Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Happy New Year 2009

Happy New Year to one and all. May 2009 bring you lots of good times the whole year through.

I have a few resolutions for 2009... to use the things I save for best on a regular day to day basis, to empty my life of the things I do not need, and to REALLY live my very lovely life!

To my boys - we know the rules, it's up to us how to play and break them...!

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Before Christmas is completely over I had to post these pics...

A Marks and Spencers plain round fruit cake which Little made a banner to go round, I put marzipan and icing on and then we topped with Christmas candles, again from M&S. I'm just not a fruit cake maker, or eater truth be told... but the banner has been folded carefully and will be taken home and treasured by my stepdad (this was one his Christmas presents) and made me realise ever more that it's the small things which matter and not the extravagant.

Hope everyone has had a very happy Christmas.

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Woolworths Original Pic N Mix and Children can self regulate...

Buy it while you can...

If I'm with you - you can put what you like in your bag.. but only if it's Christmas! Which brings me nicely to my point that children can self regulate. Yesterday I told you we were off to Woolies and that I was going to let the children choose whatever they wanted sweetwise. Below shows the contents of their Pic N Mix bags... Admittedly they didn't just get Pic N Mix but they didn't go too mad!!

This one belongs to Little, despite getting it yesterday he's still got more than half left.

This one belongs to Small, same thing with regards to having half left.
Buy The Original Woolworths Pic N Mix while you can..

I'm always sentimental BUT THEN... I get over it..

Friday, 19 December 2008

One home, one to go... I am so excited!

Small has just finished school, just waiting for Little (who finishes in 42 minutes) and then the festivities REALLY can begin...

I'm going to take them straight to Woolworths (while we can) where I'm going to let them choose lots and lots of sweet things (chocolate, biscuits, sweets, whatever they want). We can then come home and fill up all of the little bowls, pots and tins which are dotted around the place and from then on... have the dentist on standby... Such a good bad mother. Come on... it's Christmas!

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Charity Shop Finds and some Christmas Pictures

Decorations and dressing your table up doesn't have to be expensive. I just bought this little silver cup at the St Catherine's Hospice shop,
added a tea light and a piece of gingham ribbon and I think it looks great.

I'll add a few more charity shop finds soon, in the meantime here's some pictures of Christmas at our house.
The tree, topped with a star that I helped Little and Small make. A great activity for children, we also made other smaller decorations.
I'll post about it in time for when they break up from school.

The drummer. Hubs and I saw a mini drum kit in town today... We were tempted... but came to our senses. Must remember to stay away from the music shop!
The festive spirit can sometimes take over, rendering you completely without brain.

Christmas wouldn't be complete without a little Disney.

Poor fairy has lost her hand since last year. Small wanted us to bandage it...
You can just about see the iron, bottom righthand corner. At some point I'll put it away.

Simple black bells from Ikea, tied with pretty ribbon.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

The Cabbage Soup Diet & Chocolate Bread Pudding

Not two things you could eat in the same week... The cabbage soup diet, also known as the Mayo Clinic Diet, or the Sacred Heart Memorial hospital diet... No institute wants to take claim of this diet. It is a fad and it works because your calorie intake is so greatly reduced you'd have to be really in touch with your inner sloth not to lose weight on it.

Basically a homemade vegetable soup that you make vast quantities of and eat every day for a week. On top of this, day one you eat fruit, day two you eat veg but no fruit, day three you eat fruit and veg, day four you eat bananas and drink skimmed milk but no fruit or veg and only the soup, day five you introduce chicken or beef and veg, day six you have chicken or beef and veg, day seven you eat brown rice, veg and drink unsweetened fruit juice...

It's a ball I tell you. By day four I was ready to pass out when I woke in the morning. A few bananas later and I resolved to stick with it. I lost 10lbs by the end of the week. Great.... whoopdeeedooo, I was overjoyed but now I'm p'd off with myself for feeling the need to take such drastic measures and why can't I just show some restraint and eat sensibly... Or why can't I be happy with my curves, I go in and out in the right places, a boob job might put me in proportion more being pear shaped but I'm not going there. I mean do the likes of Julia from A Slice of Cherry Pie actually eat all the gorgeous things they make? Julia you're so thin, how do you do it? Actually I don't want to know because I'll feel like a failure if the answer is it's your genes or that you're sensible for 5 days out of 7. I don't really agree with slimming diets and yet there I found myself feeling mighty fine as the weight fell off me. Like most teenagers I succumbed to a little eating disorder for a few years, until I got a life that is. So I do know how dangerously addictive the whole weight loss thing can be, to fall into the trap of thinking that skinny = sexy.

