Chocolate and raspberry birthday cake

Chocolate and raspberry birthday cake

  I’m a terrible parent. I have never made a novelty birthday cake. There have been no Thomas the Tank Engines, Caterpillars or Fairy Princess Castles. Not that I haven’t been begged. And occasionally I succumb. But not really. One year I created a Cyclops, but take a look at the picture below and see if you can guess my cunning secret!    Yes! I make the same cake each time, with some concession to my child’s request. This is perhaps my personal favourite, as I think the cake looks rather like a baby Cyclops wearing a bonnet.    The main thing about my cake is that it tastes delicious, and so it should with two whole bars of Green & Black’s melted into it. It is possibly the most chocolate-y cake ever, and I NEVER wrap it in a paper napkin and give it to the kids to trample into the car’s upholstery on the way home. No way. This cake is there to be eaten, on the spot. Devoured, by parents, children and me.  I have other cunning customisations. The 6yo is obsessed with pigs and has been for a couple of years. This year I made exactly the same cake with pink fondant pigs wallowing in the chocolate-y mud. The chocolate fingers looked like a pen. Tragically my photos don’t do my brilliance justice. For some reason the pigs look a bit washed out. Please believe me when I tell you this was an absolute triumph!  Chocolate Birthday Cake 100g dark chocolate 150ml milk 225gself raising flour 2 tbsp cocoa powder 2 tsp baking powder 225g butter, at...
Rice crispy cakes – but not as you know them

Rice crispy cakes – but not as you know them

So, what are these little mouthfuls of deliciousness, you may ask. And, admittedly it is not immediately obvious from our typically random photo (we try!). But these are marshmallow rice crispy cakes. That’s right. Rice crispies modified with all the gooeyness of marshmallow, and little else. Unless you count the drizzle of plain chocolate which is added specifically to increase the anti-oxidants consumed by your children at parties. Because, as we all know, kids parties are all about eating healthily (ha!). We Why do we need to change a recipe that has served us so well, ever since our own childhood, you may ask? (That’s the second question you’ve asked in this blogpost so far, pipe down!) And the answer is; just because we can. The advantages to this recipe over the normal Golden Syrup scenario is that the marshmallow holds the rice crispies together really well so you can cut them into different shapes (essential). It also turns the cakes a pinky colour, which is always good. Plus there are large amounts of offcuts (the edges which you have cut from) which Claire shows you what to do with in the film we made about it here.  Plus it’s really easy. What more do you need?  Pimped up rice crispy cake Makes: 6-8 cakes Start to finish: 20 mins prep, 30 mins in fridge 45g butter 220g marshmallows 150g rice crispies 30g chocolate Line a 20x30cm tray bake tin. Put butter into a medium sized saucepan over a low heat. After a few seconds add the marshmallows. Gently heat the mix until the marshmallows have lost their shape and you are left...
Children’s birthday party special…. piggy rolls

Children’s birthday party special…. piggy rolls

If hosting a children’s party brings you out in a nervous rash then let us be your Calamine lotion, because this month we have four party recipes guaranteed to bring a smile on the face of little people whilst not leaving you on the floor. The first is these sweet little piggy rolls. They are a fabulous centrepiece and easy enough for little people to make too.  Put a plate of these on your party table and there will be lots of ooohhing and ahhhing. Serve with plates of ham and cucumber and cheese and children can make their own rolls, leaving you to get surreptitiously stuck in to the hula hoops. If you want to take things up a notch then with the – clean! – palm of your hand squash those little meatballs (available in most supermarkets) in to the shape of burgers, fry and serve in the rolls with ketchup. If you were feeling really fancy you could do pulled pork to continue the piggy theme, but chances are if you have lots of little people coming over, you will want to keep it as simple as possible. So in our birthday party special, over the next few weeks, we have recipes and videos for sprinkle saucer biscuits, Claire’s failsafe chocolate birthday cake, pimped up rice crispy cakes and fruit kebabs, just so you can pretend to other parents that you care about their children’s vitamin C intake. If that is still not enough, then  here is a chapter on children’s parties in our cookbook – (available here!) – including my fabulous –even if I do say so...
Let’s go! Eroica Britannia

