The Prinsesstårta

This week was half term and one of my best friend’s birthdays, so we decided that there was no better way to celebrate than with a wonderful Autumn dinner party!  I had been particularly inspired by the November issue of the Good Food magazine, as well as the recent Great British Bake-Off that I watched religiously every single week, so decided to go all out and create a 3-course masterpiece and really put my baking skills to the test!  Most normal people would create a menu that involved three relatively straight forward dishes.  However, anyone who knows me will know that I am not a normal person.  I wanted to bake my own bread, fill a whole pumpkin full of cheese fondue, create a vegetarian main dish that everyone would enjoy, and finish with a bang by presenting the hardest technical challenge ever appointed on The Great British Bake-Off: the Prinsesstårta.  Nothing could possibly go wrong, could it?!

The Starter

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Homemade Bread with Pumpkin Fondue

The starter was probably the one course that looked like everything was going to be a complete disaster, but in actual fact turned out to be everyone’s favourite!  Firstly, I was well aware before putting it in the oven that I had over-proved my bread.  Secondly, I had baked the pumpkin for an hour and a half and it had filled with tons of water that the recipe in the Good Food magazine made no mention of.  The bottom of the pumpkin then split slightly when emptying it of the water, and the whole thing had to be held up with a bottomless baking tin whilst baking the cheese fondue in it for the last half an hour.  I also had far too much cheese and filling to fit inside of the pumpkin, so had to create the rest of the fondue on the hob.  However, as you can see from the finished result, the starter was a complete success!  The bread, which was a Fabulous Baking Brother’s recipe, was absolutely amazing, especially for my first ever attempt at baking bread.  It was absolutely beautiful in flavour and the fact that the bread was quite thick and heavy worked quite well with the thick cheese fondue.  Everyone also used their spoons to delve into the pumpkin and take chunks of roast pumpkin with the melted cheese instead of putting it onto the bread.  What could be better than an edible bowl?!  The only downside to the whole thing was that it was extremely filling so we were all dreading the main course that had already been put in the oven!

The Main

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Roast Vegetables with Halloumi Cheese and Pesto Couscous

One of my best friends is a vegetarian, so the main course had to be suitable for him, especially as it was his birthday!  Sometimes, it can be hard to cater for people who like meat with their main meal when it has to be vegetarian, but I seemed to have catered for everybody with my main dish, as everyone was really happy with it, even if we were all too full to finish it!  Roast vegetables are one of my favourite year-round dishes, and adding halloumi makes a wonderful contrast in flavour and texture.  The halloumi is also a really quick addition, as it only takes a couple of minutes to fry before adding it to the roasted vegetables that have already been dished up.  The couscous also takes less than 5 minutes of adding boiled water until it is soft and fluffy, and lots of pesto to make it super delicious!

Obviously, after all that food, we required quite a long break before embarking on the mountain that was pudding…

The Dessert

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Prinsesstårta (Swedish Princess Cake)

Serving my Prinsesstårta cake felt like such a massive achievement.  No one thought that I would be able to produce the cake, let alone as part of a three-course meal that I prepared and cooked entirely on my own!  I think I realised that the biggest part to achieving it all was time management and knowing exactly what I needed to do and when I needed to do it!  Everyone was really impressed with the final product and it really was the perfect cake for a celebration.  The only bit that really went wrong was that I had forgotten to buy the caster sugar to make the marzipan in the morning, so I had to use golden caster sugar instead, which meant that the green food colouring did not take to it as easily.  However, I was extremely happy with it, and the addition of mulled berry jam instead of raspberry jam added a wonderful festive twist to it.

The kitchen may have looked like a bomb had hit it and I may have broken my mum’s new expensive digital weighing scales, but judging from how much we all enjoyed the food, I think it was worth it!  I, personally, cannot wait to host my next dinner party, but I think my parents can!

Make My Magnum

This summer, until August 30th, Magnum have taken over the shopping space next to Rolex in Selfridges to celebrate their 25th birthday and allow members of the public to create their own Magnum ice creams.  I can guarantee that if you are in London this summer, this is something you do not want to miss out on, especially on a glorious, hot summer’s day in the capital.  However, it is advisable to get there early to avoid the queues, which I was informed can tail back right out of the door!