So for a really low fat and healthy recipe here's one for chocolate bread pudding. Not the milky bread pudding that you eat warm, the cold bread pudding that is heavy and you eat slices of it like cake.

Chocolate Bread Pudding (or how to gain back the 10lbs you lost quickly pudding...)

12 thick slices of stale bread, white, brown, a mixture of the two, you choose.
a large handful of raisins
a large handful of sultanas (if you like them or up the raisins)
75-100g light brown sugar, or white if that's all you've got
350ml milk
1 egg - beaten
one bar of good quality dark chocolate (70% cocoa), broken into pieces
Optional half a teaspoon of cinnamon or mixed spice

Break the bread into small pieces and place in a large bowl
Cover with half of the milk and mix until the bread is coated
Leave to stand for 15 mins.
Pre-heat the oven to approx 175C
In the meantime melt the chocolate, then add to the rest of the milk and add the beaten egg
Mix this chocolate, milk, egg mix to the bread and milk
Add the sugar and dried fruit and mix well, sprinkle in a teaspoon of mixed spice or cinnamon if you like.
Place in an ovenproof bowl and cook in the oven for about 50 mins
If it is set after this time, take it out and sprinkle with a small handful of sugar

Sorry I can't be more specific but it's done to taste really. Sometimes I add more sugar, sometimes more fruit. I don't usually add more milk and if I do then it takes longer to cook. This is really good but it doesn't beat traditional bread pudding, though it might if you didn't grow up eating thick slices of bread pudding. I think it still knocks spots off bread and butter pudding which I'm not that keen on.

Monday, 1 December 2008

Star Wars Galactic Heroes Millenium Falcon

If anybody knows where I can get a Star Wars Galactic Heroes Millenium Falcon from I would really appreciate you letting me know.... It's not the huge expensive £150.00 one. It's the smaller RRP £40.00 one which Argos very kindly decided to sell at half price and the great Martin's Money Saving Tips decided to let the whole world know about... Now they're going for upwards of £50.00 plus P&P on ebay. Why or why don't we buy our presents in the Summer and spend the months of November and December with our feet up making pretty decorations to adorn our calm and relaxed homes!!!

I've trawled the internet... I've phoned - The Entertainer, Hamleys, Harrods, Selfridges, John Lewis, Peter Jones, local toy shops, you name it - I've spoken to them.

p.s. it's not for me - I'm very fortunate in having one of these little beauties but only because a few weeks ago my friend very kindly held one on order for me at a shop a few miles away. She now needs one and I'm now in the horrible position of knowing that I have something she really wants and feel I have to find one or do I give her the one I have... But then Little will be upset because that's what he said he wanted when we first started talking about Christmas lists back in the summer right after his birthday. Aaarrrghhhhhhh!!!!!! Please - if you can help...

Monday, 17 November 2008

Giblets - Cheap Chicken Livers

Do you hate liver? I'm not that fond of it, or atleast that's what I thought. The other Sunday Hubs went off to do the shopping, we'd missed the butcher and being sensible they close on a Sunday. Supermarket bound he returned with liver. "Thanks a lot for just thinking about yourself!" I was actually really cross. I really didn't want liver. Anyway he cooked it with bacon, onions and amazing gravy (I do love the gravy you get from cooking with liver and bacon). I also love mashed potato and to make up for the liver he'd made a lot of mash, he even used the daft ricer thing for perfect mash. I can never be bothered, preferring a good old masher. So we ate our liver and bacon and the boys loved it. Little and Small actually kept going back for more...

This last weekend, Hubs wanted to do roast lamb with proper gravy, he wanted liver again too but the butcher said they don't do fresh chicken livers, only frozen ones. Lateral thinking struck and he bought 5 bags of giblets for .20p per bag. This meant the sort of gravy Hubs likes, gravy granules are not for him... (though I'm a guilty user sometimes.) It also gave him chicken livers.

Pan Fried Chicken Livers
He pan fried the chicken livers with olive oil, garlic, rosemary, salt, pepper and worcester sauce. Only cooked for a few minutes - think cooking scallops amount of time. We had them as a little tapa. I LOVED THEM, the boys loved them, we literally fought over the bowl. Now what is that all about - as I said I don't even like liver?!

At 37, I'm a liver loving convert!

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Remember, remember the 5th of November - Guy Fawkes and Bonfire Night

Remember, remember the 5th of November, gunpowder, treason and plot.
I can think of no reason why the gunpowder treason should ever be forgot.
Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes, t'was his intent to blow up the King and Parliament.
Three score barrels of powder below to prove old England's overthrow.
By God's providence he was catch'd with a dark lantern and burning match.
Holloa boys, holloa boys, let the bells ring.
Holloa boys, holloa boys, God save the King!

