Archive | April, 2013

Decoupage Cows, Panda Cupcakes and Other Nonsense.

30 Apr

The time has finally come, dear readers, to unveil the astonishing piece of art I prepared for Dave’s birthday.

Feast your eyes on this:

IMG_2166

Yes! Gasp you should!

For those of you who are none the wiser about these ‘amoosements’ (one of Dave’s, not mine!), here is an excerpt from my Liebster Award post that hopefully explains the madness succinctly 🙂

So I am very pleased with the result, only I do wish I’d gone for the jeans-style decoupage paper to give the little guy some comfy trews! Dave likes the 70s vibe he’s got going on though, so all is well. I also thought his shoes deserved laces, but… one can go too far…

So yes! The 30th is Dave’s birthday.

IMG_9939

And of course that means cake.

025

BUT it is also my babe of a brother’s birthday!!! And that means MORE cake!

024

I believe I mentioned how inundated I am with birthdays this month (thank God it is May tomorrow – even if it is a bit ‘say whaaaaat? May already!?’) in my Celebrations of April post… Sorry about all the references to previous posts guys but this whole cownundrum (haaaaaa) has had quite a build up for me 😛

Yes, so as I was saying, a shed-load of birthdays, but I just want to underline the fact that I don’t mean to shadow all of the other special people’s birthdays in favour of Dave’s for any other reason than COWS!!! And LOOK WHAT I MADE!!! Sorry Dave, no offence 😀 cows.

And pandas.

I thought they would please my brother as they are suitably kitsch and all the rest of it. Plus I made one of them a saaaad panda which correlates with one of his most often used quotes 🙂

I would say that they pleased me too, but after laboriously decorating 3 cows and 3 pandas, I defy anyone to get tired of the repetition. Especially when you have a poorly shoulder and… enough moaning. I also made the mistake of stacking the finished articles in a cake tin. MISTAAAAAAAAKE I tell you! The eyes are the hardest parts to do and of course they were all smudged and had to be redone. These cakes are not stackable or easy to travel with. They take patience, love and strong healthy shoulders. But they are adorable :3

It took an awfully long time because the recipe I used did not state how many cakes it was for… So I assumed that if there were going to be enough cakes for two birthdays then I’d have to double the amounts. WRRONG! The mixture was enough for 48 normal-sized cakes. Please bear in mind that the aforementioned recipe was for MINI cupcakes. Mind-blown.

Boredom, by the way, did account for a few of the weirder cakes. I don’t know if you spotted the odd one out on the previous picture? Have another go:

023

It’s a dolphin. Yes. Harry Potter also adorned the face of one cupcake, as did farm animals in a hot tub (also featured above) and the love’s artistic impression of himself.

So, moving on to the recipe which I will re-halve so that it is intended to make 24 normal-sized cupcakes 🙂

Serves 24.

Oh! (sorry, so much to fit into this post!) The cake recipe is in cups, the icing isn’t – I hope that isn’t an issue. If it is, I will totally do the honours of converting things for you 😀

For the Cakes:

  • 1 1/2 cup plain flour
  • 2/3 cup cocoa (unsweetened)
  • 1 1/3 cup caster sugar
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil (or other non-flavourful oil)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 2/3 cup hot water

For the Frosting:

  • 400g cream cheese
  • 200g icing sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

For the Decoration:

First of all, a note on decoration: if you’ve taken a look at the recipe I used, you will see that the cupcakes over on there are super beautiful, perfect and all the rest of it. Trust me, if I thought I could find white sanding sugar, a black edible ink pen and pastel confetti sprinkles without too much bother then I would have. The effect is amazing. I improvised with caster sugar, leftover icing and black designer icing which comes in it’s own decorator bag… not as neat but it did the trick.

