Thursday, September 30, 2010


Was lying in bed last night thinking about my last blog post - hmmmm I do seem to get excited about small things!!! I think all I need to say here is buses.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Ebay hooray!

I love selling random stuff on ebay. Had a great time last year selling off a load of my old Guide and Brownie camp badges - which went quickly and successfully. Obviously a big market for those. I also sold a spare waterproof cover we had for the shopping buggy - Leigh was dismissive and thought noone would be interested. From my memory it went for about £10 - brilliant.

Dug out a couple of maternity items I'd never worn yesterday - some pants and some tights. I put the tights on for 99p and nearly set a Buy It Now price of £2. So glad I didn't - they sold for £4.20!! The pants haven't sold (yet - relisted them after the first sale). Mind you I'm not surprised. I bought them, got them out of the pack, realised that they were almost as big as our double duvet cover and decided then and there I would manage with what I already had. Over the bump knickers are not pretty!

Only 4 ratings away from my blue star...

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Lemon, almond and demerera sugar loaf cake

I wanted to try a lemon cake and found this on Nibblous. It is delicious! My only comment though would be that I assumed that the oven temperature given (160C) was for a regular oven so I reduced the temperature for my fan oven, The cake took about twice the time to cook! So I am now taking 160C as the fan temperature. Uses a 2lb loaf tin.

From Nigel Slater's Kitchen Diaries via Food Glorious Food.

200g butter
200g demerara sugar
90g plain flour
90g ground almonds
half teaspoon baking powder
1 large lemon
4 large eggs

1 lemon
2 tbsp demerara sugar
4 tbsp water

2 tbsp demerara sugar
the juice of 1 large lemon

Pre-heat oven to 160C. Line a loaf tin with greaseproof paper.

Make the topping: slice the lemon thinly and put into a saucepan with the 2 tbsp sugar and water. Bring to boil and simmer for around 5 minutes until most of water have evaporated and the lemons are lovely and sticky. Set aside.

Make the cake: cream butter with sugar until light and fluffy. Mix flour with almonds, baking powder and zest of the lemon. Set aside.

Beat eggs lightly and add to creamed butter and sugar. It will curdle a little but fear not - it comes good in the end! Gently fold in the flour and almonds by hand with a large metal spoon.

Scrape cake mixture into the prepared tin and lay the lemon slices on top, overlapping. Bake for approx 45 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean.

Whilst cake is baking, prepare the syrup: stir sugar into lemon juice and stir until partially dissolved. Spike top of warm cake and spoon over lemon and sugar.

Leave to cool in tin and then wrap in foil.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Hols in Yorkshire

Just got back from a lovely week's holiday in Yorkshire. We stayed in a little cottage in a village called Ellingstring, which is about 4/5 miles outside Masham (home to the Theakston brewery), and we found it was perfectly placed to go out and about with the boys. The cottage was great - all mod cons but still cottagey and very cosy. Zachary had a great time bouncing on all the beds to test them out and Leo was in his element - lots of drawers on his level to open and explore. Thanks to Nanny, we've also recently become members of the National Trust and made good use of our membership!

On Sunday, we took a trip out to Harrogate where we discovered Bettys (where I could easily bankrupt us!), and the beautiful Valley Gardens. The gardens were lovely and there was a great play park there, not to mention wonderful Ripley ice cream in the tea shop. We also took a trip to Ripley itself (about 3 miles out of Harrogate), took a turn round the town and bought lots of sweets and expensive sausages.

On Monday we went to Fountains Abbey in the morning and discovered that we could walk round and through the ruins, which was ace. Zachary was fully wellied up and spent the entire time searching for muddy puddles. He found lots! In the afternoon I'd booked us into The Forbidden Corner, which is quite indescribable but really great. It was a bit difficult getting round with the pushchair, and even when we dumped that, carrying Leo was not easy. So we'll be going back in a few years' time when they can both walk round. It's a big kind of garden with lots of hidden doors and tunnels, and underground rooms and chambers, and all sorts of hidden goodies. Well worth a visit.

On Tuesday we went to York - just over an hour from where we were staying. Used the Park and Ride which worked really well. We visited the Jorvik centre, the Minster (but didn't go in - £8 each!!!), walked along the Shambles and found the Travelling Man (board game shop). Also bought some very expensive (but very delicious) fudge from The Fudge Kitchen.

Wednesday saw us attempting a visit to Masham in the morning which was quickly abandoned due to a poor market and very blowy weather! Went instead to the Wensleydale Creamery at Hawes where we could basically eat our own weight in cheese in the sampling room. Back to Fountains Abbey in the afternoon and we explored the water garden and deer park as well. Plenty of exercise for us both pushing the double pushchair!

On Thursday we went to Brimham Rocks in the morning, which was fab. The weather started out iffy but was glorious by lunchtime and the views from the rocks were amazing. There was also a very handy pushchair path which was appreciated! We stopped at a new ice cream parlour called G&T's on the way back to the cottage and then went to Harrogate again in the afternoon for more play park.

A very busy week, tiring but great. And we managed to watch the entire 4th series of the US Office in the evenings - hilarious! All the holiday pics are on Flickr, but here are some good ones

The cottage

On the swings in Valley Gardens


Fountains Abbey

Brimham Rocks

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Economy Gastronomy

Leigh bought the Economy Gastronomy book recently and we've been trying out some of the recipes. Now, I confess that I haven't read the introduction to the book and just am just relying on what Leigh has told me and what I've picked up from the recipes as to the ethos behind it. The way I understand it is that the book shows how you can make a joint of meat, or other base meal (like the chickpea one we tried today) last for 2 or three dinner meals and save you some cash because you can make it go further. We try to be pretty good about making food go further than one meal, but it does tend to be fairly basic fare - so making our spag bol last 2 meals rather than just one.

