Happy Birthday Nanny Jo

Yesterday it was my mum’s and Rose’s Nanny Jo’s birthday! We didn’t manage to see her on the day, but had a get together today. Rose likes birthdays a lot and we’ve had a lot recently, although she still has a little way to go before her own. But she enjoys the celebrations and knows what’s important for a birthday – especially a cake.

So we decided it would be nice to make Nanny Jo a cake to celebrate, especially as she would never let any of our birthdays pass without it.

I whisked up a simple jam sponge sandwich secretly in the kitchen while Rose was eating her lunch. She love loves to bake, but we did a bit of baking over the weekend (bit of a baking flop – although I might share the photos of the mess one day….) and I was feeling like I was a bit baked out to bear a re-run so soon. Instead I decided to approach this activity as a creative cake decorating event, and Rose really embraced the challenge.

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I set everything up in advance, putting different decorative sweets into bowls and pre icing the cake ready. Since starting my blog I have tried really hard to do more creative activities with her, but this has really highlighted to me that she is not that interested in them – which is hard for me because that’s really what I like – she is more of a whirlwind climber / thrower type (although she likes the look of knitting so I haven’t given up hope) I have mostly given up on anything which involves too much structure for success, but she does have fun when left to her own creative devices – which is really hard for me, because I just want to ‘help’ her to make ‘something’. I wasn’t sure how this cake was going to go, but I was pleasantly surprised at her focus (and how much of the decorations made it onto the cake and how little she actually tried to eat). I was proud of myself too for keeping my guidance purely to the hygiene issues (don’t put that on the cake after it’s been in your mouth/in your ear etc) EVEN when she started on the sprinkles.

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And it tasted nice too. Nanny Jo and Grandpop seemed to enjoy their slices and Grandpop even had seconds! That is good measure of cake success.

Happy Birthday Nanny Jo! xx

Picnic Cake

At the weekend we had a lovely meet up with friends. I loved this day. Our original plan was to have a picnic on the beach, but unfortunately the weather was not really right for a picnic, so we brought the party indoors and had a nice time all the same.

For the event I decided to make a savoury cake, as these are meant to be ideal picnic fare. I went through a little phase of making these before and really liked them.

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The recipe I used was a Rachel Khoo recipe. Her cooking is a bit french inspired which I like. I had previously tried this one for a prune, pistachio and cheese cake. This time I went for her more Mediterranean recipe crammed with sundried tomatoes, olives, feta cheese and hazelnuts (that bit not so Mediterranean!)

i n g r e d i e n t s :

3 medium eggs
25g caster sugar
250g plain flour
1 tsp sea salt (I regretted adding this)
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp sweet smoked paprika (I used normal paprika and it was still nice) 100ml buttermilk
150ml olive oil
100g sundried tomatoes
80g black olives
60g hazelnuts
1 medium courgette
100g soft goat’s cheese

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m e t h o d :

Start by preheating your oven to 180C and grease and line a 2lb loaf tin with baking paper. Beat the eggs and caster sugar together. Measure out your flour, salt (if using), baking powder and paprika in a separate bowl and then fold into the egg mixture. Measure out your buttermilk and olive oil and mix in. Roughly chop the sundried tomatoes, olives and hazelnuts and add to the batter. Coursely grate in the courgette and crumble in the goat’s cheese. Pour the mixture into the loaf tin and bake for 45 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the cake comes out clean. You want it to have a lovely golden crust. Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes before turning out. Et voila!

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Everyone seemed to really enjoy this cake, although for me it was too salty. I don’t normally add the salt in recipes, but for some reason decided I would this time, and I really wished I hadn’t. A lesson learnt! And the afternoon was full of all sorts of tasty treats and super company. I am hoping next time also we’ll have sunshine and then what a perfect time it will be!

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Woolapple in London

This weekend was so exciting for me. I spent Saturday feeling excited and today I spent with my best of friends for a day in London. What a lovely adventure for me.

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We were doing some dress trying for Lios’ wedding and I think we did a jolly good job of that. She tried some real gems and we did find some hilarious fashion items. A lace white jumpsuit was a particular highlight – one for an Abba themed wedding. And a rather expensive dress with interesting cut out sections provided amusement and bemusement in equal doses. It was fun to look for dresses and give our serious feedback (we were trying to be sensible and helpful which is not always easy when we are all together, but we were genuinely rather professional today). We tried picking up some real wedding dresses but they were very heavy and hurt our arms and also by this point in the day we had really put a lot of effort into finding dresses and Lios had done a great job of trying on and we were all very tired out, but we knew there was another delight in store for us later….

