Tag Archives: cake

Tea at The Ritz

ritz“Things to do in my 40s” Bucket List number 4 – BIG FAT DONE!!!

I thought it was high time I started ticking off some more on my bucket list, so I decided I would treat myself for afternoon tea at The Ritz.  And what better day to go than my birthday 😉

I was very purple. I decided on a lovely frock – blue grey with big purple flowers topped off with a purple shrug (which I had worn for SC’s christening), my purple handbag and a pair of flat ballerina pumps (I did take my heels, but in the end felt more comfortable in flats)

I dropped SC off at school and then hot-footed it up into the big smoke – I’d booked afternoon tea for 11.30, which I suppose technically makes it morning tea 😉 so I had plenty of time to get back for school pick-up.

I was there super early, but got to sit in the foyer soaking up the ambience. It was truly lovely.

Eventually 11:30 arrived and I was shown to my table (for 1) – handily wedged in a corner, so I could sit and watch the world go by whilst I supped tea and read my book (which you could say was my date).ritz1

Oh my gosh! The choice of tea is vast, at least 20 varieties. I was tempted by the Orange Pekoe, but seeing as I haven’t partaken in caffeinated tea for a while I didn’t want to run the risk of getting the caffeine shakes in the middle of one of the poshest hotels in London, so I stuck to my herbal and veered away from Chamomile to Lemon Verbena. It was refreshing on the old palate and made a lovely change.

And don’t you just love it when you get a proper china cup and saucer? Makes the tea taste better I find!

The tea turned up in a silver teapot, with an extra silver jug filled with hot water and a tea strainer – although with the Lemon Verbena there were not many tea leaves, so I couldn’t read my leaves at the end!!!

ritz2Then they brought a cake stand with a plate of sandwiches – the daintiest things. I would love to know how they do them. How come their bread doesn’t squish down when they cut it like mine does when I make SC his packed lunch in the mornings?? There was smoked salmon (scrummy), cucumber (of course), hummus (I got the veggie option), tomato and cheese. And the top of the stand had 5 lovely looking cakes.

So armed with tea, sandwiches, cake and a good book I settled down to enjoy the atmosphere. Then the man started playing the grand piano – a medley of old musical tunes – truly lovely, brought a tear to my eye.

I was so engrossed with my book and enjoying my tea that I scarcely noticed that an hour had gone by and the waiter came to replenish my teapot and offer scones.

To be honest, I didn’t eat everything. There was a lot. I was a very good girl and didn’t eat the cakes, but I couldn’t resist the teeny tiny scones – especially as they came hot from the oven with clotted cream and jam.

And I made sure I eked out every single second. As it’s so popular you get an hour and three-quarters and I was not going to leave until 1:15!!! So I made darn sure I made that last cup of tea last 😉

I had a lovely time, I’m glad I can tick it off my list and I would definitely go again. Maybe next time I’ll get to go with a real-live human being instead of a book – but heck, if not I’ll take another book 😉

 

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It’s all about the cheese!

What is it about cheese that makes everything all right with the world?cheese

SC loves cheese, the stronger the better and as long as I generously sprinkle it over his food, I can pretty much hide the fact he’s eating the dreaded vegetables – mostly!

Much as I love my cake, I have to say if there was a choice between cake and cheese it would be a tough call but the cheese would win – unless it was cheesecake of course 😉

If I’m feeling a bit blurgh my favourite go-to food would have to be cheese on toast, and I’m sorry to say I like putting baked beans on the top.

SC’s favourite food, in fact he would eat it every day if I would let him is cheesy pasta – just cooked pasta with grated cheese stirred and melted in. One quick, easy and filling supper – for the record I do add the dreaded vegetables to mine!

And yes, one of my favourite Monty Python sketches is the “Cheese Shop.”

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How easy is it to give up sugar?

sugarI’m not going to tell a lie, it’s difficult.

After all, if you start looking at the labels on stuff there’s pretty much added sugar in everything from bread to the really naughty food stuffs.

And then there’s all the naturally occurring sugars in fruit, which gets increased when you smoothie them down – glad I sold my juice extractor!

