Borderfields Rapeseed Oils – A review with recipes

image1 - Copy (25)When I was growing up in the 1970s, the only cooking oil I remember my mother using was an unnamed generic vegetable oil that was pale yellow, rather ‘thin’ in consistency and very bland.

Fortunately culinary oils have moved on in the past few years and now there is a huge variety available which then begs the question, which one do you choose? As we don’t fry food in our house and my husband has a heart condition, he likes extra virgin olive oil and swears by its healthy properties i.e. the Mediterranean diet. I find olive oil too rich and so I hunted around for an alternative: a lighter oil that was also good for you. What I eventually chose after some research (how did we ever manage without Google?) was gloriously golden rapeseed oil, which has less than half the saturated fat of olive oil. I’ve tried a few brands over the years and personally prefer it now to olive oil.

I was therefore very pleased to be asked by ‘My Foodie Heaven’, the Artisan & Speciality Food online magazine, to review ‘Borderfields’ cold pressed British rapeseed oil and a couple of their infused rapeseed oils. I was provided with a selection of oils and asked to review them honestly and come up with a couple of recipes if I was happy with the product. Luckily, I loved the product and had a lot of fun creating recipes with it.

Firstly, I’ll cover the technical stuff: Borderfields has a near perfect blend of Omega 3 and 6 which are considered to be essential fatty acids because the body cannot manufacture them, plus Omega 9. In fact the omega 3 content is ten times more than you find in olive oil. Borderfields is also a good source of Vitamin E which is known for its antioxidant properties. Borderfields rapeseed oil can be used as a healthy replacement for butter and when baking as well as for dressings, dips, roasts and stir fries.

image2 - Copy (19)I was keen to devise some recipes which would allow the flavour of the oil to shine through without overpowering the other ingredients so what I did first was to test out the garlic infused rapeseed oil on the humble potato. Many people swear by using goose fat for the best roast potatoes but of course vegetarians and vegans can’t eat that and even though I eat meat, for some reason I’m a little squeamish about using goose fat.

So last weekend, I part boiled some Maris Piper potatoes, cut them into chunks and tipped them into a baking tray of hot garlic infused rapeseed oil, tossed them around and put them in a 200 degree C / Gas mark 7 / 400 degree F for 30 minutes. I then turned them over in the pan and put them back in the oven for another half hour. The result was the perfect roastie: soft and fluffy inside and crispy on the outside with a beautiful golden colour and a buttery taste that make you want to dive right in.

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Later in the week, I made spicy garlic potato wedges, also using the garlic infused rapeseed oil. Again, I part boiled the potatoes and cut them into chunky wedges, placed them in a tray of hot oil then sprinkled Barbecue Spice and chilli flakes (from the supermarket) over the top. These needed less time in the oven (same temperatures as for the roast potatoes) so I gave them 20 minutes, then turned them, then gave them 20 minutes more. These definitely had a kick to them and were crunchy and delicious. I found it hard not to keep taking one to ‘test’!

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One evening, we weren’t particularly hungry but fancied something light and flavoursome to eat. I thought a simple bruschetta would be a good idea as we were somewhat overwhelmed with tomatoes in our kitchen and we had some French bread that needed using up. Here’s what I came up with using Borderfields basil infused rapeseed oil:

‘BORDERFIELDS BRUSCHETTA’

image3 - Copy (6)Half a French stick, cut diagonally into 1 cm pieces

I clove of garlic, peeled and left whole

Borderfields basil infused rapeseed oil

3 large, ripe tomatoes, deseeded and finely chopped

I small red onion, peeled and finely chopped

I small red pepper, deseeded and finely chopped (optional)

½ teaspoon of dried red chilli flakes

½ teaspoon caster sugar

Salt and black pepper to taste

A few small leaves of fresh basil

  1. Mix the tomatoes, red onion, red pepper (if using), chilli flakes, caster sugar and salt and pepper together in a bowl and set aside for 30 minutes to allow the flavours to blend
  2. Toast the French bread slices and when slightly cooled, rub the clove of garlic over one side of each slice. Place 3 or 4 slices of the toast on a plate and drizzle a little of the infused basil oil over them
  3. Spoon some of the tomato mixture onto each slice in a little pile and drizzle over a little more of the basil oil.
  4. Artfully place two or three small basil leaves on or around the bruschetta to garnish then serve.

