Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Plum and Cardamon Victoria Sandwich Cake

If I were to choose a different name I would choose Victoria. It’s elegant, classic and has the queen of cakes as a namesake. With no ego at all, I wonder if this version should be known as a Vanessa Sandwich Cake? The twist here is replacing the usual vanilla with cardamom. The sweet, deep plum jam is met with spiced cardamom, combining like lovers dancing cheek to cheek. It’s a classic. My only real piece of advice is to make two. That way you can freeze one and not begrudge anyone having a rather larger-than-polite slice

Serves 8 - 10
Prep time 15
Cooking time 25 minutes
Suitable for freezing? Yes before filling or decorating

For the cake
250g butter or margarine (suitable for baking)
250g Cardamon Sugar or a level teaspoon of cardamon powder and plain sugar
250g self-raising flour
4 large eggs

For the filling
 325ml double cream
1 tbsp icing sugar, for dusting

1 Preheat the oven to 180˚C/gas mark 4.

2 Using a hand mixer or food mixer, cream together the butter or margarine and Cardamom Sugar Beat well until white and fluffy.

3 Add 3–4 tablespoons of flour to the mixture, then add the eggs. Adding the flour like this prevents the mixture from curdling. If it does, just keep adding flour a little at a time, beating the mixture to ensure it is evenly distributed.

4 Divide the mixture between two 23 cm round cake tins and bake in the oven for 20–25 minutes, until firm to the touch. Cool on a wire rack.

5 Once the cakes are cool, spoon jam onto one half. Whip the cream until it is thick but not overly stodgy. Spoon this carefully onto the jam and sandwich the layers of cake together.

6 Finish it off with a light dusting of icing sugar.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

St Giles Cheese in Northampton

St Giles Cheese stocks over 80 different varieties of cheese - but it's not just cheese. 

As well as all manner of other artisan delights, there’s fresh sourdough, delicate French patisseries, fresh olives, smoked salmon, locally made quiches and the best anchovies I’ve ever eaten. Not forgetting exquisite hand made chocolates and local award winning bubbly from Fleurfields vineyard in Brixworth.  

That said .. they do stock the most fabulous cheese and have just come runner up in the British Cheese awards as one of the best  new cheese retailer of the year.

Located at the top end of St Giles Street Northampton I think that this is an absolute gem of a delicatessens.  Steve and Caroline, the owners, are always on hand to give you expert advice on any of the products and I especially like that they always have something new out to try each time I pop in, which I have to admit is at least once a week these days.

So if you find yourself in Northampton then pop in and see for yourself or get in touch with them directly here

Monday, 26 September 2011

Plum Brandy

I'm just using the last of the plums. I hate to admit that they are almost at an end .. so to capture that last delicious sweetness for the coming winter I make plum brandy.  There are lots of recipes you can make with this lovely liquor in my book Prepped including Brandy Butter and mince pies in fused in Plum brandy.
The deep sweet plumminess of them infuses into the brandy, leaving sweetened liquor swirling with a dark pink plumy hue of Autumn in a glass.  . and yes I’m planning Christmas.  This plum brandy is so versatile. It makes a unique gift and is the base for a superb cocktail and I use it in my mincemeat (I  always enjoy a  tipple whilst I’m stirring the pan! )
1kg of Plums
750g of sugar
1litre of Brandy
Wash and dry the plums. Pop them into a 2 liter Kilner type jar, with a lid that seals.  Pour in the Brandy and then add the sugar.  Gently shake the jar  and pop it somewhere visible.  For the next week or so shake the jar each day until the sugar is dissolved, then pop it away in a cupboard for at least 2 months.  I generally decant mine after 6 – 8 months, however if you leave it longer the plums can sometimes breakdown any you get bits floating in the brandy. Simply use a clean piece of muslin to filter these out – they are not harmful  - just not pretty!

I love this Kettle!


I used to put the kettle on to have a cup of tea and forget.  Ten minutes later like a scene from groundhog day I’d pop the kettle back on.  I won’t tell you how many times I can do this during the course of a busy day  .. or you might start worrying about my sanity .. because I used to repeat this behavior to such an extent that you’d think I had a obsessive compulsive kettle boiling disorder.
Notice I said had. I found the solution and it is just so utterly gorgeous I need to share it with you.  It’s the Le Creuset traditional kettle.  Not only is it seriously beautiful it whistles when it’s ready.  I love that it makes me walk over to turn it off and that I make my pot of tea there and then!

Three are so many lovely colors to choose from.  Mine is the Cerise red which I love … it’s so cheery on my hob and I am delighted to be able to offer this fabulous kettle as a prize in the cream color almond.
So to enter please tell me who you’d most to pop this kettle on for and who you’d most like to have a cup of tea with in the comment box below.


