Friday, 5 February 2016

Winter woolies - by Bex

Back when I took the Christmassy pictures of the twins, I wanted to try again and take a few in their other winter jumpers so I attempted a second shoot on my own before we took the lights down off our headboard.  I was sweating by the end!  It was quite a feat trying to get them to keep in position at the same time, running every time they got close to the edge and generally trying to make them smile!

I did manage to get a few more shots I liked though so here they are, my cheeky duo.  It was all thanks to the little Christmas ornaments - reaching for them or eating them!

Once Kalyan had discovered the lights it was pretty much over!

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Pear & parsnip cake with rosemary - recipe by Bex

As I said on Instagram the other day, I was given a few parsnips last week by a friend at our local village pop-in which I go to every Tuesday.  I made a big batch of my lovely parsnip soup and still had a couple of parsnips left over so I thought I'd make a parsnip cake to take along this week to say thank you.  (It turned out she was on holiday though, but everyone else loved it!)

I searched on Pinterest and Google for ideas and  I found a few I liked the sound of.  I originally wanted to make a parsnip & lemon cake but didn't have enough parsnips left over.  I also liked the idea of parsnip & ginger but I didn't have any stem ginger.  In the end, I settled on this one and I'm so glad I did.  It's unusual but seriously yummy!  I've adapted the recipe slightly, I left the cinnamon out of the cake and halved the amount in the icing as Nik and I aren't huge fans of a strong cinnamon flavour.  I also made double the quantity of buttercream as the 1st batch I made was nowhere near enough.  This may be because I made wider cakes than instructed although I still don't think it would have been enough and that's not just because I love buttercream!  ;)

I've re-written the recipe using all the quantities and instructions as I made it.  As much as I'd love to spend lots of time making it look pretty maybe with a couple of pears next to it and a dusting of icing sugar and taking beautiful photos against a nice background rather than a few quick snaps of it on our practical spotty table cloth!  The ones on the original blog where I found the recipe are much more beautiful, I urge you to take a look.  I was lucky to have time (and cooperative twins this morning) to make the cake and add a little rosemary embellishment though :)


For the cake 
320g unsalted butter, melted and cooled 
320g soft light brown sugar 
4 medium eggs 
320g plain flour 
2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
pinch salt 
100g peeled and grated parsnip 
200g peeled and chopped pears
1 tbsp finely chopped rosemary 

For the syrup
125g golden caster sugar
2 springs of rosemary 
place sugar and 
250ml cold water 

For the buttercream
250g butter 
400g icing sugar 
2tsp ground cinnamon 
100 ml double cream (I didn't have any so I used 100g half fat crème fraîche and it seemed to work well!)

Preheat the oven to 170oC, grease and line four 8 inch tins with baking paper.

Using a stand mixer or electric hand held mixer beat the butter, sugar and eggs together for 2 minutes until pale and well combined.  Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt in a clean bowl.  Add flour mixture to sugar mixture and beat gently to combine.  Finally fold in the parsnip, pear and rosemary and divide between the four tins.  Bake for 20 minutes until a skewer inserted comes out clean.  Leave to cool on a wire rack. 

To make the syrup:

Heat the sugar and rosemary in a pan and simmer gently, stirring occasionally until the sugar has dissolved then set aside to cool and discard the rosemary sprigs.

To make the buttercream:

Using a stand mixer (I use mine with the whisk attachment for the icing to make it light and fluffy) or hand held electric mixer beat the butter with the icing sugar, cinnamon and cream/crème fraîche and mix until smooth. for 5 minutes until pale and smooth.

To assemble:
Level cakes by cutting off any domed tops and place one layer on a cake plate.  Brush the top with rosemary syrup then smear on the buttercream and then repeat with another layer and continue with the third and fourth layers finishing with a layer of buttercream on the top.  Decorate with rosemary.

It was absolutely delicious and one I'd definitely make again.

Sunday, 31 January 2016

The twins' birthday cakes - by Bex

I had a whole day of baking before the twins' birthday as I wanted to make their cakes myself and I wanted them to have one each.  And then I decided there should also be a third cake for a number one.  And then I thought I may as well make a few cupcakes.  I really don't know when to stop!  Anyway, I found a few recipes I liked the sound of and pinned them.  I planned to try them all out before the big day but only managed one practice lemon cake and ended up ruling that one out as it was nice but quite heavy and stodgy and one chocolate cake for Halloween which was a bit dry so I changed the method slightly and baked it for less time.  I wanted nice, light, moist, delicious cakes.  I think I delivered.  I liked them all anyway (although the chocolate one was still a little drier than I'd hoped).

Here are the recipes I used, in case you fancy trying any of them:

I made these cupcakes for their actual birthday so they'd each have a birthday cake on the day.  It was their first ever taste of cake so I made simple vanilla cupcakes using this cupcake recipe from the BBC.