  • Icing (see above) 
  • Black designer icing
  • Caster sugar
  • Chocolate chips
  • Chocolate buttons
  • Chocolate sprinkles
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°c and prepare a cupcake tray with cupcake cases. 
  2. In a large bowl, mix all of the dry cake ingredients together.
  3. Add the eggs, oil, milk and vanilla. Mix until well combined. Add the hot water, mix and DON’T PANIC! At this stage the concoction in front of you will look like a pool of… well, brown liquid. Have faith! Keep mixing until there is some body to the mixture. It will still seem too fluid, but the cakes turn out gorgeously moist once baked. Just go with it.
  4. Fill the cupcake cases about half way up. They rise A LOT! Then bake for 15-20 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cupcakes comes out clean.
  5. While waiting for the cakes to cool, make the icing by mixing the cream cheese with the vanilla until smooth. Then sift in the icing sugar and fold gently to incorporate. This is my brother’s favourite icing 🙂
  6. Prepare a plate of caster sugar and set up all of the other decorating bits in an assembly-line fashion. When the cakes are cool, top them with a heaped teaspoon of the icing, then turn them upside down and gently squish them in the sugar. This will spread the icing evenly over the the cake, so don’t worry too much about perfecting the smoothness of the icing beforehand 🙂
  7. For pandas, use 2 chocolate buttons as eyes and 2 as ears. A chocolate chip for the nose and chocolate sprinkles for the mouth 🙂 then use the handle of a little spoon (or something) to dip in the icing and dab a circle on each eye. Finally, use the black designer icing to draw on the pupils. For cows, it’s pretty much the same except I used 2 chocolate chips as nostrils and I halved chocolate buttons to make cow-like splodges on their faces 🙂 I also chopped up chocolate buttons for their horns.

022

Woop!

One last thing before I go.

I am ever, EVER so grateful for this beautiful badge:

photo (6)

I have neglected wearing too many times. From now on it shall be pinned eternally to… my heart… if not my clothes.

🙂

Advertisements

Pomegranate Lamb Stir-Fry

22 Apr

This is a concept that I’ve wanted to try for a good while – ever since I bought pomegranate molasses actually which was months ago!

It started with the knowledge that pomegranate goes well with lamb, but as there are only two of us to feed at the moment I didn’t fancy making a marinade for a big (albeit beautiful) Persian roast. I have nothing against leftovers but you know, it all feels a bit too over the top to be cooking up a huge hunk of meat when there isn’t one measly guest to share it with!

So I went fusion! This is attempt two because last time it didn’t turn out so great. Overpoweringly sour from the molasses and the wrong cut of lamb. Here though, the marinade suits the other ingredients perfectly and it is super-balanced 🙂 Also, stir-fry lamb! Why didn’t you jump out at me before!? Pssh. I really hope you enjoy this fast as lightning, exciting and vibrant meal as much as I do.

003

Serves 2.

  • 250g stir-fry lamb pieces
  • 300g straight to wok egg noodles
  • 1/2 pepper (any colour), deseeded and chopped
  • handful mange-tout and baby sweetcorn
  • 2 handfuls watercress
  • handful pomegranate seeds

For Marinade:

  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp sesame seeds
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp rapeseed oil
  • 1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
  1. First, make the marinade by mixing all of the ingredients together in a wide, shallow bowl. Taste to check for balance – you want it to have depth and savouriness from the soy sauce, and the molasses should pucker inside your mouth just a little. The oil gives the right consistency and means you won’t have to add any extra fat to the wok before you start cooking.
  2. Tip the stir-fry lamb into the marinade and mix well until all of the lamb is thoroughly coated. Leave for as little or as long as you like – I didn’t leave mine for long at all (impatience when hungry!) but I’m sure the flavour would intensify significantly if left for longer. Not that it needs to, mind.
  3. Place a wok over high heat until beginning to smoke, then add the lamb with it’s marinade. Stir-fry for 2 minutes, then add the noodles. Give everything a good mix and continue cooking for another minute. Now toss in the pepper, mange-tout  sweetcorn and watercress. Give it another good stir so everything is coated in marinade and cook for 30 seconds, until the watercress has wilted and the other vegetables are hot.
  4. Scatter a generous handful of pomegranate seeds over the top, then decant into bowls.

004

005

My mouth is watering just looking at these pictures!

