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Educational Play with Schleich I'm a big fan of learning through play. Unforced educational play. I'm not a teacher and I don't want to be. I want my children to naturally learn whilst they are having fun. When I was contacted recently...

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Say Eh-Oh to the new Teletubbies toys! There back!! Teletubbies made a joyous return to CBeebies last year, and this year marks the launch of the new range of toys. As you know I was sent a box just before Christmas, and today I can finally...

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Travel: Ox Pasture Hall Hotel, Scarborough Last weekend Nana and I took a rather lengthy journey north for a night away at the Ox Pasture Hall Hotel in Scarborough, with Little Dude in tow. The Ox Pasture Hall Hotel is a luxurious country hotel...

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A Place To Enjoy My Garden I love my garden. I love the fact that I have a garden, especially with the recent gorgeous weather we've been having. Whilst I have a pretty compact garden, there's a lot going on out there. Plants, fruit...

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Cuddles With Ben Cohen Some days I have a really difficult job. Days like this for example. *Ahem* That rather nice young man is former rugby player Ben Cohen. Ben is a bit of an expert when it comes to cuddles. He has...

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#Review: Aubeterre Blue Cookie Cutter Lights

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Product Reviews | Posted on 18-12-2015

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We finally got around to putting our Christmas lights up this weekend. There’s no tree going up this year – the idea of spending weeks telling our youngest to not pull it down just strikes me as making the whole season more stressful than necessary. To compensate we’ve gone a bit overboard with the lights. We’ve got them up in the playroom, around the lounge and in the kitchen windows. The ones that would typically be adorning our tree are instead illuminating our house and when they’re all turned on it looks very festive and cheerful.

I particularly like have twinkly lights in my kitchen. If you ever watched the older series’ of Nigella Lawson’s cooking shows you’ll know they were set in her own home, her own kitchen. As well as wanting that immense walk in pantry she had which is about the size of my own kitchen, I wanted the lights. String lights in a variety of colours seemed to cover every surface and I thought the whole room looked gorgeous. I’ve often looked for similar lights for my own kitchen but never quite managed to find any that I thought suited that picture in my mind that I have of how I’d like to replicate her incredible kitchen in my vastly smaller space. That was until I was contacted by Aubeterre Blue.

“Aubeterre Blue – Bringing the Magic into Entertaining.

Believing that every moment you spend around a table should be special and giving you the tools to make it so.

Named after Aubeterre-sur-Dronne, one of the top ten most beautiful French towns where both sets of founding partners were married, Aubeterre Blue has a clear vision; to make the world a more joyful place by Bringing the Magic into Entertaining, this means enabling friends and family to share magical Aubeterre Blue moments wherever they may be.

Believing that every moment should be magical, from a cosy quiet night in, to hosting a party for family and friends. It doesn’t matter if it’s a lazy Sunday brunch or Christmas Day, we want to empower and inspire you to make special moments magical, by creating gorgeous and exciting spaces both in the home and out.

Aubeterre Blue’s ambition is to provide you with the inspiration to entertain in ways that you may never have thought, with unique and beautiful home-wares that have a story to tell and are show stopping centrepieces, generating conversation and perhaps a little envy.

Any moment can be an Aubeterre Blue moment with friends, family and a little magic…”

aubeterre-blue-cookie-lightsAubeterre Blue stock a gorgeous range of products for the home, specialising in entertaining. I was very excited to find a beautiful section dedicated to string lights, and to find ones which were precisely what I was looking for. Copper Cookie Cutter String Lights are the perfect choice for year round decoration in my kitchen. They are battery operated which I love, as it means I can literally hang them anywhere without having to hunt around for a none-existent free plug socket. At present they are draped over our meal planning chalkboard on the kitchen door, the white battery pack practically invisible on our white wooden doors. What I love is that I can, and invariably will, move them around the kitchen and possibly even the house in the New Year once our Christmas decorations come down.

If you head over to the Aubeterre Blue website right now you’ll find these gorgeous sparkly copper lights with 20% off, as well as the all the other string lights. A beautiful addition to your home, for Christmas and beyond.

Festive Baking With Clover

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Christmas, Foodie, Information, Product Reviews | Posted on 26-11-2012

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We’ve all started counting down to Christmas and its a great idea to get ahead with your baking and any food preparation and make use of your freezer. This gives you so much more time on the day with your family, and also stops any potential melt downs! This weekend I did some festive baking using the new blocks of butter from Clover. We’ve all no doubt tried their spreadable tubs of butter but you can now get Clover in 250g blocks which are ideal for baking and soft enough to use straight out of the fridge – a definite bonus!

