Tales from kitchen and cellar

Archive for May, 2012|Monthly archive page

Birthday Cake Celebrations

In Baking, Cakes, Cooking, drink, food, Food and Drink on May 31, 2012 at 8:45 am









Birthday Cake

Today I am showcasing a recent cake I made for a 60th Birthday. It’s a little more fun to look at and I had a great time making it. I tried to make it funny and light hearted as the birthday girl in question is exactly that.

I tried to tie in her home sofa, a place she likes to relax and with what better celebratory drink than a glass of champagne.

I made a basic lemon sponge with all the fillings that I have showcased here before. Once again I coated the cake in two layers of lemon curd buttercream and then iced with white fondant. A little shimmer of silver spray glitter, gave the cake a pearlescent sheen. Everything on this cake was edible except the champagne glass which was made of plastic

I cut out triangles of bunting from fondant paste and dotted a little blue icing between each to give the impression of the string that would be used to hold it up. I was keen for the bunting to hang in different lengths around the cake to give a more relaxed feel.

The figure and sofa itself was made in two stages. I made the sofa out of 6 parts. 2 parts for the underneath I shaped as pillows and stacked on top of each other. This website teaches you how…I made a rug out of a little blue fondant and one of my shaping tools gave it a fringed effect.

For the figurine I rolled out a tube for the legs which I folded in the middle. A body was mad out of white icing with two balls of icing for the feminine form! I made two flesh coloured arms and attached them to the body frame.

I then rolled out a little blue icing and rolled out a few small strips of white icing. I rolled the white into the blue to form a stripy top. This I then draped over the icing torso, and trimmed to make it look like a top.

At this stage I was pretty happy, the head proved more challenging and in truth I did many different versions. I added a little red food dust that you can buy from cake shops for blusher. I made little white balls which I pushed into the eye sockets using a small ball shaped icing tool. A little blue food pen was used for the iris’s and black for the eyelashes.

Her wedge shoes with toes were simply made with a little blue fondant and a little flesh colour to show her toes.

I worked off a photograph to get the hair effect. I mixed a little yellow with a little liquorice food colouring, I added a little mexican sugar paste to the mixture that ensured that it would set hard and not flop at the ends. Using a knife I made cuts into the hair for effect.

A little blue bracelet was added to reduce the obvious join between hand and arm. I used spaghetti (uncooked) through the torso which stuck out a little to attach the head.

Finally a little lemon jelly was made to fill the champagne glass, which I syringed into the glass and left to set in the fridge. Green fondant icing was used for the bottle together with a mexican paste label that I wrote on using a food colouring pen.

I mixed a little fondant with vodka to make a paste and set the sofa on the cake before icing Happy Birthday.

In hindsight I should have used a dowling road through the sofa and the cake so that the figurine didn’t collapse into the cake, which after a 5 hour car journey it sadly did!


More Mojitos Please!

In Food and Drink on May 30, 2012 at 8:43 am


Magnificent Mojitos

It’s Wino Wednesday and once again I have looked toward the sweet serenity of the perfect cocktail for inspiration. This week with all this sun I thought of the marvelous mojito and all it’s Cuban charm. It’s literal translation is ‘something wet’ but I hardly think this gives this gem of a cocktail all the credit it deserves!

Made from only five ingredients this perfectly balanced cocktail offers refreshment, sweetness and acidity all in one chilled mouth full. It’s easy to make at home and no need for a cocktail shaker, although a little strong arm action is needed to muddle the ingredients together.

So here it is, I am grateful to the BBC for their excellent cocktail recipes once again.



1 tsp white sugar or cane sugar if you can get it

A good squeeze of lime juice

A good handful of mint leaves

Soda water

50ml white rum


Optional a dash of angostura bitters.



•Put the sugar in the bottom of a glass and pour the citrus juice over to just cover it. Add 2 long sprigs of mint. Muddle (gently pound) the juice, sugar and mint.

•Add ice to the top of the glass, fill the glass two-thirds full with soda water.

•Add the rum and stir

•Optional extra add a dash of Angostura bitters to balance the sweetness of the drink.

•Top with slices of lime.



Tasty Tomatoes!

In Cooking, drink, food, Food and Drink on May 24, 2012 at 9:50 am










Tasty Tomato Salad

This tasty beef tomato and mozarella salad with a little torn basil is about as simple a dish as it gets. The beauty of this bright, happy summer salad stands and falls on the quality of the produce and without a great beef tomato or a juicy mozarella then forget about it!

My local market stall has been showcasing the beefiest, reddest juiciest tomatoes for the last couple of weeks and I thought what better way to showcase their red flesh than in this Italian classic. I used Garofola Buffalo Mozarella and a little torn basil from my little windowsill plant. A good quality extra virgin olive oil and a splash or aged balsamic. Some maldon sea salt gets the tomatoes juices flowing!

