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Posts tagged ‘Puffin Books’

Eoin Colfer Virtually Live

Today, at 2pm Eoin Colfer will be reading from the last ever Artemis Fowl book live, I assume, from Puffin HQ. You need to register before you can watch and you can do that on their website here.

Oh, and here’s Eoin himself telling you what you need to do and talking about farts and wind and tummy trouble. Of course.


Bookish Bites : Burglar Bill walnut and date cake

“That’s a nice walnut and date cake with buttercream filling and icing on the top – I’ll have that!”

Well, here we are with our second outing from Janet and Allan Ahlberg’s Burglar Bill. It was bound to happen, so many delicious nibbles to choose from and after last week’s rather sugary Bookish Bites, we thought we ought to cook something with some fruit in that’s possibly a little healthier. If you ignore the icing that is. Not sure how you can ignore icing, it’s smack bang on the top of the cake and tastes great… but well, yes. Anyway let’s go!

Our first Burglar Bill Bookish Bites was the gingerbread biscuits and cocoa a few weeks back. They were yum. The walnut and date cake really feels like it’s fitted the rather chilly weather this week. A comforting, homely bake.

We started by reading Burglar Bill.

What I love about this page is the idea that firstly Burglar Bill has a homemade walnut and date cake in his house. Did he bake it himself, did he steal it from someone’s house? And then, how does Burglar Betty decide to steal it – in her swag bag? Surely it would get all squished. I hope she was intending to carry it home on a cake stand. Carefully.

For this, we used a trusty Mary Berry recipe. Her date and walnut traybake from Mary Berry’s Baking Bible.

I’m loving Mary Berry a little bit at the moment. Probably has something to do with The Great British Bake Off being on telly at the moment. And the fact that her cakes are always tasty and always work out lovely. We did adapt it slightly so it was a round cake in an 8inch tin. You don’t need to alter the ingredients, just the tin and the cooking time. A little longer in the oven and check a few times (at the very end of the cooking time, never before or your cake will sink) to ensure that your knife’s coming out clean. We also didn’t use the icing suggested to opt for Burglar Bill’s buttercream filling and topping.

Spooning the dry mixture of flour, muscovado sugar and ground almonds into the mixer where you’ve already got your dates and butter mix.

Add the walnuts.

Pour the mixture into your prepared tin.

Does anyone else have the problem that their oven cooks predominantly on one side. Recently this seems to have gotten a bit worse. Waiting for your cake or biscuits to turn golden brown is all very well, but what if they just do that on one side. Honestly.

I cut the cake in two and sliced the top off (we froze the top for future nutty, fruity trifle making). One layer looks a bit wonky, but this is just because it’s falling off the back of our chopping board. We mixed up some lovely buttercream to use as filling and to ice the top. Then used some remaining walnut halves to decorate, toasted.

This made a wonderfully, gigantic and hearty recipe. Really, a very, tasty moist sponge. The buttercream worked well though you don’t need a big slice (!) and it does look similar to how I’d imagine Janet Ahlberg might have drawn it had she chosen to (based on the pictures of the iced cakes in The Baby’s Catalogue). I do think that the icing that Mary Berry uses in her traybake recipe might have made for a less rich experience (icing sugar with lemon and lemon zest) with a bit more of a refreshing tang to it.

Milo’s verdict: Well, he was a bit suspicious of the walnuts oddly. He’ll eat them just fine on their own, but once inside a cake or bread these days he seems to be a bit less keen. So he ate around them. “I like walnuts mummy.” “Why are you leaving them then Milo?” “I’m saving them for later.” “Oh, okay… why?” “They don’t want to be eaten right now.” He never did eat them. I couldn’t get a face on picture of him as he didn’t want the camera to take a photo of him. Fair enough!

Yes, that’s my thumb in the shot.

Illustration auction for KLIMB

I was very happily invited by the team at Maverick Books to a lovely illustration auction organised by the people behind KLIMB. If you’ve not come across KLIMB, they are a group of people who will be climbing Mount Kilimanjaro to raise money for two charities, TAS and Chance UK in October this year.

And so on to the auction. Well, there was quite an amazing selection of gorgeous illustrations to bid on including works from Oliver Jeffers (from The Heart and the Bottle), Garry Parsons (one of the KLIMB team), Sarah McIntyre (hers was bought by Steve at Maverick), Ed Vere, Mini Grey, Adam Stower, Vivianne Schwartz and David Roberts to name just a few. Sarah McIntyre has blogged about the evening over here and especially the fabulous part she played in it, drawing anything anyone wanted for a flat fee. Well, I totally couldn’t afford any of the illustrations under the auction hammer (they were going from anywhere from £100 – £1000), so I asked Sarah for something for Milo’s bedroom using two of his favourite obsessions at the moment. Can you guess what they are?

Race cars and aliens.

