> The Beesley Buzz: February 2020

Saffron, mushroom and carrot pilaf-style rice

Here's a recipe I created to use up an excess of carrots. Just noting it down here so I can remember the ingredients to re-create it again another time.

I've learnt the hard way that with baking, it is crucial to use exact measurements but thankfully for cooking something like this you certainly don't need kitchen scales and can just guesstimate and throw in what feels right.

Ghee (or butter, oil or coconut oil)
Mushrooms (1 pack)
Carrots (around 3 small carrots)
Handful of raisins (soaked briefly in boiled water to hydrate, then drained)
Cinnamon powder
Rose petals
Ground cardamom
Dried parsley
Slices of bread for tah-deeg (optional)

1. Chop and fry the onion in a generous amount of ghee, followed by the mushrooms (cut as thinly or thickly as you wish)
2. Thinly slice the carrots into julienne style strips. I used the grating / julienne blade on my food processor to do this. Add to the pan with the onion and mushroom.
3. Add in the soaked and drained raisins, the cinnamon (around a teaspoon) and some dried parsley (around 1-2 teaspoons).
4. Place the saffron, rose petals and ground cardamom in a small cup and pour on a little boiled water. Place to one side.
5. Part-cook the rice. We used brown rice, and I find that the easiest way to cook rice is in the microwave. Brown rice usually takes around 40 minutes to cook fully so I cooked it in a microwaveable bowl covered with cold water for 20 minutes. Then rinse the rice in cold water in a fine meshed sieve. This helps to keep the grains separated rather than becoming mushy.
6. If you wish to make a tah-deeg at the bottom of your rice (crispy rice at the base of the pan), then heat a little ghee or oil in a saucepan. When hot, place the bread into the pan to cover the base.
7. Add around half the rice on top of the bread. Then add the majority of the mushroom, carrot, onion mixture. Followed by the rest of the rice and the rest of the mushroom, carrot, onion mixture. Pour over the hot water with the spices that you set aside then cover with a lid and cook for around 20 minutes on a low heat.

The crispy tah-deeg from the bottom of the pan - So delicious! 
I've called the recipe a pilaf-style rice as technically a pilaf should be cooked in a broth I believe but the flavours and style of the rice remind me of pilaf rice recipes.

Refined sugar-free carrot cake

Whilst sorting out my paperwork the other day, I came across several dozen scraps of paper with various recipe notes scribbled on them. Presumably recipes I created, experimented with, baked,or planned to bake. None had titles and none had sufficient detail to make sense of.

So I vowed that next time I experimented with a recipe that turned out ok-ish, I would write it up straight away.

Yesterday I made a healthier version of carrot cake with no refined sugar. Using plenty of dried fruit, grated carrot and a little date syrup gave it sufficient sweetness.

The kids weren't convinced to start with but ended up asking for seconds. If you have a very sweet tooth, this probably won't satisfy it but if you're used to alternative baking, then in my opinion, it tastes good.

190g self-raising flour
100g ground almonds
50g raisins or sultanas
50g mixed dried fruit
60g walnut pieces
2 tsp mixed spice
200g of eggs (around 3 large eggs or 4 small/medium ones)
100ml olive oil
300g carrots (grated)
60g date syrup

1. Pre-heat oven to 160c. Grease and line an 8 inch loose-bottomed cake tin.
2. In a freestanding mixer mix together the oil, eggs, mixed spice, ground almonds, flour and date syrup.
3. When well combined, add in the raisins and mixed fruit, the walnuts and grated carrot.
4. Pour the batter into the baking tin and bake between 30 to 40 minutes. Check after 30 minutes and bake until a skewer comes out clean.

I'm wondering whether a teaspoon of baking powder would help it rise a little more next time.

If you need to make your own mixed spice - you can find instructions here on our minute-make carrot cake recipe post.

For those with a sweeter tooth, you can always whip up a little cream cheese frosting (soft cream cheese plus icing sugar to sweeten or use honey or maple syrup to sweeten it).

It also tasted good with some double cream poured over it.

So less than pretty photos and a rushed write-up but at least it's here in case I wish to bake it again rather than trying to make sense of a scrap of paper with scribbles on!

