Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Happy Halloween

At Nan's tea party over the weekend she commented that I've always loved Halloween. I lived with her from the age of nine and I think she remembers things I'd rather she forgot. Like the run up to Guy Fawkes when we would all play knock down ginger and trick or treat. We did horrible things. Threw eggs on people's doorsteps and sprinkled flour over the top. Hubby just told me that in London children are not being sold eggs or flour for this exact reason and worse. I have to say we hardly ever had to resort to this as very few people said trick. If they did it was only because they were up for a joke anyway. At least that's what we told ourselves.

Not as bad as my dad who as a child put a firework through someone's letterbox. Mind numbingly stupid and not something anybody seems that proud of. Though I have to admit to having a very small chuckle, I think more through embarrassment than anything else. Hangs head in shame and berates herself in the style of Dobby (Dobby being the house elf from Harry Potter). I don't know the sort of friends my dad had (it may explain why Nan seems to have had grey hair forever) but somebody also put a firework down his back. There are high jinks and then there's pure stupidity. Our eggs and flour trick seems quite mild in comparison.

As a mother I'm obviously concerned for my children and will not allow them to trick or treat, not until they leave home at least. Which by the looks of things wont be for some time as the average age for children to leave home in England is currently about 27 years old! I doubt we'll be using the word Spookables then, or watching the film that we got the word from - Pooh's Heffalump Halloween Movie - watch this film - it's great!

In the meantime... Happy Halloween! We'll be eating....

Sick Soup
cauliflower, brocolli, potato, onion, stock, milk, cream, stilton cheese.
(for authenticity I may serve this cold)

Spiced Pumpkin Soup
pumpkin, onion, decent stock, cumin and coriander

Bloody Stubby Fingers
Sausages, squeezed about a bit before oven cooking and dipped in ketchup

Crunchy Munch Witches Brains
Chocolate and Peanut Butter Muffins

Edit: Since I posted I got this sweet treat award from the lovely Pat. Thank you Pat. I'd like to pass the award onto everybody who reads the blog this evening as the picture wont fit tomorrow.

Have a spooky night!

Monday, 29 October 2007

Daring Bakers Bostini Cream Pie October '07 Challenge

Now the challenge I loved, however not loving that I can't get all the pictures to load. It has let me load two more. Slow, steady and sure, all good qualities in a man, I'm sure. Will try and sort it out but for now...
The KitchenAid made swift work of whipping the egg whites.

The cake batter had a wonderful smell.

I was nervous of mixing the batter with the whisked egg whites but it seemed to come together easily. I added one spoonful at a time.

Hmmm, yes I thought silicone wasn't supposed to stick. This was after oiling as I know it sticks without oil. Now I know it sticks either way.

Me: "DON'T EAT THE ROUND ONES!!" Little and Small "Yummy, this cake is yummmmmmmy!"

I scaled the recipe down to a third (roughly) and this still gave us 4 wine glasses full and plenty of left over cake to be snaffled (see above). If you were to see my workings out - I'd be ashamed. How am I supposed to help my children with maths homework when the time comes?! If there is anybody out there who is really good at maths and good at scaling down recipes please let me know so I know who to call on next time...

In brief, we love orange, we love cake, we love custard and we love chocolate so what's not to love about the Bostini Cream Pie! A very big thank you to Mary at Alpineberry for a great challenge this month. Click here for Mary's post and the recipe. I will try and load more pics. In the meantime check out the Daring Bakers blogroll to see what everybody else did.

Friday, 26 October 2007

Little Foodies Veg Patch

It's been a while since I posted about the veg patch. Yesterday, Hubby picked 4 tiny strawberries from the hanging baskets and dutifully handed them over to Little and Small, they were gone in seconds. I don't think there will be any more and I think four in one go is a record as during the traditional picking and eating period we only seemed to get one or two a day.

