Sunday, 29 December 2013

Party Food Recipes

So it's New Year's Eve, or Boxing Day, or just a bank holiday barbecue in the summer... and you have to provide food for 20 hungry family members. You need some simple tasty snack ideas. My favourite thing to snack on such an occasion is cheese straws. They're awesomely cheesy, and so easy to make.

Cheese Straws
(makes around 30)

450g cheddar cheese
1tsp salt
120g margarine/butter
250g flour

  • Preheat the oven to 200C and line a baking tray with greaseproof paper.
  • Grate the cheese into a large bowl. Cream together with the butter.
  • Sift in the flour and salt. Mix well.
  • Knead the dough in the bowl until it softens and comes together. Don't be tempted to add any liquid, it will seem very dry at first but the cheese will soften.
  • Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface until it's around 1cm thick. Cut into long strips about 2cm wide, and place on the baking tray a few cm apart.
  • Bake for 10-15 mins until browned and crisp.

My other party idea is something I once served at a party as a waitress. They had bought canapes to serve from Waitrose, and 8 of these spirals were around £4 a pack. For much less than that you can make enough to serve a whole party of people! This does actually make rather a lot, so you may want to half quantities.

Cheese and Bacon Spirals
(makes 30-40)

Pack of puff pastry
3-4 rashers of bacon
200g cheddar cheese
A handful of snipped chives

  • Preheat the oven to 200C and line a baking tray with greaseproof paper.
  • Roll out the puff pastry on a floured surface until it measures around 25cm by 35cm. Cut in half lengthways so you have two long strips of pastry.
  • Sprinkle with cheese, leaving a border of
    around 1cm on each strip. Sprinkle the bacon and chives on top.
  • Roll up the strip lengthwise, you may need a second person to help with this. Use a little beaten egg to help seal the edge.
  • Cut the rolled up pastry into 1 inch spiral pieces, and place on the baking tray. Brush with the rest of the beaten egg and bake for 10-15mins until puffed up and browned.

You could use this same idea for any ingredients, maybe use brie with bacon and a little cranberry sauce. You can make sweet ones with chocolate, or butter and cinnamon. When it comes to making home-made party snacks, pastry really is your best friend. Make filo pastry parcels with leftover turkey and cranberry, use shortcrust for mince pies and mini fruit/treacle tarts. And the best thing is you really don't need to make your own pastry, they are all easily store-bought, and filo and puff pastry is very difficult and time-consuming to make so why bother anyway!

So impress your friends and family by making your own simple, tasty party food!

Emily Kate

Monday, 23 December 2013

Christmas Hamper/Hessian Box Tutorial

So now you've decided what to put inside your hamper, you need to find something to put it all in. Now when I first made some last year I spent ages looking for wicker baskets online, but they really aren't cheap, even on eBay. As I had lots of hessian/burlap left over from my advent calendar project, I decided to see if I could fashion a kind of bag/box out of it, and I'm pretty happy with the result. To make 4 of these it didn't take me anymore than a hour or two maximum.

First decided how big you want the box to be. It depends on how much you want to put in it, but I wanted mine to look snug and full, rather than have too much space. I made mine 7" square, with each of the sides 6" high. Each of the sides labelled A need to be the same length, and the same for sides labelled B.

Cut out another square the same size as the box and a square of thick cardboard around 1/2 inch smaller on each side. This is to reinforce the bottom of the box. Fold over the cross shape of the box and sew the 2 edges that meet together. I used my sewing machine with strong thread and a zigzag stitch.

Then sew together the other two edges. It should now be looking like a box! Fold over an inch or so all around at the top and pin. Sew all around the edge you just pinned to neaten it.
Flatten the box a little and fold the edges underneath so you can use pva glue to stick the cardboard to the inside bottom of the box. Stick the extra square of hessian you cut out on top of the cardboard to hide it.

Now turn the box the right way out, and tie some ribbon round it to make it look pretty.
All that's left to do is fill the hamper. I lined mine with tissue paper, filled it with treats, and even adds some holly and ivy sprigs to make it look extra festive!