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The infused basil oil in this recipe adds a subtle basil flavour to the dish and enhances the flavours of the rest of the ingredients. Basil and tomatoes is a traditional combination but the addition of some chilli gives the dish a little twist. The bruschetta is great on its own as a grab and go snack but if you add some Italian cold meats and a glass of wine like we did, it’s even better!

Finally, to continue the Italian theme, I decided to create a pesto sauce with the Borderfields cold pressed British rapeseed oil. I like making things that can be kept in the fridge for a while and whipped out to make a fast and tasty meal, as I’m usually pretty pooped by the time I get home from work. Most pesto recipes require you to use pine nuts, which are lovely but expensive and also a bit ‘fatty’ in taste. Also, if you keep them a little too long in the cupboard, they go rancid. I therefore chose to use walnuts as a lot of people are likely to have them in their food cupboards and they are reasonably cheap.

‘BORDERFIELDS BASIL & WALNUT PESTO’

40g walnuts (halves or pieces)

2 medium cloves of garlic, peeled

35g grated parmesan cheese

25g fresh basil leaves

¼ tsp black pepper

¼ tsp salt

175mls Borderfields cold pressed British rapeseed oil

1 tbsp fresh lemon juice

  1. Place walnuts and garlic cloves in a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped
  2. Add the basil leaves, salt and pepper and pulse again until finely chopped
  3. With the food processor running at a low speed, slowly add the rapeseed oil through the feeder tube until incorporated. Turn food processor off.
  4. Add the grated parmesan cheese and the lemon juice and pulse a few times until blended in. You should have a reasonably thick pesto sauce that has a bit of texture.
  5. Put the pesto mix into a small glass jar and refrigerate for up to two weeks.

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You can use the pesto on pasta, tomato and mozzarella salad, potatoes and anything else you fancy!

You’ll see that I had a great time trying out the Borderfields rapeseed oils and I’d certainly recommend them for both flavour and versatility. It’s also great that they are produced in the UK and available all year round.

You can find out more information about Borderfields products (including other infused rapeseed oils like chilli and lemon)  on their website: http://www.borderfields.co.uk.

You can find out more about ‘My Foodie Heaven’ at their website – do go and have a look: http://www.myfoodieheaven.co.uk

Disclaimer: although I was given samples of Borderfields products to review, my opinions represent my honest feedback on the goods provided.  I was not paid to write the review nor did I receive any other financial incentives.

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Win FREE Tickets to The Bakes & Cakes Show, London, 13th – 15th November 2015

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The awfully nice people who organise The Good Food Bakes and Cakes Show have given me 2 free tickets for the show, to pass onto a lucky reader of this blog!

The tickets are valid for either Friday 13th or Sunday 15th November 2015. The Show is at Olympia this year, so it’s easy to reach on public transport.

All you have to do to enter the draw is *FOLLOW MY BLOG* and ideally post a comment underneath this post.

I’ll draw for the winner on Sunday 1st November and announce who the lucky person is on Twitter later in the day. I can only post the tickets to a UK address.

Don’t miss your chance to win tickets to a great day out – you’ll be able to see various cakey bakey celebrities like Great British Bake Off alumni John Whaite, Luis Troyano, and Mary and Paul of course.

See you there!

