North Northamptonshire based food blogger who is obsessed with good food and proper cooking. I'm part of the Midlands Blogging team for the BBC Good Food Shows. This is where I share my own recipes and carry out recipe development and product reviews for brands, including food and wines. Please contact me using the link below.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Cinnamon & White Chocolate Flapjacks

I’ve had flapjacks in my head for a few days now but fancied baking them with a bit of a seasonal spice twist, so I changed my basic recipe a little bit.
I used Organic Green & Black’s white chocolate and FairTrade cinnamon and brown sugar.
150g (6oz) Butter
150g (6oz) Soft brown sugar
80g (3oz) Golden Syrup
300g (12oz) Porridge Oats
5ml (1tsp) Cinnamon
150g (6oz) White chocolate, chopped into chunks.
1. Preheat the oven to 180C.
2. Melt the butter and sugar in a pan with the golden syrup.
3. Remove from the heat and stir in the porridge oats, cinnamon and chocolate.
4. Press into a 24x30cm tin, making sure the top is level.
5. Bake for 30 minutes until golden in colour.
6. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin for 5 minutes.
7. Mark into squares.
8. Allow to cool for another 10 minutes in the tin.
9. Turn out onto a wooden chopping board & cut the squares through completely.
10. Allow to cool completely (or if you really can’t wait, nibble a piece as a cook’s perk while its still warm!)

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Kenwood Boutique Event

I was lucky enough to be invited to the Waitrose School of Cookery by Kenwood for the launch to food bloggers of their vibrantly coloured Boutique range of KMix.
Now I’m a real lover of Kenwood food preparation equipment. Not only do I have the hugely powerful and versatile silver Kenwood Major Titanium stand mixer, but I have the smaller almond coloured KMix hand mixer as well as the almond coloured KMix tri-blade stick blender which comes with 2 tri-blade heads, a whisk and small food processor.
To say I was amazed by the vibrancy of the new boutique colours was an under statement. Wow! You almost needed your sunglasses on when we walked into the cookery school to be greeted by the lovely staff from Kenwood, their PR company and the cookery school staff as well as these tables of food preparation finery & co-ordinating props.

20121027-232927.jpgThe magenta is such a girly girl colour.
20121027-232934.jpgWhilst the blue offers a more masculine alternative.
20121027-232952.jpgThe orange reminds you of somewhere hot & tropical.
20121027-232959.jpgThe yellow is so zingy you can almost sense your taste buds tingling!
20121027-233005.jpgThe green is like a fresh cucumber on a hot day.
After cocktails or soft drinks, we were treated to a fantastic macaroon making class using the Italian meringue method. No waiting around for the shells to set with this recipe; you simply make and bake! Between the 24 attendees we made several different flavours, including pistachio, strawberry, apricot, liquorice and black currant. It was heaven in an almond flavoured shell!
Being the first time I’ve made them (and quite frankly, this will not be the last time I’ll make them), I was really surprised at just how easy they are to make, especially under the expert guidance and instruction of our lovely chef.
I have to say a BIG thank you to the Waitrose School of Cookery staff, Clarion Communications and especially to Kenwood for their generosity afforded to all the participants in offering us an item from their new Boutique Range. I can’t wait for my Magenta hand mixer to arrive so that my daughter can learn to cook and bake alongside me using her own mixer.
20121027-233014.jpgCarmela consults our lovely chef.
20121027-233019.jpgJulie hard at work mixing the almond paste.
20121027-233026.jpgThe finished Italian Meringue ready to be mixed with the almond paste.
20121027-233033.jpgOur piped macaroons.
20121027-233040.jpgChef’s baked macaroons.
20121027-233046.jpgPistachio, strawberry & lemon macaroons.
Apricot & blackcurrant macaroons.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Winning Be-Ro banana bread recipe

