Coconut Mushroom Cake

April 1, 2013 at 7:57 pm | Posted in Baking, cake, cooking, food, Recipe | Leave a comment
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I saw the light in Marks & Spencer. A beauteous bag of coconut mushrooms spoke to me, and what they said was good. And what they said was, ‘Lady, you will make a coconut cake, and anoint the top of this coconut cake with us, the sweets of heaven’.

So yeah, I bought the bag of coconut mushrooms, ate half of them and saved the rest to put on top of my cake. I used this recipe, but I didn’t bother with the lime syrup and I substituted an 8 inch round cake tin for the ring tin. Once the cake was cool, I slit it in half using a bread knife and spread raspberry jam on the base. I made a simple water icing by mixing icing sugar and water ( I didn’t bother measuring out the icing sugar, but I should have used more to make a thicker icing). As my icing was much thinner than I wanted, after securing the coconut mushrooms to the top with a bit of jam, I sifted icing sugar over the top.

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Peanut and Rosemary Cookies

May 14, 2012 at 8:18 pm | Posted in Baking, cooking, food, Recipe | 4 Comments
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I love a good biscuit. They beat chocolate and crisps in culinary scissors, paper, stone every time. You’ve got the crunch of something savoury combined with a sweet hit: heaven.

Salty sweet food is one of my favourite things: I always get a mix of popcorn at the cinema, and Marks & Spencer’s Salted Chocolate Caramel Bar is divine.

However, this post is about something more sophisticated that chocolate and salt: salt, sugar and rosemary. I adore rosemary, but don’t often make dinner, and I prefer to use it in unconventional ways. So when I saw Dan Lepard’s recipe for Peanut and Rosemary Cookies, I knew I had to try it.

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This is such a lovely, stess-relieving recipe. Everything is in one bowl and the cookies don’t take at all long to cook: a massive advantage when you’re as impatient as I am. 15 minutes, however, is too long: even 10 might be enough in some ovens. Mine are slightly overcooked, but still taste delicious.

Friends, Romans, Countrymen, Lend Me Your Syrup Tins

May 13, 2012 at 9:38 pm | Posted in Book Signing, books, food, History, Recipe | 2 Comments
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I have a incessantly sweet tooth. When I am stressed, I wander down to Waitrose for fizzy strawberry laces, sucking the sugar off each one until my tongue is sore. I’m much the same with chocolate raisins, letting the outsides melt in my mouth until only the shrivelled raisin remains. And do you remember Pop Cakes from The Magic Faraway Tree? I was so disappointed to discover that they were entirely fictitious.

So you can imagine how excited I am that the authors of The Sugar Girls, Duncan Barrett and Nuala Calvi, are coming to my shop, Waterstones Tenterden, to do a signing. The book has been extraordinarily successful and there have been calls to turn it into a Call the Midwife style miniseries.

I’m planning a window display largely dependant on Tate & Lyle tins, so if you can send me any empty golden syrup or black treacle ones, I’d be enormously grateful. Recipes using either of those would be wonderful too. Email me at amysmith500@hotmail.com and we’ll sort something out.

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Bicep Bulging Banana Cake

May 5, 2012 at 11:20 pm | Posted in Baking, cake, cooking, food | Leave a comment
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There is something you may not know about me: I only like bananas when they are just ripe. Combined with my optimism when shopping, this means that I am often greeted with a bowlful of browning bananas just begging me to use them in a cake. And so this evening, I did just that.

I adapted the recipe from The River Cottage Family Cookbook. The ingredients are as follows:

100g butter (salted or unsalted, I’m not fussy);
125g light brown soft sugar (Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall specifies caster, but I prefer a richer taste);
200g self-raising flour (I used a combination of that and plain flour as that’s what I had: unless you’re making something which depends on a certain flour for texture, like Victoria sponge, it doesn’t matter);
3 browning bananas;
100g raisins soaked in tea (HFW suggests 50g sultanas and 50g chopped dried apricots, but I had neither. The tea softens the raisins, but won’t add any flavour unless you leave them to soak overnight.);
1 lemon;
2 eggs

Leave the raisins to soak in a mug of black tea.

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Cream the butter and the sugar together in a large mixing bowl, ideally using a wooden spoon. I had only a tablespoon and had to work much harder than I would have done, hence the recipe’s title.

Add the eggs one at a time and mix.

Zest the lemon and add the zest to the mix with the raisins. I don’t have a grater at the moment, so I used a knife (ordinary table knife) and it was fine.

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Add the flour, sifted or unsifted (it really won’t make a huge difference) and mix.

Line a loaf tin and add the mixture, tapping the tin on the surface a couple of times to level it out. Bake for 1 hour at Gas Mark 3, or 160 degrees in electric, I believe.

This was the result. My stomach, as well as my eyes, was pleased.

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Always Crashing in the Same Car

February 27, 2012 at 8:00 pm | Posted in depression | Leave a comment
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I’m feeling down again. It always creeps up slowly, then I gradually realise how empty I feel. It actually manifests itself physically: I can feel a void in my stomach, and I don’t know what the hell to do about it.

As a pragmatic, problem-solving person, I always try to rationalise why I’m feeling this way, and I always come to the same conclusion: I have neither a right nor a reason to feel like this.

But this week, I don’t have to search hard for reasons. I am leaving my lovely shop, for example, and I may never work there again. I may never spend a morning in the windowless cash office, nor serve the lady who collects the Olympic 50ps. I may never again encounter the freezing wind tunnel by Next en route to the car park. I may never again have a cigarette in the service yard, watching the ambulances speeding by and thinking of Philip Larkin.

I am also sad, because I thought that my son would be waiting for me at home. Instead, he is at his other home, with his other grandmother, even though they are about to spend two whole weeks together.

I don’t want a pity party: honestly. So here are some photos of, to quote my best friend’s sister’s tattoo, the reasons to ‘celebrate’ my life.

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