Happy Easter

This year I made never-ending cards to send to the couple of people I send a card to, so I thought I would share one with you.

Outside Second side Third side Last sideAnd to finish I will share with you the cake I made this Easter.

Not a simnel cake this year. My son saw a cake on a food programme on TV and really wanted to have one (and it also includes marzipan!) so I made one for him.Battenberg cakeAnd a closer look! Battenberg cake closerA plain and chocolate Battenberg with nine sections instead of the normal four!

Making marzipan fruits and Christmas baking

One thing I like to do when the occasion arises is to make marzipan fruit.

I don’t think I learnt to make these either from my mother or school; I think it must have been a book or leaflet.

For those of you who have never tried this is what you need. 0539-what-you-needSome marzipan, of course, a grater (the small side), a skewer, some food colouring and cloves.

In this case I used orange colouring to get orange marzipan. I used to use cochineal and yellow colouring but the Asda red and yellow colouring when mixed gave me brown. I would not recommend Asda’s food colouring.

To get the full range of fruits I had in mind I created yellow, orange, green and pink marzipan. 0539-four-colours-of-marzipanBe prepared to wash your hands at frequent intervals, between the different colours and whenever they begin to feel sticky when forming the fruit.

To make an orange: roll a piece of marzipan round and round in your hand as you did as a child with plasticine until you get a perfect ball. Then roll it gently round and round on the small side of the grater to create the texture of rind. The add a clove in the top.0539-stages-of-making-an-orangeThe ball on the right is before and the other is completed.

You make a lemon in the same way but need, obviously to make more of a lemon shape.

I also made a banana, four flattened sides, tapered and curved and here you do need something I didn’t mention before, namely a touch of cocoa for the colouring. 0539-banana-and-lemonI use the green marzipan for apples. Again you make a ball and I like to coat one half with a dab of red colouring (shades of Snow White!). You can stick a thin clove the other way round for a stalk and I like to mark the bottom with a skewer to suggest the part where the flower was attached. Of course a small change in shape and you have a pear!0539-both-sides-of-an-appleI kept a bit of the green for when making a strawberry with the pink.

Here I use the skewer to suggest the seeds and to make a hole to insert some green for the top. 0539-making-a-strawberry(The photographs were taken indoors under artificial light and the green marzipan came out very faded. So I adjusted it in some photos but not here!)

If you are feeling patient you can roll lots and lots of tiny balls and make a raspberry. I had a little green and some pink, so I made a green core (though I would normally use pink) and made one just to show you. raspberryAnd here is a whole plate (or rather saucer!ful) plate-of-fruit

I don’t try and make the fruit sizes proportional to real life. It is more a matter of using a similar amount of marzipan for each and they are normally about the right size to fit in sweet cases (except the banana!).

And here are some other things I have made.

Two Stollen. 0539-two-stollenI think I have become much better at forming them so they don’t open up.

Compare these from 2012 Baked stollenAs you can see this year I made a lot less dough. I made a quarter my original recipe that would make four large ones and used my food processor to do the kneading to save my wrists.

I also made some lavender shortbread snowflakes. 0539-lavender-shortbread-biscuitsI was making some millionaires shortbread for when my daughter came on a present drop and decided that that was the ideal time to make double the amount of shortbread and turn half of it into biscuits. I had been intending to try lavender shortbread ever since I had bought some in Waitrose and really loved them, so I put in plenty of lavender as I had had it a while. (Yes it is edible lavender – some lavender tea I had bought in Winchester.)

And here is my traditional Christmas cake. Just for me, so I added what dried fruit I had including some crystallised ginger! christmas-cakeAnd here is my first attempt at a tunis cake. 0539-my-tunis-cakeMy son had said that he would be interested to try one and having been introduced to tunis cake years ago, when I first knew my husband, but then forgotten about them, I thought I would see if you could still buy them.

I found a few in supermarkets and a couple of recipes but they all seemed to be covered with ganache, or worse still fondant icing, when I remembered them as covered with a layer of solid chocolate.

So I decided that just for fun I would try to make one.

I wanted a rounded top to the cake but it rose a bit more than expected and so the chocolate I had bought was not enough to give a perfectly flat top but I decided to leave it as it is and see how it looks when cut. Then if I make one again I will adapt with either a flatter cake or more chocolate.zzz


Photo Challenge – Above

Maybe I am taking the easy way out ( I still seem so busy and tired!) but here is my offering for ‘above’. photo-challenge1639-aboveIt is the cake I made for son on his recent 41st birthday.

For those who might be interested it is a coffee and walnut cake with chocolate butter icing decorated with walnuts and giant buttons and just one candle! Maybe forty is a good time to start counting again. Forty-one candles might be a fire hazard!

