Thursday, 25 September 2014

Secret Stays & Reviews: 42 The Calls

I was recently invited to a very exciting event with my friend, Lynn Hill of The Clandestine Cake Club, where I was invited to a tea party to sample the Autumn range of cakes with Bettys of Harrogate - who would say no to this invitation?! 42 The Calls Hotel Leeds Bed With this, I found myself talking to a fantastic looking hotel in the centre of Leeds and even managed to book myself a first class ticket in a sale with East coast trains, I was set and ready to travel in style. My first experience of "first class" travel left a lot to be desired.. Between London and Peterborough the chair covers had become very creased (yes, I'm that picky) and they had run out everything except a chewy & crusty (and rather greasy) bacon roll as my breakfast option. Some Yorkshire Tea was offered with a splash of milk in my cup... as well as all over my table, of which wasn't cleaned up or apologised for by the pourer. For a bargain bucket price, it seems I received the "Wetherspoons" special of breakfasts... it wasn't quite the Orient Express, of course. You also get to play the fun game of "Yorkshire Tea Roulette" as you sip without trying to spill the contents of your mug down your Sunday best with every twist or turn of the carriage - for me, some dribble occurred, "Audrey Hepburn" I was not! 42 The Calls Hotel Leeds Exterior Setting The Scene:  Luckily, my luxury 4 star hotel for the night was a much more glamorous affair and it was worth popping up the night before for a much-needed pampering in my own company. The very reason that I had been in touch with this particular hotel was through Twitter, discussing their ever so tempting afternoon tea menu after I spotted them on the National Afternoon Tea Week hashtag. Naturally, I booked myself in for a champagne tea prior to checking in for my first of many indulgences here at 42 The Calls. Traveling alone, although it can seem a little daunting, is sometimes the very best way to do it, you can eat what and when you like with no negotiations, you can selfishly sit in silence to read, write and watch the world the go by... and you can lay in until whatever time you like after hogging the luxurious bath for hours on end. This hotel allowed me to do all of this in such a way that I didn't feel as though I was in the middle of a City, I felt so relaxed and comfortable within this hotel as a lone traveler, I could have easily mistaken for a country retreat. 42 The Calls Hotel Leeds Afternoon Tea Shot The Welcome:  There was nobody else in the lounge, but me, I felt like a modern-day Marie Antoinette. The afternoon tea filled my table and I was provided with a glass of chilled Prosecco on being seating, followed by a pot of hot water with a selection Twinings teas to add to it myself, I loved this touch - no tea menu required. Everything was prepared freshly and although the minimum number catered for with afternoon tea is 4, I hadn't realised when I booked it that they were going the extra mile to accommodate me, I'm so thankful for their hospitality. Very thinly cut sandwiches, of which I loved as it allowed me to enjoy more than I usually would. The fillings were a plain cucumber, chicken breast & chili jam, smoked salmon and a coarsely seasoned egg mayonnaise, which was my favourite by far - truly delicious! 42 The Calls Hotel Leeds Afternoon tea Sandwiches Then there were the sweet treats. My 2 warm fruit scones with a light whipped cream and homemade strawberry jam, moist flapjacks topped with fresh berries, a bake cheesecake with (as Greg Wallace would say...) a buttery & gingery biscuit base, gooey chocolate brownie with even more chocolate sauce and a white chocolate & raspberry mousse to put me into a food coma for the rest of the afternoon. Oh, not forgetting the miniature macarons with raspberry coulis to adorn the very top of the black slate cake tier. For £19.95, this champagne tea (or £16.95 for afternoon tea) it's true value for money and I enjoyed this completely undisturbed - it was the best introduction to my new digs for the night. 42 The Calls Hotel Leeds Afternoon Tea I had arrived early, so I enjoyed my afternoon tea at a leisurely pace, whilst reading a book (unheard of for me) and enjoying a pampering at a nearby hair salon as I waited. The wait was more than worth it as I was shown (totally unknowing that this was about to happen) to the penthouse suite for the evening - All I can say is wow, what a room! I'm starting to very much fall in love with Leeds, it's a beautiful and stupidly exciting City with plenty of fantastic places to dine and stay, I may even be tempted to visit much more often given the opportunity. In fact, as one client lives here, I've started to proactively look for others in this area, this is how much I love it and the friendly people who live here! 42 The Calls Hotel Leeds Bed Linen The Bedroom:  All bedrooms at 42 The Calls are unique, designed around the original features of the cornmill it once was, complete with industrial girders, oak beams and original mill mechanisms still protruding from the walls and ceilings once used to haul grain up and down. There are many different types of bedrooms, including Study Rooms, Deluxe Rooms, Director Rooms, Family Rooms, Junior Suites and The Penthouse Suite. On arrival, I presumed that I would be checking into a Study or Deluxe room, but I had been upgraded to The Penthouse Suite... my jaw dropped to the floor as she explained the newly updated technology within the room and the view worthy of a Penthouse. As a solo traveler, I was in my element, I really should have jumped up and down on the bed and ran around naked, but I'm a classy lady, I don't do these sort of things... ahem. 42 The Calls Hotel Leeds Lounge The Penthouse Suite is room number 302 and is home to a large bedroom with king size bed, en-suite bathroom with a beautiful ornate bath and rainforest shower, a separate lounge and dining area, a long entrance and hallway along with not one, but two toilets, both separate from the en-suite. Each bathroom sink had a small signature frog-shaped soap perched on the edge or on a shelf, they are such a cute touch, I've never seen a shaped bar of soap such as this before, my best friend asked me to return one to her should I get the chance, so I did and made her week! The bed was very comfortable, for somebody with a bad back, I was truly hoping not to be laying on a hard mattress, but this was firm, with some bounce, wrapped in luxury cotton sheets, goose down pillows and a nice heavy feather duvet. I do love a duvet that doesn't move with you as you sleep, this rested on top of me and moulded to my body for the perfect nights' sleep as I drifted off watching the plasma TV hovering up on the ceiling, fixed to the wooden beams above me. It was positioned in such a way that as I lay on the bed, it was in the perfect position in front of me, however if you moved around the room, it wasn't as easy to watch... but that's what the entire separate lounge is for - my "Coronation Street" fix after a nice long soak in the bath!

