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Tag Archives: 2014
  • Posted on June 20, 2016

    The Festival of Litha

    Despite the rather wet and dismal day, today (June 20) is the Summer Solstice, upon which the Wiccan festival of Litha is observed. Here we share some information about Litha from The Beginner’s Guide to Wicca by Kirsten Riddle, and a simple ritual you can follow to honor this point in the wheel of the year. If you would like to receive more news, advice, motivation and mantras from our Health, Mind, Body & Spirit books, make sure you subscribe to Mindful Living here. So, over to Kirsten…

    LITHA: June

    Celebrated over the longest day and the shortest night the summer solstice, Litha, marks a turning point in the wheel of the year. The goddess is pregnant and flourishing and the earth is bathed in light, but it’s all about to change: the return of the dark is imminent. The god, also known as the Oak King, is about to hand over the baton of power to his twin brother, the Holly King. This is the time of year to celebrate everything you’ve achieved so far, to embrace joy and to develop a sense of fun. The seasons are changing and winter is on its way, but this shift in balance is needed to keep the wheel turning.

    DEITY All sun goddesses, including the Norse Sunna and the Japanese Amaterasu

    ALTAR DECORATIONS Oak leaves, flowers (particularly sunflowers), bread, honey, yellow and orange candles

    HERBS All herbs

    COLORS Blue, green, orange, purple, red, yellow


    To honor the sun at the height of its power during this summer solstice celebration, rub a little sunflower oil into the wax of an orange or yellow candle. As you do this, think of all the things you’d like to manifest during the rest of the year. When you’re ready, light the candle and stand before it. Breathe in and, as you breathe out, imagine pouring your love into the flame, and see it rising up toward the sun. Say “I honor the strength and the power of the sun. I move forward giving thanks for all that is done. Upon this day, upon this hour, I embrace the might of the sun’s radiant power.” Let the candle burn down.

    The Beginner's Guide to Wicca by Kirsten Riddle is available here. You can also pre-order The Green Wiccan Herbal by Silja (published 14 July 2016) here.


    This post was posted in Featured, News, UK and was tagged with 2014, quick, nature, mind body spirit, wicca, Midsummer, summer

  • Posted on July 13, 2015

    Bastille Day Wine

    In celebration of Bastille Day, we’re looking to our favourite French lady for some top tips. Whatever you’re after, bubbly, a lovely red or something a little bit unusual, Isabelle Legeron MW and her Natural Wine cellar have got you covered with the pick of French wines! Santé!

    La Ferme des Sept Lunes, Glou-Bulles

    Rhône, France, 2011

    Gamay (Pink)

    Light-bodied Bubbles

    I can literally drink gallons of this stuff. The ultimate picnic companion, and great for summer drinking, it is soft and juicy. Like many great growers, La Ferme des

    Sept Lunes is all about polyculture: the grapes rub shoulders with apricot trees, animals, and grains.

    *No added sulfites

    Raspberry | Nutmeg | Cotton candy (candy floss)


    Domaine Julien Meyer, Nature

    Alsace, 2012

    Sylvaner, pinot blanc

    Light-bodied White

    Although it has many organic and biodynamic farms, Alsace is still reliant on a heavy-handed use of sulfites, which means that growers like Patrick Meyer are few and far between. On taking over the estate, Patrick started eliminating enzymes, yeasts, et al, because, as he explained, it just didn’t make sense. Today, he is an inspirational grower, with soils so alive they are said to remain warm even in winter. Nature is one of the most accessibly priced natural whites: light and fragrant, its texture is almost honeyed, though bone-dry.

    *No added sulfites. Filtered

    Jasmine | Kiwi | Anis

    Le Soula, La Macération Blanc L10

    Roussillon, France, 2010

    Vermentino, macabeu

    Medium-bodied Orange

    Gérald Stanley is a young, talented, and extremely dedicated producer who, after joining the project in 2008, turned Le Soula around completely. Today, thanks to Gérald’s influence, the wines have blossomed into stunners that each year express more and more of the emotion of their home. This blend of varieties, which are grown on poor, extremely low-yielding, decomposed granite soils at some 1,600ft (500m) altitude, was Gérald’s first stab at making a skin-macerated white. Delicious and compelling.

    *Total SO2: 25mg/L

    White peach | Dry sage | Almonds


    Domaine de L’Anglore, Tavel Vintage

    Rhône, France, 2011

    Grenache, cinsault, carignan, clairette

    Full-bodied Pink

    Beekeeper-turned-winemaker Eric Pfifferling is perhaps the reference when it comes to pinks. He makes some of the most exciting rosés around and they are famed for their ability to age. His Tavel Vintage is pleasurably drinkable, but with a power and weight that put it in a league of its own. Intense, long-lived, and a little zesty, this is rosé at its most profound.

    *Total SO2: 10mg/L

    Tangerine | Cinnamon | Gingerbread

    Henri Milan, Cuvée Sans Soufre

    Provence, 2010

    Grenache, syrah, cinsault

    Medium-bodied Red

    Located near the popular holiday destination of St Rémy de Provence (made famous by Van Gogh, who spent a year in an asylum there), the family domaine was taken over by Henri Milan in 1986, having wanted to be vigneron since the age of eight when he planted his first vine. After a disastrous first attempt at no-added-SO2 winemaking, which wreaked financial chaos for him, Henri’s butterfly range is today a hugely popular, very-easy-drinking, no-sulfite red; a bestseller in the United Kingdom. Pure and fragrant.

