Spring has Sprung (maybe) hopefully :)

Well the last couple of days have seen a delightful shine in the air. Birds have been chirping, sky is blue with cottonwool balls of clouds dancing along (I know, the words are a tad whimsical but that’s how I feel today 🙂 enjoy it!). My garden is showing signs of life too. Lovely, although it is a teensy bit early so hope we don’t have too much of a downturn on the weather front (forecast is looking a little chilly ahead)

Anyway, I digress. I have found myself recently with a little time off. Apart from napping, I have also been crocheting like a demon and also a spot of baking again. Lovely.

Todays venture has resulted in a batch of lemon curd for my daughter to take back to Uni with her tomorrow so that she can make some lemon curd and white chocolate muffins. Check out my recipe here, for the lemon curd. Keeps for about two weeks in the fridge although we’ve never had it long enough to test that theory!!!

I am hoping she sends me some pics. I have also finally got all the pieces together for my latest blanket, here is a sneak preview of some of the pieces 🙂 

The other thing I have been doing is trying to get better at my food photography skills, looking back over the last year to try and find a picture of spring flowers, I stumbled across some pics I took last year that never really got showcased. Apologies for the self indulgence but I really like them despite the fact that one of them is of the peel of a garlic bulb!!! Not to mention that this is the best pic I have produced in the last year (I think!)

Enjoy,

Lx

 

Well for goodness sake, how is it March again already!!!

I am such a lackadaisical blogger!!! I keep crocheting and lately baking a bit more too. Think to myself, mmm must write up a blog post about that and then promptly don’t. Anyway, the next few posts will (I hope) have new recipes and also some links to some exciting CAL’s (crochet a long) that are coming up or already started.

This post though is motivated by my sweetest, youngest child. In her third year at uni she has decided that it is time to embrace the baking genes that run deep in this family! Text received requesting a recipe for banana muffins. I directed her to my blog as that is where said recipe resides. Shock horror, the offspring has not read my blog. Rude!!!!

Anyway, once over the shock, we discussed the pitfalls of baking without scales and she went ahead and produced a delicious batch of muffins that she shared with her coworkers that weekend. happy days. I am looking forward to the next time she comes home so we can bake something together and post pics.

Although I don’t have a picture of her baking, I do have a really cute picture of Agnes!!

Cute Agnes

Enjoy,

Lx

Harry’s perfect Pasta penne :)

This blog post is pure indulgence on my part for one particular member of my family. Harry has always been very particular about how his pasta is cooked and it would appear that I am the only one that can nail it exactly. This was not my plan when I had my three kids!! I was pretty sure that we were all going to eat the same things at every meal and they would all grow up having a healthy and balanced approach to food. Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, I make myself laugh 🙂

Roll on twenty plus years, an Autism diagnosis for one child and a leukaemia diagnosis (happy ending there 🙂 ) for another, and there’s me in the kitchen doing three kinds of pasta.

Best laid plans are a sure fire way to set yourself up for something else entirely 🙂

For Harry:

Pasta Penne – boil as per packet instructions, usually 10-12 minutes. Perfect texture is, apparently not too soggy 🙂

I find the amount I serve varies on how much I absent mindedly tip into the water!!

To serve, after draining the pasta, pop it back into the pan with a small amount of the water it was cooked in, chuck in a dollop of butter, a drizzle of olive oil (not extra virgin) Mix sprinkle a little garlic salt over and let Harry add a “little” more if he really, really wants it/needs it.

Hey presto, Harry’s perfect pasta penne 🙂

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Enjoy,

Lx

A Curry recipe for those who don’t like curry and for those who do :)

IMG_1984I am part of a family who appear to be fairly partial to a curry. I however, do not normally like curry’s as they all seem to contain coriander (shudders)  that has been applied with a somewhat heavy hand 😦 not to mention far too much heat. I don’t mind some warmth but do not enjoy the sensation of a burning tongue while I am eating.

I must admit as well though, to being influenced in part by the pretty dodgy curries I had tried as a teenager. These put me off for the best part of twenty years. Vesta curry anyone?

Anyway, after much deliberation, a fair amount of procrastination and a nagging husband, I decided to have a go at a curry to see if I can make something that I would like as much as the rest of the family.

