Saturday 27 April 2013

Clandestine Cake Club - May Day theme

Today was my second Clandestine Cake Club meet - this month's theme was May Day cakes, and we met at the lovely Limes cafe in Bedford town centre on this lovely sunny April afternoon from 2pm-4pm. This month I took my husband Liam along with me as a guest - although he doesn't bake many cakes he very much enjoys eating them, and knows a lot about baking through the process of osmosis (living with me!) 

We baked our cake together last night - he's a great passer, fetcher, stirrer, wiper, taster assistant in the kitchen, and we danced around to the radio while we cooked. He also helped with the manly 'construction' side of the cake, so it wasn't too girlie a process. 

The idea for my cake came from my lovely friend Liz, who usually comes along to cake club with me. Unfortunately she couldn't make today's meeting - but suggested the idea of making a May pole cake with ribbons, and said I could steal it. (Thanks Liz!)

Hubby and I put our heads together, and I was really pleased with our final result. 

The cake itself is the wonderful Felicity Cloake's 'Perfect' Carrot Cake recipe from her food blog on the Guardian - I've used this recipe a few times and it is always a winner! Find the recipe here. We then coloured the cream cheese icing using some green food colouring, and decorated using some pre-made sugar flowers, and of course, the May pole (made from doweling, curling ribbon and Sellotape).

our May pole cake 

This was the cake last night, however, after popping it in the fridge over night we found the ribbon didn't want to stick to the glass stand this morning, so we left the ribbon hanging - and actually I preferred how it looked. 

our cake at Clandestine Cake Club today

There were, of course, loads of other scrummy and very impressive cakes at Clandestine Cake Club today, and this time we'd made sure we'd not eaten any lunch - so as to free up some tummy space for extra cake! 

The other cakes:

Amaretto sponge

Coffee and Walnut with a dash of Tia Maria!

Fudgey Pecan Cake

Double lemon drizzle cake with poppy seeds

Ginger sponge with lemon icing

Chocolate and vanilla sponge 2 layer Spring May Pole cake - what a show stopper!!!

What a fantastic array of cakes we got to tuck into! My husbands favourite cake (after mine of course!) was the Fudgey Pecan cake - which was absolutely delicious. And my favourite was the Double Lemon-Drizzle Poppyseed cake, it was so dense and sharp and lemony! :-)

During this months meet we were treated to a wonderful sugar-craft demonstration - we watched how to make the most exquisite roses, carnations and petunias from sugar-paste. They were actually far simpler than I ever imagined, and used only a few pieces of key equipment which is easily purchasable from eBay or Hobbycraft (I can feel a little shopping spree coming on -sorry Husband!)

the sugar-craft demonstration

stunning sugar carnation

such delicate sugar-roses

lovely little yellow petunias

hand made sugar paste flowers

The demonstration has most definitely inspired me to have another go at sugar-paste. I've had a play before, and have a few of the tools at home, but I really want to have a go at some of the flowers we saw at today's this space. 

As always, one of the greatest parts of cake club is coming home with a box full of assorted cake slices! 

The staff at Limes cafe were so friendly and helpful, and they seemed to really enjoy seeing all of our cake creations. Limes is a great little cafe tucked away on Lime Street in the town centre offering a range of yummy fresh cafe foods, coffees, teas, soft drinks and sweet treats; well worth a visit if you get a chance! 

follow Limes on twitter @LimesofBedford 
Clandestine Cake Club @clandestinecake
Carmela Hayes @carmela_kitchen

Has anyone else done any baking this week/weekend? 

I hope you've all been enjoying the sunshine!

Mrs B


Sunday 21 April 2013

A Healthy Week and "Tangle Pie"

In an attempt to make up for a naughty food-filled holiday to Cornwall, and also with not wanting to put on unnecessary baby-weight, this week hubby and I have tried some new low fat recipes from The Hairy Dieters cookbook, and attempted to have a 'healthier' week.

I have found that my hungriest time of day since becoming pregnant tends to be breakfast - so I've been doubling up with a toast and cereal concoction, or 3 pieces of toast with assorted toppings or extra fruit on the side. This seems to work in terms of keeping me going until break time (now I'm back at work), or until lunch at the weekends.

I'm trying to drink only water, and have the occasional cup of decaf tea or coffee, eat only brown bread, use skimmed milk, and Lurpak lightest spread to cut calories. My main aim is to have plenty of fruit and veg as well as my daily pregnancy vitamin, in the hope that I stay as healthy as possible, and don't undo all of the hard weight loss work I did last year. When going out for dinner I'm trying to make more-sensible choices now, rather than always order the very tempting red-meat & chips duo that I usually find so hard to resist.

