Queen Rosie’s Royal Rose Cupcakes

I’d like to introduce you to a delightful 6-year old who will become my sister’s stepdaughter next year … (will that make me a step-aunty?). My sister is obviously failing to live up to the evil stepmother cliché but instead has been busy in the kitchen stirring up wonderful magic and regal surprises. Here’s the tale of Rose Fairy …

Rose Fairy writes letters to me. I make houses for her out of boxes and glitter. Lucy and I read a story called The Fairies Cupcake Ball (we borrowed the book from Kate, L, M and T) which is about a girl called Flossie and she dresses up when she’s cooking. Flossie and her Mum bake cakes for fairies. We chose the recipe for Queen Rosie’s Royal Rose Cupcakes because we were making them for my Rose Fairy.


We chose special ingredients to make the cake taste of rose and we decorated them.


Here’s me putting the decorations on the cakes.


This is the cake I decorated for Rose and her friends.


In the afternoon, I made a fairy house for Rose. I used a shoe box and made a bed and a bath for Rose. I used a match box for Rose’s bed. I made some perfume for her too. I used rose water and a drop of food colouring and put it in a tiny perfume bottle. Wainwright, the dog, got very messy because he got pink paint on his chin! My Dad loves clearing up glitter…especially when he gets all sparkly!!



The inside of the house

In the evening, I put the house outside before I went to bed. I left out the special cake for Rose. The next morning, Rose had left me a card and she’d eaten the cake with her friends. There were crumbs all around the house and in the friends’ bed!


This is what she did.


It’s really fun making houses and cakes for Rose.
Amazingly, my tooth fell out the following day so I was lucky enough to be visited by two fairies on two nights!

Queen Rosie’s Royal Rose Cupcakes


115g sugar
115g softened butter
115g self-raising flour
2 eggs (we used medium organic)
½ teaspoon rose water

25g melted butter (only we forgot that bit and it worked out fine!)
400g icing sugar
4 tablespoons cold water
A few drops of natural pink food colouring

Finishing Touches (all bought from Cake Expectations)
Pink icing roses
Edible diamonds
Jelly roses


Ask a grown-up to turn on the oven to 190 degrees C

Mix all the cake ingredients together really well.

Put 12 cupcake paper cases into a 12-hole fairy cake tin and spoon the mixture evenly between the cases.

Bake for 15 minutes and then ask a grown-up to place them carefully onto a wire rack to cool.

When cool, place all of the icing ingredients into a mixing bowl and mix them together for a few minutes. You might need some help with this because it’s really stiff.

We used a piping bag to swirl the icing onto the cakes but you can just use a warmed teaspoon if you don’t have the icing bag and nozzle.

The best bit is decorating the cakes – have fun!

Pie: The Book and the Reader Offer


I have a confession to make … I’m a recipe hoarder.


I have bookshelves full of cookbooks, boxes full of cookbooks, folders full of recipes on loose sheets of paper and photos of recipes on my phone. I even carry a small notebook in my handbag so that I can jot down any stray recipes I might happen to meet when I’m out and about. It’s probably safe to say that I’ve collected a few recipes since I started food blogging.


Perhaps inevitably therefore, I’ve become very fussy about which recipe books I consider buying. I’m no longer interested in rehashes of the same old spotted dicks and chicken chasseurs, while my three rapidly-growing children don’t leave me with either the time or the energy to recreate Michelin 3-star classics. In short, the cookbooks that appeal to me now are full of interesting recipes that inspire me to make them at home and use ingredients that inspire my family to eat them.

I don’t buy many cookbooks these days. I’m very fussy.


It was lovely therefore to receive a copy of PIE: Delicious Sweet and Savoury Pies and Pastries from Steak and Onion Pie to Pecan Tart by Dean Brettschneider and discover a brand new recipe book that I’m more than happy to add to my bookshelves. The pies on these pages just sing out to be eaten.


Sausage, Sun-dried Tomato and Potato Tart. Bacon, Curried Egg and Ricotta Pie. Chicken, Sweet Potato and Stilton Pot Pies. Chicken, Cranberry and Camembert Pies. Fish Pie with Leek and Chorizo. Tomato and Thyme Tarte Tatin. Dark Chocolate Banoffee Slab. Hazelnut and Coconut Shortbread with Strawberries and Blueberries. If you tell me you’re not drooling, then honestly, you’re lying.


