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.