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The first part of the process (once you have paid your £4.50 to take part) is to choose your 3 toppings.  I went for popping candy, crushed meringue, and honeycomb, but the picture above shows a few of the other toppings that are also available.  It is not an understatement to say that you will be spoilt for choice!  A nice lady behind the counter then puts your chosen toppings in a mini cocktail shaker and mixes them all together.  You then move round the counter to choose your ice cream flavour.  I went for vanilla, but you can have chocolate caramel if you fancy going all out!  Then you choose whether it is dipped in white, milk, or dark chocolate.  As a major fan of rich, decadent, dark chocolate, it was a no brainer for me, and whilst the chocolate is setting your toppings are poured over so they stick in place.  It is all finished off with a drizzle of another chocolate and a signature ‘M’ coin, and your finished product will look a little bit like this:

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Without a doubt this was one of the best ice creams I have ever had.  The dark chocolate coating was luxuriously thick and of the highest quality, the popping candy added a little bit of popping fun to every mouthful, and the honeycomb and crushed meringue added a sweet crunch to each bite.  It is such an excellent idea to get everyone to choose their favourite toppings because it is simply the best way to guarantee high customer satisfaction.  And it is lovely seeing how proud everyone is of their creations at the end.  One man was telling me at the eating counter how wonderful it was to be able to have a chilli and chocolate ice cream.  I have to say, I completely agree with him.  Although I chose my favourite toppings this time round, if I get the chance to go back I will definitely go down the more experimental route!

Don’t forget to upload a picture of your creation to Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram with the handle #magnumxselfridges to be in with the chance of winning some much-wanted Selfridges vouchers! Here was my entry:

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Happy Magnum Making!

Bake-a-Boo

This weekend I had the pleasure of attending the 21st birthday party of one of my best friends, Emma, at Bake-a-Boo in West Hampstead.  I was really excited about visiting this small ‘bake shop, tea room & party parlour’, as it comes highly recommended in a lot of reviews, but somehow it had managed to escape my cupcake radar!

From the second we stepped through the door, it was obvious why Bake-a-Boo has received constant praise from everyone who has set foot in this beautiful, homely tea room.  They truly go above and beyond with their afternoon tea bookings.  Not only did they dedicate the whole back room to this wonderful celebration so that it was like our own private tea party, they truly went to such an amazing effort to make it the cutest and most beautiful surprise a girl could wish for; Emma was absolutely delighted when she saw her beautifully decorated birthday room.  There was multi-coloured bunting, happy birthday banners, and party hats galore.  And don’t even get me started on the dressing up box and all its glamorous feather bowers that were waiting to be draped round our necks!

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The cuteness didn’t just end there.  Every aspect of the afternoon tea was dedicated to personal touches.  There was a little box for all the guests to place birthday wishes in, party bags full of sweets with little ‘E’ for Emma stickers holding them together, and the most adorable pink vanilla cupcakes with personalised ’21’ and ‘Emma’ flags poking out of the top!

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There was an absolute abundance of food too!  There were loads of little finger sandwiches packed with lots of different fillings, beautiful warm scones with mounds of jam and clotted cream served in heart shape dishes, thick slices of home made shortbread that were covered in icing sugar, indulgent mini brownie squares, sweet strawberries dipped in chocolate, multi coloured flying saucers, and, of course, cakes with candles for the birthday girl to blow out!

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I definitely filled up on all the goodies!  The scones were absolutely beautiful and could simply be pulled apart to be piled high with jam and clotted cream; the shortbread was sweet and crumbly; the dark chocolate brownies were heavenly indulgent; and the strawberries were wonderfully fresh and juicy, with a thick coating of chocolate that left us all picking at them even when we were full!

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I also adored the vintage mismatched crockery, and their tea selection was commendable.  I went for a fruity strawberry and kiwi tea to match the hot summer weather!  It was absolutely delightful and I’m pretty sure I drank nearly a whole teapot’s worth to myself!

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Overall, this was a fabulous tea party, which was thoroughly thought out and is completely worth the trip out of central London to West Hampstead!  Not a single complaint can be made about this afternoon tea, as it was carried out to absolute perfection.  We had a wonderful time and I would not hesitate to recommend this place to anyone who was looking for something special for an upcoming celebration.

Happy Birthday Emma!  I hope you had a lovely day!

