Wednesday, May 5, 2021

How to make an Amazon parcel cake

Friday, April 16, 2021

How to make your own bunting

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Strawberry and white chocolate crispy cakes with pink Coco Pops

Friday, February 19, 2021

Spaghetti Tree Sutton - Restaurant/ Takeaway review

In some ways, this Valentine's Day was much like any other - my husband and I have tended to avoid going out to restaurants on Valentine's Day (in fact, I'm not sure we ever have) - partly in expectation that venues will be turning tables as quickly as possible, partly because prices seem to go up that day, and partly- actually, mainly - because most restaurants offer set menus on February 14 and there's hardly ever anything my husband likes.

Dining out with a fussy eater is tricky and dining in during lockdown isn't much easier! I wasn't planning to bother looking for a nice takeaway option for Valentine's Day, but saw an advert for a local Italian restaurant that sounded nice and decided to have a look.

The Spaghetti Tree in Sutton is not to be confused with the Spaghetti House chain - it's a family-run Italian restaurant that has been going for more than 30 years. According to their website they were offering live entertainment before the pandemic, and have now turned to takeaway and delivery - including a Sunday roast which I'm going to have to try.

The Valentine's Day offer was indeed a set menu, but with quite a few options compared to the three or four you usually find - this one had six starters and six main courses to choose from, one of which was any pizza from their menu. That suited us perfectly!

It wasn't cheap at £40 each but that price included three courses, delivery, a cocktail and chocolate covered strawberries. As my husband is teetotal I got to have his cocktail and I can say that even though I'm not really sure of the ingredients (strawberry, peach and vodka came through) they really were delicious.

I chose the tiger prawns with chorizo bruschetta for my starter, which came with rocket and red onions as well as a balsamic glaze. The bread was a little soggy by the time our food arrived but that did no harm and it was very tasty. My husband had deep fried mozzarella parcels - the portion contained four, which is something we probably would have shared between us had we been eating in the restaurant, and he said that while they were very nice, two was plenty as they were actually quite heavy.

I was very tempted by several of the main courses in the set menu, including the prawn and crab linguine, the tagliatelle with meatballs and the seabass with tiger prawns but I plumped instead for 'pollo Casanova' - chicken breast wrapped in pancetta in a spinach and gorgonzola sauce served with saute potatoes and seasonable vegetables. It was excellent - the chicken (two sizeable pieces) perfectly cooked, the sauce not overpowering and complementing the dish well, and the potatoes and vegetables were exactly how I like them. Again, the portion was so large I couldn't eat it all!

My husband enjoyed his margerita pizza and said the brownie he had for dessert was very good. For my dessert I chose the nutella pizza, which the menu described as topped with strawberries and white chocolate swirls - instead, it came topped with sliced banana! (And I don't like banana, but then again I don't like strawberries either). It was far too large for one person and again if we were in the restaurant would have been a sharing dessert - as it was, I ate one small slice and the rest ended up being wasted!

I was very pleased overall with the menu, from the wide choice to the quality of the food (and the drinks!), and would definitely order from here again.

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Some simple Valentine's crafts for children and toddlers

My two year old and I have had fun making some Valentine's day decorations! Some of the ideas are based on things I saw online and some are my own design. All we used were some cardboard heart shapes, two heart-shape hole punches, some wool, a toilet roll tube, paint and some heart stickers, and some ribbon to hang what we made.

You can find out how to make all of these and more on my parenting blog Mini Moo Life!






Wednesday, February 10, 2021

How to create pancake art - fun ideas for Pancake Day


 Have you come across pancake art before? It's a great way to have fun on Pancake Day (Shrove Tuesday) or indeed any time! Pancake art is simply creating a picture in pancake form, by using a squeezy bottle to draw with the batter in your pan. As the batter cooks, add more details, then finally fill in the gaps, to get different shades on your 'picture'. 

