Introducing the new Butcher Baker member

Lily little baker

For the last 9 months I’m sure some of you have noticed the blog’s been a bit different and this is when I confess why. I was expecting a baby. Lily (or Little Baker as she’ll be known on blog) finally arrived 11 days late, 6lb 11oz and within 18.5 hours of being induced. You don’t need the gory details but the amazing staff at Derby Birth Centre allowed me to have a birth that was unlike the horrors that seem as norm on One Born Every Minute. Also, under the influence of gas & air (amazing stuff) I still talk about food, this time about a love of Chicken Tikka Biryani and M&S cheesecake.

Pregnancy isn’t always conducive to a bloggable appetite. I was conscious what I ate to make sure Little Baker had as good start as possible and foods I’d previously loved were cast aside as they either made me heave or give me raging reflux.

During pregnancy I had no interest in baking until nesting hit around 38 weeks and for the first half of the pregnancy all I was interested in eating were raspberries, melon, passion fruit, salted popcorn and cheese. Not just any cheese; it HAD to be Babybel or Dairylea. Classy food lover here.

Little Baker has had very good foodie start in life and technically has already notched up some Michelin Stars experiencing Afternoon Tea at Le Manoir and a stay and meal Hand & Flowers.

So there we have it, I’ve confessed; we are now a family of three and the blog has a new member. I still want the blog to stay with the food focus and once we’re settled I’ll get back on it.

Now where did I put that prosecco, strong coffee and brie?

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Melba Toast Bruschetta

melba toast bruschetta

Any purists need to look away now. This is not an authentic recipe in the slightest. In fact the only fresh item in the recipe is a tomato, that is assuming you don’t count pappy white bread as fresh. It’s a bit of a summery store cupboard standby for lunch that breaks the monotony of sandwiches or something on toast.

The tomato topping I often make on its own, but call it marinated tomatoes, and serve it as a salad. It goes particularly well with a BBQ or on a cheeseboard. It also perks up tomatoes (usually ones from the supermarket) that don’t taste as good as they should.

The marinated tomatoes are served on melba toast; now there is something a bit of retro for you. I remember watching a Masterchef professional episode recently where one of the contestants didn’t know how to make it. Clearly not a child of the 70s/80s. It was always my job to make the melba toast when my parents had a dinner party. Of course if you’re lucky enough to have some leftover ciabatta or sourdough by all means serve the tomatoes with this.

Cheats Bruschetta

Serves 1

  • 1 slice of white bread
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp dried mixed herbs (or fresh basil)
  • 1/4 garlic granules (or fresh garlic clove, finely chopped)
  • 1 salad tomato, diced
  • sprinkling of parmesan

How to make melba toast

  1. To make the melba toast, lightly toast a slice of bread. Cut off the crusts then cut the bread into four triangles. Carefully slice between the toasted sides of the bread leaving you with two triangles. Repeat with the other triangles. Place the triangles under the grill untoasted side up and cook until crispy.
  2. Mix the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, herbs, garlic and chopped tomato together.
  3. The marinated tomatoes and toast can be made in advance but it is best to top the toast with the tomatoes just before serving to stop the melba toast going soggy. When ready to eat sprinkle with parmesan.

P.S. for personal reasons the blog may go quiet over the next month but I should still be on Twitter and FB. As I don’t do guest/sponsored content on the blog you’ll have to be patient but I promise we’ll be back.

cheats bruschetta


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Make Eat Get Read Go – July ’14

megrg july14

July is the month of birthdays here, lump June in to the mix and we have a rather busy summer. The next month will be filled with celebratory champagne, cake (probably lots of it), some entertaining and guests aplenty.

1. Make

Arm knitting

I’m officially rubbish at knitting, it’s one of the crafts I really struggle to master and it annoys me that I can’t knit. I remember in primary school we had to knit a granny square for a charity blanket. The teacher gave up trying to teach me as I just couldn’t do it. Surely if I try knitting with my arms it must be easier? I’m hoping this tutorial from Flax & Twine will help me.

2. Eat

Summer Berries Tarts

Lou over at Crumbs and Corkscrews has recently restyled her blog and it’s worth having a good look at. To keep up with my current obsession with summer fruits these Summer Berry Tarts will be perfect over the next month. I think I need to fill the freezer with pastry tart shells so I can make them in a flash.