(I liked the look of the cake so much that I took a few pictures not realising it would do for this week!)

(And my son said it tasted good, though it might have been better if he hadn’t sounded so surprised! He normally tells me to buy shop cakes to save effort.)

March Montage

In March I showed you a little bit of crochet at the start but mostly I have been knitting my jumper, though I did teach someone the beginnings of crochet one Friday. A lot of my time has been taken up with sorting out quotations for new paving in my garden and I shared a few old pictures to give you a taste of what it looked like up to recently when I cleared it out ready for repaving.March montageof course the Photo Challenge was a regular item and this month the topics were: solid, outline, Spring and friends. I did include a few other photographs in some of the posts like the magnolia in the Spring post. Lastly I wished everyone a Happy Easter and showed you the simnel cupcakes I had made.

Happy Easter

A Happy Easter to all my readers! Happy EasterI made this card years ago from a photograph I had taken while at Taize in France.

My eldest decided to pop down on Good Friday for a quick visit. I told her I was planning to make some lemon simnel cupcakes from a recipe I had picked up in Waitrose. She loves marzipan so that was just an extra reason to come.

Recipe here – https://www.waitrose.com/content/waitrose/en/home/recipes/recipe_directory/l/lemon-simnel-cupcakes.html. I used less zest (no sprinkling!) and added some glace cherries that needed to be used up and well you have to have egg shapes on top not balls!

She insisted that I take a photograph so I thought I would share it with you.Simnel cupcakes

Just think of me having one (or two?) for tea. [We all had one on Friday (four of us and I gave her four to take back so I only have four left.) Luckily my son who is coming today doesn’t like them!]

December Montage

Before I look back I want to say “Happy New Year” to you all!

In December I continued my photographic installments concerning my Danube cruise: covering Budapest by day and the food. I also did a retrospective post though that is not really represented in this montage. December montageI shared how I made some mincemeat for Christmas and later the Stollen I made and the finished mince pies.

I showed you the finished crochet bookmark angel cards and some origami ones.

Wished everyone a Happy Christmas. Then looking forward to the New Year published a list of topics for a photo challenge and gave a quick update on my crochet blanket.

Happy Christmas to all my readers!

This is just to wish you all

Happy ChristmasCrib

Unfortunately I can’t send you all a piece but these are the Stollen I made this year. I was quite pleased that they didn’t split open showing the marzipan!

My son who has tried a piece says it is even better than last year!

The only other Christmas baking I have done this year is to make some well-filled mince pies Well-filled mince pieswhich is how my son likes them.

And here they are finished, all ready for freezing. Mince pies ready to freezeI had just enough mincemeat left to make a little mince pasty for me. Mince pasty for meJust to check, you know!

Danube Adventure – the food

Now I am not going to give you a blow by blow account of every meal we had, just a bit of a taster!


Breakfast was one of those large buffet affairs. Breakfast There were juices and a variety of cereals and fruit and yogurt and even porridge. The normal butter and jams plus a great variety of cold meats and cheeses to accompany a variety of breads and croissants. There were also small muffins and danish pastries. I am pretty sure there was also the ability to make toast and a variety of normal cooked options though I didn’t bother with those.

Here is a closer look. Breakfast closer look When you sat at your table you would be offered tea or coffee. My daughter, who is used to a large mug of coffee for breakfast got tired of the little cups and bought a very nice mug (no photograph I am afraid) in Ezstergom and thereafter presented it for filling. The waiters seemed to find this amusing.

There was the ability to make tea or coffee in the cabins but we rarely took advantage of this as tea and coffee was so readily available elsewhere.


Lunch was also buffet style and was largely in the same place as breakfast, though there was an alternative menu in the little restaurant at the other end of the ship.

There was normally a meat and fish option with vegetables and potatoes or rice and such.

The only lunch I photographed was this porkholt. (You may know it as Hungarian Goulash.) I am especially fond of it and as it is an especially Hungarian dish I thought it warranted a photograph. Porkholt I had it with the vegetable noodles and some salad. There was always a good variety of salad items available.


There wasn’t an opportunity for tea everyday as it depended on when the outings took place, though I think tea was available for those who chose to stay on the ship.

No photographs but there was always an amazing array of cakes.


Dinner was always a multi-course affair with waiter service. This worried me a bit at first as I don’t eat as much these days but the portions were always very modest with plenty of space in-between.

The only time I photographed my meal was when we had the final dinner so I will show you the photographs with a few comments as how this differed on the other days.

Normally, there were two choices for each course with an extra couple of options like chicken or steak and vegetables for the main course.

First let me show you the place setting on our last night. Place setting We were told that we could keep the napkin. The bow is just a paper shape.

For the final night it was a fixed menu.

