Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Castles and Caves

Well, it's that time again... the Easter holidays. Time for me to break from uni and earn myself some money to supplement my student loan. I work in Smugglers Adventure Caves and Hastings Castle. My first day at the Castle, it was a beautiful day, the sky was blue and I took these photos of the Castle and the views.

The remains of the church

The Eastern view from the castle.

The church archway

Unfortunately, the vast majority of the original castle grounds have been lost to the sea. Over two thirds of the grounds, including the castle keep, slipped into the sea when the cliffs receded in the 1800's... which just goes to show how much our coast is ever-changing. The church, East gate and dungeons are still standing, and on a sunny and clear day the views from the castle are lovely. I'm looking forward to working in the castle again, and spending some of my summer days working in the sunshine!

Monday, 29 March 2010

A day of baking with my little sister

I've come back home from uni for Easter and me and my little sister decided to spend a day doing some scrummy baking! My mum bought me some new silicone cupcake cases and I decided to put them to good use by making marbled cupcakes, smarties cookies and layered banoffee cupcakes for my family and my collegues at Smugglers Adventure Caves.

Banoffee Cupcakes
These are delicious layered cupcakes. The cupcakes are banana flavoured, and once cooked are sliced into three tiers with toffee and thinly sliced bananas inside, topped off with chocolate.

90g softened butter
110g brown sugar
2 eggs
75g plain flour
75g self-raising flour
1-2 overripe mashed bananas
2 tablespoons if milk
1/3 cup of cream
(optional) 1/2 tsp mixed spice
75g dark or milk chocolate
sliced bananas
1/2 tin of condensed milk (for the toffee/caramel)

1. Preheat the oven to 180degrees (160degrees if fan assisted oven)
2. Beat the butter, sugar and eggs together in a medium mixing bowl. You can use an electric whisk, or by hand until the mixture is light an fluffy.
3. Sift the flour into the mixture, and mix together, along with the mashed banana, cream and milk.

4. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes depending on how large the cupcakes are. Then remove from the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack.
5. Remove the cakes from their cases (very easy with the silicone cases! they just pop right out!)
6. Cut the cakes horizontally into three slices. Reconstruct the cakes layering the toffee and thinly sliced bananas in between the tiers.
7. Top the cupcakes with chocolate and if you like a few chocolate shavings.

Not only did we make the gorgeously indulgent banoffee cupcakes, we also made some marbled cupcakes with a basic cake mix which we split into two bowls, dyed one with a few drops of red food dye and the other half with cocoa powder. We then baked them in the oven for 15-20 minutes and topped half of them with chocolate ganache.

To finish off our baking-fest me and my sister made some cookies with a basic cookie dough but adding chocolate chunks and smarties. YUM! The only thing that remains is to find hordes of people to consume the massive amounts of baking we have done today.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Mothers' Day in London

As an early Mothers' Day present me and my sisters arranged a lovely day out in London with our mum. I'm currently living in Leeds whereas the rest of my family live in the south. So we thought it would be a nice idea for me to secretly travel the 200miles and surprise my mum at the station. I hopped on the train down to my lovely older sister's (the lovely Style PA: check out her fabulous blog at place before she had planned to meet up with my mum and younger sister. I ended up hiding behind a sign at the train station and jumping out to surprise her, the look on her face was brilliant.

We had such a lovely day, and as usual, most of the day seemed to revolve around lots of yummy food! We kicked it off with a posh afternoon tea at The Wallace Restaurant. My mum and older sister went for the afternoon tea menu, my younger sister went for a classic and scrummy caeser salad, and I had a delicious leek and potato soup accompanied by a summery pink lemonade. I recommend a visit; it’s one of the cheaper options for afternoon teas in London but the food was really lovely. It might have been nicer, however, if the staff hadn’t been quite so laid-back and perhaps smiled a little more, but you can’t have everything I suppose!

