First questions: do you love cakes?

(If you said no then just leave now. Come on.)

Second question: do you like being charitable?

This is a trick question as clearly it’s not really OK to answer no to this one.

You will be pleased to know that this year you can combine these two loves to help provide vital support to those who have suffered life changing injuries and their families, for life. All you have to do is take part in the Colossal Cake Sale, which has been set up by Help for Heroes, the charity which help those who have been wounded in Britain’s current conflicts.

Colossal cake sale

Help For Heroes are asking every community to get together between 19th April and 5th May to raise money by holding a cake sale, either at their local school or shopping centre or just making cakes to sell around the office or to friends and family. This year the event is being sponsored by Whitworths sugar and they have loads of recipes on their website to get you started. View Post

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How is your post-Christmas diet shaping up? January is supposed to be a time for fresh starts – healthy eating, wholesome walks in the countryside, that sort of thing. Not so for me. We get given so many food related Christmas gifts that the first half of January at least is awash with sugar in a veritable sea of fudge, fruit liqueurs and violet creams.

Thursday was a particularly shameful day for me as I was entirely alone and so had no one to look at me, eyebrows raised, as I reached for the seventh biscotti.

Here’s roughly what I ate (in chronological order): View Post

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Of my my very favourite bits about Christmas – obviously – is the food and drink. Not only do I generally like eating and drinking, but I also like giving and receiving foodie things as gifts. At least when you give someone a box of chocolates you know that they are going to eat them and not just leave them for ten years getting dusty in the bathroom cabinet. (Unless you give them to my sister, in which case you know that you will have to eat them for her six months later when they are approaching their sell by date. Win win.)

I’ve been trying out some festive treats over the last few weeks, selfless woman that I am, to bring you a few food and drink Christmas gifts that I think anyone would be pleased to be given. View Post

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This week I took part in a live cookery Google hangout with Great British Chefs and Tesco Real Food.

 

I have done a couple of these now and they are always great fun. You basically get to cook along with a chef – in this case Galton Blackiston – and ask them questions about anything to do with the recipe as you go. We were trying out one of their Christmas recipes – Christmas pudding ice cream.

If you are anything like my family then you buy a Christmas pudding because you think you should, have one portion out of it, and then get left wondering what to do with the rest. This recipe is a great way to use up those leftovers, but can work just as well with Christmas cake or dried fruit. It’s much easier to make than you think and you don’t even need an ice cream maker. View Post

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A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to spend a day at Vale House Kitchen, a brand new cookery school near Bath. Run by Bod and Annie, two of the nicest people you could ever hope to meet, Vale House Kitchen aims to reconnect people with their food by teaching basic hunting, fishing, foraging and cooking skills.

You can see for yourself how beautiful it is and find out more about the making of Vale House Kitchen in this short video:

I went on the Chef Skills course, run by fantastic local chef Kieran Lenihan. Kieran was an excellent tutor and I will definitely be paying his restaurants a visit.  View Post

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I made these mincemeat puff pastry swirls last weekend and just had to share them as they are so simple yet so impressive looking. They’re perfect if you’ve got friends coming round and need to whip up a tasty hot treat, so long as you don’t mind a bit of pastry on the carpet.

Puff pastry mincemeat swirls

Firstly, you need a packet of ready rolled puff pastry. Unroll it, but leave it on the baking parchment. Spread it with whatever you fancy – jam, mincemeat, or perhaps even some of my home-made lemon curd? We went for mincemeat as I have been planning my #WinChristmas giveaway this week and it has been making me feel rather festive. View Post

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If you enjoy these chocolate and peanut butter cookies why not try my homemade bourbon biscuits?

Belle is a bit of an entrepreneurial baker. Quite often, if she’s feeling a bit short of cash, she’ll whip up a batch of cookies and go door to door around the square selling them to our neighbours. She hasn’t quite grasped the idea of the costs involved, preferring to see the ingredients in the cupboard as fair game, but I admire her spirit.

This weekend we had friends coming over, so I set Belle to work. We decided to make chocolate and peanut butter cookies, a recipe we found on the Flora website. A few people I know have started using Flora Cuisine for baking lately, and singing its praises, so we thought we’d give it a go. It’s basically runny margarine, so is ideal for kids to use in cakes, biscuits and flapjacks as it’s already nice and soft. View Post

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I’m normally not very good at making things in burger shapes. Things tend to fall apart. Not in a metaphorical, head-in-hands, weeping on the kitchen floor way, but literally – I can’t make them stay together in the pan. If they have onion in I never chop it finely enough and anything that is more of a paste ends up just a mess. Definitely more of a hash than a burger. You can imagine then how excited I was to try out these spicy chickpea burgers.

*voice drips with sarcasm, eyes rolling dramatically*

Actually though, these spciy chickpea burgers were pretty good! They were dead easy to make, I held myself and the burgers together, and they were absolutely delicious. The lovely bright, fresh ingredients make for super Instagram pictures too, which is basically what I look for in just about any activity.

So, pinnies on, blenders loaded, here we go… View Post

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easy lemon curd recipe

In lieu of not being in a position to jet off to Iceland right now, I thought I should crack on with one of the more affordable options on my 40 things before I’m 40 list, so this weekend I decided to have a go at an easy lemon curd recipe.

I have always loved lemon curd, but had imagined it to be one of those things that would involve large pans and thermometers and possibly a frilly apron. It turns out though that making lemon curd is really easy! View Post

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I have very fond memories of gin.

When I was about eight or nine years old I used to go and stay with my Gran and Grandad in Weymouth. While my Grandad was at work my Gran would pack us a picnic to take to the beach – sandwiches with Marks & Spencers ham, crisps, and a thermos full of gin and tonic. When I was even smaller I can remember sat on my Gran’s lap, the tonic bubbles going up my nose as she tried to get me to have a taste. Years later it was my children sat on her knee and I was the one having to say ‘Gran! You can’t give gin to a baby!’ View Post

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It was my birthday yesterday, so to kick start my 40 things before 40 list, I did one straight away!

Pretty good going I thought. It will make up for the fact that the other 39 get done in the last six months before my fortieth.

Normally when my mum asks me what I want for my birthday, I am less than helpful. “Just buy me something exquisite and charming,” I say. She tends to look doubtful. This year though I knew exactly what to say. “I’d like to have lunch in a Michelin star restaurant please,” I said. It sounded a tad on the grabby side, but better than asking for a holiday to Iceland I thought. Plus that way we could have lunch together. Quality Mother and Daughter time and all that.

So yesterday lunchtime we set off to Casamia in Westbury-on-Trym. I put on my best shoes specially and even brushed my hair. It was all very fancy. View Post

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Today my very funny and clever daughter Bee is guest posting for me. (I’m not just saying that so she’ll keep making me apricot and almond cookies. Honest). If you enjoy these, try our chocolate and peanut butter cookies.

I am quite good at baking. I also really want people to like me. Luckily the two go hand in hand – as Homer Simpson says, “you don’t make friends with salad”.

As I’m quite new to baking things other than sloppily made fairy cakes, I’m finding I don’t have a lot of the right equipment or ingredients needed for some of the more advanced bakes. I don’t even have a cooling rack, I have to take one of the shelves out of the oven, wait for it to cool down, and then use that.

However, I have found one product that gives great results every time. We were sent a parcel from Whitworth’s that contained all the types of sugar I could think of and more. I was starting to feel like a real baker, with at least 8 different types of sugar in my baking cupboard. View Post

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