Author: Gemma Bailey

Home Grown Pumpkins – How to Cook your Pumpkin! Home Grown Pumpkins – How to Cook your Pumpkin!

This time of year pumpkins are everywhere, I would normally buy a pumpkin from the local supermarket and carve it, then place it in the window or in front of the door. This year I wanted to grow my own, I brought some pumpkin seeds not knowing if they would grow or not or how many pumpkins or what size I would get but I did know that if they grew I couldn’t just carve these ones; I wanted to make the most of them.

Growing a Pumpkin

You will need pumpkin seeds and plenty of space for this, I don’t have a lot of garden space so I took my seeds to my father in law who looked after them for me in his garden. We planted each seed in a separate pot and grew them in the greenhouse, giving them plenty of water. When the time was right these were moved outside. The plants get big! As the pumpkins began to grow something soft was placed underneath them to stop any damage.

I ended up with two good sized pumpkins and this is what I did with them …..

Growing a Pumpkin

Pumpkin Growing

Making Pumpkin Pie

This was the obvious choice and having never had pumpkin pie before I wanted to try it, I had to share it as I didn’t know what it was supposed to taste like so having other people try it who did know was useful! It’s quite different and the feedback was good, although there was a request for more cinnamon so bear that in mind with the recipe below!

Pumpkin Pie Recipe

Here’s the recipe I used (BBC Good Food)


  • 750g/1lb 10oz pumpkin or butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and cut into chunks
  • 350g sweet shortcrust pastry
  • plain flour, for dusting
  • 140g caster sugar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp fresh nutmeg, grated
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • eggs, beaten
  • 25g butter, melted
  • 175ml milk
  • 1 tbsp icing sugar

Pumpkin Pie


  1. Place the pumpkin in a large saucepan, cover with water and bring to the boil. Cover with a lid and simmer for 15 mins or until tender. Drain pumpkin; let cool.
  2. Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface and use it to line a 22cm loose-bottomed tart tin. Chill for 15 mins. Line the pastry with baking parchment and baking beans, then bake for 15 mins. Remove the beans and paper, and cook for a further 10 mins until the base is pale golden and biscuity. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly.
  3. Increase oven to 220C/200C fan/gas 7. Push the cooled pumpkin through a sieve into a large bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the sugar, salt, nutmeg and half the cinnamon. Mix in the beaten eggs, melted butter and milk, then add to the pumpkin purée and stir to combine. Pour into the tart shell and cook for 10 mins, then reduce the temperature to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Continue to bake for 35-40 mins until the filling has just set.
  4. Leave to cool, then remove the pie from the tin. Mix the remaining cinnamon with the icing sugar and dust over the pie. Serve chilled.


Making Pumpkin and Bacon Soup

I searched for a second recipe and this one sounded delicious, we love a good soup too, especially at this time of year when you are feeling the cold. I love to make soup and this one didn’t disappoint.

Pumpkin and Bacon Soup Recipe

Here’s the recipe I used (BBC Good Food)


  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 50g butter
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 150g maple-cured bacon, cut into small pieces
  • ½ Crown Prince pumpkin or onion squash, peeled, deseeded and cut into medium chunks (you need about 500g pumpkin flesh)
  • 1l chicken stock
  • 100ml double cream
  • 3 tbsp pumpkin seeds, toasted
  • maple syrup, for drizzling

Pumpkin and Bacon Soup


  1. In a large, heavy-bottomed pan, heat the oil with 25g butter. Add the onion and a pinch of salt and cook on a low heat for 10 mins or until soft. Add 60g bacon and cook for a further 5 mins until the bacon releases its fat. Then increase the heat to medium, add the pumpkin and stock and season. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer, cover with a lid and cook for about 40 mins until the pumpkin is soft. Pour in the cream, bring to the boil again and remove from the heat. Set aside some of the liquid, then blend the remaining pumpkin until smooth and velvety, adding liquid back into the pan bit by bit as you go (add more liquid if you like it thinner). Strain through a fine sieve, check the seasoning and set aside.
  2. Melt the remaining butter in a pan over a high heat and fry the rest of the bacon with black pepper for 5 mins. Divide the bacon between four bowls, reheat the soup and pour over. To serve, sprinkle over the pumpkin seeds and drizzle with maple syrup.

