You say Jello I say Goodbye

Apologies if this is panning out like a word association game, blame our friends across the pond but I just couldn’t ignore the natural progression from Peanut butter on to the joys of Jelly –but Jelly as in ice cream to be very clear –not as in that liquidy stuff spread between sandwiches and definitely not as in JAM.  When it comes to presentation there is categorically nothing more beautiful than a wibbling, shimmering, gloriously shiny big jelly. I can’t put my finger on one thing exactly but you have to admire its shape shifting ability to mould effortlessly to any contour. Neither solid nor liquid, it is truly a wonderful, edible 3D canvas full of possibility.  


Now this transatlantic Jelly/Jello divide makes for rather confusing use of the J word and makes searching for new and exciting ideas annoyingly tainted  ––Even just searching google UK you think you’ve hit upon a decent article that will get to grips with pioneering new wibbling ways but no its just another recipe for strawberry preserve. I don’t mean to upset anybody stateside as I’m sure you are just as in love with your gelatine but I’m sure you can appreciate the frustration. At any rate, I think I can safely report that we are on the crest of a wave of a jelly/jello revolution – yes, pleasingly amongst the jammy red herrings are such revamped recipes as smoked Chilli Jelly, and a whole host of sophisticated sounding alcohol infused concoctions like fizzy Champagne Jelly, Wine soaked Raspberries in Chardonnay jelly and of course numerous vodka venturings.   The Vodka jelly party is brought bang up to date with ‘The Art of Vodka Jelly’ the pages of this book are entirely devoted to contemporary jelly cocktails!

Not that there is anything wrong with the traditional! That classic, elegant jelly shape I remember from children’s story books – always bright green for some reason.  Ok this does mean lime –perhaps not the best flavour but it’s a real stunner in that old fashioned jelly silhouette.  I bought a beautiful vintage glass jelly mould from eBay last year (and there is an endless supply of them it would seem) – purely to sit pretty in the kitchen.  Check out those curves! or another old favourite is to bejewel it with berries, transformed into suspended gem stones, viewable from all angles.  So lets take jelly to the next step –more daring shapes, try pouring it into bundt tins – I’m going to try out my sand castle shape one,  ooh and the ice cream cone muffin tin – a dollop of ice cream on top to serve would be sooo adorable!  or try making a Lego jelly block too cute!  Williams Sonoma have a great range too.  

And talking of daring, I stumbled upon the ‘Daring Bakers’ Blogs  a fantastic group of food bloggers who set themselves a collective challenge every month to make some new and courageous confection and their results are displayed for all to see how they performed. The Bavarian Mirror cake demonstrates how just a little bit of jelly can be a very beautiful thing – here’s a couple of the bloggers attempts – so kitschly appealing  don’t you agree?  

Anyway it got me thinking– what if you could combine those quintessential party staples – Jelly and Ice cream and give it just a little more portability and party factor – jelly and ice cream cake – a jolly gateaux to delight and endear –  – a party on a plate.   I haven’t tested this yet but going on the premise of mirror cake I plan to splodge ice cream layer into tin and freeze (probably easier to do this if you make the ice cream yourself so is fairly soft when spreading it into the tin), then mix up jelly and pour jelly layer on top and freeze. Release from tin and add to sponge layer mmmmmmmmm  

I guess you could try setting the jelly on top of the sponge layer whilst the cake is still in the tin but am thinking the jelly might all seep into the sponge, thus requiring a thin fruit mousse layer in between. Mmmmm again though! Just imagine miniature multicoloured ones! – blackcurrant, strawberry, lime and orange with a berry suspended in the centre of each one – oh my goodness I think I’m going to explode with anticipation.. I have also just remembered how good jelly cubes taste straight out of the packet – will have to allow extra definitely. As I said before I haven’t tested this yet but mark my words, success or disaster I will have posted pics of some trials soonish.  

If anyone has tried this before –let me know if it works.  And don’t forget all the savoury ways you can use jelly to show off the most mundane of ingredients to its best – remember the Robert carrier Eggs in Aspic last month.    

As a fitting accolade I will finish with an old poem that my Nan used to sing to us all the time.  

B was a burglar who came in the night

and the first thing he saw by the shine of his light

Was a beautiful jelly all shining like gold.

