Celestial Greets…Marvellous March is finally here….

Hello from The Old Bakery HQ

After what has seemed like an eternity of wind and rain spring has finally sprung…thank goodness!  The markets have been hairy, scary, windy and down right dangerous over the last 2 months!  I’m relieved that barring a few missing nuts and bolts and a small dent in one of the marquee legs Celestial Cakes remains unscathed…it could have been so much worse!  Thank you to all my customers who braved the weeks of wind and rain to pay me a visit at West Hampstead and Ealing Markets.  I salute you….

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I have been keeping a low profile for the last few months  - I took January off due to a family bereavement - so I am just getting back into the swing of things. For the first time in quite a while I felt inspired last week…perhaps it was because Saturday was the first day of spring and St David’s Day I had a definite Welsh theme going with Bara Brith and Welsh Cakes on the menu.  Not only that I suddenly thought about a different way to make sponge cake…I like the traditional Victoria sponge recipe, but sometimes a change is as good as rest.  May I  introduce you to the spelt, hazelnut, caramel and chai cream cake…it’s nutty but light sponge is infused with fresh cream flavoured with chai masala spice blend and a layer of caramel in the middle…scrummy!  Expect to see this at the market in the coming weeks….

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I  love getting feedback from my customers…Celestial Cakes really do travel the globe…we know this because they have been seen in France, Rome and now Mexico….where next?  One of my regulars went to see her daughter in Mexico this Christmas…smuggled into her luggage was a gluten free chocolate, prune and armagnac cake…thankfully it arrived in one piece and was eaten somewhere in Mexico over the holidays…superb!

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It’s ‘comin on Christmas…and they’re cutting down trees…

Christmas is nearly upon us, so with that in mind I have been planning my Christmas offerings. I’m trying ‘made to order’ this year so if you come to either West Ealing or West Hampstead Markets you can order your cake in advance – pick up will be the last market before Christmas – 21st December, or earlier if preferred.  I have a range of great cakes this year - as always a bit leftfield so if you are looking for a traditional cake this is not the place to find it!

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Here’s what I have in mind…..

Celestial Chocolate Christmas Cake – a moist fruit cake boosted with 3 different types of chocolate – this cake has a deliciously rich flavour

Sarah’s Stollen – very popular - lots of dried fruit and marzipan make this a real Christmas treat

Hazelnut, Fig, Chestnut and Orange Fruit Cake – sublime combination…let’s just say Marrons Glace and leave it there

Saffron infused Gluten Free Clementine Cake – an old favourite and always popular at Christmas

Gluten Free Chocolate Prune and Armagnac Cake – shamefully  rich and indulgent

Boozy Christmas Puddings includes sherry, brandy, rum and what’s this…angostura bitters….whatever next?

To place an order visit my market stalls or call Sarah on 07946060896  – a small freebie is available for those of you who can name which famous recording artist wrote and sang my posts’ title…It’s ‘comin on Christmas….

Season’s Greets Everyone!

Seasons of mist and mellow fruitfulness…

Summer went out like a light this year – one week into September and there is a chill in the air, the rain has returned and I am looking at putting on more layers to combat the cold.  The payoff comes in the form of autumnal foodie treats such as blackberries; late raspberries; apples pears and plums - just the kind of fruity delectations that make an ordinary cake a great cake.  Expect to see on the market stall this month blackberry apple and almond slice; triple whammy raspberry cake (made with buttercream cassis); and upside down plum cake.

I promised you an update on Cassandra and Raquel  - our free range porkers are growing tubby (in this case a good thing) and may soon be heading to that fluffy pigsty in the sky.  The girls like their sleeping quarters and play area but have become keen to explore more of the Rectory garden and have tried to escape on a number of occasions.  They are demanding more attention and companionship than Del Boy and Rodney – I guess they always had their three wheeler to escape in!  Anyway as you can see from the picture they like nothing better than snuffling for food scraps and apples.

