Animal Bread

This summer holiday I ran a bread making workshop for children(age 4-11) where we made pizza and shaped rolls. Last year on my summer cookery club we made both focaccia and pizza so most of the pupils attending this year knew the basics of kneading dough.  Bread dough is such a fabulous medium for children to work with. With a bit of time, care and attention it can be modelled into lots of different shapes.

The day before the workshop most of my pupils had seen the Great British Bake Off episode where the contestants make Paul Hollywood’s 8 strand plait loaf. Thankfully the children were more than happy to stick to a conventional 3 strand plait, a traditional cob, snail and hedgehog along with odd cobra and newt. Who said bread has to be conventional.

When making bread with kids I often use a 50:50 plain to strong flour mix. This makes the dough easier to work with and it is less likely to ping back.

Animal Rolls
Makes 4

250g plain flour

250g strong white flour

8g salt

5g yeast

300ml warm water

1 egg, beaten

1) In a bowl mix together the dry ingredients, then add the water.

2) Stir until the dough comes together then turn out on to a floured surface.

3) Knead the dough for around 10 minute until the dough is soft & smooth.

4) Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover in clingfilm and leave for 1-2 hours until dough has nearly doubled in size.

5) Knock back the dough and divide in to 4 pieces.

To make snail

1) take a piece of dough and divide in to 2 piece, one piece being twice the size of the other.

2) Roll both pieces into a long sausage.

3) Take the longest piece and roll into a swirl.

4) Take the other piece of dough and attach to the swirl. This is the snail’s body

5) Use a cloves for the eye.

To make the hedgehog

1) Take your piece of dough and shape in to a round.

2) Pinch one end of the round to make the hedgehog’s nose.

3) Take a pair of scissors and make snips in the dough. This will make the hedgehog’s spikes

4) Use a couple of cloves for the eyes.

6) Place the shaped pieces of dough on a lined baking tray and leave for another 30 min to rise.

7) If you want the dough to have a sheen brush the top of the dough with beaten egg.

8) Bake at 220°c for 15-20 minutes until bread is risen and golden.



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How to kill a foodie mojo

Things have been quiet here for various reasons. In amongst all the cooking and prep I’ve done in my kitchen for my business, I’ve been regularly transforming our kitchen into something that resembles a photo shoot from Country Living Magazine. Yes, we’re selling up…and have been for the last 18months. The life plans are on hold.

You wouldn’t believe how quickly your passion for cooking can be obliterated when your kitchen is sparkly clean and the majority of the useful stuff has been hidden away to make the place look uncluttered. Who knew that hiding stuff in the washing machine / cooker / microwave would provide so much space?

In these austerity times bijou 18th century cottages are a rather niche market. I’ve lost count how many potential buyers have walked through the door, claim to have fallen in love with its period features, charm and location then end up buying a tiny soulless new build in a postcode I wouldn’t even let my worst enemy live in. They then want us to price match, erm, bugger off. Thankfully our newest Estate Agent (who we’ve been with since the beginning of the year) is brilliant and trying their best. As for the Estate Agent we had for the first 12 months…ahem.

The housing market is dire. When we bought the cottage 8 years ago the property market was booming. We fought off other people to buy it. That was also the time when they were offering stupid mortgages. I remember being offered a 115% mortgage in one place. Thankfully we were sensible and saved a hefty deposit which means we’re not as screwed as some people are right now.

So there we have it. Some times being an adult is rubbish, but I try to remember that there are people in a worse situation than us. We can still pay the mortgage, we have lovely neighbours and *touchwood* we’re not in negative equity, but putting your whole life on hold physically, mentally and financially for getting on 2 years isn’t great for your soul.

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The Great British Bake Off

Cooking has seen a resurgence over the last couple of years and in turn this has led to the TV schedules being filled with programmes dedicated to food, in particular baking. My favourite of these has to be Great British Bake Off (GBBO). I love how it is accessible for all (many of my primary pupils love watching it) and while yes it sometimes makes out baking is harder than it really is GBBO has produced some bakers who have gone on to great things including Edd Kimber, Ruth Clemens & Holly Bell. I always have a little chortle to myself when I see them make things I’ve made before like the Brandy Snaps and Damien Hirst cake. Hats off to anyone who takes part, it’s certainly not something I could do. I’m not allowed to take part due to my business, but if I did I’d be the one in the corner crying and cursing over a soggy flan.


