30 September 2011

Pear and ginger upside-down cake

I've got a LOT of pears at the moment. Last week I was faced with a laden pear tree, a carrier bag and an offer for me to help myself, and I got a bit carried away. So, now I need to find something to do with them before they turn to mush.

I liked the idea of an upside-down cake, and this one is delicious. Most ginger cakes are dark and treacle-y, but this one is quite light, so it's a nice change. Although, if you wanted, you could replace the sponge with a more traditional ginger cake instead.

Pear and ginger upside-down cake
Serves 8

4 ripe pears, peeled, cored and sliced
1tbsp caster sugar
200g butter
2 eggs
250ml milk
350g self-raising flour
1tsp ground ginger
200g soft brown sugar
1tbsp golden syrup
2 pieces preserved stem ginger, finely diced, plus 2tbsp of the syrup

Pre-heat the oven to 150C. Grease and line the base of a 23cm cake tin. Rub a bit more butter on the top side of the baking parchment, then sprinkle over the caster sugar. Lay the pears on top of the sugar in a pretty pattern.

Melt the butter, brown sugar and golden syrup in a pan, until the sugar has dissolved. Add the stem ginger and ginger syrup. Put the pan to one side, and leave the syrup to cool a bit.

Beat the eggs and milk together in a large bowl, then sift in the flour and ginger. Pour in the syrup and mix it all together well.

Pour the cake batter over the pears and bake for for around an hour and a half, or until the cake golden brown, firm and cooked through.

28 September 2011

Lavender bags

I know they're a bit twee, but I think lavender bags are a lovely thing to have.

They're ridiculously simple to make and tucking them in amongst clothes, in a drawer or the wardrobe, is the sort of thing that makes me feel like a proper grown-up - someone who takes things to the dry cleaners when they should, and never leaves clothes piled in the washing basket. Sadly it might not always be true, but it's good enough for me.

I bought my lavender at a market during a recent trip to France, but you can get it on Amazon quite cheaply. To make four little bags, I probably used around 50g, so if you have any left over, you can always try making some lovely lavender bath bombs.

Lavender bags
Material (cut to approximately 8cm x 16cm per bag)
Ribbon (approx 16cm per bag)
Dried lavender
Needle/sewing machine

With the patterned sides facing each other, fold the material in half, so you have a square of 8cm x 8cm. From one corner of the fold, tack about 1cm in from the edge around the two and a half adjacent sides, so you have a pouch with half of one side still open. Machine or hand stitch close to the tacking, then secure the thread ends. Remove the tacking.

Turn the pouch the right side out, so the pattern is facing outwards. Using the funnel (or even a piping bag nozzle), fill the pouch with lavender. This can be a bit fiddly, but you want to make sure that the bag is filled well, and the lavender is evenly spread throughout.

Bring together the two ends of the ribbon, and insert them into the unstitched opening of the bag. Fold the remaining unstitched edges of material neatly into the bag and stitch the bag closed, making sure to sew through the ribbon to hold it in place.

Et voila - stocking fillers for all!

23 September 2011

Clerkenwell vintage fashion fair

It's a bit outside the remit of crafty and foodie things, but Clerkenwell Vintage Fashion Fair fits the bill of being something lovely to do, so it's worthy of a mention.

The fair takes place on Sunday 25th, and for just one day, over 50 traders from the UK and Europe will be selling vintage apparel from the 1800s to the 1980s. And if you love it, but it doesn't fit, there's an Alterations Booth where they can work a bit of magic.

22 September 2011

Like it: LondonEater

I love restaurants, but I'm no restaurant critic, so I'm more than happy to leave that to those who are.

LondonEater is a fantastic guide to places to eat in London. Kang Leong, who writes the blog, has a definite penchant for asian food and steak, but he also manages to get round an extraordinary number and variety of restaurants - big, small, tucked away and mainstream. His descriptions and photography are mouthwatering, and are enough to make anyone book a table.


21 September 2011

The ultimate berry cocktail

Unless an Indian summer comes to the rescue, it looks like we've had the last of the hot sunny days. So move over long, refreshing cocktails and hello to something a little punchier that'll help keep out the cold.

September is a month of berries. I'm not sure I'd recommend them without a wash, but even on the grimy green spaces of London, blackberries are ripening everywhere, and English autumn raspberries are piled up in the supermarkets.

With this in mind, I roped in some more happy volunteers to track down The Ultimate Berry Cocktail.

Most berry cocktail recipes we came across included Creme de Mure (blackberry liqueur), but we had real trouble finding any, so instead used Chambourd which is a black raspberry liqueur. The results are obviously slightly different than intended, but still very delicious.

