Ah we love a bit of the old Silver Fox. There’s not much telly that makes me stabby when disturbed, but the Great British Bake Off is one of them and I’ve been known to get very shushy if people start talking over the lovely Mr Hollywood. I remember him making me laugh like a drain with the adorable Jeni Barnett back in the days of Great Food Live and I still love him now. Le sigh…
Anyhoo, enough about the man himself and on to the book. Often ‘celebrity’ books can be a bit disappointing (I would point you in the direction of Gregg’s Favourite Puddings, but I’m far too polite) but Paul Hollywood knows his stuff. There’s a satisfying mixture of easy, basic recipes and challenging new ideas to please even the most enthusiastic home bakers. I tried his shortcrust pastry when making a treacle tart (and this was a wrench, as my own shortcrust recipe is tried and tested), but I have to say Paul’s – using a whole egg – was really good. The recipes are sprinkled with professional tips and tricks and good ingredient notes too.
There’s a whole chapter on sourdough, something that I’ve tried before but not really mastered, and I’m dying to have a go at making my own Danish pastries. The photos are fab (you know how picky I am about photography) – check out the lavender honey and toasted almond sourdough – and the methods are clear, concise and not too waffly. I suffer from this when writing recipes – it’s so easy to go off on a tangent about some ingredient or other – very distracting when you’re actually cooking it.
A great addition to my already groaning cookery book collection. If you need further persuading, here’s Paul walking you through his grape and stilton flatbread recipe:
How to Bake by Paul Hollywood is published by Bloomsbury, RRP £20 and is out now. If you’d like my spare copy, leave a comment. The one that makes me laugh most gets the book. I’ve got it here so I’ll send it anywhere, no UK only competitions today! Entries must be received before midnight, Friday 3rd August. No cash alternative. My decision is final, so there.
*****THIS COMPETITION IS NOW CLOSED. CONGRATULATIONS TO RACHEL, WHO WON ME OVER WITH HER EPIC POEM *****
As summer is now in full-flow, the kids will be looking to do something exciting throughout the school holidays. Getting your kids active as well as educating them can be a brilliant way to spend some valuable family time.
Visiting local museums, attractions and local farms can be an inexpensive way of keeping their minds active. However, it can often be a struggle if you have your own business and work from a home office or have very little space for them to play. You may want to invest in a garden log cabin which can have a complete variety of uses to keep the kids entertained.
There are so many uses for a garden log cabin that make it such a beneficial investment for your property. You could get the kids out in the garden and teach them all about wildlife and how plants develop and grow. A log cabin would give them the perfect playroom or den to spend their time throughout the next couple of months whilst you get chance to manage your work in peace.
All kids love building a den for their own private space and this can sometimes result in the house turning into a pigsty. It can be difficult to give them their own space therefore a dedicated room is absolutely ideal.
A long lasting playroom can be easily decorated and modified to the size of your garden. More importantly, they are incredibly safe and built specifically so they are versatile for all situations in which the family can enjoy.
With the summer games set to be a roaring success, what better way than to celebrate the British summer with a BBQ party for all the family? Get the bunting out and make this special event something for your kids to remember for the rest of their lives. You may even let them camp out in the cabin!
Not only does investing in a log cabin suit your kids but it can also suit you. Having an extra “room” on your property serves well when you come to sell up and make a move on the property market. Garden log cabins are no longer seen as poorly built and cheap but as a desirable and sophisticated living space which can increase your property price.
This guest post was brought to you by Tiger Log Cabins, offering unique bespoke interlocking garden buildings that are manufactured by hand in the UK.
Sunvil are a lovely travel company who have over 40 years’ experience and an amazing amount of expertise on all aspects of the Greek islands. They’re passionate about their destinations: their people, their culture and, of course, their food, so they’ve decided to start posting a recipe every month on their website to celebrate the wonderful food of the area. Baklava hails originally from Crete and seems a rather lovely place to start. I’ve never actually made baklava, so when Sunvil challenged me to give it a go as part of the new Sunvil Supper Club, I jumped at the chance.
First of all, I’d say don’t be daunted by filo pastry. I think I dithered a bit too long trying to make sure that every part of every sheet was brushed with the butter/oil mixture, which allowed the waiting pastry to dry out a little bit. Cover your pastry in a piece of damp kitchen towel, and you’ll be fine.
This lovely recipe really doesn’t take long to prepare and is a total showstopper. I also loved bubbling away the sugar syrup to make the final caramel-coloured honeyed syrup which is spooned over the warm baklava. Utterly delicious.
