Monthly Archives: April 2013

Pug Cupcakes

30th April 2013

After a weekend in the country I have dogs on the brain.  And what better way to express that than through cupcakes?

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More specifically, PUG cupcakes.

Here’s how.  We will use the following for the sponge:

                        • 200g self raising flour
                        • 200g caster sugar
                        • 100g butter
                        • 2 eggs
                        • 6 x tablespoons evaporated milk
                        • 6 x tablespoons water
                        • Vanilla essence

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And for the icing:

                        • 100g butter
                        • 150g icing sugar
                        • 4 large squares of dark chocolate
                        • Vanilla essence

And a few decorative bits that I’ll describe along the way…

The recipe is derived from a Delia Smith one, but it’s something I’ve known off by heart almost forever – a family favourite for birthday cakes, cupcakes, or cakes just because.

Pre-heat the oven to about 190°C (fan) and then start by weighing out the flour, sugar and butter for the sponge.  Mix them together by rubbing in, or I guess you can use a blender if you don’t want4 to get your hands messy!

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Whisk the eggs, evaporated milk and water in a bowl along with a good few drops of vanilla essence.

Add the liquid to the flour/sugar mix gradually, and blend with a wooden spoon as you go.  When everything’s been incorporated, beat it hard for a couple of minutes to make lots of air bubbles.  This will help to keep the cakes light.

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Pop some pretty cupcake cases into a tray, and then fill each case between 1/3 and 1/2 full with the batter.  This amount of mix should make between 15 and 18 cupcakes.

Now put the tray in the oven, and set a timer for 20 minutes.

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While the cakes are cooling, you can get started on the icing.  Mix the icing sugar and butter together and when you have a smooth, creamy mixture separate about 1/4 into a different bowl.  If you want a slightly more runny consistency, add a tiny bit of milk to the icing.  Sprinkle some vanilla essence into the white icing.

Melt the dark chocolate in a bain-marie.  I usually use a little mug (to put the chocolate in) then place it in a serving bowl, and pour boiling water into the bowl.  Be careful not to get water into the melting chocolate.  When it’s all melted, add the chocolate to the smaller bowl of icing.

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If the 20 minute pinger has gone, check the cakes – slide a sharp knife into the middle of one and see if it comes back clean.  They may need 5-10 more minutes.  When they’re ready bring them out to cool!

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Now for the really fun part.  When the cakes are cool to touch (this is important, otherwise the icing will melt) you can start to decorate.  If you’re feeling impatient waiting for them to cool down, do the washing up/lick the bowls. You’ll feel better later…

Ice all the cakes generously with the white icing, don’t worry if it’s a bit messy – nobody will even notice.  When this is finished, use the chocolate icing to make a circle on the lower half of each cake.

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Place a large chocolate button on top of each of the chocolate icing circles – the icing should blob out around the edge to create a nice brown muzzle for the pug.

Break some more chocolate buttons into approximately triangle shapes and then stick them into the tops of the cakes where they become lovely little ears.

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Can you see where I’m going with this?  Grab some dark brown writing icing, and draw a dog nose and mouth onto each chocolate button.  Then add eyes onto the white icing above the button, and little wrinkle marks around them.

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And the finishing touch to the pugs… a little tongue sticking cheekily out of course!  I came up with the (quite good if I do say so myself) idea of using strawberry laces – break them up and then curl a bit round to make the tongue.  It should stick in the icing that makes up the mouth, and you can do a bit more icing over the top afterwards if you want to neaten it up.

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When you’ve finished these steps on all your cupcakes, you’ll have a kennel’s worth of smiley pug puppies.  Plate them up, show them off, and try not to feel guilty about eating something so cute. (Just joking).

I’m going to have a think about what other animals would make good cupcakes…

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Aqua

29th April 2013

On Friday night my parents were in London, so I met them for a drink.

We had cocktails in the sunshine on the rooftop terrace at Aquaa perfect start to the weekend.  

Aqua is a great place to meet people centrally, as it’s so easy to get to.  It’s less than a minute walk from Oxford Circus tube station (not too far to carry your shopping…)!

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Mama and I went for Mojitos which were yummy, and not too tart.  Our very friendly waitress recommended them.

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When Padre arrived, he chose a Margarita (sin sal, of course).

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Cheers! It’s almost warm enough to drink icy drinks outside without getting cold…

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You can visit Aqua just for drinks, either on the terrace or inside the 5th floor bar.  Or, you can eat in one of the restaurants.  There’s Aqua Kyoto which does amazing sushi and Aqua Nueva, specialising in Spanish tapas.

Aqua Kyoto has a Sunday sushi brunch with unlimited champagne for £55 – a good treat if you fancy spoiling somebody.  It’s called ‘Infinity Sunday’ for when you ring up and book.

Hope everybody had a lovely weekend.

The Ship

26th April 2013

I always rather think of The Ship, Wandsworth as a bit like Facebook in person.  You’re bound to bump into someone you haven’t seen for a while, and it has a nice familiar feel.

On a weekend with good weather, it’s heaving.  The crowd spills out around the beer garden, people sit on tables – it’s a lot of fun.  There’s an outside BBQ serving fab burgers and you can watch the river as the day goes by.

With all of this, I’d somehow managed to never try the restaurant inside.  I’ve been missing out! The food is fantastic.

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                                                               The beer garden sits right on the Thames

To get to the restaurant you walk past the big bar and into a cosy, comforting space at the back of the building.  The kitchen is open and you can see all the fresh food being plated up.

There is an à la carte menu, but also ‘Pub Favourites’ which are written up on boards – this is good news if you’re a classic fish and chips or pie lover!  The mains on the menu vary between about £12 – £17, and then it’s a bit more for steak.

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I was starving, so I was pleased when some bread arrived without prompt. The butter was deliciously rock salted on top.

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So now I had to challenge my indecision and make a choice about what to eat… I was torn between Fish Pie and Duck.  Duck won – but only on the condition that I could order a Scotch Egg to start.  O thought this was weird, until he tried it.

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Woweee check out the runny drippy egg.  Just what I needed to kick off my meal.

The official title of the Duck was: Seared Duck Breast with Spring Onion Mash, Wilted Bok Choy and Blood Orange Jus.  Happily, The Ship have actually written a blog post with the recipe – so if you want, you can recreate it yourself!

The real winner for me was the combination of the spring onion mash and the sauciness of the jus.  It was one of those dishes where you need to get a bit of everything on each forkful. The duck was very tender.

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O is a boy, so he wanted steak.  It turned out to be an epic choice.  Ribeye Steak with Braised Shallots, Red Wine Jus and Hand Cut Chips.  (300g of manliness.. there is a 400g option as well and I think I’d have to fast for a day to take that down).

Just look at it!

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Cooked perfectly to order, O was pleased (and so was I because I got to eat some).

Sadly, we couldn’t stay for dessert.  But I will definitely be back – you should go too.

Here is the website, if you need any more information.  

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