42 The Calls Hotel Leeds Bathroom

The main hallway had a privacy hatch to the side, so should I wish to order room service, a newspaper or a glass of wine I didn't need to see a member of staff, it would simply be left in the hatch for me to collect from my side of the door. There was a mini bar stocked with the usual drinks and snacks, bottled water, complimentary tea and Grumpy Mule coffee for my morning fix, homemade shortbread and fudge to nibble on something sweet. It was refreshing to see topped up not only in the shower, but over the deep, luxurious bath as well, The White Company toiletries - shampoo, conditioner, body wash and body lotion. I ensured that I got as much use out of those four bottles every time I used the bathroom to pamper myself (twice within the space of 24 hours in fact) and liked the fact that I didn't have to resort to my own, of which does happen from time to time. 42 The Calls Hotel Leeds Bed Linen Opening all the doors, cupboards, drawers (who doesn't do this?!) I spotted a bible, the obligatory trouser press and iron/ironing board, even a shower cap and shoe polishing kit, the room is very well thought out and The Penthouse even has an emergency phone above one of the loos, I found this quite amusing, I'm not sure why. The Breakfast:  I was headed to a very special event with The Clandestine Cake Club & Bettys of Harrogate that morning, so I opted out of breakfast, purely for reasons based around my waistline. 42 The Calls Hotel Leeds Jams & Preserves However, the team at 42 The Calls are very proud of their locally sourced breakfast, complete with 12 varieties of seasonal sausages, an array of homemade jams, marmalades & curds, cereals and everything else you could possibly imagine desiring. In fact, their sausages (with choices such as venison, pork & chive, garlic & tomato or pork & black pudding) even have their own Twitter hashtag: #thefamous42sausages and I'm trying as many as I can next time I visit! The breakfast is served in The River Room, with a view of the River Aire between 7am - 9:30am, with a stunning and dramatic room, large floor-to-ceiling pictures on the walls and low wooden beams, this is a breakfast room with true character. 42 The Calls Hotel Leeds What To Do:  Being in Central Leeds, you can simply step out and walk across the road to find yourself at The Corn Exchange (the perfect place for a quirky shopping experience) and the Trinity shopping centre not far from there. The Trinity Kitchen plays host to a very exciting "street food" scene, with street food vans traveling from around the country to reside here for a month at a time, making it different every time I visit. In fact, I recently learnt that in order to get your van inside this venue, they have to lift off the roof and pop the vans in by crane... I would personally LOVE to see this happening! 42 The Calls Hotel Leeds The Corn Exchange Laynes Espresso is the perfect independent coffee shop if traveling by train, it's just to the right of the station and I end up in here for a while every time I visit the City. Great coffee, chilled out vibe, fantastic music selections and no wifi - peace & quiet guaranteed. If you want to do the touristy stuff, you have the Armley Mills Industrial Museum, Royal Armouries, Harewood House and if you wish to travel a little further out, you could visit York, or head to the Yorkshire Dales for some fresh air. Parking & Getting There:  There's no on-site parking, but the nearest car park is the Markets NCP located on New York Street next to the Bus Station and a ticket for this can be purchased from Reception at the cost of £14.75. 42 The Calls Hotel Leeds Mask If coming by train, this hotel is simply a 10 minute walk from the station and very easy to find on foot. Everywhere within town is walkable, I didn't need to use a taxi once, everything is very close by. East Coast trains had a sale on their tickets from Peterborough to Leeds, so I nabbed quite the bargain on this occasion - it's well worth keeping an eye out on their website for these sort of deals, it's working out cheaper to head to Leeds than to London for me lately. The Little Extras:  On being shown to my room, my luggage was brought up for me after my tour of the hotel and my suite, it was seamless and I had in fact forgotten I didn't have it with me. The staff were knowledgeable and friendly, I really couldn't fault their welcome at all. 42 The Calls Frog Soap With a stay in this particular suite, you are offered a complimentary glass of wine, of which I was allowed at any time to suit me, all I needed to do was call down to reception when I fancied it, perfect. I noted that this is a dog friendly hotel, they are even happy to fill up a dog bowl on arrival and suggest the perfect walk for you and your four-legged friend, noted for my next visit, Eddy would love the canal and river paths. Free wifi is offered all guests staying within the hotel, with a dedicated password being provided on arrival, this lasted for the duration of my stay and allowed me to listen to my Spotify playlists as I chilled out. I had not one problem with getting onto it, very fast and simple, that's what I like to see. 42 The Calls Leeds The Little Niggles:  On getting into my bath, I stupidly hadn't put the latch on my hotel room door, although it didn't occur to me to do so right away, as I had been too busy getting acquainted with my humble abode. As I was soaking and starting to drift off, I heard somebody walk into the entrance to my room, shout to see if anybody was in (obviously a member of staff) and then apologise and swiftly leave. This left me slightly spooked and I started shouting from the bath a simple "Hello?..." to see if they were still there. Needless to say, I spent the rest of the stay with my door bolted shut. One of my pillows had a loose pillow case, of which kept rolling up the pillow as I slept. I noticed the pillow itself had a slight stain on it, so I made the reception team aware and this was swiftly sorted. I could not fault the hotel team one bit, they seemed to be a fairly small team and nothing was ever too much trouble. 42 The Calls Hotel Leeds Breakfast Room On packing the next morning, there was a rushed knock at my door and one of the housekeeping members started shouting something through my door, I ran to them as fast as I could (it's quite the maze in that suite!) and she asked me if I'd had anything from the mini bar, crossed me off her sheet and walked away... I found this most odd, surely this would be obvious on cleaning my room once I'd left? A small point, but I have never experienced such confusing conversation - could they have not called my bedroom phone to ask the same question in a less invasive manner, perhaps? Final Thoughts:  My suite comes in at around £240 - £260 per night, as a guide - breakfast not included. I stayed mid-week and the hotel was very quiet indeed, the room overlooks the river and it's truly peaceful during the day, but can be a little noisy of a Friday evening. However, this did not affect my stay in any way, the bedroom was across the hall and I didn't hear a peep from my king sized bed. They also offer private dining and meeting room space for conferencing and events, this would be a mighty fine place to host an event, so this is a venue worthy of mentioning. 42 The Calls Hotel Leeds Sewing Machine 42 The Calls often have a discount or offer on some of their rooms, so please do check out their website for the latest news. If looking to book afternoon tea with this hotel, please note their minimum number is 4 people, I only learnt this on chatting to one of the team, so do call ahead to discuss your requirements.

