Cook Eat Smile
What’s your reading material of choice? A good novel, the Sunday paper? Mine, without doubt, would be a good cookbook. I can often be found to have a small pile beside my bed for a late night read: it often makes for happy dreams. I have a habit of writing notes in my cook books detailing the dates and occasions of when I made the recipes. I have a romantic notion that over the years those notes will evoke happy memories of special times like my kid’s birthdays and family Christmases as well recipes that became part of everyday family life for a time.
Well, today I want to share my current favourite cookbook: Cook Eat Smile. I was very excited when I first heard of this book as I am a big fan of the author Bill Collison and his chain of Bill’s Cafés. I first discovered Bill’s when we moved to Sussex some seven years ago. We’re lucky enough to have one here in Brighton and another (the original which opened in 2001) in nearby Lewes. The lucky people of Cambridge, Covent Garden, Exeter, Islington and Reading also now have one.
In his book Collison describes Bill’s as a place that made new customers stop in their tracks to take everything in as they came through the door. Well, I’m certainly not a new customer anymore, but that statement still rings true for me. His cafés are a feast for the eyes as well as the stomach. Huge baskets are piled high with seasonal fruit and vegetables, tall shelves are packed full of larder foods with the prettiest of labels and a rainbow of colourful raffia skeins hang down from the rafters. Then there is the food which is always an absolute joy to eat as well as being presented as pretty as a picture. One thing I have Bill’s to thank for is my obsession for nearly always decorating my homemade cakes with flowers and herbs; their cakes are simply a work of art.
The book itself is beautifully written: both friendly and approachable. Collison is quite the culinary wordsmiths. I’m sure that if you read this book having never before set foot inside a Bill’s café, you’d still totally get it. You can’t fail to get caught up with Collison’s enthusiasm. The book is set out in seasons taking you from spring through to winter with many key occasions covered along the way from Mother’s Day and Easter to Bonfire Night and Christmas. Collison introduces the reader to each season in such a way that it gets your taste buds going in preparation for the recipes that lay ahead. Seasonal produce is championed and at the heart of every recipe. There are also a number of handy tips for quick and easy ways to cook and enjoy your seasonal produce for days when you don’t have much time top cook.
For this time of year, the book offers up some inspiring food: from salads that are main meals in themselves such as Butter Bean Salad with Halloumi, Israeli Couscous Salad, Warm Asparagus, Poached Egg and Parmesan Salad to picnic friendly food like Beetroot Pie. There are also some great barbecue recipes: Hot Chorizo Sandwich or Halloumi Burger with Mango Salsa anyone?
I am pleased to say that there is no shortage of cakes or puds either. I can personally vouch for the Beetroot and Chocolate Cake as I made it recently for my son’s 3rd birthday and it went down a storm. The Lemon Meringue Roulade looks perfect for summer entertaining as does the rather decadent and show-offy Rose-Strewn Cake for Birthdays the image of which opens this post.
I’m pretty sure than anyone you know with a summer birthday would be blown away to have such a beautiful cake made for them. I’m sure I will make one for somebody before the leaves start to fall from the tree. It’s just got to be done, don’t you think? Well, if you agree you can literally eat your words. Just scroll down to find the recipe.
A Beautiful Rose-strewn Cake for Birthdays
If there are roses to be cut – from your garden, from the hedgerow – this is the cake to make for summer birthdays. Or, indeed, any time that requires a cake resplendent in cream, berries and pink icing. The cake itself is pretty straightforward and the devil – as with most of what we do at Bill’s – is in the detail and the finishing flourishes.
The quantities here are suitable for two Victoria sponges. If you would like to make a three-tiered cake, as in our picture, you will need to add half as much again of all the ingredients.
for the cake:
225g golden caster sugar
225g unsalted butter, softened
4 medium eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
1½ tsp baking powder
225g self-raising flour, sifted
for the rose-cream filling:
150ml double cream
2 tsp rosewater
4 tbsp raspberry jam
150g fresh raspberries
for the rose glacé icing:
175g icing sugar
2 tbsp warm water
2 tsp rose water
a handful of fresh raspberries
icing sugar, to dust
Preheat the oven to 180ºC/160ºC fan/gas mark 4, then lightly butter two cake tins 20cm in diameter and line with baking parchment.
In a large mixing bowl, beat the sugar and butter together till they are pale and fluffy. Gradually add the beaten egg a little at a time. If the mixture starts to curdle, add a teaspoon of flour and this should bring it back together. Add the vanilla extract. Mix in the baking powder and half the flour, then fold in the rest. Divide the mixture between the cake tins. Smooth the tops, then bake for 20-25 minutes. The cakes should be nicely risen and the sponge should spring back when you press a finger on to it and should have shrunk away slighty from the sides of the tin. Leave the cakes in their tins for 10 minutes before turning out on to a wire cooling rack.
Meanwhile, whisk the double cream until it stands in soft peaks, adding the rosewater as you go. Then fold in the raspberry jam, being careful not to over-mix, as you want to create a ripple effect.
When the cakes are completely cool, turn one of them flat base uppermost, slather with the cream mixture and scatter with raspberries, slightly crushed. Top with the second cake. If you’ve made three cakes, spread more cream and raspberries over the second layer and top with the third.
For the pink glacé icing, mix together the icing sugar, water and rosewater, and stir in the juice from a few crushed raspberries until it’s all looking gloriously pink. Drizzle the rose icing across the cake and don’t worry if things are looking a little tipsy. Allow jam, cream, berries and icing to slide if they want to – within reason.
Arrange the roses, dot with rose petals and the remaining raspberries and dust with icing sugar. If you have any edible silver dust, now’s the time. Scatter with silver stars too if you have them, but just a few.
Finally, cake stand, flutes of kir royale or pink lemonade and/or very delicate cups of tea to serve. Cue out of tune, out of step, somewhat uncomfortable in a very English sort of way rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’.
Recipe © Bill Collison and Sheridan McCoid 2011, extracted from Bill’s The Cookbook: Cook Eat Smile, out now published by Saltyard Books, £25
A passionate home cook and eater, Louise Gorrod authors Buttercup Days which chronicles family life, her love for nostalgia, occasion, beautiful things and of course cooking. Louise lives beside the seaside with her husband and two young children in East Sussex from where she juggles her role as one half of Seen PR alongside mummy-stuff, writing and baking cakes. You can follow her on Twitter @ButtercupDays. Read more posts by Louise Gorrod.
Want fantastic competitions and special Heart Home reader offers?
Sign-up for our weekly email newsletter and we'll send you our favourite products and competitions.