A Open Sandwich

27 June 2013

Earlier this week, I made this open sandwich for lunch. I bought the flatbreads on a whim and just topped one with what was lying around in the fridge. This unplanned meal turned out to be a very pleasant one. It's too simple to be classed as a recipe; but if you were wondering ...

A left over courgette and red pepper were roasted in a little olive oil with lemon zest and thyme. Onto the flatbread I piled a generous handful of mixed salad and baby spinach leaves. Then went on the still-warm roasted vegetables. I halved some red grapes and added those along with a lonely piece of feta. A dollop of hummus dusted with paprika was placed in one corner. Mint leaves from the balcony followed with some pumpkin, sunflower and sesame seeds. Finally, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and splash of balsamic vinegar. 

It's not quite a sandwich and not quite a salad. It's as quick as a flash to make and healthy to boot. The start of a new lunchtime staple.

Life Lately + Chocolate, Crushed Raspberry & Honeycomb Cupcakes.

24 June 2013

Last week, we received some good news. Really good news. Lily has been offered a place at the same school that Arthur will be starting in September. After four years, an almost-house move, and two schools, our daughter will finally be attending our local school of choice. I had almost given up hope and was trying to fathom out how we were going to manage the school runs with two children that were in different schools in different parts of town. But last week, we got the call we had been waiting for. The relief, to finally feel settled on the school front, is huge. 

I can't help feeling for Lily though - the 'new girl' yet again. However, at the moment she is fine about it all. Moving school every two years is her norm to date. The school she will be leaving is tiny, so it won't be that much of a challenge to stay in touch with some special friends plus she has a couple of friends from her previous school and preschool at her new school. All those old paths are soon crossed again, even at the age of eight it seems. 

For now, Lily still has another three weeks left at her current school, then we have the summer holidays before a new chapter begins with a new school for both of my children. 


I made these cakes at the weekend for Lily to take to a birthday party. They were Chocolate, Crushed Raspberry & Honeycomb Cupcakes and apparently a hit with the gaggle of eight-year-old girls.

Photography: Buttercup Days

Blood Orange + Rosemary Cake

20 June 2013

A couple of weeks ago I made this Blood Orange & Rosemary Cake to take to a friends birthday party. The recipes comes from my latest cookbook purchase What Katie Ate: Recipes and Other Bits and Bobs by Katie Quinn Davies. It was a case of 'wishing I had bought this book a few months earlier' as the author obviously has quite a thing for blood oranges - there are several recipes in the book that feature them. I too, love a blood orange, but sadly their fairly short season finished a couple of months ago. 

However, I was determined to make this cake. I simply replaced the blood oranges for regular oranges and hunted down a carton of blood orange juice to use when the juice of an orange was called for. Essentially it hit the spot - the marriage of orange and rosemary was still very much there and it was worth sourcing that carton of blood orange juice to make the natural dusky pink icing - so, so pretty.

I will, of course make a point of re-visiting this recipe when blood oranges are back in season. It just has to be done.

Blood Orange & Rosemary Cake
Serves 8 - 10

225g unsalted butter, softened
220g caster sugar
2 tsps cointreau (absent from my drinks cabinet, I used brandy)
3 free-range eggs, beaten
1 blood orange, peeled, pith removed and cut into segments
3 rosemary sprigs, leaves picked
300g plain flour, sifted
2 tsps baking powder, sifted

blood orange syrup:
juice of 2 blood oranges
juice of 2 oranges
1 tbsp caster sugar

blood orange icing:
juice of 1 blood orange
320g icing sugar, sifted

Preheat the oven to 180℃ (fan), 200℃, gas mark 6 and grease a 9cm, 1.4 litre capacity bundt tin, or alternatively, grease and line a regular 22cm springform cake tin.

Use an electric mixer to cream the butter and sugar for 10 mins until light and creamy. Add the Cointreau and the eggs and combine.

Whizz the blood orange, orange and rosemary in a food processor until the rosemary leaves are finely chopped and the oranges are blended to a pulp. Add to the butter and sugar mixture and beat together on low speed until combined.

In a separate bowl, mix together the flour and baking powder. With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the flour mixture to the butter and sugar mixture, beating between additions, until everything is well incorporated.