Please note that the original recipe is NOT mine. It’s one that I found years ago in one of my trusty fail-safe, go-to recipe books. It came from the Home Recipes with Be-Ro Flour, 37th edition. I wanted to share it, along with some little alterations that I have made along the way to all the banana bread lovers out there.
200g (8oz) Self raising flour
1.25ml (1/4 tsp) Bicarbonate of soda
2.5ml (1/2 tsp) Salt – I NEVER add this
75g (3oz) Butter – I use Stork margarine
150g (6oz) Caster sugar
2 Eggs, beaten
450g (1lb) Bananas (weighed with the skin on)
100g (4oz) Walnuts, chopped (optional)
1. Preheat your oven to 180C, Fan 160C, Gas 4.
2. Grease & flour a 2lb loaf tin.
3. Mix together the flour, bi-carb and salt (if using).
4. Mash the bananas.
5. Cream together the butter and sugar until pale & fluffy.
6. Add the eggs, a little at a time, alternately with a spoonful of the flour mixture and beat well.
7. Stir in the remaining flour, bananas and walnuts (if using).
8. Pour into your prepared tin & bake for 1 1/4 hours, or until a skewer, inserted into the centre, comes out clean.
9. Leave to cool for a few minutes, then turn out to cool completely.
10. Once cool, wrap in foil and ideally leave for 24 hours before slicing & eating.

    Rosie’s notes:
A) I add ALL of my ingredients to the bowl & mix as per the ‘all in one’ method.
B) Instead of greasing & lining my tins, I find it much easier & more convenient to line them with a loaf tin liner from Lakeland.
C) when the mixture is in the tin, scatter the top with some more chopped walnuts and then sprinkle some soft brown sugar over the top. The flavour that this imparts is amazing!
D) Try spreading your sliced banana bread with some proper butter for added flavour.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Great Banana Bread Bake Off

I spent a lovely afternoon in Vanessa Kimbell’s kitchen this afternoon where we decided to have an impromptu banana bread bake-off to use up some over-ripe bananas she’d got.
I chose to go with my very trusty (and fail safe) Be-Ro recipe, whilst Vanessa chose to follow Mary Berry’s.
There was no difference in the quality of ingredients used. All the eggs were free range from Vanessa’s chickens. The flour, (star anise) sugar, milk, Stork margarine and bananas were identical with exception to the quantities specified in the recipes. They were both made using the ‘all-in-one’ method using Kenwood K-Mix machines. Poured into identical greased & floured tins and baked on the same oven shelf for an identical amount of time.
From the start, my cake looked a different colour as my recipe called for 1lb of (skin on) bananas, whilst Vanessa’s only wanted 2 whole bananas.
The resulting bake was judged by us both but to add an unbiased twist, was also judged by Vanessa’s husband, Alastair, who had no idea which one of us had baked which loaf. The initial reaction from us all was that one loaf seemed to be richer in colour, darker on the crust, had risen more and smell more intensely of banana. On cutting, from the crumb one was obviously lighter in texture.
The hands down winner was this one…
Which recipe was the winner? Why Be-Ro of course! My mum bought each of my sisters & I our first ever recipe book. Mine was the 35th edition, and since then I have added 3 more, updated versions, to my collection. It was my first ever recipe book & the one that I trust to work implicitly every time.
Thanks to Vanessa for such a lovely afternoon of laughs & baking together, and for letting me bring the winning loaf home to keep my hubby ‘sweet’ as I was later home than planned/promised.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Ndali vanilla gift swap

