We’re going to the zoo, zoo, zoo

Yesterday I had a free trip to London Zoo! Well, when I say free, I was there doing work and assessing the place for risks before bringing a class of children there next week. I decided that the nocturnal zone is probably too dark and creepy for four-year-olds, but the walkthrough squirrel monkeys should be safe if I scare my kids about the dangers before hand.

Despite all the work I managed to take a few photos. When I say a few, I actually filled my memory card in under an hour (first stop, Meet the Monkeys!) and after deleting and lowing the picture quality I ran out of space again. Here is just a small selection…


Hungry monkey trying to find some extra food.


Lots of cheeky little squirrel monkeys!


I wish, I wish for a lovely fish.


Watch the birdie!


Flutter by, butterflies.

Gingerbread penguins at the zoo

I haven’t actually written any baking-related posts yet, so it is definitely time I did. I went to Zoo Lates at London Zoo for my birthday yesterday, and so had to rustle up my fail-safe recipe – gingerbread animals! To quote my housemate “it is the best gingerbread recipe I’ve used, it always work really well” so I’m going to share it with everyone.

This is a recipe I have used for years, originally from The Australian Women’s Weekly Beautiful Biscuits book, changing it slightly as the recipe calls for cups which I don’t have. This version is really old (probably as old as me) but there are lots of new Australian Women’s Weekly books, although I don’t know if they have the same recipes.

Gingerbread men/animals/birds/etc

Ingredients:

4oz butter
3oz brown sugar
1 egg yolk (save the egg white for icing or meringues)
12oz plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
3 tsp ground ginger
2 1/2 tbsp golden syrup

Method:

Cream the butter and sugar together, then add the egg yolk. Sift all the dry ingredients together and slowly add to the mix, then add the syrup (sometimes you need more syrup or less flour, depending on how much mixture has been “tested”). Knead the mixture lightly until you have a good firm dough. You can put the dough in the fridge to firm up for an hour or overnight to make it easier to roll.

Take a lump of dough (maybe a quarter of the mix) and roll it between two sheets of greaseproof paper. This makes it easier to roll as nothing gets stuck to the rolling pin. Roll the dough to 1/2cm or so thick, and cut out your shapes.

Place shapes on a greased tray and cook in a moderate oven (180oC is usually pretty good) for about 10 minutes until the biscuits are golden but not too crunchy – they will harden up as they cool, so make sure you don’t over-cook them. Remove them from the tray and leave them to cool on a wire rack.

To serve:

Depending on the cutters you use, you can decorate with melted chocolate (melt tiny pieces in a bowl over a pan of hot water or in the microwave) or icing, sprinkles, chocolates, sweeties, etc.

To make royal icing take the egg white and add icing sugar. Keep beating and adding more icing sugar until you have a good consistency. I never measure the sugar, I just do it by eye as it changes if you are using liquid or paste colouring. If you are using a piping bag the icing needs to be pretty thick so that the shapes hold.

My new cake-stand (not sure it is quite right for large gingerbread animals)

Penguins, bears, foxes/red pandas and a T-Rex

Gingerbread elephant