This week has seen my return to work, which has been really challenging, and painful - I would say it is the first week where I've really 'suffered' from being pregnant & realised how tired its making me carrying this little kicking, squirming monkey around all day. I have gotten lots more exercise than I have in many weeks due to my long journeys to and from work - so I'm hoping, that although painful for my back, it'll help keep my weight gain to a minimum, keeping me nice and healthy.

So, for all you health-conscious, calorie-counting readers out there I thought I'd share a recipe with was such an enjoyable make, is calorie controlled and FULL of flavour - I would highly recommend it as great family dinner, and is delicious cold the next day for a lunch or picnic.

The Hairy Dieters cookbook is currently only £7 on Amazon - you can buy it here.


A delicious take on a chicken and ham pie, without the heavy shortcrust pastry base and top - using filo pastry to give the pie a crunchy tangled top, with minimal calories. 

You can find the recipe here

mixture all done, and starting to add the tangle of filo pastry

tangle pie before baking

before baking

golden brown and bubbling - ready to eat!


I would also recommend the Spanish-Style Chicken Bake, we tried this one-tray dinner on Friday night and thought it was delicious! 

The bake consists of chicken thighs, 2 onions, peppers, tomatoes, garlic, new potatoes, chorizo, paprika, oregano (and we added courgette too!) - it was warm, hot, sweet and savoury all at the same time - fresh without being heavy and full of flavour. 

You can find the recipe here

We will definitely make both of these recipes regularly, and we are looking forward to trying more from this great book. 

The Spanish Chicken from the book (I forgot to take a picture of ours!)

Is anyone else trying to be mindful with what they eat? 

Are you on a health-kick?

Or trying to achieve weight-loss with a calorie controlled diet and exercise?

It is bizarre for me to be in a place where I can't help gaining weight, and I need to eat my full calorie allowance each day... I know that once the baby is here I'll be determined to achieve another big weight loss, but for now I'm trying to enjoy the relative freedom, and just not go over-board. 

How much weight did you guys put on during pregnancy? 

Did you worry about extra weight gain?

Loads of love

Mrs B


Sunday 14 April 2013

Hot Cross Buns - Mr Hollywood strikes again!

I'm well aware that I'm majorly late with this post - apologies!...But having been away for Easter this year, I haven't had the time to bake these until now. After watching Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry's Great British Bake Off - Easter Special just before I went away, I have been desperate to try Paul's Hot Cross Bun recipe. I LOVE a hot cross bun, especially toasted, and thought it would be a fun & challenging bake. 

I am so pleased with the outcome, and the fact that it made 15 buns (I love a big batch bake)  AND they are perfect for freezing, makes life so much easier. This is especially good as making the buns is a lengthy process (not hard, just lots of 'waiting' time for the dough to prove 3 times, each for one hour) the more you can make in one go, the better. 

The buns were soooo yummy - very fruity, spicy and the apricot jam glaze totally transforms the buns into something really sticky and exciting. I loved piping the flour/water paste crosses, and the smell that fills your kitchen when they bake for twenty minutes is purely magical! 

Find the recipe here. I followed Paul's recipe exactly and they came out really well. 

the buns before last prove

buns with crosses, ready for oven

some of the buns after baking & glazing

the arty instagram shot

I know its no longer Easter, but go on...have a go. 

They're yummy ANY time of the year! How about playing around with the piping of the flour paste too? Hot Heart Buns, Hot Squiggle Buns...the possibilities are endless :-)

Big hugs

Mrs B 


Wednesday 10 April 2013

Food Glorious Food - ITV food judge

Back in 2012 my friend Liz and I were invited to be part of ITV's new food programme 'Food Glorious Food' as WI food judges. We attended the recording of the semi-final at the beautiful Ashridge Estate in Hertfordshire on a lazy Sunday with (rare) glorious British weather. 

The Show

The programme is the brain-child of Simon Cowell and is a cookery competition for the great British public - looking for a dish that is suitable for being made and sold en-masse in Marks and Spencer. The entries were initially judged by globe-trotting gastronome Lloyd Grossman, food writer and Historian Tom Parker Bowles, self-taught baker extrordinaire Stacie Stewart and WI top brass Anne Harrison. Each judge handed out rosettes to the dishes they felt most delighted their senses and captured their imaginations, and then chose one dish from each show as a regional winner. 