Let’s go! Eroica Britannia

A few months ago a friend of mine moved out of London. To say she was dreading it is probably an understatement. I think we both thought she might stop existing if she moved. What happens when you have no little local coffee shops to go to, friends to hang out with, bars to frequent? Surely you disappear into a puff of smoke? Admittedly she was heavily up the duff, so much of that stuff was going to stop anyway. But it was difficult to imagine. Cut to Sheffield, 8 months later: she loves it. She (who would only ever get black cabs) talks of the beauty of the Peak District with a tear in her eye. She no longer hankers for ‘civilisation’. Instead she raves about the local cheese shop and what great independent coffee shops there are. She’s the mother of a glorious 6 month old and she’s really really happy. She’s the one who told me about Eroica Britannia, a three day festival of cycling, food and family fun. All happening outside London, in the Peak District. It sounds brilliant but crazy. There’s dancing, family yoga, a Hendrick’s gin pavilion of the peculiar and the world’s most handsome bike ride. There are even bedtime stories. We really want to go, but are just not sure if the camper van can make that kind of distance over a weekend. Our loss is your gain though! As we have a bundle of tickets to give away:  2 x weekend tickets (3 day access – children under 12 are free) 1 x camping space 1 x parking space 2 x...
The Waffle Odyssey

The Waffle Odyssey

I’ve been meaning to put up this blog about our amazing Easter holiday in the campervan, which was contrived almost entirely through recommendations from our lovely Facebook Friends.  We leisurely (very leisurely, I think we averaged 45mph) crossed parts of France, Belgium and Holland. We ended up at Duinrell which my kids still sob about every night. “When can we go back there?!” they wail. Still overwhelmed by the fact that our campsite was a real live Amusement Park, and because once you’ve paid to enter (about 40 euros a night) everything was FREE. So rather than Daddy saying yes to everything, with Mummy swiftly coming in and saying, actually Daddy meant no, which is what usually happens, they could actually go on whatever they wanted. Five goes in the Dodgems on the trot? Fine. The Ferris Wheel til we all feel sick? Sure! And then there were the 11 water slides and large indoor water complex…they were in heaven. My kids thank you, Facebook Friends, from the bottom of their hearts! Then we scooted to Amsterdam, stayed in an AirBnB and enjoyed some of the pleasures it has to offer; pancakes, tandems, large parks with climable trees and Chocomel – possibly the most delicious chocolate drink the world has invented.  We also went to Hoge Veluwe, also as recommended on Facebook, and it was idyllic. 1,500 white bikes dotted around a national park, so you can pick them up and drop them off wherever you want, free of charge. They all had little kids’ seats on front and back, plus there were loads of children’s bikes too. In the...
Crumbs – In Our Space

Crumbs – In Our Space

Ladies, gentlemen. What can we say, except here we are. In beautiful technicolour. As you’ve never seen us before. This is a video made by a lovely friend of ours, Shelly, who is truly gifted when it comes to having an eye for gorgeousness. Not us. But check out my house! It’s never looked so lush. And all that pastry rolling. Watch this film and I reckon you too will want to start rolling out pastry, pretty much non-stop. Sadly Shelly couldn’t sort out my fringe, but there are limits, even for miracle workers like her.  This is a film she made of us, which is part of a series she’s made of people, in their own spaces, talking about what they do. Lucy and I talk about our digital capers and online scrapes, but basically we’re just backdrop to Polly, Lucy’s dog. More teddy bear than dog, if we’re honest. Have a look and see what you think. For more loveliness, check out Shelly’s website...
Cottage pie served in a baked potato

Cottage pie served in a baked potato

Cottage pie is one of my all time favourite meals, cooked religiously by my mum for every one of my birthdays since I was knee-high. It only came to the end when I discovered the joys of  sirloin steak and chips – a massive treat back then in our house. Now, I still love it and thought I knew all there was about it until the Children’s Food Trust – a fabulous organisation who are encouraging the whole nation to cook cottage pie for tea next weekend – asked me to cook cottage pie served in a jacket potato skin. Yes stuffing a potato with cottage pie. Genius. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought of this culinary pairing sooner. R-A-D-I-C-A-L. Some people think that making a cottage pie is a faff as there are a few stages (making the mince, boiling the spuds, mashing them) well this will make them think again. I bulk cook sauce for either cottage pie or just to have with rice a couple of times a month (see here for the recipe) and freeze what I don’t need, so this for me is a very simple week night supper. I simply defrost the sauce, bake the potatoes, scoop out the flesh and mash them with butter, pepper, salt and cheese, spoon in some sauce, top with the mash and pop under a hot grill until sizzling. ...
Mini cheddars – not the snack, but a car game