I’ve been invited to take part in the Ndali Vanilla Swap that’s taking place at Fortnum & Mason’sprestigious store in Piccadilly, London on Monday 24th September. The event is also in association with Kenwood and The Fair Trade Foundation and has been organised by Vanessa Kimble, Goddess on a Budget, and author of Prepped.
The criteria of the afternoon involves us making or baking a product, or products, in up to 4 categories:
1. Biscuits
2. Cake/cupcakes
3. Sweets
4. Preserves
I’ve chosen to enter the biscuit & the cake categories with two recipes that I will share with you here.
For my biscuit recipe, I’m making a rustic vanilla, oat, cranberry & white chocolate biscuit. Whilst my cake is a rich vanilla infused elderflower sponge with a vanilla bean frosting and decorated with fondant.
As the name suggests, it’s a gift swap in as much as we produce our creations to go in to a draw, according to the category entered. We are then lucky enough to draw an equivalent gift which has been lovingly created by a fellow attendee which we will no doubt marvel at and possibly enjoy on the train home later that evening.
We each have some wonderful Ndali vanilla product to use in our creations. I really can’t recommend their vanilla powder enough! The fragrance is sublime, whilst the taste is incredibly intense, yet gentle at the same time; a truly amazing product! Along with the Ndali vanilla, we will be using Fairtrade products where possible.
To give you a potted history of Ndali vanilla; Lulu Sturdy inherited a former tea plantation and, after experimenting with other crops, settled on vanilla. She now grows premium quality Fair Trade vanilla on her organic 1,000 acre mixed tropical farm, Ndali. She also processes the individual vanilla crops of hundreds of small farmers who she has helped to gain Fair Trade deals. Growing, hand pollinating, harvesting and processing are all highly labour intensive. The cream of the crop is packaged under the Fair Trade ‘Ndali’ brand for retail. There are still a lot of farmers in the area who do not have Fair Trade deals.
Fair Trade makes an incredible difference to the lives of producers; it’s not just a brand. Learning about these growers has convinced me that the deals brokered through Fair Trade make a huge difference to the lives of the farmers and their families. Many are subject to exploitation by unscrupulous traders.
You can’t fail to be moved by one farmer’s statement: “We don’t want charity, we just want a fair price for what we have grown”
Demand for vanilla outstrips the supply of vanilla beans and, sadly, most UK vanilla flavouring is synthetic with the vast majority of it going into manufactured foods. In home baking, we can avoid this ‘vanilla essence’ and buy pure vanilla in pods, extract and powder form. Of course, its more expensive than it’s synthetic substitute, but in terms of quality and flavour, there really is no substitute worth considering. Next time you shop for vanilla please consider not only the quality of the product that you’re buying, but also the life changes you are helping to make for the Ugandan vanilla growers and pay a fair price.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Karen is 50!

Karen is a former work colleague of mine who was celebrating her 50th birthday.
Her order was for a cake to celebrate and for 30 matching cupcakes. For this one, I decided to make a deep, vanilla tray bake cake with a pair of flared ‘jeans’ which were cut from an 8″ square cake.
The decoration was in the form of different coloured circles of fondant icing.
The matching vanilla cupcakes had a white swirl of buttercream on top & were embellished with matching circles of fondant icing.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Eva's Mushroom House

Eva is the daughter of one of my children's former junior school teachers. The original request was for a chocolate giant cupcake, but with the agreement of 'mum' she allowed me to play with an idea that I'd got in mind to upturn the base & decorate it as a giant mushroom.

I am so pleased at how this cake turned out. I freestyled with the idea as I went along; simply knowing that I wanted the 'roof' to be red with white hearts instead of spots. I also wanted a 'flying' butterfly overhead.

Mum tells me that Eva loved her cake, & her grandma tells me she loved it too!

Another successful cake from the kitchen of Freycob.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Vanilla & Elderflower Drizzle Cake

175g Butter
175g Caster sugar
3 Eggs
150g Self raising flour
75g Ground almonds
5ml Baking powder
5ml Ndali vanilla powder
30ml Belvoir Fruit Farms Elderflower Cordial
70ml Milk

60ml Belvoir Fruit Farms Elderflower cordial (undiluted)
60g Granulated sugar

1. Heat oven to 160C/140C fan/gas 3.

2. Grease and line an 8″ deep round tin with baking parchment.

3. Beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

4. Add the eggs, flour, almonds, baking powder, vanilla powder, elderflower cordial & milk and beat until smooth.

5. Pour into the tin and bake for 45-50 mins until a skewer poked in the centre comes out clean.

6. Just before the cake comes out of the oven, mix together the ‘drizzle’ cordial and sugar.

7. As soon as you remove the cake from the oven, leave it in the tin and prick it all over with a skewer. Slowly pour the 'drizzle' all over the cake, allowing it to soak in.

8. Leave the cake to cool completely in the tin, then carefully lift out onto a serving plate.

I chose to decorate mine with small, white fondant flowers cut & bunched to look like the head of an elderflower surrounded by some green leaves.

Enjoy with a glass of cold, sparkling Belvoir Fruit Farms Elderflower cordial, or a lovely cup of tea.

This is a lovely, delicately flavoured & moist cake that, due to the addition of ground almonds will easily keep for a few days. If you’re lucky and it doesn’t all get eaten very quickly that is!

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Gingery ginger muffins

I threw a couple of batches of muffins together this evening.  The beauty of muffins is in the speed of preparation for me. They can be whipped up and baking within 5 or so minutes.  This recipe was adapted from one that was in an American community church recipe book that I received years ago, and which I've turned into muffins.

