December 25th, 2012

Merry Christmas 2012

(Last year I posted a picture of the Grinch for Christmas, so I’ve decided to stick to the cartoon theme again & this year share my love for Peanuts with you! ♥♥)

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(I love Snoopy, but I love Lucy the most. Why? She’s rather persnickety don’t you think? I like that. I’m a fuss-pot too!)

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Hello~!!! Dearest blog readers!!!

 I’m back blogging!!! I’m so sorry I haven’t written in a long while…! It’s been ages, hope you haven’t forgotten me?? :)
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So, how have you all been? And how did 2012 pan out for you?
For me, well…, it’s been a mixed bag of highs & lows – it’s been a little too rainy this year, & having the Olympics in town was not atall helpful as everyone had initially hoped. (read a Guardian website article about it here) On top of that, what with the lo~ng recession we’re in, I can honestly say, it’s been a hard year…
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But. But but but. Here’s the bigger picture. Everyone around me has stayed healthy. And I’m still in a job that I love doing. There hasn’t been any major upsets either this year… – Now, I reckon that’s pretty good going actually, doncha think? :)
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Anyway! What am I writing about! It’s Christmas! No serious talk on a day like this, right!? That, I will leave ’til another post! And, ah, lol, no worries folks, I shan’t make it too long til I write next this time, as I am now in my one month+ break, I will have proper time to write to you! (My next trading date is FEBRUARY 2ND. Please note!)
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So in the meantime, here’s a silly Christmas poem that might amuse you when drinking your schnapps…
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It’s Christmas!

People have been discovering

On a Christmas Morning

That the curse of Christmas

That’s causing the most fuss

Has been unanimously concluded

To be “Batteries not included”

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And if you like Snoopy, here’s a youtube link to an episode called “A Charlie Brown Christmas (The Meaning of Christmas) that’s rather enjoyable to watch post-stuffed-with-dinner! :)

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My dearest blog readers,

may this lovely Christmas season bring you delights in all possible forms. May you receive love in abundance & joy that lasts throughout. Merry Christmas wishes to you & your loved ones.

With pixelated hugs from Tamami xx

September 25th, 2012

About Lanzarote + book/ podcasts to recommend

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This summer, we went on holiday to Lanzarote!

The last time we had a major holiday like this was over 7 years ago (!) to Japan, so it was a biggy for us.

www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - Coco & Me - Coco and Me - Lanzarote - Canary Islands - landscape -

The landscape was breathtakingly extraordinary. Everywhere you look, it is typically red, ochre & black. Lanzarote has around 300 volcano peaks which makes for the most surreal scenery.

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www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - Coco & Me - Coco and Me - Lanzarote - Canary Islands - grilling chicken over volcanic heat -

At the Timanfaya National Park (Fire Mountain), we ate chicken that’s been grilled over the volcanic heat from below! (but the chicken was tough…)

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www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - Coco & Me - Coco and Me - Lanzarote - Canary Islands - restaurant -

Our favourite restaurant was Casa Torano in the tiny fishing village called El Golfo. We went there twice on our holiday. In the evening, we happily sat there & watched the sun set behind the undisrupted view of the Earth’s horizon. We also saw that the horizon is slightly curved. – It’s obvious, yes I know that Mr.Galileo said Earth is indeed round, but it was a rare view for us! It was a reaffirming & humbling experience.

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www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - Coco & Me - Coco and Me - Lanzarote - Canary Islands - ocean horizon curve -

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At the restaurant, we ate amazing seafood:

www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - Coco & Me - Coco and Me - Lanzarote - Canary Islands - fried sardines -

(Must squeeze lemon over deep fried seafood! Because it cuts the grease & helps in digestion as it emulsifies the fats so that they don’t sit in the stomach! Also, squeezing Lemon (extremely alkaline) over fried seafood (extremely acidic) bring the body into perfect PH balance!)

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www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - Coco & Me - Coco and Me - Lanzarote - Canary Islands - fried baby octopus -www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - Coco & Me - Coco and Me - Lanzarote - Canary Islands - grilled octopus -

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Unfortunately, there were no exceptional sweet desserts to report back to you from this holiday… Dessert-wise, we just ate a lot of juicy watermelon back at our rented apartment. It was a perfect way to rehydrate our skin & body after a day out in the sun (watermelon is about 92% water). Watermelon also contains lycopene, which is a nutritional protection against skin damage from the harmful rays of the sun too! Double perfect.

