Sunday, 5 May 2013

It's rice pudding but not as you know it...

I may have mentioned before about my eldest daughters dairy intolerance, in fact it birthed my dairy free organic food business, Millie's soups, which I am incredibly proud of, well it has now helped the creation of a rather heavenly rice pudding.  We were invited to a neighbours for Sunday lunch as a get to know others in our area kind of shindig.  After mentioning Millie's intolerance and noticing the hesitancy that seemed to spring up in my hosts eyes I offered to cook something for dessert.  The hostess tentatively suggested rice pudding and so the die was cast to create something that would pass the cream, whole milk test and still be creamy and moorish.  Well I think I did it.  So proud am I that I'm prepared to share the recipe so you too can enjoy my fruits.

Like all good chefs searching for inspiration I took to the google machine and I have to admit that the bones of this dish originated here and I just worked with it from a dairy free perspective...ish, as you will see in a bit, version.

So how to make this scrumsciousness ...

Serves 8 fairly easily...
100g dairy free spread ( or butter if you prefer)
100g soft light brown sugar
200g pudding rice
1 litre unsweetened soya 
1 litre hazelnut soya milk
( Or 2 ltr full-cream milk)
Zest of a lemon
2 Bay leaf

1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/2tsp cinnamon
1 vanilla pod, cut open 
4 tbsp baileys (optional and very slightly not dairy free)
1. Pre-heat the oven to 110c fan /140c. Put the dairy free spread in a flameproof pie dish over a gentle heat, and, when melted, add the sugar. Stir and cook for a few minutes, then tip in the rice, and stir to coat. Cook until the rice has swelled slightly, stirring continuously, then add the milk and stir well to dislodge any clumps of rice and sugar on the bottom of the pan.
2. Add the lemon zest, bay leaf, spices and a pinch of salt, then pour in the baileys, if using, and bring to simmer.
3. Bake the pudding in the oven for about 2 hours, until it has set, but is still slightly wobbly; it may need a little longer than this, but check on it regularly. Serve warm, but not piping hot.
Trust in the lowness of the oven, go and do something else for a few hours then come back to something really quite delicious, if you don't believe me make it and let me know...

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Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Baking and Prom Gowns...

The flurry of baking appears to have continued unabated, chocolate swirl meringues, thank you Bill Collison Cook Eat Smile Cookbook, melted mars bar cookies, inspired by Rosie Londoner, and apple and raisin strudels   Yes, finally got round to feeling inspired to use the Filo pastry mistakenly bought the other week for the custard tarts.

The meringues were delish, recipe below, the cookies were ok but to be honest weren't a massive hit with the children nor me and the surprise wild card strudels were little parcels of yuminess.

I used shop bought free range egg whites to make these as I had a carton of them in my fridge, and quite frankly would buy this again as I loved the fact that I didn't end up with a whole load of yokes sitting in the fridge that needed using up; as a result of the simplicity I have knocked up more than one batch of these little beauties.  Be warned though, they are very morish and contain just the right amount of chewiness, that every good meringue should have.

Makes 12 (ish)

100g dark chocolate, roughly chopped or broken
3 large egg whites ( see above)
150g caster sugar
cocoa powder to serve

Pre heat the oven to 150 degrees (130 degrees fan, gas mark 2) and line a large baking tray with baking paper.

Heat the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water until melted.  Remove from the heat and leave to cool.

Put the egg whites in a large mixing bowl and whisk until stiff peaks form.
Add the sugar, one tablespoon at a time, whisking continuously, until the sugar is mixed in and the mixture is very stiff and glossy.
Drizzle the cooled melted chocolate over the meringue and use a metal spoon to fold it gently through to create a marble effect with bold chocolate streaks.
Carefully place spoonfuls of meringue in to 12 large dollops on the baking tray making peaks on each one with the back of the spoon.
Put the tray in the oven and cook the meringues for 30 mins.
Turn the oven off and leave them to cool and dry in the oven overnight.

