It’s only Carrot Cake but I like it…

I am partial to a bit of baking. It’s an old tradition and something we enjoy, without excelling, in my family. Its rare I attempt anything complicated, but I like to think I can pull some of the basic recipes out of the hat when I need to – I bake a hearty scone, a rich, gooey brownie and my lemon drizzle is just the right side of tangy.

I’m told my Gran was a good baker. Mum says she’d spend Saturday baking and freeze pies for the week amongst other treats. I hear her chocolate cake was to die for. Unfortunately, a stroke she suffered when I was aged just 4 left her fairly immobile so her baking days were over cruelly early. I’m sure I indulged in her baking before then though. She passed the love of baking on to my Mum, and I can honestly say I never had ( or wanted) a shop bought birthday cake.

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Mum baked with us when we were little and when my sister and I get together we often bake. When it comes to me I tend to go through phases. I’ve been through several periods of weight loss where I haven’t baked much as it’s just too tempting! I like to bake if I have visitors coming or for special occasions, and a well equipped kitchen is always something I’ve aspired to. Just lately I’ve set myself a few baking challenges and this is just one of them.

I chose a recipe from the BBC Good Food website. I’ve used this website lots of times as the ratings system is a good way to find a reliable recipe. My recipe is this one: http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/532636/carrot-cake-with-cinnamon-frosting

It has the zest and juice of an orange which makes it very moist and aromatic.

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I used a loaf tin I found in the Dr P’s kitchen but it seemed quite large… I’m not sure what size it was but I’m blaming this on the fact it looks like it hasn’t risen, but it had!

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It was very moist and had a nice springy texture. I didn’t make the frosting as I’m kinda traditional in that arena – not a fan of heaps of buttery icing!

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I served it with a large pot of tea in my Beryl teapot – the only way to serve cake as far as I’m concerned!

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I enjoyed it but I’m not sure it’s the recipe I was looking for – it’s lacking a certain je ne sais quoi… I have been recommended another so I will keep you posted. Let me know if you try it or you have a recommendation…

It is with a root vegetable craving I say:

It’s only vintage but I like it!

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It’s only Beaulieu Chocolate Studio but I like it…

As you know, I am very passionate about supporting local independent businesses. So when I couldn’t find the Charbonel and Walker champagne truffles I blogged about recently, I started to look closer to home for an alternative.

I didn’t need to look much further than over the corridor,  as it happens, because one of my work colleagues, Vicki’s partner is a chocolatier! I loved that fact as soon as she told me – I bet he dropped that into conversation early on when they met!

Trevor runs Beaulieu Chocolate Studio (www.beaulieuchocolatestudio.co.uk) and I first tasted his chocolate at Christmas when the Headteacher at the school Vicki and I work at bought us all a Chocolate Santa from Trevor’s shop.

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I ordered some champagne truffles and a salted caramel heart. The truffles were consumed on Valentine’s Day and we enjoyed them alongside a nice bottle of Bollinger champagne I had treated us to. Perhaps unsurprisingly, they went together very nicely! The centre was a strong, boozy dark chocolate truffle encased in a white chocolate shell. They had a nice kick of alcohol without being overpowering and certainly had the taste of a good quality luxury chocolate about them.

Salted caramel is one of my favourite taste discoveries in recent years and I love this milk chocolate heart with its sweet and salty flakes. Just perfect. I may have eaten it all already! It’s a good portion too – a nice thick chunky heart shape perfect for sharing (although most of it has been consumed in little chunks when the Dr wasn’t looking with me trying in vain not to rustle the bag and arouse suspicion…)

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I like the simple packaging, jazzed up with a heart ribbon for Valentine’s Day – simple but effective.

All up I think the Dr and I will definitely be making a purchase again, although maybe just for a special occasions – my waistline can’t cope with this being too regular a treat!

It is with a rustle of cellophane I say:

It’s only vintage but I like it!

