Saturday, 30 April 2011

Something for the Wedding `Hangover` - The Groom`s Cake

I was watching Oprah`s Royal Wedding Party just now and she was tasting the recipe for one of the cakes that Will and Kate had at the wedding reception - yes, they had two! They had a traditional fruit cake and then this cake  - a chocolate refrigerator cake, which is apparently Will`s favourite. It`s by Darren McGrady who is a former royal pastry chef to Princess Diana and the two princes and he used to make this cake for them.  It`s known simply as a Chocolate Biscuit Cake but doesn`t it deserve a slightly more glamorous name? 

Thanks Oprah for the recipe, which is below.  I love chocolate and so does my son (I couldn`t say where he gets that from) so I`m going to try it tomorrow and I`ll let you know how it turns out. The ever needed diet will just have to wait a couple more days.

Servings: Makes one 6-inch round cake (8 portions)
  • 1/2 tsp. butter , for greasing
  • 8 ounces Rich tea biscuits
  • 4 ounces unsalted butter , softened
  • 4 ounces granulated sugar
  • 4 ounces dark chocolate , for the cake
  • 1 egg
  • 8 ounces dark chocolate , for coating
  • 1 ounce chocolate , for decorating
To make cake: Lightly grease a 6" x 2 1/2" cake ring and place on a tray on a sheet of parchment paper.

Break each of the biscuits into almond-size pieces by hand and set aside.

Cream the butter and sugar in a bowl until the mixture starts to lighten.

Melt the 4 ounces of dark chocolate and add to the butter mixture while constantly stirring.

Beat the egg into the mixture.

Fold in the biscuit pieces until they are all coated with the chocolate mixture.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared cake ring. Try to fill all of the gaps on the bottom of the ring because this will be the top when it is unmolded.

Chill the cake in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours.

To coat and decorate: Remove the cake from the refrigerator and let it stand while you melt the 8 ounces of dark chocolate.

Slide the ring off the cake and turn it upside down onto a cake wire.

Pour the melted chocolate over the cake and smooth the top and sides using a palette knife.

Allow the chocolate to set at room temperature.

Carefully run a knife around the bottom of the cake where the chocolate has stuck to the cake wire and lift it onto a tea plate.

Melt the remaining 1 ounce of chocolate and use to decorate the top of the cake.

Friday, 29 April 2011

In Happier Times

The Argana Cafe, Place Djem El Fna, Marrakech
Horror came to the streets of Morocco yesterday - in the heart of Marrakech. Thoughts are with those immediately affected and their families. Marrakech will bounce time.

The `Fairy Tale`

Congratulations to the happy couple.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Photo Challenge

Over at Life Is Too Short Not to Wear Red Shoes, there's a great portrait photo contest open until May 6. It`s fun and there are prizes to be won. I needed no persuading - I love taking portraits and I get to see other`s great photos.  What`s more to like? You can enter up to 2 photos  - they just have to have been taken by you and be portraits.

Here are my entries...

So click on the button and get over there...oh, and good luck!

It`s been a sad day in my part of the world  today - my family, friends and I are all fine.  Thank you for your kind wishes and concern.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

3 Days to Go - Something for the Badly Circulated

Donna Wilson Kate and Wills gloves; quirky Royal Wedding souvenirs
I think these are great - available from Donna Wilson here

Monday, 25 April 2011

Mamarrazi Monday - Easter

If you`re a mum (or even a dad ) trying to capture your little one most effectively through the lens then check out Carly`s blog Mammarazzi. She has great tips and some great photo challenges  - today, when I should be hand-quilting Z`s quilt and finishing a book for the book club I`m hosting tomorrow, I`m actually participating in Mammarazzi Monday, the theme of which is Easter.  Next week it`s Yellow so get your creative thinking caps on.

Happy Monday!


