Tag Archives: event

Reading Town Meal

16 Oct

Another weekend of eating but not cooking, basking in early October sunshine I spent a lovely afternoon in Readings Forbury Gardens and the first Reading Town Meal. The meal was the brain child of  Food4Families who work with schools and families across the borough to create a network of food growing spaces.

Bringing together allotment-holders, gardeners and producers with catering students from Reading College who prepared and cooked the meal the afternoon saw around 1000 meals served to a crowd who also enjoyed live music, cookery demonstrations and a host of other things in the glorious sunshine. The weather brought the community out in force, but the organisation went really smoothly and soon people were spreading out on the grass to enjoy the food.

A zingily dressed mixed salad with beetroot and some borlotti beans which were an interesting and welcome addition. The main was a mild curry which contained lots of squashes , impressive as it hasn’t been a particularly good year for growing them.

The service was staggered so those who ate early had time to look around the stalls or watch a demonstration like I did, picking up a nifty recipe for partridge, although I think it would work with other meats. Pudding was a Canterbury Tart, making the most of this years bumper crop of apples.

I found it a little too sharp for my liking, but that’s probably personal taste and when you take into consideration the huge amount of work involved in putting together the event it was really a minor quibble, and it didn’t stop me eating all of it. The sunshine helped create a friendly and relaxed atmosphere and despite the fact that I was in the minority coming on my own I felt perfectly at home. I thought the town meal was a great event, really well organised and an inspiring model of what can be achieved across a town like Reading. All in all it was a tasty and inspiring afternoon.

elderflower and summer berry sponge

15 Jun

This was my contribution to the Clandestine Cake club gathering in Kilburn. It is an elaborate looking cake but is actually relatively easy with no difficult techniques to master, as long as your batter doesn’t curdle and you leave the oven door shut for 2/3 of the cooking time I think this recipe is pretty straight forward and looks great and tastes light, fruity and summery.

I used duck eggs in the sponge for the first time, I was at home with my parents Mum said my grandmother always bought duck eggs for baking as they are richer and give cakes more oomph (technical term). The cornflour in place of some of the normal flour is also an heirloom tip to improve the texture of the sponge. This recipe can be scaled down by remembering that a basic victoria sponge has equal weights of butter, flour and sugar.



250g caster sugar

250g unsalted butter (very soft)

4 duck eggs (or 250g weighed in shells)

225g self-raising flour

25g corn flour

12g baking powder

2 tbsp elderflower cordial

3-4 tbsp milk (or enough to make a silky batter)


2 tbsp mixed berry jam

130 ml double cream

2 tbsp of elderflower cordial (or to taste)

200g raspberries

100g small strawberries halved.


3 tbsp icing sugar

3 tbsp freeze-dried raspberries


Pre heat oven to 190 °C grease and or line two 8” cake tins.

Sift or mix together the flour, cornflour and baking powder.

With a hand mixer or plenty of elbow grease cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Then mix in half the eggs and flour, cornflour , once this has combined add the other the rest and mix again until it forms a stiff ish batter.

This method should stop it curdling but if it looks as thought it is, add a little more flour and mix that in. Add the elderflower cordial and milk, the amount needed may vary but the batter should be loose and silky looking. Divide between the two cake tins and bake, it should take approximately 30 minutes at 190 °C but as my oven is temperamental it took longer and I had to cover the top of the cakes to stop them colouring too much, but you will know when they are done when the start to pull away from the sides of the tin and a skewer comes out clean.

Turn out when cool enough to handle and cool full on wire racks.

When cool spread jam over one of the sponges. Whisk together the elderflower cordial and cream until stiff and spread on top of the jam. Next layer on the fruit, neatly if you like or randomly, it doesn’t really matter. Then place the second sponge on top. To make the top nice and pink ( and cover up any imperfections you might want to hide, push the icing sugar and dried raspberries through a sieve over the top layer. Voila.

clandestine cakes

13 Jun

I must confess, Come Dine With Me is a guilty pleasure of mine but I sometimes find myself shouting at the TV when someone cooks something they have never tried before for an audience of people, what could possibly go wrong there? Well that’s more or less what I did this weekend when I made my contribution for the Clandestine Cake Club in Kilburn. Luckily it worked and it took its place alongside about 13 others with the theme “Cake Porn” (beautiful cakes).

a few beautiful cakes

I didn’t know quite what to expect, but once I got over the shock of being greeted at the door by Lynn the host and a lady from Radio 4 wielding a microphone ( I didn’t swear my Mum would be so proud) I was given a lovely cup of tea and was immersed in cakey conversations. Whilst the Clandestine Cake Club is non competitive it was nice to get some tips and feedback from other keen bakers as we set about demolishing the cakes.


demolition job

Ms Marmite Lovers Rainbow Cake

We tried to sample as many creations as possible but I didn’t get anywhere near the record of 11 slices.  Invaded the home of Ms Marmite Lover who valiantly tasted each cake from a sumptuous cheese cake to a lovely light meringue and raspberry affair.

It was interesting to discuss the reasons for the resurgence in home baking; from the Nigella effect to finding comfort in a recession to baking as a feminist activity. We also ate cake! Loads of it! All gorgeous and lovingly made and at home time people divided up the leftovers to sample at home. I loved the chocolate cake with salted caramel filling, but didn’t get to try as many as I would have like so I’m sure I missed out on some crackers! Cake Clubs are springing up all over and Lynn is an a great ambassador for the appreciation of the sometimes overlooked cake, and an enthusiastic supported of people who want to start-up their own club. If you are interested in running one get in touch, or keep your eyes peeled for one coming to a town near you!

a most unusual tea party

12 Jun

I should have written about this ages ago but the past couple of weeks have been a blur of work and lurgy so the blog has taken a bit a back seat. Now the haze of olbas oil is clearing and I’m no longer fuelled almost entirely by lemsip it’s time to catch up!

