Back Home with the Neelys by Ann Volkwein [epub | 14,81 Mb] ISBN: 0307961338

  • Full Title: Back Home with the Neelys: Comfort Food from Our Southern Kitchen to Yours
  • Autor: Ann Volkwein
  • Print Length: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; First Edition edition
  • Publication Date: April 8, 2014
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307961338
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307961334
  • Download File Format | Size: epub | 14,81 Mb
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For Pat and Gina Neely the secret to a truly happy home is a lively mix of food and family. In their new book, the best-selling authors draw on their down-home roots and revisit the classic Southern recipes that have been passed down through generations. We’re drawn into the kitchens of their mothers and grandmothers and back to a time when produce was picked in the backyard garden and catfish was caught on afternoon fishing trips with Grandpa. In their signature style, Pat and Gina have taken the dishes they were raised on and updated them for today’s kitchens.

Inside you’ll find 100 recipes, including Small Batch Strawberry Jam (best when eaten with Easy Buttermilk and Cream Biscuits), Bourbon French Toast, Crunchy Fried Okra, Skillet Corn Bread, Grilled Succotash, Skillet Roasted Chicken, and Brunswick Stew (which combines a little of everything in your fridge).
Pat and Gina believe good food leads to good times and Back Home with the Neelys is sure to bring back fond memories of the tradition, history, and flavors that are present in every family.


Editorial Reviews Review

Featured Recipes from Back Home with the Neelys


Skillet Cornbread


Smoked Sausage and Grits


Grilled Succotash

Grilled Succotash

From Booklist

Memphis restaurateurs and food television personalities Pat Neely and Gina Neely have a new cookbook sure to delight their many fans. It covers territory similar to their earlier books. They base recipes on their grandmothers’ styles of cooking, updating them for modern ingredients and techniques. For richness at breakfast, biscuits have both buttermilk and heavy cream. Cooks of all stripes will find the green-onion and cheddar bread accessible and intriguing. Kale salad with champagne vinaigrette boldly reflects today’s tastes and nutritional preferences. Two kinds of cheese, bacon, and pulled pork garnish the Neelys’ over-the-top burger, nestled in a brioche bun. Pickled okra, a southern staple, gets extra perfume from caraway seed substituting for more typical dill seed. It may be a stretch to imagine the Neelys’ grandmothers sipping on a mojito, but such liberties carry forward the spirit of contemporary southern cooking. –Mark Knoblauch




To my children,

Roy, Yasmine, and Halell

And to my sweetheart, Rinat,

whose contribution to this book is enormous

What a journey . . .





Challah Rolls

Black Tie Challah

Épi Black Tie Challah

Crazy and Festive Challah

Whole Wheat and Flax Challah

Chocolate and Orange Confit Challah

Marzipan Challah

Sticky Pull-Apart Cinnamon Challah Braid

Sticky Cinnamon Challah Snails

Challah Falafel Rolls


Basic Babka Dough

Advanced Babka Dough

The Famous Chocolate Babka

Babka Pie

Cinnamon-Raisin-Walnut Babka

Rum Raisin and Cheese Babka

Halvah Babka

Ricotta Streusel Babka

Apple Babka

Za’atar Twists

Nechama’s Poppy Seed Babka

Chocolate Kugelhopf


Pan Pita


Za’atar Pita

No-Knead Focaccia

Focaccia with a Poolish (Pre-Ferment)