Like most things in life, there is now an app for it. For £2.99 you can get 50 recipes from series one and two. 15 of the recipes being from previous contestants and 35 from Mary & Paul. I was send a promo code so I could try the app out. As soon as I opened the app I was glad to see Melting Moments, something I’ve wanted to bake for a while. The recipe worked well for me and made rather delicious ice cream sandwich with the strawberry ice cream I made at the weekend. I’m not the biggest user of recipe/food apps because I find them a faff, but have found this app good for having great basic baking recipes to hand. When your phone is turned landscape the app is designed so it is meant to be touch free when using. I couldn’t get it to work this way, but I think the cover I have on my phone may have stopped this working.

As for my prediction as to who is going to win this series? James, unless he has an almighty baking fail in the next episode. Although keep your eye on John, Stuart and Sarah-Jane as I think they are dark horses and could pull something out of the bag.

Who do you think is going to win? Do you have a favourite recipe so far?


Thank you to ShinyRed for offering me the promo code for the GBBO app. Like usual, all words and opinions are my own. 


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Simple Strawberry Ice Cream

Sometimes the best things in life are the simplest. Warm fresh bread with butter, cheese on toast or strawberries and cream. Nothing fancy, just two great ingredients paired perfectly.

Although I have an ice cream maker attachment for my KitchenAid I’ve always been put off making ice cream 1) because I’m not the biggest ice cream fan 2) so many ice cream recipes seem to be a big fat faff. Going on the Historic Ices course last week made me realise that ice cream doesn’t need to be complicated or involve eggs.

Initially I wanted to try this recipe with raspberries, but with 1kg of strawberries on the turn and unsuitable for one of the classes I was running, this was a perfect opportunity to give the strawberry ice cream recipe I made on the course another go.

Whipping cream is the best cream to use for ice cream making due to its fat content being higher than single cream, but less than double. The amount of sugar used will also alter how well the ice cream freezes. The higher the sugar content, the softer the ice cream will be with less ice crystals.  If you taste the mixture before freezing you’ll notice it is quite sweet, but when foods are chilled they lose their sweetness so you have to over compensate when it is not frozen. If an ice cream is sickly sweet when it’s frozen, just imagine how much sugar has gone in to it at the beginning. The lemon in the recipe is essential for cutting through the richness. You don’t taste it as such, it just works.

This is a rich ice cream and I can only eat a few spoonfuls of it at a time, but the taste oh the taste. Forget over-sweet, fake-flavoured commercially available ice cream you can eat by the gallon. This is the real, intense flavours of fresh strawberries. 1kg strawberries made 2 litres of ice cream and for one of the litres I boiled down some of the leftover strawberries to make a strawberry coulis that was swirled through the ice cream.  I’m thinking in a future batch swirling in a few shortbread pieces to give the ice cream some texture.

Of course the freezing method for this ice cream will depend on the type of ice cream maker you have, below is the method I use in my KitchenAid Ice cream attachment. Could even use the freezer bag method to make a small portion of this ice cream. This recipe also measures the fruit in volume which makes it easier to scale up and down.


Simple Strawberry Ice Cream
Makes 1 litre 

500ml (approx 400g) strawberries

500ml whipping cream

200g caster sugar

juice of one lemon


1) Put all the ingredients in a blender then blend until smooth.

2) Pass the mixture through a fine sieve to get rid of the seeds.

3) Pour the mixture into the ice cream maker and churn for 10-15 minutes until it has begun to thicken and reaches soft scoop stage. To be honest it is delicious just like this.

4) Decant the ice cream in to a tub and freeze for 3-4 hours until firm.

