Chocolate dipped rice crispie caramel squares

Chocolate dipped rice crispie caramel squareschocolate dipped rice crispie caramel squares

So this weekend, I got recipe testing for something to bake for our friends’ wedding party next month. The challenge is to come with something that I can make in vast quantities (we’re talking about 170 guests) that I can make in someone else’s kitchen (as our kitchen will currently be a building site) which is easy to transport to Kent and won’t melt/crumble/disintegrate and most importantly looks brilliant and tastes AMAZING. Chewy rice crispie marshmallow squares have always been a very popular fixture in our house so I decided to pimp the recipe by dipping them in dark chocolate and who knows, maybe I’ll go totally crazy and whip out some neon sprinkles for the big day.   After all, it’s not everyday that two friends who James and I introduced to each other, get married.  So, David and Juliette if you’re reading, these are for you and you’ll get to scoff them on your wedding day x

 

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Liberty print romper suit

I apologise for posting yet another piece revolving around Liberty fabric. I am, it has to be said, rather obsessed and probably need to rein it in… The trouble is that the little face just looks too sweet in the ditsy floral prints so I can’t help myself. Here are a couple of pictures of my latest Liberty creation, a little romper suit for her to frolic in

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A Persian Feast

I’ve always had a bit of a thing for Persia having first become captivated by this part of the Middle East (now modern day Iran) when I was at school studying Ancient History for A-Level.  At the time, I was the only person to choose the subject so – all credit to the school – instead of being told to choose another A-Level I ended up being taught alone by a very serious septuagenarian in a cavernous drama hall and I loved it.     Saturday’s experience of Persia was a lot more lively. With six hungry friends coming round for supper I thought I would attempt some recipes from Sabrina Ghayour’s glorious new cookbook, Persiana. I love this sort of food, it’s beautiful – almost jewel like to look at – and packed with flavour. It’s also perfect when cooking for large numbers as you can just make a few of the dishes on a large scale and let everyone dig in (all those juicy lamb kefta I thought I’d be snacking on all week were snaffled before it even hit ten o’clock).  I served the keftas with a huge platter of fattoush salad (to which I added chunks of feta and toasted pistachios) alongside a heap of warm pitta to dunk into bowls of smoked aubergines with garlic and yoghurt, cucumber and mint with pomegranate. Clean plates all round. Yum.

Persiana: Recipes from the Middle East & Beyond
by Sabrina Ghayour is published by Mitchell Beasley priced £25

Persiana by Sabrina Ghayour

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The sun has got his (or should that be her) hat on…

After searching for a sweet little summer bonnet for my bonny baby I decided I might as well just try and make one.  After a disastrous first attempt where it turned out large enough to fit my enormous head, my second version seems to do the job even if she does look a little but Edwardian (not that there’s anything remotely wrong with that I hasten to add).  I particularly love how the rim allows her little chubby infinitely squeezable cheeks to peek out and be kissed… You can make your own using the pattern here at Purl Bee

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Fabric covered DIY Liberty print diary

So in just over a week’s time I’m going to be back at work and so it’s time to get my arse into gear and get organised therefore, of course, the PERFECT excuse to buy a new diary. After some squirreling around on the internet, I soon realised that it’s actually quite difficult to find a non naff looking diary when you’re half way through the year so, all that seems to exist are vile academic diaries so I thought I’d have a crack at creating my own Liberty print diary simply by covering a plain week to view Pirongs diary with some ditsy Tana Lawn fabric and here’s how it turned out. Not bad for £2.49! Instructions below (if you can be bothered)…

Liberty print fabric covered diary

Liberty print diary

To do this yourself, just cut out a piece of fabric about 2 inches wider all the way round than the diary / book you want to cover. Lay it out flat (ironing it first if it’s creased). Spray or paint glue on to the back of the book and place it down carefully on the fabric, pressing down hard to smooth out any bumps. Now paint the spine and front of the book and flip it over on to its front, again pressing down hard. Cut the corners of the fabric off and stick the overlapping edges over on to the inside of the front and back covers. If you want to neaten the inside covers, just cut out two further rectangles of fabric (to just smaller than the size of the cover and back) and place over the overlapped edges inside the front and back cover.

