Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Daring to bake can make you shake!

Flying by the seat of my pants - I finished the tart!

When I made the case/shell, it was right at the start of the month. I did this as I knew we were going away for (probably) most of August. I had every intention of finishing it and serving it as a grown up dessert at Small's birthday party... However as I was still buying food in the supermarket when the party should have started I didn't think there was much chance that it would be served that day. Unless of course I wanted our guests to stay until midnight - not a good idea for a toddler's party. The shell remained empty!

Okay so first the shell... (I posted the following on the DB website on 03 August).

'I halved the mixture and it's in the oven to bake blind but when I just took a look it had all risen and puffed up. (I did prick the base before putting in the oven). I've squashed it all back down and put back in the oven - ANY IDEAS where I've GONE WRONG? I think I know where I've possibly messed up - Is CAKE FLOUR, self raising flour ?'

Dharm and Helen very kindly responded to my cry for help. By then it was too late and even though I had thoughts of making another dough I think it would have sent me under ground!

So you see I didn't start brilliantly. The empty shell sat in the fridge while I packed for our mammoth road trip. I did think that I'd get it done before we went away, but I didn't, so it was carefully wrapped and placed in the bottom of the freezer for our return. We got back a couple of days ago and I realised I had to finish the tart by today.... I left it to the very last minute, making it TODAY. Actually it was great, my best friend arrived after I'd started and we chatted while our children played. My upper arms have had a terrific work out. The tart making is a fat buster, even if the tart eating negates any of the upper arm workout you've done!! It was put back in the fridge to set while D and I played with molten sugar. We now have burnt fingers as we were trying to be all James Martin about it (he's BIG and GOOD with spun sugar in the UK) and when ours wasn't working out we decided to just start pulling at it with our fingers.

The tart was a HIT, it was partially devoured by 4 hungry boys and 2 greedy (sorry D) ladies. There is a quarter of it left in the fridge which Hubby can sample this evening.

My conclusions. Great tart but possibly too sweet for me (never thought I'd say that!). I don't think I'd make it again but only because there are so many other things I'd like to try making too. I'd have no problems eating it again, even though it is very sweet!
Also my caramel layer looks a lot darker than most of the others I've seen so far.

A very big thank you to Veronica and Patricia for hosting this month. It was fun and delicious!

EDIT: I just had a piece with coffee this morning and I love it today as do the little foodies! The caramel decorations had started to melt (why this happened in the fridge I have no clue??!) so left a squigly caramel goo on the top with hard cruncy bits - DELICIOUS! Also I used Green & Blacks Organic Milk Chocolate for the mousse which has quite a strong cocoa flavour. I think it would definitely have been way tooooo sweet with anything less cocoa like! ANYWAY it's ALL GONE!

Check out all the other Daring Bakers following the links here.

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Little Foodies Return Home

We're back and how lovely to return to some lovely comments and e-mails with awards for the blog. Thank you... I shall get on to each one as soon as we've settled back in to a routine...

I feel like we've been away forever and not really sure that I'm loving being home which is most unusual for me, as though I love going away, I equally enjoy coming home. It could possibly be that the summer holidays are coming to an end. Little will return to school and Small will start nursery in September. I shall have a few hours each day which will be my own. I am filled with trepidation about this...

As for our holiday... After a very early start and a very easy journey through the Garden of England, on to the Shuttle we arrived in France by 10am. After a further five and a half hours taking us through Rouen and Tours we got to my cousin's house. It is a beautiful, big, old, stone house. It was our first visit and I was literally blown away by it. The next day was Little's sixth birthday. The fastest six years of my life! As we were doing a mammoth shop for the food for the wedding we decided that we would just get whatever birthday cake we could. I happened upon a strawberry mirror cake (which made me smile as I'd been unable to make last month's Daring Bakers challenge). It had to be that one. It was one of the best cakes that we've ever tasted and Little was over the moon with it, eating a huge piece, which even a grown up would have stuggled to finish.

