Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Very Merry Month of May

I have a trip planned to France and London in May; holidays for me are like buses, none for ages then they all come along at the same time, causing chaos.   May is also home to husband's birthday, a concert, 5 school holidays, 6 birthday parties, the school disco and parent's day.   Top that with friends donning the Bermuda shorts to fling caution to the wind/snow/thunder and lightning by dragging out the dusty BBQ and you've got a pretty hectic month.   It's got nothing on June though..........

None of this is complaining, you understand; au contraire, I am veree 'appy, mademoiselles.   It's just a wee bit "aaaargh" and a wee bit "when-do-I-do-the-laundry".   

But since it's still only April, we shall sit back and smell the roses/smoked brioche puffs/mince and tatties.   I have a few days until the madness and fun begins.

I was remiss in my homely duties today because shopping, despite being on the list was forgotten; instead, I went to yoga....wonderful, tiring.....then met Shona for coffee and lunch....lovely.... and straight to the school to draw and paint circus decorations....strange.   I made macaroni cheese when I got home, explaining to Kelly along the way what 'necessity is the mother of invention' means; she asked why the cheese sauce tasted even more delicious och, she's a flatterer that 'un than normal although I did get "um...it needs some more pepper, mum"...there's always a critic....and I explained that I only had a little drop of milk left so I used cream for the rest of the white sauce before adding the cheddar cheese.   Hence my use of the phrase regarding mothers and necessities.

This week, we've had................

Chicken and Olive Stew with dumplings

Curried Parsnip Soup with Quick Pan Bread

Spaghetti Sugo (Spag Bog by any other name)
Lucy's favourite!
 Happy kids

Potato and Butternut Squash Soup

Lemon Roast Chicken stuffed with Savoury Rice
Plus roasted carrots, potatoes, onions, butternut squash, 
steamed broccolli and green beans and baby boiled tatties.

I shall make a new shopping list up tonight, do the trip tomorrow and add it this week, along with one or two recipes.   Have a wonderful week, bloggy peeps.

Thursday, April 22, 2010


Can you claim compensation against yourself?   Since the world has gone mad and every other advert on tv is some dodgy lawyer telling you how you can sue your neighbour for looking at you funny, I thought I'd take it that one step further.   On completing my very enjoyable first session back to yoga on Tuesday, I awoke rather sore and unable to walk without sounds of "ooyah...ouch" escaping from my mouth.   How annoyed was I then, to find an ill placed pair of high heels, jaggy side up, waiting for me on the stairs as I ooyah'd my way down them last night.

Needless to say, my pain this morning from the resounding crash of falling over said shoe and continued pain of lying dormant for 4 weeks and then doing 1.5 hours of yoga is still of the 'rather sore' variety and someone needs to be blamed.  Since I only have myself, then that witch is going down!   The content of my purse contains £4.25 but I have cakes in the fridge, I wonder if that will pay her off?

My strange obsession with People Who Sue began when I read about a lady who, having been invited to a dinner party, found herself falling through her host's dining chair, much to her chagrin but the laughter of others.   The host was apologetic and the lady in question had a bit of a bruised bum and ego but nevertheless, the night continued to much enjoyment of all. 

Two days later, the host receives a letter from a lawyer, explaining that she is being sued for "upset, pain and embarrassment caused whilst in the care of said host's home".   Yes, this was from her lady friend who fell through the chair.   The host, as you can imagine, was astounded and called her soon to be ex friend up and asked her what was the meaning of this; the lady said that people laughed at her and it was all her fault.

Oh dear oh dear.   I'm not normally at a loss for words yeah...we've noticed.....zzzzzzzz.....but this just leaves me speechless.   Since then, I've watched in horrific fascination at the People Who Sue and their reasons behind it....bar the extortion of money of course.   Any stories to fascinate me with?

