Friday, 22 August 2014


Before we begin, I want to share something utterly amazing with you.  The first cake I ever baked on my own, without a box mix or anything.  This is from 9 years ago....

-Cue flashback harp music-


Note that it is lumpy, bumpy and lopsided, and that I have food colouring all over my hands (and face, but you can't see that part) You've probably noticed I haven't exactly mastered icing the sides yet, in fact, I've literally just rubbed excess on there like the badass I am.

This was at a time where adding balls was the pinnacle of making things look classy, and I have exceeded sophistication with this effort.  There are many balls, are varied colours, and to top it off, extra balls, daintily interspersed around two pink sugarcraft elephants.

Finally, you'll see that I've kindly told people what it is AND it's colour, just in case you didn't know.  Some would call it obviousness.  I call it certainty.  There's no doubt about what I'm giving you here.

I loved it, wobbly, lumpy bits and all (Just like you should love YOURSELF.  Deep,).  It wasn't perfect, but damn, it was awesome.

I loved being taught how to bake.  Which is why today, I shall be sharing my ultimate plethora of crap I've learnt along the years.  I'm nice like that.





"Buy an apron.  You probably won't wear it more than once, and it will become more of a dish-rag, but such is life and the universe.  We don't question it"


"No one will know if you lick the spoon.  Or bowl.  Or counters"


"Get out all of your ingredients on the countertop.  Look at them for a while.  Talk to them.  Give them the pep talk.  Huddle in with the oven, and perhaps offer it a bribe.   This is literally the only certain way to cooking victory.  You are at the mercy of a series of small undecipherable instances that are completely out of your control.  Have fun!"


"You will confuse salt with sugar at least once & you will forget to soften your butter and not realise why it's important to do until it's too late."

"Cracking eggs is a skill all in itself."




"Learning to turn on a tap with your arm is an invaluable skill when you have mucky hands.  Practice it at all times."

"We've measured, we've bribed.  We've made our sacrificial offering to the gods,  If all goes to plan, your kitchen will feel as enchanted as a fairy fart.  If not, then deal with the impending doom by eating cake batter.  Batter makes it better."


"The best way to learn is with your hands (cheeky).  Beat eggs with a whisk, fold in flour manually and make butter icing at least once by hand.  Yes, your arm will ache, Yes, you might end up squinting and going a bit mental near the end, but I'll tell you something.  You'll never beat a baker in an arm wrestle."



"I am a full believer in making mistakes to learn from them.  If you add too much flour, or half of it ends up of the floor, just roll with it.  Mistakes don't make a bad baker.  Remember that because you will make a lot of them."


"If things are going well, you might feel the urge to experiment.  Maybe you should throw in some cocoa powder?  Or some garlic paste and maybe half a courgette?  That all sounds great, you're thinking like a true baker now.  Or a crazy person.  (They are kind of the same thing.)  Sometimes it's good to go a bit nuts, but sometimes no harm comes from following a recipe."


"Sit and watch things baking.   Nervously check it, without opening the oven door, for the whole cooking time."


"Hover over people as they try your creation.  Literally stare at them in the face like some sort of demented hawk until they say something nice."


Have a great weekend all!  



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Tuesday, 19 August 2014


Afternoon all!

-I'm going to write the horrible part I didn't want to write first, Entries that are telling fibs will be disqualified, and I really don't wanna do that.  I will be to checking all winning entries, it's only fair to those who entered properly!  Please don't forget to tell me your name if you have already left a blog comment / liked on Facebook / followed on twitter, so no wires get crossed.  Cheers guys!  Don't forget to check out all the awesome companies that donated!-

I've been promising this post for a while, and here it is.  I've got a whole bagful of awesome stuff just sitting here next to me waiting to get sent out.

I've been having some website problems, so forgive me for this going out so late!



What am I giving away?

I emailed companies which I LOVE to give you a very personalised prize.  These are all teas and gadgets I have tried for myself and can vouch for 100%.  So who donated?

Brew Tea Co - Facebook - Twitter - Website
"We believe that tea should be better – not complicated or weird, but better. That's why our teas are the ones that you know and love, but we produce them using handpicked, rolled, whole leaf tea."
Donated: 2 lush boxes of English Breakfast tea.
I met Brew Tea Co at the BBC good food show earlier in the year.  I was walking past when I heard a girl enthusiastically talking about their tea pots.  I was drawn in like a moth to a flame.  I nodded along vicariously.  Tea cups ARE getting bigger.  Tea bags ARE getting smaller.  I love their focus on making the classics the best they can be.  They aren't focused on gimmicks, just on giving you a good brew.

