Sunday, June 28, 2009
Just incase there is a mad, unexpected rush on my blog, I should possibly clarify that 'everyone' will be, lets say, ten!
I'll be back on Friday 3rd and will be in touch then.
Saturday, June 27, 2009
I leave you with my cartoon feeling of the day....
Friday, June 26, 2009
I think the path to true adventure is to look in small places, to go on little trips and to chat to the most unlikely people. Me and the kids find it wherever we go. It usually involves little or no money, old clothes and mud. And strange people. I LOVE strange people. Don't ask me why, it's just the way it is.
To celebrate the end of school and the beginning of summer, I tried to book us into our local restaurant Massimos for pizza. The girl answered the phone after a loooong time ringing and when she eventually answered, she sounded bored out of her skull:-
Me: "Can I book a table for this evening please?".
BW: "Well, that depends..."
Me"....really, what does it depend on?"
BW: "How many people it's for!" (Unspoken..."Like, duh! Moron!" *eyes rolling*)
Me: "There will be five of us"
BW: "We-ll, I have no booths left...."
Me: (Unspoken..."Did I ASK for a booth??") "Ookay, do you have a TABLE?"
BW: "Uh....no...maybe. (Silence)"
Me: (Silence...quietly banging my head off the wall)
BW: "I could give you a table outside the restaurant..."
Me: (Unspoken..."What, in the restaurant across the road where the staff are MUCH more professional?") "No thank you, we don't want to eat outside the restaurant"
Sooooo, we had pastafest instead! The kids were delighted and Kelly said it was MUCH better here anyway. I love that gal.
We tucked into macaroni cheese, creamy papardelle with feta, pine nuts (yes!...pine nuts...I have them!) and cherry tomatoes alongside a nice crusty baguette.
Creamy Papardelle with Feta, Pine Nuts and Cherry Tomatoes
This is enough for two incredibly greedy people or four smug, not so greedy people.
Papardelle, cook as per packet instructions
Scant tablespoon olive oil
Onion, chopped small
Garlic clove, sliced thinly
Cherry tomatoes, around 8
3 tablespoons of cream or more to taste
Handful grate Parmesan
Pine nuts, dry toasted (very hot pan, add nuts and shake..for this dish, until dark)
Feta cheese, around a small handful, cubed
Add chopped onions to olive oil, heated in frying pan. Cook for five minutes until softened...if they look like they may catch and burn, add a droplet or two of water and stir. Add garlic..do not add earlier or it will burn...and stir, cooking for a couple of minutes. Add half the tomatoes whole and the others halved. Squeeze them about a bit. Stir, add cream, stir, add lots of freshly ground black pepper and a pinch of salt. Drain pasta when ready and add to onion mixture, coat with sauce, throw in the Parmesan and pour into serving dish. Sprinkle over toasted pine nuts and feta cheese. You could of course add any kind of herb or even a little grating of nutmeg but it's perfect as it is.
My ankle is still swollen but it is much better, my knee is a scabby mess and I won't be surprised if they run away from me at the swimming pool, crying and screaming but otherwise, I'm fine. Lucy is all better by the looks of her running round in circles shouting 'Flapjack!' at the moment. I still have lots of work to do and have to cancel some activities we had planned because we are going on holiday this Sunday and we just don't have time to do everything. But I'm relaxed, chilled and think someone may have slipped some Valium in my wine....
Thank you Shona for a wonderful brunch this morning...bacon rolls, crusty ciabatta with roasted peppers and melted mozzarella, little cupcakes with fresh raspberry icing, fresh strawberries, blackberries and raspberries, fresh orange juice and hot, wonderful coffee...Maureen, Anne, Karen and I were delighted. It was a lovely way to end the year.
Thursday, June 25, 2009
By the time dinner rolled around I'd decided to stop being a wuss and make my kids a proper tea. I wanted to use up fridge and kitchen ingredients as we're off on holiday so I decided on Toad in the Hole. For those of you not familiar with such delicacies as Toad in the Hole or Spotted Dick or even Haggis, Neeps and Tatties, do not be afraid. This is no amphibian picnic; this is simply sausages cooked with a Yorkshire Pudding batter.
If there is one thing I'm happy to wax lyrical on, it is the joy of my particular Yorkshire Pudding (adapted from Nigella's). Never has a pudding been so foolproof, so wonderful and so easy. Mixed with sausages, it is one of those classic English dishes that may make you wonder about us Brits but believe me, this is a delight...a stodgy delight, but a delight nonetheless and one which children LOVE. Add gravy and you've given them a little plate of memories. Add onion gravy and adult guests will love you too!
Toad in the Hole
Yorkshire Pudding Batter
325ml semi-skimmed milk
4 large eggs
250g plain flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
Hotdog sausages (if preferred)
Whisk together the milk, eggs and salt until huge bubbles appear and leave to stand for 15-20 minutes. Then, whisk in the flour and then leave it until required. Do not re-whisk.
If using this for Yorkshire Pudding only, then the best way to cook it is to pour a little oil...around half a teaspoon each...into muffin tins. Place tin in an oven at 220oC and let the muffin tray heat up until really hot, around 15 minutes for an already heated oven. Take the tin out of the oven using oven gloves and pour the batter into each individual muffin hole. Place in oven for around 15-20 minutes and watch in awe as each little Yorkshire muffin rises and turns golden. Serves best with roast beef and you definitely need gravy! Feel free to use a large tin though...approx. 25cm across for a round one. It will sink in the middle...it is supposed to with this dish and will still taste divine.