Serve with a little glass of Valpolicella, we are thinking Italian after all!

It really was a simple as that and just as tasty…

Mmm… Margarita’s

In drink, Food and Drink on May 23, 2012 at 2:59 pm








Marvelous Margaritas

It’s Wino Wednesday and time to look towards more alcoholic drinks and one of my favourite’s the marvelous Margarita. Once again Dimitri at the Wokingham Gourmet Kitchen has excelled himself by producing a margarita that is hard to beat! Paired above with that other classic the Cosmopolitan.

The subtle balance of sweet, salty and acidic has your mouth doing backflips and if done well craving more!

Here is a classic recipe to follow if you feel like having a crack at this all time classic. I have taken this recipe and adapted it a little from  the BBC website. It works well…


  • Tequilla
  • Cointreau
  • Lime
  • Lemon Juice
  • Maldon Sea Salt

Add two measures of Tequilla, one of Cointreau and one of lime juice into the cocktail shaker and shake over crushed ice.

Prepare the glass by rubbing the rim with a wedge of fresh lime and then dipping the rim into a saucer that has a little maldon sea salt in it.

Strain the mixture into the glass and serve with a wedge of lime.


And Happy Birthday to Sue one of my most loyal followers!

Marvelous Meringues

In Baking, Cooking, food, Food and Drink on May 22, 2012 at 11:48 am







Mini Meringue Mountains

Ahh meringues, the simple sweet pleasure of this crispy dessert is not to be underestimated. Crunchy and chewy clouds of joy which work as a great vehicle for other flavours such as fresh fruit, cream, ice cream or just enjoyed on their own.

I am a huge fan of the meringue and over the years I would consider it my “go to” dessert if all else fails. In short, I would like to think that after many years of searching for the perfect recipe it was right under my nose all along!

Delia Smith or should I say Saint Delia’s recipe is simple, foolproof and works time after time. These mini meringue mountains were made using her method and provide the perfect crunch to chew ratio. I have changed only one ingredient, I used golden caster sugar to give a creamy glow to the final result. Here it is:


3 large fresh egg whites

175g golden caster sugar


Preheat oven to 140C

Using a baking sheet lightly oil and line with silicone paper (this is to ease the meringues off at the end)

Using a spotlessly clean bowl, place the egg whites in the bowl and whisk until you form medium to soft peaks (turn the bowl on top of your head and the egg whites should stay put).

At this stage add one tablespoon of sugar to the mixture, and re whisk to bring it to medium to stiff peak again, keep adding the sugar a tablespoon at a time, twice more. Then add the remaining sugar to the mixture.

Using two big spoons scoop the meringue mixture into rustic dollops onto the baking sheet.

Place in the oven for one hour then turn the oven off. Leave the meringue in the oven until cold. This is best left overnight if you can.

Enjoy with whipped cream and some fruit rippled through it like strawberries or raspberries. Or if you made my perfect peaches yesterday and had a little of them left the jus will make this sweet treat sublime!


Perfect Peaches

In Baking, Cooking, drink, food, Food and Drink on May 21, 2012 at 1:49 pm











Perfect Poached Peaches

I know it’s a little early but I did spy some lovely looking peaches which although a little hard are perfect for this recipe. This photo was taken a couple of summers ago during a catering holiday I undertook in Italy. The peaches then, like now were a little under ripe but once they were poached as you can see they were good enough…well, to eat. Truly delicious!

Ingredients (Serves 4)

6 Peaches

1 fresh vanilla pod

2-3 Tablespoons clear honey

1 bottle of rosé wine


Halve the peaches and stone them. Place in a shallow pan with all of the ingredients above including the split vanilla pod and seeds. Bring to the boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cook the peaches until tender which will take around 15 minutes. Leave to cool a little then remove the peaches from the poaching liquor and skin them if you prefer.

Reduce the liquor until syrupy in consistency, add more honey if you prefer.

Add the peaches back into the liquor then serve warm or at room temperature. A generous dollop of créme fraiche, greek yoghurt or creamy ice cream will be delicious with this dessert and the whitish colour looks great against the rosé jus. Roll on the summer!

Wild About Wild Garlic

In Cooking, food, Food and Drink on May 18, 2012 at 9:02 am

Wild Garlic Soup

If you’re lucky enough to have a little countryside nearby or a little forested woodland then you will be familiar with the smell of wild garlic at this time of year. Picked fresh and used that day the smell and taste is a delight to the senses and served as this vibrant green soup with a little cheesy puff pastry twist….welll it’s heaven on a plate, or should I say bowl.

