Saturday, 30 June 2012

Last Minute Bridal Shower Gift

I really appreciate handmade gifts...I think because I love giving handmade stuff I appreciate the thought, work and love that goes into making something special.  A colleague of mine is getting married over the summer and we threw her a bridal shower at school this week.  It was a bit of a is just so busy at the end of term...and I kinda sorta forgot to sort out my gift before everything got on top of me.  

When I finally remembered last weekend I rushed around assessing the materials on hand and wracking my brain for something sweet and girly...but classy, to make.  I found a few balls of organic cotton yarn and got to work knitting up a couple of facecloths. 

Paired with a square bar of glycerine soap (rewrapped in brown paper) and tied together with some bits of raffia and the most perfect ribbon  (leftover from our wedding invitations...I absolutely love it) this last minute gift was complete.  

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Celebrating Midsummer with the Cake Ladies (on a dreary June evening)

I've been spoiled the last couple of months with places at Edinburgh Cake Ladies events, so I was pretty much ok with not getting a spot on this month's event...but those cake gods must have been smiling down on me yesterday.  I happened to check my phone at the right time and discovered a tweet calling on last minute bakers to fill the places of some ladies who didn't want to battle the elements (safety before cake).  I typed furiously back...fingers crossed...and before I knew it I was frantically thinking about what to bake.  

The theme this month was Fruit...I quickly popped to the shop on the way home from school and picked up some odd pieces of fruit and went home to create (quickly). I left the kitchen in a cloud of icing sugar and rushed out to Craigie's Farm in South Queensferry.  

As always the cakes looked incredible and tasted wonderful and there was certainly no danger of any of us not getting our 5-a-day.  Even though the weather was horrible the hospitality of the Craigie's staff and (of course) the wonderful Cake Ladies meant that the evening was warm and inviting.  A record 4 males were in attendance, and there was barely a crumb left at the end of it all.  

I don't normally single out the cake of the night, but I had to share this one with you...

The baker of this cake was a contestant on a popular competitive baking show a couple of years ago and this is the cake that she baked for the show...not only does it look totally stunning (and mirror her personality perfectly...she wouldn't mind me saying) but it tastes incredible. Chocolate layer cake with mascarpone and raspberries slathered in ganache...and pistachios and topped with massive double dipped strawberries, raspberries and a rather deadly slice of pineapple.  Cutting into this cake was terrifying (she had the serve it up for me) but eating it was a delight.  

My own offering was rather less refined...

Swedish Summer Berry Cake, which I have renamed Scandinavian Midsummer Cake.  Layers of sponge with fresh cream and loads of fruit.  There is a version of this cake in all of my scandinavian cookbooks, and even in Nigella's Kitchen.  The recipe I used was from my recent gift The Nordic Bakery Cookbook, but I just used whatever fruit I could get my hands on...A nectarine, an apricot, strawberries, leftover pineapple, a banana and a couple of kiwis. 

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Dining Out...In: An Evening at Charlie and Evelyn's Table

This weekend saw the return of Charlie and Evelyn's Table to the Edinburgh Supper Club Scene and I was lucky enough to snag a spot.  Run by the talented, and lovely, Chris and Rachel Rowley, this supper club is proud to be Edinburgh's first (they started welcoming guests in Jan 2010) and after a move, renovation and the arrival of a baby they are back in the kitchen with a summer's worth of menus.  

It seems like ages ago that I *finally* took the leap into the supper club scene, and since then I have been eager awaiting the return of Charlie and Evelyn's Table...and so, bevvies in hand fellow Cake Lady Michelle and I wandered over...not knowing what to expect.  We had both read (and heard) rave reviews from friends who had been before, so we knew that everything was going to be lovely...but there was still those flutters of anxiety and excitement.  Putting yourself, and your entire dining experience, into the hands of a chef and waiting staff is one thing...sitting down to a table of 12 another. 

We were warmly welcomed and made to feel at home and began talking to those who had already arrived.  Promptly the remaining diners joined us and we were officially welcomed by Rachel.  There was a really nice mix of people, some who had been before, some who had read about it months ago in Sainsbury's Magazine, and others (like us) who knew people who had been before (and raved).  Chris came through to talk about the menu and then produced hot from the oven stilton gougeres and wonton soup spoons filled with seared tuna with a wasabi dressing.  We chatted and soon were invited into the dining room. 