42 The Calls Hotel Leeds

To view my full photo album of this stay, simply click here.   www.42thecalls.co.uk    Miss Sue Flay Logo   Please note - This stay was complimentary (I simply paid for my afternoon tea and additional drinks), following a visit to view this venue and meet the team. I am in no means obliged to blog or write about their offerings, but I simply choose to share their offerings with my readers, should I enjoy the experience. The service team that work on the day or duration of my visit are not aware of my reasons for visiting, to enable a fair review. Any questions or to discuss a "Secret Stay" or review, please do email: hello@misssueflay.com   All images © 2014 Miss Sue Flay, these may not be used or reproduced without written permission from the owner, many thanks in advance.  

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

#BettysCakes With The Clandestine Cake Club

[caption id="attachment_3634" align="aligncenter" width="640"]Kayti Peschke Photography at Bettys Cakes event with CCC Kayti Peschke Photography[/caption] I recently visited my new favourite city in the form of Leeds, it's such a friendly place to stay and it's full of inspiring coffee shops, restaurants and independent businesses - I absolutely love it. As a long-serving member of The Clandestine Cake Club, I've visited the Leeds Cake Club events a handful of times over the last few years and made some fabulous friends through this welcoming club over a few cups of Yorkshire Tea & a wedge of cake...or two, even three! If you don't know what The CCC is, then where on earth have you been?! It's a national (in fact, now international) club, with one in many towns across the country. You simply find your local event, join the club, bake a cake, visit the agreed venues at the scheduled times and share cake, talk about cake... generally geek out about baking and other such topics with your fellow cakey enthusiasts. It provides you with a superb social life and any old excuse to get your bake on, should you need an excuse! Bettys Cakes event with CCC Lynn Hill, creator of the CCC invited a select few to a very special afternoon tea at her HQ (her gorgeous dining room table, adorned with Yorkshire Tea and teacups aplenty to match the cakes on offer on this special day) to trial the new Bettys Autumn Collection. My fellow guests (we were also joined by the gorgeous Kayti Peschke who owns a vintage ice cream van and took some stunning photos on the day) and I all got our geek on, we nattered about cakes (and Bettys, naturally!) and even took some "selfies" with my new selfish stick... it was a great afternoon, such a laugh - this is why I love these guys so much! Bettys & Taylors of Harrogate are a British institution, THE place for afternoon tea in the North and their signature bakes such as their dainty french fancies and their Fat Rascals are just some of the sweet treats that can be taken or delivered to your home after your visit. Their champagne tea in the Harrogate cafe a few years back was one of my top teas since I started blogging about this topic and their tasty delights never fail to please my tastebuds, Bettys Coffee Cake The new Autumn Collection at Bettys includes a Lebkuchen squirrel biscuit, Yorkshire Gingerbread, Cantucci biscuits, even milk chocolate ganache mice-shaped fancies. There's a huge selection to choose from and even birthday celebration cake options for a seasonal birthday, should you need one. This new collection is on offer for a short while on the build up to Christmas, where it will then be all change and ready for a more festive collection... It might be rude not to head over there in a short while to try the next selection - ahem. All of the Bettys biscuits, cakes & chocolates are handmade at their Craft Bakery in Harrogate and you can just tell even at simply the design and look of each cake and treat, so much thought and love goes into each and every one of them. [caption id="attachment_3637" align="aligncenter" width="640"]Kayti Peschke Photography at Bettys Cakes event with CCC Kayti Peschke Photography[/caption] Throughout the afternoon we managed to sample the following goodies: Marzipan & Sponge Apples  These are beautiful "princess cake" style treats, with a Genoese sponge, filled with vanilla buttercream and covered in a marzipan casing. Miniature Chocolate & Hazelnut Gugelhupfs  These were my favourite, like a mini Bundt cake, these chocolate & hazelnut cakes coated in an almost crisp Grand Cru milk chocolate frosting - truly delicious and genuinely melts in your mouth. [caption id="attachment_3638" align="aligncenter" width="640"]Kayti Peschke Photography at Bettys Cakes event with CCC Kayti Peschke Photography[/caption] Grand Cru Ganache Chocolate Cake This was a dark and dense chocolate loaf cake with an equally dark ganache topping, it would be perfect with a coffee and you really didn't need much, it was a much heavier slice than it looked! Yorkshire Parkin  Not my most favourite, but still a distinctive flavour of black treacle mixed with a hint of ginger (I'm not a ginger fan)... so the Stem Ginger Cake, although it looked stunning had to be the slice I passed on for this event. Bettys Squirrel Fox Cupcake Brownies These were hefty little blighters, a deep chocolate brownie base, topped with buttercream, marzipan and royal icing... these had to be sliced into quarters and shared for a naughty nibble. Lemon & Lime Loaf  I must say I didn't realise this was lime, I thought it was simply a lemon drizzle, so the lime doesn't come through as strong as perhaps you would expect. It was so light and moist, a slice to yourself is easily on the cards, just beautiful. [caption id="attachment_3640" align="aligncenter" width="622"]Kayti Peschke Photography at Bettys Cakes event with CCC Kayti Peschke Photography[/caption] Chocolate & Praline Torte This had a surprisingly crisp Praline base, it was amazing! Every bite was rich, creamy, crunchy and moreish... a firm favourite around the table. Coffee & Walnut Cake A beautiful and creamy coffee cake, it was like no other coffee & walnut cake I've tasted before - it's a stunning afternoon tea addition to any table. It's also decorated with finely crunched meringue pieces and I couldn't get enough, I took a sneaky piece away with me for the train journey home... Bettys Cakes event with CCC And don't forget the Swiss milk chocolate owl - twit twoooo!  You can check out the entire Autumn Collection here.  [caption id="attachment_3643" align="aligncenter" width="640"]Kayti Peschke Photography at Bettys Cakes event with CCC 2 Kayti Peschke Photography[/caption] This includes the gorgeous Bettys tea caddy, of which I own myself from a previous visit and it makes the perfect jewellery box, putting a smile on my face each and every day - I love this brand, it makes me proud to be a British cake lover. www.clandestinecakeclub.co.uk   Miss Sue Flay Logo