The following pictures are of chillies grown in the garden, harvested last week. We thought at one point they wouldn't ever grow or ripen and that it would be another waste. However we were wrong, they grew and they grew very well. The red ones are fiercely hot, these have not been handed to the children to eat raw.

Thanks (infact very big thanks) to my husband I have a new macro lense. Need to play a bit as the pics are a little blurred. My hands shake when I take pics so should start using the tripod, the macro lense doesn't seem so forgiving as the old one.) Thank you darling, I do know that it was for you, aswell as for me though!!! ;) xx

What are we up to this weekend... Dressing the house for Halloween, we wont be going for it in the same way as our friends across the pond but we'll do our bit and... having a little tea party for Great Nanny.

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Happy Birthday

Happy Birthday to two very special people today.

Firstly Nan (Great Nanny to Little and Small), who despite being 88 today and driving us all nuts with her antics of late we all love dearly. I could write a book about her antics but I wont. Secondly to my lovely Stepdad, M a very happy birthday too. Thanks for lots of things, mostly for putting up with my mum. (that's a joke Mum!) I expect I will take that bit out before hitting publish, but I might not... I've definitely got some naughty pixie sat inside my head today. Must be something about it being half term.

For the cake, I thought it fitting to remember Nan's banana and honey tea loaf recipe that I posted about some time ago. Click here for the recipe.

I really have to move on from the all the stodge I've been making and eating. There's a chicken roasting in the oven for dinner, stuffed with some of the lemons that had been zested for all the lemon cakes. I've also made a bread pudding (not to be confused with bread and butter pudding). It's 20 to 5 and I've thought about hitting the sloe gin. It's a year old and particularly good. Again, possibly because it's half term!

Monday, 22 October 2007

Little Foodies Lemon Drizzle Cakes

I wrote about lemon drizzle cupcakes last week that I promised a picture for. I've realised that I didn't take any. I made them again yesterday for the cake bake sale (Nursery School Afternoon Tea) and still didn't take any pictures. Click here for the recipe. As it's the half term holiday for us this week I just made two medium size heart shape ones using the same recipe. Now that's a lot of lemon drizzle cake over the period of seven days. I took a picture this time - see above. One has already been snaffled. The other is now up a height. At least until my husband gets home.

Over the next few weeks I think we're going to hop all over the world. The main reason for this is to stop being wasteful. We have cupboards full of ingredients that really need to start being used up. If we stick with one place at a time it makes it tricky as I seem incapable of planning more than a couple of weeks in advance. Which tends to mean, we decide on a new country then I rush out and buy a whole load of new stuff. We seriously have enough sauces, spices, herbs and condiments of one sort or another (among other things) to last a a very large family a good twelve months. So, to that end we'll definitely be heading to the Far East, with a trip back to Japan. I'm really looking forward to Thailand and I may pick Joey's brain of 80 Breakfasts fame, who tempts us all with amazing food and photographs from Manila in the Phillipines.

Saturday, 20 October 2007

Little Foodies Britain - Alternative Roly Poly

Little and Small love bananas and custard (read that cold custard). I was never overly fond of it as a child and because of this rarely think to give it to them unless they ask for it. When I was thinking about British Food and my mind was wandering, as it does, it suddenly dawned on me - how about Banana Roly Poly & Custard. Lots of people will be familiar with the name Jam Roly Poly, but they might not have tried it, it's a suet sponge rolled up with jam in the middle, then baked. I googled Banana Roly Poly and it threw up nothing that I could see, we played around and this is what we came up with.
Banana Roly Poly
for the filling
4 bananas (peeled and mashed)

for the roly poly
8oz / 250g self raising flour
4 oz / 125g suet (we use Atora vegetable suet)
50g granulated sugar
pinch of salt
6-8 tablespoons of water
To brush over the top prior to cooking - a little milk and beaten egg and a handful of sugar.

