26 March 2015
The Outsider is Emily Organ's second novel. I enjoyed her first novel, The Last Day, so I was looking forward to reading The Outsider.
The Outsider finds Yasmin falling for millionaire businessman, and widower, Daniel. Their whirlwind romance is over-shadowed by Lisa, Daniel's first wife. Was her death an accident? Richard, their gardener, is certain that it wasn't. What is Yasmin getting herself into? Will she be accepted by Daniel's (and Lisa's) friends? Is she in danger?
This romantic thriller builds the tension beautifully, right from the first chapter. I love Emily's use of cold imagery and falling rain to set the opening scene. The characters of Yasmin and Richard are full and rounded. By keeping the reader in the dark about Daniel's feelings, we understand how insecure Yasmin feels and why she is fascinated by Richard's investigation.
The Outsider is cleverly crafted, with a well-disguised twist to keep the reader guessing right to the end. Emily's writing is more assured this time. The Outsider is a great read - I couldn't put it down -and I thoroughly recommend it.
The Outsider is available at Amazon and iBooks and Google Play, etc..
Disclosure: I want sent a review copy, free of charge. Opinions are my own.
18 March 2015
Get a load of that in your cake hole. If it will fit, that is.
This giant cupcake was fun to bake and a joy to eat. My son requested this cake for his 7th birthday. Once we had the concept it was simply a case of working out how to make it happen. Here is some guidance, followed by the recipe and detailed construction instructions.
To start with you will need a giant cupcake baking tin. Mine was just £5 from good old Aldi.
Once cooled, it's a good idea to cut the base in half so you can fit more jam and butter cream inside.
Re-assemble, sandwiching each layer with strawberry jam and vanilla butter cream.
Then stick ice cream wafers on the sides with (more) butter cream, to resemble a giant cone.
Swirl generously with vanilla butter cream, so you get a Mr. Whippy effect. Add sauce and sprinkles. More is more...
Then, of course, you need to add some flakes...
Look at all that awesome CAKE.
Can you manage a whole slice? Of course I did...
Giant Vanilla Ice Cream Cupcake
Vanilla Sponge Cake
375g Butter, at room temperature
375g Caster sugar
2 tsp Vanilla Extract
6 large Eggs375g Self-Raising Flour
2 tbsp Milk, if required
Spray your tin thoroughly with cake release spray (or grease it, old style). Cut a circle of grease proof paper or baking parchment and place it at the bottom of the base part of the tin.
Heat oven to 140 fan or gas mark 3.
In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and the sugar. I use a handheld electric whisk, although you could use a wooden spoon and plenty of elbow grease.
Add the vanilla extract and then whisk in the eggs, one at a time.
Fold in the flour, one heaped tablespoon at a time. Use a metal spoon for this. You are aiming to keep as much air in the mixture as possible. This is a big cake and you want the sponge to be light and fluffy.
If the mixture feels a bit heavy, carefully stir in some milk at this point.
Pour the batter into the two sides of the tin, leaving at least a couple of centimetres at the top to allow room for the cakes to rise.
Bake in the centre of the pre-heated oven for 75 minutes, until a metal skewer or cake tester comes out clean.
Leave to cool in the tins for a good ten minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack. Remove the circle of paper.
Vanilla Butter Cream
500g Butter, at room temperature
1kg Icing Sugar
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
2 tbsp Milk
Carefully place all the ingredients into the bowl of your mixer (I use a Kenwood Prospero, with the K-beater). You could do this by hand, but you'll have stronger arm muscles than I do.
Top Tip: Before you even think about switching your mixer on, cover it with a damp tea towel. The icing sugar will try to escape and nobody wants a kitchen covered with icing sugar...
Mix for five minutes. Open the mixer and scrape the edges of the bowl with a spatula. Mix again for another minute.
Assembling your Giant Vanilla Ice Cream Cupcake
Once the cakes are cool, slice the base in half horizontally. I use a cake wire, but you can easily use a knife here. Top Tip: place cocktail sticks above and below where you are going to cut, so you can align the two pieces easily.
Starting with the bottom layer, spread generously with strawberry jam. Then dollop butter cream on top, spreading it almost to the edges. Repeat with the next layer.
Use butter cream to stick ice cream wafers around the outside of your cake.
Put the remaining butter cream into a piping bag. Top Tip: stand your bag in a pint glass, with the sides folded down over the glass to make it easier to fill. I use Lakeland disposable bags and a Wilton No.1 nozzle.
Now the tricky part, the icing. Start at the top of the wafers and slowly and steadily pipe butter cream in one massive swirl. Go round and round, with no gaps, until you get to the top. You should have plenty of butter cream left, so be generous.
Now decorate with strawberry sauce (I use Tate & Lyle) and large sprinkles (Aldi).
Finally stick a few Flakes in and your cake is finished.
And, ta-daa, here is your giant vanilla ice cream cupcake in all its glory. It's a showstopper and one that is guaranteed to get some ooh's and ah's of appreciation.
Ooh, ah, etc.
Linking up with Casa Costello, click on the badge to find out more...
8 February 2015
Whether you're four or forty four, there's nothing more pleasurable than shoving your hand in a bowl of sweet smelling, sticky cookie dough.