If I do say so myself 😉

The Celebrations of April

18 Apr

For a long time I have been in a frustrating funk where cooking is concerned. I’d utterly lost my mojo, motivation and satisfaction.

But! (I hope) this month things are changing, helped along by the multiple birthdays April comes with. My uncle’s, my mom’s, my friend’s, two of my brothers, the love’s step-dad AND his daughter all celebrate their birthday this month! Then come May and June during which the pressure does not reduce much.

So far the uncle, the friend’s and one of the brother’s birthdays have passed and I have made something for two out of three of those occasions. I was adamant that I would make something for my friend but she’s one of those types who plead with you not to make a fuss. Now it’s a very busy time at the moment otherwise I would have done as I pleased despite this, but just mark my words Megan – I will not let this slide 😉

I have used two recipes found online that I have barely altered, and if I made them again I would do exactly the same thing because they are perfect.

The first, which I made for my uncle, is this gorgeous nut brittle. I LOVE nut brittle, but this is the first time I’ve had a go at making it. It all seemed to be going perfectly, but unfortunately I made the mistake (I think) of taking the caramel off the heat too soon. This meant that when I looked in the fridge after leaving it to set overnight, the caramel was slowly oozing it’s way aaaaaall over the place! It was rescued however, by changing the greaseproof paper it was sitting on several times. This got rid of excess sticky stuff to leave nut brittle as it should be. You can use any combination of nuts and seeds that you like, and it has a sumptuous dark chocolate base which is just so necessary! Unfortunately I took no photos 😦 the reason being that at first, I forgot because I have become accustomed to not posting these things, and later because I thought it was ruined… But there are lots of lovely (albeit Christmassy) pictures of the finished article on the link I provided above.

For those of you out there who are caramel experts (which I am definitely not), am I right in thinking my mistake was not boiling the caramel for long enough? Or do you think there is simply too much caramel in ratio to the nuts? It is very sweet so, maybe… Not too sweet for my tastes but maybe some people’s. I’d consider making it with salted nuts actually. Oooh…

Now, I REALLY pushed the boat out for my brother’s birthday! I made a seven-layer rainbow cake which took me an awfully long time – I ended up in the kitchen at 11.30pm exhausted and covered in icing! It was so worth it, but I didn’t reap the full benefits of it there and then as I was so concerned about it having the right effect when it was sliced into.

028

IT DID!

037

 

And it was extremely well received!

031

 

At my Grandma’s house…

034

Where everyone said it tasted as good as it looks 😀

030

 

There were so many compliments flying around I felt like it was my birthday!

Now I am out of pictures so I guess a little more description would be the way to go… Well, I highly recommend it!

My other brother (who has said that since I’ve made this for Liam I have to outdo myself for his birthday) doesn’t like icing, but he claims the ability to eat bowls of this. It is practically the same icing used for Nigella’s chocolate Guinness cake. As for outdoing myself… I don’t know what to do guys!!! I’m thinking along the lines of cupcakes, and now that this challenge paid off I’d really like another one… But I really will have to get my thinking cap on.

In other words, it is good. Do it.

Watch this space for more recipes 🙂

The Liebster Award :D

2 Apr

Maybe I should stay away from my blog more often?

Haha, no on the contrary – recent nominations have buoyed me up Scottie and… you may have noticed that I posted a RECIPE of all things recently! Oh yes!

Well, I wouldn’t want to appear all big headed would I? It’s not like I’m basking in the sudden adoration I’m getting from my WordPress followers or anything…

liebster2

Sorry, I am totally joking PLEASE don’t take me seriously!

Anyway, I will get on with the show, beginning with a HUGE thank you to Hayley, my wonderful friend. If you need a cookie recipe guys, click on that link back there and you will be in heaven. Now you should take me seriously, I mean does that girl like cookies or does she like cookies!? You get the point.