Preheat the oven to 200C, 400F, gas mark 6
For the roly poly pudding part
In a bowl sift the flour and add suet, salt and sugar. Mix well and gradually add the water, mixing until it forms a stiff dough. You may not need all of the water. On a floured surface, roll out the dough into a rectangle/oblong shape.

Smear the banana mash over the top and then roll the dough. Tuck the ends in underneath, so that the filling doesn't come pouring out during cooking. Place on a baking tray, seam side down, brush with milk and beaten egg (beaten egg optional), sprinkle with sugar and cook for approximately 40 minutes.

Edit: If you've made the dough a little too soft, a good tip is to wrap it tightly in baking paper after you've rolled it. Cook it in the paper for the first 30 minutes and then undo the paper for the last 10 minutes.

Banana & Toffee Roly Poly
for the filling
I jar of dulce de leche
2 bananas (peeled and finely sliced)

Follow the roly poly pudding part above, then smear a jar of dulce de leche over the dough, place the sliced bananas over the top and then roll the dough. Tuck the ends in underneath, so that the filling doesn't come pouring out during cooking. Place on a baking tray, seam side down, brush with milk and beaten egg (beaten egg optional), sprinkle with sugar and cook for approximately 40 minutes.

Serve hot with custard. We love hot pudding with cold custard! Of course I could have made a fresh custard from scratch but for me a tin of Ambrosia Custard does it every time... Yum, yum, yummety yum! Will post pics tomorrow, I have to bake some cakes for a nursery school afternoon tea tomorrow.
Edit: Pics now loaded as you can see. I ended up baking the cakes today after we got back from staying with old friends in Muswell Hill, North London last night. We had a (very long overdue) great evening. The rugby result wasn't so good but the less said about that the better. As all of the children woke so early this morning we went for a stomp in Highgate Park, with a little stop at the cafe for coffee and pastries! All this stodge - I may need to start cutting back a little. Off to eat Cottage Pie, cooked by my lovely husband.

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Little Foodies Britain

So many people think pease pudding is revolting. As a child I would have agreed. I still ate it though. There was no fussing about food when I was growing up. You ate what you were given. This was an unspoken rule, it was never enforced heavily, it's just what happened. Give me pease pudding now and I love it! I don't have it that often admittedly and I prefer it when I'm actually in the North East. It always seems to taste better. I particularly love a ham and pease pudding stottie. A stottie being a soft white bread bap. If you find yourself in the North East of England anytime you should try it. Pease Pudding certainly doesn't look appetising but boy it's good. It even has it's own little rhyme.

Pease pudding hot, Pease pudding cold,
Pease pudding in the pot, Nine days old,
Some like it hot, Some like it cold,
Some like it in the pot, Nine days old.

I think it is better cooked with a ham, preferably on the bone but you can always do it without the ham, making it suitable for vegetarians. In which case I'd cook it with an onion.

Ham and Pease Pudding
One ham joint, approx 1 kilo in weight (This doesn't really matter, if it's on the bone it will probably weigh more. I used a boneless joint this time.)
500g packet of yellow split peas (this is just over 1lb in weight)
31/2 pints / 2 litres of boiling hot water
a sprinkle of pepper

Put the ham in a large heavy bottom pan and cover with water. Put on a high heat and let it come to the boil. Boil it for approx. 10 minutes then pour the water away. Add the split peas to the pan along with pepper, cover with 31/2 pints of boiling hot water. Bring to the boil, then let it simmer gently for approximately 1 1/2 hours. Regularly skim the top of any frothy scum that appears. After the 1 1/2 hours take the ham out (so long as it's cooked enough for the size). Put the pan back on the heat and check the consistency, it should be like thick soup at this stage. Simmer for a further half an hour but keep an eye on it as it may start to dry out too much in which case it will start catching/burning on the bottom of the pan. If this happens add a tiny bit more water, just enough to stop it from catching.. After 2 hours it should be ready to take off the heat and let it cool down. It will set harder once it cools down, so bear this in mind.