The first thing that happened always was that you were offered some bread and there was piped butter on the table. Dips for bread Here you can see that there is also some olive oil for dipping and also hummus (I think).

After this there was often a small morsel on a specially bent dessertspoon. I forgot to photograph this.

On this last night it was “Veal Liver Mouselline, Pineapple Compote, Toasted Brioche.”

This was followed by the soup. Soup “Essence de Canarde du Barberie: Consomme of Barberie Duck with Quenelle.”

Fish course: Fish course “Caramelized Scallop, Sweet Pepper Puree, Corn Risotto, Green Asparagus.”

The main course was: “Herb Crusted Rack of Lamb (Pink), Sweet Garlic Rosemary Gravy, Horseradish, Flageolet Beans, Oven Dried Tomatoes, Pommes Dauphine.” Main course You can see I was finding it hard to take photographs before eating by now.

For any vegetarians there was: “Melanzane: Aubegine, Coated Parmesan, Tomato Sauce, Mozzarella.”

The pudding or ‘dessert’ if you prefer was entitled “Lord Byron’s Parade” and was a bit of a mystery until it happenened.

The lights were turned down and all the waiting staff paraded in carrying baked alaskas with fireworks shooting sparks out of the tops.

[There was also a guy with a fire extinguisher!]

At this point it became harder than ever to take any photographs but here is one showing the baked alaska on the side and you can see the fireworks have been removed and placed on a dish.Baked alaska

When the pudding was finally served it looked like this.  And I ate it all, including the ‘Lord Byron’ in chocolate. Helping of pudding I had to increase the ISA rather a lot as you can tell!

The meal finished with tea or coffee, petit fours, though I think I would have called them truffles, and brandy.

While we were on the trip my daughter would always make sure she had done her 10,000 steps and I would join her walking round and round the deck of an evening, to the amusement of the other passengers. It paid off however as I only put on a couple of pounds overall.

There was also a small chocolate on our pillow each evening!

Making mincemeat!

A few years ago I discovered that making mincemeat is really easy. Easier than Christmas pudding which I have never thought of buying. Of course it is possible, if not probable, that making mincemeat costs more than buying a jar, especially as you have to buy more of the ingredients than you need. But hopefully you can use the rest up in some other way.

This made me really happy, especially as I am more and more concerned about what might be in the food I eat. For instance, I always make sure these days that the ingredients in a jar of jam are just fruit and sugar, the ingredients list in some jars of jam, especially the cheaper sort, read like a laboratory list.

I probably had a few recipes for mincemeat in among my many cookbooks but I decided to go for a “Delia” recipe which I found on-line.

Now if I make full quantities it is more than enough for the dozen or so large mince pies I make to offer my son when he comes round, so this year I decided to make half quantities.

I have made too many mistakes when halving a recipe in my head,Ingredients card so I carefuly sat down and wrote out what half quantites were, double and triple checking as I went!

I had bought a Bramley cooking apple and the suet.Suet and appleI always have raisins and sultanas in the cupboard but currants are always a bit more problematical as the only thing I need currants for is pikelets and I rarely make them these days. I almost bought 500gm (smallest available) but then I had an idea. My two most popular fruit cake recipes use mixed fruit and mixed fruit contains currants, so I bought a bag of mixed fruit and sat down and sorted the fruit into currants, peel and raisins & sultanas. I didn’t bother to sort between raisins and sultanas as they are so similar. Mixed fruit separated
Then I weighed each sort and wrote it down.Mixed fruit breakdownI halved the sultanas/raisins pile and made them up to the required quantity, added all the currants, as you hadly need to be exact, and topped up the peel with other that I had bought.

I got out the orange, lemon and packet of brown sugar. I normally have brown sugar too but I had run out recently.Orange, lemon and sugarWeighed out some almonds and cut them into slivers. AlmondsThis is half-way.

Measured out the spices. SpicesI have been extra generous with the cinnamon and nutmeg.

Having peeled the apple and chopped it into very small pieces, weighed out the suet and sugar and removed the zest and juice from half the orange and lemon, I added them to all the other ingredients and mixed well. Mixed ingredientsThe recipe says to leave this for twelve hours before adding the brandy so that is what I did.

Delia Smith says to put it in the oven at 120 deg C for 3 hours and that is what I did the first time but last year when I did that, I went and forgot about it and when I remembered it was frankly a bit on the burnt side, so I had to throw it away and start again. So for the second attempt last year and then this year, I decided to leave out that step, as in commercial jars you can normally see the suet so they can’t do it.

I did however add 3 dessertspoons of brandy and give it a good mix then put into a kilner jar in the fridge. Ready for when I get round to making some mince pies that I will freeze. They can then be cooked as and when they are needed.

I find 1lb flour and 8oz fat makes enough pastry for about a dozen large mince pies made in a muffin tin.