Friday, 31 October 2008

This weekend ...

  • I have literally just decided to go to London. So after work I need to rush home, pack, get a train to Cardiff and wait for a train to London then idle away two hours before I arrive at Paddington where lovely N will be waiting for me to drive me to the flat.
  • Tonight we are going to grab a really quick bite to eat before going to see a late showing of The Quantum of Solace.
  • Saturday Morning I am going to check out the new Westfield shopping centre - it is the biggest shopping centre in Europe apparently with over 265 shops inside .... :o) N has to go back to Hertfordshire to pick up his new trendy glasses tomorrow morning so I shall while away an hour or two drooling at Tiffany's with one of my oldest friends S.
  • Saturday night we need to wrap up warm as it is the early bonfire night fireworks extravaganza in Battersea Park which we will go to with a bunch of friends, sparklers at the ready!! The theme is Paint the Whole World with a Rainbow which seems a bit non specific to me...! That will be a fireworks theme then! (In previous years they have done aliens, sport, rock music etc. but we shall see I'm reserving judgement)
  • On Sunday I need to get up REALLY early to get back to work!

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Escape to Serenity

In an earlier post I mentioned that I had been looking for somewhere for My and N's 7 year getting-together anniversary in January. I have found the perfect place. It is gorgeous, simple, romantic and close to nature. Perched just above a beach in Cornwall, the beach hut has one bedroom, a kitchen and a living area. And ... no road leading to it. You need to park the car some little distance away and walk down a path towards the sea to reach your cosy little abode. I can just imagine waking up to the sound of the sea, wrapping up warm and going straight for a stroll on the windswept beach before a hearty breakfast back at the hut. I can imagine snuggling up in the evening with a nice bottle of wine and a warm fire with the waves crashing down below ... The only problem is although it is simple and close to nature the price tag on a weekend here is anything but simple and N may need quite some persuading so for now at least I can only imagine ... Here are some pictures so you can imagine too...

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Trick or Treat?

Treat Please ...

*Image Martha Stewart Living*

Carving Pumpkins For Halloween

I love carving pumpkins for Halloween, there's just something wonderful about the whole process: standing outside the green-grocers stamping your feet in the cold whilst sizing up and selecting your pumpkins, the delicious woody autumn smell that fills the kitchen as you scoop out the bright orange flesh (and the promise of the delicious feasts that it will create later), carefully carving your pattern and of course the sense of creative satisfaction when the candle or fairy lights are placed inside. Once on the doorstep they sit there, lovely orange glowing beacons to welcome happy trick or treaters as they patter around in the dark. These pumpkins from Martha Stewart Living are quite special.

*All images Martha Stewart Living*

Friday, 24 October 2008

This time last year ...

This time last year I exhibited at my local food festival to test the market with my idea for a cake and cookie company. A year on and this weekend the local food festival is taking place again. Last year I spent days and days preparing, nervously wondering if anyone would buy these cakes which I had spent so much time on. With more than a little fear, I wondered if anyone would linger at the tables, (which the very kind Sarah from Xantippe had given me) to take a look at and, most importantly, buy my cakes. I needn't have worried. Over the two days I sold almost everything I had made (I'd made a lot!!), received some wonderful feedback and had taken my first orders for Christmas cakes. N spent the two days running back and forth, handing out flyers and cutting up cakes for samples - what a star!

*One of my tables*

This year I am not exhibiting. This year I can wander around the stalls, grab a glass of bubbly from the champagne tent, enjoy looking around me and celebrate how far I have come in a year. As over the last year I have set up iced and just yesterday made my first deal with a shop to sell my cakes for retail!

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Autumn Warmer

On my early autumn walk the other day, I stumbled upon a patch of pumpkins, nestled in a bed of green, hiding away amongst their own foliage - what a lovely sight... I had to take a photograph:
This gorgeous pumpkiny goodness inspired me to combine two of my favourite things into a lovely delicious soup. I love butternut squash, I love it roasted and added to a goats cheese salad, I love it in stews, I love it on its own - I really do like it. I'm a vegetarian so my diet does focus quite disproportionately around vegies but yum yum yum! One of my other passions is Thai food - I absolutely adore it! So I decided to make a Thai butternut squash soup! It was a bit experimental so there are no set quantities of ingredients I'm afraid, but it is extremely easy to recreate. I obviously used butternut squash but you could just as easily use pumpkin (this should provide two hearty bowl fulls):
So take a large sized butternut squash, peel off the skin and scoop out the seeds from the centre, chop it into chunks then put it in a roasting tin. Take some nice unhealthy butter and spread it over the butternut squash pieces then sprinkle liberally with sea salt and put in a hot oven (c. 180 degrees) for about an hour or until the squash is tender...
Next, empty a can of coconut milk into a saucepan and add a teaspoon of Thai red curry paste and put the pan on a low heat. Add the roasted butternut squash a piece at a time - no need to include extra calories, so avoid adding any excess melted butter from the bottom of the pan. Warm the mixture for around five minutes to let all of the lovely spices from the paste infuse the milk. Remove from the heat and blitz with a bamix, or use a food processor to blend, until you have a lovely smooth thick soup. Return the soup to the pan and gently heat. Dilute with vegetable stock to your desired thickness (I think I used around 1/2 a pint). Heat thoroughly and then serve ... delicious!