When Charlie and Evelyn's Table started diners actually ate around a table that belonged to Chris' grandparents...Charlie and Evelyn.  That table is now Chris and Rachel's family dining table, it sits in their new kitchen and is part of a different side of their life.  Now guests sit around a considerably larger table...with Charlie and Evelyn watching from the mantle piece. 

Our menu was designed around the main course, Individual Beef Wellingtons, which were the special request of some return diners.  As an amuse bouche we enjoyed a tuscan tomato and bread soup, followed by a starter of salmon rillettes with toast, and then onto the main course of beef wellies.  Everything was lovely, and the attention to detail was perfect.  I enjoyed every bit of my meal, but...of was the dessert that got the gold star from me. 

Lemon and Rosemary Tarts with creme fraiche.  This tart was the perfect end to the meal.  The pastry was wonderful and the lemon curd didn't score too high on the pucker scale.  The thing that won me over was the rosemary.  It makes sense when you think about it, lemon and rosemary go well together...with roast chicken and potatoes...but they also work surprisingly well in a savoury dish.

Another wonderful night! A return visit is definitely on the cards. 

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Cardamom Buns with a twist...but without a Twist

On my birthday I was given the very sweet Nordic Bakery Cookbook.  I have been flipping through it practically every day since then, but have only JUST managed bake from it.  What to bake first was a really tough choice...rye bread...tarts...cake...pastries...buns.  In fact it was so difficult I was debating all week.  Finally I called for professional advice from the lovely Signe over at had to be buns.

These Cardamom Buns are different from the buns I've made recently.  Although all have been made from an enriched dough, these buns are truly soft and doughy...really soft.  The dough is flavoured with cardamom and sugar (and a good amount of melted butter) and then left to rise.  After rolling out 20 little dough balls you sort of pinch them into a bowl shape and leave to rise again.

The filling is a mixture of Quark (soft low fat cheese), Greek yoghurt and Pineapple, with a couple of eggs, sugar and vanilla thrown in for taste and texture. The recipe makes a lot of filling, too much actually...I would say it doesn't really matter, but since there are eggs in it I couldn't use the leftovers for anything, really. The recipe appears easy to half.  

These buns are gorgeous, they are soft and doughy and full of flavour.  The cardamom works well with the pineapple and cheese but I am thinking about mixing things up next time. Maybe I will make the cheese mixture minus the pineapple and then add some blueberry jam spooned on top? 

Oh! Just about time for a cup of coffee and a bun, perfect for taking my mind off the rain and wind battering my windows. 

Happy Midsummer...

Monday, 18 June 2012

Crail Food Festival 2012

On Sunday Fiona and I hopped in her car and headed over the Forth Bridge into Fife in the hopes of escaping from the rain and checking out the Crail Food Festival.  We'd been alerted to this small, but bustling, food festival by fellow Cake Ladies and made plans to road trip over together.  

Crail is a really sweet harbour town close to the western tip of Fife and despite the miserable weather the place was heaving with people.  Both Fiona and I had our fingers crossed that we would get to have some lobster or crab freshly caught and boiled...but, sadly, the catch had been gobbled up by the time we arrived.  

Not to fear, there was plenty more to choose from, but...we did have to make our minds up mooching back and forth weighing up our options.  The lines for every stall were long, and rightly so.  The first thing that caught my eye, after the "Sorry out of lobsters" sign on the crab shack, was the billowing smoke coming from the Arbroath Smokie stall.  I've never seen fish actually being smoked and then being prepared right front of me.  "I have to have a smokie," I said to Fiona (luckily she loves smoked fish too).  

A smokie in hand we sat on a bench on the harbour wall watching the crowds and taking in the atmosphere.  A musician played a mixture of traditional and folky music, the seagulls screamed every now and then, and we devoured our giant smokies.  

