My Pop Up Tearoom for Macmillan Cancer Care {Year Three}

29 September 2014

On Friday morning I held my annual 'cake spread' for Macmillan Cancer Care. It was my third year and looks set to be the biggest one yet, with £360 raised so far (a few more donations are still to come). As with every year, I had no time to photograph everything properly. These snaps were taken without much care five minutes before my first customer arrived, but it serves as a record of sorts.

This year the offerings were as follows: Lemon Meringue Roulade with Fruits of the Forest Coulis; Blueberry Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting; Lavender & Apricot Biscuits; Orange & Almond Cake; Chocolate Stout Cake with Whisky Frosting and Figs; Blackberry, Almond & Cardamom Cake and Chocolate Brownies.

a BIG thank you to all of you who came. X

An Autumnal recipe for Tesco Home: Crumble {and Custard}

23 September 2014

I love a change of season with its shift in seasonal produce dictating change in the kitchen. Mother nature has pretty much timed it to perfection. Just as the appeal of fresh crisp salads and strawberries & cream start to fade away along with warm summer evenings, along come the soups, casseroles, apples and blackberries to take us into the cosy season. It's the back-to-school and throw-a-sweater-on season, and one of my favourite times of the year.

Today, I am sharing my first autumn recipe of the year: Plum, Fig and Blackberry Crumble served with a White Chocolate and Cardamom Custard. It's a recipe that Tesco Home asked me to develop for their new autumn / winter 2014 kitchenware collection which launched this month. My favourite pieces, all of which I used in creating this recipe, include the nostalgically shaped porcelain milk bottles, the contemporary grey dipped crockery, baking dishes in a range of muted colours and a generous oak chopping board which is already earning its keep in my kitchen by doubling up as platter for serving food. These purse-friendly considered designs are as useful as they are good-looking - perfect for the home cook with an eye-for-design.

Credits: grey dipped sauce jug, £4; white porcelain bottle, £5; large ribbed mixing bowl, £8; large oak chopping board, £18; grey medium baker dish, £9; grey dipped cereal bowl, £4. All available now from Tesco Home.

For the recipe, please scroll down.

Crumble recipe, styling & photography: Buttercup Days
Custard recipe: Cooking Fror Real Life by Joanna Weinberg

Plum, Fig & Blackberry Crumble with White Chocolate & Cardamom Custard.

The quantities given below for the crumble topping will make far more than you will need. Just place the leftover crumble topping in a freezer bag and pop into the freezer. You can add direct from the freezer to any fruit base you have to hand for an almost instant crumble. I have given rough quantities for the fruit base. It isn't an exact science, but you want enough to half fill your dish. I prefer not to add sugar to my fruit base as I think the sugar in the crumble topping and the sweet custard add enough sweetness. However should you wish to stir in a tbsp or two of caster sugar to your fruit, I will not judge you.

Ingredients for the crumble topping:
250g butter, diced
310g plain flour
350g soft brown sugar
85g oats
pinch of salt
2 tsp mixed spice
125g of nuts, roughly chopped if large (I used a mix of pistachio, pecan and almond)

Ingredients for the fruit base:
6 plums
2 figs
a punnet of blackberries
1 - 2 tbsps of apple or orange juice

Ingredients for the custard:
150ml whole milk
150ml whipping or double cream
50g white chocolate, grated
5 cardamom pods, shells removed, seeds pounded
2 medium egg yolks (free range please)
50g caster sugar

Preheat the oven to 200℃ / Gas 6.

To make the crumble, lightly rub together the butter and flour until the mixture resembles coarse, slightly chunky breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar, oats, salt, spice and nuts. Put to one side, while you prepare the fruit.

Stone your plums and cut into quarters or sixths if they are large. Cut the figs into similar sized segments. Add to your baking dish along with the blackberries. You want your fruit to fill roughly half the capacity of the dish. Add a plum or fig more if you need to increase your volume of fruit. Drizzle 1 - 2 tbsps of juice over your fruit. 

Top your fruit with the crumble, bagging up the left over crumble for the freezer. Bake the crumble for about 20mins, until the top is golden and the fruit is bubbling at the edges.