Monday, 15 September 2014

Suitcase Glory: How To Pack A Suitcase

Suitcase Glory I'm not usually one for entering competitions, mainly because I always seem to miss the deadlines... I have every best intention, I diarise it, prioritise it, plan it, enter it, then realise I've left it a day late. This is the story of my life. I recently came across a stunning suitcase company called Suitcase Glory, who are also host to a superb blog with travel advice and reviews to boot and they recently hosted a giveaway to win not one, not two, but THREE of their stunning printed cases for one lucky entrant. Suitcase Glory What did I do? I had every best intention, I diarised it, prioritised it, wrote my entry, then realised I had left it a day late - naturally. With a recent visit to Leeds (I get to visit some pretty exotic locations, I tell you!) I had been caught up in my Penthouse accommodation and food geekery and by the time it came to writing and entering my post on board the "Vomit Comet" aka the Saturday night Leeds to London East Coast train, I opted to snooze into my first physical book in years, drifting in & out of sleepy consciousness for two hours. Instead of crying into my pot of tea about the lost opportunity today, I've decided to publish my planned entry regardless, in the vain hope that this wasn't a complete wasted effort. I feel very inspired when I read a story of a new business owner turning their expertise and passions into a fully fledged business (see more on these sort of tales over at my business website, Stir Up Media) and Laura Daniel is no different in these stakes. Laura has worked in the travel industry for years, picking off suitcase after suitcase from the convertor belts, she realised there was a gap in the market for more colourful and funky designs to spot in the blurred sea of suitcase normality. Starting with three simple, yet stunning designs, Laura has big plans for her company and the designs will grow over the coming years which is an exciting prospect indeed. At £129 per design, these aren't the cheapest option, but in my opinion, their design is comfortable to carry or move around and they provide the user with a TSA-approved lock and a tough shell, sturdy enough to take the knocks and scrapes it may encounter as it flys around the world. So, my intention was not to tell you all that I'm a few weeks away from a luxurious break in the South of France, partnered with a frayed, "greying" black suitcase with some very sorry tales of "travel" to tell. No, I wanted to provide you with some of my recent nerdery learnt from my Royal tutor, to teach you all a few little tricks on how to pack your suitcase whilst headed to your very own luxury destination... You'll be stocking up on tissue paper and sticky labels before you know it. So what's so special about the designs at Suitcase Glory I hear you cry? Well, firstly, if I owned one of these beauties, it would mean I could incinerate the abomination I currently own and with THREE of them, I would have a different case for every trip within my "Around The World In 80 Stays challenge", alternating them depending on my mood - who has that one luxury alone?! Suitcase Glory With the strapline: "Throw our your black or blue suitcase and join the revolution!"... I'm that exact person who would be actioning that EXACT motion. With the likes of Cherry Healey stating that she needs the cherry-printed suitcase in her life and a 12-month guarantee slapped onto these British-designed, four-wheeled, lightweight beauties, who wouldn't want one?! With a current choice of patterns including a beach hut and even a travel stamp print, these cases will stand out on any airport conveyor belt, providing a very smug and swift collection in a sea of dull colours - I want one just to offer this smugness to my traveling companions just once! So, to my packing tips... here's just some hints on how to pack your suitcase and make the most of that precious suitcase space:
  • Firstly, we are always told to roll our items of clothing to avoid creases, but if you want to be crease-free the "Royal" way, you'll get yourself a stream of tissue paper and will use this between folds to avoid those dreaded creases. When folding a shirt for example, place a sheet of tissue paper into the "back" of the shirt and fold around it, wrapping in tissue paper and sealing with a sticker (printed with your family crest as an optional extra!) for the paper will take on the creases as it travels.
 
  • If traveling with a suit, instead of folding your suit jacket and packing it into your case, simply roll up sheets of the tissue paper and place inside the arms of the jacket to help keep their shape whilst compressed into a case. As soon as you arrive at your destination, taking out to hang will ensure limited creasing.
 
  •  Make use of the corners or edges of a suitcase, placing belts, makeup or toiletry bags, even underwear into these parts will use up space in those hard to use areas.
 
  • If, like myself, you find it hard to feel at home until you've unpacked on arrival, simply place all "dressing table" items into one separate bag/compartment, all "bathroom" items into another, everything required for your first night (pyjamas, medication, toothbrush, etc), making life very simple on unpacking. Each bag goes directly to the right place within your accommodation and this saves much time rifling through the entire contents of your case.
 
  • Don't pack straight into your case, collect everything you need first of all and then assess what can be left behind if push comes to shove, you may find that you are packing items you don't really need to be taking. It's much easier to remove items from your list before packing it into your case.
 
  • Consider a shoe bag for obvious reasons, or, if you don't have such a bag, place shoes sole-to-sole to avoid dirtying anything else.
 
  • Create an itemised packing list, take a copy with you so that you can check you have rounded everything up that you brought with you on leaving for home. You can find a helpful packing list with Suitcase Glory to get you started.
 
  • Think about what you are going to be actually using on your trip. If staying in a  decent standard of accommodation, do you really NEED all of those shampoos/body potions/tissues or that hairdryer? Or will your room have all of this already? All of these items, once removed from your case can make a difference in added space, so pack wisely - most hotels will now state which of these items are provided within your stay.
 
  • Don't pack your sunglasses and suncream into your case, no matter how cold it is on leaving, if you're headed to a hot location, you are going to need them as soon as you step onto the tarmac at the other end. On the flip side, you may have just visited tropic climes, but if headed back to blighty, that chill is going to hit you on landing, so have a pullover of some sort to wrap into as glamourously as humanly possible - be super organised, you'll thank yourself!
 