Please see competition Rules before entering. This giveaway is open to all readers over 18 with a UK mainland address.  The winner will be chosen using an online randomiser and announced on this page on Friday 11th October  You need to leave your e-mail address in order to comment, I am the only person that can see it. Please do not include your email in the actual comment as well.

This competition on behalf of Le Creuset and they will be responsible for sending the prize to the winner. Their decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into.
There is one main way to enter  .. just leave a comment below. There are 3 more chances to win .. . and you must leave a separate comment for each bonus entry otherwise they will not be counted. For a chance to win please comment and tell me who you’d most like to have a cup of tea with.
For a second chance to win please tweet this post using the button below and you MUST comment with your twitter ID telling me you have done so.
For a third chance to win please follow me @VanessaKimbell on Twitter and comment below to tell me you have done so.
For a fourth chance to win please like my facebook page and comment below to tell me you have done so. Each Comment counts and an entrance and you can have a maximum of 4 entries to win this Kettle.
Automated Entries are not allowed.  There is no cash alternative.


Thursday, 22 September 2011

You must spend a day at Borough Market

You must spend a day at Borough Market! It' amazing ..

One of the things I love the most about France I spending a morning at the market. .. and I think I’ve found a much most cost effective solution than a trip abroard at Borough market. Just over ten years ago it was brought back to life and I can tell you that it has become a haven for anybody who is a foodie.

I was amazed to find such a range of food It is an exceptional source of British and international produce and would rival a French market any day of the week.  As it is it’s open Thursday Friday and Saturday I’d recommend going on a Thursday as I can imagine it would be very crowded on a Saturday. The food prices were comparable to my local farmers market in Northamptonshire .. so I took a trolley and my weekly food money and stocked up on cheese, cured ham, sourdough bread, figs, mushrooms and chocolate.

It’s vibrant, busy, innovative and full of the most amazing people who are totally passionate about what they do.

Most of the stallholders I spoke to are the producers – these are the people who grow, rear or cook the food that they sell. There are importers but they seemed to have an intimate knowledge of their products and were equally as interesting to talk to.  There is superb street food and the area is very clean and tidy with places to sit and eat. It’s a place to spend the day, to explore and chat and eat your way around over 130 different stalls.  It has one of the most vibrant feels of any market I’ve ever been to  .. so if you’d like a delicious day out and can use your housekeeping money to buy your food for the week then this is an absolute winner for any Goddess on a budget!


Monday, 19 September 2011

Plum Mint and Couscous salad

If there is a time I feel one ought be outside enjoying the last of the summer it’s when the plums come out.  It’s not that I don’ want to cook  - I just don’t want to be inside on the last autumn days.  I resent missing the last rays of summer and I love planting up the garden with next years Tulips and Hydrangea's at this time of year! So this semi hot salad can be made in minutes, uses plums in a savory way and means we can eat a super lunch and get straight back out in the garden.  There is also very little washing up! If you want to give it a bit more substance a good crumbly feta or strips of Parmesan go well with it too.
Prep time 15 minutes
Cooking time 10 minutes
Serves 4
Freezes no
750g of cooked couscous
6 ripe plums 30g butter
1 lemon
6 tbsp Olive oil
½ tsp sea salt
Black pepper
Vanilla vinegar
Toasted pine nuts
Fresh mint leaves to dress.
1 Slice the plums into quarters, brush with a little olive oil, sprinkle with some sea salt and black pepper and roast I a hot oven for about 10 minutes.  They still need to retain some bite.
2 In the men time prepare about 750 of couscous (cooked weight) according to the instructions on the packet.  AS you add the hot water stir in the butter with a fork to fluff .
3 Mix together the Vanilla Vinegar, juice of a lemon, olive oil and tsp of Dijon mustard.  Mix well and fluff through couscous.
4 Add the baked plums, scatter with toasted Pine nuts and serve dressed with mint leaves. 

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Goddess on a budget - Flowers


I love flowers.  Gorgeous romantic blooms across the table. Yesterday in London I spotted two lots of Hydrangeas'.  A young plant for £45 and a bouquet for £55. To be honest I want the look but not the cost.  So here is my version. The plant cost me less them £5 from Thompson Morgan and I think it's just as beautiful!

So my top tip today is to go out and get a beautiful hydrangea plant and pop on in the garden as a cutting specimen  .. you'll get at least 3  - 4 lots of flowers from one fully grown plant .. every year!