I love this time of year, from Halloween onwards, right up until the New Year.

After school we'll be making a Guy. When I was younger it was normal to make a Guy and then hit the streets, shouting 'Penny for the Guy!' We'd use the money to buy sparklers. Children don't seem to do it anymore, I suppose there is the health and safety issue. We'd probably have to do a risk assessment and submit the paperwork to the local council. Even trick or treaters were thin on the ground this year and last. Anyway, we'll be making a Guy and fleece the pockets of anybody who visits between now and Saturday when our village will be overrun with nigh on 20,000 people to watch the spectacular bonfire and fireworks.

We'll be making some cinder toffee, recipe here at the lovely Domestic Goddess in Training. You see, food bloggers are great for trying and testing recipes and telling us what worked and what didn't.

As I type some of our friends are making their annual pilgrimage to Lewes which must have arguably the biggest bonfire night event in England. There are various processions and effigies dragged through the streets which are then burned. It makes our village event seem tiny in comparison.
Typical bonfire night fodder in the Little Foodies household...

Chilli Cheesy Beans
2 tins of baked beans
2 handfuls of grated cheddar
1/2 - 1 teaspoon of mild chilli powder
Throw it all in a saucepan and warm until the cheese melts, stir well. YUMMY!

Sticky Sausages
Cocktail sausages oven cooked with honey and coarse grain mustard (mix honey and mustard with olive oil, coat the sausages). Medium heat oven for about half an hour. Check they're cooked through.

Bad Beans
2 tins of mixed beans (in water)
2 tablespoons of worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons of tomato puree
4 tablesoons of water
1/2 teaspoon of mild chilli powder
1 tablespoon of honey
1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
Drain the beans, add to a pan with everything else. Cook for about 15-20 mins.

Caramelised Onions with Garlic
Lots and lots of onions, peeled and finely sliced, Drizzle with olive oil and using your hands mix it all up to coat the onions in oil, throw in some cloves of garlic (skin on). Oven cook on a medium heat until sticky and caramelised.

Served with Tasty Tatties
Jacket Potatoes with lots of butter. (For the best crispy skin I like to cook them in the oven from scratch if I've remembered in time).

and for my health freak children who always have to have something raw and fresh as a side on their plates - big bowls of tomatoes, carrots, cucumber and peppers.

Last year we made a huge brownie star. This year I'd like to make another brownie. It could become a bonfire brownie tradition but I think I'll play around with some recipes first as Nigella's needed three times the cooking she suggested. It was very tasty though!

That's it! Have a great bonfire night if you celebrate.

p.s. Big thank you to our lovely friends S & J who gave us a load of dry, seasoned logs - Thank you - we love you! The gift of warmth is a hard one to beat!

Friday, 31 October 2008

Happy Halloween... tacky or tasteful....

Happy Halloween to everyone... be it tasteful or tacky, have lots of spookable fun! This year we're having a tacky one as I hit the pound shop this afternoon and stocked up on a whole load of tat! The pics are from the last couple of years... No halloween food for us this year, the boys have had parties to attend... Small was too scared to stay so came home with me, he's had some bread, a carrot, and an awful lot of sweets for his dinner... At least I'm honest!

I saw a really cool recipe for pina ghouladas on the Martha Stewart website... Infact I've spent way too long trawling Martha's website.

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Rescue Puppies... and some Skate Wings


The newest member of our family has arrived. She's gorgeous, 7 weeks old, very laid back, a tiny little bit stubborn, slept right through the night without a peep last night (yippeeee!). Seems to hit the paper more than the floor. Her mum is a rescue Tibetan Spaniel, father unknown. She is very, very much loved.

On the food front I cooked some Skate Wings last week. First I put some cornmeal on a plate and sprinkled with salt and pepper. Dipped the skate wings in the cornmeal, both sides and then fried in oil and butter for 4 minutes on each side. Served with sliced potatoes, onions, garlic and green pepper that was cooked in olive oil in the oven for about 45 minutes. Absolutely delicious!

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Love FOOD Hate WASTE (ing) Bananas

1.6 million bananas wasted each day according to this article at the very brilliant - Well it doesn't happen here. I am out and out proud that we now never ever throw bananas away. I thought we were quite good before when on the whole, most would get used up by making Nan's banana and honey tea loaf. Though I have to admit that sometimes more than a few ended up in the compost bin.

Now in the Little Foodies household EVERY single brown banana gets frozen. Sometimes even when they're not brown they get frozen, though the brown ones give a much sweeter taste when using them in ice cream, smoothies and cake.