Tip for Cooking with Pumpkins

Personally I found it very difficult cutting into the pumpkin and peeling it, maybe this is my embarrassingly blunt knives but if you have the same problem here’s a tip. Cut your pumpkin in half removing the stork and bit at the bottom, scrap out all the seeds and pith then place in the oven for around 15 to 20 minutes, take the halves out and allow to cool, the skin should peel off easily and it should make it easier to chop too.


Happy Halloween!

Remember to tag us in your pumpkin pictures, especially if you give either of these recipes a go, we’d love to see the results!


Learning to Cook an Indian Meal with Saffron Cookery Classes in Gloucester Learning to Cook an Indian Meal with Saffron Cookery Classes in Gloucester

Right from the start it was the plan to experience as many of our classes on as possible, for our love of cooking as well as helping to let you know what to expect if you choose a class!

We choose a class based in the UK, in Gloucester to learn how to cook homemade Indian food. The English love a good Indian takeaway and we are no exception, I have been fortunate enough to learn some techniques before and the taste is so different from what we know from restaurants and takeaways, it’s fresher, lighter and there are so many different ideas which aren’t hard to recreate!

Meeting Tahira

Tahira is a fantastic host, she makes you feel comfortable and at home from the very start of your experience. It can be nerve wracking booking an experience like this for the first time but you’d have nothing to worry about with Tahira!

…….. but bring your appetite with you!

Learning to cook the Indian Dishes

Tahira talked us through all the spices and ingredients she uses. This is really helpful and as the day went on you can see how many different options you have with the basic core ingredients.


Onion Bhaji’s were the first dish followed by slices of potato fried in an aromatic batter, both of these were delicious. Great starters. They were incredibly moreish though and I was filling up on them fast and there was so much more to come!

Indian Starters

The next dish demonstrated to us was aromatic rice cooked with cumin and coriander, from someone who has never mastered cooking rice quite right Tahira made this so simple! A Tarka Dhal had been pre prepared for us and I have to say I have not been the biggest fan of Dhal in the past. Dhal’s are very flavoursome and can often be very spicy, so Tahira removed some of the chillies for us as she worried it would be a bit too much!

Rice and Dhal

Chicken Korma was next on the list and probably my favourite! A home cooked Chicken Korma really is nothing like the ones you get in the restaurant’s, there’s no coconut milk at all! I have made a Korma before and it was completely different to this one, this is one of the things I love about Indian food, you can learn the same dish from various people and they will all be almost completely different! A traditional Korma can also be quite spicy and not at all creamy like we are used to.

Chicken Korma

Eating the food we had made

Tahira had pre prepared various other dishes and accomplishments for our meal as well as everything we had just made, it was a feast! We sat with her to eat and discuss the dishes, she gave us some feedback on being a host with Take Me Cooking and how her classes were being received locally.

Indian Feast

Tahira makes an excellent host and believe me when I say you won’t go home hungry!

You’ll also have a lot of new recipes and skills to take away with you and I’ve enjoyed recreating the dishes at home.


To book this experience for yourself click here and please let us know how you get on!

Look out for our next post with another host!

The 5 Must Haves of a Traditional English Afternoon Tea The 5 Must Haves of a Traditional English Afternoon Tea

Afternoon tea is a truly unique English tradition known worldwide. In this article I’m going to talk about what afternoon tea is, where to have afternoon tea and what to expect from afternoon tea.

What is Afternoon Tea?

Afternoon Tea began in the 1800’s. The Duchess of Bedford Anna, reportedly complained of “having that sinking feeling” during the late afternoon. She wanted something small in order to keep her hunger at bay until dinner. This was how ‘Afternoon Tea’ was born, of course, it was significantly smaller than it is now!

The higher class women would change into long gowns with gloves and hats for afternoon tea which would then be served in the drawing room, in the summer it would be served in the gardens.

Afternoon Tea was very much for the wealthy, tea was a delicacy and the people who could afford to drink it wanted everyone to know! Many portraits show families with their best china drinking tea in the afternoon.

Afternoon Tea 1800's

My Experience of Afternoon Tea and the 5 Must Haves!

I have had the experience of various Afternoon Tea’s over the past few years and each differs slightly in what they offer as well as the presentation. There are five essential elements which never seem to change however;

1. Sandwiches

Small, crustless fingers usually containing various fillings, cream cheese and cucumber, coronation chicken, salmon, beef and horseradish to name a few.

2. Scones

Plain and fruit scones served with cream and jam.

