Thursday, 28 July 2016

Baking (i) – Introduction and Chocolate Eid Cake


I love making cakes. I have been doing so since I was 5 years old. My favourite cake in the world is a bog-standard sponge. 4 ingredients: caster sugar, margarine (butter), eggs and self-raising flour. Mix them together (one by one), bung it in the oven. Subhan'Allah! There is NOTHING more gorgeous than a freshly baked cake.

I really dislike decorating my cakes. Decorating usually involves icing, butter icing, royal icing, ganache, marzipan, cream etc, etc. Elaborately decorated cakes always look very impressive but I always think, "Do they really taste that good?" I know it takes a lot of hard work and effort to decorate a cake, but the icing and decoration must taste really sweet. Once I got given a slice of cake and there was more icing on my plate than sponge! (And it tasted a bit gross.) So my cakes are usually plain. 

On the Saturday after Eid, we were having a lunch daavat (invitation) and I was going to make a cake. I decided to make a chocolate layered cake as there were going to be some children.



I did read about some chocolate fudge sponges (which sounded really decadent) but chose a plain sponge (basic four ingredients with cocoa powder) as there was going to be icing and I didn’t want the cake to be overly heavy. The sponges turned out really nice Alhamdulillah.

I didn’t have two 23cm cake tine. So used my 23cm pie dish. Cooking took a bit longer as I had to bake them one at a time, washing the tin in between  etc. But they had a very pretty crimped edge.


For the filling I used chocolate ganache. I used dark chocolate even though I don’t like dark chocolate, but figure the sweetness of the icing would make it ok. I made the ganche on the cooker but was waiting for it to cool and thicken. But it wouldn't cool. When it did get a little cooler it wouldn’t thicken. I didn’t have time to wait. So I put it in a bowl and whisked it. That really helped and the ganache was was fine. (But very bitter.) 

Chocolate Butter Icing

The top and sides were covered with chocolate butter icing. I used milk melted chocolate in the mixture instead of cocoa powder. It was nice. But obviously sweet.


For some reason, I decided I wanted to cover the sides with chocolate vermicelli (which is why I had to put butter icing on the sides of the cake) it was really hard to apply. I started with my mum holding the cake stand and me sprinkling the strands on top. Then I had to keep brushing away the excess strands (of which there were a lot). I found the easiest way was to pick up some strands on my pastry brush and then apply them to the side of the cake. But it was very time-consuming.


On the top I wrote “Eid Mubarak” in plain butter icing which I had set aside and decorated it with chocolate stars. 


Masha'Allah, my cake looked really nice. I really liked it. A very apt cake to celebrate Eid. But it was a lot of hard work. Unsurprisingly, I felt that it was just a bit too sweet. I don't think it was necessary to cover the sides. One, they looked quite pretty due to the baking tin I had used. Then there was an additional application of butter cream and the chocolate strands were just way too much hard work to apply and fairly messy, in both applying and eating. Although, they did make the cake look nicer rather than just leaving the sides plain with butter cream.

I think a layer of butter cream only on the top would have been fine. Also I would probably stick to milk chocolate for the ganache. I found it too bitter with the dark chocolate and I think the children did too. I tasted it after whisking it, and it was really strong. My brother liked it though! I actually gave him the leftover ganache as no one in my house was going to eat it!

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Crossrail Roof Garden Bridge, Canary Wharf, London (UK)

Walking Around Canary Wharf

After having (packed) lunch at the O2 Dome, we took the Jubilee Line from North Greenwich to Canary Wharf. This was only the second or third time I had been to Canary Wharf Station. I did find it a bit confusing. Canary Wharf seems to be a major complex, with the DLR, Tube, shopping centre (mall), shops, eateries etc. There is a map that shows you how to make your way from the station to the office blocks. But as we had come to see the area and I didn’t want to get lost, I decided to make my way to street level. We exited onto Upper Bank Street.
Directions to the bridge:
  • When you exit onto Upper Bank Street, turn left.
  • Walk straight towards S Colonnade (Canada Square).
  • On your left you will see the complex that makes up Canada Square. Carry on straight.
  • Then you reach the junction of the N Colonnade (Canada Square) and Upper Bank Street.
If you look up then you can’t really see much. You do see a bridge but it does not look like very much - just a normal bridge connecting two buildings. In my opinion, there needs to be some signage on the bridge. Also the road is rather a quiet road. Walk down the road. In front of you on the right you will see the entrance to some eatery but it also says that this is the Crossrail Garden or eatery (or something like that!). But that gave some clue that it was the entrance to reach the bridge garden. 