Sugar Plum Fairy Afternoon Tea at The Waldorf Hilton

Anyone who knows our Miss T, will know that she's not just "T" by name but "tea" by nature as one of her favourite experiences ever is having afternoon tea. From the afternoon teas she's had at the Royal Kensington Hotel when she was younger (which you can read about here and here) to the Winnie-The-Pooh themed afternoon tea she enjoyed last summer at Ashdown Park Hotel, she's definitely a fan of the concept of afternoon tea: a beautiful setting, scrumptious sandwiches and scones and stunning cakes and patisseries.

So in the run up to Christmas we spotted that the Waldorf Hilton were doing a Sugar Plum Fairy themed afternoon tea. And even better they were running a series of weekly competitions on Instagram to win afternoon tea for two. So of course we entered almost every week, having fun with their Sugar Plum Fairy face filter for our entries. Christmas came and went with no luck. I tried to find a date to take Miss T anyway because by this point her heart was REALLY set on going there but with so much else going on it didn't happen.

Anyhow in the very last week of the competition, I heard that I had won! Of course, I was thrilled! We needed a weekend date as Miss T has so much time off school already for her hospital appointments so we managed to book for the very last date of the themed afternoon tea on Sunday 2nd February.

I don't very often treat myself to new clothes but having increased by 2 to 3 dress sizes in the course of the past 18 months (the doctors can't figure out exactly why and how much of it is due to my underactive thyroid and how much of it is age related and hormones changing!) I couldn't fit into any of my existing dresses. Luckily I found a gorgeous purple dress in the sale at Phase 8. Miss T wore her beautiful plum coloured tutu and we were ready!

Upon arriving at the Waldorf Hilton, we realised that we have passed this place literally countless times on our way to Great Ormond Street appointments, always spotting the posh entrance and smart doormen on our way.

So it was especially nice that today we were here in London for a treat and not for any hospital visits.

Our afternoon tea experience began with a cup of pea flower tea that changed colour from blue to purple. That was the first "wow" experience.

We then chose our main teas from a selection on the menu. I opted for Jasmine Pearl tea as I love white tea, Richard chose Organic Masala Chai and Miss T chose Organic Red Velvet; a herbal berry tea.

A beautiful selection of sandwiches arrived next...

Including a vegetarian selection for me...

...along with our next "wow" experience as the glass teapot in the centre of the table was filled with dry ice.

Then it was time for warm scones - plain ones and orange spiced with cream and jams, followed by the stunning section of patisserie items.

This included a pretty iced gingerbread ballerina biscuit from Biscuiteers

We enjoyed the harp being played throughout our afternoon tea. I'm not sure I've ever seen a real-life harp before! Isn't it beautiful!

Finally, passionfruit macarons presented on a dainty musical piano ended our most delightful experience of our Sugar Plum Fairy Afternoon tea at the Waldorf Hilton. 

Although the prize was designed for 2, they very kindly allowed us to book 3 people onto our Afternoon tea and only charged for Miss T as the additional child. Thank you to the Waldorf Hilton for running such a fabulous fun competition with such a fantastic prize.


January 2020 Unboxing video

Well here we are again for the 3rd month in a row of doing an unboxing video! Still dislike being in the videos and my kids still say they are the most boring videos ever but I'm finding it a great way of keeping track of wins as they arrive, used in combination with my prize win spreadsheet.

We've got a couple of extra things that haven't made it into the video so will hopefully feature in February - one is awaiting confirmation of dates/details, another that I only found out about on 31st January, and a couple of things not yet arrived in the post.

So January is off to a good start. I never know whether to include items arriving in January but won in December in my December list on my spreadsheet or in January. So as a general rule of thumb it seems to have worked out that anything I knew about in December that then arrived in January went into the December section on my spreadsheet, but any prizes I found out about in January (but may have been entered in December) into the January section.

January often starts out well because of any advent / Christmas prizes arriving so it gets the comping year off to a good start.

I've had to plead with my son to edit the video clips together again (as I really don't have any video editing skills!) So thank you Daniel.

There were a couple of things that arrived that aren't strictly prizes but Mumsnet product tests - so one of them made it into the unboxing. We used to get selected for their product tests quite a lot but as the kids have grown older, we hadn't been selected for quite a while so it's nice to get a couple of things to try out again.

Despite my efforts to make a short unboxing - it is proving impossible! Well at least it feels like it was a bit of a bumper month for wins. You can see what we made with some of our Northern Dough Company pizza dough on my Instagram highlights - it was a great prize and we had lots of fun pizza-making.

Hope January has been good to you too!

You can see our November 2019 unboxing here and our December 2019 unboxing here.