3. Selection of cakes

Small bite sized cakes, very rich. The selection will usually include items such as macarons and small fruit tarts

4. Tea’s

Various Tea Options, English breakfast teas to fruit teas. Many places also offer coffee and (usually for an additional charge!) a glass of champagne!

5. The Cake Stand

If some way or other afternoon tea is almost always served on some sort of decorative stand, tiered, sandwiches on one level, scones on another and finally the cakes at the top!

A few of my recent experiences of Afternoon Tea

The Royal Crescent Hotel – Bath

This is by far the most formal yet still relaxed afternoon tea, it is also one of the most expensive … but worth it!

I booked this for part of my sisters hen weekend and we loved it! We sat out on the lawns (just as they would have done in the 1800’s)

The Royal Crescent Hotel - Bath

Hoar Cross Hall – Staffordshire

This is again quite a formal setting, a stately home in the countryside. We had our tea in a drawing room setting overlooking the gardens. Certainly not over priced either!

Hoar Cross Hall - Staffordshire

The Hilton at St Georges Park – Staffordshire

This is a more relaxed setting for afternoon tea, overlooking fields, you can enjoy tea inside the restaurant or on the patio in warmer weather. It is the training home to to England football team!

When Laurie, our Co Founder came to visit back in July this is where we went. Laurie had never experienced an English afternoon tea before!

The Hilton at St Georges Park - Staffordshire


There are many places offering afternoon tea, these are a small section of my favourites. They all follow a common theme.

An idea I will be putting into practice this week is to recreate afternoon tea at home, for a birthday or other occasion with decorations …. I even have my tiered cake stand ready!

BBQ Food Ideas for a Perfect English Summer BBQ BBQ Food Ideas for a Perfect English Summer BBQ

Making a BBQ as easy and hassle free as possible is the goal so you can enjoy yourself just as much as your guests. Here’s a few bbq food ideas I’ve learnt over the years from bbq’s we’ve had and ones we’ve been guests at.

We all get very excited when the summer arrives and there are weekends when we can get the BBQ out, these can’t always be planned too far ahead because you never know when it’s going to rain, and in previous years this could almost be guaranteed for a bank holiday weekend!

Keep it Simple

It’s so tempting to go and buy all the brightly coloured plastic tableware, it looks great and can be washed and stored for the next BBQ. Chances are though that next BBQ won’t be for another year or more and you’ll forget you even had them.

Paper plates, one-use plastic cutlery and glasses are perfect, they can go straight in the bin with no need for washing up!

Here’s a few bbq food ideas that will help you host the perfect bbq, without worrying too much about things getting too complicated.

BBQ Food Ideas 101: Burgers and Sausages

This is what everyone is here for so stock up!

Hosting a BBQ can be expensive but be clever about the food, stock up on lots of basic burgers and sausages from the supermarket, it’s tempting to buy the pork and apple sausages or the burgers with a hint of chilli but it costs more, people won’t notice and if you have children there they won’t appreciate the ‘funny tasting’ sausage!

Then there’s the option to add a few extras, some nice ribs and spicy wings, these are always really popular bbq food ideas but don’t go mad these are the things that cost more, and cook them last – let people fill up on the burgers and sausages!

It’s a good idea to have something for the non meat eaters, avoid the ‘meat free’ options if you can, it limits who will eat it to maybe the one vegetarian. One vegetarian bbq recipe thats works great is vegetable kebabs with halloumi. It’s a really simple bbq food recipe that always pleases. Also make sure that there are plenty of additional extras so that there is always enough to eat.

BBQ Food Ideas

The extras – I think having great salad ideas for a bbq is really important, I’ve done an indian salad ‘chaat’ before which has been really popular and a friend did a greek salad. Mini corn on the cobs, coleslaw, hummus with vegetable and breadstick dippers and some olives.

Essentials – Burger and sausage rolls, ketchup and cheese slices!

Top Tip – Being able to start cooking the food early and keep it warm for people to eat when they please is great, using a buffet warmer / hot plate means you won’t have to be stood at the BBQ all day long!

Buffer Warmer for BBQ

Dessert at a BBQ

I’d normally make this really easy, a plate of small cakes or individual meringues with strawberries and cream.

We had our last barbecue when we had Laurie, Take Me Cookings Co-founder to stay. For the barbecue we served two Tarte Tatin, which disappeared within minutes! We made them in advance and just heated in the microwave for a couple of minutes and served with ice cream.

