Monday, 29 August 2011

A picture A Day: Week 34 - Very belatedly!

Late again!
Without further waffle, here are last week's photos.

Saturday 20th August
Railings and sunshine on Johnston Terrace taken on the post-farmers-market-pre-botanic-gardens walk for Mr E's birthday.

Sunday 21st August
CBeebies was particularly scandalous today...

Monday 22nd August
Mini-M's trail of destruction! (Starting her card shark training early)

Tuesday 23rd August
Playing with the jingle bells in the sensory baby area at the re-opened National Museum

Wednesday 24th August
Yep - I'm a Google Analytics geek - keeping an eye on my blog stats!

Thursday 25th August
Mr E beat me to bed tonight - but thankfully didn't steal the duvet :o)

Friday 26th August
Site visit for work today - high vis and waterproof trousers - glamorous!

Sunday, 28 August 2011


Well, I should be blogging my picture a day photos, but to be honest, I don't currently have the energy to creep upstairs (Mini-M is asleep), get the camera cable, upload my pictures, review, choose, upload and blog them. It's been a hectic (but lovely) long weekend of family visiting, and whilst the 8am trip to the swing park with Mini-M this morning was fun, it has made today seem rather l-o-n-g.

So instead of photos, I'm sharing some of the odder search terms folk have used and ended up on this site (Oh, the joys of Google Analytics!). I am still amazed that anyone reads it at all, and very glad they do - makes it all seem a little less futile! But similarly amused and puzzled and apparently also a little analytics geek (so speaks my big SEO and analytics geek of a husband!).

  • 1 tin crushed pineapple (drained
Well, I did write a post about crushed pineapple crumble (which I highly recommend for a very good balance of ease and deliciousness!). I'm just amused by this approach to recipe searching - and wondering of said person had already poured the pineapple juice down the sink by mistake, hence they specificity of their term!

  • average number of pictures taken at a birthday
Why you would search for this, or indeed need to know, I have no idea! I like to think it was to settle some argument between stressed out post-birthday party parents "Oh man, you took a ridiculous amount of pictures", "No I didn't 376 pictures is totally reasonable for one afternoon", "I'm sure it isn't", "It is, honestly, I'm sure lots of people take more photos than that, it's really about average", "Not sure I believe that..." cue the Google searching!

  • chocolate and cakey cake song
I'm pretty sure I've not written a blog post about chocolate cake songs, or any type of cake songs for that matter. But I'm kind of wishing I had now... and also wondering what cakey cake is, and whether it is extra cakey, or just kind of slightly undercooked in the middle.

  • flooding edinburgh
Oh dear - seems my work is creeping into my personal life!

  • makey* - life... for madness
A little worried that the randomness and implied insanity of this search term ultimately leading to a visit to my blog says bad things about a) my sanity, b) my typing, c) the quality of my ramblings.

  • rice juice
Urgh. Not an appealing thought. Feel like I must make more cakes to counteract the perceived presence of "rice juice" on my blog!

  • ruth ellis interior design okalhoma
This is not me. Poor, sad disappointed searchers! And now, by using the words specifically on this blog, I'm increasing my chances of being found, and disappointing other Oklahoman home decorators. Sorry folks.

  • should you ice and marzipan fruit cake before you put brandy in it
No. Just no. Stop and think about this silly searching person! That would make it all soggy. Hopefully they found a post that set them right!

  • Warriston Allotments
I walk past them frequently - turns out they have also been mentioned a few times here too. Maybe I have converted some veggie growers into being cake bakers instead - who knows!

  • What can I use glace cherries in
Why not just search for glace cherries, or glace cherry recipes?! Do people really search in sentences? Seems they do. I would have loved it even more if it had said please at the end. And to answer the question... theoretically lots of things, but they are overrated really, and you could just as well leave them out - I only put them in because Mr E seems to think they are delicious, and since he often cleans up the post-caking dishes, it seems prudent to keep him on side...

And with that it is time for bed! Writing this post has quite nicely filled in enough time to make sloping off to the land of nod acceptable, and no longer in the realm of 'are you feeling ill?' questioning!