3. Get

Owl Creamer Jug – Hannah Turner Ceramics

I love ceramics, I love quirky design and I love birds. Need I say more? Before Hubs says I don’t need jugs does he not realise they are not just for pouring milk from, you can also use them as vases. This Owl Creamer Jug from Hannah Turner Ceramics ticks all the right boxes for me.

4. Read

Supper Club by Kerstin Rodgers

Kerstin Rodgers (aka MsMarmiteLover) is the queen of the Supper Club movement in the UK. As well as running supper clubs she’s also writes cookbooks. Her first book – Supper Club, is not only full of menu inspiration but also a beautiful book to look at. The cocktail recipes and menu using edible flowers look very tempting for the next month.

5. Go

Fabulous Places Summer Market

I’ve mentioned Fabulous Places before in MEGRG and it’s worth a second mention. Their Summer Market, with around 100 exhibitors, is back at Derby’s historical Roundhouse on 5th – 6th July. As well as lots of stands selling food, drinks and gifts there are also a few workshops you can book on to. I’m very tempted by the 1hr lifestyle photography workshop.

What plans do you have for July?


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The new garden – a year on

golden raspberry

We’ve lived here now for over a year so have experienced the garden in all four seasons and this spring and summer is already a stark contrast to last year’s effort. This year we’ve had enough rain to keep the garden lush (and to make our roof leak), but also lots of sunshine to encourage plant growth. We’ve also begun to work out what works and what doesn’t in the garden.

David Austin Heathcliff Rose

The flowerbed next to the garage always looking empty? Yep that’s because very little wants to grow in the shady, damp, clay soil. Even the hosta hates it. What does seem to be growing is hydrangea and roses, though the roses seem to be susceptible to black spot recently. My David Austin Winchester Cathedral rose flowered for the first time this year last month and now is the time for Heathcliff. I always find the first rose of the season can be a big scraggy, but hopefully more beautiful flowers will follow. My haphazard pruning methods seem to have paid off.

One of the aims for the garden this year was to grow more unusual plants, like cucamelons, using the James Wong Homegrown Revolution book for inspiration. So far not very successful. We’re struggling to grow from seed in this garden and Hubs is a bit of a greenhouse snob. One of the tall thin plastic growhouses that you can dismantle at the end of the season would be perfect but he hates them so instead is borrowing growing space in his dad’s traditional greenhouse.


I can already tell this is going to be a bumper year for soft fruit. Our bargain 75p raspberry (& various hybrids) plants are thriving. They are growing along the back fence and it’s so lovely coming down to the kitchen every morning and seeing another golden or red ruby shining through the leaves. They are like little, sweet beacons. The race is then on to pick them before the birds get to them. The red raspberries are ready, along with the first crop of golden raspberries that doesn’t usually start fruiting until late July/early August. While the tayberry seems a bit far behind, the loganberry is making up for it. The grapevine is looking good too.

pizza oven

The newest addition to the garden is the pizza oven. It was started at the end of August 2013 and finished 7 months later. The mild winter meant Hubs spent most weekends working on it. There is a blog coming about the build, but we have to confess we’re still trying to master the art of getting it to a decent heat and cooking in it all without annoying the neighbours with smoke. When it gets hot enough you get little smoke.


The cheap Aldi clematis plants are showing their money’s worth and doing a nice job of providing a privacy screen in the garden. Even the pear tree that Hubs rather dramatically pruned (think nothing left but the main trunk) is showing healthy growth and lots of miniature pears.

mini pears

Another joy in the garden is the bees. I think I’ve spotted at least five species buzzing around the garden. They love all the flowers in the herb garden, especially the pretty chive pom poms and we must also thank them for all the work they’ve done on the soft fruit plants.

bee on chive flowers


And on that note I’m heading down the garden with a magazine and cup of tea to soak up this sunshine because who knows how much longer it will last.

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Make Eat Get Read Go – June ’14

megrg june 14 It’s the end of May and after the perfect BBQ weekend a few weeks ago we’re back to rain. Can’t complain too much though because the combination of rain and sun means we’re probably going to have a bumper year in the garden for soft fruits. Even the grapevine seems to be ahead of schedule this year. As summer quickly approaches the type of foods I want to make and eat unsurprisingly changes. Out goes the hearty stodge and in comes fresh, vibrant flavours and meals that can be quickly thrown together in the evening with minimal prep and cooking. This is very much reflected in this month’s Make Eat Get Read Go.