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Historic Ices with Ivan Day

Over the summer things have been very busy for us and it’s fair to say we’ve done a lot more in the way of foodie experiences than cooking anything exciting in the kitchen. Last year I visited the School of Artisan food to take part in an Artisan Chocolate course as a Christmas present. Since then I’ve had a keen interest in the place as it is wonderful to have such place in the midlands where there is a strong food heritage. I often bump in to Joe, their director, at various foodie events, usually when I have a mouth full of food. A few weeks ago Joe asked if I wanted to return to the school to take part in another one of their courses. It just so happened I was always planning to be out that way taking Hubs and his dad to a Beer & Cheese tasting day the school, so I decided on Historic Ices with Ivan Day, a food historian.

I have a passion for food history and anthropology and the geek in me can spend hours researching recipes and equipment from the kitchens of yesteryear. The trip to Lanhydrock’s Victorian kitchen a few weeks ago proves this. What it often shows is that in this time of sophisticated food technology sometimes the simplest techniques are the best. Ice cream doesn’t need to be complicated, trust me. A pint of strawberries, a pint of whipping cream a bit of sugar and lemon juice will make one of the best ice creams you have ever tasted.

Our house is over 220 years old and when I stand under the blackened beams in the kitchen I sometimes wonder what the kitchen has seen. The KitchenAid in the corner certainly would have been absent, but the large Mason Cash mixing bowl, jam funnel and pot of basic utensils won’t have changed much over the centuries.  While it’s unlikely the Victorian residents of this house made ice cream the stately home across the fields certainly would have.

The course stared with a interesting presentation from Ivan on the history and forgotten art of British ice creams. The first recorded ‘icy cream’ recipe was in 1664 by was Lady Ann Fanshawe. Initially ice cream was the preserve of the upper classes, by 1890 it had filtered down to the middle classes then by early-mid 20th century had become street food accessible to everyone. It was originally served in small glasses that were rinsed out between each customer; however this street ice was sometimes produced in rather unsanitary conditions and caused typhoid and scarlet fever outbreaks. This led to ice cream glasses being banned and replaced with the kind of cones we are now know.  It was unsurprising to find out that ice cream was banned during WWII due to its use of valuable ingredients that could be put to better use during rationing rather than some frivolous ice cream.

After the talk we headed to the kitchen to start on making our ices. Bergamot Water Ice, Strawberry Ice Cream, Iced Cabinet Pudding (a kind of frozen trifle with ginger ice cream), Punch à la romaine, along with a Sunrise Sorbetto. This was a very sweet  late 17th century ice cream containing candied pumpkin, milky cinnamon water, saba and pinenut comfits which we later served from a 18th century seau à glace.

The old techniques are simple. Agitate a fruity/creamy mixture against an ice-cold surface until frozen. Last year I taught a class of 6-11 year olds how to make ice cream with just a couple of freezer bags, ice, whole milk and a splash of vanilla extract which is not too dissimilar from the original method. We used traditional sorbetieres to make all the ices. As the ice creams were designed to be eaten fresh, no preservatives were needed.  The Victorians loved a good ice mould made from either pewter or copper. With a bit of food dye and a mould your ice could be turned into a lobster, cornucopia, stick of asparagus or deck of cards. We used lots of different moulds from Ivan’s extensive colleciton on the day. It culminated with us unmoulding and eating of some of our moulded creations.

It’s fair to say we were battling against some serious heat in the kitchen on the day. While we were trying to keep ices frozen as long at possible the UK was sweltering in +30°c temperatures. As soon as the ices had been unmoulded they were rapidly melting, this meant one thing, we had to eat them quick and I’m not complaining.

The Punch à la romaine (Roman frozen punch) was traditionally served as a thirst quencher at parties and oh my goodness, who would have thought lemon water ice, rum, italian meringue and champagne would taste so good. If I hadn’t been driving home I would have eaten lots more! I also adored the rich strawberry ice cream and will be making it again this weekend, albeit with a slightly more modern sorbetiere and a little assistance from my Kitchen Aid.


A big thanks to Joe for inviting me back to School of Artisan Food. I was a guest of School of Artisan on the course. The words and content of this post are my own. 

