Saturday, 19 February 2011

Goodbye Louise's Kitchen, Hello Buttercup Days

It has been a stupidly long time since I last did any posting on Louise's Kitchen. I'm very much still cooking, but with my youngest now a toddler rather than a baby, I found it hard to devote the time needed to run a cookery blog. The cooking and baking is fine, but it is the photographing along the way that demands too much time and focus.

However, not one to be idle, I have a new venture and blog, Buttercup Days. It's a blog that documents all that makes me tick in the time of life I now find myself in. It’s about parenting and about self. It’s about my love for nostalgia, occasion, beautiful things and more (including the odd but of cookery).

So I hope that any fans of Louise's Kitchen will now follow me n Buttercup Days - I look forward to seeing you there.

Louise x

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Baby Shower Cupcakes

It's been over a month since I last posted anything on my blog - very poor! Time is just so hard to come by, especially now it is the school summer holidays. Anyhow, I eventually got around to loading all my recent photo's from my camera and onto the computer, and thought I'd share some images of some cupcakes I made last month for a baby shower party. They were for mum-to-be Laura, who was one of the lovely ladies at See-Saw playschool where Lily used to go. She is expecting a little girl, who has already been named 'Elsie',hence the 'E' on the cherry topped cupcakes. I wanted to make the cakes, girly, pretty and sophisticated, so used fruit, pistachio nuts, freeze-dried rose petals and crystallised violets and roses as decorations. Feedback was that they were greeted with as much 'ooh's' and 'ahh's' as a bonnie new born baby.

Monday, 28 June 2010

Pretty as a picture

June has been a busy month so far, and the blog posts are a little fewer and further between than I would like, but such is life. I'm pleased to say that I have received a few cake orders for the coming weeks, so I am busy baking and adorning my cakes with summery decorations. First off was a Courgette and Walnut Cake. The timing was excellent as it killed two birds with one stone. I needed to donate a cake for Lily's school Summer Fair this weekend just gone, and I also needed to bake a cake for photography, so this little beauty did both!

A new magazine called Edible is launching in early Autumn. It is a local publication for Brighton and Hove and will cover everything food related; from restaurant reviews and recipes to seasonal features and foodie event listings. I'm as pleased as punch to say that Louise's Kitchen will be featuring in the launch issue. To run alongside the piece, Edible's lovely photographer Emma Gutteridge ( by on Friday to take some photographs of my Courgette & Walnut Cake. It's the first time I have ever had professional pictures taken of my work and I can't believe what a difference it makes when you have someone who knows one end of a camera from the other! I am so pleased with the pictures, they are stunning ... straight out of a Nigel Slater book, even if I say so myself!

An Allotment Supper

There has been much activity on our allotment lately. Earlier this year we decided to take on ‘Co-Workers’. This is allotment terms for the official and vetted persons who the plot holder shares their piece of land with. In real terms we now have an allotment family; Jodie, Jess, and their lovely children Misty (aged 5) and Sollie (aged 2). The plot seems to be enjoying the attention it now receives on a regular basis from us all.

It is a full plot of 10 rods, so with just myself, David and Lily trying to keep it going on our own it was likely to be an up hill struggle, particularly now Arthur is on the scene; an allotment isn’t the best place for a crawling 1 year old! Jodie, Jess, Misty and Sollie are the perfect allotment family … we only wish we had thought of this ‘veg plot marriage’ before. Four pairs of hands are certainly better than two, the kids keep each other entertained for hours and it means we get to spend extra time with our dear friends – a win win situation!

With the weather getting warmer and the lighter evening stretching out the day, it is great to plan a bit of early evening pottering down the plot at the end of a hard days work. It’s the perfect for of relaxation. Recently Jess and I spent an evening down the allotment before going round to a friend’s house for a few glasses of wine and girlie chat.

With no time for dinner, I made us a picnic tea to eat on the plot – Smoked Salmon, Spinach and Kale Tart with a simple salad and granary rolls. The tart started off as a Jamie Oliver recipe, but I changed and altered it to make it fit the ingredients I had to hand … and it tastes all the better when eaten outdoors with slightly muddy fingers!

Smoked Salmon, Spinach and Kale Tart


1 block of frozen shortcrust pastry, defrosted
A knob of butter
olive oil
2 red onions, peeled and finely sliced
1 clove of garlic, peeled and finely sliced
350g of spinach / kale (you could also use chard), washed, thick stems removed
a few sprigs of fresh thyme (marjoram or oregano would also work well)
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
500g creme fraiche
150g grated parmesan cheese, plus extra for grating
3 eggs
200g smoked salmon, cut into small strips

1. Roll out the pastry on a floured surface until it is about 0.5 cm thick and big enough to line a shallow baking tray about 30 x 40cm. Grease the tray with butter and line it with the pastry. Trim any excess pastry off, leaving a 1cm overhang. Pinch this overhang dough up to create a rim. Prick the pastry case all over with a fork and chill in the fridge for 30mins.

2. Preheat the oven to 190C/ 375F / Gas 5. Remove the pastry case from the fridge and place it in the preheated oven for 6 to 8 mins until lightly golden.

3. Next add a glug off olive oil to a frying pan and gently fry the onions on a low heat for approx 10mins until they are soft and sweet. Turn up the heat and add the garlic, the spinach and kale and most of the thyme. Season lightly and give it a good stir. As soon as the leaves have wilted take the pan off the heat.