1. Make

A successful fire in the pizza oven

As some of you who follow me on Twitter or Facebook you will know that for the last 7 months Hubs has built a pizza oven in the back garden. It is now complete and we’re now trying to master the art of building a decent hot fire that cooks pizzas quickly and doesn’t flood the neighbours with smoke. Not as easy as it looks. Once we’ve worked that bit out we’ll blog it, but in the meantime the Forno Bravo website has become Hub’s bible.

2. Eat

Raw Raspberry Cheesecake from Monica at SmarterFitter

I have a bit of an addiction to Raspberries, they are my favourite fruit. Even from my desk on this grizzly May day I can see a few ruby jewels beginning to appear on the plants at the bottom of the garden. I’m intrigued by this Raw Raspberry Cheesecake recipe from SmarterFitter and I love the idea of a walnut, date and coconut crust. A definite spring into summer recipe.

3. Get

Mini Snips

One of my resolutions for the garden year is to make sure I take advantage of the flowers we have growing. After years of only having a veg patch it’s a bit of a novelty for me to have flowers I can cut and place in a vase. A few friends have recommended these Mini Snips to me as they are great for making delicate cuttings of herbs and flowers.

4. Read

Nigella – Forever Summer

A mixture of half term holiday, bank holiday and a general feeling of unwell, I’ve spent a great deal of the last few days watching the wonder that is Food Network. Recently they’ve been playing old series of Nigella back to back. Yes I’m the sad one that sat there with a cup of tea and a block of post-it notes bookmarking all the recipes she made on TV that I liked in my copy of Forever Summer (entitled Fresh in the US). Now I just need to make them. Oh and watching this Nigella marathon may have something to do with used copies of Bites & Express being bought for the bargain price of £2.81 each. Shopping apps make it far too easy.

5. Go

The Bulls Head, Repton

Continuing on the pizza theme, when all else fails eat at The Bulls Head in Repton. It’s one of our favourite places to eat and as we’re celebrating 7 years on marriage in June we’re bound to be found here some time. They have a wood fired oven and their pizzas are wonderful. Their burgers are pretty good too.  Whenever we eat there we always intend on finishing the meal with one of their famous gelato sundaes but you can guarantee we get carried away with the mains. If you are ever out south Derby way I highly recommend a visit.

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Carrot and Ginger Cakes

Carrot and Ginger Cakes with Cheesecake Icing

Don’t be too shocked. This is the first baking recipe I’ve featured on the blog for a while. I thought I owed you one. It took me until I was an adult to appreciate vegetables in cake. Pre 2001 I thought carrot cake was evil stuff. It’s now on the top list of cakes I regularly bake, or get requested to bake.

  • I use rapeseed oil for the nutty flavour and keep the cake moist
  • Rather than grating carrots I chop them finely skin and all in the blender. I can’t be faffing and risking my knuckles with grating carrots.
  • I add some raisins for juicy sweetness
  • I always serve it with cheesecake icing. The slight tartness of this style of icing works really well with the cake.

These cakes use 3 forms of ginger: fresh, ground and curd. Ginger curd is the type of ingredient you buy for a recipe then you’re left with half a jar wondering what to do with it. It goes well in pancakes, on the bottom layer of a dark chocolate torte, as a sandwich layer in a cake of as it is here in the icing.

Ginger and Carrot Cakes with Ginger Cheesecake Icing

Hint: when making cheesecake icing your butter must be soft or the icing will struggle to come together. If you want to make the icing stiffer so you can pipe it add some more icing sugar, but of course this will make the icing much sweeter.