My Disreputable Dad and his other half have been away on holiday this week (to the same place in the South of France that they go every year, to eat at the same restaurant every night – he’s a man who knows what he likes)…. I was left in charge of the garden, which basically meant I had free rein to go in and nick all the strawberries and raspberries. While I was in there pilfering I took some pictures. It really is an extraordinarily beautiful garden, and he has a skill with roses that I’m sad I haven’t quite inherited. There are entire beds of the same coloured, ruffled peach roses, and deep scarlet ones too… and around every corner a surprise – a trellised gate wound with delicate pink climbing roses that leads on to a hidden part of the garden with apple trees already groaning with baby fruit (I’ll be back for those)…. and, of course, those raspberry canes – protected with fake birds of prey, painful when you’re collecting raspberries and one bashes you on the back of the head, but they do the trick.
Charlie and I crept in one lovely evening and gathered an enormous punnet of raspberries. Back at home with our spoils, we decided to make raspberry sorbet. The recipe is adapted from The Icecreamists (out now priced £16.99, published by Octopus Books) - a wonderful book which, when you look past the ‘I’m mad, I am’ over the topness (breast milk ice cream, anyone?) contains some amazingly clever and easy to follow recipes.
We made ‘Glastonberry’, a seasonal berry sorbetto, and jolly nice it was too. Scoffed in the garden, watching the sun go down, and wishing my roses were as good as Dad’s. There’s always next year…
Ahhh the school holidays. Bane of every working parent’s life and moneygrabbing bloodsucker to boot.
I’ve had so many conversations recently about how much it’s costing us poor Mums (and Dads – I’m all for equality). So far I’ve heard tales of horse riding, swimming, rock climbing (indoor) and swimming (outdoor), and I’ll add gym memberships, kickboxing classes and skate park membership to that list as well. Oh wait, and don’t forget ‘can we go to McDonald’s/can we go to the cinema/can I have some money for sweets’. And the PETROL! I feel like I’ve spent the whole week in the car so far.
And if you’ve got littlies, no doubt you’ll be hard at work building tents in the garden out of old sheets and garden chairs, and (if you work from home) there’s the nervous pacing from paddling pool to laptop while you juggle working with trying to make sure nobody drowns, or if you’re working, there’s holiday clubs, grandparent-bribing and/or precious holiday to be taken because, frankly, you tried locking them in the shed last summer and it’s really not a goer.
This summer I know for a fact that my youngest is not going to last without a new blazer, shoes and possibly sports kit for September too (I mean, look at them both – they’re growing to ridiculous proportions – have I spawned giants?). We buy a lot of our schoolwear from Tesco and it really saves us a bomb, but other things like school rugby kits and special uniform bits and bobs can only be bought from the school’s supplier (and of course cost a fortune).
I’m torn, to be honest. As I wrote recently, my boys are growing up fast and I’m determined to savour every minute while they’re still under my roof before they spread their wings. Trouble is, they don’t really want to spend much time with me – they’d probably much rather be down the gym with their mates or in Costa drinking some extortionately expensive frozen raspberry lemonade whatsit (that I’m paying for) than doing any serious family bonding.
Still, at least the sun’s come out, which means that those of us who couldn’t afford to buy our holidays out of term-time (or be faced with a fine) can at least get out and about…
Don’t get me started on the price of suncream though…
So this is my third Lean on Turkey challenge, supporting our fabulous British turkey farmers and showing you just how versatile turkey is. It’s not just for Christmas, y’know (sorry, but it took me three challenges – I resisted in the first two). Last time, as you may recall, it was a healthy, low fat turkey recipe and the result was my sticky sweet chilli turkey kebabs. This time I’m going to wow you with some fabulous crispy sesame coated chicken breast slices, and a delightfully fresh orangey salad. Of course, if you’re feeling like something more substantial, you can stuff the whole lot into a wrap or pitta too (as demonstrated by my gorgeous assistant, son number 2, who dumped his entire plate onto a wrap – see picture below). Yummy, and probably half an hour max to prepare.
I must be honest and say that this plateful was just for show – our actual portion sizes were about triple this. Hey, what can I say? We’re greedy.
You will need:
1 pack turkey breast (I bought escalopes, but breast would be fine too)
2 or 3 tablespoons plain flour
2 or 3 tablespoons breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
Rapeseed oil for drizzling and for the salad dressing
1 navel orange
Squeeze of honey
Preheat your oven to 200 degrees/gas 6. Slice the turkey breasts into strips. Now arrange your eggy wash department: you need three bowls.
