VIP’s coming to visit!

I have some very exciting news! On Monday, Raymond Blanc, Jamie Oliver, Henry Dimbleby, John Dimbleby Leon and Prince Charles came to visit my lesson and observe me teach……
It was obviously the highlight of my career and quite possibly of my life!
Preparations and practice runs began about three weeks before hand, and there were lots is meetings and discussions about how the day would run. My class had trial cooking sessions and fine tuned their recipes in order to make them perfect for the day.
When the morning arrived, I was confident that we were prepared and ready for our guests. There was a strict timetable with our guests being given different slots, but we were on our best behaviour at all times just incase things didn’t go to plan!
Having met Matt Baker of One Show and Countryfile fame, we had already had a trial run…. It’s just that it happened to be in front of the TV cameras ( gulp!!!). Things went amazingly well, and to plan, and the crew were really impressed with the boys and their cooking so we were on the right track! It was a bit scary when Matt Baker interviewed me though and they stuck a camera in my face ( I’m not really one for pictures, let alone TV ).
Anyway….. In at the crack of dawn Monday morning, getting ingredients ready- I’d been in the day before to get everything else set up! All that was left for me to do was teach and cook with the boys. So off we went, making starters, main courses and desserts.

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So, our first visitor of the morning was Michelin starred chef Raymond Blanc. He was fantastic….so full of passion and such an inspiration. After lots of kisses on the cheeks, he was off tasting boys food and commenting, suggesting, helping and sharing advice. He was easy going and friendly and agreed to pose for photos too! He was saying how important Food education and cooking is, and commended me on the work that I was doing and the fantastic standard of cooking that was going on in the class.

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The second group of visitors were also very important…. They included CEO’s and other “top dogs” from Food For Life, School Food Matters, Organic Society, top supermarkets….. We also had Henry Dimbleby Leon who has been appointed by the Government to review school dinners and John Dimbleby Leon too! It was surreal having more famous chefs in the room! Food was being presented at this stage, and to our surprise, Raymond Blanc returned. He had escaped from his group tour and found his way back to Food where he was handing out samples of the cooked food by the boys and encouraging everyone to try it! This was an honour…. for such an amazing chef to take the time to return and encourage the students and promote their cooking and learning was truly unbelievable.

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By now, the classroom was really buzzing- the boys were on a high and cooking for their life! Not long now and Prince Charles and Jamie Oliver would be along…. As the time drew closer, the room turned quieter as the boys started to get a little nervous! I was getting that way too….. Remembering to address the Prince of Wales as your Royal Highness and then having him handed over to you is a big responsibility!!! Not to mention the film crew….
Well as time was drawing near, there was suddenly an onslaught of people into my room- all with long lens cameras and microphones, TV cameras etc. the paps had arrived…. And there was about 15 of them! We ushered them into the corner of the room and knew that HRH and Jamie would be following shortly- along came the butterflies in my tummy, the hot sweating feeling and a sudden urge to goto the loo! Deeeeeep breaths I told myself- in……. And…… Out! They’re here!
I welcomed HRH and Jamie Oliver and the next 15 minutes went past so quickly. I showed the future King of England ( how amazing is that!) around the room, and introduced him to the boys and let them explain what they were cooking. I had a chat with Jamie about Food Education and the importance of cooking as a life skill. I was directed(!) by the film crew and cameras were going twenty to the dozen- flash, flash, flash….. Over here please, Look this way! Wow….. A small insight into the world of celebrity and fame…… What a moment! Matt Baker also returned, so I was also being asked by the crew to talk to Matt in the background shots of HRH touring the classroom ( don’t mind if I do!)

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Then after HRH had talked to the boys and viewed their food, it was all over. You could almost feel everyone relax as the VIP’s and film crews left the room. The buzz of excitement was replaced with relief and even disbelief of what we had just experienced. This was most certainly a once in a life time opportunity and one that neither the boys or I will ever forget!