We peel them, chop them up, put them in a freezable container, pop them in the freezer for a minimum of 2 hours and then we have the making of some fairly average tasting banana dishes. Oh it's so not worth the effort! I mean why do we bother when we could add to the 1.6 million banana high pile in the sky... We could take them outside, put them on pavements, hide with a video camera, ready to film some unsuspecting passerby as they slip. Of course that's childish and dangerous and we don't advocate that sort of thing around here, so instead we do freeze them and so far not one thing we've made has tasted average.

We've been given many thumbs up for frozen banana ice cream. We've been given hugs, and even a round of applause for the banana based smoothies. Nan's banana and honey tea bread always goes down well and it doesn't seem to suffer if made with frozen bananas so long as they're defrosted before using. Freezing bananas is the way forward. In fact freezing fruit that wont get eaten, that will go off and have to be thrown away, wasted, is the way forward full stop.

Banana ice cream - this isn't new and it's not rocket science, there's even a recipe for it on the lovefoodhatewaste website. Peel and chop bananas, then freeze. Then simply take out as many frozen banana pieces as you want (we like approximately one banana per person) and pop them in a blender. Blitz until it goes creamy, , it will be fairly softpossibly the best banana ice cream you'll ever taste. No cream, no sugar, just gorgeous!

Banana based smoothies - to make enough for 4 -
Note: you don't have to use frozen bananas for the smoothies it's just that we like our smoothies super chilled and using frozen bananas seems to give that indulgent feel of drinking melted ice cream.

Place in a blender - two bananas, (that have been chopped into pieces and frozen if you wish),
a cup of plain natural yogurt,
3 cups of apple juice,
Blitz until smooth, if too thick add more apple juice a little at a time.

If you like it a bit sweeter then add honey to taste.

Variations: You could add strawberries (our favourite of the moment), I'm sure you could add almost any fruit you like. The key is to experiment and have things that you like, you could also use different fruit juices or flavoured yogurts, perhaps ones that need using up which are heading for the bin, (better to use them up than waste them) - If you were feeling naughty you could add chocolate powder, though what's naughty about that I really don't know!

Check out for lots of great information, and of course for more banana recipes including some different smoothies and the ice cream as mentioned above.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

After first day at school food

Small woke up in a bad mood and announced that he wouldn't be starting school today, he went back to bed and ten minutes later got up, jumping about exclaiming how excited he was to be starting school. Just shows what an extra ten minutes in bed can do for you. I know this from experience as still being in bed having an extra ten minutes I missed this little drama!! Good job too or I'd have either cried or said okay he didn't have to start school now or ever if he didn't want to. So he did actually go, he has started school - It was a lot less traumatic than first time round... Maybe because Hubs was there to give me a big hug this time. The bell went and Little ran off to his class without saying goodbye, this was not a good start. I've said before about their routine where they hug and kiss each other goodbye, we all have to do it and then it seems to make saying goodbye okay for them. Doesn't work for me, I'm rubbish at saying goodbye! Anyway, I'll spare you the amateur dramatics as he was there for less time than he used to spend at nursery and it will remain like that until the Summer term next year... He's not overly impressed that he can't stay for lunch and wants to get his first pair of school shoes muddy!

As for after school food I'll be making noodle broth with pork balls, recipe soon and I'll also be making some eggy bread (using brioche) with blackberries and blackberry sauce served with ice cream just like this version we made the other week.

Blackberries washed and in a pan with some sugar and a few tablespoons of water.

Brioche cut into slices, dipped in egg and fried (cutting out shapes if your heart should so desire).

Assemble the eggy bread, blackberries, blackberry sauce and ice cream - delicious!

Monday, 1 September 2008

Absence makes the heart shrink and Spicy Green Tomato Chutney

So much going on... lots of posts written, blogging legs lost, inability to hit the publish button. How do you start blogging again when you've been absent for so long? Feelings of inadequacy, in limbo, gone off taking pictures of food all the time. Need to lose weight but continue to feed the children great food, can this work alongside food blogging??? Quandries, quandries...

Little starts back at school this week. During the school holidays he's learned to swim unaided, has been allowed to start cooking HOT things (it's okay we had the emergency services on standby) he's even had a few golf lessons with a pro. I know, I know, how to ruin a good walk, the shame of it...

Small starts school for the first time this month too. I cried and cried when Little started school. I'm guessing there'll be a few tears this time too. Does every mum feel like that? I always feel like I've lost part of me when the holidays end. The end of an era, both children will be at school. There's possibilities of me working - this will be an immense shock to the system. There's still the possibility of a dog too, though I'm realising that this could be a mistake if I am going to be working....