See ‘Learning to Make a Classic French Tarte Tatin’ for the recipe. It’s an impressive crowd pleaser!


Borrow the neighbors chairs, fill the garden with toys for the children (I recommend a giant outdoor bean bag), put blankets on the lawn, ask the guests to bring the drinks and have a giant parasol in case it starts to rain!

How to Add a Personal Touch with Homemade Fudge Wedding Favours How to Add a Personal Touch with Homemade Fudge Wedding Favours

This will give you instructions, hints and tips and a recipe (which isn’t too hard) along with my experience of making these for my sisters wedding. These also make great gifts!

Fudge vs Macarons?

This was the first decision to be made, the original idea was for macarons, they look pretty and are impressive, they could also be made to tie in with the colour theme. After attending a half day course we soon changed our minds, the course was fantastic and the macarons looked and tasted divine but here were the problems for the wedding …
They store well in the fridge for up to 2 weeks which gave us limited time to make 300!
Travel, they are delicate and we were at risk of it being a very hot day in July!
They can go wrong! With so many to make in such a small amount of time we couldn’t afford to lose batches!

Macarons are very temperamental and conditions have to be just right. I’ve had some success and some fails. Remember as well that each batch is half the amount you are making because you have the top and bottom shell!!

Buying them was ruled out, it was expensive and homemade has a special feel!



Sea Salt and Rum & Raisin Fudge

These were the two flavors decided on, sea salt for the ladies and rum & raisin for the gentlemen (then everyone swapped depending on what they prefered!)

Choosing two flavors sounded like a nightmare to begin with but after playing around with the recipes I found a way to use the same basic fudge recipe which made it so much easier!



  • 600g Demerara Sugar
  • 250ml Double Cream
  • 50g Unsalted Butter
  • 1 Teaspoon of Sea Salt or 100g Raisins soaked in 3 Tablespoons of Dark Rum


Tip 1: If making the rum & raisin fudge put the raisins to soak in the rum the day before.

Tip 2: Use a big enough pan with a thickish bottom if you can. When you are bringing the fudge up to temperature it will bubble up a lot so allow as much extra room as you can!

Add all of the ingredients to your pan (including the sea salt if you are making this one but if making rum & raisin leave these aside until later)

On the lowest setting slowly heat the ingredients until the sugar has dissolved and everything has combined. (Keep stirring to make sure the sugar doesn’t burn on the bottom of the pan)

Turn the heat up and whilst stirring still bring the temperature of the mixture up to 118 degrees celsius, be careful! (You’ll need a sugar thermometer)


Take off the heat and leave to cool a little for 5-10 minutes.

Use an electric mixer to whip the mixture until thick. (This is where you’ll need to stir in your raisins if using them) Pour into a lined 20cm x 20cm tin and spread out evenly.

Leave to cool, once at room temperature move to the fridge and chill for at least 3 hours. – Then cut into pieces and enjoy!

Tip: If making a large quantity like for a wedding and you have two tins – double the recipe for each batch!


Packaging the Fudge

We used clear treat bags tied with brown string or a ribbon to tie in with the colour theme of the wedding. Tags to let people know the flavour and that they were homemade!

Fudge Bags

The Guest Reactions

The wedding guests loved them. I think giving something homemade feels a little more special and the fudge seemed to be quite unique for all the guests.

Overall a Success!


My last tip, have a back up sugar thermometer, if you are making a lot of batches I guarantee at some point you’ll drop it in the boiling fudge! … A waterproof one is also a good idea!


Congratulations Mr and Mrs Robinson!

Learning to Make a Classic French Tarte Tatin Learning to Make a Classic French Tarte Tatin

This is my experience of learning to make this traditional French dish from our Co Founder Laurie Vaquer. The recipe is included at the end.

A couple of weeks ago Laurie, Take Me Cooking’s Co-Founder came to visit us in England. It was a working and social trip with plenty of time for cooking as that is what we both love to do!

During her stay Laurie told me about her sisters café in France, it sounds like the perfect place and I’d love to visit one day. The chef at the café taught Laurie the tricks to making a Tarte Tatin and she wanted to share this with me during her trip. This had been on my list of things to learn for some time, it would always be made during a series of MasterChef and was something I wanted to learn.