“Ah” said the burglar, I’ll take care of this, 

and he swallowed the Jelly and licked the dish.

I can so totally empathise with that burglar. Ah I can see his stripy black and white striped pullover and regulation swag sack so clearly as he enters the door and happens upon that shimmering dome.  Oh and lets not forget the pigs without whose trotters none of this would be possible. Awww.   


Peanut Butter is a Girl’s Best Friend

Ah that first taste always catches me unawares, sublimely savoury, subtly sweet, comfortingly clagging, it is surely the perfect food, effortlessly crossing the boundaries between starter, main-course and dessert.  Surely Willy Wonka had heard of peanut butter when he was inventing that infamous, three-course, most fabulous, sensational gum in the whole wide world– why he overlooked peanut butter for blueberries I’ll never know.

OK I admit I am trying to lay blame at Peanut Butter’s door to explain away the past weekend – 3 friends and I gorged ourselves on nothing but peanut butter and choc chunk cookies for 48 hours, never wavering to want for anything else.  So today I share this peanut butter themed rambling with you in hope of some kind of cathartic therapy.  At any rate it was a relief that a quick research on google tells us that peanut butter is now officially good for you –well at the last count anyway – better get indulging quick before the scientist types change their minds!  

And talking of scientists , as if we needed confirmation that our beloved butter was more special than the rest those white coated boffins have discovered it’s the perfect medium from which to make diamonds! DIAMONDS no less!! How fabulous!

elvis-recipes.jpgHmm much as I love it I still don’t think I’d sway my engagement ring for peanut butter but diamonds or no, it certainly rocked Elvis’ world – yep we’ve all heard of his favourite banana and peanut butter sarnie – have a look at this book– the recipe is in there along with all of the Kings other favourites.

Why not pay homage and have an Elvis Fest for all your friends – may need to have a cardiac nurse on hand however.


bill-granger.jpgBut to come back shame faced to the weekend immoderation – it was watching Bill Granger on TV last week that tipped me into this current abyss of obsession. (I say current because as im sure you’ll be familiar – the peanut butter obsession thing is a recurring theme – something sparks it off and you are destined to seek out all things peanut buttery, filling every crevise of your being with 1001 ways with Peanut Butter until the emptiness subsides and you can once more return to a stable level of usage). Try this book from Peanut Butter and Co in New York

If you havn’t crossed paths already, Bill Granger is that incessantly beaming, blonde chef type of slightly camp demeanour that has recently cropped up on British TV – you can catch him on Sunday mornings at the moment at about 11.30 on ‘Bills Food’. With his whiter than white smile and even whiter kitchen his book ‘Every Day’is full of totally fab and doable recipes including the cookie recipe that so inspired me to buy it. I am a total Bill Granger convert.

Anyway, his demo of the Peanut Butter and Choc chip cookies recipes must have awoken some primordial instinct within. Having managed to virtuously suppress this instinct for two whole weeks, on Saturday temptation struck suddenly in the jams and spreads aisle. The moment my hand gravitated towards that golden jar a frantic energy unleashed itself – “lets make peanut butter cookies!” I bellowed (in slow-mo probably) to fellow HouseGirl Rachel. She didn’t stand a chance, swept up in the urge; frantic, women possessed and without recipe for reference nor thought for the items we had actually come shopping for we filled our baskets – snatching randomly at the bakery shelves with all the ingredients we could possibly need. Like zombies we survived the long and bag laden walk back home, our minds focused on those cookies, only to realise upon consultation with a few internet recipes that our cookie making knowledge was pitifully lacking. No baking soda, no bicarb? – no problem – nothing could stand in our way.

Half an hour later, out of the oven –a little flat but still resembling the sunshine disc deities I had seen on Sunday morning Telly with Bill- they looked lovingly up at us willing and ready to meet their destiny. I will leave the depravity that followed to your imagination…miraculously all four people involved were able to return to their jobs and continue to lead normal lives.  Recipe follows below.


Do you have a similar story to share to make me feel better? I’m sure everyone has tons more favourite PB recipes for us to get our fix– please share them with fellow HouseGirls!


Peanut buttery links


National PB Day – January 24th and March is national Peanut MONTH!!! – I guess National is referring to the USA but I don’t see why that shouldn’t apply globally.