First up I made mince pies. I’m not a huge fan of traditional mince pies, so I thought I’d give Nigella Lawson’s Cranberry Studded Mincemeat a go as well. Here’s the recipe for the mincemeat first:

60ml Ruby Port – or Cranberry Juice
75g Soft Dark Brown Sugar
300g Cranberries
1tsp Ground Ginger
1tsp Ground Cinnamon
75g Currants
75g Raisins
30g Dried Cranberries
Zest & Juice of 1 Clementine/Satsuma
25ml Brandy
1/8tsp Almond Extract
1/2tsp Vanilla Extract
2tbs Honey

In a large saucepan over a gentle heat dissolve the sugar into the port/juice. Add the fresh cranberries and cover them in the liquid. Add the dried fruits, spices and zest and juice of the clementine/satsuma. Simmer for about 15/20 minutes until everything looks well combined and most of the liquid has been absorbed. You can squash any whole cranberries that remain with a spoon. Take off the heat and cool a little before stirring in the brandy, extracts and honey. Give it a big stir until you’ve got a berry like paste.

This can then be put into waiting mince pie cases, sterilized jars and stored in the fridge, or put into the freezer and used within three months.

(From Nigella’s Christmas)

Now obviously this recipe didn’t use any of the Clover so I made my own pastry which was so simple. This didn’t need the softness of the Clover straight from the fridge, but the end result did taste delicious.

240g Plain Flour
60g Vegetable Shortening
60g Cold Butter – I used my Clover Butter Block
Juice of 1 Orange
Pinch of Salt
About 350g Mincemeat

Put the flour and fat into a shallow bowl. Make sure the butter and shortening is in small cubes/dollops. Put this in the freezer for about half an hour. Mix the orange juice and salt in a small bowl and place covered in the fridge. After half an hour remove the flour mix from the freezer and whizz in your food processor until you get porridge like crumbs. Pour in the salty orange juice as you whizz it and stop as the mix begins to form a dough – you might not need all the juice. Use your hands to form a dough and create two or three discs (depending on how many cupcake trays/tart tins you have) and wrap in clingfilm and pop into the fridge for another 20 minutes. Once chilled roll each disc out one at a time and use cutters to create pastry circles to line your trays/tins. The amount of mincemeat you put in obviously depends on the size of mince pie you are making. I made mine in mini muffin tins and used about 3/4 of a teaspoon in each. Bake in the oven for about 10-15 minutes – again depends on the size of the mince pie – at 220 degrees/Gas 7.

You can now store them in an air tight tin for about a week – if they last that long – or make them ahead and freeze for up to 3 months. Just reheat them from room temperature or frozen for 4 or 5 minutes before serving.

(From Nigella’s Christmas)

Here’s a few of the ones I made, and the amazing book I got the recipe from. Seriously – go out and buy this book. Its AMAZING.

Whilst making these mince pies – I ended up with 24 this size and the same amount of mincemeat again in the freezer – I was also making another festive favourite. I love Panattone and usually end up buying several small ones from the supermarket because nobody else in my house likes them. This year I decided I’d splash out and make my own. I’m not a fan of the traditional plain panattone – the one I buy has chocolate chips in instead of fruit – so I went on a hunt for a recipe that was similar. I found this great recipe on the Good Food website. I don’t like Candid Peel so I bulked up the cranberries and chocolate – okay mainly the chocolate – and I didn’t put flaked almonds on the top either. Here’s my version:

500g Plain Flour
14g (two sachets) Dried Yeast
100g Golden Caster Sugar
200ml Milk
3 Eggs
1tsp Vanilla Extract
200g Softened Butter – I used Clover Butter Block straight from the fridge
185g Dried Cranberries
200g White Chocolate Chips

Okay I got a little carried away with the chocolate chips but they came in two 100g bags so I just emptied them both in!!

Put the flour, yeast and 1tsp salt in a mixer – I used my Kitchen Aid. Give it a quick mix – have the dough hook in when you do this to save changing it around. Add the sugar and give it another mix. Beat your eggs in a bowl and warm the milk to hand hot temperature. Add the milk and eggs to the flour and combine to a dough then knead with the dough hook for about 5 minutes. Leave uncovered in the mixer for about an hour or until its doubled in size. Cut your butter into small cubes and add to the risen dough. Mix it in thoroughly and then leave for another hour to rise again. Add your cranberries and chocolate chips and mix. Line your tins – I made four individual ones in empty 400g tins and one large in my Ikea Cutlery Tin (thanks to whoever suggested that!!) – with double thickness of greaseproof and a collar above the top of the tin of a few inches. Divide the dough between your tins or put all in one tin and let it rise for a further 30 mins. Brush the top(s) with a beaten egg and bake for 45-50 mins at 160degrees/Gas 4.

This is a long recipe because of all the rising that goes on, so its a good idea to make something else whilst you’re waiting. I had the Panattone dough rising in the corner of my kitchen whilst I made the mincemeat and then the mince pies.

Here’s my finished large Panattone.

To me it looks like a panattone – though the top could be a little smoother – and it tastes divine. The cranberries and white chocolate are a great combination, and the dough is the sort of texture I was expecting. I would show you the individual ones but there was an incident with the tins… namely me forgetting to line to bottoms and losing about an inch off the bottom of each. Not too stressful though, as they really grew and could barely support themselves. Less dough per tin next time I think!

Hopefully you’re feeling inspired to get baking for Christmas, and next time you’re in the supermarket do grab a few packs of Clover Butter Blocks. The fact you can use it straight from the fridge makes baking much faster and the results are delicious.