How to make blueberry smoothies

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Homemade blueberry smoothies

Having made this recipe over four times and refined it I thought it was high time I shared it on the blog! Whether you’ve got frozen blueberries in winter or fresh blueberries in summer, this makes a super refreshing and healthy drink to make at the weekend.

I’ve adapted the BBC Good Food recipe so here is my version:

140g frozen blueberries – add raspberries too for extra colour and taste

1 ripe banana – great way to use up old bananas!

3 heaped tablespoons of low fat Greek Yoghurt

100ml milk – add more if you need to decrease the thickness

Teaspoon of honey to taste – however try making it without the added sugar to make it even healthier.

Method:

  • Cut up the banana in to small chunks and add to a large measuring jug
  • Add your frozen blueberries
  • Add in 3 dollops of low fat greek yog
  • 100ml of milk
  • WHIZZ up with your stick blender. We bought this one from John Lewis for £20 and it’s really good and simple to use
  • Slurp down with a yummy brunch of scrambled eggs with avocado on the side
  • Voila! Brunch bliss!

For more blueberry-inspired pics head over to my Instagram feed!

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6 Valentine’s Day Recipe Ideas

http://www.greatbritishchefs.com/getmedia/929c383c-7b10-45fe-9744-797cfce5f368/Sh-passion-fruit-and-vanilla-cheesecake-website-featured/?width=420&height=270&ext=.jpg

Vanilla and Passionfruit Cheesecake by Simon Hulstone

1. Passion? You said it with this vanilla and passionfruit cheesecake from chef Simon Hulstone. Passionfruit puree can be bought from Amazon and you can buy fine leaf gelatine leaves from Tesco. Not sure whether these will be bronzed though!

Poiresauchocolat

Dark Muscovado Truffles By Poires Au Chocolat

2. Or how about making some delicious dark chocolate truffles for your loved one? Much more thoughtful than bought choccies. I recently reviewed these Paul A Young dark muscovado truffles which were easy to make and yum! Poires Au Chocolat made some lush ones pictured here.

3. Take your other half to a Valentines afternoon tea – why not? I recently sipped hot chocolate downstairs from Rabot, a cacao restaurant in Borough Market in London and their afternoon tea menu caught my eye. Think cacao-infused drinks, brownies, banana bread and gin-cured smoked salmon sandwiches.

4. Concoct a raspberry courting cake – inspired from my Lancashire roots, the mascarpone icing tastes amazing.

5. Bake some love bug cookies – these look very cute and bright – perfect to cheer up your partner on a wintry February day! Ready to roll red icing can be bought from supermarkets and you’ll also need some 8cm and 6cm heart cutters (you can get a set from Lakeland).

6. And if baking eludes you then make your partner a Valentine-inspired cocktail. Rasmopolitan or Raspberry Chocolate Kiss Martini gets my vote!

For more inspiration you can read my previous year’s baking ideas. What will you be baking this Valentine’s?

Valentine Baking Ideas

Cupcake heartsWith only two weeks to go, it’s time to bring some inspiration to Valentine Baking and purchase some cool baking decorations or cupcake cases before it’s too late! Here is my top 10 list of Valentine Baking Ideas:

1. Make some delicious chocolate cupcakes (aka Hummingbird Bakery) and wrap them in these decadent red cupcake wrappers. Then sprinkle with cupcake decorations like these ones from Just Bake. You can view their full Valentine range here.

Red heart cupcake wrappers_Just Bake2. If you don’t think you can bake then this really is laid on a plate for you. Heart shaped cutter, cookie mix and Emma Bridgewater gift bag from John Lewis – no excuses boys!

3. From today, Peggy Porschen’s Valentine cupcakes are available to buy and feature a heart or a luscious pair of lips, for £3.50 each.

4. Or how about doing a Valentine Baking course together which Primrose Bakery are hosting on Sunday 17th Feb?

heart shaped macaron from Vera's Cookbook blog5. If anyone made these heart shaped macarons for me then I’d be pretty bowled over. Here’s a video to guide you through how to make them from Vera’s Cookbook blog. Macarons are notoriously hard to make but I think even if you managed to produce 3 perfect ones that would be impressive and show your appreciation for someone!

6. Or you could make heart shaped cupcakes with these silicone cases from Lakeland

7. I also liked the look of these jam filled heart shaped butter biscuits from BBC Good Food and you can buy the cutters here

red velvet cupcakes photographed by Kimothy Joyeates8. How about baking something in these mini heart shaped ramekins from Le Creuset?

9. If you prefer to bake with cups then this is a useful double chocolate heart shaped cake recipe covered in raspberries and you can buy heart shaped pans from Cakes Cookies and Crafts (BTW they’ve got an updated website since I last went on there – looks good!)

10. And finally…a red velvet cake…here’s a US recipe from SomethingSwanky or try the cupcakes recipe from Hummingbird High. To read my 2015 Valentine Baking Ideas, you can find them here.

Interview: Just Bake’s founder Jo Shaw reveals her business start-up tips


On a summer evening last year, Jo Shaw came up the idea for Just Bake over a glass of wine with friends. Six months later the website launched selling beautiful cake decorations and cupcake accessories. Mumpreneur Jo explains how Just Bake came to fruition and gives us her best business startup tips. 

