An Evening with Paul Rankin #Saveoursausage

Sausages crushed potatoes onion/mushroom gravy

My favourite blogging events are definitely the ones that involve food and my kids. I love nothing better than my children benefiting from the work I do here. Last week, I got to spend some one on one time with middle daughter, Violet at the Great John Street Hotel in Manchester for a lovely evening with Paul Rankin. You will most probably remember Paul from Can’t Cook, Won’t Cook fame or maybe if you are a bit more high brow, you will have visited his restaurants, Roscoe & Cayenne.

Well Paul is now on a mini tour of the UK, promoting his love of his own brand of sausages, the Rankin Selection of pork sausages. Our blogging event was all about these sausages – from the sausage roll canapés on arrival to the heartily wonderful, sausages, mash & onion gravy sit down meal later on.

Meeting Paul Rankin #saveoursausage

Paul and his team opened the event in what I can only describe as, good old fashioned Irish friendliness. We were given a warm welcome, Paul was very modest when described as a ‘celebrity chef’ From what I can remember he called himself, “A man on the telly that can cook”. He introduced his brand and love of sausages – we were there to #saveoursausage! He recognises that people want comfort food, families like to sit down to a good old feed and flavours must be simple and honest. His sausages are all made from either GB or Irish pork and must contain 50% pork meat.

There was fun for the kids too, a good natured game very similar to Can’t Cook, Won’t Cook where we answered impossibly hard questions about … sausages of course! And of course, there were prizes for everyone – Sweeties for the kids and the cutest tiny frying pan for the grown ups.

Violet Paul Rankin #saveoursausage

Paul shared his secrets of how he likes to cook sausages – He prefers to fry them, which feels alien to me. I fried the sausages below and served them to Mr C who honestly commented on how nice they were. Paul told us his tip of making onion gravy – Apparently we should be sweating the onions down for 45 minutes!

I’ve tried to follow his tips when I made my onion & mushroom gravy(see photo at top of page):

Ingredients: Serves 2
1 Small Onion (finely chopped)
2 tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
2 large mushromms (chopped small)
150ml Vegetable Stock
Black pepper

In a small frying pan, sweat down the onion using 1 tbsp vegetable oil for at least 10 minutes until transparent. This should be on a really low heat – the onions should not be browning too much.
Add the balsamic vinegar and continue to cook for 5 minutes.
Add the mushrooms, vegetable stock & pepper – stirring for another 5-10 minutes.
Serve immediately.

Paul Rankin SAusages

Many thanks to Tots100 for the opportunity to attend the evening. Rankin Sausages are currently being sold for a promotion price of £1.75 in leading supermarkets (Pack of 8).

My question to you for today is … who would you like to share Sausages & Mash with?

Ultimate Chocolate Birthday Cake with White Chocolate Frosting #Bakeoftheweek

Ultimate Chocolate Birthday Cake with White Chocolate Frosting

It feels like AGES since the last #Bakeoftheweek – As suspected, half term was crazy busy with Millie’s England swimming training. This week is all about Violet – My lovely, kind, crazy, extreme, beautiful girl is now a very grown up 9! How did those years disappear so quickly? The baby that arrived in less than 1.5 hours has turned into a stunning young lady that makes us so proud and makes us tear our hair out in equal measures.

I couldn’t share this week’s #Bakeoftheweek before the birthday girl had seen her own cake, could I? She had a full on day, plenty of sweets after school, a special pick up by her cousin, followed by the opening night of Wicked at The Lowry. Violet is amazing to go to a show with – she gets completely stuck in, laughing heartily and clapping like mad. Love it!

And so back to the cake. A rich chocolate cake with melted dark chocolate (use milk chocolate if you like – totally not precious here!) I split the mixture into 2 cake tins and then sliced them in half making a 4 tier cake. Filled in with plenty of white chocolate frosting and completely covered in approximately 34 Kit Kat fingers, One bag of Aero Mint Balls, One bag of Maltesers and One bag of White Chocolate Buttons. I MAY have bought some spare chocolate packs just to make sure we had enough – I’m sure you understand!

Ultimate Birthday Cake


Ultimate Chocolate Cake with White Chocolate Frosting

Serves 10+
Prep time 1 hour
Cook time 45 minutes
Total time 1 hour, 45 minutes
Meal type Dessert
Misc Child Friendly, Serve Cold
Occasion Birthday Party, Casual Party
Ultimate Chocolate Cake - Easy to decorate but with the WOW factor - Chocolate Sponge Cake with White Chocolate Frosting decorated with various chocolates - A true Showstopper!


  • 300 + 220g Butter
  • 300g Soft Dark Brown Sugar
  • 6 Eggs (Separated)
  • 2 + 1 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
  • 300g Self Raising Flour
  • 200g White Chocolate (Melted)
  • 350g Icing Sugar
  • 100g Dark Brown Chocolate (I use 85% cocoa and melt at 10 second intervals in the microwave)
  • 2 tablespoons Double Cream


Chocolate Cake
Preheat the oven to 160C and line 2 x 8" cake tins with baking parchment
Using an electric mixer on a medium setting, whisk the first lot of butter and dark brown sugar together until pale and fluffy
Add in the egg yolks and 2 teaspoon of vanilla extract gradually until fully combined
Stir in the melted dark chocolate
Fold in the flour, until just coming together
Whisk the egg whites until you have stiff peaks and fold into the cake mixture gently to keep as much of the air as possible
Separate the cake mixture between the 2 tins and bake for 45-55 minutes until a skewer comes out clean
Once cooked, remove from the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack. When cool, cut the cakes into 2 halves - If you are not confident about slicing the cakes in half (across) then it is fine to leave as 2 whole cakes
White Chocolate Frosting
Meanwhile, melt the white chocolate at 10 second intervals in the microwave and leave to cool slightly
Mix together the remaining butter and the icing sugar in an electric mixer and add the white chocolate and remaining vanilla.
Add in the double cream. If the frosting is not as stiff as you would like or it is a particularly hot day, you may need to add more icing sugar
Stack the cooled cakes, spreading a layer of frosting between each layer and fill in any gaps with remaining frosting
Stick Kit Kats around the sides of the cake until you meet up - You may need to add extra frosting to help a couple of them stick - this cake is perfect for disguising any lumps and bumps in cake (I also turn the top tier of cake upside down for a flatter surface)
I made 6 segments and separated them with matchmakers but just us whatever you have - Extra Kit Kats will do but they will be thicker
Fill in the segments with whatever chocolates you prefer and consume within 2 days - Keep in the fridge if you have room!

