Thursday, 27 January 2011

An even BETTER comment of the day

We had a power cut at work today. The whole street went out. A rip roaring pain in the arse when you run a coffee shop. I had a bowl full of carrot cake batter, another bowl full of mushrooms ready to cook, and customers who (bizarrely) got very excited about the whole 'lights going out and sitting in the dark' thing.

So, picture the scene. No lights. No coffee machine. No till. No heating (minus one degree this morning. Ouch) and all a bit dull and rubbish really. Four members of staff, all very keen for a nice hot cuppa.

One of the girls who works in the cafe said.....


Ready for comment of the day?

"Shall I go home and get my kettle, bring it back here to plug in so we can have a cup of tea?"

Send help.


Sunday, 23 January 2011

Hearts and Flowers

This week at work has seen much experimentation in the cake department. We acquired an enormous silicone cupcake mould which has been sitting around for a while now, unused. It has been picked up, turned over, muttered about in a 'How many eggs would that take' type way (cafe talk for how big a Victoria sponge mix would we need-7 eggs as it turns out, and 12 ounces of everything else) until finally we decided to stop wimping about and get on with it.

I am so pleased we did. The mould itself has a dip in the middle which basically means that when it's cooked you have a hollow in the cake which can be filled with sweets, presents or anything else that takes your fancy (diamonds, etc.etc) and then iced around it. Cool eh? We filled ours with a mixture of buttercream and hundreds and thousands (also known as fairy dust)

We make a HUGE amount of cakes in the cafe, several a day usually, but never has one gained quite as much attention at this. Apart from possibly the Guinness Cake, which Terry Wogan mentioned on his radio 2 breakfast show once...I digress...small girls and boys Ooohed and Aaahed, as indeed, did their parents. It would make a fab birthday cake for a party too. I think it would be great with jelly beans in the middle. And obviously it can be decorated in a million and one different ways too. I only wish I had taken the photo alongside a regular sized fairy cake to give you an idea of scale. It wouldn't fit in our glass cake domes, which means it has to be made and eaten the same day until we can find a tall enough container to store it, but as it turns out it didn't hang around for long anyway.

If you are keen on buying one I got ours from Amazon, for a fiver, in silicone. Having done various bits of research I discovered that they are more popular than the normal cake tins as the heat is controlled better. And they are much cheaper and go in the dishwasher. Hurrah!

The lovely husband bought me some beautiful red (of course) tulips this week which look beautiful in the kitchen on the table we inherited from a friend of a friend. This isn't actually our main kitchen table (doesn't everyone have two?!) but a general dumping ground and recipe book reading table. Very handy. I love the duck egg blue formica and the drop leaf style.

These are the other cakes we have been experimenting with, for Valentines Day. We have designed two sizes, small and large, with the idea being that children can buy the small ones for their Mums and Dads or teachers, etc.

And big ones for big people! I haven't worked out a gluten free version yet but that's work in progress. They are both chocolate, with chocolate ganache and chocolate hearts.

So there you have it! I have also made an orange and cardamom cake, several lemon drizzles and a sticky marmalade cake with orange icing this week. Yum.
Back to the diet....

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Comment Of The Day

Mr F and I frequently get home from work and share a 'comment of the day' story.

Today, this was mine.....

Two regular customers came into the cafe this morning. I guess they are in their mid to late sixties. Both ladies are quite well to do and we sometimes have a bit of banter. One of the ladies has a gluten intolerance, and as some of you know we do try to have a good selection of cakes, including at least one gluten free choice. The ladies in question do tend to sit in the cafe for at least two hours nursing one cup of coffee each, and today I made a point of popping over to say hello and see if we could offer them some more coffee and a slice of cake.

I mentioned to the first lady, let's call her Patricia (because that's her name!) that we had made a fabulous dark chocolate gluten free torte which I thought she would enjoy. Whilst I was describing it to her, I was aware that her friend (Bev) was looking me up and down. I turned to her and she said, very kindly,
"Ooh, you do look well you know. You really do look lovely and slim, how on earth did you manage it?" I was about to reply and her Patricia smirked and said (wait for it)

"Yes, but to be honest you were VERY chunky, weren't you?"

Several months ago I would have cried with mortification. Today I laughed and resisted the urge to reply with

"You won't be wanting any torte then?" Instead I pretended to be busy and dashed off for an emergency coffee to try and restore sanity levels.

The lovely girls who work in the cafe were outraged and ready to throw bread rolls at her, but actually, a lot of older people I know are not afraid of being honest. Think of someone you know, anyone, and then think of them losing a few stone. You would notice, wouldn't you? So in a roundabout, rubbish way with words, kind of way, there was a twisted about compliment in there somewhere! and today, fortunately, I could see it!

