Thursday, 13 September 2012

A Big Surprise

While we were on holiday, my parents celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary. The day before when my Dad joked that I should remind him, I told him that I had almost forgotten, and then on the actual day I just said “happy anniversary”-what a negligent daughter they must have thought they had! Little did they know that my sister Katie and I had been planning a surprise anniversary party for them for some months, and I was extremely nervous that I would let it slip! The latter stages of planning happened almost entirely over iMessage and FaceTime, with me in Switzerland, Katie in Bristol, and the party happening 2 weeks later in London! In the end, after lots and lots of cover ups and little white lies, the plan all worked out and they were suitably surprised! Here’s a picture of my parents with me, my sister and our family friend Sue when the lift doors opened into the function room at the Valley (our football team Charlton Athletic’s home ground) full of their friends and family!   

Of course, even though it was all undercover this occasion definitely required some serious cake action! Luckily, my friends parents were lovely enough to let me use their kitchen to create the main cake; and my Aunt and Uncle lent us their kitchen to make the rest of the food for the party, including a stand of lemon and vanilla cupcakes that went down a storm!
Here’s the main cake, the bottom tier was a 10” chocolate and the top a 6” coffee, both sugarpasted. On the join of the two cakes was a line of edible pearls, the glittery red “30” was made way in advance, I just cut the letters from fondant, covered them in glitter and left them to dry until they were sturdy enough to stand up against the top tier. On top, there was a small cluster of white roses which I dusted with pearl shimmer powder, as my parents’ original wedding cake was topped with roses, and 30 years is the Pearl wedding anniversary. The reason for the cake table decoration is probably quite clear, we are massive Charlton fans! I must point out- my sister actually made the Charlton flag in this picture- I thought it was amazing!

As I said, I also made cupcakes, just to absolutely make sure that we had enough cake to have a few leftovers ;-) the red glittery cupcakes were vanillas, and the white pearly cakes were lemon sponge filled with lemon curd with vanilla buttercream, they all went by the end of the night, with the exception of 2 we managed to get home to make sure my parents had tried them.

 The party was definitely worth all the planning and the sneakyness, it was a lovely evening and Mum and Dad were well and truly surprised! Also, if anyone (Charlton fan or not) is looking for a good party venue in South East London, the Valley was wonderful. The rooms are lovely, quite reasonable in price and the staff are all lovely and so helpful, definitely worth a look around!
Hayley x

Monday, 10 September 2012

Marscapone Gnocchi

My mum is a great shopper, and she usually returns from the supermarket with more than just bread and milk! This week's surprise buy was a tub of marscapone that she found for 35p, bit of a steal really! So I decided to knock up some gnocchi, using the cheese for moisture rather than potatoes. The flavour of the gnocchi is lovely and rich. And they're lovely light little pillows (I use a sneaky little bit of self raising flour to add some extra lift) :-)

So the ingredients are:
250g marscapone
2 eggs
1 egg yolk
(about) 300g plain flour
(about) 150g SR flour
1/2tsp salt
Generous 1/2 tsp fresh grated nutmeg

So put the marscapone, eggs, salt and nutmeg into a bowl and beat them well- you don't want marscapone lumps really.

Start adding in the flour, you want a fairly soft dough; don't add all the flour at once as you might need slightly different amounts. Bring the dough together and try not to work it too much.


Split the dough into 6 pieces and form them one by one into sausages, then cut the gnocchi from the sausages. I like quite generous big gnocchi cushions, but you can make yours smaller if you prefer.

Et voila! Just boil them for a minute or two until they float, then serve up! For some lovely texture, I like to fry off the boiled gnocchi, getting a lovely crunchy goldenness :-)
I served them up with a garlicky tomato and spinach sauce, and they got pretty good reviews from my parents!

Hayley x

Sunday, 2 September 2012

A Culinary Tour of (some of) Switzerland

I love Switzerland. We’ve been going on family holidays to the Bernese Oberland for years and years, we even have pictures of my Nan in our favourite town, Interlaken, decades ago; and my Great Grandmother had visited decades before. We decided to mix it up a little this year, as my Mum had wanted to see the famous Matterhorn for years, partially due to its appearance on Toblerone packaging! So this year, we spent a week in the mountain town of Zermatt, before moving on to our old favourite Interlaken for the second week.  Swiss food is delicious, often very rich and with a wonderful emphasis on CHEESE!! There are also lots of lovely bakeries in Switzerland, so here are a few of the delights we sampled on our trip J 

This first product is called Bergführerbrot, and it came from a lovely little bakery in Zermatt called Fuchs, there were multiple branches of Fuchs in Zermatt, we stumbled across one and bought this, a product that was voted the best bakery product in Switzerland in 2010. It was a very dense, spiced fruit and nut cake; and it reminded me of a cross between a bread pudding and a malt loaf. The name means something along the lines of mountain-leader bread, with Bergführer referring to the brave mountain climbers and dwellers of the Swiss alps; this is the reason for the heavy texture and the dried fruits- it was created as sustinance for those heading up into the harsh peaks around Zermatt. Though it was really yummy, I don’t think it was the best bakery product we tasted- really interesting to try though.
A random picture, but a fun one- here is a slightly different range of mountains!! Toblerone, even yummier in the country of its production! 
This is one of the loveliest bakeries we go to, it’s in a town called Grindelwald. We’ve been going to this bakery for ages and the cakes are gorgeous! The thing i’ll point out is the plaited loaves on the top bread shelf, they’re called Butterzopf, a rich buttery plaited bread similar to Challah, and they’re absolutely delicious.
And finally, that cream covered monster there is a delicious apple cake, packed with juicy apples, grated up core and all. It’s from a bakery at Kleine Scheidegg, from where you can get the train up to Jungraujoch- “the Top of Europe”. The cake is so moist, and is absolutely smothered in whipped cream- yum!
And finally, (I am counting this as a baked product as after all it was bread we were dipping!) this wonderful, bubbly, wine laced unctuousness of a cheese fondue *drools*. Yep, it's about as Swiss as it gets, particularly when enjoyed in a mountaintop restaurant with cowbells clinking in the background... ahhh bliss... 
So, before I spend my savings on rushing back, i'll wrap it up. There’s a very brief view of the Swiss delights we gobbled up!
Hayley x