Bowl 1: flour, seasoned generously with salt and pepper (pinch of cayenne wouldn’t go amiss either)
Bowl 2: 1 egg, beaten
Bowl 3: breadcrumbs and sesame seeds
Then just start up your little production line. Dip each turkey strip into the flour, pat off the excess, then dip it in the egg, then finally into the breadcrumb and sesame seed mix, then on to the baking tray.
When you’ve done this to all your turkey, just give it a little drizzle of rapeseed oil and pop into the oven.
To make the dressing, squeeze the orange into a jug and add roughly double the amount of rapeseed oil. Season, then add a dash of honey. Mix well.
To assemble, pile the leaves onto the plate (I added some extra pieces of orange, but don’t worry if you haven’t got the patience for segmenting oranges – I completely understand), pop on the pieces of turkey, then finally dribble over the dressing. Yum.
For more information on the Lean on Turkey campaign, head to leanonturkey.co.uk
Recently it seems that everything’s been ‘up in the air’. I’m not good with change, and I don’t handle chaos very well either. I like calm, with the occasional nice thing to look forward to (and cake. Lots of cake). So these have been quite difficult times.
As it turns out, after the sheer panic of being told that we’ve got to move, and several weeks of fruitless searching for something suitable, a bit of lateral thinking (and, admittedly, some begging) has meant that we can stay. I’m heaving a huge sigh of relief and doing a bit of nesting at the same time, resettling myself into this house, which I love (though, it seems it took the threat of leaving to make me realise): cleaning up, clearing out, and wandering round my little garden in the long-awaited sunshine, grass tickling my toes, smelling the roses and tending the tomatoes. But that’s for another post.
Family-wise we’re battling on. I think one of the hardest things about parenting teens is letting go. And during the letting go process, there are the inevitable crises and mistakes that need to be handled. I’m not good with that either. I’m a worrier – a ‘worst case scenario’ kind of girl.
When they were little it was about whether they had their bike helmet on tight enough, and whether they’d fall off the wall they were climbing (with Charlie, he inevitably did). Now it’s about whether they’re strong enough to follow the right path, pick the right friends and be sensible enough to make the right decisions. I have to learn that I can’t do this for them, but hope that I’ve given them the right tools along the way. We’ve provided a ‘get out of jail free’ card, which means that they can ring, anytime, anywhere, no questions asked, if they feel things are getting out of control. This has made me feel better. The waiting up until 1am never gets easier, though. Having friends really helps – sometimes just hearing someone say ‘don’t worry’ or ‘we went through that too’ is everything you need to hear. And now the holidays have started, I’m grabbing my ‘taxi’ hat and preparing myself for six weeks of duty, along with the inevitable six weeks of trade offs and bargaining ‘yes you can go, but you can’t stay late’… ‘I’ll take you but I can’t pick you up too’ type conversations.
My lovely friend Lulu recently wrote a post about her own domestic situation, and about how she’s learning to embrace the chaos and stop beating herself up about not being perfect. I think I need to do this a bit more too.
So I’m counting my blessings – something I often write about but forget to do – baking biscuits, giving big, huge hugs, putting up whacky new curtains and – for once – enjoying the sunshine.
So that’s me, then. How are you?
After a restful night at the gorgeous retro Helmsley, we set off early towards the east and the Space Coast. Arriving a little late, we had to nip in the back at our scheduled lunch with an astronaut. If you’re visiting, don’t miss this amazing experience. To be accurate, it’s not like an intimate lunch, it’s more a big, full restaurant, one person talking at the front kind of lunch. Still, this suited us fine and we were happy to listen to the amazing Bob Springer, veteran of both Space Shuttle Atlantis and Space Shuttle Discovery and and all round good guy. There aren’t many times you hear ‘and this is a photo of earth I took out the window of the shuttle…’ We shared the lunch with an enormous party of Chinese school children. They were very well behaved, but of course Bob had to field the ubiquitous ‘how do you poo in space?’ question, which he fielded bravely, and with pictures (if you really want to know it’s all done with suction. And leg straps). We were all impressed.
The Apollo/Saturn 5 Center is also AWESOME. The films are humbling and actually quite emotional, plus you get to sit in a galleried area and watch as an entire countdown to launch is re-enacted in an actual mission control centre. We also got to visit the huge launch area complete with the biggest single storey building in the world, a hangar so huge that looking at the ceiling nearly makes you fall over backwards. Our gorgeous guide, the incredibly knowledgeable Andrea Farmer, PR for the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex let us into a secret too: Atlantis is going to be permanently exhibited at Kennedy, the planned date being summer 2013. I’m SO going back. Check out kennedyspacecenter.com or follow them on Twitter @ExplorespaceKSC.
