Archive for July, 2010

For the last few weeks we have been meaning to get out and enjoy the Pick Your Own season – it’s just been a matter of finding the time. Yesterday we found ourselves with the morning free before heading to a birthday BBQ in the afternoon so we headed out to Stanhill Farm which was bursting with blackberries & raspberries along with a slightly smaller crop of strawberries (still coming through) and gooseberries. I have never picked gooseberries and the plant itself is pretty protective of the berries so I have a fair few scratches on my hands to show for my efforts! However we came away with a good stash of summer berries that will be / have been put to good use – jams, crumble, summer pudding, cupcakes, smoothies …and my personal favourite – just a simple bowl of summer berries with some natural yoghurt – yum!

When we got home I decided to try out a Martha Stewart recipe for Strawberry cupcakes – James was a willing helper and so it became a joint effort. My friend Mer made these for her daughter Isobel’s birthday last year and they were delicious so thought these would be nice to take over to Tina’s birthday BBQ. These would also help make a dent in our bowl of freshly picked strawberries!

Our PYO stash!

Strawberry Cupcakes (courtesy of Martha Stewart Cupcakes)


2 3/4 cups all purpose flour

1/2 cup cake flour (I have no idea what this is and what to substitute so I just used plain, not self raising, flour)

1 Tbsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature (1 stick = 113g)

2 1/4 cups sugar

1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

3 large  whole eggs, plus 1 egg white

1 cup milk

2 cups finely chopped strawberries (about 20) plus about 10 more for garnish

Preheat oven to 350F (180C). Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt.

With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, cream butter, sugar and vanilla until pale and fluffy. Add whole eggs and the white, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated , scraping down the side of bowl, as needed.  Reduce speed to ow. Ad flour mixture in two batches, alternating with the milk, and beating until well combined. Fold in chopped strawberries by hand.

Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three quarters full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until golden and a cake tester inserted in centres comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer tins to wire racks to cool 15 minutes, turn out cupcakes and let cool completely. Cupcakes can be stored up to 1 day at room temperature in airtight containers.

To finish, fill a pastry bag with a large open-star tip with buttercream. Pipe buttercream onto each cupcake, swirling tip and releasing as you pull up to form a peak. Just before serving, thinly slice remaining strawberries, and tuck a few pieces into buttercream.

Strawberry Meringue Buttercream


1 1/2 cups fresh strawberries (8 oz) rinsed, hulled and coarsely chopped

4 large egg whites

1 1/4 cups sugar

1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into Tbsp, room temperature

Puree strawberries in a food processor (oops missed this part – so that would explain why my small bits of strawberry kept blocking up the piping nozzle!)

Combine egg whites and sugar in a heatproof bowl of a standing electric mixer set over a pan of simmering water. Whisk constantly by hand until mixture is warm to the touch and sugar has dissolved (the mixture should feel completely smooth when rubbed between your fingertips).

Attach the bowl to the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Starting on low and gradually increasing to medium-high speed, mix until stiff (but not dry) peaks form. Continue mixing until the mixture is fluffy and glossy, and completely cool (test by touching the bottom of the bowl), about 10 minutes.

With mixer on low-medium speed, add the butter a few tablespoons at a time, mixing well after each addition. Once all butter has been added, scrape down sides of bowl with a flexible spatula and switch to the paddle attachment, continue beating on a low speed until all air bubbles are eliminated, about 2 minutes. Add strawberries and beat until combined . Stir with a flexible spatula until the frosting is smooth. Keep buttercream at room temperature if using the same day, or transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate up to 3 days or freeze up to 1 month. Before using bring to room temperature and beat with paddle attachment on low speed until smooth again, about 5 minutes.

I really liked the meringue icing – the absence of the icing sugar took away alot of the sugar sweetness that can be quite full on with cupcakes. The recipe states that it makes 34 but I found that it made 24 standard size and 12 mini size which are perfect for little people!

Happy Birthday Tina!

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Browsing The Book People I came across a bargain – Weber’s Complete Barbecue Book for £6 and it has quickly become a summer favourite. So many rubs, marinades, sauces and ideas for outdoor eating – no more plain sausages and boring burgers!!

One of the first recipes I stumbled across was the Layered Mexican Salad and it turned out to be so easy – perfect for throwing together when you have a last minute get together.  I love it! I have amended the dressing slightly as instead of using a poblano chilli I have been using up the Chipotle in Adobo in the fridge, just adding to taste.  Works a treat!

Layered Mexican Chicken Salad (courtesy of Weber’s Complete Barbecue Book)



4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 Tbsp fresh lime juice

1 tsp dried thyme

1 tsp dried marjoram

1/2 tsp sea salt

1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs


1 large poblano chilli

125ml soured cream

25g coriander leaves, and tender stems

1 Tbsp fresh lime juice

1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 large garlic clove

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp sea salt

1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper


250g Cos lettuce, thinly sliced or shredded

175g yellow, or blue corn tortilla chips, crushed

175g ripe tomato, diced

2 Haas avocados, diced

1 can pinto or black beans, rinsed

Whisk the marinade ingredients together in a medium bowl. Add the chicken thighs, turning several times to coat them evenly, then cover and refrigerate for 30 mins to 1 hr.

Prepare the barbecue for direct cooking over a medium heat. Brush the cooking grates clean. Grill the chilli over direct medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes, with the lid closed as much as possible but turning occasionally, until the skin is blackened and blistered. Transfer the chilli to a small bowl, cover with clingfilm and let steam for about 10 minutes. Gently peel the skin from the chilli and remove the seeds. Put the chilli in a blender with the remaining dressing ingredients and process until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to serve,

Arrange a bed of lettuce on a large platter and then add the chips, tomato, avocado and beans in separate sections on top.

Grill the chicken over direct medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes, with the lid closed as much as possible but turning once or twice, until the meat is firm and the juices run clear. Transfer the chicken to a chopping board and cut into 1cm strips. Place the chicken on a separate section of the platter. Serve the dressing alongside.

Summer dining

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Well it has been a busy time in our house and I can’t believe that over 6 weeks has passed since I last made an entry. I don’t know where the time has gone!

Unfortunately this means there has also been little time for trying out new recipes so we have been resorting to some old favourites. We have also had a lovely spell of sunshine and so there has been plenty of BBQ action alongside some simple salads. Perfect on a summers evening – summer can be so short lived that we have to make the most of it.

So that busy 6 weeks has included……….

A trip to Disneyland Paris to celebrate Izzy & Isobel's' 3rd birthday

Lots of 3 year old birthday parties - Happy Birthday Easton!

Easton & Drey's Christening

Christening cake by yours truly....blog to follow....

A weeks visit from our friends from Abu Dhabi - Izzy with Keira & Kayla

Visiting some of the London sights

Celebrating Izzy's 3rd birthday along with Jenny's 30-something! Another blog to follow!

Let's not forget Bon Jovi summer! 12 nights in residence at the o2 and I made it to 5!

Rocking out at The Wiggles!

Taking part in the Race for Life 2010

Ladies Day Out - starts off civilised......

Karaoke or Constipation?!?!

So, that gives an idea of where the last 6 weeks have gone……

Now there have been a few new recipes so these will follow. Enjoy!

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