Having your cake and designing it...

Food and drink Aug 29

Food and drink Aug 29 - Credit: Archant

I wrote about Liz Thompson’s cake company Queen of Herts last year; Liz’s award-winning celebration cakes are really outstanding.

Liz is hosting her third charity garden fete at her home in Harpenden on Sunday (September 1) at 28 Manland Avenue (1-4pm) and visitors will be able to buy cakes and crumbles of all kinds.

Last year I helped to judge her summer cupcake competition, and the winning recipe for Strawberry and Champagne has gone on to become a huge favourite at local weddings. Some of the new flavours she has developed this year include white chocolate and lime, and whiskey and vanilla, both of which are gracing several wedding celebrations this season.

Liz’s rich chocolate brownie cake is seriously chocolatey and lends itself perfectly to additions such as Grand Marnier and orange zest, Crème de Menthe and peppermint, or Frangelico and roasted hazelnuts. You’ll be able to try some of these at the fete.

This year it is the children’s turn to be creative and design their very own birthday cake. There are two categories: up to six years old (to win a cake for up to seventh birthday); and seven-10 (to win cake for eighth to 11th birthday). Entrants must be present on the day, when they’ll be given a template on which to draw and colour their birthday cake design – they have as much time as they’d like to try and practice different ideas! We’ll have adult helpers on hand to ensure we correctly interpret little one’s artworks!

Children can submit several entries if they like, and for each entry we ask a minimum £1 donation to the charities. The maximum value of each prize cake is £50 (so any design tweaks will be agreed on ordering) and Liz will notify the winners by Tuesday, September 3.

Don’t worry if there is rain that day – Liz has made provisions to deal with whatever the weather brings. Last year the event raised over £1,800 for the Multiple Sclerosis Trust, and this year funds raised will be shared between the MS Trust and Parkinson’s UK. I’ll see you there!

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Food Smiles

Do you get a veg box delivered, or like the idea of it? The veg boxes that are delivered in the local area actually come from other counties such as Devon, and that is not a bad thing as they use seasonal, British produce. But is it possible to fill boxes with produce or goods purely grown or made in Hertfordshire?

We are lucky to have some fruit and veg growing in the local area, and we have producers and bakers nearby too. Transition St Albans are setting up a Community Supported Agriculture scheme in St Albans, “Food Smiles”, and would love to hear from local farmers and producers who might like to take part in the scheme, as well as anyone who would like to buy boxes.

There are already 80 schemes in the UK, so come on St Albans, let’s see if we can join in.

The idea is that people buy a subscription and get a local “veg box” of fresh, seasonal produce in return. If you love the idea but worry that it is expensive, you can help on the plot or farm to reduce your cost. It would be a great way to learn how to grow produce too.

The farmer gets a guaranteed income for his land and helps in growing the produce.

Local farmers and potential customers are already interested including Oaklands College, Groundwork Herts, Hertswood, Lussmann’s and The Courtyard Café. County Councillor Chris White is showing his support for the scheme and has provided a £400 grant under the Locality Budget Scheme to help with spreading the word.

On Radio 4 last week there was a discussion explaining that the government would like to encourage production and sales of UK food as our amount of imported food grows each year. It’s a huge, ongoing issue – people still like to buy apples imported from the US in July – but this scheme is surely a step in the right direction. The steering group are holding a meeting on Saturday, September28 from 1.30–5.30pm in the Lower Hall, Dagnall St, Baptist Church, St Albans, and everyone is welcome.

There will be a market stall in the town centre on September 21 so do go along to that to find out more, whether you grow your own, make something delicious, or would love to have a truly local veg box scheme. If you’d like to know more, visit the transitionstalbans website or email foodsmiles.info@gmail.com and you can book at seat at the meeting too.