280g (10oz) plain flour
10ml (2tsp) baking powder
2.5ml (1/2tsp) bicarbonate of soda
2.5ml (1/2tsp) salt
5ml (1tsp) ground ginger
5ml (1tsp) ground cinnamon
85g (3oz) Demerara sugar
1 egg
90ml (3floz) corn oil
90ml (3floz) black treacle
30ml (2tbs) honey
180ml (6floz) milk

1. Preheat the oven to 190 Celsius / gas mark 5.
2. Line a muffin tin with 12 foil cases (foil cases keep the cakes more moist).
3. Sift together the flour, baking powder, bi-carb, salt, ginger & cinnamon. Stir in the sugar.
4. In a separate bowl/large jug, beat the egg then mix in the oil, black treacle, honey & milk.
5. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir to combine, making sure there are no pockets of flour left at the bottom of the bowl.  Do not beat, but stop mixing when fully combined.
6. Immediately spoon the mixture (or pour into a jug and then pour it from there) into the cases.
7. Bake for 20-25 minutes until a cocktail stick comes out clean when inserted into the centre muffins.

You can eat them plain, when still warm from the oven.
Alternatively, why not mix some lemon juice / ginger syrup with some icing sugar and drizzle this over the top of the cakes?
You can also add some chopped, crystallised ginger to the mix before baking.

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Special Agent Oso cake

Junior is a very special little boy who absolutely adores Special Agent Oso so I was asked if I could make a cake for his 3rd birthday.  First job for me was to make a Google search to find out exactly who Special Agent Oso was as my two children are much older and have outgrown such characters.

Turns our Special Agent Oso is a yellow bear!  Who would have known? Lol

This is what I created for him; a fondant bear which took an AGE to texturise. I was really pleased with the reaction I got when it was collected as they were expecting a simple, flat image, not a whole 3D character!

The sponge is an 8" vanilla with a buttercream and jam filing, covered with fondant and then decorated.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Amber's 11th birthday cake

I was asked to make a cake for a former colleague's daughter who was about to celebrate her 11th birthday. Tina and I worked together for several years but had sadly lost touch since then. Through the power of Facebook, we have thankfully been chatting and catching up again. It also turns out that both our daughters will start the same senior school in September this year so it looks likely that we won't be losing touch again.

Amber had specific requirements for her cake. It had to be white with bright coloured decoration and just HAD to have a bow! Not one to let a birthday girl down, I rose to the occasion with this two tier vanilla cake.

The top tier was a 6" round and the bottom was an 8" square. The bow was made from fondant, which was rolled very thinly and folded, supported overnight to hold its shape.

Friday, 27 July 2012

Northampton Clandestine Cake Club Meeting July 2012

What a wonderful evening last night. We held our 3rd Clandestine Cake Club meeting for the Northampton district. Our theme was (appropriately with the weather) a Summer Garden Party and that's exactly what we had!

We met at our 'secret' location which was the beautiful and characteristic home of one of our members in a beautiful Northamptonshire village. The sun was shining and her garden looked truly amazing - the perfect setting for a garden party.

There was a vast array of incredibly beautiful cakes, brought to our meeting from every corner of our county by lovely ladies (and even some gentlemen too!).

You can see the two tables, full to bursting point of these incredible cakes here:

For my cake this month, I decided to have a bit of a play with flavours that are evocative of a summer day; namely elderflower. Sadly it wasn't homemade elderflower cordial that I used, but one that I buy all year round from Belvoir Fruit Farms. I adapted a plain, ground almond sponge recipe that I use by adding elderflower cordial in place of the majority of the milk to add a subtle flavour that I hoped wouldn't bake out. Once the cake was baked and still hot from the oven, I mixed some granulated sugar with some more elderflower cordial and used it as a topping, which when dried would have soaked into the sponge leaving a wonderfully fragrant and flavoursome topping to my cake. I'm really pleased to say my recipe experiment worked perfectly too!

For decoration I cut lots and lots of tiny white flowers and stuck them to a flattened ball of fondant to simulate an elderflower head, which I surrounded by leaves, before adding two more much smaller flower heads to the cake.

A lovely evening filled with cake, friends, laughs and setting summer sun; perfect!

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