With food in our bellies we wandered around and checked out the other stalls.  I was totally in love with some fab fruit cakes at the Sucre Coeur baking stall, but really didn't need a fruit cake...sigh.  I did, however, need some Caliente Hot Chocolate from the Cocoa Tree.  Rich dark chocolate with a decent hit of chilli...schhhhlurp.

Later we pottered through town, stopping at The Crail Gallery to check out the gorgeous prints, as well as a spectacular lighthouse cake by Sucre Couer.  After tea at The Honeypot we wandered over to Crail Pottery where I picked up the sweetest little red milk jug.  

I really enjoyed my time in Crail and at the food festival.  I might smell like smoke for the next couple of days but I am already looking forward to next year.  

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Banana Crepe Cake

The Euros and David's studying have totally taken over our house, our routine, our everything.  All of that coupled with some pretty miserable weather left me in a total rut this weekend.  Silence is needed in the house during the day and breaks are only taken for lunch and football...yawn yawn yawn.  I begged and I pleaded with David to let me use the kitchen a bit on Saturday (where the studying takes place) and, kindly, he agreed. 

I've been dreaming of making Smitten Kitchen's Banana Bread Crepe Cake with Butterscotch for ages and decided that since it involved a minimum of noise, and no baking, it would be the perfect cake to prepare while poor David was sitting at the table, in silence, studying.  

Layers and layers of crepes sandwiched with creamy filling and topped with a butterscotch totally perfect! The crepes are flavoured with mashed banana and banana bread spices...nutmeg, cinnamon, and ground cloves (I used mixed spice).  I love crepes, but I rarely make them at home...only because my dna forces me to make fluffy pancakes on Shrove Tuesday and, to be honest, I rather have a big slice of cake for dessert than a couple of crepes with Nutella.  I have to say it wasn't awesome standing over the stove flipping 16 crepes, but satisfaction did arrive...finally...with the eating.  

The filling for this crepe cake is a mixture of cream cheese, greek yoghurt and sugar for sweetness. It certainly has a tangy taste, from the yoghurt, and I love it.  Perfectly creamy and sharp, with just a little sweetness.  Topped with a smooth butterscotch sauce and walnuts this crepe cake was a beauty to behold, but cutting into it was incredible and hard to resist.  

I let the cake sit in the fridge for about an hour before cutting into it and I think that it helped the creamy yoghurt firm up a bit...meaning that it didn't all come oozing out the sides.  16 layers of crepe and youghurty cream topped with a sweet butterscotch sauce...heaven.  

If you are a fan of banana cake, and crepes, I would highly recommend this recipe.  It is a great weekend treat and it is stunning enough to be a party piece (plus it tastes great).  If bananas and yoghurt seem a bit too healthy for you, check out these other options: Sprinkle Bakes' Chocolate Amaretto  Crepe Cake (complete with amaretto truffles), Martha Stewart's Darkest Chocolate Crepe Cake (death by chocolate), Zen Can Cook's Green Tea Crepe Cake or this Nutella Crepe Cake from Ria's Collection (I know just the person for this one).   

One thing is for certain, this is NOT JUST a stack of crepes. 

Friday, 15 June 2012

lovecrumbs...a trip to eat cake and restore my sanity

I've had a horrible week.  In fact it was so horrible by Tuesday that I knew that I would have to seek therapy in the form of cake on Friday afternoon.  A few quick messages back and forth with some fellow Cake Ladies and the time and place were set.  

It has been a few weeks since my last visit to lovecrumbs and I just knew that their laid back vibe, excellent cakes and fantastic choice of teas would soothe my soul.  As always, the wardrobe was well stocked with cakes, brownies and shortbread, and the sideboard held a gorgeous selection of tarts and scones. 

I had been dreaming of a large slice of layered cake all week, but...since I managed to force down 2 doughnuts and a meringue at a colleague's birthday brekkie this morning...I decided to go for a scone with jam and cream.  I had been tempted by the cheese scone, but after a millisecond I thought that I didn't really need to go super savoury.  Fruit scone with raspberry jam and cream won out, with a cup of Earl Grey. 

I'd not had the scones at lovecrumbs before, and was very satisfied with the size, texture and fruitiness and it was definitely the right choice.  As always the service was friendly and the attention to detail makes lovecrumbs unlike any old cafe.  It is unique. 

