Tag Archives: #love

Shortbread SISTA’s… with some sisterly LOVE x

23 Jun

20130623-105240.jpgLast month I popped home… to the North, for a long weekend and we decided to have a family baking day.  My little sister was DYING to show me her shortbread recipe and as I had just purchased some cheeky little LOVE heart cutters, it seemed completely apt to get them out and make some sisterly shortbreads.

So, I do hope you enjoy the recipe, my little hand model and the abuse I got during this baking session… but we love each other really and its all part of the fun of baking!

We decided to play around with the shortbread recipe, so we made some plain shortbreads with cinnamon sugar on the top and then we made some chocolate shortbreads, which were wonderful and last but not least some almond and cinnamon shortbreads.  All of them were absolutely delicious and very quick / easy to prepare

PREPARATION TIME: 8 minutes (per batch)

COOKING TIME: 20 minutes (per batch)

MAKES: 8 shortbreads (per batch, we made 3 batches as per the below!)


Gemma’s basic shortbreads, which follow the 3 to 2 to 1 recipe…

  • 150g plain flour
  • 100g butter
  • 50g sugar

…We added cinnamon sugar to the top of these, so mix 50g brown sugar with 2 tsp cinnamon and then sprinkle over the top before baking.

Rebecca’s chocolate  shortbreads…

  • 150g plain flour
  • 100g butter
  • 50g sugar
  • 80g dark chocolate / milk chocolate /white chocolate (broken up into bits)

SallyAnn’s almond and cinnamon shortbreads…

  • 100g plain flour
  • 50g ground almonds
  • 100g butter
  • 50g brown sugar
  • 50g flaked almonds
  • 2 tsp cinnamon

… you could add the cinnamon sugar to the top of these too, just for some extra tastiness.


You definitely don’t have to make all three batches of these shortbreads, you could just choose one and have a go.  They really are one of the most simple recipes I have ever made.  At first, when my sister suggested it I was concerned that they would take a long time to prepare as my perception was that shortbreads are quite a tricky, fiddly thing to make, but they really really are not and as we demonstrated you can play around with the ingredients and add whatever you like.  We did not follow a recipe for the chocolate / almond shortbreads, we just got a few ingredients out of the cupboard and had a go (which I think is the fun of baking).

I would urge anyone who is a keen baker to start experimenting with recipes and flavours, it really adds a new dimension to baking and I think its something that has really changed my baking style over the last year and using a new ingredient is not something that phases me.  When I next make these shortbreads I am going to play around with a home-made apple purée and apricots/almonds or even one batch with dates.

  1. Weigh out the butter and place this in a large bowl.
  2. To this add the sugar.
  3. Cream together the butter and the sugar.
  4. Weigh out the flour and add this to the mixture.
  5. Bring together into a smooth, thick paste.

If at this stage you have made a double/triple batch of this mixture then separate out and add whatever fillings you like either chocolate or almonds or apricots.  I am going to show you (with the help of my hand model) how to make these shortbreads.


First, flour your worktop.


Take your shortbread dough out of the bowl and then shape gently into a round.


Pat down a little.


Roll out…. Roll 3 times one way and then turn 90 degrees. Roll again and then rotate again.


Roll out until the dough is about 1cm to 1.5cm thick.


Now you can cut out your shortbreads into whatever shape you desire. We choose love hearts (to use my new cutters). If you don’t have a cutter, you could use a stencil like the one below…


Use this stencil if you want to make love hearts and don’t have a cutter!


Cut out all your shapes and then gently remove from the dough. Bring the dough that is left together, but DO NOT PLAY WITH. Literally bring into a lump/ball and then place to one side.


Place gently on your baking tray. Line the baking tray with a non-stick sheet, but if you don’t have one of these use butter to grease the tray.


If you want to make chocolate ones, add the chocolate and then bring together into a dough.


Roll to 1cm to 1.5cm then cut out…


Space evenly on the baking tray and then, if you are sprinkling with sugar, do this at this stage, before you bake the shortbreads. Bake in the oven at 180 degrees / gas mark 4 for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden but not brown. You want them to be doughy/soft inside, not hard and crunchy!


Now it is time to tidy up!!

I hope you shortbreads turn out well… I shall leave you with some of the silliness that happened whilst we were baking!  And no… piggybacking was not offered… I was JUMPED on.  When asked if I could have a piggyback I was told ‘Oooo no, really, but your the big sister who is supposed to give the little sister piggybacks.  Little sisters can’t give them to big sisters as they are BIG‘.  Charming.