Friday, 17 October 2008

What I am doing this weekend ...

  • Going to London tonight to see N - yay!
  • On Saturday morning, after breakfast - which we will probably buy around the corner at this fabulous but kooky deli (the staff wear 1920's vintage clothing!) - we will drive to Hertfordshire - N needs to get a new pair of glasses as his broke when we were on holiday (how rubbish!) so we are taking a trip to his opticians and will go and see his parents for a spot of lunch at their house.
  • On Saturday afternoon we need to drive back into London as it's a good friend's birthday dinner in Battersea in the evening - said friend has just landed a new job as a fabric designer for a very well known company so it's a double celebration - yay! Well done Mrs M!
  • On Sunday ... well on Sunday we have no plans, which is lovely. N and I spend every weekend together but we are normally so busy rushing around catching up with friends and family that it will be very nice indeed just to have the day to ourselves!
  • On Sunday evening I will wind my merry way back to Wales ...

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Flowers in the bathroom

How a bunch of flowers can cheer you up!  I put these in one of the best rooms in the house ... the bathroom.  I lit some candles, put some of my favourite bubbles in the bath, and grabbed myself a glass of vino and a good book ... bliss!


Pice ar y maen or Welshcakes are scrumdidilyumptious! These traditional little spicy cakes are made on a bakestone or planc - pice ar y maen literally means 'little cakes on the stone' in English. The bakestone is an ancient cooking tool which is still widely in use today. In Wales bakestones are often passed down through the family – they are heavy, black cast-iron monsters on which cakes can be made and bread baked. But the best thing you can make on a bakestone are ... welshcakes! Yum yum yum. If you have never had one you are missing out! You don't even need to have a bakestone - a heavy based frying pan will do. Welsh cakes are normally round but I wanted to express my love for them by making them heart shaped! I was being a bit experimental yesterday so I also changed the recipe ... sacrilege!! The welsh cakes below are made with cranberries and white chocolate instead of the traditional currants and mixed spice ... delicious!

225g Self raising flour and ½ teaspoon of baking powder
125g of butter chilled and cubed (or margarine can be substituted)
75g of sugar
75g of currants or raisins
1 large egg and a little milk
a good big pinch of mixed spice
  • Sift the flour and baking powder and mixed spice together into a nice big bowl.
  • Rub in the butter / margarine until the mix looks like breadcrumbs, then mix in the sugar and fruit.
  • Crack open the egg into another bowl and lightly beat, then add it to the flour mixture and combine. Add a little milk until the mixture has a dough like consistency (a bit like shortcrust pastry).
  • Wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge for at least two hours.
  • Once the dough has chilled, put your bakestone onto a very low heat on the hob and rub with the tinest bit of butter - this should be all you need for the whole cooking process (you are not frying them!), leave the bake stone to heat up.
  • Dust your work surface with flour, roll out the dough to about a 1/4 inch thick and use cutters to cut into rounds, hearts, stars ... what ever you fancy.
  • Place on the bakestone a few at a time and cook, flipping them over once you can move them around the pan without them sticking, keep flipping them until they are cooked through and nice and brown on both sides.
  • While they are still warm dust with caster sugar, then alow to cool on a rack or plate, whatever you have to hand.
  • If you want to make cranberry and white chocolate flavoured welsh cakes - simply substitute the cranberries for the currants / mixed spice and add chopped up white chocolate.

Rules of the Welsh Cake

  • Welsh cakes must be eaten sprinkled with caster sugar.
  • Welsh cakes must be eaten with a pot of tea
  • Never ever split them and fill them with jam or put jam on top of them ... what you are after is a scone ... go and buy one.
  • The first welsh cake of a batch never comes out quite right (a bit like pancakes) do not panic the rest will be perfect.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Beautiful Blog

The other day I stumbled accross a beautiful blog called Aller-Retour, written by Sophia Barão, a visual artist based just outside Paris and wanted to share it with you. Aller-Retour is a place of beautiful musings and images. Here is a taster:

Je ne sais pas
si c'était le soleil ou
peut-être le froid.
Rien n'était comme
à cet endroit là.
Je ferme les yeux
pour me donner du
et j'avance d'un pas.
Décidée à tout
remettre en cause,
à tout refaire
sans toi.

I don't know if
it was the sun or
maybe the cold.
Nothing in that place
was like before.
I close my eyes
to give me guts
and I move a step
Decided to reconsider
it all,
to do it all over again
without you.

Posted Friday, October 10, 2008 by sofia barão at Aller-Retour

Friday, 10 October 2008

Something for a Friday Afternoon ...

*Musician in the Rain*

Robert Doisneau (1912-1994), was one of France's most prolific reportage photographers. With his lens he captured moments in time, absurd idiosyncrasity, love and life in the streets and cafe's of Paris. He wrote: "The marvels of daily life are excting; no movie director can arrange the unexpected that you find on the street." We often look to experience other lives through film, television and literature, forgetting that it is out there all around us ... if we just look. I wonder what marvels I will find this weekend ...