Serve how you like, good with ice cream and strawberries or just on their own.  Yum scrum.  But don't take my word for it, try them out. I suggest you make these last thing in the evening, as this makes it nice and simple to leave in the oven overnight to cool.  It also means you wake up to a lovely batch of chewy chocolate meringues for breakfast...Just saying...

Apple and Raisin Individual strudels

1 packet of Filo pastry (12 sheets)
500g Cooking apples -peeled and cored
50g of Raisins or sultanas
50g dark brown sugar
1/2 lemon- juice only
1 heaped tsp mixed spice
50g of melted butter (I used dairy free spread as my daughter is dairy intolerant)

Pre heat oven to 200 degrees (fan 180 C/ gas mark 6)

Chop the apples into 1cm pieces and place in a bowl with the lemon juice, raisins or sultanas and mixed spice. Mix well.
Unroll filo pastry and brush top sheet with melted butter or spread.
Place onto work top and repeat with 2nd sheet.  Place this ontop of the first sheet.
Repeat with the remaining sheets to 6 double greased sheets.
Place some of the apple mixture along the lower short edge of each sheet leaving a 5cm (1")margin at the base and sides.
Fold sides over the apple and then roll each one up from the lower edge to fully encase the apple.

Place on a lightly greased and lined baking tray.
Brush the strudels with the remaining melted butter or spread and bake for 10 to 12mins til crisp and golden.

Transfer to a cooling rack and dust with icing sugar.

If, like me, you're impatient then get scoffing straight away safe in the knowledge that the remaining can be sampled cold with a cup of tea, coffee or something stronger later.  Possibly once the children have gone to bed.  

To off set the baking, my eldest and I took a trip into London in search of the elusive prom dress for her leavers ball; elusive because her requirements were: needed to be individual, slightly quirky or boho, reflect her personality and most importantly not be worn by anyone else.  Armed with these stipulations, as well as a wish list of what else she'd like to see, we set off.


The 10am start was slightly delayed; whilst she finished her geography GCSE work which then needed to be dropped off at school, in order to meet exam deadlines.

So 11.14am we set slightly stressed mother and an excited 16yr old.

I'd sat up the night before planning our day to maximise things she'd wanted to do as well as favourite haunts of mine that I thought she would enjoy, carefully weaving in food pit stops along the way.  Perhaps the false start was an omen of things to come?

Since the majority of clothes shops needed to fulfil most teenage girls can be found on Oxford Street and Regent Street we headed to Oxford circus with a quick stop off at The Photographers Gallery first.

Sadly this cunning plan did not go so well.  Strolling up to the door arm in arm and laughing about something we'd just seen, we were met with a sign on the door informing us that the gallery would be closed for annual maintenance for that week.  So strike two.  

To off set the disappointment, after a  quick re calibration of the days to do list, we set off for late breakfast and a much needed coffee.  Luckily the gallery is just around the corner from a fab cafe that could cater for just our needs.  The Breakfast club in Soho serves up every cornucopia of foodie delights you'd want to grace a breakfast menu along with some pretty great mexican inspired dishes and all round yummy anytime of day dishes. It also has great coffee.

My 16yr old went for the popular All American; stack of pancakes,eggs cooked how you want, streaky bacon, home style potatoes and herbed sausages whilst I opted for the slightly smaller pancakes and bacon with maple syrup.

I think next time I would go for the El Butty, fried egg and chorizo in a soft roll which had tempted me, but the dinner plan was to head to Patty & Bun for burgers hence opting for what I thought would be the lighter option.  Wanting to be completely transparent, I have to say that I thought the pancakes were a little stodgy; however the overall experience, portion size and lovely waiting staff not to mention the coffee (so great I had to have two cups) more than made up for it.

Overflowing with food we headed for the shops, and that elusive dress.  I'd love to say that it was a quick process, but that would be untrue.  After scouring Regent Street and moving on to Oxford Street, we stumbled into Miss Selfridge just as the light was beginning to fade.  There began the process of trying on every dress in the store.  

27 Dresses later a winner was announced...the very first one that my 16yr old had tried on, of course, and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it fulfills all the criteria including not being worn by anyone else.

Will keep you posted.