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Finally, let me share with you my holiday book of choice. It is the ‘Nutrition Diva’s Secrets for a Healthy Diet’ (~What to eat, what to avoid, and what to stop worrying about~) by Monica Reinagel. It’s a book packed with useful information & I loooove the book. In fact I’m a big fan of the author. I also listen to her podcast shows religiously! I first got to know about the Nutrition Diva via Clotilde’s chocolate & zucchini, when Clotilde posted about the food podcasts she listens to. If listening to podcasts is your thing, check her list out.

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And while I’m writing about podcasts, the only other one I listen to is ‘Crimes Against Food’, hosted by Gloria Lindh & Mia Steele. It’s two girls from Yorkshire talking (hilariously) about the worst food crimes. ~ I smile & giggle along with them when I listen, & it makes me happy. :)  :)  :)

www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - Coco & Me - Coco and Me - Lanzarote - Canary Islands - Nutrition Diva's secrets for a healthy diet book -

(Reading on Famara Beach.) 

September 10th, 2012

Window of opportunities

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When I set about blogging back in 2006, I wonder, would I have ever known of how well that decision to write would turn out to be?
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Looking back, I suppose I could have not blogged at-all, considering I have never been a confident writer to start with.
(…I have a dismal history of getting a rather discreditable grade E for English at GCSE school… Lol! Now laughable, but not so at the time! Add to that shame, I got a grade F for French… Wouldn’t it be funny if I had studied German & then get a grade G? I could have accomplished a hat-trick of obtaining lowly grades in alphabetical sequence! It’ll atleast make a mildly good story to tell in a pub…)
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Anyway, through this blog, I’ve made new friends & have met lots of interesting people. This blog has been a window to opportunities.
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In fact, unimaginable opportunities have been thrown my way this year – new business proposition from amazing team of people with renowned backgrounds, offer to become an instructor for a regular chocolate-making workshop, & even an (albeit very initial) enquiry about own TV show (!?) Ha ha, yeah, I know, the last one’s especially surprising/ crazy/ amazing/ bizarre/ humbling/ exciting, right!? Although let me point out once again that it was just purely an enquiry in their initial/ ideas stage. So nothing has come of it! And I never followed it up. Still, nice to be asked though, huh?
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Another opportunity I get is to be invited to food related events. This Summer, I went to three.
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La Maison du Chocolat:
Coco&Me - www.cocoandme.com - Coco and Me - La Maison du Chocolat - Picadilly Circus - Chocolate bonbons. selection -  CEO Geoffroy d’Anglejan & head chocolatier/ creative director Nicolas Cloiseau
Coco&Me - www.cocoandme.com - Coco and Me - La Maison du Chocolat - Picadilly Circus - Chocolate bonbons. selection - CEO Geoffroy d’Anglejan & head chocolatier/ creative director Nicolas Cloiseau - piping bag pattern on surface
(the pattern was made by dipping piping-tip.)
Coco&Me - www.cocoandme.com - Coco and Me - La Maison du Chocolat - Picadilly Circus - Chocolate bonbons. selection -  CEO Geoffroy d’Anglejan & head chocolatier/ creative director Nicolas Cloiseau - chocolate tree
(La Maison du Chocolat CEO Geoffroy d’Anglejan & head chocolatier/ creative director Nicolas Cloiseau, with the 2012 chocolate tree inbetween them.)
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One was an invite to check out the 2012 Christmas collection at La Maison du Chocolat. Dearest readers, I know you’ll totally be on my side here when I say, “who can resist”, right? Who am I to turn down an offer to sample chocolates from one of world’s finest chocolate shop?
→  →  →  From the first bite, the very enchantment restored the faith in me that THIS is what real chocolate is about. And so, quite naturally, as you can expect from yours truly, I took on the occasion & ate through a many bonbons. All the while, I listened to chef chocolatier/ creative director Nicolas Cloiseau explaining each of the flavours of these refined morsels. Delectable. Delightful. Perfection. Bliss. Paradise. Need I say more?
→  →  →  Meeting the head chocolatier/ creative director Nicolas Cloiseau was an amazing experience too. I explained to him that my first ever experience of eating macarons was from La Maison du Chocolat back in 2004 & that it was a life changing experience by no means an exaggeration. I was ‘in’ to only chocolates back then, but it was the awe-inspiring deliciousness of their chocolate macarons that made me start to bake on a serious level. Inspired & obsessed, I experimented numerous times to re-create macarons at home. As you might know, macarons are notoriously diffcult to make, & it certainly was not a wise choice for first baking project. At first, I simply couldn’t get it right – mine cracked & there were no jaggedy ‘feet’ that is the must feature of any good macaron. When I did finally get it right, by the end of it I was hooked on the joys of baking & here I am today, baking professionally for 7 years.