Bluebird Tea Co - Facebook - Twitter - Website
"Our passion comes from creating your perfect cup of tea! We love to mix up unique and exciting flavours that have never been seen before to make people smile!"
Donated: 4 sample bags of loose leaf.  Rhubarb & Custard, Watermelon Splash, Earl Grey Creme & Strawberry Lemonade.
I also met Bluebird Tea Co at the good food show and got talking about their lush cherry Bakewell.  I made them get everyone single one of the canisters down for me to sniff, and they did so with relish.  Despite being inundated they found the time to have a chat about their favourites.  Their focus is on creating interesting flavours, but doing it right.

Adagio Teas - Facebook - Twitter - Website
"No matter how expensive the tea you buy, if you brew it wrong, it's awful."
Donated: IngenuiTEA loose leaf infuser, Irish breakfast, Yerba Mate & Green Tea loose leaf samples
I came across adagio teas when a friend sent me a link to their fandom teas (teas designed around popular TV shows and films) and from there just could not stop browsing through.  They have a massive collection of teas, including tea clubs and the fantastic IngenuiTEA infuser, brew your tea in the cup, place on top of your mug.  This opens a valve which dispenses you nice freshly brewed tea.  Easy to clean too!

Mad Hatter Tea - Facebook - Twitter - Website
"Set up with the intention of bringing Victorian values of service & quality back to the forefront, hence when you drink Mad Hatter Tea, we like to think we deliver 'A Taste of Wonderland' with every sip."
Donated: Pack of 80 teabags, Pack of 40 tea bags, 2 Chests of green loose leaf tea, 2 x awesome Mad hatter cups, with tea.
I first came across Mad Hatter tea whilst I was looking for wedding favours, their site is beautiful, properly whimsical and their packaging is brilliant.  I always find packaging is a big deal.  To top it off, the tea raelly is fantastic.  Brewed properly, with a nice bit of milk, it really is a unique blend.  Perfect for when you want a 'proper brew'.

Speak, Brother - Facebook - Twitter - Website
"The 3 Piece Folk / Indie band, fronted by James Herring, were informally known as the James Herring Band until the end of 2013. Now, they take a joint musical leap forward together showcasing their own blend of the rising neo-folk scene."
Donated: 2 x EP's
I've seen Speak, Brother perform multiple times.  Probably more than I can count, and it's because their music is lush.  Folk, Indie British band with a homely feel.  Think dreamy acoustic guitars, harmonised vocals and lovely lyrics.  View their music video here:



DotCom Gift Shop - Facebook - Twitter - Website
"Dotcomgiftshop - delightfully quirky, often kitsch but always stylish gifts. Designed and sourced by our in-house team, we offer a large range of stylish home accessories, as well as cute gifts to suit every personality."
Donated: Tea for one - stacking teapot and tea cup.
I've been using Dotcomgiftshop.com to source stuff for my blog for years.  Their bowls, tablecovers, pretty glasses, mugs and china are awesome.  They sell such a wide range of stuff I couldn't even hope to fit it all in here, but I can tell you that my house and kitchen is full of it.  They aren't overpriced either, which is always a win in my book.



1st Prize
You will be sent an awesome selection of teas, the teapot, the loose leaf infuser and an EP.

2nd Prize
You will be sent an awesome selection of tea and an EP.

3rd Prize
You will be sent an awesome selection of tea.



All I want to know is "What do you love about tea?"  Comment below!  

Good Luck!

Terms and conditions.
- Open to UK residents only (Sorry guys, I'm paying for postage!)
- Competition closes on the 1st September, Winner is picked at random.
- I will contact the winners by email within 2 days of the competition end date.
- There is no cash alternative.
- I will check on all the information you require and whether your entries are valid
- I reserve the right to disqualify.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, 15 August 2014


We have a problem.  Take a real look into those food magazines you buy.  They are all photoshopped.

I'll let that sink in.

Feel for the utterly impossible beauty standards for our good old fashioned cakes and bakes to live up too.

Make yourself and your food feel a little better by taking a gander through the photos and meals I did when I first started out.

So without further adieu, I give you....  My second dose of food photography blunders.  You can read the first here.



Fantastic mash
"But Emma..!"  I hear you cry...  "All this needs is some white balance, levels adjustment and perhaps some focus!"  You stroke your chin, and ponder my art for a second.  "A bit of editing..."  You say...  "And these mashed potatoes would look fantastic!"

Thank you!  Yes, of course.... Except... this is supposed to be English pancake batter.  You know?  The runny crepe like batter that looks like double cream?