Spinach Focaccia

Shakshuka Focaccia

Potato Shakshuka Focaccia

Lachmajun with Roasted Eggplant and Scallions




A Few Classics & New Discoveries


Traditional “Overnight” Kubaneh

Light Brioche

A Everyday Loaf

Jerusalem Baguette

Jerusalem Bagel


Pain de Mie

Dill Bread

Spelt and Muesli Buns

Stuffed Breads

Cheese Burekas

Egg Burekas

Spinach Burekas

Swiss Chard and Kashkaval Burekas

Potato Burekas

Poached Pear and Goat Cheese Brioche Buns

Berry and Ricotta Brioche Buns

Kalamata Tapenade Brioche Snails

Deconstructed “Pesto” Brioche Snails

Roasted Pepper and Goat Cheese Snails


Cheese and Herb Mutabak

Cinnamon-Sugar Mutabak

Skillet Gozlome

Savory Potato Hamantaschen

Beet Hamantaschen

Cheese Straws

Sweets & Cookies

Chocolate Rugelach

Pistachio and Marzipan Pull-Apart Rugelach

Poppy Seed Hamantaschen

Apple Hamantaschen

Chocolate Chip and Vanilla Cream Hamantaschen

Charoset Hamantaschen

Napoleon Hats

Tunisian Marzipan Flowers

Rahat Lokum Crescents

Tahini Cookies

Barouj Tea Cookies

Date Mamoul

Apple Strudel

Moroccan Sfinge


Coconut Macaroons

Chocolate-Dipped Vanilla Krembos

Raspberry Krembos

Mocha Krembos

Parmesan Cookies

Arak and Sesame Sticks

Toasted Cumin Sticks

With . . .



Red Z’hug

Green Z’hug


Rinat’s Salad

Algerian Salad

Kalamata Tapenade

Moroccan Charoset




Preserved Lemons

The Baker’s Pantry

The Baker’s Toolkit



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my first love was bread. Or more specifically, the smell of bread. The smell of bread baking in the oven, the promise of its warmth, its sweetness, its supple crumb that contrasts to the browned, sometimes shiny-tender, sometimes rough and sharp-edged crust. My mother baked often—not every day, but enough for me to connect the smell of baking bread with a feeling of pure happiness. The idea of this beautiful and nourishing loaf made by hand and bringing people together around a table or even gathered at a kitchen counter to rip off a piece and eat it with such great enjoyment—to me, this is true love. And so it has become my life’s work to re-create this feeling of anticipation and pleasure with every loaf and pastry I bake and sell in my bakeries—and this is the essence of Breaking Breads.

My passion for bread extends to a constant desire both to discover new breads and to revitalize traditional recipes to suit modern tastes with better-quality ingredients, new fillings, or different shapes. Some of these breads are ones I have grown up with—like challah and pita. Others, such as kubaneh and lachmajun, have been introduced to me through love, marriage, friendship, and travel. In turn, I want to introduce you to concepts, techniques, flavors, and breads that will become your new favorites.

I am Israeli, so there is, of course, a strong Middle Eastern inflection to the recipes in Breaking Breads. Others are recipes I picked up during my studies as a young baker working in Denmark, Italy, and France. Still other recipes come from my wife’s family members, who are Moroccan and Yemenite, from Turkish friends, from a Druze woman who was generous enough to teach me her family’s secrets for a traditional stuffed flatbread, and from the bakers I’ve worked with. But all the recipes are filtered through my experiences, and so the result is something that is close to the original but that is ultimately
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far wrong with a few extra grams of pasta here and there or a different type of green vegetable. Think of my recipes as suggestions, and adapt them to use what you have and what you like. I won’t be offended if you tweak them a bit – honest! Write all over this book, cover it with Post-it notes and your own annotations. In my household the food books I love are defaced, spines bent from heavy use and covered with oil, smears of spices, splatters of red sauce and crusty dollops of dough. Get it out, use it, love it, make it your own. Or ours, if you like.

