Monday, 25 August 2008

Yorkshire Pudding

Years ago when I moved to England I had my first proper yorkshire pudding, it was delicious, especially with some lovely gravy. On Sundays, we would all descend on the ministers house for Sunday dinner, young, old and needy people were all welcomed into their home where we all mucked in to create a feast of food, but most importantly we created a family environment for those who had none.
One of the ladies made fantastic yorkie puds, and they always turned out beautifully. Her cooks treat was one that had been left over drizzled with golden syrup and some cream - how many calories in that? I don't want to think about it!

I was often invited to other peoples houses for tea, and one family had me over and made yorkies for the meal, but they were flat, pale and stodgy. I then thought, hang on maybe these aren't so easy to cook after all. From then I was wary of ever making them, there seems to be two camps on theses delicious puddings, those who say there is nothing to it and those who think there is some mystery to them.

I recently got Nigella Lawson's book How to eat from the library and followed her recipe, well attempt one amazed me and was absolutely delicious, attempt two was almost as good, but would have been better if I had a big enough metal dish to cook them in. Her theory is to mix the eggs and milk well together with the salt and pepper then set that aside for 15 mins before adding the flour, I will not argue with her as it worked for me, now I just need to pluck up the courage to cook some roast beef, something I have never done.

Sunday, 24 August 2008

Greens in the Garden

I have tried this year to grow a few things in my back garden. Last year I did some peas and spring onions, but this year I did a few more.
The weather has been against me and most vegetable growers this year in my neck of the woods with low sun levels combined with high levels of rainfall.

I have been waiting patiently for my corn to grow and have at last seen the silks peeking out beside the leaves of the developing cob.

My other success was my dwarf french beans which I have had a few lovely pickings from.

I lost my spring onions this year, but have been rewarded with a few potatoes, peas, onions, lots of lettuce and a few large and still developing purple sprouting broccoli plants.

All in all if the weather had been better I would have had more of everything, but I have been pleased with the produce I have grown. There is nothing better than something taken straight from the garden,

Friday, 22 August 2008

Back to Work

It is hard to believe my summer break is over. The six week holiday is normally the time I try to get on top of all the things I am too busy to fit in during the rest of the year, but this year with a combination of miserable weather and feeling unwell these had to go on the back burner.
We have had a lot of changes at work over the past year and we welcomed new members of staff onto the team. It made me think about how it feel to be the new person on the block, and how nervous you can be on that first day.
My first proper job after leaving college was as a Nanny. It is something I had always wanted to do from a very young age, why I don't really know, but I knew that I wanted to move away and be a Nanny. I joined an agency and was promptly given 3 interviews in the North West of England. I had chosen that area as I had family there I could visit on my weekends off so I didn't feel completely lost. Luckily I was successful in all the interviews and was able to choose the one I felt most comfortable with. A couple of months later I had to pack up my things and head off for pastures new to start my job as a Nanny to Edward. I don't remember feeling nervous, more excited to be doing such a grown up thing. I loved my job and my employer was a wonderful lady bringing him up on her own and she welcomed me into her home.
How different I was as an adult staring a new job, worrying, nervous, lack of confidence and feeling like a fish out of water, those feelings pass quickly and I hope I made the new people at work enjoy their first week, just like the members of staff who welcomed me 8 years ago when I was the new girl.
I made a lovely cake last week, it was a Honey, Lemon and Yoghurt sponge, and it was delicious served with a wee smidge of low fat yoghurt, a drizzle of heather honey and some fresh raspberries.

Honey, Lemon and Yoghurt cake

for the cake
6oz plain flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
6oz butter or margarine
6 oz caster sugar
3 eggs, beaten
4 level tbsp natural yoghurt
1 lemon, juice and zest
2 tsp honey

for the topping

1 lemon, juice and zest
2 oz caster sugar

Grease and line a 8" round cake tin and pre-heat oven to gas 4, 180oC

Cream butter and sugar, lemon juice and zest in a large bowl till pale and fluffy.

Gradually add the beaten eggs a little at a time, you can add a little flour to stop it curdling if you want to.

Sift the flour and baking powder into the bowl, followed by the yoghurt and honey, folding it all together with a metal spoon as quickly as you can without over beating the mixture.

Spoon into the prepared tin and bake on a low shelf in the oven for about 1 hour.