Edit: I took off some of the liquid after an hour when I made this to make some soup and therefore it took less time to cook. I could see that the split peas where going to be mushy enough without the full two hours. I was able to go on instinct, I guess from years of watching it being made as a child.

It is superb when it's freshly cooked, hot from the pan smeared on top of really fresh bread with butter on. It's also really good on a plate, alongside a few slices of the ham it was cooked with and some hot potatoes. Best of all eaten cold in a sandwich with slices of the ham.

It also makes really good soup if you take a couple of cups of the cooked pease pudding and add 2 pints of good stock, one chopped onion, some chopped root vegetables and potatoes, a few bits of the ham, finely chopped. Bring to the boil and then simmer for 15-20 minutes and you have one very tasty soup.

Lemon Drizzle Cupcakes (This made 24 mini cupcakes and 12 normal size cupcakes).
200g / 7oz self raising flour
175g / 6oz unsalted butter (room temp)
175g / 6oz sugar
3 eggs medium size (room temp)
Zest (finely grated peel) and juice of one lemon
A few tablespoons of milk may be needed to loosen the mixture.

Cream the sugar and butter together, add the eggs and mix well. Fold in the flour (sieved) then add the juice and rind of one lemon. If the mixture is too thick add a little milk at a time to loosen it. Spoon into cupcake holders and bake in a preheated oven (175C/gas mark 3 ) for approximately 12-15 minutes. Take them out of the oven and let them rest for 5 minutes, then drizzle with the icing and allow to cool.

For the lemon icing. 1 and a half cups of icing sugar, zest and juice of one lemon. You may need more lemon juice or use a few drops of warm water. This made far too much icing but it was so delicious we allowed ourselves to spoon more on each time we ate them!!

Ginger Flapjacks
1lb / 450g rolled oats
101/2 oz / 300g butter
3oz / 75g soft brown sugar
2oz / 50g golden syrup
Half a jar of ginger conserve

Melt the butter, sugar and golden syrup in a large pan over a medium heat. Add the ginger conserve and mix then add the oats and mix well. Pour the mixture into an ovenproof pan, lined with greaseproof paper (mine is approx 9 x 11 inches) and press down with the back of a wooden spoon. Bake in a pre-heated oven (190C / gas mark 5) for approximately 30 minutes. Take out and leave to cool for 15 minutes before cutting into pieces. Store in an airtight container for a few days if you can get them to last that long.

Little's verdict of pease pudding - NO THANK YOU but can I have some more ham, that's really good! Small's verdict of pease pudding - Mmmm delicious! But on hearing Little's protests he decided he didn't like it either. Harsh glares at Little - he knows the rules!

Monday, 15 October 2007

Kids with a conscience for our planet

Bloggers Unite - Blog Action Day

Did you know it's
blog action day? Over at The Action Blog you can find out lots more about it. But in brief it's the day where bloggers around the web are going to unite to put a single important issue on everyone’s mind - the environment. Their aim for BLOG ACTION DAY is to get everyone talking towards a better future. That's cool in my mind!

Most people who read this blog know that we're a little green. For a start we have a few thousand wriggly pets in the Wormery. We could be a lot greener ofcourse and we do try but if everybody just tried a little bit, then somehow it would surely make a difference... Maybe not, but as my dear Nana used to say, if you don't try, you'll never know. This post is not about food but it's the article I wrote for The Daily Tiffin today.

Without taking away that wonderful optimism and naivety, or making life thoroughly boring for our children we can still teach them to have a conscience about our planet. Recycling is a great place to start and there are many ways in which you can do this everyday.

In the UK we have a great resource in the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle website.

Reduce the amount of the Earth's resources that we use.
Reuse don't just bin it, could someone else make use of it?
Recycle Can the materials be made into something new?

You can find all sorts of information which doesn't just relate to the UK. Some great links can be found on the following page which is part of the site. Fun Green Sites for Kids

Here are a few ways that you can do your bit to help.