So, for Toad in the Hole, do all of the above but do not use a muffin tin; use any casserole dish and pour in a little oil. Place dish in oven for the 15 minutes and then brown off the sausages in a frying pan. Take dish from hot oven, pour in batter which should start to bubble and toss in the sausages...carefully mind you...and place back in the oven for 20-30 minutes. If it looks ready then it's ready. It rises gloriously so serve right away as it can on occasion start to deflate slightly...just like any baked food.
I added some extra hotdog sausages this time. I'm not a huge fan of these with the pudding but the kids love it and Lucy even prefers it. Serve the Toad, pour over beef gravy and watch the happiness....particularly husband.
I reckon this costs £3.47 for the entire dish and could happily feed six so approx. 56 pence per portion! That is what I call a bargain.
£1.40 Half Pack Sausages
£0.50 Hotdogs (Asda special offer)
£1 Asda Freerange Large eggs, approx. 25p each
25pence flour (HomePride)
I had an accident yesterday. I wasn't participating in extreme sports or parachuting, I wasn't even hillwalking or cycling. No, instead, I was walking into the park with my children and I fell into a little crevice in the road...literally fell right into it. As I disappeared into this tiny little hole, all 8 of the bags I was carrying...yes, 8.....dropped to the ground with me and fell on top of my ankle which was looking at me from a position you should never really see an ankle look at you from.
I lay there for a moment, wanting to shout, swear and cry at the top of my voice but being surrounded by not only my own children but half the kids from school, I held it all in. That's what we do isn't it? I held it in, not wanting to frighten them with the string of expletives going off in my head like fireworks and when one kindly lady asked if I was ok, I said "...fine, thanks".
There was a queue forming behind me as I of course fell over at the entrance where there is a big daft bollard that stops anyone from getting past. So people queued behind me and if there is one thing British people don't like to do, it's queue. The grumblings began and one 'lady' attempted to cartwheel her pram past me. LADY, your pram wasn't going anywhere, except over my withered leg!
So, I got up and gathered the bags, one lovely little girl helping me (thank you Amy)and walked off to sit under the tree and lick my wounds. I pretended to be on the phone so that I could sniffle to myself without anyone asking me if I was ok and to give me time to survey the damage: an enormous lump appeared on my knee and I was bleeding....I was wearing new linen cream trousers....oh yes my friend, this was physical damage, as painful as the gouge with bits of grit in it...another on my ankle, grazing all over and a torn toenail. Better cancel that pedicure.
I'd also banged my head a bit...don't know how that happened....and was feeling pretty sorry for myself which only lasted a moment and I was soon back to chatting to parents, handing out water and shouting "get out of there!". Fast forward to dinner time; we have a little friend over and everyone wants differing things to eat so in my painful, hobbled and woozy state, I complied. By the time they were all happily fed, I was feeling pretty bad.
My ankle continued to swell at a rate of noughts and my headache was getting worse. So, should I have went to A&E? Of course I should have, if only because of the incredibly swelling ankle but I'm always loathe to visit the doctors and waste their time so I thought I'd wait. So I waited until the swelling was the size of my head and thought maybe, maybe I should think about going but Lucy started to feel ill.
And then the story is a haze of cleaning up sick, hugging a crying child, bathing her at 4am, realising she'd been sick all the way from her room into her sisters room and into the bathroom...husband was not impressed at all....and we both began that ritual that all mums and dads know of filling up a bucket with soapy water and disinfectant, the early birds chirping outside, the odd fox cry reaching our ears whilst eyes peer out from heavy lids and grumble at the insanity of it all.
Today was supposed to be a lovely new recipe day as I got a beautiful new cake book....but food and baking and all that jazz will have to wait; Lucy is off school, I can't walk properly, I'm supposed to be packing today, cleaning, have a meeting, buy end of term gifts for the teachers (we finish tomorrow), bake for the lunch tomorrow and generally run around as usual but a visit to the doctor is necessary and everything will be done at slow speed.
Thank you for reading my rant, now that I've written it down I really feel I should delete it as it is hardly in the spirit of positive posting but well, this is real life, isn't it? I leave you with the following poem which tomorrow I will disagree with heartily, but for today, it suits my mood perfectly....
Never cross your bridges till the bridge comes into view
Never go to meet your problems...wait a day or two.
Circumstances arise that rearrange the sorted pack;
Never take a load until it's placed upon your back.
Half lives many miseries upon ourselves we bring
But how often comes along the unexpected thing?
Trust not in yourself clever tricks and common sense
But trust in the ways and the wiles of Providence.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
It looks like the weather has been turned on it's head. You may wonder why us British folk go on about the weather all the time - it's because it is so incredibly unreliable and we spent a good part of our day planning ahead; on Sunday I went for a 6 mile walk in the rain. I had an umbrella, boots and a rainjacket. Half way round, I had to pull a pair of sandals out of my humungous bag and stuff it with boots, rainjacket and jumper. What a kafuffle. But such is life, particularly in Scotland.
What I love about the sun is the food we serve up. It's fresh, uncomplicated and healthy; salads, cold meats, antipasti, cold pasta, smoked fish, fresh fruit, crunchy vegetables, cous cous, rice, dressings and mild, creamy cheese. Freshly squeezed juices, smoothies, ice lollies. Ice cream. Frozen yoghurt.
So, tonight, we had my older sis come to visit with little baby M and she fancied some antipasti! Woohoo. Yup, two nights in a row which was a great treat.
The kids had baguette with chicken, a bowl of cucumber and apple slices, cheese, pickled onions and some cold, cooked, baby boiled potatoes. They will be having some tuna mayonnaise and cucumber sandwiches for supper whilst I sit outside with a glass of white wine, the remainder of the Camembert on some Ryvita Crispbread and The Sunday Times supplements which I haven't yet had a chance to read.