Prepped Reviews

 If you only have time to read one review make it this one from fuss free flavours

The unexpected reviews by the baby website

Dom of Belleau Kitchen raved about the Rhubarb syrup

The Daily Mail My recipe for Perfect Roast Lemon Chicken

All the fabulous recipe testers

When I was writing Prepped I did not have the facilities or resources that the big guns have at my disposal to write Prepped! ... I did have, something which I think is turned out to give a better result altogether.

I have the Preparatti ..  online food bloggers who are gave these recipes a run through in the real world. I LOVE this. All my recipes were all tested for real, and there was no hiding!

The recipes work.  So far, touch wood there has not been a single report of any of my recipes having any mistakes in them .. and that is down to these fabulous ladies!

SUSAN EASTON is a really fabulous Lancashire lass who cooks up a storm in her kitchen in Chorley. She keeps her own chickens and bakes delicious cakes using the eggs they lay. She tested out my 100mph batter cakeand you can read about it here...

You can catch Susan on Twiiter @TwitTotte

TRACEY REILLY is based in Edinburgh and followed her dream to work in catering. She as savvy cook and has a super blog where she posted about testing the Lemon Syrup, Lemon Sorbet and White Rabbit Cocktail and the Lemon Chicken salad for me and gave some invaluable feedback!
You can also catch her on Twiiter as @nippie_sweetie

KATIE BRYSON certainly has to make the most of her time in the kitchen! A freelance food writer and blogger, she tested a double cook Duck & Noodles & canap├ęs recipe for me. Her family food blog is bursting with recipes and tips for feeding hungry families that’ll help inspire all those frazzled parents out there wondering what on earth to cook for tea!

JO DYSON Jo’s Kitchen is a blog about simple home cooking that fits into a busy lifestyle. Jo is not a chef or a photographer, and has nicknamed herself ‘the ‘hungry blogger’ as food is not usually around long enough for a good photo! Jo lives in the Midlands and is the founding member of the Midlands Food Bloggers. Fortunately she’s a star and did manage to take some photos of the Eccles cakes she tested for me and blogged about it here!



is a stay-at-home mom to a 16 month old toddler. Living in the Kingdom of Bahrain ( Middle East) until quite recently lived in Birmingham. After moving to Bahrain, she started baking. She says the joy of watching your cake rise up to perfection is unparalleled. So you can say, I'm addicted! Her is about celebrating her life, and was good enough to test some Cheese biscuits for me!


 Caroline is one half of Edinburgh Foody a superb site that delights in all thing foodie and Scottish - and boy do the Scottish love their food! It's a superb Blog and I was delighted when she offered to help !
Now you wouldn’t think much could go wrong with a Caraway and Parmesan Muffin - unless there is a typo .. Caroline spotted 25ml of milk should have been 250m! Thank goodness .. because they are delicious !


 from Edinburgh Scotland, Jayne tested the Garlic Pasta Dish. has been living in Barcleona, Spain for the past 4 years. She’s a busy primary school teacher and says she’s a super is her website is especially for vegetarians living in Spain as she found it very difficult to follow her usual recipes in Spain She love all types of cooking but exotic dishes probably do it more for me than most. Oh and baking cupcakes is a regular occurrence in my kitchen!

HELEN BEST-SHAW I almost gave up getting 
an elderflower recipe to be tested in the dead of winter as I finished Prepped. Luckily for me Helen is already prepped! as she had some elderflower syrup from earlier in the year! I was delighted as she agreed to
 test the elderflower Macaroons for me. Helen lives in west London and is a 100% foodie through and through. Her Blog Fuss free flavors is terrific read!

JAYNE RIVERA LYNCH Lovely lovely Jayne lives in London but was born and mostly raised in America. Having followed lots of other blogs she’s now decided to try her own and kicked off by testing a few of my recipes! She says loves cooking, especially baking as you can see in this mince pie testing blog post!

ANDREA ROBSON Last week Andrea tested my Whoopie pie recipe. Her feedback was just superb! Andrea moved to London from Victoria, BC two years ago and brought her Canadian recipes and taste buds with me. She compares the differences between baking in North America and the UK on her blog Made With Pink. She describes herself as A self confessed hoarder of bakeware, cook books and any pink kitchen gadgets I can get my hands on. You name it, I have it.

ROSS SHAND (with his fabulous Charging Chimp Blog ) I can't tell you how pleased I am to have a man testing ! The first recipe tested was the caraway soda bread and he then went on to test out the Chicken liver parfait .. he's a rock star in the kitchen as far as I am concerned ! Ross is a self confessed geek married to a Caribbean foodie. He saysthat time is short for the both of us as we work long hours so any book full of quick dishes is going to be well thumbed in our house.

