“Man Up” review

Have you heard of the rom-com, “Man Up,” starring Simon Pegg and Lake Bell?

We rented it last night, without having any background on what it was about, and found it positively charming. Simon Pegg and Lake Bell have great chemistry and the film features some nice shots of London. Plus, Lake Bell’s British accent is very believable and good (and she’s genuinely likable. Another one to watch with her: “In a World.”)

Oh yeah, and it’s 88 minutes (meeting my “I’ll-give-any-movie-a-try-that is-90-minutes-or-less rule). (I’m a busy lady.)

Check out the trailer! (Or don’t! Go into it blind like I did – that works, too!)

Straight Outta Teignmouth

Oh, Interwebs … you are a true time suck, but so many gems abound.

Take, for instance, this little beauty I found on my Facebook feed.

For anyone who has passed through the west coast of Devon, you may know Teignmouth. It’s a pretty little seaside town, where my husband grew up, and I find this video so amusing and evocative – I feel like I’ve just visited. Amazing.

Gin flowchart

Gin flowchart

Love this!

Victoria Sponge success

Ages ago — ages and ages, long before kids, the Kardashians and the invention of cronuts — I loved Nigella Lawson’s cookbook, “How to be a Domestic Goddess.” It was a great cookbook, filled with recipes for breads, cakes, cookies and puddings.

And then I made her Victoria Sponge recipe and it made me rethink everything that I once believed to be true. I don’t actually remember why it was so bad. I just remember not even eating it and throwing it away. I made a small note at the top of the recipe “BAD :( ” and haven’t tried making this cake again.

Fast forward all of these years and my daughter wanted to have high tea at home so a cake was in order. I looked for a recipe – so many British recipes were still in British measurements and I didn’t have the energy or inclination to do the conversions. So I found one on Food.com that got nearly 5 stars and took a gamble.

As it turned out, then gamble paid off. The cake was so moist and delicious and ridiculously easy to make. The only adjustment I made was to double the recipe since my cake tins were larger than 8 inches (how large? I have no idea – again, I didn’t have the energy to measure them).



3 large eggs, weighed in their shells
butter or soft margarine
caster sugar
self-rising flour
raspberry jam (or jam, jelly or curd of your choice. I used Bonne Maman’s Four Fruits preserve)
powdered sugar to dust on top


The measurements for this recipe are equal amounts of sugar, flour and fat to the weight of the eggs. Weigh the eggs first – if the eggs weigh 8 ounces, you will use 8 ounces of sugar, 8 ounces of butter or margarine and 8 ounces of flour. If the eggs weigh 6 ounces, all the other ingredients will be 6 ounces – easy!

Set oven Gas 4 160C (fan oven), 180C or 360F: grease and base line the bottom of 2 x 8” sandwich tins – cake tins.

Cream margarine or butter together with the sugar, until light and fluffy.

Beat the eggs, and then add them to the mixture, gradually and beating well after each addition.
Sieve the flour and fold into the mixture with a metal spoon.

Divide equally between the 2 prepared tins and bake for 25 minutes in the middle of the oven.
Remove and allow to cool for 1-2 minutes.

Remove from the tins and fill with raspberry jam when cold, to avoid the jam seeping into the sponge.

A light dusting of powdered sugar on the top will finish it.

Place on an attractive cake stand or plate, and serve in dainty wedges with freshly brewed tea.

If you use butter remove from the fridge to soften before using. This is not necessary with soft margarine.

If large eggs are used they may weigh 7 ½ ozs/210g. If so make sure you use this weight for the other ingredients.

A smaller sandwich cake can be made with 2 medium eggs. Weight about 4 oz/55g. If so, use 2 x 7” sandwich tins and the cakes and the cakes will need less time in the oven – probably 20mins.

Serves 6-8.

The Great British Bake Off

Great British Bake Off is Back

Have you seen The Great British Bake Off?

This is the first year that we’ve been watching it (you can find most episodes on YouTube without much delay) and I love it – love the challenges and the recipes and the Britishness of it all.

Where else can you see home bakers create things like this:

Lion bread

Gingerbread fire truck

And even this…

Black Forest Gateau gone wrong

Yes, it’s high drama and hot kitchens and creative handiwork. Check it out, if you like a good bake off!