Monday, June 22, 2009
This is not an expensive meal as it is shared between many-it is the best meal to have with friends when you do not want to cook on the night and want to chill out with a glass of wine and chat whilst eating over several hours.
To give you an idea of prices, 30 slices of chorizo costs around £1, a large tub of olives between £1-£3, mozarella £1 with the cheese platter being the most expensive but a little goes a long way. There is a wonderful cheese shop in Glasgow called Mellis however, for all I love their cheeses, they need to be eaten almost immediately as oh are they ripe!
This is a lot of food and no matter how many people I have round, there is always some left to snack on for lunches, picnics or even another dinner.
Ah, antipasti...the simple tomato, transformed with a little sea salt, black pepper, fresh basil, garlic oil and fresh mozarella. Thin slices of parmegiano regano. A plate filled with charcuterie: prosciutto, salami and chorizo. Fresh rocket with an olive oil, honey, herb and balsamic vinegar dressing. Freshly baked bread. Olive oil, drizzled with thick, aged balsamic vinegar and sprinkled with sea salt for dipping. Olives; fat, green, Queen olives with whole garlic cloves, little Spanish ones marinaded in lemon oil, glistening, Greek black olives with herbs. Sun-dried tomatoes and roasted peppers.
Then, a round of Camembert, grapes, crackers and Brie. A Dunsyre Blue and a strong cheddar. Homemade chutney and tomato chilli relish alongside caremalised onions.
It doesn't get any better than this.
Sunday, June 21, 2009
Saturday, June 20, 2009
I cooked the beef as normal: I covered the cubes with flour, salt and pepper,and fried in hot oil until browned and sealed and then added an Oxo cube, stirred, added chopped onions, sliced carrots, 2 bay leaves and a sprig of thyme. I poured in some red wine and let it bubble over a hight heat. I then made up a mix of beef stock, Oxo and tomato puree and poured it over the beef. Once it came to the boil I turned it down to a slight simmer and added some thyme leaves off the stalk and some black pepper. It was left, covered, on a simmer for 2 hours and then served with creamy, buttery mashed potatoes. It was polished off really quickly.
I had prawns instead(shrimps)as I thought buttery mashed potatoes and beef weren't really conducive to losing weight and as I'd also walked for miles today I was pretty motivated...and shattered! I decided to have them on their own but with a little sauce so I set about making my own sweet chilli sauce and the twist was using sesame oil...really amazing, particularly with the prawns. I think I'll have this tomorrow too but add peppers, onions and either noodles or rice.
Sweet Chilli Sauce with Sesame Oil
1 whole red chilli, seeds removed
2 cloves garlic
Ginger, peeled and roughly chopped, around 2 inches
Good big pinch sea salt
Around a tablespoon white wine vinegar (added a little more near the end)
Around Tablespoon and a bit more of sesame oil
Put chilli, garlic and ginger into blender. Blend well and then add sugar, salt, vinegar and sesame oil. Blend on a low speed then turn up to high. Scrape all the ingredients together and add a little more vinegar and oil if needed. It should be thick but still liquidy.
Empty into bowl, scraping out all the bits of chilli and garlic that have clung to the side. Taste and add more sugar/salt if required. This is a spicy version so watch out...a little goes a long way. The smell is divine.
This would be great as it is, cold as a dip or with chicken or fish or even as a marinade, but I heated up a tablespoon in a frying pan and added a good handful of prawns, emptied into a bowl after a few minutes of quick stir frying and sprinkled with black pepper. It was really, really good.
Friday, June 19, 2009
The cocktails weren't to my liking...no French Martinis (eh, Anne, Karen?) so we stuck to a rather tasty Sauvignon Blanc and antipasti...you know how I feel about their antipasti of course. Wonderful. The lovely and charming Andrew served us, yet again and we had a grand time with Maureen and Siobhan joining us....the singer was pretty good and I enjoy a bit of cheese now and then.
My plans today involved shopping, cooking, painting, cleaning, hoovering, making a tent in my daughter's room, gardening, walking, baking and yoga. What did I actually do? Drunk coffee, watched The Gilmore girls, had coffee, made a tent, sipped more coffee, talked to Shona on the phone for 50 minutes (I had 3 visits with her yesterday including the Titanic production and the pub), some more coffee, tried to show my husband some yoga moves but he went to put on the coffee after a few minutes and blogged. Now, I have ten minutes before the kids come back, with sleepover friends and in that time I must cook, clean, hoover and bake. The shopping, painting, gardening, walking and yoga shall have to wait.
I so wanted a new menu plan today but it shall be here tomorrow whereby I shall shop, cook, paint....... Ok, we'll play it by ear.
Now for that chicken.........
Kelly The Titanic Stewardess
Madeleine Astor, 1st Class Passenger (Me) with Kelly the Stewardess
Thursday, June 18, 2009
Well, within seconds, Kelly came down to tell me nonchalantly that there was no banging going on upstairs and in fact, she thought it was coming from outside. I sat, suspended in a slow forming heat and mortification: it wasn't my children banging away like hooligans but in fact, my lovely next door neighbour doing a few home improvements. I sat for an age, wondering what on earth I should do when the quietest little tapping came at me from the ceiling once again...or as I'd figured out by this time, the wall. I rushed to the conservatory to see if I could catch my neighbour to apologise but he wasn't there. All there was left was the last few, quiet, apologetic taps ringing in my ear, the taps of a man horrified to hear his neighbour scream at him like a banshee and probably embarrassed that his banging had caused so much offence.