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Thursday, 4 April 2013

Nordic BBQ and Easter Egg Hunt

Friends of mine have an annual Easter Egg hunt and BBQ which has become so popular that after 9 years now involves most of the residents in their village their, now grown up, children with accompanying boyfriends and girlfriends and in some instances even a third generation in attendance.

Thankfully after so many years of holding this gathering they are now experts in responding to the elements and this year required all their skills.  

Despite arctic conditions the marquee was up and heated with a ginormous blow torch like heater. The BBQ overflowed with scrummy home made burgers stuffed full of fresh rosemary, and other meats whilst the tables inside held delectable ratatouille, french sticks, roasty potatoes as well as  simnel cake and so much chocolatey stuff that it needed it's own table.

Standing in the hallway watching the 'children' jostle for nearest to the front door position I was reminded of the starting gates at horse races.  Eggs had been strategically hidden around the lane, orchard and village along with coloured stars that would redeem the holder with an egg from the overflowing table once back at the ranch.

Bags had been handed out and excitement levels were rising as under starters orders were announced.  For my three year old this was all a little over his head.  He didn't really understand what an Easter Egg hunt involved but was terribly excited anyway. So as the countdown got underway and everyone else flew out the front door, Columbus and I headed out the back.  

In a supreme act of kindness and understanding, Kate and Andy had 'hidden' an assortment of sweets and eggs around their back garden for Columbus to hunt.  Thereby keeping him out of the competitive larger 'kids' hunting and ensuring he did actually find some himself.

This was of course not missed by my son who exclaimed "why are we going this way" as we ran out of the kitchen door through the marquee and up the garden. Quick as a flash I explained that we would get ahead of everyone else if we searched the garden first and thereby steal a start and all the booty. Assuaged by this he threw himself into the hunt.

I have to say it was the funniest thing running around their garden with my son and his egg carrying bag, which was nearly as big as him.  I'm sure his egg spotting skills will develop but this year required an element of me standing right next to the 'hidden' article and waving my arms around in a not so subtle pointing kind of way whilst saying "hmm I wonder if there are any around here, what do you think Columbus, can you see any?" 

Kate and Andy's dog had gone out in the garden earlier and 'discovered' for herself where the cream eggs had been hidden ,so to keep the hunt going a little longer a few packets of sweets were surreptitiously removed and and re-hidden in the garden.

A full bag was gleaned and Columbus spent the rest of the day eating sweets and chocolate and being entertained by the 'bigger' children.  

Of course the adults managed to keep themselves amused too.

and I think my eldest had a good time too.  

Looking forward to next years, hopefully with a little less nordic conditions. x

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Tuesday, 2 April 2013

East coast shenanigans

An offer of a few days away from home and children came at just the right time for me.  These past few months have been horrendously difficult both emotionally and mentally and the idea of getting away from it all seemed like heaven sent.  My lovely friend Zoe has a caravan near Cromer that each winter is closed up and reopened around Easter and she kindly gave me the chance to accompany her on this years reopen it trip.  Three days away to the east coast in this weather in a caravan, even one with central heating and a gas fire had me reaching for my best thermals, wooly jumpers and Uggs as well as my Wellies, all of which I wore at various times though not required clothing for our choice of residence.

I think I need to paint you a little mental image of our 'caravan'.  Think more luxury end mobile home with three bedrooms, two toilets a fully functioning power shower and kitchen with proper full size gas oven and fridge and a living area that had a fourth sleeping area in the form of a proper pull out double bed style...there for the watching in comfort of movies.  Re calibrated your picture?  like I said a little slice of heaven by the sea. 

Like any good road trip it started 45 mins in with a coffee pit stop then zoomed along for the next hour and a bit with chatter and gossip another quick stop at a fabulous farm shop Walsingham farm shop and restaurant for produce lusting and a fab pomegranate drink that didn't look anything like any pomegranate juice I'd ever bought in either colour or texture and proved to be utterly gorgeous and then on to Overstrand and Ivy Farm and blue sky and sunshine.  Yes I did say sun, although definitely not sunbathing weather.

