Saturday, 31 October 2009

I have a problem...

...I'm a pumpkin addict.

I can't stop cooking with them, baking them (just made pumpkin whoopie pies for a birthday), or even buying them. I've tried growing them (I don't talk about that. When they don't ripen it's like a kick when you're already down), and now it seems I even photograph them. Obsessively. I came across this fella in the window of The Yankee Store on Wellfield Road, in (fabulous) Roath, and walked all the way there just to take this picture.

And the minute I saw what Coby, who posts on nigella.com, and blogs here, had done with a cantaloupe melon, I knew I had to put a copy of it here. So creative! I think it's my favourite of all.


Are they not amazing? They are.

Happy Halloween!

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Halloween Cookies


I'm getting a bit Halloween crazy this year. Considering I'm actually going to be at a concert on Saturday night though, and won't be celebrating by dressing up either, I am giving myself free-reign to do some Halloween baking a tad early.

And more importantly, last year, there was a November sale of Halloween-themed cookie cutters in Rossiters, and I have been waiting a whole year - a whole year - to use them. But I think the wait has been worth it. I had such fun making these! Although, actually, I think I could have made the faces look better. But I'm not going to beat myself up over it. Life is too short for that.

Now, whether you celebrate Halloween or not (most people in Britain see it as a nuisance) is up to you, and I don't mind if you have no intention whatsoever of making cut-out cookies this weekend (although you should). But I'm putting these up here because I think my method of decorating them is the best of all.

I've tried doing it the proper way, as described by Peggy Porschen in her books (which incidentally are the shizzle when it comes to cake decorating - she makes you want to put glitter on everything), beating egg whites and icing sugar to get just the right consistency of royal icing, then adding colour, piping an outline, filling it in, etc. etc... And you know what? It was exhausting. And I hated the results. I couldn't do it neatly enough, because I'm rubbish at piping (A case in point: the faces on these biscuits!)

So when it was my sister's birthday, I changed track and came up with this method to make some New York-themed cookies. And I'm not going back.

The point is, anybody can colour and roll fondant icing. And if you use the same cutter you used to cut your cookie to cut the fondant, you'll have a perfectly sized piece of icing to top it with. Foolproof. There is no need to bother with piping at all.

It's important to use the right biscuit recipe. And that recipe is Peggy Porschen's. It's perfect because it doesn't spread in the heat of the oven, so your fondant cut-outs fit their cookie bases like Cinderella's glass slipper. Her recipe was in the Daily Mail, so I am not going to feel bad about putting a link here. You can still buy her book if you want to!

So here we go. Mr. P's renegade method for cookie decoration. Enjoy! And if you've decorated some cookies for Halloween, please leave a link to them. I'd love to see. Happy Halloween!

You will need:

baked cookies, plus the cutters you used to make them
ready made fondant icing (or marzipan - you get a brighter colour than with fondant)
food colouring paste - available here
icing sugar
jam
sprinkles, tubes of squeezy gel icing and the like (optional)

  1. First of all, knead your fondant icing with some food colouring (go easy at first - it's strong). Marzipan will give more vivid colours than icing, but some people don't like it (weirdos). When you're happy with the colour, roll it out on a surface sprinkled with icing sugar. You can make it as thick or thin as you like.
  2. Wash and dry your cutters if you haven't done so (they might still have crumbs of dough on them - not desirable). Cut as many shapes as you need.
  3. Then, heat a few spoons of jam (any flavour) and a few spoons of water in a pan, and pass it through a sieve. This is your glue.
  4. Brush the tops of the cookies with jam glue, and carefully place the icing cut-outs on top. Press down gently.
  5. Decorate as you like! If you have any annoying white icing sugar left on the surface of your fondant icing, brush with a little boiled and cooled water to dissolve it.
(For the pumpkins, I made some green fondant icing and used the cutter as a template to make stems. But then I remembered I had some green sugar, so used that instead with some more of the jam glue. You are limited only by your imagination! Get busy.)


Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Halloween Pumpkins!