So, rules to follow when you are nominated…

  1. Upload a picture of the Liebster Award badge onto your blog post (copy it off here – easiest way?).
  2. Post 11 facts about yourself.
  3. Answer the questions posted by the person who nominated you.
  4. Nominate 11 people of your own choosing.
  5. Post 11 questions of your own choosing to the above people.
  6. Notify your nominees and include links to the their blogs as well as the blog of the person who nominated you! Nominator? Might be a useful word to use in terms of making sentences more concise…

When choosing your nominees, bear in mind that The Liebster Award is intended to recognize up-and-coming blogs with fewer than 200 followers, but I agree with my ‘nominator’ that we shouldn’t be making life too hard for ourselves should we? I’d say bear it in mind but nominate your favourites if you get stuck!

Eleven facts about myself.

1. I actually do have less than 200 followers on this here blog! I don’t know if people can see how many followers I do have… but the majority of those are from my Tumblr blog which I’ve had for much longer. Shameless plug? Okay! It’s over at ahappycollage.tumblr.com 😀

2. I hold a grudge against Rachel Khoo for making me believe that learning to cook Cordon Bleu is attainable for someone who doesn’t have £20-30 thousand just lying around… She embarked on her course with just £500 in her pocket apparently! Pah! Got me all excited thinking I’d be banging out my own cook books any minute now… Not bitter… Really I’m not 😎

3. The happier I am, the more I sing. My favourites are songs I can really belt out like Motown and the odd power ballad 😛 I have to apply huge amounts of self-restraint if I am in public and in a good mood when a great song comes on. For example, looking at the stir-fry vegetables in Asda when Cher starts playing… just keep your head down Anna this will pass!

4. I always thought that I hated soup, but then I made my own and it’s flipping good! Tins of soup… eurgh! Destroying too many soupy opportunities throughout my life.

5. The love’s step-dad has long since being tormenting me with cow-related gifts. It all began with the Colman’s advert for gravy during which the cow shaped gravy boat gets up and dances… I found this wholly wrong as surely the cow wouldn’t be celebrating the fact that he has been made into gravy!? I made the mistake of telling aforementioned step-dad how much it disgusted me and I now own 3 cow shaped gravy boats; a book entitles ‘Beautiful Cows’ and a cow hand puppet amongst copious other gifts that I will one day make a shrine out of and post on here to show you all just how out of hand this has gotten. However, I have spent part of my day adding the final touches to my REVENGE! 😀 I can’t give too much away in case he catches sight of this… but suffice it to say I do not think he will beat this one! It’s for his birthday so… I’ll post it once that’s been and gone (end of April guys, hold your breath!) 😉

6.Talking about the love, I’m having a slight dilemma over what to get him for his birthday. It’s in June, but this is me leaving things late! Do I go for a present that he’ll definitely appreciate but is kinda boring, or do I go for the exciting present that he might accept through gritted teeth? It’s a fantastic idea that I have, but will it be a bit too much? Hmm…

7. I would give my right arm to go to Morocco. But don’t quote me on that, I just really want to go.

8. I’m beginning to wonder if I’m interesting enough for 11 facts about myself… Ooh! How about this, the last restaurant I went to was Wagamama! Here are some pictures:

Oh, I did have pictures but I can’t locate them right now which is irritating. I had the yasai katsu curry. It was delicious.

What do you think of Wagamama?

9. I went to see The Croods yesterday and left the cinema with red eyes and a tear-stained face. Such a beautiful film, but I just can’t cope with the sheer amount of love and epic moments in these kind of films! I mean, the trailers choke me up, so by the time the film starts I am welling up and spilling over. It feels like something is squeezing my heart, haha.

10. This is what I bought the love for Easter:

009

Amazing right!? Super big surprise and everything! I also bought lots of little things and hid them in impossible places 😀 it was most fun.

11. I filled this out on 2 separate occasions – it’s hard work!

Answers to Hayley’s questions:

1. Favorite workout?

I don’t really work out, but I get cabin fever very quickly and have to go on regular excursions to spend some energy. I don’t drive and don’t want to, so I have to walk or ride my bike everywhere anyway – I cross my fingers that that’s enough! 