With love,

Jack xxx



beetroot | green beans | garlic | tomatoes | peaches | courgettes

And here we begin where A Girl Called Jack left off: with me sleeping on the floor on a single mattress in a house I shared with five other people. I shared my bedroom with my son. The house was beautiful – clean and bright with friendly lodgers and a huge kitchen – but I ate, washed and slept in one room and became something of a recluse, popping out a few times a week to tend the herbs in the herb garden. I was working as a reporter for my local newspaper, the Southend Echo – they had taken me on with no qualifications, apart from a handful of GCSEs, and no experience, apart from perching in the public gallery at local council meetings and writing about them on my blog. It’s not all doom and gloom, however – these sunny summer months are glorious for cheap and cheerful fruit and veg, such as bright pink beetroot, green beans, plump red tomatoes and abundant courgettes …

Roast beetroot and cheese pasta

Beetroot is a great natural food colouring. If you use fresh ones, keep the peelings and put them in a bag in the freezer to save them for later, then pop them into a pan of pasta water or a risotto to turn it pink! Great for kids’ parties, or just because – well, who wouldn’t fancy a bowl of Barbie-pink risotto every now and again? The eagle-eyed among you will have spotted that this is a pasta recipe, not a risotto – unlike me to get distracted …

Serves 2

250g beetroot, fresh or vacuum-packed

2 tablespoons oil, sunflower or groundnut

1 tablespoon runny honey

a pinch of salt

a pinch of dried chilli flakes

1 onion

150g spaghetti or penne pasta

100g soft cream cheese

100g hard, strong cheese

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas 4.

Peel and cut the beetroot into small chunks. Place in a roasting dish or, to cook on the hob, in a shallow non-stick pan. Mix together the oil and honey, add a pinch of salt and the chilli flakes, stir and pour over the beetroot. Peel and cut the onion into larger chunks. Add it to the dish, or pan, and stir everything together to distribute the oil and honey mixture evenly. Roast for 40 minutes until the beetroot is soft and the edges charred. (If you are using vacuum-packed beetroot, reduce the cooking time by half.) If cooking on the hob, sauté over a medium heat for around 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a pan of water to the boil and cook the pasta according to the packet instructions, usually around 8–10 minutes.

When the veg is ready, tip it into a blender with any residual honey and oil. Add the cream cheese and a tablespoon or two of the pasta cooking water to loosen, then blitz to an amazingly bright pink purée. Grate the hard, strong cheese.

Drain and rinse the pasta, then toss the sauce through it.

To serve, top with the grated cheese.

Oat-battered kippers with beetroot mash

Growing up beside the sea makes battered fish a rite of passage from my childhood, as far back as I can remember. Here is my grown-up take on it for a speedy supper. I’ve left the crunchy coating plain, but chilli or black pepper will add a bit of heat, or scatter in some finely chopped parsley for a light, fresh flavour.

Serves 2

2 beetroot

500g potatoes

2 rounded tablespoons plain flour

100ml milk

30g porridge oats

2 kipper fillets

50g butter, plus extra for the mash (optional)

a fistful of flat-leaf parsley

1 lemon, cut into wedges

Peel and dice the beetroot and the potatoes. Bring a large pan of water to the boil, put them in and simmer until tender, for 12–15 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the batter: stir the flour and milk together with two-thirds of the oats. The mixture should be thick but workable.

Place the kipper fillets skin-side down on a board and spread the batter on to the flesh, right to the edges. Scatter the remaining oats over the top.

Heat the butter in a frying pan over a medium–high heat. Place the kippers in the pan batter-side down and fry for 5 minutes, using a spatula to press them down so they cook evenly, until golden and crisp. Carefully turn over and cook for 1 minute on the skin side to crisp.

Chop enough parsley to fill a tablespoon. Drain the beetroot and potatoes, then mash with the parsley and a little butter, if you like. Serve with the kippers
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been epochal for American street food. Over the course of my traveling year, as I made my research rounds, street food rolled out of the gutter. It went mainstream. It bridged race and class gaps. Street food as served in New York City even became, Lord help us all, the focus of a proposed TV show, starring Courteney Cox of Friends and Cougar Town fame.

America Comes of Age

A NUMBER OF FACTORS made street food the hip culinary phenomenon of the moment: The economy, for one. All of a sudden, cheap deliverables for the consumer were in vogue. And so were cheap start-up costs for producers who lacked the money for the build-out of new restaurants but who were able—in a grand creative tradition shared by filmmakers and other dreamers—to max out their credit cards to rehab a linen services truck or a carny wagon.

