Wednesday, 11 December 2013

My Recommended recipe series #1

Every week I am going to post one of my favourite tested recipes.

I am no masterchef therefore the fact that I was successful in following this recipe and it turned out not only to be edible but also yummy, is in itself a near on guarantee that anyone can bake this treat!

First up: Lorraine Pascale's "Crouching tiger, hidden Zebra cake" from her book "Fast, fresh and easy."

Here is what my final cake looked like (I used the left over mixture to make little buns);

Lorraine's recipe;
  Prep time: 25minutes Time baking in the oven: 35 minutes Makes: 12 wedges
Equipment: 23cm springform sandwich tin (or whatever's in your draw!) , large baking sheet, large bowl, medium bowl, zester (or fine cheese grater), wire rack.

250ml sunflower oil, plus extra for greasing
250g of caster sugar
100ml of semi skimmed milk
4 medium eggs (at room temperature)
A few drops of vanilla extract
300g of self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
2.5g cocoa powder
1 orange

- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius, (for a fan oven 160) , 350 degrees Fahrenheit m Gas mark 4. Grease the bottom of e sandwich tin with a little oil, line with baking parchment and oil again. Set aside on a large baking sheet.

-Put the oil,sugar , milk, eggs and vanilla extract in a large bowl and beat everything together well. Best not to use an electric whisk as it will introduce too many bubbles, which are not needed for this cake.

- Pour out 400ml of this mixture in to a medium bowl (or 400g).

- Sift 175g of self raising flour into one bowl along with 1/2 a teaspoon of the baking powder. Mix well and set aside. This is your vanilla mix.

- Sift the remaining 125g of self raising flour and 1/2 a teaspoon of baking powder into the other bowl along with cocoa powder. Finally grate the orange zest in, mix everything together well and set aside. This is your chocolate mix.

- Now put a tablespoon of vanilla mix into the middle of your tin. Then, using a clean table spoon, put a blob of the chocolate mix in the middle of the vanilla one. keep doing this, alternating between vanilla and chocolate, so you form a type of "bull's eye" or "target board" look. Each time you dollop a blob in, the whole mix will spread out on the base. By the time you have used up both cake mixes, they should have just reached the edge of the tin.

- Bake in the oven for 35mins.

- Check the cakes cooked by inserting a skewer into the centre. It should come out clean, if not return it to the oven for another 5 mins until cooked. Once cooked, remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes in the tin. Then carefully remove from the tins and leave to cool completely on a wire rack (can eat it warm if you can't wait!).

- Cut the cake, serve and enjoy!

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Georgia and Churchkhela (Georgian snickers)

This summer I was lucky enough to travel to Georgia (Eurasia) with 25 great companions . It was amazing.

We stayed in tents on the outskirts of a tiny village, about an hour away from Tbilisi. Temperatures reached around 38 Celsius which was a challenge in itself for me (as I'm around 50% freckles).
Whilst there we cleared some bush land, created a football pitch, a damn (to improve the filtration of  the villages water supply) and we also created a cobbled path. All this was installed so it could be become an established campsite and as a result others can visit the area.

The locals were extremely hospitable; We went on an eight hour track up a waterfall and when we returned from our descent there was watermelon, milk and chicken waiting for us.

The countryside is the polar opposite to the lively city of Tbilisi, we drove for miles (Note: they are crazy drivers) and miles without seeing any manmade structures and when we did encounter little villages there was no more than a handful of houses and open stalls. It also seemed strange to me that all the gas pipes were above ground - probably cheaper to install?

The scenery stunned me, my cheap camera didn't justify the landscape. There were towering mountains and rolling green hills - at night I felt vulnerable as I heard howling and I was informed jackals were the culprit.

We were taught by the local women how to make Churchkhela or "Georgian Snickers". They are made out of grape juice and nuts and were on every market stall.

This is only a tiny snapshot of my Georgian adventure, I shall continue this post in the future!
I also have many more travel experiences to share as I have just returned from a trip around europe, so stay tuned!

How to make a countryside walk interesting

I am up for a good countryside walk on two conditions;
1) It's not raining
2) There is the promise of a cafe at the end of the walk

Here are some of the (slightly weird) things me and my family do to ensure a good time...

1) Wear an appropriate pair of shoes I.e a pair you don't mind getting wet.
No matter how old there is something so freeing about being able to walk straight through a giant puddle rather make tremendous effort to doge round it.

Me and a good friend, dressed horrendously but appropriately.

2) Take scenic pictures
Instagram it yada yada yada

This is one of my favourite places

3) Find a natural feature and get creative

Kung foo style is always a winner and guaranteed fun
4) Bringing a bunch of your friends along always lifts the mood

Like little ants 

5) Do it the "ol' fashioned way"
Bring along a map, a compass and a first aid kit/whistle for when you get lost. Chose a random place to aim for on the map, then WALK

6) Have a good sing song (Note: recommended playlist: Disney)
Sometimes it can just be too quiet, release your inner Mulan

7) Find some ruins and imagine its history 

Ancient church or ancient pizza place?
8) Find some (safe) water and PADDLE

Refresh and relax

9) Get up close with the wildlife 
Be nosey but respectful

Ooo I hate snails

10) Appreciate that sunset
Take a picnic rug and a flask of hot chocolate and just appreciate

This Is near my home but I cannot take credit for this amazing photo

  Now get those walking boots on!