 

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… a very grand afternoon tea! Hurruh! I love a good tea and this one was a special treat – we really earnt it. We had some amazing cocktails (as well as the tea!) and amazing cakes. I managed to eat all my cakes which I think was the best effort of the whole group. I had some Tupperware in my bag too (what a mum) so snuck some of the leftovers home for Rich and he was very impressed at the deliciousness of those cakes. That was something special.

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The Soho hotel is such a very grand one and full of interesting things and the waiters were really good and polite. And the company was very nice too. I enjoyed this day so much. And when I got home Rose was just having her bedtime stories with Rich and told me that she had had a nice day too. That was a lovely way to finish. Thank you to my lovely friends for this lovely day.

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A woolapple weekend

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I had a grand adventure in Brighton today. I had a lovely hot chocolate with my dear friend Beth, and then we went to some shops and I bought some things from Tiger – my favourite shop of the moment.

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I found some great ‘fabric yarn’ there which is like grey marl t-shirts in a ball of wool. I have a little project in mind already! Also I found some good things to help with mine and Rose’s baking and painting and a little present for our friend. Dear Tiger, please open a shop in Seaford, and bring H&M with you too.

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On my way to the station I passed the beautiful french patisserie, Julien Plumart. I wanted some macarons, but they were quite a lot of money and I was feeling rather peckish so opted for some massively impressive meringues instead (and enough to take some home to share). I am rather regretting my decision now as would love to taste the macarons – next time I’ll go back with a full tummy. I am not surprised by the price though – they are a tough cookie!

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I was very pleased when i got home also because Rich and Rose had baked a cake together while I was out. It wasn’t much of a surprise because Rich had called me a few times with questions such as ‘which oven should I use to make a cake?’, ‘this looks like quite a lot of oil for a cake, do you think it’s alright?’ and ‘what does fold in mean?’. I was so impressed though – it was Rich’s first ever cake (although Rose has made about 6 in the last month) and it was so spongy and lovely. I think he has a hidden talent. I might try him on macarons next…

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Also next I think I need a selfie stick for this new hobby of mine, take a doll out and take her photo. It is difficult to hold a doll and a phone and take a picture! Would a selfie stick help me?

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Pumpkin steamed pudding

Last week we were off for Christmas and none of Rose’s groups or activities were running, but we had some nice home days and discovered a new interest of Rose’s  – she loves to bake (well, she loves to stand on a chair in the kitchen and move things around) she calls it cooking.

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I have had a little bake in mind since halloween. After making my pumpkin and raisin tea loaf there was still a lot of pumpkin leftover and so I sneakily roasted it with some apple and pureed it and put it in the freezer ready for a rainy day (which there were not shortage of last week!)

I was a little delayed in giving this a go also because I didn’t have a suitable bowl that would fit inside our largest saucepan to be able to steam a pudding, but that has been put right now.

I was drawn to this recipe as I had never steamed a pudding before (well, maybe a Christmas pudding once) and also liked that it didn’t have much sugar in it so a great pudding for Rose who is likely to have trouble falling to sleep if she’s had anything too sweet after dinner.

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I had forgotten how nice a steamed pudding is – there’s a lovely quality to it, especially when freshly steamed. We ate our pudding more like a cake, but I still have three batches of puree in the freezer so the next one we will definitely be having as a pudding with custard.

Here is the recipe in case you want to try. It is another one from my River Cottage Baby and Toddler Cookbook which I really recommend, even if you don’t have a baby or toddler I think it’s a good one.

For the puree:

you need 500g of pumpkin or squash (a large wedge of pumpkin or half a butternut squash) and 4 dessert apples.

Cut your pumpkin into wedges and place on a baking tray skin down. Cover with foil and roast in the oven at 190 degrees for half an hour. Peel, core and roughly chop the apples and add these to the tray and bake for a further 30 minutes until everything is soft. Scoop away the pumpkin skin and put the apple and pumpkin flesh in a blender until all smooth. This should make about 500g of puree. Measure out 200g for the pudding, and freeze the rest for a future pud, or use as you wish.