Couldn't wait any longer. I know it's not Halloween until Saturday, but the pumpkins were so cheap at the market today...

What do you think? I am really proud of him!


Chocolate-Peppermint Cookies and Cream Cupcakes

Another birthday, another excuse to go wild in the kitchen. There's another one coming next weekend too, so I'm in my element at the moment. I wish I could do birthday cakes every week!

This time it was a thirtieth, so there was an excuse to get the champagne out as well. I have never actually eaten cupcakes with champagne, and there was a little bit of me that wanted to exploit the connection and make a champagne cocktail flavoured cupcake. But when I saw what Mr. Other P had chosen to give Kate (whose birthday it was), that idea went out the window, though you never know when it might return.

He'd been into town and bought a big selection of American junk food from the food hall in House of Fraser. I love looking at all that stuff! There was some Hershey's fudge topping for ice-cream, a bag of Reese's Pieces (nearly snaffled those for myself), a box of Aunt Jemima pancake mix, some raspberry twizzlers, and a whole host of other things with exactly the right kind of gleaming, colourful packaging that makes junk food so attractive.

But something was missing. It took a while to figure out what it was, but I got there. Oreo cookies. Aren't they supposed to be America's #1? I might be making that up, but I'm sure I heard that somewhere. Probably written on the packet...

Anyway, there were a couple of reasons why there were no Oreos. The most obvious was the price of the damn things. Nobody's going to pay £7.00 for them, whether they are America's #1 or not. House of Fraser would do well to remember that. I mean, come on... Seven quid for biscuits?!

The second reason was that Mr. Other P doesn't like them. He thinks they're dry and tasteless, despite looking like they are going to be chocolaty and delicious. If pressed, I would agree with him, but I do still like them because they are always the biscuits you find in cookies and cream ice-cream. Which most people would agree is very, very delicious indeed.

So, since there were no Oreos in the birthday hamper, I decided to make Oreo cookies and cream cupcakes. And because I've had a bottle of peppermint extract knocking around on the shelf for a while, I decided to use that too. I don't think it's an obvious pairing, but it fits in with my new 'why hold back?' approach to flavours (as evidenced by this post), and more importantly, it works. It may sound immodest, but seriously, these are incredible. And yes - other people said so.

I should add, I didn't buy the £7.00 American Oreos. I got the 'Made in the EU' version that come in different packaging but taste the same. A bargain at 89p from the corner shop!

If you don't want to make the cupcakes themselves chocolate flavour, then don't. It's all about the frosting with this one.

Chocolate-Peppermint Cookies and Cream Cupcakes

You will need:

125g plain flour
125g butter, softened
125g caster sugar
2 eggs
30g cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarb. of soda

30g butter, softened
100g full fat cream cheese
250g icing sugar, sifted
1/2 tsp peppermint extract
1 packet Oreo cookies

  1. Line a 12 bun cupcake tin with paper liners, and pre-heat the oven to 180°C.
  2. Use my usual, lazy method to make the cake batter. Dump everything in a bowl and mix, adding a splosh of milk if necessary, using electric beaters, until creamy and combined. Use an ice-cream scoop to transfer the batter to the prepared tin.
  3. Bake for 20 minutes, and then turn the cupcakes out onto a wire rack to cool. If they've risen a lot (mine did), level the tops with a sharp knife, so they look pretty when you ice them.
  4. Make the frosting: Cream the butter and cream cheese, then slowly stir in the icing sugar. You might need a little less or a little more to get the consistency you want - don't be afraid to adjust quantities. Add the extract, and taste. You might need more if yours isn't as strong as mine. Crush 5 Oreos and mix in until nicely combined. You will be amazed at the beauty of what you have created!
  5. Frost the cupcakes, smoothing the frosting out evenly. It looks very pretty swirled, but you could pipe it if you prefer.
  6. Chop remaining biscuits in half, and use to top the cupcakes. Sprinkle with green edible glitter.
  7. Devour!