Mini cheddars – not the snack, but a car game

We’ve all been there – the interminable car journey. The Friday night traffic on the M25. The whining children. The spilt drinks. The sticky seats. The barking dog. The husband who refuses to ask for directions. The endless games of I-spy. We’ve never had DVDs or TVs in the car as in our over-stimulated world, I think a good dose of boredom now and then is a good thing, but sometimes when we have exhausted our limited repertoire of games and audiobooks, I sometimes turn up the music, to zone out the bickering. My friend, Victoria, introduced me to a fabulous new car game at the weekend, which made a car journey back from Norfolk fly by. It is called Mini Cheddar and is suitable for anyone from 4 – 80. Very simply, every time you see a Mini you shout “MINI!” and every time you see a yellow car you shout “CHEDDAR”. The jackpot is obviously spotting a yellow Mini, when you shout “MINI CHEDDAR.” Very loudly. It’s brilliant fun. Trust me. Although the fact that I’m the only one in my family to spot one so far may mean I am biased. I am still riding high – albeit hoarse-throated – from the thrill. With the Easter holidays upon us, how do you pass the time on long car journeys? Have you ever played Mini Cheddar? We have a great selection of on-the-go recipes here – perfect for long journeys and away...
Meals in 5 minutes – banana ice cream

Meals in 5 minutes – banana ice cream

When we started this blog (five years ago!) it was with one aim in mind. To discover fast recipes which were delicious, healthy and easy. If there is one recipe which typifies this remit it is this banana ice cream recipe. Is something with one ingredient a recipe? I’m not sure. What I do know is that it’s amazing. My kids love it. They actually think I am some kind of witch, able to create loveliness out of almost nothing. Intrigued? You should be. This is so nice you could serve it at a dinner party, maybe alongside a salted caramel brownie. I recommend watching the video (which is also an introduction to our new Five Minute Menu series) to see how easy it is. But for a description… One ingredient banana ice cream Serves: 2 2 bananas If like me you generally have a stash of half eaten bananas in the freezer, leftover from breakfast etc, you can just use them. To give your food processor (or blender) an easier ride, peel them and slice them into 1cm wide coins before freezing in a freezer bag. Freeze for an hour or more. Place in food processor and whizz until creamy. That’s it. Really. If you want to get fancy pants, add Nutella, cocoa powder or peanut butter. But really, it doesn’t need it. Because the magic of this recipe is that unlike most foods, banana gets more flavoursome, more banana-y once frozen. Serve in cone or dollop in a bowl. Either way your kids will love you a little bit...
Rice pudding with lemon and bay leaf

Rice pudding with lemon and bay leaf

One of my earliest memories was sitting in a tent in the Isle of Wight on a cold rainy British summer holiday, eating a bowl of tinned rice pudding.  It was the first time I had tried it and I remember the sense of anticipation as my mum heated it on the camping stove and served it with a bright red blob of strawberry jam in the middle. I wasn’t disappointed and remember how satisfying it was stirring in the jam until the white of the rice slowly pinkened.  Food punctuates many of my childhood memories (cottage pie for birthdays, chocolate fudge pudding for special occasions, sticky buns from the bakery at the end of my granny’s road every Sunday morning) and even now 30-odd years later I can remember the excitement I felt as mum dolloped out the jam and allowed me to eat it on my lap – a holiday treat. So I have great nostalgia for rice pudding although these days it is less likely to be eaten with jam but made with coconut milk and passion fruit or cardamom. The spice makers Schwartz want people to get more adventurous with their spices and asked me to do a collaboration with them and make a pudding with bay leaves. Luckily, I already am a fan of it in with sweet things. For example, when baking plums with red wine and honey I always add bay for aromatic depth of flavor. It also works well in custard or instead of vanilla when roasting rhubarb. It is traditionally used in rice pudding along with cinnamon and nutmeg. Who knew? Certainly not...