The wedding preparations were wonderful. On the evening before the wedding the men went off for a night out and a stay in a local hotel. The ladies got on with food prep (for the evening reception) and flower arranging. Midnight saw us all standing in the kitchen spray tanning and painting our toe nails (something I've not done before). We had a hoot! Then it was the wedding day. More food prep, getting the children ready and finally getting ourselves ready. It was such a beautiful wedding. Simple and elegant, no pretentions, all homemade. The house and gardens looked wonderful, a true testament to how when a group of ladies start planning and getting on with things, great things can be achieved. We headed off on the walk to the square behind the hurdy gurdy player. I'd never seen a real one - what a treat! As we got to the corner of the street the square was in view where my cousin awaited his bride to be. It was like something from West Side Story. Truly wonderful. The contracts signed - they'd done it! We then headed to the local restaurant where we had a wonderful meal, ending with a croque em bouche (traditional french wedding cake) profiterole tower. After the meal we walked back to the house. You enter through a huge wooden gate (adorned for the day with a simple wreath which I'd made the night before). In the middle of the courtyard was a table decorated simply with a vase full of flowers and a traditional English wedding cake plus lots of champagne glasses, soon to be filled. As the evening celebrations began a little more food prep was required. The dancing began and saw the bride and groom get into some inflatable sumo suits for their first dance - hilarious and something very fitting for the couple who like to have a good time!

The next evening we headed for Spain, our plans to drive through the night were possibly foolish, as neither of us had got much sleep the night before. After three hours we pulled over and slept for a few hours before we could continue. We missed so much scenery and it seemed to take forever for dawn to break. Eventually it did and thankfully in time beforewe passed by the fortified town of Carcasonne, standing between the Pyranees and the Massif Central, truly beautiful, we knew then we were soon approaching Spain and would be there sooner rather than later.

We got to my in-laws around 10am, so the expected eight hour journey had taken 12 hours, considering we'd had a 3 hour sleep I don't think it was too bad. The new addition of a hot tub in the garden was very appealing. The car had to go to the garage as the handbrake wasn't working. We'd been lucky as they said a bit had sheared off and had it gone into the engine would not have been good at all i.e. whole new engine required - phew! I'll write more about Spain another time.

We stayed about 10 days with the in-laws before heading back to France. This time to visit friends of ours who were renting a gite in the Vendee. We called them when we were about an hour and a half away from them, they sounded panicked. They were two and a half hours away from their gite (but in a very different direction), having just tried to drive into an underground car park with a roof box on top of an already very tall car. We all laughed about that one as we pictured the traffic piling up while they dismantled the roof box, leaving it on the side of the road while Dan drove the car out of the way of the very bemused French. They said they needed a drink and wouldn't be leaving the town until they'd all calmed down and had started speaking reasonably to each other again. We said we'd stop somewhere and eat and just see them when they got back. We then checked the map, we were on the same latitude as them but to the east. We worked out that it would take us just over an hour to get to them. We all agreed that it would be a great idea. So that's what we did and I'm so pleased we did as the town was Perigaux. This place is foodie heaven and I would go back (so long as we don't have to drive!).

We spent the afternoon and early evening there, eating dinner at a little pizzeria, a great 3 courses for 12 Euros, including a lovely goats cheese salad and steak hache. The children were having a ball and having known each other from birth, the older two born within a month of each other and the younger two born within 6 days of each other (yes, it was those friends) seem to just fit right in. The heavens then opened and we got so wet we didn't know if we should laugh or cry. Back to the car, where we were able to change our clothes and then make the tortuous journey back to their gite. By which time we'd been on the go for far too long. It rained heavily all the way and I felt like we were never going to get there, but get there we did and what an amazing gite. Top end of the market, all Villeroy and Boch bathrooms, it was more like a 5 star hotel. Children safely to bed, we got a roaring fire going and cracked open the champagne. At about midnight we then opened the box of cakes I'd bought in Perigaux. Of course I had to have the coffee eclair.... more on those another time!

