Monday, 31 August 2009

Spelt flour makes a pretty good chocolate brownie

Hello...! I know it's been a while.... :) Sharpham Park produce really fantastic things. I know this because my friend has been using spelt flour and other things for a good few years. Now produced by Sharpham Park and fairly easy to get hold of. Until this weekend I'd been a bit scared of using it myself but mid way through making brownies yesterday I realised we didn't have any normal white flour so I opted for the bag of Sharpham Park that's been sitting in the cupboard waiting for its debut in our kitchen. Check them (Shaprham Park) out because I'm scared no more. I'll be using spelt flour a lot from now on. Here's the recipe below... I'm a bottle of vintage cava down and out of the habit of blogging so don't trust me on the how to as I still need to proof read this............. Missed you...

Chocolate Brownie using Spelt Flour
100g butter
150g caster sugar
100g muscavado sugar
175g plain chocolate
2 tablespoons golden syrup
2 large (ish) eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
100g organic refined spelt flour (Sharpham Park)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
Heat the oven to 175C (no fan!!). Grease and line a brownie pan or medium size springform cake tin. In a pan gently heat the butter, sugars, chocolate and golden syrup until all melted and smooth. Take the pan off the heat. Break the eggs into a bowl and whisk until frothy. In a separate bowl put all the dry ingredients and whisk to combine and aerate. Add the eggs and vanilla extract to the chocolate mixture, don't mix but add straight to the dry ingredients, then mix well until all combined. Pour the mixture into the pan/tin. Bake for 20-30 minutes.

Let it cool for a bit before eating it all!! I would suggest legging it with the whole thing hidden under your top to the furthest point from the house, better/easier still if there's a shed or tree to hide behind. Blame it on the dog when you return and the whole thing is gone. Besides you can always make more.
Taste and texture are the most important things for us in a brownie and this got A+++ !! From the neighbours too who got to try it, when after raving about the new brownies I'd made I stupidly said you must try some. I had to give some up... We must learn from my mistakes... Sod instilling in the kids that sharing is a good thing.

Saturday, 11 July 2009

The elusive perfect life...

Whilst I might sometimes feel that our life is far from perfect, wading through the quagmire of crappola. I should stop, smell the flowers and realise, remind myself even, that our life is indeed perfect.

The boys ate leftover chorizo and wild mushroom risotto, added to which I cooked them a beautiful sirloin steak to share, 2 mins each side and then cut into strips...

I'm now making bunting out of old clothes, much better that it can come out for every celebration, seen and remembered, instead of packed in tissue and kept in the attic room... THIS IS A GOOD TIP!

Sorry I've been such a bad blogger recently, there's a lot going on... Next week I'm going to allow myself time to read what you've all been up to. Having taken a sneaky peak today I know I'm going to have to set aside a good few hours. Big loves to you all! xxxx

Sunday, 31 May 2009

Up - Disney Pixar style - a preview screening.

It's weird. I have another blog, by another name that I've never written anything on... There are times when I want to write but I don't want to write about food so then I'm torn do I just write it all here or do I start writing on the other blog... Just a thought..................

In the meantime this isn't food but for those in the South East of England, today was glorious. And (sorry I know you're not supposed to start with and) on this glorious day we had free tickets to see a preview of the latest Disney Pixar film Up at The Empire in Leicester Square. We were up early, driving to the nearest town to get the 8.30ish train to London. We arrived in Leicester Square to a smallish queue of people who presumably had also got free tickets (courtesy of The Times Culture+ club). Five minutes later we were glad of our early start because there were hundreds of people behind us. I'm also thankful for the little Italian coffee shop that I quickly ran to for my morning caffeine fix.

Anyway UP, the film was beautiful, even better for being in 3D. Apparently it's the first animated 3D film to open the Cannes Film Festival. I cried a couple of times. Okay so those who know me wont find that hard to believe as some say I cry at anything, equally that I laugh at anything too and laugh we did. Though I have to say even Hubs had a tear in his eye in some parts so it must have been moving... Not that he doesn't have a heart you understand. Anyway when it comes out try to see it and if you don't get to see it at the cinema then get it the moment it comes out on DVD. Some people have said that children might not enjoy it... Well our 4 and 7 year old boys LOVED it and were still talking about their favourite parts of the film at bedtime.

Those same boys have had a great half term holiday and made us really proud with their impeccable behaviour today. They're at such a great age, really good fun and just lovely to be around. I'm saying that at the end of half term too. A lady on the train even commented on how gorgeous and well behaved they were. Part of me thought should I say "Oh they have their moments." But then I thought no, I'm just going to accept her compliment and say thank you, because I agreed with her. Proud parents in the Little Foodies household tonight.

