Monday, 5 November 2012

P...p...p...pick up a penguin!

One of the great things about being known as a fan of baking and cake decorating, is that I fairly often get asked by friends to make cakes for special occasions in their families. I always love it when this happens - there's only so much sugarpaste Mr P and I can eat, so having a good excuse for an artistic project for somebody else is always welcome.
Most recently, I was asked to create a small wedding cake as a surpise for a friend's sister- and brother-in law. I was told that the bride and groom were both big fans of cocktails, and that the wedding invitations had been sent out on reproductions of the title pages of Penguin romantic classics. What a great brief, eh?
Penguin cake topper
So the final product was a strawberry daiquiri-flavoured cake (lime and rum sponge sandwiched with home-made strawberry jam and strawberry and rum buttercream). With the help of my trusty pal Mel (who is experienced in the subject of sugarpaste penguins!) it was decorated with detailing from one of the book covers, and a penguin bride and groom cake topper.


Penguin wedding cake

The summer saw a couple of other good projects to get my teeth into. Mr P's Nan celebrated her 80th birthday in August with a big family get-together, so we decided to make up a batch of cupcakes to keep all of the guests satisfied. As well as a traditional lemon flavoured batch, we came up with a very popular cupcake flavour - tea and biscuits! This was done by brewing a tea bag in a dah of warm milk, and adding the milk together with just a smidgin of cocoa powder to a fairly standard sponge mix. Simple and effective! This left us with plenty of energy to focus on decorating all of the cupcakes.


And finally, last but not least, a friend of mine recently wanted to surprise her Mum, 'Dove', with a celebration cake for her 60th birthday. As her mother had somehow managed to sleuth out each and every one of her other birthday surprises, I was especially happy to be involved in this. And happily, the first she knew of it was when the cake turned up in front of her at the end of the evening!


Thursday, 1 November 2012

Spicy green tomato and apple jam

A couple of weeks ago, Mr P and I stumbled across a rather wonderful community market garden, literally just around the corner from our flat. Quite an unexpected find, since this little oasis of freshly grown veg is situated in a plot of formerly derelict land directly behind the local co-op.
This presents a marvellous opportunity for us, since, despite having a fair-sized garden plot of our own, neither of us is known for our green-fingered prowess. More specifically, we're widely known as "the cactus people", because although we love plants, the only ones we've been able to successfully keep alive for any length of time are our growing family of cacti and succulents, lovingly named Cacky, Steve, Eccy Thump, Ecklefecken, Teddy, Spike, and Pineapple. Now, I realise I'm at risk of sounding unhinged and rambly. So let's get back to the point. The point is, our first trip to the community garden saw us come away with a veritable feast of scrumptious goodies to try, and this included a sad little bunch of green tomatoes that nobody seemed sure what to do with, but which resulted in a cry of "Green Tomato Chutney!" from yours truly.

In fact, after a flick through Mel's new book, "The Australian Women's Weekly Pickles and Chutneys", I decided to branch out a little and try out their green tomato and apple jam. Having had a sneaky test already (of course) I can advise it is entirely delicious in every way and would highly recommend that you give it a go.
This will make delightful stocking fillers this Christmas... if it lasts that long!
Spicy Green Tomato and Apple Jam, makes about 750ml
I've reproduced the ingredients from The Australian Women's Weekly Pickles and Chutneys below, with my adaptations in brackets, and my own instructions.
3 large apples (600g), peeled
5 medium green tomatoes (500g), peeled, chopped (my tomatoes were of varying sizes, some to small to effectively peel, so I left the skins on and the jam didn't seem any the worse for it. I also had to add in a couple of red tomatoes to make up the weight)
250ml water
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 cinnamon stick
550g sugar, approximately
1. Chop the apples and combine in a saucepan with the tomatoes, water, ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon. Bring to the boil, then simmer, covered, for about 30 minuted until fruits are soft. Discard the cinnamon stick.
2. Tip the fruit mixture into a measuring jug and make a note of the amount. Then return the fruit mixture to the pan and measure out the same amound of sugar in the jug. Add this to the fruit mixture in the pan and then stir over a gently heat, without boiling, until the sugar is dissolved.
3. Bring the mixture to the boil, and boil it, uncovered for about 15 minutes without stirring, until the jam sets when tested. See this post for how to test for setting point.
4. Pour the hot jam directly into hot, sterilised jars and seal them whilst hot.
5. Decorate with festive ribbon, and Bob's your uncle!