Tuesday 25 May 2010

Off To The Sun

Don't be thinking I've abandoned my blog again. I am off to the sun for a week. See you all when I get back xxx

Saturday 22 May 2010

Hummingbird Vanilla Cupcakes

I heard so much about the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook I just had to buy it. The recipe for cupcakes is quite different to anything I had seen. I needed to try them. I have been labouring with cupcakes for years. They either explode, form volcanic peaks or sink. I have never been able to make the perfect cup cake. Nothing stops me trying. These are gorgeous. So light and they keep so well. The butter cream is so fluffy and so white. I have never had butter cream without a yellow tinge so this is a keeper. I have also made their chocolate cupcakes which are also to die for. I didn't ice them as they were so moist they were just lovely on their own without any embellishment. Don't you just love the cupcake cases? A present from a dear friend. I have been dying to use them. Thank you Fran x
Now remember I said I had problems with cupcakes? Well these were no exception. This was the second batch in the photo. Scroll down and all will be revealed.

Makes 12-18

120g/4+oz plain flour

140g /5- ozcaster sugar

1½ tsp baking powder

pinch of salt

40g/1 1/4 oz unsalted butter at room temperature

120ml /4fluid oz whole milk
1 medium egg
¼ tsp vanilla extract
1 quantity vanilla icing (see below)
hundreds and thousands or other edible sprinkles, to decorate

Have ready a 12-18-hole cupcake tray (depending on whether you’re going for big, US-sized cakes or standard UK ones), lined with paper cases. Preheat the oven to 170C/140 fan/325F/gas 3.

Put the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and butter in an electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a handheld electric whisk) and beat on slow until you get a sandy consistency and everything is combined. Gradually pour in half the milk and beat until the milk is just incorporated.

Whisk the egg, vanilla extract and remaining milk together in a separate bowl for a few seconds, then pour into the flour mixture and continue beating until just incorporated (scrape any unmixed ingredients from the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula). Continue mixing for a couple more minutes until the mixture is smooth. Do not overmix.

Spoon the mixture into the paper cases until two thirds full and bake in the preheated oven for 20–25 minutes, or until light golden and the sponge bounces back when touched (smaller cupcakes will need 3-5 minutes less baking time).

A skewer inserted in the centre should come out clean. Leave the cupcakes to cool slightly in the tray before turning out on to a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

When the cupcakes are cold, spoon the vanilla frosting on top and decorate with hundreds and thousands.

Vanilla icing

250g /9oz icing sugar, sifted

80g / 3 oz unsalted butter at room temperature

25ml/1 fluid oz whole milk and a couple of drops vanilla extract

Beat the icing sugar and butter together in an electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a handheld electric whisk) on medium-slow until the mixture comes together and is well mixed.
Turn the mixer down to slow. Combine the milk and vanilla extract in a separate bowl, then add to the butter mixture 2 tbsp at a time.
Once all the milk has been incorporated, turn the mixer up to high. Continue beating until the icing is light and fluffy, at least 5 minutes. The longer it is beaten, the fluffier and lighter it becomes.

See what I mean? I think I've licked it now. Plenty of time though. I've only been trying for over forty years. :)

Notes - This was a very difficult recipe to convert from metric to imperial. The - means a little under and the + means a little more.

Wednesday 19 May 2010

Farewell Rosie

How sad the blogging world is at the loss of dear Rosie. She suffered long with her back problems but never complained and always had a friendly word for everyone. A wonderful baker, she worked so hard alongside her dear friend Maria with 'Sweet and Simple Bakes'. Her own Blog 'Baking Cakes Galore' is inspirational and testimony to her love of baking. My thoughts and prayers are with her family and also her dear friend Maria who will be devastated by this loss. Farewell Rosie, you will be sorely missed.

Tuesday 18 May 2010

Cauliflower Cheese

Comfort food. Plain, simple, everyday cooking. So why am I putting it in my blog? Well this blog is destined to be a recipe book for Rhyley so a few basics must be included. Everyone has their own way. All a matter of taste isn't it? I always make enough for leftovers to make the soup below. Some of the leaves must always be included for me. They look attractive as they add colour and why waste them? They have a lovely flavour and have all the nutrients of any green leafy vegetable.. I always make a very thick cheese sauce to go with the cauliflower. It is quite a watery vegetable and this dilutes the sauce. I also think it is worth doing a bit of prep to the milk by bringing it just to the boil with a quartered onion, a bay leaf, some black peppercorns , a few sprigs ot thyme, and a crushed garlic clove, leaving it to infuse for a while then straining before use. The sauce won't be a disaster without this but it really does improve the flavour

Pre heat oven to 200.C/180.C Fan/gas 6/400.F


Head of cauliflower cut in to florets discarding the outer leaves but keeping the sweet inner ones. Wash and then boil for five minutes. Strain and run cold water over the florets and greens to keep them from cooking any longer and leave to drain.
When well drained arrange in a buttered oven proof dish

For the sauce

75g/3oz butter
75g/3oz plain flour
500 mls milk (for a very rich sauce you can replace some of the milk with cream)
1 tablespoon of white wine or vermouth
1 teaspoon of mustard ( either dijon for a mild flavour or English for more bite)
A little cayenne pepper (optional)
Grated cheddar cheese. I like to use extra mature cheddar and lots of it but it's up to your taste buds.
A little grated parmesan to sprinkle on top


Melt the butter gently in a saucepan over a low heat.
Stir in the flour and leave to cook for a minute or so.
Remove from the heat and stir in the mustard and wine/vermouth
Start to whisk in the milk gradually.
Return to the heat. keep the heat lowish and keep stirring until it thickens. ( I find my mini whisk perfect for this job.)
Continue on until it becomes very thick.
Remove from the heat and stir in the cheddar cheese and cayenne if using.
Pour over the cauliflower and sprinkle the parmesan on top.
Bake for about 20-30 mins until golden and bubbling.