4. To make the filling mixture, put the creme fraiche into a bowl, stir in the parmesan, eggs and a pinch of salt and pepper, mix together and set aside.

5. Spread the spinach mixture over your pastry case followed by the smoked salmon. The spoon over the filling mixture evenly over the top, smoothing it out with the back of the spoon. Grate over a generous helping of parmesan and sprinkle over the remaining thyme. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil.

6. Bake in the preheated oven for approx 15 to 20 mins, or until the top is golden and bubbling and the filling has set. Delicious hot or cold.

Friday, 28 May 2010

Arthur's Picnic in the Park

Last weekend we celebrated Arthur's 1st Birthday with a Picnic in the Park for close family and our Brighton & Hove friends. What was intended to be a small gathering ended up with over 40 people aged from under a year to over 70! We had the most beautiful day - it was so hot, so lucky we took a gazebo and plenty of sun lotion.

At Hove Park we scattered picnic rugs on the grass and treated our guests to a picnic of 'summer fayre'. I made an array of sandwiches including Salmon and Watercress Mayonnaise, Smashed Peas and Mint with Mozzarella & Vegi Sausage with Gherkins, Mustard and Crunchy Lettuce. I also made a giant English Salad and provided a simple Cheese Board with homemade Chutney.

Of course, no picnic is complete without cakes and sweet treats. So once the trays of sandwiches became just crumbs, out came the cakes. A classic Chocolate Birthday Cake as the centre-piece, an Orange & Almond Cake (a fab recipe from Rosie's Deli that I will make for life!), a Lemon-Ginger Cake drizzled with white chocolate and decorated with smashed crystallised violets, a Chocolate-Raspberry Cake, a Courgette Cake and a Trifle - Allotment Rhubarb, Apple and Ginger.

Needless to say, the cakes went down well. As with many hosting / catering situations it becomes a lot of work and the time passes like lightening. Hence I didn't have time to take any decent images - such a missed opportunity with all those cakes! I did however manage to take a snap shot of each before I cut into them, the results of which are attached.

All in all a lovely memorable day, exhausting but thoroughly worth it. Happy Birthday Arthur - love you loads!

Monday, 17 May 2010

A cake for Aunty Celia and her best friend Pat ...

As many regular readers will know, I love nothing better than an excuse to bake a cake. One such opportunity presented itself to me recently with a visit from Lily and Arthur’s Great Aunty Celia and her best friend Pat. These two lovely ladies adore Lily and Arthur and often make a trip down to the coast to see them, either with the WI [a slight detour when on the annual Brighton trip], or as on this occasion, they make their own way down from West London on the train. They always arrive, without fail, with [far too much] chocolate for the children, and I, without fail, bake a cake.

Now Great Aunty Celia is rather traditional in her ways when it comes to food. She won’t really dabble in anything from outside this islands shores – so you have to really think traditional English fare that hasn’t been tampered with in any way to give it a modern contemporary twist… so I accept that restraint is called for.

A classic recipe that ceases to fail is a must, something with an air of afternoon tea and village fetes perhaps? Then it just has to be a Lemon-Syrup Loaf Cake. This is a recipe, I have made on so many occasions that I have lost count, is from the wonderful baking bible ‘How To Be A Domestic Goddess’ by Nigella Lawson. There is no excusing that it is a plain looking cake, but this buttery sponge, moist with citrus, just melts in your mouth …. heavenly!

I am pleased to report that both Great Aunty Celia and Pat gave the cake exceedingly good merit. From two life-long members of the WI, I’ll accept that as a shining complement!

Louise x

Serves 8 – 10

For the cake:

125g unsalted butter
175g caster sugar
2 large eggs
zest of 1 lemon
175g self-raising flour
pinch of salt
4 tbsp milk
450g loaf tin, buttered and lined

For the syrup:
juice of 1 and a half lemons [about 4 tbsps]
100g icing sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/GM 4, and butter and line your loaf tin well.

2. Cream together the butter and sugar, and add the eggs and lemon zest, beating them in well.

3. Add the flour and salt, folding in gently but thoroughly, and then the milk.

4. Spoon into the prepared loaf tin and put in the oven. Bake for 45mins, or until golden, risen in the middle (although it will sink a little on cooling) and an inserted cake-tester comes out clean.

5. While the cake is cooking, get on with the syrup: put the lemon juice and sugar into a small saucepan and heat gently so that the sugar dissolves.

6. As soon as the cake is out of the oven, puncture the top of the loaf all over with the cake tester or suitable implement. Pour over the syrup, trying to let the middle adsorb it as well as the sides, then leave it to soak up the rest. Don’t try and take the cake out of the tin until it is completely cold, as it will be sodden with syrup and might crumble.

Friday, 14 May 2010

A case of 'baking' nerves

I'm finding myself responding to cake orders more and more these days. Great, just what I always wanted .... but I never anticipated the nerves of 'getting it right' - living up to peoples expectations. Today, I finished a last minute order for my friend Nicola's mother's birthday this weekend. The final look wasn't what I originally set out for, but despite my reservations, Nicola loved it .... in fact so much so that she has asked me to make her cake for her forthcoming wedding this summer! Note to self: Need to work on those 'baking' nerves!