Sunday, 28 December 2014

Red Velvet by Lily Vanilli for a 60th Birthday

My lovely friend's mum turned 60 just before Christmas. In all the pre-Christmas prep and chaos I managed to squeeze in decorating a cake for her. She requested a red velvet, so I delved into my new Lily Vanilli Sweet Tooth book for the recipe. I doubled her Red Velvet recipe for my 10" square cake and used the whizzed-up crumbs from levelling it off to shape the name and the 60. It was then slathered in delicious cream cheese frosting. My friend also asked for a bow that she'd seen on my Leopard Skin cake. Only too happy to oblige...

lily vanilli
I'm very keen to make more from Lily Vanilli, so keep watching. Also love her name! Puntastic!

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Christmas Cake

 Only a few days left to Chrimbo! Time to decorate the cake for this year.
This is for my mother-in-law, who plays bowls with my father-in-law every week.
Decorated by their grandkids and dutiful son.
Merry Christmas one and all.  

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Tierra Peru, Islington - Restaurant Review

 Peruvian cuisine is hugely trendy at the moment, and this little gem of a place on Essex Road is the first time I've tried what is becoming renowned as the best of Latin American food. There's a Spanish tapas feel initially but both the differences and similarities become obvious as we indulge in as much Inca fare as we can.

Early evening, the place was empty but filled up comfortably as the evening wore on. A haven for local Foodies I would imagine, as well as an eatery worth travelling across London to visit. With simplistic Incan wall art and cosy seating, the staff made us feel welcome and at ease.

Choosing from the menu proved inconclusive as we all wanted to try everything, so in the end we went for two of the special platters, which was enough for five people, deceivingly so, as it seemed so little, but made us all satisfied. Pretty much everything in the menu was contained in these two dishes so it was exactly what we needed. 

The most traditional and possibly best known dish from Peru, is of course, the ceviche. These are usually fish and vegetables 'cooked' in citric juices and are served cold. A lot of  pulses and vegetables mixed in gave texture and flavour. My favourite meat dish was the chicaronnes de cerdo - deep-fried pork with cassava and chimmichurri sauce. Not hot at all - until the aftertaste kicked in!

Some similarities to my beloved Spanish food were the deep-fried cassava and cheese balls, reminiscent of croquettas, and much grilled seafood. Alongside this, the unfamiliar plantain, Peruvian corn, and palm hearts. The fusion of hearty traditional stews with modern unique dishes gives a whole wealth of new dishes which I will be more than happy to return to explore.
(Speaking of heart, one dish was actually heart, cooked and tasting similar to liver, definitely worth a try.)

Desserts were most unusual. Chilli ice-cream? What a paradox. But it worked. It worked well. The chocolate mousse with pisco, Peru's traditional spirit, was delicious, and the rococo pepper ice cream intensified all the dessert flavours.

Mousse de Pisco y Chocolate
Helado Frito de Rocoto
Picarones y Helados

We were left feeling totally satisfied, as you do when eating tiny amounts of lots of different plates. And also indulged. When I go back I know what I want more of!

Tierra Peru
164 Essex Road
N1 8LY
020 7354 5586

Meal for two with wine ~£80

Tierra Peru on Urbanspoon Square Meal

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Chocolate Gingerbread - an non fruit-cake Christmas cake alternative - RECIPE

My fabulous food photographer friend over at Stem and Ginger, Karen, and I have collaborated to come up with a tantalizing alternative Christmas cake. One which doesn't need to be baked weeks or months in advance (who thinks about Christmas in September, really...?). And one which isn't your typical fruit cake laced with whisky, rich and ensconced in marzipan. This, my friends, is Chocolate Gingerbread Cake, with Cinnamon and Honey frosting, topping with sugar-coated cranberries. It merges all the traditional flavours; cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, but also oozes the richness of a sumptuous chocolate cake, which, let's be straight with ourselves, is really what Christmas is all about. Chocolate.

Cranberries are fabulous at this time of year, and their seasonality is short-lived, so make the most of them. Blue Kitchen Bakes is a big fan and so I've joined her Fresh Cranberry Recipe Link Up 2014, with these fresh (Ocado-delivered) cranberries, sugar-coated for a beautiful yet simple finish.

My recipe, and Stem and Ginger's fabulous photos are featured in Fabric's Fabvent Calendar Day 9!
Also featured on Acardia Online lifestyle website.

Chocolate Gingerbread Cake – An alternative to a traditional Christmas cake

Recipe serves 8-10
Prep: 30 mins
Cook: 40 mins
Decoration: 30 mins plus overnight refrigeration


120 g unsalted butter
150 g dark muscovado sugar
2 eggs
240 ml buttermilk
100 g molasses
270 g plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
60 g cocoa
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
Large pinch of nutmeg
½ tsp salt
4 tbsp crystalized ginger, chopped
180 g chocolate, roughly chopped


Heat the oven to 180 C, and lightly grease 2 round 8 inch tins.
Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and dark muscovado sugar together until light and fluffy.
Beat in the eggs, followed by the buttermilk and molasses. The mixture may look a little curdled.
Sift in the flour, bicarbonate of soda, cocoa powder, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt, and mix until you have a smooth batter. Fold in the crystalized ginger and chocolate, taking care not to over-mix.
Divide the mixture evenly between the two tins. Bake for 35-40 mins, until a skewer comes out clean.
Cool on a wire rack.