Pour the cake batter into the prepared tin. Bake for 45 - 50 minutes or until the top is golden and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Meanwhile, to make the blood orange syrup, place the ingredients in a saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10-15 mins or until the sugar has dissolved and the syrup has reduced by about a third. Keep warm until the cake is ready.

Leave the cake to cool a little before transferring it to a wire rack. Place a plate underneath the rack to catch any drips, then prick the top of the cake with a skewer and spoon the warm syrup over the cake and leave to be absorbed.

Make the icing by combining the blood orange juice and icing sugar until smooth. Drizzle the icing all over the cooled cake, then chill the iced cake in the fridge for 20 mins before serving.

Father's Day + A Time When I Didn't Like Pizza

14 June 2013

It's Father's Day on Sunday. Both my kids have been plotting, planning and preparing over the last week for their daddies special day. They idolise him and approach this day with considerable excitement. My role in their carefully thought out plan is to try and turn the list of ever-so-slightly random and adventurous ideas into reality. 

Then there is my own dad of course. He's actually spending the weekend with my brother and his family, which will be a real treat, given that the distance between them (Isle of Wight - Tynemouth) doesn't allow for too many occasions spent together. I've written about my Dad before on the blog (you can read it here), but today I want to share a little story that came back to me recently.


In 1980, we had a family holiday to America. It was a big thing. It was the first time that my brother or I had been abroad. We have a big extended family in Michigan, so this trip was spent in the company of our American cousins, all of who showed us a great and memorable time. Although only eight at the time, I remember it being an amazing adventure.

Naturally, many of my memories evolve around the food we ate. It was so different to what we ate back home: all the sweets were different and called 'candy', jam was called 'jelly' and as for breakfast cereal - I'd never seen so many varieties! I remember the pizzas too - great big things the size of dustbin lids. 

However, at eight I didn't like pizza. Even now, I can't give a legitimate reason why, I just didn't like it. These pizzas often marked the end of days sightseeing with relatives, but like I say I didn't like pizza. So my dad would go on a wild goose chase for a McDonalds to by me a burger (no gerkins). He wasn't a soft touch and I'm surprised he put up with such fastidious behaviour. On one such occasion, I remember him returning with my paper-wrapped bun rather incensed muttering something about 'almost getting run over trying to cross the busy highway to get to McDonalds'. To top it all, I dare say his pizza was cold when he got back to us all.

I love pizza now and wouldn't step within 100yds of McDonalds. Dad: sorry that I was a fussy-eating eight year old.

A Recipe For Heart Home: Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

13 June 2013

Regular readers may recall the Pineapple Upside-Down Cake I baked for the food photography workshop I recently undertook. Well, I finally got around to writing up the recipe, and as of today it is over on the lovely Heart Home blog.

Ooh, and incase you were wondering where that cheerful floral tea set comes from, it's from a little gem of a local shop called Keep It Vintage. I can't pass its shop front without pressing my nose up against the window - its wares are as tempting as that second slice of cake.

French Toast & Roasted Rhubarb

7 June 2013

I tore this recipe out of a magazine some months back and pinned it to my kitchen noticeboard in anticipation for the rhubarb glut that our allotment gives us every year. It's a quick and easy weekend breakfast for when you want to set the day off 'just so'. Perfect for an al fresco breakfast in the garden. 

French Toast & Roasted Rhubarb

Makes 8

5 Stems of rhubarb
2 tbsp Demerara sugar
3 eggs
100ml / 3½ fl oz single cream
90ml / 3 fl oz milk
2 tbsp caster sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract
8 slices of small brioche loaf
Maple syrup or honey to serve.

Heat the oven to 200℃ (gas mark 6). Cut the rhubarb into 5cm pieces and place on a baking tray. Sprinkle with sugar and roast for 15 mins, or until tender. Keep warm.

Beat the eggs, cream, milk, sugar and vanilla in a shallow bowl. Add the brioche slices one at a time and soak for 1-2 mins.

Heat a knob of butter in a large frying pan over a medium heat until the butter foams. Add half the prepared bread and cook for 2-3 mins on each side. Repeat with the remaining bread, keeping the first batch warm in the oven until ready to serve. Serve with the rhubarb drizzled with a little maple syrup or honey.

Photography: Buttercup  Days.