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!

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Listen, do you want to know a secret ....

If I could be anywhere this coming weekend it would be in Bath. Why you ask? Because the Secret Service Supper Club, will be there with their 'pop up' restaurant.

Yes, for this weekend only (May 8th/9th) the SSSC are taking residence in Bath for a Decadent High Tea and Lazy Spring Brunch. They'll be installed in a spectacular, historic building in central Bath, but exactly where, and what is going on in it, is their little secret. Those that book will find out 24 hours before (via email), the final secret will unveil when you arrive.

At high tea you will nibble on canapes and drink champagne cocktails. Your mouth will water as you cast your eyes along the banqueting table crammed full of dainty sandwiches and delightful tartlets. Your eyes will pop at sight of cake stands bursting with freshly baked scones and cream filled cakes.

At brunch you will drink champagne cocktails, no boring bucks fizz here, eat bagels stuffed with smoked salmon and capers, ciabatta topped with Parma ham and fig compote, home made maple and pecan granola, platters of local cheeses including an organic, unpasteurised double gloucester from the Wye Valley and plenty more.

All this will be served up on gorgeous vintage china from the lovely people at Lahloo tea will be providing an exciting range of teas, including a Pink Rose Bud tea which the SSSC anticipate going very well with the lavender scones. Lahloo's tea's ( are all loose leaf, fair trade, organic and from small producers.

Spring Brunch tickets for May 8th/9th @ 1030am, can be booked at:
Decadent High Tea Tickets for May 8th/9th @ 3.30pm can be booked at:

The SSSC are well known in Bristol for popping up in secret locations to give diners a unique, sociable and, most of all, delicious experience. As with all SSSC events, the focus is on locally sourced, seasonal and scrumptious food and creating a sociable, fun and unusual events, unlike anywhere else.

And remember.....Shhh! Dont tell anyone as its a secret!

Louise x

Friday, 30 April 2010

Happy May Day!

English asparagus, jersey royal new potatoes, mint, salt marsh samphire and early summer cherries, picnics, evening's pottering in the garden or chilling out down the allotment, sunshine and flowers .... just some of the joys of May!

Happy May Day everyone. X

A Stack of Chocolate Brownies with flowers and butterflies

Hot off the press .... Completed just five minutes ago, here is my latest creation. It is for a lovely little girl called Emilia who is going to be a very grown up '4' tomorrow. Her mum wanted a cake that tasted delicious and was easy to serve at the party and Emilia's wish was for a cake with flowers and butterflies. I'm delivering the cake this evening, so here's hoping it's fits the requirements of both mother and daughter.
Happy Birthday Emilia! X

The Birthday Party - Part II (The Cakes)

With Lily's birthday falling mid-week and her party taking place on the weekend, it seemed this birthday called for two birthday cakes. The resulting cakes came about from my not wanting to bake two sponge cakes (we'd be eating it morning, noon and night for the following week!) and Lily request for a princess cake. Now for those who are familiar with my baking, you will know that I favour natural decorations of seasonal flowers, herbs and fruits. I certainly am not comfortable with an icing bag!

After much research on the web for a 'princess cake', decided to try my hand at a cake that is made up of a Barbie style doll with a 'cake' skirt. Despite looking quite complicated it wasn't too difficult. I used a basic vanilla sponge recipe and made a baked a sponge in a traditional sandwich cake tin. Then I made a dome shaped sponge by doubling the sponge recipe and baking it (for longer) in a oven proof pudding bowl of the same diameter to the cake tins.

When cooked and cooled I cut a hole for the doll to sit in using a circular cutter. Then I sliced the dome cake horizontally into three and then starting with the two sandwich tin sponges built up the skirt, sandwiching the layers together with a little strawberry jam. Once the skirt is assembled you wrap the doll's body in cling film and plunge her into her vanilla sponge skirt.

Depending on the height of your sponge skirt you might have to temporarily remove the dolls legs (you can prop her up on an egg cup or two if need be). Once you are happy with the positioning whip up a large bowl of butter icing coloured to your liking and cover the skirt. A good tip is top do what is called a 'crumb' layer first. To get a smooth finish on your crumb layer hold each end of a strip of paper between your thumb and forefinger and drag it up the skirt. Then pop the cake in the fridge for 20 mins to 'set' your icing. Then repeat with a top layer of icing and use a platte knife to create a draped fabric effect. Then use a piping bag to ice over the cling film wrapped torso and finally decorate to your hearts desire with sugar hearts and stars. I finished the cake off with two sparkler candles as wands in each hand.