Tracy x

“Ravens’ Nests” – John Whaite’s Sophisticated Hallowe’en Dessert

John Whaite Raven's Nest

In the lead up to this year’s Good Food Bakes and Cakes Show in London (13th – 15th November 2015 in London), the awfully nice people who organise it are allowing me to share a dessert by John White, the charismatic winner of The Great British Bake Off in 2012. It’s not just any old dessert though – John has created a chocolate cherry delight that will wow your guests at any time, but would go down particularly well at Hallowe’ en.

So if you fancy making – and eating – a rich chocolate cake topped with a light cherry mousse and decorated with chocolate ‘feathers’, read John’s reminiscences about how his mum planned Hallowe’ en and what inspired him to create this recipe. Then go for it!

RAVENS’ NESTS

MAKES 4

Essential equipment

3 disposable piping bags, one fitted with 10mm nozzle, one fitted with a large star nozzle and one with a number 1 writing nozzle

4 mini savarin moulds, greased, frozen, greased again then dusted with flour

Sheet of acetate/baking paper

For the cake

30g cocoa powder

100g dark muscovado sugar

50g hot water

50g Greek yoghurt

1 egg

1 tsp coffee extract (optional)

50g dark chocolate, melted in a heatproof bowl over a pan of barely simmering water

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

50g plain flour

For the cherry mousse

2 gelatine leaves

200g pitted cherries (frozen are cheaper, defrost first)

80g golden caster sugar

250g whipping cream

Red food colouring paste

For the feather decorations

100g dark chocolate, tempered

2 tbsp cocoa powder (optional)

 

When I was a tot mum used to throw the best Halloween parties for us: bin bags torn up and hung from the doorways, cobwebs covering the entire ceiling, and even disco lights in the dining room to create an eerie environment. Bin bags, however effective in the Nineties, wouldn’t quite cut it nowadays, and so I need to impress my guests with food. These little rounds of cake, filled with cherry mousse and adorned with a tempered chocolate plume of feathers, are just the thing for an adult Halloween party. They were inspired by Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘The Raven’, that haunting poem of waiting and fear. These beautifully light chocolate, cherry and coffee cakes are well worth the wait.

 

1 Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/Gas 6.

2 Place the cocoa powder and sugar in a mixing bowl and stir together until well mixed and fairly lumpfree. Add the hot water and stir to a smooth paste, then beat in the yoghurt, egg, extract if using, and the melted chocolate. Sift over the bicarbonate of soda and flour and fold to a smooth batter. Put the batter into the piping bag with a 10mm nozzle and divide between the 4 prepared moulds.

3 Bake for 10–14 minutes, or until a skewer gently inserted into one of the cakes comes out clean. Remove from the oven and de-mould immediately, and allow to cool on a wire rack until completely cold.

4 To make the cherry mousse, soak the gelatine leaves in a jug of cold water – put them into the water one at a time or else they’ll stick together and never dissolve. Blitz the cherries to a mush in a food processor or with a stick blender, then put into a small saucepan and add the sugar. Bring the cherry pulp and sugar to a boil, then simmer and allow to reduce down to a loose compote consistency. While the cherries are still hot, squeeze the surplus moisture out of the gelatine leaves and add to the pan with the cherries. Add the food colouring. Stir until the gelatine has dissolved, then allow to cool completely, but don’t let it set.

5 When the cherry compote is cool, whip the cream to soft, floppy peaks, and gently fold together with the cherry compote. Put the mousse into the piping bag fitted with large star nozzle.

6 Place the chocolate nests on serving plates, and pipe a large, indulgent swirl of the cherry mousse in the centre of each one. Chill until needed.

7 For the tempered chocolate feather, put the tempered chocolate into the piping bag with small writing nozzle. Pipe a fairly thick line of chocolate about 10cm long, then, with the tip of the nozzle, drag the chocolate out diagonally on either side of the line to create a feather shape. Make 12 in total, each a slightly different size, and allow to set at room temperature.

8 Once set, place 3 into the mousse of each Raven’s Nest to create a dramatic, haunting finish. Sift over some cocoa powder if desired.

