Friday, 30 September 2011

Animal algebra: Can you answer this tricky question?

I've just spent a week holidaying in The Yorkshire Dales and there's a lot of pheasants, partridge and grouse about at the moment, they are clumsy creatures, running into the road at random.  We didn't kill any, but plenty of people had. 

We got talking about plurals of animals and GROUSE cropped up, but neither of us knew the answer.

Can anyone answer this animal algebra question?

1 Mouse + 1 Mouse = 2 MICE
1 Louse + 1 Louse = 2 LICE
1 Grouse + 1 Grouse = ?

YDH: Friday 30th September - home (via Northallerton)

Breakfast was served back in the restaurant between the sensible hours of 8-10am :) There was a selection of cereals and juices available and a selection of hot cooked breakfasts from a menu of about 10 things.  Plus tea, coffee and toast.

I went for Eggs Benedict with salmon and Carl went for the Full English.  Mine was lovely, just what I fancied, the hollandaise sauce was plentiful and had the right tang of lemon to finish.  Carl was very pleased with his breakfast, his bacon was thickly cut and "delicious" - we made a mental note to find out where that  was from.

We checked out after breakfast, settled our bill and enquired about that bacon - and they were pleased to share their supplier with us, and the secret about getting it cut just right...But I'm not going to tell you in this blog, you'll have to stay at The Black Swan at Fearby, have their breakfast and ask them yourself!

Masham > Northallerton > Home...
We called in on Masham on our way home, firstly to buy some of that bacon (as eaten at The Black Swan) and some sausages.

We then dropped into Northallerton for a Gloucester Old Spot Pork Pie from Lewis & Cooper, 2 Fat Rascals from Bettys, and finally to my mums to exchange a CD player (which we borrowed) for a floor fan (don't ask).

Friday, 23 September 2011

Clandestine Cake Club, Newcastle upon Tyne: Wednesday 24th September 2011

Amaretto Cherry Bakewell baked by Emily
The venue...
This venue generated more oohs and ahhs that the last 2 cake clubs, and it wasn't just because of all the cakes...We were very fortunate to have the use of the wonderful, homely, The Knit Studio, the venue for our 3rd gathering of Clandestine Cake Club, Newcastle. 

The studio has everything a knitter could ever want, beginner or expert.  It has a warm, homely feel about it, a communal table for group activities (workshops etc), and you are surrounded by yarns of all types, colours, textures and shapes.  It's the the kind of space I could happily spend hours looking thinking "I wish I could make one of those."  Plus it's got Anne, the owner, who's knows everything there is to know about everything she has in the shop, and genuinely happy to help and advise, whatever your skill level. The knitters in our cake club were overwhelmed by this double-whammy of eye-candy...

Our host, Anne (& her lovely assistant/teagirl) looked after us all night, topping up our teas and coffees, served from China teacups & saucers.

The Theme...
Who wouldn't want to take part in this gathering: everyone was guaranteed to get one (or possibly) ten of their five portions of fruit or veg a day.

We had 10 cakes, which provided a selection of 12 different fruits and vegetables: parsnip, carrots, banana, pineapple, apple, beetroot, cherry, orange, lemon, lime, raspberry and pear.

Julie's Carrot Cake (& a cuppa)
The Cakes...
I still wasn't able to try them all, but as always, took leftovers so that I could try them!

I began with a 'Juice' inspired cake, made by Claire, she baked a Polenta & Orange Juice Cake. I've always wondered what Polenta tasted like, and now I do. It was lovely: a soft, moist texture, almondy, orangey and chocolate drizzle topping. I'd make that myself (and maybe add a cheeky bit of cointreau).

The Carrot Cake made by Julie with mascarpone & cinnamon icing, was also topped with pecans (another bonus).  For me a good carrot cake needs some extra fruit like raisins, and guess what - this one did! It got my vote & I took another bit home!

The Toffee Apple Cake was great seasonal choice, and has inspired me.  The apples were firm, sweet, and not too sticky with toffee.  The juices from the apple topping had soaked into the cake below, keeping it moist, and the bottom layer of cake was cemented to the top with a smooth, filling, was it toffee cream, was it caramel cream? Dunno, but it was nice.  It complimented the sharpness of the apples, finishing it perfectly.

The Cheese and Apple Cake (which was not a cheesecake) was the dark horse of the night.  The cake enveloped chunks of cheshire cheese and chunky apple.  I love cheese and I love cake, and I loved Ros's cake. I might have to bake that one for myself one day (yes all for myself).

Next to this was Frankie's White Chocolate & Raspberry Cake. It looked very unassuming but when you took a bite it slapped you with each mouthful of succulent, juicy raspberries, I love it when cakes do that to you. The white chocolate gave the cake a subtle richness of texture, and not sickly in the slightest. How could it with all those raspberries?