Pictures tomorrow - promise!

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Daring Bakers August 2011: Candylicious!

The August 2011 Daring Bakers’ Challenge was hosted by Lisa of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives and Mandy of What the Fruitcake?!. These two sugar mavens challenged us to make sinfully delicious candies! This was a special challenge for the Daring Bakers because the good folks at offered an amazing prize for the winner of the most creative and delicious candy!
This was a fab challenge for me - making chocolates and sweets is something I have had a lot of fun with in the past, and having a justifiable excuse to give it a shot again was brilliant.
In the end I made 3 different types of chocolates and sweets.
First up was "pina-colada" coconut ice, made by boiling together butter, sugar and milk, then adding dessicated coconut, quickly pouring half into the prepared tin, before adding pineapple essence and a little yellow food colouring to the other half, and pouring it on top.

I then had a go at creating a dairy free version of traditional Scottish tablet, made using oat milk and soya margarine - and it worked!
I was a little bit concerned that since it was made with oat milk, it would taste of porridge, but thankfully it didn't - it tasted pretty much like normal tablet, but with an extra undertone of nuttiness, which comes from the oats. It did set considerably harder than tablet made with milk and butter, but I suppose significantly altering 2/3 of the key ingredients is bound to cause some unexpected side effects! All in all this was definitely a winner, and given how slowly and relatively unsuccessfully the re-introduction of dairy to my diet has been going I can see it being made again...
And lastly, I tried my hand a chocolate tempering, with more success than I expected, and made peanut butter and strawberry jam truffles.
They were a birthday present for Mr E, and so I had a time window of about 2hrs whilst he a friend went to the cinema to watch boy films (Cowboys and Aliens in this case, I think!) In a rare bit of forward planning on my part, I had got some organic 72% chocolate buttons from Coco Chocolate, which were rich, dark and dairy free - win!
Mr E is a big fan of all things peanut butter, so I decided to make peanut butter centred chocs. However the peanut butter I had to hand was unsalted, smooth ground - essentially just squished up roasted peanuts - which has a very dense and grainy texture. So I decided to work the peanut butter and jam vibe, and mixed 1tbsp peanut butter, 1tbsp strawberry jam, and a pinch of salt in a bowl. I then sieved in enough icing sugar until it was stiff enough to roll into balls.
At about this point in the making process, I discovered my thermometer which I would need to properly temper the chocolate had not batteries, Mr E was out, and Mini-M was asleep, so I couldn't go on an emergency battery run. I decided therefore that actually getting the chocolate tempered was highly unlikely, and put the rolled truffles in the freezer to firm up, not worrying about the frozen centres causing the dipped chocolates to sweat or bloom.
Once they were hard, I melted about 75g of chocolate in the microwave, then added about 25g unmelted chocolate and stirred until it had also melted - my attempt at 'seeding' without a thermometer to check the temperature. The chocolate gave a lovely thin coating, but did sweat a bit with the frozen centres. We took them out on a birthday picnic, and they were delicious - just the right combination of sweet, salty and darkly chocolatey. They got a big thumbs up.
I used the leftovers to make a giant chocolate drop, and sprinkled the top with hazelnut brittle crumbs, hazelnuts, coconut and sultanas. It was whilst this was setting that I realised it was still nice and shiny, so I somehow very flukily managed to actually get the chocolate tempered. Woop. Shame I'll never be able to repeat the process!!!

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Foraged Bramble, Pear and Hazelnut Crumb Cake

It was Mr E's birthday on Saturday. We had a lovely day, seeing a Festival Fringe show, going to the farmer's market, wandering through the Festival crowds in town, a picnic lunch in the Botanic Gardens, then a walk back home along the Water of Leith.

During the walk home, there was some spontaneous bramble (blackberry) foraging, as they are just starting to become ripe. Here's half of our haul.

I was planning on making banana and maple syrup birthday cake for pudding, but the newly foraged brambles were begging to be baked too - and so Mr E got two birthday cakes... the banana one shall no doubt appear here in due course, but first, here are the foraged fruits in a moist and delicious Bramble, Pear & Hazelnut Crumb Cake.

