27 February 2011

Rhubarb Custard Cake with Lemon Glaze

Forced rhubarb time is here! It definitely feels like spring time when seasonal fruit comes back into the shops. I love the colour of forced rhubarb too, shocking pink just reminds me of summer time rather than dull old February.

I bake with rhubarb a lot, cakes, cupcakes, pies, simple crumbles and jam. This recipe is super simple to make, the crumb is creamy - to me it actually tastes of custard  - and we all know what rhubarb goes with! This batter has more eggs and less flour, hence the custard taste, and the juices from the rhubarb seep out whilst it makes which makes it extra moist.

I experimented with a lemon glaze too, rhubarb is sour but I think the glaze works surprisingly well.

Rhubarb Custard Cake
makes one cake, I baked mine in a 7 inch square tin.

150gs of softened unsalted butter
150gs of white sugar plus extra for the top
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
100gs self raising flour
1/2 tsp of baking powder
zest of one lemon
2 large sticks of rhubarb

Cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy, mix in your eggs one by one and then the vanilla. Fold in your zest, flour and baking powder til just combined. Pour the batter into a greased and lined cake tin (mine was non stick so I didn't use any baking paper)
Trim your rhubarb and chop into 1 inch pieces, arrange over the top of the cake, sprinkle about a tablespoon of sugar over the top, this will add a bit of extra sweetness to the rhubarb.

Bake in the oven for 25 minutes at 200c / gas mark 6 til cooked through. When a knife is inserted it won't come out absolutely clean because it is quite a moist cake, a few crumbs should stick.

Leave to cool for about 5 minutes and then very carefully transfer to a plate or a board to allow you to glaze the cake.

For the lemon glaze
juice of one lemon
dash of vanilla extract
approx 70g caster sugar

whisk both together until well combined, the sugar doesnt have to dissolve as you want a nice crunchy top. Spoon over the warm cake and leave for as long as you can before grabbing yourself a slice.

This cake is just lovely out of the oven as it is incredibly crispy on top, you can reheat it slightly from cold to crisp up again too.

25 February 2011

The Eight Bells, Saffron Walden

Saffron Walden is a brilliant little town, about 15-20 minutes from Cambridge, full of lots of independent shops, delis and restaurants and seems to be a well kept secret! We live only 5 minutes drive away now so we shop and eat there often, the Saturday market is fantastic (go to the bread stall and the olive stall but for the tapenade) and there is a wool shop opening soon! We have also tried Dish Restaurant  and Cafe CouCou (for the puddings) there and both are a must, fantastic food.

But now onto the Eight Bells. We went about 6 months ago when it was under different ownership, the food was only okay, but the pub was taken over just before Christmas by new owners. The old chef from way back when the pub was better is back and the interior of this 15th century (?) building has been transformed in to a nice cosy place with big leather sofas and huge woodburners.

Lit with candles and dim lights it wasn't best for photography but it was very romantic!

We went one Saturday afternoon for one of the 'grazing boards' - we tried the Greek meze board - which was fantastic and really good value, £9 which fed both of us a nice lunch. They also have local cider on tap, yay!

Keen to go back we treated ourselves to an evening meal one weekday. The food was just as good as before, there is lots of choice on the menu and if you go for anything, go for the puddings. I had fishcakes with green beans and a lovely lemon butter sauce for main, oh and I had to order some onion rings because I love them - they were great and obviously made from scratch.

The real star was the enormous sticky toffee pudding with cinder toffee- drenched in caramel sauce and with a scoop of locally produced vanilla ice cream. Yum! I think I could have just had that and gone home happy. My hubby had the vegetable tagine which was really flavoursome for a vegetarian dish, followed by an immensely chocolatey chocolate brownie.

The pub is open all day, they do light bites, sandwiches along with their main meals. We will be going back soon, it is also a lovely place to stop off for a drink after shopping.

The website is here but you will find the menu on their facebook page

23 February 2011

Starting a Sourdough Starter

I have started a sourdough starter! I started it on Sunday, so far it is going well and I had bubbles last night. I am probably too excited about it. Hopefully I can make some sourdough over the weekend.

This blog post from Joy the Baker is super useful, some of the other recipes out there are ESSAYS on the subject, really it is simple. One cup of bread flour. One cup of water. Blend. Every 24 hours for the first 3-4 days you need to feed it. Do this by throwing half away, and adding half cup of water and half a cup of flour. Stir. Leave in a warm place. Once it has established itself you keep it in the fridge and feed it once a week.

(if anyone knows how to take an attractive picture of this big yeasty floury mess I'd be grateful, haha).

19 February 2011

buttony goodness

I always like it when someone comes to me with an interesting custom order, I made a button necklace for my colleague before Christmas, she gave it as a gift and loved it so much that she asked me to make another for her.

I love this idea, the design is relatively simple but looks really lovely on, I am wondering if I can start a new line in my shop of button necklaces?

I think some button shopping is in order! More pictures here

18 February 2011

Mushroom Ragu

We've been going veggie in this household, the last 3 and a bit weeks we have only eaten veggie evening meals (except for a couple of slip ups, one involving takeaway pizza) which has made me more creative and I have tried lots of new recipes.

This mushroom ragu is one of my favourite meals from the last few weeks because it is so MEATY and really easy to put together. Other highlights from our veggie adventure include Ottolenghi's black pepper tofu and pasta puttanesca. You must try the tofu, it will convert you if you don't like tofu- but you must use silken tofu as stated.