Val's Lemony Something (as I labelled it) was picture perfect.  If I was a judge on Great British Bake Off I'd score it top marks for appearance alone.  We had a pair of perfect flat-topped sponges of equal thickness, a filling of cream and lemon curd. To cut into it felt wrong, but greed hunger got the better of us!  The cake was light, the lemon curd filling was tart, sweet and sharp all at the same time.  It was beautiful.

My own Parsnip, Ginger & Lime Cake
Other cakes we had, but I didn't try: Hummingbird Cake (by Liz), Spicy Pear Cake - which arrived still warm (by Kate), Chocolate & Beetroot Cake (by Hannah), Cherry Bakewell Cake (by Emily) and Parsnip, Ginger & Lime Cake (by me).  However, I did take a slice of each home to enjoy, because that's what CCC is about.

Our new bakers were welcomed (as always) and I think they enjoyed themselves, we discussed recipes, debated the 'to-practise or not to practise' question, I also may have heard the word "dye-et?" but will need to look that one up in a dictionary...Everyone was generous with sharing their ideas and suggestions of potential venues we could try for future gatherings, so much so when I got home I emailed about 6 of them!

Lemony Something cake made by Val
So the October Clandestine Cake Club for Newcastle may be booked sooner than you think!

Thank yous...
  • A big thank you to our host, Anne at The Knit Studio, and her glamourous assistant.
  • Hanna our official photographer of the evening: she took these excellent photos - it was hard to choose which one to use, and she took all of these of the evening, available to view on Flickr.
  • All of the bakers who joined us tonight: Kate, Frankie, Val, Ros, Alison, Emily, Liz, Hannah, Claire, Julie.  I'm glad we all love baking & sharing our cakes.
  • Cake bakers friends - you stop us being too greedy
  • Lynn Hill - inventor of Clandestine Cake Club  

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Cake practice: parsnip, ginger & lime cake

Next week I'm making a Parsnip, Ginger & Lime cake for the Clandestine Cake Club event in Newcastle, based on the 1-of-your-5-a-day theme for the month.  Do I have a recipe in mind? No.
On Friday I spent about 30mins trawling the interweb for a recipe, the nearest I got was for Parsnip & Lemon, which I intend on adapting (replace lemon for lime, and cinnamon for ginger).
However when I went to the supermarket to stock up on ingredients I began considering other (better?) ways to adapt the recipe:
What about using lime marmalade as well as fresh?
I could add glacé ginger, I could add stem ginger (is it the same?) How about adding BOTH?
How do I do the topping? Cream cheese, marscapone, yogurt, water icing drizzle/glaze?
So I decided to experiment.
I have 4 cakes in the oven, taking the original recipe, replacing lemon with lime, cinnamon with ground ginger and then splitting it into 4 bowls, dabbling with the insides, then when cooked & cooled I'll do 4 topping and share them on all 4 cakes.
Poor Mr Lisa has been warned that he's got 16 cakes to sample with me in order to make a decision for the final cake on Wednesday.
I won't blog about the successful cake mix until after Cake Club because it'll spoil the suprise, plus I'd like to see if any CCC members can tell which extra ingredients have been added.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

That's quite enough runner beans (thank you very much)

I went to the allotment tonight, the first time since the windy weather we've just had.

My raspberries looked sparse, the wind had blown the living daylights out of them and they looked stalky and pathetic and didn't have half as many fruits on them (or leaves) as last week, and I need raspberries because I've run out of jam.

My runner bean wigwams had fallen over, which actually made it easier to pick them. And rather than battling with them to re-erect them I just picked what was left on them, which was quite a lot (my best crop yet) and they've been washed, trimmed and will go in the freezer with the others.

I think I need some recipes which use runner beans (apart from adding to paella) , as I think I'll get quite bored of just steaming them.  Any recipes will be gratefully received.

I also dug spuds too but they're not in the photo, just because they were in a bucket on the floor, and I couldn't be arsed.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Mr Lisa's birthday cake

I normally do a cake for Carl's birthday & asked what he wanted me to bake, he asked for a Victoria sponge with fresh cream and raspberries. Yeh, that's a simple cake for a cakesmith like me, no problem...
The cakes were baked earlier in the week and were a bit of a disaster really, first I realised that I didn't have any vanilla essence, so had to use vanilla seeds, scraped from the pod. Then when the timer went off, I just took them put of the oven, and didn't really pay attention to them. When I did notice them, it was because they had sunken middle, and they'd not cooked enough in the middle.
I thought that I could still 'improvise' by cutting the centre out & filling it with fresh raspberries, and it would look like it was intentional.
Then when I began glueing the layers with homemade raspberry jam I ran out (of jam). I searched the pantry and dining room cupboard for jam, it turned out I really didn't have any left (lots of chutney and lots of strawberry jam). I literally scraped by, and eventually glued all the layers together with an even layer of jam.
One thing that did work was the cream: double cream whisked with a tablespoon of icing sugar, fresh raspberries and then spread all over the cake.
It looks garishly pink but tastes wonderfully raspberry-ey, you wouldn't know that it began as a mistake, would you?