Category: Food

It’s only a Victoria Sponge but I like it…

Another challenge. This time it is not really a #neverbakedit challenge, but more a #neverbakeditsuccessfully challenge. So when the Dr casually asked “Are we baking a cake this weekend?” (We? WE?) and requested a Victoria sponge, I did a little bit of research.

What has happened to me previously is that I have diligently, creamed, mixed, sifted, lined, greased and baked, only to be left with something resembling two eight inch rich tea biscuits. They taste great but don’t exactly look successful. So I had a little google. Mary Berry was there of course with her method where she just mixes all the ingredients. The main thing I noticed was that the amount of ingredients in the Be-Ro recipe I had been using was about half that of all the others that seemed to exist. Also that I think I may have been putting my mixture into 8 inch rather than 7inch tins. Oops.

Rookie mistakes perhaps, but the aim of this is to get better at baking and I think I am. I used this recipe http://www.lovefood.com/guide/recipes/17888/victoria-sponge-recipe. It uses double the quantities of my Be-Ro recipe and calls for 8inch tins. I was careful not to over mix as that is apparently to blame for non-rising cakes!

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I’ll let you judge the results for yourselves!

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I ended up up with two incredible sponges, which I let cool and then slathered raspberry jam (Tesco’s own is rather good for now, until I have a kitchen to boil up my own) on one half and sandwiched them together.

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It tastes every bit as good as it looks and I had forgotten just how good a plain old Victoria sponge can be. I took a few slices to work and everyone agreed this is the recipe we will use when baking for our VE Day party this week. The Dr just polished off two big slices and I can confirm I will be making this again. I have found my perfect Victoria sponge recipe.

It is with a satisfied smile I say:

It’s only vintage but I like it…

 

 

It’s only Madeira cake but I like it…

My latest never-baked-it challenge was a Madeira cake. I was a bit half hearted about it as I’m sure the last time I had it was about 1994 and an elderly rellie fed me a slice, it was quite dry and dusty and by the end there was more on the plate than in my mouth…

I am trying to cover all the basic vintage cake recipes and improve my baking technique in the process so I decided to give it a go none the less. I used this recipe from the BBC Good Food website. I love this website because of the review options – if the recipe has lots of votes it’s probably a winner! http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/1940701/madeira-loaf-cake

It was an easy make. Or at least it would be if I actually had a decent electric whisk. One that wasn’t in storage. The one I have is an attachment for a hand held blender thing and it’s pants. It just flings sugar everywhere. My kitchen tiles are now nicely pebbledashed in butter and sugar. I’m just too stubborn to buy one because I already own one!

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It had the zest of a whole lemon in it and 50g of ground almonds, both of which gave it a lovely flavour. The lemon added lots of moisture and flavour and the almonds gave it a nice dense crumb. It has a gorgeous golden brown crust too, which is strangely satisfying!

It rose beautifully in the oven, and became a towering monster of a loaf. I was very proud of it.

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I was made even more proud by the fact that the Dr, who is not really a big cake eater, ate 3 big doorstops of it in one sitting. He kept carving off another chunk and giving me a guilty glance. I think my title of Domestic Goddess can no longer be disputed. My mum and sister popped over one evening this week and I made them a Lancashire hotpot followed by slices of a second Madeira cake. And it went down very well. The Dr and I really enjoyed this dense, moist lemony monster and I think it’ll become a regular.

 

In other news life handed me lots of lemons last week and I have been a bit quiet and lacked the energy to blog.

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Things have picked up a bit, I’m feeling loads better health wise and the house sale may even be back on the cards, although I’m not going to get too excited! Please keep everything crossed for me, and my advice, for what it’s worth, is don’t buy a house off an unpredictable muppet!

It is with a sage look I say:

It’s only vintage but I like it!

It’s only Mary Berry but I like it…

You can’t fail to have heard of the Berry – especially not in the last few years.