HAPPY BIRTHDAY to ME… It’s my birthday MONTH… so let’s eat cake & celebrate!

15 May

IMG_5335This month is my birthday month… so it’s only right to celebrate with cakes and lots of them.  All my friends will testify that I am the baker and for everyone’s birthday I always provide a cake.  I love making them, giving them and generally spreading the LOVE.  Which neatly takes me onto the cakes I made last night for the girls.  I decided (on getting home from work) that I would just quickly rustle something up and 45 minutes later (including decoration time) the cakes were made… and they tasted scrummy!

In true ‘gemsfoodgems’ style I decided to make these cakes healthier than just a normal sponge cake/cupcake, so I rifled through the baking cupboard (yes we have one of these in our house) and decided to change my normal recipe for this one… (see below).  The dark brown sugar gives quite a ‘fruity’, ‘rich’ taste and the wholemeal flour increases the fibre content but also makes it a slightly less ‘airy’ sponge.  Its a little more doughy and it tastes luxurious.

I then went to town on the decoration with a block of regal icing, some white chocolate icing tubes and some coloured sprinkles and (without blowing my own trumpet) I created a little bit of a masterpiece…

… quick, simple, pretty, yummy cakes.  What more could a girl want?

MAKES: 12 small buns


  • 5 minutes to make the cake mixture.
  • 30 minutes to decorate the cakes, depending on how elaborate you want the cakes to look.

COOKING TIME: 15 minutes


For the cakes…

  • 100g margarine
  • 100g dark brown muscavado sugar
  • 2 free range eggs
  • 50g plain self raising flour
  • 50g self raising wholemeal flour
  • 12 cake/bun cases

For the decoration…

  • 100g ready-to-roll regal icing
  • 10 – 15 drops pink food colouring
  • 1 tube of white chocolate icing (or any icing tube you have)
  • 1 pot of multi-coloured sprinkles
  • 1 love heart stencil/cutter (or you can freehand like I did)


Preheat the oven to 180 degrees / gas mark 4 and place the cake cases in a small bun tray – they are about half the size of a muffin case/muffin tray.

First cream together the margarine and the dark brown muscavado sugar in a large bowl.

Next break the 2 eggs into the margarine and sugar and mix together well.

Sieve the white flour and the wholemeal flour into the mix and stir in until there are no lumps of flour left.  You will need to stir right down to the base of the bowl, to ensure that you have got all the flour mixed in.

Place a dessert spoon size of mixture into each cake case and then bake in the oven for 15 minutes.  Insert a knife/skewer into the cake and if it comes out clean then the cakes are cooked.  If not pop them back into the oven for 2 – 3 minutes and test again.  Carefully remove the buns/cakes from the tray and place on a baking tray to cool.

Whilst the cakes cook, you can start preparing the decorations.  Cut approx. 100g of icing off the block of regal icing, cling-film the rest tightly and you can save this for another baking day.  Add 10 – 15 drops of food colouring (start with 10 first) and then start folding the icing over the colouring using your fingers until it is all mixed in.  The colouring/icing will start to marble at first but just carry on.  If the colour is as dark as you want it then fine, if not add some more colouring and continue.

Your hands may be warm and starting to feel a little sticky.  The ONLY thing to stop this is cornflour, so sprinkle some of this over your worktop/table and rub some into your hands.

Place the ball of coloured icing in the centre of your workspace and cover with a little cornflour, turn over and repeat.  Rub cornflour all over your rolling pin and then gently begin to roll the icing.  Roll 3 times and then turn 90 degrees – this will keep the icing loose and prevent it from sticking.  You will also need to keep rubbing cornflour underneath the icing to ensure that it isn’t sticking, so do this each time you turn it.

Personally I don’t like extremely thick layers of icing, especially not on such a small cake (its also pure sugar, so its not exactly healthy!) so roll the icing out until it is about 3mm thick.  If you want to copy my patterns, then use this love heart below (print out the stencil) and cut it out the gently place on the icing and using a sharp knife cut around the template.


Perfect sized love heart for the top of your little bun/cake.  Print this off, cut around it and use it as your template.

Once you have cut out the love heart shape, gently free and place to one side.  Make 12 of these and then once the cakes are cooled you can get creative and start decorating your cakes.  So, squeeze a pea sized amount of the white chocolate icing, from the tube onto the top of your cake and then place the love heart on top of this.  Then you can use the white chocolate icing and sprinkles to decorate as you please.  These are some of the designs I made…


Use the white chocolate icing to make a little ‘u’ shape in the corner of the love heart, following the outline of the love heart and then sprinkle lots of sprinkles across the top, then pour the rest off, back into the pot.


