on a cooling rack and allow it to cool completely.

Stem strawberries and slice them in half from bottom to top. Place into a bowl and sprinkle with 3 tablespoons sugar. Stir together and let sit for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, mash the strawberries with a fork, leaving some chunky.

To make the icing, combine cream cheese, butter, sifted powdered sugar, vanilla, and dash of salt in a mixing bowl. Mix until very light and fluffy.

Slice cake in half through the middle. Spread strawberries evenly over each half (cut side up), pouring on all the juices. Place cake halves into the freezer for five minutes, just to make icing easier.

Remove from freezer. Use a little less than 1/3 of the icing to spread over the top of the strawberries on the bottom layer. Place the second layer on top. (Pop in the freezer again for a bit if needs be). Add half of the remaining icing to the top spreading evenly, then spread the remaining 1/3 around the sides.

Leave plain or garnish with strawberry halves.
IMPORTANT: Cake is best when served slightly cool. The butter content in the icing will cause it to soften at room temperature. For best results, store in the fridge!

Monday, 20 July 2009


I have a fabulous post just waiting to go, but JJ's gone and run off with the photos! He's on a camping trip this week so my parents are coming to stay. But I have found one photo to tease you with. For the step by step instructions, you might have to wait a week I'm afraid. I also took some pics last night of this broccoli salad that is SO yummy so hopefully I'll get around to doing a post about that too.

This is what happens when JJ goes away - I eat nothing but a whole head of broccoli, a courgette and a half pack of pringles for dinner. Normally, the broccoli and courgette are omitted. And cookies are added. That's another thing I took photos of! Cookies. But those will have to wait - for reasons that shall become clear in their post. Or should I call it a homage... For they are INCREDIBLE! Mmmmm, cookies...

Ahem, anyway, so this is a teaser post. But very exciting - I'm catering for my friend's baby's christening on Sunday so the rest of the week's looking pretty hectic. There will be lots to post about after that! I'll gloss over the fact I still haven't finished posting about Rachel's tea... Luckily, I still had time to pop for lunch with my BFF though, before she runs away to Singapore! So not fair. Going to miss her sooooooo much! She's very good at dealing with my neuroses. Sob!

Anyway, I shall try to up my posting game soon... Rosy x

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Project Garden

I thought I’d break from blogging about the tea party for a while and show you some of our garden. Now, JJ and I have never gardened before so our knowledge and ability were pretty much as low as humanly possible. So the fact that we’ve managed to grow anything is an absolute miracle! So you can imagine how proud we are of our little babies. Just look at them!! Aren’t they beautiful?

To be totally honest, I’ve found gardening a tad depressing. It sounded so easy! Just like cooking – follow a recipe and not a whole lot can go wrong. Sure, sometimes things don’t quite go to plan, but the end result is always edible. And it’s not like we entered into the enterprise without doing our research. We read the books, we researched which vegetables would be most likely to grow and which of those we would actually want to eat. After clearing the garden (with a LOT of help from my Dad! Such a great daddy) and tending carefully to the tiny seedlings, the first of the major blows came in the form of a slug infestation. I swear those things can abseil! There was not one plant within a reasonable radius and still, within 1 night of them being planted out, they were comprehensively munched. To the ground! Humph.

After some hurried re-planting and adding a few more pots, plus a generous covering of slug pellets (organic gardening can wait until we’ve cracked the regular version) we were confident. Then came a pest that decided it would dig up and eat all the seedlings. Not slugs this time, something much larger – thinking either a fox or rat. London rats are about the same size as small foxes anyway; sometimes it’s hard to tell them apart.

So the construction of the nets began. We toiled away, carefully protecting all the precious seedlings with layers of nets suspended over canes. Not quite the beautiful English rustic garden I had envisaged, but I figured after they’d got going a bit, things would be more resilient to being dug up. And it worked! Things grew! The first things that looked good were the radishes. That was until they were pulled up, only to reveal that they hadn’t actually produced a radish. We’d very successfully grown copious amounts of radish leaves, but not even a hint of peppery, crisp, pink radishy goodness. Given they were supposed to be super easy to grow, our spirits were slightly dampened.