Emily Kate

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Hamper Ideas - Mulled Wine and Cider Sachets

When Christmas time rolls around, there's only one alcoholic drink I want to drink - mulled wine. It's warming, fruity and spicy, and just smells like Christmas to me. It's something it seems a lot of people like to drink, but don't want to make from scratch because it seems like too much effort. Realistically there's only a few spices needed, and most you may well have lurking in the back of the cupboard from when you bought them to make a curry once 10 years ago. So what better gift to give, than a bottle of wine with a homemade sachet tied round the neck, or add it to your Christmas hampers this year.

This is everything you need: per one sachet

20 allspice berries
1 cinnamon stick (broken in to pieces)
30 cloves
3 cardamom pods
1tsp orange or mixed peel

Cotton thread
4" square piece of cheesecloth or muslin fabric
Gold or silver ribbon

Allspice berries are the only things that can be a little difficult to get hold of, I could only find them in one supermarket in the UK (Waitrose). For the squares of fabric I recommend cheesecloth as it doesn't fray much. My fabric store was out of it this year though so I've used a thin muslin, but I am a little worried it may fray a little into the wine, although that's easily sorted by straining it.

So all you need to do is put all the ingredients for each sachet in a little pile in the middle of the fabric square. Bring the corners together and tie the cotton thread around it securely so none of the spices will fall out. Tie some Christmassy ribbon around the sachet for decoration. Write a little gift tag with how to use it:
Remove the ribbon from the sachet and add with 3 tbsp of sugar, and 750ml (one bottle) of red wine to a saucepan. Bring to the boil and simmer for 15min. Ladle into mugs and serve hot. Garnish with a slice of orange.

As well as mulled wine, this year I've also made some mulled cider sachets to give to family. As my family are all from the west county, the county of Somerset where everyone knows the best cider is made and originated, I thought they might go down quite well.

For each cider sachet the spices you need are:

2 sticks of cinnamon
1 star anise
1 tbsp cloves
1 tbsp allspice berries

Include these instructions on your gift tag: Simmer 1 sachet in 2 quarts (4 pints) apple cider for 15 minutes.
The good thing about these sachets is that they could be easily used for apple juice rather than cider for those non-drinking friends and family. 

Don't forget to keep one sachet at least for yourself!

Emily Kate


Sunday, 15 December 2013

Christmas Hamper Ideas

Last year I decided to do a proper homemade Christmas, and make the majority of my presents. The problem was that I decided to knit most of them, and very last minute at that, cut to Christmas eve frantically knitting with mohair wool. Not all that fun. However I also made some little hampers for my family, which I wasn't intending to do this year, but I've had a few requests. So my next couple of posts will be ideas for treats and sweets you could make for your own hampers. Now you may think, well I haven't got time for this before Christmas... but some of these things are best made only a day or two beforehand, and really don't take long at all.

The first one is Christmas biscuits, a seriously simple idea for little presents. I make a batch of vanilla, and one of gingerbread and then wrap 2 of each in cellophane and tie with a ribbon.

For vanilla biscuits:

100g caster sugar
100g butter
1tsp vanilla essence
1 egg
275g plain flour

  • Cream the butter and sugar together. Beat in the egg and vanilla.
  • Add the flour and mix until the dough starts to come together.
  • Use your hands to knead the dough a little and then put in the fridge for a while.
For the gingerbread biscuits:

50g butter
60g caster sugar
2tbsp golden syrup
1/2tsp ground ginger
1/2tsp ground cinnamon
175g plain flour
1tsp bicarbonate of soda

  • Melt the sugar, butter and golden syrup together over a medium heat until the sugar dissolves.
  • Take off the heat and stir in the flour, bicarb and spices until the mixture forms a dough.
  • Wrap in Clingfilm and put in the fridge to cool for a couple of hours, or the freezer if you're short of time.

Now you have both lots of dough made, set the oven to 180c and line some baking trays with greaseproof paper. Roll out one of the doughs to a thickness of about 5mm, and cut out as many star, snowflakes or other Christmas shape as you can. Re-roll the remaining dough and cut out shapes until there is none left. If you want to hang any of the biscuits, make a hole with a knife in them before baking, Place the biscuits on a baking tray and bake for 8-10mins.