Follow the outline of the love heart, about 5mm in from the edge with the white chocolate icing. Place sprinkles all over the top (a lot of them) and then pour back into the pot.


You could write some letters using the white chocolate icing. I wrote the word LOVE and then apply the sprinkles and shake off, back into the pot.


You could even stray of the love heart path and make something else, like this bow. Its simple and easy… you need 2 tails, one bow shape and one thin piece to put in the centre. Done. Glue onto the cake with the white chocolate icing and then you can decorate with icing and sprinkles as you like!

The most important stage of all though is in the eating… so give to your family and friends.  Impress them with your skills and ENJOY eating your cakes, with love and birthday greetings from gemsfoodgems.



Strange little LOVE happenings… I just have to share with you.

8 Mar

Over the last month I have had a few strange sightings of foods that are shaped like love hearts.  I have been keeping you up-to-date about them on my ‘Food Related Bits and Bobs’ section, but it is getting so strange I thought that I would blog about them properly and also add them to my random section to, as I feel it is important to share these strange sightings.  I would also love to hear from you, if you have had any of the same/similar things happen to you i.e. rude vegetables, food letters, strange food shapes in general, as it is so interesting.

So, here is what has been happening to me.

20130214-091703.jpg9th February 2013

I decided to attend a friends baking club, its actually somewhere in Shoreditch, London where you volunteer your time and skills in return for someone elses skills.  On the 9th February I had been asked to share my baking skills, which I did.  I planned to make some little beetroot muffins (as per my blog) and when I arrived my friend Sarah said to me that she had brought me some cake cases.  To my shock and horror they were love heart shaped.  Now, I am a girly girl but I am not a love heart girl.  Sorry, just no.  It is NOT me.  But, fine for the sake of the other participants I thought it would be nice to go through with it, so I spread some CHOCOLATE BEETROOT MUFFIN LOVE.

20130214-095011.jpg14th February 2013

I blogged about it twice last month, but as we all know it was Valentines day. Great for some, not so much for others. I went shopping in my favourite fruit and vegetable shop in Shoreditch, did my grocery shop and off I went home.  I came to prepare dinner and found this little LOVE SPUD in my shopping.  I decided it was a sign and skipped around the house with a grin on my face for the rest of the evening.  It hasn’t turned out to be a sign at all (grrrrr!!), but this was the second time in a week that a random love heart had popped into my life, so I decided to document it and share it with you all.

photo (5)1st March to 6th March 2013

Since the 14th February I have had a few weird sightings of more love heart shaped vegetables and love signs.  The first came last weekend when I was chopping my chorizo for my homemade, pizza (yes including the base, using wholemeal flour people!).  I chopped the first slice, second, third and looked… are my eyes decieving me?  Am I making love hearts?  Yes!  A chopping board full of CHORIZO LOVE this time.  Feeling a little freaked out, but also kind of excitied (forever the optimist it would seem), I created a pattern of them and photographed them… so here they are!

photo (6)The next was when I was walking around Shoreditch and I looked down at some scribblings on the pavement thinking ‘WOW Banksy has branched out into pavement graffiti and I am standing on it’… mixed with ‘who scibbles on the floor in permanent marker pen, pah’… but no, I don’t think I had that quite right and rather it was some little love elf spreading love around Shoreditch, London.  Needless to say, I had no option but to photograph it…

Shoreditch is full of lovely little things like this, but I never see them in REAL LIFE.  So it was totally fab to see one for myself… and yes, those are my favorite brown boots.  The slogan is right ‘LOVE IS ALL U NEED’ (… along with a little bit of food, water and oxygen).

photo (3)My last, but not least sighting came on Tuesday afternoon.  I was running a cooking session (yes, I do this for a job to!) and I was preparing some fresh beetroots for the group, who LOVE beetroots.  They are obsessed.  My co-worker passed me a peeled beet to chop and voila, this little BEETROOT BEAUTY appeared…

As you will know if you are an avid follower of my blog, I have got on a train and headed to the North of England for some family time.  Whilst there I decided to share my love heart related stories.  To this my sister added ‘yeah it happened to me to’.  No way.  Yes way.

photo (7)My sister was preparing lunch for her and her boyfriend in their new home and was chopping some carrots.  There in the middle of the carrot was a love heart.  She instinctively photographed it, as she knew I was having some sightings of my own and then she shared it with me yesterday.  WOW.  So, we can now add a LOVE CARROT to the pile.