Make the topping when the cake is still warm by mixing the juice and zest of the lemon with the sugar in a small pan and heating till the sugar has dissolved and you are left with a clear syrup. Pour evenly over the cake and dust with sifted icing sugar. Delicious while still warm or left to cool.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Swiss Roll

It was my Mum and Dad's wedding anniversary yesterday and I did not know what to get them. I always think something home made is more thoughtful thank something bought and I knew I did not have enough butter to make a victoria sponge. What should I do?
In the book I mentioned in a previous post there was a lovely recipe for swiss roll, so having all that was needed to make it, the decision was made.

There is a really good recipe here for swiss roll with good instructions, it really is worth setting a timer when you are beating the eggs and sugar together as it makes all the difference to the finished cake.

I just had to sample a teeny weeny bit when trimming the ends and it was delicious.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Making Food Last and Lovely Bread

I wrote in my previous post about wasting food and decided that for the following week I was going to see how well I could do with minimal effort and planning.
I am finally feeling better after over 4 weeks of misery, all I have been left with is blocked sinuses which I can cope with. Thanks to everyone who commented. It was really appreciated.
Anyway we have a very limited budget for food in my house, as will many people out there so I searched out some meals I could make using things I had in the house. So far we have had meatballs stretched out to 2 meals with pasta and fresh bread, with enough left to top a pizza today. These fantastic chicken breasts did 2 meals for 2, as well as 2 wraps for lunch, not bad considering I only used 2 large fillets. The rice I cooked the other day made a quick fried rice dish for 2 last night. My DD#2 was impressed and interested in how you can make extra food into another meal.

I often find that it is too easy to go to the shops and buy out of habit rather than need. I am not at work today as there is industrial action within the union, so I am going to have a good look in my cupboard to see what else I have lurking in the back that needs to be used up. I know there are some green lentils hiding there so if anyone has a good recipe they can suggest, please let me know.

Here is the link to the bread I made at the weekend. We liked it so much I made it again with a different topping the next day. It was a lovely dough to work with and could have any topping you fancied on it. We had caramelised onion and parmesan, then roasted red pepper and mozarella. Will be a regular side to pasta now and the girls could make it too, it was that easy.

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Wasting Food

There is so much in the media just now about all the food that is wasted in households each week, especially here in the UK. I know that in my house with 3 growing children to feed, it can be a challenge to keep everyone satisfied on my limited budget.
My Dad visited me the other day and I was telling him about a new book I had just ordered from Amazon, I had read about it on a forum that I sometimes pop into and the title caught my attention straight away. How often have you bought a book, only to find you need to buy special ingredients that you will never use again, or equipment that you can't afford or don't have the storage space to keep.

Some people will not find a book like this useful, but so many young people can be overwhelmed with the thought of cooking and planning meals and then end up spending ridiculous amounts of money on ready meals or take away food.
I hope that by cooking as many meals from scratch that I can will inspire my children to try new foods and understand that the food we make at home is miles better than anything from a packet.

I really fancied a roast dinner the other night and made chicken, roast potatoes, boiled potatoes, and 5 different veg, fresh gravy and yorkshire pudding. It was delicious, simple and yielded enough leftovers for another meal. Making it a very inexpensive meal over all.

The book includes some weekly meal plans for Monday to Friday including the shopping list. Each week uses leftovers to create another meal. Simple I know, something many of us do without thinking, but in todays cash strapped climate it is important to help those who find this difficult to achieve. I won't be making all the recipes in the book, but have already seen some lovely things that the children would enjoy, that don't need lots of fancy ingredients or snazzy equipment.

Monday, 11 August 2008

Fun at the Fringe last Friday

On Friday I took the train to Edinburgh with dd#3 to meet her big sisters at Waverley. The journey is such a beautiful coastal one with views of some lovely beaches as the train glides right alongside them. We do have a quicker service, but I do love travelling on the coastal route. I only had my mobile phone and managed to grab a couple of shots of the Forth.

After a prolonged coughing fit I am sure the poor lady who sat next to me regretted it, she probably thought I had TB or something equally ghastly.

When we arrived at the station the girls train was running late so we had a walk along Princes Street Gardens to see if there were any performances going on.

Edinburgh is such a fantastic place during the Fringe and you get the chance to see some amazing and beautiful things from around the globe.

