Sunday, 18 March 2012

My fifteen minutes of fame

On Wednesday 1st February I received a cryptic text message from Lynn Hill (founder of Clandestine Cake Club)...Would I be able to take next Monday off work to go to London?  

There was an article in The Daily Mail a couple of weeks previous which had generated a lot of emails/contact from people, some wanting to set up their own Clandestine Cake Clubs and more 'media' interest.  One of which was to do a slot on The AlanTitchmarsh show? On Monday (6th Feb).  And Lynn had been asked to take along some fellow CCC organisers/bakers.  She'd invited me, Gwen (from Manchester) and Rob (a baker from Leeds CCC).
I didn't have anything in my diary I couldn't cancel and my boss approved my holiday request (no questions asked).
The Alan Titchmarsh Show logo
As part of the recorded piece Lynn told me that Paul Hollywood would be involved...Alan Titchmarsh and Paul Hollywood would have a quick chat to us, try our cakes and comment  on our cakes. Then Paul Hollywood would do a master class in a particular cake.

I had to think this though...Paul Hollywood and Alan Titchmarsh eating my cake?  But I just bake cakes, and they're just okay...But Lynn assured me it would be fine.
I spoke to one of their researchers who asked what cake I'd bring, Parsnip, Ginger & Lime (which would have some parsnips from my allotment in it!) I thought Alan Titchmarsh would like that.

Saturday (4th Feb): Practise Cake.

Practise cake on Saturday baked okay, cream cheese icing was a bit runny, but I could fix that for the real bake. And Mr Lisa was given the cake as a present.  So he was a happy bunny.

I also bought a new dress for the day and a new piece of underwear from M&S that looked like a sausage skin, to hold in my wobbly bits.
Sunday (5th Feb): THE Cake Bake
The cake went well but I had issues with the icing, it was still far too runny for cream cheese frosting, but I had extra icing sugar and cream cheese and managed to fix it.

Parsnip, Ginger & Lime Cake from Sept CCC
Monday (6th Feb): The journey...
The cake was packed in my usual cake transportation bag, along with my cake stand wrapped in a tea towel, decorative lime slices for the topping and a palette knife with extra cream cheese frosting (for spares & repairs).  The train (7:50 from Newcastle) was quiet and the journey through Durham and Yorkshire was pretty - the fog, sunrise, snowy fields looked really atmospheric - a nice distraction...
The car
At London Kings Cross I got a call, "the car will be waiting for you near McDonald's" I knew there would be a lift, but a chauffeured car? And there was. Just for me. Patrick the driver looked after me and assured me he'll take me right into the place to meet the right people. And he did.

The studio

The Alan Titchmarsh show is on ITV, the studios located on the South of the Thames, near the National Theatre.  Once inside, Patrick handed me over to Lauren one of the researchers, I was welcomed in, shown to the Green Room and asked if I wanted anything to eat or drink. I opted for a cuppa tea. Took off my coat and sat at the table in the middle if the room and watched Anna Ryder Richardson plan her piece for the show. Yes, Anna Ryder Richardson sat at a table about 3 foot away from me.
I then met Rob, the baker from, caught up with Lynn (fresh from the make-up department)  and then Gwen arrived from Manchester, and we had a cake club type chat compared cakes (what we'd made, how we'd done, any problems). 
The plan was that we would do a short rehearsal and then do the recording at 4pm.
I was shown to make-up and had mine done, although I was already wearing it they added more: spray foundation, concealler, highlighter, blush and eye makeup, with some eye make-up tips added for good measure (I told her I wasn't very good with eye makeup).


We met Alan Titchmarsh and Paul Hollywood for the first time at rehearsals. got microphoned up and waited for our piece.  The studio set was constantly arranged and rearranged by the crew.  When we arrived they were rehearsing a bit with Eric Knowles, Antiques Roadshow and a lady with a family heirloom.
They'd set up a table with a collection of other cakes from a local baker, to make the scene look 'full' and our homemade cakes would be placed alongside these.   They looked a lot prettier than ours, but we were assured that ours would be the focus of the piece.
We briefly met Alan & Paul, shaking their hand and introducing ourselves, and listening to the studio manager tell us where to stand on the set and how the piece would progress: intro and chat with all of us, followed by a 'masterclass' demonstration from Paul Hollywood.
Lynn, Gwen and I were then asked if we would appear in another slot of the show, Jasper the resident wine/spirit connoisseur asked if we could stay and do a taste testing of some alcoholic drinks, giving our honest opinion including marks out of 5. And I agreed to that too, hell yeah, free booze.
So that was that, all we had to do was go back to the Green Room and wait for our slot for filming at 4pm.


We were shown the canteen and handed vouchers to spend in the ITV canteen, and compared notes on the 'celebs' we'd seen, Rob had seen Kerry Katona and Denise Welsh, whereas I'd just seen the same as Gwen and Lynn.  In the canteen Mark Wright (The Only Way Is Essex, I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here & Take Me Out, The Gossip) was having his lunch with a group of people, and I also spotted Eric Knowles.