  •  Leave a little room for keepsakes & souvenirs... You are always going to come back with more than you went with, no matter how hard you try not to! So, if you don't want to be that crazy "bag juggler", ensure some space is created for those unexpected extras in your return.
Suitcase Glory If you STILL need some help on how to pack a suitcase, here's a rather amusing retro video from Mr Bean himself   on how NOT to pack a case.... Bon Voyage!     www.suitcaseglory.co.uk   Miss Sue Flay Logo   Please Note: This is not a sponsored post in any way, I simply like the product being discussed and would like to share my tips with you for your own use and enjoyment. As part of this particular giveaway, a blog post was requested, so I have decided to post regardless, as I have in fact been meaning to write a packing guide for some time, so it fits perfectly.   You can read more about my "Around The World In 80 Stays" challenge here! Pip Pip!     

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Crown your Puds With Rodda's - A Competition

It's that time of the year again, it's becoming chilly, the cardigans and scarves are out, it's the season for a comforting pudding of a Sunday afternoon...or any other time of the day to be fair! I've recently been contacted by the lovely team at Rodda's, the very people I turn to for my clotted cream needs when preparing an afternoon tea or two, no other brand seem to do. Crown Your Puds with Rodda's They saw my recent Instagram challenge for The National Afternoon Tea Week and they discussed their very own competition currently running on my favourite social media site currently, I was more than excited to hear their proposal. They are running a visual completion called "Crown Your Puds" and they're asking you all to follow them on Instagram (roddas_cream), upload your photos of puddings and sweet treats adorned with their creamy goodness and use the hashtag #crownyourpuds for a chance to win some fab monthly prizes, such as their edible treats and even Rodda's branded aprons. This ongoing competition has been running for a while now and it'll get even the slightest sweet tooth salivating whilst flicking through these entries! I've been asked to judge a couple of rounds for this superb competition and I am genuinely excited to be helping the team to pick the winners, it's going to be tough from the look of the current entries... I'm going to have get all "Mary Berry" on this sweet stuff! Crown Your Puds with Rodda's So, what are you waiting for?!  Next time you get your bake on, top your treats with some Rodda's and show them off in all their glory for a chance to enter a very exciting national giveaway - "you've got to be in it to win it" as they say!   www.roddas.co.uk   Miss Sue Flay Logo     You can follow me on Instagram by clicking here.    

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Guest Post: How To Bake The Perfect Quiche