    *No added sulfites

    Spicy cherry | Violets | Damson

    To help you with the information here, for each wine, you’re given the Domaine name and the name of the wine, followed by the wine region and year of production. Isabelle then gives the grape varieties and the colour, and finishes up with sulphite levels and the all important aroma profiles. So, whatever you’re drinking to celebrate Bastille Day, we hope you have a great one!

    Natural Wine by Isabelle Legeron MW is available here.

    This post was posted in Featured, Interviews, UK and was tagged with drinks, wine, 2014, Isabelle Legeron, natural wine, France

  • Posted on July 7, 2015

    Cycle Sporting London

    We don’t know about you, but for us, July seems to be packed with loads of really excellent sporting events! We’re loving Wimbledon (and not only because of this delicious Pimms Float – our new favourite drink). Over the weekend the Tour de France kicked off AND the US Women’s football team won the World Cup, beating Japan 5-2. Tomorrow England take on Australia in the first Ashes test! Phew! Just listing all these massive events makes us tired, but if you’re made of hardier stuff, why not take on Cycle London’s epic 40 mile tour of Sporting London!

    Sports Ride

    With so much open space needed, sports stadia tend to be built out in the suburbs, so expect to clock up the miles on this tour of London’s greatest sports venues. And, when you start to tire toward the end of your 65-km (40-mile) epic, spare a thought for the sportsmen who sweat it out every day of the week at the places you’re visiting. They do 64 kilometers in their sleep.

    DISTANCE: 64.4km (40 miles)

    START: Stratford

    FINISH: Wembley

    Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park

    LONDON E20 2ST

    It makes sense to start your London sports tour at the vast venue that hosted the 2012 Olympic Games. Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, in Stratford, includes the Copper Box Arena, the Aquatics Centre, Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre, and, most importantly for you, Lee Valley VeloPark with its 8km (5 miles) of mountain bike trails and 1.6km (1 mile) of road track. Here, you can follow in the tire tracks of some of the world’s greatest cyclists. (Unfortunately, the main Olympic Stadium isn’t open until 2016.)

    Now head up to Victoria Park, follow the cycle route west across the park, and join the Regent’s Canal as far as Hoxton. Take New North Road, which eventually reaches the home of Arsenal Football Club.

    Arsenal Football Club


    Step into the Emirates Stadium, as part of your Arsenal Museum and Stadium Tour, and it’s difficult not to be awestruck by the huge sweep of shiny red seating and the beautifully curved sides of the bowl structure. Tours include the home changing room (you won’t believe the size of the team bath), the players’ tunnel, the directors’ box, the press lounge, and dugout beside the pitch. On the Legends Tour, you’ll be guided by former Arsenal greats such as Charlie George, Kenny Sansom, or Lee Dixon.

    Now head southwest along Camden Road, through Camden Town, and skirt along the top of Regent’s Park, before briefly joining the Regent’s Canal.

    Lord’s Cricket Ground


    It was all the way back in 1788 that the Marylebone Cricket Club (now based at Lord’s Cricket Ground) first devised the endlessly unfathomable rules of cricket, that quirkiest of English sports. Now a major international cricket venue, Lord’s is also home to the Marylebone Cricket Club Museum. An official Lord’s Tour will include the tiny Ashes urn (surely sport’s most bizarre trophy), the Long Room (with lots of cricket-themed art), and even the sparrow that was done for with a particularly vicious ball from Indian bowler Jahangir Khan in 1936. Said sparrow is now stuffed and preserved all eternity.

    Drop down the Edgware Road, cross Hyde Park, exiting at Queen’s Gate, and head south as far as the Fulham Road. Stamford Bridge, the home of Chelsea Football Club, is down this street, a mile on the right.

    Chelsea Football Club


    Much like Arsenal, Chelsea’s stadium tour includes dressing rooms, players’ tunnel, pitchside dugouts, and the press room. Marvel as you imagine the likes of Frank Lampard and John Terry soaking in a post-match bath. Where the tour really scores is with the museum’s interactive exhibits and audiovisual gadgetry.

    Cross the Thames via Wandsworth Bridge and wiggle through Wandsworth Town until you reach the top of King George’s Park. Follow the cycle route to the southern tip of this park and cut across to Wimbledon Park, exiting on Wimbledon Park Road, close to the gates to the All England Lawn Tennis Club.



    Officially known as the All England Lawn Tennis Club, this is the venue for Wimbledon, tennis’s most famous tournament. Highlights of the museum and tour include clothing and shoes worn by former champions, the chance to view the famous Centre Court close-up, and a holographic ghost of tennis bad boy John McEnroe “in the very changing room he once used.”

    Now head west, crossing Wimbledon Common, Richmond Park, and the Thames (at Teddington Lock), before turning north to Twickenham.

    Twickenham Stadium


    Home to English rugby union (for the uninitiated, that’s the more famous 15-a-side version with scrums), Twickers, as it’s commonly known, has both a museum and a stadium tour. Nose around the England dressing room, the medical room (where those gruesome rugby injuries are treated), the players’ tunnel, the 10,000 objects on display in the museum, and a great view of the stadium from the top of the stand. You’ll be flabbergasted by the size of the place—with a capacity of 82,000, it’s the biggest rugby venue in the world.