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Blooming Babies…

So yet again, here I am apologising for the complete radio silence but what can I say, babies are all consuming creatures and our one is particularly gloriously distracting. Right now, she’s  sitting on the floor sticking her little pot belly tummy out and grabbing fistfuls of Margot the dachshund’s fur (curiously Margot doesn’t seem to mind a bit).  On the subject of canine friends, I can’t really resist posting this picture of Florence and Margot in the Silver Cross pram that I used to be perambulated in…

Margot and Florence
Margot and Florence

In other news, I’ve been doing a bit of sewing again and thought I’d have a crack at some Liberty print bloomers for these ahem summer months.  The good news is you can just pop a pair of tights on underneath to keep those little sausage legs warm when the  weather is vile like it is now.  Here are some pictures of the fruits of my labours (and I’ve even managed to set up a little tiny Etsy shop should you want to actually buy some of these beauties, just follow this link).

Liberty print baby bloomers

Liberty print baby bloomers

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Fabric covered rope necklaces

I first made these fabric covered rope necklaces last year as Christmas presents, they’re also a good way of using up awkward sized scraps of fabric.  Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Wooden beads, I went for chunky 35mm ones bought on ebay
  • Fabric, for 35mm beads you’ll need strips 10cm wide and at least 1m long for a necklace, shorter if you’re making a bracelet
  • Sewing machine and thread

Fabric covered bead necklacefabric covered rope necklacefabric covered rope necklace

  • Cut 1-1.5m long strip of fabric 10cm wide, if you’re planning to use these as a baby teether it’s probably good to opt for organic cotton
  • Fold it in half, right sides facing and pin
  • Sew the length of the strip allowing a seam allowance of 1cm, leave the ends open and trim the seams
  • Turn inside out – an easy way to do this is to attach a safety pin to a long piece of ribbon or string and feed it through the fabric tube until it pokes out of the other end then pin it to the inside of the end of the tube and pull it back through itself. Et voila!
  • Leave about 20cm free at one end and tie a knot. Slip a wooden bead down the tube and tie another knot. Keep going until the necklace is as long as you’d like it, I went for a total of six leaving a decent length for the fabric ties as each end
  • To finish the necklace, check the ends are the same length if not just trim the longer one. Turn the ends inside and sew to close them

fabric covered rope necklacefabric covered rope necklace

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Chocolate and Caramel Ombre Birthday Cake

Baking and babies, I have realised lately, don’t really go together. During my pregnancy I envisaged long quiet periods of time stretching out every day whilst the little plum slept. Florence however has different ideas about how her day should pan out and prefers to be part if the action, so my friends, I have mastered the art if baking with a baby in your arms much like I’ve mastered reading whilst bouncing our baby up at down and fending off a miniature dachshund nipping at my toes… These deft skills require recipes which look epic but are actually really not complicated at all hence my choice of a birthday cake for James, it looks extremely clever but I can assure you takes barely any time and can be done whilst being prodded and head butted by a nine week old baby strapped to your front… Here’s how to make it…the recipe is from those lovely people at BBC Good Food Magazine (I would have photographed the whole of the inside of the finished cake had it not been wolfed by us all at the restaurant).

Chocolate and Caramel Ombre CakeChocolate Caramel Ombre CakeChocolate Caramel Ombre Cake

FOR VANILLA & CHOCOLATE SPONGES

  • 225g very soft butter, plus extra for greasing
  • 225g golden caster sugar
  • 175g self-raising flour
  • 85g ground almonds
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3 eggs
  • 150ml pot natural yogurt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 5 tbsp cocoa powder

For caramel & caramel-choc sponges

  • 225g very soft butter, plus extra for greasing
  • 175g light muscovado sugar
  • 50g dark muscovado sugar
  • 175g self-raising flour
  • 85g ground almonds
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3 eggs
  • 150ml pot natural yogurt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp cocoa