The show then moves into semi-final stages where the dishes are judged by large groups rather than the celebrity judges. The first of those shows was aired tonight on ITV at 8pm, and you could catch a few glimpses of Liz and I! :-) 


The Filming

Liz and I were majorly impressed with the beautiful Ashridge House and estate - such a beautiful environment for a days filming.






We were part of a judging panel of 150 Women's Institute members, and we were excited to find out what we would be tasting. 

MENU: Cornish Pasty / Smoked Salmon Cheesecake / Pimms Jelly 

I must say we were very well looked after by the production team - and while we were waiting around for filming to start, and for props to be set etc we were provided with an endless supply of tea, coffee, cakes, biscuits and scones! They certainly knew how to keep us WI ladies happy! 



It was interesting as a 'young' member of the WI to spend the day with mostly 'mature' ladies who had been members of the WI for many years. Most of the ladies were very encouraging of us 'youngsters' starting up new-generation groups, and chatted away to us about what we get up to at our Scone Roses group. There were a few younger ladies who we got chatting to as well - it was such a great way to meet WI ladies from all over the country. What a fun way to all share in our love of good high-quality food. 

During the afternoon we all descended into the huge 150 seat dining hall ready for tasting...the atmosphere was great, and we were all eagerly anticipating the arrival of the food. 



During the tasting it was important that I kept in mind that the winning dish was destined for the M&S shelves, and as a regular customer of M&S and advocate of their wonderful food, I had high expectations. I wanted the dish I voted for to be full of flavour, have a 'special' or 'luxury' vibe, and be suitable for packaging on a supermarket shelf, as well as being portionable. 

Before tasting I was skeptical about both the Cornish pasty, and smoked salmon cheesecake. I was unsure how a Cornish pasty would rival ones already sold at M&S, and due to my dislike on the whole of seafood, I was worried that I would hate the cheesecake. 

The tasting began and out came 150 portions of each dish. The food was all served on stunning mismatched vintage china, which I (of course!) loved. And all foods came out quickly and efficiently. 


I was underwhelmed by the Cornish pasty, for me it didn't have enough salt or pepper, and I think pepper is an especially important part of seasoning a good Cornish pasty. I have tasted pasties already on the shelf at M&S, and I think they are better in taste and seasoning than this entry. 


I was pleasantly surprised by the smoked salmon cheesecake. I expected to completely hate this dish, but it was much nicer than anticipated. The base was made of oat crackers/biscuits, and the filling was full of mascarpone, cream cheese, lemon juice and of course, smoked salmon. The filling was rich, creamy and lightly fishy with very good levels of seasoning. The whole dish was topped with a wonderfully tangy lemon jelly, slice of lemon, twist of fresh smoked salmon and a king prawn. It oozed luxury and I could definitely imagine it flying off the shelves for summer garden parties and sophisticated dinner parties all over Britain. I think I enjoyed the dish because it was only mildly fishy, and very lemony - and I love citrus flavours. I can however imagine that fish lovers would be disappointed with the lack of fishiness and intense citrus hit it gave. 


What a dish! The Star Pimms Jelly was a really impressive dish. It looked really stunning, and smelt insanely good as it was handed out. I'm a sucker for pretty girlie things, and this dish ticked all my boxes. It was sooooo boozy (which can only be a good thing, right?) and full of such intense flavours. It really made me think of long summer evenings, and garden parties - and I know this dish would appeal to a great many people. The thick sticky syrup served with the jelly was intensely spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg and orange zest and complemented the jelly perfectly. And coming from someone who considers herself a fairly competent baker - the star-shaped tuille biscuit was exquisite - perfectly cooked, crispy, and almost transparent - I know just how hard these biscuits are to make, so I was very impressed. 

No surprise which dish I voted for.... (jelly!)




The end of day saw us WI-judges being presented with the people behind the dishes, and finding out who had received the most of our votes. The Cornish pasty entry was from 92 year old Eunice Woolcock, from Cornwall. The Smoked Salmon Cheesecake was the entry of Donny and Nora Howcroft aged 81 and 73. The final entry, Star Pimms Jelly was made by the students of The National Star College,  a provider of specialist further education for young people aged 16 to 25 with complex physical disabilities, brain injuries and sensory, learning and behavioural difficulties in Gloucestershire. The students work in a social-enterprise restaurant called Star Bistro, and these students are the brains behind the amazing jelly dish! 