When the biscuits are completely cool, you can ice them. Make the icing by mixing a few tablespoons of icing sugar with a few drops of water, so it is a consistency that will just about drop off a spoon, but is not runny.

The best invention in baking recently I think is disposable plastic icing bags. They come in a roll so you just tear one off, put a few spoonfuls of icing in and cut off the tip, depending on how thick you want the icing. They can just be thrown away afterwards, so no washing up! These are perfect for icing these biscuits, with whatever design you fancy.

All that's left is to either thread a piece of ribbon through to hang them on the tree, or wrap them up to give as gifts. I bought a roll of white polka dot cellophane from eBay last year, I just cut out a square and place the biscuits in the middle. Bring each corner to the middle and tie with a piece of ribbon, curling the ends. It looks really effective!

gift hamper ideas

Emily Kate

Friday, 6 December 2013

Christmassy Gingerbread Cupcakes

When my music ensemble organises a recital, I'm always the one in charge of the cake. We like to be nice and informal afterwards and have a cup of tea with the audience... and well we just all really like cake. For our upcoming Christmas concert I thought what we needed was Christmassy cupcakes, (and mince pies, and mulled wine obviously... but still cake) so here's the recipe for my Gingerbread cupcakes.


Christmas cupcake baking100g butter or margarine                              
175g soft brown sugar
2 eggs
150g self raising flour
60g natural yoghurt
2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
 Pinch of nutmeg

For the icing:
50g soft brown sugar
200g butter
200g icing sugar


  • Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/ gas 4.
  • Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. 
  • Beat the eggs into the mixture, one at a time.
  • Sift in the flour with the spices, and stir through the yoghurt.
  • Place 12 paper cupcake cases into a muffin tin and divide the mixture between them. 
  • Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden and springy to the touch. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack. 
  • For the icing: while the cupcakes are cooking place 50 grams of the butter in a pan with the brown sugar and cook over a low heat until melted. Leave to one side to cool to room temperature. 
  • In a large mixing bowl beat the butter until smooth, then start to sift in the icing sugar, stirring regularly. Add the toffee sauce and stir until thoroughly incorporated.
  • Put the icing in a piping bag and pipe onto the cupcakes. Dust some cocoa powder over the cupcakes.

This makes lovely soft and light cupcakes with a gingerbread flavour! So enjoy.

Christmas cupcake baking

Emily Kate

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Star-shaped Mince Pies

This post was originally meant to go out in November, as I've been making mince pies for weeks now. I'm the first one to moan about Christmas decorations being put up in November and Christmas songs and adverts everywhere; but the one Christmas thing I would quite happily have as early as possible, is mince pies. They're easy to make and you can freeze them and have a ready made dessert ready in minutes. (always a bonus in our house as we never go without dessert!)

These mince pies are dead easy, you don't need any baking experience whatsoever, it's just a little fiddly. It uses puff pastry, so there's no need to make any (unless you have a LOT of time and just really like making pastry I guess) Jus-rol or any other store bought works just fine.

So here's everything you need:

block of puff pastry
maple syrup
icing sugar
orange/clementine (optional)
vanilla essence (optional)
brandy (optional)


rolling pin
small star shaped cutter
greaseproof paper
baking tray

The optional ingredients are just to jazz up the mincemeat a little to make it a little more exciting and if like myself you tend you buy the cheaper variety.
  • Add any extra ingredients to the mincemeat, and line a baking tray with greaseproof paper. Preheat the oven to 180C.
  • Roll out a bit of the puff pastry to a thickness of only 1mm, if it's too thick the pastry will puff up too much and come out of the star shape.
  • Cut out squares of around 10cm by 10cm, and slice the pastry from each corner about halfway towards the centre. Place the squares on the baking tray and add a heaped teaspoon of mincemeat to the centre of each square.
  • Pull the left section of each corner into the middle of the square and overlap on top of the mincemeat.
  • Using the star cutter, cut out a star for each mice pie and put it in the centre on top of the mincemeat, use a little maple syrup to keep it in place.
  • Bake in the oven for around 10-15mins or until the pastry has puffed up and turned slightly golden.
  • Brush the pies with maple syrup, and when they have cooled a little dust liberally with icing sugar.


easy mice pies

Emily Kate

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Envelope Advent Calendar Tutorial

That exciting time of year is almost upon us again, and the time of year I go a bit crafty crazy, making handmade presents for all. Normally my boyfriend and I just get a Cadburys chocolate advent calendar, but this year I fancied making a fabric one, something that would last us a long time. So I came up with the idea of little envelopes, 1 for each day with 2 little pockets inside. A his and hers one if you want to be cheesy...or for two children. And here is the end result...