Thursday, 30 April 2009

Duck is not frugal food

Normally a medium size chicken can feed all of us and with a little stretching any last minute stragglers that turn up at feeding time... Plus the usual extra meals, possibly a sandwich or two, chicken stock or soup the following day. Duck just doesn't cut it and whilst very tasty I don't think we'll buy another whole duck. It barely fed the 4 of us, maybe it was just a weedy duck.... It also coated the oven in fat despite having 3 layers of tinfoil covering it. How did that happen? Possibly when Hubs took the foil off to crisp the skin... yes, that could have been it. That could also have been when the house had a thin veil of smoke wafting through it too... Good, think I've definitely talked myself out of ever buying a whole duck to roast again.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Cheese and Chive Omelette

Long ago I had to be in the mood for an omelette but now I quite like them for lunch and experiment with various different flavours. The household favourite is definitely cheese and chive. We always cook each omelette per person separately, then there's no arguing about doneness or who has the bigger portion.

Cheese & Chive Omelette (for 1)
2 eggs
splodge of milk
2 oz grated cheddar
handful of chives chopped (even better if you can pick straight from the garden)
a little oil for the pan

In a bowl, whisk the eggs and milk. Heat the oil in a small frying pan and turn the grill on. When the frying pan is warm pour in the egg. Move it around with a fork a little until it starts cooking, then leave for a minute. Sprinkle the grated cheese and chopped chives over the egg, leave for a further minute then if you only have one omelette to cook put this under the grill (if your frying pan can take it). Or transfer/slide the omelette to a baking tray which can go under the grill, cook until the cheese has melted. This is a great plan I've come up with if you've got several to cook as I can use the frying pan to start another omelette. This way I can normally sit down to eat mine just as the first person is finishing theirs... hmm.

Also we don't like our egg runny in omelette, I think you need to experiment to get it right for you. We also don't add salt or pepper, we add it if we want it at the table.

Chives are Small's favourite thing at the moment. We have to stop him eating them from the front garden on the way to the car or otherwise it absolutely stinks the car out. He takes umbrage if we say it stinks. Stink being a bad word in his mind. He corrects us, saying that chives smell they don't stink!! He does make me laugh.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Tinks the frog DOG that has totally captured my heart.

I LOVE OUR LITTLE PUPSTER! The PupMeister, the Puppaluppy, she's one of a kind and has very much captured our hearts. Well, at least she's captured the hearts of Little, Small and myself. Hubs is yet to be captured, gumpy git! She had her little lady op yesterday, on the day I chose to take my God-daughter to see Marley and Me. If I ever had any street cred with that girl, I certainly don't have any now. I cried like a baby and 10 minutes after the film had finished and we were sat in my car I was still crying! Like I said... bad timing, Tinks was with the vet having her ladyhood taken away. Part of the agreement we signed when we adopted her from rescue. Harumpf......

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Soon there will be a DIET in the meantime, Lemon and Vanilla Cheesecake

This is the first time I've made cheesecake and I think it was a resounding success! It's always been one of those things that I was a bit afraid to make, something about the water bath I guess.

Lemon and Vanilla Cheesecake from Olive Magazine via the BBC GoodFood Website.

I did a couple of things differently, used vanilla extract instead of a seeds as we didn't have any vanilla pods, made a crushed digestive biscuit base, and I didn't make the candied lemon peel to go on the top after reading comments from readers on the BBCGoodFood site.

Smoked Salmon Mousse - low (er) fat

Smoked Salmon Mousse
1 1/2 x 200g packs of light Philadelphia or other cream cheese
250ml half fat creme fraiche
250g smoked salmon
3 spring onions washed and chopped
Handful of fresh dill washed and chopped
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt and Pepper

Put everything in a processor and blitz until smooth, scoop into whatever you're serving it in then cut up thin strips of smoked salmon and place on top with a tiny sprig of dill. Chill in the fridge until you're ready to serve. It's better if you can make it a few hours before serving to allow the flavours to meld together. We served with french toast.

This could serve 6 people as a starter, possibly more if you were serving alongside other nibbles.

Saturday, 11 April 2009

I'm not sure we make good guests at a dinner party

Recently we went for dinner with friends from the village. It was quite simply the best meal I have ever eaten at a dinner party. Our hostess I now know is an amazing cook, her husband very attentive, especially when it comes to ensuring your glass is never empty. To top this they were great fun, and didn't seem to mind when some of us got rather loud and silly.

To start we had a choice of
Hot Garlic Prawns with Chilli Lime Mayo or Homemade Pate.
I went for the prawns, the chilli lime mayo was something I then dreamed of eating for the next two weeks. So much so I'll be making it tonight for a kitchen supper we're having with old friends. I also tasted the pate which was smooth and packed full of flavour. Absolutely spot on.

The main course was Rack of Lamb, served with Roasted Veggies and a Red-Hot Sweet Potato Gratin. All delicious! Also I'm not normally a fan of sweet potato but this changed my mind.

We were then given a choice of pudding and being the greedy pig that I am I needed to have some of each : Baked cheesecake with butterscotch sauce, followed by Chocolate Meringue with Cherries... Both of them superb!

EDIT: I forgot the cheese board.... silly me...

It was a raucous evening, which saw my husband drink champage, red wine, dessert wine, port and several B52's...You can imagine what a joy he was the following day. Don't get me wrong I drank my fair share but I think I've learned my limit, it's been hard and it took a LOT of practice but I got there in the end. (Quickly crosses fingers and hopes she doesn't let herself down anytime soon.)