It worked so well and the cakes were delicious (none survived until the party on Saturday!) so I modified it to make the third sponge cake and luckily it came out just as nicely.  I also made another batch of cupcakes and a few teenie tiny cakes for babies.

For Kalyan's cake I used this chocolate cake recipe by Mary Berry and although I put the ganache in the middle, I used the simple buttercream icing from the cupcakes above to ice all of my cakes.

Priya's lemon cake was absolutely delicious and again I used the same simple icing.  I'll definitely be making this one again!

I spent a long time practising smoothing buttercream icing and spent ages trying to get them as smooth as possible.  I was pretty chuffed with the finished result, although they weren't perfect.

I enjoyed spending a bit of time painting the white initial cake toppers.  In retrospect, I wish I'd decorated the number 1 on the middle as well as you can't see it against the white wall!  I left that one white as I used my rainbow sprinkles on the top of that cake.  I also used the mini bunting I made for the rainbow cake I made for the twins' naming ceremony in May.

I always planned to hang them on the twins' bedroom door with an ampersand after they were used on the cakes.

I had even more fun painting the ampersand post party as I had more time to concentrate on it and mixed more colours to get a good rainbow fade.  I used those colours to improve the P and K as well as neatening the patterns as I'd finished them at about 1am the night before the party in a bit of a hurry!  I'd messed up the chevrons a bit but managed to sort them out.  The ampersand is definitely my favourite though.

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Vintage Christmas at Middle Farm - day out in Sussex, by Bex

So way back in November we had a day out at Middle Farm for their Vintage Christmas event.  It was so well marketed on facebook that thousands of people turned up and when we arrived, the police had closed the entrance and were turning people away.  Lots of cars had parked up along the side of the road and we were lucky to find a space after packing and wrapping everyone and everything up for our day out so we walked along and made it in, thankfully!

I think all of the people who had been allowed in to park ended up having to be towed out of the parking field anyway as the weather was horrendous and the whole area was so muddy.  By all accounts we were very lucky as their Facebook page showed a lot of angry people had travelled further than us and waited hours in back up traffic only to have to go elsewhere in the end.

Anyway, we had a lovely day out with Grampy (who was here for a flying weekend visit) despite the rain and mud.  By the time we'd made it in we were all pretty hungry so we headed for the food stalls and settled in the cake tent (as the BBQ had sold out when we arrived at 2pm!) to feed the twins on their packed lunch and we indulged in some huge slabs of cake and tea.

After the rain cleared a bit, we had a wonder around the vintage stalls and Priya had some fun riding on a beautiful vintage rocking horse Dad found (and insisted on buying the twins for Christmas).

I think the most fun we had though was in the animal barn.  The twins loved being able to see and touch all of the farm animals and I loved taking pictures of it!  Kalyan loved chasing the chickens along the bails of straw and came close to touching one and was surprised when it zapped out of there at speed when he touched its tail!

Look Daddy, I'm touching the sheep!

Although we did have a sudden need for milk apparently!  I've even breastfed them in a barn while sat on bales of straw now!

There was also a sleigh next to the brass band who played Christmas carols and I got some great videos of the twins sitting in it dancing and clapping along.

No chickens were harmed!

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Lamb Curry in the slow cooker - Recipe by Bex

I absolutely love my new slow cooker.  It was my Christmas present from Nik & the twins and I've used it so much already!  This recipe is one of the more successful ones I've tried, it was a big hit with the whole family.  I read a few curry recipes and then made this one up.

Browning the lamb, caramelising the onions and cooking the spices are all optional but should give a much richer, more aromatic flavour.

I had planned on taking a nice picture of it plated up but completely forgot as I started devouring it straight away!  I've already planned to make it again this week!!

1 kg diced lamb
2 red onions, thickly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 red chilli, chopped
4 tsp paprika
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 stick cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
8 whole cardamoms
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
6 potatoes, peeled & diced into 1" chunks
2 bay leaves
2 large tbsp yoghurt
1 tbsp of tom puree
2 tins chopped toms
salt to taste

Brown the lamb in a hot pan and add to the slow cooker.  Cook the onions, garlic & chilli in the same pan, add to the slow cooker.  Wipe the pan with kitchen roll to dry and add all the spices and heat until aromatic, add to the slow cooker.  It smells delicious at this point!

Add the rest of the ingredients into the slow cooker and stir well.  Cook on low for 8 hours.  Just before serving, add in the chopped coriander and stir.  Next time I make it I also plan to add aubergine and fresh spinach about an hour before the end of cooking.  I added the salt at the end as we took some portions out for the twins first.

It was seriously good!

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