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This was such an amazing day, I cannot begin to describe the pride I felt, the excitement, the nerves, the enjoyment! I do know that I was exceptionally privileged to be part of such a momentous day, and I will have these memories, photos and of course, my blog as a reminder of this once in a lifetime opportunity.
The coverage of this visit was in lots of local and indeed national papers- you may have seen the photos and articles yourself! Jamie Oliver also mentioned on This Morning saying that “every parent deserved a school like this”. And there is more to come. The film footage is going to be part of a Countryfile episode to be shown sometime in February next year, so watch this space… You may see me on TV!

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On our best behaviour!

I haven’t blogged for a while because I have been so busy! I know that sounds like a poor excuse, but I have a very good reason- we have been preparing for some very important visitors.
On Thursday, Matt Baker of The One Show/Country file, came to visit our school. More importantly, he came along with his film crew to film my Year 11 Food lesson! How amazing is that…..the boys were cooking Masterchef style and were brilliant, creating some super dishes.

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Matt and his team spent about an hour and a half talking to the students about their food and what they were cooking. They were so impressed that they stayed on longer to capture images of their dishes…..and they even interviewed me!!!! It was a great opportunity for me to promote our school blog and our Twitter account…. http://www.foodpresstogophotos.wordpress.com and @foodtectogo.
The crew were brilliant, moving around the classroom and capturing their shots without getting in the way, and Matt Baker was great fun- talking and joking with the boys and even tasting their food.

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It was a once in a life time experience and great fun….. The boys were really impressed too!
And……. If that is not enough, I have more VIP’s visiting tomorrow- and yes that is plural, and no, you will never guess who they are! This is going to be THE most amazing experience EVER and I am quite possibly the luckiest person in the world!
I have spent most of the weekend preparing for the visit tomorrow, and I’m as ready as I will ever be….. Lets just hope the VIP’s appreciate my efforts- although I am sure they will!
Want to know who they are? You can take a guess if you like, but I will reveal all tomorrow!!!!!

The Oldies are the Goodies – My Great Granddad’s Bread Pudding!

As a child, one of my earliest memories was going to my Great Granddad’s on a Saturday lunchtime. My Great Gran and Granddad lived in a ground floor flat, and as soon as we walked up the path, you could smell the lovely aroma of freshly cooked bread pudding…usually still warm as we walked through the door! Sometimes we would have it on it’s own, sometimes it would be served with warm custard. We were always given some to take home to eat cold too.

Now when you look at bread pudding, you might think that it looks like a stodgy fruit cake, and you would be forgiven! But don’t let it’s appearance put you off! I don’t like fruit cake, but I LOVE bread pudding.

Traditionally, this was a wartime  recipe that used up old bread to save it being wasted, and although sometimes I buy bread, I would much rather make it using stale bread as it gives a much better outcome.

For several years I have tried to find a recipe that could replicate the one of my great granddads – some used suet, some used egg and milk, others used water but none of them could compare to the taste of the one that I was used to as a child. So you can imagine how happy I was, when talking to another family member one day, who told me that they had a copy of the original recipe! My copy of the recipe is one from a note book where only the key ingredients and main points of the method are written down, so I will try and give a little more detail.

So here it is…….in my opinion THE best bread pudding recipe ever! It is a very dark coloured pudding infused with warm spices and plenty of fruit!

6-8 slices of bread (preferably stale)

100g margarine

100g sugar (I prefer light brown)

1 egg

200g mixed fruit

2 tsp mixed spice

Soak the bread in water. Once soggy, squeeze the water out – I do this by hand as i find that it helps to break the bread up.

Cream together the fat and sugar.

Add the egg a little at a time to avoid curdling and mix.

Put in al lof the mixed fruit and spice, and mix well.

Add in the bread and mix until smooth.

Place into a greased and lined tin (this is the difficult bit, it took me ages to find the right size tin, but I found that a 24cm by 20 cm tin that is approx 4cm deep worked best).

