Cupcake Day

In honour of Cupcake Day, I thought I’d take a look back at some of the cupcakes I’ve made over the years. I used to bake a lot more than I do now, but cupcakes have always proved a winner.

I wish I could remember where all of the recipes are from, but I’m pretty sure most come from Nigella Lawson’s How to be a Domestic Goddess. Unfortunately, I can’t check, as my cookery books have been packed away for a while.

However, I know for certain, these Coca Cola Cupcakes are from the pen of Ms Dawson. I just took her sponge recipe and shared it between cupcakes and baked for a shorter time. They are always a huge hit.

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For a variation, I swapped the cola for cream soda and used white hot chocolate in the icing. They went down well too!

coca cola cupcakes & cream soda cupcakes

Caramel cupcakes with a meringue frosting were also well received, as were the orange and poppy seed ones. (I have a feeling these may not be Nigella).

And one year, I stumbled across a recipe for Cream Egg brownies, so I made them into cupcakes, along with some basic double chocolate brownie cupcakes too.

The best reception I received though, was when I made 100 cupcakes of various varieties, including Coca Cola and Peanut Butter, for two friends who were getting married.

cupcakes

Again, I’m so sorry I can’t remember where I found all of the recipes now, but I’m pretty certain there’s no such thing as a bad cupcake recipe, so just dive in and give them a go!

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Beer Gummy Bears

I’m a sucker for kitchen gadgets and gizmos, so when I spotted gummy bear moulds for just £1 on Wish.com, I couldn’t resist. My parcel arrived with a tray to make the bears and a pipette to fill it with. Now, all I needed was the jelly to fill it with.

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My husband and his two grown sons are big fans of Belgium beer, so I thought it might be fun to have a go at some beer gummy bears. On my travels around Pinterest, I found this recipe, which requires just beer, sugar and powdered gelatin – I found one sachet is just over a tablespoon, so I used three sachets when making mine.

I measured out a cup of beer the best I could with the head frothing up and added it to a pan with the sugar and stirred on a low heat until the sugar dissolved, before adding the gelatin and mixing until that too had dissolved.

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Then, using the pipette, I filled the teddy moulds, making sure each teddy was filled to the top, gently popping any air bubbles. I found I had way too much liquid, so ended up filling anything I could find. But the recipe I followed does say you need three teddy bear mould trays.

I popped everything in the fridge for a few hours until set and then turned them out. There was a mixed response from the boys – my husband liked them, but his two sons, not so much. I thought they reminded me of the pint pot sweets I used to get as a child, but with more alcohol in them! In all seriousness, these do hold a lot of their alcohol content, so that’s worth keeping in mind if you’re driving.

I plan to try other concoctions now including gin and tonic and prosecco, so hopefully they’ll work too.

Chicken & Mushroom Risotto

Making a risotto is scary right? Wrong! Risottos really aren’t that tricky to make. Like most people, I was nervous before trying one for the first time, but it was really quite simple. One of my favourites to knock up is a chicken and mushroom risotto.

Start by cutting up chicken breasts – one per person – and cook them off, before setting aside. Melt some butter in a deep frying pan – a generous amount – and add one large, finely chopped onion – red or white, your choice. Allow the onion to sweat, along with a couple of crushed garlic cloves, until they start to soften. Now, add some chopped mushrooms and bacon and allow them to start cooking too.

To the veggies, add your risotto rice, the pack will indicate how much per person and mix around. Let that cook until it starts to turn translucent, before adding around a glass of white wine. When that’s started to cook down, add some chicken stock. I made around a litre, but only put in a quarter to start with. Keep stirring the rice and add more stock as it’s absorbed into the mix.

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After around 15minutes, return the chicken to the pan, adding any extra stock as required and after another 5minutes, providing the rice is cooked through, take the pan off the heat, throw in some grated parmesan and allow that to melt into the dish. It should look creamy and ready to serve.

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Dish up and sprinkle some extra parmesan and black pepper on the top.

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Seasonal Fruit Crumble

The blackberries around here are really coming on beautifully. My fiancé and I love foraging – possibly me more than him! – and so far, we’ve picked over 12lb of juicy blackberries.