4 Days to Go - There`s Been a Setback... not with the wedding plans - as far as I know they are going just swimmingly but with my plans to watch it.  You see, I had plans too.  I would drop my son off at pre-school at 9 as usual and then his dad would collect him at 11.30 and take him for an ice cream, walk...and return him for lunch when the main event was over.  But things have changed.  I`ve just dropped Z round at school and there was a notice.  It said, `Conge Exceptionnel - 29 avril`, which can loosely be translated as you`ve guessed it, school is closed as the French headmistress wants to watch the royal wedding too!  What am I to do? As far as I can glean from my parenting experience, almost 3 year old boys don`t like weddings...I need a Plan B.  Quick.
Knit Your Own Royal Wedding by Fiona Goble available here
or at any reputable book seller

Sunday, 24 April 2011

5 Days to Go - Something for the Tea Lover

Prince Williama and Kate Middleton tea bag holders; quirky Royal Wedding souvenirs
Tea bag holders priced 4.95 euros available here

Shadow Shot Sunday #2

For more shadow shots, visit Hey Harriet.

Friday, 22 April 2011

A Very Full Tart or A Tart Full of Sunshine

My blog seems lately to have transmogrified into a photo blog.  Not that I mind. I love taking photos and carry my camera (usually to the annoyance of those I`m with) almost everywhere with me.  However, when I set out on this blog adventure, my focus was really on all things quilty with perhaps a smattering of jewelery making and photography along the way.  However, for the last few weeks I`ve been spoiled with visits from family and friends and then there was our visit to the Lakes last weekend...not to mention the daily humdrum of life.  Lovely images are a little quicker than quilts to create. However, things seem to have settled a little now and so it`s time to steer this blog back on course...I need to create something!

But not before I share a recipe for a tart I made today or even created.  It`s adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi`s recipe for A Very Full Tart from his vegetarian book Plenty which my mum bought for me last year.
It`s the second recipe I`ve tried from Plenty.  The night before Y and I left for the Lakes I made the caramelized garlic tart, which has 3 heads (yes heads) of garlic in it.  I wasn`t overwhelmed as it was a little sweet for my liking.  If I said my husband, who hadn`t eaten the tart, was less impressed it would be an understatement.

So today I thought I would try a different tart.  I love tarts  - sweet or savoury, but especially savoury.
It is indeed a very full tart as the name suggests...full of roasted vegetables...
...caramelized onions, sweet juicy cherry tomatoes and two cheeses...and it is full of delicious Mediterranean flavours.

So if you need a little sunshine in your life, here`s the serves 4 - 6 people

1 red pepper and 1 yellow pepper
olive oil
1 medium aubergine, cut into 4cm dice
1 small sweet potato (I didn`t have one so used a few new potatoes boiled first)
1 small courgette cut into 3cm dice
2 medium onions
2 bay leaves (I had run out)
shortcrust pastry (I used 200g of wholemeal flour, 100g of butter and salt)
8 thyme sprigs
120g ricotta
120g feta (the feta here isn`t good so I used a very smelly goat`s cheese)
7 cherry tomatoes
2 medium free-range eggs
200ml double cream (I used half cream, half milk)
salt and pepper

  • Preheat your oven to 230C, 450F or Gas Mark 8.
  • Start by making your shortcrust pastry and lining a tart tin before putting it in the fridge to relax. Yotam suggests baking the pastry case blind but I never bother and the tart had a lovely crisp bottom.
  • Saute the onions with the bay leaves and salt until they turn brown, soft and sweet.  Remove from the heat, remove the bay leaves and set aside.
    • While the onions are cooking, cut the tops of the peppers and remove the remaining seeds.  Place the peppers in a small ovenproof dish, drizzle with olive oil and place on the top shelf.
    • Mix the aubergine with 4 tablespoons of olive oil and some salt and pepper in a bowl before putting on a baking tray with the diced courgette.  Put on the shelf underneath the peppers. After 12 minutes, add the sweet potato if using one.
    • When the peppers have blackened and the vegetables are roasted, remove and place the peppers in a plastic bag to cool. Once cool, remove the skins and tear into strips.
    • Reduce the temperature to 160C, 310F or Gas Mark 2
    • Scatter the cooked onions evenly over the bottom of the pastry case and top with the roasted vegetables, arranging them evenly.  Scatter half the thyme leaves over and dot the vegetables with small bits of the two cheeses and then the tomatoes  - cut side up.
    • Beat the eggs and cream milk mixture with some salt and pepper and pour over the tart case leaving the tops of the vegetables and tomatoes so that you can see them.  Scatter the remaining thyme over the top (I forgot) and cook in the oven for 35  - 40 minutes until the filling is set and it`s golden brown.
    • Enjoy with a simple green salad  - that`s all you need!
    A Happy Easter to everyone who is celebrating it this weekend!

      Wednesday, 20 April 2011

      Wordy Wednesday - The View at 7.45

      Birds above the palms (look closely)

      Monday, 18 April 2011

      Swallows and Amazons

      Lake Windermere at Ambleside
      Lake Windermere, Cumbria
      Wild Cat Island?
      The Swan Inn at Newby Bridge
      Back from our whirlwind visit to the Lakes in England...a thousand and one things to do!

      Wednesday, 13 April 2011

      Wordless Wednesday

      Back Monday - have a great rest of the week wherever you are!

      Monday, 11 April 2011

      If the Eyes are the Window to the Soul...

      what is she thinking or feeling?  I`ve asked myself this question and to be honest I`m not really sure.  Is she tired, world weary even? She was  working - helping in the production of argan oil and I thought she was very beautiful and had such an interesting face.  I asked if I could take her photo and she said yes.  My mum thinks she looks very wise and I agree.  I would be interested to know what you think.

      Morocco Monday - Sunday at the Seaside in April

      The beach at Essaouira

      Sunday, 10 April 2011

      Shadow Shot Sunday #1 - 5 O`Clock Shadow

      This photo really was taken at 5 o`clock today in Essaouira, Morocco.

      It`s my first entry for Shadow Shot Sunday, which I first saw last weekend on Diane`s blog Random Thoughts  - Do or `Di`.  When I checked out the blog Hey Harriet, which conceived of the idea for readers to each Sunday post a photo showing shadow, I was excited to read that it was inspired by the light and shade photos on blog The House in Marrakesh, which is written by my lovely real life friend (yes I do have them) Elizabeth Wix!  What a small world we live in.  I know Elizabeth from when she lived with her artist husband Robert in the medina (the old town) of Marrakech until she left to live in New York  in 2008.  We belonged to the same book club. She is a writer, an artist, a photographer and generally multi-talented.  Check out her other blogs, here (photographic essays of Elizabeth`s observations of life in Manhatten) and here ( Buster, her dog`s blog). Also don`t forget to check out the great photos on Hey Harriet and perhaps get your camera out and post your own entry!

      Saturday, 9 April 2011

      A Morning Shopping... the souqs.
      Perhaps an orange from the orange seller...
      ...or a dollop of black soap for the hammam...
      ...a henna design (new for 2011)...
      ...a woolly hat for those chilly nights in the desert...
      ...a scoop from a jar of one of Mohammed`s plant remedies for that troublesome headache...
       ... treat yourself to a handmade bag from micro-hanout (shop) `Bloom` while admiring the quilty tiled floor...
      or just `window shopping` in a beautiful market on a sunny day...
      Hope you are having a little retail therapy this weekend...

      A New Project

      My lovely mum left earlier this week but hot on her heels was my dear friend Deborah who arrived in Marrakech two days later along with her sweet daughter Elicia.  Deborah is great fun to be with.  We`ve known each other for an unbelievable 23 years when we first met at law college.  Was it really that long ago?? Am I really that old?  She`s huge fun and like my mum loves and supports my interest in all things quilty and she found just enough space in her suitcase to bring this...
      ...several yards of these Liberty print fabrics for a quilt for her daughter Elicia...just like this one here
      Elicia is half French half English  so perhaps I`ll have to make a tricolor quilt top next time (I think it would look fabulous)...
      I`m always a little nervous as I take my rotary cutter to fabrics which I have bought but I think my hands will be quivering just that little bit more when I start cutting these beauties...I`ll be posting some progress photos but I think this quilt is going to be machine pieced and quilted.  Well Elicia is only 10 and she will probably want it before she goes to college!

      Friday, 8 April 2011

      Go on - Dip a Toe in the Water...

      Has spring come and gone already??  It`s 35C (95F) here in Marrakech today.

      Thursday, 7 April 2011

      A Labour of Love

      I love reading comments left by readers and someone recently described my hand quilting of Z`s quilt as a labour of love.  I had never before thought of it like that but with 30 blocks in total and only 4 completed, I`m beginning to think they are probably right.  Onwards and upwards!