The Secluded Tea Party is a twist on the traditional British tea party and part of the ever-growing supper club movement. I met its host, the glamorous  Ms Sue Flay, at a food bloggers conference (more accurately on the tube home afterwards) and was so taken with the idea I’d been longing for an excuse to go. It’s quite a way from Windsor to Cambridgeshire where the Secluded Tea Party is run but an engagement party, sort of down the road (actually further than I thought) gave The Man and I the perfect excuse.

On booking we knew it was going to be a Crafty Tea Party but that actual activity and location were a mystery until a few days before which made the event feel like an exciting adventure. Finally the big reveal came, we would be pottery painting at Crafty Monkey in St Neots (yep quite a way from Windsor). After a long but scenic drive The Man and I arrived, not quite sure what to expect, but were made to feel extremely welcome by Ms Flay and Chrissy the enthusiastic owner of Crafty Monkey. After introductions and a quick run through of techniques we were off, decorating our own tea cups and saucers.

A blank canvas.

The painting was a great icebreaker, getting everyone talking and laughing and was incredibly absorbing and whilst I’m sure we were all really looking forward to the gorgeous spread which was waiting for us we had to be actively encouraged to down brushes and get stuck in.

Can you see the concentration?

Sue had laid out an impressive spread of finger sandwiches, some with a gorgeous garlic jam which I must try making, onion and creme fraiche swirls, beautifully light scones with jam and cream, a stunning carrot cake and some seriously indulgent oreo truffles. All washed down with a selection of delicious teas from Tea Box, my favourite was whisky and ginger; and all served on beautiful vintage china.

Light and fluffy scones

amazing oreo truffles

china envy!

the nearly finished article

After tea we drifted between finish our painting and grazing on the lovely food, chatting together happily as we did.

The whole afternoon was perfectly pitched, relaxed, friendly and fun and run by a wonderful host who is also a very talented baker. The Secluded Tea Party re invents itself in new venue and has some exciting events coming up including a very intriguing Zombie Tea Party, I’d definitely recommend going to one of Ms Sue Flays events for fun and fabulous food, the truffles alone were worth the journey!

going underground

8 May

On friday evening The Man and I and hundreds of others descended on Ms Marmite Lovers gaff for the Underground Night Market or “a food rave”.  Bringing the US trend to London and building on her previous events the dynamo behind the Underground Restaurant opened her home, garden and summer house for what was interesting mix of market and party.

If you haven’t heard of Ms Marmite lover I urge you to check out her blog The English Can Cook  ; but back to the market. There was music from a fab band, cocktails, hot food, food and drink to take home, some gorgeous craft stalls (I loved Avarea17) and demonstrations in the kitchen, giving me huge shelf envy! Sad but true.

Not living in London and not having easy access to more established markets, and not always being able to travel in for one-off events I thought the Underground Market was a great was of finding out about and making contact with a group of makers and producers I wouldn’t normally have been able to.  They were a pretty twitter savvy bunch,

so I imagine an event like this would be a great place to make contacts. I know that as well as picking up cards I’ve followed people I met on friday on Twitter.

Of the hot food, the stand out’s for me were kimchi sliders from Street Foodie

Mauritian Street Food by Jason and Jaque all the way from Nottingham was a revelation.

The pulled pork from Anna Mae’s Smoke House was seriously good and the bbq sauce stunning, but was too quickly and messily eaten to be photographed! We even had room to squeeze in on of Peck Peck’s ice creams for pudding. The Man loved his Lemon Curd, which seemed to be a popular choice but I wouldn’t have swapped  my gorgeously floral and perfumed honey and lavender flavour.

We went away laden with other goodies for the weekend; flamiche from Squisito was  a very tasty brekkie on Saturday, cheese and salmon from the Artisan Smokehouse helped make a stunning Quiche (not a contradiction in terms), recipe to follow. Sunday morning was definitely pepped up by opening my Mauvaise Maman Gooseberry and Gin jam and we are looking forward to eating our way through our other purchases. All in all it was a fun evening, great to see something supporting small independent producers so well supported and well worth the muggy trek into London! I’m certainly going to keep my eyes peeled for other events.

experimental food society

6 Apr

A bit of a diversion from the usual theme of the blog, last week The Man and I went along to a The Past and Future of Food and Experimentation an interactive talk at the V&A by The Experimental Food Society. The evening combined a talk on the past of food experimentation by the chef Simon Smith and the food historian Professor Roland Rotherham who took the audience for a swift canter through the history of British food and it’s influences; they certainly make an entertaining double act. The recipes such as Columella Salad and Hen with Capers were tasty and very modern in flavour. The only real exception were the pork and marzipan balls, which I thought was a meat and sweet combination too far; but that might just be personal preference.

Next up was Dr Morgaine Gaye, Food Futurologist (what an amazing job title), looking at 15 food trends for the next 12 to 18 months.  Whilst I’m not sure many people will be growing meat in tanks at home that soon; but do watch out for South American foods,  expect to eat less meat and more insects, bacon in many forms and watch out for packaging which plays on your sense of smell to name a few! The Man was most excited by 3D food printing and I’m off to make some alfajores (trend number 12).

The event was fun, interesting and a great way to spend an evening, with drinks and canapes afterwards in the gallery giving a chance to talk in more depth to the speakers and appreciate being in the museum after hours. Have we had a glimpse into the future? We’ll have to wait and see.

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