In 2014, we are undertaking our first ever collaboration with consumer magazines and taking our first ever leap into advertising directly to the consumer – exciting!
We have aligned ourselves with Country Living and Olive magazines and will feature heavily in every edition of each publication throughout 2014, so keep your eyes peeled for all your Creative Tops favourites!
Through entering into a brand new form of advertising, a whole new set of photographs were required for all the adverts that will be featured in both publications.
So, one cold but bright day in November, saw the Creative Tops Marketing team head down to London in order to create some gorgeous lifestyle images for our new campaigns! The day started ridiculously early, with the team getting the 6.08 train to St. Pancras! But not to be deterred, the team hopped on the train and sped off to the private location in North London!
The team reached the stunning private location for 8 am and the shooting began, but not before the fabulous photographer Sarah Hogan and her team provided a delicious breakfast of Danish pastries and croissants!
Everything then had to be unpacked, and we had a lot of beautiful Katie Alice samples that had to be carefully unwrapped without breaking anything!
It was a really well organised shoot and everything went really well, with the stylist and photographic team setting up some beautiful shots!
We even had a little team mascot roaming around all day giving her seal of approval on all our images!
All the shots were focused around the Katie Alice ranges and we shot some of her favourites: English Garden, Cottage Flower and Highland Fling along with a fabulous new range that you can see in the New Year, but here is a little sneak peek!
We learnt so much from Sarah and her team, including how blue tack and Satsuma skins are very useful for supporting products in shots!
With the inclusion of some gorgeous flowers and well placed props, the Katie Alice ranges looked stunning, it took a lot of self-restraint to stop ourselves going online and buying all the wonderful products!
With the day being such a success, everyone was ready for lunch, in fact, Sarah began planning lunch at 10.45am! So when it came, everyone was delighted with the tasty treats that were in store! However, we may have all eaten a little too much – occupational hazard, I suppose!
It was such a fantastic day that was enjoyed by all and we can’t wait to show you all the images, so keep your eyes open in 2014 and you will see us in Country Living and Olive Magazine!
Relaxing with a cuppa is one of life’s little pleasures, but how many times have you come away from a café or restaurant wishing you could make a cup as good as that at home?
Well, it’s not as difficult as you think. By following a few steps you can soon be on your way to becoming your very own barista.
Beans – The type of bean you go for depends on your particular taste preferences. Experiment with mild, lighter blends as well as darker varieties, which have a stronger, more acidic flavour. There are more than 25 strains of coffee, but most brews come from three varieties of bean. Kona, from Hawaii, is the most expensive, while Arabica has a mild taste and Robusta is strong and woody. Never store beans in the fridge or freezer as the moisture will ruin the essential oils. Always keep them in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.
Machine – You can get great-tasting coffee with a range of coffee makers, from a simple cafetiere to filter coffee machines and the more sophisticated espresso machines that do everything for you. The grind of your coffee will greatly affect its taste, so it’s important that you get it right for your particular brewing method. A fine grind will result in bitter coffee, while a coarse grind will come out watery. To get the best results, grind your coffee just before you brew, or choose a machine with an in-built grinder.
Milk – If you take milk in your coffee it should be heated to somewhere between 60 and 70C. Check it with a thermometer as overheated milk will burn the coffee beans and give a bitter taste. If you place the steam wand into the milk at a 45-degree angle you can get a thick consistency of froth rather than bubbles. Swirl the jug gently after heating to retain the foam. Some machines can do this for you if you don’t want to bother doing it yourself.
Cup size – The size of the cup should match the drink you’re having because anything too big will make it lose heat quicker. The ideal coffee cup is made of thick porcelain, which will retain the heat. Ideally, it should also be white so you can appreciate the rich colour of the coffee. If you want to decorate your coffee with a pretty cocoa pattern, you can buy or create stencils to give it a professional finish.