I feel terrible. And I'm the colour of a pink...thing. So, yes, my neighbour thinks I'm a freak and will no doubt avoid me from now on. My husband thinks it is all hilarious of course and wants to explain, just so they can laugh about it. Sigh.
The day can only get better, right? Wrong. I noticed a smell eminating from the general direction of the fridge. I'm not good with smells, I don't like them and I'm scared to find out where they are coming from. I thought I should investigate though as it was the fridge after all. But no, all seemed ok though the smell didn't waver.
After a few hours, I determined that a further, deeper investigation was required so I opened the freezer to have ice lollies, prawns, pies and lasagna's droop, seep and laugh at me. Yup, the freezer was f...um, not working.
You know when you are tired, you're feeling a bit under the weather, a bit cold even and you discover your freezer has defrosted £100s worth of food? Do you know that feeling? It isn't good is it? Bah. I opened both fridge and freezer, emptied them, saved what I could and binned the rest, shedding a little tear as they went to an early grave. At this point my husband intervened, cleaned up the mess, cleaned the fridge and freezer including the containers (even if he did do them in the bath...!!!) and left them all out to dry. Thank you, husband. We're turning it back on today....the freezer....and hopefully, fingers crossed because I'm not going shopping for a new bleedin' fridge freezer! Unless I really, really have to.
Food tonight? Who knows.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
After an hour of yoga I felt much better and did some work then walked to school. I took the long way and walked for over an hour and nearly got run over by a big, stupid truck. At the traffic lights too!
I then took the kids to the park until 5pm so we got back tired, hungry and unable to function properly so pizza was heaved from the recesses of the freezer and shoved into a a rather cool oven. No-one noticed how bad it was, except me but the funny thing about hunger is that even crappy, cool pizza tastes like nectar from the gods. We all ate it in front of the tv watching a ridiculous family movie (Yours, Mine & Ours) and Kelly and I even cried with the twins pointing at us and laughing.
The night is still young, Brian goes to fight pretend foes tonight and I shall look out all the summer clothes for our holiday. I'm living the life of a movie star! Have a good Tuesday everyone.
There was no frantic running. There was not a sign of urgency. Instead, I shuffled.
I walked slowly from room to room, half completing tasks and kicking the occasional teddy bear. Most of my time was spent blogging. Having never blogged as much before, I have to say it was great fun although my head started to hurt after staring at the computer for so long and my body went into a mild shock at not having done any walking. But that aside, it was fun.
I'm still tired today. I still have my tartan trousers on. You should see my hair; I went to bed with it wet and now I'm a fully signed up member of the Hair Bear Bunch (anyone younger than 35 won't have a clue what I'm on about!). I haven't yet placed a mascara wand near my eyes.
So, I'm at a crossroads: do I get dressed, do the housework, cook, do some paid work, go for my usual walk and generally run around like the proverbial blue-arsed fly or do I have another chillin' day? I think I already know the answer....*sigh*. Better go put on another pot of coffee....
Monday, June 15, 2009
4 Tomatoes (or more) cut into quarters
Pesto (yes, I know but I love the stuff and I made A LOT!)
Salt and Pepper
Put oven on to around 200 Celsius
Drizzle pesto over tomatoes, around a tablespoon and add sea salt & black pepper.
Crumble over a little goats cheese to taste...feta would work just as well.
Place in oven. After around 5 or so minutes, put water on to boil for spaghetti. Cook spaghetti as per instructions and drain.
Take tomatoes out of oven and blend 3/4 of them in a blender...if no blender then mash with a fork.
Pour blended mix over spaghetti and bowl up! Arrange the remaining tomatoes around the plate. Enjoy.
I'm not a calorie counter...life is too short, right? However, I'd say I'm more aware these days and for future reference, I've worked out that this pasta comes to 458 calories for the full serving. See the following breakdown:
350 calories for 100g uncooked spaghetti
0 calories for tomatoes
58 calories in pesto although as you are all well aware, mine was made without pine nuts!
50 calories for the goats cheese (the creamy kind, used around 25g)
Total calories 458 which is pretty good going; I didn't finish mine tonight as it was too much. The amount of sauce was enough for 2 so if you were to add another 50g pasta then the total for two would be 633 or 316 per serving. No wonder I'm losing weight.
The approx. cost of this per serving is 55 pence. Yup, you heard right.
Asda Spaghetti on offer at 2 for £1, 1kg pasta. Per 150g therefore is 15 pence.
Tomatoes approx. 14 pence each x 4=56 pence
Goats cheese cost 25p (Asda £10 per kg)
Pesto I'm just going to estimate at 15 pence per tablespoon although it could well be less.
Total Cost=£1.11/2= 55 pence per serving!! Goodness...who says you can't eat well for less?
For years, I've been feeding my kids Nigella Lawson's 'Ritzy Chicken Nuggets'. They don't particularly sound fabulous but actually, they are and are just as tasty if not more so in an adult salad with a mustard dressing. They are very moreish and I always have to remember the old adage: 'Little Pickers Wear Big Knickers'. My advice? Don't make too many or you'll be squashing them boiling hot into your gub before the kids catch you.
The chicken is marinaded for at least a day so you need to buy the chicken and buttermilk in advance for tomorrow's tea!
Ritzy Chicken Nuggets
2 chicken breasts
1 tub buttermilk (usually 285 ml)
150 g Ritz crackers
125ml vegetable oil
Place the chicken in a plastic bag and get rid of all that pent up aggression by battering them with a rolling pin....very cathartic. Probably best doing one breast at a time or wee holes appear in the bag and the chicken starts trying to escape...not a fun sight.