Does anyone else play the 'Comment of the day' game? if not, give it a go, I almost guarantee it will raise a laugh.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Shhh! there's still a Waitrose Christmas Cake in the kitchen cupboard

Well where did the last few months go? I really do need to get my blogging mojo back. Only I am not too sure where I left it...I did look behind the sofa and in the cupboard under the stairs (admittedly I was looking for a pair of red ballerina pumps at the time-still missing in action) but all I found was dust and a lonely mitten.

Still, hopefully this is a positive step in the right direction, no?

Did you have a lovely Christmas? New Year? Isn't it cold out? Really miserable?-just some of the questions I answer on a regular basis at work! Truth be told I am rather pleased it's all out of the way now and we can just Get On. I might be able to save a bit of money now as well. I am really hoping that this will finally be the year of the purchase of the camper van. I have dreamed about it long enough! I hope to be able to get some holidays to Cornwall in as well (or maybe just the one given the previous camper van thing) and practice some more sewing, maybe even go to a night class or two.

Plans are afoot to re-vamp the menu at the cafe too. Lots of warming winter stews and soups, new cakes and sandwich fillings. If anyone has any ideas they would be greatly appreciated. I just feel the need to stir things up a bit on the food front.

Other plans involve getting back to a respectable standard of running, where I was at the beginning of December. It has all fallen by the waywise and I am blaming it on chest infections and snow. The lovely husband and I were due to do a charity run on Boxing Day which was actually cancelled due to deep snow on Cheltenham Racecourse, and actually I was quite pleased. Because I probably would have only managed half of it. Now that the roads and pavements are clear of snow though we can get out again in the evenings, and start building up some decent distances.

Christmas morning,canapes and champagne,yum!

I always HATED exercise and sports at school, because I was rubbish at it and would rather have been baking cakes. My friend and I used to hide in the tennis court when we were supposed to be doing Cross Country (sorry Mum) and deliberately choose positions in hockey that meant we could stand by the goalie and watch the boys on the rugby pitch instead (sorry Dad)

And about 2 hours later......well done the lovely husband!

But since I started working for a living I did quite fancy the idea of getting home and throwing a pair of trainers on. Shame I didn't actually do anything about it throughout my twenties. Would have saved me a fortune in cigarettes and alcohol! But something else I needed to do for ages was lose some weight. I know it's a new year cliche for many, but last February when along with my colleagues I signed up for Race for Life I decided it Was Time. I didn't want to see yet another photo and cringe with embarrassment at being lardy in leggings. So I joined Slimming World. I bought a pair of trainers. I stopped eating biscuits quite to regularly (God how I miss you, biscuits) I swapped my full fat lattes for Skinny lattes and slowly but surely it worked. I have lost just over 4 stone now, and feel great. I just hope it stays off. Lots of lovely tasty food still gets consumed, there is still a bottle of wine on the shopping list and although in theory I probably shouldn't have inhaled quite so many mince pies over the festive break they were blimmin marvelous.

I am not trying to sound smug, it has been a long slog and hard work but I am getting there and it is starting to all make sense in my head now. Lots of people ask me if I feel different. But no, not really. I think because it's taken such a long time, and has been a gradual process, that I probably still feel exactly the same really.

Ooh! maybe I lost my blogging thing alongside an inch or two of thigh?

I hope I get it back. No, not the thigh.....

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Sewing Success!

When you spend time reading blogs it is hard not to be inspired by the wonderful things being created. I love reading craft and sewing books and have been known to knit the odd scarf or two (odd because they are usually wider at the top than the bottom) and make jewellery etc. but still I had a yearning to be good at sewing.
I have fiddled about with a couple of patchwork quilts which I was quite pleased with, but what I really wanted to be able to do was make clothes and handbags, things I could use on a daily basis.

Not being a sewer I found it very hard to justify buying a sewing machine. When I enquired at the local college about night classes in sewing they said you had to take your own machine. But I didn't want to buy one in case I was rubbish at it! A tricky situation indeed. Then one of my lovely customers come to see me. She has Parkinsons Disease and was struggling to use her beloved Bernina sewing machine. She knew I was crafty and keen to sew. Would I like it? Could I give it a good home?
You can guess the answer.
Then I got chatting to another customer. She is a professional seamstress. Can you see where this is going yet?! So yes, I have been a very lucky girl indeed and am now the proud owner of a Bernina and have had several free sewing lessons from my very lovely friend. Who also supplied copious amounts of coffee and homemade cake. Hurrah!
I showed her the Amy Butler pattern I had and explained how I needed help with it. I have never cut a pattern out or measured myself before, so she gave me loads of help and advice. The patience of the woman!! She found it all very exciting as well as she has never used American patterns before, and couldn't believe how 'simple' it all was. Hmm. I bought fabric from the local shop, nothing fancy, just something cheap and pretty, ideal for a summer skirt for a beginner.
Do you want to see then? do you?