      Wednesday, 6 April 2011

      Wordy Wednesday -An Award

      Forgive me for not sharing some silence today but yesterday I was nominated for a Stylish Blogger Award by Susan over at Canadian Abroad!  I was fortunate enough to come across Susan and her lovely blog through the Fresh Sewing Day at Lily`s Quilts last Friday.  As I explained here, Lynne of Lily`s Quilts wanted her readers to share a sewing project and to do some blog hopping.  Lynne  - your work is done. I have met some lovely people and read some great blogs as a result.

      I`ve certainly never thought of myself as stylish so for someone to think my blog is stylish is lovely indeed. I only started blogging in January and it gives me such pleasure to know that albeit a small audience appreciate what I share.  So Susan, I willingly accept the award and thank you for nominating me.

      Now, I have certain obligations to fulfill.  Firstly, I have to thank and link back to the person who nominated me.  So thanks Susan at Canadian Abroad.  Secondly, I must share 7 things about me, so here goes...
      1. I have a large gap in my general knowledge about natural history (my education started at a village school where singing took up most of the day with a healthy amount of English and a smattering of mathematics) - particularly anything ornithological.  So don`t ask me what species of bird or plant something is.  I probably won`t know.
      2. I speak Arabic and French badly.
      3. Past careers include lawyer, school teacher, school administrator, waitress, recruitment consultant and  washer upper (these careers are not entirely in chronological order)
      4. I am a meat eating vegetarian.  I love vegetarian food but eat meat.  Well, I am married to a carnivore.
      5. I met my handsome husband in Tunisia.  He is not Tunisian. He is Moroccan.
      6. We have a beautiful adoptive son.  He is the light of our lives.
      7. I have a secret crush on Javier Bardem. I have a certain appreciation of a Spanish actor.  I`m not telling you who.
      Thirdly, I have to nominate 6 recently discovered blogs which I think fit the title of Stylish Blogger Award. If I could, I would nominate Susan`s blog as she makes beautiful and stylish quilts and amazing crocheted blankets.  Do pop over and say hello.  She is very friendly.  I would also nominate Nicolette at Dutch Comfort but her blog is award free  - but I`m going to give her a shout out anyway.

      So here goes with my list...on the whole I have nominated relatively new blogs but not always.
      1. Two Hippos was one of the first people ever to comment on my blog if not the first.  She is a trained milliner (how cool is that?), she knits, makes quilts, bakes and is a huge source of inspiration.  All in all  - super talented!
      2. Run Quilt Knit Write makes the most exquisite socks in beautiful colours and gorgeous designs as well as patchwork quilts.  I haven`t seen a photo of Helen but I imagine she is super stylish. She has the best recipe for hot cross buns, (which is useful at this time of year) runs, writes, works and manages a busy household.  How she fits it all in I`m not sure!
      3. Diane at Random Thoughts - Do or `Di` looks one stylish lady and has a handsome husband too (Mr. Romance), beautiful grandchildren, makes wonderful quilts, crochets, shares fabulous recipes and takes lovely photos.  In her own words, she has a blessed life. Diane is someone else I met through the Fresh Sewing Day...thanks Lynne!
      4. Shelley at The Rebel Homemaker shares her wonderful life with us.  Living in California, she grows her own food and produces the loveliest of quilts.
      5. Nadilah over at Sweet Little Things was also an early commenter on my blog.  She lives in San Francisco and makes the most exquisitely decorated cakes. Really. She also just completed her second quilt after starting with Dresden plates so kudos to her!
      6. At Sew Wonderful Life, Catherine makes ambitious quilts (including her cathedral windows one) and  crafts them absolutely beautifully.  Like Catherine, Susan and I all started blogging around the same time.
      That`s it - that`s my six newly discovered blogs.  Please pop over and take a look - I`m sure you`ll be inspired.  Thank you again Susan  - I`ve passed the baton!

        Monday, 4 April 2011

        Morocco Monday - The Fishing Port of Essaouira & Its People

        The old Portuguese town of Essaouira on Morocco' s Atlantic Coast
        Man in fish market
        Fishermen at work while the gulls watch
        Boy watching in the fish market
        In flight
        A tangle of fishing boats
        Baba oo wildoo (father and his son)
        Taking a break
        Gulls as tall as men
        Street art