23 Feb 2011

Bake and Decorate by Fiona Cairns

Bake & Decorate by Fiona Cairns is one of the most visually engaging books I have ever come across. A feast for the eyes with its stunning images and the recipes are every bit as good as you might imagine them to be.

I made a batch of the 'classic shortbread which took no time at all and was made of ingredients that you would just have hanging about in your kitchen. The response from my family and friends was amazing. Everyone said it was the lightest  most melt-in-your-mouth shortbread they'd ever tasted. Here's some I made earlier! There's only a small amount there but the recipe in the book makes approx 60 biccies!

The recipe offers two suggestions, one makes the melty variety, one makes a more granulated, crunchy version. Cairns has also recommended flavourings that you can add to the mixture to make it a bit different. The vanilla sounds yummy! I'll definitely be trying this recipe and the others in this book again! Cairns also advises when you can freeze the raw dough and just bring it out to bake when you need some fresh biscuits which I think it an ideal idea for when you are unexpectedly entertaining guests!

There are baking and decorating handy hints for the reader at the beginning and end of the book. Even if you're the most experienced baker, you may learn a useful new tip! The recipes in the book are so delicious and make beautiful additions to an afternoon tea or would make a special home-baked gift.

RRP £12.99 Published by Quadrille.

16 Feb 2011

Barbara Daly Hand Serum. A little bottle of hand care miracle!

'Helping Hands' by Barbara Daly is (as it says on the box) a "one drop wonder".  
Picture courtesy of tesco.com

Tesco says: "This revolutionary non-sticky treatment serum delivers a cocktail of moisturising, soothing and protective ingredients which helps to reduce dryness and diminish the appearance of fine lines. It leaves the skin feeling incredibly smooth with a soft satiny sheen."

I found that one pump of the product was the perfect amount to massage into both my hands so it lasts for a very long time - mine looks like I've barely made a dent in it!
When first applied, the serum smelt floral, but massaging the product into the skin released citrussy notes. My hands and nails were left feeling silky and appeared nourished immediately after application.
RRP £6.75  A great value buy!

12 Feb 2011

French Country Cooking - My own taste of Brittany!

The Roux Brothers are without doubt two of the greatest chefs of my lifetime, so I was excited to get my hands on their book, “French Country Cooking”. Originally published in 1989, the recipes have stood the test of time, true classics. There are over 150 diverse recipes featured and the photography makes everything even more mouth watering. Having spent my past six summers holidaying in Brittany, I had wanted to learn more about dishes from this region for a while and this book was perfect for me to do so.

French Country Cooking starts with teaching the reader the rudiments of cooking and baking pastry, sauces and stock which you refer back to in many if the recipes. The book is made up of recipes that have been passed through generations. Rather than being split into courses, it is separated into regional dishes and each section also features a nice couple of pages about that region and ingredients that specifically come from this area. I particularly enjoyed this structure to the book because it offers more of an education than some recipe books I’ve read in the past.

If you are a regular visitor of France like me, you will appreciate the opportunity to learn the genuine, traditional recipes of the region unlike anglicized versions you may see in other cookery books. It was particularly nice for me to see and learn to cook dishes from Brittany that I look forward to tucking into every year. For people who haven’t visited but want to sample the real taste of France, these easy to replicate, stunning offerings will be just what you’re after!

10 Feb 2011

I wish I had £110 :(

Laura Ashley...you make me so happy and sad at the same time

Does anyone want to buy this for me? Pwetty pwease?

8 Feb 2011

Mavala - a true classic

Today I received the Woodland Collection by Mavala. A range of 6, nicely sized bottles of nail varnish in Marron Glace (greige); Dark Brown; Cedar Green; New Dehli (pinky,berry red); Onyx (plum purple) and Black Cherry. RRP £25, which I think is amazing value for great on trend colours. The beauty of petite bottles is that a) you probably run out as the trend changes if you're a follower of fashion and b) they are probably empty before they end up gloopy and useless!

I have put the Black Cherry one on straight away and it's a glossy, fairly quick drying, quality nail varnish.

I know it looks black but it's not and in real life you can tell it's a dark purple. Promise!

I honestly have no patience when it comes to nail varnish drying even though I absolutely love having my nails painted so the speedy drying time suits me down to the ground. You would think I would have got used to stopping and leaving my nails to dry a bit before doing something else but I never ever learn! I'm always fidgeting and just when I think its set I'll knock it and ruin all my hard work. Shame on me. I think the great glossy finish makes it look expensive and doesn't necessarily need a top coat. One less layer to wait to dry! Tilly like!

This was the first time I'd heard of Mavala but my understanding is that they have been around for decades. I would definitely like to try more of their products in the future if these are anything to go by!

4 Feb 2011

How I Cook by Skye Gyngell

I'm ashamed to say I've never heard of the super talented, Skye Gyngell but I was fortunate enough to have been given the opportunity to review her book and for that I'm very grateful. Gyngell is an award winning chef and food writer and in her book 'How I Cook', she reveals to the masses how she cooks for her friends and family.

The book is split into different menus, demonstrating meals for all seasons and all occasions. There's even a 'Time To Spare' section for when you get a bit of time to indulge yourself. For inexperienced cooks such as myself, I found this was a great book for entertaining as much as it was as a day-to-day cookery guide. Gyngell has designed each meal suggestion with a main, any accompaniments and a desert that all compliment each other and marry together well. It's not just food that she mentions either as the introduction describes tips for table decoration and crockery recommendations and throughout the book she offers alternatives to elements of her recipes which is helpful.

The thing I found most refreshing was her attitude to food. All too many books these days are about low fat options and make the reader feel guilty and conscious. I'm relieved to say that Gyngell has the same healthy attitude to food as my family where we see food as an expression of love and enjoyment with our family and friends rather than the robotic task of eating it for function and practicality. 'Everything in moderation' is my mantra and it seems to be hers!

The dish that caught my eye immediately was the Slow Cooked Belly Pork. I have a major weakness for pork crackling and the photographs by Jason Lowe made it look just as good as it does in real life. It was the first dish I marked out with one of the three ribbon page markers provided. I loved this little touch because I always end up tearing up scraps of paper to mark out the recipes I want to try when there's no bookmark attached! Great thinking Skye :) With spring just around the corner I'm desperate to sit in the garden with a glass of Strawberry and Rhubarb cordial. Even the suggestion of this recipe makes me feel refreshed and sun kissed.

All in all, a great and very well organised book. It's a joy to read and use and I look forward to testing more of her recipes soon. My tummy is rumbling right now just thinking about it!

3 Feb 2011


There's been a lot of twitter action this past 24 hours about penpals and a new website dedicated to it all. I think it's a lovely idea and you can read more about it here. I'll be getting involved as a positive start to the year! Will you?