Monday, 23 April 2012

Pineapple chutney

Every year for the last few years, around July, I get a bit excited about Christmas. This might seem early to most people, but for me, it's the perfect time for a few reasons. Firstly, it means I can budget properly for everyone's presents, and secondly, it gives me plenty of time to plan homemade gifts, especially if I need to sew anything.

By September/October I'm really in the swing of things, thanks largely due to the October/November issue of BBC Good Food Magazine coming out with Christmassy things, usually including some homemade gift style goodies. 2011 was no exception, and I used the three issues in October, November and December to make some lovely gifts. Soemtimes, if I'm lucky, there'll be enough of the gifts for me to have one of my own, or I'll try and wangle a try of some of one of the gifts. This is exactly what happened with last year's chutney, the pineapple chutney from the November issue.

I took some to my Mum and Dad's as part of their Christmas presents and we had some lovely cold ham with this chutney, and although there were only four of us, we ate the whole jar! (To be fair it was a smallish jar, but even so!). I've been planning ever since to make some more, and so this Sunday, with an hour and a half to spare, I got going.

I usually get in a terrible mess if I don't plan ahead, so I started by measuring out all the dry and liquid ingredients, and chopping the ginger.

Then I prepared the pineapple by cutting of the hard skin and then cutting out the little eyes. Thankfully, there was an article in the May 2012 BBC Good Food Magazine about how to prepare a pineapple, and this included the tip of cutting the eyes out in a diagonal. Not only does this look pretty, it's SO much easier! Thank you BBC Good Food!

Finally I sliced and cored the pineapple and chopped the flesh into small chunks. This was followed by chopping up three onions (meant to be three red, but one of the red onions was mushy inside, so I used a white one instead).

Preparation is the hardest bit; the rest is super easy and anyone could do it. To make the chutney, you firstly fry the onion and the spices in some sunflower oil for about five minutes. Then throw in the rest of the ingredients and leave to simmer for an hour.

Whist this was happening, I sterilised three jars from my (frankly too large) collection of empty jam and chutney jars I hoard for jam and chutney making. I did this by washing in hot soapy water, then popping in the oven on Gas 1/4 for the last half hour of cooking. Then when the chutney's cooking time is up, I spooned the hot chutney into the hot jars and left to cool before popping the lids on.

I cannot tell you just how yummy this chutney is. It works fabulously with ham as I said at the beginning of this post, and I reckon it'd be equally gorgeous with some sharp cheese like Wensleydale or mature Cheddar on some crackers. I can't wait to eat it...

Monday, 16 April 2012

Made by Mich - wedding cupcakes so far...

Given I posted about the wedding cupcakes I made for Easter weekend, I thought I'd better post about some of the other wedding cakes I've made.

I'd been making cupcakes for friends' birthday presents for a while when someone commissioned me to make some cakes for their 30th birthday party 2 years ago. (I will blog about my other cakes another time). But it wasn't til some friends asked me if I would bake their wedding cupcakes that I really thought I might be able to make some money out of it, and so Made By Mich cupcakes was born. I've been "in business" for just over a year now, and it's only a mini business as I work full time, and I'm not financially stable enough to give it a go properly (one day...).

Anyway, I'll tell you more about the other cakes another time. So...

Ben and Leanne's wedding, April 2011.

The first wedding cupcake tower I made was for Ben and Leanne in Durham last year. Leanne chose a butterfly theme and had gold cases, lemon cupcakes with lemon icing and caramel cupcakes with vanilla icing. Leanne sourced the icing butterflies and those on wire from eBay. eBay is really very fabulous for cake decorations!

Ben's Grandad did the topcake which I added to the finished tower with butterflies,gold ribbon, and the brides bouquet was arranged in front. I was lucky enough to be a guest at this wedding, and the venue was absolutely stunning, and I was more than a little bit scared and honoured that my cakes were the focal point of the hall right in front of the top table! But it did look very lovely in the beatiful setting.

