Creative Tops

Bake-Off winners: Where are they now?

April 9, 2014adminBlogComments Off

Great British Bake Off has brought rising success to its four winners.

While other reality show winners may be in the limelight for a couple of weeks before fading back into everyday life, the GBBO winners have bucked the trend and gone on to build careers within the world of baking.

They’ve got multiple TV appearances and five published books (with four more in the pipeline) under their collective belts. We take a closer look at what they are up to now.

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Series One: Edd Kimber

Edd Kimber, the first series winner in 2010, was only 25 years old when he claimed the GBBO crown.

He gave up his bank litigation job upon winning the programme and turned his head firmly towards pastry making.

Since the show he has worked in Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir pastry kitchen, where he no doubt picked up some inspiration for his two books ‘Say it With Cake’ and ‘The Boy Who Bakes’.

He currently runs master classes in London where he teaches baking enthusiasts how to make French delicacies.

Series Two: Joanne Wheatley

Joanne proved to be a strong contestant throughout the second series, so it was hardly surprising when she was crowned queen in 2011.

The Essex housewife now runs cooking classes from her Ongar home, where she specialises in AGA cookery.

As well as her popular classes, she also boasts a monthly column in Sainsbury’s magazine and has written two books ‘A Passion for Baking’ and ‘Home Baking’.

Series Three: John Whaite

John swapped law school for pastry classes after winning the 2012 competition.

After initially working at the Le Cordon Bleu pastry kitchen in London, he decided to pass on his wisdom through his own cookery classes held from his Greenwich home.

He also acts as an ambassador for a charity, Baking a Smile, which provides cakes and baking workshops for children with terminal illnesses.

Two years on, John has a published book, ‘John Whaite Bakes: Recipes for Every Day and Every Mood’ to his name, while his second book is due to be published later this month.

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Four: Frances Quinn

Last but not least, Frances Quinn clinched the 2013 winning spot after proving she had both style and substance.

The most recently crowned winner has taken a sabbatical from her job as a children’s clothes designer at Joules to pursue her baking future.

Her upcoming cookery book is sure to feature imaginative designs and creations for others to replicate.

Since the show, she has undertaken several rather unusual projects, including baking a giant fondant fancy for illustrator Quentin Blake and creating  a gingerbread biscuit to mark the first birthday of the Shard in London.

With the 2014 Great British Bake Off applications in and the weather getting gradually warmer, it won’t be long until a new baker’s dozen set of contestants will grace our screens, hoping to kick-start their own glittering baking career.

Why you should use your butcher

April 7, 2014adminBlogComments Off

The 24th – 30th March marks National Butchers Week which has been set up to celebrate the craftsmen of some of the tastiest produce in the country.

The butchery industry faces some strong competition from supermarkets when it comes to producing fine beef/pork/lamb etc at low prices, but for many a traditional butcher’s will always beat any other source.

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Here are a few reasons why it’s worth paying your local butcher a visit.

Pure meat

A certain recent scandal of the equine variety has led to people coming back to their local butcher after it emerged that some supermarkets may not be completely honest in telling the public about the kind of meat their products contain.

The great thing about meat from the butcher is that meat is bought directly from farms, helping to ensure that there are no sneaky additives to cut costs. Meat can also be prepared while you wait, so you can see exactly what you’re getting.

Plenty of flexibility

Skilled butchers are able to deal with plenty of different orders, offering a flexibility that you generally don’t get at a local supermarket. So whether you’re in need of some freshly ground ingredients for a pâté at short notice or a Jacob ’s ladder of beef short ribs, your local butcher can help.

Crystal clarity

One problem which follows the supermarket meat industry is a lack of transparency over the kind of produce on offer. But this isn’t the case at the butchers, with meat coming from traceable sources which isn’t mass produced.

Cheaper than you might think

A common misconception is that your local butcher’s is more expensive to shop at than the supermarket, but it’s often the case that the butcher’s is no more costly to visit than anywhere else for meat – and it’s often of a much higher standard.

Free range food

One of the worst things about some shops is their favouring of cost-effective mass-produced meat. This often means that animals have to endure a poor quality of life, which usually means that the taste and quality of the meat they end up putting on the shelves will also be poor. You can ask your butcher questions about where exactly the meat has come from and what conditions the animal lived in.

Highly skilled and helpful

Perhaps the best quality of the local butcher is the wealth of knowledge they possess. Many butchers in your local high streets today have been in the industry for a long time and are able and willing to help advise you on what you’re looking to buy.

It’s often the case that your butcher will be much better at preparing meat than anywhere else, knowing how each and every muscle of an animal works as well as how to recover and prepare it for sale.

Five homecooked Mother’s Day gifts

March 28, 2014adminBlogComments Off

March 30 is the day we get to give something back to the most important woman in our lives. Mother dearest’s job can often be a thankless one, so it’s only right that we show our gratitude to our mums the best (and most enjoyable) way we know how – by cooking them a delicious gift!

To help you create something that oozes love this Mother’s Day, we’ve made a list of some of our favourite homecooked gift ideas.

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Homemade truffles

There aren’t many better ways of saying ‘I love you’ than with chocolate, and making some homemade chocolate truffles will be a sure fire way of showing your mum that you care this Mother’s Day.

The great thing about making truffles is how easily you can tweak your recipe to cater for mum’s tastes perfectly; if she prefers white chocolate or dark chocolate, or perhaps a hazelnut or orange zest filling, you can easily make an adjustment and really treat her on her special day.

