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Usually Muesli

For Eliot whose breakfast was usually muesli

Updated: 2018-03-07T00:58:06.553+00:00


Welcome - Violet Sparks and a return to blogging!


I have my very own, properly related to me niece. The dark haired, mysterious beauty is called Violet and she looks perfect. Sadly I haven't yet met her due to the cursed Atlantic ocean, really expensive plane tickets to Denver and no job. It is vexing as the lack of a job means I have tons of time to visit my big bro, his annoyingly sexy wife and the munchkin however it also means a reduction in funds which means no happy trips. I am trying to figure out how to get someone to pay me for doing bugger all as I enjoy the freedom of no work but miss the benefits of an income.Anyhoo I was trying to decide the best way to celebrate a new niece, Harry thought something along these lines:But then Harry's idea of celebration is always some sort of running and grinning like a loon on a beach. And yes it is a bad picture but you try taking a good one of an insane Labrador running as fast as a hayfever suffers nose when you only have a tiny camera and there is a force 5 gale...I thought, as her name is one of those lovely old-fashioned names, something along the lines of afternoon tea would be more the ticket.To that end we made my favourite jam tarts - almond pastry, homemade raspberry jam and whipped cream. Can't you just hear the heavenly choir start up on that note!Crumbly, buttery shortbread, the proper stuff with semolina in the recipe.Ina Garten's lemon bars - I just love lemon bars so the Americans have given us something other than Violet!and a wonderful almond and lemon cake with an amaretto whipped cream and raspberries.So the arrival of Violet has also heralded the arrival of even more thigh fat for me which is bad news as I have to get Kate Moss thin for my wedding in November. Eeek. This blog is going to become '100 Ways to Eat Beans'.Welcome to the world Violet and this is your first lesson in just how late your cool British aunt inevitably is. XXXXXX[...]

Marmalade Soup


For the second time this year my jam / marmalade has refused to set. I have, however, invented marmalade soup and damn delicious soup it is as well! It may have something to do with the 3 day extended making period, I started on Friday by slicing the oranges and soaking them in a little water along with the pips. I also started the SP sauce which inevitably makes the house reek of vinegar and cloves.

Saturday morning I fished out the pips and was about to start the whole process when we decided to nick up to Stoke so that Harry could gorge on disgraceful amounts of food. Labrador heaven in other words.


Harry's bed is now too small for him due to the copious amounts of food eaten by him this weekend. (Before any Labrador Rights people start to leave threatening comments this is not Harry's bed. This is in fact a puppies bed, Harry kicked the puppy off in order to curl himself up as small as he could and pretend to be comfortable whilst the puppy slept on the hard floor.)

We returned on Sunday after eating far too much pie, drinking too much gin and sleeping badly on a smaller bed than we are used to. No one should have too sleep that close to someone else! The house still reeked of vinegar and the oranges had come to no harm.

I did all I should - boil, add sugar, boil some more, boil for a bit longer, panic about the colour, have a shower, boil more and so on. I thought after about half an hour enough is enough bottle and be damned. Even after half the day in the fridge it is still soup. To add insult to injury Bobo took one look and pointed out that my thin slices were quite long and should they be, I pointed out boiling hot sugary things and insults not clever.

I am re-boiling tomorrow.

The SP sauce is fab - pictures tomorrow for I have missed the light.

I AM BACK!!!!!


Well that was a long break in the states! Well not really, after the wedding of the year (only because I didn't have a pirate wedding of my own) and a small road trip round the states I then had to do re-writes on my dissertation and couldn't face writing another word until now.

So I understand I have probably lost anyone who ever read my blog and will have to start from scratch again but hopefully some nice photos and good food will tempt y'all back. I am going to stop relying on Bobo to take all the photos and try to learn how to handle a camera for more than shots of what is in my mouth. And I am going to try and cook more than just cake - that may be harder than the camera bit but my ever expanding waist line is more than a little unpleasant, if I were to go on the beach I might just get dragged back into the ocean by Greenpeace.

I will be posting my first recipe this weekend probably for SP sauce - home made HP sauce (a little like A1 sauce for all you Americans out there) and chili sauce - insanely hot and good with cheddar....Toodles for now.

Coming soon......


I will be back! I am leaving the US tomorrow and will really try to update my blog once I get used to UK time again.

The next month is going to be really hectic - I need to start and finish my dissertation - but there are lots of recipes I want to try and photos are required for our new business Crushhouse so I promise to make it worth your while if you hang in there.

I also need to go back and grovel to the lovely Daring Bakers and see if I am still allowed to call myself one.....

First new post with holiday piccies next week.......

Big Brother Rocks!


Sorry not that big brother but my big brother (pictured with the lovely Lucy)! Hurrah I am going on holiday! Well I am going to Boulder to see my brother so leaving one damp, cold place for another cold place but I will get to see snow, drink Jamba Juice (god i miss it in the UK) and stroll round Wholefoods. I can't wait!
I had fantastic sushi last time I was there so I am looking forward to repeating that as well as the most wonderful hot beef Salvaggio's Sandwich Shop experience. We also had great BBQ, so great I am salivating at the thought!