I spent days dreaming about the food and eventually begged our lovely hostess for the recipes. Not only is she an amazing cook, she's also very gracious. I'll be repeating two of the things we ate this evening:

The Red-Hot Sweet Potato Gratin can be found here at Times online.
The Hot Garlic Prawns with Chlli Lime Mayo can be found here at All About You, though I'll probably only make the mayo as I plan to serve it with something else, I have prawns in reserve in case I change my mind, which wouldn't be unusual.

If you're entertaining and don't know what to cook, these two things alone would ensure your guests speak kindly of you afterwards... Do a good job with the other stuff and they'll be day dreaming for weeks...

Thanks C & N, we had a top evening and it really was the best food I've ever eaten at a dinner party!

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Kids Easter Tea Party Menu

Somehow, and I think I may have even suggested it myself I've agreed to throw an impromptu childrens' tea party tomorrow. I guess it will be Maundy Thursday... Little and Small have put their requests in and we'll be having the following:

cucumber (of course)
egg mayonnaise
tuna mayonnaise

Super Simple Sort of Simnel Cupcakes (recipe below)
Chocolate Nests
Easter Biscuits which they want to decorate with their friends

I'll post pictures asap after the tea party... Must go, got some work to do between now and then...

Super Simple Sort of Simnel Cupcakes
6oz butter, softened
6oz light brown sugar
6oz self raising flour
3 eggs at room temperature
10 dried apricots finely chopped
large handful of sultanas or raisins (we only had sultanas)
1/2 teaspoon of mixed spice
Block of ready to roll marzipan
Few tablespoons of apricot jam

Preheat the oven to 175C. Place cupcake cases in a baking tray. Slice a quarter of the marzipan block off and make into 12 small balls (grape size). Cream the butter and sugar. In a separate bowl put the chopped apricots and sultanas or raisins, add a spoonful of flour and mix. Add the eggs one at a time to the creamed butter and sugar and mix well. Add the flour a spoonful at a time and mix. Add the mixed spice and dried fruit and mix well. Fill the cupcake cases 3/4 full and then bake in the oven for approximately 18-25 minutes. When they are done take them out to cool on a wire rack. Then roll out the rest of the marzipan and cut circles that will fit the top of each cake. When the cakes are cooled, brush with apricot jam and then place the marzipan circles on each one. With the leftover marzipan make balls to sit atop of each cake. Authentic simnel cake has baked marzipan on the top so I guess for a more authentic look you could scorch the top with a blowtorch but I wouldn't and that way the children can help with making them at every stage.

Monday, 6 April 2009

Mars Milkshake - Little Foodies version

Before I begin it is the Easter holidays lest you get straight on the phone to the Children's Food Campaign or worse Childline.

For breakfast we had crumpets and our version of a mars milkshake. Though Small often needing to do the opposite wanted porridge (and a rocket ice lolly)! Bad mother! Bad mother! Anyway, here's our version of a mars milkshake.

You will need
2 standard size mars
6 generous scoops of ice cream (we used Waitrose chocolate)
2-3 cups of skimmed milk (he he! See I was trying to do my bit for healthy)

Slice the mars thinly (about 3mm slices), then gently heat in a pan on a very low heat. I added a little skimmed milk when it started to melt as it made me nervous that it was going to catch on the bottom of the pan.
In the meantime I put 6 scoops of chocolate ice cream in a large jug.
When the mars is completely melted, pour over the ice cream and then add the rest of the skimmed milk.
Blitz with a stick blender, then serve.

Why would I give them such a crappy breakfast? Because it's the holidays and because I'm after the Super Mum of the year award from my children. I also know we have a very full fruit bowl which they will have done their very best to finish by the end of the day and by the time they go to sleep this evening they'll have had far more than the recommended 5 a day. For us, it's about balance.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

38 years later and my Dad is still wetting the babies head!

It's no joke - I was born on April Fools Day

It would be lovely to share cake for real but in the meantime please take a virtual bite! Scroll down to the bottom if you're here for the April Fools joke...

Here's coffee sponge with dark chocolate icing and white chocolate buttons and just chocolate to the right.

Simple vanilla sponge with custard filling (creme anglais if you're posh), covered in melted chocolate and decorated with white chocolate buttons.

Beautiful vanilla cupcakes

Nutty, chocolate brownies.

A nice little April Fools Joke to play tricks on people. Salt instead of sugar, had it done many times. Bit dull on your birthday. Take note people!!

However this link is great. It shows you how to make what looks like a cup of coffee or hot chocolate which has spilled. You can then place it on a carpet or sofa and preferably play the joke on someone who is very houseproud. We had friends over this afternoon and we made some of these. They're drying out as I type. Can't wait to try them. Oops! Forgot they're for the children.

Also take a quick look at this at the Guardian.