    Now cross back over the Thames at Twickenham Bridge and follow the Thames Path as far as Kew Bridge, before heading due north as far as Wembley Stadium.

    Wembley Stadium


    Thanks to its mammoth arch (over 427ft/130m high), you’ll spot this sporting landmark—the home of English football—from miles away. The stadium tour allows you all the usual changing room, dugout, and player tunnel stuff, but an extra highlight is the chance to climb the 107 trophy winners’ steps and brandish the FA Cup, like some of England’s finest footballers before you. (Sorry, it’s only a replica.)

    Phew! Think you've earned a pint! Enjoy the sport this summer, and happy cycling!

    Cycle London by Dominic Bliss is available here.

    This post was posted in Featured, News, UK and was tagged with bike, summer holidays, 2014, bicycle, biking, football, Wimbledon, cycling, cycle, Dominic Bliss, healthy, sport, London

  • Posted on June 1, 2015

    On Pairing Cheese and Beer

    It’s British Cheese Week, which, as I’m sure you can imagine, is totally a celebration we can get behind here at RPS and CICO Books HQ. We haven’t met a cheese we didn’t like (well, not totally sold on Brunost – Norwegian Brown Cheese, but otherwise…) and a lot of our favourite recipes involve cheese. Based on last week’s twitter vote over a Mozzarella and Halloumi recipe (halloumi won, you can give it a go here), you guys are all pretty big cheese fans too. Which brings us to an important question. What should we be drinking with our British cheese? Fortunately, Mark Dredge and the fabulous Beer and Food are on hand to let us know.


    Some of the best beer pairings you’ll ever have are with cheese. The key cheese-friendly qualities are the malt sweetness, which matches the sweetness or creaminess in the cheese, and the combination of carbonation and bitterness, which can fight the fat.



    Perfect Pair: J.W. Lees Harvest Ale

    Brewed in: Manchester, England

    ABV: 11.5%

    Blue cheese’s intense pungency combined with a buttery richness, caramel sweetness, and savory saltiness needs a beer with body and sweetness to give it balance. Barley Wine and Imperial Stout are unbeatable candidates for the job. J.W Lees Harvest Ale has brown-sugar sweetness, plus there’s dried fruit like chutney, plenty of alcohol, and a fat-fighting fizz.



    Perfect Pair: Crooked Stave Hop Savant

    Brewed in: Denver, Colorado

    ABV: 6.7%

    These firm sheep’s milk cheeses go together, as they share a sweet nuttiness, fruity acidity, and a lasting savory depth. Pale Ale’s citrus flavor is good, while drinking Cider is like adding a slice of fruit to the cheese. Crooked Stave’s Hop Savant is a Brett-fermented beer that’s loaded with American hops, so you get the funkiness of yeast and then the fruitiness of hops—it’s an astonishing and complex beer, which loves the saltiness, gives fresh citrus, and shares delicate acidity.



    Perfect Pair: Meantime India Pale Ale

    Brewed in: London, England

    ABV: 7.4%

    This is a tangy and nutty cow’s milk cheese with a tropical fruit flavor that clings to your tongue without letting go, thus demanding a hoppy beer. Made with Fuggle and Golding, Meantime’s India Pale Ale is a classic British version of the style. Marmalade, orange pith, a rose bed, and roast apple, plus bread and honey which suggest sweetness—and it all flows toward a clinging bitterness that cuts through the cheese’s richness, while boosting it with extra fruit.



    Perfect Pair: Magic Rock Cannonball

    Brewed in: Huddersfield, England

    ABV: 7.4%

    A powerful, tangy, and fruity Cheddar tastes great with a range of full-flavored beers that can handle the cheese’s oomph. With strong Cheddar, I’d go for an American-style IPA or Double IPA, such as Magic Rock Cannonball or Human Cannonball (a 9.2% ABV big brother to the regular Cannonball). All the citrus and tropical fruit bring out the cheese’s fruitiness, before the bitterness beats away the fat.

    This is an extract from Beer and Food by Mark Dredge which is available here.

    The images are taken from our Book of the Week, Grilled Cheese by Laura Washburn.

    This post was posted in Featured, Interviews, News, UK and was tagged with drinks, savoury, event, craft beer, beer, cheese, 2014, grilled cheese

  • Posted on May 5, 2015

    Beat the Bank Holiday Blues with Letter Art!

    Is it Tuesday already? We hope you all had a super weekend, but we just can’t believe how quickly the bank holiday has flown by and how many emails were sat waiting when we got into the office this morning! Amongst the mail mayhem however, we discovered a great email from Hobbycraft with ideas for creating decorative letters… and instantly we were feeling calm and crafty! While we love Hobbycraft’s colourful suggestions, our instinctive response was to turn one of our favourite books from Clare Youngs (who are we kidding, we love them all!) for even more Letter Art inspiration! Needless to say, here’s a project from the book to beat your back-to-work-after-the-bank-holiday blues…

    Foamboard Lollipop Letters

    Use colorful scraps of wallpaper and pages from old books to create a collection of letters with a lovely vintage appeal. The thin sticks are available from craft stores. Cut them to different lengths to make a charming display for a shelf in a child’s bedroom.

