Blooming lovely …

Today was the first day in what seems like an eternity but is in fact only about 3 weeks, that it has not rained all day long. I managed to get in to the garden where I was able to photograph some of the apple blossom that began to appear a couple of weeks ago. Luckily the rain and wind hadn’t managed to destroy it completely.

This is my favourite photo, followed by variations created using ‘Big Aperture’ – I may well use some of these for another ‘blossom’ inspired painting:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I think my favourite is ‘blossom purple’, the 3rd photo down, I really like the subtle differences in shade.

 

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Praise for ‘The Little Paris Kitchen’ …

I know I have mentioned this book by Rachel Khoo before, but it’s worth repeating! Each recipe that I cook from this book is utterly delicious.

Today, for lunch, we had the egg, cheese and ham muffins. They were amazing, really filling, easy to prepare and enjoyed by all:

 

They are clearly not your traditional muffin, but they are baked in a muffin tin! Crust free slices of white bread were rolled flat and then brushed with melted butter, they were then pushed in to the muffin tray so that the bread formed the ‘case’. Inside each bread case I put a thin slice of ham followed by an egg yolk with some of the white, followed by a couple of tablespoons of a thick cheese sauce – I used a Comté cheese which was really strong and made the sauce go quite string-like. Each ‘muffin’ was topped with a little grated cheese, they were then baked for about 10-15 minutes. These treats made a very tasty change from sandwiches!

 

I did the weekly food shop this morning and decided to take a chance by opening my recipe book at 2 random pages. I was really lucky because our main course of Lemon Sole with Burnt Butter, Parsley and Capers was unbelievably quick and easy, this enabled me to take the time needed to make ‘Millefeuille‘!

First off, the main course – the fish literally took 5 minutes to cook and it was kept warm whilst I made the burnt butter to drizzle over it. We could really taste the zing of the lemon juice that was added to the butter, I was really pleased I decided to add the capers, I wasn’t sure if my boys would like them but they demolished their tea as if they hadn’t been fed for a week! A real hit that will be made again soon:

 

Next we had the Millefeuille. I’ve never made these before and consequently didn’t roll the pastry out quite thinly enough to get the proper effect. I did however manage to slice each rectangle of puff pastry in half, I then filled the middle with vanilla crème pâtissièrre, apple purée and lightly whipped double cream:

 

Yum!!

In praise of the humble cupcake …

My boys will soon be returning from swimming – they’ve all become incredibly competitive and are swimming further and further each week. One thing remains the same though – they always return ravenously hungry!

Today, they will return home to a delicious and succulent roast chicken. It is roasting with a ‘stuffing’ of a lemon (that has been punctured with a skewer all over), some butter and some oregano and rosemary that were growing in my herb pot outside the kitchen door. A drizzle of olive oil over the top and a quick seasoning of salt and pepper and the chicken was covered in foil, ready for the oven.

To follow the roast, we will be having the subject of this post – the humble cupcake. Cupcakes seemed to take the world by storm (inasmuch as a cake can storm the world) over recent years. When I ran my foodie business, before my return to teaching, I baked, decorated and sold all manner of cupcakes, decorated with a vast range of fondant creations. Today however, I wanted to go back to basics :

Well, the boys have just arrived home and already they are tucking in!!

My favourite and most reliable cupcake recipe uses the all-in-one method and for 24 cakes I used 300g butter/soft margarine, 300g sugar, 350g self-raising flour, 2 tsp of vanilla extract, or the seeds from 1 vanilla pod and 6 eggs.

In theory these keep well for around 4-5 days, in an airtight container – in this household they probably won’t manage that long!

 

Springtime in Paris …

There really is no where like it.

I’ve been wanting to paint something incorporating the shape of the Eiffel Tower but wasn’t at all sure how to go about it. Yesterday I drew what can only be described as a squiggle and from that literally grew the painting that I did this afternoon.

Here it is:

I’ve been reliably informed by my critics here at home, that I should not add a colour wash as a background. I think they are probably right, any additional colour may take away from the very delicate pink of the cherry blossom.

I’m really pleased with my efforts today – I never knew that I could ‘do’ delicate!!

 

Here is the ‘squiggle’ that I drew yesterday:

 

Home is where the ART is …

I’ve been reliably informed (by my children) that there are now 29 of my pictures on the walls of our house. I was really shocked and a bit embarrassed to tell the truth. My children though are amazing and both agreed that they wanted to see more!

To begin to fulfil their wish, I mounted my latest and current favourite painting on to some lovely paper and then simply framed it:

 

A Favourite Place …

Bristol Docks have featured many times in my ‘learning to paint with watercolour’ journey. They look different each time we visit as the boats moored there are constantly changing.

My latest painting was inspired by the view we had when, having cycled from home, we decided to stop awhile, have a lovely coffee and enjoy the view:

I really like how the colours have turned out and I’m glad that I chose to not be too precise with the edges!

These are a couple of the photos that I took from the coffee shop that we sat outside:

 

Mousse aux éclats de chocolat …

 

otherwise known as Chocolate Mousse!

This took me about an hour to make this morning and was left to set in the fridge until dinner time this evening. I used the recipe in Rachel Khoo’s ‘The Little Paris Kitchen’ book. It was quite complex to make in that there were different mixtures to prepare which then had to be carefully combined. There was some crème pâtissière (pastry cream) made with cocoa powder instead of the usual vanilla pod, some whipped cream and some chocolate meringue. Each individual mixture was delicious in its own right but once they were combined, they were truly amazing. This is certainly a dish that I would do again, especially when friends and relatives visit. Next time, my ‘critics’ have said that perhaps I could layer it with some plain chocolate mousse and some white chocolate mousse, all prepared in the same way!!

Here’s what it looked like – incidentally we each only managed half of our mousse, the other half is back in the fridge ready for tomorrow!

Little extra touches such as smearing the inside of each glass with a tiny amount of butter and then coating them in cocoa powder made this chocolate mousse one to remember.