Sunday, 29 March 2009

The Best Yorkshire Puddings I've Ever Made

I was proud as punch when I opened the oven door to see the resplendent hugeness that was 12 yorkshire puddings. I was even prouder when for the first time ever they didn't sink. My mum had driven over 300 miles to eat them, even she was proud. We're all nicely full after lots of roast beef and all the trimmings.

How did I make these great yorkshire puddings? Funnily enough using the American method I think. So do I now call them popovers?

I cup of eggs, 1 cup of plain flour and 1 cup of part water/part milk.
Whisked it all up in a big jug and left it to rest for half an hour on the side.
I cooked them in a large muffin tray, put a tablespoon of oil in each section.
Put the tray in a really hot oven (225C) until the oil was almost smoking, which I've not done before.
Took this out then poured in the pudding mix until just over three quarters full.
Put in the hot oven for 25 mins.

They were done perfectly. Mum thinks the reason mine have always sunk before is that I must have taken them out before they were fully cooked or opened the oven door when they were part cooked.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

"Can I have moo turd on it please?"

I love the funny stuff my kids say....

Moo TURD on hotdogs - what an interesting thought!

They've got adventurous palates but I think even they would stop at cow sh**!

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Let sleeping dogs lie, while you drink tea and eat cake...

Our very lovely puppy who is now 7 months. A beautiful warm day for snoozing on the patio.

The cake : Nigella's mother-in-law's madeira cake, with the addition of poppy seeds. From the book - How to be a Domestic Goddess. The recipe can be found here on the Nigella website. While this cake was baking I said that I thought it was a bit laborious to make but how wrong I was, every mix with the wooden spoon was more than worth the effort. Delicious!!

Friday, 13 March 2009

Do something funny for money...

So this is me - first time I've shown my face!

Comic Relief is here again... and this year Red Nose Day is all about doing something funny for money. Imagine my pride when Little decided at the last minute to enter himself in the do something funny for money talent competition at school playing guitar (he's only been learning for a few months). He freestyled, "I made it up as I went along Mummy." For a gentle one who can be painfully shy this was a big deal and he came second which was a real result. I can only imagine what it sounded like........ The boys are dressed in red today as am I. Small and I have sprayed our hair red. Little is wearing a red bandana, being far too cool to spray his hair red. I popped back to school just before lunch and the atmosphere was great. Penny sculptures were made earlier in the week and they've raised money by paying to wear mufti. Love it!

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Why? Because I love it! Holding a heart in the palm of a 'Little' hand and the fact that the heart was provided by Mother Nature herself.

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Flour and butter to thicken sauces at the end?

I read on a blog a while ago about mixing up flour and butter and then freezing knobs of it, adding to sauces to thicken as and when you need... Did I read correctly and does anybody know the ratio of flour to butter?

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Does rugby help romance?

Not really! Well done Wales, shame for England...

Cheating Fake Eccles Cakes

We made Eccles Cakes, well, sort of...

Block of shop bought puff pastry (I think it should be flaky pastry made by hand!)
4oz raisins (should have been currants but we didn't have any)
1oz butter
1oz light brown sugar
freshly ground nutmeg
grated rind of lime, lemon and orange (I think proper Eccles cakes are supposed to have chopped mixed peel in).
Plain flour for rolling
A little more sugar and egg & milk wash to glaze

Take the puff pastry out of the fridge about half an hour before you're going to use it. Pre-heat oven to 175C (fan). Cream the butter and sugar. Add the raisins/currants, freshly grated nutmeg (to taste) and grated fruit rind - mix well. Roll out the puff pastry on a floured surface and then cut out circles (large mug size). Place a heaped teaspoon of the fruit mix in the centre of each circle, then bring up the edges and push together to seal. Turn the messy side over, smoother side up then roll to flatten until the fruit starts to show through the pastry. Cut two slits in the top of each cake then brush with an egg/milk wash. Sprinkle with sugar then bake in the pre-heated oven for approximately 20 minutes. Check after 15.

You've only got this crummy picture, we also made a huge one in a flan dish but I can't download anymore pictures for some reason.

Friday, 6 February 2009

School Dinner versus Packed Lunch

This subject can make me a bit cross...

For the record Little has packed lunch and has done since the end of Reception, when he was still four years old. He chose packed lunch because he said they overcooked the veg. He wasn't being a fussy eater he just didn't like the food they gave him. As he eats virtually everything that is served to him at home or when we're out and about I know that he wasn't being fussy. It was only because my friend worked in the school and saw that he was sitting there pushing his food around, and was still sat there long after everybody else had left the dining hall. Thankfully because she'd seen how much he eats at home she could tell that he wasn't eating very much. We made the decision to swap him over to packed lunch and I've not regretted that decision.

Yes, I know the take up for school lunches is poor but that's because they still haven't got it right. I also know that for some children it is the only decent meal they'll get but that doesn't mean I have to feel guilty for opting out and going for packed lunches.