Put into the oven at 160c (take down to 150c for a fan oven) or Gas Mark 2, and cook for approximately one and a half hours. It will be firm on top, but still soft. The pudding will not firm up until it has called!

Once it has cooled, transfer to a cooling rack (if it lasts that long – my family are already cutting chunks out of it while it is still warm!)  and leave to cool completely. Then slice into portions and store in an airtight container  I like to keep mine in the fridge!

If you fancy a change, I also add glace cherries and dried apricots for a luxurious fruity taste!

Why not have a go yourself and et me know what you think?

Macmillan Coffee Morning

I’ve had an amazing day today!

I was organising a Macmillan coffee morning at the school where I am a Food teacher. We invited parents to come in for coffee and cakes and asked pupils to bring in donations of cakes to sell on the day.

As well as this, I took the opportunity to bring the staff together by organising a cake baking session after school yesterday! I had twenty staff, including the Head Teacher, baking cakes for this very worthwhile cause. We had three levels of competence – beginners making choc chip muffins, intermediates making ginger bang biscuits and advanced bakers making swiss roll. There were lots of staff who don’t cook very often, so it was great for them to be able to come along and cook with help nearby if they needed it! And some of them certainly needed it……..

It was a huge success, and this morning we were ready to go. There were tables and tables of cakes waiting to be sold and parents began arriving at 9.00. It was lovely to see parents interacting with the students who were serving tea and coffee along with slices of cake, and knowing that it was helping a good cause made it even better!

After a very busy morning and break-time, it was back to teaching, and then preparations began for more cake selling at lunch. It was a very busy day, and I don’t think I have sat down since 7.45am this morning, but counting up all of the donations before coming home this afternoon made it all worth it.

We made….wait for it……a whopping £400.31!

This was a huge achievement and a big thank you goes to all of the staff, parents and pupils for their kind donations of cakes and cash, but also for giving up their time for helping to make it happen.

Not only did we make money for a worthwhile cause, but the staff have thoroughly enjoyed it, and are now asking for more cooking sessions in the run up to Christmas!

Feeling tired is nothing compared to what some people have to go through when they are dealing with cancer on a daily basis. I’m sure that we all know someone who has had cancer at some point in our lives and the Macmillan nurses do a fantastic job in supporting both patients and families in order to make the whole situation as bearable as possible.

Nan – I know you would have been proud of me and what I have achieved today. It is nearly eleven years to the day that we lost you to cancer and I miss you as much today as I did then. So all of those cakes that I have baked and sold today (and over the past few years) are in loving memory of you and all of the things that we didn’t get to share. I wish my children had been given the chance to get to know you, but sadly that wasn’t to be x x x

 

#foodiefotofriday

I was asked to make some pretty cakes for a girly sleepover…..here you go!
The recipe that I used was one from http://tothecakelady.wordpress.com
I used two colours of buttercream icing in the same piping bag to get the two-tone look

It’s Friday again already which means it’s time to post some yummy pictures of food and make us drool.
A great blog about all things cooking related!

The Crazy Kitchen

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Casa Costello

Lets eat cake!

Although I’m not a professional, i make cakes for family and friends. I cook as part of my job as a teacher, so people just expect me to be good at making food!!!
It took me ages to find a recipe that was suitable for the cakes that I make. Some were too soft and didn’t hold up very well when decorated and others were too dry but provided a great texture for icing. There is two recipes that I use regularly now and I find that both of them work well. One provides a slighly firmer cake than the other, so I swap between the two depending on the design that I am creating.

This first recipe is a quick Madeira cake that is made using the all-in-one method. I make this in the food processor to get a consistant mixture. It can be made using the creaming method if you have the time, but if you are doing so leave out the baking powder.

This recipe will make two cakes in 18cm round sandwich tins. I use one bigger single tin, and adjust the quantities accordingly.

175g butter (sotened)

175g caster sugar

3 large eggs (I only use Free Range)

1 tsp baking powder

3 tbsp milk

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Pre-heat the oven to 180c (I use 170c for a fan oven) or Gas 4

Put all ingredients into the food processor or a bowl and mix until combined.