Anyway, onto the ragu. You can use any mushrooms you have, about 300gs serves 2 people, I had some mini portobello mushrooms (yes I admit I bought them because they were cute) which I put in. A mixture of different interesting mushrooms would be lovely, maybe with a few dried mushrooms thrown in.

Mushroom Ragu
serves 2

half an onion or 3 shallots
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tbsp tomato puree
approx 300ml passata or pureed tomatoes
300g mushrooms, sliced
dried or fresh herbs - oregano, thyme, basil - about 2 tsp if dried, handful if fresh.
bay leaf
dash of chili flakes

Fry the garlic and the shallots in some olive oil, then add in the mushrooms and cook for a couple of minutes. Then add in your tomato puree and passata with your herbs, bay leaf and chili. Season.
Bring to the boil and then simmer very gently for about 15minutes, stirring every now and again.
I read somewhere that a splash of milk or cream at the end is lovely in ragu, so I always add some in, it takes the acidity out of the tomatoes.
Serve with spaghetti and parmesan on top (apparently parmesan is not veggie but you can sub with cheddar or maybe some nice feta?).

This is so rich and comforting, definitely cured my craving for a proper meat ragu.

17 February 2011

an array of new things!

I have been slowly but surely been adding new things to my shops over the last few weeks, time for new ideas is tight but I am hoping for more things soon - more rings, more vintage beads and some more bridal jewellery.

All of these pieces are in my Etsy shop and selected pieces in my other shops.

16 February 2011


This is the kind of lovely 'antique' effect you get with brass when you leave charms in silver dip for 3 days by accident. Sometimes forgetfulness has its rewards. I am keeping these pretties for myself!

15 February 2011

Lemon Meringue Pielettes (or Tartlettes!)

It is no secret that I am a serious chocolate fiend, a lot of my desserts revolve around chocolate, but I also really love lemony puddings - lemon drizzle cake is my go to cake and I have recently become rather enamoured with lemon curd.

Onto the lemon meringue pielettes. I planned on making a big pie but I bought these ever so cute little tartlette tins at the weekend so they went into four individual tins.

Lemon Meringue Pie or Pielettes
Makes one large pie or 4 tartlettes with lemon curd leftover.

Preheat your oven to 180c / gas mark 4
approx 200gs of sweet shortcrust pastry - this is my favourite pastry recipe - No Shrink Pastry Crust

For the lemon filling:
juice of 4 lemons
zest of 4 lemons - make sure you buy unwaxed
120g unsalted butter
125g of caster sugar
pinch of salt
2 eggs (save the whites for your meringue)
3 egg yolks

Melt the butter in saucepan with the juice, zest, salt and sugar. Whisk together your eggs and egg yolks, gradually pour in the egg mixture til combined, then whisk over a very low heat until the mixture starts to thicken. You want to take it slightly thicker than normal lemon curd, like thick custard. Once it is at the right consistency pour into a cold bowl to stop it cooking further.

For the meringue top
2 egg whites
pinch of salt
5 tablespoons of sugar

Whisk the egg whites together with the salt until it forms soft peaks. Then slowly add in the sugar, one tablespoon at a time, whisking each time til you get stiff peaks.

Roll out your pastry to about 1cm thickness. Put into a greased large pie dish, or into greased tartlette tins.

The best way to line a tartlette tin is to use the tin as a pastry cutter and then lay over the tin. Blind bake your pastry - 10 minutes for tartlettes, 15 minutes for a large pie, til it is lightly golden brown.

Turn your oven up to 200c / gas mark 5.

Then add in your lemon curd, you want it to reach to the top of your pastry as the meringue sits above the line of the tin. You can now either pipe your meringue on if you are fancy (like I was), or just spread it on with a palette knife - working lightly so as not too knock too much air out.

Bake in the oven for about 15 - 20 minutes til the meringue is crispy on the outside and puffy inside. Keep an eye on it, some ovens may cook it quicker and it can burn quickly.

Leave to rest out of the oven until cool. Some meringue recipes say leave it cool inside the oven, with the oven turned off - but I think it  was ok out of the oven at room temperature.

Any leftover lemon curd can be put into jars, or saved to make a simple lemon tart.

14 February 2011

14% off for Valentines!

I can be a bit cynical about Valentines but it is a nice thing to do and a little pressie and a card is always a good thing.

So, in the spirit of being kind and nice I am offering you all 14% in my Etsy shop, only for 1 day!

Treat yourself or buy a last minute (very last minute) gift for your Valentine.

Use discount code VALENTINES during checkout for your discount.

9 February 2011

Adventures in Tea

I am normally a very boring tea drinker. The usual everyday brew with milk, quite weak. I've tried other tea before but I never like it as much as 'normal' tea - boring. I had some lovely tea at the Secluded Tea Party recently and this inspired me to try and broaden my tea drinking habits!

I bought some Rhubarb and Custard tea from Tea Box Online. A loose leaf tea which is faintly sweet and really refreshing, and I liked the name!

Then I picked up some Tea Pigs Darjeeling Earl Grey tea temples (tea bags!) from Waitrose which is much much nicer than normal earl grey, the bergamot flavour is real and not fake orange. The tea is lovely without milk and with a slice of lemon.

I have been trying to cut out milk from tea but I can't stand the usual tea without milk (although that is mainly because the limescale in the office kettle is horrendous), these are better without.

1 February 2011

Feature in Cambridge Agenda

If you are a local you can pick up a copy of Cambridge Agenda this month and find my Petite Rose Ring in featured it looks lovely on the page, I am so pleased. I love a good press feature!

You can also find the full magazine online here