*Le baiser de l'hotel de ville (Kiss by the town hall) 1950*

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Done, To do, Guilty Pleasures & Facts

So far today I have:
  • Made a wedding cake
  • Eaten two sneaky mint chocolate truffles mmmmmmm!
  • started designing a gingerbread Ty Hafan (a local children's hospice) for a fundraising Christmas Fair in November.
  • washed and dried my bedding ... yawn
  • Spoken to N on the phone for 59 minutes (60 minutes and you have to pay for the call-don't tell me romance is dead!)
To do:
  • Nothing today ... it's time for bed ... hooray!
Guilty Pleasures
  • reading in the bath this morning when I should have been rushing to work
  • eating an extremely un-nutritionally balanced breakfast of a welsh cake and a cup of tea (I was rushing after spending too long in the bath, but oh what a nice way to start the day!)
  • looking up swanky hotels, which we could never afford, on Mr & Mrs Smith for N and I's 7 year anniversary weekend away in January.
  • and I can't think of a fourth - that's bad ... I must do better on the guilty pleasures front - tomorrow I will make a concerted effort!
  • When I'm old I'd like to be like Miss Marple ... live in a thatched cottage, have afternoon tea in the garden, go on lots of holidays to exotic locations and solve dastardly crime
  • I like cold weather but I hate to be cold and so I love my hot water bottle
  • My favorite alcoholic drink is a Dark and Stormy.  It's a cocktail of black rum and fiery ginger beer.  N introduced me to it, it is one of the national drinks of Bermuda, which is where he was born and brought up (his family moved back to the UK when he was a teenager).  N first made me a dark and stormy when we were university students and I was visiting him at his family home in Hertfordshire during the winter break.  I was really cold so he ran me a hot bath and made me a dark and stormy with a scoop of ice-cream in it, to drink as I soaked ... what a fella and oh my goodness, what a drink!
  • I love cake.

Autumn Knitting Project

It's getting chilly here in Wales; although the sun is shining, there is a definite bite to the air.  The nights and mornings are slowly getting darker, and the first fire has been lit in our house.   Thoughts are turning to the cold months ahead, to cwtching up in scarfs and gloves and hats for bracing weekend walks.  There is nothing quite like knitting your own scarf, every time you wear it, every time you wind it around you to keep you warm you will do so in the knowledge that you made it ... out of let's face it a ball of string and two sticks ... amazing! If you have never knitted before this is a perfect one to try first off.  If you can bear to part with it, after all that hard work, it would also make an amazing Christmas gift for a loved one...

Easy-peasy instructions:
  1. Buy a few balls of DK 50g wool.  I am using RY Classic Yarns Cashsoft DK yarn because it is 57% extra fine merino, 33% acrylic microfibre and 10% cashmere and it is the loveliest, softest most snuggly wool ever.  At the same time buy some 4mm knitting needles.  In the UK you can buy all of these things here.
  2. Twist a hair bobble onto one of the needles and push it down to the end, this will help you remember which needle you are knitting which pattern onto later.
  3.  Make a slip knot (here's how). Then cast on 63 stitches onto the needle with no hair bobble.  This is easy, for instructions see here.
  4. take the needle with the hair bobble and knit 3 stitches, purl one stitch, then repeat (knit 3, purl 1) all the way along the row until you get to the end.
  5. turn the needle around and then knit one stitch, purl one stitch onto the needle with no hair bobble, then knit 3, purl 1 and repeat knit 3, purl one, knit 3 purl one to the end.  The first two stitches have the effect of staggering the pattern which makes the scarf ribbed.
  6. Repeat steps 4 and 5 over and over again and just keep going until it's the length you like, then cast (or bind) off.  Really easy.
So to recap: 
  • Needle with bobble: knit 3, purl 1.   
  • Needle with no bobble: knit 1, purl 1, (knit 3, purl 1) then repeat the stitches in brackets to the end of the row.
Happy Knitting!!!

Friday, 3 October 2008

A Walk In The Woods

Last weekend I went for a walk in the beautiful early Autumn sunshine.  I woke up to my idea of weather heaven: crisp and cool but with a warm autumn sun and blue blue skies.  I had jobs to do, errands to run and plans set firmly in place for the whole day.  One look out of the window on Saturday morning though, and thats where those plans went ... straight out of it.  When days like this happen, if at all possible, everything has to stop.  On went the jumper, on went the scarf, off went the phone and off went I.  

My New Blog

I have a new blog which you can visit here. That doesn't mean I am forsaking this one, oh no no no no, quite the opposite. It's just that I am enjoying writing this blog so much that I wanted to write one for my business. You see by trade I am a chef de patisserie and wedding cake designer/maker. I have so many scrapbooks in my studio filled to the brim with snippings from magazines, photographs of lovely things I have seen and had to snap, little pieces of writing that have inspired me and of course photographs of the final cakes which I have designed, that I thought I might give an online scrapbook at go....