This recipe is one I found on the internet, I did not use the garlic flowers as a garnish however: wild garlic soup

I did however buy some puff pastry rolled it out to the thickness of 2 pound coins. Sliced into strips and grated a little parmesan on top, then gently twisted into shape onto a baking sheet. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes at 200C or gas mark 6 for around 10-15 or until golden brown.

Serve with piping hot wild garlic soup. Enjoy….

If you fancy a little tipple with this a Spanish white Albarino with its refreshing acidity works well…

Going Bananas Over Banana Bread

In Baking, Cakes, Cooking, food, Food and Drink on May 17, 2012 at 2:28 pm








Moist Banana Loaf

This great tea time treat took  its inspiration from the four sad and black looking bananas lurking at the bottom of my fruit bowl. As I wavered whether it would be less cruel to just put them out of their misery and into the bin a wave of inspiration hit me. A second life was awaiting these sad looking fruit souls in the form of a delicious and moist banana bread.

Below is a recipe I have taken from the BBC website. It’s quick and easy and will fill your kitchen with the sweet aromas of baking and warm bananas. Although it’s very tempting to eat whilst warm from the tin this cake benefits from a days relax. The true fruity banana flavour develops more and the moist cake just tastes better all round…A really great reincarnation for the humble banana.


  • 285g/10oz plain flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 110g/4oz butter, plus extra for greasing
  • 225g/8oz caster sugar
  • 2 free-range eggs
  • 4 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 85ml/3fl oz buttermilk (or normal milk mixed with 1½ tsp lemon juice or vinegar)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract


Grease and line with baking parchment a large loaf tin

  • Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.
  • Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a large mixing bowl.
  • In a separate bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
  • Add the eggs, mashed bananas, buttermilk and vanilla extract to the butter and sugar mixture and mix well. Fold in the flour mixture.
  • Grease a 20cm x 12.5cm/8in x 5in loaf tin and pour the cake mixture into the tin.
  • Transfer to the oven and bake for about an hour, or until well-risen and golden-brown.
  • Remove from the oven and cool in the tin for a few minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely before serving.

Wonderful Weekend Wines…

In drink, Food and Drink on May 16, 2012 at 5:14 pm

Wino Wednesday

It’s Wino Wednesday and once again I am getting ready for a packed weekend full of wonderful wines for one very lucky group of hens. This weekend through my work at ThirtyFifty I will be showcasing 7 different wines, champagnes and sparkling wines.

My favourites this week include the Forget Brimont Rose champagne which just about trumps its South African equivalent made by Graham Beck. Both are great summer easy drinking fizzes albeit with a different price tag the Forget coming in at close to £27 compared to the Beck at £14. Have you tried them and if so which do you prefer old v new world?

As for reds a great Rioja from Castilo Clavijo 2008 crianza and an even better St Hallett Garden of Eden Shiraz Barossa Australia 2008, soft round and full of red fruits. Lucky ladies!

I love a dessert wine and when it comes to a late harvest sauvignon blanc the La Playa from the Cochagua Valley is hard to beat. Deliciously sweet with a great acidity makes this wine great with a stinky cheese as well as a sumptuous pudding. At less than £9 a bottle I think this wine offers great value for money.

Whatever their taste this weekend I think we have it covered with a great selection picked out by Chris and Jane Scott back at ThirtyFifty HQ


My oh Mai Tai Tastic

In Food and Drink on May 15, 2012 at 11:23 am

Perfect Mai Tai

As some of you may gather I am sucker for a delicious cocktail and Dimitri our local bar tender at Wokingham Gourmet Kitchen is always happy to oblige. This Mai Tai is as good as any I have tried in the world and was so superbly executed that I thought it warranted a mention on Tales from Kitchen and Cellar!

Apparently Mata’i means “good” in Tahitian and its invention is said to be based on a famous trader who made the drink for some visiting friends from Tahiti, to which they cried on drinking it “Matai’i roa ae!” meaning very good or the best!

And so the Mai Tai was born and it has to be in the top 5 of my favourite cocktails.

Here is a good guideline recipe for 1…


  • ¾ oz. Light Rum
  • ¾ oz. Dark Rum
  • ½ oz. Amaretto
  • ½ oz. Triple Sec

Fill with:

  • ½ Orange Juice
  • ½ Pineapple Juice
Orange wedge for garnish


Pour light rum, creme de almond and  triple sec, in order, into a collins glass. Almost fill with equal parts of  sweet and sour mix and pineapple juice. Add dark rum, a large straw, and serve  unstirred. Or if you have a shaker place all ingredients  inside, shake and serve for a frothy top finish!