I turned to Madhur Jaffrey’s book “Curry Easy” that I had picked up fairly cheaply online, had a scroll though and found a recipe that had no coriander in it and a fair amount of spices that I already had in my cupboard. There is nothing worse than wanting to try a recipe and then have to go out and buy half a dozen ingredients that you will never use again 😦

The curry in question is called Kerala-style Chicken Curry. It is a really flavourful curry that is not hot. We served it with a wholemeal basmati, but I would certainly advise perhaps making more accompaniments for this if you are feeding hungry family members. The recipe claims to serve 4, we only served 3 with it, but we are gannets at the best of times 🙂

I sadly or stupidly did not take any photos of this curry as it was my first attempt, I genuinely did not think it would be blog worthy. Turns out it was the most delicious meal I have made this year and resulted in husband and first born offspring making all sorts of yummy noises 🙂

Ingredients:

  • 3 tbsp rapeseed oil or olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp whole cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp whole brown mustard seeds
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and sliced into half rings
  • 2 tsp peeled and freshly grated fresh ginger
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1.25 kg chicken pieces, skinned
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon of sweet red paprika
  • 15-20 fresh curry leaves or 8 fresh basil leaves (I used the basil as that is what I had)
  • 250ml coconut milk
  • 1 tsp salt

Method:

  • Oil into pan and heat up.
  • Once hot, add cumin and mustard seeds. Once the mustard begins to pop (seconds) add your onions and stir fry gently till browned lightly.
  • Now add your ginger, garlic, chicken, cayenne pepper, paprika, salt and curry leaves. Stir for a minute
  • Add 250 ml water and bring to a simmer.
  • Cover, lower heat and simmer for 25 minutes. Stirring occasionally.
  • Remove lid and reduce down. Add coconut milk and cook for a minute.
  • Serve with rice.

Instead of a picture of a yummy curry, please enjoy this fabulous picture of one of our cats, Bernard 🙂

Bernard

Enjoy,

 

Lx

 

The yummiest, “healthy” (maybe not) flapjacky, oat and date ginger slice also Gluten Free :)

Oat and ginger slicesOver the last week I have baked Nigella’s new breakfast bars which I was going to post the recipe for. Then I stumbled across this recipe in the Peyton and Byrne British Baking book. I literally cannot stop eating them, although in about five minutes I will have to as I am on the last bit (don’t tell hubby!) 😦

I may still write up the Nigella one as it is definitely on the healthier side. This one gets it’s sweetness from lots of golden syrup but my goodness they are worth it.  The added extra nomminess, I think comes from the fresh ginger. I’ve not used fresh ginger before in anything other than curries and stir fries but after this I will definitely try it in some sweet bakes. It cuts through the sweetness and adds just the right amount of freshness and heat. I have a ginger cake recipe that I may try it in 🙂

Although the recipe calls for dates I would think most dried fruit would work well here. Think apricots with the ginger may be lovely. I may make that later on today!!

Photo’s are not great today as the camera appears to have run away so I was limited to my phone.

Ingredients:

  • 180g unsalted butter plus a little extra for greasing your pan
  • 30g caster sugar
  • 6 tablespoons of golden syrup
  • 100g de-stoned dates (I had 125g left over which was fine, tis a very forgiving recipe) and chopped into small bits
  • 20g fresh ginger
  • 275g rolled oats
  • quarter teaspoon salt

Method:

  • Preheat your oven to 180 degrees C or gas mark 4.
  • Butter and line your tin. The recipe calls for a 20cm square. I used my brownie tin which is a 25cm oblong. Don’t overthink it, as long as your mixture is in a tin around that size then it should bake fine.
  • In a saucepan melt your sugar golden syrup and butter together over a low ish heat stirring with a wooden spoon constantly. Once melted pop to one side.
  • Put your oats and salt into a bowl and if you want to you could add some cinnamon and ground ginger too. I did because I can’t ever seem to follow a recipe to the letter. Mix.
  • Add your dates to the butter mixture and grate in the ginger too. Mix.
  • Combine wet and dry, easy peasy. I added a few more oats as the mixture was quite wet. I may have been a little heavy handed with the golden syrup.
  • Put your mixture into your prepared tray and using a spatula smooth over till it is even.
  • Bake for 30 minutes till golden.
  • Leave in the pan to cool completely before cutting up and serving. These apparently last for up to a week in an air tight tin but hubby took some to work and I ate the rest so all gone in less than a day!!

oat and ginger slice

Enjoy,

Lx

Mia’s Spaghetti Bolognese for the Clark Family Offspring to refer to – easy peasy promise :)

Spag BolThis blog started life as a handwritten notebook of recipes that I use on a fairly regular basis. The cunning plan being that my offspring would be able to refer to it and use it in their teen and adult lives to enable me to have more freedom!!! Ha Ha Ha, I make myself laugh. Turns out I’m such a control freak in the kitchen I don’t like anyone helping or sharing the cooking load. Anyway, now as the children have left home and started their adult lives officially they are starting to ask me for those recipes that I never got round to writing down. So I thought I would make a start on it finally, starting with my version of Spag Bol. As all family recipes do, this one has evolved over the years and isn’t always the same as written down here. You know how it is, sometimes you have a red pepper, sometimes some mushroom, sometimes not. The only constants are onion, beef and tomatoes. You also need to have a stick blender, a blender blender or something to make the veggies squishy once they’re cooked.