I am not sure if there will be any more FOOD LOVE in my life, but I am quite enjoying finding them and being surprised and excited as they appear.  This isn’t someting that has ever happened to me before and although I am optimistic I don’t look for things like this in every day life.  Sceptics amongst us will say ‘you only see what you want to see Gemma’… and yes you are very correct.  But I am not sure you can deny these are love heart shaped foods that I have simply stumbled upon.  I am not making them, adapting them or creating them… I am doing nothing to adjust the shape of anything.  But maybe I do see beauty in things, and for that I don’t think I can be critized.

I hope you enjoy my blog.  Thank you for reading, Gems… with LOVE x

BEETROOTS are Red, Violets are Blue, I’ve got a beetroot muffin for you!

14 Feb


Whether we have been dreading it or looking forward to it and planning the purchase of random ‘love’ gifts for you partner for weeks; the day is finally here.

I was so close to having a Valentines this year, yet once again so far.  But not to worry (…and please don’t feel sorry for me) I have just been baking to compensate!

I hope you all have a fabulous Valentines day and if you are cooking tonight, please do make these little muffins.  They are great fun, deliciously moist and a stunningly beautiful little muffin.  ENJOY!

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Cooking Time: 20 minutes


  • 180g plain flour
  • 60g cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 150g light brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 150ml vegetable oil
  • 250g cooked beetroots (not pickled!)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

How to make these love muffins…

First things first – you are not going to be able to make a love muffin unless you have a love heart shaped muffin tray, or at least a muffin tray with love heart shaped paper cases.  So, sorry but you are going to need to invest in those… and quick!

The muffins are so easy to make.  The first thing you need to do is to prepare the muffin tray and preheat the oven to 180 degrees (Gas Mark 4).  Now you can get all your dry ingredients ready, so weigh out the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder and then sieve them into a large mixing bowl.  (It is important to sieve here as you do not want lumps of cocoa powder).

Add the sugar to the dry ingredients and then mix well so that the flour, sugar, cocoa powder and baking powder are all combined together.

Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients using a large spoon and then crack the eggs into here.  (You may want to bread each into a cup first just to check they are fresh/not bad, and then you can pour them into the well).

Measure out the vegetable oil into a measuring jug and then to this add the 250g of cooked beetroot.  This is the fun bit (and if you have children then will love doing this!), its BLENDING TIME!  So, insert the blender into the centre and blend until you have a smooth, light pink mix.

Add the bended oil and beetroot to the well along with the eggs and then using a fork or a metal spoon and start to bring together all the ingredients.  Keep mixing (not beating) until there are no pockets of flour and the mixture is smooth and deep in colour.

Spoon the mixture into the muffin cases/tray until each compartment is about two thirds full.  Bake in the oven for 20 minutes.  When you take them out of the oven they should have risen beautifully and if you insert a skewer or knife into the centre it should come out clean.  If not then pop them back into the oven for 3 minutes.  Repeat until cooked.  Remove from the baking cases/moulds and leave to cool on a cooling rack.


I give you an Onion… HAPPY VALENTINES.

14 Feb


Valentine by Carol Ann Duffy

Not a red rose or a satin heart.
I give you an onion.
It is a moon wrapped in brown paper.
It promises light like the careful undressing of love.
It will blind you with tears like a lover.
It will make your reflection a wobbling photo of grief.
I am trying to be truthful.
Not a cute card or a kissogram.
I give you an onion.20130214-055213.jpg
Its fierce kiss will stay on your lips,
possessive and faithful as we are,
for as long as we are.
Take it.
Its platinum loops shrink to a wedding-ring,
if you like.
Its scent will cling to your fingers, cling to your knife.

A little word from gems:

Not a recipe from me today… well not yet. But instead my favourite ever poem that for me symbolises love and involves food. Myheaven. My friends and family will laugh at me for this, as at school I was totally obsessed with my anthology book and this is a poem that we studied, back in the day. The poem really struck a chord with me then and I cannot wait to find the love of my life and randomly give him an onion… (…as yet I still have the onion, she says as her eyes water a little and she sniffs – but she carries on preparing dinner.)




It’s a little bit STICKY, this feeling inside… Sticky Chicken & Sticky Rice.

11 Feb

sticky chickenRandom title to this article (as per I guess!), but it is valentines week and my favorite/romantic film of all time is the Moulin Rouge. Not only did a boy buy me this film (and he was my boyfriend at the time), but I loved the production of the film and the whole theme is LOVE. So, I think this valentines day you should make your loved one this Sticky Chicken recipe as I am sure that if they don’t love you already, they most definitely will after eating this!