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El Bulli: Cooking in Progress (2011):
Coco&Me - www.cocoandme.com - Coco and Me - El Bulli: Cooking in Progress (2011): - preview screening - flim - Ferran Adrià
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As some of you may already know, I finally started to twitter this year. And it was through twitter that I was invited by Artificial Eye (a film distributer) to a preview screening of the El Bulli docu film. I’ve been curious about this Ferran Adrià fellow & his restaurant from some time ago, & so I went.
→  →  →  What did I think of the film? Well… let’s first say that I ought to leave personal tastes aside. Because ‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ & you have to respect that. The food’s not my cup-of-tea, I’d salivate over homey & soul-warming foods ten-fold, but it doesn’t stop me from greatly respecting Ferran’s quest for new-worldly, artistic, conceptual cuisine.
→  →  →  Y’see, there, it’s not just fine-dining, but I would rather coin it as “fine-art-dining”. It’s so concept-led, going to his restaurant must have been like participating in a fine-art exhibition! When you hear that there used to be 2 million people applying for the 8,000 bookings available in a year, I do think it’s a little silly & faddish though. But I guess you have to understand that these people who can afford to splash a small fortune to getting there & paying for the 30-course menu are after ‘the experience’ & ‘status’ of having eaten there, so that they can get the badge & form an opinion, & that’s fine for them.
→  →  →  This fly-on-the-wall docu film lets us observe what a year at El Bulli was like (it’s closed down now). And it is a precious record of the phenomenon that was El Bulli. If you want to witness something that will surely be talked about in food history, this film will be right up your alley & I will recommend it. Despite being a success already, the man clearly still has the passion & the burning ambition to better himself (& others). And people with dreams & ambitions gets my vote, fully.
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Pastry Network:
Coco&Me - www.cocoandme.com - Coco and Me - Fred Ponnavoy, Head Chef of Gü
(pic with Fred Ponnavoy, Head Chef of Gü, with the new recipe book out next month.)
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My friends F & S organize a gathering group called Pastry Network, of which I am now also a member. Once-a-month, pastry chefs meet to exchange information as well as make friends with people who you have a common ground. I have great admiration for F & S to take time out of their very busy schedule to organize such group. It is clear that they are passionate about pastry. They pass on their knowledge freely, & I think it is a sign of a great person & teacher.
So far this year, they have organized head baker of The Berkeley Hotel to talk about ‘What it take to make fantastic bread’, & on a different month, member chefs brought in their favourite cookbooks to share.
→  →  →  This month, we heard Fred Ponnavoy, Head Chef of guest speak about Gü’s branding & product development. Despite that I won’t ever go down the same road, it was nevertheless a priceless opportunity to learn the inside story of how a successful company like Gü operates. And the talk left me with great respect for their dedication to create delicious gourmet products that’s now sold in all major supermarkets, a feat in a market which is otherwise saturated with inferior quality desserts.
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PS: Dearest readers, especially the readers who have been taking their time to write a comment, I’d like to say… THANK YOU very much! Did you know that YOU make this blog happen with me? Without your encouragement, & without the knowledge that I am being listened to, understood, I don’t think I could have achieved half as much & have quit this ages ago. And that is the truth. So thank you!!!

Warmest regards, Tamami xx

June 14th, 2012

Super Scones (the science of baking the perfect scone)

(I didn’t have time to buy clotted cream on this occasion… but full-on sloshing of jam will just have to do! ^^ Personally, I like to drink cold milk with my scones rather than tea.)

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♡♡♡ It’s recipe time!! ♡♡♡

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This time, I would like to share with you my take on scones. How I think it should taste & how it should look.

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Scones are honest, no-frills things aren’t they, there’s no fancy decorations to hide any flaws. And it’s because of that, that it’s all the more important to execute the baking well. When it comes out of the oven, they all ought to look pretty much uniform, & not collapsed lopsided or look like a collection of rocks. There should definitely be a side ways jaggedy break going through the middle, made from when the dough had risen, hinting at how deliciously soft the inside might be like. (Is there a name for this break? The Japanese call it ‘the wolf’s mouth’!)