Our home for the night was the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Hotel, my favourite, I think, of all our Florida accommodation. The rooms were beautiful, and the actual hotel (well, hotels, there’s Swan and there’s obviously Dolphin) feels slick and classy, but is child-friendly too. Quite a feat. There are bars and restaurants galore, a white sandy beach, stunning waterfalls and lush gardens. In the evening, we wandered along Disney’s Boardwalk (one of my favourite places) to Kouzzina by Cat Cora, a frankly fabulous Greek restaurant. The food was ridiculously good: we started with amazing dips: tzatziki, a spicy aubergine dip, taramasalata and hitipiti (red pepper and feta) served with delicious warm breads, followed by gorgeous melty Kasseri, a sheep’s milk cheese flamed so it’s lusciously gooey, served with toasted ciabatta. Our mains were a tasting trio of braised short rib with feta mashed potato, lamb slider and a fisherman’s stew, and we finished off with an oozy chocolate centred budino cake, baklava and outstanding sorbets. The wines were stunning too, and we staggered out just in time to watch the fireworks over the water before waddling back to the Swan, replete.
I travelled to Florida with Visit Florida and Virgin Holidays. If you’d like to recreate my trip, here’s some information about a very similar seven nights in Orlando from £949
Seven nights in Orlando with Virgin Holidays, including scheduled flights with Virgin Atlantic from London Gatwick or Manchester direct to Orlando, two nights accommodation at the 5V Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek, two nights accommodation at the 3V+ Sunset Vista Beachfront Suites, two nights at the 5V Longboat Key Club & Resort and one night at the 5V Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Hotel, all on a room only basis with car hire included starts from £949. Prices are per person based on two adults travelling and sharing a standard room, price includes all applicable taxes and fuel surcharges which are subject to change. Prices are based on departures 12 – 14 Nov 2012.
Start your holiday before you’ve even taken off in the v-room at Gatwick Airport or Manchester Airport; Adults £20, Kids £12
Virgin Holidays is a member of ABTA and is ATOL protected
To book: www.virginholidays.co.uk, 0844 557 3859 or visit one of their 90 stores located in Debenhams and House of Fraser stores nationwide
Okay, so I appreciate that I run the risk of you all beating me to death with your umbrellas, but I want to take a minute to talk about picnics. There’s really nothing better than heading out with a lovely stash of delicious food and unpacking all your goodies on a rug, ready to embrace the great outdoors (and stuff your face too).
To chase the rain clouds away, I’ve got a really lovely Hamper Gifts hamper to give away, including all sorts of yumminess like:
Check out Hamper Gifts’ range of delicious food hampers, fabulous for gifts… or alternatively one of these wine gift hampers. I love presents that are stylish but involve little effort on your part (in this case, parting up with your credit card details). They come lovingly hand wrapped with gorgeous ribbons too.
Sadly, with this current monsoon-type weather, your lucky recipient might just end up enjoying it all as a carpet picnic. But hey, what’s the harm in that?
Just comment to enter. The usual banter/what colour your underwear is/anything else thing will be fine. Closing date: midnight, Wednesday 25th July 2012.
The small print: The winner will be selected at random from all entries received. The winner will be notified within 7 days of the closing date. The prize is as stated: no cash alternatives are available. This competition is open to UK entrants only. No persons under 18 years of age may place an order or receive goods from Hamper Gifts if the goods contain alcohol.
***********This competition is now closed – well done to Jayne Howarth who won the hamper! ***************
There was much excitement at English Towers this weekend, with a delivery of delicious smelling goodies from Lola España, a gorgeous website selling everything Spanish. Our rummage through the MASSIVE box brought all sorts of squeaks of excitement: ‘six month cured manchego cheese!’, hand carved jamón Ibérico Bellota…oooooh!’ and ‘look at this chorizo!’, before leading us off on dreamy plans as to what we’d cook up.
While we were dreaming, we troughed our way through this entire pack of delicious Spanish biscuits too…
Of course, we had to stay slightly traditional and decided to make a proper tortilla de patatas. Purists will blanch slightly at the fact that we added the chorizo and manchego, but hey, you can’t please everyone and I’m delighted to say that it tasted utterly delicious.
Spanish omelette with six month cured manchego cheese and chorizo Ibérico
4 or 5 floury potatoes
2 tablespoons rapeseed oil
1 shallot, finely diced
3 or 4 thick slices of chorizo, cubed
6 large free range eggs, beaten
Large chunk of manchego cheese, cubed
So firstly, peel the potatoes and chop into inch or so dice. Boil in plenty of salted water until tender.