Whilst our packed lunches are not quite Bento style, they're made with love and they're full of good things. Packed Lunch can get a bit boring but I don't believe that it has to be a poor relative to school dinners. I also really don't like it when I choose to put a little treat in the packed lunch and it gets frowned upon. The kids having school dinners quite often have sweet treats, at least 3 times a week so why shouldn't I put something sweet in. I do it once in a while but if I did want to do it every day then why shouldn't I. I've also never put crisps in his packed lunch, mainly because he's not a big fan of crisps. I'm on a rant... can you tell?

An average packed lunch that leaves this house consists of a sandwhich or wrap, always salad and a piece of fruit with a carton of fruit juice. Occasionally I'll do a pasta, rice or couscous salad. We did buy a flask to do hot food but he never quite got on with opening it safely. If anybody can recommend any good ones that are easy for young ones to open, I'm all ears.

Anyway, for the moment and until schools can get it right we're sticking with packed lunches and when Small goes full time soon, he'll be having packed lunch too.

Some links that you might find interesting.
Food for Thought: Why haven't school dinners got any better? Article from the Independent newspaper with an interview with the famous Prue Leith, who heads up the School Food Trust. It makes interesting reading.

Lunchinabox - Beautiful Bento Lunches

The Daily Tiffin - They always have a lunch box spotlight.

The Great Big Veg Challenge - Charlotte and Co. have swapped over to packed lunches.

P.S. I should just add that nobody at our school has made me feel bad about packed lunch, though there was a comment about sweet treats...

Thursday, 5 February 2009

I think I have a crush on Stephen Fry...

to find out why just click Stephen Fry. We only just got the leak fixed and the entire contents of the attic room is downstairs as this was the only way they could access the burst pipe - so not much space to swing a cat (not that I'd do that, we love our cat), let alone prepare great food. Laters Dudes!xx

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Biscuits for breakfast

...and a bad ass healthy lunch... We are now truly ill... Yesterday I asked Hubs if the term splitting headache had come about because somebody's head had actually split from a headache. It also feels like hot coals have taken up residence in our chests' too.... Melodramatic? Hypochondria?

This morning after Hubs had gone to work, I went back to bed, not to sleep, door wide open, able to hear everything, no need to call social services, I just needed to lie down. Small hit the fruit bowl, he polished off 2 bananas, 2 apples, 3 tangerines and then came to tell me he was still hungry. I said I'd get him some breakfast in a bit. You'd think with all that fruit his stomach could have waited a while... Anyway, Little got up a bit later and then..... the three of us had biscuits for breakfast and I don't feel like a bad parent at all... Why? Because I know that later today I will force myself to prepare some nutritious food that will help heal our poorly bodies and I know we don't eat biscuits for breakfast every day. Infact this could be the first time, but it might not be the last.

This sandwich/tortilla filling was excellent... and healthy, we ate lots of it yesterday.

Grated cheddar cheese, chopped cucumber, chopped red pepper, mayonnaise, sweet chilli sauce - mix it all up - fill your sandwich or tortilla - very nice thank you.

Today I'll mainly be drinking this lemon, honey and ginger drink that I posted about back in 2007.

Monday, 26 January 2009

Little Foodies China go for an easy Chinese New Year

They've asked several times so now we're off again, learning about other countries and the foods they eat... For those who didn't know, it's Chinese New Year today, the Year of the Ox, we did have elaborate plans but we have a burst pipe above our kitchen ceiling (and since I started typing, it's now running down one of the lights into a strategically placed bin)... Someone coming tomorrow, apparently because the wet patches aren't sagging and the pressure in the boiler hasn't dropped completely we don't have to panic... That's good, not so reassuring, but good. Probably a good thing we've kept the lights turned off, instead we've got candles, the cooker hood light, a table lamp and a camping light - it's romantic! Also the boys and I have been invaded by some chest thing. Small woke up very early and came in to tell us that he had an alien in his chest, Little woke some time later and said he felt really hot inside his chest. This is how mine feels so I guess we've caught something... Anyway for these reasons alone we're going for the mega easy option tonight, more elaborate Chinese food and words another day. Happy Chinese New Year all...

Vegetable Stir Fry with noodles and a sachet of sauce
for 2
3 Spring onions, sliced
Yellow Pepper, de-seeded and chopped
Handful of bean sprouts
Couple of chestnut mushrooms, sliced
Packet of Amoy straight to wok noodles
Sachet of Blue Dragon Chow Mein Sauce

Saturday, 24 January 2009

Two Left Cheesy Feet and a Heart

No, I'm not talking about my husband... though he does have a heart!

We made cheese straws that look nothing like cheese straws. I remembered something in a Nigella book, I think it was Feast about cheesy feet, hence why I probably did foot shapes, heart shapes because I do love a bit of cheese. Cheesy grins are the best, especially gappy tooth cheesy grins - Little lost another tooth yesterday, in Maths.

These were made using a block of shop bought puff pastry, a little medium cheddar and a lot of Miss Moneypenny, a beautiful smooth hard cheese made by Hunter House Farm, it's a bit like parmesan, possibly better. These were gorgeous, even if I do say so myself and I'm sure it was all down to Miss Moneypenny. You can contact Hunter House Farm, who are in North East England by e-mail to find out where you can buy their cheese and yoghurt. I know they're at a lot of Farmers Markets in the North East.