Now I realise it's leaving it a bit late for this year, but this really didn't take me too long to do, the sewing is very quick with a machine. And after all, as long as you have number 1 done by the've got a day to make each one.

And now for how to make it. Here's everything you need. I got some really cute Christmassy clothes pegs and the ribbon from an amazing Danish shop called Tiger.

Firstly make a template for your envelopes. Cut out a rectangle, and fold the two ends over each other so it's roughly in thirds. My template was 28cm long by 16cm, when folded making a 11cm by 16cm rectangle. Now use the template to cut out 24 rectangles from the hessian fabric. (called burlap the other side of the pond) Try to cut along the grain lines at all times, otherwise it will fray all over the place! Now fold the pieces of fabric like you did with the template, and use an iron on a high setting to press it into place.

Open up the front flap of the envelope and on the inside folded over section, paint on one initial on each half, using the stencils, and the newspaper to stop the paint getting on the fabric underneath. (I made my stencils by printing out large letters and then cutting them out)

When the letters are dry, fold the front of the envelope back over, and using stencil numbers paint on a number for each one (1-24). When all the paint is dry, cut lengths of ribbon a few cms longer than the width of the envelopes, and press them in half width wise. Slip the ribbon either side of the edge of the front envelope flap, and sew into place using a sewing machine on zigzag stitch. Fold the edges round to the other side of the fabric and sew into place with a few stitches.

Now sew the edges together from the bottom of the envelope right to the ribbon edge, with a 1/2cm seam allowance and a zigzag stitch. Lastly make the inside pocket into two, buy stitching a line from the bottom fold, inbetween the two initials to the edge of the fabric. Repeat...errr well 23 more times.

Now all that you need to do is put up a couple of long lengths of ribbon across an empty wall somewhere, and use the clothes pegs to attach each envelope to the ribbon. I thought about stitching them to the ribbon, but I thought this way you can take them down to fill up the pockets more easily. And, if like myself you aren't spending Christmas at home, you can unpeg the envelopes and take them with you. All that's left is to fill them with treats and sweets!

Emily Kate


Friday, 22 November 2013

Christmas Cards!

An exciting annoucement...

Now ready to buy in my Etsy shop are these quirky Christmas cards. Have you ever been looking for a music-themed card in the shops but not been able to find one? Look no further!

With the help of my good friend and his snazzy camera, we snapped a few shots of the mini musicians featuring santa hats, jollying about in a winter wonderland. Yes they really were there. Honestly.

 So if you'd like one of these, (of course you would, because who wouldn't want a Christmas card of Santa playing a saxophone in sunglasses?!) then visit my shop at..

Emily Kate 

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Sewing with Jersey

So I made a few things with my brand new sewing machine when it arrived in July, but it had been sat on the side feeling a little neglected recently...when I discovered Pinterest. There are some really great boards out there for free sewing patterns, in particular which has quite literally thousands! So I made a board of lots of lovely items of clothing that I want to make and then I got started.

The first project I made was this folded miniskirt, from the great tutorial found here I found the folding part easy to understand, although keeping the folds in place was much more difficult at times! This was my first time sewing with jersey, and I chose a double knit plum coloured jersey fabric. 
This fabric was the perfect choice as I found it really easy to work with. I'm very happy with the final outcome as there are actually no obvious mistakes for once!

My next project was a day dress, again in knit fabric for which I chose a lovely bold flower pattern. This fabric I found much harder to deal with, as it is thin jersey and stretches so easily under the machine. I really liked making up a pattern from clothes I already had so it sure to fit. The tutorial for this dress can be found here:

Both fabrics together cost only £12, so that proves making your own clothes really is cheaper than buying them. I've decided to really make an effort to make rather than buy now I'm getting to grips with my sewing machine!