Trouble is I am on a diet for his wedding in June (I ordered the bridesmaid dress a size too small as incentive) so I may have to stick to the salads or save for lipo...
Anyway I shall be baking hard this weekend to get my next Daring Bakers challenge done and photographed before I leave on Tuesday. I will also try to post some of the other bits and pieces I have cooked recently just in case anyone is reading!

Mothers Day Pudding Cake


Mothers day is on the first Sunday in March in the UK and since I have had my own house it is tradition for Mummy to come to us for the day. This year she and Pa slept the night much to Harry's delight - he loves his Auntie Mummy! For me it was a great excuse to pop out and buy new bedlinen, a new passion, as well as candles, nice soap, a mummy's day gift and best of all plan what we were going to eat.

We had turkey, an enormous monster I couldn't resist buying on Christmas Eve when they were all reduced. I braised peas and lettuce, made fab bread sauce, great gravy, sprouts, roast potatoes and yummy purple sprouting. Wonderful, just like Christmas without all the panic! Pudding was the most glorious light lemony cake courtesy of Nigella.

I love this cake it is meringue covered cake filled with whipped cream and lemon curd, what could be better? I love a lemon pudding and this one feels light and is easy to make ahead. Sorry about the photo but none of us could wait while I took one of the whole thing and this was all that was left over after 5 of us had attacked it...
Lemon Meringue Cake
(Adapted from Feast by Nigella Lawson)
125g v soft unsalted butter
4 eggs separated
30g caster sugar
100g plain flour
25g cornflour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon bicarb of soda
zest of 1 lemon - I don't use this as I am not a fan of zest
4 teaspoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons milk
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
150ml double cream
Large splosh Amaretto (about a single measure)
150g lemon curd

Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees. Line and butter two 21cm sandwich tins.

Mix the egg yolks, 100g sugar, butter, flour, cornflour, baking powder, bicarb and lemon zest in a processor. Add the lemon juice and milk and whizz again. Divide the mixture between the prepared tins, there won't be much mixture but it will just go so spread it out as evenly as you can.

Whisk the egg whites and cream of tartar until peaks form then slowly whisk in 200g of sugar. Divide the mixture between the two tins, spreading the meringue mixture straight on top of the cake batter. Smooth one flat with a metal spatula and peak the other one using the back of a spoon. Put into the oven for 20-25 minutes.

With a cake tester, pierce the cake that has the flat meringue topping to check it’s cooked all the way through. Remove both cakes to a wire rack and let cool completely in the tins.

Unmould the flat-topped cake onto a cake plate, meringue side down. Whisk the double cream with the Amaretto until thick but not stiff then set aside. Spread the flat sponge surface of the first cake with the lemon curd, then spatula over the cream and gently put the other cake on top. Cut with a very sharp knife otherwise you can get sliding.

Daring Bakers - French Bread


This is Sarah reporting for the Daring Bakers the time - 15:00, the date - 29th Feb, the challenge - to make French Bread that takes about 10 hours and blog about it today!! Step by StepBread & I are not friends. I can make a fab no knead loaf and a brilliant low GI seed loaf but they both have one thing in common - they are easy. They represent no challenge to anyone, you simply mix, leave to rise and then cook. Julia Childs French Bread on the other hand is a long winded as a French lunch break.15:05 - I have messed up already. I have halved the recipe as we don't eat much bread and I am not certain enough to give any away. I forgot to halve the water. I was wondering why the hell the dough was sloppy, its because I used double the amount of water I needed. Instead of being intelligent and just making up more yeast and measuring the flour I have been daring (stupid) and just added until it feels right. Oh God this is going to be a disaster but for comedy's sake I will continue with the challenge.15:24 - maybe everything will be fine I have battered the dough gently with my dough hook and it feels silk soft maybe a little tacky but my add flour instinct may be right after all. I am putting my baby to bed for the first rise, I will walk the dog during this period.15:25 - Maybe everything won't alright I have no plastic with which to cover my bowl to enable my baby to rise. I hope aluminum foil will work just as well....16:30 - It rises! It rises! I couldn't resist peaking, I am nervous and excited what if I don't love my baby?16:50 - I am going to need drinks to see me through this long dark night. I am thinking raspberry daquiris and lemon drops will help. I am going out for supplies.17:30 - I have my first bubble. I can't stop peeking which may of course ruin the end result...17:35 - My first bubble has deflated. I must stop peeking...18:30 - It appears to be growing warts, I am not sure I am going to love my baby...18:54 - Dough deflated and turned into a puffy, yeasty pillow. Have sent boyfriend to collect drinking, I mean baking buddy for the evening. I can not leave such a young baby on its own.19:00 - I must make supper, starting to chop tomoatoes for salsa, need to make burgers, potatoes and salad. Must also make a start on cocktails oh yeah must do that!19:30 - 1 lemon drop down, 1 bag of chips with guacamole and 1 quesadilia. Oh yeah baby is rising again tough little sucker!20:00 - Another lemon drop, scared but take a peek at baby. Its time. I remove carefully whilst Claire makes more drinks. The blender is off putting but I manage it without mishap. I shape the soft baby into 2 vague rounds. (Lemon drops are potent, 2 shots of lemoncello & triple sec in each). Now I must, no they must rest....20:30 - Another lemon drop. We eat homemade burgers, a little dry, with rosemary potatoes, a little overcooked, I forgot the garlic - damn. I must not cook when drinking!20:40 - Rise my pretties. Rise.20:50 - Another lemon drop.21:10 - another lemon drop.....21:20 - another lemon drop.....must rise, please rise....22:03 - must put in oven, must have another lemon drop. Have now turned doughy pillows and placed in oven hoping for the best. Bugger have also burnt my finger. Double bugger have also drunk best part of a 2 bottles of booze. Also burnt thumb, I hate my baby.22:21 - last lemon drop. Me & Claire now tired need sleep, bloody baby keeping us awake. Could do with another lemon drop or hot chocolate with cream and whiskey.22:35 - Finally it is done. History will either celebrate or curse me. I can not try it until tomorrow .22:54 - I am tired. I must go to bed. Please excuse the poor pictures but the professional photographer I live with has left his cameras in a safe at work. The shame. I will update tomorrow after tasting the unattractive baby.Goodnight and sweet dreams. X UPDATE: My bread was surprisingly good! The crust was crispy and it[...]

