Bananas and Burgers

I'm spending the weekend at my boyfriend's mums house and last night we decided to cook up a storm in the kitchen to give his mum a rest from cooking for us.
My boyfriend wanted to do something with fish so I suggested we do a salmon in papillote and set to looking through http://photograzing.seriouseats.com/ to find an inspirational recipe. What I did stumble upon was a total gem. It wasn't a recipe for fish en papillote, but for a salmon burger. When they say it's the best, they really mean it. The flavours were so well complemented and the salmon remained deliciously moist. Here's the link for the best salmon burger.
Dessert, of course, was my responsibility. So I gave my boyfriend the choice of three recipes and he chose the banana pudding one. I may have slightly helped his choice my saying, not entirely truthfully, that it was like a take on a banoffee pie. In fact it had nothing to do with a banoffee pie apart from the bananas, but it was a great pudding, and I was pleased I could get my hands on some real vanilla pods so didn't have to use essence because it really does make a difference to the taste. I made mine in little ramekins and they were the perfect size. Unfortunately we were too hungry to take photos of the burgers and then I was too keen to try the dessert to take photos of that! But the blogs that I found them on have lovely pictures anyway. Here's the link for a lovely banana pudding.
It's halloween tomorrow so what I really want to do instead of writing my essays is make lots of spooky treats. We'll see what I decide. Happy baking.


Great British Bake Off...do I have a chance?

I have applied for the Great British Bake Off (3). It's official. I don't really rate my chances but for a laugh my friend told me "Why not?!". So, I did it.
That then led me to think...wait a minute I have never even attempted to make half of the recipes that featured on Great British Bake Off (2). So I went onto amazon and ordered the official book.
Of course I had to wait until I visited my parents to actually have a chance to make anything from is as my university baking cupboard has limited utensils and ingredients do not come cheap.
What I really wanted to make were melting moments (are they the same as Viennese whirls?) because I wanted to test out my piping skills.
I set about mixing up the ingredients. However, I stumbled at the first hurdle of creaming the butter with the icing sugar. For some reason the butter was very watery and so so yellow and would just not become light and fluffy. I called upon some man power in the form of my father, which brought the mixture slightly more towards a reasonable texture. But without being able to make it any better I decided to just use what I had, so added the flour and continued. Now, I don't know if it was because of the inferior creaming kills I seemed to possess, or just a fault with the ingredient amounts but there was no way that the mixture I ended up with for the biscuits could be piped, no matter how hard I tried! So I used my favourite tool: my hands, and shaped the mixture into small balls and then pinched around in a twirly fashion to mimic (very badly) the shape piping it would have made.
All-in-all I didn't have high hopes for the outcome, especially not for the "melting"ness.
But lo-and-behold, they came out of the oven perfectly golden and biting into the finished product definitely gave the desired "meting" effect of the biscuit. 
So I may not have got 10/10 for presentation likeness, but taste I think I have in the bag.
Here they are (I have included the recipe from the book in my "recipe" section):

I am about to eat the last one with a cup of tea whilst I get on with my uni work. I will definitely make it last...at least in my memory that is.

Following the bake off theme, I was able to spend the weekend with my boyfriend at my parents home and one night we decided to have our own bake off. Now, I have to admit we both took the easy route with this because we were doing pasta bakes and we used a ready made Dolmio sauce in our bakes! I did have the best intentions to make my own but our local tesco didn't have any passata or any mascarpone so my plans were scuppered. Here's a photo of both of our bakes (you decide which you think is best)
My boyfriend's is on the left: a bacon and chicken italian bake; and mine on the right is  a salmon bake with pine nuts and spinach (the recipe called for basil but again the shop let me down)
They were both really good bakes so I will give you the links to the recipes just incase you fancy a meaty bake or a fishy bake on these cold autumn nights. chicken and bacon pasta bakeSalmon pasta bake recipe


Should people really be putting a limit on thank you's?

So, I've been having some trouble with my parking (I think I mentioned this before) but a kind family on my street helped me out by giving me visitor passes for almost two weeks. I made them a crumble slice the first time they gave me some, and then I had to ask for some more passes so the next time I went back to my parents I made them some wholemeal chocolate chip cookies to thank them for helping me again. Only this time they weren't so grateful. In fact, the words used were "I think that's enough thank yous" now. I'm not really where to go from here as it just shocked me too much. I had to hold my self back from turning around and demanding the cookies back from them. That's how good those cookies are. Thanks again to "Wholegrain goodness"!