We then went for a spot of shopping followed by a wander round Fortnum and Masons and we each had yummy marshmallow, and eyed up the beautiful looking cakes.

On the second day me and the Style PA stumbled upon a little market tucked away by Brunswick Square near Kings Cross station. We had the best raspberry and chocolate brownies! I could happily have munched my way through some of the Oreo cupcakes, freshly made churros, and a selection from the stalls that offered food from around the world. The market is in the Brunswick Centre coutryard every Saturday and I recommend it if you in the area and fancy a tasty lunch on the go, they served a wide range of foods ranging from: Spainish, Hungarian, Thai, Chinese, and more!

I love old and antique books

One of my great passions is for books, I haven't got enough room in my house for all of my books and some are boxed up and stored here there and everywhere. But what I love more than anything are old and antique books. There is something wonderful about owning something that someone else has loved, like a little window into a past world.

I love how old books quite often have inscriptions and notes inside them like little clues into history. I bought the book above "Princess Ottilia" published in the 1890's from a little antique book shop in Rye and it sent me on a little quest... I spent ages trying to read the inscription and I took it to my mum, who is researching our family tree and has had more practise at reading the writing from the 1800's. After deciphering the writing and a little detective work, it turns out that I might even be related to the owner of the book! It was given to a young girl who lived on the outskirts of London in the 1890's. It was given as a prize at the local baptists church for a competition. There was only one girl living in that area of London at that time who it could possibly have been! Needless to say me and my mum were rather excited about it. What are the chances of wandering into a little bookshop a few towns along from where you live to stumble upon a book that was owned by one of your ancestors?

Another little beauty of a find; today I bought a book from the 20's called "the Weekend Book" for 50p. It is a lovely, and at times hilarious, window into the past. There are suggestions for the best poetry to recite to your family on the weekend, songs to sing together around the piano and parlour games. It also gives information about what birds will be singing in your garden, and star constellations that will be seen at different times of the year... even how to avoid "breaking the law" whilst walking in the countryside (bizarre). But my favourite section is the "food and drink" section with tips for the housewife to treat her family on the weekends and how to entertain guests.

"Weekend cookery should be either very quick, a good meal produced in half an hour, or very slow, put on before you go off to tennis or to lazing" (the second sounds more like my weekend!)

The section on using Tinned Foods is particularly amusing... "Use tinned foods, but disguise them. No one should ever suspect that they are tinned." and "remember to always add some fried cucumber cubes to your Heinz tomato soup" (how very bizarre...)

Sandwich suggestions... "When you go picnicking you will, if a pastry hand, take little pies full of good mixtures, but the average provider of picnic fare trusts to sandwiches, good drinks, salted almonds, nuts and perhaps raw steaks and bacon to be cooked over a camp fire on sticks. This is rather amusing because the food usually falls in and gets ruined. So be sure that the sandwiches are good!"

When attempting to supplement your diet from nature's larder... "DON'T cook and attempt to eat young bracken shoots because the Japanese do. What suits the hardy races of the extreme East may not suit you." (haha!)

So, my parting message to you all will be, go out and find yourself a good old book! As much as I love browsing the shelves of antique bookshops, often my best buys and favourite books have been hunted out in charity shops in Leeds and Sussex. So, you needn't pay a fortune... 50p will do it!

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Coconut Cupcakes!

I've been really busy in the Kitchen today, not only have I made Chocolate, Cherry and Coconut Cookies, but I have made Coconut Cupcakes too! So here is the recipe:


4 ounces of self-raising flour

4 ounces of butter

4 ounces of caster sugar

2 large eggs

2 ounces of dessicated coconut


1. Preheat the oven to gas mark 6 or the equivalent.

2. Beat the butter and sugar together in a large mixing bowl until it is a smooth mixture.

3. Gradually add the egg, whilst mixing the ingredients together.

4. Next, sieve in the flour and add the coconut.

5. Transfer the mixture into cake cases, putting a generous dollop of cake mix in each case.

6. Bake in the oven for around 20 minutes until golden in colour.

7. Leave to cool on a wire cooling rack. If you are icing the cakes make sure that they have totally cooled first, especially if using butter icing, or the icing will not set properly.

