Category: Food

It’s only ‘Bubble and Squeak’ but I like it…

I know it’s not glamorous, or trendy or even expensive but I find there to be something incredibly comforting in a simple bowl of bubble and squeak.

For the uninitiated – maybe you were raised by wolves? – bubble and squeak is basically leftover potatoes and vegetables, mashed up and gently fried until crispy and golden. It is often served after a roast dinner – using up remaining vegetables, and is a staple at Christmas time in the days following Christmas, when it is delicious served alongside all those cold meats that hang around for weeks!

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It was served a lot during World War Two when rationing meant families had to work hard to make small amount of food last across several meals and very little went in the bin. I find that kind of thinking very appealing and hate to throw any foodstuffs away – I’m always looking for recipes that used the leftover, the dogeared and the slightly stale.

I love my bubble and squeak with a big dollop of brown sauce and veggie sausages. How do you take yours?

It is with a thought for the wolf-raised I say:

It’s only vintage but I like it!

It’s only a Wedding Cake but I like it…

Inspiration for my cake is probably down to one lady : Nikki McWilliams. I’ve loved Nikki’s biscuity goodies since I found her on Folksy several years ago. Since then she’s gone pro with the biscuit empire and her range of goodies has increased, tempting me each time.

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I love her range because it takes me back to a time when a custard cream could solve most any problem. Grazed knee? I prescribe a Bourbon biscuit. Wasp sting? Jammie Dodger. And so on.

People pay crazy money for wedding cakes, so as a keen baker I pretty soon began trying to figure out if I was up to making my own. Mother in Law Barbara – who’s an amazing baker – was knocking up a three tiered beauty for her neighbour’s daughter when we were up North at Christmas and she assured me I could definitely make my own. She lent me a cake tin, gave me an icing smoothing tool and talked me through the finer points of buttercream.

I found this recipe on BBC Good Food and it had lots of good ratings and tips on how to make it. I felt confident I could make and ice three cakes – but what about the decoration?

Then comes my friend Becca, who bought me these British biscuit cutters for Christmas because they “Screamed Polly at me!”

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The minute I saw them I knew my design was ready to go!

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I think I found the cake the most stressful part of the wedding! It had to be left until close to the day and I am not a last minute person. The bottom tier chocolate cake was an enormous mixture and climbed out of the tin, the middle lemon layer did not rise anywhere near enough to be sliced into three and the little top layer fruit cake seemed a bit stodgy despite extra time in the oven. Then I had to ice all three layers and hope I didn’t mess it up too much.

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The cookie cutters were great and the detailing was perfect. I used Renshaw’s icing for the bourbons and it had a lovely rich chocolatey taste.

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The design in my head was very simple, just a layer of biscuit shapes around the bottom of each tier and a specially customised cushion from Nikki McWilliams on the top.

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That bottom layer of chocolate cake was so dense that those two tiers alone weighed a tonne! I had to enlist help to carry it to the car…

I delivered it to the venue, explained how to fit it together and handed over my special topper.

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Here it is, beautifully captured by Flora Westbrook!  That one wonky Bourbon upsets me – it wasn’t wonky when it left my house, it’s a good job I’m not a perfectionist! I finished my top tier with little hearts and a gold bourbon. I love Nikki’s cushion – it sets it off perfectly and brings in our new surname perfectly!

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We chopped it up and it was served as dessert – I was determined it was going to get eaten given all the headaches it had caused me! Wedding cake is so expensive and seems so often to go to waste. I had good reviews and the fruit cake in particular had a beautiful flavour. I’m proud of it and for a first attempt at anything like that I think it went pretty well.

It is with a grateful nod to the cake Gods I say:

It’s only vintage but I like it!

It’s only Haggis but I like it…

The Dr and I are away this weekend so we had our Burns Night Supper early.

I’ve never made Neeps and Tatties before (or eaten haggis if I’m honest!), but a google of the recipe told me that Neeps aren’t turnips as I’d assumed – but swede! I roasted some chunks of potato and then added some boiled swede, gave it a rough mash and put it back in the oven until it was all golden. Then I covered it, chilled it and later that day returned it to the oven dotted with some butter.image

As I’m veggie I got a vegetarian haggis from my butcher. It said it was made from oatmeal and had fruit and nuts in it. I had to boil it in it’s bag for 40minutes. image

I did like the Neeps and Tatties but I’m afraid I won’t be in a hurry to try the veggie haggis again. I think it lacked some seasoning and was rather bland tasting – a bit like fruity porridge. A little too sweet and in need of some herbs or pepper.imageAll in all it wasn’t my most successful meal but I tried something new and I followed a tradition. I like traditions. Have a good Burn’s Night and I hope your meals are more successful than mine!