Black & Blue
Adapted from Mix, Shake and Pour

2 shots gin
0.25 shots Creme de Mure (or Chambourd!)
2.5 shots apple juice
16 blueberries

Muddle the blueberries with the gin in a cocktail shaker. Add the other ingredients and lots of ice, then shake well and strain into a glass (it deserves a bit of glamour, so if you've got one, a martini glass is perfect.) Garnish with three blueberries.

18 September 2011

Fruit bowl decoupage

I've had a rather ugly fruit bowl forever. I'm not sure where it came from, but several times it's been on the brink of being rehoused at the charity shop, only to be saved by its practicality at the last minute.

As it has survived for so long, I thought maybe that little fruit bowl deserved a revamp so it could live out its days on my kitchen table without embarrassment.

Decoupage is a really easy way of updating tired bits of furniture. It's a bit more complicated that just a lick of paint, but the results can be really lovely and unique, and it doesn't take much more than a bit of pretty paper and some glue.

The first time you have a go at decoupage, I'd recommend you try something with flat surface, and straight edges to keep life simple - the Fruit Bowl Project turned out to be a bit fiddly. Cutting slits (splices) into the scraps of paper allowed it to lie flat over the curved surfaces though. Alternatively, if you use thinner paper, you should be fine.

Pretty paper (I used wrapping paper, but you could use old maps, or anything really, as long as it's not too thick or too flimsy)
PVA glue
Furniture to decorate

First of all, if your furniture has a high shine, sand it down well, and brush away any dust.

Cut your paper into small shapes (because of the pattern on the paper I used, I cut a rectangle about 3cm x 8cm around each bird).

Brush glue onto the surface of the furniture, working on just one part at a time, and smooth the squares of paper on top. You can overlap with other pieces of paper, but ensure that all edges have glue on them and there are no air bubbles.

When you get to the edges, splice the paper to avoid it bunching around any curved edges. If the furniture has straight edges, the paper can just be wrapped over without cutting.

When you've covered your furniture, leave it to dry completely, then brush two or more thin layers of varnish over all of the decoupage areas - leaving it to dry for the recommended time between coats.

17 September 2011

London Design Festival

The London Design Festival starts today, and over the next nine days there will be hundreds of events taking place across London, showcasing the city's pivotal role in global design.

A centerpiece of the Festival is the Landmark Projects, which involves some of the world's greatest architects and designers who have created pieces of work in some of London's best-loved public spaces.

So if you're out and about over the next week, make sure you keep your eyes peeled, and join in the celebrations!

8 September 2011

Book Club: Mexican Food Made Simple

This month's Book Club book is Mexican Food Made Simple by Masterchef winner and owner of the delicious Wahaca chain of restaurants, Thomasina Miers.

I've never been to Mexico, but I've eaten in my fair share of Mexican restaurants and unlike the usual cheesey stodge that you come across, the recipes in this book are enough to make you want to book a flight.

There are two whole pages dedicated to different chillies, which shows you how seriously Thomasina takes the subject of spice, and she runs you through everything from salsas and street food to puddings and drinks. Including how to make the perfect margharita. Sold!

The fundamentals
Mexican Food Made Simple - Thomasina Miers
Hodder & Stoughton
EAN: 9780340994979
RRP £20.00

7 September 2011

Salt and pepper squid

Our recent trip to Billingsgate Fish Market left us with a freezer full of squid. It's one of my favourite things, and is probably at its absolute best when it's a bit charred from the barbeque with just a bit of olive oil, lemon juice and chilli. I'm reluctantly admitting that we might have seen the last of the barbie for this year, so I decided instead to make some salt and pepper squid.

Salty, spicy and crunchy, it's a delicious starter on its own or you can beef it up with some stir fried greens.

Salt and pepper squid
Serves 2 as a main course, or 4 as a starter

250g squid (small, or baby squid are best)
1/2 tbsp szechuan pepper corns
1/2 tbsp sea salt
1/2 tsp chilli flakes
2 tbsp corn flour
Ground nut oil for frying

In a pestle and mortar, grind the pepper corns, salt and chilli. Add the corn flour and mix it all together.

Slice the squid into rings, or bite-sized pieces, and toss it in the flour until it's well coated.

Fill a large pan or wok a third full of oil. Heat the oil until a cube of bread browns in about 30 seconds. When the oil's hot, fry the squid in small batches, shaking off any excess flour, until it's golden brown.

Serve straight away.

6 September 2011

The Pantry & Parlour Pop-Up: Jars and Jam

Join us on the 17th September for an afternoon of Jars and Jam.

With loads of stencils and designs to inspire you, we'll teach you how to beautifully etch or paint your jars, then show you the secrets of making some delicious jam to fill them with.

We'll sip cocktails along the way to keep your creative juices flowing, and will, of course, test out the jam with a few scones and treats before you head home with your jam.

We hope you can come!

Time: 2-5pm
Venue: Clapham Junction

Email thepantryandparlour@gmail.com for more information