Monday, 26 October 2009

Roasted Sweet Chestnuts


There is no getting away from it: This is officially free food. And, what's more, I didn't even have to go foraging for it! It was a gift. I don't think it gets much better than that.

Francesco came to stay this weekend. The man's a genius in the kitchen, and whenever he comes around, you know the eating is going to be good. He always arrives with a small case and the first thing I want to do when we collect him from the station is ask what he has inside. Of course, I don't, because I'm quite a well-mannered sort of chap, but I know he knows that's what I'm thinking!

Quite often, it will be a selection of Italian products that I ask lots of questions about (like a culinary version of show and tell), and make a note to buy next time I'm in Italy, or it might be an Italian book of recipes, which he kindly translates for me.

But this time it was something quite different. A bag of dirty nuts.

Now, I'm someone who tends to see the glass as half empty. So you'd think if somebody dumped a load of grubby conkers on my kitchen counter I'd be distraught. Well, I don't know what came over me, but I wasn't. I was intrigued. Though admittedly, only after having found out that they weren't conkers.

He said they were sweet chestnuts, gathered from a few trees at work, and that we were going to roast them. How seasonal!

I've had hot roast chestnuts before, and even thought they were really nice, but I think I always assumed you needed special equipment to roast them at home. As it happens, it's dirt simple. And since I can't be the only person in the world to have held this misconception, I have decided to put the method up here in case anybody else wants to try. So hold on to your hats, readers - we're about to go Dickensian!


Roasted Sweet Chestnuts

You will need:

chestnuts - we ate about 10 chestnuts each, after dinner, but we are greedy. You may need less.

  1. Wash the nuts in cold water to get rid of all the soil and dust. Leave to soak for a few minutes while you pre-heat the oven to 200°C. If you are using bought nuts (and I don't blame you - I'm hardly a hunter-gatherer myself!), you can probably skip the washing.
  2. Drain and dry the nuts, and score each one width-ways with a sharp knife. This stops them exploding in your oven.
  3. Spread the nuts out in a roasting tin, or on an oven sheet, and roast for about 20 minutes. Shake them about after 10 minutes. They are done when the shells look slightly burnished and you can see the insides starting to poke out.
  4. Serve immediately, remembering they will be hot. Don't burn your tongue.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Birthday Cake De Lux


I can never resist a cake, and a birthday cake is even better. The thing is, you'd never make an outrageously over-the-top cake in the daily run of things, but when it's a birthday you get free license to really go to town.

Quite often, that means decorating for me. For example, last year I recreated the Welsh flag in cake form for Mr. Other P's thirtieth, complete with a glittering red edible dragon. Yes, really. Even though neither of us are true bloods. He just likes flags. And maps. And I like messing about with sugar, so it was a nice project.

Anyway, when I was in New York with my Mum and sister this February, I had my first contact with what I like to think of as 'The American Baking Scene' (doesn't that sound grand?). I say my first contact - I'd been to Magnolia with Mr. Other P the first time I was there, but that didn't really impress me (the cakes were dry. All that fuss for dry cake!). But did you know that there's a place in Brooklyn where they make carrot cake cheese cake? It's not flavoured cheesecake - it's cheesecake with carrot cake as the base. And it has frosting! Is that not amazing? I think it's one of the most creative and unique ideas I've ever seen. It blew me away. When I got back, I googled the place (it's called Junior's), and it turns out that they've been making this amazing stuff since before I was born, so why it was kept a secret from me until the age of 26 I do not know. They deliver, if anyone's feeling hungry.

The point is, the Americans get creative with flavour, whereas sugar craft is often boring when you bite into it. So, given that a birthday cake is a reason for excess anyway, I decided to go about this the American way. And I'm glad I did, because this one's a keeper.

I started with Mr. Other P's favourite flavour combination, chocolate and cherry (born after having eaten these). Well, chocolate was easy: I made a regular chocolate cake mixture and thought about what else to add. Without too much ado, a large bar of Belgian chocolate was smashed up and stirred in, along with a whole bag of crushed almonds and half a pot of sour cream (well, why not?).