This is a very impressive looking cake - and it tastes as good as it looks thankfully!

I used a BBC Good Food recipe for a Blackberry & Apple Crumb Cake as my basis, and made a few alterations.

Here's the recipe I ended up with!

Bramble, Pear & Hazelnut Crumb Cake
Serves 8-10
For the cake
  • 175g margarine (I used dairy free sunflower)
  • 150g granulated sugar plus 1tbsp
  • 3 eggs
  • 200g plain flour
  • 2tsp baking powder
  • 100g plain yoghurt (I used goats yoghurt)
  • 4 medium sized pears
  • 225g brambles (blackberries)
For the crumble
  • 50g margarine (again dairy free sunflower)
  • 50g light muscovado sugar
  • 1tsp ground cinnamon
  • 50g hazelnuts
  • 75g plain flour
Heat the oven to 180C (fan 160C).
Grease and line a 20cm (8in) loose bottomed or spring form cake tin.
First prepare the crumble topping.
Roughly chop the hazelnuts.
Melt the margarine in the microwave (about 30s did it for me), then mix in the sugar, cinnamon, flour and hazelnuts. The resulting mixture will not really be crumbly - don't worry! It will set a bit as it cools, and you can then crumble it over the cake later. I wasn't convinced, but it turned out just fine.

Next prepare the pears.
Melt 25g of the margarine in a frying pan, and add 1tbsp of granulated sugar, and allow to dissolve. Peel, core and cut the pears into 1/8ths. Add to the pan, and cook for about 10 mins until starting to colour and caramelise just a little bit.

Then make the cake batter.
Beat together the unmelted margarine and granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in the eggs, then fold in the flour and baking powder. Lastly mix in the yogurt.
Finally assemble the cake.
Pour 2/3 of the cake mixture into the prepared tin and Level it out.
Crumble over 1/3 of the crumble topping mixture, then top with the remaining 1/3 of the cake mixture, followed by another 1/3 of the crumble mixture.
"Arrange" the pears and brambles on the top of the cake (I just tipped the pears on first, followed by the brambles, but artistic arrangement would also be nice!).
Top with the remaining 1/3 of the crumble mixture.
Bake in the middle of the over for about 1.5hrs. Cover it with a sheet of foil after 45mins if it is browning too much on top.
Allow to cool completely in the tin, then carefully lift out the base.
Admire your handiwork, then enjoy!

Saturday, 20 August 2011

A picture A Day: Week 33

A day late, but that is becoming the norm... here are last week's pictures!

Saturday 13th August
Not sure this is one of the serving suggestions on the Dairy Free Cheese Sauce tub. (Yes, such a thing does exist, and tastes not quite as bad as the title suggests)

Sunday 14th August
Epic spider outside our front door

Monday 15th August
Marauding and shouting!

Tuesday 16th August
Mini-M making a "I'm slightly unconvinced by prawn toast" face. Apparently it throws pretty well too.

Wednesday 17th August
Rain from the bus on the way home from work

Thursday 18th August
I see some banana loaf in the near future...

Friday 19th August
Tiger print crepe paper wrapping Mr E's birthday present, which led me to ponder what exactly is the point of crepe paper? It is clearly useless as wrapping paper, because sellotape doesn't stick to it... about 2 mins after taking this picture, the present self-unwrapped!

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Wallpaper Wildlife Silhouettes

A year or so ago, we put up some patterned wall paper on one wall in our living room. Whilst choosing the paper, we ended up with a bunch of samples, and after we had made our decision, I liked the samples too much to throw them away, so I did what I always do - stashed them away in the spare room, where they have languished for months on end.

But finally, I got round to doing something with them. I decided to make some animal silhouettes as a kind of hybrid baby/grown-up decorative feature: hopefully they will pique Mini-M's curiosity in a vaguely colour co-ordinated and tasteful way!

First of all I printed out some animal silhouettes that I downloaded from I then lightly glued them with a few tiny dabs of paper glue onto the wallpaper samples, cut around them with scissors, and peeled the prints off again.