Next, fry the shallot in the oil until translucent, then add in the chorizo – stir it around until it starts to darken and release its oil, then add in the cooked potatoes and stir gently so you don’t break them up too much.
Add in the cubed cheese and pour over the beaten eggs. Cook gently until the bottom is set. If you’re brave, try the traditional method of popping over a large plate, flipping the omelette over and then putting it back in to cook the other side. Otherwise, just pop it under the grill until golden. Serve with a green salad and crusty bread.
Click here for the recipe for the serrano ham shank with summer haricot beans. Mahoosive thanks to Lola Espana for the delicious food and the inspiration.
For a while now we’ve been watching the new Carluccio’s Caffe take shape in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire… little noses pressed against the window, wishing the time away until the sign finally turned to ‘open’.
Finally, piles of delicious-looking meringues and lemon tarts appeared in the window, and we rang up to make a reservation. ’We only take reservations for 40% of the restaurant’, we were told. ’The other tables are first come, first served’. Seeing as there was only two of us, we decided to chance it, and happily, we were in luck. Be warned, though, a family of four were turned away, and there’s nowhere to sit and wait as the reception area doubles up as the shop so it’s likely you’ll be in the way wherever you stand. There’s no sitting and waiting at the bar area either, as people were eating there too. Next time, we’ll book early.
The interior is light, airy and modern, with a mix of semi-circular banquette seating and normal tables. The kitchen area is open and the whole place was bustling. The service was informative, mega-friendly and very efficient.
We started with marinated olives and a ‘bread tin’ with a mixture of different bread, from soft foccacia to thin Ligurian crisp bread. There was olive oil and balsamic for dunking and we sat, munching away, enjoying the atmosphere. Our lovely server recommended a 2011 Gravina (£23) which she said would be perfect teamed with seafood. Great choice. It was light, floral and indeed perfect. For a starter, we shared an ‘antipasto massimo’ plate which was a very generous selection of Italian meats, marinated olives, stuffed chicken, loads more bread, a delicious caponata and garlicky green bean salad.
For the main course, we both chose fritto misto with a green salad. With hindsight, this wasn’t a brilliant choice as, although the fritto misto was delicious, with crispy-coated squid, whitebait, prawns and seabass (again, MASSES of it) and a yummy garlic mayonnaise, we regretted our decision as after a while it all seemed rather heavy and samey. Our waitress expressed concern that we didn’t finish, but we were both a bit full up and a bit, well, bored with crunching through our dinners. Bad planning on our part.
Skipping dessert, we ended our meal with VERY good coffee. The whole lot coming to £80 including wine. You can eat a lot more cheaply though as they do a fixed price two courses for £9.95.
We’ll definitely go back again for dinner, and this time we’ll chose a bit more carefully. We loved Carluccio’s though, and decided to go back the next weekend for breakfast. It is to die for. Go there if you can. Again, the portions are generous, and we feasted on the most perfect grilled pancetta, creamy herby scrambled eggs and heavenly mushrooms all piled high on Italian bread. The hot chocolate is delicious and the coffee amazing. £55 for the four of us (well, the coffees were quite small so we all had two each) meant it was a treat rather than an every weekend sort of outing, but still. Worth every penny.
We’ll be back very soon. Our verdict? Favoloso!
Carluccio’s is in the old town hall, Berkhamsted, Herts. Tel: 01442 877807.
When we were discussing the Olympics Games at the last Gatwick Passenger Panel meeting, one of the things that came up a lot was how helpful technology can be when you’re visiting a new place. With London (and the UK generally) set to see a huge increase in visitors for the Olympic Games, and hopefully continuing afterwards, and English Dad brandishing his brand new iPhone 4S I thought the following might be helpful. Most are available for iPad, iPod and iPhone unless stated.
Tips to live like a local (apps for loads of different cities and counties all across the UK) – things to do, places to stay and eat.
Find NT places near you – great tips for coastline, gardens, houses to visit.
Still the best hotel iPad app in my opinion.
Over 500 places – search by what’s near/what’s hot etc
If you want to get a real feel for England, this is the app you’ll need. Loads of historic castles, beautiful gardens and unusual places to go. iPhone only.
All London bus times, in real time.
7. London Tube
Journey planner/nearest tube etc
Unusual/quirky places in London away from the usual tourist trail (also check out Royal London/Horrible London)
9. Top Table
Restaurant finder and table bookings along with discounts and offers.
Lovely app showing the location of the 850 blue plaques in London with pictures and stories behind the plaques.
For other things to do in London, try Smartsave.
If you discover any new ones or want to recommend any good ones, please feel free to comment!