Needless to say I love it, and Milo loves it too. We’ve been reading You Can’t Eat a Princess by Gillian Rogerson and illustrated by Sarah McIntyre quite a lot recently on the suggestion of lovely twitter friend @damyantipatel and so he’s very familiar with her illustrations. He’s especially pleased with all the eyes on the alien in the Milo Mobile! He seems to have a preference or aliens with many eyes! We’re going to frame his gorgeous picture and pop it on his bedroom wall. Here’s Sarah drawing those all important eyes.

I had a fun evening catching up with the guys at Maverick Books, bumping into some old friends from my Puffin days and meeting a few new people. Most importantly the night raised over £7000 for the two charities that KLIMB are supporting. Fantastic stuff!

I am truly gutted to have missed Sarah at the Lewisham Literary Festival a couple of days ago. She was doing an event literally five minutes from our house, but we were all a bit knackered from visiting a Dog Detectives event up in London (more about that later this week!).

I think it goes without saying that this week’s Bookish Bites will be inspired by You Can’t Eat a Princess!

Bookish Bites : Burglar Bill ginger biscuits

The Ahlbergs are featuring quite heavily in Bookish Bites. Today is the turn of Burglar Bill (Puffin Books). Now, there are several tasty treats mentioned in this book, arrowroot biscuits, date and walnut cake with buttercream filling and icing on the top (coming soon), ginger biscuits and cocoa.

I tried reading Burglar Bill to Milo a while back but he wasn’t quite ready for its length. He is now but has to be in the right mood to want to sit still long enough for the whole book. I LOVE reading Burglar Bill probably over all the Ahlberg books we have in this house. It’s a bit of a different experience to titles like Peepo and Each Peach Pear Plum. The wonderful way the language is written just lends itself to a strong, fast, cockney accent and a warm dialogue between the two main characters, Burglar Bill and Burglar Betty. It’s brilliant to read aloud and the foody descriptions don’t disappoint.

Opposite this lovely spread is this:

“Burglar Bill makes a jug of cocoa and opens a packet of ginger biscuits. The two burglars sit round the kitchen table.”

Sounds lovely doesn’t it? And later…

“He offers the biscuits to Burglar Betty. She takes one and dips it in her cocoa.”

Well, ginger biscuits and warming cocoa I say. Oh yes! Let’s begin. We used a basic ginger cookie recipe, opting for a chunkier, more dunkable biscuit. I like mine to be full of spicy flavour so we added cinnamon and cloves to the dry mix, and for a fuller, flavour include a couple of tablespoons of black treacle and a squeeze of lemon.

First, sift the flour (approx. 375g), baking powder (1.5 teaspoons), ginger (1.5 teaspoons), cinnamon (0.5 teaspoon) and ground cloves (1/4 teaspoon).

Separately, cream 110g of butter and 225g of sugar and stir in one beaten egg and a couple of tablespoons of black treacle and asqueeze of lemon juice. Add your dry mix and thoroughly stir to make into a soft dough.

Shape the dough into balls, roll them in a little sugar and place them on baking trays. With a toddler, this can get a little messy.

Milo tried to tidy up though which was a lovely effort. His hands however…

And then, his best Thriller impression.

Bake your biscuits at 180 for about 10 – 12 minutes until they are firm to touch.

Then to the cocoa. We used a recipe from The Moomins Cookbook. There’s nothing particularly special about this recipe, but I do love this cookbook. Simple Finnish recipes and some more unusual ones, but all hearty and wholesome. The cocoa recipe calls for whole milk mixed with cocoa powder and a little water. Whole milk people, none of this healthy making it with just water business. Gosh, why would you when there is whole milk in the world.

An incredibly pleasant way to spend an afternoon. Milo’s verdict: “Eating ginger biscuits like Burglar Bill. I like cocoa.”

Bookish Bites : Each Peach Pear Plum

Well, the wonderful Each Peach Pear Plum by Janet and Allan Ahlberg (Puffin Books) completely lends itself to being a Bookish Bites. I only wish we’d been able to invite all the nursery rhyme characters for a little tea party afterwards.

We begun by reading the book, a book that has been read to Milo since he was very small, that he now knows all the words too off by heart and where everyone is hiding. He especially loves the second to last page.

I spy ... EVERYONE!

We throw our hands in the air for EVERYONE!

We use a simple recipe for plum pie and other fruity pies. We start with about 1 kg of fruit, in this case plums stoned and chopped roughly and popped into a thick based saucepan. We then add approximately 150g of sugar to this, caster is fine, but I always use golden caster for most things pudding as I prefer the taste. Bring to the boil and then simmer, not for too long – 10 mins at the most or until the plums are juicy. You can add some cornflour to thicken the juice so your pie isn’t too wet and runny inside.