Spoon mixture between the two tins, and level out.

Bake for 25-35 minutes or until firm to touch. If the top is getting too brown, turn the oven down a little.

Leave to cool for 5-10 mins then turn onto a wire rack and allow to cool.

(If you are in a hurry to decorate it, put the cake in the fridge.

I find it best if I make the cake the day before, as it allows the cake to firm up a little before decorating.

You can also freeze the cake and then decorate once removed from the freezer. This makes it easier to work with when decorating.

Filling:

250g unslated butter

500g icing sugar

1 jar quality jam (I use homemade)

With a large knife or a cake wire, cut the cake in half. Spread jam over one half, making sure to go close to the edges.

Cream butter and icing sugar together until smooth, adding a little milk i required. I also like to add 1/2 tsp vanilla extract.

On the other side of the cake, spread the buttercream.

Sandwich the two halfs together, making sure that you line the cakes up so that it goes back together as one whole cake. This prevents ridges when you are decorating it!

With the remaining buttercream, spread a thin layer all over the top and sides of the cake. This is the easiest way to hold the fondant icing in place, and also fills any minor imperfections to give a good finish.

Now decorate as you please!

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Perfect chocolate brownies…..Really quickly!

For those of you that liked the look of the brownies that I cooked last week, here is the recipe for what I think is the perfect brownie! Now everyone likes there brownie a little differently…..I like mine with a crispy top and a soft, almost gooey middle! If you like a drier brownie, you just cook for a little longer.

Now aside from the recipe, the tin that you use is almost as important as the recipe itself! If your tin is too big, they will turn out thin and dry and if it’s too small, they will end up soggy in the middle and really crispy on top! The tin that I use for this recipe is a reactangulare tin that is 26cm by 20cm. The depth is 4cm, and the mixture will rise right to the top so don’t be tempted to use a shallower one.

So, here are the ingredients that you will need:

280g caster sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

40g cocoa powder (Bourneville or Green and Blacks, not drinking chocolate!)

300g chocolate (i use a mixture of white, plain and milk chocolate)

225g plain flour

125ml sunflower oil

3 medium eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

50ml water

(60g nuts (these are optional…I like walnuts or pecans))

Oven temperature is 180c (I use 170c with my fan oven) or Gas 4 (make sure you preheat!)

Now for the easy bit……. I put all ingredients except for the chocolate, into a food processor and mix for a few mintues until you mixed all of the ingredients together and created a smooth batter. (If you don’t have one , you could use an electric whisk instead or mix by hand with a whisk or wooden spoon).

Pour batter into a bowl.

Roughly cut the chocolate into 1-2cm chunks, and mix in with a spoon.

Grease you tin with a some oil and line with baking parchment, or for a quick and easy liner I use the silicone sheets and have cut one down to fit the tin! It is only the bottom that needs lining, but make sure you grease the sides.

Pour mixture into the tin and gently bang the pan on the work top to even out, or spread with a spoon (probably best beacuse then you can lick it afterwards!!!).

Cook in the oven until firm to touch. ( I cook mine for 25 mins but if you like a firmer and drier brownie then you can leave for upto 35 mins).

Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before turning onto a cooling rack. Cut into squares and dust with icing suger for a perfect finish!

If you have a go at cooking these brownies, it would be great to hear your comments. I added 2 bananas to my last batch and they were really yummy too….why not experiement with the recipe and share you ideas?

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Foody Foto Friday

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This weeks offerings……I had a bit of an urge to bake and bake I certainly did!
Chocolate brownies

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Banana and nut choc brownies

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Banana and choc chip loaf

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Banana and butterscotch muffins

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Roast beef salad for tea!

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The brownie has taken me a long time and several recipes before I got it right, but I think I have found the perfect recipe now!
Follow my blog so you don’t miss out when I post it later in the week!