Tuesday, 20 November 2012

An Afternoon Tea Baby Shower

I hosted a baby shower for a fellow cake lady over the weekend.  It was small and intimate...but there were loads of goodies.

We had organised it so that everyone invited would bring something along...a pot luck tea party! It was, of course, a great excuse to use my tea set...and a fantastic way to while away a Sunday afternoon.  

My contribution was a platter of savouries...my mum's artichoke bites (recipe widely available), small egg salad sandwiches, David Lebovitz's Gougeres, and tomato and basil puffs.   I had halved both the artichoke and gougere recipe and in the end I wished I hadn't...they were both so perfectly savoury I wished I had left overs.  

This was a seriously perfect pot luck Afternoon Tea...we had the savouries, and then large fresh fruit scones (with all the trimmings) followed by rhubarb and cream cheesecake, bakewell tarts, Malteser traybake and my Scandinavian apricot sponge cake.  

To finish I picked up some shortbread moustaches from Pinnies and Poppyseeds a local shortbread biscuit producer.  We needed something a little bit masculine...our friend is expecting a wee boy.  Not only were these mos a little bit of fun, they were being sold to raise money for Movember...bonus.  

Check out my friend Alison's blog for pics of all the goodies...I was too busy making and pouring tea to snap any decent pics.  

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Gingerbread Moose and Acorns

Now that the clocks have turned back and the days are getting noticeably shorter by the...well...day, I find myself craving comfort.  I love this time of year...saying goodbye to the cream and berries and welcoming all those lovely deep spices like cinnamon, ginger and allspice...not to mention baking with pumpkins, parsnips and beetroot.  The run up to Christmas is possibly my most favourite baking season of the year, I love the smells, I love the tastes, I love the feeling of festiveness, and I love the anticipation.  Saying all that, sometimes I think that the Christmas is Coming hype leads to Autumn being brushed aside in favour of preparing for the C-word.  

This year I thought I would celebrate Autumn with some cute little acorn and Canadian Moose gingerbread biscuits.  Although I usually only make gingerbread in the run up to Christmas I think that it is a perfect autumnal  recipe...spicy and warming.   

I like my gingerbread to be crisp, not chewy, so I use a recipe meant for making gingerbread houses. I like that there is little spread or rise in this dough, meaning that the biscuits keep their shape really well (and have a great bite).  

I wanted to makes these Autumnal Gingerbread a little bit different so added some extra spice...ground cloves, allspice and cinnamon...in with the generous measure of ginger, and swapped out 1/3 of the golden syrup for good old Canadian maple syrup.  

Gingerbread isn't just for Christmas.  

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Beetroot Tart...Eating Cake Underground

I attended a brilliant event last night, hosted by the cake-tastic Edinburgh Cake Ladies deep down under the streets of Edinburgh at The Real Mary Kings Close, literally under the Royal Mile.  The event was aptly themed "Spooky Bakes" to compliment our totally creepy venue and the cake ladies certainly did not disappoint.  Being underground and historic and atmospheric and all that the lighting didn't really lend itself to fab photographs, but there was a professional photographer on hand and you can check out the totally gory bakes on the Cake Ladies blog and on the STV Gallery.

My own offering wasn't exactly spooky...but it was flipping scary! For some sadomasochistic reason I decided to make pastry rather than a cake and chose a tart I had never made not to mention tasted before.  How's that for suitably scary?

Before halloween I spied a link to a beetroot tart recipe on my twitter feed and thought that it would be perfect for this event...earthy, bright red and something totally different.

To me this tart is an alternative to pumpkin pie.  It has the same warming spices...mixed spice, pimento (all spice) and ginger but with the earthy flavour of the pureed beetroot. The filling itself is very light, not as heavy as some pumpkin pies can be and has a nice blend of savoury and sweet.

I called it an Exhumed Beetroot Tart for the night in an attempt to make it more frightening...but really it wasn't going to win the best costume prize (not that it is a competition at all).

I loved it, I loved the night and I loved the bakes I tasted.  The Edinburgh Cakes Ladies have done it again!

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Union Jack Bar...Jamie Oliver @Gatwick

We went on a flying visit to Essex over the weekend and flew back up to Edinburgh from Gatwick instead of Stansted.  I've not been to Gatwick for a while...years in fact. At first glance it seemed the same, but once we were through security I soon spotted Jamie Oliver's Union Jacks Bar.  I am way behind the times...and apparently no longer on Jamie's mailing list...I had never heard of Union Jacks (check them out...flatbread pizza chain) and have still yet to visit Jamie's Italian...or any other Jamie backed restaurant.  

We had loads of time to kill so decided to treat ourselves to a few small bites and fill the Jamie Oliver Dining Experience void in our lives.  

Located on the upper level of Gatwick's North Terminal it is the perfect place to go for the ultimate people watching.  We sat at a table by the glass over looking the duty free below and watched and watched and watched and watch.   The menu isn't huge...it is all about snacks, coined British Tapas, and the drinks...but the prices are reasonable for the airport.  

We shared a giant sausage roll with fresh mustard and pickles, a crunchy salad with red leicester, walnuts and apple, and a charcuterie platter and also had a ginger beer and an apple and cinnamon soda.   We both enjoyed our tapas, it wasn't too filling to make us uncomfortable before our flight and was something totally different from our normal bag of crisp, sandwich and a coffee.  

Sure it cost more than the coffees and sandwiches (£17.95) but it was definitely more enjoyable.  We sat down at our own table, we didn't feel like we had to rush out or fight over space with the million other people, we talked about what we were eating, we talked about our weekend shenanigans, we actually enjoyed eating at the airport.  

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Choux Buns for Grandma Mary

David's Grandma Mary came to stay with us this past weekend. We planned lots of Grandma friendly things to do over the weekend, including a stroll through the Botanics, a concert at Usher Hall, a walk down (and up) the Royal Mile, lunch at a fancy restaurant, an afternoon movie on the couch with a late afternoon tea. 

We haven't spent nearly enough time with David's Grandma over the last couple of years because of the whole not living very close thing so we wanted to make our weekend really special.  I wanted to make her a little tea party to celebrate our time together...but also had to plan it carefully (around all of our walks and reservations and events).  I woke up early on Saturday and made a quick chocolate zucchini loaf for the cake bit, I had some scones in the freezer already for the scone bit, I reserved a chicken breast from Saturday's dinner for the sandwich bit and then whipped up a batch of choux buns for the pastry bit.  

Grandma Mary was a Home Economics teacher before she retired, so...even though I shouldn't have...I did feel a little bit nervous when I was mixing up the batter.  I halved a recipe I often use and managed to squeeze 6 buns out.  

To make them extra special I smeared them with pistachio cream and then filled with whipped cream. 

Dusted with icing sugar they were the perfect ending to an excellent weekend.