I then layered in some tinned cherries. I planned to use a glass jar of those fancy-pants morello cherries you can buy from the deli in town, but when I saw how much they cost I realised we'd have to remortgage if I did. It's fine; the tinned ones tasted nice enough to me.

Now, ordinarily I'd stop there. But birthday cakes need icing. It's a rule. I thought about making a pink glaze from the juice the cherries came in, but since Mr. Other P ran the Cardiff half marathon in less than 2 hours at the weekend (that's his medal in the photo!), I figured that it was acceptable to make a chocolate fudge frosting instead. I don't know if I can really call it that though, as I just made it up, using what ingredients I had left. The texture is quite soft - it's smoothes out much easier than buttercream icing, and I think you could get it perfectly smooth quite easily. I just like it looking rugged and swirly.

And so there we have it. Double Chocolate Cherry-Nut Fudge Cake! A step up from just chocolate, methinks. Do not think about the calories and fat involved. It's a birthday cake!


Double Chocolate Cherry-Nut Fudge Cake

You will need:

250g plain flour
250g soft butter
125g granulated sugar
125g dark muscovado sugar
4 eggs
2 tbsp cocoa powder
2tsp baking powder
1tsp bicarb. of soda
150ml sour cream
200g good quality dark chocolate
200g ground almonds
1 tin of cherries in natural juice, drained

225g butter
300g good quality dark chocolate
1tbsp golden syrup
100g icing sugar, sifted
150ml sour cream


  1. First make the cake. Put the first 8 ingredients into a (LARGE!) bowl, and beat together using a hand whisk until nicely combined.
  2. Stir though the sour cream, then add the almonds and roughly chopped chocolate.
  3. Grease and line the bottom of a 23cm round cake tin, and add half of the mixture. Smooth out, then cover with as many cherries as you like (I used half the tin... Because I'd eaten the rest.). Top with the remaining mixture, smooth out and bake in a 180°C oven for an hour, or until done.
  4. Cool on a wire rack.
  5. Make the frosting. Melt the chocolate and butter together, and add the syrup. Stir. Chill for 2o minutes. Then add the sour cream, and icing sugar, and beat until thick and creamy. Use to frost the cake.
  6. Add sprinkles and candles.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Baktus Scarf

OK, I know that this isn't edible, but it just so happens that today is Mr. Other P's birthday, and I am so pleased with how the gift I made him turned out that I had to put it here. Check out my Baktus!
The done thing seems to be to photograph these against floor boards, so I have followed suit, but I like the close up of the garter stitch too...



I'm new to knitting, and so far have only made scarves, but this is really cool because it's triangular, and from what I gather, taking the first steps beyond the rectangle in the knitting world is a big thing! I got the pattern from Ravelry and made it using Rowan pure wool aran. Next up is a hat, I can feel it.




The birthday cake is in the oven by the way.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Chutney

Turns out chutney is easy to make, lovely to eat, but boring to photograph. I had my suspicions.

The other downer about chutney is that you can't eat it right away; it needs to mature. Boring! I feel, though, that I should post this now, because it's what I used all of the remaining vegetables for (save the parsnips - they became a soup, made by Mr. Other P while I was in Rome). But I'll update towards the end of the year when we get to try some.

In addition to the onions, beetroot and pears, I decided it was time to use up my tomatoes. I call them mine, but really I think of them as my friend Rowanne's. She grew the plants, gave them to us (in exchange for a pumpkin vine), and then hers got blight. Which is very sad indeed, but I can't say that ours were entirely a success - they stayed green all Summer. So into the pot they went!

I made chutney last year and it was too spicy, so I tried to go easy on spicing this time. I chose ginger, because I thought it would be nice with the beetroot, and the sweetness from the pears, and I put some fennel in, too. That was actually a mistake though - I thought it was coriander seed. But fennel has quite a nice earthy taste, so it should be fine. There's no going back now, anyway.

Below is what I did. But you can put anything in a chutney, so don't worry about making substitutions.