But there were other reasons, too. America has long been a mobile society, attuned to eating on the go. That once meant a bite-and-bolt burger, eaten between gear shifts on the highway. Of late, however, we’ve begun to fuse our demand for quick-access food with a demand for honest and delicious food. Dana Cowin of Food & Wine magazine calls this a trend toward “luxocratic” foods, indulgences that are both luxurious and democratic, foods that rely on haute technique but bas delivery. That, in a nutshell, describes the best street food.

More important, perhaps, than such current developments was the cumulative effect of Hispanic immigration. Across the country taco trucks were no longer considered exceptional. For a New Wave of chef-entrepreneurs, they were now inspirational.

I realized this while standing in the parking lot of a low-rise office building on the south side of San Francisco, waiting for the arrival of Julia Yoon’s Seoul On Wheels truck. Wal-Mart was the tenant of the building. Fresh-faced men and women were buzzing around in khaki pants and khaki skirts, talking into or pecking at iPhones. When the truck arrived—to sell kimchi-topped burgers and Korean burritos called korritos—a rush of middle managers and data programmers piled out of those buildings. They made for the truck in much the same way that roofers and framers and masons have long poured out of construction sites lured by the promise of taco truck-peddled carne asada-stuffed tacos and chorizo-girded tortas.


Harried, without time for a sitdown meal, they arrived with cash. And they ordered big.

Much of the street food I document here is outsider food, immigrant food, the food of the underclass. Accept this sort of street food on its own terms and it serves as an entrée to people and place, a passkey to understanding customs and mores. (Dismiss it and you run the same risk that all closed-minded eaters do: Your worldview atrophies, your lunch and dinner possibilities narrow.)

Food for flea market treasure-seekers.

For eaters, traditional street food is among the most primal of bites, nutrition reduced to its most elemental form, a source of unalloyed pleasure. For cooks, such food offers an entrepreneurial path toward self-reliance. It’s a showcase for street theater, an opportunity to broadcast both ethic and aesthetic.

Old and New Ground

I PAY HOMAGE to a wide range of traditional vendors, from elotes vendors peddling mayonnaise-slathered and cayenne-strafed cobs of corn at weekend flea markets in Texas, to the rice and lamb vendors of Manhattan, fighting for a patch of pavement and the promise of a $100 daily net. I pay homage to the New Guard of vendors, too. I’m talking about the insurgent band of young cooks who now stand at the helm of stepside vans, retrofitted Airstreams, and reimagined fiberglass carts, griddling grass-fed beef and tucking burgers inside focaccia buns.

Are you on the bus?

They’re the sort of cooks who refuse to bide their time and sock away money in the hopes of saving enough to open a brick-and-mortar palace of a restaurant, swagged in chintz, outfitted with damask and crystal and attitude. Their work is informed, in equal measure, by the farm-to-fork movement, classical culinary matriculation, hard knocks education, punk rock gestalt, and a universal impatience, characteristic of cooks in their twenties and thirties.

The pages that follow include profiles of both the old guard and the new. Truth be told, there are probably more of the new within than the old. That composition does not communicate some sort of value judgment. (To my mind and palate, the best new guard vendors take their inspiration from traditional cart food folk.) It merely reflects the present and projects the future.

A Note on Methods and Scope

CONSIDER THIS a street food snapshot taken just as the revolution revved up. I focused my attention on two types of cities. Prim
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lanning, your life can truly open up to the world of gloriously rewarding foods.

Many people have a tendency to stick with a few tried-and-true dishes, and because of time constraints and a limited skill base, they will rarely venture outside their comfort zone in the kitchen. For example, I have heard many people say they won’t cook fish for fear of spoiling an expensive piece of seafood, or that they won’t buy exotic vegetables they’re not familiar with because they don’t know what to do with them. As Michael Pollan, the author of In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto, noted in a recent lecture I watched on the Internet, “We have been brainwashed to think of cooking as drudgery.” I also believe many people think cooking is best left to the professionals; in other words, they don’t trust themselves to do it right, which may partly explain why the practice of home cooking in the United States has dropped by 50 percent since the mid-1960s.