Cassandra and Raquel

 

I was lucky enough to go to France over the summer holidays.  I had forgotten how amazing French markets are – everything is beautifully presented and packaged – the cakes were disappointing though – mostly nougat and truffles and very sweet – not at all like the fabulous patisserie you get in French bakeries. I was very impressed by this cheese display…so mouth watering…

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french cheese at Cotignac Market

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally I would like to say thank you to all those people who came for a “chat and cake” at Brentford Festival it was a brilliant community day, well supported by local people.  Here is the Green Man in front of my stall…

green man at Brentford Festival

Several Good News Stories

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I learnt at the weekend that the Big Love Beetroot Brownie is not called Big Love without reason.  This lovely couple got together whilst eating my delicious  brownies over a year ago – they happily told me on Saturday that if it wasn’t for my Celestial intervention (in cake form) they may never have started going out together…never under estimate the power of the Big Love Beetroot Brownie. I’m wondering where next for my BLBB? Speed dating events perhaps???

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It’s all go at the Celestial allotment space…courgettes planted; beetroots planted; strawberries starting to flower and my gooseberry bushes that I got last year from the market are thriving – very happy with my rhubarb too…I’m hoping this year for a reprieve from rain sodden, slug infested soil…please shine sun…that’s me under the netting by the way…

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Some of you may have met Del Boy and Rodney Trotter at last years Ealing Transition Reskilling Event,   They were raised at St Mary’s Vicarage Ealing. May I now introduce you to their successors - Trigger and Dave…actually they are lady pigs so we thought Raquel and Cassandra might be better names for them.  Myself and a few friends have a share in  Cassandra and hope to be sampling some piggy delights later in the year…you will be pleased to know that all my cake vegetable scraps are ending up at St Marys and are being put to good use….the pigs are already becoming quite famous and have  found their way into the Ealing Gazette…it’s not often you see farmyard animals in someone’s back garden in Ealing – let alone a Rectory!

I’ll keep you posted on their progress…

Beetroot Brownies are travelling the world!

Beetroot brownies travelling the world

 

A couple of weeks ago at West Hampstead one of my loyal customers Paolo told me that he was travelling to Rome and was going to take his sister one of my beetroot brownies…imagine my suprise when I received this lovely picture of Paolo’s sister with the Colliseum in the background…this is my favourite city and one of my favourite monuments…grazie Paolo such a wonderful suprise!

Celestial Greets

It has been a good few months since my last post so here goes…

Hello everyone…this catch-up is long overdue…what’s been happening in the intervening months? We’ve had a feast of festivals; foodie holidays and celebrations to cope with not to mention our regular commitments with London Farmers Markets and Edible Ealing Box Scheme + W7Emporium…it has been B-U-S-Y…I’m just trying to catch my breath before Easter descends upon us.

I love my work, especially as it means I get to meet wonderful folk all  across London. My regular customers are an inspiration, and I thank you  for your support and enthusiasm for all things Celestial! Spring is nearly here! Although it still feels chilly I’ve seen the daffodils emerging and the evenings are getting lighter – always a good sign.

horse play at Ealing Farmers Market

On another matter… Much has been made in the media about the horse meat scandal.  I think what has incensed people is not the fact that horse meat is used in the production of ready meals, but that the supermarkets knew nothing about what was in the product they were selling.  Farmers Markets need your support and continued patronage because we cannot compete on price with the large chains, but we do have several USPs they will never have – we are small; independent ;and committed to bringing the very best of British to you each week.  As I have said before my watch words are ORGANIC-FREE RANGE-LOCAL  So from me to you here is what to expect this year… More lush combos,  more big bash cakes as people really seem to like these; quirky flavours that seem to work together even though on paper they shouldn’t; organic vegtastic options; and above all the same great tastes with absolutely no compromise on quality.

stall groaning with delicious cakey treatsgluten free chocolate fudge heartsa rather large Victoria Sandwich Cake

Nutty but nice…

At this partcular time of year we are blessed with an abundance of fruit, nuts and vegetables to tingle our tastebuds – I’m always on the lookout for more unusual seasonal offerings and recently came across cobnuts or filberts as they are also known.  Cobnuts are a cousin of the delightful hazelnut and are just as versatile.

Cobnuts have been grown in Britain since at least the 16th century. Children played an early version of “conkers” with hazelnuts; the game was called cobnut, and the winning nut the cob.A Kentish cobnut is a type of hazelnut. Most of the hazelnuts grown in Britain are of the named variety Kentish Cob, which was introduced in the early 19th century, but growers are now beginning to plant other varieties too. However, they all taste relatively similar – more similar than different varieties of apple for example.

More cobnuts are grown in Kent than anywhere else, but there are commercial producers in several other countries too.