Sugar, although it doesn’t have any real nutritional value is still part of the carbohydrate food group, which give us energy.

And we all know that anything sweet, sticky and generally looks sugar laden might be bad for us, but boy does it give us a quick, almost instantaneous sugar rush.  (You only need to watch a group of children at a party once the ice cream and cakes have gone).

The addictive nature of sugar is what makes it so tempting and easy to reach for a chocolate bar or a slice of cake (or even the entire cake) when we’re feeling down, tired, emotional, etc.

But sugar is now the bad boy of the food world.

We consume too much refined sugar which in turn, can increase our chances of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease to name but a few. And with a health service that’s already stretched shouldn’t we do something that may ease the burden?  Even if it means missing out on a slice of cake?

Now, I don’t eat chocolate. I know, I’m a girl so I must have chocolate cravings, right? Um, no. Actually, I can’t eat it. I’m one of the rare few for whom chocolate actually does not give a euphoric contentment. It does the complete opposite, I get a real, real, bad low.

And, as you all know I’m a recovering “Biscuitholic” – it’s now been 4½ years since my last biscuit!

But, I do have to confess to liking cake. The creamier the better. Carrot cake (slightly healthier option), coffee cake, vanilla, you name it, if it has got frosting, yes please.

Well, back to the point, last year I kind of got to the stage where I thought I needed to lose a few pounds – the jeans were feeling a tad on the tight side – and I had a bit of a flabby tum from not having done too much ab work following my op.

When lo, what should behold me at the local newsagent but a magazine about how to get rid of your “sugar belly”. And so, of course I bought it.

It was very enlightening, I can tell you.

For instance, I now know that the little aches and pains I notice in my joints after I’ve had something sweet are actually called “sugar aches” – who knew?  That certainly explains a lot.

So after reading the magazine thoroughly, several times, I decided that I should try this crazy idea. (At this point I had weighed myself – big mistake, huge!)

The basic idea is that you go pretty much cold turkey for 2 weeks and then gradually reintroduce sugar, see what reaction your body has and then just reduce the amount you eat.

After all, going back to the fact that it is a carbohydrate, it’s not all bad.  Just like anything it’s better in moderation.

Out went the sugar-laden breakfast cereal (I hasten to add it was only Shreddies) and in came porridge. I have to confess I couldn’t give up milk (which yes has sugar in it – obviously a naturally occurring one, but still pretty much ½teaspoon every 100ml), so I didn’t go completely cold turkey.

And to the porridge I added cinnamon. This gives it the sweet(ish) taste that your body may crave, but is actually (and I didn’t know this) a “fat-busting” herb! (Bring it on!)

I’ve got so accustomed to this now, that I simply couldn’t go back to any other cereal – it would be too sweet.

So, what else did I cut out?  Fruit, smoothies, cake, bread, etc., and I avidly began reading labels off everything.

The first day was breeze, by the second day I did start to feel a bit shaky and headachy, the third day I was pleased I didn’t actually have to work but by the fourth day I felt much brighter.

So, for the first few days you do have to think of the long-term aim and not give up.  It is hard, but you have to use that old willpower.

Over the next 2 months, I was amazed at how easy it became not to reach for the sugary stuff. And yes, I did substitute, like all the celebrity magazines. I’ve used brown sugar for years instead of white, but I also now use agave nectar, which is low GI and has a lower sugar content than honey.

And like when I gave up biscuits, my taste buds changed. I no longer craved sugar, and when I smelt something sweet all I could smell was the manufactured, processed yuckiness!

And did I mention the weight? Well, it literally fell off. (As that weight control freak, I wanted to lose a good 10-12Kgs. Not that I needed to, but that would then get me down to a weight I felt comfortable with and pretty much back to pre-baby weight).

After 2 months I had lost 5Kgs and felt great. I actually had more energy than when I had been eating sugar.

So, then I started gradually introducing a “sin” – not every day, but once a week. What I did notice, was that after eating it I got sugar-aches. The weight stabilised, but then as we drew near to Christmas…let’s just say “Oops!” maybe a few pounds crept back on – what can I say, I’m a sucker for Stollen!