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Cornwall holiday at Little White Alice

Those of you who have read this blog for a while will know that we love a good staycation and don’t often go to run of the mill places while holidaying in the UK. 2010 was the fabulous Woodland Tipi & Yurts in Hereford, 2011 the quirky Dapper Camping Club in Brecon and this year was the turn of Little White Alice in Cornwall between Falmouth & Redruth. I like to think my geography is quite good, but until we booked this holiday I didn’t appreciate how far Cornwall is from Derby, I thought it was just past Bristol. Oh no, Bristol is only half way.

When we booked Little White Alice the cottages had been open less than a year, but had already won awards for their accommodation. It was perfectly placed for us to discover the best Cornwall had to offer and at night, peaceful with little light pollution. Perfect for star-gazing. We were also sold by the naturally filtered swimming pool and wood fired hot tub. When we arrived we were greeted by Marley the dog along with Bonnie & Clyde the cats who sometimes joined us in the cottage. On one of the nights we gathered around the fire pit with other guests to tuck in to some delicious paella. It was great to get away from various stress and strains but still being able to catch up with the Olympics, often a glass of wine in our hands.

The first thing that struck me about Cornwall was the abundance of flowers. Hedgerows seemed to be painted with flashes of orange and purple and of course the vibrant azure sky. We had a big tick list of things we wanted to do and places we wanted to go and only made a tiny dent in the list. We will have to return to Cornwall again.

Day1 - Knighthayes Court As we have National Trust membership we have a trick of using their various places as service stations. You can usually guarantee a great place to stretch your legs, decent facilities and most importantly good cake. Knighthayes Court was one of these stops. It had a wonderful walled kitchen garden and this was where we finally realised that one of the lenses we own is a macro lens, cue lots of macro pictures of flowers. Seriously, it’s taken us 5 years to realise that this particular lens had macro setting.

Day 2Lizard Point First Cornish destination – Lizard Point. We parked in the village centre and walked the mile or so to the point. I liked the bleakness of Lizard and seeing the waves crash on the rocks. Just before the rain we managed to grab a delicious pasty from Ann’s Pasties. Essential Cornish fayre.

Day 3Trerice & The Golden Lion After wasting 10min at a decidingly dodgy, naff cider farm near Newquay (seriously don’t waste a penny there) we went to Trerice then called at The Golden Lion for a hearty Sunday lunch. That evening we decided to go swimming and light the wood-fired hot tub. The swimming pool at Little White Alice isn’t heated, so was a tad bit bracing, but it made the hot tub even better. We spent a good time in there watching the swallows dive around the pool

Day 4Trevaskis Farm & St Ives One of my favourite days in Cornwall. We had been recommended Trevaskis Farm and I’m so glad we went. From the acres of crops you could pick yourself to the wonderful we came away with a large punnet of raspberries and there was a reasonably priced farm shop. Here we managed to stock up on food for the rest of our stay. We then went on to beautiful St Ives. I could quite happily live there or at least come back on holiday. Lunch was on the terrace at Porthmeor Beach Cafe. I highly recommend the pork neck slider. On the way home we made a fleeting visit to St Michael’s Mount and managed to get back to mainland just before the tide came in.

Day 5Eden Project We decided to go to Eden Project on the same day as what seemed to be the rest of Cornwall. I can honestly say that I was disappointed, and that’s partly due to the price. Even though we prepaid tickets, so got a discount, and I have an interest in Biology/biodiversity I didn’t think it was worth the entrance price. This is maybe because of the rainy weather everyone was in the biomes and you got pushed around by the masses with no time to stop. I’ve tried to think of it that we’ve donated to an educational charity and not paid for an expensive day out. The redeeming feature of the day was that we met up with some family there and that the Eden Bakery was good, catered for different tastes and sensibly priced.

Day 6Lanhydrock & Camel Valley I suppose one of the best ways to describe Lanhydrock is magnificent. The kitchens below stairs are huge and included room after room of antique kichenalia. Geeky heaven for me. The way the rooms were set out was as if you had just walked in mid-service circa 1881. From the wobbling jellies chilling on the marble slab in the dairy to the (fake) mouse in trap on the main kitchen floor that made me jump. After lunch at the cafe there we went on to Camel Valley Vineyard. I’ve drunk some of their sparkling wine before and really like it. We missed out on doing a tour of the vineyards, but stocked up in the shop on some of their finest including a sparkling red wine which went perfectly with the BBQ we had later that evening.