Supreme Chocolate Birthday Cake White Chocolate Frosting

Princess Castle Cake

So many wonderful bakes once again for this week’s #Bakeoftheweek – I have to give a special mention to Eileen from ET Speaks From Home with Princess Castle Cake – I know that this will have taken forever and she has done such a great job. Lucky little girl!

Baked Asparagus

I also want to mention Herbs, Spices & Tradition with Feta, Pepper & Courgette Filo Pie – I love that this is entered into #Bakeoftheweek – completely the spirit of the linky that anything baked is valid …and I don’t eat enough Asparagus, so thanks for the reminder!

For the first time ever, we have enough Cheese related entries to have their own section! So I present to you the Cheesy Bites …

Cheese Bake of the week

1. Paul’s Food World with Wholemeal Stilton & Broccoli Pasties
2. Baking Queen with Feta, Pepper & Courgette Filo Pie
3. Jen’s Food with Wholemeal Stilton & Broccoli Pasties

We move on now to the individual portions – For people like me that just don’t find it easy to share!


4. Hijacked by Twins with Chocolate & Cashew Buckwheat Cookies
5. Paul’s Food World – Cacao & coconut seedy bliss balls
6. Julie’s Family Kitchen with Mexican Veggie Burgers
7. Kidgredients withHomemade Char Siu Buns
8. Snap Happy Bakes with Caramelised Cherry Tomato Tarte Tatin
9. The Dream Baker with White Chocolate & Strawberry Cookies
10. Misplaced Brit with Caramelised Cherry Tomato Tarte Tatin
11. Nic Bakes with White Chocolate & Strawberry Cookies
12. Lemon & Lime Thyme with White Chocolate, Passion Fruit & Coconut Layer Cake
13. Winnie’s Blog with Moist rich chocolate Pie

And the more substantial bakes – Perfect for showpieces!

Bake of the week

14. Domestic Gothess with No Bake Chocolate Tarts
15. My Little Italian Kitchen with Strawberry Crumble Recipe
16. ET Speaks From Home with Chocolate Mint Cake
17. My Little Italian Kitchen with Choco Aztex Spiced Tea Cake with Blackberry Cream
18. Hijacked by Twins with Chocolate Mint Cake
19. Mummy Mishaps with Zebra Striped Vanilla & Chocolate Cake
20. Truly Madly Kids with Pistachio Pavlova with Strawberry& Rhubarb Cream
21. Baking Queen with Chocolate Mousse Cake on Hazelnut Crust
22. Petite Raisin with Pistachio Pavlova with Strawberry& Rhubarb Cream
23. Winnie’s Blog with Chocolate Mousse Cake on Hazelnut Crust

Thanks so much once again for your entries into Bake of the Week – Hopefully next week’s #Bakeoftheweek will be bang on time next Tues/Wed! There’s no theme so get spreading the word when you see someone baking online. Have a great week!

Casa Costello
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Annie Dance Workshop at Pineapple Dance Studios

Pineapple Dance Studio Annie Movie

I know there’s quite a few people eagerly awaiting this post. Its not often you get the chance to see me dancing. Definitely not a strong point of mine. Luckily my girls don’t seem to have inherited my dance genes and love a good routine.

When we were given the chance to visit Pineapple Dance Studios during the Easter holidays to perform routines from the Annie Movie, I knew Millie and Violet would love to go. To celebrate the release of the Annie DVD today, we were taught a routine to Its A Hard Knock Life by Richard Marcel. Richard is choreographer to the stars on “So You Think You Can Dance’ and ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ … and now choreographer to The Costellos!

Millie is such a dance fan and Pineapple crazy – We’ve even trekked across London before now just to stand outside. Inside is exactly as you would imagine, busy, bustling and loads of lycra! Its massive but not nearly as posh as I thought it might be – and then I remembered its a dance studio!

Annie Movie dance

It was great to meet up with some fellow bloggers and their children – Lovely to see pre-teens chatting and being relaxed all due to dance. The dance was aimed at all ages – The professional dancers were completely brilliant with the little tots – although I was rather glad I hadn’t taken Tara.

Annie Movie

We had a great time – I sat out for most of the dancing, thoroughly enjoying watching my girls. Richard was so patient and a true professional. He was right to be more afraid of us mums than any of the celebs on Strictly! Sadly Louis Spence missed out on seeing my efforts with a broom – He will never know what he missed.

The video below shows the making of the dance: Enjoy!

Tip 1: Look out for the mad woman at the end waving a brush around – I’ve obviously missed my calling in life!
Tip 2: If you want to get noticed, wear bright pink socks. Could Millie’s socks get any brighter?

Annie Movie Sony DVD

I’ve been saving watching the movie until our epic journey to France in the summer – I have a feeling it will get watched several times and sung at high volume! Annie the Movie is out on DVD today (Monday 27th April 2015) by Sony Pictures, Prices start from £9.99

Huge thank you to Colette at Going On An Adventure for sharing this opportunity – We loved every minute!

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