Hop on over to my other blog, Mini Moo Life, to see the unicorn pancake I made for my daughter and also my attempt at her favourite cartoon character Bluey!



Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Possibly the best ever Christmas chocolate brownies

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Christmas bauble cakes

Reindeer cupcakes with pretzel antlers


I really wanted to make some time to do some Christmas baking when I had a day off last week as in the past I would have made several festive treats by now and I hadn’t done anything yet! 
These reindeer cupcakes are really easy, the key ingredient is the pretzels - and you can make the cakes themselves any flavour you like!

I made chocolate cakes using this recipe on the BBC Good Food site and made a simple chocolate buttercream.

When the cakes were baked and cooled I topped with a spoonful of buttercream and used salted caramel flavour chocolate coated pretzels (made by Flipz, available in most supermarkets) for the reindeer’s antlers. You can use regular pretzels as well but I thought these went better with the cake!

For the face you can use a Smartie or M&M for the nose but I didn’t have any and these were a spur of the moment bake so I used some icing I had coloured red and used a little piping bag to pipe on the rest of the face. Some of the reindeer have slightly odd expressions but my daughter liked them and so did my husband!

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

The Cocktail Man - Cocktail kits at home subscription box review

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Winter Warmer recipe - Cheesy Sausage, Broccoli and Quinoa Bake

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Lotus Biscoff Doughnuts for Food 'n' Flix - Knives Out

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Black Forest Gateau - GBBO 80s Week

Sunday, November 8, 2020

GBBO Japanese Week - Wagamama's Tori Kara Age and Chicken Katsu Curry

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Mary's Chocolate Orange Tart - GBBO Bakealong

Chocolate Eclairs - GBBO Bakealong

I’ve been trying to bake along with Great British Bake Off this year and wasn’t particularly looking forward to pastry week as I don’t make particularly good pastry - I’m rubbish at kneading I think! Until I saw that the bakers were making choux pastry and specifically eclairs. Given I have an eclair pan and a book called Secrets of Eclairs - both from the pre-parenting days when I had a lot more time to bake - I had no excuse not to join in!

Eclair pans are not exactly a necessary piece of baking equipment but they do help keep your piping straight and a uniform size and the tin I used is quite heavy with curved edges which keep it stable.

As for the recipe book, it’s a small volume but has some detailed explanations of the equipment and techniques you need to make eclairs, plus recipes for different flavoured pastries and fillings.

I was quite limited by what I had in the house - if I want to bake in the same week as the GBBO episode then I need to either decide before I’ve seen the show what I am going to make (so not really a bake along) or make do with what I have got in the house - I’m trying to avoid extra trips to the shops due to Covid!

That left me with plain eclairs with a chocolate filling and white icing on top - nice and traditional.



Making choux pastry is actually quite straightforward and quick but the tricky bit comes with deciding how much egg to add. The recipe I used said you needed up to two eggs, and to beat them together and add gradually until you get the right consistency. I felt I needed to use all the egg, so wasn’t sure if that was right and I should have used less, but it turned out well!

I did end up having to make two batches and in true GBBO style, bin the first lot and start again. Bizarrely for such a detailed recipe book with extensive explanations of each step, the basic recipe for choux pastry at the front of the book omits any cooking time! So I went by the time in one of the flavoured recipes later in the book and the eclairs came out very overbaked so I started again and reduced the cooking time significantly.


I made simple icing from icing sugar and water which looked ok at first but once it had set it was almost transparent and I think I should have made it much thicker or done a few layers. I would have preferred to make the traditional chocolate icing but didn’t have the ingredients as this was a last minute bake! The texture of the choux was quite good and they did taste nice, though they were a lot smaller than shop-bought eclairs. This was the size guided by my eclair pan so I can only assume that shop-bought eclairs use some sort of industrial equipment and bake in a size that can't really be replicated at home. If that's not the case and you are a whizz with eclairs, let me know in the comments below!