Ingredients:

  • 500g-750g beef mince ish. The amount varies depending on what I’ve got, what’s on offer. You know what it’s like.
  • 1 red onion or two, depends on you and what you have
  • 1 red pepper, or more
  • Stick or two of celery
  • 4-6 large tomatoes, plum ones are yummy but again whatever you have will be awesome
  • Any other veggies you wish to squish and use up or hide from small, medium, or large people 🙂
  • some mushrooms if you have them
  • tin of chopped tomatoes
  • clove or two of garlic
  • sea salt, generous pinch of
  • Olive oil or similar
  • Mixed dried herbs, or oregano, basil. Whatever floats your boat or is hiding in your cupboards!!

Method:

  • Chop up one of your onions into large pieces (around 4-6), same with the peppers, tomatoes and any other veggies that you may have that roast well. I’ve chucked carrots, courgettes, and swede in before now. As long as it will roast and squish it will work.
  • Chuck all of these is a large roasting pan, drizzle over some of your olive oil, a generous pics of sea salt, some pepper if you like and herbs if you have. Also throw in your garlic cloves, depending on taste. They sweeten up a fair bit when roasted so you can be generous if you like.
  • Pop all of this in your oven that you have already switched on (if you’re efficient, if you’re like me you’ll switch it on as they go in, ha ha. It matters not one jot) to around 180 degrees C. Roast your veggies for about half an hour till slightly charred and squishy.
  • Once cooked pop them in your jug ready for your stick blender or whatever you are using to do this. Blitz till smooth “ish”.
  • Meanwhile in a frying pan, fry up some more chopped veggies – onions, celery, garlic, carrots, mushrooms. Whatever you have to hand really.
  • Then add your mince and brown that off.
  • To this mixture add a tin of chopped tomatoes, your squished roasted veg, some salt and your herbs to taste.
  • Then bring to a gentle bubble and leave to gently bubble away for as long as you can be bothered. You will need to check it from time to time. If it starts to stick then add a little water and turn it down. If you can, a couple of hours is great.
  • Serve with pasta of your choice or use this as a base for a lasagna or add chilli, cumin, paprika, red kidney beans and hey presto Chilli con carne 🙂

Handy Cunning Tip

  • Not sure if this is as much a tip as a guideline but this would serve a hungry six comfortably or even better, freeze into portions and then reheat on a busy Wednesday when you cannot be bothered to do anything more than that. This ALWAYS tastes better on a reheat.

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Enjoy,

Lx

 

Yummy Focaccia style bread

IMG_0011Before I go to far into this recipe, I must thank my daughter in law to be for the wonderful photography. I am truly amazed by how yummy she has made bread and tomatoes look 🙂 Jasmine Poole you are a wonder 🙂 check out her wonderful website 

I have been using this recipe for ages. My kids have referred to it over the years as Your Focaccia. I am pretty sure there was an actual recipe that I followed at some point but I honestly don’t know which one. I often make this when I know I have either the whole family home or friends coming over. It’s an easy to make bread (I think) that I happily serve with olives, antipasti and olive oil with a smidge of balsamic. It also magically turns into burger buns when cut into squares. The other week we had it with roast chicken that had been marinated in honey and turmeric 🙂 The only thing I would suggest is a must is a good solid food mixer. You can of course knead by hand but the mixture is pretty wet so the mixer makes light work of this hard sticky job.

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Ingredients:

  • 500g strong white flour
  • 325ml warm water
  • 10g sea salt, crushed plus extra for sprinkling on top later
  • 7g fast action yeast
  • a good drizzle or 4 of olive oil. I prefer the light one but your choice. Rapeseed oil is good here too although I am sure not correct for a focaccia.
  • dried herbs – rosemary is traditional but I often use whatever is to hand.