As this was this first time we had come to Canary Wharf we took a slightly meandering route. I pointed out all the tall office building to my mum, the ones that make up the famous city skyline: JP Morgan, HSBC, Citibank etc. I also pointed out the busy city workers rushing around! This is Canary Wharf. The heart of London’s business and financial centre. When we reached the S Colonnade we took a diversion into Canada Square. Walking along, there in front of us was 1 Canada Square. The most famous building in Canary Wharf (and probably the most famous office block in London). “It was the tallest building in the United Kingdom from 1990 to 2010, standing at 770 feet (235 m) above ground level and containing 50 storeys.” (Wikipedia) It has a white flashing aircraft warning light, especially important due to its proximity to London City Airport.
1 Canada Square
Canada Square is a well developed complex with gardens, cafes, restaurants, shops etc. Seeing as we were there we went into 1 Canada Square. Inside you can walk around in the foyer. There was a restaurant on the far (north) side and some modern art. Obviously, you can’t go up or anything but can walk around. There are security barriers in the middle, these allow authorised people to access the lifts and go up. In the foyer I saw steps and signs going down to the shops and station.
The Roof Garden

The roof garden is a total haven in the middle of what must be this mad, hectic, built up area. It is very peaceful, beautiful and quiet. There are plenty of sitting areas. The garden has been tastefully and thoughtfully designed, drawing on the history of the docks, when Britain traded in the East and in the West. Half of the plants are from the Eastern hemisphere: tea, spices, silk, maple, bamboo etc; and the other half from the Western hemisphere: ferns, banana, coffee etc. There is a point where “East meets West” which is virtually on the Greenwich meridian. The Dock was originally built in 1802, as somewhere for traders and explorers to unload their cargo and discoveries. The new Crossrail station hopes to be opened in 2018.
I love taking picture of plants so there are quite a few!

Read my introduction to my Day Out in London.

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Gardening Adventures (i) – Introduction and Aphids


I am not a gardener. I definitely do not have green fingers! The problem with my back garden is that it is very old. We have about 10 rose bushes, 2 diseased trees and a paved area in the middle where the stones are all breaking up. It also has a serious weed problem. I think the main problem is because there is a park backing onto the garden we get all sorts of seeds, pollen and plants from the park. Because it is so old (and slightly neglected) it is difficult to manage. When something is new it is much easier to look after and maintain and one also feels enthusiastic about doing so. My family don’t know much about gardening so once a year we would nominally dig up or cut the weeds and I would very inexpertly prunes the roses.

However, this year we decided that we are going to refurbish our garden, Insha’Allah. So I am quite excited and looking forward to it! I have been designing, doing research, looking at different plants that we can put in the new garden. But I have basically started to pay a bit more attention to my poor current garden.

My first “new” experience is actually related to the front garden rather than the back.   

Yes, that pest of all gardeners. Aphids. It was brought to my attention that there were rather a lot of aphids on my rose bush. In the front garden I have two main rose bushes. One was much more badly affected than the other.  The time was approaching sunset. I inspected the rose bush and it was INFESTED with aphids. EVERY SINGLE new bud was covered in them. There must have been about a million of them .There were also infestations of black things on the stem. Initially, I thought these were aphid eggs but have since discovered they are black fly. I was pretty horrified. Not sure what to do I decided to cut off all the stems covered in aphids and black fly. I had also heard about spraying them with a solution of washing up liquid. So I did as much as I could before it got dark.
That evening I did some research about how to deal with aphids. (Acknowledgement: Wikihow) I read that rose bushes can get covered with a sticky substance that attracts the aphids. And in the morning when I checked the leaves did feel a bit sticky. I then proceeded to wash my rose bushes, wash off all of the remaining aphids and black fly, cut the remaining rose buds. I then sprayed them with more washing-up liquid solution. I think that the solution I made was a little bit too strong and then there is mint growing under my rose bush which was obviously also getting covered in this solution. I wasn’t very happy about this, so decided to adopt a more organic aphid repellent. Reading about the different organic solutions and looking at what I had in my cupboard I chose ginger water.