But, here we are 4 months into the year and I am almost, so very nearly there. I have maybe 2-3Kg to go.

I’m still on the porridge with cinnamon and I try to avoid foodstuff with sugar in, but if it does I actually (how sad is this?) calculate how many teaspoons it is.  I generally manage to stick within 1tsp a day – it’s tough, but you can do it.

I now find I have more energy not eating sugar than I did when I did.

 

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Recipe – Cinnamon and Carrot Cake

I got this lovely recipe out of “Sarah Brown’s Vegetarian Kitchen”, a book I bought seriously years ago. It has been languishing in the drawer in the kitchen for a while (most of my recipe books, are actually taking up a cupboard’s floor space (and some) in my bedroom…) and I decided last week to try something a little bit different instead of coffee & walnut cake, and this was one of them.

Ingredients

  • ½lb (225g) Plain Flour (this can be normal, wheatmeal or wholemeal)
  • 1 tablespoon Cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon Nutmeg
  • ½ tablespoon Baking Powder
  • 4oz (110g) Butter (or Margarine)
  • 4oz (110g) Honey
  • 4oz (110g) Sugar
  • ½lb (225g) Carrots, peeled and finely grated

Method

  • Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 3 (325°F, 170°C, 150° (Fan));
  • Grease a 1lb (450g) Loaf Tin;
  • Mix all the dry ingredients together in a bowl (flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and baking powder);
  • Put the butter, honey and sugar in a saucepan and melt over a low heat;
  • Pour this mixture into the bowl with the dry ingredients and mix well until everything is combined;
  • Stir in the finely grated carrots;
  • Pour the mixture into the tin and pop in the oven;
  • Cook for 60-80 minutes until the mixture feels firm to the touch and a skewer, when inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean;
  • Leave the cake in the tin for 10 minutes, the turn out onto a cooling rack;
  • Enjoy!

What happened when I did it!

  • Well, the first thing, is I clearly didn’t read the recipe clearly enough (must use my glasses more often) as I only added ½ teaspoon of baking powder, not ½ tablespoon – that could be the reason it felt very ‘heavy’!
  • I also always use light brown sugar instead of caster sugar. I also think that if you want to use fruit sugar, it would work just as well just remember to only use 2/3 of the amount).
  • I didn’t have any nutmeg in the cupboard – or rather I did but it was seriously out-of-date, so it got binned – so I replaced this with 1 teaspoon of ginger.
  • 1 tablespoon of cinnamon does make for a very heavily spiced cake – so if cinnamon is not a particular favourite, you could always use half the cinnamon and replace the remainder with mixed spice, or ginger! Cinnamon does have an enormous range of health benefits, so this could be said to be a ‘healthy cake’ – would one of those really exist?
  • An alternative – which is the route I took – was to top the cake with an orange buttercream frosting (recipe below). This actually helped to cool down the spiciness of the cinnamon, and it tasted great 😉

Orange Buttercream Frosting

  • 35g Butter (or margarine)
  • 20ml Milk
  • 1 teaspoon orange extract (or orange juice)
  • 166g Icing Sugar

These are approximate guidelines, as I reduced a recipe by a third!

Chuck everything into a bowl and mix with an electric beater – or a spoon, until smooth and creamy 😉

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Cut and Come Again Cake Recipe

When I need my stress levels reduced…I bake.baking

When I feel stressed, worried, anxious, a bit low, or any combination of these and others I find it helps to bake a cake.

Or in the case of today 3!

Wow!

I have a lot on my mind at the moment!

Anyway – I more than replenished the cake supply, so hopefully there should be no grumblings in this house for a while!

But I digress.

I made a simple fruit cake – called a “Cut and Come Again” cake.

I had had this years ago at a friend’s house and she gave me the recipe which I long since lost, but today I thought I would try something different to cupcakes and managed to find a recipe posted onto Saint Delia Smith’s website by someone – it is not a Delia recipe.

