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

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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.

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.

Fun With Friends, Cakes and An Extra Slice!

IMG_1543I’ve previously mentioned that I belong to a Twitter-based group called ‘The Sunday Baking Club’. During the week a baking theme is set for the following weekend and on the Sunday, people post photographs on Twitter of their creations. The top 10 are selected and put to a public vote. Whoever gains the most votes wins the big prize, namely a ‘virtual’ Golden Spoon Award. With an incentive like that, who wouldn’t want to take part?

Anyway, the BBC picked up that the group existed and Dominique the organiser was asked if any members would like to attend filming of ‘An Extra Slice’, which is the spin off to ‘The Great British Bake Off’ and airs on a Friday night. A robust group of individuals (me included) took up this exciting opportunity and on Sunday 20th September 2015 we found ourselves heading to Waterloo station to meet up before heading to the TV studio nearby. I didn’t have to travel too far as I live in Surrey / south London but I was astounded to see that other Bake Off loving Sunday Baking Club fans had travelled from the Midlands, Staffordshire, Norfolk and even Leeds to attend the filming. Now that is true dedication to the baking cause. Some of the attendees had met previously while others identified themselves by their Twitter names which was very amusing but put everyone at ease right away. It did feel a little weird though saying “I’m The Little PK. How do you do?”!

Of course, our group didn’t just consist of a number of bodies – there were large amounts of cake and patisserie items too – well it was ‘patisserie week’ after all. I’m in awe of those people who travelled great distances with large boxes while navigating trains, tubes and buses and managed to keep their bakes in one piece.

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We trooped of to the ITV studios and arrived at 1.15pm to be checked in. Here’s the group photograph taken in the reception area. What a fine, upstanding bunch of cakey bakey enthusiasts we are. Can you tell we were just a little bit excited?

We were given rather fetching lilac wristbands and then were escorted to a room where we had to sign a confidentiality agreement. This was because we would be seeing the following week’s episode and would know before the general population who was booted out. After that, we unveiled our cakes and bakes and a chap called Oliver walked round asking people for details of what they had made. The TV team were clearly going to highlight any unusual or interesting bakes that would be discussed during filming. image2 - Copy (15)

I’m afraid that I wasn’t able to bring anything spectacular. As I’d spent the day before viewing houses, I hadn’t had time to make a large cakey extravaganza so I’d kept it simple with lemon madeleines and cherry bakewell chocolate dipped Viennese whirls. They tasted rather good though so I was pleased with them. (I used Edd Kimber’s recipe for the Madeleine which was in his book “Patisserie Made Simple”.) At least I had something to display when the phrase “Show us your bakes” was announced later on.

However, some of the Sunday Baking Club devotees had come up with some great creations – more about those later.

All this took us to almost 2pm when we were told we wouldn’t be needed until 3.45pm so most of us toddled across to the pub and had lunch which involved varying degrees of sausages and mash, fish and chips and possibly someone had a salad. I’m not quite sure what that was about when the day was all about cake and indulgence. However, it does explain why some people are slim and I’m not! We knew it was going to be a long day so we needed to fuel up while we had the chance. Ahem. Let’s move on……

Back at the studio and after a bit of hanging around and a briefing from the Extra Slice producer, we were led into the area where filming would take place. Our group was fortunate that we were all seated in ‘First Class’ i.e. at the tables close to where Jo Brand and the celebrity guest panel would be sitting. Except that Jo Brand was not available that day and so the lovely Sarah Millican was standing in.

We watched the following week’s episode and therefore were aware of who got knocked out. As I’m posting this after this has become public knowledge and after the Extra Slice show has aired, I can now say that I was very disappointed that Paul the Prison Governor left this week. He’d had a few hairy moments earlier on in the series and it was sad to see that patisserie week got the better of him. I was hoping he would be in the final but it wasn’t to be.

After we’d seen the episode, the panel came in and filming started. The panel consisted, as usual, of three people and I’m embarrassed to say that I’d only heard of Gregg Wallace. The patisserie expert was a lady called Cherish Finden who is the Executive Pastry Chef at the Langham Hotel. It seems one of her finest moments was making doughnuts for Lady Gaga but from what she said, they were above average doughnuts. The other panellist was a (very) young comedian called Joe Lycett who was quite funny and had a style of delivery reminiscent of Julian Clary (who is more my age group). Sarah Millican introduced the proceedings and discussed the episode with the panel. I thought she did a good job of covering for Jo Brand (who I would have liked to see) but Sarah does talk remarkably quickly and I found it a bit of a challenge keeping up with her!

