Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Blog & Buy Sale

Now it is summer and the Sun has finally got his hat on (hip, hip, hip hooray!) what better way to spend those "It's too HOT!" moments in the middle of the night than perusing the Summer wishlist on Blog & Buy?

With a plethora of unusual, quirky and design led goodies Blog & Buy is a curated list of some of the best stuff that money can buy. (Yes of course Mountain & Molehill is on it.) My favourites are:

In the interests of fairness I should say that Jen and I were opposite each other during Made In Clerkenwell so I had plenty of time to peruse her wares. Despite my determination to not buy anything I did give in and buy her Orb rattle.
I don't wear much jewellry as I am gob-smackingly picky about it. However I am really rather taken by Claire Gent's handsome fox:

Finally, Scout & Co's very cute Circus Puppet Set is hard to beat given that it is made of wood, hand painted and could not be more fun if it tried.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Made in Clerkenwell 15th -18th May

In two weeks time I will be exhibiting at the rather super Made In Clerkenwell event at Craft Central. I am rather chuffed to be chosen and am busily getting ready. 

Yes! That is my lion on the flyer.

What is Made in Clerkenwell?
Avoid the high street and opt for handmade! Shop for ready-to-buy fashion, jewellery, accessories, ceramics, print-making, illustration and interior products by 100 selected UK designer-makers. Choose a gift, commission a unique piece, find a bespoke design service or just browse... Whether you can spare an hour or a whole day, mingle with the makers in the studios where they work their magic.  
When is it?
Special Launch Night on Thurs 15 May, 5-8 pm (join us for a drink) 
Late Night Shopping on Fri 16 May, 12-8 pm 
Avoid the High Street crowds on Sat 17 & Sun 18 May, 12-5 pm
Where is it?
Craft Central has TWO buildings: 21 Clerkenwell Green EC1R 0DX & 33-35 St John’s Square EC1M 4DS. Don't worry! They are 2 minutes away from each other 
How do I get there?
It's just round the corner from Barbican and Farringdon tube. It's also a comfortable plodding distance to Angel and the City. As for buses the 63, 55, 243 or 153 will get you there.

How much is it?
Only £3. (under 16’s free) and you can feel good about yourself as it supports Craft Central’s charitable aims AND you can use it on all four days. You can even buy your ticket online in advance and jump the queues!

Friday, 14 March 2014

Chocolate Guinness Cake (and a mini chocolate tasting lesson.)

And so the the cake. It was a massive affair for four people but I do think that afternoon tea should be overly generous in sustenance. (Most of the leftovers can be frozen afterwards.) 

Last summer I had a slice of Chocolate Guinness Cake with a friend at High Tea of Highgate. It was memorably yummy so needed to be tried out.

This recipe is Gizzi Erskine's which I followed to the letter (almost). 

But first a chocolatey deviation. My Matey works in chocolate. (Yes I do get to try some amazing chocolates. No he doesn't bring home vats of the stuff for me.) Good dark chocolate isn't necessarily 70%. Where it comes from is far more impactful on the flavour than the percentage. Also different regions offer different flavours. Think of it like wine. Now before you pipe up with the complaint that not everybody has access to a range of chocolates, think again. Over the past few years the supermarkets have learnt about this and offer ranges of chocolate bars based on region with descriptions of what it tastes like. So when choosing your chocolate to cook with you can bear in mind what you are making and pick a chocolate with notes which will work well and enhance the food with more taste than just 'chocolate'.

For this cake my Matey came up with a pairing of Valrhona 62% MacaĆ© Brazilian dark chocolate to work with the dark richness of the Guinness. Before you assume that it is going to be incredibly expensive it is available for around £3 for 110g in a number of places on the internet so only about £1 more expensive than a 'normal' brand.

