Sunday, 23 June 2013

Blooming Great Tea Party and The Best Cupcake Recipe.

I just wanted to raise some awareness of Marie Curie Cancer Care's Blooming Great Tea Party campaign.

They are hoping to have thousands of people (4909 have signed up at the time of me writing this post) up and down the country to host tea parties to raise funds for such an amazing charity.  I am hoping that some of my readers may see this and decide to host their own one.

It's such a lovely idea.  I am hosting my own party at home on Sunday 21st of July. The official time for the tea parties is June and July but some people still host parties into August so there is plenty of time for you to plan one. You can do one at home, in your workplace, in the local hall, anywhere.  You can have you and another person at the party or you can invite thousands.  Whatever you feel you can do will be perfect. You can sign up to do one on the website and the charity will send you loads of useful things to help with planning your party.

The idea is to raise some money for this wonderful cause. Marie Curie Cancer Care uses the donations for cancer research and development, for hospice beds and for funding Marie Curie nurses who are a hugely valuable support to patients with terminal illnesses and their families. As a GP, I see the good they do every single day.  I can't overstate what a huge difference they make.

If you feel you can't host your own party, please consider making a donation to Marie Curie Cancer Care.  You can do so through Just Giving or you can donate to my page set up for my own tea party.

I am busy planning what I am going to bake for the day.  I am thinking I will do a Victoria sponge, some cookies, brownies, lemon drizzle cake and lots and lots of cupcakes.  

I have mentioned before that my basic cupcake recipe comes from Cupcake Magic by Kate Shirazi.

This book so inspired me when I picked it up about 5 years ago and I thought, "I could make some of those".  That started me baking more regularly and trying new things. My husband always says he wishes he had stopped me buying Cupcake Magic as it has led to me getting slightly obsessed and having a house full of sprinkles and cupcake cases and cakestands!  However, secretly, I'm sure he's glad that I got my new hobby and started feeding him lots of lovely cakes.

One of the things that attracted me to Cupcake Magic in particular was Kate Shirazi's support for the Battery Hen Welfare Trust (a donation from each book sold went to them) and stories of her own rescue hens and photos of them enjoying her cupcakes. Have a look at Cakeadoodledo to see her cakes for sale, her other books and her blog. 

Anyway, I know her basic cupcake recipe off by heart and can whip up a batch with my eyes closed.  They are so easy and yet very tasty. This is the perfect recipe for those new to baking.  Kate has very kindly allowed me to reproduce the recipe on my blog and so I am going to share it with you here.  I think that might be worth a donation to Marie Curie Cancer Care - no?  

Recipe - Your Basic No-Mucking-Around Cupcake from Cupcake Magic by Kate Shirazi.

Makes 12.

Ingredients - 
110g / 4oz / 1 cup self-raising flour, sifted
110g / 4oz / 1/2 cup caster sugar, sifted
110g / 4oz / 1/2 cup margarine, softened
1 tsp baking powder
2 large free-range eggs
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Glace icing and sprinkles to decorate.

Method - 
Preheat the oven to 160C/325F/Gas mark 3.  Line a 12-hole muffin tin with cupcake cases.  Put all the ingredients (except the icing and sprinkles, of course) in a mixer (food processor, stand mixer, or just a big bowl with an electric whisk). Mix really well until the mixture is light and fluffy.

Plonk heaped teaspoons of the mixture into the prepared cases, and bake in the oven for about 20 mins until golden, and firm and springy when you give them a light prod on top.  Let them cool before icing and decorating.

And, look, I don't have any decent photos of any of my batches of these cupcakes which is, quite frankly, a bit weird.  In fact, I just dropped off a batch of these to my Grandma today for her 80th birthday and wish I had taken a photo - they were very pretty. However, here is a photo of Adam when he was about 3 making a beautiful batch!

  I will take photos from my Blooming Great Tea Party and will post here.  Please let me know if anyone else is doing a tea party - I'd love to hear about it.

In the meantime, here is a link to Foodie Quine's Tea Party from last year.

Monday, 17 June 2013

Food From Your Garden.

I aspire to be a proper gardener.  That means having a beautiful garden but it also obviously means growing an abundance of beautiful things to eat.  My Granda and Grandma's garden when I was growing up was overflowing with amazing flowers and all sorts of goodies to eat.  The peas were always my favourite but I loved everything I ate from that garden.

Several years ago (and I think somewhere around 10-15 years ago), I found a copy of a Reader's Digest book, Food From Your Garden, in a second hand bookshop near Forres and bought it for myself while dreaming of one day having a thriving garden.  I love the book and look at it often.  

My attempts at producing anything edible are pretty modest.  I do grow a few herbs and tend to be self sufficient in salad leaves for a few months of the Summer.  I also have a good supply of rhubarb after getting plants last year from Little Macaroon and I grow the odd other thing from time to time. I tried my beloved peas last year but failed by not putting netting over them from the beginning and finding the seedling got demolished by the birds (I managed about 4 pods in the end - last year's post).  This year I have the netting all ready to go on from the start but none of my fresh seeds have germinated.  Not one. I guess that's what I get for buying cheap seeds from B&Q. Lesson learned.

We have acquired two tomato plants and three courgette plants (thanks Little Macaroon) so far this year and I will be doing my salad leaves again (so good to have a constant supply for the sandwiches).  Seems a bit pathetic but I had intended to concentrate on the peas.

However, this post is about a recipe for cream of spinach soup and I have to admit to having bought the spinach in the sad supermarket plastic bags. Sorry.

Dom from Belleau Kitchen asked us to do a healthy dish for this month's Random Recipes (check out his gorgeous-looking prune and almond brownies). I got together the books I felt I would be guaranteed to pick something healthy from and they amounted to this little selection - 

Food From Your Garden, Reader's Digest
Veg Patch by Mark Diacono
Sarah Raven's Garden Cookbook
Gordon Ramsay's Healthy Appetite

I used which chose Food From Your Garden and I used it again to get a page number which led me to the spinach section. Excellent - I think I could do with topping up my iron levels.  

The recipe is very straightforward, quick and easy (yes, I did choose the easiest recipe on the page and I make no apologies for that).

Basically, saute some diced onion and carrot in some butter, add plenty of spinach.  Add some stock and parsley (aha - this DID come from my garden), a bouquet garni, some nutmeg and seasoning and simmer for half an hour then blitz.  Add the cream and heat through.

It recommended serving with croutons which are sprinkled with nutmeg - genius.  

What a wonderful soup.  I think the simplest and least fussy recipes are the best and I love how this is so healthy but tastes indulgent.  Maybe not quite as indulgent as Dom's brownies but I will be trying those very soon.  In fact, I reckon they would go with this recipe for a soup-and-pudding day.

I'm wondering about growing spinach next year.  It would do as one of my salad leaves for sandwiches and any leaves that I didn't get round to eating while young and tender would go to make this excellent soup.  In fact, I may decide to grow some this year instead of my peas.