The added bonus is that the birthday girl, get to keep the doll (fully clothed and with legs back in tact, I hasten to add!).

For Lily's actual birthday I decided to make a Birthday cake that would double up as a dessert to follow her requested 'pizza' dinner. Nanny and Grandad came for her birthday so there were four adults and two children - although this cake could have almost stretched to that number again.

This was my first ever Ice Cream Cake. It is a bit of a cheat and very simple to make. Using a loose bottom cake tin make a 'cheesecake' biscuit base using crushed biscuits such as digestives and melted butter. After greasing your tin press the biscuit base in the base of the tin and place it in the fridge for 20 mins or so to set and harden. Next you need two 500ml tubs of your favourite shop bought ice cream. I used a chocolate ice cream and a cookies n' cream ice cream. Take your first tub out of the freezer and allow it to soften slightly. Decant it into a bowl and give it a bit of a mix with a wooden spoon. Spread the ice cream out over your biscuit base making sure it completely covers it. Level the top and cover with cling film, pressing it down into the to the tin so that it rests of the surface of the ice cream. Freeze until hard (overnight is ideal), then repeat the process with your second choice of ice cream. You could then leave your ice cream cake as is, but I decided to finish it off with a thin ganache layer (a melted chocolate and cream mix) which again I froze to set. Once ready to serve the cake needs to defrost a little. It's a bit trial and error, but 30 mins in the fridge should do it. Run a sharp knife around the inside edge of the tin to help ease the cake out on to a stand or plate. I then decorated mine with white chocolate sticks, fresh strawberries and blueberries and of course and candle!

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Other Rooms & the Birthday Party

Anyone who makes a regular visit to my blog may have noticed the slight change in the title of my blog. Previously just 'Louise's Kitchen' I have now extended the title to include '.... and other rooms'. My reason for that was so that I could, when the mood takes me, move out of the kitchen to share other 'doings' with you that share the common theme of 'homemade'.

I've always loved making things ... as a child I would avidly watch Blue Peter and try my hand at making the various craft projects with empty washing up bottles, wire coat hangers and double sided sticky tape. After a few false starts to my career (such as working for a bank), I got myself a place at Art College and studied Fashion Promotion for three years. I gained myself a good degree, but some how the 'creativeness' slipped away and although I've since worked in creative industries, I've worked with creatives rather than being creative myself ... my standards aren't professional enough by any means. But now, with this so called 'homemade revival', my rather cobbled together efforts have a place.

My creations do tend to stay close to home and make their appearances at those special occasions such as Christmas time and birthday's. My latest creative outburst was for Lily's birthday last month.

As a busy mum of two, my time is stretched at best. Any chance to relax is oh so rare, so why is it I regularly steer away from the ‘easy options’ in life. I wonder if it is a deep scar from years ago when my school reports were frequently summed up with quotes such as ‘ nice girl, could try harder’. Lily recently celebrated her 5th birthday. She was very keen to have a party so I decided to hold one. Despite the chaos of hosting a child’s party at home, I am holding out from having to hire an expensive and dreary hall for as long as I can. I set the guest limit [12 including Lily] and Lily set the theme [Princesses].

At this point most sane mothers would text those lucky enough to be worthy of one of the 12 places, or maybe pop into town to buy some party invitation – I’m sure Lily would have loved the Disney Princess invites I saw and turned a blind eye to. But I decided to hand make them. And I didn’t stop there I made the party bags too, plus giant tissue paper pom poms [Lily isn't keen on balloons]. I decorated the room with the Poms and then gave one each to the children to take home with them.

My starting point for both the invitations and the party bags was a letter writing set, some fabric scraps and an old magazine all from one of my favourite stores Cath Kidston. I felt that the nostalgic pretty prints lend themselves well for a 5 year old’s party of carefree fun, games, dancing and cake.

The invitations were great fun. A selection of pretty papers, glue, alphabet stamps and some crimping scissors were all that were needed. I then followed the pretty floral theme through to the party bags. I simply purchased some cheap Calico fabric which I cut using crimping scissor [resulting in no need to hem] into long rectangles. Then using my floral fabric [and for the two boys that attended the party, blue spot fabric], I cut small rectangular patches and sewed them on. Finally, I them folded them in half and using my sowing machine stitched up each side. Once filled with goodies I fasten them with ribbon.