5 Small ways you can involve your children to reduce the amount of the Earth's resources that we use, include:

1.Turning lights off when you leave a room.
2.Don't throw out old toys - Give them away to charity. (A winning situation all round!)
3.Do you know somebody that could make use of those outgrown clothes that have only been worn a few times?
4.Turn the tap off while brushing teeth.
5.Turn a piece of paper over and use the other side instead of getting a fresh piece.

5 small things you can do with your children to re-use everyday household items for arts and crafts materials. For example:

1.Washing up liquid bottles make great rockets or turrets for castles.
2.Shoe boxes can be decorated to make, among other things, great keepsake boxes.
3.Kitchen Roll Holders can be decorated and then worn on arms, they're known as power bands in our house, because it's full of boys, girls would probably prefer to call them pretty bangles and decorate them in an entirely different way.
4.Yogurt pots can be decorated and used as mini plant pots. Good for cress heads, instead of using eggs.
5.Cereal boxes, cut the top off, decorate, then use as storage boxes.

5 Small things you can recycle so that materials can be made into something new, include:

1.Jam Jars
2.Plastic Milk Cartons
3.Old paper that can't be used for drawing or painting
4.Cereal packets
5.Old birthday, Christmas or other celebration cards

It's really important and so easy for our children to learn to have a conscience about our planet. I don't need to bore you with the details of why.

Tomorrow - We'll be back to food and still with Britain. Among other things, ham and peas pudding. Maybe some promised lemon drizzle cupcakes and flapjacks -are they British?

Sunday, 14 October 2007

Little Foodies Disastrous Pigs Cheek #2

I'm not going to be beaten by this. During our time spent in Spain over the Summer, Hubby had a delicious meal of pigs cheek. We all tried it, we all loved it. I didn't think to ask how it had been prepared or cooked. Being a cooking dish and not baking, I thought I'd easily be able to re-create it at home... WRONG! You may remember my first go with pigs cheeks didn't even make it to brining. Click here and read the third paragrah for my admission of what happened to the first lot of pigs cheeks I bought.. This second lot of pigs cheeks were very kindly brined by our butcher. I collected them on Wednesday and cooked them on Thursday (3 different styles). Here's what I did... At the end I'll tell you what I should have done!

Pigs Cheeks in Stones Ginger Wine (keeping with the British theme)
One whole very large onion (we used red) peeled and chopped
One carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
One parsnip, peeled and roughly chopped
2 tablespoons of Garlic Olive Oil
2 Pigs Cheeks (brined and prepared by your butcher)
Pinch of mixed herbs
6 black peppercorns
1/3 bottle of Stones Ginger Wine
2 pints of boiling hot water

In a very large pan, gently fry the onions in oil for a few minutes until starting to colour, add the carrot and parsnip. Add the ginger wine and simmer for a couple of minutes.
Place the pigs cheeks on the top and add the mixed herbs, peppercorns and boiling water. Cover with a tight fitting lid. Let it bubble for a few minutes then place in a pre-heated oven (medium heat) for approximately 2 hours.

Pigs Cheek with Tomato and Herbs
Half a large onion peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
Half a carton of Sieved Tomatoes/Passata
11/2 pints of boiling water
Good pinch of mixed herbs (I used dried)
2 tablespoons of olive oil
Few grinds of black pepper
1 Pigs Cheek (brined and prepared by your butcher)

In a large pan, fry the onion and garlic. Place the pigs cheek on top then pour in the passata and hot water. Add herbs and a few grinds of black pepper. Cover with a tight fitting lid and let it come to boil for a few minutes, then cook in a pre-heated (medium heat) oven for approximately 2 hours.