    Foamboard Lollipop Letters - O


    • Letter template

    • Plain or graph paper

    • Ruler

    • Pencil

    • Tracing paper

    • Masking tape

    • Craft knife

    • Cutting mat

    • Foamboard measuring approximately 8¼ x 10¼in. (21 x 26 cm) per letter

    • Washi tape

    • Scissors

    • Craft glue

    • Patterned paper

    • Thin wooden sticks 1/8 –¼ in. (3–5 mm) thick and 8–12 in. (20–30 cm) long per letter

    • Block of wood measuring approximately 4½ x 1½ x 1 in. (11 x 4 x 3 cm)

    • Pages from old books

    • Drill

    • Awl

    Foamboard Lollipop Letters Step 1

    1. Choose your letter from the templates in the book (or create your own) and enlarge it to the right size, either by using a photocopier or scaling the letter up on graph paper. I made mine approximately 8 in. (20 cm) in height. Trace out the letter and transfer it onto a piece of foamboard (see Tracing technique below). Protecting your work surface with a cutting mat, cut out the shape using a craft knife and a ruler for any straight edges.

    Foamboard Lollipop Letters Step 2

    2. Line the outside edges of the letter with strips of washi tape. When lining a curved edge, use scissors to make small snips into the overlapping tape—every ¼ in. (5 mm), or so—to enable you to fit the tape neatly around the curve.

    Foamboard Lollipop Letters Step 3

    3. Spread glue all over the front of the letter shape and place a piece of patterned paper, right side up, over the top. Smooth out and press down all over. Allow the glue to dry before using a craft knife to cut off any overlapping paper. You’ll find this easier to do if you place your letter face down on your cutting mat. Repeat on the other side of the letter, using a different paper if you like, so that both sides are covered.

    Foamboard Lollipop Letters Step 4

    4. Cut a length of stick. Cut a strip of washi tape to the same length and lay it down on your work surface, sticky side up. Place the stick on the tape and wrap the tape around the stick neatly, to cover it.

    Foamboard Lollipop Letters Step 5

    5. To cover the block of wood, center it on a page taken from an old book. Draw around the base. Remove the block and draw a border around your drawn outline. It needs to be the same depth as the sides of the block. Use a pencil and a ruler to mark cutting guides as shown. Cut along these guides to make four flaps.

    Foamboard Lollipop Letters Step 6

    6. Spread glue all over the wrong side of the paper and place the block back in position. Wrap the two short sides of the block first, sticking the paper flaps to the long sides of the block. Then wrap the two long sides.

    Foamboard Lollipop Letters Step 7

    7. Drill a hole in the center of the block of wood, that is equal to the width of the stick. Use an awl to make a hole the same size in the foamboard at the base of the letter.

    Foamboard Lollipop Letters Step 8

    8. Push the stick into the wooden base and then push the letter onto the opposite end of the stick.

     Foamboard Lollipop Letters Base Block


    For many projects you need to transfer the template onto paper or card stock (card), using tracing paper. Place a sheet of tracing paper over the template and secure with some masking tape. Trace the lines with a hard 4 (2H) pencil, then turn the tracing paper over and go over the lines again on the reverse with a softer pencil, such as a 2 (HB). Now turn the tracing paper over again and place it in position on your chosen paper or card stock (card). Go over all the lines carefully with the 4 (2H) pencil, and then remove the tracing paper. This will give you a nice, clear outline.

    Letter Art by Clare Youngs

    For more creative ideas to decorate your home, Letter Art by Clare Youngs is available here.

    This post was posted in Craft Projects, Featured, News, UK and was tagged with homemade, Clare Youngs, handmade, decorating, 2014, project

  • Posted on March 9, 2015

    Mother's Day Treats

    With Mother's Day just around the corner we’re looking forward to celebrating the women that raised us in the way we know best! Baking of course! These decadent Red Velvet Cupcakes from LOLA’s Forever are the perfect treat for mum this weekend, and we bet little hands will love to help…especially with licking the spoon! Check back through the week because we’ve got heaps more ideas to help you spoil your mums…

    Red Velvet Cupcake

    We add melted chocolate and ground almonds to our red velvet cupcake to keep it moist and moreish, and top it off with a cool cream cheese icing.

    110 g butter

    160 g caster sugar

    1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

    ½ teaspoon red food colouring paste

    1 egg

    3 tablespoons sunflower oil

    ¾ tablespoon white wine vinegar or freshly squeezed lemon juice

    35 g dark chocolate, melted

    190 g plain flour

    ½ teaspoon baking powder

    ½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

    ¾ tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder

    70 ml single cream

    70 ml full-fat milk

    35 g ground almonds

    Cream cheese icing 

    60 g butter

    1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

    200 g icing sugar

    400 g full-fat cream cheese

    To decorate 

    red velvet cake crumbs (blitz an un-iced cupcake in a food processor and allow to dry out before storing in an airtight container)

    muffin pan lined with 12 muffin cases

    piping bag fitted with a large star nozzle

    Makes 12

    Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F) Gas 4.

    Place the butter, sugar and vanilla bean paste into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or use an electric whisk and large mixing bowl), and beat the mixture at medium to high speed for 1–2 minutes, until light and fluffy. Occasionally stop to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula to make sure that all the butter and sugar is incorporated.

    Add the food colouring paste and the egg, and beat slowly until combined. Beat in the oil and vinegar or lemon juice, followed by the melted chocolate.

