Monday, 20 May 2013

Vintage Afternoon Tea

It was my very good friend Jan's birthday last month. I first met Jan in the mid 1980s. I knew her boyfriend at the time and the first time I met her properly was in the Hacienda. We were 17, I was a more of a punk and Jan had an amazing psychobilly hairstyle. On that first meeting she was also wearing an fabulous jacket and skirt she'd made from some 1960s curtains from a jumble sale. Check out my crimped hair!

Goodness knows how much hairspray we used to get through, though a sugar and water mixture was always good too!

It's fair to say that from an early age we've both been in vintage and DIY/ crafting and it's never worn off. So, when I saw this Secret Vintage Afternoon Tea Party being advertised that was her birthday present sorted.

We were greeted by our lovely host Gwen with a glass of rose lemonade. Coffee and teapigs teas were served throughout the afternoon and people were welcome to bring their own alcohol. Gwen regularly hosts these events in her beautiful home but this was the first specifically veggie one. She'd teamed up with Wendy Swetnam whose food I tasted and enjoyed last year when she was head chef at Manchester vegetarian bistro 1847. Just check out the menu for the afternoon. I was very excited to see that all of the sandwiches and the majority of cakes were vegan.

There were two long tables. I think there were about 20 guests in all. The table settings were great, a perfect blend of mismatched crockery and cutlery which spanned the decades and pristine embroidered table linens and napkins. I particularly liked the 1970's blue teacup on the right. I think Matt's 70's obsession is starting to wear off on me!

It was hard to choose a favourite from the sandwiches. I tried and liked them all. I think the cashew, rocket pesto might just have edged in front. The bread they were on was absolutely delicious too.

There was a selection of homemade jams to go with the scones and in the glass cup is a very moreish salted caramel sauce that you poured over the date cake.

Next to my scone with strawberry jam is a dainty square of blueberry cheesecake.

And last but not least here's Wendy's signature Gin and Tonic cake.

I really enjoyed the afternoon. It was such a different experience to have an afternoon tea in someone's house. I thought the pricing of £16 per person was spot on and I would definitely recommend it. There are plans for another vegan tea party later in the year and I'd be up for going again! Wendy also lives near me and has started running a supper club so I'm hoping to check that out too.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Ms Cupcake: The Naughtiest Vegan Cakes In Town!

Hooray, at last it's here! The long awaited cookbook from Ms Cupcake, Brixton Baker Supreme and one of my cookery heroes is available to buy. I was very lucky and got sent a preview copy last month and I've been baking away from it. There's been cinnammon cookies and the most amazing peanut butter, chocolate crispy squares and some even more fancy stuff. Below are the Bakewell Tart cupcakes I made for a dear friends birthday.

I had lots of friends birthdays in April and this Turkish Delight Cake went along to a party. I'd definitely make all the recipes again and am really looking forward to trying more. There's quite a few blogger reviews around the internet so to see more recipes, images from the book and to hear more about the baking techniques involved I recommend also checking out what Hasta la Vegan, Dearly Beloved Bakery, Paperbag Blog and Vegan In Brighton have to say. I was delighted to get the chance to do a little interview with Ms Cupcake herself .....

Congratulations on the forthcoming book! Now that it's finished what are your future plans? It was great to see you and your team recently on Britain's Best Bakery. Are there any plans for more tv appearances and how long do you think it will be until we get a vegan cookery show on mainstream television?

Thanks so much!  We have had a great time appearing on different tv programs and hopefully there will be more on the cards in the future.  The more we can get vegan baking and cooking into the mainstream the better!  I am currently working on drafting my second cookbook out at the moment and reckon I’ve got a few more books in me after that!  I would love to see some vegan baking/cooking shows on T.V. and things are starting to happen that way in the USA at the moment, so fingers crossed it will happen here too!