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Food writer and TV presenter Mary’s career has been long and varied and I first saw her face inside my Mum’s Hamlyn All-Colour Cookbook.

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This dog eared book lived in the kitchen and it’s pages were dry and dusty from from flour and from being propped up near the cooker. It had been well thumbed and, some of the recipe numbers had been circled in pen – an indication that this was a recipe Mum had tried! I liked the bold technicolour images, although most of the food – especially the desserts, did not look like anything we ever ate! I even ended up buying my own copy later in life when I was trying to learn to cook. It was Mary Berry’s first published cookbook and she has since gone on to write over 70, selling more than 5 million copies.

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She has been most notably on our screens in recent years as one of the judges on The Great British Bake Off. I love this TV series and watch avidly. Her rapport with fellow judge Paul Hollywood and her good grace at the ribbing of hosts Mel and Sue just make her seem like the loveliest lady and really good sport. Her baking prowess cannot be denied – nary a soggy bottom gets past Mary and her penchant for a drop of alcohol in a bake makes me giggle every time!

She’s also become something of a style icon, some of her outfits selling out after she’s worn them on TV. There are various entries on fashion websites with people trying to find out where Mary’s clothes are from!

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I loved her appearance on Back in Time for Dinner recently – she popped up to sell the family an electric oven! A job that she actually had early in her career. She explained that an oven would have been set up in a village hall and Mary would go along and, in front of an audience, make a Victoria sponge to demonstrate this new technology.

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Mary’s had such a long career now and hasn’t been far from our screens in all that time. She comes across as wise and unflappable but never patronising. On GBBO she is always fair but kind and carries herself with style and humour. I long to bake a Victoria Sandwich half that good.

Mary – we salute you!

It is with a culinary desire I say:

It’s only vintage but I like it!

It’s only coffee cake but I like it…

The funny thing is – I don’t drink coffee. Well, maybe once or twice a year if I’m very hungover or tired and really need a hit to get me through. But for some reason when I saw this recipe I really fancied making it – I think it’s because it’s the first coffee cake recipe I’ve seen with whole spoonfuls of coffee in it!

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Cut Out and Keep (http://www.cutoutandkeep.net) is the brainchild of Cat Morley. She’s been running the website since she was at Uni and it’s a great place to discover craft projects and then share your own versions of them. I’ve used it lots and hope to lots more in the future when I finally have some room to make a mess!

Anyway, the coffee cake was one of my favourite type of cake recipes as it just involves pretty much mixing everything up in a bowl and then putting it in a cake tin. This, I can do! I bought Dr P some nice filter coffee from an independent coffee shop for Xmas so two generous spoonfuls went into the mix!

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Cat didn’t specify which type of flour so I assumed it was plain flour, due to the other raising agents in it. I put it in a loaf tin, which again seemed to work. It made a very rich and quite dense cake which had a proper coffee hit – not one of those springy, pale brown coffee cakes with a few drops of coffee essence. It was another of my never-baked-it challenges and I’m pleased with the results. As is often the way, I had a few slices and then took the rest to work, it disappeared quickly!

Check out Cut Out and Keep, and maybe try the cake too – let me know how you get on!

It is with a sizeable caffeine hit I say:

It’s only vintage but I like it!

It’s only Bird’s Custard but I like it…

I do love the story of Bird’s Custard. Did you know that Alfred Bird invented Bird’s custard powder in 1837 because his wife was allergic to eggs? His egg free custard powder became so popular that he opened a factory in Birmingham where they produced the custard powder and the newly invented baking powder too.

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Bird’s company were one of the first to use promotional items and brightly coloured advertising campaigns, making their brand very recognisable. We always had one of the blue, red and yellow tins with the three birds motif languishing in the back of a kitchen cupboard. It was most often pulled out the gloom and the lid prised off at Christmas or Easter to add a custard layer to the trifle we always made.

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I keep a tin in my cupboard too. I’m a fan of custard with my crumble, with a chopped banana or even a slice or two of Swiss roll. It’s very comforting and even though buying fresh custard is now very easy, there are still times when the taste  and consistency of Bird’s is what I want.