Pigs Cheek in Pedro Ximenez (an intensely sweet dessert wine / sherry)
Half a large onion peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 cup of Malaga Virgen Pedro Ximenez
2 pints of hot stock (I used chicken)
1 pigs cheek (brined and prepared by your butcher)
2 tablespoons of olive oil

In a large pan, fry the onion and garlic. Add the sweet wine/sherry and bring to boil. Place the pigs cheek on top then pour over the hot stock. Bring to boil for a few minutes. Cover with a tight fitting lid then cook in a pre-heated (medium heat) oven for approximately 2 hours.

My MISTAKE - I only rinsed the pigs cheeks. I should have steeped them in water and changed the water regularly to get rid of some of the salt from the brining process OR alternatively I should have boiled them in water and thrown that water away prior to cooking them. Hubby thinks we had salt poisoning as we both felt like 'you know what' the next day. That's a score of one all, he once made me a dish which, ever we talk about, usually starts with... "Do you remember the salty pork?" Let me tell you Hubby's salty pork has nothing on mine!

A little like my very hot cheat's tom yam soup, which I made for my in-laws once. Whenever they now have something really hot, the heat intensity is always compared to that tom yam soup with the usual response of.... "It's not as hot as Amanda's tom yam soup.' How come your cock ups are so much more memorable than the great things you achieve?

p.s. I hasten to add, the children didn't eat the pigs cheeks. I dread to think what it would have done to their systems. The next day I kept getting a terrible taste in my mouth, it felt like I'd been swimming in the sea, hit by a big wave and swallowed a lot of it.

Monday, 8 October 2007

Little Foodies Britain

Loving Britain!! We spent the weekend painting the kitchen diner and talking English (chortle chortle)!! Do you call it kitchen/dining room or kitchen diner? Whatever, it certainly needed it. We've lived with it for nearly 2 years now, bits of new plaster, bits of ancient wallpaper, bits of old plaster, bits of tiles - all such a mess. The walls could have done with being re-plastered before we did it but still the fact it's now all one colour is great, the difference is staggering! I'll post pics another day. We said a fond farewell to the ghost which I drew on the wall last Halloween, using an area where we'd torn some of the ancient wallpaper off, at least 20 million layers, that's to say it felt like 20 million layers. So I'm now writing from a very white, bright kitchen, though we didn't get to the ceiling, that's still bare plaster. Tomorrow, or maybe next week, or next year? I've come over all Spanish!

Food.... We've had a lovely Melton Mowbray Pork Pie. At least, I enjoyed it, it was a little too peppery for the children! Bought I'm afraid, I don't think I could make a Melton Mowbray pork pie that tastes as good as a decent bought one. Not something to be eaten everyday - I could feel my arteries hardening with each mouthful!

Creamy Broccoli and Stilton Soup
One medium size Broccoli head, washed and cut into pieces
4oz/100g Stilton, crumbled
One small onion, peeled and finely chopped
One medium size potato, peeled and cut into very small rough cubes
1 pint Hot Chicken Stock
Half pint of Milk
1 Small tub of cream
1 tablespoon of oil

Gently fry the onions and potato for a few minutes, add the broccoli and chicken stock and bring to boil for a couple of minutes. Add the crumbled stilton and milk, bring back to boil, then simmer for 5-10 minutes. Blitz with a stick blender, add the cream, let it heat through for a minute, then serve. We mostly like our soup to be quite thick so you may want to add some more stock or milk.

Note: We used Cropwell Bishop Creamery - Blue Stilton, which was also delicious with some crackers.

Chicken Casserole and Horseradish Dumplings (Serves 4 easily)
This was on the table in 45 minutes, which for a hearty and warming meal from scratch was great!

6 chicken thighs (cut into 2 cm pieces)
1 large onion (peeled and finely chopped)
4 medium potatoes (peeled and cubed)
4 carrots (peeled and cubed)
3 parsnips (peeled and cubed)
1 pint Chicken Stock
Half of bottle of white wine (because I had some left over from the girlie night!)

Gently sweat the onions then add the chicken to brown. Add the rest of the veg and the white wine, bring to the boil, then add hot chicken stock, simmer gently while you prepare the dumplings.