It’s easy enough to get over this fear factor if you learn the right tips and tricks on how to prep, season, test, taste, and use good sense (with a dash of logic) in the kitchen. Keep in mind that the premise behind Good Food—Fast! isn’t to create the home-based version of fast food. When it comes to food preparation, fast is a relative term. While there may be a bit of a time investment in, say, braising a chicken, roasting vegetables or meats, poaching fruits, or baking other ingredients, if you make enough of these items at any given time, you can divvy up the amount and use them in multiple dishes, hence saving time in the long run. An added bonus: You’ll be practicing portion control, which is an essential element in eating healthfully and managing your weight. In the pages that follow, I’ll show you how to do all this. I promise!

The Healing Power of Herbs and Spices

Besides adding flavor and dimension to your meals, various herbs and spices offer considerable health benefits. Cinnamon has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and it has been found to help regulate blood sugar. Cloves are also loaded with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, as well as antimicrobial compounds. Coriander is a strong digestive aid and has antibacterial properties that can help fight food-borne bacteria. Fennel is also a potent digestion enhancer, and it can reduce bad breath. Ginger has strong anti-inflammatory effects, as well as an ability to reduce indigestion and nausea and help with pain relief (from migraines, for example). Oregano has impressive antibacterial properties, and rosemary is packed with compounds that have antibacterial effects that can help fight infection. Sage has been found to enhance memory function and protect the brain from changes that can lead to certain forms of dementia; it also has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. Turmeric is a powerful digestive aid and it has strong anti-inflammatory effects to boot, making it a potentially potent weapon against cancer. So go ahead and start thinking of these herbs and spices as the cures in your kitchen!

Plan Better, Cook Better, Eat Better

When it comes to making good food fast, it’s essential to plan ahead. It’s important to shop wisely for your ingredients and to keep certain staples on hand. Having taken the gluten-free road a few years ago, my pantry has evolved over time. These days, you will not find any form of gluten in my cupboards. But you may find items you’ve never heard of (such as raw cacao, maca root powder, and asafetida). Having said that, I believe there are certain ingredients that should stock every pantry. These include almond milk, cans of beans (chickpeas, black beans, and others), chia seeds, flaxseeds, dried organic beans and legumes (like lentils), quinoa, canned tomatoes, canned sardines and tuna, various types of rice (brown, wild, basmati, Arborio), various vinegars (red wine, sherry, balsamic, white) and oils (canola, sunflower, walnut, and extra-virgin olive oil), different nuts (including almonds, walnuts, and hazelnuts), dried fruits (figs, dates, apricots), steel-cut oats, tapioca starch, cornstarch, polenta, rice flour, sriracha hot sauce, tamari (gluten-free soy) sauce, vanilla extract, and a selection of herbs and spices, including black and white pepper, cinnamon, cloves, coriander seed, cumin, dried chili flakes, fennel seeds, mustard seeds, nutmeg, oregano, and rosemary.

At a minimum, a cook’s refrigerator should always contain butter, eggs, mayonnaise, mustard (both the whole-grain and smooth varieties), yogurt, and various fruits and vegetables. When it comes to produce, seasonality plays such a big role in its pricing—and also the flavor. It has become terribly confusing, seeing as we can now import pretty much anything we like since there is a demand for it. But that doesn’t mean fruits and vegetables will be at their most nutritious or f
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s to me, “Charlie, you’ve probably heard this a thousand times, but your book has changed my life.” It never gets old. Yes, this beer thing we’ve all found our way to get involved in has changed our lives. Not only with the quality of the beers we enjoy, but as they contribute to the quality of our lives.