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I love old fashioned promotional products. Whether original or reproduction I find them very appealing. My kitchen utensils sit in a Colman’s Mustard pot (no idea how old – a car boot sale find) and somewhere in storage there’s a Bisto gravy jug which is rather lovely.

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I discovered this range of retro Bird’s kitchenalia in a museum gift shop during a recent visit with my class. I managed to walk away without a purchase but I’ve since looked them up on www.amazon.co.uk and once I’ve moved I definitely think I may invest.

Aren’t they great? What promotional beauties are in your cupboards?

 

It is with a desire for red, blue and yellow I say:

It’s only vintage but I like it!

 

It’s only Tunnocks but I like it…

 

 

 

Tunnocks Range

This is the first in a series of posts I’m writing about quintessentially British food. Enjoy!

Ah Tunnocks! Let me count the ways I love thee!

I think it was my Dad who first introduced me to their wares and from the first time I slid my fingertips under the waxed paper of a Caramel Wafer I was hooked. Since then I’ve enjoyed  The Tunnocks Teacake and, for some reason only during the festive season, the coconut dusted Snowball.

Tunnocks (http://www.tunnock.co.uk) are based in a little town called Uddingston, just outside Glasgow. It’s near my friend Rach’s house and it’s on my bucket list to visit the factory – although I gather the tours sell out quickly!

Thomas Tunnock opened a factory there in 1890 and spent many years baking on that site until in the 1950s they brought out a small range of products, in an attempt to market something with a longer shelf life. The introduction of the Teacake, the Caramel Wafer, The Caramel Log and the Snowball meant that business boomed and continues to do so today. On their website they say that ‘Indeed, it is funny how the more things change at Tunnock’s, the more they stay the same.’

Can I talk about packaging at this point? Just look at those yellow boxes. I couldn’t swear to it, but the boxes, the fonts, the waxed paper, the foil – none of it has changed in my lifetime and possibly not since they were first introduced. How many companies could say that? I love the vintage stylings – it’s like buying 1950s groceries. And who wouldn’t love that?!

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The caramel wafer is a delicious multilayered sandwich of wafer and caramel covered in chocolate. I can eat them in multiples. The wrapper boasts “MORE THAN 4000 OF THESE BISCUITS MADE AND SOLD EACH WEEK”. No offence here Tunnocks, but I think it was Nigel Slater who commented on liking the flavour of some things because they always taste slightly stale, and I feel like that about these! I don’t know what it is, but they’re delicious and the kind of thing I would dream of finding in my lunchbox. Running my thumb over the red and gold foil undulations before unfolding the wrapper and sinking my teeth in…

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For me the other behemoth of the Tunnocks empire is the Teacake. With their distinctive slier and red dome, they are once seen never forgotten. These were a staple at birthday parties when I was a child. Nestled in amongst Penguin bars and chocolate fingers they were a special treat. If you’re really clever you can nibble off the chocolate shell, lick out the marshmallow and eat up the crumbly biscuit in one. Not that I’ve ever done that…

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I must admit to being a newbie when it comes to the delights of the Caramel Log. I fancy they were not as readily stocked in my childhood, or perhaps I was always dazzled by the Wafers. I think the Caramel Log is my new favourite. It’s a bit like a Caramel Wafer but one that’s been rolled in toasted coconut, rendering it utterly delicious. A bit messy, as I am generally finding morsels of coconut in my bra up to 48 hours later, but so worth it!

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Again – packaging. I went outside in the sun to take these and they shone and sparkled like the most precious treasure. No filter needed.

I can’t really do a post about Tunnocks without mentioning Nikki McWilliams (http://www.nikkimcwilliams.com). Nikki is an artist who is very much influenced by a nice cup of tea and biscuit – that most British of pastimes. I own several of her cushions, including a pair or Tunnocks Teacake cushions. You must check her out!

