March 12th, 2012

One year on

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Yesterday was exactly one year on from the big earthquake & the subsequent tsunami that struck North East of Japan.

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I pray for the 15,854 people that didn’t make it that day, the 3,155 people that are still missing, & offer my heart to their families & friends who are still coming to terms with their grief. Not only that, my heart cry for the poor residents of the affected areas going through such a tough, tough time. There are more than 330,000 people living in temporary accommodation (including those staying with family & friends or in hotels), many of them unsure of what the future will be like.

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Living is extra difficult after the triple meltdown at Fukushima plant. As well as the debris, the soil within large vicinity has been polluted & the current news/ debate in Japan is where to dispose the millions of tonnes of polluted soil that’s been scraped up. Understandably no town wants to agree to placing the temporary storage facility the government is proposing.

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The discharged nuclear pollutants has also plagued the residents with health fears. And worries are abound, especially for the children, as to how this would affect them if atall eventually.

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Ever since when the disaster struck last year, I have a small donation box on my stall table at the market. I would like to take this opportunity to report to you that this little box has so far raised £365.53. Isn’t it amazing!? Thank you Broadway Market goers!!! The generosity you have shown is truly touching… I have been donating this money in batches to Red Cross Japan. - Yes, in recent days the donation amount has been really low (2 weeks ago, it only collected 50p…!) but every little counts as they say! ^^ Arigatō.

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Ps: The Japanese government has designed a campaign to express gratitude for its support for the Japan Earthquake. As part of the St Patrick’s Day Festival on Sunday March 18th in London, Japanese performers including maiko, geisha & traditional instrument performers will take part in the ARIGATO parade. – There is also “Tasting Japan” experience at Westfield Stratford with Japanese food & alcohol!

January 22nd, 2012

Tiramisu recipe (+ Ladyfingers recipe)

(Tiramisu in individual cup – with ribbon design stenciled.)

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High time for another recipe! So here goes (…a long one)! ^^

 

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TIRAMISU

Literally meaning ‘pick me up’, this Italian dessert is made by alternately layering coffee-dipped ladyfingers*, mascarpone mixture, & cocoa powder.

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Interestingly, the history of tiramisu doesn’t stretch long. You’d think that such a classic Italian dessert would record back from perhaps generations of family tradition or perhaps it might have been conceptualized soon after when zabaglione was invented all the way back in 1570**. But no, although exact origin is not certain, the earliest tiramisu recipe found*** is from only less than 30 years ago.

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There are many tiramisu recipes out there, but it mainly separates into two camps: raw-egg version or pasteurized egg version. I prefer the pasteurized version – It feels safer that way. I also prefer to use Kahlúa (Mexican coffee flavored rum based liqueur) in the cream mixture as opposed to Marsala wine, as I think it marries the coffee-soaked ladyfingers & the cream better.

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The following recipe will make 4 & a half tea-cups of tiramisu like the picture above. Obviously, you can make it in one big dish if you prefer. And for the ladyfingers, you can ofcourse use store bought instead, but nothing beats homemade on this one! ^^ So let’s first look in to making the ladyfingers!

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First thing we need to do is to prepare the baking surface with guide lines so that you can pipe the ladyfingers straight with the same length & thickness. – If using baking parchment sheet, use pencil & ruler. Just make sure to reverse the paper so you pipe on the surface without pencil-side. – On a Silpat, you can’t draw, so dust icing sugar instead.

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Coco&Me - Coco & Me - www.cocoandme.com - Ladyfingers recipe

BAKING PAPER vs SILPAT

On a Silpat, the back of the ladyfinger will come out smooth & shiny. It comes out rough on baking paper. It is also easier to remove/ lift off the ladyfingers with silpat’s non-sitck surface compared to having to peel it off on baking paper. Silpat also provides even heat transfer to your baked goods. This is because the glass fibres in it increases the heat transfer. I have experimented on both sheets, & I had to add another 4 minutes to the baking time when using baking paper.

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LADYFINGERS RECIPE:

Makes about 30 to 35 fingers. (Please note: for the tiramisu recipe below, you will only use half as much)

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Ingredients:

3 medium eggs

1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

60g icing sugar

45g cornstarch

30g icing sugar

60g plain flour

Icing sugar for dusting the top
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Things you need to prepare beforehand:
Piping bag
Scissors
Small fine-mesh sieve (like a tea-strainer)
Spatula
Hand mixer
Small bowl with water
Chosen baking sheet with guide grid.

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Method:

  1. 1. Start pre-heating the oven to 220°c, as it takes a while to heat up.
  2. 2.Measure/ prepare all ingredients for smooth operation(Separate the 3 eggs to two bowls, the egg yolks in to a small bowl & the whites to normal size bowl). Also have the piping bag & scissors ready.

Coco&Me - Coco and Me - www.cocoandme.com - Ladyfingers / tiramisu recipe

  1. 3. First, let’s make meringue. In a normal sized bowl, whip the 3 egg whites to foamy stage.
  2. 4. Add 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar. Keep whisking.

  1. 5. Next gradually add the 60g icing sugar while whisking. Whisk until soft peak stage.
  2. 6. Add 45g cornstarch & give it a final whip until hard peaks form. Leave this bowl aside for now.

  1. 7. Next, quickly go on to the small bowl with the 3 egg yolks. Dump the 30g of icing sugar, then on high speed, whip until it has tripled in volume. It should look paler & fluffier. (To avoid washing-up, just use the same whisk attachment as the one you were using to whip the egg whites!!)
  2. 7. Spatula in the yolk mixture in to the bowl with the meringue. Fold it in roughly. (Not too much because you will be giving it a proper mix in a moment with the flour anyway!)

  1. 8. Sieve in the 60g plain flour.
  2. 9. Gently fold the mixture just until no flour remains to be seen. (Don’t over-mix!!)

  1. 10. Place the mixture in to the piping bag & then snip off the tip so that you have a 1cm piping-hole. (Notice in the picture above that the baking sheet is reversed so we’re not piping directly on pencil marks.)

  1. 10.Slowly & precisely pipe neat lines using the guides on your baking sheet.
    (Tip on piping: Start piping about 1cm inside the guide. Squeeze the batter out until it’s a round blob & until it touches the guides. Keeping the pressure flow, gradually & slowly move the piping bag across to make a line.)
  2. 11. Your piped shapes will have a ‘kink’ sticking out where you lifted the piping bag off. So dab minimal amount of water on to your finger & press the pointy bits down very gently & smooth that bit of surface. (If you don’t do this, you will end up with ladyfingers that have burnt pointy bit.)

  1. 12. Sieve plenty of icing sugar on the shapes. Do this twice. (This way, you get the pearlized look, aswell as help it lift the top surface up & give it ‘feet’ around the sides just like a macaron.)
  2. 13. Bake in the pre-heated oven. Half way through baking, take it out & turn them over so that the underside becomes dry too.

  1. 14. After about 15 minutes, lift one of the biscuits & tap the back, if it sounds hollow it is done. Take it out & let it cool on the baking tray. You can see from the picture it is baked through & is dry all the way to the middle. It’ll have a nice snap.

 

 

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TIRAMISU RECIPE

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Ingredients:

Strong coffee – cold

3g gelatin powder

30g Kahlúa

- – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – -

10g Kahlúa

3 egg yolks

80g sugar

250g double cream

250g mascarpone cheese

cocoa powder

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Method:

Coco&Me - Coco & Me - www.cocoandme.com- creamy tiramisu recipe - homemade - design - individual cups

  1. 1. Make strong coffee & set aside to cool.
  2. 2. Sprinkle 3g of gelatin powder in to 30g of Kahlúa liqueur. Stir it straight away with a spoon. Set this aside. (Top tip to successfully dissolving gelatin is to add powder to liquid, not visa versa)
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  1. 3. Next, we pasteurize the eggs: In a small mixing bowl, combine 10g Kahlúa, 3 egg yolks & 80g sugar. Put this bowl over a bain marie & bring the mixture temperature to 60°c, whisking all the time. Beat it for 3 minutes. The mixture will be fluffy & have doubled in quantity. (Note: 60°c temperature for 3 minutes destroys salmonella organisms.)
  2. 4. Microwave the Kahlúa-gelatin liquid from step 2 for 20 seconds or until the gelatin granules have dissolved. Set this aside to cool.
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  1. 5. In a separate bowl, whip the 250g double cream until it forms stiff peaks. Set aside.
  2. 6. In another bowl, combine 250g mascapone cheese to the egg-mixture from step 3.

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Coco&Me - Coco & Me - www.cocoandme.com- creamy tiramisu recipe - homemade - design - individual cups

  1. 7. Then fold in the whipped double cream from step 5 & the cooled gelatin from step 2.

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  1. 8. Have the cold coffee liquid in a shallow bowl, & one by one, soak a ladyfinger in cold coffee on both sides for one second each.
  2. 9. Align one layer.

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  1. 10. Layer mascapone mixture to half way.
  2. 11. Sieve cocoa powder.

 

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  1. 12. Run your finger around the cup to remove excess cocoa powder.
  2. 13. Then repeat by placing another layer of coffee soaked ladyfingers, after that, cream – this time all the way to the top. Finally run your finger around the rim again to tidy up.
  3. 14. Refrigerate for 4 hours.

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  1. 15. Sieve cocoa powder. (use a stencil to customize the top if you like!)
  2. 17. Finally, use fingertip to go around the glass rim to tidy up the cocoa powder.
  3. 18. Serve cold. Buon Appetito!!

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* Ladyfingers are also called ‘savoiardi’ (=from Savoy) in Italian, ‘biscuits à la cuillère’ or ‘boudoirs’ in French, ’lange vingers’ (=long fingers) in Dutch, ‘Löffelbiskuit’ (=spoon biscuit) in German. ** Detailed instruction of ‘Zambaione’ was mentioned in a cookbook called ‘Opera’ by Bartolomeo Scappi in 1570. *** Book titled I Dolci del Veneto (The Desserts of Veneto) by Giovanni Capnist in 1983. In here, it says “(Tiramisu is) a recent recipe with infinite variations from the town of Treviso” & is a “discovery of restaurants more than family tradition.”

January 6th, 2012

Galette des Rois 2012

Coco&Me - Coco and Me - Homemade Galette des Rois 2012 with leaf pattern - www.cocoandme.com

(Leaf pattern!)

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This year for Epithany, I made Galette des Rois from scratch again. Puff pastry & all. This time, leaf pattern. I think it looks country-esque & more like a pie compared to the swirly patterns on Parisian ones but I was wary of scoring those swirls as it needs to be so precise.

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Anyway, I’m quite pleased with the result, the puff pastry didn’t pull in strange angles & the galette came out almost perfectly circle! Phew!

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The ultimate tip when working with puff is PATIENCE.

Firstly, I know it takes a looong time to make, but the waiting time in the fridge mustn’t be shortened by haste. And after you made it, it also needs a 12 hour rest in the fridge before using it/ rolling it out. It’s all about resting the gluten in the flour, otherwise the pastry will shrink upon baking.

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Then when rolling, if you think that the pastry is getting too soft, you have to put it back in the fridge to cool before approaching it again. - Never let that multitude layers of butter melt, because it’s the butter (actually, it’s the water content in the butter) who does the all-important puffing/ lifting, when it evaporates under the extreme oven heat. This ‘extreme oven heat’ is key too. It needs to be atleast 200 degrees centigrade. Anything less than that, the layers of flour will stick together because of poor evaporation & the whole thing won’t rise like the way you want it to.

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So yes, resting it in fridge & keeping it cool while working. And oh, when rolling out, roll to all directions from the middle outwards (never back & forth), & also turn it over & do a bit of rolling on that side too. Yes, phew!

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(Cooled down sugar syrup (water & sugar 5:5) brushed on surface of just-baked galette for the shiny look! )

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No picture of it cut in to a slice, I’m afraid! We’re gonna eat it later with everyone & try find my fève charms, Lyla & Roger, doing their once-a-year duty of hide & seek!

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December 31st, 2011

Skills Competition 2011 & Mrs T

(Pastry chef doing sugar craft, working under the heat lamp)

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Here’s something that happened back in October. – I told you I had a back-log of stuff to write about! :)

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In October I visited the Skills Competition* held at the Excel centre in London. I never knew about this competition before but it’s a huge event held every 2 years, where over 950 Competitors from 51 countries compete to be ‘the best of the best’ in 46 different skill competitions. I found out via Mrs T, who I’ll tell you about later.

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The type of skills competed are vast. Some of which are:

Wall & Floor Tiling, Cabinetmaking , Offset Printing, Floristry, Mechanical Engineering, Mobile Robotics, Hairdressing, Caring, Beauty Therapy. – And the ones that are of interest to me & probably to you are Confectioner/Pastry Cook & Restaurant Service.

- Below in grey-type are what those two categories are about in detail (copied & pasted from the Skills Comp. website.)

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Confectioner/Pastry Cook:

Confectioners/pastry cooks are skilled craftsmen and women. High levels of knowledge and practical expertise are required to produce the range of intricate items which they provide.

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Confectioners/pastry cooks create an abundant variety of elaborate and delicious products for all kinds of event, which employs artistic talent as well as gastronomic flair. They must be able to work economically and use their initiative, not forgetting the quality of products, ergonomics, and health and safety regulations. They make and present decorated cakes, pastries, biscuits, chocolates, modelled marzipan, hot and cold desserts as well as centre pieces in various mediums such as chocolate, cooked sugar, pastillage and nougatine.

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Contestants are all in individual booths. Observers are very close to these contestants, about just 1 meter, only separated by red rope. When I visited, the chefs were all doing sugar work. It was very exciting to watch as I have no experience in it. It was so inspiring that I pondered on finding a course that I can enroll myself on. And actually, even just looking at what equipment they were using was totally interesting & I was hanging around these booths for a very very long time.

- Many congratulations to Austria, France & Japan for winning the Gold medals!

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Restaurant Service:

Restaurant Service demands an extensive knowledge of international cuisine, of beverages and bar service. The waiter is the most important contact person in attending the customers. It is therefore necessary to have a complete command of serving rules and to know the preparation of special dishes and drinks at the guest’s table. Basic requirements are skill and resourcefulness, good manners, aplomb and practical ability.

- Restaurant service requires excellent skills in areas such as:

- – Serving food and drinks
- - Mixing international drinks and working behind the bar
- – Preparing food in front of customers, e.g. carving or flambéing
- – Serving wine
- – Identifying alcoholic drinks
- – Folding napkins

Service skills require competence across these types of restaurants:

– - Bistro ~ Plated service
- – Cocktail Bar ~ Gueridon service
- – À la carte restaurant ~ Cooking at the table
- – Fine dining ~ Gueridon service

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www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - Coco and Me - Skills Competition 2011 London Excel Centre

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At the Cabinet making booth:

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Embroidered on the back of every Japan team member is がんばろう日本!- Meaning “Don’t give up Japan!” A message of strength with a deep meaning for the earthquake that happened on March the 11th.

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Now, you’re perhaps wondering why I went to see the cabinet making section right? Well, it was to try & find Mrs T, who was working there as a translator for the Japan team.

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Mrs T & I have been pen-friends for a long time now, first through this blog & then to exchanging long emails & pictures. But we never met, what with being in a different country. When she found out that she is to visit London for her work, she contacted me, but her busy schedule in London with the team, aswell as that coinciding with my baking schedule was such that we sadly couldn’t plan a proper meeting. But I said I’ll pop by her area & see her work from afar.

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!! There she is, there she is!!

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I immediately spotted her in the distance in the blue jacket. I was wondering if she’d look my way & then I’d at least wave to let her know that I did come, but she looked very busy… I decided to have lunch then come back & try my luck after.

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During lunch I struck a chat with pastry lecturers from Northern Regional College, their students were doing demonstrations at the show. We talked about the Red Devil apples that they were using in their desserts. – Red Devil apples are stunning bright red in colour, almost lipstick red, sweet & juicy. The unusual thing about these apples are that the flesh is pink stained (how beautiful!) & that the juice is pink too. Now I want a red-fleshed apple tree for my (small) garden!

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Satisfactory lunch & pleasant chat over, I moved on to go for a final visit to Mrs T’s area. I’m so glad I did go back because I finally managed to catch her & wave! – And even better, Mrs T came out to have a chat too!

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www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - Coco and Me - Skills Competition 2011 London

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I think we both felt a little weird & giddy from finally meeting after so long! And Mrs T was such a lovely, warm, friendly person!! What touched me was her faith/ confidence in how I will be successful in what I do – It kind of blew me a bit because most of this year I have been on the ‘down’, feeling tired all the time & consequently feeling uncreative. – But Mrs T, your such supportive words must be working its magic, as it propelled me to finally get going with experimenting in the midnight kitchen again for new recipes! I’m glad that I met you. One day (& God only knows when), I’ll finally visit Japan, & so I hope to meet you again! (& hopefully in beautiful Miyakojima)!

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* The next International WorldSkills Competition will be held in Leipzig, Germany in 2013. It’s a fantastic event for everyone, I think especially for the young students to see first-hand what options/ opportunities there are for their career ahead. Visit highly recommended!

December 24th, 2011

Merry Christmas 2011

cocoandme.com - grinch - Christmas - Coco&Me
“And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.” – Dr. Seuss
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Hello dearest blog readers~! How are you enjoying your Christmas weekend? :) What are you up to? (Or if you’re reading this post-Christmas, what did you get up to??)
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I’ve decided to not work this 24th despite the market itself being open. Instead I’ll be at home, it’s Christmas Eve afterall & so I’ll hopefully reward myself to a long-ish sleep-in in the morning (until the kids jump my bed & annoy me out), then go for a walk, perhaps stopping over at the new ice cream parlour in my neighbourhood to top up on calories lost! Lol. (my current fave flavour is pistachio – what’s yours?)
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And yes, before you say it, I know, I know, I’ve been slack with updating on this blog. Time marches on quicker than I’d like it to & I rarely have a moment nor space in my mind for creative writing.
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Yet so many things have happened this year, so many blog posts overdue. I’ll try my best to fill you in before long – I’m not working at the market for a whole month, first market day in 2012 is 28th January, so fingers crossed I’ll be able to write lengthy ones! I especially want to write about the first ever baking class I taught – it was so exciting! And about Mrs T from Japan, and the thoughtful Christmas gift from G, and about my twitter, and and and… also hopefully write a recipe too!!
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But for now, a little bit about the text from Dr. Seuss above. As seasoned blog readers know, I like my Christmas blog posts with a poem/ quote every year. This time it’s a nice bit of text about the “little bit more” that Grinch finally became conscious of. – This year I am also aware of this a little more than ever before.
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May each & every one of you have the very Merriest of Christmas!! Hope the holidays bring you lots of reasons to smile.
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Warmest thoughts, love & appreciation,
Tamami xxx

November 3rd, 2011

Meeting a monster down Broadway Market

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Good morning!

Just a quick note to say that I’m not going to be trading at Broadway Market this coming Saturday – I’m terribly sorry if there were any readers who were thinking of coming down to see me…

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In the meantime, I’d like to share with you one of my favourite pictures from my iPhone: we took it a while back, about a month ago I think.

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www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - Coco and Me - Monster down Broadway Market

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Meet “Beastie“. He was promoting a show at Chats Palace. – Isn’t this like the best pull-on costume ever?! (Apart from Micky Mouse & gang in DisneyLand that I’d chase down, squeeze & cuddle until they say no.)

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We get all sorts walking down the market, sometimes to promote shows/ venues like this or to hand out company leaflets/ balloons. There’s also some fundraisers for charities. And actually, such particular fundraising group that I liked seeing down the market was the famous Pearly Kings and Queens called “the Pearlies” with their black outfits decorated with rows of hand-sewn pearl buttons. Very London! :)

October 5th, 2011

Bunting for the stall

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Just recently I bought this bunting on ebay.

(continues…)

www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - coco and me - bunting with woodland animals - small

(‘scuse the harsh shadows… midnight photography…)

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I was on the look out for bunting for ages so I was so happy when I finally found one I liked! I wanted a design that was not too twee or country-chic/ shabby-chic. And I didn’t want to go for the usual tricolour of red, white & blue that I’ve been seeing everywhere.

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This lovely handmade bunting is in an old & rare Cranston print fabric called Bank Holiday. Depicted are dressed up woodland animals enjoying themselves at a country fair.

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Currently on my stall I have a fair bit of ‘animal-theme’ going on! ^^

I have the bird design on the cheesecake & on the chocolate tart (pictures of those can be found here & here.) Then there are bunny shaped biscuits on the large cakes & tarts too (picture of the biscuit can be found here). I also have tiny yellow birds clipped on the cake racks! So having this new animal bunting is just the fitting addition, I think!

www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - coco and me - broadway market - stall - animal bunting

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www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - coco and me - broadway market cake stall - Tamami

(The yellow blobs at the bottom of the picture are the bird clips…)

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Anyway, hope all is well everyone, & I do hope to write another recipe for here soon…!!

Warmest regards, Tamami xx

September 22nd, 2011

This Summer (cream teas in IOW)

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This summer we went on holiday to the Isle of Wight for four days.

www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - Isle of Wight - Beautiful Shiny Sea -Tamami

(Sun kissed sea!! – We were lucky with the weather – And that’s a statement considering we are in UK! Lol.)
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I know I-know. It isn’t a fancy destination like, I dunno, somewhere like Majorca, but I reckoned that a plane journey with a rather tricky three-year-old in tow would be just too stressful. Whereas Isle of Wight can be reached by just two hours by car & then an hour on the ferry – so there we were. Also it was a place where I went to on a school trip aged 12, & I wanted to go there in that ‘a trip down memory lane’ kind of way…
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I really wanted to show the children the sea. It was our boy’s third time & our girl’s first time.
www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - Coco and Me - Isle of Wight - Beach throwing pebbles - Tamami
(Throwing pebbles in to the sea. Well, trying to… Mind your heads! ^^)
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While on the island, I, quite naturally, was on the look out for Cream Tea signs. My philosophy is that it’s like a ‘must-do’ on a holiday in the countryside in England. It’s also the only time that I eat clotted cream & I was not going to miss the opportunity to scoff ’til I groan…!
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www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - Coco and Me - Isle of Wight - Chessell pottery barns cream tea scones - Tamami
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At the Chessell Pottery Barns, we sat in the courtyard under the big willow tree. The sun’s rays were shining through the branches. Light was gently dancing on our table. We had a blissful time.
www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - Coco and Me - Isle of Wight - Chessell pottery barns cream tea scones - Tamami
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Mine was a summer berry scone. The tang of the berries with the scone sponge was an amazing combination. Together with a thick spread of creamy clotted cream & sweet strwaberry jam, gulps of strong tea to wash it down ready for the next bite… … – you momentarily think that nothing else matters in the world. - I had a hard time not to wolf it down too quickly to savour the bliss.
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www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - Coco and Me - Isle of Wight - Warren farm farmhouse cream tea scones - Tamami
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Very close to The Needle (the first two pictures were taken there), we dropped by Warren Farm for their farmhouse cream tea. There, ladies in pinnies served us from a small hatch window. The aga-baked scones were fresh & soft. I chose to eat it with their hedgerow jam.
www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - Coco and Me - Isle of Wight - Warren farm farmhouse cream tea scones - Tamami
(The tablecloth, the crockery, the doilie… – to me, it exactly exemplifies ’countyside cream tea’. Perfect.)
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Another place that is definitely worthy of mention is the Bluebell Café near the Isle of Wight Steam Railway. It’s a part of Briddlesford Lodge Farm. We had lunch there & it was so delicious! We also tried a glass of unpasteurised gold-top milk (gold-top milk is 5% fat content, whereas whole standardised milk you find in supermarkets are 3.5%) from their Guernsey herd.
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We discovered this place just two hours before we had to leave the island. We regretted not finding it sooner because otherwise we could’ve eaten there more. Oh well.

September 12th, 2011

Twitter

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Hello~! Hello~! Hello~!

Yes, I’m blogging again!! – it’s been a while since the last post I know, I’m so sorry… I hope you haven’t forgotten? How have you all been? Did you all have a good summer?

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My summer holiday with the children was just so ”full-on’…

A 7 year old & a 3 year old, 24/7… As lovely as they are, & as much as I love them, by the end of everyday they’ve got me knackered.

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The last thing I wanted to do at the end of the day was to write here. I was feeling very un-creative. Every night I would just zonk out watching Japanese programmes on the internet (with a bag of dorito crisps! My fave flavour is cool original…), or fall asleep at the same time as the children.

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BUT! Finally, since last Tuesday my son is back at school, & my daughter is starting nursery from tomorrow! So hopefully I can come back to blogging like before again! And in fact, my daughter is going to nursery all day (9am to 3:25pm) everyday (Monday to Friday) from the third week! Which means… (!) I will have a good proportion of ‘me-time’ for the first time in the last 7½ years!!!!!!!!!! Oh-my-Gawd, how weird does this feel?! Pretty exciting I guess! Anyway, so infact, I should hopefully be able to blog more often than ever before! There’s so much to tell you, like about my BEST-EVER banana cake for example. And about the numerous cream-teas I had during the holiday… So watch this space!!

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One thing I was pondering on during summer:

I’m thinking of twittering. Whilst writing for this blog takes time, I should hope that a sentence or two for twitter would hopefully be more frequent?? I know I’m laughably totally late on the twitter bandwagon by a couple of years at least… But I guess it’s better late than never, & the thought of twittering from the market on Saturdays would be fun (such as “ggghh, it’s raining…!”), as well as cataloging odd bits of thought on baking might be useful…?

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So, if you like, please follow me at:

http://twitter.com/coco_and_me

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… & watch-out for my debut-twittering sometime during this week!

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See you there~!

Tamami xoxo


June 22nd, 2011

Currently I’m in love with… Amy Stevens’ cakes

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As you know, I-love-cake.
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So, quite naturally, in my spare time I’m on the look out for cake on the internet. And it was when I was link-hopping that I found Amy’s art cakes.
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Amy Stevens art cake blue white black www.cocoandme.com Coco&Me Coco and me

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Don’t you think these pictures are Oh-My-God-‘this-is-out-of-this-world’-Wonderful?

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Amy Stevens art cake orange red green www.cocoandme.com coco and me Coco&Me

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When I encountered this treasure finding, I just had to share her with you!! ^^

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Amy’s art confections series started when she turned 30. She originally wanted to make 30 cakes for her show, but as she discovered that her cakes were not going to look like what might appear on a Martha video, she decided that they would look better if made in their exuberantly imperfect state.

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What I love about her cakes is exactly that imperfection.

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It is perfectly imperfect & beautiful.

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Amy Stevens art cake white blue amber www.cocoandme.com Coco&Me coco and me

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I asked Amy some questions:

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Q: Are they all edible?

A: The cakes are edible, although they are rarely eaten. Because I make them with the sole purpose of decoration, I don’t use the very best ingredients and sometimes the cakes sit for a while in my studio while I am shooting and editing the images.

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Q: Is it sponge inside?

A: I use the same cake recipe for all of them, it’s a yellow cake recipe from Martha Stewart. Every so often, I will spend a whole day baking cakes – of many different shapes and sizes. I then freeze the layers in a big freezer in my studio and when I want to decorate a cake for a shoot, I thaw out various layers and put them together. Usually the cakes are layered with icing in between.

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Amy Stevens art cake white orange www.cocoandme.com Coco&Me coco and me

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Q: What technique do you use? ie; piping bag with different nozzles?

A: I use parchment triangles for the bags and various tips.

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Q: Is it buttercream?

A: The icing is a decorator’s ‘buttercream’ recipe I got from a cake decorating class. It’s basically powdered sugar and vegetable shortening. I found this to hold up the best – even under the hot lights while shooting. When I bake cakes for eating, I will make real buttercream (with butter!) I find it to be a little finicky in humidity, but it tastes so good.

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Q: Do your get cake orders from friends? Or bake a lot beside of art?

A: Sometimes I make cakes for friends or special occasions. I have this book called the Cake Bible and like to try different recipes from it. But in general I love to cook and bake and am constantly trying something new.

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Q: Amy, I love your pictures so much, have you ever considered doing a calendar? I’ll be the first to buy it!!!!

A: I have considered calendars and maybe in the future will make one. Right now I am working on a photo book of Confections that will be available through my website and Blurb, and will also be selling note cards soon through my website.

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Amy Stevens art cake green www.cocoandme.com Coco&Me coco and me

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Check out more of her fascinating cakes on her website!

t xoxo

June 14th, 2011

April & May

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April & May was pretty rough going.

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It was in the last week of March that my father was diagnosed with brain tumor. You can probably tell from how I write what I write, that I love my family very very much. I respect my father, he is a great man, & he is a big part of my life. He understands me, supports me & influences me. So you can probably tell that I was upset over this news. I may know a thing or two about baking, but brains? I may have one, but that’s about it knowledge-wise. Perhaps it’s that unknown that brought on the fear, the fear of what if something awful might happen?

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First of all, I should say, don’t worry though readers, he is fine now. After re-scheduling & another re-scheduling of surgery, the tumor was finally removed. And that is almost a month ago now & he is now doing absolutely great & is at home with us. The doctors have said surgery was successful. It’s a huge relief.

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During this time, I got my self in to a tiny bit of state. I found it mentally draining. Motivation for my book writing waned, well, to a complete halt actually – it’s not been touched ever since. – Despite the very fact that I knew it was comfort-eating/ emotional-eating, I snacked a lot. And now I’m two kilograms heavier. – Rather than working at night like I ought to, I would log off very early, curling up to my warm & cuddly girl ‘S’ at her bedtime.

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Now though, thankfully, things are alright, back to normal, & I’m starting to feel alright too. I feel alright enough to share this with you.

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Here’s a realization: Isn’t just a normal, everyday life great!? ^^

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Picnic:

We were going to go somewhere a little special for my 35th birthday, but what with the uncertain re-scheduling, decided to do a picnic on the nearby heath.

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We celebrated with some of my close friends, on a part of the Hampstead Heath called Parliament Hill (also known as Kite Hill), which is the highest point in North London. With blue sky, green grass, stunning views, yummy food, flowing alcohol (atleast 15 bottles were consumed!? But who’s counting? ^^) & most importantly, with fantastic company of friends… – what more could a birthday girl want? (oh, other than a diamond ring or three perhaps…of-course! Lol!)

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Picnic dessert:

My answer to portable dessert on the day? Lots of freshly made bite-size choux!! (the inside was vanilla crème patisserie mixed with whipped double cream.)

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Note-worthy picnic foods that day was…:

  • Friends T & S brought this truly AMAZING smoked salmon from Hansen & Lydersen. IT WAS UNBELIEVABLE. Really, never tasted any smoked salmon so spectacular. And it was such a great party gift too – the crowd went wild! ^^ I highly recommend it if you live in London & can get hold of it.
  • Another friend T.E who is ‘in’ to baking bread brought with him a ‘No-Knead Bread‘. It was reaaaally really perfect – with crunchy & tasty crust. He used the recipe from here. In the video, it says it needs to rest for more than 12 hours! Wow, thanks T.E for making it!!
  • Home-made Spanish omelette from friend C (that I didn’t get to try…),  a special cake called ‘engadiner nusstorte brought from Switzerland by friend G (Engadin is the valley where she grew up), beautiful Prosecco wines, Champagne… And not to forget the freshly made coffee using a camping stove

It was a very satisfactory picnic indeed!

May 29th, 2011

How to make Hello Kitty & Pokémon cookies

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Backtracking humongously here, but here are some pictures from before Easter.

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There are seven Japanese mums at my son’s school, & we all got together to raise funds for the Japan earthquake & tsunami relief. We did a sushi & cake sale in the school yard, & I of-course contributed by baking cookies & cakes.

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Upon setting about doing this, I had a clear criteria to solve. Perhaps it’s the old graphic designer in me, but I love brainstorming. So here’s what I considered:

~ I knew I wanted a Japanese theme to them. ~ It had to appeal to primary school children & their mums. ~ It also must be time & cost effective for maximum return. (The going-rate for cake spendage is 20p to a £1 at a standard school cake sale, so for the pricing to be set so low, the cost of ingredients must stay minimal…) ~ And most importantly, explicitly with NO nuts as the school has a nut-free policy.

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After a quick sesh with my thinking cap on, I figured the best way is to bake cookies but also add value to them by imprinting famous childrens characters. Hello Kitty to appeal to girls, & Pikachu (Pokémon) for boys. As for the cookie recipe, I used the tried & tested Nontan one that I wrote about previously on this blog.

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To imprint the characters, here’s what I did:

  • 1. I found a line drawing that I like on the web.
  • 2. Then printed it out b&w to a size that I want.
  • 3. Layer a clear acetate sheet on top of print, secure the corners with sellotape.
  • 4. Using a thin black permanent marker pen, copy the design on to acetate. (Non-permanent will smudge as you do your cut out work.)
  • 5. Place acetate on cutting board, & carefully cut out the black lines. – The important thing to remember when cutting a stencil is that if there is a ‘perfect’ continual line, you have to break it to avoid cutting out the inside. It’s a bit difficult to explain, but think of the inner circle in letter ‘O’ for example. - And if you look at the bow on the kitty cookie below, you’d see that there I left gaps in the line to hold the inside.
  • 6. When you have finished making the stencil, place it on cut-out cookie dough & dust cocoa powder gently & most importantly faintly to avoid smudges. Carefully remove the stencil sheet off, then bake as per usual.

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(I used my tart tin as a cookie mold to get the fluted rim.)

(Pre-packaged in a bag for quick sale. Small handmade Japan flag sticker for added touch & charity feel. Lucky that the Japan flag is just a red circle! I wouldn’t have done this if the flag design was complicated! ie; U.S.A!)

(Cookie came big in five inch diameter! But was sold only for a pound! Bargain!! If at my market, I would’ve sold them at £1.50 I reckon!)

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I made about 55 of these, & they sold within 7 minutes. I didn’t anticipate that most mums would be buying more than one each. ~ I should’ve made more…!!? ^^

May 11th, 2011

Jason Hindley

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Dearest readers, I would like to first of all apologize for not updating my blog much lately. I’ll report soon, I hope. But in the meantime, I would like to introduce you to my dearest, dearest friend of 14 years, Mr Jason Hindley.

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Jason is a photographer, an award(s)-winning one in fact. He’s also a very relaxed, good bloke too, & always very generous & buys me drinks! ^^ (Lol! Now it’s set in public domain, you’d better keep to it J! Lol! ) – On a serious note now, his photographic talent is awe-inspiring. He once took a picture of me when I was about 22, with a mohican-style quiff do. It got used for a calendar I think. Yesss, I’m officially a calendar-girl!! Ha! One day, when I’m wrinkled & want to look back on my youthful looks, I’ll show it to you. – - Anyway, I hope you’d agree from the sample pics here that he’s damn good at what he does… Respect to the man.

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In aid of the Japan Tsunami disaster, he’ll be exhibiting & selling his collection of 100 images taken in Japan at ‘theprintspace gallery’ in Shoreditch, London. All proceeds from the print sales will go to the British Red Cross Japan Tsunami Appeal. The exhibition will provide a rare opportunity to purchase the exhibited prints at an affordable charity price.

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The private view (which you are most definitely welcome to) will be on next Thursday, 19th of May, from 7pm to 10pm.

It’s at theprintspace gallery, 74 Kingsland Road, London E2 8DL.

And then the exhibition will run from the 20th of May until 3rd of June.

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I’m gonna be the first in queue to get in that night to snap up a print. I hear that there’ll also be raffle tickets & stuff too. It’ll be fun & it’s all for charidy!!

I hope to see you there. xxx

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April 14th, 2011

No market for me this Sat

Update 22/04/11:

Hi! I’ll be at the market tomorrow (23rd), so I hope to see you there! All the best, t xxx

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Hi… Just a very quick note to say that I won’t be working this week… Sorry for letting you know in such last minute… I hope I haven’t messed up anyone’s plans on visiting… – There’s a good reason why I can’t work, but…, I don’t feel like telling you until the situation has calmed down. Perhaps I can tell you at the end of the week.

… Sorry.

April 4th, 2011

Children’s story book with honey buzz buzz cake recipe

(plus a general update at the end)

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Please note:

I am not going to be at the market on the 9TH & THE 30TH OF APRIL! I’m sorry for the inconvenience it may have caused to your plans… Sorry.

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www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - Coco & me - Honey buzz buzz cake recipe with step by step process pictures

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Hello everyone!

I’m going to share with you today a cake recipe that is not mine, but from one of my family’s favourite & thumbed through Japanese children’s story book we have at home.

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If you’re a seasoned reader of this blog, you’d know that this is the second time that I’ve written about a recipe from a children’s book (read the first one here). I love collecting (good) recipe books to add to my huge library of anything baking related, & that obsession extends to the choice of books I buy for my children! Biased I know (!), but why not? ^^ I would love for my children to like baking as much as I do. And in fact, let me tell you, my son’s first ever cinema film was Pixar’s Ratatouille back in 2007, because I wanted food to be part of his milestone experience. Although… then again, maybe the truth was that we went because I myself simply couldn’t wait ’til it came out on DVD…? ;) Lol.

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www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - Coco and me - Kuma kun no hachimitsu bun bun keiki children's recipe book- Boy bear's honey buzz buzz cake book

The book title is “クマくんのはちみつぶんぶんケーキ” (Kuma-kun no hachimitsu buun buun keiki) which translates to something like “Boy bear’s honey buzz buzz cake”. It is published in 1994, & is written by Machiko Yagyu.

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The story is about a bear who wants to make the honey buzz buzz cake (what a great name!), so helps out at Mrs.Bee’s to get some honey for it. On return home, he meets a family of pigs & he invites them around for a cake party. Here, there is the highlight joke of the book, when the piglets can’t say part of the cake name “buun buun” (Japanese way of saying buzz buzz), & says “buu buu” (Japanese way of saying oink oink). If you’re a Japanese kid, it is the most hilarious bit I assure you.

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www.cocoandme.com  - Coco&Me - Coco and me - Honey buzz buzz cake recipe book - sample page

(the illustrated recipe page.)

www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - Coco and me - Honey buzz buzz cake recipe book - sample page

(Boy bear with his bee & piggie friends have a tea party outside with pink tablecloth. – For my cake picture at the top of this post, I followed Boy bear’s choice with pink tablecloth! But I’d like to think I’m one up on him for the beehive-like hexagon design! )

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Boy bear’s honey buzz buzz cake is delightfully homesome. There is one caution though – as it bakes in the oven, the aroma of honey will waft tantalizingly, teasing us in to a drool monster by the time it is ready. And if you only knew how scrumptious it really is, it’s hard not to dig in as soon as it is out of the oven. Trust a honey-lovin’ bear to know a seriously good honey cake I say!

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Combined with the ease of the recipe, I have made this cake a number of times without fail, even with the children! – - Although, as you can see from the chaotic pictures below, at times there were too many hands wanting to do the same thing, & it does get messy… When baking with children, best to take a deep breath & not be too fussy I suppose, so long as they’ve washed their hands! – (I’m a hygiene freak!)

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About the science behind the recipe:

Honey has the ability to attract & hold moisture (hygroscopy). This makes the cake moist. Honey is also relatively acidic, & together with the sour cream which is also an acidic ingredient, it tenderizes the gluten formed in the batter.

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The bicarbonate of soda in the recipe reacts to the acidic ingredients & produces carbon dioxide gas which lifts the cake upwards as it tries to escape. During the time in the oven, the flour gluten structures ‘pillars’ that hold the cake in it’s risen height. A noteworthy point here though is that the bicarbonate of soda starts doing it’s magic at 80 degrees+ (wiki), so you’d think that you would have time to prepare leisurely, but as the recipe also calls for baking powder which reacts straight away from when in contact with moisture (the batter), you will be required to work quick once the BP is mixed in.

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You might have noticed that the oven temperature is set at 140 degrees compared to the usual 180. That’s because honey caramelizes at a lower temperature than sugar, & it browns more than baked cakes made with granular sugar. The lower oven temperature will prevent the cake from over-browning.

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For this cake recipe, I recommend using ‘clear’ honey with all-round taste, & NOT any of the more distinctive bold flavoured ones. I once tried baking this cake with eucalyptus honey, & it was not good. If this cake recipe works for you, perhaps next time play around with different honeys – the amount of fructose honey has is different in every one of them & subsequently the sweetness too will differ.

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One last point – don’t feed honey to children under the age of one – honey has high fructose content, & the botulinum spores in it may be hazardous.

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www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - Coco & Me - Honey buzz buzz cake - recipe step by step process

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“Boy bear’s honey buzz buzz cake” Recipe:

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Ingredients:

  • 140g of unsalted butter
  • 140cc/ml of clear honey
  • 140g of sour cream (or if not, double cream apparently, but I have to admit I never tried)
  • 2 medium sized eggs
  • 200g of plain flour
  • 7g of baking powder
  • 2g of bicarbonate of soda
  • 25g plus of almond flakes
  • Icing sugar to dust the top

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Prepare:

  • an 8 inch (20cm) spring-form cake tin. Butter the sides & the bottom, then line it with baking paper.
  • preheat the oven to 140 degrees.

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Method:

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  • 1. Cube the unsalted butter & microwave until soft. (I recommend microwaving in 10 second increments & checking that you haven’t over-melted it. Here, ‘soft’ is when you can easily dip your finger in to it & it feels soft like mayonnaise.
  • 2. Whisk the butter to incorporate air. Do it until the butter is lighter in colour.
  • 3. Add 140cc of clear honey. Thoroughly mix it in.
  • 4. Add 140 grams of sour cream (or double cream). Thoroughly mix it in.
  • 5. Add 2 medium sized eggs. Thoroughly mix it in.
  • 6. Sift the dry ingredients in. 200 grams of plain flour, 7 grams of baking powder & 2 grams of bicarbonate of soda.
  • 7. Fold it in.
  • 8. Pour the batter in to the cake tin & spread it out nicely.
  • 9. Sprinkle 25 grams of flaked almonds.
  • 10. Sieve icing sugar on top. Here, sieve more than you think it requires!)
  • 11. Place in pre-heated oven of 140 degrees for 50 to 60 minutes, or until your cake-skewer comes out clean.

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Coco&Me - Coco & Me - www.cocoandme.com - Honey Buzz Buzz Cake recipe with step by step process pictures

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A little update on how things are doing:

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Exactly a week after the Japan earthquake & tsunami, my daughter S turned three. That Sunday, we celebrated with a small party. The birthday cake was our family’s one & only option for birthdays, which is the genoise cake with cream & strawberry. It was put together very quickly on that Sunday morning, while chaotically tidying the house before the guests arrive. You could probably tell the stress on my face in the first picture on the left! Lol!

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Last week, there was a little incident when our son ‘I’ turned out to be a bit of a fundraiser himself. He handed out ten of the Japan charity badges to his class-mates without my knowing, & asked them to bring one pound each. He meant well I know, but asking for money from children is not good, so I emailed the parents to tell them what happened & tried to recover the badges. Nice thing about it was that most parents just donated money instead of returning, & so in the end, my son raised eleven pounds! – Upon this incident, I realized that our son is perhaps just as affected by the news of Japan as I am…, & wanted to help. Perhaps I ought to have been a bit more careful when watching the news on telly…

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There’s two bits of news:

One: all donations from the badge sales & from the donation box on my stall will go to THE RED CROSS from now on. They are doing such a fantastic job out there. Subsequently, I am now going to shut down the fundraising page I set up 3 weeks ago on First Giving for the Save The Children charity. May I take this final opportunity to thank once again to those of you who have donated! Thank you!! xoxo You are all very special people…! I love you!

The total fund raised is… (drum rolls please…!!) a whopping 3,699 dollars! Woohoo! Yay, baby!!!

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Two: As I wrote at the beginning of this post, I will not be at the market on the 9th & the 30th of April. The first one because I can’t get child-care, & the second date, because it is my 35th birthday!!! ^^ Also, it’s because the day before, the 29th is the Royal wedding, & my road is doing a street party & I’m not one to miss it! ^^

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March 22nd, 2011

Ganbaré!

www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - coco and me - Japan Earthquake and tsunami relief badge in red with jpanese text

がんばれ日本。がんばれ東北。

(Don’t give up Japan, go for it East-North)

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First of all, THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU to those of you who have donated so far. Currently, as at 22nd of March, we have raised $3,160!!!!!! For the UK readers amongst you, that’s £1,943. I thank you for being so generous. I also would like to thank those of you who have blogged, tweeted, facebooked, or sent mass emails to your friends about the relief. When I set about organizing this, I didn’t expect half as much as it has achieved. And it’s all down to the generosity you have shown.

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That said, the call for funds is far from over.

Currently, even after ten days since the earthquake, people in the worst affected area are still without heat, electricity, running water, regular meals or for some, no word from their loved ones. The official death toll is currently 8,277, with 12,272 still missing. Nearly 500,000 people are homeless. Japan is still very much in it’s urgent state. They are still battling to gain control over the dangerous situation at the Fukushima nuclear reactor. Worries are abound especially for harmful levels of radiation. I well-up when I see children tested for radio-activity by those masked & suited workers, it really feels unreal. When I hear that some have resorted to drinking swimming pool water & pond water…, I can’t believe it is happening in Japan.

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Japan is facing a herculean task to recover & rebuild. But I know that the Japanese people have the remarkable capacity to face natural calamity stoically. In Japan’s time of great need, please let’s continue to do our best to help!

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I now have a donation box at my stall. It was my first time to do it last week, & it has raised $51.68. The generosity that Broadway Market goers have shown is amazing ~ thank you!

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www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - coco and me - Japan Earthquake and tsunami relief badge in red with jpanese text

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This weekend, my friend H successfully persuaded a badge maker to make 1000 of these badges for free. The text on these tiny badges (it’s a size of a £1 coin) says “Ganbaré Nippon. Ganbaré Touhoku.”. It means something like “Don’t give up Japan, go for it East-North”. I love the simple design of just a red circle. Pin this dinky thing to a plain coloured top & it looks very stylish. I’ll be selling 50 of these for £1 each at the market stall next week, & if they sell well I might order more from her.

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The Japanese word “ganbaré” is one of my all-time favorite words. It’s a difficult one to translate in to English though ~ there doesn’t seem to be a direct translation. It could mean any of these below, it just varies on the context the word is used:

try hard

hang in there / hang tough

good luck

be stronger

stick with it

do your best

don’t give up

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As you can see, it’s a bit of a mixed bag, but it does have a core theme – to wish someone well & to send strength their way. Apparently, the Chinese translation to ganbaré is ‘Jiayou’, written in these symbols: 加油. First symbol means ‘add’, the second means ‘fuel’. (wiki) I like that they put those two symbols together like that. It captures the spirit of the message well.

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Like I say, ganbaré as a word is special for me.

When I was about 10, I had to do a swimming test at school. It was to swim two lengths without any aid. I was one of the last ones that could do it & the pressure was on. I was so determined to do it that I came up with a repetitive song in my head “Ganbaré, ganbaré, Ta! ma! mi!”. Again & again, non-stop I repeated those words until the very end. And with that, I managed to complete. ~ Ever since then, whenever I face challenges, I magic that phrase in my head. It’s become my very own special phrase to help me zone in.

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Finally, I’d like to share with you another phrase that is close to my heart. It is 一期一会 (Ichigo ichie). Literal translation is “One encounter, one chance”. It means that one must approach every encounter like as if you will never get that chance again, so excel & do the very best. It also means to treasure the moment you have.

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I just want to thank you dearest readers for being so kind to donate for Japan. I think it is so amazing that you have answered to my call for help & donated on that page… Am I lucky to have you guys visiting this little blog? Yes I am.

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Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Tamami xxx

March 12th, 2011

Japan Earthquake & Tsunami Relief

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Donate & I pledge to give £1 for every time there is a donation!

(up to the total of £150)

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I’m sure you are all aware of the magnitude 8.9 earthquake that occurred in Japan yesterday. It’s heartbreaking to see the extensive devastation it has caused  - & I feel very tearful to think of all the people there. The people that died, the injured, the missing & the sorrow of the families & friends of those people. There are plenty who have lost their houses too. It’s going to be a long, trying process to heal, & it truly is a horrific time for everyone in Japan.

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I feel strongly that it’s not enough to JUST feel sorry for Japan. Even if we live so far away in a different country, there must be something we can do to help… But what? I wish I was there to help with the relief, rescue as many people with my own hands, dig out the injured underneath the rubble. But turning up on the doorstep is not a good idea – When I thought of what I could do, yes, I can donate, but what else? And then I had an idea. I can use my web-presence, however small it is, to persuade you to donate too, & generate as much buzz as I can to get people to be generous in Japan’s time of need.

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So I have decided to set up a personal appeal. Here’s what I ask of you. Please follow this link to FIRST GIVING website. I have created a special donation page to help the Save The Children charity. The money we generate will fund them help Japan specifically.

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“Save the Children is mobilizing its global resources to respond to the needs of children and families affected by the earthquake and its aftermath, and an international emergency team has been dispatched to assist staff in Japan.  The humanitarian agency has been in Japan for 25 years, is in many of the other Pacific nations that could soon be hit by tsunamis, and was a major responder to the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that killed 225,000 people.”

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Please donate generously.

Please help me generate as much funds as possible.

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To start it off, I have already put funds in to the account. And as an incentive for you to donate, I pledge to give £1 for every donation you give, up to the total figure of £150.

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So go on, I’ll dare you. You donate & I’ll pay!

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Please tell all your friends about this pledge so that I’ll cough up more! Also, if you have a blog, please blog about it. If you twitter, please twitter. I want you to reach to as many people as possible to donate. Help me do this.

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Please remember, Japan has an excellent track record for been superbly charitable in other’s time of need. Now it is your turn to return the favor. I know we’re in recession and all, but look at it this way, ~ if this mega scale of a disaster struck where you live, wouldn’t you love it if everyone dipped in to their purse to donate for you?

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So please give generously in this time of great need. Please. It’ll mean a lot to me to see you do it. Let’s you & me make a difference.

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Thank you in advance,

Tamami Haga

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March 7th, 2011

Spring! The day the sky turned blue.

Cocoandme.com - picture of Broadway market - Coco&Me - Coco & Me

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Midday at the market, for a moment, the clouds subsided & the sky turned beautiful blue. It prompted me to ask my fellow stall holder to look after my stuff & go for a quick stroll. We often take turns looking after each other’s stalls like that, for whenever nature calls or when we need to grab ourselves a lunch.

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When on my stroll, I often like to walk to the end of the market to see my friends at their baguette stall. On way, I noticed the cherry tree next to ‘L’eau à la bouche’ café was in full bloom. Wow, first sign of Spring & what a magnificent one! Mr.S from the café says that it bloomed almost all of a sudden. I took the murky picture above with my grubby iPhone. The weak but direct ray from the sun felt penetrating & tingling warm in the still crisp cold air. Perhaps the cherry tree decided to make the most of the sun’s rays & use the opportunity to blossom, just like how it prompted my little stroll.

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I felt peaceful. Or maybe I was just simply spaced out through lack of sleep. I went to bed after 4am on the previous night & woke up at 7:30 in the morning. I told a visiting friend about this, & she said “Tamami, but 4am is not ‘night’, it’s already ‘morning’! What-on-earth..?!”. Lol, yes, perhaps, but I didn’t feel the lateness atall! I was buzzing, working on my book! And it is just so exciting, ideas just keep pouring out & I know exactly what to write! Like the crisp blue sky, everything is clear for me on what to do. If only time allowed, I would work on it day on end!

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And besides, I didn’t sleep much prior to this book writing anyways! It’s just the way I am. On average I probably slept 5 to 6 hours or so a night, often going to sleep around 3am. There’s something I love about the undisturbed hush of the night, it’s as if suspended in time. I often read or potter around in the kitchen & ofcourse also do my blogging. And now that my book project has fully commenced, it’s the night-times that I must really work in, what with day-times being fully booked with family & market work, it’s the only reserved slot of time I have.

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The stall’s doing great by the way. Sales are on the up for definite compared to last Winter. (Phew!) And it’s still cold enough to have a decent sale on the truffles & hot chocolates. The market itself feels busier than ever before & this week was a perfect example of so.

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The last two weeks I deliberately produced less cakes so that I can finish slightly earlier on Friday night & also go home earlier than usual at 4pm on the Saturday to conserve energy to work on my book. Unfortunately it also meant no lemon drizzle cake the first week. I disappointed a few customers though so I just about squeezed time to make two for this week. But the situation is that a cake has to leave my line-up, & it’s either gotta be the lemon drizzle or the baked cheesecake (aghast!) Which one should go? Sale-wise, the cheesecake is perhaps less popular, but the look of it with the bird stenciling does stop people on track… Sigh…, which one should it be? It’s so difficult!

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(above cheesecake picture borrowed from This is naive.)

February 21st, 2011

I’m writing a cookbook!

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Hello~,

yes, I’ve got a bit of news ~ I’ve decided to write a cookbook!!!

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Yup! That’s right! And I’m confident enough to say so here on my blog & let everyone know. Some might say “don’t jinx it” or perhaps advise me to keep schtum until I know for sure that it gets published to save embarrassment, but…

1. I think this ‘jinx’ malarkey is rubbish – & infact, I’ve had a sour experience in the past when a friend decided not to tell me certain things because she ‘didn’t want to jinx it’, but I find out later that she told others but just not me!? It’s probably since then that I really hate this ‘jinx’ talk. It’s just a silly way of not including certain people.

2. I’m pretty bad at keeping secrets anyways! :)

3. Letting everyone around me know would definitely kick my head in gear to work on the project. I work better under pressure!

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You’re perhaps wondering wether I have an agent or a publisher? Well, no. Or shall I say ‘not yet’. I’m not exactly sure how to go about it but I’ll try approaching a few in an appropriate timing. Or if that fails, I might go down the self-publishing route. I’ve read up online about the ‘print-on-demand’ system which sounds rather appealing… Well, anyhow, we’ll see won’t we, when time comes to consider those options. (Then again, if you ARE a publisher reading this, please don’t be shy as to letting me know if you are interested! Thank you!!^^)

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In a strange & wonderful way, this career path marries my present job to my old one, which was being a graphic designer. When I think of this, a phrase like ‘everything has a meaning’ springs to mind. That perhaps all those years designing brochures, proofing & visiting the printers will be put to good use once more.

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Dearest blog-readers, may I thank you please for the wonderful support you have given me so far – this goes even to those who’ve not yet left comments, because I know you are reading. Did you know, it’s your continual support that has given me the strength to make this step. ~ It strongly reminds me of… … when I was about fourteen years old. There was an art teacher called Mrs. Davies who believed in me. During one lesson I wanted to draw a figure lying down on bed, but I found it very difficult, especially the perspectives. When I told the teacher this, you know what she did? She laid down on the dirty art-room floor for me to sketch from. Without a single fuss. I remember I was so shocked & touched by her gesture that I proceeded to sketch with so much intensity to try to return my gratitude. Needless to say, I loved Art more after that! ~ … … I guess what I’m trying to say from this is that your support gives me strength & belief in myself – I believe that I can do it & make something of it. So thank you…

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January 27th, 2011

Hope to see you?

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Hello!

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My one month winter hiding is almost up!

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From this coming Saturday (29th) you’ll see me regularly down at the market again!

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I’m really looking forward to going back to work (did I just really write that??! Lol). As much as I enjoy being cocooned at home, there’s so much of it that I can take, I become a total lazy so-and-so! I hate myself for it, but I think my head still thinks it’s Christmas! I hardly touched on the loads of “To-do’s” & the exciting projects I have in mind… There’s intentions but no actions, just lots of ineffectual stomping on the same ground… And perhaps it’s because it’s winter, I’m just eating eating eating! (Needless to say that I have a sweet tooth…) I know it’s not good but I can’t stop! I think I need to get busy with work just to keep my weight in tow!

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And ofcourse, when I go back to work, I should hopefully meet lots of you too? xx I’m very happy to say that last year there were so many blog-readers who came to the market to see me (currently, on average I receive around four blog readers every Saturday – & that’s just counting the ones that do reveal their identity!). Astonishingly quite a number are from abroad, especially America & Asia. I should also mention that there are lots from this country too! It’s SO amazing. I know it might sound odd, but I am still blown away by it all. Every single time, I’m struck with a dose of happiness to find out that they came via knowing me through my blogging.

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Here’s a picture of one blog-reader who came to the market last Autumn – all the way from Minnesota!!!!!!!

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Coco&Me - Coco & me - www.cocoandme.com - Tamami and Mrs. L at the cake stall - Broadway Market(Mrs. L)

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She & her husband were such smiley & happy people. I felt the connection straight away. After this picture was taken, they presented me with a gift. What?! Wow wow wow!!!!! I mean, I totally didn’t expect that obviously. – It had a red & green ribbon on the box, so I kept it unopened ’til Christmas day. Keeping an unopened present for a month in the house was a bit of a suspense, in a good way. I must admit, on quite a few occasions I almost opened it, especially days when I felt tired & in need of a ‘pick-me-up’, but I kept true to my promise to Mrs. L. – When I did open it on the morning of Christmas Day, I was enchanted to find a set of silver measuring spoons, delicately engraved! Wow, it’s beautiful & truly special Mrs. L! Thank you!! xxx

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x . x . x . x . x . x . x . x . x . x . x . x . x . x . x . x . x . x

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I’m not sure how it’ll exactly pan out for me (I’m still everywhere with my ideas), but I’m thinking of retiring from selling cakes in the next year (or perhaps two), so if you’d like to, please visit! I really would love to see you!!! (Ps: I should point out that, no, you don’t need to give me presents to see me! Really! Lol!! Like I say, your “presence” is the “present”! Geddit? A bit naff?? Lol, oh well, it’s true though.)

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