For the dumplings
50g/2 oz Atora vegetable suet
100g/4 oz Self Raising Flour
2 teaspoons of creamed horseradish
5 tablespoons of water
salt and pepper to season

Add the flour and suet to a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Mix the water with the horseradish sauce and then add to the suet and self raising flour - mix. It should all come together to form a pliable dough. Divide and shape into 8 balls. Check there is plenty of liquid still in the casserole (if not add a little more water), then place the dumplings on the top of the bubbling casserole and cover with a tightly fitting lid. Cook for 20 minutes, serve immediately.

Rhubarb and Apple Crumble (Could serve a small army, well, not quite!!)

You could make this in one very large ovenproof dish or divide it between 3 or 4. Eat one and freeze the rest, which is what we did. You can also have more fruit than crumble or vice versa. It's up to you.

350g Rhubarb (about 6 stalks) Washed and chopped into 1cm pieces
750g Cooking Apples (About 6 large apples) Peeled and chopped into 1cm pieces
2 Cups Apple Juice
100g soft light brown sugar (I use whatever we have)
1 teaspoon of cinnamon

For the crumble mix (I did this with the scales on grams, e-mail me if you want me to convert it)
300g Plain Flour
150g Unsalted Butter, cubed
150g Sugar (we use whatever we have in the house)
Pinch of cinnamon

Preheat oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 5
Crumble - Rub the butter and flour together until it becomes like fine breadcrumbs.
Add the sugar and cinnamon and mix well, without it sticking together.
Layer the fruit in an ovenproof bowl. Mix the 100g brown sugar with the teaspoon of cinammon and then sprinkle over the fruit. Pour over the apple juice. Then sprinkle on the crumble. Bake in a preheated oven for approximately 35-40 minutes.

Mmmmm, delicious with double cream!

I also made some really good lemon drizzle cupcakes which I'll post about during the week. They were possibly the best lemon drizzle cakes I've ever eaten which is saying something as I used to be quite partial to Marks and Spencers lemon drizzle cake!

Thursday, 4 October 2007

Little Foodies Britain

What could be more British than soup and a sandwich? Hubby has taken to work a rare roast beef sandwich with creamy horseradish and a bowl of this soup! I feel like the perfect wife - she says suddenly spluttering and coughing as though something is stuck in the back of throat!

Comfort Soup (Could feed 6-8), excuse the poor pic!
3 large potatoes
2-3 large carrots
2 large parsnips
1 medium size swede
1 large onion
a handful of greens, washed and chopped
1 tablespoon of oil
2 pints of good chicken stock
Half pint of extra creamy full fat milk

Peel and chop into small rough cubes all of the vegetables.
Sweat the potatoes and onions in a little oil. Then add the rest of the veg and the chicken stock. Boil for 10 minutes, then reduce to a simmer for further 20 minutes. Puree the soup with a stick blender then add the creamy milk,it may need a little more, you could put more milk or more stock or just water. Heat through, season if you wish, and serve with some good bread.

I love this soup because it's so easy. Also peeling and chopping veg can be quite therapeutic (if you're in the mood), which makes it comforting in itself before you've even started to eat it.

Hubby is out tonight so I'm having some friends round for a bite to eat. I think I may do some mini toad in the holes, not sure what else. Off to ponder my cookery books. If I wasn't on a cookery book diet then I'd probably buy some more. There seems to be a real glut of very good books on British food. Rightly so, we do have some wonderful dishes that we should be shouting from the rooftops about!

British Cuisine is something to be proud of not ashamed of. As I've said before, we have our own wonderful foods and then we're open enough to embrace other cultures and their cuisines. I think I mentioned this before when Sam of Becks and Posh held her fantastic event 'Fish and Quips', where she asked the world to prove why English food is not a joke. That was one of my first blogging events and I was staggered as I still am today just how lovely the food blogging community is. I remember being a little in awe that THE Sam responded to my e-mail too and that I was allowed to be included in the event. Err, hello?? I realise now that's what blogging events are about and that it's not some exclusive club that you have to be wearing the right clothes for, or be in with the right people to join in... Of course I still think Sam is rather cool and having just read her post from this Monday, it's an example of why I still think that.