Green Tomato and Beetroot Chutney

You will need:

750g beetroot, peeled and chopped
750g pears, peeled, cored and chopped
500g green tomatoes, chopped
500g Bramley apples, peeled, cored and chopped
500g onions, chopped
500g raisins
500g sugar
600ml cider vinegar
salt pepper

good chunk of fresh ginger, peeled and crushed
1 tsp cloves
1tbsp peppercorns
1 tsp coriander seeds
1tsp fennel seeds

  1. Put everything into a large (very large!) pan, and tie the spices together in a piece of muslin. Add the spice bag to the pan as well.
  2. Bring to the boil, and simmer very gently for about 4 hours. It will be thick and gooey when ready.
  3. That's it. Pour carefully into hot, sterilised jam jars (see here), and seal. Keep for a few months before using.

I got 3 big jars (the size you buy gherkins in), and one regular sized out of this. I think you'd be looking at 8 regular jars in total.

When in Rome...

You may be wondering how I've made that box of free vegetables last so long. Well, the truth is, I haven't. I wish I could say that I had pioneered some new ground-breaking food storage technique, which will revolutionise the way we keep perishable food items and ultimately help bring an end to world hunger (well, doesn't everybody?), but sadly I can't.

No, the fact is, I finished them up yonks ago. I just haven't updated yet! But there is a reason for this. I have been away with work, which took me to Rome of all places. And anybody who is even half as greedy and one-track-minded when it comes to food as I am will know that this is one of the very best places to be when you are looking for something good to eat.

The reason that I know this is that Mr. Other P and I had the fortune (or misfortune, depending on your perspective) of spending a week there several years ago when the weather was mostly bad. For him - a sun worshiper - a tragedy! For me - bliss! More reason to go off in search of delicious food - hurrah!

Now, I like pasta and pizza just as much as you do. I make risotto on a near-weekly basis, and think I'm pretty good at getting it right (clean plates every time, you see...). I love coffee, and cantuccini, and always slip a bottle of limoncello and/or (usually and...) whatever wine I fancy into my suitcase when I have the good fortune to be in Italy. But the one thing I crave the most, miss terribly when I leave, is perhaps the only thing you cannot bring home.

Ice-cream.

Or, let's be fancy, gelato. Madonna was right: Italians do it better. Although, I don't think she was talking about ice-cream, but you never know. I've had good honey ice-cream in Aberaeron, amazing vanilla in Penzance, and, what do you know, a terrific green tea and ginger sundae in Manchester, but none of them compare to what you can get on almost any street corner in Italy.

On this most recent trip, my colleague, Almudena, expressed my feelings about Roman ice-cream perfectly, when, exhausted from walking we slumped down on a bench to empty the paper cups we'd just had filled with our chosen flavours (for what it's worth, I like the fruits; she's strictly a chocolate and nuts kinda girl).

'The ice-creams in Milan are nice,' she sighed. 'But the ones in Rome...'

Exactly.

I knew what I had to do. The next day I took her to an unassuming little bar in Trastevere, which Mr. Other P and I uncovered on one of our few fair weather days sight-seeing. It's not fancy. It isn't even labelled as a gelateria. But the owner makes his own ice-cream, using fresh, organic milk and eggs. Or so the small notice, handwritten on shocking green cardboard in the window proclaims. But tasting is believing. We still talk about those ice-creams.

I won't lie to you. He's a bit of an ice-cream fascist, and if the flavours don't go together, he won't serve them (thus I was not allowed melon and hazelnut, whereas Mr. Other P was applauded for his choice of pear and dark chocolate). But the stuff is so good you won't care.

This time, I too ordered pear and dark chocolate. And I implore you to do the same, should you ever be lucky enough to step inside the place. I know you'll thank me; Almudena did!

