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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