    Sift the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and unsweetened cocoa powder together into a separate bowl. Add the dry ingredients to the batter, a little at a time, alternating with the cream and milk until you have a soft batter and all the dry ingredients have been incorporated. Finally add the ground almonds and mix until smooth and a uniform colour. Scrape down the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula, and briefly beat at high speed until the mixture is smooth. Do not over-mix.

    Using an ice cream scoop, divide the mixture between the muffin cases, filling to almost two-thirds full. Bake in the preheated oven for 18–22 minutes, or until risen and a skewer inserted into the cakes comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

    To make the cream cheese icing, place the butter into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or use an electric whisk and large mixing bowl), and beat until smooth and soft. Add the vanilla bean paste and sift in the icing  sugar. Add the cream cheese and beat at medium to high speed for about 30 seconds, until smooth and glossy. Do not over-mix.

    Spoon the icing into the piping bag, and pipe a swirl onto each cake. Alternatively, spread the cream cheese icing onto each cupcake using a palette knife or metal spatula. Sprinkle some red velvet cake crumbs onto each cupcake to decorate.

    LOLA's Forever by The LOLA's Bakers is available here.

    We definitely know some Mums out there who'd love this treat this Sunday! Happy baking!

    This post was posted in News, Recipes, UK and was tagged with baking, Mother's Day, cupcakes, chocolate, 2014, sweet, LOLA's

  • Posted on February 16, 2015

    Spectacular Pancakes for our favourite day in Feb!

    We’re only hours away from our favourite day in February (in fact, one of our favourite days all year!) and couldn’t help but share a couple of recipes. Yes, we'll probably all enjoy making the classic lemon and sugar combo tomorrow (or a cheese and ham variety if you’re feeling slightly savoury!), but imagine if you could push the pancake boundaries and make something truly spectacular (and we don’t mean a pile of failed flips, drowned in syrup or attacked with Nutella!)… Imagine you could make a magnificent meal with your flipping successes and a scrumptious dessert to finish off, all with the fantastic family favourite, the humble pancake.

    And where else do we turn for such tasty inspiration? Hannah Miles and her irresistible book of recipes from the griddle; Pancakes, Crêpes, Waffles & French Toast. You might remember our excitement about this lovely book last year, so this time we’ve picked another couple of pancake plates for you to make; super savoury creamy chicken crêpes and Hannah’s comfortingly sweet rhubarb and custard crêpes. Happy flipping folks!

    creamy chicken crêpes

    As a child, savoury crêpes really didn’t cut it for me! All I wanted was lemon and sugar or maple syrup. As an adult I am a complete convert. The crispy crêpe here acts as a delicious case for the creamy chicken.

    140 g/1 cup plain/all-purpose flour

    1 egg and 1 egg yolk

    2 tablespoons melted butter, cooled, plus extra for frying

    300 ml/1 ¼ cups milk

    sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste



    250 ml/1 cup white wine

    1 large carrot, peeled and chopped

    1 leek, rinsed and sliced

    1 onion, peeled and halved

    2 bay leaves

    1 teaspoon peppercorns

    1 medium whole chicken (approx. 1.2-kg/ 21⁄2-lb), rinsed



    50 g/3 ½ tablespoons butter

    1 onion, peeled and finely chopped

    250 g/4 cups chestnut mushrooms, quartered

    2 tablespoons cornflour/cornstarch

    400 ml/12⁄3 cups double/heavy cream

    1 tablespoon wholegrain mustard


    a large frying pan/skillet, griddle or crêpe pan/machine

    a crêpe swizzle stick (optional) 

    Serves 8

    Begin by preparing the filling. Put the wine, carrot, leek, onion halves, bay leaves and peppercorns in a large saucepan or pot and add the whole chicken. Fill the pan with cold water so that the chicken is completely covered. Put the pan over a medium heat and poach the chicken for 1 hour until cooked through. Remove the chicken from the pan. Pass the stock through a sieve/strainer over a bowl, discarding the vegetables, and leave to cool.

    Once cool, remove the chicken skin, pull the chicken meat from the bones and cut into bite-sized pieces. Discard the bones and skin. Store the cooked chicken and stock in the refrigerator until needed.

    For the sauce, melt the butter in a frying pan/skillet set over a medium heat, then add the onion and cook until translucent and lightly golden brown. Add the mushrooms to the pan and cook for 3–5 minutes until soft.

    Sift the cornflour into the pan over the mushrooms and stir well. Cook over the heat for a few minutes then add the cream and 200 ml/3⁄4 cup of the reserved chicken stock. Season with salt and pepper and simmer until the sauce thickens. Add the mustard and chilled chicken and stir well to coat everything. Set aside to cool.

    To make the crêpe batter, put the flour, egg and egg yolk and melted butter in a large mixing bowl and season with salt and pepper. Whisking all the time, gradually add the milk until you have a smooth and runny batter. Cover and put the batter in the refrigerator to rest for 30 minutes.