You can find the miracle gelato at 14. via della Lungara, Roma. Cross the river at Ponte Mazzini, and go down the steps.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Pear and Apple Butter


This is not quite what it sounds like. Fruit butters, according to Pam 'the Jam' Corbin, who helps with the Preserving Days at Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's River Cottage, are so named because they spread as 'soft as butter', but are actually more like a low sugar jam. The method she gives for cider apple butter in Preserves is for an apples-only fruit butter, and involves cooking apples with spices and cider, then sieving the fruit and boiling the pulp with sugar. When cooled, the mixture sets firm, yet melts when spread onto hot toast or crumpets - just like butter.

I love the idea of preserving. I think it's really nice to be able to squirrel something away for winter, or any time of year when whatever it is you are preserving is out of season or not readily available. The deep freeze is an option, of course, and is great for some fruit or vegetables - like raspberries, peas or beans - but not everything. I did consider freezing the left over pears as a purée, but decided against it. Who wants a freezer full of puréed pears? Not me.

Thus I decided to adapt Pam's recipe to include pears. I retained the cider, because I had a bottle in the fridge (of Gwynt y Ddraig, which is Welsh, wonderful and fairly local to me), and her choice of spices, which seemed sensible.

I have tried preserving before, but not always with great success. Last Christmas, Mr. Other P and I made chutney which nobody, including us, liked very much, and the chilli jam we made at the same time didn't set, which was upsetting to say the least. But our pickled onions were out of this world, and we are dab hands at sloe gin. I am happy to say that this pear and apple butter is going on the 'good list', too. Since opening the first jar, I have had some every morning, on toast, and love everything about it - it is thick, juicy, intensely fruity, and gently spiced with cloves and cinnamon. My plan was to give most of it away as presents - a jar of this would be a great Christmas gift - but I like it so much I'll probably keep at least two more jars for myself. If you have similar plans, don't taste it; you won't want to share.

A final word: don't let the fact that you need sterilised jars put you off. Just wash whatever jars and lids you have in hot, soapy water and rinse them, then dry off on a baking sheet in a low oven (I always stick empty jam jars in a box in the shed, so have a ready supply -you can use the lids they came with). This is a really easy recipe - quick enough to get done in one go after dinner on a week night, and great fun to boot.

Pear and Apple Butter

You will need:

1kg pears, peeled, cored and chopped
500g Bramley apples, chopped (don't peel or core - you need the pectin)
juice of 2 lemons
600ml cider
600ml water
sugar (amount follows)
half tsp ground cinnamon
half tsp ground cloves



  1. Put apples, pears, water and cider in a large pan and simmer until fruit is soft. If your cider comes in a 500ml bottle, don't worry - just make up the difference in water. Or get another bottle and drink what you don't use! :)
  2. Push the mixture through a large sieve to pulp the fruit. The seeds and peel from the apples will be left behind - how convenient!
  3. Measure the fruit pulp. Add 300g sugar for every 600ml pulp, and return to the pan. Add spices, and slowly bring to the boil, stirring. When sugar has dissolved, boil rapidly without stirring for about twenty minutes, until the mixture is thick and creamy. Pam says it should splutter - I didn't really notice, but it came out fine, so don't worry if you have quiet butter.
  4. Pour into your hot, sterilised jars. Fill to the top, and seal immediately. Don't be shocked when you hear the popping sound of the safety seals on the lids about 3o minutes later - it just means you've created a vacuum, which is what you want!
  5. Once opened, refrigerate.

Friday, 2 October 2009

Conference Pear Cupcakes with Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting

I thought I'd kick off with a recipe for cupcakes. Baking is something I do under the guise of de-stressing all the time, although really my life is not fraught with sufficient tension to require me to bake as often as I do. I think it is more likely that I simply have an addiction to sugar! Whatever; this blog will likely feature more cakes and sweet things than savoury items. And that suits me just fine!

When experimenting with new cake flavours, I quite often find that I can't taste whatever flavour I was trying to emphasize strongly enough - it always seems muted against the background taste and texture of regular cake. So I am very happy to report that these cupcakes did not disappoint. The pear is there, in both texture and flavour, and comes through after the first hit of creamy caramel in the frosting.