250ml Guinness
250g Butter, sliced
100g Dark chocolate
35g Cocoa
400g Caster sugar
142ml Plain yoghurt
2 Eggs
1 tblsp Real vanilla extract
275g Plain flour
2 ½ tsp Bicarbonate of soda

300g Cream cheese
150g Icing sugar
125ml Double cream


1. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Butter and line a 21cm round tin. 
2. Pour the Guinness into a large wide saucepan, and heat until the butter has melted, at which time you 
should stir in the chocolate, cocoa and sugar. Very gently heat until the chocolate has melted and the sugar is dissolving then take off the heat.
3. Beat the yoghurt with the eggs and vanilla and then pour into the chocolatey, beery pan.
4. Finally whisk in the flour and bicarbonate of soda.
5. Pour the cake batter into the greased and lined tin and bake for 45 minutes to an hour. Leave to cool completely in the tin on a cooling rack, as it is quite a damp cake. Do not be tempted to take the cake out of the tin until it is totally cold. My first go at this resulted in a cake which collapsed into four pieces.
6. To make the icing whip the cream cheese until smooth, sieve over the icing sugar and beat them together.
7. Separately whip the cream until it just begins to thicken then pour the cream to the cream cheese mix and beat again until combined and reaches a spreadable consistency. 
8. Ice the top of the Guinness cake. You can make it look pretty by covering the sides as well but it looks more Guinness-like with just the top done.

And the verdict? Jolly good. It's a LOT better made a day in advance. If I make it again I would 
probably swap the white sugar for a brown one to up the flavour a bit. Possibly would also try to up the chocolate content a bit more.

Monday, 10 March 2014

A simply SPLENDID afternoon tea

Afternoon tea is one of our favourite things. As long there are plenty of scones with jam and clotted cream my Matey and I are pretty content. Afternoon tea with friends on Sunday gave us the opportunity to use my grandmas surprisingly cool tea set and a bunch of daffodils and the dilemma of what else to have.

Sandwiches (with no crusts of course) were kept simple and easy with:

Cheddar with posh chutney: We usually go for whatever is on offer in the mature cheddar department so splash out on a really good chutney which makes a bog standard cheese taste amazing. This time we had Tomato, apple and rosemary jam from The Ginger Pig. Yes it is a bit pricey at £5.50 a jar but it lasts ages and makes whatever you have lurking at the back of the fridge taste great.

Marmite butter and cress: Nigella's marmite butter (mix marmite with butter then spread on the bread) with cress. My other grandma used to do this and the peppery cress works well with the salty marmite.

Goat's cheese with red pepper and walnut: This idea was nicked from the internet and simplified. Very soft goats cheese, (Making it spreadable, the original recipe called for mixing the goats cheese with cream cheese. I couldn't be bothered!) roasted red peppers and ground walnuts. Good  but not sure that i t was as good as it sounded or worth the effort.

Lemony honey chicken: Left overs from the night before. Simple but very tasty.

For the scones I played fast and loose with my usual method and tried out Mary Berry's recipe with eggs in it. Having never heard of scones with eggs in them I was deeply suspicious but the resulting scones were very good. If truth be told I wouldn't bother with eggs (and the extra expense) for gardening scones  but it's probably worth it for a fancier tea.

My favorite moment however was the deploying of the incredibly useful muffin warmer as a clotted cream cooler. Crushed ice was packed into where the hot water would go and we had lovely cool clotted cream all afternoon.

This was the day that my Matey and I discovered that we are on opposing teams regarding clotted cream placement. He thinks it should go on top of the jam I consider this to be nonsensical and put the jam on top of the clotted's only logical, you wouldn't put butter on top of jam would you?

Of course this was all washed down with copious quantities of rose earl grey tea and much chitter chatter.

As for the cake....oh what a cake it was! So much so it fully deserves a post of its very own.

Friday, 7 March 2014

Stop breezy papers dead with a Dodo.

Well good gracious me it's been two and half months since I put paw to keyboard. Do not think I have been idle. Oh dear me no! I've been plotting, planning and trying thing out Blue Peter style. Finally I am pleased to launch the first round of new Mountain & Molehill products.

Now that isn't it. Oh No! There is more a-coming but you'll just have to be patient..........I have also done a load of other bit's and bobs but more on that another day.

