Thursday, 1 September 2011

Fireman Sam Birthday Cake

This cake was made for a colleague's nephew who is obsessed with Fireman Sam. I was really very pleased with it, the cake is a chocolate sponge finished with chocolate buttercream 

Tres Cath Kidston

My wedding order a couple of weeks ago was for a very rustic Victoria Sponge filled with jam, whipped cream and berries - complete with a layer of lemon drizzle. I was so paranoid that there wouldn't be enough cake that I made an absolute Goliath, necessitating emptying out my entire fridge to store it. The bottom tier is my tried and trusted adaptation of Nigella's recipe from Domestic Goddess, filled with a limoncello buttercream (yes, it was as delicious as it sounds). The top two and the cutting tier were finished off with blueberries, strawberries and blackberries from my allotment. The golden raspberries were foraged from our local Waitrose ;D

So, having loaded 4 enormous tiers of cake, a huge cakestand and all my paraphernalia into the car, I was expecting to find a cake table ready for me to set up on. What I wasn't expecting was to find that the reception venue was essentially a barn, some bales of hay and some Cath Kidston-esque decor ! And that I would end up having to construct the cake in the boot of my car, parked in the middle of a field !!!!

The Great British Bake Off

I'm just glued to The Great British Bakeoff. Mary Berry is one of my very favourite cookery writers and my Mum and I have been using her recipes for donkeys' years. Last year the programme sent me into a Victoria Sandwich Overdrive, and when I saw the Battenberg technical challenge on week one of this series, the metaphorical gauntlet was thrown. I found Mary's Coffee and Walnut version online and set about recreating it. 

 I have one of those cake tins that you can divide in about a million different ways but set it up to do two 2 x 12 inch rectangles that I could cut in half. I had an enormous bag of pecans so substituted these for the walnuts. I have to say that I felt they improved the taste. The coffee sponge, as you can see, was very dark and flavoured with a very strong espresso. The cakes are sandwiched together with espresso buttercream. The marzipan is Regalmarz, I find this rolls out so much more smoothly and evenly than the own-brand stuff you buy in the supermarket for very little extra cost. The cake is finished off with crimpers and a marzipan rose. All in all I am very pleased with how the cake turned out, apart from a slight mishap with one of the coffee sponges where a bit came off the side when removing it from the tin. 

You can find Mary's recipe here. Warning ! Once you have one slice, you won't be able to stop !!! 

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Sunday, 15 May 2011

A List Sort of a Day

I thought that I would share my planting list with you today - although this is probably more for my use next year !
Permanent fixtures
Greenhouse grape - Muscat of Alexandria
Gooseberries - Hinnomaki Yellow, Invicta and Hinnomaki Red
Red and blackcurrants
Jostaberry (Gooseberry x blackcurrant)
Strawberries & alpine strawberries
Boysen, Tay, Logan and Blackberries
2 apple trees, one unknown varietal and one Cox
1 Victoria plum
1 pear - doyenne de comice
1 cherry - summer sun
Basil - greek and italian
Oregano & marjoram
Lemon balm
Anise Hyssop
Sweet Woodruff (a german herb delicious in ice-cream, bought especially for my Mum)
Summer Savoury
Parsley - flat and curly leafed
In the Greenhouse
Padron Peppers
Galia Melon
Cucumbers - Telegraph (large) and Beth Alpha (mini cues)
Aubergine - Moneymaker
Tomatoes - 4 "strawberry" cherry toms, one beef tomato, 1 roma plum and two unknowns
Bed One
Runner beans
Dwarf french beans - Purple Queen and a green variety I've forgotten
Asparagus Peas
Peas - Swift
Sugar Snap Peas
Broad Beans
Bed Two
Kohlrabi - Purple Vienna
Beetroot - Detroit
Turnips - Tokyo Cross
Carrots - Nantes Early and a white variety
Bed Three
Onions - Stuttgarter, silverskin and red
Shallots - pink french bananas
Bed Four
Cauliflower - Romanesco
Cabbage - Filderkraut
Cavalo Nero
Purple Sprouting Broccoli - Rudolph Early
In various areas, containers and pots
Brussels Sprouts - a red variety
Potatoes - Red Duke of York, charlotte, pink fir apple, kidney, arran pilot & kestrel
Courgettes - Green Bush and Soleil Golden
Spring Onions
Butternut Squash
Mixed salad leaves
Perilla (japanese leaf)
Pak choi
Mibuna and Mizuna
Baby spinach
Growing for a new perennial bed next year:
Asparagus "Connovers Colossal"
Fiddlehead ferns
Wild garlic
Cutting Flowers
California poppies
Large tall daisies
Bush roses
Flowers for the baskets & containers