In this book, Dean gives us more than eighty recipes for pastry classics and innovations using flavours from around the world. Chapters include meat, seafood, vegetarian and sweet pies, plus a chapter on ‘not-quite-a-pie’ – pastry treats such as flapjacks and sausage rolls. There’s even a recipe for traditional Cornish Pasties (although, as everyone knows, the pasty was invented here in Devon …).

All in all, this book gets a big thumbs-up from me. Perhaps the best praise I can give is to tell you that my own copy is already looking used and dog-eared. And as I said, I’m very fussy.


To order Pie at the discounted price of £20.00 including p&p* (RRP: £25.00), telephone 01903 828503 or email mailorders@lbsltd.co.uk and quote the offer code APG18.

Alternatively, send a cheque made payable to:

Littlehampton Book Services Mail Order Department,
Littlehampton Book Services,
PO Box 4264,
Worthing, West Sussex
BN13 3RB.

Please quote the offer code APG18 and include your name and address details.

*UK ONLY – Please add £2.50 if ordering from overseas.

Mud Pies: The Winner

And the winner of the giveaway of Mud Pies and Other Recipes by Marjorie Winslow is …

… Nichola. Congrats! I’ll email you for postal details so I can get this book out to you. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do 🙂

A Merrier World will be five years old next month on August 9th. It feels like quite a milestone really – a lot has happened since that first post and I’d like to plan some sort of celebration for my blog’s anniversary. I’m working on a few ideas … so watch this space 😉

Mud Pies and Other Recipes Giveaway

Every child should have this recipe book.

I don’t often say things like that, so it must be true. I’d even go so far as to claim that every child needs to have this recipe book.

The book that has so totally captured my children’s imaginations is Mud Pies and Other Recipes by Marjorie Winslow. It was originally published in 1961 but has fortunately been reprinted more recently, which means you don’t have to pay bucket-loads for it on Amazon. And no, I’m not being paid, blackmailed or otherwise encouraged to say wonderful things about it – the publishers don’t even know I exist. I do have a copy of this book that I’d like to give away, but it isn’t some freebie sample or review copy from anywhere. I bought it myself.

So – what’s so good about this book, anyway? Although its contents are divided into Appetizers, Soups, Salads, Sandwiches, Main Dishes, Pastries, Desserts and Beverages, and although there is even a section on Suggested Menus, it doesn’t contain any recipes that you would actually want to eat. Unless you were a doll, that is – or perhaps a garden sprite or an imaginary friend.

And that’s exactly where the power of this book lies. Using ingredients found easily in a backyard or on the seashore, children learn skills of  food preparation and serving that would be worthy of any Michelin-starred chef or restaurant.

I have watched my children sieving, stirring, pouring, seasoning, baking, spreading, sprinkling, skewering and cutting their ingredients. They have arranged their meals on serving platters, plates and in bowls, and carried everything carefully to the pass. Whether as Chef de Cuisine,  Sous-Chef, Commis or General Dogsbody, they have negotiated their roles and responsibilities in the industries of Food and Beverage Production, Service and Kitchen Stewarding. And they have done all of this themselves in a world entirely of their own making.

Pine Needle Upside-Down Cake, Crabgrass Gumbo, Dandelion Soufflé, Leaves en Brochette …

And Mud Pies, of course …

To a coffee can filled 3/4 full of rich dirt, add just enough water to make a very firm mud. Pack this mud into the cups in the bottom half of a heavy cardboard egg carton. Set in the sun to dry slightly, then turn the carton over and unmold on a sunny terrace or sidewalk. When the pies are hard, they are done. Serves 12.

These mud pies keep indefinitely and are good to have on hand for impromptu entertaining.

This is exactly the sort of book that I would have spent hours poring over as a child. Heck, I’d love to have more free hours to spend poring over it even now as an adult! It’s charming, whimsical and dated, yes. But it’s also creative, sophisticated, inspirational, magical and timeless. My only regret is that I didn’t come across it sooner in the lives of my children.