Speaking of friend sampled this chocolate salt and vinegar layer cake.  It look divine, and seemed to I guess it was good! 

I emerged after an hour or so rejuvenated.  Cake with friends is the best therapy.  

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Adding a little summer to my life...fresh herbs

The weather is still more autumnal than late spring here in Edinburgh, which means that all the lovely salads and al fresco dining I've been dreaming of the last few months are still on hold.  At this rate, I fear, they will be on hold indefinitely.  To add a little bit of summer to my meals lately I have been using loads of fresh herbs...especially dill (scandi influence) and boost the flavours and give my food that straight from the garden feeling.  

Tonight's dinner came from Jamie Oliver's Jamie's Great Britain cookbook (a gift from my SIL), a warm salmon salad.  The recipe jumped out at me when I was flipping thorough my book on the plane home from Essex...baked salmon served over buttery new potatoes and topped with a cucumber/yoghurt/herby sauce. In pure Jamie-style the potatoes and salmon are supposed to be piled high on a platter...I couldn't be bothered (plus I would be eyeing up how much David was helping himself to). 

The summery hit was the yoghurt sauce.  It was a bit like a tzatziki without the garlic.  Grated cucumber is added to finely chopped mint and dill, salt and pepper, lemon rind and juice and the some plain greek yoghurt.  It is tangy and fresh and totally perfect with the salmon and potatoes.  

This really isn't a salad (although I am having some leftovers for lunch tomorrow, and they will probably be at room temperature) it is salmon on potatoes with a sauce...but it was perfect.  

Monday, 11 June 2012

Biff Lindström...a scandi burger

This is one of the first recipes that jumped out at me when I started flipping through The Scandinavian Cookbook, by Trina Hahnemann.  Described as a cooked Steak Tartar, with a Scandinavian twist, I was immediately hooked.  

Served on pan fried potatoes this patty...essentially a hamburger...felt like something more than just a humble burger. The mince is mixed with finely diced onion, chives, capers and pickled beetroot, a dash of worcestershire sauce, some salt and pepper and a couple egg yolks (2 for 250g meat).  The mixture of the capers and the beetroot gave this burger so much flavour that I wasn't searching for sauces to smother it...and I didn't miss the bun at all.  

Another fantastic Scandi recipe to add to my repertoire.  The recipe suggests cooking this as a Sunday lunch or as a hangover cure.  It certainly was substantial, with a great balance of salty and sweet...but I couldn't imagine sticking my hands in raw mince after a heavy night on the tiles.  For now, I will use this as my Scandi Party Piece. 

Sunday, 10 June 2012

It's my party and I'll cry if I want to...tears of foodie joy

If I cared I would apologise for the over posting of my birthday treats...but I don' I won't.  I have been spoiled and I want to brag about it.  Unbecoming...perhaps...but I know you guys will appreciate what follows.

I've raved and raved about the fantastic foodie scene here in Edinburgh and you would think that after a year of living here I would get used to the fact that the standard is pretty high...and that you can dine out for reasonable prices.  But I am constantly and consistently amazed.  

After our totally indulgent meal at the Honours back in March I set myself the challenge of searching out where David could take me for my birthday meal.  It wasn't tough, really...friends had been raving about this place for yonks...

Finally my birthday weekend rolled around and David and I wandered over to Restaurant Mark Greenaway  at No. 12 Picardy Place.  Mark Greenaway offers a fantastic Market Menu (like a pre-theatre menu) so we made our reservation to take advantage of the deal (3 courses for £20).  The menu, like most set menus, is limited to 3 choices per course, but there is a great selection which include vegetarian options.  The dining room was quiet when we arrived, but soon after a handful of other tables arrived.  I noticed (after eavesdropping and staring) that most of them were there to sample Mark's Great British Menu (he was a contestant in the Scottish heat...and totally robbed in my opinion), 4 courses for £50.  We stuck to the Market Menu and tactically discussed our choices to ensure that we weren't overlapping on the starter and main...and obviously to maximise tasting opportunities. 