This recipe was a marinade (that I found) for chicken legs, thighs and wings and I looked at it and thought ‘if I add some vegetables to this and cooked it in a pan on the hob, would it make a tasty Chinese dish?’. I gave it a go and hey presto! It has now made its way into my weekly repertoire of foods to cook, and even more recently has been on my menu for a date! I am pleased to report that it worked and he was completely charmed by my cooking skills… (girls pay attention, the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach!).

The ginger, sesame oil and soya in this recipe make the dish taste very authentic. It is very important to cook the onions for a while first, so that they have a soft mouth feel, then the rest can be thrown in. I choose the vegetables I did as these are my favorites, but have a think about what veg you like and perhaps you could throw those into the mix to?

Preparation Time: 15 minutes

Cooking Time: 20 – 25 minutes

Makes: 2 sticky chicken & sticky rice portions


For the main dish…

  • 1 chicken breast
  • 1 sweet red pepper (or 1 red bell pepper)
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1 large onion

For the sticky rice…20130211-175330.jpg

  • 150g of sticky rice/glutinous rice (… this is available in some large supermarkets and looks like this – see image)
  • 260ml cold water

For the marinade…

  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 3 tbsp dark soya sauce (NB. light soya sauce does not mean ‘light’ as in healthy… it’s actually stronger and should be used as a dressing for an asian salad or as a dipping sauce.  The dark soya sauce has a stronger flavour and should be used in your cooking.)
  • 3 tbsp honey
  • 2cm ginger, peeled
  • 1 red chilli (with seeds if you like it hot)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tsp Chinese 5 spice
  • 1/2 tsp chilli powder

How to create the dish…

Let’s make the chicken and sauce first.  So, I always prepare my onion first, by chopping the tip off, peeling it and then cutting it in half.  Now you want to make half moon shapes, so slice the onion fairly thinly and make the half rings.  Once you have done this, put a little sesame oil in your pan, heat it gently then drop the onion in.  The onion needs to cook for appox. 10 minutes before you can add the other ingredients, so lets get prep-ing!

Prepare the pepper by de-seeding it and then chopping into into slices – whatever size you like.  Next cut the carrot.  So that it cooks you want each piece to be very thin, so I would actually hold the carrot and use a peeler to create very thin slices (think what the carrot is like when you order Chinese from your local – you want them like that.

Now the chicken,  I would cut the breast along the longest part (length ways) to form 3 or 4 (depending on the size of the breast) fillet pieces.  Then I would cut each one of these so it is quite thin.  This is for 2 reasons 1) it will cook much more quickly when it is thinner, so you can be sure it is cooked and 2) each mouthful should then hopefully have some chicken in it!

Place all the chopped ingredients and add to that the ingredients for the marinade.  With the ginger, you need to peel that with a teaspoon (yes really!!)  Just scrape a teaspoon over the ginger root and voila, the paper-y skin will just come straight off and you will hardly waste any ginger.  You will also be able to get into the nooks and cranny’s of the ginger.  YES!  The ginger is best grated on a very fine grater, not the normal one you do your cheese on.  Once you have grated approx. 2 cm of ginger pop this into the bowl with the other ingredients and the marinade.  Give this a stir and then put it into the pan with the onions, leave this at a medium heat and stir it occasionally so it doesn’t stick.  If it is getting dry (which it shouldn’t do) you can add some more soya sauce and maybe a little water.

Sticky Rice… this does not cook quite like normal rice, it is very sticky… hence the name!  So, lets weigh out what we need and then put this in a pan and onto a low heat.  Place a lid on the top and let it cook.  You are going to need to stir this every now and again to, and you may need to add a dash (but honestly ONLY a dash) of water every now and again.  The rice will stick to the bottom of the pan as the starches are released.  This is ok, just use a spoon to scrape it off, stir into the rice and let it continue to cook.  Keep repeating this and trying the rice every few minutes after about 15 minutes of cooking and once the hard bits have gone the rice is ready!

To serve… you can create my love heart if you like.  Just pop a portion of rice on the plate and then use a wet metal spoon to mould the rice – if you use your fingers or a dry spoon it will just stick and make a BIG mess!  Then you can cut a little circle out of the centre and spoon in the chicken and sauce.  WOW!

Alternatively… serve in a bowl with your rice on one side and the chicken and sauce on the other.

Either way, this dish is certainly delicious and you will most definitely be making it for your partner over and over again!


sticky 2