It was a great day, and a very fun experience. It was interesting to watch the final cut of the show tonight after having been a part of it in the flesh. You could see the odd few glimpses of Liz and I, which was fun, and it was interesting to see the 'behind the scenes' footage of the cooks working hard in the professional kitchen. 

I can't say I was overly impressed with how they portrayed the women of the WI - we aren't all miserable, stern and harsh-tongued elderly women - some of us are much fairer, light hearted, and enthusiastic about food and cooking. However, as a group we made the right decision and put the best dish through. I am glad that my favourite dish made the final cut. I will watch the rest of the series hoping that the young people from Star Bistro will go all the way! 

For more information please visit the following websites:

That's all for now! :-)

Mrs B


Holiday in Cornwall - Easter 2013

I've been lucky enough to have just enjoyed a wonderful weeks break away to Looe in Cornwall. I went with my husband, mum, dad, twin sister and my lovely auntie. We rented a lovely penthouse apartment with the most amazing view of the bay, and were so lucky to have some really great weather while we were there. 

I'm not sure whether its just us, but when we go on holiday it tends to revolve around food! We are all such foodies in my family and we enjoy all sorts of cuisine - from naughty fast foods, to high-end restaurant experiences - and this holiday didn't disappoint for great food! 

While away we ate loads of wonderful fresh seafood, cornish pasties, cream teas, fish & chips, a chinese takeaway, beautiful handmade cakes from a local bakery as well as lots of lovely dishes from local restaurants. (I think we've all put on about half a stone!!) 

I thought I'd share some pictures from our time in Cornwall (mostly food pics!) - I would really recommend Looe as a wonderful little holiday spot - and No.12 Rock Towers as a beautiful apartment for up to 6 people with a simply stunning view. 

 The amazing view from our apartment...

 View at The Eden Project - an awesome day out! 

A little cottage I fell in love with in Polperro - it has a stream running right outside! 

The view of the harbour in lovely Polperro

Gorgeous tulip garden at The Eden Project

The motto for our holiday!

Some of the AMAZING foods eaten by us in Cornwall...

trio of cornish sausages with creamy mash and onion gravy

fillet of sea bass with seafood rice salad, pea shoots and teriyaki sauce

 freshly baked scone, clotted cream and strawberry jam

catch of the day, with chorizo mash, and a poached duck egg

lightly battered pollack, with chunky chips, mushy peas, and homemade tartare sauce (best f&c's i've ever tasted!)

fresh Cornish pasties! 

now thats a doorstop toast slice! 

'the proper job' aptly named english breakfast baguette! 

amazing selection of hand baked cakes and tarts

the lightest tempura squid ever

scallops on hogs pudding with beetroot chutney and balsamic dressing

tempura king prawns with chilli dipping sauce

rib eye steak, tempura onion rings, with peppercorn sauce, parmentier potatoes, tarragon herbed carrots and creamed leeks

creme brûlée, berry compote and clotted cream shortbread

wild berry fool with clotted cream shortbread fingers

spicy fresh crab salad

the most amazing treacle tart with clotted cream

As you can see - we were lucky enough to find some amazing restaurants in and around Looe - I would especially recommend Squid Ink and The Old Sail Loft both of which serve amazing fresh food, at reasonable prices with amazing service thrown in! And for a great day-time eat for breakfast or lunch I would recommend the really quaint Daisy's Cafe; they are so friendly and serve yummy fresh breakfast and lunch foods such as 'the proper job' (see above). 

Me and my lovely Mumma enjoying a lovely meal out on holiday! 

I also bought a gorgeous original Cornishware mini cup and saucer for Baby Bishop while we were away....

I couldn't resist! So baby Bishop can join mummy in her love for cups & saucers - babychinos here we come! 

In other news...we had our half-way point ultrasound scan on our return from Cornwall on Monday - I'm now 21 weeks, and over halfway through my pregnancy. The scan was amazing - we got to see so much of our little one, and it was lovely to see baby wriggling around and to find out that all is well and healthy. We also found out that we are expecting a little BOY! Very exciting. 

Baby Boy Bishop

After all the excitement of the last week I'm now having a rest at home & hoping that my back begins to improve asap as my return to work is looming. I'm pretty fed up of being so limited by my back, and found it very frustrating on holiday that I couldn't walk and explore like I usually would because of the slipped disc. Its very tiring - and hopefully the epidural treatment I had done 12 days ago will begin working its magic in the next 48 hours. Here's hoping! :-)

Big hugs to all my lovely readers

Hope you all enjoyed a lovely Easter break

Mrs B