You would think that David would be used to me snapping away by now, but he looked somewhat horrified when I took my camera out of my I did him the courtesy of only papping my plates.  Sheesh! 

The starter arrived in a huge black bowl, I might have pinged it a couple of times by accident sending reverberations around the restaurant...but oh well! Ham Hough Terrine with a scallop, apple meringues and warm apple jelly.  David's was presented in a gorgeous copper frying pan, fried duck egg with breaded duck rillettes and a hunk of fried bread.  Neither of us shared...a thing. 

I had been eying up the 11hour slow cooked pork belly for my main, but I really wanted the ham terrine and wasn't feeling the pork on pork so I had the pan fried cod.  It came with some pomme puree and a razor clam shell filled with a clam chowder (clams and veggies) topped with a vanilla foam...but the highlight for me was the fennel and dill puree (that green smear).  It might be my current scandi obsession and a love of everything dill...but, not to sound like a buffoon, it worked perfectly with the cod.  David had the pork belly and I managed to get a tiny taste...drool.  

We both plumped for the same dessert.  We knew that we would...and I knew that I wouldn't be wavering.  Peanut Caramel Cheesecake...I was really lucky to join some friends for "just pudding" a month or so ago and had tasted this heavenly treat then so I knew what I was getting.  It was delicious.  Salty peanut, bitter chocolate and sweet caramel...perfect.  

We passed on coffees and went up to the cocktail bar instead.  This weekend the guys over at The Raconteur cocktail bar (currently sans bar, waiting for new location to open) had a pop-up stint at No. 12 and I thought that it would be the perfect place to toast my cuz and his new bride who were getting hitched in Canada on Saturday.  A Charlie Chaplin and a Brazil Nut and Jelly to round off the evening. 

A very happy birthday weekend to me! 

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Afternoon Tea at The Howard

Continuing on my foodie friend theme (and being totally spoiled) I was invited to celebrate my birthday with Afternoon Tea at The Howard Hotel in Edinburgh's New Town.  It was raining when I arrived, and since I was early (cakey-karma meant no traffic) I thought I'd mooch around the hotel a bit.  I was shown to the drawing room and waited, reading the paper and watching the rain outside.  It certainly was idyllic and comforting.  

My friend arrived and we were shown into the dining room.  It was really sweet, only 6 tables...all beautifully set, all waiting for diners.  We were the first there (and the last to leave) and so we picked a table by the window and got down to the business of cake and chat. 

We were presented with the tea menu, and with loads to choose from we took our time going through it.  At the end my friend chose a Jasmine tea and I went with the super powerful Lapsang Souchong...nothing like a gunpowder hit to start the weekend off.  

We methodically made our way through the three tiers of sandwiches, scones and cakes.  The jams and lemon curd were lovely and the clotted cream was served like a scoop of ice cream...even for us there was more than enough cream.  We proudly finished everything on our cake stand, unlike some other tables...

We ate and chatted and laughed the afternoon away.  The perfect way to spend a dreary afternoon and definitely the perfect way to celebrate my birthday!

Friday, 8 June 2012

Blowing out my candle with cuppies from Cuckoo's Bakery

I had planned to make a proper sprinkled cake for my birthday this year, but one thing lead to another and I found myself in Essex and then travelling back to Edinburgh ON MY BIRTHDAY! The sprinkled cake had to take a rain cheque and I was in danger of being left cake-less and candle-less ON MY BIRTHDAY! I wasn't quite sure how I was going to survive, is a birthday a birthday without cake? without a candle? would my wish still be valid if made on another day? Of course...these are all silly questions but can you really be sure it would have all been alright? 

The cakey-gods must have been listening to my plight...because within a matter of seconds I read that Cuckoo's Bakery would be selling their cupcakes at a local market ON MY BIRTHDAY! Problem solved...

We arrived back in Edinburgh just after lunch on Thursday and after dropping our bags off at home and David off at work (ugh I know) I pottered down to the Stockbridge Market to select my birthday cakes. 