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Last week, I was also given some lovely rhubarb from a friend’s garden and my father-in-law-to-be, gave me some strawberries. He’s a potato farmer near Peterborough and sells a range of produce every weekend in the Notcutts Layby, Oundle Road. Check him out on Facebook and pop along for your veggies if you’re nearby 😊

I was in the mood for something comforting, so I thought I’d knock up a crumble. It’s so simple to do:

Pop your fruit in a saucepan, you need a good 1-1.5lb minimum. Add a splash of water and pop on a low heat to start stewing. Let it cook until the fruit starts to soften, this is when I add some sugar, cinnamon and ginger. Not too much and taste as you go, so you get the flavour you like.

Pour the fruit – carefully, it’s hot – into a well-greased dish. For the crumble, I follow Delia’s basic crumble mix. You may like to do a double batch, if like us, you like a lot of crumble 😊 This is my go-to crumble recipe and it’s never failed me.

To work the crumble into its breadcrumb form, I cannot recommend getting a pastry cutter enough. I used one for the first time the other day and it saved time and joint ache! They’re pretty inexpensive and to me, are a wonder.

When the crumble is done, gentle pour evenly over your fruit and pop the whole thing on another baking tray – in case of bubbling over – and place in the oven at 180C for around half an hour, or until the crumble is golden and the fruit really bubbling.

Serve with cream, custard or ice cream and enjoy.

fruit crumble

Crocheting Going Well!!

Well, a month ago, I picked up a crochet hook for the first time in my life, as I prepared to make decorations for our wedding later this year.

As we know, the initial teddy bear attempt wasn’t great!

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However, I wasn’t put off and rather than just keep practicing, I jumped straight in at the deep end and got on with dragons! I did inspire myself with some shiny new tools.

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I’m pleased to say, they’re turning out pretty well and I’ve already made three!

You can pick up varying crochet hooks online relatively cheap

Oaty Baked Chicken

It was another experimental dinner last night for Mr Fiancé. Like me, he’s on a slim down for the wedding, but is quite happy eating his carbs, which I’m cutting back on. He’s big into his chicken at the moment, but after having it with rice a lot, he asked me to whip him up a tasty chicken sandwich, that was still healthy.

Challenge accepted!

I started by pounding a chicken breast to make it equal thickness and then coated in flour, dipped it into beaten egg and then into my special oaty mix. This mix was simply basic porridge oats, cayenne pepper, hot chilli powder, chilli flakes, garlic powder, paprika and cracked black pepper. Yes, my fiancé likes things hot and spicy.

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Once I made sure the chicken was nicely coated with oats, I popped it onto a lined baking tray and put it in a pre-heated oven at 190C for around 25minutes – check it’s cooked through before serving.

To serve, I got some crusty bread, made a sweet chilli mayo with just a mix of these two condiments and smothered the bottom piece with that, layered up with salad and chicken and put some mango chutney on the top layer.

Apparently, it was a very good dish – too spicy for me! – but well worth a try I think.

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Festive Firelighters

I can finally write about these, as my friends whom I made them for have received them as part of a hamper, which they were allowed to open early for Christmas.

I got this idea off the TV the other day with Kirstie Allsopp in her Homemade Christmas series, which I love – festive firelighters. They looked easy, so I thought I would give them a go.

I started by drying some orange peel strips in the oven at a low temperature. It only took around 10 minutes – much quicker than I expected!

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Then I took 6 tealights out of their metal containers and popped them in their own individual Christmas cupcake cases and put them in the oven at around 150C I think it was, and allow the wax to melt. Again, this didn’t take long and I kept an eye all the time – just in case!

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Take the cases out of the oven, and carefully move the wick to the edge and whilst the wax is still molten, add your orange peel, cinnamon sticks, star anise and cloves – or a mix of what you like – and allow the wax to cool.

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The idea is my friends can now light the wick, pop the whole thing in their open fire and their home should smell like Christmas as the fire burns.

So, thank you Kirstie for the idea, it works and was a lovely addition to the hamper.