A Day of Celebration …

It’s been a while but I think I’m rediscovering my creative ‘mojo’, certainly in the kitchen anyway. We had family for lunch yesterday to help celebrate a range of birthdays which are all really close together. It’s something we do every year but couldn’t last year due to my dad’s ill health. It was wonderful to have him there yesterday alongside my mum and both of my parents-in-law, as well as my husband and boys.
I really enjoyed getting everything ready – we’ve had our roof re-done and the scaffolding only came down on Saturday, luckily the sun shone and we were able to open the doors from the dining room onto the garden:
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So far as the food was concerned, I made a mac ‘n’ cheese with red peppers and chorizo, buffalo inspired chicken, a potato salad and green beans. I made the mac ‘n’ cheese first thing in the morning which freed me up later on to concentrate on other things. These were the food choices of my 2 boys as one has just had his birthday and the other will be celebrating in just a few weeks time.
Desert came in the form of cake and plenty of it. We had rocky road cupcakes – even the buttercream icing contained melted marshmallow!

Rocky Road Cupcakes

Alongside the cupcakes we had freshly made doughnuts. I used a Mary Berry recipe and although it was originally intended for filled jam doughnuts, it worked really well for ring doughnuts too:

Rocky Road Cupcakes and doughnuts

To finish off we had some delicious rhubarb vodka which I bought a few weeks ago at the Abergavenny Food Festival – nobody else liked it quite as much as I did but then that’s no bad thing as there’s plenty left for me to enjoy!

Cake, Découpage and Quilting …

I’ve not posted for a while for various reasons but mainly because I started a fantastic new job at the beginning of September and more importantly, my Dad was taken seriously ill a few weeks ago and whilst it’s been a huge roller coaster of emotions and worry, there are some hopeful signs. Needless to say, I’ve not really been feeling particularly creative.

Over the past week though, I have had a go at my very first quilt and whilst some of the stitching is somewhat random, I am quite pleased with it as a first attempt:

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Whilst trying to take a decent photo of it, someone decided to ‘help’:

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I’d really like to make a large quilt for our bed but think I need to practice on some more smaller projects first.

Baking has not featured much here recently apart from the cakes made for my sons’ birthdays – they are just over 3 weeks apart, with mine thrown in the middle for good measure! My younger son loves cheesecake and he chose a raspberry ripple cheesecake as his birthday cake:

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My older son’s cakes are coming in 2 batches, the first were salted caramel cupcakes, he chose these because he was out on the evening of his birthday and is away this weekend, we will have the last 4 when he comes home later today. The 2nd/proper cake will be made next week when we are all home to enjoy it:

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I’m finally posting about our découpage fireplace. I did this way back at the end of the summer holidays, it took me over 5 hours and it was one of those things where I really wasn’t sure whether it was going to turn out ok or not. Originally, the tiles were a green/grey muddy colour and looked horrible, having lived with them for 13+ years, I decided to do something about them. At first, I was going to spray paint the whole fireplace purple, fortunately, I decided against this and went for découpage instead. I know it won’t be to everyone’s taste but I love it. The fireplace looks so much better now, we never have a fire in there – it’s in our dining room and anyone sitting next to it at the table would severely overheat !! The fireplace now looks like a proper focal point of the room:

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Madelaines …

We’ve just returned from a wonderful holiday in France, to make that holiday feeling last just a little bit longer I made some madelaines – any excuse !
The recipe was from Rachel Khoo’s ‘Little Paris Kitchen’ and included the addition of a raspberry into each madelaine plus some home made lemon curd once the cakes had been removed from the oven:

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It took several attempts to get the quantity of batter right – I kept putting way too much in and the cakes overflowed their moulds – I got it just about right in the end though.

These tasted lovely and light, still warm from the oven.
I wonder what I can cook tomorrow to extend that holiday feeling !

A Birthday Feast …

It was my Dad’s birthday this week and yesterday, he and my Mum came for a celebratory lunch. I got up early (really early for a Saturday) and spent a lovely morning preparing, baking and cooking. Cooking without a set time limit (lunch would begin between 1pm and 2pm) was great as there was never any real time pressure.
To begin, we had caramelised red onion and goat’s cheese tartlets:

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Our main course was called ‘Rigas’s Lamb’, it was a slow roasted leg of lamb served with macaroni cooked in tomato passata. I really wasn’t sure about this recipe, I hoped it would work. As it turned out, it really did work, the fresh and dried mint added an extra layer of flavour:

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It wouldn’t have been a proper celebration of my Dad’s birthday without some form of meringue, I decided on an ‘ultimate’ pavlova – strawberries and raspberries mixed with some meringue and double cream (Eton Mess), on top of a large meringue base:

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As an alternative/addition to the pavlova, I made some Salted Caramel Cupcakes:

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I think we will need to be on meagre rations for the rest of the week!!

Bank Holiday Weekend …

Our bank holidays here in the UK have a bit of a reputation for bad weather and traffic jams, I think that this one has been the exception here in Bristol. The sun has shone throughout and the furthest we have driven has been around 3 miles.
On Saturday, I made 10 napkins with some very summery beach hut material, perfect for picnics:

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Whilst the sewing bit was very straightforward, the measuring and precise cutting that were needed did take some concentration!

Yesterday one of my boys asked if we could bake something together. I passed him my Paul Hollywood book and asked him to choose something. His choice was a fruit loaf (or rather, 2 fruit loaves):

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The result is a delicious, moist, fruity bread, perfect for tea last night and breakfast this morning!!

Today, we went to the BBC Food Festival, we arrived quite early which was just as well because it became really busy by the time we left. It was a great foodie treat with a huge range of artisan producers. I really liked the fact that at most of the stalls, food was cooked to order and was definitely worth the wait. The boys (including my husband) tried scotch eggs, sausage rolls, Jamaican jerk chicken wraps, BBQ chicken, a selection of samosas, cider (produced just a few miles away from where we live). I had a lovely latte and treated myself to this beautiful water jug:

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All in all, a great bank holiday weekend – hope yours has been just as good wherever you are and whatever the weather.

Jammie Dodgers …

The shop bought biscuits taste yummy, surely a home made version wouldn’t even come close? I like a challenge but, as it turned out, this wasn’t much of a challenge at all. Having looked through various cook books, I decided to look online and found this recipe from Karen Burns-Booth over at Lavender and Lovage.
This recipe blew the shop bought version out of the water – the shortbread itself was (yes, was – they’ve all been eaten now …) deliciously buttery and crumbly, the addition of vanilla extract left a lingering taste, a hint of vanilla that smelled better than any pricey eau de cologne, simply delicious.
I made half with strawberry jam and half with raspberry, hard to say which was the tastier of the two but think raspberry might just have had the edge.

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Coconut Comfort …

Work and life in general has left little if no time (or, if I’m honest, inclination) for blogging recently, now that we have 2 weeks at home I’m determined to rectify this.
Coconut Macaroons – I remember making them many years ago during ‘home economics’, yes, it was that long ago! They never tasted like these though:

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This recipe came from Leon, Baking and Puddings and I think that it is the addition of honey and vanilla extract which makes them completely irresistible – I’ve not put them away in an airtight container simply because they won’t last long at all in our house!