While you are doing this, get your toddler to crush some cloves using a pestle and mortar. This depends largely on taste but about a teaspoon’s enough for us. Milo loves this process, he is always my go-to-boy for anything that needs grinding into a dust! And it’s great for introducing new textures and smells.

For some reason he was keen to do everything in his high chair while making our plum pie. I tried to encourage him to come and stand with me to roll out pastry, stir the plums, but while interested in making the pie, he was just not wanting to be out of his highchair for some reason. The experience needs to be fun for both of us, so once he was done with the cloves and I’d added them to the plums and sugar, I started him on the decoration for the top of the pie that could be done in his highchair. Pastry star shapes. We just used a pack of shortcrust pastry for our pie.

I then rolled out enough pastry to line our pie dish (actually a roasting dish as we don’t have a pie dish, but you can pretty much make a pie in anything). And added Milo’s stars on top. A little beaten egg and sugar pasted to cover the top and your pie’s ready for the oven. Cook for about 30 mins or until golden brown in an oven preheated to 200 degrees.

Eat! With custard, vanilla custard, whipped cream, single cream, double cream, chocolate sauce, whatever! Just yum!

And the most marvellous thing about plum pie is that my lovely boy who is not good with foods that aren’t dry or cheese or pureed within an inch of their lives, will eat this. He picked a little at the plums (he is suspicious of most fruit while it still looks like fruit!) but ate a good quantity and loved the “jam” otherwise known as juice and of course loved the pastry. 
Milo’s verdict: “I like jam!”

Bookish bites : Peepo porridge

Until I started thinking and researching this post, porridge had been a simplistic thing for me. 1 cup rolled porridge oats to 2 cups milk, over the hob stirring until you get the consistency that you prefer. In the case of my little household, runny for the other half, for me, so thick you can stand a spoon up in it or use it as some kind of breakfast cement and somewhere in between for Milo.

But one quick google search later and it seems that everybody has their own way of making it and that mostly involves water. No milk. Just water. Apparently that’s how it should be made?!

"Here's a little baby 1-2-3. Sits in his highchair, what does he see?"

Peepo by Janet and Allan Ahlberg (Puffin Books) is a huge favourite in this house and feels like another of the Ahlberg’s wonderful books that is growing with Milo. He loved and still loves the rhythm and rhyme in the book but is now questioning a lot of what is going on in the background and who all the people are. When he was younger he was completely content with listening and pointing out the buses and cars, but now he needs to know where they are going, why is the little girl upset, whose dog is that, are they sharing the fishing rod? And, like the other Janet and Allan collaborations, there is just so much to look at and talk about.

Peepo porridge looks like the somewhere inbetween consistency that Milo has, but I wonder where it would have fallen on the milk/water debate. The book is set in London not Scotland where porridge is traditionally made with water, but this is World War Two and so rationing would have been in place. Young children were entitled to about a pint of milk per day but in a big family this may have had to go a long way.

When I told Milo that in the morning, for breakfast we would be having Peepo porridge he was instantly excited. We read the book before making it together and turned an ordinary breakfast into a lot more fun for all three of us. Our recipe (for three) was:

2 cups rolled Scottish porridge oats
3 cups whole milk
1 cup water (as a nod to the more traditional way of porridge making and because we were low on milk)

Pour oats, milk and water into a heavy based saucepan, bring to the boil and then reduce to a simmer until you have a consistency that you like. If you are making this for a child, when you serve up add a dash of cold milk to cool down. Do not serve until it’s a happy temperature and encourage blowing the spoonful of porridge before eating. Not only is this hilarious with a toddler, but also a great way of teaching them to understand temperature and how to control it. Add your topping accordingly.

Porridge is so wonderfully versatile in that way. You can pick and choose whatever you’d like to go with or in it. We normally opt for raisins, cinnamon and little brown sugar. I’m going to try making it a different way next time we have porridge, with water, a little salt and soaking the oats the night before (not the Clarridges method of soaking the oats three hours before cooking as that would mean a 4.30am start, no thank you very much!).

I am absolutely sure that you all have your own opinions and recipes for porridge, so please do share. And what do you normally have on your porridge?

{reading moment of the week}

This pretty much sums out how this little household is feeling at the moment, and Meg on the Moon has been one of the most requested books!

Francesca Dow steps-up at Penguin

I read yesterday that things are very much changing within Penguin children’s department. Francesca Dow, managing director of Puffin Books (and my old boss!) will be stepping up to replace Stephanie Barton as managing director of Penguin’s Children’s Division who is leaving “embark upon a new challenge”.  Change is good, people moving, leaving, trying new things is definitely good and this, I’m sure will be a very positive change for Penguin. I’m looking forward to seeing what their future holds.

Interesting comment from @tomtivnan on Twitter that this is the 3rd member of The Bookseller’s top 100 in publishing, to move within the last month.

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