The filming then moved to showing bakes – both good and bad – that had been sent in via social media. The less successful bakes did elicit a few sniggers but they were very funny. I think it’s great that people can make fun of themselves and are such good sports.

And then, the moment I’d been looking forward to – some of the Sunday Baking Club members were picked out to discuss their bakes which was great fun. Rebecca talked about her ‘drunken Mary Berry’ cake

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and John spoke about his elegant looking ‘chocolate and Marmite macarons’ which clearly intrigued the panel, who insisted on tasting them. Now I’d tasted one of these earlier in the afternoon and John didn’t mention Marmite to me at the time. I found it to be delicious but either my taste buds are lacking or I have got used to Marmite but I could only sense a rich chocolatey flavour, certainly no hint of the savoury yeastiness that you either love or hate.

One or two other bakes were picked out for discussion but I wasn’t close enough to see them properly. And then hilarity ensued when a lady was asked to show what she had brought along and it was – apparently – a hedgehog made of choux pastry with a few chocolate fingers added. Well, the studio dissolved into laughter as quite frankly, it looked like a hedgehog that had been run over. It looked like roadkill. To paraphrase the Monty Python dead parrot sketch (yes, I am that old….), “The hedgehog is no more. It has ceased to be. This is a late hedgehog. It’s a stiff.” You get my drift.

And then came the big moment when poor evicted Paul was interviewed about his performance during patisserie week and his thoughts on the whole Bake Off experience. I thought he was a lovely chap even when he was ribbed about his flat Genoise cake and his banana disasters. Given the amount of time that was spent filming the panel discussions which was then going to be edited down to fit the half hour time slot for the programme, I felt that not much time was spent on Paul and his story but that’s life I suppose. The filming concluded with Sarah Millican recording the trailers for the programme and redoing a couple of earlier talky bits.

We, the audience, didn’t leave the TV studio until almost 8.30pm so it turned out to be a very long day although it was good fun (bar the various times spent hanging around). I love meeting up with fellow baking enthusiasts and the members of the Sunday Baking Club are a great group of people. I went home tired but happy with a warm, fuzzy glow after meeting up with the cakey crowd. The fact that I was also clutching a box of marvellous macarons given to me by SBC member Joyce rounded off the day nicely.

Having now viewed the programme, I was a bit disappointed that I’d blended into the background so well that the cameras completely missed me (apart from one fleeting glimpse at the beginning) thus depriving me of even 15 seconds of fame. BUT it was lovely that my baking friend John had his Marmite macarons tasted and discussed by the panel and to see bakes by other friends getting some screen time. Sadly Rebecca’s cake (pictured above) didn’t make the final cut.

I leave you with a final cake made by Clare that was fabulous but perhaps a little too risqué for the BBC!

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A Grand Day Out at the BBC Good Food Show

I was kindly allocated a press pass (as a person with a food blog) to attend the BBC Good Food Show at Hampton Court which is running for 3 days from Saturday 29th to Monday 31st August 2015. I appreciated the opportunity to see what BBC Good Food would do with an all round Food Festival as most of the shows I’ve been to over the last couple of years have had a cake and baking theme.

Hampton Court is a fantastic venue for an event like a food festival. The extensive grounds mean that the stands aren’t squashed together in tight rows and you can walk around feeling you’re stepping on anyone else’s toes. When I arrived in the early afternoon, the sun was shining, there was live music playing in a pretty bandstand and there was a very lively atmosphere. The rain did sadly make an appearance later on in the day but at least I’d packed a small but efficient umbrella just in case.

I decided that as there were almost 100 foodie related stands to see, it was easiest to have an initial browse to see what was there and then to revisit stands with the goodies that tempted me the most. What I really like about food festivals like this is the variety. Some companies that exhibited this time were already well known such as ‘Bonne Maman’, ‘Montezuma’s Chocolates’, ‘The Garlic Farm’ and ‘Vitamix’ but then you see the sometimes relatively new producers that wow you with their offerings. I saw lots of things I liked and I could have spent a fortune but as I had used public transport to get to the event, I had to be realistic about what I could reasonably carry back with me.