 I'm very excited to see that the book has a recipe for Jaffa cakes! There has been much talk in my local vegan community over the years of veganising these but I don't know anyone who's been successful. How did this come about. Was it a personal quest or a demand from customers and how long did it take to come up with the winning version?
This was a recipe that our customers begged us to create!  We tried loads of ways to make these, but found the jelly part quite fiddly and I’m a big fan for keeping things simple and straightforward.  When we decided to swap in shredless marmalade I knew that was the ticket to making this recipe accessible for the home baker.  We don’t have Jaffa Cakes in Canada where I grew up, so I didn’t have the same relationship with them as my customers did – but who doesn’t love the combination of chocolate and orange?! I know I do!
On the subject of veganising classics, is there anything that customers ask for that hasn't been veganised yet or is that top secret?
We get a lot of requests for croissants and other types of French pastries, but as we are more of an American/British style bakery we haven’t really focused on developing those just yet – but never say never! Right now we’re developing vegan versions of British regional classics like eccles cakes, welsh cakes and bakewell tarts.
 What is exciting you baking wise at the moment?
All things British!  There has been such a resurgence in baking thanks to some amazing tv programs and cook books – it’s great to see Britain embracing its baking heritage. 
I’m also a big fan of the individual portion bake – basically, recipes designed to make 1 or 2 of something rather than a whole batch.  Big batch baking doesn’t really fit in with the home-baker anymore as they are often just baking for themselves and I think recipes will begin to change to reflect that.
 As a bakery you are known for your cupcakes first and foremost. Can you explain for people who've not visited yet the other types of things that you offer.
It’s a blessing and a curse being known as Ms. Cupcake!  People love the name, but think all we make are cupcakes!  We also make cookies, scones, muffins, brownies, squares, layer cakes, loaf cakes, candies, savoury items (sausage rolls, pizza puffs, sandwiches etc.) and one of our best selling items is our cookie sandwich – which is two crisp and chewy cookies sandwiched together with lashings of buttercream icing.

You've been involved with events such as the London Vegan Potluck. How do you rate the importance of events like vegan pot lucks or cake parties in spreading the vegan word?

I guess as a vegan myself I feel it is my responsibility to help spread the good word!  We are a thoroughly inclusive shop – we want everyone to feel welcome whether they are vegan or not.  We do get a lot of people asking us about how they could lead a vegan lifestyle or even just help on reducing the amount of animal products they use, so we are delighted to help provide our customers with the opportunities to learn more. This can be through hosting events, offering classes, and just giving out the odd bit of advice.  The big fear people have is ‘what can I eat?’ so by showing them that vegan food is awesome and not ‘weird’ it helps to break down misconceptions of what being a vegan really is.

Thankyou Ms Cupcake, wishing you and your team all the best for the future!

Monday, 6 May 2013


There's lots of changes going on at the moment. At work. we're about to be completely restructured which means saying goodbye to a lot of colleagues I've worked with for the last 3 years and for those of us staying on there's the fear of the unknown and nervousness about what our workloads will entail given that there's a lot less of us. I've also spent last week doing all the necessary things to get my flat up for sale. It felt like a very welcome time to have a Bank Holiday weekend and I was delighted to get home on Friday to this fantastic meal that was ready and waiting for me! Matt had been getting creative with The Vegg.

The starter was was asparagus with hollandaise sauce and a side salad of mixed leaves.

Followed by Roasted butternut square risotto with roasted red pepper and rocket.

The pudding was a concotion of crushed bourbon biscuits, bananas, mango and caramel pudding which tasted like banoffee pie. All washed down with a vegan friendly Orvieto from the Coop.

The rest of the weekend has been quiet , though we did manage a 4 hour walk up a big hill on Saturday morning and then went to a gig by the legendary TV Smith on Saturday night. I feel like my batteries are recharged to go back to work and to hopefully start having some viewings of my flat! And, it's only 3 more weeks til we go on holiday. We've rented this cottage owned by one of the sponsors of the Northern Vegan Festival for a week. I can't wait!