For the contents, I stuck to a bit of a nostalgic theme – focusing on little bits and pieces with a nod to yesteryear. Sweet treats are a must for any party bag and with Lily’s birthday falling in the Easter season a foil covered chocolate egg is a must. Then I made up small bags of retro biscuits fastened with a pretty ribbon. For girls I did hair slides. I replaced the cards that they originally came on with pretty cards I made using a fabric print from a magazine as a backdrop. The boys had a toy car.

Then I bought some nasturtium flower seeds and divided them up into tiny brown envelopes, I wrote some simple instructions on the back and using some printed paper and the alphabet stamp decorated the front of the little pouches.

I've Arthur's (1st) birthday next month and I telling myself to stick to the basics. It's actually quite difficult, but at one a piece of chocolate cake is probably all he requires of a party. Well, we shall see .....

Friday, 16 April 2010

Brown Bread Ice-Cream

This recipe is fantastic. If you balk at the idea of ‘brown bread’ ice cream, I urge you to give it a try … I promise you’ll be converted. The bread in question is made into breadcrumbs and toasted with brown sugar giving the ice-cream a deep fudgy caramel taste which is so moorish. The other great thing about this recipe is you need no special kit to make it, just a hand whisk and a lidded tupperware type box. Enjoy!

Louise x

Louise’s Brown Bread Ice-Cream

Serves 6.
85g/3oz brown breadcrumbs
85g/3oz soft dark brown sugar
2 large eggs, separated
Half a tablespoon of dark rum [optional]
300ml / Half a pint of double cream
85g/3oz sifted icing sugar

1. Mix the breadcrumbs with the brown sugar and pop under a moderate grill for 8 – 10 mins. You need to keep a watchful eye on this and stir it frequently. You want the breadcrumbs and sugar to caramelise, not burn. Once cool break up with a fork.

2. Whisk the egg whites until stiff. Mix the egg yolks with rum, if using, and fold into the egg white mixture.

3. Whisk the cream and icing sugar together in another bowl until floppy. Then fold this into your egg mixture along with the breadcrumbs.

4. Pour into a shallow freezer container and freeze for 4 hrs. When ready to serve, allow it to soften slightly before scooping out.

Roasted Pepper, Onion & Garlic Soup

After a few weeks of zero activity on the blog front, I am posting a couple of recipes for you from My Kitchen. Both were a result of needing to knock up a quick lunch that satisfied on every level. The weather was deceptively cold, but full of promise with bright sunshine. Hence a combo of a bowl of rich soup and a [smaller bowl] of ice cream was on the menu. Both of these recipes were made from what I had in the kitchen cupboards, fridge and freezer. Often the best dishes are those that are cobbled together on a whim. Below is my recipe for the soup, tune in right after for my brown bread [yep you heard right] ice cream recipe!

Happy Cooking,

Louise x

Roasted Pepper, Garlic and Onion Soup

5 – 6 Pepper [red, yellow or orange]
3 – 4 Cloves of Garlic [adjust to your own taste]
Fresh Thyme [you can other herbs such as parsley, basil and sage or dried herbs if you don't have fresh to hand]
2 tins of chopped tomatoes
A splash of balsamic vinegar or red wine vinegar
Olive Oil
Vegetable Stock

This really is a make-it-up-as-you-go-along recipe, so quantities and ingredients are but a rough guide – follow your instincts!

1. Preheat your oven to 200C. Remove the plinth and seeds from the peppers and chop into large pieces and place in a large roasting tray. Add to this a roughly chopped onion and 3 – 4 unpeeled garlic cloves. Add your herbs and then drizzle with enough olive oil to coat the vegetables.

2. Place this in the oven for 25 – 35 minutes. Check on your vegetables a few times whilst they are roasting, they will benefit from a gentle stir every now and then. You want to cook them until they are soft and just starting to char in places. Squeeze your roasted garlic cloves into your vegetables and discard the papery casing.

3. Next add the contents of your roasting tray, including and juices, to a large saucepan, add your tinned tomatoes and cover with vegetable stock.

4. Blitz with a blending stick or in batches in a blender. Add more or less stock depending on how thick you’d like you finished soup to be. Heat through and then serve, garnishing with a teaspoon of cream and a drizzle of olive oil if desired.