The next day we went to some lakes, it was absolutely beautiful and we were wondering why there was nobody else there. The children were having fun in the lake and building sandcastles. Imagine our horror when about an hour later the life guard arrives and tells us to take the children out of the water and shower them down immediately as the water was contaminated. That's when we spotted the red flag with a piddly little sign under it saying not to go in the water. My heart was racing, when you have a child with a lowered immune system, anything like this can spell trouble with a capital T. We'd planned on spending the day together but I just wanted to get out of there. The children showered down, I then smothered them in antibacterial gel. Thankfully nothing happened. They haven't been ill and no sign of a second head growing on either of their shoulders!

We hit the road and a couple of hours later were back at my cousins where we were greeted with the biggest feast of our travels. Within ten minutes of our arrival we had glasses full of bubbles and a huge plate of prawns, we then had oysters, about an hour later we had mussels in a wonderful broth, mopped up with french bread, and then another hour or so later we had steak and frites. Then later we had some cheese... This was followed by much needed sleep, then a day by the pool in some much needed sun. France, like England, hasn't seen much sun this August! After a couple more days we then headed home and here we are. It was very freeing not having a set return date in mind. The life of a gypsy is now somehow very appealing.

We had a truly wonderful trip. Little had a list as long as your arm of foods he wanted to eat while we were on holiday and Hubby and I were incredulous as to his open mind and palate for trying things. Even Small amazed us with what he was willing to try and enjoyed.

I didn't take many photographs of the food. This was our family holiday and though we all love food I'd agreed that it wasn't going to be about the blog so I didn't get the camera out every time we ate. We just had the best time and it made us all realise how lucky we are to have each other. A small nod to hubby - huge thanks for your amazing, safe and calm driving. Though we've travelled many miles it was done with ease.

Now back to blogging. We did a lot of eating and shopping while we were away so expect to see lots of Spanish and French inspired dishes over the coming weeks while we try to recapture some of the delicious foods we've been eating.

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Little Foodies Holiday

The kitchen is closed!

Looking forward to.... Food glorious food...!

France and Spain.... here we come......

Hope you all have a wonderful August!

Yay! We're outta here!

See you very soon!

Monday, 6 August 2007

The Thoughtfulness of Bloggers

A little while ago I was quite humbled that Caffienated Cowgirl thought of me when she was handing out awards. Blogging is addictive, it completely took over when I first started, now it's just part of a routine (that's not a routine if you understand?!). Most people start blogging for themselves and then it's a lovely surprise to meet lovely people, that's just a bonus. I love visiting other people's blogs, it's fun to read other people's ramblings. Caffienated Cowgirl recently started a new blog Just this side of normal an amalgamation of Culinary Cowgirl and Caffienated Cowgirl. Just this side of normal is a great read so get yourself over there and take a peek and thanks CC, it was a lovely surprise!

The Thoughtful Blogger Award is for “those who answer blog comments, emails, and make their visitors feel at home on their blogs. For the people who take others’ feelings into consideration before speaking out and who are kind and courteous. Also for those bloggers who spend so much of their time helping other bloggers design, improve, and fix their sites. This award is for those generous bloggers who think of others.”

The Power of Schmooze Award is for bloggers who “effortlessly weave their way in and out of the blogosphere, leaving friendly trails and smiles, happily making new friends along the way. They don’t limit their visits to only the rich and successful, but spend some time to say hello to new blogs as well. They are the ones who engage others in meaningful conversations, refusing to let it end at a mere hello - all the while fostering a sense of closeness and friendship.”

I would like to pass on these awards to, in no particular order

Kelly-Jane at Cooking the Books
Fiona at Cottage Smallholder
Asha at Foodies Hope
Nora at Lifes Smorgasbord
Meeta at What's for lunch, honey?
Truffle at What's on my plate
Marie at Marie's Muses
Tanna at My Kitchen in Half Cups

All of the above people have made me feel great with their lovely comments and e-mails. There are others, but I know they've already had awards. It's never good to choose just a handful, I'd like to pass it on to everyone who leaves comments on my blog but not sure I'm allowed. So much for being a rule breaker, eh?