Luis Troyano’s recipe for Chocolate Hazelnut Star Bread

JS42944408As most of you reading this will know, Luis Troyano took part in the 2014 series of the Great British Bake Off and was in the final along with Nancy Birtwhistle (who won) and Richard Burr. Luis is now a published author – his book is called “Bake it Great” – and he will be appearing at the BBC Good Food Bakes and Cakes Show in London, which this year runs from 13th – 15th November. The nice people at the Bakes and Cakes Show have kindly given me two FREE TICKETS that followers of my blog can win (more about that later).

In order to tempt you even further, they also gave me one of Luis’s delicious recipes from his book to share with you. So please read on to see how you can ‘bake it great’ like Luis and enjoy a delicious bread made with – * drools * – chocolate hazelnut spread.

Chocolate Hazelnut Star Bread (in Luis’s own words)

This is a stunning, delicious chocolate and hazelnut tear and share loaf. If you don’t have a jar of chocolate hazelnut spread handy, you could use jam or marmalade. You can even make a savoury version with a pesto and feta cheese filling. In fact, you can fill it with anything you like as long as it’s not too wet. It looks complicated but is actually very easy to do. I would usually make the dough and prove it overnight in the fridge for improved flavour, before finishing the loaf the next day. But you can make it all in one day if you prefer.

Makes 1 star bread

Time required: 60 minutes preparation and two proves

Baking time: 20–25 minutes

Optimum oven position and setting: centre and no fan, with a baking stone

Essential equipment:

A kitchen mixer fitted with a dough hook

A baking sheet; mine is aluminium and measures 38 x 32cm.

Non-stick baking parchment

A large bag to put the baking sheet into for proving

Ingredients:

135ml boiling water

135ml whole milk

500g strong white bread flour

14g instant yeast

1 tsp fine salt

2 medium eggs

100g soft unsalted butter

rapeseed oil, for greasing

2 tbsp smooth apricot jam

For the filling:

200g chocolate hazelnut spread

finely grated zest of 1 orange

75g chopped roasted hazelnuts

Method:

Add the boiling water to the milk to give you a warm liquid. Place the flour, yeast, salt and eggs in the bowl of a kitchen mixer fitted with a dough hook. When adding the yeast and salt, place them at opposite sides of the bowl. Add two-thirds of the liquid and begin to mix it all together. Add more liquid gradually until all the dry ingredients are picked up and you have a soft dough. You may not need all of the liquid.

Mix for about 8 minutes. You will work through the wet stage and eventually end up with a smooth, soft, silky dough. With the mixer still on, gradually add the butter in thumb-size pieces until it is all incorporated and the dough is smooth and shiny.

Lightly oil a large bowl and place the dough in it. Cover it with cling film or a shower cap and leave it on one side until doubled in size. Depending on your room temperature, this can take 1 hour, but it’ll be fine for 2 hours.

Find the largest round plate you have that will fit completely on your baking sheet.

When the dough has proved, tip it out onto a lightly floured surface (I use rice flour). Fold the dough over on itself several times to knock the air out of it. Divide the dough into two equal pieces. Roll out one half of the dough on a piece of non-stick baking parchment into a circle just a little larger than your plate. Place the plate on the dough and trim around it with a knife.

To make the filling, place the chocolate spread in a heatproof bowl. Warm it gently in a microwave to make it runny. Using a palette knife, spread it evenly over the dough, leaving about 1cm bare all around the edge. Sprinkle over the orange zest and 50g of the chopped hazelnuts. (You could also sprinkle any other finely chopped nuts or dried fruit of your choice.)