I am dumbstruck when I realize how many people who started learning how to brew with this book now have careers in the beer business or own a brewery. Well over 90 percent of the craft breweries in America were started by homebrewers. As this book goes to print, there will be about three thousand small breweries in the United States, and those breweries employ about 120,000 people—and that’s not including the extended businesses that supply or provide services to the craft beer industry.

My head starts spinning when I consider what homebrewing has done for so many people. You will find that making, sharing, and enjoying your own homebrew is powerful stuff. There is nothing like a glass of my own beer to reflect and get myself centered on the most important things in life. You may be surprised to hear this from me, but the most important thing is not beer or homebrew. It’s about creating, sharing, family, and friendship.

To you, the homebrewer: Enjoy life and homebrew responsibly and continue your journey wherever it may take you.

* * *



* * *

I am often asked if I brew at home. A typical reply would be, “I don’t–and if I was a brain surgeon I wouldn’t relax by operating on my wife.”

Truth is, for the longest time I could never understand why people would want to brew at home, any more than they would change their own engine oil, make their own furniture, or rewire the house. “Leave it to a professional” was always my mantra.

And then I was invited to speak at an American Homebrewers Association (AHA) Conference. Wow. I finally got it. What passion. What thirst—for knowledge as well as for well-crafted beverages. What energy.

These were impassioned brewers, just as much as any brew master for a multinational behemoth company. The ones I especially admired were those recognizing that all brewers are part of the same fellowship. No matter if the brewhouse is a bucket or a building, they are all using the same science to deliver beers of excellence. And they respect one another. And, for my part, I realized how committed most of these folks are to achieving the very best by the application of as much as they can possibly glean about the wonders of malting and brewing.

My eyes were further opened on two other occasions, both through participation in a reality television series aired in the Bay Area a year or two ago.

First off, I was invited to judge beers that had been brewed using setups that the contestants had been obliged to cobble together from a pile of junk unveiled for their perusal a couple of weeks earlier. I don’t remember exactly what was in the mound of garbage, though I do remember the terra-cotta pots. Truth be told, the beers I sampled and commented on were remarkable. I remember saying that I had a million dollars’ worth of brewery within a $10 million building and I would be delighted if all the brews were as good as these. The lesson of course is obvious: if you know what you are doing and apply the practices founded upon a thorough understanding of the essentials of brewing, then you can indeed make a silk purse using something that looks like a pig’s ear.

A few weeks later the three finalists were filmed for the grand finale in my brewery. They were instructed by the producers to deliver their own little brew houses to Davis and set them up with the university facility as the backdrop. The wort they were told to produce for subsequent fermentation in their own homes was targeted at 20°Plato and 100 IBU. There was a lot of boiling, I can tell you! The final contestant headed out the door at 1 AM, and not before my team and I had realized just how zealous, capable, and, to use the word in admiration if not exactitude, “professional” these guys were. These weren’t cobbled-together breweries, and these were individuals who totally knew their stuff.

And who did more than anyone else to lay the groundwork that has allowed homebrewing to become vastly more than a mechanism for producing cheaper beer for personal consumption? Charlie Papazian. Charlie was a nuclear engineering student at the University of Virginia who realized that malt, hops, yeast, and water and the joy of turning them into quaffable ales and lagers were altogether more satisfying than quarks and uncertainty principles (although there is always an element of the latter in brewing). So Charlie began homebrewing in the 1970s and, having started a teaching career in Boulder, Colorado, he evangelized in courses on his hobby at the Community Free School and wrote a p
top pieces away. Trim a slope in the back of the piece left on the base. Cut the other piece of cake into an oblong shape for the trailer. Trim at an inward angle around the base of the tractor.

3Sandwich the layers together using buttercream, then spread a thin layer of buttercream over the surface of each cake. Position the tractor on the cake board. Colour 250g (8oz) of sugarpaste black. Thinly roll out and cut a 2.5cm (1in) deep strip of black to fit around the base of the tractor. Carefully roll up, position the end against the base of the tractor, then wrap around the base, smoothing the join closed.