A quick unpack of the car and flicking the central heating to high we decided, whilst the sun was around, we'd take a walk over the Cliffs into Cromer and come back along the beach before getting down to the more mundane task of making beds and cooking dinner.  

The walk over the cliffs was great, just the right mix of sun, wind and views out to sea.

Cromer was an interesting mix of colourful beach huts, gentle pier, a few cute shops and cafes mixed up with the air of slightly fading beauty and just the hint of times gone by.  I found it quite refreshing and would definitely be up for a re-explore later in the season.  

After a much needed hot chocolate and shared slice of fridge cake we set off for home along the beach with the setting sun and a drastic fall in temperature.  Beautiful but blooming cold.

The next few days were filled with good food, great company and an awful lot of laughing.   Throw in even more coffee shops, cake eating and window shopping and you kind of get the gist of our girls time away. 

Now I have to fess up that I was pleasantly surprise by this part of the east norfolk coast.  Prior to this trip I had only been out to the East coast once, and sadly hadn't really left with any strong yearnings to go back.  This little trip has given me a whole other world of perspective. 

I really never knew there were gorgeous boutiquey shops a plenty in this part of the world, perfect for idling a few hours away, a considerable splattering of foodie places to eat and some stunning beaches. 

Go but don't tell everyone. x 

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Saturday, 30 March 2013

Good Friday baking fever!

Not quite sure what happened yesterday but it would seem that Easter chocolate baking madness descended upon me.... Not content with making one thing I decided to make three....and this from a woman who hardly has any previous history with baking.  The funny thing is that every time I do, bake, I come way from the experience vowing to do it more often as I'd enjoyed myself.  Much like when I make bread there is something incredibly enjoyable about turning doughy mush into something utterly delicious.

Now to be totally transparent two out of the three things have turned out to be exactly that, delicious. Delish Brownies and Candy wood bark.

The third however, utter disaster.  

There's a little Portuguese place near to where I live that turns out the most delicious custard tarts, Pasteis de nata, and a few days ago I had the idea of trying to recreate them without using a recipie.  I mean how hard can it be. Right? Custard, tick, pastry, tick... Wrong wrong wrong....they say pride comes before a fall...and I crashed and burned baby... I bought a sainsbury's ready made  custard, what's good for Delia....and that was my first mistake, whilst busy patting myself on the back for coming up with a speedy solution I didn't bother to read the back of the carton.  If I had I would have seen that it contained sweetners.  Now I understand for some of you that might not be a problem, but I can taste artificial sweetner no matter how much its disguised, and I don't like it.  The second fail, was grabbing filo pastry and not puff.  You might think this is not such a problem, but the construction of filo is totally different to buttery puff pastry. Which has meant the offending article is still inhabiting my fridge waiting for the bird of inspiration to land and turn it into a filo delight as well as a return journey to the supermarket to buy the right pastry.  The idea being to return home and create these little bundles of cinnamon custard heaven.  

Oh if only.  I won't bore you with a step by step guide of my failing, suffice it to say the pastry cases ended up way too thick with the bottoms slightly undercooked and, well I've already raised my issues with the custard.  

Which now also leaves me with what do I do with 10 custard tarts when one of my children is dairy intolerant?  The bin may well be the final option but I'm off to see my folks today for Easter and am taking them with me to see what they think.  I will report back later.  Sorry no photo, didn't feel inspired enough.

Now onto the little bits of heavenly deliciousness.... Chocolate brownies and candy wood bark.  

The  brownies were inspired from  a blog I've been following recently The Londoner A mix of fashion lifestyle and foodie stuff.  The foodie stuff is the draw, and her fashion and lifestyle my occasional guilty pleasure.  They can't be easier.

Delish Brownies

Pre heat the oven to 160 fan, 180 no fan, gas mark 4
Take two boxes of ready made cookie dough and brownie mix.  
Make each one up in separate bowls, following packet instructions, (adding extra 1stp of water and oil to the cookie mix).  
Spread cookie mix into a baking paper lined baking tray. Make sure you spread it all out into the corners, I used my hands for this.  Messy but true.
Then lay two packets of Oreo biscuits on top of the mixture. 
Finally top off with the Brownie mix.
Into oven for 30 mins.
Out and leave to cool a bit but still whilst still warm lift out on to a chopping board. Use the baking paper to help lift it out.   
Slice into what ever size suits your need, serve and eat.  