But enough of that!   Cakes!   Yes, cakes!   I made Strawberry Cheesecake Cupcakes and Mini Chocolate Cheesecakes yesterday.   Why so many, Helen, I hear you ask?   Well, the strawberry ones I had wanted to try and was visiting my lovely friend Karen so was going to take some with me.  The recipe called for 200g of digestive biscuits to be ground and sprinkled on the top.   I duly complied, even though I knew such an amount was ludicrous and must be a typo ok, Brian pointed it out and called me an eejit, but first time making it, I stick to the recipe.   Of course, I was left with approx. 150g of digestive dust and when life gives you said dust, what else can you do with it but make it into cheesecake?   Hence the choccy mini cheesecakey thingies.

Strawberry Cheesecake Cupcakes.....lovely!

Topped with digestive crumbs and strawberries

Inside: strawberries, cake, cream cheese frosting

I'm not a big fan of baked fruit and was a bit dubious but these were delightful.  The recipe was from The Hummingbird Bakery cookbook that the gorgeous Shona gave to me although I coloured the icing and added a little less icing sugar than the recipe called for...plus those digestive crumbs don't forget!   I'll play with the recipe a little and post it once I've given it another go.

The chocolate cheesecake pics and recipe to follow next post!   They're still setting in the fridge.   Not for long though................

When it comes to pasta dishes, I like to experiment and sometimes I get it right, sometimes not.   There are some key ingredients I always have in the fridge which means I can make a quick dinner or supper and feed any unexpected guests.   They are usually tomatoes, jarred artichokes, proscuitto, feta, Parmesan and some cream or creme fraiche alongside the veg rack of onions, garlic, chillies and ginger.   All of these ingredients keep for ages, except the cream and creme fraiche but I make sure I buy really fresh so that it will last as long as possible...that's me you see with her arm at the back of the chiller cabinet, tongue hanging out as I try and reach the freshest tubs.

Last night, I made pasta spirals for the kids and kept some back for myself.   I took out all of the fridge ingredients above as well as a green pepper which needed using and some lettuce leaves.   The pasta that followed it was incredible!   I was so happy with it, I wrote down quantities immediately, knowing I'd want to make it again and again.   

I reluctantly stopped myself finishing it and placed the remainder in the fridge as I'm always looking for good pasta dishes that can be served cold.   By supper time, I decided to eat it and it was just as delicious.   I highly recommend you try this...add or remove ingredients to taste...for example pine nuts and garlic would be nice but I love it exactly as it is.

Helen's Five Minute Spiral Pasta
 Ingredients (serves 1 greedy person or 2):
Handful or two of cooked spiral pasta
1 small green or yellow pepper, diced
Handful washed and dried lettuce leaves, any kind or spinach
A few slices of proscuitto, torn in half or quarters
Artichoke quarters; I used one and a half, chopped
A few tablespoons oil from the artichoke jar
A small handful of feta
Approx. 5 cherry tomatoes, halved
A large tablespoon Parmesan
A few tablespoons creme fraiche (I used half fat) or cream

Spoon the oil from the artichoke jar into the frying pan and heat.   Add the green peppers and cherry tomatoes.   Stir for a minute and add the proscuitto.   It will immediately start to crisp up, once it starts to go crispy, turn it over.   Add artichokes.    
Stir for another minute or two and throw in the lettuce leaves or spinach.   Stir again and turn the heat to the lowest setting. Add in the spiral pasta, feta, creme fraiche or cream and the Parmesan along with a really good grinding of black pepper.   Stir to combine and heat through then serve immediately.   You won't be sorry!

Spiral Pasta
Kelly had a craving for Mozarella sticks, the way a particular fast food restaurant makes them so I made her these:
Shallow fried mozarella sticks
She ate some but something was missing.....we figured out afterwards it was the sauce this particular restaurant gave you to go with it, no idea what it is though, could it be sweet chilli....but Brian polished them off, happily.   The mozarella was sliced, dipped in egg, seasoned flour, egg and breadcrumbs, shallow fried in groundnut oil and drained on kitchen towel.   Easy peasy and tasty to some; personally, fried cheese holds no interest for me.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Time Has Come, The Walrus Said.....

Good afternoon, fellow bloggy peeps, friends and family who read this blog, my apologies for my absence once again but the holidays are over with, my plans have evolved and I now have time to sit here at my favourite indoor place and talk about grub!   Isn't life grand?