But the sweet peas are a success! And oh how I love sweet peas. Such a heavenly scent and so frilly! They remind me so much of my childhood. My parents always grow great panels of sweet peas under their pergola. Whenever I go home in the summer, my favourite thing to do is to stroll under the pergola, breathing in that heady, perfumed air, only magnified by the bed of roses alongside. I can’t wait to take some pics to show you when we go home in August! Until then, we shall have to keep our fingers super crossed that the tomatoes ripen and the courgettes get a jiffy on with growing!

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Chocolate Triple Layer Mousse Cake (aka heaven in chocolate moussey form)

Phew! Just had such an exhausting but lovely weekend – JJ and I were away at a friend’s wedding. So beautiful! I’m a little on the tired (ahem, hungover…) side, so I’m just going to launch right in to the recipes from Rachel’s tea. The tea went well – everything was ready on time and I was pleased with the results, although I changed my mind at the last minute and changed the biscuity things for raspberry buttermilk cake (absolutely yummy! One of my favourites) as I had a lot of excess raspberries from the individual pavlovas. These are the little cubes of cake you can see in this photo with the meringues.

The one item I was particularly chuffed with was the chocolate mousse cakes. So pretty! They are a time consuming, but trust me, so worth it! Incredible. And looked so impressive, don’t you think??

So to make these, I first made a chocolate cake base. The first version was a flourless chocolate cake, but yummy though it was, it proved wholely unsuitable as it crumbled when I attempted to transfer it to the pan I wanted to mould the mousse in. This did nothing for my stress levels as you can imagine!!

After having a cup of tea and pondering the problem, I decided that a chocolate roulade recipe would work as these are about the right depth for what I was after and, as they’re supposed to be rolled, would be able to withstand the transfer. And it worked beautifully! Once I’d made the base and allowed it to cool (under a tea towel as per the recipe – unusual but worked like a treat!) I lined a loose bottomed tin with cling film, with a large overhang so that it was easy to remove. I cut the cake to fit snugly into the bottom of the pan, filled with the dark chocolate mousse and chilled until the mousse was set.

I then made the white chocolate mousse and poured this on top of the dark chocolate mousse layer, carefully smoothing the top. After this was thoroughly chilled and well set, I made a simple chocolate ganache and poured a thin layer onto the top of the cake. Et voila! A highly luxurious, deeply chocolaty chocolate mousse layer cake. The only thing I didn’t quite master was cutting beautifully equal squares… Ah well, I shall have to practice!! I’m sure JJ won’t mind – he happily sat there scoffing the left overs!

Rosy xx

Chocolate Roulade
175g/6oz plain chocolate, broken into pieces

175g/6oz caster sugar

6 eggs, separated

2 level tbsp cocoa, sieved

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Lightly grease a Swiss roll tin and line with non-stick baking parchment, pushing it into the corners. Melt the chocolate slowly in a bowl over a pan of hot water. Allow to cool slightly.

Place the sugar and egg yolks in a bowl and whisk with an electric whisk on a high speed until light and creamy. Add the cooled chocolate and stir until evenly blended.Whisk the egg whites in a large mixing bowl until stiff but not dry. Stir a large spoonful of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture, mix gently and then fold in the remaining egg whites, then the cocoa. Pour into the prepared tin and gently level the surface. Bake in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes until firm to the touch.

Remove the roulade from the oven, leave in the tin and place a cooling rack over the top of the cake, being careful not to touch the cake. Place a clean damp tea towel on top of the rack, and leave for several hours or overnight in a cool place - don't worry, it will sink slightly. (If the tea towel dries out, simply re-dampen it.)

Pate a bombe

180g Caster sugar
120ml water
6 egg yolks

Dissolve the sugar in the water in a pan. Bring to the boil. Boil until a sugar thermometer reads 120C or the liquid gets syrupy and the bubbles bigger. You could drop a teaspoonful of thickened syrup into a glass of ice-cold water; if it forms a small, soft ball it is ready. This should take approx 5-7 minutes of boiling.

Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks with an electric mixer until creamy. Once the sugar syrup reaches temperature, remove from the heat at once. Turn the mixer onto slow and drizzle the sugar syrup into the yolks. Beat on full speed for 3-5 mins until you have a firm yellow foam. Remove and cool, whisking occasionally.

This freezes well and you can flavour the syrup by adding whatever you fancy (lemongrass, vanilla, cardamom) to the sugar and just removing before adding to the yolks.