And I'm pretty sure that you aren't supposed to be able to stand a wooden spoon up in pancake batter.

I mean call me crazy, or whatever, but I'm pretty sure it's not supposed to look like mashed potato either.



Schroedingers' bread 
I have a tip for you.  Bread looking too burnt to call rustic?  Slap an orgy of poppy seeds on that bad boy and call yourself an artisan baker.

It's really kind of genius actually.  People will say "That bread is burnt" And you can give them a sort of Schrödinger's cat type metaphor because we will never REALLY know if the bread is burnt or not burnt with all those poppy seeds up in there.

Feelin' retro? Place it on a plastic chopping board with a plastic handled knife instead of using their wooden equivalents.  Make sure the board is nice and dirty too, lots of cut marks in there.

Go against the grain.  No bun intended.  #FoodStylingTips



Butt-cheek Brownies
Let's take a full lazy minute to appreciate that I somehow made a brownie bite look like a nice little butt-cheek and then put THAT particular brownie center stage.

TADA.

The brilliant, BRILLIANT thing is I remember desperately trying to edit the butt-cheek brownie out using the clone tool.  And the effect was so bad, I just gave up.  This particular recipe, is still up on my blog.  And butt cheek brownie is proudly hiding in one of the photos.

See if you can spot him.  I will give you a prize*

*I won't.



Oriental Star
I have another tip for you.  If you're chinese stir fry came out looking a little bitty and not at all appetizing. You can just put green beans on top and call it "Jungle chic".

"Oh that?  Yeah, it's how it's supposed to look.  God, you're so unsophisticated"

I promise it will only look a little bit like you tried to cover up a dog poo with some grass.  Promise.



The Shittata
There really was no need to put such a massive watermark on this image.  No one is going to want to pass it off as their own.  No one will steal this image.

There are no words.  This was on my blog FOR A YEAR.


Crapjacks
Capture the pure golden joy of your flapjacks by shooting with an awful yellow filter.  Don't forget to go so close that it can only focus on random bits of oatmeal.

#PhotographyTips


Cakes against humanity
I have ANOTHER tip for you.  Have you burnt your muffins AGAIN? Are they looking a little dry and not like muffins at all because you used cupcake cases?! Have you got stuck talking like a 60's infomercial?

I suggest artfully stacking them (burnt ones at the bottom please) and lightly drizzling them with caramel sauce.

AHH I SAID DRIZZLE NOT POUR.


COSMO CAKE
Ignore the TV chefs, You don't need an piping bag to ice your cupcakes.  I highly recommend using a large, unmanageable jug that the sauce rushes out of without warning to achieve this highly coveted look.

Did you spill a bit?  I suggest rolling with the punches and just spilling it everywhere.  Yeah baby, that shit looks hot.

For extra flair, up the brightness to make your cakes really shine.

Be proud of your previous pictures guys.  This is proof THAT WE ALL HAVE TO LEARN!

Apart from the shittata, I just... I don't have an excuse for that.



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Tuesday, 12 August 2014


What's that on my small dvd pile? Con air?  DAMN RIGHT CON AIR!

I love con air.  It's a plethora of awful one liners, cheesey characters and god, it's just so good. 'Put the bunny down...'  Plus there is something about young Nic cage in a vest with his receding hairline and tattered flowing locks that apparently sets my heart aflame.



It's almost as good as Waynes world.  Almost.  Cue famous scene.



Anyway.  I promise this has a point.  Okay not really, I just really like films.  I don't even have a favourite film.  Does anyone?

So...

Sunday we had planned a whole day of activities.  Then the rain came down.  I mean, it really poured down.  All plans were cancelled.  Our first intention was to grab the phone and remake rain safe plans, but this big glinting pile of DVDs I'd had for my birthday was winking at us from the corner.

So this is what we did instead.....


We ate a roast dinner, closed the curtains, we made popcorn, put on pajamas and then we spent the whole day like that.  We only moved for an hour to walk the dog once the weather dried up a bit.  Best part? I didn't even feel an Iota of guilt, in fact, it was exactly what was needed.

I love watching films.  I love eating.  I like to combine the two.... but it's difficult...

You don't pay attention to what you're eating if you watch something at the same time.  If you are, you aren't paying enough attention to the film and I love to get lost in a good film as much as I do a good book.

So I don't want to spend hours creating something to snack on.

It's just... if you pop into a shop... the snack choices are so... well... dull.

Not only are they dull, (and addictive) but eventually they make you feel sick.  I hate that.  Mindless snacking whilst watching a movie, to the point where you feel sick is the absolute worst in snacking faux paux.