For the pudding:

100g unsalted butter (plus extra for greasing)
100g of self raising flour
100g of wholemeal self raising flour (or you can use all white or whatever ratio you like as long as you have 200g total)
1tsp ground cinnamon (we had run out so used ginger powder instead)
A good grating of nutmeg (again, we used the powder!)
75g caster sugar
1 egg
1tsp vanilla extract

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Start by buttering a 1 litre pudding basin. Mix together the flours, cinnamon (or ginger) and nutmeg in a bowl (Rose did this bit for me, our ginger is in a shaker so she liked adding that and it flowed quite slowly so we were safe) While toddler is helping with that part, beat together the butter and sugar in a bowl until light and fluffy (I didn’t want to get the electric blender out with Rose so close so i just creamed my butter and sugar with a metal spoon until smooth) Add the egg, vanilla and a spoon of flour (I broke the egg into a little cup so Rose could add that, and the spoon of flour. This made her very pleased, although she did grab a spare egg and tried quite hard to pull that apart) Beat together well, then add the pumpkin puree and sift the remaining flour (another good task for toddler) and fold in gently until everything is combined.

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Scoop your mixture into the pudding basin and cover with a piece of pleated foil. Secure with string and stand your basin in a large saucepan, fill the pan half full with boiling water and put the lid on. Bring the water back to the boil and then turn the heat down to simmer. Steam your pudding for 1 and a half hours (keep an eye on the water level, topping up when needed)

When done, use the string to help lift the basin out and turn out onto a plate. The recipe suggests serving immediately with custard and I second that.

A really lovely activity for little one, and a really nice pud. Grand! x

Post-halloween pumpkin delight

Last week Rose had so much fun painting our pumpkin, and this weekend it was my turn for some pumpkin makes.

I had a really good hunt about for nice pumpkin recipes – there are so many great looking things to try. I knew that i wanted to go for something sweet and didn’t really fancy a pie so I eventually settled on a couple of recipes from my own cookbooks. Cakes! (you will learn that i like these. a lot.)

I first chopped up my pumpkin and chopped off the skin. When the paint got wet it did start to get a little messy and some of my pumpkin pieces were dyed a bit blue. I tried rinsing them and i hope we won’t suffer too badly. Rose ingests far more paint in a typical painting session and so far seems to be okay?! I’m sure it looked worse than it was (?)

For the first of my pumpkin baking sessions, I decided to make one of my favourite cakes, the River Cottage Pumpkin and raisin tea loaf. I have made this one a few times with courgettes and carrots, but never actually with pumpkin so this seemed a good opportunity to try it. I changed the recipe a little bit to make it more toddler friendly, halving the sugar and, to add sweetness in a gentler way, substituting some of the pumpkin for apple and swapping the lemon for a satsuma. I often try to reduce sugar in my cakes for little one, and it can have varying effects, but i was really pleased that this was absolutely delicious. I will give you the original recipe though so you can make up your own mind (the original is absolutely delicious too!)

I will admit to you this wasn’t a smooth baking session. After the blue pumpkin I managed to whisk the sugar into the wrong part of the eggs, then managed to completely forget the flour until the very last minute. Can I still blame baby brain 2 years later?? Happily everything worked out fine in the end and I learnt a good lesson on reading instructions!

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If you want a go at making this cake yourself, you will need:

Butter for greasing
200g light muscavado sugar (I used 100g)
4 large eggs (separated)
200g finely grated pumpkin flesh (i used about 170g pumpkin and then grated a whole desert apple which took me slightly over 200g in total)
The finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon (satsuma)
100g raisins
100g ground almonds
200g self-raising flour (i used 100g white and 100g wholemeal flour for some extra health!)
a pinch of fine sea salt (i left this out)
1tsp ground cinnamon and a generous grating of nutmeg

To make the loaf:

Pre-heat your oven to 170 degrees and grease and line your loaf tin.

Using an electric whisk, beat together the egg yolks and sugar for a couple of minutes until the yolks become pale and creamy.

Add to the bowl, the pumpkin (and apple if using that), lemon (or satsuma) zest and juice, raisins, almonds. Sift in the flour, salt and spices and mix gently until everything is combined.

Clean your whisk and in a new bowl whisk up the egg whites until they form peaks. Add a spoon of the egg white to the mixture to loosen it up slightly, then gently fold in the remaining egg white.

Spoon gently into your waiting tin and bake for an hour, or until golden brown and firm. Leave to cool slightly in the tin before turning out onto  cooling rack.

Put the kettle on and enjoy. mm.

This cake recipe is featured in this article here which also has some other good looking stuff to try if you are looking for some inspiration (although Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is not very complimentary of halloween pumpkins – perhaps next year we’ll have a halloween squash).

I will be back soon to let you know what i did with the rest of my pumpkin. more nice things.

I hope you enjoy some pumpkin baking. Let me know what you  make. Or if you try this cake tell me what you thought.