Friday, 13 May 2011

First strawberry of the year

I've had an industrious week weeding. Not exactly the most glamorous of pastimes (as my filthy nails will attest) but very necessary to keep my little plants growing well. As a special treat I awarded myself the first strawberry of the year from our greenhouse plants after a particularly dirty evening grubbing out bindweed. It was mouthwateringly delicious. I've also harvested the first salad leaves of the year (see sandwich picture !)
I've finally transplanted the tomatoes and they are really growing well after a good feed with seaweed extract. The cucumbers, aubergine and melon are all in their growing positions now and seem happy. The experimental okra & physalis are both alive and kicking, we even have buds on the okra. I'm now going to put them in a plastic jacket to up the humidity and hopefully encourage some more bushy growth. I've fed my precious grape vine with some potash so hopefully that will encourage some good flavour and growth; the only problem with the grape vine is that there is just so much growth that I don't know where to start thinning. Our fruit trees have all successfully set their fruit so as long as we can keep up a steady supply of water it looks like it's going to be a good year. The gooseberries, currants, raspberries and hybrid berries are all doing really well, apart from the tayberry which seems to have gone on strike and refuses to put forth so much as a leaf.
The Red Duke of York potatoes are coming through the soil now; I really must get my maincrop spuds in before it's too late - we're growing Kidney, Kestrel and Pink Fir Apple. I have to say that the last time I grew PFA I was really disappointed so I hope this is a better year.
The first sowing of sunflowers have been chomped by mice; hopefully the second sowing will fare somewhat better. The other flower seedlings are doing ok despite being attacked by our cats (bad cats) and the marigolds are soon destined for the root veg bed. I'm also growing nasturtiums and lavender as companion plants for the allotment in the hope that I can attract the bees from the plot opposite. We've got asters, gladioli, dahlias and freesia for cutting although the freesias still need planting. The lobelia, allysum, petunias and violas for the summer baskets have all come up now and just require potting on when someone sends me a few spare minutes and a couple of bags of compost.....

Thursday, 28 April 2011

The Old Towner Gallery

Eastbourne's New Towner Gallery is now famous as a Modern Art Gallery throughout the UK. Rumour has it that it is considered one of the best in England. The modernistic structure has been subject to lots of criticism from local residents and the contents of the building have been similarly received. While the upstart continues to go from strength to strength, the old gallery in Gildredge Park, one of the finest Georgian buildings in the South East, is falling into a sad state of disrepair. Ivy now chokes the hedges and the weeds have taken over the garden where I once watched an outdoor production of Hay Fever. The main gallery building, where the works of Eric Ravilious once hung, is now covered in scaffold, graffiti and tarpaulin. The state of the building is now so bad that it has been put on the At Risk register. What a sad end to a once vibrant community building
An estate agent's notice now seeks a builder to convert this beautiful building to flats. Flats, flats, more flats. Why can we not use it for something that we can all enjoy ?

Lynne's Favourite Chicken

The following recipe is one of my Mum's best "cold lunch" offerings. It's is similar in theme to Coronation Chicken but it's much lighter and wetter and, in my opinion, much tastier. It's easy to make and apart from the chicken you can make it pretty much from the contents of your kitchen cupboards. It's very quick to make and gets eaten even quicker. Serve with a rice salad, some lettuce and fresh rolls.

What a Scorcher !

Did you enjoy some of the wonderful weather over the Easter weekend ? We had a lovely time at my in laws and Kitty certainly enjoyed the garden. She burrowed in the mud, attacked my mother-in-law's flowers and threw fallen camellia petals all over the garden ! Her Easter present was a push along lawnmower which she pushed round and round the garden. Apparently it's only suitable for over 3s..........
The allotment is taking shape well and our boysenberry is particularly bonny with lots of foliage and flowers. I finally managed to get the redcurrant and blackcurrant bushes planted in the fruit frame. You can imagine my surprise, when digging the hole for the redcurrant, to find that I had dug right into the middle of an ant nest. The currant seems to be suffering no ill effects as yet.
We have experimented with growing okra this year; as it's notoriously bad tempered I was worried when I transplanted the seedlings into the greenhouse. This worry appeared justified when I went down the following day to water them - they had all flopped. Fortunately they seem to have perked up now and are packing on some new growth. I also transplanted the physalis and padron pepper seedlings over the weekend and they are also looking happy in their new homes. Our grape vine resembles something out of Day of the Triffids and I am soon going to have to thin out the immature grape bunches.
The seeds I sowed last week (dill, borage, salad leaves, broad beans, snow & asparagus peas, brussels, leeks, courgette and gherkins) are a bit of a mixed bag. The beans and peas are resolutely refusing to budge an inch, the herbs are doing well and the courgette is already on it's 2nd set of leaves.
It all sounds great, doesn't it. Industrious.What you can't see is the two raised beds growing only weeds, the huge box of seeds still to be sown, the chitting potatoes that need planting out into an as-yet undetermined area, the tomato seedlings that desperately need transplanting and the myriad of other jobs on the Allotment To Do List. Oh well, maybe this year will be the one where I get my wish of an extra 2 hours in the day.....

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Snack time with Kitty Part 1

I used to buy "energy balls" from our local health food shop for my daughter as a snack. She absolutely loved them but at £1.45 a pop they didn't feature on the menu too often ! Fortunately for the food budget I found a recipe in an old Good Food magazine which I have adapted to suit me. It's dead easy and only takes a few minutes to whizz together and even better, costs only about £7 for the whole recipe. All you need is a food processor.
100g blanched whole almonds
500g ready to eat whole dried figs
80g diced ready to eat apricots
2 tbsp mixed seeds - hemp, linseed, pumpkin, sesame etc
50g dried blueberries
1 tbsp honey
generous pouring of pollen grains (you can buy these in health food shops)
toasted coconut to coat
Process the almonds until roughly chopped and tip into a bowl. Whizz the figs in a processor until it forms a rather unpleasant looking paste. Tip the figgy squidge into the almonds with the other ingredients and get in amongst it with your hands to mix it all up. Form into small balls and roll in coconut. Makes about 20-24. Store in an airtight container. You can adapt the fruit/seeds/nuts to suit your tastes
"Yummy, Mummy !"