It is with a funny taste in my mouth I say:

It’s only vintage but I like it…

It’s only vintage glassware but I like it…

imageCharity shop shopping is a fickle mistress. Sometimes you find lots, sometimes you can go months without finding anything. I’ve been through a dry spell and lost heart a little bit.

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This week I nipped out to the post office at lunchtime and decided I had time to pop into one or two charity shops. I found a lovely Meakin teapot in Oxfam but the £9.95 price tag seemed rather steep. Next door in British Heart Foundation I found three Britvic glass and three CherryB glasses priced just £2. I love vintage glassware and have some Britvic tumblers that my Mum bought me.imageThey have so much character and I knew I had to have them! imageWhen I got them to the till the manageress gave me a kind of sideways look and asked if I was interested in retro glasses. I confirmed that I was and she said she had six Babycham glasses out in the back room that she hadn’t put out yet.imageI don’t really need to tell you my response do I? I’m very happy with my vintage glassware for just £4 in total.  Now I just need to host a little winter party to make the most of my beautiful new glasses. What are your best charity shop bargains?

It is with a plan forming I say:

It’s only vintage but I like it…

It’s only a Madeleine but I like it…

My never-baked-it-before challenge this week was French Madeleines. I’d treated myself to the special Madeleine pan with my Christmas money.image

I chose the recipe, after much deliberation, from this Guardian article: http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/sep/03/how-to-make-the-perfect-madeleines . I must admit this is not a last minute treat – it does require effort over a number of hours. I think you’d need to put aside a morning to make them due to the fact you have to chill the batter overnight, chill the tray, then add the batter and chill for an hour before cooking, then repeat part of the process if, like me, you only have one Madeleine tin.

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You have to be quite specific with your oven timings too – another few seconds and they begin to burn. I was amazed to collect them after exactly 9 minutes and find they each had that perfect little bump in the centre. I think they were perhaps a little too golden, but for a first attempt I think that’s pretty good!

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A little dust dust of icing sugar and I carefully arranged them on my Beryl plate. I’ve always loved the look of these – perfect little scallop shells. And although they were pretty high intensity to make, I definitely think they were worth it. A lovely buttery flavour, very light and so pretty! They went down well with my Sunday visitors and with my work colleagues on Monday.

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I also have have a new charity shop mission – a vintage Madeleine pan, so I don’t have to wait an hour between batches!

It is with a keen eye in the bric-a-brac section I say:

It’s only vintage but I like it!

It’s only Xmas Rocky Road but I like it…

Christmas is all about pushing the boat out, right? Going that extra mile? Finding a few special things to add to the ordinary fare. I was researching recipes before the event and I found Nigella’s Christmas Rocky Road ( www.nigella.com/recipes/view/christmas-rocky-road ) recipe. It looked rather good, containing crushed amaretti biscuits, Brazil nuts and whole cherries.

First I crushed the amaretti until some was sandy and some chunky. Then I roughly chopped the Brazil nuts too.
image In a basin over hot water I’d melted butter and milk and dark chocolate.image i added this to my biscuit And Brazil nut foundation and stirred it all to mix.imageAdd some mini marshmallows and whole glacé cherries and this calorific dream is almost a reality…imagePress it into trays and allow to set in the fridge – it does make quite a quantity so make sure you give some out to your guests as they leave!imageI served it as Nigella suggested doused in icing sugar and edible glitter, and populated with little reindeer! My Gran’s cake plate got another outing too!
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It it was rather delicious, the almond of the biscuits being a good antidote to the sweetness of the marshmallows. I’m not usually a fan of glacé cherries but they were actually very good in this recipe. It was a hit and I think I’ll add it to my festive repertoire, although I may halve the recipe as I fear it has accounted for several pounds I may have gained in the last two weeks!

It is with a sideways glance at the bathroom scales I say:

It’s only vintage but I like it!

It’s only a Trifle but I like it…

I’m blogging about this because it is the perfect vintage dessert. It’s been around for centuries now and the version most often found on the British table is not a delicate or sensual thing – it is a bolshy technicolor Pat Butcher of a pudding. French trifles are delicate, vanilla scented custardy delights, I bet the Italians do something subtle with feather light sponge, but no. Not for us. imageFor the base of a classic British trifle you need a block of rubbery jelly, some trifle sponges and a tin of fruit cocktail. You know, the tin full of beige lumps that may have once been fruit? If you’re lucky you’ll find two half cherries in there.
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Get a nice glass dish, layer your trifle sponges in the bottom, ladle on your fruit and cover with jelly.