Nikki McWilliams

I’m going on a school trip tomorrow (in my real life role as Primary School Teacher) and I will definitely be treating myself to a Caramel Wafer in my lunchbox. A cheese sandwich, an  apple and a little taste of Tunnocks heaven. Winning combination. Make sure you include some in your summer picnics…

Tunnocks picnic

It is with a sugar rush I say:

It’s only Vintage but I like it!

*Disclaimer: I paid for the products reviewed here and this vintage adventure is all my own…*

It’s only a Fish Dish but I like it…

Apparently it’s traditional to eat fish on Good Friday. I don’t know how I got to be 30-something and not know this but the Dr has put me straight and I intend to uphold it from now on.

It gives me an opportunity to make this amazing Jamie Oliver tray bake. It’s one of his 30 minute meals, so you can find the video online, but the basic recipe is here: http://www.mummyknows.com.au/2012/01/jamie-oliver-fish-tray-bake/

As is usual with Mr Oliver it’s a very easy ‘bish bash bosh’ recipe – throw it all in a tray and whack it in the oven. The flavours are incredible and the colours are pretty good too.
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But the best part is the salsa verde. This sauce is so amazing. Really intense flavours. Seriously. You must make it.

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It was all served up with a dish of new potatoes. Simple and perfect.

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I had been looking forward to this meal for 2 weeks and it didn’t disappoint. Such good, tasty food to put into my body.

Wishing you all a Happy Easter!

It is with a satisfied belly I say:

It’s only vintage but I like it!

It’s only Carrot Cake but I like it…

I am partial to a bit of baking. It’s an old tradition and something we enjoy, without excelling, in my family. Its rare I attempt anything complicated, but I like to think I can pull some of the basic recipes out of the hat when I need to – I bake a hearty scone, a rich, gooey brownie and my lemon drizzle is just the right side of tangy.

I’m told my Gran was a good baker. Mum says she’d spend Saturday baking and freeze pies for the week amongst other treats. I hear her chocolate cake was to die for. Unfortunately, a stroke she suffered when I was aged just 4 left her fairly immobile so her baking days were over cruelly early. I’m sure I indulged in her baking before then though. She passed the love of baking on to my Mum, and I can honestly say I never had ( or wanted) a shop bought birthday cake.

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Mum baked with us when we were little and when my sister and I get together we often bake. When it comes to me I tend to go through phases. I’ve been through several periods of weight loss where I haven’t baked much as it’s just too tempting! I like to bake if I have visitors coming or for special occasions, and a well equipped kitchen is always something I’ve aspired to. Just lately I’ve set myself a few baking challenges and this is just one of them.

I chose a recipe from the BBC Good Food website. I’ve used this website lots of times as the ratings system is a good way to find a reliable recipe. My recipe is this one: http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/532636/carrot-cake-with-cinnamon-frosting

It has the zest and juice of an orange which makes it very moist and aromatic.

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I used a loaf tin I found in the Dr P’s kitchen but it seemed quite large… I’m not sure what size it was but I’m blaming this on the fact it looks like it hasn’t risen, but it had!

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It was very moist and had a nice springy texture. I didn’t make the frosting as I’m kinda traditional in that arena – not a fan of heaps of buttery icing!

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I served it with a large pot of tea in my Beryl teapot – the only way to serve cake as far as I’m concerned!

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I enjoyed it but I’m not sure it’s the recipe I was looking for – it’s lacking a certain je ne sais quoi… I have been recommended another so I will keep you posted. Let me know if you try it or you have a recommendation…

It is with a root vegetable craving I say:

It’s only vintage but I like it!

It’s only Beaulieu Chocolate Studio but I like it…

As you know, I am very passionate about supporting local independent businesses. So when I couldn’t find the Charbonel and Walker champagne truffles I blogged about recently, I started to look closer to home for an alternative.

I didn’t need to look much further than over the corridor,  as it happens, because one of my work colleagues, Vicki’s partner is a chocolatier! I loved that fact as soon as she told me – I bet he dropped that into conversation early on when they met!