Muddy Landslide Cupcakes


It was the American's birthday smack bang in Lent. She has given up all things sweet for 40 days & nights but she relented for the big day and demanded cupcakes - she is from New York I think they are demanding. I couldn't make just any cupcakes as this was her one shot at sweet heaven before lent rules applied again so I figured mix together her favourite cocktail and cupcakes and there is a pretty good chance they will go down well.Now the favoured cocktail is the mudslide - Tia Maria, Bailey's, Cream, Vodka - all perfect ingredients for a cupcake. Full of anticipation I made Tia Maria chocolate cupcakes but foolishly I used a new cupcake recipe instead of sticking to faithful Magnolia Bakery's. They were bland, they tasted like store cupcakes not home made, organic delights. I couldn't taste the coffee even though I added half a cup of Tia Maria and espresso powder and I couldn't taste the chocolate. You won't be getting the recipe - yuck!My tasters did think they were good - Bobo however thinks anything someone else has cooked is good and same goes for Sam (I also think they are a little afraid of me). In light of this I figured a strong tasting frosting would be just the tickets so Baileys was the way to go. I was wrong. I did all the usual bits creamed butter added Baileys and sugar and more Baileys and again yuck. Too sweet, and strangely bland as well. Then it started to split and look very unattractive. I didn't take photos. Some poor souls ate them.I was going to leave it at that but I also wanted to enter Cupcake Hero and knew my first efforts would not make the grade. The down side was I had already baked that week and Bobo tries to keep my efforts to a minimum - organic ingredients + yummy baked goods = shrinking wallet & growing tummy. I had to be sneaky, I planned and plotted and waited until he went out then I raided the kitchen with my well executed plan.This time round I stuck to the Magnolia Bakery and tinkered adding ground almonds, Amaretto and almond extract. Oh these ones are good! The I made a chocolate buttercream and added Baileys to that and I have no idea how but it was the best textured buttercream I have ever made. Sadly I had made a half batch of these but they all went and Bobo managed 3!Muddy Landslide Cupcakes (Chocolate and Amaretto Cupcakes)(Adapted from Magnolia Bakery Cookbook)1 Cup plain flour1 Cup ground almonds1tsp Baking powder180g 70% Cocoa solid chocolate (I use Green & Blacks organic)245g Soft salted butter1 Cup golden caster sugar1 Cup firmly packed soft brown sugar4 large eggs1/2 Cup milk1/2 Cup amaretto2 Tsp Almond extract1 Tsp Vanilla extractPreheat oven to 180C.In a medium-sized bowl, sift together the flour and the baking soda and add the ground almonds, then set aside. Place the chocolate in the top of a double boiler over simmering water on low heat for about 5-10 minutes. Stir occasionally until completely smooth. Remove from heat and let cool for 5-10 minutes.In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar till really fluffy and light, about 3 minutes on the medium speed of an electric mixer. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down and mixing well after each addition. Add the chocolate, mixing until well incorporated. Add the dry ingredients in thirds, alternating with the combined milk, Amaretto and extracts, beating after each addition until smooth. Fill your cupcake liners about 3/4 full and bake for between 20 - 25 mins, it really depends on your oven or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of a cupcake comes out clean. Transfer them to a wire rack and let them cool completely.Chocolate Baileys Buttercream Frosting340g Soft salted butter280g Really good dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)250g Icing sugar sifted5 - 6 tbs Baileys Irish Cream or similarMelt the chocolate over hotwater as before and let cool for 5 - 10 mins so you don't melt your butter. (Although [...]

No one is more commited...