To assemble

  • 397g can caramel (stocked near the condensed milk in stores)
  • 140g dark chocolate
  • 140g milk chocolate
  • 300ml double cream
  1. Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Grease and line bases of 2 x 20cm sandwich tins with baking parchment. For the Vanilla & chocolate sponges, mix all the ingredients, apart from the cocoa, together with an electric whisk. Scrape half the mix into a second bowl and whizz in the cocoa. Scrape into the tins and bake for 20-25 mins until a skewer poked in comes out clean.
  2. Repeat step 1 for the Caramel & caramel-choc sponges, again leaving cocoa out of the first mixing, then splitting the mix in half and whizzing the cocoa into one batch. Cook as above.
  3. While sponges are cooling, melt the dark and milk chocolate together in a bowl over a pan of barely simmering water. Remove from the heat, stir in the cream and cool or chill until spreadable.
  4. When the sponges are cool, spread a third of the caramel over the Vanilla sponge and top with the Caramel sponge. Spread over another third of the caramel and top with the Caramel-choc sponge, then the final third of caramel and top with the Chocolate sponge (don’t panic if you mix up the layers, the cake will still look great when you cut in). Spread the chocolate icing over the whole cake to serve. It will keep in a cool place in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
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Homemade Salted Caramel Twix Bars

With Christmas coming and the ensuing no holds bar approach I seem to take when it comes to eating and drinking (which frankly isn’t that different from the rest of the year), I thought I’d share this rather marvellous recipe for making your own posh Twix bars which I found on the brilliant blog, A Beautiful Mess. I’ve slightly messed around with the recipe by adding sea salt to the caramel and edible gold leaf to ponce it up a bit and I’m pleased to say they’ve come out rather well especially if you leave them in the fridge for a bit so the caramel goes really chewy (then book yourself a dentist appointment). Fa la la…

Homemade salted caramel Twix bars

Homemade salted caramel Twix barsSalted caramel Twix barsSalted caramel Twix bars

To make these you quite simply take a packet of butter shortbread fingers and lay them all our side by side in a greaseproof lined baking tin. In a saucepan gently melt a bag of caramels (I’d go for one bag for every 10 shortbread fingers) together with a tablespoon of milk. Once it’s all smooth and evenly melted, spread the caramel over the shortbread, sprinkle over some coarse sea salt and bung the tray in the fridge overnight.  Once hardened, just turn the caramel covered shortbread out on to a baking tray and with a knife cut the fingers out and trim off any excess caramel. In a bowl over simmering water melt two bars of dark chocolate then carefully dip each biscuit in the chocolate to coat it and allow to cool on a wire rack.  To really show off chuck a bit of edible gold leaf on each one et voila, pretty impressive DIY Twix bars…

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A blanket for my baby

Unlike my sister and quite a few friends I am not a great knitter, learning a new stitch or technique takes time and always having to stop and start means I spend far too much time trying to work out where I left off hence the various half finished projects in cotton bags languishing around the house. Despite this I knew that when it came to choosing a pattern for my own baby’s first blanket I knew I wanted it to be a little bit different from the ones I had made before for friends and I wanted to attempt at the very least a new stitch. This time it was rice stitch…  Yep, totally new one to me too. I came across this particular design in a lovely little book called ‘What to knit when you’re expecting’,  by crafty wizard Nikki Van De Car who spent the months before her daughter’s birth knitting up a storm (there are some pretty scrummy things in this book if you like knitting and happen to know a baby or two).

What to Knit When You're Expecting cashmere baby blanket

In the introduction to the pattern she describes this blanket as incredibly quick to knit up, sadly with a full on day job and major building project gobbling up any spare nuggets of time it took me an impressively long time to finish this but I did at least get it done just in time for the plum’s arrival. I opted for a lovely cream Cashmerino for the body of the fabric and a duck egg blue for the border. Shortly after starting it I spoke to my sister (also pregnant at the time but three months ahead of me) who it turned out was knitting exactly the same pattern for her baby. Nice. Here I am proudly showing it off in bambino Florence’s newly finished nursery…

White baby nursery

 

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