Trevor runs Beaulieu Chocolate Studio (www.beaulieuchocolatestudio.co.uk) and I first tasted his chocolate at Christmas when the Headteacher at the school Vicki and I work at bought us all a Chocolate Santa from Trevor’s shop.

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I ordered some champagne truffles and a salted caramel heart. The truffles were consumed on Valentine’s Day and we enjoyed them alongside a nice bottle of Bollinger champagne I had treated us to. Perhaps unsurprisingly, they went together very nicely! The centre was a strong, boozy dark chocolate truffle encased in a white chocolate shell. They had a nice kick of alcohol without being overpowering and certainly had the taste of a good quality luxury chocolate about them.

Salted caramel is one of my favourite taste discoveries in recent years and I love this milk chocolate heart with its sweet and salty flakes. Just perfect. I may have eaten it all already! It’s a good portion too – a nice thick chunky heart shape perfect for sharing (although most of it has been consumed in little chunks when the Dr wasn’t looking with me trying in vain not to rustle the bag and arouse suspicion…)

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I like the simple packaging, jazzed up with a heart ribbon for Valentine’s Day – simple but effective.

All up I think the Dr and I will definitely be making a purchase again, although maybe just for a special occasions – my waistline can’t cope with this being too regular a treat!

It is with a rustle of cellophane I say:

It’s only vintage but I like it!

*I paid for the products involved in my vintage adventure and the opinions are all my own!*

It’s only Bourbon Spread but I like it…

I first spotted the why-has-no-one-thought-of-this-before phenomenon that is Bourbon Biscuit Spread over at Nikki McWilliams (http://www.nikkimcwilliams.com/blog/) blog. If you’re not familiar with Nikki’s biscuity goodness then get over there pronto, because I guarantee you will fall in love!

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Loving all things biscuit related I was dying to get my mitts on a jar. My sister ( mrsjmp.wordpress.com ) kindly added a jar to my Christmas gifts (OK, OK I may have heavily hinted – or just outright told her to buy it!) and I had been waiting for an excuse to try it out.

Last weekend MrsJMP and my soon-to-be sister-in-law Elin came to stay at mine. We relegated Dr P to a nearby Travelodge (with a timetable of treats at the cinema) and we settled in for a girlie evening. We had Chinese food, watched Pitch Perfect and Glee and did face packs, nails and I tried a wet set (more on that soon!).

The next morning I cooked up some pancakes and we set the table with my Beryl and Royal Doulton china.

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I also used my wooden Bourbon serving platter from WoodPaperScissors (https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/woodpaperscissorsuk?ref=l2-shopheader-name ). Now I don’t think any of us would call ourselves gifted in the field of reviewing foodstuffs, so I apologise for what follows…

We sniffed (look at those curls!):

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We liberally applied them to pancakes with banana:

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And we were impressed to note that the ingredients listed 37% bourbon biscuit, amongst other things!

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For me the taste was quite hazelnutty, and not as dissimilar as I was hoping, to the leading brand of chocolate spread. I’m not really a massive chocolate spread fan, and I was hoping this might have the very rich intense Belgian chocolate flavour that Costa’s Giant Bourbon Biscuit (costa.co.uk) did. These dreamworthy giants have been discontinued and it’s a travesty of the highest order in my opinion…

Ginat Bourbon

It worked on pancakes but for me it’d be too sweet on toast, and MrsJMP and Elin sadly turned down my offer of toast so I guess that they thought the same.

I love the idea – so sweet – and it’s a nice product if you like chocolate spread. You can buy it at Tesco (www.tesco.com) and they also do a Custard Cream spread and a few other variations I believe. Do try it and let us know what you think…

It is with a groaning tummy I say:

It’s only vintage but I like it!

*These products were purchased by me (Well, MrsJMP actually…) and all views expressed are my own (Or MrsJMP or Elin’s..)!*