The caramel itself comes from this, a product that my brother's parents-in-law left after a party at my Mum's house a while ago. It's from the States, and is really spectacularly yummy. I had four pots originally, and the first three were eaten with apples and ice-cream, but I wanted to try it out as a flavour in frosting too. Since I have none left (boo!), the next time I do this I'll probably just use a caramel flavour ice-cream sauce, or even some honey, which I think would go just as nicely with the pears, and is what I recommend for anybody who can't get Marzetti. Incidentally, the quantities below make only enough frosting for half the cupcakes. I usually frost only half of any given batch of cupcakes if I'm making a cream cheese based topping, as you should really keep them in the fridge, and I never seem to have the space.

The one change I would make to this recipe would be to add another pear. I didn't want too moist a cake to start a cake with, as I knew the frosting would be nice and gooey, and although I think the cakes are lovely as they are (they have a lovely fluffy texture), it would have been better to use up more of my pears!!

Pear and Caramel Cupcakes

You will need:

125g plain flour
125g caster sugar
125g butter
2 eggs
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 large pear, peeled, cored and grated

200g package full-fat cream cheese
1 small pot caramel apple dip or 3-4 tbsp caramel sauce for ice-cream
2 tbsp icing sugar, sifted


  1. Line a 12 cup cupcake tin with paper liners. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C.
  2. Place flour, baking powder, bicarb. of soda, butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla in a bowl and beat with an electric hand mixer until all is combined. You can go the original way, and cream the butter and sugar together, then slowly add the eggs and flour and leaveners if you like, but since you'll be adding fruit to the mixture, you won't get as light a cake anyway, so I don't see the point. If you don't have a mixer though, proceed à la Mrs. Beeton, with a wooden spoon, and consider the experience a work-out.
  3. Add the pear - try grating it into the bowl directly, so you catch all the juice. Mix.
  4. Transfer the mixture to the cupcake tin, trying to fill each indentation equally. I use an ice-cream scoop; aim for two-thirds full.
  5. Bake for 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.
  6. Mix frosting ingredients together in a bowl until just combined. You might not need the extra sugar, so add that last.
  7. Smooth over cooled cupcakes, and refrigerate until 30 minutes or so before serving.
I topped mine with fresh flowers from the garden. Less is definitely more here though - the flowers from my rosemary bush were perfect, and I think look very cute. But I'd lose the passion flower next time (see below). I think it's screaming for too much attention.

Starting Points

I'll be honest with you:

I have been thinking about blogging forever. Blogs are my second favourite thing in the whole word, and I would spend all day reading other people's if I could (and sometimes do - the reason I am often late meeting friends). However, I have been scared to get my feet wet myself because I didn't think I could emulate the amazingness of the blogs I follow. But then this happened and I had to throw all caution to the wind -












Yes, I know that a box of pears, some dirty veggies and a green waste bin (note to self: make more effort with photographs in future) may not scream 'impetus' to you, but to me they sang it, and sweetly. My point is this: if I can't come up with some interesting recipes to put all this abundance to good use, then I obviously lack the creativity and flair needed to write a good blog. And I have always liked to think of myself as somebody who has flair.

And so here we are! The starting point for my blog - what Mr. P did with the vegetables. Obviously one day there will be nothing left in the boxes, but by that point I will have thought of something else that's delicious and needs blogging.

The vegetables, by the way, come from the exceptionally green-fingered parents of Mr. Other P (for we are two). They live in Worcester and have a vegetable patch as big as my kitchen! I love everything they grow, but especially the beetroot, runner beans and parsnips. I think the fact that I said so over dinner with them and Mr. Other P inspired them to give us the box of veg. They seem less exlusive with the pears, however, which get given to anyone who'll take 'em (apparently the postman used to eat some everyday when he delivered the post, but he retired last Spring and the new one doesn't seem to have the same appetite, which might explain why we got so many).

Anyway, we're off with the blog... Welcome to Delicious Delicious Delicious! It's lovely to meet you.
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