The start of a new term does not always mean the end of summer (weather)

I have been absent from my blogging duties for far too long. This time my excuse can't even be baking, because even though I have done a lot of that the only reason for my laziness with my blog is just that: LAZINESS.
Last week I started my final "fresher's week", as I have just embarked on my final year at University. So, technically now I should be busier than ever and the last thing I should be thinking about is blogging or baking. However, that is not the case. When I am in my lectures despite the fact that the subject does actually interest me (phonology for example) all I can think about is baking.
Yesterday I came straight home from my lecture and made cookie dough cups...a take on the American peanut butter cups but altered to make sure I kept my promise to my housemate Brogan of making something with cookie dough in. So, whilst on my way home from my lecture I looked up how to make a cookie dough without having to use raw eggs and found a brilliant mixture of cream cheese and condensed milk which worked wonders. I very much enjoyed the fiddly'ness' of coating the inside of mini muffin cases with chocolate and placing a ball of cookie dough inside and then adding the hat of chocolate on top. Going with the "cup" route I displayed them in little tea cups on saucers and had them ready to welcome my housemates back home in time to start our BBQ in the backyard to enjoy the Indian summer we are enjoying! It really is such lovely weather. Here's a picture of us in our little student backyard with my bunting taking center stage of decorations. (Little boast there).
I think to myself everyday how lucky I am to live with such lovely, gorgeous ladies :)
The other noteworthy bit of baking I did recently was as a huge thank you for my neighbours in Sheffield for giving me visitor parking permits for my car, as my permit has yet to appear. I would have had to pay £4 a day if they had not been kind enough to give me visitor passes. So I went home at the weekend and I made them a crumble slice with rye flour from one of my favourite cookbooks: Wholegrain Goodness.
Now I really must do my seminar preparations. I really hope I can get back into regular blogging posts. I definitely have lots more things I want to try out with my baking. 


Breast Cancer Care Strawberry Tea Party: What a Success!

I don't think I could be happier with how the fundraiser went! I made a total of £200 pounds and over 40 people from the village and my friends came to share the cakes and chat. I think I counted that I made about 26 different types of cake, which aren't all shown in the photos because some were packaged up in little bags for people to buy and take home. My friend Natalie was brilliant and stood guard at the door to make sure everyone gave their £1 entry donation, so thank you to her. Emma made cucumber sandwiches which the male guests and those without a sweet tooth very much appreciated, as did I, and Hannah and her mum brought a tea loaf, thank you. 

The finished room

My helpers and I

petit four and earl grey tea cupcakes, which did not get enough credit because they tasted delicious but I think people were put off by the name.

This was a totally strawberry cake that my friend bought for £8 I think it was!

Me at the door

The guests

The villagers

Natalie my bodyguard ;)
The 1st prize in the raffle went to one of my neighbours who brought it up to her family birthday party and shared it with her neighbours.

The cheesecake counter (the marbled cheesecake brownies on the right were by far the most popular treat of the day).

Chocolate covered pretzels, petit four, carrot cake, pink lemonade bars, earl grey tea cupcakes. What a feast.

Tea loaves, blueberry and soured cream loaf, almond and orange loaf, raspberry trifle cupcakes (went down very quickly: good job I made two batches!), chocolate buttermilk cake, scones, vegan loaf, and strawberries OF COURSE.
I can not end this post without mentioning the biggest star in all of this. Hummingbird Bakery!
I bought their cookbook "cake days" and boy am I glad I did. Over half the recipes I used for this tea party were from their cookbook...especially aptly named "afternoon tea" section. I had never made any of the recipes before, so, you may think foolishly, I set out making them for the first time for my tea party. Lo and Behold! They all turned out perfectly, and I can only put that down to the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook recipes being second to none. I woud really love to go to their bakery, do they have one in London(?) and see first hand how they interpret their recipes and what their finished creations look like, hopefully mine were not too far off what they are actually supposed to look like!


It's been too long, my only excuse is cake.

I woke up this morning and all I could think about was how long it had been since I'd written a post. It's not even like I haven't been doing anything blog-worthy, quite the contrary! Not only have I been to a birthday tea party which had cake-a-plenty, but I have also been busy getting ahead on my baking for my fundraiser in August. The freezer is now full of bars, cookies and scones. In fact I was so enthusiastic with my baking and freezing one day that it took the freezer half a day to recover! All day it was flashing at me to say it was working overtime to keep the temperature down. Sorry freezer, please do not collapse on me now though.
So, let me tell you a bit more about this tea party, and show you some photos once I have uploaded them onto my computer. The first thing I would like to mention is my contribution to the party cakes. A beautiful three tiered sponge cake with pink buttercream icing. So pretty looking and I must say what a delight the icing was to taste. There was also a huge supply of scones, shortbread, chocolate covered strawberries and marshmallows, macaroons, tea (of course!), victoria sponge cake and definitely worth a mention were the malteser brownies, what a treat that day was.
As if I hadn't got enough of a cake fill the following day I got a penchent to make an orange and olive oil cake. I think my thinking was that by making an olive oil cake with no hint of butter or chocolate in sight that I was somehow NOT baking a cake. However, this plan went completely wrong. Completely wrong, to the extent that I didn't actually make an orange an olive oil cake at all. In my cake-making excitement I starting measuring the ingredients from a different recipe which was on the opposite page of the book, and only once i had mixed in the butter did it dawn on me that I was making a big mistake and was actually following the recipe for a chocolate chip cake. Not at all the chocolate-free cake that I had envisaged. Now, I was not about to break my vow of not making anything with chocolate in. So, I proceeded to add flaked almonds and chopped apricots into the cake mixture instead of the pecans and chocolate chips that the recipe called for. My second problem was that the recipe I was now following was meant to be cooked in a loaf tin, which I do not have, so I put it into a round springform tin and subsequently reduced the cooking time by 20 minutes. What I was left with was a delightfully light and moist cake (thanks to the yoghurt in there) which I ate warm topped with some condensed milk I had going spare in the fridge. What a treat that was. Totally worth the mistake.
However, due to the resisting of chocolate I now really, really want to make some chocolate chip cookies. But I am fed up of making the same old recipe so I am looking to make something a little different, perhaps some orange and chocolate chip cookies seeing as I didn't use the orange the other day?