Take out of bag and cut around 8 goujons per breast. Place chicken in a freezer bag or bowl and cover with buttermilk. Leave to marinade for 1 or 2 days. The chicken turns opaque and is very, very tender so these cook quickly.
Put the Ritz crackers into a bag and have another go at releasing that pent up anger by smashing them to bits with said rolling pin or shoe or even head...whatever takes your fancy that day. I must admit to adding a little salt and pepper but there is no real need. Roll the chicken in the crumbs and then heat oil in frying pan. These nuggets will take only a few minutes each side to cook...as soon as they turn brown, turn them over. Transfer to kitchen towel and blot dry.
I serve these with either rice, baked potatoes or potato salad and vegetables. Tomato sauce or mayonnaise is a pre-requisite. Watch kids devour them and look on in jealousy, hoping someone leaves you a morsel.
Sunday, June 14, 2009
I am waiting with baited breath until 10pm. Is that too late to be eating frozen dessert?
Nah. 'Course not.
Soy Sesame Chicken Skewers and Rice.
2 chicken breasts
Chop chicken, onion and peppers into chunks and marinade in the following mix:
4 tablespoons soy sauce, a drizzle of sesame oil and honey, juice from 1 lemon. Leave for 4 hours or overnight. Lightly toast sesame seeds and coat chicken pieces, quantity to taste. Place onto skewers alongside onions and peppers (mushrooms also work well) and cook on griddle, frying pan or bbq until brown and cooked through. You can also cook these in the oven, if you prefer. Soak the skewers first to stop them from burning.
Cook rice as per instructions and mix with chopped cucumber.
Place yoghurt, approx. 5 tablespoons in a bowl and mix with a squeeze of lemon juice.
Serve rice, skewers and yoghurt with some pitta if you feel like it. Enjoy.
Saturday, June 13, 2009
As it turned out, the band were good, including a particularly well versed Pink Floyd rendition (although the Frankie Goes to Hollywood cover kind of threw me off track, despite taking me right back to my youth) and a Kasabian number. The people were not the kind to force feed anyone and in fact, in that particular crowd, I'm probably the imbiber. This was no bacchanal evening however and a few gin and tonics with a glass of wine thrown in met our needs.
I was unsure beforehand of course and took the precaution of having scooby snacks ready in the fridge, lots of bottled water and a low fat, tasty dinner just an hour before going out. Cannae take that hangover, girls.
I opted for a undyed smoked haddock fillet and having quantities left of pesto sans pine nuts, I decided to try it with the fish. Pesto goes amazingly well with lemon sole and that is in fact one of my favourite dishes: lemon sole with pesto, crispy courgettes, spinach and sauce verde. More on that later! I placed the fish on foil, smothered it with the pesto and squeezed a little lemon juice atop alongside a few thin slices.
I packaged up the foil and placed it onto a tin, ready for the oven. I then chopped up a selection of tomatoes, spring onions and red pepper, mixed it all with a little pesto, added some fresh thyme, salt and pepper and placed in the tin alongside the wrapped fish.
The fish and salad veg was placed into a hot oven, bottom shelf as the chicken was cooking for the kids and Brian on the top shelf, for 10 minutes. I served it on a bed of mixed leaves including watercress and spinach as well as some rice and green beans.
The kids and Brian had roasted lemon and thyme chicken, roasted pearl potatoes, thrown into the chicken 30 minutes before the end. Once the chicken was cooked, it was plated and wrapped in foil to rest. The heat was turned up on the oven and the potatoes put back in-they start to caremalise at this stage because of the lemon juice and chicken gravy still inside the dish. That was served with rice and green beans.So, today, I awoke with only a very mild sore head, thanks to the water, toast and butter and sleep I had last night. It was all go today with parties, walking and the likes so the traditional rolls and bacon were consumed with some frozen yoghurt and berries as an afternoon snack. I felt in the need for some stodge but needed to get it from somewhere other than the chippy! So I made my own version of fried fish and chips....calamari. The recipe for this is as follows and it really was perfect, not too high in fat and I'm full and happy.
Salt and Pepper Calamari with Mixed Rice
A handful of calamari, washed and dried. Calamari is incredibly cheap, the amount I used costing around 70 pence.
salt and pepper
Vegetable oil for frying
Cooked Rice (I used yesterday's leftovers)
Chopped peppers, cucumber and spring onion and whatever else takes your fancy.
Drizzle over the calamari a small amount of sesame oil, salt and pepper, and mix. Roll in the following mixture: two tablespoons flour, lots of freshly ground black pepper, a good pinch of sea salt, chilli flakes to taste.
Pour oil in pan to cover bottom. Get really hot and add the calamari in batches...don't crowd the pan. The secret to tender, tasty calamari is to treat it like meat: you either cook it very quickly over a high heat or stew it slowly for a long time over a low heat. Cook quickly until the outside turns brown and then turn over. This should only take a few minutes. Place on kitchen towel to dry.
Mix chopped veg into the rice, sprinkle over some soy sauce and place the calamari on top. Eat with chopsticks and enjoy. Hangover, begone!
Friday, June 12, 2009
Picture and recipe posting to follow....I know my friend Agnes was looking for a fish recipe from me so this might be the one although lemon sole works better.
I finally shopped today having not needed to because of the weekend's festivities and the remaining food. I spent £36.79 today and that included, along side dinner, lots of fruit, salad, juice, ice lollies (Skinny Cow triple chocolate lollies, 90 odd calories per bar......mmmmmmmmmm), mousse, yoghurt and nutella.
Have a wonderful Friday night!