Cauliflower Cheese Soup

For me this is a great reason to make cauli cheese. I always make sure there are left overs for this. Really quick and easy.

Chop an onion and fry gently in a saucepan until soft
Add about 500mls chicken stock and some chopped parsley
Add the left over cauli cheese and let it heat through in the stock, then puree.
That's it. So delicious


I find that half or just over half the quantity of sauce is enough but I always make the full amount and keep the remainder to make a baked pasta dish later in the week

Sunday 16 May 2010

Louisiana Crab Cakes

I have had Delia Smith's book 'How to Cheat at Cooking' for some time. Some very good recipes but I haven't really used it much. Why you may ask. Well the thing is the shopping list for the 'cheat's' ingredients is quite lengthy and I never seem to have the right things in the larder. It seems it is quite expensive to be a cheat. I noticed these crab cakes sometime ago and bought the tins of crab but as usual they got pushed to the back of the cupboard. I was however inspired by a photograph of them in Vi' pantry and decided to make them. I didn't have the jarred peppers for the required red pepper mayo but I made my own. They are really delicious and so easy to throw together. I will definitely be keeping the tinned crab meat to make these again. We had them as a main served with chips and salad but one would make a lovely starter I think.


  • 43g tin John West dressed crab, plus 170g jumbo crab meat (Asda Extra Special) or other white crab meat, drained
  • 2 spring onions
  • 1 pack (about 25g) fresh coriander
  • 1 piece jalapeño pepper, from a jar
  • grated zest of ½ lemon
  • 1 medium egg, beaten
  • 3 rounded tablespoons dried breadcrumbs (Waitrose Cooks’ Ingredients) or dried ciabatta breadcrumbs (Tesco Ingredients)
  • a good pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1 heaped tablespoon semolina
  • 1 tablespoon groundnut or other flavourless oil

For the red pepper mayonnaise

  • the equivalent of ½ fresh red pepper (from a jar of roasted peppers)
  • 1 fat clove garlic, peeled
  • 2 rounded tablespoons Delouis Fils fresh mayonnaise
  • a good pinch of cayenne pepper

First of all, chop the spring onions, half the coriander (minus any very thick stalks) and the jalapeño in a mini-chopper. Combine these with the rest of the ingredients (except the semolina and oil), season and mix well. After that, divide the mixture into 6 and form it into round patties, squeezing the mixture together firmly. Spoon the semolina on to a plate and coat the crab cakes on all sides.

For the mayonnaise, whiz the ingredients together in a mini-chopper and empty it into a dish.

To cook the crab cakes, heat the oil in a medium frying-pan till very hot and shimmering, then cook them for about 2 minutes on each side. Serve with the remaining coriander to garnish and a good helping of the mayonnaise.

Serves two as a main course. (Three cakes each)

What I did

I didn't have fresh coriander so I used some parsley and dried coriander.

I moulded the cakes in a cookie cutter to give them a good shape

I popped them in the freezer for ten minutes in case they fell apart when frying

I made a sweet chilli and garlic mayo by putting some chilli jam and a little garlic paste into some Hellman's. I used about 4-5 tablespoons of mayo as Delia's didn't give a very large amount. Well I needed something to dunk those chips into now I am no longer dieting.

Saturday 15 May 2010

A Wedding In The Family

I have been sadly neglecting my blog of late and also my lovely blogging friends. I do so apologise. There was a reason. My son was married last week. I was not involved in the arrangements because of the distance so that was not keeping me busy but I had to lose some weight to fit into the outfit I bought last year so............... no baking and not very exciting meals. I also daren't have ventured into the blogs as the temptation to try would have been too much. Anyhow my will power paid off and I lost the weight and a last minute try on of the dress showed the weight loss had worked. I had to make a quick dash to the dressmakers to have it taken in!

We had a wonderful day. The venue was Pembroke Lodge in Richmond Park, London. As you can see by the photographs it was a perfect place and the views over the city were wonderful. Mother nature was kind and the sun shone and was quite warm. A perfect wedding. I thought I would share it with you.

The Bride and Groom

My Two Little People

Three Generations

Mum and Dad with their two Youngsters (LOL)

The Venue
Pembroke Lodge

The View From the Terrace
(with the tiniest grooms man)

I wish I could re run the day as it was so perfect.. I hope you enjoy sharing a little of it with me.

Now it's back to the kitchen and some decent cooking and baking. No doubt the weight will go on again but who cares.