    When you are ready to serve, remove the batter from the refrigerator and stir gently. Put a little butter in a large frying pan/skillet set over a medium heat. Allow the butter to melt and coat the base of the pan, then ladle some of the rested batter into the pan and quickly spread the batter out very thinly. You can do this either by tilting the pan, or, for best results, use a crêpe swizzle stick. Cook until the top of the pancake is set then turn over carefully with a spatula and cook on the other side for a further 1–2 minutes until the crêpe is golden brown. Keep the crêpes warm while you cook the remaining batter. Reheat the chicken filling, then spoon it onto one half of each crêpe. Fold the crêpe in half and then half again. Serve immediately with a simple green salad.

    rhubarb and custard crêpes

    Tangy, pink rhubarb and creamy custard perfectly complement each other. This combination makes a great pancake filling with lashings of homemade custard to pour over. You can make both the rhubarb and custard in advance and cook the pancakes just before serving.

    140 g/1 cup plain/all-purpose flour, sifted

    1 egg and 1 egg yolk

    2 tablespoons melted butter, cooled, plus extra for frying

    15 g/1 heaped tablespoon caster/granulated sugar

    a pinch of salt

    300 ml/1 ¼ cups milk

    icing sugar/confectioners’ sugar, to dust



    800 g/20 sticks pink rhubarb, ends trimmed

    2 tablespoons caster/granulated sugar

    120 ml/ ½ cup water



    4 egg yolks

    80 g/ ½ cup caster/granulated sugar

    2 level tablespoons cornflour/corn starch, sifted

    1 vanilla pod/bean, halved and seeds removed (see Note)

    300 ml/1 ¼ cups double/heavy cream

    250 ml/1 cup milk


    an ovenproof dish, greased

    a large frying pan/skillet, griddle or crêpe pan/machine

    a crêpe swizzle stick (optional)


    Makes 10


    Begin by preparing the roasted rhubarb. Preheat the oven to 170ºC (325ºF) Gas 3. Put the rhubarb in the prepared ovenproof dish. Sprinkle with the sugar and pour over the water. Bake in the preheated oven for 30–40 minutes until the rhubarb is soft but still holds its shape.

    To make the crêpe batter, put the flour, egg and egg yolk, melted butter, caster/granulated sugar and salt in a large mixing bowl. Whisking all the time, gradually add the milk until you have a smooth and runny batter. Cover and put the batter in the refrigerator to rest for 30 minutes.

    While the batter is resting, make the custard. Place the egg yolks, sugar and cornflour/corn starch in a mixing bowl and whisk until very light and creamy. Set aside. Put the prepared vanilla pod and seeds (see method below) in a  saucepan or pot with the cream and milk set over a high heat. Bring to the boil and then, whisking continuously, pour the hot milk over the egg mixture.

    Whisk well and then return to the pan. Stir over a gentle heat for a few  minutes, until the custard starts to thicken. Remove the vanilla pod and leave to cool.

    Remove the batter from the refrigerator and stir gently. Put a little butter in a large frying pan/skillet set over medium heat. Allow the butter to melt and coat the base of the pan, then ladle a small amount of the rested batter into the pan. Cook until the top of the crêpe is set then turn over very carefully with a spatula and cook on the other side for a further 1–2 minutes until the crêpe is golden brown. Keep the crêpes warm while you cook the remaining batter in the same way.

    Fill each crêpe with a little custard and 2 sticks of roasted rhubarb, then roll up. Dust with icing sugar and serve with the remaining custard on the side.



    To prepare vanilla pods/beans for use in cooking, simply cut in half and run the back of a knife along the pod halves to remove the seeds. The pod can be used alone, with the seeds or seeds only. Once used, the pod can be washed, dried and then stored in a sterilized jar filled with caster/granulated sugar to make vanilla sugar.


    Pancakes, Crepes, Waffles & French Toast by Hannah Miles is available here.

    Have a great evening folks and we hope tomorrow is filled with all of your favourite flips!

    If you'rea  general foodie like us, why not take a look at our current range of food books and bestsellers.

    This post was posted in Featured, News, Recipes, UK and was tagged with chicken, eggs, savoury, Hannah Miles, 2014, pancakes, sweet, griddle, rhubarb, crepes, custard, flour, milk, butter

  • Posted on January 23, 2015

    Recipe for the Weekend

    As we mentioned yesterday, Sunday 25th January is Burns’ Night and this weekend’s recipe will ensure that whatever you’re up to this weekend, everyone can bring a taste of Scotland to the table! Incidentally, this recipe by Hannah Miles features in The Creamery Kitchen by Jenny Linford, and we’re super excited at RPS Towers about her new book, The Tomato Basket! You can pre-order it here!

    Whisky & Raspberry Cranachan Cheesecakes

    This cheesecake is inspired by the classic Scottish dessert, cranachan – whipped cream flavoured with whisky and honey folded through with toasted oats and fresh raspberries.

    for the base

    50 g butter

    30 g caster sugar

    40 g golden syrup or maple syrup

    100 g rolled oats

    a pinch of salt

    for the filling

    150 g raspberries

    80 ml whisky

    300 g cream cheese

    300 ml crème fraîche or double cream

    80 ml honey

    2 eggs

    generous 1 tablespoon plain flour, sifted

    to serve

    a handful of fresh raspberries

    pouring cream

    baking sheet, greased

    8 x 6-cm diameter chef’s rings, greased and placed on a greased baking sheet

    makes 8

    Preheat the oven to 170°C (325°F) Gas 3.

    For the base, heat the butter, sugar and golden or maple syrup together in a saucepan until the butter and sugar have melted and the mixture is syrupy. Stir in the oats and salt and mix well so that all the oats are coated.