BRAND NEW out are new Chocolate Cheerios which disappeared pretty quickly and were last seen heading up the stairs being scoffed from the packet. They were declared ‘lush’ by one and ‘awesome’ by the other. Don’t knock the teenage vote – it’s the future.
Chokablok’s new chocolate ‘bloks’ all swirled and dotted with all sorts of crunchy chewy bits. Nomnomnom. Our favourite was the Cookie Crumb Mon-Star: white chocolate with swirly milk chocolate, biscuit balls, cookie crumbs and chocolate stars, but we loved all the others too!
ChokaBlok chocolate bloks and gift boxes are now available at Tesco stores (RRP £1.59 for the bloks and £3.99 for the gift box)
The Italian tomato sauce fridge pack is very clever, meaning you can keep the sauce fresh in the fridge for two weeks. We used it for pasta and also to spread on pizzas. Personally I thought it was a bit strong, but the addition of a little stock soon sorts that out. The stir-in sauces are delicious too – our favourite was vine ripened tomato and mascarpone.
The coffee lovers at English Towers have fallen in love with the very beautiful looking Nescafé Dolce Gusto machine that we were very generously sent last week. It’s very easy to use: basically you insert little pods into the machine which then pumps water through it at high pressure giving you a similar result to the coffee you buy in coffee shops made in those mahoosive machines. But without having to walk to Costa’s. Result.
My comments about the cost of buying the pods were shouted down as, obviously, it’s better than normal coffee and a lot cheaper than going out to buy it. Happy bunnies all round.
As you know, I’m not a coffee fan, but I’ve been enjoying milky lattes and am something of a convert, especially as this new version allows you to adjust it so if you prefer your coffee a bit weaker (or, indeed stronger), you can make it your own.
Princes Wild Alaskan Salmon
I’ve never bought salmon in a tin before so this was a new one, but we gave it a go and absolutely loved it. You need to have a little pick through to remove the bones and skin (although, as with other tinned fish, they’re probably soft enough to eat). I pan fried some prawns (from the freezer) with chopped shallot, fresh chilli and rapeseed oil, then stirred the salmon through to warm it up before tossing the whole lot through cooked linguine. Delicious, and a great storecupboard standby.
Heinz new FIVE Beanz
Despite having an aversion to the spelling (why not just beans?), we absolutely loved these new ‘grown up’ baked beans. The five beans mentioned are the traditional haricot, along with pinto, cannellini, red kidney and borlotti. There’s a lot more texture and ‘bite’ than normal beans and we absolutely loved them. They’ll be replacing the normal Heinz beans in my shopping basket from now on. Out now from all the usual places, RRP 84p.
My friend Tara runs an online photo gallery. Every week there’s a different theme and people from far and wide add their photos to the gallery to be admired by everyone on the interwebz.. I don’t always join in, but this week’s theme is… FOOD!
If you want to see the other entries to Tara’s gallery this week, just click here!
British summertime means strawberries, and for me, that means making the strawberry scented fairy cakes I remember baking with my Mum. If you’re surprised that this recipe contains sour (or ‘soured’) cream, you’ll soon realise that its fresh flavour is the perfect complement to sweet, summer strawberries. It also has the added benefit of making sponge cakes tender and light.
Lovely Yeo Valley have just added a soured cream to their range and gave me some to play with (check out the funky packaging) and it’s incredibly versatile. It’s fabulous for dips, sauces, baked potatoes and dolloping on a spicy chilli con carne, but it teams equally well with fruit: think hot apple pie with a mountain of cinnamon-laced, slightly tangy soured cream. It also whips quite well. You won’t get the volume of double cream, but the texture is lovely. After whipping, fold through a couple of tablespoons of icing sugar for an almost cheesecake-like flavour. Perfect with berries and crushed meringue for a different take on Eton Mess.
For the fairy cakes, you’ll need:
170g butter, softened
170g caster sugar
3 free range eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract or paste
200g self raising flour
100g strawberries, mashed
4 tbsp sour cream
For the glacé icing:
5 tbsp icing sugar
Beat the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.
Crack the eggs into a bowl, add in the vanilla and lightly mix with a fork. Add it to the butter and sugar mixture a little at a time, mixing well.
Stir in half the flour, then add in the mashed strawberries. Stir in the rest of the flour and finally the sour cream.
Bake at 180 degrees/gas 4 for 20 minutes until just golden. Allow to cool, then sift the icing sugar and add just enough water to make a thick paste.
Dribble onto the cakes and finish with a small strawberry.