Sunday, 5 August 2007

Little Foodies Sweden - Meatball Challenge

If somebody had told me that I'd feel nervous about a challenge between my home cooked food and bought food I'd have laughed. But nervous I was. I made the Swedish Style Meatballs (recipe below) and bought some ready made Organic Swedish Meatballs from Waitrose. For the purpose of the test only we tried one of each.

Homemade on the left - Bought on the right

Preferences were as follows:
Hubby: Homemade
Little: Homemade
Small: Bought
Me: Homemade, though I did waiver!

So homemade was the winner! Thank goodness for that. Obviously I sulked about Small's final decision but I soon got over it.

The bought ones were really good, they had a nice texture and lots of flavour. But though they were organic they still tasted processed. The homemade ones had a softer texture, but could definitely have done with more salt. I think that's why Small preferred the bought ones, he loves really strong tasting food and as the bought ones were heavily salted, they did seem to have more flavour. Served with all the trimmings of lingonberry jam, pickled cabbage, runner beans and the traditional creamy sauce, the homemade ones won hands down and I think anybody would have come to that conclusion. Really, I'm not just saying that.

The recipe for our Swedish Style Meatballs (made approx 40 meatballs)
250g organic beef mince
250g organic pork mince
1 medium onion peeled and finely chopped
1 tablespoon of oil for frying the onion
1 cup of double cream
1/2 cup of Wholegrain Buckwheat flour
1 egg
a pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper
1 teaspoon all spice
2oz butter and a big splosh of oil for frying the meatballs
Flour on a plate for rolling the meatballs prior to frying

Fry the onion in tablespoon of oil
In a large bowl add the pork and beef mince and mix it together with your hands.
Add in the flour, double cream, egg, all spice, salt and pepper and the fried onion. Again mix with your hands. You need to really get stuck in and mix well.
Form into small round balls and roll in the flour on a plate.
Put on a separate plate until you are ready to fry them.
In a large frying pan add the butter and oil and warm. Add the meatballs and fry gently for about 5 minutes on each side. I finished mine off in the oven as I was getting other things ready. They could have been finished in the frying pan. You'd have to test to make sure they were cooked through.

This was our version as we didn't have things to hand that were needed. Most recipes that I've seen for Swedish meatballs have potato in and rusk flour. Ours were really good. They're very different to Italian style meatballs but equally delicious! It would depend what sort of mood for food you were in to determine whether to go Italian or Swedish.

Swedish Style Cream Sauce
1 cup of double cream
1 cup of beef stock
2 tablespoons Japanese Teriyaki Sauce
1 tablespoon plain flour (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
Put the cream, stock, teriyaki sauce and salt and pepper in a pan and start to warm through. Whisk in some plain flour to thicken if required.

Really delicious. I would make this again as a sauce for other things too. Again, it was different to Swedish recipes which all those that I saw said to add Chinese Soy Sauce and not Teriyaki but as we've been using soy sauce a lot recently we'd run out.

Thursday, 2 August 2007

Little Foodies Sweden

This is a selection of some of the Swedish things we've bought. I just love the name knackerbrod - I think it's because I always feel like that!

To say things are busy would be a mild understatement. I have a 3 year old birthday party to get ready for tomorrow. Our lucky Little Foodies watched a tree house being built in our garden over the last two days. Blogging is on the list but it's a very long list, and includes food for the wedding in France and packing for our mammoth trip next week, to top (or topple) the list a 6 year old birthday party to be arranged for the day after we get to France (2 days before the wedding). At least I'm keeping busy!

Will report on the meatball challenge - very interesting....!! Were the children sent to their rooms or were they given extra treats for being so lovely about Mama's cooking...?

Note to self: BREATHE!


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