I was even good enough to make my boyfriend a cup of tea to enjoy my freshly baked goodies with!

The Three C's: Chocolate Cherry and Coconut!

I've got essays for university to write... so naturally I'm procrastinating, and what better way to procrastinate then to spend some time in the kitchen baking cookies! Today I've got a yummy recipe for you... Chocolate, Cherry and Coconut Cookies:


200g unsalted butter

85g caster sugar

85g soft brown sugar

1 egg

225g self-raising flour

100g roughly chopped chocolate

85g roughly chopped glacé cherries

85g dessicated coconut

1/2 tsp of salt


1. Preheat the oven to Gas mark 5, or 190 degrees, or 170 degrees if your oven is fan assisted.

2. Beat the butter, sugars and egg until it forms a smooth mixture.

3. Roughly chop the chocolate and cherries, and add them to the mixture along with the coconut flour and salt. Mix the ingredients until it turns into a thick cookie dough.

4. You can either use non-stick baking sheets or (as I usually prefer to do) just grease 2 baking trays.

5. Spoon the cookie dough onto the baking trays in large balls: this recipe makes roughly 20-24 cookies. ensure that the cookies have lots of space between them as the dough spreads out to over twice the size once it is in the oven.

6. Bake in the preheated oven for 12-15 minutes until they start to go golden. Ensure that the cookies are still pale and soft in the middle and the edges aren't too dark in colour as it is very easy to overcook them.

7. Leave the cookies to cool on the tray for 5 minutes and they will firm up. Then carefully transfer them to a wire cooling rack.

In my opinion cookies are always best when they are still warm from the oven and squidgy in the middle. store the cookies in an air-tight container and eat within a week.

Alternatively you could try nutty cookies by exchanging the cherries and coconut for chopped nuts and a generous dollop of peanut butter!

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Broccoli and Goats Cheese Soup!

For Christmas I got a food processor... and it is most definitely one of the best Christmas presents I have been given! I have been loving making my own soups that are easy to make, cheap, tasty and healthy. So I thought I would share my favourite recipe with you.

Broccoli and Goats Cheese Soup

3 large heads of Broccoli

2 cloves of garlic (or 1 tsp of garlic purée)

1 red onion

2 vegetable stock cubes

200ml low fat crème fraiche

1 pack of soft Welsh Goats cheese

1. First finely dice the red onion and gently fry in a large saucepan with the garlic. Ensure that the onions do not brown or it will change the flavour of the soup.

2. Chop the broccoli into smaller florets and remove the thicker stems.

3. Dissolve the vegetable stock cubes in 500ml of boiling water and add to the onions and garlic.

4. Add the Broccoli to the saucepan and simmer on a low heat until the broccoli is tender. It doesn't matter if all of the broccoli is not submerged, just pop a lid on the pan and stir occasionally.

5. Depending on how thick you like your soup, (I like mine quite thick) drain about 100ml of the stock off of the broccoli and transfer to the food processor and blend to the desired consistency.

6. Return the blended broccoli to the saucepan, add the goats cheese in small pieces until it has all melted. Then add the crème fraiche.

7. Transfer into bowls (or containers to freeze) add black pepper, serve with a bread roll and enjoy!

This recipe makes 4 servings of soup at 250 calories per bowl... or three generous servings! and is it perfectly fine to freeze; I freeze three of the four servings and they keep really well and are easily thawed and reheated, or simple popped frozen into a pan and gently heated until it has melted and piping hot.

For variations, you could use double cream instead of creme fraiche, or exchange the goats cheese for stilton or another cheese of your choice.

Also… not only do I get to enjoy the yummy broccoli soup, but my pet rabbits get to take advantage of the leftover broccoli and discarded stems.