2. What was your favorite toy as a kid?

I wasn’t really a toy loving child – I adored books and teddies 🙂 still do to be honest! I remember when I was really young though, I had one of these: 

$(KGrHqZ,!gwFCd(Cbn,,BQzMRQ01hQ~~60_35

 

But less fancy… I used to love making all the different combinations of bears that I could :3 

3. What do you want to be when you grow up? Yes. You read that right: if money and time and experience were no object, what would you do?

If money, time and experience were no object (RACHEL KHOO!) I would jump at the chance to learn to cook cordon bleu (or just get any kind of decent cookery qualification) and write cookery books/test recipes for the rest of my life. 

4. Favorite type of amusement park ride?

I used to love theme park rides, but I’ve found that the older I get the more wimpy I become… Even so, I love roller-coasters 🙂 

5. Most hilarious elementary school memory?

Oh God, I have so many! Assuming that elementary school is the same as high school? I don’t know, me and my friends just had the most fun behaving like idiots that a.) I can’t pick one and b.) I’m not sure I’d want to share it if I could! Just imagine stupid things like friend A tripping over a huge tree root, friend B laughing and making fun, followed by friend B tripping over the same root and falling flat on her face 😀 good times! 

6. Your favorite food to eat in college… or now. But you have to pick only one! Muahaha.

I’m going to go wiiiiiiiiiiiiith… yoghurt! I couldn’t get enough of it at one point… Muahaha indeed though, that is such a mean and restrictive question!

7. If you could time travel and attend any historical event ever, what would it be?

I’m not sure about an event as such, but I would love to have a sneak peek at what the Ancient Egyptians were getting up to. I’d be some inconspicuous member of the Royal palace and lap it all up!

8. What motivated you to start blogging?

I’d been passionate about food and cooking for a long time but felt a bit too pants to share it with anyone, but I thought it’d be good for my confidence if I gave it a go with the added bonus of being able to find other people with similar interests. It has been so worth it 🙂 

9. You have a totally unscheduled, obligation-free day ahead of you. What do you do with it?

Um… Well right now it’s the Easter holidays… But I do have college obligations… So… It depends if other people were free and things. If the love was free tomorrow and it was gloriously sunny we would go to the zoo and feed some baby animals :3 and they’d be selling gourmet ice cream so obviously we’d have some of that, and we’d buy a massive teddy from the gift shop and it would sit by us on the train home. It’s a shame that tomorrow I actually have 2 doctors appointments and a hair cut followed by (if I can motivate myself) more college work. Pah! 

10. If you had to pick one cause to champion for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Conservation. It makes me incredibly angry when I think about how selfish the human race can be, and how we are destroying the chance of so many different creatures from surviving when they have every right to be here just like we do! So yeah… Good question I might steal that one! 

11. If you could be any fictional character for a day, who would it be, and why?

One of the Narnia children. I want to go to Narnia. 

11 Questions for my Nominees:

  1. If you won ridiculous amounts on the lottery, what would you do with it?
  2. What are your guilty pleasures?
  3. What are your 3 favourite traits in a person?
  4. What kind of things make you happy?
  5. If you had to pick one cause to champion for the rest of your life, what would it be?
  6. Food heaven and food hell?
  7. If you had children, what would you call them? If you do have children, what are their names and why did you choose them?
  8. If you were granted one wish, the effects of which would last for the rest of your life, what would you choose?
  9. Your favourite book? Sell it to me!
  10. The best dessert you have ever had?
  11. Where in the world would you most like to visit?

I’m looking forward to reading the answers for these! 😀

Last but not least, my nominees:

  1. Catastrophic Findings
  2. Pasta Princess and More
  3. Words and Herbs
  4. Cook Every Day
  5. Fancy Food Fancy
  6. I’mma Eat That
  7. Blueberries and Oats
  8. The Home Heart
  9. Unwind Cooking
  10. Home Creations Everyday
  11. Yummy Food Made Easy

Umm… and now that I’ve finished that… Can anyone tell me what’s supposed to happen once you’ve been nominated? Or is that where it ends? Thanks! 😀