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Let this set in the fridge, then make up some Bird’s custard. Radioactive yellow custard, from a cardboard tub. I find that if you use nice fresh custard from the supermarket, a skin doesn’t form and therefore it’s hard to spread the double cream on top.image

This is the final step, use a flat knife to spread double cream over your custard layer, and then decorate the top as you wish. When I was a kid hundreds and thousands were the only option. Now I like to grate some chocolate on.

The thing is, even though I’ve been so disparaging about this dessert, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love the colours, the layers, the big squelching spoonfuls and the general tackiness of it. I think it’s one of the first desserts I learned to make and I’ve made very few changes over the years to how I make it. It’s always an event too. Oooh, a trifle. Nothing more exciting to have proudly sitting in the back of your fridge. Go on, have a go! I dare you…

It is with the gauntlet thrown down I say:

It’s only vintage but I like it!

It’s only a Sausage Roll but I like it…

It’s that time of year when serious snacking is going on everywhere. I am not one to be outdone and nor should you be. No Christmas buffet is complete without a sausage roll or two. I’m aware these can be bought for pence but those beige, flabby offerings won’t be gracing my table. I’m harking back to the days when a buffet would have been home baked. Follow my simple steps for a superior sausage roll.

Take one sheet of ruff puff pastry from the chilled section of the supermarket. Smother it in some coarse grain mustard. Or some marmite. Or some pesto. Anything you think will enhance your sausage roll. The Dr (my fella) is a mustard fiend so we’re going coarse grain here…

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Next choose some good quality sausages, I’m lucky to have an award winning butcher just a minute up the road and their sausages really are fab – well, so the Dr tells me, as a vegetarian I can’t eat them but I do like supporting small businesses. So, cut your bangers in half and roll them in a strip of mustard encrusted pastry. Seal with a little cold water and place on a baking tray.

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Brush the tops with egg wash (a beaten egg) to make them nice and golden and pop in the oven at 180 degrees for about 20 minutes.

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When they look golden brown and rather like something you’d like to mash into your mouth take them out and let them cool.

Don’t thank me. It’s a just a little treat your friends and family will love you for. Enjoy!

It is with buffet plans formulating I say:

It’s only vintage but I like it!

It’s only a Mince Pie but I like it…

The mince pie is one of my favourite festive treats and it’s so easy to make.

You can really cheat and buy your pastry and mincemeat. Or, like me, you can semi-cheat and make your pastry but buy your mincemeat! My pastry recipe comes from the trusty Be-Ro book ( www.be-ro.co.uk/recipe/showrec34.html ) and I speed up the process by using my food processor. Just make sure your pastry rests in the fridge before using and handle it as little as possible when you’re cooking.

I buy my mincemeat in the supermarket and don’t know anyone who makes their own. I have seen TV chefs adding to the shop bought stuff in recent years. Quiet a nice idea and a good way of improving it and making it suit your tastes.

I use a mini muffin pan from Pampered Chef ( www.pamperedchef.co.uk ) for mine, I have a little tart shaper from them too which works a treat after a little practice.

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 A little snowy dusting of icing sugar and you’re good to go. The house always smells amazing during and after mince pie baking. I would definitely recommend it. Plus there’s that smug feeling when you offer someone the plate and they say “Did you make these?”.

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It is with a rich fruit and spice scented house I say:

It’s only vintage but I like it!

It’s only a Christmas Pudding but I like it…

So Stir up Sunday is here and I’m about to start making my pudding using my sixpence from the Royal Mint. It does feel lovely to be upholding traditions that my grandparents and their parents would have taken part in. It arrived on Friday and it’s lovely – a little silver coin that can be added to my pud (after baking is safer).

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It came with a recipe for a traditional pud, but I think I’ll use a different one. Most of my family aren’t too keen on the traditional pud and the last few years we’ve baked this Chocolate Orange pudding recipe that we found online www.allrecipes.co.uk/recipe/24680/chocolate-christmas-pudding.aspx

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I’m about to start baking and must say I’m looking forward to tasting it. It is not quite as dark and heavy as your average Christmas pud and a little sweeter with the chocolate and orange notes coming through. It’s a good choice for a family Christmas – more likely to be finished by the little ones!

I shall share pics when it’s done!

It is with an aroma of oranges I say:

It’s only vintage but I like it!