Sometimes, I get it, it's cool to munch down on the naughty stuff, but yesterday?

Yesterday not so much.  I've eaten WAY too much birthday cake to feel in the mood for that.  I'm getting the bad food grumps.

So we went ahead and made our own little pots of snacking goodness.  Quick, easy and cheap as chips.  My favourite kind of recipe.



Making your own popcorn is easy, it's also much much nicer and my favourite fact of all?  It's cheaper.  A small bag of popcorn kernels from my local market cost me a £1 and I can make about 10 portions of popcorn from it.

Healthier.
Easy.
Cheaper.

Why don't more people do this!?

FAQ: Why is this recipe in cups?
I won't lie to you.  Because it's easier to wash up my cup set than my scales when time isn't on my side.  This is a quick recipe, designed to scoop and then be done with measuring.  Hence - the cups.

YOU WILL NEED
1/2 cup of popcorn kernels*
3 tablespoons peanut oil
1/2 cup of toasted almonds (flaked if best, but I'd run out)
1/2 cup of mixed dried fruit such as chopped dates, raisins, sultanas, etc
Roughly 80g dark chocolate - melted.
1/2 tbsp of melted butter
pinch of salt
pinch of cinnamon

*Use this recipe from The Kitchn on how to pop popcorn using your stove.  It's the best method I've found.

FIRST OF ALL
Pop your popcorn and toast your almonds.  Toast your almonds by tossing into a dry pan on a high heat for no more than a minute.  Too much toasting and your almonds will taste bitter.

YOU MAKE ME MELT
Next, melt your butter and chocolate in pain, mix well.  Add in the dried fruit.  Leave to one side to cool.

PICK AND MIX
Next, pop everything in a bowl, popcorn, dried fruit and chocolate fruity-ness.  Mix well, season with salt and cinnamon - pop into serving bowls and eat up!


Movie days are great.  Have to make room for more of them.  What's the most recent film you watched?

This was a few of the films that we watched...



The Grand Budapest Hotel
I was expecting a lot from this film, because I really like the weirdness of wes anderson films, and just the general kooky-tidiness of them too.  I was not disappointed.  Ralph fiennes was awesome in it and I want to live in this hotel.  Like seriously.  I imagine the film running on a beat, and every move is calculated and refined.  Ah man, it's just good, go watch it if you fancy!


The Kings of Summer
This deserves way more recognition than it has, first off it was one of those films you can actually call 'charming' because it actually is!  Secondly, it was actually funny, not laugh your ass off funny, but.. oh god, I'm going to say it... 'charming funny'.  The weird kid in it was by far my favourite.  He just really pulls it off.  plus it's shown simplistically, exactly how my childhood summers are remembered.  However, the den's we built looked far more.. uh... crap.




August: Osage County
Not a feel good film, not even in the slightest, but we were gripped throughout.  It's rare to watch something that is so well acted you forget you are watching a film.  This was one of them.  You get Julia Roberts saying vagina several times,  Benedict Cumberbatch pulling of socially awkward, yet again..., Meryl Streep pulling off pill popping mum so brilliantly, I didn't even recognise her.



The Book Thief
I loved the book this was based on, as soon as I finished reading it, I picked it back up and read it again.  So I wasn't expecting to love the film as much, and I didn't.  But it wasn't even as close to being as bad as the reviews made out.  I still enjoyed it.  The kids in it were brilliant, and I LOVED seeing that library come to life.  So no, not as good as the book, but I'm glad, because the book is, and should be completely different in my opinion.

On the to watch list still:
Out of Africa
This is spinal tap
The stag
Once
Her
Inside Llewyn Davis
Searching for sugar man

So what's on your too watch list lately?  Any to recommend?



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Friday, 8 August 2014



I'm about to share with you the six secrets of a successful and food filled tea party.

SECRET ONE:  Ask your mum and your mother-in-law to 'bring a few bits and bobs'.  They will both turn up with enough food to supply a peace core mission.

SECRET TWO: Put your dad in charge of alcohol.  They get serious over this shit.

SECRET THREE:  Hint heavily to all talented baker friends about how good their cooking is until they offer to bring you baked goods for the party.  Resist urge to kiss them.

SECRET FOUR:  Have so much food on the table that at least four people will say "That will never all get eaten"  Set out to prove them all wrong.

SECRET FIVE:
Have lots of chairs.  People love chairs.

SECRET SIX: Everyone must eat cake.