I haven’t forgotten that I mentioned a Giveaway …

I have a spare copy of Mudpies and Other Recipes by Marjorie Winslow that I will send to someone who promises to let it get a bit muddy in the name of creativity. To enter the giveaway, leave a comment in the space below this post. You don’t have to say anything much – a quick ‘Hi’ will do. Just something to let me know you’d like to enter the draw. Random.org will choose the lucky winner (make sure you leave a valid email address so I can contact you – it won’t be published, but I’ll need to contact you to find out your mailing address if you win).

The deadline for entry to the giveaway is at midnight (BST) on the day that my children break up from school for their summer holidays – Wednesday 11th July 2012. 

Good luck 🙂

Lentils with Lemon and Coriander

Inspired by M’s contagious enthusiasm for all things Roman, I was tempted last night to try out a particularly tasty-sounding recipe from the Roman Cooking book that M had taken into school. I love lentils, I adore lemons, and coriander is one of my favourite herbs. How could a recipe entitled ‘Lentils with Lemon and Coriander’ be anything but delicious? At least it didn’t feature those peacock brains and stuffed dormice that M had talked about.

The cookery book in question is a collection of recipes for everyday Roman food by Mark Grant. According to the blurb, he taught classics for more than twenty years, translated numerous culinary works of the ancient world and worked also as a cook and catering manager. Encouragingly for us twenty-first century cooks, he adapts his translations of Roman recipes to use modern kitchen equipment, less time-consuming methods and readily-available ingredients. There’s none of that ‘These should be put in a jar with water and left in the sun for forty days‘ stuff – simply bring the ingredients to the boil and simmer for forty minutes.

Another refreshing feature of the book is that Grant has based its recipes on more than just the writings of Apicius (who seems to have had a peculiar penchant for tender larks’ tongues and roasted flamingoes). In fact, Grant goes so far as to state in his introduction that ‘none of the recipes in this book come from the pages of Apicius, something that has not been attempted before.’ Instead of sensational recipes for lavish banquets and extravagant feasts, Grant takes the theme of everyday Roman food as his starting point. This means that his recipes offer us a singular opportunity to eat the ordinary food of the Roman Empire and taste the simple dishes of the humble wine bars, fried-fish shops and backstreet restaurants of that time.

The lenticula recipe that caught my eye yesterday comes from a series of letters on food by a sixth-century Byzantine Greek named Anthimus. Whilst Anthimus conceived these letters as advice to the Frankish king on how to eat healthily (he was, after all, a physician), his observations about food are credited now as being both the first French cookery book and the last cookbook to come out of the Roman Empire. That’s quite a reputation to have gained from the odd bit of letter-writing.

After my trip to the small Tesco (okay, I confess – I do still shop there, even after my chicken rant) in Exeter High Street failed to produce any satisfactory lentils or red wine vinegar for the recipe I wanted to try out, I eventually found the missing ingredients I needed at Carluccios. Splashing out? Perhaps. But if you’re going to do a thing properly …

The result?

O and I both agreed that we will definitely, most certainly be keeping this recipe among our favourites. Although the mix of lentils, red wine vinegar and lemons isn’t necessarily the most obvious flavour combination, it really does work. It isn’t just quirky for the sake of being exotic or adventurous. It is tasty too – something which is quite rare for an historical cookbook.

Unfortunately though, it isn’t quite so photogenic as those roasted flamingoes might have been. But hey – how pretty can a plate of lentils ever look?

Smile and wave boys, smile and wave.

Lentils with Lemon and Coriander (adapted from a recipe by Mark Grant)

200g/6 oz Umbrian lentils
1 tbsp Chianti wine vinegar
Juice of half a lemon
1 slice of lemon
1 tbsp olive oil
100ml water
2 tsp ground coriander
A handful of fresh coriander leaves
Sea salt, to taste

Boil the lentils in a pint of water (or more … ours needed extra) for about 20 to 30 minutes until tender.

Drain and rinse, then add the vinegar, lemon juice, lemon slice, olive oil, water and ground coriander.

Simmer gently for 20 minutes (with the lid on to start, then remove as necessary to reduce).

Chop the fresh coriander leaves finely (or rustically, as I did) and sprinkle them over the top of the lentils just before serving.