Dark Chocolate Mousse
4 oz (110g) Pate a bombe
3 sheets gelatine
6 oz (165g) chocolate (70%), melted and cooled
16 oz (440g) double cream, whipped into soft peaks

Soften the gelatine in ice water for 5 minutes. Squeeze out excess water and mix with 2 Tbs of the heavy cream (it's ok if it's already whipped to soft peaks). Melt them together in the microwave for about 7 seconds. Add this mixture to the soft peak whipped cream and whisk together until mixed. But be careful not to overmix. Add the cream to the pate a bombe and fold. Add the melted and cooled chocolate to the base and fold. You’re your chosen container with mousse and pop in the fridge to set.
For the white chocolate mousse, just repeat the above with white chocolate rather than dark.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

All the best laid plans...

Ok. I’ve put this off long enough. I am going to publish this post!! You wouldn’t believe how long it’s taken to write this… I decided about an age of mankind ago that I would start a blog. Then it took me approximately two more centuries to decide on a name (seriously, it’s hard isn’t it??!) and then what to write. So I’m going to apologise ahead of time if this blog strays from the food/gardening remit – there might be some crafts stuff, there might be some mini rants, who can tell??! Part of the mystery. Or maybe just a reflection on the muddled nonsense that goes on in my head… I’ll let you be the judge of that!

Anyway, as I’m new at this, I thought I’d start with something easy. And then my dear friend asked me to cater her leaving party (she’s leaving to become a country bumpkin! My heart is officially broken) and the ‘easy’ part went out the window. Now, I am by no means a professional caterer. In fact, my kitchen is about 2 metres square.
But I do love love LOVE cooking. Especially when it involves cake! Who doesn’t love cake??!

Crazy people, that’s who.

So when my dear friend Rachel (the one who’s running away to somewhere at least an hour from London – see? Told you she was becoming a country bumpkin) offered to pay me for my cakes I simply jumped at the chance! And subsequently got so overexcited I spent the next week impulse purchasing half of John Lewis’ bakeware range. So with an (almost) fully kitted out kitchen, the challenge begins!

It’s Tuesday today. The party is on Thursday. I’ve decided to make:

Savory: Foccacia; Marinated sweet peppers; tomato and mozzarella salad; fig, goats cheese and prosciutto salad.

Sweet: Individual strawberry cakes; chocolate mousse cakes; mini summer fruit pavlovas, little biscuity things with chocolate on (haven’t thought of a name for these yet!).

This is all planned in minute detail and each dish allocated a time slot to make sure everything’s ready in time. So tonight was the turn of the chocolate mousse cakes. Well, it was all going to plan before the base I’d chosen disintegrated on me! But I persisted, changed recipe and the base is done. Yay! It’s just cooling now. I shall write more on the recipe I (eventually!) used and have pics of the finished product soon.

Rosy xx

One quick note, I’ve only just acquired a super fancy camera, so if the photos are a bit on the pants side, I’m sorry! (all this apologising – you can tell I’m British through and through…)

Recipe Archive

To make it at little easier finding what recipes I've got of this blog, I thought I'd pop them all in one place! They're not in any order just yet (not really enough to justify it!) but as I add more, I'll put them into categories. That, and I fear 90% of the recipes would simply fall under 'cake'...

Chocolate Triple Layer Mousse Cake
Strawberry Shortcake Cakes
Spiced Red Plum, Ginger and Rhubarb Relish
Risotto Primavera
Simple Tomato Sauce
Banana Apple Bread
Fresh Peach Muffins
Fallen Chocolate Souffle Cake
Perfect Pound Cake
Cow Pie
Orange Scented Scones
Caramelized Onion, Sage and Cheddar Muffins
Apple Orchard Pecan Crumble
Spiced Pumpkin Cookie Cakes
Seriously Good (beef) Stew
Pear Muffins with Gingersnap Crumble
Blackberry Upside Down Cake
Cauliflower Fritters with Lime Yoghurt
Hot Chocolate Pots with Cardamom Cream
Butter Toffee Crunch
Golden Almond Fruitcake
Chocolate Brownies
Carrot Apple Pecan Muffins
Cranberry Apple Spice Cake
Lemon Raspberry Sour Cream Pound Cake
Light as a Feather Layered Lemon Cake
Blackbottom Brownies
Butterscotch Pudding
Devil's Food Cake with Salted Caramel and Salted Caramel Ganache
Butternut Squash, Spinach and Goat's Cheese Risotto
Chocolate Mousse
Hummingbird Cake
Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
JJ's Birthday Chocolate Cupcakes