East India Tea Company – Afternoon Tea Hampers

afternoon tea hampers tea biscuits

I’m well known for my love of a good brew – I’m seldom seen without a cup in my hand. What better to accompany a good cuppa than a biscuit?

When the East India Company sent me some First Estate Assam tea and Butter Shortbread biscuits to review – they got the right person. These are part of the selection that you get when you order one of East India Tea Company’s Time Stops for Tea Hamper. Afternoon Tea seems to be the craze that doesn’t appear to go away. It’s great for me as tons of my mates love supping tea and nibbling on goodies. This hamper is available for £40 and contains the AFirst Estate Assam Tea, Butter Shortbread biscuits with Clotted Cream, Strawberry & Pepper Jam & Strawberries enrobed in White Chocolate.

Don’t you just love my new glass teapot? I ordered it as a Christmas present to myself – I couldn’t possibly review tea without a new flashy teapot to put it in! Just big enough for 2 good cups and looks gorgeous too.

The Assam tea itself is a strong, black loose leaf brew – I would normally put 2 teaspoons of tea leaves in a pot for 2 but this definitely only needs one. They really swell up and you can even top up with hot water for another brew – Most cost effective. I’ve been brought up on tea leaves as opposed to tea bags so I reckon this is definitely a tea my Mum will approve of. I’m thinking of making some tea biscuits this week to see how the strong flavour relates to cooking.

The Butter Shortbread with Clotted Cream biscuits were divine – A good 2-biter but small enough to be able to be dunked (I’m sorry I cannot pretend I’m too posh to dunk!) Beautiful strong, buttery flavour that copes well with the strong taste of the tea.

The Time Stops for Tea Hamper is just one in a wide range of hampers available from the East India Company

Disclosure: I was sent the tea and biscuits as part of a review – All my opinions are my own as I was given free reign what to write. Many Thanks to the East India Company.

White Chocolate & Raisin Fudge – Edible Homemade Gifts

Every Christmas, I have a huge list of Foodie Gifts that I intend on making. Time always seems to run away with me but surprisingly enough, this year I actually seem to be getting somewhere. The rest of my present buying is practically non-existent but I have been spending some time in the kitchen.

One of the biggest successes so far has been this recipe for White Chocolate and Raisin Fudge. It has been reliable time after time. I love that it takes hardly any ingredients and that they don’t have a short shelf life either before or after making the fudge. Even better, the fudge is fine to be kept out of the fridge once it is made. I have a real issue with truffles that have to be made at most a couple of days before they are given and then have to be kept in the fridge – Who has time for that in December?

Expect plenty more Edible Gift recipes and ideas over the next few weeks – If you are making any, please feel free to link up below. I am doing an Edible Gift roundup on Thursday 12th December so the link will remain open until then.

I’m also joining this recipe in with Karen from Lavender & Lovage‘s Tea Time Treats challenge and the One Ingredient Challenge over at Howtocookgoodfood & Franglais Kitchen.

White Chocolate & Raisin Fudge

Rating: 51

White Chocolate & Raisin Fudge

Ingredients

  • 500g White Chocolate Chips or Chopped into small pieces
  • 45g butter - At room temp, chopped into small chunks
  • 1 tin of condensed milk - Mine was 395g
  • 100g Raisins

Instructions

  1. Add the White chocolate, butter & condensed milk into a microwaveable bowl
  2. Heat on full power for 4 x 30 seconds stirring well each time.
  3. Depending on how strong your microwave is, you might need one more blast of approx 20 seconds.
  4. Add the raisins and mix so evenly distributed across the fudge. If you like quite a few raisins, add more.
  5. I used a 8" square tin but I think a 9" square would probably be better as my fudge was quite tall.
  6. Chill in the fridge for at least 4 hours.
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Tea Time Treats

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Foodie Penpals April Edition

My box this month was exactly what being in a penpal scheme is all about. Exploring new tastes and products, whilst getting to know someone at the same time. My second month of being in the Foodie Penpal gang and our numbers are growing.

My penpal for this month, was Andrea from Made With Pink (a blog I could just read for hours – so pretty). Andrea said she was worried in case I already owned everything foodie and cakey – Dear Andrea, a girl can NEVER have too much baking stuff. When my parcel arrived, I was delighted. Andrea is originally from Canada and during a recent trip home, did her Foodie Penpal shopping – how lucky am I?