...and finally candy wood bark inspired from A beautiful Mess blog.  Two gorgeous ladies who are free with their reuse and thrifting ideas which I love as well as posting inventive foodie ideas.

This really can't be simpler.

Candy tree bark
Two bars of dark chocolate
One bar of white chocolate
Bag of gummy bears or midget gems
100's and 1000's if you have or I used Raspberry fruit flakes
1 small bag of salt and cracked black pepper crisps
Crushed up nuts, I used pistachios as I had some in the cupboard.

Melt dark chocolate and spread onto a sheet of baking paper layed on a plate or tray.
Crush up crips and nuts and scatter on top.
Melt white chocolate, I did this directly in the pan but really if you don't want a grainy texture and prefer super smooth, should be done in a bowl over boiling water in a pan.
Spread onto another sheet of paper.
Scatter gummy bears or midget gems, 100's and 1000's or fruit flakes.  I also added a little edible shiny glitter to glam it up a bit.
Put both sheets into the fridge or freezer to cool.
Remove and break into pieces.
Eat and Enjoy...

Happy Easter...x

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Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Snow baking and Easter

Now I know I'm probably going to incur the wrath of a few of you but I honestly love all this snow we keep having.  It gives me a great excuse for sitting by my fire in old woolly jumpers that have seen better days and shoving my feet into my old but fab slippers.  

It's also giving me fireside current fireplace does the job but is, to put it bluntly, a hole knocked through a bricked up chimney.  It's rough around the edges and was really only ever meant to be a temporary solution to no fireplace at all.  My dream is to turn it into something more like this.

The only slight spanner to this day dreaming is funds....or coming across a spare oak beam possibly lying next to a dream abandoned wood burning stove casually left lying in or near my living room...needless to say for now, I'm still waiting....but watch the blog for updates on the fire...

The other thing all this snow and frosty weather seems to have done to me is kick start my baking genes.  In the past week I've made a lemon polenta cake, with additional desiccated coconut in it as I didn't have enough polenta and did I mention that it was freezing outside so shopping for extra ingredients just isn't happening?  I wasn't sure if it would work with the coconut, which was an interesting choice of make do ingredient as I don't particularly like desiccated coconut.  However it was blooming gorgeous and so large that there was enough to be divided up between some friends.  I would post a picture of it but sadly this all that's left of it.

And following on from that little success I then made a mind blowingly gorgeous Rhubarb and orange crumble, and I do really mean it was Delicious!! The recipe was taken from 'Bill's Cook Eat Smile' cookery book 

that I bought along with another one called 'Notes from a Swedish Kitchen'.  Both of these little gems were bought during a three hour browse, without my children, through the cookery book section of Waterstone's a few weeks ago.  Both have inspired me with their ideas for seasonal cookery and both are now firmly wedged on my worktop in the kitchen.  Sadly I hadn't the foresight to take any photos of the crumble so you will just have to recreate it for yourself.

Recipe from Bill Collison's cookbook  

Bill's rhubarb crumble
Serves 4-6 (actually did 6)

900g rhubarb cut in 3cm lengths
200g caster sugar
the zest and juice of 1 large orange
1 tsp ground ginger
I then used a packet of ready made crumble mix and added crumbled ameretti biscuits into it for extra taste and crunch.

Pre heat the oven to 180C/160C fan/gas mark 4 and lightly butter a 23 x 33cm ovenproof dish.

Stir the chopped rhubarb with the sugar, finely grated orange zest and ginger in a large bowl, and then spread it out on a baking tray.  Bake in the oven for 10mins or so until soft.

Place the rhubarb in an ovenproof dish, sprinkle with the orange juice, spoon the crumble mix on top to cover and return to oven for 45mins.  The top should be golden brown and the juices bubbling up round the edges of the crumble.