Le Johane
Laurie’s Sisters Café, Le Johane. 617 likes. Salon de thé, Restaurant végétarien / Méditerranéen. 23 place Semard, 34500 Béziers. tel : 09 82 41 00 72

Choosing our Apples

We started to make a list of the ingredients we would need, this was when I discovered that the French use A LOT of butter in their cooking! They also use different types of apples not available to us here, by using pictures we worked out which apples available to us in England might be the best (Tip: Braeburn worked perfectly!) It transpired the size of the apples are also different, Laurie had noted that we needed 6 apples, after using a standard English size apple from the supermarket I would recommend 10.

Shortcrust pastry or not?

The pastry, this a lot like shortcrust pastry and Laurie said that some people will use readymade shortcrust pastry which is fine if you’re short on time. The method and taste is definitely different to shortcrust as I know it and for me, having been taught by Laurie I wanted to make it the way it is made in France and I think you can taste the difference! We did use a mixer which helped a lot and makes it much easier!

History of the Tarte Tatin

Whilst the pastry was chilling in the fridge Laurie explained where this dish came from. It was actually created accidently! By two sisters, Stephanie and Caroline Tatin who ran a hotel in Lamotte-Beuvron, France (The hotel was called ‘Hotel Tatin’).

Stephanie Tartin was baking a traditional apple pie but accidentally left the apples cooking in the butter and sugar too long, trying to save the apples she put the pastry on top of the pan and put the whole thing in the oven, once cooked she turned it out and had created a caramelised apple upside down cake, after a huge success with the hotel guests this became the ‘Tarte Tatin’!

This story has been argued by historians as to whether it was created at this hotel originally but true or not it’s a nice story and I think one we can all relate to, our cooking accidents may not always have this outcome but we’ll always try and save something that’s gone wrong!

Hotel Tatin

Don’t make the same mistake!

The apples are then peeled and quartered and laid at the bottom of the dish, covered in a hot butter and sugar mixture and baked in the oven.

Baked Apples

This is where the first attempt went very wrong! My fault!

The recipe calls for a deep wide dish and I thought I’d found the perfect thing, my springform cake tin! (This a tin that clips together making it easier to release the cake after cooking) What I didn’t consider was the apples cook in a syrup ….. this ended up leaking and covering the bottom of the oven! So a Top Tip for making a Tart Tatin is always use a solid dish!

The apples were rescued and we had extra butter and sugar so were back on track! (with the right dish this time) Once the apples had cooked the pastry was added to the top and baked in the oven. Once cooked and after waiting for the dish to cool slightly it was time to hold our breath and turn out!



Tarte Tatin

It looked, smelled and tasted amazing!

I am so glad I’ve had the opportunity to learn this dish (Thank you Laurie!) and I can’t recommend making this one enough! Whilst Laurie was here we made it 3 times and held a BBQ with friends and family who all enjoyed it and it has been requested again since! It’s one of those dishes that does require a little bit of effort but anyone can make it and it’s very impressive!



For the Pastry;

  • 200g Plain Flour
  • 110g Soft Butter
  • A pinch of salt
  • 70g Icing Sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 Tablespoons ground almonds
  • For the Syrup;
  • 50g Caster Sugar
  • 70g Butter
  • 1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
  • A pinch of salt
  • 1 Teaspoon of vanilla paste
  • 10 Apples


For the pastry:

In a mixer combine the flour and the butter for a couple of minutes until it has a breadcrumb consistency. Add the salt, the icing sugar and the ground almonds and combine. Finally, whilst still moving add the egg and continue to mix until you have a soft dough. (A little too sticky – add a little extra flour! A little to firm – add a drop of water!)

Roll your dough out between two pieces of parchment paper until around ¼ inch thick, roll it to a similar size of the dish you are going to be using and place it in the fridge for 2- 4 hours.

Heat the oven to 180 degrees

Peal, cut the apples into quarters and remove the seeds. Place these in the bottom of your dish (see picture above).

Place all of your syrup ingredients in a pan and heat slowly until bubbling and melted. Pour the syrup over the apples and place in the oven for 15 minutes.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Take your pastry from the fridge and carefully place over your apples, making sure to tuck the edges into the pan – don’t worry this doesn’t need to be too neat – it gets turned out upside down!

Bake in the oven for a further 15 to 20 minutes until the pastry is golden.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a least 10 minutes, then turn out onto a plate and serve!

We enjoyed this with ice cream. You can also make it in advance and warm through in the oven or microwave later!

We’d love to know how this recipe worked for you and see your photos!

Gemma and Laurie with the Tarte Tatin