To make the custard, place the milk, cream, grated chocolate and cardamom in a pan and heat gently, stirring occasionally, so that the chocolate doesn't stick or burn, until the milk steams and tiny bubbles prickle at the side of the pan. Remove from the heat and cool a little.

Mix the egg yolks with the sugar in a bowl, and slowly stir in the milk and chocolate mixture. Rinse out and dry the milk pan and return the mixture to it. Cook over a medium-low heat, stirring, until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon, being careful not to let it curdle. Serve immediately with the crumble. Enjoy.

Helsinki: Big Ships, Small Islands, Moomins + The Best Coffee

5 September 2014

In my last post I shared images of our 'base camp' in Finland. It was, as the photographs show, in the middle of nowhere and a rental car was pretty much essential. Despite it's romote idyllic location we were only a 30 minute drive away from the images you see here: Helsinki. It really was the best of both worlds. Helsinki didn't disappoint as far as capital cities go. It is spotlessly clean and well maintained. There is some striking architecture, family-friendly museums, great places in which to eat and drink and the harbour with its gateway to all Helsinki's beautiful little islands. It's a very special place.

We took a boat trip to a near island, the price of which was included in our travel pass.

And we were mesmerised by the giant ships that came and went.

When visiting any city overseas we like to try out the public transport. Helsinki station was a stunning building both inside and out.

Helsinki isn't vast, and we managed to cover most of it during our time there. The Design Museum was a highlight. The proud Finns consider good design a part of everyday life. The local supermarkets all stock Iittala, Arabia & Marimekko kitchenware - in fact they don't really stock many other brands. But then why would they?

We took a trip out to the 1952 Olympic stadium and visited the fantastic Tove Jannson centenary exhibition which celebrated the fascinating life and work of the novelist, painter, illustrator and, as she is best known, author of the Moomin books for children. Did you know that the Moomin stories go back as far as 1945? Moomin's are very much loved in Finland and there are two Moomin shops which Lily and Arthur both took a shine to.

Helsinki is great for food and drink. Then there was the coffee. It was seriously good. Helsinki has lots of independent coffee shops, including Johan & Nyström by the scenic harbour. Not only did they serve the best coffee, but they also provided an excellent stock of design magazines and cookbooks to flick through. 

We ate at falafel cafes and a restaurants that offered a vast vegetarian buffet where you paid for your meal by weight (the plates, not yours). We had liquorice & lemon ice cream (devine), blueberry chocolate, rye breads in every shape and size, nordic berries and chanterelles and of course, there was always room for a cinnamon bun. 

Finland: The House, The Woods, The Lakes

3 September 2014

We've been back from our Finland trip exactly one week: though it seems like an age ago now. We arrived home and got straight back into the daily swing of things within 24 hours: the kids completing their last few days at summer school and us back at work with 'to do' lists as long as our arms.

We're desperately trying to hold onto that holiday feeling: the relaxed clear headedness that you get while away from it all. Finland was what I call a proper break. 

This was our base: a beautiful wooden summer house in Kirkkonummi surrounded by woods and lakes, that our friend and her family generously offered up to us for our stay.

We had quality family time, enjoyed the beautiful surroundings, made new discoveries, enjoyed new experiences and ate lots of cinnamon buns. Yes, the cinnamon buns were really something.

If you ever get the chance to visit Finland, go for it - you won't be disappointed.

The Simple Things

1 September 2014

We've just come back from the most amazing family holiday in Finland. I've lots to share with you about our time there, so watch this space.

In the meantime, I wanted to share my first official / credible / national piece of Buttercup Days press. My Blackberry, Almond & Cardamon Cake photograph is featured in the new (September) issue of The Simple Things magazine. The Simple Things is one of my favourite monthly reads. It never finds its way to my recycling bins; back issues live on my bookshelf as I like to dip into them from time to time.

I was bowled over when they contacted me to ask if they could use one of my food photographs from this blog to illustrate a recipe and as if that wasn't a big enough scoop for me they also asked if I would like to feature in their regular 'My day in cups of tea' feature - the pictures used in that article are mine too. 

Seeing this new issue the day I reluctantly flew back from our holiday certainly made returning home a little easier.

Thanks, The Simple Things - you've made my month.