Chewy Peanut Butter cookies Recipe (makes about 32)

After a few overdone and underdone batches ours came out perfectly done when put in the top shelf at 190 degrees for about 10 minutes but those ovens do vary so much as we all know. Also as I mentioned, most recipes recommend you using baking powder and so on but they seemed to come out fine with the combination of self raising and plain flour.

We just used a mug from the cupboard for all our measurements and I guess it would work the same with any averagely sized mug. The reason we had to resort to such slightly primitive methods was cos we were staying at a friends holiday flat – so no decent utensils or recipe books and things and I couldn’t remember a word Bill Granger had said either.



1 cup brown sugar

2/3rds cup granulated sugar

150g Butter

1 cup Peanut Butter

3/4 cup plain flour

½ Cup self raising flour

2 eggs

big bar milk chocolate chopped

half a bag of Peanuts – Salted


Cream Sugar with Butter, mix in eggs, mix in peanut butter, add flour gradually and give it all a good mix. Add Choc chunks and peanuts. Leave in fridge to firm up for at least half an hour (I know the waiting is torture). Roll heaped teaspoonfuls in to balls and flatten slightly onto baking tray. Bake at 190 for 10 mins. Lock door, pull curtains.

They Don’t Make Dinner Parties Like They Used To

OK so we’ve enjoyed the relaxation of a bright and breezy picnic, but aprons at the ready again girls (and guys) because today we are going to indulge in some serious hard graft, cooking up a culinary homage to the 70s housewife. In essence those elaborate dinner parties that our parents enjoyed whilst we sat coyly at the top of the stairs listening in and wishing somebody would offer us pesky kids a piece of the oh so grown up action.



So descend centre stage the unassuming boudoir biscuit (savoiardi, boudoir, sponge fingers whatever you like to call them) the unsung hero of many a pudding, bow down before the Beef Tournedos and roll out the red carpet for all things roulade. Robert Carrier eat your heart-out. Don’t tell me – I guess if you are under the age of 40 you are saying Robert who? Well I am still the right side of 30 me-self (just) and its my mum that I have to thank for making this forgotten master a cherished part of my childhood.

She wisely collected all of the Robert Carrier recipes in weekly instalments – I dread to think of what life would be like without him as the backdrop against which my culinary memory is painted (er OK its debatable whether I have a culinary memory but it sounds so Nigella) – we certainly ate a lot of casseroles & my mum’s carbonnade is just the best!

However – never fear…a quick search on Ebay brought up a heart breaking number of sellers wanting to get rid of their long saved collections and books – I feel like emailing them all immediately to tell them what an utterly huge mistake they are making but at the end of the day who am I to stand in the way of us benefiting instead?

Today in the decade of the celebrity chef cooking has seemingly been re-branded as a joyful art but I’m sure its really Robert Carrier that we have to thank.  He may have put the a into aspic but he opened a whole treasure trove of delights to us Brits at the same time and oh those fabulous dinner parties – he really was the first celebrity chef; a groundbreaking gourmet in his time.

So a relaxed Friday night dinner plucked from Jamie or Nigella?– HELL NO! next time you’ve got company bring on the 70s sophistication. Your friends will love it. Not that you need any convincing I’m sure if you’re still reading and haven’t gone off to burn your bra or run to the nearest race course.

So back to your very own Carrier Fest – bring on the formality – send invitations, make them dress up – everyone’s sick of being casual and relaxed in their jeans and t shirts, this is the serious business of eating and drinking together with friends at home – come on put some welly into it – OK maybe life is too short to spend stuffing mushrooms – but just once in a while – try it! Oh but make sure they are old friends as they might be waiting a long time.

Now, uncover your Le Creusets (they have such a gorgeous range of colours now don’t they?) and brandish your recipe cards to take a journey through Carriers Kitchen…

  • Yes a good many (by no means all) of the recipes are ridiculously involved, but hey if you have the luxury of a day at home in the kitchen what better way to guarantee a smile on your face than food that reminds you of home and the good ol’days?
  • Yes, you will wonder how your mother ever managed it so serenely and all with a smile too!

  • Yes, you will be a sweaty mess by the time your guests arrive and don’t even think about making time to freshen up let alone apply make up- 70s dinner party cuisine is like childbirth if you will, the end result is worth it.  Besides, you’re all old friends and they will probably still be in their jeans and baseball boots anyway.