Veg Patch News: We're still getting strawberries every day. The blueberries had all gone by the time we returned from an extended trip to Spain. We got one apple from the little fledgling tree that was planted earlier in the year - we shared it between the four of us! The carrots are delicious! The potatoes are great, though they've all got something called scab. Sounds and looks disgusting but it's only on the skin and once you peel them they're superb. Definitely a case of beauty is in the eye of the beholder. We threw away over 5 kilos of green tomatoes yesterday - they'd all succumbed to blight. This was after darling hubs had made copious amounts of delicious green tomato chutney. It's such a horrible feeling when so much hard work and effort has gone into planting your own veg to have it fail. Still I'm hoping the pumpkins are going to be a winner and that the corn grows a tiny bit more. We've also put some radishes and lettuce in which germinated within 4 days, the lettuce should be ready within the week.

Spicy Green Tomato Chutney (makes approx 8 or 9 x 250g jars).

1 kilo Green Tomatoes, washed and chopped
500g Dark Brown Soft Sugar
1 kilo Onions, peeled and finely sliced.
250g Raisins
250g Sultanas
Handful of dried apricots, chopped
1 litre Malt Vinegar
1 inch Fresh Ginger, peeled and finely grated
Seeds from 10 Green Cardamon Pods (gently crush the pods and remove the seeds)
2 teaspoons Mild Chilli Powder
2 piri piri chillis, finely sliced
2 tablespoons of salt

We placed all the ingredients in a very large, heavy based Le Creuset saucepan, brought it up to the boil and then turned down to simmer for 1.5 hours. It still seemed a little runny so we let it simmer for a further 30 minutes. On tasting Hubs also felt it needed a little more sugar, so he added some light brown soft sugar (approx 3 tablespoons) and a little more chilli powder. Decant into sterlised jars, we did this by putting them in a warm oven for about an hour (we forgot about them), best to look up how to sterilise jars properly as we're no experts here and botulism is a serious thing, cover and leave to cool before putting a lid on.
You can play with the seasonings. Add cumin maybe, or more chilli or don't put the chilli in. We like things with a kick, hence adding more part way through cooking. It's excellent served with a mature cheddar & wholemeal crusty bread - speaking from immediate experience...

Getting tomato blight feels like the dementors from Harry Potter have arrived, slowly seeping into your thoughts, sucking the happiness and soul out of you. Should you get tomato blight , google it and learn all sorts of horrible crabby facts. My lovely friend Fiona is always good for these sorts of things, try her post here, which has some links to other sites too.. Ensure you dispose of the infected plants using special chemical biohazard suits, do not under any circumstances touch it with your real human hands as touching other things could then spread the disease. Dispose of the soil they were grown in, again carefully and without infecting the land around you, you could try calling some bio-hazard company or possibly the goverment. Do this as quickly possible and then hit the gin. It's the only cure to restore happy thoughts or soul after having a very large cry that is!

Tomato blight looks like this!

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

What's in a name...

I'm not meaning to post once a month, it's just turning out that way. I've been tagged and awarded and I have a list of people that I need to reciprocate and I will... I have a little project going on which is very exciting but it takes up brain space... we all know what that means. Anyway Aidan tagged me to "list one fact, word or tidbit of information that is somehow related to your life for each letter of your first or middle name". It was fun and quick so here it is...

A - Amused - I like to be amused, it's not difficult to amuse me I laugh at most things, even perhaps when it's not appropriate occasionally.
M - Married - happily, to the most amazing person I know. Take your fingers out of your throat - please!
A - Adoring mother - the children come before everything. Shall I get you a bucket now?!
N - Northern in body and soul but not verbally - I was lucky enough to spend two days in the North East of England the other week, staying with my Mum and Stepdad. Although I speak with a few plums in my mouth nowadays and I've lived in the South since I was a young child, the North East is definitely in my soul. When I arrived at Newcastle airport, there were marketing signs up saying Passionate people, Passionate places and it's SO true.
D - Dizzy - sometimes on purpose, sometimes because it comes naturally. If people think you're a bit dizzy their expectations go down and you can just be yourself. Makes life much simpler.
A - Amusing - comedy genius that's me. I just missed my vocation!

I also liked what Aidan did so I've done a food one too...