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I think it should look unfussy & inviting, perhaps even goes as far as being evocative of the laid-back cream teas served by local ladies in pinnies down in the depths of devonshire countryside.

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Upon creating any of my own recipes, I always set about understanding the ingredients involved & how each plays its part. You know me, I love puzzing up my puzzler when concerned with baking. Afterall “baking is a science” & it’s my firm belief that if you understand the logic, you’re more likely to get a successful result. Not only that, when you vanish the question marks in your head, you would enjoy baking better too! – So here’s what I know about scone science in a Q&A format.

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Q: Why do we rub in the butter to the flour?

We rub in the butter to coat the flour so that it doesn’t soak up the wet ingredients as much as if otherwise. The butter fat acts as a barrier around the flour to stop gluten from developing too much. Gluten in cakes, as we know, creates structure which is important, but it also makes the cake firmer.

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Q: Why do we use cold butter?

Now, this is perhaps ‘the’ crucial part of the recipe. Utilize this bit of info & you will undoubtably bake super scones. People who know how puff pastry works will understand this better I think.

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So you think that it’s the baking powder that is doing all that lifting action right? No siree, there’s a bit more to it. – When the solid bits of butter encased in dough is rapidly heated in the oven, the water contents of the butter evaporates in to air bubbles, & it consequently lifts the gluten structure.

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For this reason, you know not to handle the dough with warm hands so as not to melt the butter prior to baking. And as cumbersome as it may be, we use the back of the fork (or even better with special pastry blenders) to rub in the butter.

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This bit of science also answers why the recipe has a high oven temperature setting. We want the butter to powerfully evaporate in the extreme heat, rather than slowly melt & sink in to the flour & wet it, creating excess gluten.

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Also, here’s a top tip: if you are baking in the summer, it may be an idea to cool your bowl & utensils in the fridge first! And while you are working, you can put an ice pack under the bowl!

www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - Coco and Me - ice pack - scone recipe

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Q: Why do we rest the dough in the fridge?

Part of the reason lies in the above answer = that the butter within has to be kept cold. Another worthy reason is to relax the gluten strands, one, to produce fluffy texture, & second, to avoid shrinking when it bakes (the rested dough is less elastic).

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Q: What does milk do in baking?

Milk has a a particular & richer mouthfeel, what with its certain subtle sweetness, thickness & slight acidity.  The liquidity delvelops gluten when mixed with flour & structures the baked goods. And the natural sugar in milk lactose, aswell as the fat, tenderizes the baked goods & makes for moist texture without it being soggy. Milk in baked goods also extends the shelf-life. And the sugar interacting with protein browns the baked goods more readily too.

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Q: Why does your recipe call for the egg wash to be done twice?

Two egg washes with a rest in the fridge in-between to dry the first wash, will darken the top of the scones better & make the scones aesthetically more pleasing. It also gives it a shiny surface & is very smooth to the touch. I personally think that it helps to make the scone look one-rank up & a little more sophisticated.

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So the key tips to making perfect scones are as follows:

  • Use cold butter.
  • Don’t dawdle. Work efficiently to avoid butter melting in room temperature.
  • Rest the dough in the fridge for more than 30 minutes.
  • Bake at high oven temperature.

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After all the above science-y chalk-talk, I’m probably scaring you away from making these, but please fear not!! Making these scones, you’d never look back to purchase one in the shops! I am so super happy with this recipe! ^^ It is actually super easy, super amazing, super moreish!

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Coco&Me’s super scones recipe

(Yield: It depends on the size of your cutters obviously, but I can make about 7 scones, using my 6.8cm round cutter)

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Ingredients:

90g salted butter ( I like using salted butter. If using unsalted, also add a pinch of salt.)