2008-02-20T09:30:15.964+00:00 the idea of peas but peas from you in these circumstances is unacceptable. Very old joke that makes Bobo and Harry fall about laughing every time I cook peas. The joke must be done in your best Irish accent as it harks back to the days of Jerry Adams and Ian Paisley when they were trying to thrash out a peace (peas) deal.

Had these peas been on the table they may have been able to sort something out much more quickly. These peas are very, very acceptable indeed as well as easy to make and most comforting after a long hard day thrashing out deals.

I think the comforting thing is the cooking, glass of wine in hand you just chop a couple of things and then stir until you get the right consistency and then you can scoop it in to your mouth without having to cut anything. Perfect!

Just a quick word about rice. There are 3 types of rice suitable for risotto, the usual arborio which I find can go a bit mushy, carnaroli which I use as it holds it shape and bite whilst still being creamy and vialone nano which the Venetians use again it holds its shape but is smaller than the carnaroli.

Pea Risotto

Carnaroli rice - I used 180g for 2 of us
2 pints hot stock - chicken for me and on such a simple risotto make sure the stock is good as it is one of the main flavours. The stock will need to be kept on the heat whilst making the risotto
1 large shallot finely chopped
1 stick celery peeled and finely chopped - optional
1 slug - about 50ml - white wine or vermouth
large handful peas about 100g blanched or just defrosted
olive oil
parmesan cheese - freshly grated

Soften the shallot and celery in some olive oil (about a tablespoon) for 5 mins then add the rice. Stir the rice round until it is a little translucent at the edges then add the wine and stir the rice until it has been absorbed. Now for the exciting part, your first ladle of hot stock! Keep adding the stock a ladle at a time stirring - not all the time but don't leave it - until it has been absorbed before adding the next ladle.

All told this part will take about 10 - 15 mins but you will need to keep tasting the rice to make sure it is cooked the way you want it (a little bite but very very creamy).

Once cooked add the blanched peas and as much or little parmesan as you like stir them in and serve. So good I can't tell you!

Crazy about cake!


I have been lazy about posting some of things I have actually remembered to photograph. I am not sure why but when going back through my photos I found cupcakes and a birthday cake I never got round to putting on my site.

These are my halloween cupcakes:


These are birthday cupcakes for the Fantastic Mr Fred:


And this is Fantastic Mr Fred's birthday cake (you have to have both!):


Please forgive the crappy photos the last two were taken in my car on the way into work!

The cupcakes and the birthday cake are all chocolate - everyone's favourite at work - frosted with either white chocolate cream cheese frosting, chocolate buttercream or vanilla buttercream. I am a creature of habit and for all these used Magnolia Bakery's devils food cake, I love the real chocolate in the batter rather than cocoa which I find a little insipid on its own.

If you want recipes please do leave a comment & I will get back to you....

Bang, bang Monday


So after Sunday night chicken we had leftovers and lots of them - that chicken was a monster! After making a sandwich of two there was still plenty left for a lightish supper and what better than spicy, nutty, crunchy salad to pep you up during a long British winter...


Bang, bang chicken originates in Sichuan, a small town in China, where street vendors would sell chunks of poached chicken covered in a spicy sesame sauce. Before serving the chicken they would beat it with a wooden cudgel know as a bang hence bang bang chicken.

My version is stolen / borrowed from loads of recipes and is more of the bung it all taste and add more as need variety. However please do try it it is divine, creamy, savoury, moreish, I could go one but I won't.

Bang Bang Chicken

2 Chicken breasts - poached or left overs ripped off the carcass are fine, in fact any bits of chicken you have

Drizzle vegetable oil

2 chillies finely chopped- I used red but any colour will do

2 tsps roasted sesame oil

3 tbs peanut butter - crunchy or smooth whatever you have

1 tsp grated ginger - or half a teaspoon dried ginger although fresh is nicer

1 tsp soy sauce - or more to taste

2 tsps brown sugar

1 tbs rice wine vinegar - or white wine vinegar

1 tsp tahini (optional - don't bother buying specially for this!)

1 tbs sesame seeds - or more!

Salad - I use crunchy green stuff like iceberg lettuce, cucumber, beansprouts, spring onions. For me it must all be green or white but I am fussy like that...

In the drizzle of veg oil fry the chillies and ginger for a minute or 2 being careful not to burn them. Then turn off the heat and chuck in the sesame seeds, peanut butter, soy, sugar, vinegar, tahini and sesame oil. Mix it all together until it forms a runnyish paste, taste and adjust seasoning as you see fit. Shred you chicken and pop on top of your salad then generously drizzle on the sauce. Mmmmm.....

Sunday Night Chicken and a lecture...