Currently they are just blu-tacked on the wall along the skirting, but the plan is to paste them on - which will look remarkably similar to the blu-tacked version - so you can just imagine that they already are!!!!

Here are a few close-ups of the animals before I stuck them to the wall...

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Baking with Biscuits!

I'm have a not very secret love for recipe books: the slightly buckled shelves on our bookcase are a testament to that! As well as being a bit of a sucker for the glossy pictures and beautiful styling of the likes of Nigella, Ottolenghi and Heston, I'm equally captivated by local recipe book - generally released as fundraisers for local organisations, like the Women's Institute, School PTAs, or, as like the case in point this time, Girlguiding Roxburghshire.

Books like these are often full of hidden gems, often sketchy descriptions, and sometimes mysterious unquantified ingredients, and that all adds to the charm. I was given this one to celebrate 100 years of Guiding, and it's a largely cake and baking focused book.

Leafing through, several recipes appealed to me, and soon I had a bit of a theme going - recipes that use other ready made biscuits are the basis. Many great traybakes use digestives and rich teas as their basis, however I found a few that took the concept a little further - and of course I made a few little tweaks along the way!

So read on for my take on some seriously sweet slices featuring custard creams, jaffa cakes and digestives (both regular and caramel)...

Jaffa Slice
  • 1 packet of jaffa cakes
  • 200g dark chocolate
  • 5 rich tea biscuits
  • 5 'Nice' biscuits
  • 100g butter
Grease a cake tin, and line the bottom with greaseproof paper.
Chop the jaffa cakes into small pieces.
Melt the butter and chocolate together - I did it in the microwave, in short bursts, stirring very frequently.
Crush the rich tea and 'Nice' biscuits together to make fine crumbs. I popped them into a strong freezer bag, wrapped in a tea towel, and set to them with a rolling pin - it's great for venting rage!
Stir the crushed biscuits and chopped jaffa cakes into the melted mixture. Pour it into the prepared tin, and leave to set in the fridge over night, before cutting into squares, and enjoying an intense chocolatey-orangey hit!

Coconut Slice

  • 100g margarine
  • 1/2 cup demerara sugar
  • 12 digestive biscuits
  • 1 heaped tbsp self raising flour
  • 2 cups dessicated coconut
  • 1x 397g tin of condensed milk
Preheat the oven to 180 Degrees (170 degrees for a fan oven).
Grease and base line a swiss roll tin with silicone paper.
Crush the digestive biscuits to make crumbs.
Melt the margarine, add the crushed biscuits, demerara sugar and self raising flour and mix well.
Press it into the prepared swiss roll tin, and bake for 10 mins.
Remove from the oven, but leave the oven on.
Mix the coconut and condensed milk together and spread over the base.
Put back in the oven for another 15-20mins until golden brown on top.
Allow to cool in the tin, then cut into squares. Yum!

Extreme Malteser Slice!
  • 125g Butter
  • 300g pack of caramel digestives
  • 2x 135g bags of maltesers
  • 2 tbsp golden syrup
Grease and base line a swiss roll or cake tin.
Crush the caramel digestive biscuits - you might need to cut up the caramel a bit if it all clumps up - but it is worth the effort!
Melt the butter, syrup and chocolate together over a low heat in a large saucepan.
Once it is all melted, stir in the crushed biscuits and maltesers.
Pour into the prepared tin, and chill until set, before cutting into squares.
The caramel digestives take an already delicious treat to a new level!

Custard Cream Slice
  • 400g custard cream biscuits
  • 200g white chocolate
  • 100g butter
  • 75g white chocolate with freeze dried strawberry pieces
Grease and line a swiss roll or cake tin.
Crush the custard creams (including the filling - it will all mush together quite easily)
Carefully melt the white chocolate and butter together - take care not to heat too quickly, or on too high a heat, or the chocolate will seize.
Once the mixture is melted, stir in the crushed custard creams and stir well to combine.
Press the mixture into the prepared tin.
Melt the strawberry chocolate, and spread in a thin layer over the top of the mixture.
Chill until set, and cut into squares. Mmmmmm.

