Sunday, 30 December 2012

Ten & Co

I was trying to do sale shopping; bargain saucepans and bath mat type things. Boring shopping.  But I got slightly way-laid by these shoes on the way.  They're from a company called Ten & Co and are made out of hand woven antique Moroccan rugs and wisps of leather - each pair is a one off.  I'm adding them to my birthday list.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Dream Chocolate Mousse

Upsettingly for me, Chaz is not a pudding person.  I suppose I should be glad; if he was, we would both be the size of small houses.  Last weekend was the first of three family Christmases and it was our turn to play host.  Chaz was in charge of roast beef, I was in charge of the Cubs and my mother in law, Suze, brought pudding. If I was allowed I would have swapped courses one and two in return for the whole bowl of her sensational chocolate mousse.  Her recipe is like no other. I dream about it.  It's so good it feels like it should be kept a secret. Something that's only passed down from family to family and kept locked up for generations.  Thank God she believes sharing is caring.

6 ounces dark chocolate, broken into chunks.  Suze uses Bourneville.
3 fresh large organic eggs
2 to 3 tablespoons of water
Half an ounce of butter
3 drops of vanilla essence

 Carefully separate the eggs. Allow the yolks to remain at room temperature, but chill the whites.
 In a double boiler, melt the chocolate. Then add the water to make it all silky.
Add the butter and vanilla essence.
Remove the chocolate from heat and add the yolks. (This part can be tricky: if the chocolate is too hot, the yolks will curdle. If it‘s too cool, the chocolate will solidify.) Stir well to combine.
Beat the chilled egg whites with a balloon whisk until they are stiff and firm, but not dry. Take one spoonful of the beaten whites and stir into the chocolate mixture, just to lighten it because it will be quite thick and stiff.  Use a metal spoon not a wooden one.
Then add the chocolate mixture to the egg whites, very gently folding the chocolate into the whites. It will lose volume, but if you can do it gently, cutting into the mixture, rather than stirring, the mousse should retain its lightness.
Spoon the mousse into whatever serving dishes you will use, and refrigerate to set for an hour or more.

Happy Christmas!

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Jam Jar Tiramisu

I'm still dreaming about a dinner cooked by our friends Mel and JayJay last week.  The whole thing was incredibly delicious - A Polpo warm octopus salad to begin with followed by another Polpo sensation - Cauliflower Cheese (made with more cheese than anyone should consume in a life time) and a Nigel Slater pulled beef creation.  But the piece de resistance, that I really cant stop thinking about, was pudding. Tiramisu in a jam jar. 

Definitely going to be doing this at Christmas...

Use the best coffee you can - if you don't have espresso, use strong black filter coffee
Rum works best as it has a more subtle taste and sits well with the other ingredients, but you can use other liqueurs such as brandy
The egg whites should be whisked until stiff, similar to a meringue
The egg yolks can be whisked with a clean whisk or you can use a fork
If you don't have Marsala, you could use sweet sherry instead

For twelve pots:
6 double espressos (or 360ml very strong coffee), warm
4 tablespoons dark rum
150g caster sugar
6 medium free-range eggs, separated
120ml Marsala
500mg mascarpone
1 packet of Savoiardi sponge fingers (you need 24 biscuits)
Cocoa powder

Start by combining the warm espresso coffee with the rum and 50g of the sugar. Stir until the sugar has dissolved. Set aside.
Separate the eggs and reserve the yolks in a large bowl. In another clean bowl, whisk the whites until they are stiff. Add the remaining sugar and the Marsala to the yolks. Whisk until pale and fluffy, add the mascarpone and gently stir it in. Fold the whisked whites into the yolk mixture.
For each glass you will need approximately 2 sponge fingers. Dip a sponge finger in the coffee mixture and let it absorb enough of the liquid to wet the whole thing without breaking it up. Place one half in the bottom of your glass. Spoon over 1 tablespoon of the mascarpone cream. Place the other half biscuit on top and spoon over another tablespoon of cream. At this point sprinkle over a little cocoa powder. Take another sodden sponge finger, break in two and lay both halves on top. Cover in a little more cream. Repeat this for all 12 glasses and store, covered in the fridge, for no fewer than 8 hours, so they are properly set.
Just before serving, liberally dust the top of the pots with cocoa powder.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Christmas Elf

I think Chaz was an elf in a former life. I love Christmas a lot but I'm used to my family who generally decorate the tree on the 20th December.  And maybe hang a wreath on the door/garland over the fire place around the 10th if feeling particularly festive.   So I watched with amazement and wonder when come 3pm on December 1st he had turned the whole house into something that wouldn't look out of place in Lapland.  
I adore his festive excitement.  It's completely contagious.  I feel being the supposed 'crafty' one in our family that it should actually be me decking the halls;   Though Im secretly concerned that I couldn't come close to conjuring up anything nearly as sparklingly brilliant if I did try and compete.
My contribution so far, has been honeycomb balls. Not much I know.  But I have a fascination- verging on obsession- with them and am currently trying to fill every room in the house with them.

There's two weeks to go which means I've still got time to come up with some kind of festive vision.  Not that the Elf will probably deem it worthy of his grotto but at least I'm keeping up his festive spirit.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Crafty Review

I was very flattered by the lovely review of my book on the wonderful wedding blog 'Before the Big Day' this week.
How to be a DIY Bride

Sometimes being a wedding blogger is seriously fabulous! For example...when you get invited to lovely drinks parties to slurp champagne and eat macarons {thank you Maids to Measure & Anges de Sucre}, and when you get sent gorgeous presents in the post! My recent exciting arrival was an amazing book by Willow Crossley. Called 'The Art of Handmade Living' it is hands-down the best DIY book I've ever read. Super-inspiring, it'll encourage even the least crafty bride to get her DIY on, and before you know it you'll be creating gorgeous, personalised wedding decorations and favours. Add it to your Christmas list now, and don't miss Willow's fabulous blog, Willow Rose Boutique.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Local Delights

I joke about missing Starbucks living in the country but when I got to one last week and my friend commented about how excited I actually was, I realised I have issues.
But this weekend, as if by magic,  I've solved them.  I've found a new secret hang out.  .  
It's an organic farm shop and cafe in one.  The only problem is that it only opens from Friday to Sunday.  Quite what I'm going to do for the other four days, I'm not sure.  But it's progress for now.

In the farm shop

Big Cub in a post hot chocolate frenzy

Meringue topped Hot Chocolate

Heavenly Hats