I really needed to get my bake on! Let me tell you a bit more about me and then Rosedene Bakery's unique Afternoon Tea package.  I'm Anna and I inherited my Nan's passion for baking. When I was made redundant from the banking sector early in 2013, I finally took the plunge and started my own baking business. I knew that I wanted to offer something completely different to what the other local "Cakers" were doing and I knew that I didn't aspire to being a wedding cake maker – I just don't have the patience or dexterity needed for that level of intricate work. Whilst I envy those that produce spectacular novelty cakes, again; they take intense patience and a precision that I just do not possess. Besides, I wanted to BAKE, not decorate. Rosedene Bakery Afternoon Tea Quiche Recipe Baking for me is things like sponge cakes, scones and biscuits with amazing smells permeating from the kitchen, scents that make you salivate as soon as you walk in to the house. But other than opening my own bakery or shop, which just wasn't an option, how could I do lots of baking for my own business? My answer? Afternoon tea. Afternoon tea with a difference. This offering is made by me and delivered to your home (or business or event venue). Then to add to the experience, I invested in LOTS of lovely vintage china to hire out - such a hardship I can tell you! I visit your home, providing all the goodies you need for your afternoon tea: scrummy scones, soft Victoria sponge, Bakewell tart, delicious cupcakes. I include all the little extras; jams, clotted cream, butter, tea, even sugar cubes and I will either leave it all with you or I can come in and set it all up, whilst you put on your 'Sunday Best' - I'll even stay to serve you and your guests for a little extra decadence. Then, if you've hired the china I will pop back to collect it... It couldn't be easier. So, as I was devising my menus, I decided that I didn't want to include sandwiches that could curl up or dry out, but asked myself what could I offer to cover the savoury element?  My immediate thought was cheese scones, especially as they had been so well received when I tried them on friends and family. But for those wanting a bit more substance for their afternoon tea, I included a quiche and my journey into savoury pastry began… It seems simple when you first consider it. To make some pastry; roll it out, line a tin, blind bake it, add some cheese and onion, then carefully pour over the egg & milk mix (being careful not to let it slop out), back in the oven to bake for 30 minutes and voila! ... OH NO!! Any tiny crack or hole in the pastry means leakage resulting in, at the very best, a soggy bottom and at worst; a total loss of the creamy filling, being left with a soggy cheesy, oniony mess! I suffered more than my fair share in the early days, I can tell you. I don't know if there is a failsafe knack to it - if there is, I hope to find it soon! It still happens. I had three to make last week and ended up with two soggy messes on my first attempt and another on my second attempt - I had made another three just in case... good job hubby likes quiche! For now, I feel a sense of excited trepidation when I get an order for one (although they do say practice makes perfect). But when they work? I feel a sense of real achievement, they are utterly delicious and very well received - even if I do hold my breath as I pour the gorgeous, creamy filling into the tin!! Rosedene Bakery Afternoon Tea Quiche Recipe The Rosedene's Perfect Quiche Recipe    For the pastry: 8oz flour (I use plain) 4oz butter 10-12 tsp water   For the filling: 1 large red onion 1 or 2 gloves of garlic, crushed 8 cherry tomatoes, halved 125g mature Cheddar cheese, grated 3 eggs 250ml milk 1 tsp wholegrain or Dijon mustard 1/3 tsp ground black pepper 1 tbsp olive oil   Method – Pastry  Many recipe books will tell you to sift the flour into a bowl, then cut in the butter with a knife, then rub the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.  