(Thanks Mum for the lovely NE produce, more of which I'll write about another time. xx)

Anyway to make the cheesy feet/hearts. Take out a block of puff pastry from the fridge about 20 mins before you want to use it. While you wait your 20 minutes grate the cheese you're using (about 3-4 oz). Pre-heat the oven to about 180C with a fan. Sprinkle a clean work surface with flour, put the pastry on top and roll out to about 1/4 cm deep. Sprinkle grated cheese over half of it, fold the uncheesed part over and then roll again until approx 1/4cm deep, again sprinkle cheese on half, fold over and roll again until approx 1/4 cm deep. Cut out shapes, roll up and flatten any scraps (these can be used for tasting if they're any good before you serve to others!). Place on a baking tray and put in the oven for about 10 mins, check after this time to see if they're nicely golden brown, it not continue to cook a minute at a time more. Take out and cool on a rack. When totally cool store in an airtight container. Not sure how long they'd last as they were eaten straight away.

Thursday, 22 January 2009

What's a clucking muppet?

We live in a lane where it's quite unsafe for children to get out of the car, even in the drive because people speed past despite it being a 30 miles per hour speed limit. Anyway, because of this I park my car in a little parking space at the back of the house, accessed via a road. A road where currently there is some major work taking place, already the workmen have upset quite a few people for various reasons. Though it's inconvenient I was mindful that they had a job to do. Until yesterday when I had to reverse my car out and scraped it along some stupid barriers they'd put up.... I didn't say anything and when I checked my car (safely out of sight of workmen of course) and it was okay I thought not much more of it.

Until I came home with Little and Small in the afternoon. I couldn't get anywhere near the back of our house so I had to leave my car miles away (slight exaggeration). We got out and I heard the men arguing "Well you're a f***ing muppet!" In the vain hope that the boys hadn't heard I started talking utter rubbish very loudly. We walked past the workmen, came straight into the house where 4 year old Small looked up and said...

"What's a clucking muppet?" To which I replied, thinking jolly fast on my feet...
"Yes, err, ah, Yes do you remember watching the Muppet Christmas film? Well the muppets used to be a TV programme that was on every week when I was a little girl and I'm sure I remember there being some chickens that clucked all the time. Cluck! Cluck! Clucking!"
"Okay Mama." he said having thankfully lost interest.

It wasn't as if I really lied, I said I was sure I remembered, not that I definitely remembered. Little looked at me and raised his eyebrows, we've already had the discussion about the F word as it was being bandied around the playground... and that's the second time this week he's caught me out. The first time was a tiny lie to the dog trainer who checked Tinks to see if we had the correct ID tag... I wont go there but suffice to say it doesn't look great when I bang on about never ever telling lies and it's much better to take the flak and get into trouble than to lie and be found out later...

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Don't forget Burns Night this Sunday

I bought my haggis today in preparation for the celebrations on Sunday (click on the picture for a link to the makers Macsween). We'll serve it with mashed potatoes and mashed swede, all made with lots of cream, butter and a pinch of salt and pepper. I spent my early years growing up in the North East where we called swede turnip and I understand it's called rutabaga in the US. How to confuse people...

Although supposedly traditional we wont be pouring whisky over the haggis and we certainly wont be throwing half a bottle of whisky over it as seen by Oz Clarke in episode 3 of his latest venture with James May and the BBC - Oz and James drink to Britain.

For further links on information for Burns Night I highly recommend the following...

Address to a Haggis by Robert Burns
- you can read the poem but even better, click on a link to hear the lovley John Gordon Sinclair reading this famous poem. Worth it, for his voice alone.

Biography of Robert Burns

Burns Night - the running order of what traditionally happens at a Burns Night celebration.

The Works of Robert Burns

The Menu
Cock-a-leekie soup, my Dad used to make the best Cock-a-leekie soup.
Haggis with bashed neeps and tatties. Click this link for how to make your own haggis.
Clootie Dumpling, or I love the sound of a Typsy Laird, a Scottish Sherry Trifle

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Obama - "This is a big deal right Mama?"

I love my boys, their innocence and yet total reliability to be spot on.

What a speech... We have some very happy relatives in America today.

Monday, 19 January 2009

Nigella's damp lemon and almond cake

This cake is from How to be a Domestic Goddess. For once I followed the recipe exactly... The boys and I loved this cake, as did friends. H wasn't so keen as he said it tasted a little of marzipan (he doesn't like marzipan). I think that's probably the almond extract in it. Although it was really good, I have to say I still love and prefer lemon drizzle cake and lemon drizzle cupcakes, because it's just so easy and I can do it without weighing anything (only because I've made so many I can do it by eye)... I also make lemon cake using the old 4,4,4,2 method and add zest and juice of a lemon. May have to make them both at the same time and do a taste test, see which one wins with everybody else.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Cereal Bars your kids will love you for!