Day 7Falmouth & Glendurgan The final day was possibly the hottest. When we arrived at Pendennis Castle there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. As I looked over the bay to St Mawes I had a fleeting (I stress fleeting) wish I could be joining all the boats sailing in the bay.  For lunch it was fish & chips at Rick Stein’s in Falmouth then on to what ended up being one of the holiday highlights. We were not intending on going to Glendurgan but with time to spare and the sun still shining we drove down all the small country roads to get to it. Well it was worth it. The walk through the garden to Durgan Beach was perfect with ice cream in hand (Roskilly After Eight flavour with a flake, naturally) to escape the blazing heat of the sun. As we got to the small shingle beach it was enveloped in a thin layer of sea mist which made it even more mystical. It was as if we had gone back in time. The sea was crystal clear and I only wish I had remembered my bikini because I would have gone for a dip.

While sitting in traffic on the M5 on our way back home we realised that one of the things we’d missed on our trip to Cornwall was a cream tea. Shocking. However, I think all of the other fabulous food we ate certainly made up for it. Cornwall is such a wonderful part of the UK and I’m glad we went, I can also highly recommend Little White Alice as a base. I’m sure we’ll be back again very soon. Now, where shall we go next year?

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Cream Tea Diaries – Hotel La Tour

After visiting Birmingham’s Hotel la Tour’s Aalto a few months back for dinner we were invited back to enjoy High Tea (though purists could argue this is really Afternoon Tea). As a belated birthday / end of term treat I decided to take Hotel la Tour up on their offer and return with my sister.

We were seated in the lounge area where a 3-tiered stand was waiting for us. There were a few other guests (I think they were tourists) in the lounge, who were curious as to what we were about to be served. I had seen sneaky peeks of what would be served on the day thanks to Glamour in the County’s blog. While our plate didn’t seem to contain the inside out cucumber sandwiches others had been served previously the fillings of the sandwiches ( ham & mustard, cucumber, egg and salmon) were generous and my sister commented on how good the smoked salmon sandwiches were. The ham and mustard sandwiches were my favourite.

However, the highlight of the savoury bites were the soldiers with Welsh rarebit dip. A delicious twist on the afternoon tea; just like the hot sandwich at Swinfen Hall. I could have quite happily have eaten the rest of the dip with a spoon.

After the sandwiches we started on the oven fresh scones. Small, yet fluffy and light. They had been topped with dried strawberries. After the scones we moved on to the hotly anticipated mini desserts. There was jaffa cake, a mini version of one of the desserts served there; a mini treacle tart; Eton Mess, two tiny meringues sandwiched together with cream and two raspberries hidden inside and finally a delicious Walnut Whip. I’m not a fan of the same named sweet, but this dessert was wonderful. One I’d happily eat again!

This was all served with a pot of tea each and some Earl Grey Bellini. I’m not sure I could taste the earl grey in the bellini, but it will still a delicious cocktail. We were very glad we did our clothes shopping before heading for Afternoon Tea as we were thoroughly stuffed by the end. Although some would claim it’s an etiquette sin, I asked if the remaining sandwiches and scones could be boxed up for me to take home.

What we both liked about afternoon tea at Hotel la Tour was that we were not rushed and the sweet treats available were a bit different from the norm. Its location in Birmingham makes it a great place to have a rest after shopping in the busy Bullring. In all the times I’ve had afternoon tea I think this is the first time I’ve drunk cocktails with it. I think it should include cocktails more often! Roadworks are still going on outside the hotel, although they should have been finished a few weeks back. Hopefully once these have finished more people will become aware of Hotel la Tour.

For more Cream Tea Diaries entries click here.

We were the guests of Hotel La Tour who kindly paid for Afternoon Tea. All words and opinions are our own. A big thank you to Sue & Hotel La Tour who invited us along.


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