I will be honest here, I don't do this - I put all the ingredients into my mixer and on a slow setting I achieve that result. However you achieve the breadcrumb like mixture, once you have it, slowly add the water a bit at a time and mix until you get a crumbly looking paste. If you're not using a mixer, use a knife for this as you want to handle the pastry as little as possible. Once you have the crumbly paste, bring the mixture together with your fingertips, turn onto a floured surface and quickly knead into a dough. If you're using a mixer, it will do the work for you. Once you have your pastry dough, I always think it's best to rest it in the fridge, even if it's just for 10 minutes (I generally just leave it in there while I prepare my filling). At this stage, the pastry can be frozen (I quite often make twice as much pastry as I need, just in case of disaster, so often end up freezing batches of pastry). Once the pastry has been chilled slightly, remove from the fridge and roll the pastry out on a floured surface. CAREFULLY, lift the pastry, by rolling loosely around your rolling pin and line your tin. Make sure there are no gaps, really thin areas or holes – these would result in leakage, which you really don't want. I don't even trim the edges to meet the edge of the tin, as this results in shrinkage. I leave the edges about 1cm over the edge of the tin – for me , better a slightly untidy edge than a soggy bottom! Line the pastry with some good quality baking paper, then cover the bottom of that with either baking beans or dry rice. Blind bake the pastry for around 15 minutes - I put the tin on a baking tray or in a swiss roll tin to make getting it out of the oven easier. After 15 minutes CAREFULLY remove the baking paper and rice/beans and continue baking for a further 5 minutes, this will ensure the pastry is fully cooked pre filling. Once the blind bake is complete, really carefully remove the baked quiche case from the oven - it's really easy to knock it and crack it, and thus make it not filling proof.  It's now ready to add the filling.   Method – Filling Peel and slice your onion into fine quarter moons - I use a red onion but, you could use a white one or some spring onions. Gently heat the olive oil over a medium heat. Add the onion and crushed garlic to the pan and gently soften. Don't allow them to catch or burn or this will affect the flavour of your quiche. Once softened, leave to cool slightly. Using a large jug or bowl add the eggs, beat until just combined. Add the milk, pepper and mustard and lightly beat to combine. Set to one side.   Assembling the quiche for baking Once your pastry case is baked, you can add your filling. I cannot express strongly enough the need to be really gentle here – many a time have I been caught out by my heavy handedness, cracking the pastry, meaning I've had to start that process all over again. Spread the onions over the base of the pastry, then sprinkle your cheese over the onions. Give your wet filling a little stir to ensure an even distribution of ingredients, then slowly pour into the case.  Don't be tempted to fill right to the top, it's tempting spilling fate! The filling should be around 5mm – 1 cm from the top.  If you haven't quite got enough filling, quickly mix up 1 further egg and 75ml of milk and pour evenly over the top. Add the halved tomatoes, seed side up to the top in a decorative pattern. Place the quiche back into the oven and bake for a further 25 minutes or until set and slightly golden on top.   Remove from the oven, either enjoying warm or simply serve cold later.   Give yourself a massive pat on the back if there were no spillages, you are a complete star!!   Do feel free to play with different ingredients, the world is your quiche! Rosedene Bakery Afternoon Tea Quiche Recipe What is your "go to" quiche recipe? Any disasters or successes to share with us? - Leave a comment below to join in the conversation!   Miss Sue Flay Logo   Guest post written & recipe creation by Anna at www.rosedenebakery.co.uk Images courtesy of Kelly Jo Hearsey at www.kellyjophotography.co.uk    

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Around The World In 80 Stays: Camping In Suffolk