What did I get?

* Lemon Whoopie Pie Mix = I’m going to have a go at these this weekend. Can’t wait!
* Movie Theatre Popcorn = The girls are very eager to break into this.
* Some Maple Extract – I’m having great fun coming up with ideas that I can put this into. Gammon with Maple and Honey is springing to mind.
* A Coffee Crisp – Like a Coffee flavoured Creme Egg
* Cinnamon Roll frosting flavouring – I’m a new convert to cinnamon so this will go down a treat.

Thank you, Andrea – I love my parcel.

Of course, I sent a parcel out too – Mine was some little pink tagine pots (Which I have tried not to think about every day since I sent them but I’m going buying some tomorrow), some ‘proper’ chocolate and a selection of nuts. Yep, I forgot to take a picture but I believe my recipient, Sarah from NorthWestNosh was as in love with the little pots as I was.

Foodie Penpals are co-ordinated by Carol Anne from ThisisRockSalt – get it touch if you want to join the gang. We’re not that scary! The original idea is from Lindsay at The Lean Green Bean.

Things that make me happy

Its the Easter Holidays. The kids are still in their PJs at 11am. Not a TV in the house is turned on and they are getting along brilliantly playing good old fashioned Barbies.

Is there anything that has made you happy this week?

What inspires my blog? The British Parenting Calendar 2011

Let me tell you a little story. There once was a cake. Yes a pretty cake but apart from that you wouldn’t know anything about who the cake was for. So I started a cake blog. I knew nothing about blogs, didn’t even realise the world of parenting blogs existed but I had the urge to write more about cakes. Sometimes there are stories about why a particular cake is chosen. Sometimes I’m particularly proud of a certain bit of a cake and sometimes I’m just plain made up that I can even do the cake. And so my cake blog was born and happily it ticked along with me not realising how many people were reading it.


And then there were these 3. The most important things in my life (Yep, even more than cake) and that urge came again. I wanted to capture important parts of our life for us to remember. The funny bits, the unusual bits, the plain weird bits.


And then we bought this and found that the five of us have massive adventures that we really don’t want to forget.

And there you have it. How Casa Costello came to be – who knows how it will change in the next few years but I love my little spot of the internet. I love that people read about us and the cakes and even feel inspired to leave messages. How fab!

So why am I telling all of this? In June of this year, I went to Cybermummy and took part in the Parent Blogging Calendar photoshoot under the Foodies section. Organised by Tara Cain and Jay Mountford, there are 100 calendars available supplied by Snapfish in exchange for our blog CV. I’m game for a go so here’s my history!

A Real Life Fairytale through the eyes of a child

Violet and I were having a conversation earlier. We were discussing our next door neighbours (Win & Jim) whose daughter (Lynn) had just arrived to visit. It went something like this ..

Violet: Did Lynn used to live with Win & Jim?

Me: Yes

Violet: Oh yes, she will have lived with them before she got married.

Me: Yes (I was driving, plus it’s hard to get a word in edgeways with Vi)

Violet: She must have lived in a different house with them before she moved to her palace.

Me: Palace?

Violet: Yes Mum!?! (Insert rolling of eyes here) You get married, are a Princess for a while and then become a Mummy.

Me: Oh?

Violet: Mum, have you forgotten Kate – she got married to Prince William and is a Princess now while she is waiting to be a Mummy.

Have you ever heard anything as cute?

(And yes, they are our neighbours real names and yes, I think you have to have a rhyming name in that family)

Saturday is Caption Day 2

I had great fun reading everyone’s caption suggestions for last week’s Saturday Caption post that I decided to have another go this week. I was out all day last Saturday so couldn’t comment on anyone else’s but will be able to get round the other entries later today – Here’s hoping my brain can come up with some witty suggestions! (don’t hold your breath!)

So here you go…Here’s my entry for Saturday Caption Day

If you fancy a go at putting a caption to the other entries go to Mammasaurus Blog

Reasons to be Cheerful – The At Home Edition

Reasons to be Cheerful at Mummy from the Heart

2 weeks on the run & I’m cheerful! Must be a record.

