Category Archives: Cooking

Happy Birthday Grandma

As promised in my post ‘Happy Birthday Grandpa’, my challenge was to make a coffee and walnut cake for Grandma’s birthday and I think with a little help from Masterchef judge Gregg Wallace and the veteran of a thousand cake sales as described by the BBC Good Food website, I did pretty well. I took the ingredients for the sponge element of the cake from the traditional coffee and walnut cake recipe (although I finely chopped the walnuts rather than halved them) and the icing, filling and decoration from Greg Wallace’s recipe. I was ably assisted by the little lady and my twin brother (who was making a special flying visit) but as you can see from the photographs they preferred to lick the whisks rather than do the hard graft!

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Pancake Day

I love Pancake Day; partly because pancake tossing is something I can actually say I’m better at than my husband and partly because it makes for an easy dinner, although clearly only the girls in this family would agree with the latter. Ava and I were perfectly satisfied to have a savoury pancake (ham and cheese) for main and a sweet pancake (banana and honey for Ava and the traditional sugar and lemon for me) for dessert. Benjamin, the youngest Popple isn’t interested in eating any sort of pancake be it sweet or savoury and as for Andy, a pancake in his view can only be served sweet, as a dessert. I must admit that the savoury pancake was a first for me and if I’m really honest I prefer ham and cheese omelettes! So perhaps this is one thing Andy and I do agree on after all.

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Happy Birthday Grandpa

These days I don’t need much excuse to don the apron, roll my sleeves up and get the baking gear out of the cupboard and last week to celebrate my Dad’s (Grandpa’s) birthday, provided the perfect excuse. Over the last few years, the children’s birthdays have given me ample opportunity to practice making Victoria sponge and Madeira cakes and I for one was ready to consume something different. Inspired by a Facebook photograph of a cake that my friend made for her husband’s birthday recently and my father’s love of chocolate, ok my love of chocolate, I decided that a chocolate sponge cake was in order. My mother reminded me that this was not in fact my first chocolate sponge cake offering. As a child, I had spent several hours throwing together a chocolate sponge cake in celebration of one of her birthdays. A recipe at the age of 8 or 9 was obviously considered a hindrance to the creative process. The fact that I refused to touch even a morsel of the finished article, speaks volumes about the success of that experiment. Anyway, this was Ava’s first chocolate sponge cake and definitely the first time that three generations of the Collins girls have baked together (for those of you who know my mother, you’ll know how rare this is!).

I have faithfully followed Delia Smith’s sponge cake recipe for some time now and naturally expected another Delia special, with a chocolate twist but when my Google search resulted in a chocolicious offering by none other than Mary Berry, of Great British Bake Off fame, I knew I was onto a winner, so here is the finished result:

Chocolate Sponge Cake Grandma & Ava

Later this month it is Grandma’s birthday and I’m reliably informed her favourite cake is a coffee walnut cake. That definitely would be a first for me. Does anyone have a recipe that they care to share?

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Slow cookers in vogue?

I’m not usually a follower of fashion but it would seem with my latest purchase that I might just be on trend this time, at least amongst the yummy mummy brigade. I have purchased a slow cooker . I was motivated to buy one on two grounds. At some point I will have to return to paid employment and I’m pretty sure learning how to use a slow cooker will not be high on the priority list then and secondly, one of my New Year’s resolutions was to cook at least one new dish a month. I’ve managed to cook two new dishes in the last two weeks (see below); does that mean I can have a month off?

On reflection however (isn’t hindsight a great thing?), I should have researched my purchase better and having now activated the on switch on my slow cooker, I have had two thoughts. 1. It could do with being a bit bigger. I can only really feed our family of four with the volume I selected and 2. I should have purchased one with a timer switch (my husband, the problem solver, assures me that we can buy a timer like you do for lights that should do the job.). So, I am considering whether to throw my current model on the buy and sell sites and make a loss and buy one that does exactly what I want, or to carry on with what I have which does the job.

Anyway, to accompany my slow cooker, I also purchased ‘Hamlyn All Colour Cookbooks 200 Slow Cooker Recipes’, an invaluable resource for the novice slow cooker user. So far I have cooked the ‘beef and root vegetable hotpot’ and the ‘ham in cola’ and was pretty pleased with both (pictures below). I do have a small ‘beef’ with the ham dish though. The sauce is very salty and the smell (which in my opinion is pretty vile – pregnant ladies with sensitive sniffers beware!), radiates throughout the whole house for days. That said, the ham itself was delicious. Anyone have any other recipes I could try? Please post below!

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‘Tis the season to get cooking

This year I wanted to put my mark on Christmas and make as many homemade things as I could think of with the able assistance of the little lady. I left out fudge and didn’t leave myself sufficient time to make a Christmas cake this year so I have something to post about next year!

My homemade Christmas started with chutney and where best to start the search for a recipe than Netmums

Chutney – this sweet chutney in my opinion was the perfect accompaniment to our first course pâté dish on Christmas Day. The husband did not agree as it contained raisins but more for the rest of us!

Gingerbread biscuits – I had intended to make reindeer Gingerbread biscuits as I had seen in a post on Wokingham Gossip Girls but I could not find a gingerbread man cutter (you turn a gingerbread man upside down for the desired effect) for love or money and so resorted to star and heart cutouts with decorative icing. We made the biscuits a couple of weeks in advance and froze them but had I known that they were quite so easy to make, I suspect they would have tasted better fresh.

Peppermint creams – again we made these in advance (no requirement for freezing, just to be left in a sealed bag) and given their simplicity, I would definitely only make them a day or two early in future.

Christmas cupcakes – these were made using a simple fairy cake recipe and the icing was simply buttercream mixed with red/green food colouring for that extra festive feel.

Pavlova & Trifle – I was determined that we, or more to the point I, was going to make a Christmas dessert or two from scratch so I turned to the most reliable source Delia Smith for my pavlova. The pavlova was absolutely scrumptious and surprisingly easy to make. The trifle looked good, however it completely lacked flavour so I have uploaded a piccie but have omitted the recipe for this one. I was quick to admit the blandness of the flavour so as to avoid any awkward and less than truthful exclamations of how ‘delicious’ it was!

If you have any festive recipes that I could try for next year, please feel free to post your recipe/link below!

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