Many cafes offer a range of black teas, green teas and herbal teas sourced from around the world, but you don’t need much equipment to make a tasty brew yourself. Use a teapot and strainer and make sure you have some good quality loose leaf tea, which should be stored in an air-tight container at room temperature. As to how much you put in, the general rule is to use one full teaspoon for each cup being served.
Always use freshly drawn boiling water. This ensures the water has plenty of oxygen in it. Pour the water over the loose tea leaves and leave to infuse for at least five minutes. Milk can be added to black tea if you wish, but green tea and herbal teas should be drunk without.
If you enjoy a nice brew, you may also wish to invest in some proper china teacups, they’ll make sitting down for a quick cuppa into a special occasion.
You don’t have to have a lot of fancy gadgets and gizmos in your kitchen to be a competent cook, but there are a few basics that everyone needs.
It’s worth investing in the best quality equipment you can afford because it’ll make preparing food a whole lot easier and should last you for a long, long time.
A good set of knives is a must for anyone who spends a lot of time in the kitchen. When you first use a superior knife you really notice the difference, so it pays to shell out for a top brand. Your best bet is to get a heavy wooden block with a set of different knives and sharpening tool included as this avoids having to store your knives in drawers, which can damage the blades. As long as you keep them all sharp, dry and clean, they should last you a lifetime. You should also have a vegetable peeler, as it helps your food retain more of its nutrients because you’re not peeling off a thick layer of skin.
Ideally, you should have at least four chopping boards to avoid cross-contamination and make food preparation easier. Use one for raw meat, one for onions and garlic, one for fish and one for everything else. It’s a good idea to buy coloured-coded ones so everyone in your household knows what’s what. If you have a heavy wooden chopping board, use it for bread and cheese only as raw meat can seep into the wood and spread germs.
You should have two wooden spoons – one for savoury ingredients and one for sweet. It’s also handy to have a whisk, spatula (to scoop out every last drop of mixture), fish slice and tongs for turning steaks or sausages without piercing the meat. If you do a lot of baking, a set of measuring spoons will make your job much easier.
You need to invest wisely when buying pans because a lot of the ones on the market are of poor quality and won’t last you very long – especially if you use them every day. You’ll need a small saucepan for boiling vegetables and eggs, while a larger one is useful if you’re making soup, stew or bolognaise. You will also need a non-stick frying pan if you like to knock up a quick stir-fry or make a full English breakfast at the weekend.
A selection of bowls in various sizes is always a helpful addition to any kitchen, and heatproof ones are particularly handy. You’ll use them regularly to do everything from beating an egg to melting chocolate.
You can guess how much butter to put in your sauce, but it’s probably safer to weigh it first. Old-style balance scales are preferred by a lot of cooks, but you can also get dial scales or digital scales that run on batteries.
Perhaps this isn’t an absolute necessity for your kitchen, but if you do a lot of cooking, it’s a great help if you want to whip up tasty home-made soups, smoothies, sauces or mayonnaise quickly and easily. It’s a much cheaper option than a food processor too.
Spending time in the kitchen with your children is a great way to have some fun and educate them about hygiene, safety and eating healthily.
Although they’ll need lots of supervision to begin with, if you teach them well they’ll be armed with skills for life – and you might even find you have a budding chef on your hands.
Little ones can be taught the basics at a young age, even before they start school, and should be encouraged to watch you prepare food. To get them used to kitchen equipment you can also let them stir, sieve flour and beat eggs.
Let them have a go at making something simple themselves, such as biscuits that they can decorate, but set aside plenty of time for this as it may take longer than you think. Beforehand, take your children shopping with you so they can help you choose the ingredients. Ensure you get extra just in case they make mistakes. Don’t do anything that takes too long or is too complicated because they’ll soon lose interest. They’ll be able to concentrate for longer when they’re a bit older and can move on to more complex dishes. Don’t be surprised if your kitchen is in a state of chaos after you’ve finished – and don’t forget to wear aprons.