I love chicken, bronzed, crispy skinned and juicy. You can't beat it for Sunday lunch or Sunday evening with loads of bread sauce. I mean how beautiful does this little, well quite large really, bird look:This is one of Waitrose's Poulet D'Or chickens. They are bred from slow growing French birds (a little like rare breed meat) so must be left for a minimum of 81 days so they taste like real chicken. They are fed corn and cereals as well as having unlimited daylight access to the outdoors to forage. They are kept in large barns overnight (1,300 per barn) and whilst they are chicks so it is not ideal but it is a close as I can get until Bobo earns more money and we can have a small holding.Chicken welfare has been thrown into the public eye in the UK lately with celebrity chefs like Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstale and Jamie Oliver trying to persuade the UK public to only by free range. The majority of chickens sold in this country are raised in large sheds which they never leave until slaughter time after 39 days of life. The chickens raised in these sheds have been bred to grow quickly in order to maximise profit and reduce costs. The problem is with rapid growth and unnatural conditions the chickens begin to suffer problems with their legs, lungs and hearts. This leads to about 5% of all chickens raised being culled before their 39 days are up, these chickens will never see a vet. These chickens also live about 40,000 to a shed.It is well worth looking at the Waitrose web site to learn more about their chickens, they have videoed their 'Farm Assured' chickens to show how they are raised. Interestingly they have made improvements - increasing the natural day light, giving more room (although they do not say how mch more room) and they add things like straw bales to help with boredom. However the video does not show them once they get near to slaughter date so they seem to have lots of room and if you look at the chickens they all look shabby - feathers missing etc and quite lethargic.Take a look at the organic free range chickens and you see a different story, you see real chickens running around plump and happy looking. These guys get to spend half their lives outdoors and aren't slaughtered for at least 70 days. They use a 'slow' growing bird - really a bird that grows at the right speed - so they do not have the issues with legs, heart and lungs (running around also helps these problems disappear).What we should remember when buying chickens is they are all commercially produced so the conditions will never be a nice as we would like. At some point they will be cramped, many will die due to unnatural conditions and they will never taste as good as they will from a farmer that has only a few that get lavished with love. BUT you can and should know how your food is produced before you buy it so that you can decide if a chicken should cost £5.00 for 2 or if it should cost £10.00 for a free range bird or £19.00 like the Poulet D'Or ones.Because I want taste and comfort that my chicken had tons of room in his shed and field and as long a life as possible I go for the Poulet D'Or ones every time. I just have less and use every last bit carcass included so a £19.00 chicken will feed the two of us 5- 7 meals roughly £3.00 per meal.I think that as a nation we have become very lazy with the way we cook and eat because food is so cheap. We have become fat and unhealthy and very out of touch with nature if we think that a chicken should be 39 days old at slaughter and a pig at 3 months. Meat should be a treat not an every day necessity and so I think supermarkets should put their prices up and we should all think a little bit more about what we eat.End of lecture! Please excuse the rant however this topic really winds me up! Anyway h[...]

Hey Baby I cook you looong time.......


I am a useful person to have in an office, for birthdays I cook cakes (2 or 3 tier) or cupcakes or a selection of the 2. Most people love them (or say they do because I am the boss) and wolf them down pretty quickly however I have a friend who loves pork not cake. PP has an obsession with pork, if you talk bacon he starts to salivate mention sausages wrapped in bacon only if you have water proofs on.

PP (as I will call him for the sake of privacy) requested, yes I take requests as well, some form of pork cake. He was thinking along the lines of sausage, black pudding and bacon cooked in a cake shape. My thoughts immediately went to slow cooked pork shoulder and a form of doggy torture.

I went out to my brilliant local butcher (thank you Roger Brown) and purchased a large shoulder of pork, the whole thing, from a wonderful gloucester old spot pig who lived a cheerful life in a field grubbing about for food. It probably weighed about 4 kilos in total so just enough for PP with a little left over - PP is greedy.


To cook this baby I preheated the oven to 200 degrees and made a rub to anoint its precious skin and underbelly with. The rub is a slightly bastardised version of Nigel Slater's and consists of soy sauce, fresh ginger, chinese 5 spice (only a pinch), salt, pepper and chillies. You are looking for a paste rather than a liquid that will slid straight off.


Half the rub is spread onto the top and then it is shoved on the oven for half an hour, take it out and turn over. This bit is tricky as the thing is now huge, hot and sticky I sort of man handle it with any implement to hand but do be careful. Once on its back slather on the rest of the goo, turn down the oven to about 100 degrees, throw in a glass of water, bung it back in the oven and leave for 12 hours.

This was the mean bit. Harry, the pooch, sleeps in the kitchen. The smell is frankly heavenly and poor Harry was very dehydrated from all the drool.

Anyway the following morning I carried the beautifully browned baby into work to finish off in the oven there in time for lunch. You will need to flip the pork back over and turn the oven back up to about 200 to crisp up the crackling, this won't take long so keep an eye on it.

To demonstrate how good this is PP & the office had great jerk pork and festival for breakfast yet still managed to polish pretty much the whole shoulder off. Mmmmmmmmm........


My, my Lemon Meringue Pie!