We managed to get a good view of a street magician from California who entertained the crowds with his act, while some other acrobats from down under had a large group across from us captivated.

Sadly we ran out of time and had to head back to the station, only to be stopped by the most beautifully dressed girls from Thailand handing out some flyers for their show. Sadly I was too slow to get a picture, but the girls were stunning in their costumes and make up.

I managed to grab a picture of the Scott monument on the way past before we decended back into the hustle and bustle of the station for some serous people watching.

I ended up going to the emergency doctors that night as my breathing had gotten worse and the cough would not subside, thanks to my allergies I can't take too many meds. The doctor was great and has given me a course of steroids to take for 5 days and if I am still not well its back to the GP to arrange x-rays. I hope it is better by then as it is wearing me down now.
Hence the lack of cooking posts!

Friday, 8 August 2008

Under the Weather

Often when we Brits get ill, we say we are feeling a bit under the weather. I have not really been feeling well for a few weeks and have no desire to cook anything new or fancy, but after 2 trips to the doctor, one of which left me feeling worse as he told me he thought my aches and pains were due to my psychological well being, the other after a week of coughing and spluttering convinced him it was maybe more than he thought. As I am one of the unfortunate souls allergic to the major groups of anti-biotics he gave me a different one to try. I always see these as a last resort, but as the symptoms were not for easing even though I doused myself in good old vapour rub, sucked on the cough sweets and kept my fluids up I thought I had nothing to loose.
This is my 5th day on the tablest and my 3rd week of misery and I still feel terrible! Oh joy, half of my holiday has been spent peching and coughing, but on the bright side at least I have not had to take some time off work.

I did have a couple of lovely days where I ventured out into the brief, yes you could count the hours of summer here rather than the days, good weather to see a friend get married and attend the wedding of my OH's brother.

Both brides were stunning and the weddings beautiful in their own way. One bride was the most relaxed I had ever seen and had a fantastic day, the other was 37 minutes late and poor thing was so nervous she nearly did not manage to say her vows. It was not until her hubby to be took her hand, looked her in the eye and said something quietly to her that she took a deep breath and spoke out her love and commitment to her new husband. The setting for the family wedding was a beautiful castle set in lovely grounds with a lake and woodland.

I was lucky enough to catch up with an old friend from school who was there to do the wedding video and we managed to spend time chatting about our families.

As money is always tight in my house and I really could not face shopping, the only meal of note I made this week was out of desperation, and sometimes those meals can be the most satisfying.

Sausage and Tomato Pasta

2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
3 pork sausages, cut into chunks ( they were all I had)
2 slices smoked bacon, chopped (all that was left in the packet)
1 tin chopped tomatoes
2 tbs tomato puree
1 tsp italian herbs
Seasoning to taste
cooked pasta of your choice, I used fusili

Soften onion in the oil till translucent and add garilc, cooking gently, add sausage and bacon and turn up the heat till they are coloured. Add tomatoes, herbs, puree and seasoning and pop a lid on ane leave to cook for at least 30 minutes on a low heat.
Cook your pasta in boiling salted water then drain and mix into the tomato and sausage sauce.
Delicious served with garlic bread and plenty of fresh parmesan.

Sorry no pictures as I was starving ;-)

Monday, 4 August 2008

An Award - Thanks Raquel

A good few weeks ago Raquel over at Kitchen Mysteries gave me the Arte Y Pico award. I have not had much time to accept it as I have been a bit under the weather lately, hence the lack of posts.

The award has some rules so here they are

1. Choose 5 blogs that you consider deserving of this award for their creativity, design, interesting material, and their contribution to the blogging community.

2. Each award has to have the name of the author and a link to his/her blog.

3. Each award winner has to show the award and put the name of and link to the blog that presented her/him with the award.

4. The award winner and the one who has given the prize has to show the link of Arte Y Pico blog so everyone will know the origin of this award.

5. Show these rules.

I always find it hard to pick as there are so many interesting blogs out there but here goes.

Karen at Do better

Melody at My Sweet and Saucy

Wendy at A Wee Bit Of Cooking

Julia at A Slice Of Cherry Pie

Em The Repressed Pastry Chef

All of these ladies have great blogs and a passion for good food so have a look at them while you are here.