Thursday, June 11, 2009
Helen's Homemade Crisps
2 large Maris Piper Potatoes
Vegetable or Sunflower oil for frying
Keep the skins on for added flavour and crunchiness. Slice potatoes with a mandolin and place in some cold water. Give them a stir and then drain and dry on kitchen towel. Heat oil until very hot and drop in a handful of potato slices at a time. Give them a stir, separating them as you go along using a slotted spoon. You want to remove them whilst some slices are brown and some still quite pale. Remove and place on more kitchen towel. Repeat as often as necessary until all crisps are cooked. Pat to dry and sprinkle with sea salt. Leave for 5-10 minutes to crisp up.
Keeping it simple, I usually add some extra sea salt and a great big grinding of freshly ground black pepper. Some of the crisps will still be a little soft and most will be crispy...this is the perfect combination. You can add some paprika, vinegar, chilli powder or celery salt, whatever takes your fancy. You must have a remote control, a blanket and a good film handy!
They were dropped off and Brian, Kelly and I made our way to The Burnbrae for a bite to eat. Kelly wasn't too keen, having witnessed a previous attempt at family dining in the place and remembering that it left us wanting...did I listen? No, I did not. Kelly, being a good little girl who does as she is told, simply shrugged and said "ok, mum".
So off we trundled, looking forward to a night off and a bit of reasonable fare. We kept it simple, Brian ordering Ham, Eggs and Chips, and since I didn't want to put all our eggs in one basket.....!....I went for the sausage and mash. Kelly was reluctant to pick anything as it was a fairly dodgy looking child's menu but plumped for BBQ chicken and chips.
The Burnbrae isn't known for it's speed but the meals arrived in what seemed like a few minutes...never really a good sign. That being said, Brian's ham and eggs were lovely looking, the eggs cooked to perfection and the ham...well, ham. My sausages were enormous and three huge links were more than this gal could manage. The mash was translucent, never a good thing as it means cheap white potatoes and no butter. The gravy was passable but lumpy and get this: no onions with it. What is the point of sausage and mash without onions? It's like Haggis without the Neeps or Posh without Becks.
Kelly's food was a sight to behold; dried bits of chicken with a bowl full of lumpy bbq sauce from a previous era. Her look of horror said it all. The ice-cream...the tiny scoop they gave her...tasted of vomit, apparently...an exaggeration no doubt but who leaves chocolate ice cream uneaten?
The charming, attentive and lovely waiter (Andrew?) with the long ponytail was so good however that I didn't complain. How very un-Helen like of me.
To make up for this ahem, meal, I made cupcakes. I was supposed to go walking after the party pick up but I thought of others for a change (ROTFL) and stayed at home to make cakes. I want an award.
These were lemon cupcakes with a plain, white royal icing and little flowers atop. They went down a treat.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
For the base:
50g dark muscovado sugar
200g icing sugar
50g unsalted butter
200g smooth peanut butter
For the topping:
200g milk chocolate
100g plain chocolate
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 square brownie tine, lined, approx.23 cm square.
Stir all the base ingredients together until smooth, either in a mixer or with a wooden spoon. Don't worry too much about lumps. Press the mix into the tin trying to make the surface as even as possible.
To make topping, melt the chocolate and butter together and spread over the base. Put in fridge to set. You may think you can eat all of this at one sitting but you can't. No-one can. Homer Simpson couldn't. It is very rich but incredibly more-ish so be careful. Do not say I didn't warn you.
Yesterday, I took most of the remaining basil I had left and made a pesto by blending together garlic, Parmesan, salt and olive oil. I didn't have pine nuts, yet again because I can't seem to find them anywhere! It's like they've suddenly become extinct or as rare as...well, a rare thing; the labels are there in the shops, taunting me: 'pine nuts', 'organic pine nuts', 'not quite organic but still ok pine nuts'. Yet the shelves are empty. Has there been a national shortage, a crisis I'm unaware off? Is it something to do with the disappearing bees? Who knows? Any thoughts? So, yes, back to the point, my pesto had no nuts but still tasted delicious.
I also had a good pile of tomatoes left so yesterday I slow roasted them as I did for the brunch, with basil, Parmesan, salt, olive oil and balsamic vinegar and placed them in the fridge, once cooked (after eating some straight from the oven and burning my tongue...greedy wench).
When I was hungry later on, I boiled up some fusilli and added a spoonful of the pesto, a handful of the tomatoes and a wee amount of olives to the cooked pasta.....talk about a taste sensation! It is so true that the simplest dishes are just the best...it was wonderful.
After such a great meal, Kelly, Lucy and I walked to the park whilst Fraser was at his last 'Beavers' meet. It took us around 40 minutes and Kelly took her bike; she is becoming really confident and was very safe which was good to see. After a play around the park, we wandered down to MacDonalds for ice cream...the extra ten minute walk in the sun was lovely and I only had a spoonful of the white stuff.
Today, as usual, I had a mad dash out the door to get to yoga in time and was buoyed along by the sunshine and sandals; there is something wonderful about having your feet out in the sun, not something we get to experience too often in Scotland! Yoga was wonderful and really instructive; I learnt a lot about my breathing and bandhas and felt great, if in dire need of coffee and lots of it. Afterwards, I walked down to meet Ann for our usual activity which instead of leading us all the way to Milngavie, a town a few miles away, led us instead to the Burnbrae for a plate of their wonderful antipasti and an afternoon of chat.
I shall come up with some inventive pasta for the return of the clan from swimming and give it some name which sounds Italian and like I've been cooking it for years...as long as it tastes good and is said with authority, they should believe but there are too many dishes with 'a la Helen' these days.....