101 free things to do in London with kids

Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park

Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is one of Time Out Magazine’s 101 places to visit in London with kids.

It’s been awhile since we’ve been back to London, but when we do, I’m bringing Time Out Magazine’s list of 101 free activities to do with kids in London.

Guide to gins of Scotland

Gins of Scotland

I love this guide to gins of Scotland, courtesy of 5pm.co.uk. How many of these have you tried? I have only tried Hendrick’s. Clearly I have much work to do.

Misconceptions about Newcastle Brown Ale

Have you seen the latest Newcastle Brown Ale advert “Misconceptions”?

i just saw it for the first time yesterday and was sure it was a goof — until I Googled it and discovered that it was a real ad. What say you? Yay or nay?

(And for the record, it’s been years since I have had Newcastle, but am thinking of trying it again … I, too, thought it was too bitter at the time).

Yorkshire Mr. Men

Yorkshire Mr. Men

Ah, I love the Mr. Men series. Mr. Tickle, Mr. Messy, Mr. Nosey. So iconic!

But this did make me laugh – well, why not a Yorkshire Mr. Men series, right?!

Basil, Pea and Pancetta Tart

Basil, Pea and Prosciutto Tart

Is this stock art? Sorry, but yes. We dived into the one we made minutes after taking it out of the oven, before thinking of taking a photo. But for the record, it did look this good.

This weekend, we had a lovely lunch at home with a friend that I haven’t seen in quite a while. I always love a good catch up – especially when it’s accompanied by some delish food!

We made a basil, pea and pancetta tart (and by “we,” I mean the royal “we,” in which my husband did all the cooking and I did the hard part of going to Whole Foods and purchasing the ingredients required.)

The recipe comes from BBC Good Food and will certainly join the summer tomato tart in our summer cooking repertoire (and by “our,” I mean the royal “our” in which I helpfully suggest delicious winning dishes, and my husband kindly does the cooking. Are you sensing a pattern?).

I’ve tweaked a bit of the recipe for American purposes but some of it was eyeballing and guesstimation while the royal “we” went along, and “we” did use scales for weight.

284ml pot double cream
large bunch basil
1 pack shortcrust pastry (or make your own)
plain flour, for rolling out
175g frozen broad beans, defrosted and podded
1 bag frozen petits pois, defrosted
105g thinly sliced pancetta (we used cubed prosciutto instead)
3 eggs, plus 1 yolk
50g parmesan, finely grated, plus shavings to serve

Bring the cream to the boil in a small saucepan, then take off the heat and drop in half the bunch of basil, making sure all the leaves and stems are fully immersed. Leave to infuse for at least an hour. Transfer to a lidded container and chill once cool, if preparing the day before. Meanwhile, roll the pastry out on a floured surface to about the thickness of 2 x £1 coins and use to line a 23cm loose-bottom tart tin. Chill on a baking sheet until ready to use.

Blanch the broad beans in a pan of boiling water for 1 min. Add the peas, bring back to the boil for another min, then drain and cool quickly under the cold tap. Drain, then dry on kitchen paper. Set aside. Heat grill to medim and cook the pancetta until it is crisp and golden, setting aside on kitchen paper to absorb any fat. Can be prepared up to this stage a day ahead.

Heat oven to 400 degrees F and put a second baking sheet in the oven. Line the pastry case with parchment and fill with baking beans. Slide the tin onto the hot baking sheet and bake blind for 15 mins, then lift out the paper and beans and cook for 5 mins more, until the pastry feels sandy. Meanwhile, strain the cream through a sieve, pressing the basil against the mesh with a non-metallic spoon or spatula to extract as much of the flavour as possible.

Turn oven down to 300 degrees F. Beat the eggs into the cream, stir in the parmesan and season to taste. Tear the pancetta and sprinkle into the case, along with the peas and beans. Pour in the egg and cream mix. (You may have a little left, depending on the depth of your tin.) Bake for about 50 mins-1 hr or until the custard is just set in the middle. Serve warm or cold, topped with shavings of parmesan and the remaining basil leaves.

Recipe from Good Food magazine, April 2006


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