Waiting to film

Back in the Green Room things just went from surreal to bizarre. I describe it like this, because all of these celebs dropped in, to record their piece, and then go again...So, in order of appearance in the Green Room, here's who called by:  Anna Ryder Richardson, Eric Knowles, Phil Davis, Jenny Bond, Gok Wan, Paul Hollywood, Matthew Kelly...Arlene Phillips swished past the room, but apparently she had her own makeup room and Green Room.  I only really spoke with Paul Hollywood, Eric Knowles, Phil Davis and Matthew Kelly, but everyone I spoke to was lovely - really down to earth.  At times I did feel a bit starstruck and didn't quite know what to ask people to start a conversation.
At about 3pm we set up our cakes on our cake stands, made last minute adjustments and got them ready.
At 4pm we were called to the studio again, the audience were in place and waiting patiently.  The studio was set up for our piece and a slice of each cake was taken and set up so that Paul Hollywood and Alan Titchmarsh could try a piece.
L-R: Me, Rob, Gwen, Paul Hollywood, Lynn in the Green Room
The piece was filmed in a flash, each cake was tried and the comments were really positive and I was really excited that they both liked my cake.  When the filming finished I offered my cake to the crew and audience (along with the other cakes) and they happily accepted them.
The second piece of filming happened soon after, we sat on the set with 6 glasses in front of us, and a paddle with a number on, we were asked to drink, give a mark and a comment - and be as honest as we liked.  And we did.
After this we left the studio and I was told that my car was waiting, and it whisked my back to Kings Cross, well in time for my 18:00 train.
I was amazed how busy the show was, getting the pieces all recorded, and Alan Titchmarsh never stopped - he's such a busy man.  I would have liked to have sat down and enjoyed a cup of tea and chat with him. 
And the team on ITV were so accommodating, friendly and looked after us really well.
It was a long long day, but an absolutely amazing one at that.  A day that I'll never ever forget and I'm so grateful to Lynn for inviting me.
I didn't expect this when I set up the Clandestine Cake Club Newcastle, but it's been such a wonderful experience I'm so glad I got involved.

When's it on the telly:

It was on The Alan Titchmarsh Show on Friday 16th March 2012. I took the afternoon off work and watched it from the safety of my sofa at home.

The Cake:

The recipe for the cake I baked is here: and I baked it for a CCC event in September 2012

Sunday, 4 March 2012

My name in Tutti Frutti Sweets

I remember when tutti frutti sweets were a lot brighter coloured than this, there used to be a deep purple, vivid red, gharish green.  These are Tutti Frutti, but not as I remember them, the colours are muted and sedate, it must be all of those e-numbers they've removed.

I didn't eat these, I don't like them.  They have the texture of Skittles, and I don't like them either.  I did a blog post about Skittles too. Mr Lisa ate these.

Allotmenting indoors & outdoors...

The rain got the better of me today. I went to the allotment earlier this morning, ready to tidy up my raised beds and maybe plant my first earlies...

It was a fine mizzle when I got there, I emptied my trug of compost into the heap (we save our home compost for the allotment), got a fork out and started to tidy up my 'potato bed' - digging out the last few stalks of sprouts, well past their best, and picking out those annoying 'creeping buttercups' which seem to survive all year round & the bane of my allotment.

And the mizzle, which I didn't seem to notice at first, turned into rain and got heavier and heavier. I could have taken shelter in my greenhouse, but that wouldn't get the bed weeded, so I stuck in there until I'd done the third I wanted to get done. By this time I was pretty soaked, but I'd made progress.
I picked some leeks, a turnip and some half decent sprouts from the leftovers. Gave the sprout-tops to a man who has chickens (they love a bit of sprout top) packed up and went home.

Back at home I decided to get my planning folder out, I was given this A5 'garden planner folder for Christmas about 3yrs ago & it seemed to be quite useful. I've re-purposed some of the sections and have it as my reference of what I've grown, where it was grown & a reminder of what needs doing.


I always do a plan of the allotment & my planting plan for that year, so I can rotate things correctly.

I have another section titled '30 minute jobs' which I list things that need doing and can be done in 30mins, so if I go up there after work I can tick one of these 'smaller' tasks off. And another list called 'Allotment Jobs 2012' which has bigger projects that need doing over the year.

IMAG1311With the rest of the notepaper in there I give each page a week (from March - end of August) and put the dates in. I don't start sowing things before March (with the exception of Garlic, which goes in around November).

Then I look through my seed packets and work out what, when and where I'm sowing things. I don't tend to worry too much about transplanting or sowing out dates, mainly because this will vary.

I also try and group things together, so that I'm not sowing stuff every week, I have one week when I sow lots, and another week when I don't. And I don't specify which day I'll be doing it, because sometimes I'll do allotment stuff on a weekend, other times I'll do it after work.


Is might sound a little over complicated, but it works for me. Feel free to share your allotment planning tips :)

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Hung Shao Pork

Credit to Delia Smith & Waitrose for this recipe.

It's got a subtle sweet/sour flavour to it, the belly pork cooks really tender in this, it's not chewy or gristly at all.  It's something I'd cook for my mum and dad and they'd love it.

Serves 2
  • 450g belly pork (including skin)
  • 4 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 1 level dessert spoon finely chopped ginger
  • 1 whole star anise
  • 5cm piece cinnamon stick broken up
  • 1 teaspoon caster sugar
  • 3 tbsp rice wine

You need to have a big pan (with lid) or casserole dish (with lid) that will sit on the hob.  I used a big frying pan, but a Le Creusset would work just as well.

Cooking time: 90mins.

Off the heat:Cut the pork into 2.5cm pieces (keeping the skin attached).  Put in pan skin side down, sprinkle over the soy sauce and 1 tbsp water, sprinkle the ginger over, the cinnamon and drop in the star anise.

Cover the pan/dish put on the hob and turn on the heat, when the juices start to simmer turn the heat down to a very low setting and cook for 45minutes.

After 45mins, use tongs to turn each piece of pork over, sprinkle in the sugar and rice wine.  Cover again and cook for 20mins.

After 20mins, turn the pork and cook for another 25mins.

Serve with: rice and steamed green vegetables (like cabbage, leeks cut into strips, and broccoli shoots).

**Ingredient queries:
Star anise was bought from
Dark soy sauce from a chinese supermarket in the Grainger Market for £1.45
Rice Wine was a Japanese rice wine (from my sushi making ingredients, bought from Sainsburys)
Cinnamon sticks can be bought from supermarkets.