CTTB: Why did you decide to start the Just Bake website? 

JS: I always wanted to have my own business but it wasn’t until last year that the idea came to me. I do lots of baking with my two young children and at the same time I couldn’t find the cake decorations I wanted off the high street. When I looked online I found a lot of poor quality websites were around. I realised what was missing was a simple, easy to navigate website which was appealing from the outset where people could buy pretty decorations.


Pretty flowers cupcake wrappers from Just Bake

CTTB: What advice can you give to someone else who is thinking about starting up their own cake business?

JS: Research the market properly, the product range you’re going to offer and who your target market is.

I did lots of anecdotal market research – speaking to various people about the products they like and the products they couldn’t find easily. I carried out lots of competitor research too like ordering from competitors to understand the customer journey. I also ensured I hired a good quality web agency. Finally, I checked that the cupcake boom wasn’t about to dive. However, I was still careful to give the business a more generic name ‘Just Bake’ so it was insulated from any cupcake trend changes.

CTTB: Have you any tips on how to secure funding, especially in these tough times? 

JS: I looked at the costs of borrowing from our bank and using our own investments – weighing up which was the best option with the lowest risk. The two big costs were the website and branding plus buying the products.

Just Bake cupcake cream wrappers

CTTB: What have you learnt whilst setting up Just Bake?

JS: One thing I did learn along the way is that until you can buy bigger quantities of product, the supplier firmly has the upper hand. I spent a lot of time trawling through supplier websites until I found the best deals and understanding the quantities of stock I needed. I also had to pass an environmental health assessment to ensure all the products were in a hygienic space and kept at the right temperature. It’s not easy setting yourself up as self-employed and learning about the tax regulations – I’m going on a course run by HMRC so I can make sure I’m compliant.

CTTB: Best piece of advice given to you that would help others?

JS: One of my friends said you don’t need to do and learn everything at once – work on one aspect of the business at a time and you’ll build it up from there. He was right and it really helped me to stop worrying and focus.

Union jack cupcake wrappers on Just Bake

CTTB: Are there any big trends you can foresee for 2012 based on what people are browsing for on Just Bake?

People are searching for daffodils and Easter decorations now that Valentines Day is over. I’ve also started noticing people buying Jubilee products already like white, blue and red sugar strands.

CTTB: And finally, cake or biscuit?

JS: Definitely cake.

Easy pancake recipe

Pepperoni and cheese pancake by Naomi Longworth
I decided to make pancakes a night early so here is the Delia recipe on the BBC Good Food website I used last night and some pics to give you some inspiration for different flavours. I can highly recommend cheddar cheese, pepperoni or salami slices with an accompanying salad and sunblushed tomatoes. For dessert, try blueberries, raspberries drizzled with loads of maple syrup. YUM! Delia gives a tip about sieving the flour high above the bowl. Definitely do this because it helps not to get lumps. I actually managed to get a really good consistency for the batter by doing this. Good luck tonight folks! In terms of how well I fared at flipping pancakes – I cut one pancake in half and hit the pan on the back wall  – whoops! and the first pancake I flipped ended up in the pan as a folded mess! Am clearly going to have to practise before next year! Oh and if you want to know what is the difference between a pancake and a crepe then read my post here or if you want to see my mini pancakes based on a Gordon Ramsay recipe click moi.

Raspberry, blueberry and maple syrup pancake

How to make Vanilla Extract

How to make vanilla extract on the Cake takes the biscuit blog

For Christmas pressies, I decided to make homemade vanilla extract. I can now write about them since I have given the pressies away 🙂 I was given a jar by my sister-in-law as a present last year and I thought it would be a great gift idea for me to replicate as I use the jar all the time! It’s super easy and is a nice pressie that is practical and will last for ages. I bought my little jars from a shop called Tiger. The only ingredients you need is vodka – I used Smirnoff – you don’t need anything too fancy plus high quality vanilla pods – 1 per jar. I had good customer service from Vanilla Mart and you can buy the pods in all sorts of different types and quantities.

  • Cut lengthways down the vanilla pod, leaving 1 inch connected at one end.
  •  Put the vanilla pod in a preserving jar – it needs to have a tight fitting lid.
  • Cover with the vodka to the top of the jar and give it a shake.
  • Store in a cupboard for 2 months and hey presto you have your own vanilla extract for baking with!
  • The vanilla extract lasts for years – you just keep topping it off with the vodka.

I got some good tips from this recipe on Simply Recipes. I was intrigued to learn that each vanilla pod comes from an orchid that has been pollinated by hand. Once the vanilla seed pod has developed, it must be hand picked as well. Who knew!

Christmas Cake Decorations and Cupcake Cases

On Saturday I will be baking cupcakes for a colleague as she won a charity auction and bid for a set of my cupcakes. It was all in aid of ByteNight – the IT industry’s sleep out night in aid of Action for Children. I want to make some cupcakes with a festive theme and  have been doing lots of research on fun Christmas cake and cupcake decorations and cupcake cases so I thought I would share these with you. Look out for my post on Christmas cupcakes at the weekend!