Enjoy x

Oh and for the more observant amongst you, YES, I have changed the layout.  I've been reading a few other bloggers and have felt a little inspired to change mine and generally make it more creative and interesting.  One of the things that I really loved was the use of photo's so I will aim to pop some in to each of my blogs and make more effort to take photo's as I'm cooking to inspire you.  I promise to post photo's of both successes and disasters.  I'm not yet done on the makeover but will need to research and read up on how to achieve the final look, so watch this space.  Oh and happy to receive any advice or comments, as usual. 

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Saturday, 3 November 2012

Pumpkins and fireworks

So today has seen me sitting desperately trying to work my way through a college course book, whilst in reality spending more time looking at blog sites and trying to work out which ones I want to follow.  Ideling time away on other bloggers sites has at least inspired me back to my own.  Since writing my last post I've booked and cancelled a honeymoon, started working as a weekend negotiator at a local estate agents, and started university.  I've also celebrated my45th year on this planet with a trip back to the place of my last college days, Birmingham.  

My oh my how the old place has grown up from a once ugly grey duckling to a beautiful cosmopolitan fashion Mecca swan.  I hardly recognised the old place. Gone was the bull ring marketplace replaced instead with designer stores and trendy eateries.  It seems like a city hasn't really arrived these days unless it has a Jamie something or other cafe and a Selfridges.  The once slightly dodgy canal walks are now brimming with places to eat and drink, although I was saddened to see the old James Brindley pub all closed up and looking sadly forlorn amongst the new joints. An overnight stay at the Hotel du vin was comfortable enough and with dinner and breakfast thrown into the price of the room, it was a veritable steal.  Made even more so by the lovely generosity of two great friends who gave this treat to me as a birthday present.  I even had time to drag the husband down memory lane by walking up broad street over five ways roundabout or under it to be precise and onto church Rd and Chappies. Home for 3yrs for me and fondly remembered as The Birmingham School of Screech Training and Traumatic Farts.  A school that is now affiliated with Birimingham university and has visiting lecturers working in their field of expertise.  A far cry from our eclectic bunch of tutors, we even had our very own Mrs Overal with her tea trolley and tuck that would be wheeled in at break times.  I honestly kid you not.  Still they were halcyon days of a time long gone.

So from memory lane and Brum and onto Halloween and pumpkin soup.  I did make a batch of soup from the insides of the two pumpkins that the clan had carved up and I would have posted said recipie  with a small amount of smugness. However that old maxim of pride coming before a fall is oh so true.  It was all going tremendously well until I decided to add one of my home grown red chillies into the pot.  The aim was to just add a little something to the flavours.  To jush it up a little.  I didn't for one minute think that such a tiny thing would contain enough heat to make 5litrres of otherwise devine soup virtually inedible.  The reality only hitting home to me after serving it up for the children's tea and then watching my 2.5yr old taking one mouthful and and then grabbing his water and gulping it down whilst saying open mouthed guppy like "too spicy mommy..."  So, not a winning soup and definitely not a version I'll be repeating again.  It wasn't just the soup that was disappointing this Halloween.  Rain definitely ceased play this year. I'd bought enough sweets to feed the hungriest of local trick or treaters had the required carved and lit pumpkin in the window to show willing participation, my2.5 yr old was beside himself as a skeleton not really sure what was going on but hyped up enough on candy and the excitement of a knock on the door and the chance to squeal "trick or treat..." at people.  Yes I am aware that it's usually the children doing the knocking that have this script but my youngest wouldn't be told...and then only four children came knocking.  It was so sad that I had to go outside and knock on my own front door and then the back door for him to get his full Halloween fix.  I did however enjoy the candy along with a much needed glass of red wine, post his bedtime.

This stunning mediocre week of  American holiday mimicry came to a much needed end with some good old fashioned fireworks.  These were watched both from the comfort of some friends upstairs window that overlooks the local rugby ground and home to the annual fireworks display, for the first round of children's fireworks, and then lastly out on the front yard for the second adult show of ear splitting Harry Potter'esque squealers and howlers and stomach smashing sky spilling explosions of colour and sound.   Yes yes yes!, I love fireworks, so roll on the next holiday celebration and let's see if I can do better.
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