Method:

  • In your mixer bowl. Put in your water first and then your dry ingredients. Make sure your salt is away from the yeast. Or even mix the salt in with the water first.
  • Set your mixer with the dough hook to the lowest speed and mix for 10-13 minutes or so. As it is mixing drizzle in a good slug of olive oil. This is easier if you do this fairly early on in the process. You want a lovely smooth dough that’s nice and stretchy.
  • Once mixed, unhook your dough hook and pop a plastic cover of some sort over the top of your bowl. Shower cap is the best way to do this, makes the job so much easier. You can pick them up from eBay easily for pennies or make sure all your friends bring back the shower caps from their hotel stays 🙂 I honestly am never happier than when someone gives me their free shower cap (not used though!!)
  • Leave your gorgeous dough to rise for an hour or so till doubled in size. This can take longer, worry not. Keep it cozy and draught free and that will help.
  • Flour the tray you will bake it on and pop your risen dough on top and gently push it out to a sort of rectangle shape.
  • Leave to prove again for about half an hour whilst your oven heats up to whatever the top setting is.
  • Your lovely dough needs a couple of finishing touches before you stick her in the oven. First give your dough lots of deep dimples with your fingers and then drizzle over some more olive oil. Sprinkle your salt and herbs and then pop in your piping hot oven.
  • Cook at this high temp for the first ten minutes only and then turn your oven down to between 180 and 200 depending on how feisty and fan assisted your oven is. Then cook her for about another 20 minutes. Again you will need to watch and see how fast your oven is. What you want is a loaf that looks golden, smells fab and makes a hole sounds when tapped on the bottom.
  • Cool on a wire rack for as long as the family will allow, although it does slice more easily if it is cool.

IMG_0012

Enjoy,

Lx

Granola – the perfect breakfast cereal of champions or ordinary mortals!

Granola As ever I have turned to my recipe book of choice. Nigella’s Feast has a fabulous breakfast section and I have tried most of the recipes. The recipe for Granola is not her own, she got it on one of her trips to the USA. This recipe is called Andy’s Fairfield Granola and was gleaned from a deli called The Pantry in Fairfield, Conneticut. As always I have tweaked a bit but as Nigella was so enthused by this recipe I will show the original recipe “with nuts” and my modified “no nuts” version. For both sets of ingredients the method remains the same. This granola is definitely one to add to your repertoire and I think benefits from some personalisation. Quite frankly if you are going to go to the trouble of making yourself home-made breakfast cereal it might as well include all of your favourite things.

Ingredients original recipe:

  • 450g rolled oats
  • 120g sunflower seeds
  • 120g sesame seeds
  • 175g apple compote or apple sauce
  • 2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 120g brown rice syrup, or rice malt syrup or golden syrup
  • 4 tablespoons clover honey
  • 100g light brown sugar
  • 250g whole natural almonds
  • 1 teaspoon maldon salt
  • 2 tablespoons sunflower oil
  • 300g raisins

My ingredients list:

  • I replace the nuts for extra seeds.
  • I replaced the raisins last time for dried cranberries and apricots
  • I often add an extra teaspoon of cinnamon as I love it. I punched up the ginger last time too which was yummy.
  • Sugar content is pretty high for this one and I have reduced the brown sugar by half and the golden syrup by a third without it causing too much trouble. If you do reduce the “wet” sugars be aware that this will make the mixing harder and you will have a drier granola. You could add a little extra oil though if needs be.
  • Most dried fruits work really well with the granola, use whatever rocks your world.

Method:

  • Mix everything together except the raisins/dried fruits. Nigella recommends using two spatulas as this is a really sticky mixture. I have bought the disposable gloves you can get easily from the supermarket and just got stuck in with my hands. I find it easier to tell if everything has been mixed this way.
  • Spread the mixture evenly into two baking tins, large roasting size is about right.
  • Bake your granola in your oven at gas mark 3/170 degrees C for about 40 minutes. You will need to turn and stir your granola on occasion throughout the baking time to ensure you get a good even golden bake across the granola.
  • Once baked, leave to cool, add your raisins or other dried fruits, store in an airtight container.
  • I tend to serve this with vanilla yoghurt, strawberries or seasonal berries. So yummy and almost virtuously good for you.

Granola and yoghurt

Enjoy,

Lx

Banana bread cake a.k.a Banana Breakfast Ring. This is a real keeper, perfect for lunch boxes and as ever easy breezy to make.

IMG_9501As always I have to make the nod to Nigella, Feast. This was the first cook book that I really started to try recipes from. Up until that point I would read cook books and stare longingly at the pictures. Nigella’s book made me want to have a go. Her recipes are easy to follow and that is what I wanted to achieve for my family. A collection of recipes that are reliable, tasty and good value.