RENATKA BEHAN As a busy lawyer and now with two little children Renatka really knows what it is like to be short on time and still loves great food. She has a fabulous St Albans based and was brilliant at ironing out the wrinkles in the instant pancake mix recipe .. click here to read more about her Fabilicious pancake mix test!

Lovely LIZ POPE tested my Grandmothers Christmas cake and then went on to decorate it! Liz a primary school dance teacher by day and describes herself as a general homemaker the rest of the time. She loves blogging about her endeavors in homemaking, particularly from the perspective of her Christian faith. With a lovely husband and two naughty kittens to keep her company; her dream is to one day retrain as a pastry chef and artisan baker to continue the family bakery established roughly 150 years ago. I can certainly see why as she’s shown just what a great baker she is right here.

ALETHIA HILL is a super tester .. she describes herself as , mother of a darling little boy and wife to a scoundrel of a husband (equally darling though). Her roots are from the southern tip of Africa, where she lived and worked until the early part of 2009, when as a family they decided to look for a better life for their young son, and made the move and now call the UK home. Now that's brave. I am delighted she has move here because she and Jack have taken the time to test one of my linked recipes and you can read all about tomato pasata, and soup here ... and meatballs in tomato sauce here.

Katey is an Edinburgh-based food lover, baker and cake addict. She has a fabulous blog Edinburgh EatsShe has a million cookbooks and relaxes by reading through them and deciding what to cook next. Her dream job is to open a cakeshop/bookshop hybrid and is patiently waiting to win the Euromillions to make those dreams come true. I the mean time Katie tested my Rhubarb and Lamb Tagine, and when she opens her cakeshop I shall be up like a shot buying cake and books. Meanwhile you can read her blog post about testing out my recipe here.

GivHELEN REDFERN a mixer, an oven, a few ingredients and a laptop and she’s happy. If she could find a way to stop getting sticky cake mixture on the laptop she’d be even happier! Helen’s passionate about simple, family baking but with two children, a husband who works long hours and her writing she doesn’t get time to spend hours in the kitchen. So recipe have to work She tested the Raspberry and chocolate cake for me. As well as her blog you can find her as a foodie columnist here.

JULIA ENGLAND - what a star ! She is she describes herself as A total facebook addict with an upsurging twitter addiction ! A busy mum of 3 growing and hungry boys who took the time to test for me. She’s NHS office worker by day and wannabe foodie by night ! A perfect Time Short Foodie .. she spends evenings reading cookbooks (any and every!! Have shelves full) dreaming of food and watching foodie programmes! To Julia's Blog and to see what she things to the recipe Click here

Elaine is a busy working professor in America who I met on twitter! She was wishing she was a recipe tester .. and I asked if she’d like to test one of mine .. with three children and her interest in veganism and vegetarianism, health, ethics and the environment her blog made me sit up and take notice. Her style is witty and forthright, as she tested out he Garlic yum yum for me! Click here to read how she got on....

Tested the pizza and bread linked recipe . As a professional recipe tester Englishmum has two boys aged 12 and 15 and works at home developing and testing recipes for magazines and recipe books, and writing about food and travel. Read her blog post here. She’s fabulous and describes herself as a 40 year old time wasting, talkative layabout, excessive twitter and arch procrastinator with a penchant for cooking, shopping, hot baths, Green & Black’s and a nice glass of red (not necessarily in that order).

Alison is 34 and lives in Rostrevor, a small village in County Down, with her historian husband Jim and a delightfully grumpy white cat called Frank. Her background is in TV production and she loves to cook - she enjoys reading (especially cookery books and design blogs), shopping, watching far too much TV. She goes on to say that her favourite cookery writers (apart from Vanessa!) are Nigel Slater, Jamie Oliver and Nigella Lawson although I own a very large stash of cookery books by all sorts of people. Testing recipes is just my ideal pastime. Heaven ! Click here to see her blog.

JULES – the other half of The Butcher and The Baker. As the Baker and the main author of this fabulous blog she is dedicated to teaching children about food through her business. Self-confessed geek and lover of all things vintage and cake shaped she's got one of the best blogs going. Living The Good Life in rural Derbyshire in a tiny cottage with an even smaller vegetable patch, and her husband the the Butcher. He is an engineer who always loves a challenge. . he is the Chief Gardener at The Cottage. Hugh F-W/Dick Strawbridge/Ray Mears worshipper.They make great team and live life to the full! Jules tested the Chocolate beef and Chocolate pasties for me here to read how she got on!

You are the most important link in this process.. if the recipe works you can be sure it will be down to these amazing people .. I can't wait for them all to meet at the Book Launch !
Please do let me know if you'd like to help .. there are lots to test!