Susie and Tom's wedding, May 2011.

The next wedding I did was for more friends, Susie and Tom. Susie had a City Centre wedding and went for a chic black and purple theme. Susie chose chocolate cakes with vanilla icing, and Tom was more than a bit fond of the raspberry cupcakes with white chocolate icing, so I did those as well. I made them a topcake which was chocolate with a vanilla buttercream and raspberry jam filling, covered with sugarpaste. Susie topped the cake with a floral display we found on eBay, and found some lovely purple sugarpaste roses also on eBay, which saved me a job!

Usually I like to put the decoration on the cakes to the left hand side of the cakes, which you can see above with Leanne's butterflies and below with Jenny's cakes, but Susie was insistent that she wanted them on the top, and I think they do look nice after all.

Jenny and Pukul's wedding, November 2011.

The third wedding cupcake tower I made was for Jenny and Pukul, for their Indian wedding. The bride and groom both had ideas this time, which was new to me! Pukul proved very useful tho, as I initially had trouble sourcing dark blue cupcake cases. Pukul found some on the website I usually use! (In my defence they were out of stock at the time!).

Jenny and Pukul wanted fresh flavours that everyone would like, but also done so people would know what they were eating. In the end they chose lemon cupcakes with lemon icing and ginger cupcakes with ginger icing. One would be in gold cases, the other in blue.

The blue and gold were the theme of the wedding, and Jenny and Pukul brought a sample of their invitations to show me the shapes and colours.

From this, I designed a little blue and gold paisley shape for their decorations. I cut out 100 little teardrop shapes, pushed the tip over with the end of a paint brush and then used lustre dust with a drop of vodka to paint the gold pattern (the vodka evaporates!). I pushed a little dent with the end of the paintbrush into the middle of the shape before I painted them, then glued a silver dragee into the hole with some Squires edible glue.

I think the overall effect was a success, and the bride and groom were very pleased. Oh, and to let the guests know what they were eating, there were little cards out on the table to show which colour cases were which flavour. Jenny's Mum made the topcake, and again a floral display for the top, this time by the wedding florist.

I really enjoy wedding cakes, although they take a LONG time, the feeling at the end of the effort is all worth it. I've got two more booked in, but not til December this year, and May 2013...

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Spring wedding cupcake tower

On Good Friday, I delivered a cupcake tower for Laura and Chris' wedding in the Ox Inn, Castlefield.
Laura wanted a fresh, spring theme to her cakes and was inspired by Angela Griffin's lemon drizzle cake from this year's Celebrity Great British Bake Off for Sport Relief, which was finished with daises as decoration. So far, so good, and I bought a set of daisy plunger cutters from goold old eBay. Flavours were easy to choose - Laura went for half lemon, half carrot, and a victoria sponge topcake. After lots of thinking and discussion, Laura chose silver cases to compliment the light theme, and white icing for the topcake with a white ribbon.

We settled on 84 cupcakes, and as this was 7 batches, ended up with 4 lemon and 3 carrot.

The daisies for the cupcakes were cut out from plain white sugarpaste using the medium size cutter and left to dry. Once dried, I used an icing felt tip pen to colour yellow centres. These were put onto the cupcakes in my signature style - off centre so you still see the tip of the icing swirl.

The topcake was fun to do, if a little challenging! After covering with white sugarpaste, I cut and stuck something like 200 mini daisies onto the cake using Squires edible glue. Phew!

Laura wanted the daisies to look like they were cascading with them closer together at the top, and more spaced out at the bottom. I think I managed this alright given the space available on a 6 inch cake. Once the icing was dry, I then coloured the daisy centres with my yellow icing colour pen:

Probably the most labour intensive of the wedding cakes I've made until now, but definitely worth it. Laura and Chris are on their honeymoon so I've not had any feedback from them yet, but I hope I did their day justice.