  1. Mini snowflakes
  2. Red and green Christmas tree sprinkles
  3. Cute snowmen
  4. Holly and berry sprinkles
  5. Edible green Christmas tree glitter
  6. Stockings, Candy Canes and Mittens Cupcake Toppers
  7. Let it snow cupcake cases
  8. Snowmen cupcake cases
  9. Reindeer and Santa cupcake cases
  10. Christmas Cupcake kit

Christmas Cake Moulds & Cookie Cutters

Christmas cookie cutterTo get in to the Christmas spirit, I thought I’d do a quick run down of festive cake moulds and cookie cutters. Marks and Spencer have a good range including this Christmas Tree mould which I featured last year, star cupcake cases and Christmas cookie cutters.

If you fancy a Christmas tree made out of cookies, this 3D cookie set could be the thing for you. I know these aren’t cutters or moulds but I also love these snowflake decorations. I’m putting these on my baking list right away! Lakeland also have a fun snowflake cookie cutter set featured below.

Snowflake cookie cutter setCakes, Cookies and Crafts have a full range of Christmas cookie cutters and they also have a  Santa cake tin.

If you want to try your hand at chocolate making, then these chocolate Christmas wreath moulds are a bit different. And OK, these aren’t moulds, but I do love these Santa mini muffin cases from the Funky Muffin shop.

Jonathan Pollock: Food photography

florentines by Jonathan Pollock

On Friday I met Jonathan Pollock, a London based food photographer. He showed me his fantastic portfolio which ranged from florentines for Fortnum and Mason (pictured here) to sausages and mash for a leading supermarket and foodie dishes for the Onion Council. I also love his meille feuille pic here. He was kind enough to give me some tips on how to take great food photos which I’ve summarised below.

  1. Use natural light wherever possible – that means I need to be photographing my baking either outside or by the windows – not using the overhead lights or underlighting by the cupboards
  2. Use a DSLR if you can so you can have a lot more control over the exposure, shutter speed and aperture – I am going to have to get a new camera soon! Jonathan recommends the Nikon D90 with a 15-105 lens
  3. If you can photograph outside on a cloudy day or use the light one hour before sunset it should work well
  4. Don’t use the flash on close up shots (which I try not to) but adjust the exposure to +1 if the photo looks too dark
  5. If you don’t want to use flash then 400 ISO should be about right in low-level lighting (it has a faster shutter speed)
  6. To take crisp shots and avoid blur, rest your back on a wall or your elbows on the table and slowly breathe in before you take the shot and then gently press snap!
  7. If you want some basic principles on how to use a camera, then John Hedgecoe’s Guide to 35mm Photography is a good book
  8. For food, it’s good to take tight shots and remember to have the food at the front of the plate
  9. Composition wise, remember to visually split the picture into three and take the interesting part of the pic in the left hand third
  10. 50 ASA/ISO is good quality but has a slower shutter speed (longer exposure) so you need to use it in an environment with higher light levels

I also asked Jonathan for some anecdotes about what it’s like to be a food stylist. He said you have to have incredible patience – each shot takes about two hours – and it’s more like being an alchemist or perhaps an illusionist? For instance, to get a frothy cup of coffee with marshmallows bobbing on the top, gravel is used for 90% of the cup with coffee poured through it. Then a bit of milk is added on top and the marshmallows can sit nicely on the gravel. Who knew!

Ideas for Halloween Cupcakes!

Chocolate cupcakes with chocolate buttercream - Halloween cupcakes

I have been thinking about Halloween for several weeks but I’ve been away for several weekends in October and just couldn’t get to the baking until this weekend. I opted for some simple choc cupcakes as I was limited on time.  Waitrose had a good selection of spooky products although you needed to get in early as I arrived when there were no more orange and black sparkles and various other baking ingredients.  The website is probably your best bet – tip for next year! I did like their spooky cupcake set, complete with Halloween baking cases, and little ghouls and pumpkins on cocktail sticks.

Photographed by Hannah CarmichaelMy friends Hannah and Hazel were much more adventurous and used ‘A Zombie Ate My Cupcake’ book by Lily Vanilli  to create spooktacular treats including graveyard cupcakes with marzipan worms complete with gingerbread cookies for the tomb stones and eyeballs speared with sugar glass oozing with cherry jam for bloody treats (I actually shivered when I saw the photo!). They also made fondant death masks so their friends could decorate them at the party! You can check out Hannah’s photos here.

I used the Cakes4Fun chocolate cupcake recipe and chocolate buttercream for these Halloween treats with the Waitrose witches and Frankensteins on top. I was really chuffed with how the fairycakes came out of the oven – they were totally flat! The secret to this is to mix the ingredients for atleast 3 minutes. It seemed that if the cupcakes weren’t atleast half full though, the baking case collapsed. I did have a slight mishap on the piping as I cut my disposable piping bag too close to the metal nozzle and so icing could escape from the bag. They still tasted good but I think that next time I still stick to my trusty baking cases rather than the Halloween ones plus I won’t be making the same mistake again with the piping bag!

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