Monday, June 8, 2009
Bought pre-cooked, we like to re-heat them in a frying pan and eat with our fried breakfast or Sunday Brunch with a sprinkling of salt or some good old tomato or brown sauce. Potato scones however are the simplest thing in the world to make and taste even better fresh. Most traditional Scottish recipes are made from cheap, local ingredients, particularly those that come immediately to hand from the cupboard. The Potato Scone...or tattie scone as we like to call it, was a way of using up left over mashed potato and this is the only time I make it too. I can't help eating one as I cook them but as is the tradition, I let them get cold and reheat them for everyone later.
Half pound (225g) boiled and mashed potatoes (Maris Piper is what I always use)
2.5oz (65g) flour
3 tablespoons melted butter and a meagre tablespoon milk
Half teaspoon salt
Mash the potatoes while they are still warm and add the butter, milk and salt. Add in enough flour to make it a pliable dough but without making it too dry-this is very important. Add more butter if this happens but the type of potato will also affect this.
Turn out onto a floured surface and roll until about quarter of an inch thick. Cut into six inch circles and then into quarters. Prick all over with a fork and cook in a heavy pan which has been lightly greased. Cook each side for about three minutes or until golden brown. Try one with salt and sauce, say mmm and then let the rest get cold to re-heat later.
Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home,
Nothing brings this back than the taste of a scone.
Just call me Rabbie Burns........!
Sunday, June 7, 2009
The tea party today turned into a brunch as everyone was arriving at 12.30. It seemed appropriate, being a Sunday and having a fridge full of bacon and a cupboard full of eggs and tomatoes. I served bacon, sausages, potato scones, potato frittata, (the potatoes first cooked in olive oil, thyme, rosemary and garlic, all removed before adding the eggs), a cheese omelette cooked in oil and an omelette with spring onions and Parmesan cooked in butter.
I cut large tomatoes in half and roasted them with olive oil, a large handful of chopped basil, a sprinkling of thyme, a grating of Parmesan and a drizzle of balsamic. I added a great big pinch of Maldon sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and popped them in the oven at 150 degrees Celsius. I slow roasted them for an hour and they really were delicious; the tomatoes were soft and sweet, the basil crunchy...I really recommend these. We served rolls, bread and butter and great steaming mugs of tea, what else?
After brunch, we had birthday cake and coffee. It was a calm, chatty, lovely birthday brunch. When everyone left, I knew I had to move and move fast. I realised if I didn't keep moving that I might fall down in a little heap and not move for a few hours, bar some twitching. So, I went upstairs to repair the damage 10 or 12 kids can amazingly inflict in such a short time.
By then, I wasn't fit for cooking even though Frank my wonderful father in law was here. I suggested pizza at Massimo's as a birthday treat and everyone thought it was a grand idea. Hallelujah! We bumped into the lovely Jo and family who, amongst almost all of Bearsden, had had the same idea as us: they were seating them out the door! The sfiziosa pizza was lovely although not as spicy as normal and I ate only a few slices. The kids hardly ate anything before running outdoors to play. Sigh. Thank goodness for take out boxes.
I laughed heartily when Brian 'suggested' making snickerdoodle cake. Instead, we went to Asda where the kids got to spend some of their birthday money and mini chocolate muffins were bought for those who wanted to partake in a sweet. I know, I hear you all cry...but they didn't even eat their dinner! Look, it was their birthday, we're all allowed a day off from the norm. So yes, I let them have muffins and sweets too. Thrrp.
After all this and feeling slightly faint, I stumbled inside, grasping about in the haze for coffee. But I had a revelation last night. More on that later. The revelation came back to me and I crawled up the stairs at 8pm, shouting instructions for baths (for the children) and went for a 30 minute walk in the sun. The day still isn't over as uniforms need to be found but you know, I'm alive, I'm well and I have three happy children, a smug husband and a reasonably contented father in law. Life is grand.
Parachute Games organised by Val...great fun!
There sure were a lot of kids!
Saturday, June 6, 2009
80 sausages, 80 burgers, 100 hotdogs, 40 ribs, 12 veggie burgers, 8 veggie skewers, 6 prawn skewers, 24 chicken breasts, potato salad, mozzarella and tomato salad were all consumed in their entirety. Most of the pasta was eaten as was the fruit salad and there was not even a crumb of chocolate cake left. It was a lovely night.
Some friends came back afterwards but I eventually succumbed to tiredness (apparently...oops) and woke in a dehydrated and tired mess. That's when I realised I had kids staying over and there was a fun day planned at the bear factory and then food, drink, sweets... It's 4pm and I'm just home. Exhaustion is creeping in. The kids were wonderful though and it was a nice day. I must away and get showered again though as we are heading to Ricky and Irene's. Oh, and then there is tomorrow's tea party....................!
Thursday, June 4, 2009
Veggie Burgers (Non-spicy)
Boil peeled and quartered potatoes with a cupful of washed lentils. Once soft, drain. Peel and finely chop an onion, add some fresh thyme and fry gently in vegetable oil. Once soft, add some thinly sliced garlic and yellow pepper, chopped small. Add salt and freshly ground pepper, a tiny sprinkling of cayenne pepper...it makes the onions look wonderful...and stir. Cook for another few minutes.
Add to the onion mix the potato and lentil mixture and add a few good wedges of unsalted butter. Coarsely mash with a fork...you want little chunks of potato left...and transfer to a bowl. Add some more butter if required, a good grinding of nutmeg and adjust seasoning to taste. Cover and place in fridge until cold.