I'm also on the hunt for a new PROJECT. No I really don't have the time for it but having a project stops me from going a bit loopy.

Friday, 20 December 2013

Gingerbread Men

It's hard to not love a gingerbread man isn't it? Forget the whole Christmasy thing. If you are given a gingerbread man you really do have to smile. There are many, many types of gingerbread but this one (stolen from somewhere and I have no idea where) has magical properties as it keeps the form of the imprint from the mold as it bakes. It also gets smoother and bakes better the more you play with it so is ideal for sproglets to have fun with. (To state the bloomin' obvious this recipe gets very hot indeed. Melted treacle doesn't mix well with little fingers and noses so wait till the dough is cool.)   Scared to fiddle  too much with the original recipe I have only upped the spice content a little and added my top Christmas spice clove.

350g  Treacle
225g Butter
175g dark brown sugar (the darker the better in my book!)
750g Plain flour
3 tsp Ground ginger
2 tsp Mixed spice
1 tsp Ground Clove
1/4 tsp Salt
1 Large egg

1. Heat the treacle in a large saucepan. When it is runny take off the heat and stir in the butter and brown sugar until they are well combined. You may need to add a little more heat. Set aside to cool. If you have a mixer put it in the bowl ready for the mixing stage.
2. Sift the flour, salt and spices in a bowl and mix together.
3. Add a tablespoon of the floury mix to the sugar and butter and stir in. Keep doing this for 2/3rds of the flour.
4. Add the egg and mix in then add the rest of the flour and mix till it is a smooth brown dough.
5. Allow to cool. Do not miss this step the dough is impossible to work with until it is cold.
6. Turn the oven on to 350C.
7. Roll out the dough and have fun with cutters or treat it like playdoh.
8. Place the gingerbread on greased baking trays and bake for  10-15 minutes.
9. When they come out of the oven allow the biscuits to cool on the tray for a few minutes. This is essential as they fall to bits otherwise.

DECORATING TIME.....or eating with a nice cuppa.

Inevitably some come out as planned.....

Some do not.....but look how HAPPY he is!

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

And the chair is done

The trouble with embarking on a massive project is that it is all consuming but not terribly interesting until it is done. I say it is not very interesting but it is FASCINATING to yourself but at best mildly diverting and at worse deadly dull to everybody else.

So here we go. A brief summary of the chair.

I stripped it right back to the bare bones while watching several episodes of Poirot. A truly messy job, the floor was revolting afterwards. No lost Faberge eggs but we did find an old penny which is always nice.

Unfortunately the stripping back revealed that the springs needed to be replaced. I had not bargained on this. I did not have a clue how to tackle this but having announced to the world my intentions to do this thing I could hardly wimp out now.

Doing the webbing is easy and rather pleasing as it's just a matter of weaving the jute tape in and out and making it really tight with a stretcher. There is something very appealing about making it tight as a drum and even though it is the easy bit it feels like being a pro.

And so to the springs. I nearly gave up at this point. Much staring at the thing didn't help. After a few stabs at it the task seemed impossible. I knew what I wanted to do. I had the theory down in my head but they just wouldn't behave. Finally I found this lesson which made it all a lot clearer:

This was the point at which the chair was most beautiful in my eyes.

A bit of fresh padding and it was time ready to make it pretty. Much pondering forced me to relinquish the idea of a fabulous bright blue or an exciting pattern. I reluctantly admitted that we have exciting cushions already and it would all be too much to add yet more pattern. In the end a nice mossy green old velvet curtain was purchased, washed and chopped up.

My nailwork leaves much to be desired but I think it looks rather splendid and it takes up a fraction of the space the old chair did while still having the same amount of bum room. Two weeks after completion and it is still holding together. The springs have not sprung off and it is actually rather comfy.

Now this was to be my last bit of upholstery but the trouble is that it is really rather addictive taking a chair fit for the dump and making it work again. Fortunately I recognise that there really is nowhere to put anything new in the house but it's only a matter of time.....
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