4Colour 500g (1lb) of sugarpaste blue. Roll out 345g (11oz) and cover the top of the tractor. Smooth around the shape, then cut away around the base leaving the black strip showing. Roll out the remaining blue sugarpaste and cut pieces to cover all sides of the trailer, then position on the cake board. Roll out the remaining yellow sugarpaste and cut a square the same size as the trailer. Mark with a ruler to create a straw effect as before, stretching out the edges, then position on top of the trailer.

5To make the farmer, first colour 315g (10oz) of sugarpaste grey and 60g (2oz) flesh. Model a fat teardrop for his body using 90g (3oz) of grey and stick to the tractor with sugar glue. Split a 30g (1oz) piece in half and roll two sausage-shaped arms. Bend each arm half way by pinching in at the elbow, then stick on the farmer’s body. Roll 45g (1½oz) of flesh-coloured sugarpaste into a ball for the head, then with the remaining flesh model two ball-shaped hands, an oval nose and two oval ears. Press in the centre of each ear to flatten and stick in place. With 7g (¼oz) of grey sugarpaste, model two teardrop shapes for his moustache, then shape little pieces and stick over his head for the hair.

6Roll 7g (¼oz) of black sugarpaste into a sausage and loop around to make the steering wheel. With the remaining black, roll two tiny eyes, shape a circle measuring 5cm (2in) for the hat rim, then roll a ball and pinch either side for the top of the hat. Indent the hat at the top by pressing in with a cocktail stick. With some of the blue sugarpaste trimmings, roll out and cut the hat band.

7Colour the remaining sugarpaste red. Using 22g (¾oz), roll a sausage and stick it around the base of the farmer for the tractor seat. With 7g (¼oz), roll a sausage for the funnel, cut both ends straight, then put aside to set for 10 minutes before sticking in place. To make the large tractor wheels, roll two balls from 125g (4oz) of grey sugarpaste. Flatten each ball, then mark the edges with the end of a ruler. Indent the centres of the wheels using the circle cutters, then put aside to set for 10 minutes.

8With some of the remaining grey sugarpaste, make two small tractor wheels, pressing in the centre of each to indent, and the four trailer wheels. Then, using the templates cut out the grilles. Thinly roll out the grey sugarpaste trimmings and cut to size. Mark lines on the grilles with a ruler. With the remaining red sugarpaste, model flattened balls for the centres of the wheels and the top of the funnel.


Instead of filling the farmer’s trailer with yellow sugarpaste straw, you could pile on a few mini chocolate rolls or chocolate sticks to look like logs.

Sugarpaste shapes for the farmer.

Halve the top piece of cake to form the trailer.

Unravel the black strip around the base.

Cut pieces of blue sugarpaste to fit each side.

Mark the large wheels with the edge of a ruler.

Model a cute mouse with any remaining grey sugarpaste.

sporty spider

This cheeky spider is sure to pip other contenders to the birthday party table


2 litre (4 pint/10 cup) bowl-shaped cake

35cm (14in) round cake board

1kg (2lb) sugarpaste/rolled fondant

green, yellow, black, blue & red food colouring pastes

icing/confectioners’ sugar in a sugar shaker

sugar glue

185g (6oz/¾ cup) buttercream

140g (4½oz/½ cup) royal icing

lengths of liquorice/licorice


large rolling pin

sharp knife

1Colour 500g (1lb) of sugarpaste green and 75g (2½oz) yellow. Roll out the green sugarpaste and cover the cake board, trimming excess from around the edge. Thinly roll out the yellow sugarpaste and cut two strips. Stick the strips on to the cake board with sugar glue, then put the board aside to dry. Trim the crust from the cake, keeping the rounded top where the cake has risen.

2Turn the cake upside down and spread a layer of buttercream over the surface to help the sugarpaste stick. Colour 315g (10oz) of sugarpaste black, thinly roll out and cover the cake completely, smoothing around the shape and tucking the excess underneath. Press a length of liquorice into the surface to indent the spider’s smile.

3Colour the royal icing


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