This is why children need aprons.
Yes, I realise I should have rolled their sleeves up...
Surely as an adult you can keep yourself clean?
Hmm. Maybe. There are three reasons why I need an apron:
- I have, erm, a large shelf on my front that collects drips and crumbs from whatever I'm eating, and I eat while I'm cooking...
- I have two children who enjoy baking, and cookie dough and Nutella will transfer from them to me, even though they deny touching anything with mucky hands.
- These beauties, designed by Henry Holland and worn by yours truly, are available from Home Sense or online and are raising money for a good cause, for Comic Relief.
I now wear my apron from the second I start cooking, until I've loaded the dishwasher and washed up the bits that aren't allowed in it. It's no exaggeration to say that it has changed my life and saved my clothes.
Easy Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe
125g Butter, at room temperature
100g Sugar (any soft brown sugar will do, you can even use caster)
1 Egg, beaten
1 tsp Vanilla Essence
225g Self Raising Flour (or Plain Flour with 1tsp Baking Powder)
200g Chocolate Chips
- Heat the oven to 160 fan.
- Mix the butter and sugar with a wooden spoon (or your hands, if you're four).
- Add the egg and vanilla essence, mix.
- Add the flour, mix.
- Add the chocolate chips (some may fall into your mouth at this stage).
- Form the cookie dough into small balls by rolling a lump around in your hands.
- Place on a baking tray, leaving room for the cookies to spread.
- Bake for about 10 minutes until golden brown.
We decorated ours with Nutella and white chocolate stars, but you can use anything you fancy or just leave them plain. Either way, they won't last long.
This is a sponsored post, although I will be giving my fee to Comic Relief for Red Nose day. The Comic Relief Danceathon is only one month away.
If you would like also to sponsor me for the Danceathon, that would be amazing. I will be dancing for six hours to raise money that really makes a #LastingChange.
21 January 2015
The first ever Comic Relief Danceathon is taking place at Wembley on 8 March 2015, and I'll be there as part of the mighty Team Honk.
This will be the third year that Team Honk have raised money for Comic Relief. Remember the Relay and Damini the elephant?
It's slowly beginning to sink in that I'm going to have to dance non-stop for six hours. Six whole hours. Of dancing. Oh my. I've been going to a Zumba Dance Class in preparation. That's just one hour of me galumphing around like a red-faced, sweaty, uncoordinated gnu. How will I manage six? There's a different dance to learn every thirty minutes at the Danceathon, from Ballroom to Bollywood.
I always thought I'd be a good dancer. I've watched Strictly and wanted to have a go, but now I realise I'd be the John Sergeant, the Judy Murray or the Ann Widdicome (God forbid). People would vote to keep me in for comedy purposes. The gits.
Still, it's going to be an amazing day AND I know I'll be raising money for an awesome charity.
What you can do
There are still some spaces available. You and your friends can join Team Honk. Find out how and pledge to raise £150.
If you can't make it, and want to donate to Comic Relief, please sponsor me.
I'm aiming to raise £150. If just 75 of my gorgeous readers gave £2 I'd reach my target. If 15 of you (can I just say, that is a smashing blouse you're wearing) gave £10, I'd reach it even quicker. Thank you.
The money you donate goes, as always, to charities at home and abroad.
Red Nose Day is 13 March.
Thank you and keep dancing...
4 January 2015
This is not a metaphor for the daily routine of work, school and the rest, I literally got back on the treadmill at the gym and I couldn't be happier.
I felt so at home, so relieved, to be back exercising again.
I got a cold in the middle of November, that lingered until the week before Christmas, then ho ho atchoo, I got another cold on Christmas Day. This was on top of a few months of an asthmatic chesty cough (that required an x-ray and CT scan to rule out the Big C - that was a scary few weeks).
So I haven't exercised for eight weeks. I'm still not feeling great, but I knew I had to get back to looking after myself.
Having the longest cold known to mankind left me feeling very sorry for myself. I'd been struggling at Slimming World too. I found that unless I stuck to the plan 100% for the whole week, I gained weight. One week I had just one evening off the plan and put on 4lbs. This was demoralising and I'd got into the old diet mentality of thinking that the diet was ruined and then having a few days off. Of course this meant weight gains, so I began yoyo-ing. By the beginning of December I was feeling pretty hopeless. I needed a break and decided to forget about eating healthily. Things would have been different had I still been out running four times a week, but I wasn't well enough. As is traditional with the emotional eater, I comforted myself with food. After all, it was Christmas.
Enough is enough. As of today I am back eating healthily, exercising and taking care of myself. It was a big and difficult step, but already I am feeling happier and lighter. I have the euphoria of having been for a run, albeit on the treadmill at the gym. Like anyone who lived on fancy biscuits, mince pies, cherry brandy, cheese and Gaviscon over the festive season I am now craving simple fresh food.
I'm also in training as I've signed up for the Comic Relief Danceathon at Wembley on 8th March, as part of the mighty Team Honk. That's six solid hours of dancing with the goddess that is Claudia Winkleman. I can't wait.
I'm a little annoyed with myself for putting on
Happy New Year, friends.