I love lemon meringue pie so when I discovered that's what we had to bake for the Daring Bakers challenge this month I was delighted. I thought I could make a few all the name of experimentation and getting nice photos and I thought I could eat them all. Then I remembered I have to lose 4 stone before my brother gets married in June. Bugger.Fortunately really bad tooth pain kicked in. I am talking nearly passing out painful, whimpering quietly to myself kind of pain. Now I realise this does not sound great but it did / does mean I am on a solid diet of mush and soup whilst my recent root canal settles and the horrid abscess goes away. This diet of mush means I can still lose weight and eat the middle bit of the pie!! Always a sliver lining.Anyway I invited my Mummy and Daddy round for Sunday lunch in order to make my pie. I cooked lovely chicken for them with all the bits - bread sauce, roast potatoes and real gravy - and I had mushed veg and more bread sauce than is decent. Then we had pie, yummy, yummy pie. I had no problems with my lovely, buttery, sweet pastry although I did cheat slightly and used 1 cup flour one cup ground almonds as lemon and almond are my all time favs. I made one big pie and some small ones in a muffin tin, I baked them all blind and had no problems with pastry slippage (I did pop them in the freezer before cooking). The filling was fab thick and yellow until I added the lemon then it was thinner and yellow. (Tasty and thin just what I want to be!) Still undeterred I filled my pies and hoped it would thicken on cooling.Well it did thicken in the mini ones but sadly not in the big one although I didn't leave it all that long so it didn't have much of a chance. However thick or not it was really tasty, I had never added vanilla before but it really added something and I would suggest you try it. My Daddy thought it was great and even had seconds (unheard of) and we all sat picking at it for quite some time until it was gone!That was some good pie and I still managed to lose 3 pounds so a diet pie as well....Lemon Meringue PieFrom Wanda’s Pie in the Sky by Wanda Beaver, 2002(Makes one 10-inch (25 cm) pie) For the Crust: ¾ cup (180 mL) cold butter; cut into ½-inch (1.2 cm) pieces2 cups (475 mL) all-purpose flour¼ cup (60 mL) granulated sugar - I used caster sugar¼ tsp (1.2 mL) salt⅓ cup (80 mL) ice water For the Filling: 2 cups (475 mL) water1 cup (240 mL) granulated sugar½ cup (120 mL) cornstarch5 egg yolks, beaten¼ cup (60 mL) butter¾ cup (180 mL) fresh lemon juice1 tbsp (15 mL) lemon zest1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla extract For the Meringue: 5 egg whites, room temperature½ tsp (2.5 mL) cream of tartar¼ tsp (1.2 mL) salt½ tsp (2.5 mL) vanilla extract¾ cup (180 mL) granulated sugar For the Crust: Make sure all ingredients are as cold as possible. Using a food processor or pastry cutter and a large bowl, combine the butter, flour, sugar and salt. Process or cut in until the mixture resembles coarse meal and begins to clump together. Sprinkle with water, let rest 30 seconds and then either process very briefly or cut in with about 15 strokes of the pastry cutter, just until the dough begins to stick together and come away from the sides of the bowl. Turn onto a lightly floured work surface and press together to form a disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for at least 20 minutes. Allow the dough to warm slightly to room temperature if it is too hard to roll. On a lightly floured board (or countertop) roll the disk to a thickness of ⅛ inch (.3 cm). Cut a circle about 2 inches (5 cm) larger than the pie plate and transfer the pastry into the plate by folding it in half or by rolling it onto the rolling pin. Turn the pastry under, leaving an ed[...]

That's My Boy


No food post, the GI diet has temporarily destroyed any creativity I might have had whilst I try to understand what I should and shouldn't eat. The strange thing is butter has no GI value therefore could be deemed OK but pair it with flour, eggs and sugar - as nearly all my favourite things do - and it is bad. Very bad. Beans and pulses are good as are greens, no one wants to visit us particularly as Harry is eating the left overs...


Let the Excuses Begin!


Well what a December! Firstly we seem to have a dozen events at work that need organising - the one for 600 including 300 children was a challenge. The first part of the month disappeared in a round of finding 300 presents, wrapping them, labeling them and then creating the grotto to house them. Good fun but with normal work, the ever present dissertation and general Xmas panic i have been distracted.I thought I had plenty of time to do the Daring Bakers challenge, end of the month to make a yule log - easy! The suddenly it was Christmas Eve, still no need to panic I thought I don't need to post until the 28th. Where the heck did I get that date from? I must be unable to read or I simply make things up to suit me not sure but apparently everyone else understood the need to finish and report by 22nd December. Bugger.However I was still in ignorance at this time so on Christmas Eve I popped out for drinks, ate food and then went to bed to wait for Santa. Christmas day at Ma & Pa's, great goose, great company then on Boxing Day on to Rob's sisters past Nottingham then back to work in Brum on 28th. No worries I will make the yule log tonight. Easy.Genoise sponge turned out great, really light and fluffy I also added a little Tia Maria to the mix for a subtle coffee liqueur flavour. Yum. Then I read the post again, I swore loudly as realisation that I had well and truly missed the deadline dawned. I went out for a drink, this in turn led to several drinks which led to the sponge being covered and thoughts of finishing it the following day.The following day came with a hangover and Rob's admission that we were going to his parents house that day. The sponge is covered for another day.I finally managed to make the butter cream three days after the sponge had been baked. The butter cream was a bugger and after it curdled unattractively I did give up as the sponge was also past its best. I made coffee butter cream instead and I hit upon chocolate ganache for the filling. The butter cream was pale the ganache darker and so the butter cream became the filling.It was OK. The butter cream I could have eaten on toast, the milk chocolate ganache not so great - note to self always use 70% dark choc - the sponge 2 days too old. Pants.Never mind I though I will post it anyway just to show I tried. At this point the gods that watch over bloggers decided they were bored and felt the need to spice it up for me. My laptop broke, arrrrrrgggghhhhhh and maybe even a few exclamation marks (no more than 6, only the truly insane have more than 6)!!!!! (5, you can count them if you like). Harry, being a selfish Labrador would not lend me his - sorry I am too busy emailing my felicitations and gratitude after the festive period (he reads too much dickens). I was stuck, my blog burning with shame at just how naked it looked and me frustrated that you can not put a laptop through double glazing no matter how hard you try.Any hoo new year, new laptop, new resolutions to clothe my blog with all things daring and some other bits besides. Pop back in a couple of months if you fancy and I promise there will be better photos - if Rob pulls his finger out, it really is shaming that he is a professional photographer - and more regular posts with delicious food. Well maybe more of a list of my clumsy disasters but at least you can feel smug that your blogs are so much better....[...]