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High Tea at Fortnum & Mason

Fortnum & Mason is possibly one of the most quintessentially English afternoon tea establishments in London.  It is a favourite with the tourists and British alike, and is known for its impeccably high standards.  It also happens to make the perfect family afternoon tea destination, as it caters to the fussiest of eaters with three different types of afternoon tea: the traditional sandwich, scone, and cake combination; a savoury afternoon tea for those who do not have a sweet tooth; and the more luxurious high tea for those who fancy a hot dish rather than sandwiches, but still want to indulge in the afternoon tea experience.  As it was my birthday, and we were sitting down to eat around dinner time, the high tea seemed like the perfect option.  And I can confirm that we most certainly were not disappointed!

It was quite exciting waiting for our first dish to arrive, as we had all ordered something different from the Tea Salon Savouries menu.  My mum had chosen the Twice-Baked Shropshire Ham & Barbers Cheddar Soufflé with Honey Mustard Butter Sauce, my dad had gone for the Scotch Egg Kedgeree, Mild Curry Butter Sauce, Raisin Puree dish, and I  couldn’t resist the Lobster Omelette Victoria with Lobster Bisque & Shaved Truffle.  Of course I had to go for the most decadent item on the menu, it was my birthday!

On aesthetics, the Scotch Egg Kedgeree won hands down.

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The colours were evidently as vibrant, rich, and luxurious as the taste, with my dad claiming that it was the best scotch egg he’d ever tasted (and trust me, he has eaten a LOT of scotch eggs in his time)!  Considering that Fortnum & Mason claim to have invented the scotch egg, this is an excitingly historical dish with a story, and is a treat that is not to be missed!

My mum was also very impressed with her Cheese Soufflé.

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However, when one is indulging in the luxuries of Fortnum & Mason, one believes that one should go all out and order the most extravagant and lavish item on the menu: the Lobster Omelette!

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It may not have the aesthetic appeal of the scotch egg, but the taste is simply fabulous and unlike anything I have ever had before, and with the generous amount of large chunks of lobster, this dish is a complete treat.  The lobster bisque and eggs are clearly combined together to make the omelette, and the truffle, which can be seen on top of the omelette, gives the taste a whole new dimension.  I’m not sure words can even describe how wonderful this dish truly is, so you just need to try it!

Once we had finished feasting on our savoury delicacies and were waiting for the rest of our afternoon tea to arrive, my mum and I turned our attention to the tea.

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The tea is actually the first part of the experience that is served to the table, but with my delicate mouth not being able to handle the hot temperature when it first arrived, and the excitement of the main course, it wasn’t until the table was cleared of food that I felt ready to indulge myself into the full tea experience!  I had chosen the only yellow tea on the menu: Huang Ya Cha Yellow Buds.  With its light and fragrant flavour, this was a truly lovely tea to accompany the whole meal.  My mum opted for the Russian Caravan, which was also a light tea, but not quite as delicate as the Huang Ya Cha Yellow Buds.  I’m not a massive tea fan, but I actually really enjoyed both of these delights!  The menu also gives a good description of the origin and history of each tea, so it was quite fun knowing that we had the tea of the Tsars sitting on our table!

When the afternoon tea stands did arrive, it was a really exciting surprise to find out exactly what sweet treats we had been given, as the menu gives nothing away!

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Each little delicacy was completely perfect-looking, and it was hard to decide where to begin!  I started with the rose éclair, as I had never tried anything fragranced with flowers before, and I was actually really excited by this cute, little pink delight!  It turned out to be my absolute favourite pastry of the whole selection, and I even ended up taking some home with me!  The flavour was so light and delicate, that it almost tiptoed on your tongue.  If I could return and just request a plate of these little beauties, I think I actually would!

Exploring the plate in a clockwise direction (from the éclair), the milk chocolate stick had a lovely crunchy mint surprise, the pistachio dome unexpectedly oozed a beautiful red jam when bitten into, the macaroon was filled with a delightful caramel sauce, and the dark chocolate square was extremely rich in flavour.  Everything was carefully thought out to bring the maximum amount of pleasure, through taste, texture, and looks, as well as a little unexpected surprise in almost every one!

There was also a dessert trolley if these little bite-size puddings don’t quite satisfy your sweet tooth!  The best part about the dessert trolley is that if you are celebrating something special, the attentive waiters will bring a slice of cake to your table, with a candle glowing, whilst the pianist plays ‘Happy Birthday’ on the piano!  My mum was presented with a giant slice of Raspberry Trifle Cake, and I was given a slice of Bakewell Tart.