It dawned on me today, while I was ironing a t-shirt, and dwelling upon the fact that I swear I’ve ironed the same t-shirt (black with a blue Cylon on it if you’re interested) three times already this week, that I live my life on a bit of a loop.
Week in, week out, the same things happen to me. For example:
1. I spend a ridiculous proportion of my time in the car.
I do the school run a gazillion times (okay, ten, but then there are extras because the Mad Professor never really seems to be at school that much and does things like going in at 8.30 then being finished by 11am, but mysteriously still needing lunch money), and the twice weekly trip to kickboxing, then pick up an hour later, for the Dude. Which reminds me, I need a new CD. Maroon 5′s new one is very good but I know all the lyrics now. If you’d like me to sing them to you, just give me a ring, kay?
2. We laugh at the same old jokes.
Our in jokes are recycled hundreds of times. The fact that we call Blockbusters ‘Blockbastards’ for instance, and our Volvo is called the ‘HAHA VULVA‘ after the lady with Tourettes in Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo (if you haven’t seen it, you’re missing out. Rent it at Blockbastards, quick).
3. I get this look. A lot.
This is the look that says ‘bloody biscuits? You know I hate biscuits’ and warrants the same response from me every day: ‘the vet says they’re good for your teeth, so eat up and stop giving me the face’. I then sleep fitfully and with one eye open in case she comes in the night to take her revenge.
4. I act like a bit of a tit
This week, on being asked to rinse and spit at the dentist, I spat all over the floor (in my defence, the anaesthetic had kicked in and I couldn’t feel half my mouth). To add insult to injury, I then dissolved into helpless giggles for ten minutes while he stood patiently, holding his drill (not a euphemism) waiting for me to recover.
Oh, and not forgetting the old ‘get to the top of the stairs then forget what you came up for’ routine. Several times a week.
5. I laugh like a loon
Happily, one of my favourite Groundhog Day moments is a good cackle. There’s not much in this life to make you feel better than a good belly laugh. This week there have been lots of belly laughs, from noticing that my Dad’s tractor has ‘SeaBiscuit’ sign-written on the side (for some reason, this completely floored me), or a coffee with a friend where we cackled, snorted, shared hair-raising personal secrets and basically behaved like ten year olds for a couple of hours.
6. I watch crap TV to keep myself awake
Ahhh, waiting up for partying teens to return: surely one of motherhood’s shittest jobs (and one they sneakily forget to mention at ante natal classes). I spend vast amounts of time waiting for people to come home from parties, trying to keep myself awake by watching early Kardashians episodes, texting them things like ‘don’t drink too much. You puke, you die’ and random movies like Hostel 2 (don’t bother – there’s gullible girls, evil murderers, a few bits of DIY machinery and, well, a bit more blood. You’re welcome.)
7. Something REALLY weird happens
This week it was getting a crossed line while trying to ring a travel company and being dropped into the middle of a conversation between an old lady and her doctor. Even more mortifyingly I thought she was actually telling ME about her terrible Psoriasis and had answered her several times before I realised she couldn’t hear me. Just call me Dr English.
8. My boys make me go WOW!
This week it was this amazing pic from Sam’s Biology field trip of two of his mates Mick and Brendan skimming stones on Broadhaven beach. Just beautiful:
9. I buy weird presents for people
This week it was ‘get well cheese’ for my Disreputable Dad, who is very poorly. And partial to a bit of Suffolk Blue. What? Cheese cures all ills.
10. I’m happy
Really, really stupidly happy. I have fun, don’t take myself too seriously (see number 4.) and have the best family in the world. Now what the hell did I come up the stairs for?
I’ll be honest, I lost my baking mojo for a while. Not even really sure why. And it’s actually the weirdest thing that has inspired me again: Instagram.
My hideous Blackberry (well, Blackberries, I had four, all in all) was finally replaced by my phone company (they were sick of the whining… and the crying… I was on first name terms with every call centre member) by a really stonkingly handy and practical Samsung Galaxy S2. I’m LOVING it. The emailing, Twitter and Facebook are all top drawer and – finally – I can have Instagram! Taking pictures has become fun again. I’ll leave you to judge how I’m doing, but here’s my first recipe photographed, and edited with Instagram and Pixlr-o-matic.
These are slightly different, and a bit easier, than the lemon meringue fairy cakes using lemon curd as a filling. I like those too, but to quickly whip up on a lazy Sunday afternoon, this recipe can’t be beaten. It’s a really simple ‘pound cake’ or fairy cake recipe, enhanced with lemon, and topped with fluffy meringue.