Carrot & Ginger Cakes
Makes 6 cupcake sized cakes

For the cakes

  • 1 egg
  • 70ml rapeseed oil
  • 100g soft dark sugar
  • 150g finely grated carrots
  • 50g raisins
  • 90g self-raising flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 freshly grated ginger

For the ginger cheesecake icing

  • 25g cream cheese
  • 25g butter, softened
  • 1/2 tsp orange extract
  • 30g ginger preserve/curd
  • 110g icing sugar


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 150º. Put 6 cupcake cases in a deep cupcake/muffin tin.
  2. In a bowl beat the egg then stir in the rapeseed oil, sugar and carrots then the flour, salt, bicarbonate of soda and the two gingers. Yes the mixture looks really rather sloppy and unappetising at this stage but stick with it.
  3. Fill each cupcake case 2/3 full with the mixture. Bake for 30min until cakes are risen and cooked through. Remove from tin and allow to cool.
  4. To make the icing beat together the cream cheese and softened butter until well combined then stir in the orange extract and ginger curd. Gradually beat in the icing sugar until you soft, smooth icing. Spoon the icing on to the cakes.
  5. As this icing contains cream cheese if that cakes are not being eaten within a few hours of being made it’s worth them being kept in the fridge especially during hot weather.



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Pies & Perfect Pastry with GBBO Beca

beca welcome cake

Hubs likes to think he is the king of pork pies in this household. He makes them hand raised with traditional jelly made from pig’s trotters. 2013 GBBO contestant Beca has recently started to do some baking courses at Seasoned Cookery School just down the road from us (yes that explains why I mention them a lot!) and I decided to take the opportunity to see if I could swipe Hub’s pork pie crown.

The day started with a short drive past the carpet of bluebells to the Catton Hall estate and I have no shame in being one of the first people to delve into the fluffy chocolate orange cake awaiting course participants. Well I had to keep my energy levels up didn’t I? Clare, who runs Seasoned, knows me all too well.

beca menu

The day was made up of demonstrations by Beca and practical sessions on both hot and cold savoury pastry. For lunch we ate some of the dishes Beca had demonstrated.

I’ve made puff pastry before but never rough puff. Beca made both types to show the difference in techniques and amount of butter used (traditional puff = scary amount!) but also how the end product is very similar. We had a go at making our own batch of rough puff to take home and mine is now in the freezer waiting to be transfored this weekend into the vegetable tart Beca made for our lunch. A delicious puff tart with cheesy bechamel sauce topped with ribbons of vegetables and parma ham.

beca ingredients

Beca then showed us a suet pastry that is perfect for steamed puddings using leftover stew. If we didn’t have an alleged heat wave on its way this weekend I’d be certainly trying to recreate this delicious dish in the coming days. Before we could sit down to lunch we had some pork pies to make.

I’ve never made hot crust pastry before, but I now love it. Such a beautiful pastry to work with. We added some strong bread flour to the pastry to make it more pliable. What made these pork pies different to the style Hubs makes is that we made them in a muffin tin rather than hand raised. This means they are easier to make and fill, especially for beginners. Also makes it easier to get the pies a more uniform size. I found the process really rather therapeutic.

beca piping

After a leisurely lunch it was time for choux pastry that would be filled with either jalapeño or Stilton flavoured cream cheese. Choux pastry can be temperamental at times and will sometimes fail for no good reason. Thankfully luck was on my side and by using Beca’s recipe I managed to make a decent batch. Some of these are also now sitting unfilled in the freezer waiting to be made into salted caramel profiteroles this weekend.

beca savoury choux

I thoroughly enjoyed my day. I’m certainly no beginner when it comes to pastry making but it’s always handy going on courses to pick up tips and recipes. Any long-term reader of this blog knows I like to spend a day at a cookery school. Beca is honestly one of the nicest people I’ve met tutoring a course. She was down to earth, happy to give advice without being patronising and lovely to have a good old chin wag with.

The kitchen fairies (aka Jo, Tania & Martha) were stars and many a time have I wished they lived with me. Whenever you attend a course at Seasoned all the ingredients are weighed out ready for you and any dirty equipment is whipped away for cleaning before you know it. As someone who knows what it’s like to be washing what feels like the hundredth plastic mixing bowl after leading a course the kitche fairies are worth their weight in gold. It meant we could concentrate on learning new skills. The team also dealt well with my potential issues on the day that could hinder my participation in the course.

As to who won the pork pie war? As Hubs failed to provide examples of his own baking to be taste tested against mine Clare & Beca declared mine to be the winner. Hubs was impressed too, though he is yet to commit to saying mine are better. The fact that he ate 5 over a 24 hour period is good testimony.



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