Edit: I swapped the cup amounts over for rice pops / oats - sorry - I've changed it to read correctly now.
I had a bag of dried cranberries and macadamia nuts that needed using up so I was looking for the recipe for the white chocolate, cranberry, macademia nut cookies. I was also in the middle of making Nigella's damp lemon and almond cake. In the end I decided not to make the cookies and make something up. I came up with these cereal bars.

White Chocolate, Cranberry, Macadamia Nut Cereal Bars
1 100g bar of white chocolate, broken into pieces
6-8 tablespoons of golden syrup
1oz butter
2 cups of rice pops/rice krispies
1 cup of porridge oats
175-200g mixed macadamia and dried cranberries

In a heatproof bowl over a pan of boiling water, melt the white chocolate, butter and golden syrup. While that's happening, roughly chop the nuts, if you can pick them out then great but if not just try not to cut the cranberries up too much. Even easier if you can buy the cranberries and macadamias separately. In a large bowl add the oats, rice pops, macadamia nuts and cranberries. Stir the chocolate, butter and syrup mix well then pour over the dry ingredients. Mix well then scrape it out into a lined tray. Press it down firmly with the back of a wooden spoon. Put it in the fridge to set and that's it.

Little tried some last night and asked if he could have some in his lunch, I don't think they're supposed to have chocolate in their lunchboxes but I thought if it's got fruit, nuts and oats in then it can't be that bad - surely?

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Healthy Low Fat Spicy Roast Parsnip Soup

I'm missing the holidays... aren't you? It's freezing cold, we've had snow, we've had it so cold that the trees and ground remained in a permanent state of winter wonderland, now the grey, damp weather has arrived. The sort that makes all your joints sing that they're getting old. I still love it. The wood burning stove giving that gentle warmth that doesn't dry your skin out like the central heating does and what better way to warm up than with a bowl of spicy roast parnsip soup.

I made the best version of this soup over the holidays as I had a glut of parsnips. When the children were tiny in our old house, they used to sit in those stroller things and whizz round the house, sore ankles if they knocked in to you. I used to love it when the organic veg box turned up, because I never bothered to look up what would be coming it was always a surprise, a bit like Christmas morning. The boys would scoot up to the box and start pulling everything out "What iz der? What got we?" This Christmas Eve the organic veg box really was just like Christmas, possibly because it was Christmas I know, but you get my point. The doorbell rang late afternoon, just as we were heading to a party for a couple of hours. I answered to this very jolly and I have to say good looking guy who handed me a box. A box stuffed full of organic fruit and vegetables, a great Christmas gift from Abel & Cole.

I like a lot of things about Abel & Cole but the thing I like best - the delivery guys, they're always happy and helpful. Now either they get great training. I used to be a training manager so I can normally tell when someone has had good training OR - they're on something... Either way, it works...

Healthy Low Fat Spicy Roast Parsnip Soup - could feed 4
4 good sized parsnips
1 or 2 onions
1 large potato
A really good pinch of each - ground cumin, ground coriander, ground ginger, hot smoked paprika, (a little chilli powder if you like your food hot).
500-750ml skimmed milk
750ml of stock - (vegetable or chicken)

Pre-heat the oven to about 180-200C. Wash, scrub and chop (into rough 2cm cubes) the parsnips and potato. (If the skin is not at it's best then peel them). Peel and chop the onion. Place in a roasting tray and lightly spray with olive oil. Mix all the spices together and then sprinkle over the vegetables. Cook in the oven for about 40 minutes, until the vegetables have some colour. At this point you could let the vegetables cool and make the soup at a later time. Put the veg in a pan, pour over the stock and then blitz with a stick blender. Then start to add the milk, depending on how thick you like your soup. Heat through and serve. Lovely with spring/salad onion on the top though obviously they're not in season right now!!

When I just checked the Abel & Cole site for a link I saw that they're doing a paperback version of the Abel & Cole cookbook at the reduced price of £5.00. It's a good book, I like it - a lot, and for a fiver, you can't really go wrong.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

What do you do when you're in somebody else's kitchen?

When you're in somebody else's kitchen do you ever...

open the cupboards?
sneakily open the cupboards when they're not looking?
peek in the fridge?
spy cookery books that you don't have and pick them up and start reading them?

I'm guilty of the last one and I very much want to look in other people's cupboards but the way I was dragged up stops me.

Monday, 12 January 2009

I love pie and you can tell I'm a food blogger because...

You can tell I'm a food blogger because... the only pictures I have of New Years Day are of food, albeit not very good ones!

Creamy Chicken, Bacon and Leek Pie made with love, as you can see from the hearts...

4-6 chicken thighs depending on size (4 large, 6 small)
one onion, peeled and finely diced
one small packet of cubed pancetta
one large leek, peeled and very finely sliced
1 teaspoon of dijon mustard
1 cup of double cream

1 packet of shortcrust pastry unless you're a domestic goddess and make your own. I need lessons!

