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!

Stunningly Simple …

I’m a huge fan of Nigel Slater, not least because his recipes are delicious and they ALWAYS work! This chicken recipe was taken from ‘eat‘, a perfectly pocket sized recipe book. The chicken is flattened and then liberally sprinkled with salt, the zest of lemons and limes and some chilli flakes. The grill is then used to quickly cook the chicken without it drying out. I served ours with boiled rice and steamed broccoli – for a more decadent meal next time, I think I’ll cook the rice in coconut milk:

 

To follow we had  vanilla cupcakes. I made these for my son and his school football team as the dessert at their ‘Sportsman’s Dinner’. They were topped with fudge cubes and chocolate coated popping candy!!

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!!

A Touch of Spice …

A painting with the smallest hint of spice, a mildly spiced Turkish pizza and cupcakes spiced up with zingy citrus flavours – it’s been a flavoursome week.

I’ve missed painting during the week, by the time I’ve finished work and have done all the planning, marking and tea cooking that I need to do, I’ve not felt particularly inspired. I was pleased this evening when I did feel inspired and was able to spend some time painting these beach huts in various blue/green shades, with one small hint of orange spice on a door – sometimes it’s the most simple things which are the most enjoyable to do:

We all love a home made pizza here but sometimes it is good to try something new, hence this Turkish Pizza. I found the recipe in my ‘Spice Trip’ book – I love the fact that many recipes are actually quite mild whilst being incredibly tasty – this pizza or Lahmacun as it is known in Turkey, is the perfect case in point. The spices used are cumin, coriander and chilli, they are balanced out by the use of fresh parsley and fresh mint. There is no ‘sauce’ like we’d find on a traditional pizza, instead the minced lamb is mixed with a chopped red onion and a chopped fresh tomato:

The cupcakes that I baked last week had a real citrus kick, inside, I’d put some home made lemon curd, the cakes were then topped with a lemon and lime water icing, finished with some lime zest. They were well received at my book group (we all bring something different to eat, there are in fact times when we spend more time talking about and tasting the food than we do talking about the book we have chosen, hard to believe, I know) and those that I left at home were quickly ‘enjoyed’:

Food for a Birthday Celebration …

It was my husband’s birthday during the week and we had a celebratory meal with our boys and our parents yesterday. It was a real luxury to have the day to prepare so I really made the most of it.

Our main course was a delicious chicken and herbed rice dish, served with raw green chilli as an optional extra. To follow we had a choice of three cakes. First off were the lemon slices, these were a very simple tray bake that had been sliced and then drizzled with a lemon icing.

Next, there was a Fruit Loaf, the recipe being from Paul Hollywood and was a real success. The fruits kept it moist and the lemon icing gave sweetness.

Fruit Loaf

It was no bad thing that both the Lemon Slices and the Fruit Loaf weren’t too sweet as our Rocky Road Cupcakes more than balanced them out:

Rocky Road CupcakeUnderneath was a Chocolate Cupcake, on top was a frosting that was a combination of melted marshmallow, cream, butter and icing sugar. The ‘Rocky Road’ was melted chocolate which had a variety of sweet things sprinkled and dribbled over it. Whilst these cupcakes required more time and effort than normal, they were definitely worth it!

It’s Been a While …

It really has been a while since I last posted and I’ve got lots of things to share. A combination of lots of work and my friend’s funeral have meant that I’ve not really been in the right frame of mind. However, I’ve had a lovely, relaxing weekend at home with my boys and I decided it’s time to post again.

The new header above was done today, here’s the full image:

Purple FlowersI’ve been looking at a couple of websites which permit you to upload an image (provided you have the rights to it) and create a ‘phone cover with it. I’ve used some of the above painting to do just that, I’ll let you see the finished article once it’s arrived here later this week.

There was a ‘New Moon’ here in Bristol a couple of weeks ago, it was simply a large illuminated balloon but it made the surrounding buildings look beautiful:

Here we have a sweet treat – puff pastry rolled out and lined with ground ginger, cinnamon and finely chopped apple, rolled up and then cut in to slices before being baked for about 10 minutes. A dusting if icing sugar ensured this was indeed a very sweet treat:
The morning of my friend’s funeral dawned and we were bathed in sunlight. It was a truly beautiful day and I had the tremendous honour of being one of her pall bearers, being so close to her on her final journey was incredible. Back to baking. I’d not baked a carrot cake for quite some time and I’m not sure why I baked one last weekend, I obviously had a sudden urge to make one. This one was made using Nigel Slater’s recipe from volume 1 of Tender. It’s a beautifully moist cake and the frosting is astonishing being a combination of mascarpone cheese, cream cheese, icing sugar and orange zest: This is a lemon chicken that we had mid-week. It has to be one of the tastiest chicken recipes I have ever had. It’s from the stunning book “What Katie Ate, Recipes and other Bots and Bobs’. The chicken is actually baked in the oven, first covered in a simple paprika and flour combination, then covered in a sauce made up of soy sauce, lemon juice, olive oil, balsamic vinegar and garlic: Final photo for tonight, Chocolate Cupcakes – with a difference! These had their centres removed, the holes were filled with chocolate buttercream icing, melted chocolate was then poured onto the top where it was left to set, dusted with purple sugar crystals. They were delicious – soon, when it’s my husband’s birthday, I plan to make him some of these but with salted caramel centres instead…