A - Asparagus, white, cooked like this... This boy is going to be a super star, I've said before he already has Super Hero status in this household!
M - Married food - Got married, flew to Bali, days later on a certain famous beach - Jimbaran Bay, the best seafood dinner I've ever eaten. In a shabby shack we chose the fish we wanted from big water tanks, they then cooked it while we sat drinking at tables and chairs sunk into the sand, oil candles burning, sand between our toes, the sound of the sea, a bottle (possibly two) of chilled white, watching the sun go down. Perfect.
A - Avacado, made into any type of dip like guacamole or cut in half, then baked in the oven with a spicy tomato sauce and mozzarella on top.. or with prawn cocktail on top for fond memories of my 70's childhood.
N - Noodles, any sort, rice noodles, egg noodles, pasta noodles.... Oodles of noodles.
D - Damp cake is what sprang to mind first of all... haha! Then I changed my mind... Dark roast coffee cupcake.... maybe two - fat cow!
A - Aubergine, made into a dip like baba ganoush. I loves me a dip I do!

I will tag others but will have to come back to do it... Later, or sometime soon, I will also load the pics from the Lebanese bbq... May even write some words about what we made, including the flat breads from scratch.

Saturday, 7 June 2008

Rock Cakes - cinnamon and raisin

The lovely Pig in the kitchen (who incidentally writes a rather splendid blog) made rock cakes here. I saw them and immediately wanted to make some... and eat them of course. They looked fabulous and would have taken a very good picture, but this is all that's left...

Cinnamon and Raisin Rock Cakes
Makes enough for a family of 4 to enjoy over a few days with enough to let the next door neighbours (family of 3) have one each.

200g unsalted butter
450g plain flour
100g raisins
100g soft light brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons of baking powder
2 teaspoons of cinnamon
3-4 tablespoons of milk

Preheat oven to 175C.
Grease 2 baking trays with butter or oil.
Place all the ingredients in a large bowl and mix together well using a wooden spoon or your hands...
Using your hands, get some dough, about golf ball size for small ones and half a tennis ball size for larger ones. Don't work it too much they look better when cooked if they haven't been smoothed over.
Place each ball (or blob) on to the baking sheet as you go, leaving space between each one as they spread when cooking.
Cook for between 10 and 20 minutes. 10 minutes for the smaller ones and up to 20 minutes for the larger ones. They should be a light golden brown and if you insert a skewer into the middle it should come out clean. Don't let them get too dark or they really will be like rocks!

If you want to you can sprinkle golden granulated sugar over them before cooking. That's how I had them as a child and having not put sugar on these ones I will do next time...

We're continuing with Middle Eastern food today with our favourite way of having lamb, butterflied and bbq'd. Today served Shawarma style - can't wait!

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Doing a Delia - will this now mean something different?

Delia's Cheating Banana Bread Pudding

I meant to post this some time ago... but then I'm at my most relaxed when I'm late.

I'm not a huge Delia fan but I think she's okay. I can cook and I'm confident with food, probably because I was taught from a very early age. I've mentioned before the whole family thinks they're experts when it comes to food. Nicknamed a chemist in the kitchen from very early on is maybe why I wasn't bought any Delia books when I first moved out of home and why I didn't then become a lifelong fan. If I'm honest I didn't really understand when people used to say that she'd taught modern day Britain to cook, I assumed that everybody could cook, but some people just chose not to.

Where am I going with this? When Delia's new book and TV series came out it was earlier in the year when things were difficult here. I SKY +'d the series and then was a bit surprised when Hubs bought me the book as one of my birthday presents. I thought he was taking the proverbial **** out of me. But then I watched the series and I read the book and I thought - What's the big deal, why are people so cross? So she's brought out a book that lists shop bought ingredients that we can assemble. Sometimes I like to cheat, putting something on the table that isn't a ready prepared microwave meal but something that hasn't taken me hours of preparation and cooking. especially some things which require more exotic ingredients.

I actually like Delia's new cheating book because somebody else has tested all the things which are available to us which are going to make life a bit simpler SOMETIMES, not every single day but sometimes. Okay I would never buy a tin of mince, the thought makes me want to heave, and there are other things which I wouldn't buy, but I have failed where a jar hasn't. I've not been able to make a Thai Green Curry from scratch that compares to some made using one of the very excellent jars of paste that you can buy (admittedly I haven't tried that hard on this one, but it's because I know I can put a great result on the table using a jar of paste!). It's nice to know which products came out best, it saves me wasting money on some which are inferior or wont give the best result.

I don't like is how we love to bash people, we seem to make it personal and I just don't get that. Gordon Ramsay, I think he's great, I like his wife too, I didn't join the band wagon of people who said she was just cashing in by bringing out a cookery book. So what, so what, so what. If she wants to do a cookery book or two and people buy them, then all well and good. He's there on TV saying that Delia has sold out or something along those lines but then I go to my book shelves and pick up a book by Jo Pratt that has a fair few assembly recipes in it and across the front is a quote from Gordon Ramsay saying 'Jo's food is vibrant and fun' - Now Jo Pratt looks vibrant and fun, but one of the recipes is for a tin of Heinz tomato soup with a bit or cream or sherry added, okay so it also gives a recipe for ham and cheese croutons to go with it. She also lists Banoffee Fingers which are another assemly recipe, they sound delicious too, but you can't tell me it's that different from what Delia has done, she's just taken it a step further.