Cinnamon and Honey Frosting


200g mascarpone cheese
50 g unsalted butter
120 g icing sugar
1 tbsp runny organic honey
¼ tsp cinnamon


Cream the cheese and butter together for about five minutes until soft and fluffy. Add in the honey and cinnamon and then sift in the icing sugar. Check the taste until you are happy with the sweetness, adding more icing sugar if needed. Beat until smooth.

Once the cake has cooled, level off the tops. Smooth some of the frosting over the bottom layer, then stack the second cake on top. Coat the top of cake (and the sides if you prefer) with the rest of the frosting, as smooth as you wish.

Sugar Frosted Cranberries

The cranberries are best prepared the night before to ensure complete sweetness. However, a few hours are also sufficient. Fresh cranberries are best of course, as they are in season, but frozen work as well, just remember to de-frost them a few hours before.


75 g fresh or frozen cranberries (not dried)
120 ml water
110 g granulated sugar, plus extra for coating


Make a syrup by simmering the water and sugar together until the sugar has dissolved. Place the cranberries in a bowl, and once the syrup has cooled, pour over the cranberries. Allow to cool completely, then cover completely and refrigerate for a few hours, or overnight if you have time.

Drain the cranberries (you can re-use the syrup). Place the extra sugar on a flat plate, and roll a single layer of the cranberries in it until coated, shaking the plate gently.

Place on some greaseproof paper to dry for about an hour. Once the cake is frosted, and the cranberries have dried, arrange on top in a random pile.

Recipe by me, Photographs by Stem and Ginger.
As featured in Fabric

Friday, 5 December 2014

Cointreau Chocolate Cups - Recipe

I needed a little gift to bring to a dinner party, and rather than just trundle down to Sainsbo's, I thought I'd attempt to make some chocolates. I've made salted caramels before, out of which 5 were presentable out of 15!
This time I got lucky, and all 15 came out of the mould looking good enough to give to someone. I did make another batch using a strawberry shaped mould but only one of those turned out ok!
They're simple enough to make, they do take some time for setting though. You can adjust everything to your own taste, of course.



200 g dark chocolate
70 g white chocolate
70 ml cream
Zest and juice of one or two oranges, depending on how much flavour you want
Dash of Cointreau (again, to taste)
A few drops of orange essence
Sprinkles to decorate, optional


Silicon chocolate mould (I used the one that came with this Something Sweet Magazine)
Flats paintbrush - about 0.75 inch


Firstly, temper your chocolate. I just use the simple microwave method. Break your dark chocolate into pieces and place in the microwave for one minute, NO LONGER! Remove and stir gently, melting the rest of the chocolate just by mixing. You can give it extra 30 second blasts, but be very careful not to overheat it, and be sure the last of the pieces are melted only by stirring gently.
Brush the chocolate into the mould using the paintbrush. Cover the base quite thickly and gently brush the chocolate up the sides of the moulds making sure there are no gaps. Make it as thick as you wish, but the thinner the more delicate the chocolate.
Allow this to set in the fridge for at least an hour.
Make your Ganache filling by breaking the white chocolate into a heat-proof bowl. Bring the cream to a boil in a saucepan, and once it boils, pour over the chocolate. Stir together gently until all the chocolate has melted. Add in the flavourings - Cointreau, orange zest and juice, and essence of orange. Once you have the taste you are happy with, and the Ganache has cooled, spoon or pipe the Ganache into the centre of the chocolate cups that have set. Fill up to near the top, and again, allow to set in the fridge.
Decorate with sprinkles if you wish, or shaved chocolate... yum!

Monday, 1 December 2014

The Tree Biscuiteers

Whilst the fireworks were still sparkling in the sky, the festive season itself was beginning to twinkle when Fabric magazine sent me along to the quirky Icing Café, The Biscuiteers Boutique in Notting Hill. In the window, a ski chalet, made entirely from iced gingerbread was setting the festive mood, and on display inside the shop, an array of beautifully hand-decorated biscuits - rows of festive Jolly Gingers ('tis the season to be, after all), a nativity scene, and for the creative, a DIY gingerbread house. All of which can be gift-wrapped or presented in beautifully illustrated tins. There are even Biscuity Christmas cards - an edible AND ethical way to greet your loved ones this festive season.

I was entrusted with some pre-flooded gingerbread baubles, to decorate howsoever I wished, and it turns out, it's not as easy as it looks. Yes I've decorated lots of cakes and individual edible bits, but the detail and intricacy required gave me a bit of cramp! Hand-icing involves a steady hand, an eye for detail and the willpower to resist eating them before they have dried. My finished snowflake baubles would have looked beautiful on the Christmas tree, but the aroma of gingerbread defeated me and they were gone almost before the kettle had boiled...

Hand-iced Gingerbread Baubles

The Icing Cafe offers icing masterclasses, both for children and grown-ups (office party idea, perhaps?), and a new Biscuiteers Boutique opened up at the end of November on Northcote Road, where all the in-house icing is done in an open kitchen, so clients can watch their bespoke biscuits being designed and decorated, while drinking a warming cuppa in a T.G. Green designer mug. I'd love to stock up on some more bespoke Yuletide goodies, open those tantalising tins and fill some festive stockings and I hope to be back in Notting Hill soon to train as a real Biscuiteer.

Biscuiteers Boutiques & Icing Cafés
13 Northcote Road SW11 1NG
194 Kensintgon Park Road, W11 2ES

Jolly Gingers
Christmas Biscuits