Once your children can hold a knife safely and open cupboard doors they can become more involved by preparing vegetables and weighing ingredients. Ask them for suggestions for dinner, and let them choose the ingredients from the supermarket. You could even arrange a theme night, such as Italian, and suggest they lay the table with drinks, flags and colourful napkins. With any luck, your dinner will be both tasty and educational.
If your kids take a packed lunch to school, you should encourage them to make their own sandwiches and prepare a fresh fruit salad so they get plenty of vitamins.
Youngsters also love to bake, so spend some time with your children trying out different cake and biscuit recipes. Once they’ve built up their skills they can go on to ice and decorate a celebration cake to give to grandma or grandad for their birthday. They’ll love the personal touch.
You need to stay well out of the kitchen if your teenage kids are cooking because they won’t appreciate you interfering. And you should definitely resist the temptation to tell them where they’re going wrong. Let them choose what to cook, and allow them to invite their friends round for a meal as long as they promise to wash up afterwards. They could have a go at making burgers, a cottage pie or spaghetti bolognaise. If that’s a success you can encourage them to cook a meal for the whole family once a week. That way, you’ll get a night off from cooking and you can sit back safe in the knowledge that you’ve taught them valuable life skills so they won’t have any trouble fending for themselves once they fly the nest.
It’s incredibly satisfying to tuck into a piece of toast spread with homemade jam, or eat a sandwich filled with your own pickle.
Homemade preserves also make great gifts for friends and relatives and, as long as you’ve got the right equipment, making juicy jams and perfect pickles doesn’t have to be daunting, and you’ll never have to buy a pot of preserve again.
Pickles have a shelf life of about two years and need time to mature, so once made they should be left for at least three months before opening. Pickling is a traditional way of preserving whole or chunks of fruit and vegetables in vinegar, usually flavoured with spices. Pickled onions are a favourite, as are pickled cabbage and pickled cucumber. To make another of the UK’s most popular pickles – piccalilli – the vinegar is thickened with cornflour. Chutney is similar to a pickle, but is made with chopped fruit or vegetables that are cooked for a longer time until they have reduced to a thick puree.
Jams can be kept for about a year. They are made by mixing fruit with sugar at a high temperature, with the fruit finely chopped, mashed or crushed. They should be thick, but easily spreadable. Setting point is 104.5C when the mixture looks glossier and feels thicker. Soft fruit such as strawberries, raspberries and blackcurrants make fantastic jam, but it’s best to use slightly under-ripe fruit if possible. Fruit with a thin skin should be soaked in sugar first to harden it.
Equipment you’ll need
Preserving pan – This is the most important piece of equipment you’ll need for making jams and pickles at home. An aluminium or stainless steel pan is the most useful as both jams and pickles can be made in it.
Sterilised jars – It’s crucial that preserves which are going to be kept for long periods are in jars that have been sterilised. Old jam jars can be reused time and time again.
Funnel – A jam funnel, or any plastic filling funnel, is useful when pouring hot jam into sterilised jars. Using a funnel stops the jars from getting sticky and avoids the possibility of scalding yourself.
Thermometer – The temperature of your jam will need to be tested while it’s cooking until it reaches setting point.
Long-handled wooden spoons – You should have a set specifically for making pickles and preserves. Strong flavours from other foods can seep into the wood and may affect the taste of your jam if they get into the mixture. Long handles are essential for keeping your hands safe while working with hot liquids.
Muslin – This is handy to wrap the pickling spices or to strain the fruit.
Jam covers – You’ll need wax paper discs to cover the whole surface of the jam to form a seal after it has been poured into the jars. Screw top lids or cellophane fastened with elastic bands can be used to seal the jars if you’re making jam, but cellophane covers shouldn’t be used for pickles and chutneys. Lids for them should be plastic-coated as vinegar can corrode metal.
Labels – It’s important to label your jam and pickle jars with the contents and date as it could be several months before you get round to eating it.
Want to perfect your pickling and preserving skills? The new Katie Alice Jam Preserving range is a great way to hone and develop your skills and will help you create some scrumptious homemade goodies for you and your loved ones to enjoy!