I plan to make these into small patties and roll in flour...I won't bother with the egg as it should stick fairly well and to cook, I'll place on a bbq foil tray with holes, brush with a little oil and cook. There is a possibility I may need to put a little oil onto the tray; these cannot go directly onto the barbecue as they would fall apart.
Now to make the potato salad....only 5 hours left til bedtime!
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
Lucy and Fraser are turning eight this weekend and there will be approx. 30 families coming along to help us celebrate but of course that means food, and lots of it. Lots of food means planning and that is something I sadly, yet happily enjoy doing. Yay.
I had a simple list to begin with but simple lists are made to be laughed and pointed at and therefore I'll no doubt come up with new ideas every 30 minutes or so until shopping tomorrow. I'll have to take in a budget, i.e. clutching the notes in my hand with the cards left at home or else I'll be buying smoked salmon, caviar and Madagascar prawns galore....hmmm.
So far, I'm making up two marinades for 12 chicken breasts, one made of garlic, lemon and olive oil with the other a home-made bbq flavour concoction. I'll batter each chicken breast until flat and tender and cut into two. I'll marinade them tonight until Friday. That way, they will cook really quickly and hopefully be very tasty. I thought instead of the faff of trying to fry onions to go with the burgers, I'll make some onion confit which can sit in a metal bowl over the heat, to be added to dogs, burgers or chicken as required.
I'll be doing my goats cheese pasta with lemon and pine nuts, tomato pasta and am thinking up a new one, possibly with some spicy sausage or chorizo. There will of course be the obligatory salads, one of sliced tomato, mozzarella and basil, a potato salad and homemade coleslaw.
Mairi and Sarah suggested Pimms as a good summer drink so I'm thinking of adopting it into some kind of punch with fruit but I shall wait and see what the weather is like. There will of course be plenty of wine, beer and Bombay Gin!
Birthday cakes will be two of the chocolate cakes I made the other week and I'll place them together to make an 8. I thought I'd also do a few lemon cupcakes, some brownies and a fruit salad. Wow, I hope they'll be hungry. I know the kids will take two bites of a hotdog and that will be it. Excitement, friends and games will get the better of them. We have a treasure hunt planned and the lovely Val has borrowed some sports bits and bobs as have I for game time.
I made up these party bags, if you can call them that; I bought mugs and filled them full of sweets, covered them in lovely wrapping and there we have it; 40 bags of sweets I've had to look at for a few weeks without being able to eat. Woe is me.
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
I was feeling restless after missing the active day I had planned of yoga, walking and swimming (sorry Ann!) so after taking Lucy to her swimming lesson, I had a brief walk about the area.
Kelly was out with Fraser and dad for some food as she was feeling a bit better so I left Fraser to finish eating and took Kelly for a stroll through the walkway which used to be a very old wood and now is only a tiny patch of woodland, just by the Allander Sports Centre and the old bus station. We heard a rustling in the bushes and a baby deer came bounding out, froze and then quickly turned away, leaping over the stumps and occasional crisp packet! We felt honoured.
Brian and Fraser came and picked us all up and we went home to soup and fruit. I put two chickens in the oven to roast, one rubbed with ginger with a few slices of the fragrant stuff stuck inside the cavity, the other with the usual halved lemon and salt. I rubbed some butter over the lemon chicken and drizzled over some olive oil then sprinkled on some salt to make the skin extra crispy...that's Lucy's favourite part.
On the Ginger chicken, I rubbed the smallest amount of butter...a smear, shall we say...over the bird and then drizzled a few drops of sesame oil. I roasted them in the oven for 2 hours at 220 degrees Celsius. When there were 30 minutes remaining, I added in the half of the sweet potato I had left from yesterday, cut into chunks just as I would for roast potatoes.
Once ready, I covered the birds with foil and left to rest...meat should always be left to rest, it stays hot for at least 30 minutes and the flavours intensify...and then sliced the lemon chicken for the kids to have for supper. They kept asking for more and more, it was so lemony and tasty with a tiny hint of ginger from the other bird.
I had the ginger chicken without the skin and with the sweet roast potato..how wonderful these were, with the golden, sticky sauce from the chicken clinging to them making them sweet and salty with a tiny bit of a crunch and then the soft centre. I served this for myself only as Brian is dancing on the dojo (and beering at the Burnbrae) and added some steamed broccoli. I highly recommend this simple, tasty dish and no sauce or melted butter was required as I spooned over a teaspoon of the delicious liquid from the chicken pan....a meld of lemon, salt and ginger. I'm a happy mum tonight.
Monday, June 1, 2009
The sweet potato (I used half for Brian and I) was peeled and sliced into chip size; normally I'd do these chunky but tonight they were cut small so that they would cook quicker. I've spent the entire day at school courtesy of sports day and hardly had time for lunch; hunger was getting the better of me and the fridge was calling my name.
I poured over the potato chips a little drizzle of walnut oil, some freshly ground black pepper, salt, a little cayenne and a sprinkling of piri piri. I mixed it all together, placed it in an oven proof dish and roasted at 220 degrees Celsius for 20 minutes. Just keep your eye on them. Test if ready by sticking a fork in; it should be soft.
I then moved the dish from the top shelf to the one underneath and place the fish fillets on the top shelf. I turned the oven down to 200. After a further 10-12 minutes, it was ready. I served with some quickly made tartare (capers, parsley, lemon juice, salt and pepper mixed into some light mayonnaise and stirred), some salad and bread and butter. Delicious. It made no difference that it wasn't deep fried or coated in egg first, this was simply tasty. Brian found the chips a bit too spicy...they were...so a bit easy with the piri piri and cayenne next time.
The kids are being fed at The Broons as they have a swimming pool and we don't...so bye bye, mum!