So with the skirt sorted and worn several times I decided to brave the bag myself. I found the pattern for this ages ago on Sew Mama Sew, and printed it out to put in my 'Things I want to Make One Day but Probably Never Will' file. So I measured and cut the pieces out a few nights ago and today I finished it. I am SO pleased with it. Seriously. I have put things in it. And taken things out of it. And cooed over the lining (lightweight flowery print cotton) and stroked the handles.
I need to send a big thankyou to all of you bloggers who sew. For all of the words of wisdom, and for not assuming when you blog about your projects that we are all sewing geniuses! Thanks for keeping instructions as simple as possible, and for explaining each step clearly. I am hoping to move onto winter skirts and tunics next.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Raspberry Roulade Recipe

I have had a day off today and despite spending most of my working week baking and feeding the hoardes bacon sandwiches, I have still enjoyed a peaceful afternoon in my kitchen at home. Relaxed cooking, not to order, not for anyone in a mad rush on a lunch hour, but instead cooking for us, for our meal this evening. We have picked the first courgettes from the allotment now. Small yellow ones, and a striped green variety. I can never remember their names, and the packets seldom last. At home we are growing large tubs of peas, staggered in planting so that they last over a period of time. There are hanging baskets of tumbling tomatoes, grow-bags with beefsteak tomatoes and several large terracotta pots with Sungold and Gardeners Delight. But for tonight, as the tomatoes are yet to ripen, we are having Tesco Tomatoes instead!
We all have our specialities when it comes to cooking. My husbands is risotto. And roast chicken. And actually most main meals, in fact. I do soup and puddings and cakes. So I have prepped the veggies ready for tonights risotto, and then moved onto deciding what I could do with several pounds of raspberries also picked from the allotment.

I had planned on sitting in the garden with a cup of coffee before the rain came. Typical isn't it-blazing sunshine for days and then my day off comes-rain! I did pluck a rose from the garden though and bought it inside to sniff every now and again. It really does smell beautiful.

So, raspberries!! Sarah Raven has come up trumps yet again, and although I am yet to have her latest book, I do love her Garden Cookbook. I have made a lot from it, but never Meringue Roulade with Raspberries.

Until now! Ok, here goes people....
Feeds 6...(oh no, and we didn't invite anyone around for dinner....)
6 egg whites
300g caster sugar
50g flaked almonds
350ml double cream
400g fresh raspberries
Preheat oven to 200 degrees, or gas mark 6.
Line a swiaa roll tin with greaseproof paper and brush very lightly with oil-sunflower, not car.
Whisk the egg whites in a clean bowl until VERY stiff.
Gradually add sugar a spoonful at a time until all gone. Continue whisking until the mixture is very thick and glossy.
Spread the mixture into the tin and scatter with the almonds.
Place the tin fairly near the top of the oven and bake for 8 minutes. Then lower the temperature to 160 degrees, gas mark 3 and bake until golden brown (this took another 8 minutes in my oven, and I also lowered it in the oven as it was browning a bit quickly)

Remove from the oven (as above) and then flip over. Don't ask me how I did this. I am just pleased no one was here to take photos) make sure you flip in onto a sheet of greaseproof paper or parchment though. Peel off the paper from the base and leave it to cool (as below) for 15 minutes.

Whilst it's cooling whisk your cream until it's stiff and then stir in half of your raspberries...

When it's cool spread your cream/raspberry mix carefully across your roulade. I didn't go right up to the edges with mine as I knew I would end up covered in the stuff.
Using the greaseproof paper to help you, roll up the roulade as tightly as you can. I didn't read the recipe properly, as you are supposed to roll it lengthwise. Ahem. Mine is slightly bigger than it should be as a result-but I think it looks fab, so no matter.

Scatter the rest of the raspberries over the top to serve.
Wait for husband to come home and find pudding in the fridge....
I guess you could use any fruit you have, I think it would be lovely with thinly sliced peaches or nectarines, or strawberries...go crazy.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Race For Life

Yes indeed, Sunday was Race For Life Day. After signing ourselves up back in February to do the 5km walk/jog/stagger around Cheltenham Racecourse the day finally arrived. I have never taken part before but am so pleased I did.
The atmosphere was amazing, 5000 women all joined together to take part in an event that raises money for such a good cause. Our team, all ladies from the cafe, have raised in excess of £600 so far, which we are delighted with.
Thankyou to all of my family and friends who have sponsored us, it is hugely appreciated. Hopefully with all of the money being raised by ladies across the country we will eventually find a cure for cancer.
As for me, I am definitely going to do it again next year, hopefully running it next time. No promises though...!