Once they were all set and sliced, I made them into a selection box the lovely Miss L, baby sitter and sister extraordinaire, to take on her travels to Alborg and beyond. We had a bet going that it wouldn't last to the ferry terminal in Newcastle, but apparently with some epic willpower, and some strategic stashing in the boot, it made it all the way!

Sunday, 14 August 2011

The Daring Cooks August 2011 Challenge: Appam & Curry - both a failure and success!

Mary, who writes the delicious blog, Mary Mary Culinary was our August Daring Cooks’ host. Mary chose to show us how delicious South Indian cuisine is! She challenged us to make Appam and another South Indian/Sri Lankan dish to go with the warm flat bread.

Appam is a south indian yeasted flatbread, made with rice.

This challenge was fun, and I'd say in equal parts a success and a failure.

My appam were pretty much a failure. If I'm being honest I'm not surprised - the only rice I had to hand was short grain pudding rice, so I just went ahead and used it, but I think it stayed too gritty, even after the soaking and blending and didn't release enough starch. So the first appam were an epic fail. This is what they looked like after I scraped them off the bottom of the pan!

One of my lovely dinner guests then suggested, half in jest, adding some flour, and 1tbsp plain flour beaten in to the batter made a huge difference - phew! Lateral thinking dinner guests always come in handy. Not only that but they even helped with the washing up!

I made several different Sri Lankan and southern Indian dishes to go with them, largely chosen based on the veg that came in this week's East Coast veg box and they were definitely a success. I think the tasted even better as heated up leftovers today.

I made a dry spiced potato curry using this recipe. I missed out the dill seed, as I didn't have any, and omitted the coriander, as I'm allergic to it, but other than that followed the recipe pretty much exactly. It was delicious - hot but not too hot, and the dessicated coconut really worked well (mine was unsweetened dessicated coconut - not sure how well it would have gone with sweetened stuff).

I made a boiled egg curry using this recipe, since the slightly curried egg in kedgeree always seemed to me to be the best bit. It was one of those dishes that seems far more than a sum of its parts - literally just some egg, onion and spices. Delicious - I will definitely make something like this again.

I did have one dish that was a monumental digression from the original recipe - as is my way! I made a carrot, pea and broadbean curry with coconut milk. It was loosely based on this recipe for beet curry, but as I said, I used carrots, broad beans and peas, and upped the amount of coconut milk to allow it to simmer for longer.

And finally I made a sweet tomato chutney, using this recipe, and substituting hazelnuts for almonds, because that's what I had to hand. I'm not a chutney fan, but it got top marks from Mr E, who is a bit of a connoisseur!

The photos are pretty attrocious - this last one in particular! I took them all in rubbish light, with my flash on, which never makes food look appealing - or even in focus sometimes. But fun of the challenge was ultimately in the making and eating, not the photographing, so I'll live with them!

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Mini-M's First Birthday Cake: Giraffetastic!

Apologies to those of you that are my Facebook friends - you'll already have seen these photos, but I couldn't resist a blog post with Mini-M's first birthday cake!

Mini-M turned a few weeks ago, and I made a cake for her party. Giraffes are a bit of a theme running through her toys and stories, and life in general, what with having a 6'3" tall Dad, and sharing a namesake with of the Omni Centre giraffe sculptures, in Edinburgh.

"Dreaming Spires" by Helen Denerley - otherwise known as Martha & Gilbert.

I got very excited when I found a giraffe biscuit cutter on Amazon for £1.04 - and decided that the cake would have to be topped with giraffe biscuits.

I made a chocolate coconut milk cake, so that I could eat it too (there was baby friendly cake for the teenies) . I made giraffe print icing for the bottom layer by rolling out yellow fondant, and cutting out pieces of chocolate fondant for the spots, sticking them on top with a dab of water, and rolling it out a little again. I covered the giraffes in a layer of yellow fondant then piped some decidedly no giraffe-y patterns on them with chocolate icing.

That said, I think giraffes look amazing with stripes, and perhaps a giraffe/zebra breeding programme should be set up to work on it....


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