Camping In Suffolk I went to sleep a few nights ago craving the rare experience of waking under canvas, I had a weird hankering to go camping... I miss the sound of the traditional British rain on canvas, lanterns, thermos full of tea, card games and warm beer with friends.... What's crazy, I thought, is the fact that I have all the gear ready to go after a fair few camping excursions over the years, so what was stopping me?! A Saturday morning of the last bank holiday weekend of the year, that's what! Camping In Suffolk Every campsite along the Norfolk, Kent & Suffolk coast was booked up, pitch by pitch. Just as I was losing all hope (and baking a banana & chocolate chip loaf cake to console myself) I received a call back from my most favourite campsite (Sandie & Graham at Bailiffs Cottage in Hollesley are just superstars!) in Suffolk to advise me of a cancellation... this pitch was mine! So a quick shower, a quick fanning of the loaf cake to cool it down, wrapping it up in a tea towel for the journey and I was off on my very first adventure for my "Around the world in 80 stays challenge". Camping In Suffolk This wasn't quite the exotic, luxurious stay I was hoping for to kick off this challenge, however with a small budget required and the peace and quiet of the outdoors, it truly appealed and really was a fantastic way to start me off on my way after a hectic few months at Stir Up Media. The UK has some truly stunning scenery and places of beauty, with Suffolk being one of those places never to be ignored. I've had my fair share of stays in Aldeburgh, Dunwich & Southwold, but I much prefer to go a little off the tourist trail and head to Bawdsey, Orford (take a walk on Orford Ness if you EVER get the chance, it's a curious, eery and equally relaxing place) and Shingle Street for a much more isolated & relaxing retreat. Camping In Suffolk Bailiffs Cottage is host to a stunning secret garden full of rose bushes, vegetable patches and hens laying eggs for your breakfast, it's a superb place to pitch up for a few days. With only a handful of well-spaced pitches, it's wise to book ahead (ahem!) and as it's a "Caravan Club" location, it's not easy to find online and doesn't attract hoards of people - it's perfect for a quiet break. Along with my Vango Icarus 500 tent (a beast it is too!) and even own a duo camping stove with foldaway pots, pans & kettle, it was the perfect home away from home... however we forgot the gas canister needed to prepare any means of hot food or drink. So, instead of scrambled eggs on toasted sour dough bread (sourced from Pump Street Bakery), I had to make do with warm cheese sandwiches and some sweet treats (their butter tart was the single best sweet tart I've ever eaten - next time, I'm not sharing!) from said favourite bakery. Camping In Suffolk Luckily, I had prepare a large thermos of hot water to make tea & coffee on arrival to go with the banana bread (with an extra topping of Nutella & fresh banana, ooooh!) so we were still happy and toasty warm on the chilly mornings throughout the trip. In fact, this decorative thermos came all the way from the Philippines and the water stays hot for over two days, it's blimmin' terrific - who needs a hotel with a luxury tea tray and shortbread biscuits when you've got this sort of deliciousness under canvas?!... Ok, don't answer that! There's been a fun little game I've wanted to play for some time, simply titled "Roadside Bingo" where you stop at those little side tables along the road and stock up on the random food and produce on sale at each stop to create a meal or two. We stopped at many different stands over the two days, collecting homemade blackberry & plum jam, various boxes of eggs to take home... we even spotted a nifty cool box hamper with fresh Cromer crabs to take down to the local beach - I love Suffolk! Camping In Suffolk The weekend involved early mornings curled up in fluffy blankets, 50p pieces for a hot shower, puppy walks along the stony beaches, reading magazines & books between afternoon power naps, exploring castles & old WW2 bunkers along the coast (and a few banged heads along the way!) as well as roast dinners in cosy pubs (The Sorrel Horse a mile down the road is perfect!) and cream teas overlooking the local quay. If the only luxuries I need with me to make it homely are a few cups of Yorkshire tea, some home-baked treats (that could have won me some new friends, SHOULD I have fancied sharing!) and a "real feel" inflatable king sized bed, then I'm all for it - I love a bit of a camping. For £16 a night, we pitched our tent for 2 nights, paying an extra £1 towards Cats Protection for my puppy companion tagging along for the ride. Camping In Suffolk Sandie & Graham welcome you with open arms and freshly grown produce a plenty, so do expect to enjoy locally sourced & seasonal food throughout your stay. In fact, a little tip...they can get low on eggs at Bailiffs Cottage (a very popular option for the resident campers & caravaners) so nab some on arrival to avoid disappointment. My first #80Stays trip was just what I needed to help relax me... It didn't cost the earth, I've enjoyed some leisurely long walks and delicious, simple food and I haven't come home with a cricked neck (for a change!) so, a good call all round! The one downside to camping, especially with a puppy in tow?!.. The sand, mud and dribbled water... Everywhere! I believe I've been on my knees with a dustpan & brush at least four times like a good little tent-wife...gah! Camping In Suffolk Oh, and that feeling of "I really don't want to get the tent down in that wind and rain" and deliberating for a good two hours whilst it spits large raindrops....only to actually take it down in an all out hail storm - just typical of my luck! Now, to make the second stay just as relaxing and fun... But, where to go?! Miss Sue Flay Logo   Camping In Suffolk Read more about my "Around The World In 80 Stays" challenge here & please get in touch if you would like to help or get involved in any way. Camping In Suffolk More information on Bailiffs Cottage here.