Simple and Quick Garden Insect Cake

 I offered to make my friend´s daughter a birthday cake but didn´t want to make a cake that would take too long or be too complicated to make, especially the decorating part,seeing as I have relatively little time to bake.Also the lack of fondant etc played a fundamental part in my idea for this cake.

I chose to make Delia Smith´s All-in-One Sponge (this is more or less the recipe I used minus the butter icing), which I flavoured with lemon rind and juice and then filled the cake with raspberry jam and fresh whipped cream. I then made a Lime Velvet Frosting and had a slight disaster,which I managed to rectify and coloured it a mint green colour to represent the grass. I iced the cake with a spatula and tried to get it as smooth as possible. I blasted about 5 Oreo cookies in a food processor for a couple of seconds till they were crushed and looked like "soil". I then sprinkled the "soil" over half the cake,then placed some worm sweets in the soil and some chocolate ladybirds on the grass and there you have it,a very simple and quick birthday cake that looks pretty.


Cooking Spain Region by Region:Andalusian Style Chicken (Pollo a la Andaluza)

I have been inspired by the blog Global Table Adventure and also by my desire to learn more about the Spanish cuisine and cook more Spanish meals,mainly so that my husband and daughter can enjoy this part of their culture. I am a particularly fussy person and there are many Spanish dishes that I am not particularly keen on but also there are many Spanish dishes that I don´t know or haven´t tried before so my aim is to cook two main courses and a dessert from each region of Spain.

I decided to kick this exploration of Spanish cuisine off by cooking each region in Spain in alphabetical order,much like in Global Table Adventure so the first region we are starting with is Andalucia. I came across this recipe for Andalusian Style Chicken or Pollo a la Andaluza  in the recipe book,Las 1000 Mejores Recetas de Cocina,liked the sound of the recipe and decided to have a go at making it.It was definitely a good choice, all of us enjoyed it and my husband even paid me the very high compliment that it was "in the top five dishes".it reminds me a little of Pollo a la Pepitoria.This recipe is a keeper and one that will be made again and again although probably at weekends as it takes a bit more preparation than other dishes.So,without further ado,on to the recipe:

Ingredients (4-6 people)
1 whole chicken,already chopped into pieces
1 onion, chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
4 cloves of garlic
2 hard boiled eggs
1 bay leaf
1 small glass of wine (I used white cooking wine)
1 cup of chicken stock (I used an Oxo cube)
a handful or two of toasted almonds
a generous pinch of saffron
about 1 tbsp of fresh or frozen parsley (I used frozen)
salt and pepper to taste
 olive oil
*My recipe is a bit vague so I had to kind of guess the quantities of almonds, parsley etc but it turned out pretty tasty anyway!

1. Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper.
2.Place in a heavy based pan with abundant olive oil and fry the garlic cloves whole until golden brown and remove.
3.Brown the chicken in the same oil and remove.
3.Fry the onion in the same oil, then add the tomato. When softened,place the chicken back in the pan.
4.Add the wine and cook on a medium heat.When the wine has reduced,add the bay leaf and chicken stock,add more salt if needed.Simmer.
5.While chicken is simmering,put garlic cloves,egg yolks,toasted almonds, parsley and saffron in a pestle and mortar and grind together and add a little water.
6.Add to the chicken and leave to simmer till chicken is cooked thoroughly, roughly about 1hr-1hr 20 mins
** This recipe is supposed to be for 4 people, it did 3 of us for 3 meals(I froze the leftovers into two batches)although I suppose my daughter only counts as half a person!!!

When I was looking up typical Andalucian dishes, one of the main dishes that kept cropping up was Oxtail or Rabo de Toro and as this is one of my husband´s favourite meals, I am thinking of tackling that dish in the future and as for the dessert,I still haven´t decided yet,some of my choices are alfajores, amarguillos or poleá but would love to hear from any of my Spanish readers and what they´d reccommend.


Valentine´s Cupcake Course with La Fábrica & Valen Cupcakes

 Cupcakes are really gaining in popularity here in Spain and now it is possible to participate in cupcake courses even in Ciudad Real.The most recent cupcake course which I took part in, was held in conjunction with La Fábrica, a company which holds various workshops for all manners of crafts and Valen Cupcakes, a self-taught cake decorater, with the topic of Valentine´s Day.

The course started at 11pm and finished at 2pm and was held in La Fábrica. There were about  6 or 7 of us so it was nice to meet other cake fanatics.The course was very professional. Valen,the teacher gave us lots of information and tips about the materials needed, for example the different paper cases, measuring cups and spoons, piping bags and different nozzles, colouring gels, essences available etc. He made some buttercream, which he flavoured with sweet or marshmellow essence and gave us each some buttercream and we coloured our buttercreams various colours with toothpicks.He also gave each of us an icing bag and various nozzles and showed us how  to pipe a rose swirl,stars, leaves and even a rose, depending on which nozzle you used!

We were then let loose to decorate four cupcakes as we wished and unleash our creativity.My mind went blank. First of all, I used my peach buttercream to pipe little swirls. I found that sometimes it wasn´t very neat and was a bit blobby and a bit gappy (which Valen explained was because I was lifting the piping bag too high) so I sprinkled some gold balls over it to try and hide the gaps!!I then had two goes trying to do a rose swirl,one with pink buttercream and the other with white. I was pretty pleased with the end result but wished they were a little neater or more perfect. I topped the pink rose swirl with heart sprinkles and some red edible glitter although I was a bit heavy-handed with it!!Then I piped orange stars around the white swirl and topped it with a single red heart. I also tried my hand at a rose but couldn´t start it off so Valen showed me how to start it off and then I finished off piping the rose. It was not the best rose but for a first attempt,I was quite pleased with it, I then hurriedly piped some green leaves and some swirls in between the leaves. So all in all I was happy with my efforts although I´d have liked a little more time to do the decorating and try and make them neater as I ended up rushing the rose!One girl had not done any decorating before and her cupcakes were much better decorated than mine!!!I really need to practice my piping skills!!

We were given a little booklet with the cupcake and buttercream recipes at the end of the course and a good time was had by all. The course cost 25 euros so was definitely reasonable and well worth the money. I look forward to the next one and would thoroughly reccommend it!


(Exceedingly good)Cherry Bakewell Tarts (just like Mr Kipling´s!)

Cherry Bakewell Tarts have always been one of my favourite childhood treats....we always used to buy Mr Kipling´s although my Gran made a mean Almond Slice,which was just as good. In fact, there is hardly any difference  between Almond Slices and Cherry Bakewell Tarts, only that one has icing and a glace cherry on the top and the other has flaked almonds. Ever since I made the Almond Slices, I´ve been dying to have a go at Cherry Bakewell Tarts and recapture my memories of lost childhood tastes.

I used the recipe from the blog The Caked Crusader (click on link for recipe) and would definitely reccommend it. As I have limited baking time (I made these while my daughter was sleeping!) I took a shortcut and bought frozen shortcrust pastry and although still delicious,I think these tarts would be even more exquisite with homemade pastry. I also used raspberry jam instead of strawberry and I think you could probably use any jam you fancy or have in your cupboards/fridge...I´d particularly like to use cherry jam to make them taste even more of cherry.I didn´t blind bake the pastry, only pricked it with a fork and there were no soggy bottoms!!! One thing I advise you is not to overfill the pastry case with jam as when they are baking, it causes it to just ooze out which as you can see has happened to one of my tarts in the photo in the top left hand corner (but at least you can more or less hide this with the glace icing!!!)
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