Sweet strawberries and a handful of raspberries for good measure

ready for freezing 

I realised something rather worrying the other day. I am having my strawberry tea party at the end of the British strawberry season. Late August is not exactly the prime time for beautiful strawberries is it. So, today, just incase there are no imported or British strawberries around at all in August, I have frozen some strawberries that I bought for a bargain at the Co-op...3 tubs for £5. Now if worse comes to worst I will at least have some strawberries of some description to adorn my strawberry tea buffet.
I must now decide on what I will be baking for it. Scones, of course! But what else? I could either go for the whole traditional theme and do victoria sponge and jam tarts etc. Or I could mix it up with some pink themed variations of things like blondies, spelt scones, strawberry covered pretzels, jam filled cupcakes, strawberry (cheese)cake pops...
And what to do about fundraising. Cake auction, raffle, selling goodie bags?
For someone who likes making lists and organising this sort of thing excites me very much!
Yesterday after stumbling across this blog: http://www.asweetroad.com/2011/06/how-to-make-1-cupcake.html I decided to make a cupcake for a friend I was going to see. I didn't quite stick to the recipe because the consistency did not seem quite right to me with the addition of so much milk. Here was the finished treat:
Purple Madness Cupcake

That's all for today. I'm off to come up with a menu for my tea party, but with it still being a month away my plan will probably change a fair few times from now until then, it can only get better though right?
Hope you all enjoy the weekend. Let's hope it's a sunny one :)


Tea bags and lavender buds

British Lavender Field

Not only is lavender beautiful (as can be confirmed from looking at this fantastic photo above), it smells wonderful, can keep your clothes smelling fresh and can be the ultimate relaxation tool for either a long hot bath or under your pillow to sleep.
I cannot walk to my village shop without running my hands through the lavender outside no.12, down the road. What a delight it is to pick a few buds and treat your nose to the delicious fragrance.
Have I raved enough? Does everyone see where I am going with this? I think lavender rocks.
So, what could make it even better? Using it in food of course. A couple of months back I made an olive oil and rosemary cake and I loved the flavour combinations and the fact there was rosemary in it. Then today I wanted to make my mum my best brownies because Dad and I are leaving her in France for a week. Lavender was on my mind though, because ours smells and looks so good outside, and I could not drop the idea of using it in cooking. So I did what I always do and started googling recipes using lavender to see what others have done with it. Lo and behold I found a bundle of recipes: from cookies, to brownies; from shortbread to creme brulée's. Different flavour combinations: lavender and honey, lavender and tea, lavender and lemon.
Knowing that my brownies needed, really needed to have golden syrup in them I did not want to substitute that ingredient to incorporate honey into the flavour mix. So I picked tea, earl grey green tea to be exact.
Lunch was finished off today with a delicious square of sticky chocolate brownies with a subtle tea flavour running through and a backdrop of lavender that left our mouths feeling fresh can you believe. I am reluctant to include the recipe as of yet, so for now I will content myself and I hope you will also be content in knowing that lavender really does work well with chocolate. If anybody has any other flavour combinations using either lavender or other dried herbs to share then I would love to hear about them.

The Lavender in our French courtyard


Ladurée at Harrods London

Hopefully I will be going here some time in August with someone who has meant a lot to me this last year that I have known her for.
How is it that I have never been there when they claim to have brilliant such brilliant macaroons...I need to find the proof in the pudding.
So far the best macaroons I have tasted were on a visit to ile de l'Oléron with Nick. Macaroon ice-cream sandwiches were a revelation. Two of my favourite foods in one...not only that but two of my favourite flavours also: strawberry and pistachio. Pure pleasure. 
See you in London Eleanor, thank you for such a brilliant suggestion.