Ingredients:

  • 450g mashed bananas. 3 medium bananas is about right, I have never weighed them and the recipe works fine. No stress baking here. Make sure the bananas are very very ripe. You know the ones that sit in the fruit bowl until you throw them away, they are perfect for this.
  • 60ml corn oil. I never seem to have the right oil but vegetable/sunflower, even light olive oil all work fine.
  • 3 eggs, medium
  • zest and juice of half a lemon
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 325g plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • half teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. I tend to use vanilla paste for preference but whatever you have is as always fine! 🙂

Method:

  • Preheat your oven to gas mark 4/180 degrees c. My oven is a little feisty so I find that 160 degrees c is about right.
  • Oil your tin of choice, I have ring mould (1.5l) which makes the ring shaped cake that Nigella refers to but use whatever you have. I have also baked this cake using two standard cake tins and adjusted the cooking time. This is a really forgiving mixture so play around with whatever you have.
  • In a bowl put your mashed bananas, add the oil, eggs, lemon juice and zest, vanilla and sugar. Whisk together.
  • Then fold in your flour, bicarb and baking powder.
  • Pour your batter into your oiled tin/s.
  • Bake for around 40 minutes. As I said earlier you may need to adjust this depending on your tin choice. You’ll know it’s cooked when a skewer run through comes out clean and it has a bounce to it when gently pressed. I also find that when the teenagers start appearing it is nearly done. It does smell yummy when cooking.
  • Take it out of the oven and leave it for around 10 minutes before turning it out to cool properly.
  • This cake keeps for a good long while. I can usually add it to packed lunches for the week as well as snacks for after college. You can of course eat it as Nigella intended, for breakfast with a cuppa and a smidge of chocolate spread if you like.

Possibly one of the easiest recipes you will ever make,

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Enjoy,

Lx

Extra lemony lemon drizzle, soooooo yummy in your tummy :)

January is a tricky month to get motivated generally. Last week  my middle son asked me for a lemon drizzle cake. As he is my favourite child (don’t tell the others!) his wish was my command.

The following recipe was taken from Nigella’s How to be a Domestic Goddess. She has called it the Lemon syrup loaf cake, which is posh for lemon drizzle!

As ever I have tweaked it a teeny tiny bit and have also adjusted the cooking temperature as well. This has been a long period of trial and error for me. I usually find small cakes cook great in my oven but larger cakes can be a bit hit and miss for me. I will of course give you Nigella’s recommended temperature but for my Stoves range oven, fan assist I had to reduce the temperature 20-25 degrees C. Timings remained the same.

Ingredients:

  • 125g unsalted butter
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • zest of 1 lemon ( if you want the extra lemonyness add the zest of 2)
  • 175g self raising flour
  • 4 tablespoons of milk or for my version add 2 of milk and 2 of buttermilk
  • pinch of salt

23 x 13 x 7 cm loaf tin, buttered and lined with greaseproof

For the syrup:

  • Juice of 1 and a half lemons (about 4 tablespoons) although add more or less to taste
  • 100g icing sugar

Method:

  • Preheat your oven to 180 degrees C/gas mark 4. As I said in my intro you may need to adjust according to your oven.
  • Cream together your butter and sugar. Do spend a bit of time on this. The more you blend and mix the lighter the cake mixture will be. Cream until smooth and pale.
  • Beat your eggs and add them to the butter and sugar mixture. Add the zest too. Mix well.
  • Then add in your flour and salt, folding them in with a gently touch.
  • Finally add your milk or milk and buttermilk combo.
  • Spoon the mixture into your prepared loaf tin and bake for 45 minutes.
  • While your cake is cooking gently heat the lemon juice and icing sugar for your syrup until the icing sugar has dissolved.
  • Stick a skewer in to check it if cooked. It should come out clean if properly cooked.
  • Immediately skewer your cake all over to create holes that you can then drizzle your syrup into. Pour it slowly or even spoon it on taking care to make sure that the whole cake gets a good soaking.
  • Leave the cake in it’s tin to cool. Do not try and take it out of the tin before it’s cold or risk collapse. Having said that we have done this before. We were too hungry and it smelled too good, so although it collapsed it tasted great 🙂
  • According to Nigella this serves 8-10. In my household it tends to serve a family of five with one who doesn’t like lemon cake! Share if you must, but there is pleasure to be had with a couple of your favourite offspring, a pot of tea and a slab of this cake.

Enjoy,

Lx

Lemon drizzle cake