Too Daring?


I have nothing but endless respect for all those people out there who manage to have a full time job, study, look after a house, live and still post a blog more than once a month. If my track record is anything to go by I can't. I have also discovered that taking attractive photos of the food you wan to put on your blog is a lot harder than so many others make it seem.I think organisation may be the key and the harsh truth is I am not an organised person. I wish I was, I buy lots of really nice notebooks from Paperchase along with the fab pink and violet pens full of organised intent; then I forget the notebook. The point of all this is I have joined the Daring Bakers, an incredibly organised group of like minded people who love to cook and eat. I see now I was hasty, they all practice the monthly recipe, they all make changes where they are allowed to (probably planning them well in advance), they all write brilliantly funny posts and take mouth watering pictures. I must practice.This month Tanna from My Kitchen in Half Cups gave us Tender Potato Bread as our challenge. Now I can make cinnamon buns like a pro, well maybe not quite, I can rustle up no knead bread which everyone loves but apparently I am a failure at tender potato bread. It takes a lot for me to admit that I wanted it to be perfect for my first challenge so anyone that happened to stop by and take a peak would think how marvelous I must come by again to see what beautiful photos and food this clever girl has on offer. That is not going to happen, my blog will fail to gain even one comment, I will never write a cook book and there will be no TV show from my houses in Vail, Cornwall and New York. Damn.I was so excited when I got the secret blog that all Daring Bakers can log on to and I had planned to practice with the bread until it was perfect however 3 friends birthdays all demanding cakes & cupcakes put paid to most weekend baking. There was no practice.I started the bread late on Sunday - yesterday - and managed to mash my spuds, cool and then add the yeast and flour fine. It was mushy but I was primed by Tanna's descriptive recipe so I was not shocked, I was all out of whole wheat flour so soldiered on with plain adding as required. Just as I was about to start kneading (by hand if you please) the dog walked in with poopy feet (yes feet covered in poo), stomped the length of the lounge and hopped on the sofa. I was torn between kneading and scrubbing, the smell won out and I scrubbed foolishly leaving my dough on the counter. It stuck all gooey and sticky and almost unmanageable like some icky alien, I scrapped and pulled got some stuck in my hair, swore and emptied nearly a bag of flour all over myself, the dough and the floor.I composed myself and kneaded for England, it was saved (ish). It rose like a down pillow in the morning once my fat head has been lifted. I shaped it as best I could in to lovely rolls and thought I was being clever by bunging some in heart shaped casserole dish. I wanted to add Parmesan and caramelised onions or garlic but I had started too late. However I was happyish with the results and had high hopes...I daringly baked the bread as instructed, forgot about it, remembered it, took it out and forgot to put it on a rack. In short my rolls had soggy bottoms and my heart got stuck and had to be scrapped out in chunks.Daring Bakers, I promise I will do better next time. Please come back and check![...]

An Entrance to Satisfaction


Monday, I can tell you why I hate Mondays it will be for the same reasons everyone else does however there is one bright spot to the dank dark misery that is Monday - Left Overs.

I love left overs almost more than the main event, unless you are talking lamb in which case not so keen. We always have a roast chicken in the fridge in case of sandwich or supper emergencies any left over left overs (if there is such a thing) go into Harry's bowl along with the jelly stuff at the bottom of the tin. The carcass is always boiled up into stock and again Harry gets the all the bits I can pick off the carcass and the carrots from the stock. Not a thing ever goes to waste which is quite rare in our house!

The chicken we buy is always free range and organic as well as being processed on the farm they live on. The chickens are stress free and as happy as a chicken can be and although they are not £5.00 for 2 turkey sized monsters they aren't a huge expense when you think that they will last us for at least three meals. For example:

1 x £11.00 chicken makes
Roast chicken
Lunch time sandwiches for one day for 2
Cous cous salad with chicken
Stock which makes - Thai ish noodle soup and Lobby

Looked at that way a chicken is an investment for the week as well as a real luxury when they are as tasty as the ones we eat.