How many people own cookery books but have only ever cooked one or two things from them? How many people own a cookery book that they've cooked every single thing from? I've cooked two (correction three) things from Delia's cheating book so far. That's two more things than I've cooked from a lot of my cookery books. The Pananag red seafood curry is excellent and as for the banana bread pudding well I'd make it any day and if I don't feel like cheating then perhaps I could whizz up some breadcrumbs from some stale bread instead of using a packet, either way I'm sure it will taste great. I also made the lemon tart in a hurry, 30 minutes before leaving the house to take to a BBQ party at the weekend. It went down very well and was still warm when we served it.

I know some women (some of them stay at home mums) who do not cook, they say they can't cook, wont cook, don't have the confidence to cook. Delia's cheating book would be ideal for them because surely it would be better for them to take some of the ideas/recipes and put meals on the table that are not totally pre-prepared/packaged, laden with salt and goodness knows what else, maybe giving them some much needed confidence to then go on and cook more things. Unfortunately we live in a world now where you have to be SUPER brilliant at everything. You can't just be thin you have to be super thin, you can't just be a mum you have to be a super mum, you can't just cook, you have to be a super foodie, you can't just have a car, you have to have a super car - it's all a load of hairy round things!

Delia - your books more than alright with me. If anything it's turned me from a sitting on the fence Delia fan to an outright Delia fan.

Monday, 2 June 2008

We interrupt with a small toe in Little Foodies India

I'm waiting on the arrival of some sumac and other things before we continue with Arabian days and nights. In the meantime we've had a very small glimpse of India. Not strictly true as we eat Indian food at least once a week, but it's the first time that we've really done it in a learning experience sort of way.

Our neighbours have a daughter, Little is very good friends with her, (she's a year older) and I think it's really lovely that they get on so well. Anyway her class is looking at India at the moment. I'd said that during the half term we could cook some Indian food together. We did this on Friday last week, I had planned on doing a lot more but earlier in the day while out walking in the woods with other friends, we got lost and were out for a lot longer than we'd originally planned. It's the first time ever that I really regretted watching series 1 and 2 of Lost before it went to Sky.

So, after rushing home and changing muddy clothes we began... I got most of the spices out on the table and we started by smelling all of them. Black cardamons smell woody and smokey. Green cardamons smell sweet and spicy, Cloves smell of Christmas. It was really good to see them smelling and describing what the various spices were like for them. We also compared the smell of the uncooked spices to how different they smell when cooking and cooked.

We then made a simple meal of fish tikka with basmati rice, salad and poppadoms.
The children mixed the tikka spices with yogurt, garlic and lemon juice before coating the fish with it. I then dry fried the fish before putting it in the oven to finish off. I got the children to wash the rice before cooking and explained why we do this. I then cooked some poppadoms. We also talked about why in England we automatically assume rice is served with all Indian food when in actual fact most Indian households would only serve it with a handful of things and be more inclined to serve chapati to mop up the dishes with sauce.

The verdict on the food. Our guest said it wasn't really to her taste but I give her lots of credit for trying everything and not just trying one mouthful and then leaving it, actually trying a few mouthfuls of each. She was also a very enthusiastic helper. Little and Small loved it and want to make it again. Great, as it was very healthy and dare I say slimming. No I dare not and take that bit back.
I also explained that most Indian families would have a spice holder like this one (can't get picture to load will try again) in their kitchen. Our guest will take it to school at some point this term when I've cleaned it and filled it with freshly ground spices to give the most impact to their nasal passages.

We'll re-visit India for some more in-depth learning and then we'll share some of the many Indian foods we cook on a regular basis and I'll also try to come out of my comfort zone and try cooking some new things. There are plenty of blogs that I can draw inspiration from Foodies Hope in particular, and also, Meeta's What's for lunch honey,also One Hot Stove, Fun and Food, Malabar Spices, and Saffron Trail. A lot of these ladies write for the Daily Tiffin, a good read but for all sorts of things, family and food among other things.

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Little Foodies Arabia - Lebanon

In the book Arabesque, Claudia Roden explains why Lebanese cuisine is so well known. Representative of food throughout the Middle East, often when a Syrian restaurant opens in London it calls itself a Lebanese Restaurant. This is possibly because most people will have heard of Lebanese food but she puts this down to the Lebanese being great entrepreneurs, making the best of their food heritage, and they were first people in the Middle East to develop a restaurant trade which spread to Europe and the rest of the world in the 70's and 80's. Both books (edited to include links to Amazon so you can see what I'm talking about), Saha by Greg and Lucy Malouf and Arabesque make fascinating reading.