It was seriously easy to make, smells amazing and tastes fab 😉

So, here you go recipe for “Cut and Come Again” cake:

Ingredients

  • 12oz (340g) Self-Raising Flour
  • 1 teaspoon Mixed Spice
  • 6oz (170g) Soft Margarine
  • 6oz (170g) Caster Sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 6oz (170g) Sultanas
  • 4oz (113g) Currants (or chopped nuts if you prefer)
  • 4oz (113g) Raisins
  • 3 tablespoons Milk

Method

  • Pre-heat the oven to 180°C / 160°C (Fan) / Gas Mark 4 / 350°F
  • Grease and line a 20cm/8inch round cake tin
  • Measure all the ingredients into a large bowl, or food mixer
  • Beat well until thoroughly mixed
  • Pour mixture into tin and level the top
  • Bake for about 1-1¼ hours (until skewer comes out clean)
  • Leave to cool in tin for 10 minutes then turn out, peel off paper and cool on a wire rack.
  • Make a cup of tea and enjoy!

My Findings on Making the Cake

  1. This was a seriously easy cake to make – anyone can do it – from measuring out the ingredients to pouring into the cake tin literally took less than 10 minutes!
  2. I never use Caster Sugar in baking I always use soft brown sugar – only because I believe it is less refined and therefore slightly healthier – big emphasis on the slightly, after all it is still sugar! (I have tried fruit sugar alternative when I made cupcakes, total disaster, but that might work better with this recipe as well)
  3. I mixed all the ingredients, EXCEPT the fruit, first with my electric whisk for about 3/4 minutes, and then I added the fruit and mixed for a further minute – for me this seemed more logical, as you can see that everything has been mixed easier than if you have small dried fruit bits floating about!
  4. I put the cake in for 1 hour initially, then checked with the skewer, then I cooked for a further 5 minutes and the skewer came out clean. Everyone’s ovens are different and I would advise 1 hour first and then 5 minute intervals. For those that don’t know about the skewer test, it is purely to see if the cake is cooked – put a clean skewer into the middle of the cake, down to the bottom – if the skewer comes out with cake mixture on you can see that the mixture is still not quite cooked, if it comes out clean your cake is ready.
  5. This cake tastes extremely good when you are sat down with your feet up and a large mug of tea 😉

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What are your ‘favourite things’?

..you know, like the ones from the song – “girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes”, etc.brownpaperpackage

So when you’re feeling sad, what are your favourite things?

Here’s mine:

– the smell of freshly cut grass

– the smell of the damp earth after rain

– warm sand between my toes

– gooey, sticky, creamy cake

– splashing in puddles (not the muddy kind I hasten to add)

– sliding down stair rails

– wishing on a star

– waltzing to Norah Jones ‘Come Away With Me’

– the smell of Johnson’s Baby Lotion

– a sing-along session to my favourite musical tunes

– tramping through crunchy Autumn leaves

– sitting on a hilltop watching the sun set

– the sound of raindrops on the window-pane

– kissing the top of SC’s head as he’s nestled into the place between my chin and shoulder

– the smell of deep red velvety roses

– orange blossom

– walking in the countryside

– train journeys

– that blissful sense of peace between waking and the pain & nausea of conscious thought kicking in

– cuddles

– roaring fires

– the sound of laughter

– long, slow, tender kisses

– believing dreams can come true

– snowflakes

– birdsong

– the sound of gently lapping waves on the shore

– hot sunshine

and of course brown paper packages tied up with string, these are a few of my favourite things 😉

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Comfort Food

You know, the kind of food that makes you feel better if you’re having an off-day.

Obviously, as I don’t do chocolate it’s not that.cake

So what’s your comfort food?

Mine really depends on the level of my ‘off-ness’!

See today, just feeling a little bit low – cold (still haven’t defrosted from this morning’s school run), worried (nothing unusual there then) and just a bit off – I’m in a “I can’t be bothered to cook” mood. So when I’m having one of those days, my comfort food is cheese on toast with baked beans – reminds me of childhood 😉

Generally, I go for savoury ‘pick-me-ups’ – Marmite cashew nuts, salty crackers and the like.

But sometimes, just sometimes, it’s just got to be cake!

The ‘gooier’ the better!

Carrot cake with frosting or coffee cake (hold the walnuts though). Cupcakes work too 😉

I’m thinking I’m going to be needing cake soon 😉

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