Hello, I’m Rachel @hellosweetandsavage and pictured here are my cool adventure companions, Pippin and Fern. (They just so happen to be my kids, too!)
We live in the countryside in New Zealand near a small town called Akaroa. About 10 years ago we moved here from the city and we have never looked back. It is a very peaceful spot- our road is a bumpy, narrow gravel track on the edge of some very steep cliffs- but once you reach the bottom of the valley, you are greeted with wild, rugged cliffs; open glistening fields of grass and trees; meandering streams and a wild, beautiful ocean. It is magical and we feel very lucky to live here.
I spend a lot of time cooking and I love creating fun, bright food with natural colours.
Our kids are homeschooled and we do a lot of outside exploring. We like to think we are expert hut-builders and campfire-makers- we’ll pack up some food, old sheets, newspaper, matches and a comfy blanket to sit on… and disappear for hours. You don’t need to pack a lot to set up a happy afternoon campsite. Oh, and we always have to take a portable speaker for music... when you’re 8 and 10 years old you can’t be without Taylor Swift or Billie Eilish for a single second! ;-)
It’s Autumn here at the moment: the mornings are cool and crisp, and the leaves are crunchy underfoot, but the days are warm with barely a breath of wind. It’s a great time of year to have a picnic. When planning for this lunch adventure, I asked the girls what food they’d like to take- they told me that they’d like to pack a banana cake; jelly watermelons and apple toadstools. This is a bit fancier than our usual campfire spread, but it felt a little bit like a tea party- and the idea of this sounded fun!
We hope you enjoy making these recipes too- come along and let us show you around a little bit. We’d love to share our favourite picnic spots with you!
Rachel, Pippin and Fern xx
Banana and avocado cake with white chocolate cream cheese icing
This cake is the girls’ favourite- it’s not too sweet and it is super easy to put together. It’s also delicious with icing sugar dusted over the top, or iced with a simple glaze- if cream cheese icing isn’t your cup of tea.
For the cake
½ an avocado
125g / 4.4oz / 1 stick butter
100g / ½ cup sugar
100ml / 3.4fl oz milk
1 tsp vanilla paste
250g / 1 ½ cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
Heat your oven to 150 °C. (170°C conventional / 330° F / Gas Mark 3) Grease and line a 20cm cake tin. Place bananas, avocado, butter, sugar, eggs, milk and vanilla in a food processor bowl (or use a whizz stick) and blitz to combine (this may take a good minute or 2) Once mixture is smooth and there are no lumps- remove and scrape into a medium sized bowl. Sift flour, baking soda and baking powder over wet mixture and stir well to combine. Scrape into prepared cake tin and place in oven for around 1 hour. A skewer should come out clean when poked into centre of cake. Set on a cooling rack, then turn out of cake tin after 10-15 minutes.
Cool completely before icing.
Icing and decorating
100g / 0.9 stick butter, softened
250g / 1 cup cream cheese
100g / 1 cup icing sugar
75g white chocolate, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract
50g dark chocolate, melted
1-2 tsp raspberry juice (leave frozen raspberries to defrost, and then strain the berries to leave a fun, red juice that makes a perfect pink colour!)
¼ tsp turmeric powder (this makes yellow, you can add more as you need. Do this sparingly as turmeric can have a strong flavour)
Beat butter until light and creamy. Add cream cheese gradually, making sure each piece is blended in before you add the next. Then add icing sugar, one spoonful at a time, followed by vanilla. Slowly dribble white chocolate into the bowl until it is all mixed in. Prepare your cake- you may like to use a knife to level the top off your cake so it is nice and flat. Ice the top and sides, saving about ½ cup of the icing to decorate and make your ‘flowers’. Set out some smaller bowls with a spoonful of icing in each and mix up different colours- we mixed melted dark chocolate into one bowl; raspberry juice into another, turmeric powder in another bowl (if you find that the icing goes a bit runny, add some extra icing sugar as you go to make it a bit thicker).
With a knife or the back of a spoon, make circles on the cake for the flower faces. Use a contrasting colour to make petals- we made little dots next to some faces and used a butter knife to spread the icing to make petals. You can also transfer icing to a piping bag and then pipe half circle shaped petals around the face. We piped little faces with melted chocolate and added a dot of raspberry icing for cheeks. If you’re short on time, you could also use proper fresh edible flowers to decorate!
These fun homemade jellies are always a favourite request at birthday parties at our place- you can make them a day or more ahead, they’re so easy to pull out when you need them. They’ll put a smile on everyone’s faces!
(this makes about 500ml jelly, enough to fill about 1 ½ cucumbers- but it will depend on the size of the cucumbers you are using)
1-2 cucumbers (try and select cucumbers that are nice and straight so they are easy and level to set the jelly in)
150ml / 5fl oz water
50g / 1/3 cup sugar
a big handful of frozen raspberries
100ml / 3.4fl oz hot (not boiling) water
3 tsp gelatine
1 tsp black sesame or nigella seeds
Slice cucumbers in half lengthwise. Using a teaspoon, gently scrape out the seeds. The hollow cucumber shells should be nice and smooth on the inside so they have a nice half circle shape when they’re sliced up later on. Use a clean tea towel to dry any excess moisture from the cucumber shells and set aside while you prepare jelly. In a small saucepan, bring first measure of water and sugar to a simmer. Once sugar has dissolved, add frozen raspberries and turn off the heat. Cover with a lid and leave the berries to infuse for 20-30 minutes.
Sprinkle gelatine over second measure of water (the hot water) and leave to dissolve for around 10 minutes. Strain berries from the saucepan and return raspberry juice to the pan. Add gelatine mixture to raspberry juice and stir well to combine. Remove from heat and leave to cool slightly. Empty egg cartons are a great way to hold the cucumbers level while you pour the jellies in and leave them to set.
After a few hours (or overnight is even better) remove from fridge and cut the cucumber jellies into watermelon slices (ours were around 1cm thick).
Dot a few black sesame seeds or nigella seeds on each jelly if you wish.
Cut apples into 0.5cm slices (cut from top to bottom). Use the apple rounds as little ‘plates’ for toadstools. The outside edges of the apples (with the skin) make great toadstool tops. Cut them in half to make half circle shapes. Use a stainless steel straw to make holes to give them a spotted effect.
Cut stalks from any leftover bits of apple, and then tuck a little mint leaf in next to each stalk.