Emily Kate

Monday, 21 October 2013

Dipping Biscuits

I like to dip things in my cup of tea. The idea of a biscuit eaten without being dunked first just isn't appealing to me. A couple of weeks ago whilst teaching a child piano, I was given a cup of tea and some biscuits (one of the perks of going to pupil's houses!) which were a long rectangular shape with chocolate on the bottom half. It was like they were designed to be dunked in my tea. Why are biscuits round anyway? Many a time my digestive hasn't fit into my mug, very disappointing. So I decided to make my own 'dipping biscuits' on my next baking day.

The biscuit recipe I used was:

250g butter/margarine softened
300 plain flour
140g caster sugar
1 egg yolk
2 tsp vanilla essence

  • mix the softened butter and caster sugar together. 
  • add the egg yolk and vanilla and beat to combine.
  • sift in the flour and mix until incorporated.
  • chill in the fridge for 30 mins
  • roll out the dough to 1/2 cm thickness and cut into fingers 2 cm wide and 9/10cm long.
  • bake at 180c for 15 mins.
This biscuit dough does make a lovely buttery but slightly crumbly biscuit, so I think I would use a recipe with a stronger structure when I make these again, however they did stand up to the dipping challenge.
I melted some white and milk chocolate to spread over the biscuits, leaving a few cms at the end to hold them. I also made some caramelised sugar to crunch over the top of the milk chocolate ones, by melting some brown sugar in a pan and pouring over greaseproof paper. When it's completely cool, smash it up with a rolling pin and sprinkle over the biscuits.

I really love the idea of serving these in a jug or small jar alongside a cuppa, or with hot chocolate. In fact I'm thinking of including some in my Christmas hampers this year, alongside Jamie Oliver's luxury hot chocolate mix. More posts on this closer to Christmas! 

Emily Kate.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Perfect Victoria Sponge

This is my idea of a perfect Sunday afternoon.

No points for guessing where I'm from I guess, but who doesn't love a cup of tea and a slice of cake. Anyway I had a craving for Victoria sponge on my way home earlier, which gave me a great idea for a post. I love a good ol' British favourite like the Victoria sponge, and for the last few years I've made one fairly regularly, for friend's and family's birthdays and refreshment for concerts. I've always aspired to make one as good as my granny's cakes, and nowadays I think I've cracked it, so here are my tips for a perfect Victoria sponge.

  • Weight the eggs first, in their shells, and then use the same weight for the margarine, flour and sugar.
  • Always use caster sugar, it's finer so makes the sponge fluffier. I usually just put granulated sugar in a food processor for a few seconds rather than actually buying caster sugar specially. (yes I am that cheap...)
  • I use self-raising flour, but also add a desert-spoonful of baking powder to really make it rise so the texture is nice and light. 
  • Use 2 separate tins, rather than one and then slicing in half, it never rises as well. 
  • Don't open the oven if you can help it whilst the cake is cooking, constant checking and temperature changes makes the middle sink.
  • I love vanilla buttercream icing with raspberry jam in the middle. For the buttercream I always use proper butter rather than margarine, the consistency is much better and thicker, and salted butter rather than unsalted like many recipes suggest. Although if it's too thick adding a dash of cream helps. Unsalted butter makes the icing very bland. 

Get baking!

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Exciting Announcement!

At last I have finally gotten around to making an Etsy shop! So for those of you who are geeky musicians like me, or fancy giving a mini musician to someone who is...they can now be found at
If you like the look of these guys but not sure you want to commit to owning one...soon there will be some greetings cards featuring them on the shop as well...for all those times you wanted to give someone a musical card and just couldn't find one. (no? just me then.)

And here's the latest guy, modelled on a friend of mine. Making the french horn wasn't as tricky as I thought once I had an idea how to do it.

So if you know someone who might like one of these, or just think they're pretty cool, please share share share!

Also, I'm not entirely sold on my shop name, so if anyone has any bright ideas for a better one, don't be shy, please drop me a comment.

Emily Kate

Friday, 4 October 2013

Machine Embroidered Cushion

So I've been practicing my free motion embroidery, or thread stitching, or whatever you fancy calling it, for a weeks now and finally felt confident enough to start a new project.
Since I hand embroidered my London skyline cushion back in January, I've been itching to do some more cushions along the same cities/buildings line. Although I wanted to see if I could speed the process up by doing it on the sewing machine, so that I could think about selling them online.

Now for those of you who don't know where/what Bristol is, it's a city in the west country of the UK. It's most famous landmark is the Clifton suspension bridge, and it's famous for holding a hot air balloon fiesta every year. So I decided to do a design based on the balloons flying over the bridge, so I could incorporate a little bit of colour into the otherwise black thread picture.

I've discovered the easiest way to transfer a design from a sketch on paper to the fabric, is to go over the design in black pen which you can then see reasonably clearly through the fabric when it's held up to a lightbox, or window. I then traced the design onto the fabric with a bright blue water soluble fabric marker. it's just like a felt tip pen, so is easy to use and see when you're sewing, but just washes straight out with a small amount of water.

I've found with free motion sewing the best thing to do is not to get too hung up on the small imperfections, as it is difficult to sew a straight line, and very difficult to unpick. Once I stopped trying to fix every tiny wobble in the lines on the bridge, I was much happier with it!

Emily Kate

Friday, 27 September 2013

It's a bit chilly in here...

I have a new cupcake post for you....Chocolate Chilli Cupcakes! Now I did have a bit of an issue with these in the oven, in that they kind of exploded, which I have to say I have never had happen before with cupcakes! I think I filled the cases a little to high, and they ballooned up over the edge, but nothing a little butter icing can't cover up. Anyway despite not looking like much, they taste pretty damn good (if I do say so myself) so I thought I would still share them, despite my slightly perfectionist nature not being completely happy with them.

So here is the recipe:

100g caster sugar
100g light brown sugar
110g butter/margarine
150g self raising flour
2 eggs
100ml buttermilk
100g chilli chocolate
optional: 1 tsp chilli flakes

for the icing:
90g butter
250g icing sugar
1tsp vanilla essence
60g chilli chocolate
1tbsp cocoa powder

This is the recipe I usually use for chocolate cupcakes, but with chilli chocolate used instead. I used Lindt 70% chilli chocolate, which is beautifully rich with a hint of chilli, so adds a reasonably subtle flavour to the cupcakes. If you like a bit more heat, add the chilli flakes to 2 tbsp of water, leave to infuse for a few mins then sieve out the flakes and add the chilli-water to the cupcake mix at the end.

  • Preheat the oven to 180C and line a 12 hole muffin tin with baking cases. 
  • Melt the chocolate over a pan of boiling water or in the microwave in short bursts.
  • Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and mix in. 
  • Fold in the melted chocolate, and the flour.
  •  Mix in the buttermilk, and the chilli-water if using. 
  • Bake in the oven for 20 mins, or until risen and a skewer comes out clean.
  • For the icing, beat the butter with the icing sugar until smooth. Melt the chocolate. 
  • Add some boiling water to the cocoa powder and mix to a thick paste, and add to the melted chocolate. 
  • Mix into the butter icing and add the vanilla essence. Add a little double cream if the icing is too thick.
  • When the cakes are cool, pipe the icing on top, and add a little chilli made of fondant icing if you fancy!

Emily Kate

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Strings Made Of String...

A bit of an apology is in order I think. My aim for a post a week has really slacked off in the last couple of months, due to holidays firstly and then the dreaded start of term craziness. But I have been working on a little something for all you nutters who liked my knitted bassoonist. I've been saying I'm going to knit an entire orchestra for months and not really doing anything about it. Until now. So may I present.... the string section!

knitted cello

There were a few issues in the crafting process...namely that it turns out as a wind player I know literally nothing about string instruments and thought they had 6 strings. I also realised a little late that the left arm of the violinist/violist wouldn't be long enough to reach the end of the violin, so had to do a little emergency surgery and re-knit a new arm, which is significantly longer than the other one. Although I realise now of course that you can't see any of these intricate little details in the photos anyway!

So there you go...some more mini musicians. And for anyone like myself strange enough to want a knitted version of themselves, these will be going up on etsy at some point in the near future... I promise. Do share this post with any musical friends you may have!
I like this last one, it even looks like they're looking up for the photo.

Emily Kate.