Roll out the other half of the dough on a lightly floured surface and trim to the same size circle. Carefully place it over the chocolate-covered dough and press to seal around the edges.Luis Troyano - Folding star bread photo

Get a small bowl with a diameter of about 12cm and make a light imprint in the centre of the dough circle. Using a sharp knife, cut 16 equally spaced slices up to the circle imprint. The easy way to do that is to cut four evenly spaced, then another four in between those and so on. Gently lift each slice, spin over twice and lay back down. This will give you the amazing pattern. Twisting in one direction only will give you the pattern depicted in the photograph on page 110. Twisting each alternate section in opposite directions will give you the pattern depicted on page 111.

Slide the whole thing onto the baking sheet. Place the baking sheet inside a large bag to prove. Make sure the bag doesn’t touch the dough. Prove again for about an hour until doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 200°C fan/220°C/ 390°F/gas 7. Place your rack just below the centre of the oven. Bake the bread for about 20–25 minutes until golden.

Warm the apricot jam and brush it over the hot bread to glaze it. Sprinkle some chopped hazelnuts in the centre circle of the loaf – use a pastry cutter to sprinkle into and get a perfect circle of nuts. Eat warm or cold.

Luis Troyano - star bread finished photo

Luis Troyano’s new book Bake it Great – Pavilion is out now. Recipe image credit to Clare Winfield. Luis will be cooking live on stage at BBC Good Food Shows this Autumn.

  • HOW YOU COULD WIN FREE TICKETS *

If you want the chance to win TWO FREE TICKETS to the BBC Good Food Bakes and Cake Show in London, you’ll need to FOLLOW my blog and my Twitter account @TheLittlePK and then you’ll be entered into a draw. I’ll announce the winner on Sunday 1st November 2015 via Twitter. The tickets can only be posted to a UK address – the winner will need to provide me with this (it won’t be shared with anyone else).

Good Luck!

Tracy

How I Became a Food Blogger

I was off work last week due to minor surgery on my toe which was accompanied by a rotten cold so I was feeling rather miserable. However, sitting at home on the sofa with my foot elevated for a couple of days did allow for some time for contemplation.

I’m inherently quite a curious (alright, nosey) person and I love hearing about how people ended up doing the jobs they do or leading the lives they have. I then started to think about how I came to set up my blog because I find the history of such things fascinating. Bloggers all have different stories to tell about how they began so I thought I’d share mine.

Two and a half years ago, I was sitting on the same sofa with my leg elevated but for a far more serious reason. In March 2013, I was hit by a car as I was running across a road (after my dog which had scarpered during a walk in the park) and subsequently suffered a badly broken right leg and a head injury. I think the fact that I’m quite a generously proportioned lady of a certain age (!) and therefore quite robustly built was what ensured that I wasn’t killed (the driver must have been doing at least 50 mph in a 30 mph zone) because apparently I was thrown through the air and landed in the middle of a crossroads. I don’t remember the impact or the landing – as I was knocked unconscious and the next few days were a blur due to the vast amounts of morphine I was given. At least the dog was OK.

Only a few months before the accident I’d set up my small home baking business (to run alongside my day job in HR) having registered with my local Council, completed an online Food Hygiene course and given my new enterprise the name of ‘The Little Pink Kitchen’ because my kitchen is quite small and the walls are pink. I attended a cupcake decorating workshop run by the 2011 Great British Bake Off winner Jo Wheatley and thoroughly enjoyed myself. It was the first time I’d really played around with cutters, moulds and sugar paste and I was hooked from the start. Orders were steadily coming in and I did a few bake sales and got my name out there locally. All things considered, I was feeling rather good about things at that time.

But then, the accident changed my life. I got over the head injury relatively quickly – although I must say that you do get quite a bad headache when your head comes into contact with a road from a great height! The leg took longer as initially I had a ‘tibial nail’ holding it together (basically a titanium rod from knee to ankle – with screws in) but the bone didn’t heal so after 6 months it was removed and I had a plate put in, which on the X-ray looked like a long piece of meccano. (If you are under the age of 40, you’ll probably have to google ‘meccano’.)

