A Day At The Museum

23 April 2012

Today was Lily's last day of the school Easter holiday. It feels like she's been off forever - a long three weeks. So to end on a high David took the day off work and we all went to the Science Museum for the day. I took Lily last summer and she has been keen to have a return visit ever since. It was Arthur's first London museum trip. He enjoyed it too. I love these picture of Lily and Arthur that were taken in front of these rather trippy animated graphics that were projected onto a huge blank white wall. Very Bridget Riley don't you think?

A New Bed

Yesterday we dismantled Arthur's cot, wrapped it in up in black bin liners and put it in the loft. Then we assembled his new bed. He looks so tiny in it. It was a funny feeling putting the cot away, knowing we'd never be needing it again. End of an era so to speak. The first thing Arthur said when he woke this morning was 'Mummy, I really like my new bed'. He looked proud as punch about it too.

Cardamon Sour-Cream Cake

19 April 2012

Do you use your local library? Do you still have one? I've always loved to loose myself in a library. However these days it's the kid's who seem to bring back towering piles of books. Browsing libraries with kid's in toe just doesn't work. So when they do grace me with five minutes in the adult library, I head straight for the cook books. I grab two or three that take my fancy and then once at home will delve into them and sometimes discover a gem of a recipe. One of my recent book loans was 'Rachel's Favourite Food at Home' by Rachel Allen. I made a few of her recipes including this one for Cardamon Sour Cream Cake. I baked it last week when Lily and Arthur's three great aunties visited. It is, after all, an occasion that always calls for a cake.

The recipe calls for a 20cm cake tin. I don't own that size in my collection, so opted for a slightly smaller one over a slightly larger one. Although the recipe still came out fine, I will choose the larger tin next time as, although delicious, the cake was a little on the 'chunky slice' side and I feel a cake with such a delicate aroma as Cardamon would benefit being served as 'shallow slivers'. It's really just personal preference. If you do stray from the stated pan size, just keep an eye on the cooking time as it may need a little less or more time in the oven.

Cardamon Sour-cream Cake

  • 1 egg
  • 200ml tub sour cream or crème fraîche (reserve 1 tbsp for icing)
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 225g plain flour, sifted
  • ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom seeds
  • 125g icing sugar, sifted
  • 1 tbsp sour cream or crème fraîche
Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F), Gas mark 4. Grease the sides of a 20cm (8in) round cake tin and dust with flour; line the base of the pan with a disc of greaseproof paper.

Whisk the egg in a large bowl. Add all but 1 generous tablespoon of the sour cream or crème fraîche and the sugar and whisk to combine. Add the sifted flour and bicarbonate of soda, then the salt and the ground cardamom. Fold the mixture to combine; do not overmix. Transfer into the tin and place in the oven. Cook for about 35 minutes, until the top of the cake just feels firm to the touch and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let it sit for 10 minutes before removing from the tin and cooling on a wire rack.

When the cake has just cooled, make the icing by mixing the reserved tablespoon of sour cream or crème fraîche with the icing sugar sugar. If it is too stiff add just a drop of water; if it is too runny, add a bit more icing sugar. Spread the icing over the top of the cake, allowing any extra icing to drip down the sides.

The flower garnish is entirely option, but I find I just can't help myself.


11 April 2012

Well, Easter is done. All that remains is a fridge full of chocolate eggs. We're not quite back to our normal routine; we're still in school holiday mode for the next week and a half.

Easter was lovely though; relaxing together time that is all to rare. We had a day with David's family at his sister's house on Sunday. It was the perfect place to be: good company, good food and good conversation in a relaxed home dotted with family photo's past and present. It's how such holidays should be spent.

By the way, the cake in the picture above was made by my sister-in-law. She could give Nigella Lawson a run for her money. It was chocolate heaven.

A Good Friday

6 April 2012

Ahh, four whole days off. Although there is a nip in the air, it is sunny and full of promise. We're spending part of our Easter holiday with family & friends and part of it at home. A perfect mix. Today was a home day and a productive one at that. You know those rare days when you actually get stuff done and feel pretty good about it? Well it's been one of those. 

First off, yesterday, I made Hot Cross Buns for the very first time (with the kids as my ever willing kitchen helpers). I've always been slightly nervous of cooking anything involving yeast. I am rather weak at kneading. However since getting my Kitchen Aid, I've become rather more adventurous, and with my dough hook I and am up for the challenge. 

I started making them at 2pm. There were two rounds of kneading and waiting for the dough to rise, piping the crosses and once baked, coating the buns with a glaze. It was 8pm, by the time they were ready, albeit due to trying to cook dinner in the middle of it all and helping put the kids to bed. 
With half of my household having a fierce hatred of dried fruit, I replaced the fruit in half the recipe with plain chocolate chips. It was trial and error; but it was a success. Both the traditional and the  chocolate versions tasted divine; a world away from the shop bought ones. I will, without doubt, be making them again next year. I love a 'culinary tradition'.

But, the real achievement of the day has to be the window boxes. We use to have window boxes, but when we had the exterior of our house painted four years ago, we had to take them down. Today they finally went back. It was just one of those jobs that never got done. They're only small window boxes, four in total, but they do make the house look pretty in the summer. I planted them up with some red Geraniums, yellow Viola and blue, white and purple Trailing Lobelia. I also popped in some seeds: yellow and orange Trailing Nasturtium and some pale blue and 'Persian Jewels' Nigella. They look rather tame at the moment, showing just a small splash of colour, but over the next few months, I'm hoping for a riot of colour in my boxes. It is one of lives little pleasures to be greeted by beautiful flowers when you draw back the curtains each morning.


3 April 2012

Kids artwork. What to do with it? It would be impossible to keep it all as it multiplies on a daily basis, but I do get a tiny pang of guilt when I sneak drawings and scribbles into the recycling bin. Homemade cards and such like I keep in a special box. They're forever. But I do really love some of their creations and every now and then I decide to keep them just because I like them. I display them amongst my favourite photographs, vases, ceramics or mix them in with other 'grown up' pictures that hang on my walls. They are now part of our home; items that we see every day. From the pretty paper chain that Lily made for Arthur's birthday party last year which now hangs on the pussy willow branches in my bedroom and the owl she made out of clay that sits with my Marimekko ceramics to the bright abstract print that Arthur did at playschool that has pride of place in my kitchen, they all make me smile inside and out. And that, after all is what a good piece of art should do.

Two Cakes

The email account that I use for images has been temporarily out of order. Apparently an attempt was made to hack into it. The upshot is that I've not been able to post anything for the last week. So now, with the email account resumed I'm playing catch up.

It was Lily's birthday some ten days ago now, so I wondered if this post is still really relevant ... but hey, why not. It's a shame to let good cake go to waste.

I made Lily two cakes this year. The first was for her 'actual' birthday; a triple-layer dark chocolate cake filled and covered with a white chocolate ganache. The second cake was for for Lily to take into school for her class and teachers on her birthday-eve. This was a lemon and poppy seed cake with cream cheese frosting. Needless to say everyone in year two enjoyed morning snack on that day. 

That evening, Lily read her school story book to me. She does this a few times a week in addition to reading it in class with the teacher. Afterwards we have to write a line or two in her accompanying 'comment book'. As I opened her book to write my line in, I saw that she had been reading the book that morning with her teacher. The teachers comment read as so: 'good reading and fantastic cake!'.