Much as I loved many of the items on display, I couldn’t buy from everyone. I’d like to give a special mention to ‘The Tipsy Tart’ (www.thetipsytart.co.uk) having sampled their caramel infused vodka; ‘Pukara Estate’  (ww.pukara-estate.co.uk) who produce flavoured oils and vinegars with real depth, and ‘Oppo’ (www.oppoicecream.co.uk) who make luxury, healthy ice cream using virgin coconut oil, stevia leaf, fresh milk and superfoods. I tried the salted caramel and lucuma ice cream and it was excellent but alas, I couldn’t take home a pot as it would have melted after a lengthy journey home on public transport.

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If you ever get he chance to try the Pukara Estate products, I recommend the lime infused olive oil mixed with some of their caramelised balsamic vinegar as it combines well to make a flavourful dip for crusty bread.

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I also spent half an hour in the company of John Whaite, who in 2012 won the Great British Bake Off. Well, actually I watched him do a live cookery demonstration in the Summer Kitchen Theatre. I was somewhat taken aback – although really chuffed – when he said hello to me. He must have remembered me from the recent Foodies Festival on Clapham Common when I walked with him from the tube station to the event and we had a god chat. I hope he doesn’t have me pegged as a stalker when I’m simply a bit of a food enthusiast. John’s recipe for Korean fried chicken smelled so good but sadly it was whipped away after the demo for the crew to eat. Pfffft. What was that about? John did say he would put the recipe on Twitter so do look out for it.

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I was lucky to be in the front row, hence the close up picture. If ever you get the opportunity to watch John doing a demonstration, I’m sure you’ll be charmed by his sense of humour.

I didn’t get the chance to see any of the interviews that took place on the Interview Stage and so also missed out on the possibility of winning a Lakeland voucher. Never mind…… Next time……

I’m going to write separate posts about some of the producers I saw, namely ‘Pinkster Gin’, ‘Coole Swan Irish Cream’ and ‘The Flavoured Shortbread Bakery’ as I think they deserve a few column inches in their own right.

I left the BBC Good Food Festival having enjoyed a really good experience. Due to time constraints, I didn’t get the chance to eat and I was disappointed not to have squeezed in a light meal at ‘The Bingham Pop Up Restaurant’. There are other BBC Good Food Shows coming up later in the year so next time I won’t miss out.

Finally, I’d like to say what a pleasure it was to meet up with my friend Kevin who writes a food and craft blog called ‘The Crafty Larder’. He’d travelled down from Norwich for the event at Hampton Court which just goes to show that you can never keep a chap away from good food. Here we are in the front row at John White’s demo.

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Tea & Cake with Lisa Faulkner

IMG_1287My name is Tracy and I’m a recipe book-aholic. There, I’ve said it. I’m officially out and definitely do not need treatment! I am however a little selective with regard to exactly what recipe books I add to my already groaning shelves. The recipes have to be “do-able” for starters. Now you may think this is obvious but having had the occasional disaster following recipes devised by really “cheffy” chefs, I now only buy cook books written by people I can identify with in some way. People who seem “normal” and approachable, with a non-patronising writing style. I’m a home cook and baker, I don’t need a five Michelin star super-chef guiding me around my little pink kitchen (yes, it really is pink) making over-fluffed food.

I can safely say that most of the recipe books I’ve bought over the last 2 – 3 years have been cake, baking, or sugar craft related with the odd exception, like Alex Hollywood’s recent book “My Busy Kitchen” which has some great mealtime dishes in it. I heartily recommend her new potato salad which has yoghurt in the dressing. There are a lot of other very good things in it too so that’s one to request if you have a birthday coming up.

So for this post, I thought I’d review one of the the latest cakey bakey recipe books that I’ve purchased, which happens to be “Tea and Cake with Lisa Faulkner”. I am a big fan of Lisa, having seen her on stage at cake shows last year and having agonised with her and cheered her on during her time on Celebrity Masterchef a few years ago. If you take away the facts that she’s blonde, slim, attractive, has a great new career (after being a successful actress) as a TV chef, Lisa does actually seem very normal and down to earth! And in case you are wondering how I “identify” with Lisa (as per my opening paragraph), it’s the normal, down to earth bit I refer to. I’ve never been blonde, I think I was slim once upon a time for a short while in my 20s and I don’t have a glamorous TV career but I can appreciate people who do! Amazon was offering Lisa’s book at a very good price and so I bought it and plonked myself down on the sofa and browsed through it on the day it arrived.

Well, I was hooked right away. Lisa has a really friendly, chatty writing style and clearly loves a decent cuppa and some cake or biscuits to go with it. I do however, unlike Lisa, draw the line at Earl Grey tea as for me, that never goes down well.