The food budget remains at £50 per week and I find it easier as the good weather comes in; salads, light soups, citrus-y chicken and feta dishes all are the order of spring and the best quality still costs low.   Meals this past week:
Salmon Nuggets

2 salmon fillets, cut into bite sized chunks
Either: 1 packet plain crisps, crushed or two good handfuls breadcrumbs, seasoned
1 Egg, beaten and seasoned
Oil, if frying

Dip salmon bites into seasoned, beaten egg and then into bowl containing crushed crisps or breadcrumbs.   If frying, heat a little oil in a frying pan and cook over a medium heat until outside is crispy brown and inside cooked.   Cut one open to check; they shouldn't take long because of their size.

Alternatively, place them in a hot oven for approx. 8 minutes.   Serve with petit pois and broccolli.

I use a lemon Madeira cake recipe for the cupcakes and a butter icing with vanilla, food colouring and little iced flowers.   I had friends coming over so this was for them and for the kid's tea.
Sausage n' mash

1 packet of sausages
6 large Maris Piper potatoes, peeled or equivalent, suitable for mashing
Knob of butter
Dash of milk
Sea Salt
Gravy to taste 

Boil potatoes in salted water until very tender, drain and dry for 20 seconds over heat, making sure not to burn.   I do this with the heat off.   Mash potatoes with a masher and then add butter, salt, pepper and milk.   Mash some more until soft, adding more butter if required.   Using a fork, mash through once again to ensure the potatoes are soft and fluffy.
Whilst the potatoes are cooking, fry sausages in a pan over a medium heat.   I prick a few of the sausages and therefore don't need to add oil to the pan as the fat comes off the sausage meat.   Turn every few minutes to ensure even browning.

Place mash in a bowl, stick sausages in and pour a little gravy round the side with the rest served in a gravy boat.   This is lovely served with fried onions or beans.

Tomatoes stuffed with cheese and herbs

Small, ripe tomatoes, approx. two per person
Handful of basil leaves, chopped
Handful of grated Parmesan
Optional: chopped feta cheese
Olive oil
Salt and Freshly ground black pepper

Halve the tomatoes and drizzle with oil, salt and pepper.   Stuff with feta, if using and a good teaspoon of basil leaves.   Drizzle with a little more oil and top with a teaspoon of Parmesan cheese.

Bake in medium oven for approx. 10-15 minutes until tomatoes are soft and cheese has coloured.   Serve with scallops, salad, pasta or as a side with lamb escalopes, chicken or anything else that takes your fancy.

 Serving the tomatoes with pan roasted scallops and salad with pine nuts

Tomato Sauce

I use this tomato sauce as a base for pizzas, pasta sauces, pies and dips.   It is very simple and easy to make and freezes beautifully.
1kg Passatta (sieved tomatoes)
Quarter pint vegetable or chicken stock
Two tablespoons olive oil
Tablespoon sugar
Teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large onion
2-4 cloves garlic, depending on taste

Place garlic and onion in a food processor or blender and blitz to a pulp.   Scrape out into a pan with olive oil and coat by stirring.   Cook for 10 minutes until soft, over a low heat, ensuring the mix doesn't colour or burn.   Add passatta and bring to the boil.   Simmer for five minutes and add stock, sugar, salt and pepper.   Simmer for a further 10 minutes and taste.  It should be pleasant, with a slight sweetness and saltiness.

Keep it as is for pizza or for pasta, add a good handful of finely chopped basil.   For meatballs, add milk.

Tomato sauce used for pizza

Coloured Pancakes

 Pancake mix of 4 oz each of flour, sugar, milk and eggs (1 large, 2 small) with added food colouring.  

Blend until mixed and cook in pan.

Serve with coloured drinks.   Watch kids be happy.