Cuckoo's Bakery has a cake menu of regular cuppies, flavours they almost always have on tap...but often have guest flavours (like Innis & Gunn or White Russian) or one off specialities (hello...Jubilee Sponge).  On Thursday the guest flavours were Peanut Butter Ganache and Coconut Dream.  I knew the PBG was going to be on offer...I knew that I would buy it...and I did.  (I have it on good authority that the coconut dream was divine)

With 6 flavours of cuppies I hummed and hawed a bit over what my other cake would way I was sharing ONE cake with David.  There was Red Velvet, my all time favourite...but seeing as it was technically for my beloved I thought that maybe it should be something different.  And so I went with the Black Bottom (chocolate sponge with cheesecake).  

In the end we shared half each...I know...share.  But, it meant I got to taste both flavours.  They were both the perfect end to my hectic birthday day.  The PBG was moorish, I could have easily have eaten 3 I think.  The icing was smooth and light and there was a decent sized blob of chocolate ganache in the middle of the cake...perfect balance.  The Black Bottom was dense and cheesecakey with the perfect amount of icing on top.  

Cuckoo's Bakery has a stall at the Stockbridge Sunday Market fortnightly and will also be trading at the Thursday Market (check the facebook page for updates).  If you are in town and can't wait till then...visit the cafe on Dundas Street and save a Peanut Butter Ganache for me! 

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Foodie Friends

I've been really lucky to have met some pretty awesome ladies since I have moved up here to Edinburgh, and I was totally giddy when I was presented with two totally incrEDIBLE pressies for my birthday this week.  

sweet chilli jam 

scones (with strawberry Pimms jam) 

Edible...and have to be at the top of my list to both give and receive.  I was so touched to receive these two gifts this week and have greedily gobbled them up...even the chilli jam is almost done!

These gifts have made me start thinking about what preserves and chutneys I'm going to try my hand at this summer in preparation for GAK DON'T SAY IT...Christmas.  I'm thinking Piccalilli, butternut squash chutney and something sweet...hmmmmmm

Is June to early to be thinking about this? 

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Three more Pizzas

There is no stopping me now.
I've well and truly got the pizza making bug! 

"After the big game" pizza
Anchovies, green chillies, cheese and parsley 
Salty and spicy and perfect for clearing away the cobwebs.

Pineapple, red onion and cheese 
Sometimes I like something a little sweet on my pizza. 

Spicy Courgette
Thinly sliced courgettes tossed in oil,  garlic and chilli flakes and double cheese
A Friday night treat. 

Monday, 4 June 2012

Paris in Leith...a Tealicious Afternoon

It is Jubilee Weekend here in the UK and I celebrated with a fabulous (if totally unpatriotic) afternoon tea hosted by the Tealicious ladies.  I must have some pretty stellar cakey-karma these days, because it is near impossible to score a ticket to Tealicious events...but I did.  

Early afternoon I wandered down to the gorgeous secret location in Leith, past red, white and blue bunting, and union jack decorations...and stepped into what I can only describe as Paris in Leith... le sigh, a Parisienne Tea. 

I've said it before, but I'll say it again...these gals know how to bake! On top of that... their attention to detail is excellent.  Everything looked and tasted like professional quality.  The savouries were dainty... cheesy gougeres, red onion and fig tartlettes, and herby palmiers.  While I think that the savouries are an important element for Afternoon Tea...I love that the Tealicious gals have made the decision to keep them small, helping their guests to avoid filling up so that we can focus on the real stars...the sweets.  

Scones, Friands, Madeleines, Paris-Brest and Macarons adorned the cake stands on each table, and 3 full sized cakes sat waiting...Fraisier, Cherry Charlotte Russe and a Creme Brulee Cheesecake. Nearing the end of the afternoon the petite fours were brought out...nougat and caramel chocolates. I am not just being kind when I say this...I've been to Paris and eaten enough pastries to be able to make  this  judgement... most of these pastries could rival those found in Parisienne shops.  

I greedily ate everything except for the friand, which I brought home in anticipation of needing a little sweet hit later in the evening.  I could have easily had seconds of everything, but my favourite had to be  the impressive looking, and divine tasting, rose and raspberry macaron.  On previous occasions the Tealicious gals have served small macarons with their petite fours, but yesterday these generous sized creations took centre stage.  

Another set of sticky thumbs up from me!