    Spoon the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet and flatten with the back of a spoon. Bake in the preheated oven for 20–30 minutes until the base is golden-brown.

    Remove from the oven and leave to cool for a few minutes. Whilst still warm, use one of the chef’s rings to stamp out 8 rounds of flapjack to use as bases, then leave them to cool completely. Leave the oven on.

    For the filling, soak the raspberries in the whisky for 30 minutes.

    In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the cream cheese and crème fraîche. Whisk in the honey, eggs and flour, then fold through the raspberries and any remaining soaking whisky. Spoon the mixture into the chef’s rings on the baking sheet and bake in the preheated oven for 25–30 minutes until golden brown on top.

    Leave to cool then transfer to the refrigerator to chill for at least 3 hours or preferably overnight.

    When you are ready to serve, place a flapjack disc on each plate and top with a cheesecake. Serve with extra fresh raspberries, cream and a tot of whisky if desired.


    The Creamery Kitchen by Jenny Linford is available here, and The Tomato Basket can be pre-ordered here.

    Cheesecake by Hannah Miles is available here. Other cookery books you may like in our Food category as well.

    Happy Burns’ Night and have a lovely weekend, chaps!

    This post was posted in Featured, Featured, Recipes, Recipes, UK, US and was tagged with baking, recipe for the weekend, dessert, 2014, Burns Night, Scotland, The Creamery Kitchen, sweet, whisky

  • Posted on January 22, 2015

    All about Scotch

    This Sunday is Burns Night, celebrating the life and poetry of Robert Burns. But it also tends to celebrate all things Scottish, including another famous Scottish export: uisge beatha…the water of life…whisky! The Curious Bartender: An Odyssey of Malt, Bourbon & Rye Whiskies by Tristan Stephenson has taught us that there is so much more to this golden liquid than a dram of Famous Grouse. So in celebration of the Scottish poet, this extract helpfully explains the difference between the different categories of Scotch. And check back to the blog tomorrow, when we’ll have a recipe so that everyone can have a bit of a Burns’ supper this weekend! But for now, over to Tristan…


    The term Scotch Whisky by itself is a bit useless, since any given product must reside in one of the sub-categories listed below. But broadly speaking, Scotch whisky must abide by the following rules (according to the Scotch Whisky Regulations 2009: it must be made in Scotland from water, cereal and yeast only, whereby sugars are obtained through malt enzymes (diastase). Mashing, fermentation and distillation must take place in the distillery and it must be distilled to less than 94.8% ABV. It must then be aged in oak casks no bigger than 700 litres/739 quarts, for a minimum of three years. Before the three years are up, it is known simply as ‘British New-Make Spirit’. Plain caramel colouring may be added.


    Single Malt Whisky must be made from 100% malted barley, but the barley can be grown and malted anywhere in the world. It must be distilled a minimum of two times in a copper pot still; you can distill three times (like Auchentoshan), or even more, but it’s not all that common. As with all Scotch Whisky, the maximum permitted distillate strength is 94.8% ABV, but most Single Malt Whiskies run off at 65–75% ABV.

    Ageing must take place in Scotland, but not necessarily on the site of the distillery. Obviously most bottlings are much older than the required three years, but it is possible to get young whiskies that exhibit a lot more distillery character than the 12-year+ drams most of us are familiar with. During the period in which the whisky is kept in barrels, it’s stored in a government-bonded warehouse.

    As with all types of Scotch, the age statement on the bottle must refer to the youngest whisky in the bottle. Vintage Single Malt Whisky poses another challenge, as it can be a little confusing when deciphering its age. These whiskies are permitted to list only one year on the label, and it can be either the ‘distilled on’, or ‘bottled on’ date, accompanied by an age statement. As of 2009, all Single Malt Whisky must be bottled in Scotland.


    As the name eloquently suggests, this type of whisky is a blend of two or more single Malt Whiskies. In the past, Blended Malt has gone by the title ‘Vatted Malt’ and ‘Pure Malt’, but 2009 legislation put a stop to that. This type of whisky is usually big, bold and not all that often seen, since most people would rather drink a Blended Scotch or a Single Malt rather than something inbetween.

    As is the norm, the age statement on a Blended Malt refers to the youngest whisky. Johnnie Walker Green Label is a great example of a smoky Blended Malt (partly down to the inclusion of both Talisker and Caol Isla in the blend), and I also love Compass Box’s Spice Tree, which controversially spent a brief spell out of production over a dispute with the Scotch Whisky Association.


    Like Single Malt, Single Grain must be the product of one single distillery, but it can be made from any combination of malted barley and other unmalted cereals (but not other malted cereals). It is typically produced in a column still, which produces a much lighter spirit than a pot still. Single Grain Whisky is seldom bottled for consumption on its own, and almost all of the Single Grain Whisky in Scotland is used in blends.

    If you are in the market for a bottle, check out Cameron Brig, which makes up the backbone of many famous blends.


    Despite the growing demand for Single Malt in the past 20 years, blended Scotch makes up over 90% of the global Scotch Whisky sales today. It must be made from at least one Single Malt and one Single Grain Whisky. As far as I am aware, there are no blends that contain more than one Single Grain Whisky, but many contain over 30 Single Malts.

    The Curious Bartender: An Odyssey of Malt, Bourbon & Rye Whiskies by Tristan Stephenson is available here.