Alexa Ledger is fundraising for Breast Cancer Care

If you look at the bottom of my page you can see an event I am having in August. It is a Strawberry Tea Party to raise money for Breast Cancer Care. Hopefully, lots of my friends and neighbours will come along and enjoy the tea party quiz, cake auction and free tea and cookies, all the while adding pennies or even pounds to my charity box for Breast Cancer Care. If you can't come all the way to Bedfordshire but would like to show your support for this charity then please donate via my JustGiving page, it's so easy, and you really would be making the world of difference. Thank you.

1848 Noir Subtil and feeding the birds

Today started off rainy again, but I was happy that it gave me an excuse to stay inside and work on my blog layout. My Dad showed me how to get my title picture right using graphic converter, and after moving a few things up and down and around and around I have settled on this layout (for the next 5 minutes or so it takes me to write this blog at least).
Last night, feeling in a very entrepreneurial mood I signed up for Google AdSense, and as you can see to the right of my blog page and to the bottom (I hope mentioning these don't break any terms and conditions clauses!) I am now advertising on my blog. I don't get a say on what is advertised...and I don't know how successful my blog will actually be for creating traffic to the sites advertised but at least I feel as though I am starting to make my way in cyberspace.
As I usually do in the morning I firstly went and checked on DailyMail for the latest celeb gossip and such. I know DailyMail isn't exactly the most intellectual of all newspapers out there and they do say some awful things on celebrities weight and relationships, however for an early morning read with your breakfast it serves to bring you up to date with the main news headlines and does bring up some interesting articles. Like the one I tweeted about this morning, where a girl has been creating art work using only her lips puckered up. Amazing!
After checking DailyMail my next stop is usually Photograzing on www.seriouseats.com. Today I was looking for inspiration for a meal containing prawns and strawberries, and I found it! So tonight, with the help of my mother who has requested to cook something with me, I will be making something similar to this artichoke and strawberry salad, substituting the tiger prawns for our smaller prawns we bought at the fish counter in Surgères yesterday...check it out http://thelunacafe.com/lemon-thyme-marinated-artichoke-tiger-prawn-strawberry-salad/.
I'll let you know how it goes later on.

This next mention is on behalf of my mother. Like many (French) women out there my mother loves to enjoy a couple of squares of chocolate after her midday meal. Nothing is better, to her taste, than a  rich dark chocolate that she can melt in her mouth and enjoy the aromas filling her senses. Today I would like to give a mention to the chocolate that is managing to achieve this (for the moment anyway). The prize goes to "Poulain 1848 noir dégustation noir subtil". If any of you have tried the Lindt Dark 70% bar then this is not far off that, I'm not sure at this time which I would say is the better one but once I have them both in front of me I won't be afraid of comparing, trust me!

The day after tomorrow I am flying back to the UK so will have to say goodbye to Migré, the sunflowers and the birds. The lovely little swallow-type-birds(?!) which today I fed breadcrumbs and leftover rice to in our courtyard. So sweet to watch the mother feeding her little ones so peacefully.
If only I could have gotten a picture to document that moment.
Hasta luego


Another day, another design

This is it. My first blogging day is coming to an end. I have had fun exploring the web for background images, and dipping my toe into the waters of "html editing" but aside from copy and pasting from http://www.thecutestblogontheblock.com/free/free-backgrounds/item/265/asInline.html and following their instructions I am no closer to becoming expert in the world of websites and design. For now though, I am happy with the look of my blog BUT if anyone can find me a free macaroon background picture I would be one happy papillon, especially if they were blue and pink macaroons, then I would definitely not need RedBull to give me wings!

Next tasks for me are:
1. Label and organise my pictures on flickr
2. Organise my recipe folder on my laptop so that I can share some of my modifications to recipes and share some of my favourites from other bloggers.
3. Take some tutorials on: http://makincuteblogs.com/tutorials/

I am off to bed with a full stomach of my latest tart creation...made in a muffin tin with roasted tomatoes and peppers and some gorgeous goats cheese. MMM.
Goodnight and Goodbye for now.

A rainy day: as good a day as any to embark on a new project

So, you've probably heard the story a thousand times before: Girl refuses that she will ever have a blog, in fact you could even go so far as to say she laughs in the face of blogs. Then due to her love of food and everything related she starts to read more and more blogs. Some good, some bad, some she will return to, and others that will be forgotten. One thing that will stick in her mind however is simply BLOGS.
Which is why I am embarking on this new project today. I have always enjoyed writing, sharing and creating. I hope to create something that will share my many adventures through cooking books and cooking blogs; to share stories of my everyday life; and make a few connections along the way with others who share my interests and dreams.
I still have a lot to learn about blogging, and if anyone reading has any tips I would love to hear them.
Now, I am going to get on with trying to figure out how to change the layout and appearance of my blog into something wonderful. Bisous.