You will need:
170g softened butter
170g caster sugar
1 lemon, zested and juiced
170g self raising flour
So firstly, beat the butter and sugar until very pale and creamy (or whiz it in the food mixer). Then break the eggs into a bowl and gently mix in the lemon zest and juice with a fork. Add this, a little at a time, to the mixture, making sure it comes together. It’s a good idea to have the flour already weighed out, so if it starts to look a bit curdly, you can add in a tablespoon to bring it together again.
Plop a tablespoon of the mixture into each of 12 paper cases (I used my new Tala bakeware – it weighs a ton, but is so hard wearing and easy to clean – a must have for us cakey bakers) and bake at 180/gas 4 for 15-20 mins until they’re just springy when touched. Set aside to cool while you make the meringue:
You will need:
2 egg whites
115g caster sugar
If you want to go mad and pipe them in an exuberant, pillowy clouds, then double up, but I used this amount and it covered 12 cakes.
It’s best not to pipe the meringue into too much of peak anyway, as it then burns under the grill before the rest of it has had a chance to colour, so try and keep your piping quite ‘flat’. Using a large star shaped nozzle, start at the outside and work in.
Anyhoo, so using a food processor, or just a very clean bowl, a whisk and lots of elbow grease, whip up the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Now you can start to add the sugar, a spoonful at a time, while continuing to whisk. Check occasionally that all the sugar has ‘melted’ into the meringue. It shouldn’t feel gritty to the touch. Because you’re piping, I give it an extra whizz in the machine to make sure it’s really thick and holds its shape.Then, when glossy and smooth, just pipe (or dollop) the meringue onto the cupcakes and pop them under a very hot grill (or have a go at them with a blowtorch if you’re hard core) until they’re nicely caramelised, but hopefully not burnt. The usual warnings about people who shouldn’t eat raw eggs apply here.
Do you buy Fairtrade coffee? Chocolate maybe? I think a lot of us do – I know I do it now without even thinking about it. It gives me peace of mind to know that farmers and growers in developing country are being treated well and don’t suffer at the hands of my buying decisions.
So how about cotton? I hadn’t really thought about it before, but this video is a brilliant way of explaining why we should all be looking for the Fairtrade label on things that we buy. Helping to fight poverty by guaranteeing the farmers a minimum, fair price for their cotton is a wonderful thing to be a part of. Take five minutes and have a look. It’s worth it, I promise.
The lovely chaps at Yeo Valley are always coming up with nice ways to use their 100% yeoganic yogurts. Recently they’ve been dabbling in smoothies (ooer) and have come up with some fab yogurty recipes – perfect for breakfast times, especially if you’re in a hurry, trying to be a bit healthier, or even just not mad keen on eating breakfast.
Such is the SHEER EXCITEMENT at the new smoothies down in the Yeo Valley, they’ve decided that they want everyone making them and have teamed up with the wondrous KitchenAid. From this weekend, you’ll be able to find a special code on promotional pots of Yeo Valley’s Natural and Fruited Big Pot Yeogurts which can be entered into Yeo Valley’s website or Facebook page. 1,000 (I know, right? 1000!) lucky people will win KitchenAid artisan blenders, and there are 10,000 gadget sets (they include a whisk, peeler, can-opener, ice cream scoop and spatula) too.
If you’re not one of the lucky ones, I’ve snaffled an extra blender away for you, my dearest reader. Just leave a comment. Any comment (tell me what smoothies you like… what you have for breakfast, hell, you can even tell me what colour drawers you have on… whatever takes your fancy) and one lucky person will be chosen at random to win the blender.
The small print: This competition ends on Monday 9th July. Winner will be chosen at random after this date and will receive one Empire Red KitchenAid blender. UK only. No cash alternative.
************THIS COMPETITION IS NOW CLOSED – WELL DONE TO ‘ANONOMUM’!!****************
Today is a great day for my buddies at Gatwick Airport and the lovely Jamie Oliver. Today sees the opening of Jamie’s brand new restaurant at the North Terminal, as well as a new Jamie’s Italian Bakery and a Union Jack’s Bar.
The restaurant is a mahoosive version of Jamie’s other Italian restaurants, the largest at the airport, with really nice open (well, glass fronted) kitchens, a wood-fired pizza oven and a fab view over the runways. The bakery, which is a new concept, will serve yummy treats like bread baked freshly overnight, pizzas, sandwiches and cakes and cookies too. The pub is another first in the UK and will serve little snacks along with drinks and there’s an amazing all-British wine list as well as UK beers too.
As a member of the Gatwick Passenger Panel, I’m bloody delighted for Gatwick, and so proud that they’re listening to their passengers and providing really great places to eat and drink. Well done, guys.