*I paid for the products involved in my vintage adventure and the opinions are all my own!*

It’s only Bourbon Spread but I like it…

I first spotted the why-has-no-one-thought-of-this-before phenomenon that is Bourbon Biscuit Spread over at Nikki McWilliams (http://www.nikkimcwilliams.com/blog/) blog. If you’re not familiar with Nikki’s biscuity goodness then get over there pronto, because I guarantee you will fall in love!

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Loving all things biscuit related I was dying to get my mitts on a jar. My sister ( mrsjmp.wordpress.com ) kindly added a jar to my Christmas gifts (OK, OK I may have heavily hinted – or just outright told her to buy it!) and I had been waiting for an excuse to try it out.

Last weekend MrsJMP and my soon-to-be sister-in-law Elin came to stay at mine. We relegated Dr P to a nearby Travelodge (with a timetable of treats at the cinema) and we settled in for a girlie evening. We had Chinese food, watched Pitch Perfect and Glee and did face packs, nails and I tried a wet set (more on that soon!).

The next morning I cooked up some pancakes and we set the table with my Beryl and Royal Doulton china.

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I also used my wooden Bourbon serving platter from WoodPaperScissors (https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/woodpaperscissorsuk?ref=l2-shopheader-name ). Now I don’t think any of us would call ourselves gifted in the field of reviewing foodstuffs, so I apologise for what follows…

We sniffed (look at those curls!):

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We liberally applied them to pancakes with banana:

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And we were impressed to note that the ingredients listed 37% bourbon biscuit, amongst other things!

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For me the taste was quite hazelnutty, and not as dissimilar as I was hoping, to the leading brand of chocolate spread. I’m not really a massive chocolate spread fan, and I was hoping this might have the very rich intense Belgian chocolate flavour that Costa’s Giant Bourbon Biscuit (costa.co.uk) did. These dreamworthy giants have been discontinued and it’s a travesty of the highest order in my opinion…

Ginat Bourbon

It worked on pancakes but for me it’d be too sweet on toast, and MrsJMP and Elin sadly turned down my offer of toast so I guess that they thought the same.

I love the idea – so sweet – and it’s a nice product if you like chocolate spread. You can buy it at Tesco (www.tesco.com) and they also do a Custard Cream spread and a few other variations I believe. Do try it and let us know what you think…

It is with a groaning tummy I say:

It’s only vintage but I like it!

*These products were purchased by me (Well, MrsJMP actually…) and all views expressed are my own (Or MrsJMP or Elin’s..)!*

It’s only Lindy Bop (Lana) but I like it…

As I may have mentioned, it was my birthday on Sunday. I had requested a visit to Grand Cafe (http://www.grand-cafe.co.uk/home) in Southampton. It’s just over the road from where we live and I have been angling to get inside for months now! I walk past it all the time and I am a sucker for an old building. Southampton was pretty decimated in World War Two and it’s lovely old buildings are few and far between, often flanked by some nasty 70s concrete flats. Peeking through the (rather high) windows I could see lovely fabrics, nice hanging lamps and the odd bit of cutlery, but could never get a proper look. This had to be rectified!

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We decided to go there for Afternoon Tea. Mostly because of cake. And tea. And cake. Did I mention cake? I love the fact that we Brits invented a meal around those two glorious things. I thought I might use it as an excuse to wear one of my new Lindy Bop (http://www.lindybop.co.uk/swing-jive-dresses-c3/lana-playful-polka-dot-50s-style-dress-with-cinch-waist-bel-p858) dresses.

It was served on vintage china, which was a lovely first impression. I ordered a big pot of Assam and Dr P got a coffee pot.

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It was beautifully decorated for Christmas, everything seemed to sparkle, including the crooning gentleman that entertained us for the first hour or so.

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When the Dr made the reservation he told the staff I was a pescatarian so they had kindly given us lots of cheese, egg and salmon sandwiches and just a few Italian ham sandwiches for Dr P. I did sample all of the sandwiches, but left the lion’s share for the Dr as I was impatient to get on to the sweet delights. We had 2 scones (with clotted cream and strawberry jam of course) each plus cakes, tartlets and nougat. I must admit I was defeated and only managed half of my cupcake even though it was deliciously light and bouncy. Everything was very tasty and the service was great. And of course it’s not like I had just spent two weeks filling my face with mince pies, Quality Street and Toblerone. Oh no!