Feta and Chorizo Pasta

Spaghetti (100g per person)
Chorizo, diced, small handful per person
Knob of butter
Dash olive oil
Onion, chopped
Garlic clove, crushed
Thyme leaves from a few sprigs
Feta, chopped
Light chicken stock, approx. 2 oz. (and white wine, optional)
Double cream or creme fraiche, 2 large tablespoons
Freshly grate Parmesan
Lemon juice, optional
Boil spaghetti as per instructions

Fry onion and garlic and thyme in butter and oil for a few minutes, without colouring.   Add chorizo and leave for a minute or so before stirring to coat the onion mix in the lovely red juices from the sausage.   Simmer for 5 minutes, add wine and simmer until reduced by half if using, then add stock.   Bring to the boil and then simmer until a coating consistency is reached.   Add cream, stir and take off heat.   Add a handful of Parmesan and feta and a squeeze of lemon juice.   Check seasoning, add some freshly ground black pepper and throw in the spaghetti, toss in sauce and serve with more grated Parmesan.

Pan-Fried Salmon with Linseeds, Spinach and Baby Potatoes

1 salmon fillet per person
Sea salt
Golden linseeds
Handful spinach per person
Baby potatoes
Sesame Oil
Green peppers
Lime juice

Boil baby potatoes until tender, crush lightly with a little margarine, butter or olive oil and some sea salt.   Set aside.   Score the skin of the salmon and rub in a little sesame oil (or flavoured oil to taste).   Get a frying pan really hot and place the salmon skin side down.   Thrown in the peppers.   When the skin side is brown, turn salmon over and turn heat down slightly; cook until a lovely golden colour.   Depending on the salmon fillet thickness, at this point, I sometimes shove the salmon into a pre-heated hot oven for 4 minutes.

Thrown in a handful of linseeds and a tiny drizzle of sesame oil to coat the peppers.   Squeeze over some lime juice.   Place dry spinach leaves on a plate and place the peppers and linseeds on top with another squeeze of lime juice.   Plate up the fillet of salmon and the potatoes; the salmon is ready when it has lost it's opaqueness, has turned from orange to pink and flakes away easily; do not over cook.   Enjoy.

Dolly for Anna

The competition will resume in the next few weeks; everyone already entered will be put forward.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Happy Belated Easter!

I have such a craving for something but I don't know what it is; I've tried salty snacks, savoury slices and sweet pieces of pie.  Seafood, wholefood, meat, chips and rye.  None seem to work.   The last time I had this kind of craving, I was pregnant  no, I'm not and I worked my way through a half ton of food trying to find out what it could be.   No complaints of course, I enjoyed every minute of it but was a wee bit surprised when it turned out to be Cheesy Wotsits; I couldn't get enough! 10 packets later and I scunnered myself; I haven't eaten them since. 

It may take me days, months or even years to work it out but I'm up to the challenge..............

Our Easter was lovely; on Thursday, the last day of school we were invited round to a friend's house with the kids and enjoyed snacks, chat and a wee glass of wine.   On Good Friday, grandpa came to stay and on Saturday, my lovely niece joined us too.   We bought dvds, popcorn and sweets and cooried in for a film fest, venturing out for the occasional walk in the sunshine and lunch.   Easter Sunday, I cooked roast lamb stuffed with feta, mint and lemon cooked in lemon juice and white wine, roast pork stuffed with chorizo, onions and fresh herbs, roast potatoes, boiled potatoes, roasted root vegetables with honey and maple syrup and steamed greens and baby sweetcorn.   It was a good day and enjoyed by all.

 Roast Lamb: looks messy, tasted lovely!

Roast Pork; hmmm, not a great pic but again, tasted gooooood!

I made an Easter cake, with help from the kids and it turned out pretty well.   My friend Shona gave me a wonderful cookbook, from the Hummingbird Bakery which is where I got the recipe from a wonderful recipe it was too and spot on but the decor was inspired by Sarah Magid's Organic and Chic cookbook a few little basic recipe mistakes within but was worked out failry easily; very good for inspiration and her vanilla buttercream icing worked really well.

Pretty AND tasty!   Brooklyn Blackout cake, Nutella icing inside.

Easter dinner.

I think they like!

Other food this month:

Scallops with roasted tomatoes

More cupcakes....


Beef and sausage stew with Yorkshire Puddings

Kids own homemade pizza!   Good job.

Mini feta, spinach and pine nut tart

Tomato Sauce for the pizza

Mmmm, pizza..

More tart...

More scallops..I'm going through a phase; that's an artichoke heart in the middle

Lucy is pleased with her own wee pizza