  • And Yes, you will probably need a week off work to prepare but even if some of the recipes like eggs in aspic don’t appeal, by god –the act of recreating them will give you endless respect for the 70s housewife!

For our carrier fest my fellow HouseGirl Stephanie even had to make the aspic from scratch!


I have to say the result was amazing to behold – I could have gazed upon it all evening – although a startling number of plates came back rather full, untouched even – I’m sure they just didn’t want to ruin the works of art or were just holding out for the main course though. Hmmm.

The Charlotte Russe was much better received and I cannot believe I had never made one before . . utterly delicious- and those sponge fingers truly get to hog the spotlight!

Remember – Perseverance pays.

HouseGirl’s 70s Menu

Stuffed tomatoes – surprisingly delicious

Eggs & Ham in Aspic – pretty to look at

Swedish Beef Casserole – good hearty fare – easy to prepare

Charlotte Russe –  Highly recommended! And do-aheadable

Black Forest Gateaux – another do-ahead classic



Reference Books;

Picnics – there’s no place like home

Gorgeous Hamper!Staying at home this summer? Me too. But hey don’t despair – more time at home in Blighty = loads more opportunities for that perfect hostess moment!

Ok now I know May, June and July were pretty much write offs in terms of getting outdoors but I’m sure August will bring the sunny weather and what better way to celebrate than with a picnic.

–But roll over utilitarian, pre-crockerised hampers (though I agree they have their place – in the back of your grandparents Volvo probably) because I adore my cute Dorothy style basket that my brother of all people discovered at the Divertimenti Cookware store on Marylebone highstreet.

Even though we don’t much get the weather for it, I just feel so much happier for having its friendly, curvy presence in the house. This cute flap-lidded style ensures you’ll be the most stylish picnicers on the park and it’ll have you clicking your heels together with glee all afternoon – and evening of course if you remembered the bottle opener for once.

Thing is Divertimenti don’t seem to stock it anymore but after much searching (I can’t believe how hard this fairy tale classic of a basket is to find these days) I found these that are equally worthy of your cucumber sandwiches at the dotcomgiftshop.

Cath kidstons are also ever so nifty and these ones at GingerTwo -just need to cover with a pretty gingham tea-towel to keep the flys off.

Oh and don’t stop there. – out with the plaid rug that smells of damp dog and in with these gorgeeousssss textile masterpieces from Sue Holt.

Wicker Picnic BasketAm also loving this book-Picnics (More Than 70 Inspiring Recipes)Picnics (More Than 70 Inspiring Recipes).  Mind you if you’re short on time and feeling flush –check out these ready made picnics at Carluccios, flyingchef, and Villandry.

Oh and if you do want to go the whole hog then there’s always the Dorothy outfit to match, or Red Riding Hood or Alice in Wonderland….. I have to say the shoes are utterly glorious.

 Dorothy ShoesI got them through an Ebay shop but try : SexyLittleNumbers – the pink ones are stunning too! (er they seem to do a great range in bodystockings too if that’s your bag)

I admit it was all for a Hen do in Bournemouth and I don’t think anyone would get away with the bum skimmer of a dress on a daily basis but should the occasion arise try LadiesFancyDress or  or again search Ebay for loads of sellers.



Dressing for Dinner

So let’s start in the kitchen.  Definitely the most important room in my house.

Now I’m not ashamed to admit that i’m obsessed with the humble apron at the moment – a much maligned and overlooked item in many a girls wardrobe these days I reckon, So though Ebay have some pretty nifty vintage pickings to be had, I was soo excited to find these elegant little numbers by Jessie Steele.

onyx-apron-jessie-steele.jpgAren’t they just gorgeous- Very desperate 50’s housewiveseque. To prove a point -last time I was ‘entertaining’ I was embarrassed to realise I had just spend the past 10 minutes banging on about where I got the dress I was wearing that I thought my friend was asking about, only to realise that the compliment had been targeted at my apron and she hadn’t even noticed my New York boutique chic beneath.

So there you go – spend a little extra on the pinny and save on the party clothes! Even if it’s just the ingredients watching they deserve to be handled in style – and I’m sure they taste all the better for it.