May 08, 2013

Strawberry "Monkey Bread" Cake

When I was in London, England for the summer a few years ago, I lived in Notting Hill right near Hyde Park. I took walks through the park all the time to unwind from work and exercise from eating too many fish and chips.

Hyde Park London

I really thought of the park as a kind of heaven on earth. At any given moment there were people hanging out, playing sports, rowing boats, riding horses, eating ice cream and soaking up the English sun. To say it was a magical place would also be fitting, as an elaborate production of Peter Pan was staged in the park at that time as well. The park is every bit of English elegance, charm and history all in one place. 

Hyde Park London

Nestled in Hyde Park is Kensington Palace, now the home of the Royal Couple Will and Kate. At the time you could stroll around the castle for free, as well as the gardens. I'm guessing the security might be a little stricter now. Next to the palace is The Orangery, probably the fanciest place to have a cup of tea in London. Let's just say, it was a little bit out of my price range. I can dream though.

Lucky for me, my favourite tea shop in London, Ontario--where I now live--The Tea Haus (in Covent Garden Market, also named after the "real" market in England) started up an Afternoon Tea at their store. It was Mike's Birthday last weekend, so instead of, you know, watching the hockey game and drinking beers, I took him for tea at the market on Sunday.

Afternoon Tea at the Tea Haus

The tea for two included unlimited tea served in fancy china and on a nicely set table along with a platter of goodies from Le Petit Paris, which is also located in the market. The tray included macarons, tarts, biscotti, sandwiches and much more. I assumed it would be all sweet treats, but it was nice to have a few savoury things thrown in there to balance everything out. There was a tuna, chicken and egg salad "tea sandwich."

Saturday morning was also the first farmer's Market of the season, so I picked up some rhubarb and lavender, as my dining room table vase has been neglected lately. According to the lavender farm owner, you can actually barbecue lavender. You put a few sprigs on the coals and the scent and flavour will infuse into whatever you're grilling. How cool is that?

This would be a nice treat for Mother's Day too. The only weird thing was that we were the only ones having the tea service at that time, so a few people walked by wondering why we had a nicely set table and fine china in the seating area of the market. A little girl walked by and asked if we were having a tea party. Why yes, we had a tea party. We're adults, after all.

As well as the tea treats, I also made a Strawberry "monkey bread" cake with a lemon glaze as a Birthday cake. The original recipe called for cream cheese icing, but I thought that would be too much, so I added a little glaze made from icing sugar, lemon juice and milk. I also added a few sprigs of lavender on top of the cake.

Strawberry Monkey Bread Cake

Monkey bread is a sticky, pull-apart, cake, similar to a coffee cake. Apparently it is also known as "monkey brains," "bubble loaf," and "sticky bread." You make a sweet dough bread and let it rise for about an hour. Then slice the dough into strips and brush brown sugar, butter and strawberries on each piece and layer the pieces into a stack. Then place the juicy stacks into a bundt pan and let it rise again for about an hour.

Bake the cake for about 30-40 minutes and let it cool before adding the glaze or icing. See the full recipe here. It wasn't quite a traditional coffee cake, but the slices ended up being huge and it pulls apart nicely if you don't want the effort of utensils or plates.

I also made a layered chickpea salad for a BBQ we went to on Saturday. You have to have a salad with burgers at a BBQ if only to add some greens to all that protein. I made a similar dish before as a layered dip with hummus, tzatziki, olives, tomatoes and feta cheese. For a salad, I layered chickpeas, chopped tomatoes, cucumber, green onions and feta cheese then made a dressing with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, mustard and garlic and let the dressing soak into the salad. 

Normally, I would put the dressing on right as I was serving the salad, but I thought it would almost "marinade" the chickpeas. The worst thing about making chickpeas is having them taste too much like chickpeas. Am I right? It tasted exactly like a Greek salad. Plus it had all those chickpeas for extra fibre and anything layered in a glass bowl always looks extra fancy. Here's the original recipe.  

Layered Chickpea Salad

If you also love eating well, and bright colours, head on over to enter to win a Yonanas machine. It's a machine that makes frozen yoghurt with bananas and other fruits. All you do is freeze some bananas and add them to the machine with any flavour combinations you want and you have your own healthy soft-serve ice cream.

They also come in cool colours, such as Raspberry, Cranberry, Lime and Grape. Go to their Facebook page before May 9 at 10pm and let them know your favourite colour for a chance to win!

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