However the recipes in this book are not particularly simple and use quite a few ingredients I wouldn't normally have in my store cupboard, so although the base mix/meat goes further, I still had to spend on the additional ingredients. We tried the poached chicken base last week - so from a whole poached chicken we made chicken and sweetcorn pies (6 small pies, each one enough for a main meal - yummy), coronation chicken (tasty but had no dried fruit in it, so not quite sweet enough for my taste, but easily resolved when made again), and got about 3 litres of chicken stock. Half of this went into the pies and I used the other half in a sweet potato risotto, which was very tasty. The book's suggested third meal is a hot and spicy soup with the stock, but we went a different way.

Today's foray was into the world of chickpeas. The third recipe is coming tomorrow, but so far they've been what Leigh calls 'weekend' recipes - that is, they are a bit fiddly and time consuming - ideal if you have a weekend afternoon free to spend in the kitchen. So not ideal for me to be making with the 2 boys running around, but I was able to make good use of Leo's nap times today and got the base and houmous made in the morning and the pie made well ahead of dinner time. I was concerned about getting the pie done because that itself (not counting making the base) was estimated by the book to take 35 minutes to make and 50 minutes to cook. Fortunately Zachary has been glued to the new series of Show Me Show Me this week so I was able to pop him in front of that while I cooked (bad mother that I am! Although I did ask if he wanted to help me, but the answer was no ... probably because there was no egg cracking involved!).

So here we have the chickpea base

Which made red pepper houmous - delicious

And Othello's Chickpea Filo Pie - ready for the oven

And out for the table

Hmmm. The writers of the book rave about this pie but we weren't too sure. It's okay but not fantastic - not sure if the problem is me not seasoning it enough (something I'm guilty of a lot) or whether it's going to be one just not to our taste. Essentially it's a filo pie, bottom layer being the chickpea base mixed with toasted coriander seeds and ricotta cheese, then pastry, then a layer of grated courgette with ricotta, pepper and lemon zest. Although the pie doesn't look too bad, I had a bit of a mare with the filo. It was the first time I've used it, and to say that I and my cooking aren't known for their delicacy and elegance would be an understatement! A lot of my cooking looks on the rustic side of agricultural, so trying to get to grips with really fine, cobweb-like pastry was fiddly!!! But I got there - maybe needed some more melted butter though as it tasted a bit floury when it came out.

Tomorrow, all hail the Anytime Spicy Chickpea Loaf. And then we need to decide on our next meat - ham??

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Family pictures

Inspired by one particular You Tube video I saw of a lady who took a picture of herself every day for 2 years, and (believe it or not) the BBC1 drama Framed (in which, amongst other things a teenager took a photo of her baby brother every day) I thought I would try to take a photo of Leo every day for the first year of his life. Time goes so quickly, and as I see him every day, I don't often appreciate the changes he is going through at the time, until I look back over old pictures.

I talked about this with Leigh and decided that every day was probably a little unrealistic! So it became every week, and we thought it would be good to take a family shot to see how we all grow and change over the year. We've managed to keep it up pretty well (there's only been 2 or 3 weeks we've forgotten or time has got away from us), and we're now well into the second half of the year. The photos aren't especially close up of our faces, so for example you can't see Leo's teeth as they are arriving (he's onto number 3 now!) but I'm keeping a note with each piccie about what we've been up to in the week, and any key events as a reminder. The full set is here on Flickr, but here is the first photo :

12th December 2009 - a little early really, but a test for the new tripod!

1st January 2010

and here is the most recent - 4th September 2010

Yummy, yummy, yummy!

Zachary helped me make these - when we got to the icing stage, he was very excited about the prospect of putting sprinkles on (which is what we do with the basic fairy cakes I often make with him). I tried to explain that these cakes have a nut on the top and not pink/multi-coloured sprinkles, but he would not be persuaded! We got the sprinkles into a bowl (so that he didn't manage to use up the entirety of the packets I had!) to be used on a few of the cakes, then Zachary declared he needed a spoon, went and got one from his cupboard and immediately ate a full spoonful of sprinkles!! Cheeky monkey. I took the spoon off him, explained he shouldn't just eat them and he appeared to acknowledge this. He asked for the spoon back, which I foolishly gave to him, and when I turned back, caught him with it mid-way to his mouth, again full of sprinkles!!!! Managed to get a few on the cakes...

(Good Food magazine, October 2010)

1 tbsp instant coffee granules
1 tbsp boiling water
115g butter, softened
140g self-raising flour
140g caster sugar
2 tbsp milk
2 large eggs
25g walnuts, chopped
For the icing :
2 tsp instant coffee granules
2 tsp boiling water
100g butter, at room temperature
225g icing sugar
12 walnut halves, to decorate

1. Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4 and line a 12-hole muffin tin with paper cases. Put the coffee granules and water into a mixing bowl and stir until smooth. Add the butter, flour, sugar, milk and eggs. Mix with an electric whisk until smooth. Stir in the walnuts, then spoon into the cases.

2. Bake in the centre of the oven for 20-25 minutes (about 18 mins if going into a pre-heated fan oven) or until risen and golden brown. Transfer onto a wire rack until cold.

3. To make the icing, put the coffee granules and water into a bowl and stir until smooth. Add the butter, sift in the icing sugar and stir until smooth and free of streaks.

4. Spoon onto the cupcakes, then decorate each one with a walnut half.