Thursday, 13 February 2014

St Petersburg restaurant, Peterborough

I have to share with you the delights of the St Petersburg restaurant in Peterborough, Cambridgeshire. I haven't yet visited this establishment (I actually picked up the menu while waiting for my table at the curry house over the road, The Bombay Brasserie, which is a personal favourite). Some of the names of the dishes are brilliant! I'm sure I'll be taking a trip to the St Petersburg restaurant very soon.

Top attractions on the menu include:
Breakfast, for him (ham, cheese and onion omelette)
The hungry man's dream (omelette with prawns and vegetables)
Stepmother's whim (pasta with salmon, cream, and spinach)
A man's dream (pork strips in tomato sauce with kidney beans)
Bear roast (grilled pork with mushrooms)
Dragon tongue (pork with coleslaw)
Beer pizza (cheese, cumin, and garlic)

I am equally pleased and disappointed that the bear roast isn't actually bear.

Monday, 10 February 2014

Baby shower ombre mini loaf cakes

For a friend’s baby shower recently (more on that subject later) I took the opportunity to use one of my Christmas presents, a mini loaf tin from Lakeland. I’d been itching to put it into practice.

I made some very simple little sponges, with the basic 6-6-6-3 recipe, with a little vanilla paste thrown in. I then decorated them with pink ombre icing, using three varieties of pink, from pale to blushing. They looked quite cute when finished.

I love the tin and think mini loaf cakes are a great idea. However I did struggle to get them all out in one piece, and so they were a little crumbly around the sides. I did butter and flour the tin before I put the batter in (which, with the loose bottoms for each hole, was a bit of a feat in itself) as I didn’t trust its claims to be non-stick. Maybe that was my error – next time I’ll try not greasing them and see what happens.

I detest baby showers, I’m afraid to say. While I love to embrace the miracle of new life and am excited about the new arrival, I do not enjoy sniffing nappies full of melted chocolate that ‘looks like poo’, or tasting baby food, nor do I want to melt the ice in that shot glass containing a toy baby.

But most of all, I don’t want to spend the entire afternoon defending why I don’t yet have children, why I don’t want any tomorrow, and why I’m not sure whether I want any at all. I think it’s a very personal question, ‘do you want children?’, and I don’t like the judgement on people’s faces when I say ‘I’m not sure, actually’. What would that person say if I answered ‘I can’t have children’? I got fed up of explaining that at the moment, it might not be the right thing for me, although yes I’m thinking about it for the future, but no I’m not desperate for children tomorrow thanks all the same, and that is OK.

With all the politicians wading in at the moment about how irresponsible young women are for not starting a family until 30 or later, I wish people would just leave us non-mothers and our clanging ovaries alone. There are a million reasons behind everyone’s decision to have children, or not. My reasons are wound together in a mess of finding the right partner, money, employment, mental health, career, family, house, and worry, worry, worry about everything. I refuse to apologise for my current lack of children. I hope the powers that be look down on me and Steve and we are lucky enough to have a child in the future, but that is none of anyone else's business, quite frankly.  

Suzanne Moore wrote a recent article in the Guardian about such things, give it a read. 

Thursday, 6 February 2014

The power of cake

It's amazing, the power of cake. It can bring friends together and open up things that were difficult to talk about without the lubrication of sugary loveliness, it can introduce strangers and make them companions, it can heal wounds through the patience and focus required in the baking stage, and it can be a treat for a loved one.

Baking a cake for friends, family, and lovers cheers me up no end. It creates such smiles and gratitude that a present you hurridly bought from the shop at lunch just can't do.

Sharing out slices of homemade cake to colleagues on a Monday morning brings a little brightness into an otherwise very Monday-like office. Baking a favourite cake for a boyfriend's birthday makes his lunchbox (that's not a pun, and yes I make his lunchbox every day) a bit more exciting. Making your mum an old recipe from my grandmother might get a bit of a tear, but probably just an appreciative 'Mmmmmm' as she remembers the original.

Sharing a cake, slicing it up, handing the pieces out, really brings people together in a way that cupcakes and whoopie pies just can't do. They have their own places in the baking world, granted, but we love cake. It can't be individual, it can't be impersonal, it has to be shared and loved by other people together.

If you agree, pop over to the Clandestine Cake Club website, as this is what we believe in.

Monday, 3 February 2014

Chocolate mocha fat-free cake

The latest theme of the Stamford Clandestine Cake Club was 'On a health kick' - our task was to bake healthy cakes, or rather healthier than normal. I plumped for a fat-free chocolate mocha cake, which was a great success - it only has about 180 calories per slice, and serves 8, so that's quite a large slice for your calories. It was really easy to make and I'll definitely be doing this again.

3 eggs
85g caster sugar
70g plain flour
1 tbsp cornflour
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking powder

For the filling:
100g lightest cream cheese (I used Philadelphia Lightest)
100g 0% fat Greek yogurt
25g dark chocolate
2 tbsp strong coffee
2 tbsp icing sugar

Beat the sugar and eggs, for about 5 minutes in a table-top mixer such as a Kitchenaid mixer, until the volume has increased four-fold (ish) and it leaves a trail when you take the whisk out.
Sift in the dry ingredients and fold in carefully with a large metal spoon.
Carefully divide into two prepared cake tins about 18cm.
Bake at 180C (160C fan) for about 20 minutes.
Beware, once you take the cakes out of the oven, they will collapse quite a bit, but that's OK!

To make the filling, melt the chocolate in a bowl over simmering water, with the coffee. Mix until smooth.
Mix together the cream cheese and yogurt, and sift in the icing sugar, and whisk together to get any lumps out. Divide into two bowls.
Add the chocolate and coffee mixture into one bowl of filling.
Sandwich the cakes with the plain filling, then smooth the chocolate filling over the top of the cake. Decorate with a few chocolate flakes.

The filling on this is delicious - really moreish and tangy. You wouldn't think it was so light on calories - a definite must-bake-again. It went down well at cake club - there wasn't much left at the end, which is always a good sign.

For more information about cake club, visit the Clandestine Cake Club website. Join today for cake and friendship - and more cake. And a bit more cake.