Breakfast in bed

What better way is there of setting up that special someone for a great day than cooking her a tasty morning treat?

Again, this is something that you can have fun with; don’t just limit yourself to tea and toast. Why not try out eggs Benedict or huevos rancheros?

Lemon curd

Perhaps a sweeter gift would be a more poetically fitting way of showing your love this Mother’s Day. Well look no further than a sweet and tangy homemade lemon curd!

Not only does lemon curd make for a delicious homemade gift, but it’s also very enjoyable to make – so not only will your mother love the thoughtfulness of her gift, you will love creating it!

Cakes

What mother doesn’t love cakes? It’s not only an old favourite when it comes to gift ideas, but showing your love through baking is a sure fire way to warm the heart.

The great thing about baking a cake for Mother’s Day is that the great array of cakes on offer means you can choose between opting for a classic recipe mum loves, or going for something completely different and ambitious to mark the occasion

 Scones

Scones are a nice simple dish to show that you care. Bake some sugared scones and serve them to nibble at while having a lovely Sunday afternoon gossip with mother dearest.

Being so easy to prepare, the scone can be a great little extra treat to make just before you pay mum a visit and will certainly earn you some Brownie points!

Well, whatever you do this Mother’s Day make sure you treat her extra specially and let her know just how much you love and appreciate her!

Ways to celebrate Mother’s Day with food

March 21, 2014adminBlogComments Off

Where would we be without mums? We’re often guilty of taking them for granted, but for one day of the year we can show our appreciation for everything they do for us – and food can play a big part in this. Here are some ideas to help you make Mother’s Day extra special.

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Breakfast in bed

One of the most thoughtful things you can do for your mum is to let her have a well-earned lie in and prepare her breakfast in bed. Whether she prefers a lighter continental-style breakfast or a full English, have the grill at the ready and throw in a little imagination. Perhaps you could make her something she wouldn’t normally have, such as eggs benedict, kedgeree or pancakes with blueberries. Take her up a clean tray adorned with a small vase and flower so it makes her feel like she’s getting room service in a hotel. And while she’s tucking into her special breakfast, why not make her day even better by offering to clean the house?

Cook her a meal

If you count up how many meals your mum has ever cooked you, it’s likely to run into the thousands believe it or not. So isn’t it about time you repaid the favour? You don’t have to be a whiz in the kitchen to impress your mum. It’s the thought that counts, and she’ll really appreciate the effort. Set the table with a pretty tablecloth and your finest crockery, along with a centrepiece of freshly cut flowers. Recipe ideas include a hearty chicken casserole, spring lamb and vegetable stew or beef wellington.

Bake a cake

All mums love cake don’t they? So treat her to something truly scrumptious by baking a delicious cake. If she’s on a health drive, something like carrot or courgette cake shouldn’t set her back too much, but if you’re taking the no holds barred approach to Mother’s Day, a mouth-watering chocolate fudge cake or coffee and walnut cake will go down a treat. Try adding a personalised message to make it really special.

Afternoon tea

You might not quite be able to afford afternoon tea at the Ritz, but an excellent way to spoil your mum on Mother’s Day is by taking her to a posh hotel or café for that most English of traditions. You can even get dressed up in your Sunday best if you like. Your mum will feel ever so sophisticated as she relaxes in elegant surroundings, having the pick of speciality teas or coffees, dainty little sandwiches and handmade cakes and scones. Of course, you don’t actually have to go out for afternoon tea. You might prefer to have it in the comfort of your own home by making the drinks and cakes yourself.

Take a trip down memory lane

Mums often like to take some time to reflect on the past on Mother’s Day, so it’s a nice idea to take her and the rest of your family to a restaurant that holds a special place in her heart. Most eateries do special Mother’s Day menus, and mums eat free at some, but make sure you’ve booked well in advance because they’re incredibly popular on Mother’s Day. Once you’re all sat at the table, get everyone to turn off their mobile phones so you can have a proper meaningful conversation without any distractions.

Happy St. Patricks Day!

March 14, 2014adminBlogComments Off

The 17th March is synonymous with all things Irish and is celebrated the world over with an abundance of food, drink and merriment!

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The origins of St. Patrick dates back to the 4th Century when he was born in Britain. He was later captured by Irish raiders during his teenage years and enslaved for six years. After his daring escape, he became a priest in Britain and he later chose to return to Ireland as a missionary and spread the teachings of Christianity to the pagans. Although he faced a lot of opposition, he continued his teachings for thirty years and baptized newly converted followers.

Irish folklore states that St. Patrick used the shamrock to explain the idea of The Holy Trinity in Christianity which is why it is now completely interlinked with the celebration of St. Patricks Day.

There are many different ways that St. Patricks Day is celebrated including wearing the colour green, dressing up with as mythical creatures such as leprechauns and indulging in the Irish classic, Guinness!

There are so many great recipes that are the perfect way to get in the mood and celebrate St. Patricks Day such as the classic Iris Stew, champ, soda bread, potato cakes, colcannon and even adding a kick to cupcakes and puddings with Guinness, the world is your oyster with these easy to cook, but delicious recipes that the whole family will enjoy!

To add a final flourish to your St. Patricks Day celebrations, why not get involved with all the celebrations taking place around the country? You can join the revelry in London and Birmingham with a St. Patricks Day parade, or just pop down to your local pub, but whatever you do, have a great time!

Happy St. Patricks Day!

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