I insisted on a few snaps of my Lindy Bop ‘Lana’ dress as we left:

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I loved the weight of the dress – it’s a really nice thick cotton mix, perfect for this time of year (It was quite chilly!) and the skirt is a good length, with a full lining. It was a great fit on my bust, torso and waist and my only criticism would be that the belt doesn’t quite work. I didn’t feel secure that it would stay in one place as the little elasticated bands were quite big for the buttons they looped round, plus it bunched and creased a little when I sat down – but that may be to do with my oddly shaped tummy! It’s easily fixed by using one of my many stretchy belts…

I accessorised this divine dotty creation with a little roll and a dark red hairband in my hair, my beloved Retro Peepers (http://www.retropeepers.com/#!peggy/ciaa) specs, a slick of Besame (http://besamecosmetics.eu) Dark Cherry lipstick, a little black shrug and of course, some Irregular Choice (http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51HpYgqcWpL._SX395_.jpg) shoes! The piece de resistance was my necklace – a birthday gift from Dr P – a tiny silver custard cream from Lily Charmed (http://www.lilycharmed.com):

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All in all, it was a lovely day, a lovely dress and a lovely meal.

It is with an ever expanding waistline I say:

It’s only vintage but I like it…

It’s only Chutney but I like it…

I’m back, I’m still preserving and this time it’s personal!

i have briefly, mentioned my love of preserves and it’s ability to brighten up my vegetarian sandwiches. I love the tangy, aromatic sludge and it’s contrast with the creamy, crumbly cheddar that is still my ‘go to’ cheese despite having tried many varieties.

I started making my own chutney a long time ago now and was impressed by how easy, how cheap and how consistent it was. I have had many culinary disasters in my time but never in the chutney arena.

One of my favourites is onion chutney – a great balance of sweet and sour, rich and glossy, it’s a real palate pleaser.

I used this recipe with a few adaptations when I made some chutney recently http://realfood.tesco.com/recipes/caramelised-onion-chutney.html .

I’m not supposed to have tasted it yet, but I couldn’t wait – it’s delicious!
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I’ve a craving for some spiced apple chutney – another favourite! So that may be my next project. Until then…

It is with a watering mouth I say:
It’s only Vintage but I like it!

It’s only Pickling but I like it…

This post may divide my readers. Some of you will running for the bathroom giving little dry heaves, some of you will be salivating…

It is strange when you live in another country the foodstuffs from home you miss. Odd things you never ate that often, but knew they were available. Things from childhood that you had forgotten made their way into your lunchbox. Condiments that were the tiny spoonful of deliciousness in an ordinary meal, somehow making it something special.

When living in the Middle East I could get most things I wanted in the large supermarkets there. The things I couldn’t find were Garibaldi biscuits (how can you not love a biscuit named after an Italian General?) and pickled eggs. Garibaldis I used to eat quite a lot in the UK, being low in fat but a surprisingly satisfying partner to a nice cuppa and a sit down. Pickled eggs… I don’t know that I’ve ever eaten them often. I’ve certainly never made my own.

Part of the vintage ethos that I love is making things yourself instead of buying them. In the past I’ve made my own chutney, ketchup and of course, cakes and biscuits. Pickling is new to me.

I had a little google on how to pickle eggs and found this recipe on a Jamie Oliver forum (http://www.jamieoliver.com/forum/viewtopic.php?id=75995 ).

Today I hard boiled my eggs, sterilised my jar (10mins in a 140c oven) and chopped up half a scotch bonnet chilli. I popped it all in a jar with some white vinegar and I can’t help but think it resembles a culinary snow globe. Really rather festive wouldn’t you say?

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The proof will be in the tasting, which can only happen in 2 weeks time when the vinegar and chilli have worked their magic on the eggs. This may be the daftest thing I have ever made given that I don’t have a high tolerance of chilli. If all else fails Dr P will eat them… I hope!

It is with bated breath I say:

It’s only vintage but I like it!