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We were also allowed to order whatever else we wanted from the trolley, which was a huge relief as I had been eyeing up the Battenberg from the moment we had arrived!  Luckily, they let me take a slice home instead of forcing me to eat it there, as I was stuffed after everything we had already eaten!

Obviously, we were also served up a lovely helping of scones: 1 plain, and 1 fruit scone each.

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These were beautifully crumbly and warm, and were absolutely perfect with the blueberry and raspberry jams and clotted cream that we smothered on top.

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At Fortnum & Mason it really is the little things that go a long way, and I loved the cute messages on the inside of the jam lids.

The atmosphere was also beautiful with the grand piano playing in the background the whole time.  At one point, the pianist even played ‘Colours of Wind’ from Pocahontas and I got ridiculously excited and started singing along!

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This truly is a lovely and special place to spend your time indulging in afternoon tea.  The service is attentive, smart, and friendly; the food is absolutely beautiful; and to top it all off, there is a whole department store to entertain yourself with before or after the whole experience!  I for one cannot wait to return to indulge in my favourite treat at quite possibly my favourite store!

Mr Men and Little Miss Biscuits

It was my birthday this weekend and the parents came up for a very British day out of theatre-going and afternoon tea at Fortnum & Mason.  However, like most Brits, it is often hard to start our day without a nice mug of coffee (albeit mine always comes in a plastic cup as I am addicted to Frappuccinos in the summer), and this is where my parents gave me my birthday presents.  I received lots of lovely gifts, such as a cute ladybird cupcake kit, but the one I was most excited about was my Little Miss Birthday biscuit made by Biscuiteers.  I have wanted to try their biscuits for a long time, especially after reading a blog about the launch of their Mr Men and Little Miss collection, and I have to say it was well worth the wait!

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Not only did this beautiful biscuit look perfect, it tasted perfect, and it is such a fun and novel idea for a small birthday present!  I don’t know anyone who didn’t love Mr Men and Little Miss as a kid, and so it is very apt for a nostalgic trip to your childhood on the day you are most aware of how far you have come since those innocent, playful days!

However, once you bring yourself to eat something this beautiful, you are presented with an absolute treat for your tastebuds!  It is soft and crumbly, with a slight crunch on the outside, and the vanilla flavour really comes through in every mouthful.  The icing is a lovely sweet accompaniment, but not overpoweringly so, and really completes the whole experience.

My parents bought me the Little Miss Birthday biscuit from Fortnum & Mason.  Unfortunately I didn’t get to see the display, but guessing from their Mr Men Biscuit Tin on their website and what my dad has told me, I’m assuming there is quite a lot of choice!  These are absolutely wonderful biscuits, to look at and to eat, and would make the perfect present or biscuit for a celebratory occasion.

Milkshake Break!

Recently, Primrose Bakery have started serving glorious and gluttonous milkshakes in novelty jam jars. There are so many choices of flavour, from classic vanilla to the slightly more adventurous salted caramel, that it is almost essential to panic buy! Having sat opposite my friend Chloe guzzling a thick and creamy Nutella milkshake, I simply couldn’t resist!

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This milkshake is filled with so much chocolate and nutty goodness that you almost forget to breathe whilst gulping large mouthfuls of thick, creamy milkshake through both straws at the same time! The best bit, however, is when the liquid stops streaming up the straw, only for you to lift it up, out of the jar, to discover a large chunk of milkshake-coated Nutella glued to the bottom of the straw, ready for you to spoon oh so willingly into your mouth in all its thick, chewy goodness! From this moment on it is almost essential to attack this bad boy with a spoon! This is one super chocolatey liquid dream that I won’t be forgetting in a hurry!

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Their Blueberry Cupcake, which is their May special, is also well worth a try! It is a beautiful and fragrant vanilla sponge, packed full of fresh blueberries, adding a sweet and fruity finish to the whole experience! The blueberry icing is also absolutely gorgeous, and I can’t wait to see what other treats will be published in their new cookbook, alongside this purple beauty!

But first, I have this wonderful recipe book filled with cocktail cupcakes and afternoon tea ideas to get through first, thanks to my wonderful friends!

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