Sambousek Bi Jibne - Little Puff Pastry Cheese Pies
Taken from Claudia Roden's Arabesque. I halved the recipe as didn't want 32 pies. If you want the full recipe and instructions then please refer to the book. Below is what we used.

250g puff pastry, flour for rolling out, beaten egg for brushing the pies prior to cooking.
For the filling: 125g mozzarella, 125g feta, 1 egg (beaten)

I took the pastry out of the fridge about an hour before we used it.
Blend the mozzarella in a mini food processor. With a fork mash the feta in a bowl. Add the blended mozzarella and mix together using the fork. Add the beaten egg and mix well.
Heat the oven to 200C.
Roll out the pastry very thinly on a floury surface. It's easier if you cut the pastry in two and work with them separately. (We cut out an even number of medium size hearts and then larger circles using a cereal bowl.)
For the circles place a spoonful of filling on one half of each circle. Dab water around the edges of the pastry with your finger. Then fold over the pastry to make a half moon shape, matching up the sides and press down firmly to create a seal. Transfer to a baking tray.
The hearts needed a top and a bottom. If you're doing shapes that need a top and a bottom then put a little of the filling in the middle of your shape, dab water around the edges of the pastry with your finger, then place the top pastry over the filling, making sure that the edges match up with the bottom. Press the edges firmly together to make a seal. Transfer to a baking tray.
You can use a fork to press around the outside. Beat an egg then brush the tops . Bake in the oven for approximately 12-20 minutes until puffed up and golden.
Some of the filling spilled out on a few but we just trimmed them off to neaten them up a bit.

120g bulgar wheat
Half a large red onion, peeled and VERY finely chopped
Approximately 8 medium size tomatoes, finely chopped
Large bunch of flat leaf parsley, washed and chopped
Bunch of mint, washed and chopped
Juice of two lemons
6 tablespoons of olive oil

Cook the bulgar wheat in a pan of 600ml of boiling water for 15 minutes, pour into a sieve then rinse with cold water. Let it sit to drain as much as possible. When ready to use, squeeze out any excess water by pushing down in the sieve.
In a separate bowl mix the red onion, tomatoes, flat leaf parsley, mint, lemon juice and olive oil. Season with salt and black pepper then when ready to serve add the bulgar wheat and mix thoroughly. (I forgot the flat leaf parsley this time and it was still good so if you're not a mint fan it doesn't matter, add whatever you like).

I just wasn't in the mood for following a recipe so we made our own slow cooked lamb dish using flavours inspired from the Middle East.
Pomegranate and Red Pepper Slow Roasted Lamb
Approx 700g diced lamb
1 tin chopped tomatoes (and water to fill the tin)
1 large onion peeled and chopped or two small
1/2 an onion peeled and chopped
2 fat cloves of garlic, peeled
2 teaspoons of ground cumin
1 roasted red pepper from a jar
1 tablespoon of lime juice
1 tablespoon of pomegranate molasses
1 heaped teaspoon of sweet smoked paprika
1 tablespoon of oil for frying
Small handful of chopped fresh coriander to add on serving

Turn the oven to approx 175C, medium heat.
In a mini blender/processor add the pomegranate molasses, smoked paprika, lime juice, roast red pepper, ground cumin, garlic and the half of an onion. Blitz to a fine paste.
In a large heavy bottomed pan gently fry the large onion. Move to one side and add the lamb to brown. When the lamb is browned add the paste from the blender, let it bubble for a couple of minutes, keep stirring. Add the tinned tomatoes, fill the empty tin with water and then swill this around the blender to get the last bits of paste out then tip into the pan. Bring to the boil then cook in a medium heat oven for approximately 2 hours. Just before serving add the fresh coriander and stir through.
We served this with the Tabbouleh above. It got very big thumbs up from all!

Strawberry Jam Tarts with rose water and orange blossom water
Now these would have been a triumph if I hadn't totally messed up by putting too much jam in. Also I should have used shortcrust pastry and not puff but I was trying to be economical and use up the puff pastry from the cheese puff pies... Oh well. they still tasted great and as Little said 'Minus infinity looks but top tasting'.
I wont bother with a recipe, all I did was add a few drops of rose water and orange blossom water to some jam, mixed it up well then filled some pastry cases. You can see the disastrous results below. I like to show you my mistakes too!

There will be more Arabian inspired food later in the week.


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