Not sure how or why I went off on this tangent today. Call it therapy. I'm watching the clock for when I can go and pick up Small. The house is feeling super empty. Little said "There used to be 6 in this family and now there are only 5." That could change, yesterday I phoned up about some puppies. I warned Hubby not to be surprised if he came home and found a puppy here. He said "Don't you mean, don't be furious?" I said "Well both, don't be surprised or furious."

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

Another Day... All things British

Thanks everyone. I'm feeling a bit better today. Small is quite young and I don't think it will impact on him so much. Little is okay, he's very sad but he's okay, I think children are resilient, sometimes more than grown ups.

The problem is Paddington really was such an amazing cat, as my neighbour said over coffee this morning "He really was very special and I've never known a cat like him." She's right, he was. He was good plain happy and he made everybody that ever came into contact with him happy. Anyway, I'm a grown up and I realise having had animals all my life that I have to pick myself up, dust myself down and get on with it. Mao is plainly missing him and is a little skittish, he's also craving affection. He's always been affectionate but he used to get a lot of affection from Paddington and he's clearly missing that. He'll be okay, just as we all will. That dreaded, or dreadful British resolve, stiff upper lip and all that...

As a tribute to Paddington our next country will be Britain as he was a British Shorthair (and although he looked like a British Blue he was infact a Lilac. Crazy how they decide on these things, but still...)

I think I want the comfort of good old British cooking too, like Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding, we actually had this on Sunday, inspired by a post over at the lovely Cottage Smallholder. However we can have it again - something my husband will be more than happy with. What is it about men and red meat?

There will be lots of things from the North East as that is where I was born and where lots of my family still live. I also have very fond memories of all sorts of food from my early childhood in the NE. People in my family really know how to cook and everything is made with love, and they want to feed you. I love that! Having now spent more time in Spain and a little time in Italy, my family remind me of Italian and Spanish families. My mum being one of 6, they are large enough and noisy enough to pull it off too.

By the way, I don't think I know anybody who doesn't love food and who wouldn't have some suggestions for British Food, so if you want to make a few then drop me a line. Details are in the side bar.

Amanda xx

p.s. We ate a few more Japanese things which I will blog about at some stage later on. Forgive me for leaving it unfinished for now.

Monday, 1 October 2007

Farewell Pads

As some people know we have had a tricky few months. Not made any easier or better when two weeks ago Mao (our black cat) was injured, we think possibly hit by a car, he has a broken tail but will live. Last night, Paddington (our grey cat or rather, as he would say, british short haired lilac) was definitely hit by a car and lost his life, we think immediately and without suffering.

Paddington and Mao - two best friends!

Raise your glasses and make a toast for Paddington, big, very special and wonderful cat!He was the most gentle and docile cat anybody had ever met and was/is truly loved. He was amazing with children, with everybody, he was amazing full stop!

Paddington, Little's cat.

He was so much more than just a cat! He was a HUGE part of this family. We got him a week after we got Mao and they became totally attached to each other. Paddington shared a birthday with Little. I can't tell you how sad I am and I know this is self indulgent to put this on the blog but it's what I felt like writing about. It was such a shock to receive a call last night from a man saying he'd found him in the road, more so as this is less than two weeks since Mao was injured. At least Mao is still with us, even without his mate. The house will feel even emptier now. Small's at nursery, Little is at school. Mao is out and Paddington who would normally be tripping me up isn't here. He snored too, so even when he wasn't around your feet you could always hear him, he used to wake himself up with his snorting!

Within 24 hours of Paddington's arrival, even though they weren't related, they became inseparable and absolutely loved each other. Stopping to smell the flowers, something I must do more often!


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