With these surgeries came a lengthy recuperation period involving crutches, no weight-bearing with no cast, then light weight-bearing with a cast (I had a pink one!) then an air boot all followed by months of physiotherapy learning how to walk again. It took almost two years for life to get back to a relative ‘normal’ state. My poor husband didn’t know whether he was coming or going as he had to look after me and the dog as well as trying to do his job. It was a very difficult and emotional time for both of us.

Although I couldn’t do any baking or cooking for several months, I kept my hand in with the cakey bakey world via Twitter (mostly) and other social media using my trusty iPad. Well, it was a better option than watching day time television – I think that really would have finished me off.

I was delighted to find such an active online baking community on Twitter. I made contact with a lot of home bakers and people who had started their own baking and cake businesses, both on a small and a large scale. I was surprised to find that people who wrote blogs could make serious money by doing it. I remember thinking that it must be wonderful to earn a living doing something you love. I work in HR dealing with the problematic side of people management, things like disciplinary hearings, poor performance and absence so a lot of what I deal with on a daily basis can be quite negative and it definitely drains you. Making cakes and pottering around the kitchen makes me happy and the worst thing for me about the accident was that I couldn’t do it for months.

As time went on, I got back into the kitchen and started baking again, just on a small scale for pleasure. I found baking to be very therapeutic: it took my mind off my troubles and there was something nice to eat at the end. At the same time, the thought of returning to my job was not making me feel particularly happy. It was a very large company with over 16,000 employees and there had been a lot of changes while I’d been away. I think my managers were wondering if I’d ever come back given the recovery time after the operations and I sensed that their sympathy was waning, which to be honest was quite hurtful. Anyway, an opportunity came for me to leave in mid 2014 when there was a restructure and I took it because financially it was worth it and it felt like a great relief.

Since then, I’ve found alternative HR work that I enjoy and I’m now baking and cooking much more often and feeling a lot happier. I’ve attended courses at Squires Kitchen and a celebration cake decorating course at Konditor and Cook at Borough Market and I highly recommend both. Late last year I started writing monthly articles and recipes for a local newspaper but this offered only limited opportunities going forward. It was at that point that I had a ‘light bulb moment’ when I realised that if I set up my own blog, I could write about anything I liked, with no limits.

So what did I like? Well, cakes and baking obviously but I also love trying out new kitchen gadgets, visiting food festivals, cake and baking shows, developing recipes, reviewing books, products, cafes, tea shops and so much more. So www.thelittlepinkkitchen.com was born earlier this year after a brief time writing under a WordPress heading.

Recently I’ve been actively making new foodie contacts and networking as although I write my blog for pleasure and don’t make any money from it (one day perhaps…..) I would like it to contain things that people really want to read about and find entertaining. I have some projects in the pipeline which I’m very excited about and have been sent some items to review so I’ll be getting around to that very soon.

What’s the selling point for my blog, I hear you ask. Well, I’m an all-round foodie (as my waistline makes only too clear) so I cover quite a range of topics which adds variety to my blog. I’ve received feedback that I have an engaging style of writing with a quirky sense of humour that comes through in my posts. I’m not paid to write posts so my opinions are my own which means I can be totally honest although I would never be unkind or malicious. (See my earlier post on ‘blogger blackmail’ for an insight of what can happen when bloggers are unreasonable.)

I’ll finish by saying that it’s been interesting for me to reflect on events over the last two years and I can honestly say that if the accident hadn’t happened, my blog probably wouldn’t exist and I wouldn’t have made friends with some wonderful people via Twitter, especially the Sunday Baking Club crowd.

You all know who you are. Thank you for your on-going friendship and support.

Warming & Fragrant Autumn Squash Soup

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I’ve been feeling a bit sorry for myself this week having had minor surgery (on an ingrowing toenail if you must know) and a rotten cold so I was in desperate need of cheering up. Whenever I’m ill – which fortunately isn’t too often – my thoughts turn to comfort food. I definitely crave soup when I’m under the weather and this recipe has become my favourite. It doesn’t take too long to prepare and the kitchen smells wonderful when it’s bubbling away.