Lobby - A staffordshire treat

I had never heard of Lobby before shacking up with a Stoke bloke now I love it although it is a winter dish and is probably more of a thick soup than the traditional stew type dish. It is a peasants dish and gets its name from the lobbing in of ingredients - I kid you not. Basically you lob in left over meat, bones, veg and water however I skip the bones part by using my lovely chicken stock.

I could give you a recipe but it really depends on how much chicken stock you have and what veg you like but feel free to use the below is a guideline for a large pot...

2 pints chicken stock - fat skimmed off
Left over chicken
2 x carrots
1 x onion
1 x leek
1/2 a swede
1 sweet potato
2 x sticks celery
Herbs - I use dried Provence herbs however I have also used thyme, parsley, rosemary etc
Salt & pepper

Chop everything up so that you have nice chunks of veg lob it all into a pot and cook covered for about 15 - 20 mins until everything is soft. Eat safe in the knowledge that this is low fat, high protein and contains more veg than you can throw a stick at if you care about that sort of thing...

Ps Sorry about the lack of picture but it is not that pretty and we ate it all before we remembered!



Bowl That Soothes

Soup has been around since 6000BC when the main ingredient was delicious hippopotamus - mmm blubbery. The modern word soup originates from sop which was a stewish soup served on a hunk of bread. Interestingly enough we also get the word restaurant from soup, French street vendors used to sell soup called restaurer and in 1765 in Paris a shop opened selling soup and it became known as a restaurant. Isn't Wikipedia a great thing!

The French restaurer was a highly concentrated soup that was sold as an antidote to physical exhaustion and funnily enough soup is something I turn to when I am too tired to eat anything or cook anything.

Yesterday after a trip to my home office in the morning a train ride to London and an afternoon trying to make sense of all things environmental I finally got home at 20:50 tired, hungry and grumpy. My wonderful boyfriend not only picked me up from the train station but when we got back had also made soup for me!

Not only was it as yummy as it looks but it was also really low fat and stuffed to the gills with veg, virtuous and soothing what a heavenly combination.
Butternut Soup
1 Large butternut squash peel and chopped into chunks
2 Onions chopped
3 Sticks celery
5 Small carrots
1 Chili
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 - 2 Tsp cumin depending on taste
1 Pint organic chicken stock
1 Pint water
Heat up the oil, add the veg and sweat for 10 - 15 mins until onions are translucent, put in the cumin and stir round for a min or two then add the stock and water. Cook until the veg is tender and blend. Add more water if it is thick or even better if you aren't a porker like me add a tin of coconut milk.
I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Pie, Glorious Pie


Rob is sick. Not quite sick enough for Harry to make his move in an attempt to take Rob's place in the pecking order but sick enough for him to bully Rob mercilessly yesterday, stealing his food and lying on top of him. Dogs can sense weakness and will take advantage of it.

Today Rob feels a little better and instead of the Toblerone, crisps and wine gum fest of yesterday he has demanded sustenance. Pie. Cottage pie with gravy. Mmmmmm comfort of the highest level, creamy mashed potato covering savoury oniony, carroty minced beef.

I love pie made from left over Sunday roast using all the left over veg to make a sort of bubble and squeak topping but this version is the one my mum wouldn't approve of. It has Bisto in it. My Mum thinks the devil and all his minions make Bisto along with microwaves, frozen burgers and fast food restaurants - she may well be right but it tastes good in this.

Rob's Cottage Pie

2 Carrots diced
2 Stalks celery diced
1 Large onion diced
1 Clove garlic minced
2 Tbs olive oil
1 Lb Mince beef - organic rare breed if you can it will taste better
1 Slosh Madeira - optional
1-2 Tbs mushroom ketchup
1 Tbs anchovy essence
1 Beef stock cube
1 Glass red wine
1.5 Pints hot water
2 heaped tsp bisto powder
Salt and pepper to taste
About 1Kg potato - maris piper or some other fluffy potato
2-3 Heaped tbs creme fraiche
Large blob butter

Peel and put the spuds on to boil in salted water that just covers them. I start checking after about 20 mins if they are large chunks and you are looking for a knife to slide in easily but you already know that...

Heat up the olive oil in a large frying pan, pop in all the veg bits and cook for about 10 mins until softish. Turn up the heat and add the mince bodging it around to break it up and brown it all. Once it is brown slosh in some Madeira if you are using it if not add the mushroom ketchup, anchovy essence, stock cube, red wine and hot water. Cook all this together for half an hour then mix the bisto with some cold water and then add to the mince mix stirring all the time to prevent lumps. Let it bubble away for another 10 mins taste and season if you think it needs it. Mash up your spuds with the creme fraiche and butter and taste to check seasoning.

I then sieve some of the gravy off the meat and pop it into the dish you want to cook it in, top with mashed spuds and cook in the oven until brown and bubbling. You could have peas with this but I think for comfort it is easier to shovel in without.