If you follow @SpamellaB or I on Twitter / Instagram / Facebook you will probably be aware that we went to a rather excellent food event this Sunday just gone.
Getting excited on the train down to London, my good friend Pamela and I chatted the whole journey, all about our excitement for the event, the fear of losing and baking in front of so many other bloggers, and wondered what Ugne herself would be like. Oh, and we took loads of selfies… Of course 🙂
Travel was fairly fuss-free, so when we arrived to Cactus Kitchen in North Clapham, a quick tour of the building and we were ready to meet the team and get stuck in. Everyone else was already there (OK, so our train was 20 mins late) so we set about with quick introductions – then straight to the kitchens upstairs to get baking.
The place itself is beautiful, quaint and quicky whilst also having some really impressive facilities and swanky kitchen gadgets. I’d expect nothing less from the legendary Michel Roux Jnr’s London based cookery school! We learnt that the place was also the set of Saturday Kitchen from BBC1, a show I watch almost religiously at home – so it was straight behind the scenes to get a few photos in. The lovely staff were happy to let us pose and even offered to take the photos for us!
The kitchen upstairs was out of this world. A beautiful, airy space in the loft of the building with high ceilings and stunning exposed beams painted in the cutest, pale, duck-egg blue shade.
The surfaces were polished, natural wood and all our ingredients were set out before us. Complete with Cactus Kitchen aprons and our own name tags to mark our individual workspace.
Ugne was warm, friendly and seemed as excited as we were. She told us about how she loved free-from cooking as she is passionate about baking with a healthy twist, saying that baking such beautiful, tasty treats shouldn’t always be full of fat, sugar, dairy and gluten/wheat.
We were baking an Apple, Pear and Cranberry cake – a Holland and Barrett recipe that Ugne was to judge at the end. Baking was a lot more relaxed than we had first imagined, with some bloggers less experienced than others. It was soon apparent that this was all just a bit of fun, although our competitiveness was quite difficult to suppress at times!
Whilst our bakes cooled – we were treated to a fabulous ‘free from’ lunch. Everything on the spread was gluten and wheat free and much of it was also dairy and sugar free too. It was all delicious, particularly the avocado and quinoa salad and the stunning cheese that was served with pickles and chutneys. There was also sliced ham, hummus, tortilla chips and various tasty salads that were all truly outstanding. Ugne of course joined us for lunch, and it was great to be able to ask her questions and enjoy her company whilst we covered all topics from food, weddings, blogging and GBBO.
After lunch, it was back upstairs to put the finishing touches to our free-from bakes and get a demonstration from Ugne as she baked her Apricot, Chestnut and Coffee Cake that was soaked in a little rum, but was free from gluten, wheat, dairy and refined sugar. It was great to see Ugne in action, she’s very clearly a natural at baking and it was a privilege to see her talk through the recipe and have the opportunity to ask questions. We got to taste her bake at the end and it was stunning.
And so for the finale – judging our free from bakes! Ugne was tasked with trying all 8 of the bakes individually. They had been set out in front of her by the staff at Cactus Kitchen, as to not reveal the identity of the bakers…… It was a tense few moments as Ugne carefully considered each bite, commenting on the pros and cons of each cake (in the nicest way possible – not in any way like Paul Hollywood does on the Bake Off!
It was clear to see Ugne found it tricky to pick, all the bakes were pretty good (well, most!) and after much deliberation a winner was picked for the prize. Sadly, it wasn’t Pam or I this time – although we did get some absolutely cracking feedback (including Ugne grabbing my face with both hands and telling me my cake was beautiful!) I will certainly be baking more free-from treats in the future as I thought they tasted fantastic. It was great to experiment with new ingredients under such expert supervision!
Overall, this was one of the best food events I have been to yet. Meticulously organised, great staff and Ugne herself was the true star baker. I feel really privileged to have met such a nice woman and I think we can all expect to see great things from her in the future!
Here’s a few more snaps from the day. And a massive thanks to the organisers Jade and Manisha for doing such an excellent job!