The book is divided into 6 chapters: Biscuits; Sweet Things; Cakes; Chocolate; Teatime and Tarts and Pies. There is therefore some type of cake or bake to suit everyone. I was pleased to see recipes for several things I haven’t tried, such as fondant fancies (do you remember the contestants one year in The Great British Bake Off had them as a technical challenge?), Battenburg, madeleines, clafoutis, and more. There is even a rather naughty recipe for peanut butter cheesecake! Each recipe is accompanied by a large photograph so you know what the final result should look like. I really can’t understand why some recipe books omit photographs – if you’ve never tried a recipe before, you need to know you are heading along the right track with it. Another good thing is that the ingredients lists are simple – you don’t get put off by thinking you have to visit specialist shops to source items to make a cake.

So overall, I’d recommend Lisa’s book to anyone wanting to prepare a decent spread for an afternoon tea or a one off batch of biscuits, or a pie or a cake. The recipes are definitely “do-able” and will surely taste as good as they look in the photographs.

Lisa – I eagerly await your next book. Please do more cakes. One can never tire of cakes. I thank you.

 

Posted in my previous blog March 2015

My new and – hopefully – improved blog

image1 - Copy (9)Well hello there! Some readers may know that I had a blog previously which I didn’t get to work on too often due to things such as work, life and house selling getting in the way. Well those three things are still there (the house selling is the most frustrating of them all) but I’ve decided that I really need to get off my not insubstantial behind and do some writing. It’s something I really like doing and it’s cheaper than therapy so I really need to crack on with it. I don’t necessarily want to be ‘Blogger of the Year’ although it’s a nice feeling if someone enjoys your posts and makes a positive comment.

To start off, I’ll set out how I think my blog will look. Firstly, it’s going to be a very simple layout as I’m using the free bit of WordPress because I’m not a very technical person. My previous blog was set up by a chap who did a great job but required paying for his services! As I wasn’t finding the time to post regularly I thought it wasn’t cost effective to keep paying a monthly fee so that’s why now it’s just WordPress and me, finding our way together.

Secondly, although this will be mostly a food blog I will occasionally write about other things that I like. There are definitely things I like apart from food ………. Really, there are ……… So you may see things like book reviews (OK usually recipe books), reports on my visits to cake shows or foodie events, product or ingredients reviews (I have posted reviews and recipes for Sugar and Crumbs flavoured icing sugars and have received samples of Wrights Flours and Cake Mixes and posted about them previously). In the future, I hope to develop relationships with other suppliers who want to get their products ‘out there’. And I should say that I’m a very fair reviewer – even if I get products for free – because it helps nobody if feedback isn’t true. I always make an effort to review tea shops, cafes and restaurants that I’ve eaten in because good places should be praised and the poorer ones need to be given reasons to improve. I admire anyone who sets up his / her own cake or food business. It’s hard work and you have to be dedicated. I’ve seen a lot of people on Twitter or Facebook that I now call my friends transform from being good home bakers into foodie world ‘celebrities’ and I like to publicise their efforts whenever I can.

For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Tracy and I live in Wallington, Surrey, but we are hoping to move to Norfolk once we’ve sold our house. Which may not be in this lifetime the way it’s going. I work in HR for a local College, and I live with my husband Andrew and a cocker spaniel called Millie who we rescued from a puppy farm. My son is 29 and my daughter is nearly 26. They both have partners and flew the nest quite a while ago. They return occasionally for a roast dinner and cake. My love of baking and sweet treats has led to a teensy weensy weight problem (well, a big one really) and so I’m currently on a healthy eating regime and have lost over 2 stone since March 2015. My weight loss journey will feature from time to time on my blog but please shoot me if I become a diet bore.

The current logo for The Little Pink Kitchen will be changing in a couple of months as although I like it, I want one to reflect that this blog will not just be about cakes and bakes but also about savoury things including main meals and all sorts of other foods that I like. For example,  I’m currently enjoying simple, healthy Japanese recipes using the Itsu cookbook (almost every day) and the dishes I’ve been preparing are definitely helping me to win the battle of the bulge.

And if you were wondering how I happened to choose the name for my blog (and the small cake business I have as an occasional sideline), look at the photo that accompanies this post. Yes, my kitchen really is pink and it’s also quite small. I really didn’t have to think too hard about that, did I?

That’s all for now. I’ll be back as soon as I can with a new post. I hope you will enjoy my new blog.

Tracy x