So instead of wallowing in self pity – which was not impressing the husband or the dog – I made soup which is actually so robust that it makes an excellent lunch served with a chunk of crusty bread to mop up the bowl with at the end.

Ingredients

2 tablespoons coconut oil

I medium white onion, peeled & finely diced

I large clove of garlic, peeled & crushed

½ teaspoon dried red chilli flakes

4 kaffir lime leaves, crushed into very small pieces

1 heaped tablespoon unsweetened desiccated coconut

1 small to medium butternut squash (or 1 small pumpkin), peeled, seeds removed & chopped into 2cm cubes

1 x 400ml tin coconut milk

800mls water

1 vegetable stock cube (I used Knorr vegetable stock pot)

2 big handfuls of fresh spinach, washed and drained

Salt & pepper to taste

Method

  1. Over a medium heat, melt the coconut oil in a solid bottomed pan and add the chopped onion and crushed garlic. Allow to cook, occasionally stirring, until the onion is soft and translucent but not browned.
  2. Add the dried red chilli flakes, the crushed kaffir lime leaves and the desiccated coconut and stir to combine. Add the chopped butternut squash or pumpkin cubes and stir everything for one minute.
  3. Add the tin of coconut milk and the water plus the stock cube and stir. Allow the soup to bubble gently uncovered for 12 – 15 minutes until the squash is just tender when pricked with a knife.
  4. Add the washed spinach to the pan and stir for about a minute until it has wilted.
  5. Ladle the soup into bowls, eat and enjoy. Add salt and pepper to taste.

The Cake & Bake Show – London 2015

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I was lucky enough to be allocated a Press Pass for this year’s Cake & Bake Show in London and despite having a cold that was getting worse by the hour, I toddled off to Excel on the morning of Friday 2nd October 2015 full of excitement. My journey via bus, tube and two lots of the DLR (Docklands Light Railway for non-Londoners) took a fair while but it’s worth it when you end up at a marvellous event like the C&B Show. I have to say that I’m always amazed by the amount of work that goes into setting up these events. The venue is huge – it’s vast like an aircraft hangar when you walk into the main doors at Excel – and there are so many stands, cakes and people that it takes your breath away. The first photo in this post is of the official Cake and Bake Show cake – it really was a stunner.

I came prepared this time with a plan of what I’d do first and seeing the competition cakes was a must. Going earlyish on the first day of the Show means that the judging is still under way so you don’t know who the winners are until later on. I did catch sight of celebrity chefs Phil Vickery and Rosemary Schrader judging some of the ‘Children’s’ Story’ themed cakes, with their heads down, deep in judgely conversation.

There were lots of people desperate to get a good view of the competition cakes made by professional and amateur bakers alike and so I couldn’t always get a good photograph as I’m not the sort of person who elbows others out of the way! Here are some of the ‘ Childrens’ Story’ themed cakes that caught my eye:

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After escaping from the bustling crowds around the competition area, I headed for the stands to see what goodies were available to buy. It’s fortunate that visitors to the show are issued with a floor plan of the venue because it was very easy to get lost there! One of the first people I saw was Steven Dotsch from The Speculaas Spice Company – http://www.speculaasspice.co.uk. Steven’s spice mix contains a mixture of nine organic spices including cinnamon, cloves, ginger plus 6 other secret spices and can be used in sweet dishes as well as savoury. Steven kindly gave me a sample of his spice mix so I will be using it as soon as I can in a cake or biscuits. Here is Steven at his stand:

Steven Dotsch

I then spotted the very attractive stand – lots of pink! – of ‘Scrumptious Sprinkles’ which despite its name doesn’t just sell sprinkles. While there are indeed sprinkles for all occasions and a beautiful selection of some that can be classed as more sophisticated than the generally child-orientated hundreds and thousands, there were cake tins, cupcake cases, biscuit cutters and a lot more. I bought a set of Christmas biscuit cutters which represented my first purchase this year of a festive item. The stand was very busy and it clearly was proving hard for the shoppers to limit themselves to buying just one pot of sprinkles. You can buy online too at http://www.scrumptious.uk.net. Here is a photo of Niki one of the lovely ‘boss ladies’ who didn’t really want her photo taken!

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One of the things I really like about going to cake or food shows is that there are always tasters available. If you plan your circuit well, you could probably do without lunch and just go around the stands trying out various things. The Cake and Bake Show is good because there are non cakey food suppliers there too. I sampled quite a lot of cheese, some olives, biscuits, marshmallows, oils & vinegars, fudge so I definitely didn’t need any lunch!

One of the stands with samples available was “Arapina” – http://www.arapina.co.uk. At first, I thought it was simple jam but I was told that the ‘teaspoon desserts’ – a symbol of Greek hospitality – were created to preserve fruits, vegetables, nuts and flowers. The name comes from the habit of serving them on a small plate. By using a few simple ingredients such as fruit, sugar, herbs and a touch of lemon, the raw material keeps its original shape, colour and flavour as well as its nutritional properties. I particularly like the sour cherry and the walnut varieties so I bought a large jar of each. I could see them being used as toppings for ice creams or other desserts, porridge and yoghurt as well as for making cakes. Arapina also makes gluten and dairy free cakes – have a look at their website for more information. Here is a photo of the Arapina ladies:

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I made sure I said hello to the people at one of my favourite suppliers ‘Sugar and Crumbs’ who sell a range of naturally flavoured icing sugars and cocoa powders. I’ve used their products previously and have written about them and created recipes for their blog. Again, their stand was very busy so I thought I’d better nab a couple of packets of the Christmas flavoured icing sugars as they clearly were in demand. I’m looking forward to trying them out, especially ‘Santa’s Snowball’ which has the flavour of white chocolate – one of my favourite things. (I’m a child of the 1960s and I still remember the television adverts with the Milky Bar Kid. I think that’s what set me off down that route…..). I recommend that you have a look at their website both to purchase some items but also to look at the recipes that are there – http://www.sugarandcrumbs.co.uk.

I can’t list all the stalls I visited but my some of my favourites included: Baker & Maker, Cake Craft World, Drury & Alldis oils and vinegars, It’s a Baking Thing, Purple Cupcakes, Simply Vintage Designs and Snowdonia Cheese Company.

Of course, the supplier stands are just part of the Cake and Bake Show. There were also demonstrations and classes going on over the three days and so you could have seen people like Eric Lanlard, John White, Lisa Faulkner, Jo Wheatley, Rosemary Schrager and lots more. I dipped in and out of a few demos which were all very well-attended although I was a little disappointed that on the day I was there, Eric Lanlard wasn’t!

However I did bump into Edd Kimber, who won the first Great British Bake Off back in 2010. He’s written three books to date and I mentioned that I’d recently made his lemon madeleines from ‘Patisserie Made Simple’ , to which he replied that was his favourite book of the three. He also added that he was working on book number four so that will be something to look forward to in 2016. I cheekily asked him to pose for a photo which he kindly did but I can’t help thinking that I look like his grandmother.. Note to self: consider dyeing the hair!image1 - Copy (23)

In summary, if you want a great day out surrounded by cake and foodie people, the Cake and Bake Show is an essential place to go. I’d suggest sturdy shoes as there’s lots of walking involved when the venue is as large as Excel, a couple of strong bags to carry home your goodies (a shopping trolley would be even better), and a credit card that can take a bashing because you will buy too much! If you can’t get to London, there are also shows in Manchester and Edinburgh so wherever you are in the UK, you should be able to experience one.