Cobnuts are marketed fresh, not dried like most other nuts such as walnuts and almonds. Consequently they can usually only be bought when in season, typically from about the middle of August through to October, although stored nuts may be kept until Christmas. At the beginning of the season the husks are green and the kernels particularly juicy. Nuts harvested later on have brown shells and husks, and the full flavour of the kernel has developed.

I wanted to create a recipe that was nutty but also had a sticky toffee element to it.  Enter the cobnut and caramel muffin!

  September is also the time when fresh figs become available – my favourite way to have figs? A fig and frangipane tart….yummy!

We’re on the move!

Exciting news!  I’m delighted to say that as of next week I will be baking in another Old Bakery, this time at W7Emporium – a newly opened deli/cafe/gallery/event space in Boston Rd, Olde Hanwell, Ealing.  I have watched the space develop from a once derelict run down old bakery, to the bang on trend cafe it is today.  The space is very inspiring and I hope to be making more wonderful cakes and sweet treats to  sell at my markets and other outlets.  Do come and pay me a visit - I will be baking on  Thursday and Fridays until midday.

Summer is a-coming in

This has been a topsy turvy month weather wise – I’m never sure if it is going to rain/shine/blow or do all three with bells on…it’s normally the latter, and it has made selling my wares at Farmers Markets hazardous.

On a more positive note the first signs of summer are appearing and although the gooseberries are behind schedule the elderflowers came out on cue over the Half Term break.  I managed to make some delicious cordials in time for the jubilee weekend and also made two other summery offering Hypocras – a spicy Tudor drink and a delightful strawberry and rose petal syrup – perfect with sparkling wine; drizzled over ice cream or Eton mess – yummy!

I thought I would share with you my recipe for making elderflower cordial – it’s so easy and a great summer drink. It will feature in my June seasonal cake – a victoria sandwich with homemade gooseberry jam and elderflower cordial buttercream icing.  For more information regarding the origin of elderflowers, and in fact everything you have ever wanted to know about elderflowers and more go to the following website:

http://www.gallowaywildfoods.com/?page_id=370

Elderflower Cordial

Makes about 5 litres

Keeps indefinitely in the freezer or up to 6 months in the fridge

1.8kg granulated sugar

zest and juice of 2 lemons

50 elderflower heads – please shake to discard all the creepy crawlies!

50g citric acid

Put the sugar in a large non-metallic pan.  pour over 1.5 litres boiling water.  Stir to dissolve the sugar, and then add the zest and juice of the lemons.  Finally add the elderflower heads and citric acid and leave overnight to settle.

Next day strain the liquid through a jelly strainer – or you can use a muslin cloth – these can be bought from good cookware shops.  Pour the cordial into sterilised bottles.  I recommend the following method – put the bottles and their lids on a hot wash dishwasher cycle and/or wash bottles thoroughly and then place in the oven on a low setting for approx. 30 minutes. Enjoy!

Sow and Grow at Ham House

I am ashamed to say that I have never visited Ham House before, so the drive up to the impressive entrance was a pleasant suprise.  This beautiful stately home backs on to  the Thames at Ham near Richmond – it’s a cut above the ordinary – and you sense you are somewhere special by the size of the long drive up to the house, the large stone pineapples that guard the entrance gates and the fabulous walled garden filled with all manner of vegetable gems. My mother  told me that you should always judge a place by its toilets – Ham House toilets did not disappoint – fresh flowers placed thoughtfully above the sinks, and delightful fragrant soap to sooth even the roughest, dry hands.

The weather helped – it was a glorious sunny day - our first dry weekend for some time. I’m used to fending for myself at markets so what a treat to be asked whether I wanted tea or coffee by one of the nice National Trust ladies in green. It was all very civilised, a truely British occasion – even the story telling session was ushered in by the green team bringing out ‘old school’ rugs for the children to sit on. The bon homie continued across the afternoon, and people really enjoyed having the sun on their backs, drank in the fresh air, and the children revelled in the abundance of green space to run around in.

I enjoyed talking to people about my cakes, and the whole veg + cake = : ) philosophy was received and understood – I was preaching to the converted, it all made perfect sense and everything I had made had disappeared by 4.30pm!  Good day all round….thank you Ham House…

FUTURE EVENTS

I will be at the following venues over the next few months as well as my regular markets:

Diamond Jubilee Street Party Event Parsons Green Mon 4th June

Hanwell Carnival Sat 16th June

Strawberry Hill Music Festival Sat 22nd July

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