¼ cup of chopped ginger soaked in a solution of 1 cup boiled water. The advice (Wikihow) was to spray the roses in the morning. I did this every day for a few days and I have to say I did notice a difference, Alhamdulillah.  

I have continued to spray my rose bushes (although sometimes not every day) and it seems to keep the aphids away. There are still some aphids and white fly. But after spraying the aphids at least go. It seems to be less affective on the black fly. There are a few clusters but, still, it is not as bad as it was before. I do reuse my chopped ginger (once) and it seems to be alright. But my mum asked me recently why do I peel the ginger why not use it unpeeled (less work) so I gave it a try. I think this made the solution much too strong. I noticed when I was spraying I started coughing, which hadn’t happened before, and the roses stated looking a bit sad so I think the solution might have “burnt” the petals.

To end (for now):
- I seriously I hate aphids. They totally give me the creeps. I still feel I bit freaked out just writing this exploration.
- Also, why can’t you find any ladybirds when you need them?!  

Trip to the Indian Hills (Kasol) - Part 2

Read the second part of this excursion into Indian hills in Kasol.
Very detailed and honest account. Sounds like a bit of a mission to get back back too!

Trip to Kasol- 2

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Canterbury Heritage Museum, Canterbury, Kent.

After the Guided Walking Tour, we went to the Canterbury Heritage Museum or you can visit this website Canterbury Museums.

The museum is open Wednesday – Sunday, 11:00am-5:00pm. Tickets are £8.00 for adults. But if you buy a combo ticket with the Roman Museum the price of the join ticket is £12.00. It is a saving of £4.00 in total, so I did this. The walking tour overran and finished at 3:45pm; but as this was the only time I could go to the museum, I went; even though I only had an hour to spend there. I think you do need a minimum of 1 ½ hours.  

The building in which the museum is located was built in the 14th Century; originally as a hospital for the poor and sick. The building itself is pretty amazing and the oak beamed roof definitely has the “Wow” factor!

The upstairs of the museum is dedicated to the history of Canterbury/ England/ Britain. So starting from when the Romans came, St Augustine, the establishment of Christianity and Thomas Becket. There is actually a very nice and detailed tapestry on the history of St Thomas Becket. Then we move on to the reformation of the Christian faith in Britain including the destruction of the shrine. The relationship of Canterbury with the monarchy during the Tudor period and the reign of Elizabeth I is actually explained very well.

Downstairs focuses on Canterbury from the Victorian Period (I think) onwards. Here you can see:
  • The original steam engine that powered the first ever passenger railway journey. It was built by Robert Stephenson, son of George (yes, the famous one). 
  • The creators of many much loved children’s programmes are Peter Firmin and Oliver Postgate, who are originally from Canterbury. They recorded many episode of shows such as Bagpuss, Ivor the Engine and The Clangers in their shed. The original Bagpuss is here! Awwww!!
  • We cannot forget another famous son Rupert the Bear.
  • There is a large section dedicated to Canterbury during the War which is really poignant.

As this wasn’t covered in the tour I should probably have spent more time here.

I liked the museum very much. It is nice and small. The building is very nice too. The displays are interesting. It is a very interactive museum and there a lot of activities for children. Downstairs in the foyer, which is the area that focuses on the war, I could see a lot of tables and chairs set out for (school) children with different activities.
The problem is that I spent about 50 minutes upstairs and literally had to whiz around downstairs in 5 minutes. In hindsight, I realise that I should not have spent so long upstairs as a lot of the history was covered in the walking tour.  I’m not saying that you should do one and not the other. Definately go to both but just balance your time more correctly. Therefore, I didn’t really see anything properly downstairs, I just took a few pictures.  So, I am just a little bit annoyed at myself.
Read my other posts about my trip to Canterbury: