Thursday, August 29, 2013

Review : le bouche à oreille, Les Sables d'Olonne, France

We rarely go out for lunch on holiday, preferring to laze around the apartment and pool during the day, unless it's dull or we're planning a little excursion.  The morning was damp and drizzly so I made an executive decision to head out for lunch as I was planning to make dinner that night.  Naturally, the moment we parked the car, the sun came out and we realised that we were not slathered from head to toe in SFP 50, so we needed to find somewhere shaded for lunch, stat!. After doing our usual promenade involving checking every restaurant menu along the harbour and saying "naah", we returned to a restaurant with an enormous shaded sun terrace and a perfect view of the boats puttering their way past us.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Ethan's Skull Birthday Cake

I can't believe that another year has passed since my handsome nephew Ethan cut into his Blue Birthday Cake.  That means he wants another cake, even bigger and better because he's now into double figures at the ripe old age of 10.  Hitting that milestone means that his tastes are changing too and he politely requested a red cake with a skull on top.  Heavens to Murgatroyd, what has happened to the little boy who ran around at our wedding with a soother firmly shoved into his mouth - a SKULL???

Being the lovely, ever obliging Best Aunt In The World Ever that I am, I said yes and immediately started to fret over how I was going to make this scary cake happen.  After a restorative drink (draw your own conclusions as to what it was...) I started to surf d'interweb for inspiration and I found a skull which turned into a perfect stencil to adorn the top of the cake.  After that, it kind of fell into place.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Review : Vietnamese Home Cooking by Charles Phan

Regular readers of my blog will know that I'm not a lover of coriander (the leaf, not the seeds).  And on holiday in San Francisco in 2011, we quickly discovered that The Hubs dislikes it even more intensely than I do.  When I opened a large envelope to discover a copy of Vietnamese Home Cooking by Charles Phan inside, I couldn't stop laughing.  Charles Phan is the chef-owner of The Slanted Door restaurant in San Francisco.  He also owns Out The Door in the Ferry Marketplace, where we bought that infamous coriander-strewn dinner!

Monday, August 19, 2013

It's The Little Things

There are times when I shouldn't be allowed within an asses roar of the internet, or a credit card.  Combine them both and I am lethal... eBay, Etsy and Lakeland are my usual ports of call when I want to splash my non-existent cash and I'm very good at hiding my purchases from The Hubs.  Honestly, if he knew about half of the stuff I bought on the sly, then I'd really be in hot water.  Oh, I forgot that he reads the blog too.  Never mind...

A few months ago I saw some very dotey little cookie cutters on another website and bookmarked them, together with a millionty other items I couldn't possibly live without, even though the house is crammed to capacity.  And I bought them.  To save on postage, I used Parcel Motel - another site that gleefully enables my shopping habits - and they were very very cute indeed.  They sat on the kitchen table for about a month waving at me from their cute little wrappers but I was on a blog hiatus due to Dodgy Back so I ignored them.  Until last night.  You see I had forgotten to put the butter back into the fridge and it was at the stage that is best described as malleable.  Perfect for making the sweetest, shortest, butteriest biscuits in the world.  And here we are.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Review : Cicchetti by Lindy Wildsmith and Valentina Harris

Everybody is familiar with Spanish tapas and pintxos from the Basque region at this stage.  Italy isn't exactly renowned for its range of little bites to accompany an aperitivo, right?  Wrong.  Venice is the home of the cicchetti, a refined range of special snacks.  Called spuntini, piccoli cibi and stuzzichine in other parts of Italy, these delicious little snacks are the perfect accompaniment to an early evening aperitivo or in larger quantities as a light lunch.

Cicchetti: And Other Small Italian Dishes To Share is co-written by Lindy Wildsmith and Valentina Harris.  Lindy has written several books about Italian food and loves all things Italian.  Valentina Harris is an acknowledged expert on Italian food, having written over 30 books on the subject and has appeared on many television programmes sharing her food philosophy of using local seasonal produce to make dishes with maximum care and minimum fuss.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Thanks Happy Badger For Paying It Forward

A few weeks ago, I got an email from a lovely Happy Badger but I put it on hold because of Dodgy Back.  When I re-read the email, I was intrigued and then incredibly touched.  Happy Badger isn't an animal who roams through the woods but an entity who wants to spread happiness across the blogosphere.  In return for this blogpost, Happy Badger is going to give £50 (€58) to a charity of my choice.  How could I refuse?

Let me tell you a little bit about my chosen charity:  The Blackrock Hospice provides specialist palliative care to people experiencing the impact of a life-threatening illness, to assist family and caregivers through this experience and to bring solace to those grieving the death of a loved one.  the Blackrock Hospice delivers palliative care through four different services - the inpatient unit, the day hospice, in acute hospital settings and through the homecare team.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

I'm Back with Plum, Vanilla and Almond Cake

Well I'm back from my enforced break.  The back is settling nicely and it's time to start cooking.  It's summer fruit season once again which means lots of berries or stone fruits for dessert with cream or icecream.  Sometimes you want to make a sharing dessert instead and this luscious teatime treat ticks all the boxes.  It's a very simple sponge with ground almonds and lots of aromatic vanilla extract topped with sweet juicy plums.  The plums sink to the bottom of the sponge and become very sticky (which is why you need to line the cake tin base with baking paper).

Plum, Vanilla and Almond Cake