300g plain flour

15g baking powder

45g caster sugar

125ml cold milk

egg yolk for brushing the top surface

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Method:

  • 1. First thing first, cut 90 grams of butter into tiniest cubes possible & place in a large, deep-walled mixing bowl. Refrigerate this bowl with the butter until needed.
  • 2. Sieve in 300 grams of flour. (If using unsalted butter, add the pinch of salt in this step.)
  • 3. Using the back of the fork (or a special pastry blender if you have one), cut the butter in to the flour. Try to work quickly to avoid the butter from melting. (If you think that the butter is getting soft, place the bowl in the fridge until firm & then work again.Or try my tip & place an ice-pack underneath your bowl.)
  • 4. When the butter lumps are as small as a grain of rice, sieve in 15 grams of baking powder.
  • 5. Next, toss in the 45 grams of sugar.
  • 6. Pour in 125ml of milk & quickly work it in to the flour mixture to form a ball of dough. Here, use a spatula for most of the work, & then your hands at the end only to gather it in to a ball. Next, knead it until it is less bumpy. But also keep in mind to never over-work the dough so as not to produce gluten.
  • 7. Cling film it tightly & refrigerate for more than 30 minutes.
  • 8. After the 30 minutes rest, flour the work surface. Using the rolling pin, roll the dough flat to 2.5 to 3cm height.
  • 9. Then proceed to cut discs out. Very lightly flour the insides of the round cutter, & with equal force from straight above, cut in to the dough. Never twist the cutter or else you will get a lopsided scone.
  • 10. Place the discs on to the baking tray lined with baking sheet. Here, when moving the discs, never ever touch the cut sides.
  • 11. Brush the top surface with loosened egg yolk. Brush to the edges, but be careful not to let the egg wash drool down the sides.
  • 12. Rest it in the fridge again until the egg wash is dry to the touch (approximately 10 minutes).
  • 13. In the meantime, proceed to pre-heat the oven to 210 degrees centigrade.
  • 14. Brush on the egg wash for the second time.
  • 15. Place tray in the oven for about 10 to 12 minutes (dependent of size of your scones). Turn the oven sheet half way baking to ensure even heat/ even rise.
  • 16. Best served warm!! xx

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www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - Coco and Me - super scones recipe with step by step pictures

(By the way, it’s best to align the scone discs diagonally on the baking tray. The hot oven air flows better to each & individual discs better than if the discs were horizontally aligned.)

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(Did you know, the proper way to split open the baked scone is not with a knife but by fingers, right where the crack is!)  

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Lastly, scone trivia!

Do you spread the jam above or under the clotted cream? Cornwall has the jam underneath & Devon has theirs above (I’m a jam on top girl by the way).

 

May 9th, 2012

Coco&Me stall images

Coco&Me - Coco and Me - Coco & Me - www.cocoandme.com - heart tarts - pictures from the cake market stall - Broadway Market E8 UK

Coco&Me - Coco and Me - Coco & Me - www.cocoandme.com - Tamami - lemon tarts fruit tarts - pictures from the cake market stall - Broadway Market E8 UK

Coco&Me - Coco and Me - Coco & Me - www.cocoandme.com - Tamami - fruit tarts - pictures from the cake market stall - Broadway Market E8 UKCoco&Me - Coco and Me - Coco & Me - www.cocoandme.com - Tamami - pictures from the cake market stall - Broadway Market E8 UKCoco&Me - Coco and Me - Coco & Me - www.cocoandme.com - Tamami - sign - pictures from the cake market stall - Broadway Market E8 UKCoco&Me - Coco and Me - Coco & Me - www.cocoandme.com - Tamami - strawberry cupcake - pictures from the cake market stall - Broadway Market E8 UKCoco&Me - Coco and Me - Coco & Me - www.cocoandme.com - Tamami - flourless chocolate cake - pictures from the cake market stall - Broadway Market E8 UKCoco&Me - Coco and Me - Coco & Me - www.cocoandme.com - Tamami - pictures from the cake market stall - Broadway Market E8 UKCoco&Me - Coco and Me - Coco & Me - www.cocoandme.com - fruit tart lemon tart - Tamami - pictures from the cake market stall - Broadway Market E8 UKCoco&Me - Coco and Me - Coco & Me - www.cocoandme.com - Tamami - pictures from the cake market stall - Broadway Market E8 UKCoco&Me - Coco and Me - Coco & Me - www.cocoandme.com - chocolate cake cheese cake - Tamami - pictures from the cake market stall - Broadway Market E8 UK

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So sorry that I’m posting events in such a non-chronological way, but here are some pictures that photographer Andy Andrews took back in July 2011.

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I’ve known Andy from about 6, 7 years ago. We used to take our children to the same playgroup run by the local church! He’s taken these for an image library – so if there’s any of you out there who want to use these, please contact him for usage rights! :)

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