Gently fry the onions in a little oil, add the bacon and chicken and cook for approx 5 mins, then add the leeks and cook for a further 5 mins. Add the cream and mustard and stir through, warm for a few minutes before transferring to a pie dish, then top with the rolled out pastry, making shapes if that's what floats your boat. Cook in a pre-heated oven (170C) for approx 30-40 mins.

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Coffee Baileys, Baileys Coffee, Baileys with a hint of Coffee...?

Baileys very kindly sent me a bottle of Baileys with a hint of coffee before Christmas and I've had every good intention of making something with it but I can't stop drinking it. I've made everybody who has entered the house taste it (with the exception of children of course!), I wasn't that generous with my measures, using the excuse that I needed to cook with it... The verdict so far - very positive.

Being honest, I'd stopped drinking Baileys and hadn't really had a Baileys on its own for years, if I did have one or two, preferring it with sambuca, a cocktail known as (avert your eyes if you're of a sensitive nature) a slippery nipple, or Baileys with coffee flavoured liquers like Kahlua or Tia Maria, now produced by Pernod Ricard - isn't everything now?

By coincidence I had a very delicious Baileys cheesecake the evening before I got the e-mail from the lovely Baileys PR lady and had wanted to try making it at home, and I will, at some point, though having seen the efforts of Spitton Extra here and Trainee Domestic Goddess here, I think I may have to try making Baileys coffee cream pots first, (recipe by James Martin).

When drinking Baileys with a hint of coffee, instead of cooking with it, the coffee flavour is subtle and in my opinion better than Baileys with Kahlua or Tia Maria which I've had my share and somebody else's in the past so I am definitely speaking from experience.

WARNING: Too much alcohol can blurrr your vision,
just enough so you don't see the dust!

Well done Baileys and of course thank you!

Sunday, 4 January 2009

I can't believe the holidays are almost at an end comfort food!

I've said it before but I really do hate it when the holidays end. We've just had the best Christmas ever, relaxed, good fun, the house full of love and laughter. The house is going to feel so empty tomorrow when the boys go back to school and hubs goes back to work. The boys have been adorable, even when they've been over excited and gone past the stage where you feel like stringing them up by their toenails. So to comfort food I called.

Creamy Chicken, Mushroom & Sundried Tomato (feeds 4)
4 chicken breasts, cubed, whatever size you prefer
half a packet of sundried tomatoes in olive oil
half a punnet of chestnut mushrooms, quartered
one onion, peeled and finely diced
one Knorr chicken stock cube (if it's good enough for Marco!)
one carton of creme fraiche
a little boiling water
a tablespoon of oil

Gently fry the onion in the oil, add the chicken and brown the meat, add the mushrooms, then add a little water (about 1/4 of a cup), add the stock cube and stir, then add the creme fraiche and the sundried tomatoes. Cook for about 10-15 minutes until the chicken is cooked through. We served with boiled rice and it got top marks. Excuse the rubbish photo - I was hungry!

Saturday, 3 January 2009

Banana Blueberry Buttermilk Muffins

I seem to have found my blogging mojo again. I didn't want to say it until I was actually posting regularly but it's just sort of happened and I'm loving my little blog again.

Banana and Blueberry Buttermilk Muffins
This REALLY good recipe can be found at the BBCGoodFood website.
Hubs loved these as they're not too sweet. The only thing I did differently was put a lot more blueberries in (we had a lot of them that were on the verge of turning).

Thursday, 1 January 2009

A brand new year and a chocolate peanut butter fudge brownie sundae to celebrate!

This is very loosely based on Nigella's chocolate peanut butter fudge sundae. I say loosely because I didn't look up the recipe in the book but went from memory and now I've looked up the recipe and got the link to Nigella's newly refurbished website for you, I realise that what we did was different. Though different it was delicious and uses fewer ingredients for the sauce, but it did have the addition of a brownie. Here's what we did...

What you need...
One large and very lovely trifle bowl. Though I'm pretty sure any old container would do.
Some delicoius chocolate brownies (made another day so there's no pressure). I used this recipe here at the lovely Backseat Gourmet blog.
Chocolate Ice Cream
Vanilla Ice Cream
Hot Chocolate Peanut Butter Sauce (recipe below)
Some indoor sparklers

Break the brownies up into mouthful size pieces and throw in the bottom of the bowl.
Using an ice cream scoop, make nice balls of ice cream and add to the bowl.
Pour over the warm chocolate sauce and quickly push the (unlit) sparklers into the ice cream or brownies. Light them at the table infront of everybody and then dig in with long handled sundae spoons. If I was eating this with people who are not my immediate family then I'd probably decant into individual bowls.

If there were a lot of you, you could make many layers of this but there were only 3 of us as Small insisted on going to bed early.

For the chocolate peanut butter fudge sauce, I broke up most (some went missing?) of one bar of Divine fairtrade dark chocolate, placed in a pan over a very low heat with a very heaped dessert spoon of whole earth crunchy peanut butter, added a few splashes of Waitrose extra thick double cream. Kept stirring until it went all gloopy then added 1/4 cup of milk and kept stirring over the low heat until it became silky smooth (with crunchy bits) again.... The whole process takes minutes.


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