March 2014

March 2014

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Cake and Bake Show - more lowlights than highlights

Mary Berry with Alistair Appleton

The first ever eagerly anticipated Cake and Bake show took place last weekend at Earls Court in London. I had bought tickets some time ago, along with my daughter Laura and her mother-in-law Chris and we expected a full day of baking demonstrations, sampling and shopping.
Unfortunately, it seemed that the trade stands were dominated by the art of sugarcraft - which didn’t particularly interest us – as well as the ever popular cupcake wrappers, boxes, sprinkles, etc. We were therefore disappointed that the general alchemy of cake-making seemed to be missing along with the equipment and utensils to aid in their production.
We felt that the exhibition layout wasn’t wonderful and navigating the awkward shape with an oversized programme and map wasn’t easy in the overcrowded areas. Indeed, for the first few hours, in most cases stands were 6-deep in ticket-holders and therefore it was impossible to view any of the items being demonstrated or for sale. Stands also ran out of promotional items before we got to them and, in fact, shut-up shop early.
Sadly, we felt that the Earls Court organisation wasn’t up to scratch either – long, long queues at the entrance, long, long queues in the refreshment areas – which were overpriced and under-stocked – and, of course, long, long queues for the loos.

Edd Kimber

During the afternoon we did manage to glimpse Eric Lanlard in the distance on the Baking Mad stand, saw Patissier Claire Clark, and Edd Kimber (of Great British Bake Off fame) signed a book for me before we ventured over to the Demonstration Kitchen and were lucky enough to see Mary Berry demonstrate three of her recipes. She was introduced by Alistair Appleton– sometimes seen on Escape to the Country – and was joined towards the end by Paul Hollywood.

As the crowds thinned at the close of the day it was then possible to take another, this time ‘breathable’, tour of the exhibition but the disappointment lingered and it was difficult to drum up further enthusiasm. I wonder if others felt the same?

Friday, September 21, 2012

Northampton & District Clandestine Cake Club 'Vanilla' meeting

I wonder how many of us actually enquire where – or which country - we get our baking ingredients from or, indeed, how they are produced? With this in mind, it was a great starting point for our CCC meeting, on 20th September, to utilise the flavour of  ‘vanilla’ in our cakes, which our local member, Vanessa Kimbell, knew something about following her recent visit to Fairtrade Ndali in Uganda.
We met at member Marian’s beautiful village home on the outskirts of Northampton and an enormous thank you must be expressed to her for hosting our meeting. Two huge tables were set beautifully and the tea, coffee, cold drinks, and natter flowed throughout the evening. Our donations for the refreshments were donated by Marian to her personal charity.
During the evening, Vanessa enlightened us about her own first-hand experience of vanilla production and a cookery book swap took place, with the proceeds being used to assist a Ugandan child in her schooling. Our cakes came, as usual, in all shapes and sizes, with accompaniments of cream, soft fruit and even vanilla vodka (mmmmm..... a nice surprise!). Take a look at the photo, close your eyes, and just imagine the scent and flavour of all those confections! It was another wonderful CCC event.
Further photos can be found shortly on the CCC website:

Sunday, September 16, 2012

No yeast flatbread

I enjoy cooking but there are times when I run out of steam and, during these moments, I think the hardest part of delivering a meal each day is, in fact, making the decision of what to actually prepare! This weekend was such a time and I thought it would be nice, perhaps foolishly, to include my husband in the Saturday night dinner decision and preparation process to get me over this ‘hump’.  He gallantly took the bait and we prepared together - for the first time ever - a meal consisting of white anchovies steeped in vinegar and herbs with a beetroot and carrot salad as a starter, then a main course of chicken tikka masala with a green salad, all accompanied by our own delicious home-made flatbread. I shouldn’t have been concerned at all - it turned out to be so successful and easy.
The recipe below is straightforward and can be doubled to make a big batch for a larger crowd. You can also freeze them and, when needed, simply defrost thoroughly and warm through in the oven wrapped in foil.
250g self-raising flour
½ tablespoon sea salt
½ tablespoon baking powder
250g natural yoghurt

Put all the dry ingredients in a bowl, make a well in the centre and tip in the yoghurt. Mix to a dough. Dust your work surface with a little flour and knead for a minute to bring the dough together, then divide into 6 equal-sized pieces. Dust a rolling pin with flour and roll the pieces of dough out into side-plate rounds.

Using a hot griddle pan, cook each flatbread for a couple of minutes per side, until slightly puffy and lightly charred.

PS My husband enjoyed helping so much that he told me that he will be making another batch – unaccompanied this time – very soon.  Now, maybe, I have to make a decision to turn-off the smoke alarm when he’s flying solo in the kitchen? Don't worry - only kidding!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

‘Good things’ do come in threes.

'Good thing’ number one. I had an unexpected knock on the door a few days ago from the postman. He didn't hand over any post but was thrilled to relay the news that a Mrs Gillian Tarry lived just round the corner - she at number 19 and me at number 29. So, you may ask, what’s this amazing bit of information all about? Well, for those that don’t know, my name is also Mrs Gillian Tarry! What a coincidence, someone with the same name living just doors away. Yesterday, whilst out walking past her house, I noticed a woman – about the same age as me – standing in the doorway of 29 and, you guessed it, I just couldn’t resist introducing myself. We chatted, very amicably, for quite a few minutes and I have resolved to add her to my Christmas card list – it will be fun sending one to Gillian Tarry from Gillian Tarry!

‘Good thing’ number two.  Am I the only shopper in any supermarket that finds the trolley with a wobbly front wheel that travels in only one direction? Today, however, I went shopping at our local Waitrose. On my way into the store I noticed a man, wearing a High-Viz jacket, putting a supermarket trolley through its paces. He wheeled it in one steady direction, then back and forth, before finally zig-zagging down the car park road. What on earth was happening? Well, the mystery was solved when he whipped out an aerosol can of WD-40, sprayed the rolling mechanism, and with triumphant gestures proclaimed the shopping carriage fit for use. Certainly, a ‘good thing’ that I have never before witnessed - I just wish they could now do something about the electric shocks that I have received on a regular basis from supermarket trolleys. Now, that’s another story!

‘Good thing’ number three. My nephew and his family, as well as our daughter and son-in-law, are coming to visit on Sunday and, thank goodness, the weather forecast is set fair. So.....afternoon tea in the garden will be the order of the day and I have decided to make a sultana and vanilla cake to accompany the usual sandwiches, and scones, etc. It’s a recipe that I haven’t tested before but it’s nice to sometimes experiment. It contains the usual store-cupboard ingredients and I will certainly be using rich and intense Ndali Fairtrade organic vanilla - now also available in powder form - which is grown in Uganda. If successful, I will include a photo here and, should you like to know the full list of ingredients and method, just ask.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Food for thought

Farming and animal welfare can sometimes be an emotive subject and one on which many people have strong views for and against. A dear friend recently sent me a link to a website called Compassion in World Farming since, she wrote in her email, “you are an animal lover and have an interest in baking”: it has proved to be a fascinating and enlightening read.
British dairy farmer, Peter Roberts, had real concerns in the 1960s about the animal welfare issues associated with the new systems of intensive farming at that time.  He decided, in 1967, to really raise awareness of so called ‘factory farming’.
Since that time, the movement has grown and a firm stance has been established against intensive methods practised, in so far as farm animals should not, and need not, suffer.
There are various ways to help this organisation but one certainly caught my eye: Bake with Compassion. The idea is simple: bake with higher welfare ingredients - such as free-range eggs and organic dairy products - and then hold your very own cake sale, dinner party or bake-off during October.
If you are interested, details can be found here:-