Sunday, 29 May 2011

Weekend Treasury with Peonies

A weekend treasury of some of my favourite things from Etsy.

Take a deep breathe ...

















I love each of these items but I'm particularly taken by Erin Tyner's fascinating photographs. Her 'Half Awake' series, taken using tiny railway models, is so imaginative and entrancing. She also takes some stunning botanical photos which remind me of old oil paintings.

I was given a beautiful bunch of flowers last week which included one of my absolute favourites - peonies. They make such a brief appearance but smell divine and look just lovely, pink and fluffy yes, but who can resist them? I took dozens of photos but this is one of my favourites.

I'm off to Cornwall for a holiday soon and hoping to take lots of pictures while I'm there. I'll be taking my cameras with me - digital SLR, pocket sized digital and my old polaroid. I hadn't used my polaroid for ages until last year when I tried out some sepia film (thankfully now being made again). I had mixed success with it - my favourite picture being a very misty shot of Lulworth Cove. Not exactly what I was aiming for but sometimes serendipity produces something appealing. I'm hoping to try a colour film this time and see if it's less temperamental. I'll be sure and post about it when I return!

Monday, 23 May 2011

Getting in the holiday mood

Summer is coming and my thoughts are turning to holidays by the sea. Sand between the toes, sea shells, nothing to do but sit and listen to the waves and warm sunshine on my face (one can only hope - it is England after all).

















Sunday, 22 May 2011

Dark chocolate and orange cake

If you've read my previous entries you'll know I'm a bit of a sucker for fine chocolate. I'm celebrating having a whole month off work this weekend so something special was called for to follow last night's home made pizza. I haven't posted a recipe before but this dark chocolate and orange cake was so tasty and really quite simple to make. We bought some very good quality dark chocolate (Valrhona's Guanaja - 70%) from our favourite chocolate shop in Henley during the week and then I searched my cook books for some inspiration. I just wasn't sure what I fancied and in the end I remembered tearing a recipe out of an old magazine recently and decided to give it a try. It's supposed to have a white chocolate and icing sugar topping but personally I love the simplicity of a warm chocolate pudding with cream.

As long as you have an electric whisk this really takes very little effort. You'll need a bit of elbow grease though if you're whisking it by hand.

You will need:

100g butter
100g dark chocolate broken into pieces
125g caster sugar
3 large eggs, separated
finely grated zest of 2 oranges (or 1 large one)
2 tablespoons orange juice
2 tablespoons Cointreau
30g plain flour, sifted
25g cocoa powder, sifted

Warm the oven to 180C or gas mark 4. Grease and line a 20cm cake tin (it doesn't need to be very deep) and in the meantime melt the broken chocolate in a bowl over gently simmering water. As soon as it has melted take the pan off the heat and allow to cool a little.

Cream together the butter and sugar with an electric whisk until light and fluffy then add the egg yolks one at a time. Carry on whisking until it's smooth and creamy. Add the orange zest and juice, Cointreau and melted chocolate. Mix a little then fold in the flour and cocoa powder. In a separate bowl beat the egg whites until they form medium peaks then fold one large tablespoon into the cake mix to loosen it. Carefully fold in the rest of the egg white until fully mixed (but be gentle). Turn the mix into the cake tin, smooth the top and bake for 30 minutes or until a skewer pushed into the middle comes out clean.

You'll end up with a dense, chocolatey cake that's wonderfully good warm with a large dollop of thick cream. I can feel a trip to the gym coming on just thinking about it. And the good news is - we've still got plenty left for today!

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Weekend Treasury

We so enjoyed the recent TV series 'The Crimson Petal and the White'. Set in Victorian London, we followed the main character, a prostitute called Sugar, and rooted for her all the way. It was visually ravishing, even the dark stuff. I occasionally ruined the suspension of disbelief by exclaiming 'I just love the way they've kept her out of focus even thought she's now the one talking!'. Spoddy, moi? Anyway, when I could shut up long enough we loved the story, costumes, sets, jewellery, acting, well everything really.

I couldn't resist putting together a treasury of crimson and white, with a good dose of black. A slight difference from the TV series though - this is set in Paris and kind of took on a Moulin Rouge theme as it progressed. I just couldn't find enough Victorian London themed pictures on Etsy. I expect they are there somewhere but I really couldn't spend any more hours looking! Anyway, here is my Crimson and White. Let's hope we get more drama of that calibre on TV soon.