Once again, I’m joining in with Michelle’s Reason to be Cheerful link up – it really is lovely to read through the other entries and see what brightens up people’s day. I haven’t been able to comment as much as I’d like due to being so busy but hopefully this week I should get round to everyone.

My reasons this week are quite simple and homely – I love this time of year when you start to get your winter woolies out and batten down the hatches – Although, we have had to do it slightly earlier than most Septembers.

Reason to be Cheerful 1: Ice-Cream
We eat TONS of ice-cream in this house especially little V – so I’ve ordered an ice-cream maker and it should arrive tomorrow!!! I can’t describe how excited I am – watch this space for tons of interesting combinations.

Reason to be Cheerful 2: Parties
I’m sure I’ve mentioned parties as a reason before but this weekend its party season again – We are heading out for a lovely celebration meal on Saturday for my brother-in-law-to-be’s 30th. Happy birthday Chris!

Reason to be Cheerful 3: A FootMuff
I beg your pardon, I hear you cry? How can a footmuff be a source of cheer – because we haven’t been able to get hold of the one that goes with Tara’s pram since we ordered it – and finally we have tracked one down. Winter, do your best … we are armed!

Told you they were simple. So head over to Bod for Tea’s place who is hosting this week. I’m sure there are far more deep and meaningful reasons than mine – but hey, everyone is allowed a shallow week!

Pina Colada Macarons – As seen on the Great British Bake Off

I went shopping for eggs yesterday and came back with the book to accompany the second series of the Great British Bake Off. Like millions of others around the country, I stop doing everything at 8pm on a Tuesday and settle down in front of the best hour of the TV week – I have become slightly obsessed with what Holly, Joanne, Mary-Ann etc are going to create.

This week was the turn of biscuits which produced its fair share of disasters – I have to say I’ve had more than a few biscuit disasters of my own in my time, so this was quite refreshing to see.

The grand finale of this week was to produce 120 macarons of 3 different flavours in 5 hours – One of the most successful contestants at this challenge was Jason who produced some Pina Colada Macarons. So off I went to my new book … and the recipe was there!!!

It is now twenty to one and I have a belly full of Pina Colada Macarons and a kitchen full of washing up. (Guess who didn’t read that you have to eat them all on the same day?!)
So how did I do?

The Ingredients:
For the Macarons:

3 Medium Egg Whites at room temp
225g sifted icing sugar
55g ground almonds
45g desiccated coconut

For the pineapple filling:

100g drained tinned pineapple
75g caster sugar
125ml whipped double cream

How to make: (approx. 34-40 individual macarons – 16-20 pairs – but you worked that out didn’t you?)

  • Whisk the egg whites until soft peaks.
  • Gradually whisk in half the icing sugar and continue whisking for 2 mins until thick and glossy (I was worried mine wasn’t thick enough but it was ok)
  • Combine the rest of the sugar, the almonds and the coconut and fold into the egg white mixture.
  • Spoon the Macaron mixture into a piping bag with a 1cm hole and pipe in 4cm rounds on a baking tray lined with baking parchment. Flatten peaks with a knife. (The programme then showed that you have to bang the trays on the worktop to get rid of any air bubbles but this bit isn’t in the book) Have fun! Leave for 20-60 mins to form a crust/skin.
  • Preheat oven to 150C and bake for 14-16 mins (mine needed at least 16 mins). They should rise and be firm to touch. Transfer to a wire rack and cool.
For the pineapple filling:
  • Blitz the pineapple in a food-processor until coarsely chopped then combine with sugar in a small pan.
  • Cook over medium heat until sugar has dissolved and mixture thickens like jam. Allow to cool.
  • Fold approx 4tbsp into the whipped cream (mine only made about 4tbsp so I used it all)
  • Assemble by sandwiching the macarons together – Eat the same day.

Notes:

  • The jam would be really lovely on its own.
  • The macarons are far better and stronger if they are allowed to cool slightly before lifting off the baking tray.
  • The book didn’t say what colour to make the macarons but I went with egg yellow food colouring paste.
  • My normal camera is in for repair so these photos were taken on the iphone – sorry!