PAHAHA, god I love that picture.  That right there, is one of my best buds, Phil.  Yes, this post will contain a lot of talk of cake, because all I seem to be doing at the moment, is baking it, eating it, talking about it and watching it. *YAY GREAT BRITISH BAKE OFF IS BACK*

But that is a post for another day.  I promised you awesome folks some recipes and pictures from the party.

I think I'll share two of the recipes I made.


YOU WILL NEED
115g/4oz butter - plus extra for greasing
85g/3oz caster sugar
1 egg yolk
200g/7oz plain flour - plus extra for dusting
1 1/2 tablespoon early grey tea leaves (blended if they are big and chunky leaves)
pinch of salt
1/2 a lemon's worth of rind (finely grated)
Cool cookie cutters (or ordinary ones... pfft)

FIRST OF ALL
Preheat your oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas mark 6.  Next, cream together your sugar and butter until it is light and creamy.  Whisk in the egg yolk, lemon rind and tea leaves.  Gradually fold in the flour until it forms a soft dough.

GREASE LIGHTENING
Grease up a baking sheet with baking parchment, ready for your biscuits.

ROLLIN WITH THE HOMIES
Dust your surface with a little flour and roll out your dough to roughly 5mm thick.  Cut out your biscuits using the cutter and place onto your pre-greased baking sheet.

LET'S COOK
Place in the oven for 12-15 minutes until the biscuits have browned slightly.  Leave to cool on a rack, they will harden up as they cool :)


YOU WILL NEED
This website that I got the shortbread recipe from.
Two large bars of chocolate - plus extra because don't lie, you are obviously going to have some.

FIRST OF ALL
Make the recipe as Paul Hollywood says, because it tastes nice and some things don't need changing.  Always cite your sources guys!

JUST THE DIP

Place a mixing bowl over a pan of boiling water and break up your chocolate into it.  Keep stirring it as it melts.  Once it has all melted, dip your cooled shortbreads in, one by one.  Sprinkle with a bit of caster sugar afterwards.

TEMPER TEMPER
If you want to temper your chocolate properly instead of just melting and hoping for the best like I did - use this guide.


-official sounding part- and that concludes the recipe section of this blog post.







This isn't even all of the food, the overspill ran into the kitchen.  Which lead to a lot of this...


"I can't move!  Just let me at the quiches!"

Another talking point was the cheesecake, made my my very talented friend Fiona.  Seriously, let me talk about this cheesecake.  It has three points (not WW ones unfortunately... I have a feeling they would be significantly higher per slice) which make it probably the best cheesecake of your life.

  1. A nice thick buttery biscuit-y base. (see video)
  2. Generous thick creamy part.
  3. It is the biggest mofo-ing cheesecake you'll ever see.

I think luke's face here sums up how well the cheesecake went down....



Let's have a nice gratuitous look at this cheesecake.



Of course this was served in nice pretty princess and pirate bowls.  Because nothing will make your day more awesome than seeing your father-in-law eat cheesecake off of a princesses face.

So what else was there?  Georgie made me some red velvet cupcakes, the mums bought between them - 8 bags of big sharer crisps, 5 platters of sandwiches, three quiches, 3 plates of sausages rolls, boxes of chocolates, Auntie Bee made my birthday cake (more on that in a moment) and there was also pizza, pasta, chicken wings and the usual buffet fodder.

Everyone wanted to try one of our 'hippy fancy teas'.  Being a tea party, the kettle was on all day, and every single guest wanted cuppa after cuppa.  This is an action I highly encourage.

This also means I got to use my friends fancy tea cups and my awesome collection of mugs ALL FRICKEN DAY.

CUE TEA MONTAGE (play video for perfect tea montage music, yay!)





 




Made by my very talented Auntie Bee, my birthday cake was a cute little recipe recipe book!






I am truly blessed in my life to be related to (by blood and marriage) and be friends with some of the weirdest, funniest and bestest bunch of people you'll ever meet.

My family is awesome, included the ones I just married into.

With my birthday being in the middle of summer (yay!) alot of my friends and family were away on holiday (boo) but the ones that could make it, MADE IT AWESOME!

So here's a wee snippet of some photos of some of the kookiest people you will ever meet.










 








 








I'll end this post on a high note.... Look what I got for my birthday...


Looks like someone reads my blog!

Thanks for reading!  And thank you for everyone who made the day awesome, baked me food, bought me food and helped me take photos.

Photos taken by

- Luke, who took a large majority of these.
- Jack, his first time on a camera and he took those awesome cheesecake photos!
- Kris
- and myself.

Have a great weekend guys!  What would you serve at your tea party?



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