    If whisky straight up makes you a little nervous, you can get your Burns Supper off to a great start with this whisky cocktail recipe. Enjoy!

    This post was posted in Featured, Featured, Interviews, Interviews, UK, US and was tagged with drinks, Tristan Stephenson, 2014, Burns Night, Scotland, whisky

  • Posted on January 15, 2015

    So you think you're a skateboarder?

    Today we have some skateboard-style entertainment for you, in case you’re twiddling your thumbs at work or just love to skate! We start at the miniature end of the skating spectrum with a project from Build your own Fingerboard Skatepark. All you’ll need is a box, a pair of scissors and some tape, and you can be a tiny Tony Hawks or Nyjah Hustons, soaring through your own diminutive dreams in no time!

    We then have a hilarious characterisation of that mythical guy from the skatepark… You know, the one that everyone talks about because he does the most insane tricks, but hasn’t actually been seen for months… Head down towards the bottom of the blog post to have a read!


    How to build a very simple quarter pipe using just a box, scissors & tape

    This lesson is the simplest in the book, but in many ways it is also the coolest, because you can have a ton of fun with this little ramp, and anyone can make it in minutes. Once you have the basic idea down you’ll see that there are a lot of potential variations on this ramp, and using this system you can set up a sweet little bunch of chained ramps very quickly.

    You will need:

    Cereal box


    Tape (packing tape or duct tape is best, scotch tape could work)

    Extra stuff that helps:

    Maybe a pen or marker

    Maybe a ruler if you want to be fancy

    1. Find a big empty cereal box and remove all of its contents, either by eating or simply by putting the cereal somewhere else. The bigger the box, the bigger the ramp. With the box open, remove the extra flaps (the stuff that is used to open and close the box) on the open side only. While not completely necessary, I prefer the ramp not to have this extra stuff. Make sure you keep the pre-sealed “bottom” sealed.

    2. Lay the box down flat. It doesn’t matter whether the front or back is showing, but if you like the idea of a big cereal logo on your ramp, use the front. We’ll call whichever one you’ve chosen the ramp face. Measure 13/4in. (4.5cm) down from the closed end of the box at the fold and mark it (see diagram). Repeat this step on the other side. You can experiment with this measurement, but you’ll see after you’ve made one that this measurement affects the size of the flat and how sloped the ramp is. Take your scissors and cut down each side up to the mark.

    3. Now push the loose ramp face in, forming a curve. Put a strip of tape along the bottom, and a strip along either side. You can shape the flat more if you want to, adding a harder fold there for little slides and plants, or you can keep the curve to have a more fluid slope to ride. It’s all up to you, ramp-builder!

    4. Now you should have a cool little ramp! In addition to taping the ramp face in place, I usually tape the whole ramp down to a stable surface, too, so that it doesn’t move around and so that transitions are smooth. You could also push it against a wall to give yourself a little vert wall to play off.

    Build your own Fingerboard Skatepark by Marty Allen is available here.


    The Myth

    Sasquatch, leprechauns, unicorns, the Loch Ness Monster, a world free from kids on scooters... all these things share one glaringly obvious trait: they don’t exist. The Myth is a bit more of a gray area. He is definitely a real person, because your friend’s friend once met him and that friend knows this one thing the Myth did must be true because his friend said so. Make sense? Good.

    Every town and every city has one local skateboarder who has achieved mythical status through his skateboarding.

    “I heard he did this insane trick at the spot.”

    “No way man, I heard he did it switch.”

    “I heard he did it after being hit by a car.”

    “I heard he did it naked!”

    Mixing the Chinese-whisper effect that younger skateboarders create during their junk-food fueled conversations with the murky, beer-fueled memories of the reminiscing older generation easily can create a make-believe memory of a skateboarder, one that can be at least 50 percent fiction. The person may have existed, but exactly what he did or didn’t do may have been somewhat altered.

    Usually this mythical beast will have dropped off the scene due to some career-shortening, never-heard-of-before injury, or he simply disappeared into the ether after allegedly doing some mind-bending super stunt. This kind of exit from the skateboard game means this ethereal creature’s spirit is destined to live on in infamy. The drab reality is that this apparition, this distant memory probably just got older and had to join the rat-race and accept the responsibilities of real life. He probably had a kid, got a 9-5, and just ended up skating less.

    Regardless of the actual truth behind the stories, the enhancing of the Myth’s abilities, and truth-bending surrounding his stunt work, this guy is probably the most important person to figure in the formation of a young skater’s life. The mysteries and fables only serve to make a kid aspirational about what is possible on a skateboard. Without these fantastical stories, kids might think some things are just not humanly possible, and one of the most amazing things about skateboarding is how it continues to progress beyond what seemed possible in the years preceding it. Without knowing it, the Myth is the person we learn from, the one who teaches us lessons, inspires us, and makes us believe the impossible is possible. The Myth might not know it, but he is.

    Next time someone tells you a tale about the time the local legend did such and such, don’t question it and wonder about the validity of the statement; embellish it and relay it to someone else. It’s the only way to ensure things move forward. And it’s fun to mess with people’s heads, too.

    So you think you're a skateboarder? by Alex Irvine is available here. More craft related books also on offer here.


    This post was posted in Craft Projects, Craft Projects, Featured, Featured, UK, US, What's new, What's new and was tagged with Marty Allen, skateboarding, 2014, humour, tutorial

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