Friday, 27 November 2009

Funny Sign Friday (on Friday - YAY!!)

As winter approaches and the days and nights get colder, my mind is turning back to the deliciously hot and very relaxing holiday we had, what now seems very long ago. So, with that thought uppermost, I've dug through the summer snaps to find a Funny Sign for this Friday that takes me back to a happy place - Crete. Now, by way of preamble, I don't believe in being too harsh on foreigners for their funny signs - especially as, in this case, we're dealing with what is, for them, a foreign language and a foreign script. So long as the meaning is clear, I'm happy - I know what "ceramicks" are and whilst I didn't buy any of those, I did buy a lovely bag in a nearby shop. What I am confused about, though is the merchandise offered first in the list on this sign. What are sea kinds? Answers on a postcard please - I'll give you the address as soon as I've saved up enough to return to that wonderful island.

This first picture is to give the sign a bit of architectural context - it was at roof level in a row of shops. And here is the zoomed-in version...

Monday, 9 November 2009

Spinach and Cheese Flan

Before I begin this, I will acknowledge that, yes, I know the in-vogue thing to say these days is quiche, rather than flan. But I grew up calling them flans and somehow that name makes this dish seem more homely. filled with memories (despite never having spinach in a flan as a child) and less abstract than calling it a quiche.

A couple of weeks ago I saw some lovely-looking spinach when I went shopping and bought it, planning to come up with something creative with it at some point. And what I came up with is probably my best vegetarian dish yet (I am not a vegetarian so tend to focus most of my creative energies in the savoury realm on meat-based dishes). Whilst I worked out the recipe the first time, I didn’t take any pictures. So we’re having it again tonight, and this time, I’ve taken some pictures (well, let’s be honest about this, pictures are really the best thing about recipes – well they are in my world!). This is a bit of a ‘somesomeandsome’ recipe – I can’t give you exact quantities for some of the ingredients, but just feel your way and hopefully it will turn out yummy. All the cup measurements below refer to a 250 ml cup/mug. Here’s what you’ll need:

For the pastry:

3 cups self-raising flour

Pinch salt

1/2 cup toasted mixed seeds

3/4 cup margarine or butter

1/2 cup boiling water

For the filling:

5 eggs


1/4 cup cream

1/4 cup milk

c. 200g spinach

Hard cheese (I find mature/strong cheddar worked well)

What to do:

1. Sift the three cups of flour into a bowl with a pinch of salt.IMG_50072. Whizz the half a cup of seeds in a food processor until they are fine crumbs, then add the seeds to the flour.Seeds 3. Melt the three-quarter cup of margarine/butter and add to the flour/seed mixture, with half a cup of boiling water and mix until combined.FlanDough 4. Roll out dough and line flan pan (I think this one was about 10 inches in diameter).IMG_5013Hmmm…I really should have tidied up around the pan before taking this picture…

5. Prick dough all over with a fork and bake for about 10 minutes on gas mark 5 or 6 (you’re aiming to get it just about to turn golden-brown – don’t cook it completely, otherwise it’ll burn later).IMG_5014 Tonight obviously does not represent my finest photo-taking moments – look at that hand so beautifully in focus when the pastry should have been the star of this image.

6. Whilst the dough bakes wash the spinach and pop it into the microwave in a covered bowl for one minute on high power.IMG_5022

7. Whilst the dough bakes whisk together 5 eggs, a sprinkling of black pepper and one quarter cup of cream mixed with a quarter cup of milk.IMG_5015IMG_5016 IMG_5017
This photo is a great example of the ‘some, some and some’ approach to cooking/baking. That is supposed to be a quarter cup of cream with a quarter cup of milk, which should equal one half, not the just-under five-eighths that I see here. I take the view that so long as you keep the differences minimal, it should still be good – or at least edible. I’ll devote another post to the philosophy of some, some and some one day… For now just keep adding all those lovely ingredients.IMG_5018 IMG_5019


8. When the pastry has just begun to turn golden-brown remove it from the oven, but don’t turn the oven off.

*Pretend there is a picture of the beautifully cooked pastry here – I appear to have forgotten to take the shot.

9. Take a handful of spinach and squeeze it gently to get rid of some of the moisture.IMG_502310. Spread the spinach over the pastry base and repeat the squeezing and spreading process until all the spinach is on the base. IMG_5024 11. Grate some cheese over the spinach - aim to cover the whole area. To be honest, I have no idea how much cheese there is here - it’s probably more than my heart would like, but seems like a very good amount to my tastebuds.IMG_5025 12. Finally pour the egg and cream mixture over the cheese and spinach.IMG_5026

13. Bake at gas mark 5/6 until golden-brown and cooked.IMG_502714. The last thing left to do, apart from turn off the oven, is to eat this yummy concoction, perhaps with some salad…IMG_5031IMG_5036

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Funny Sign Friday (on Saturday)

Well, I’m beginning to think that I should really call this “Funny Sign Day” rather than “Funny Sign Friday” because the only thing that is regular about this series of posts is that it is not posted on Fridays. I must confess that I am also getting ever so slightly worried that I might soon run out of signs…but that’s a problem for another day.

Today’s sign was found beside a weir on a little river in Exmoor in the south west of England. For those who don’t know that would be beside shallow freshwater in an inland area of a country not widely known for its dangerous sea beasts. In all honesty, I suspect that in this case the (freezing) water temperature may be a better deterrent to aspiring swimmers than the vague and highly unlikely possibility of being mauled by killer sharks that this sign might suggest…


Monday, 2 November 2009

How are your relationships?

The last few weeks have been good in some ways, but emotionally tiring in others. My aunt has been diagnosed with breast cancer and has had a mastectomy, and is currently waiting for a date to have a number of lymph nodes removed. A friend’s father, aged 53 and apparently healthy, died suddenly of a heart attack. Another friend, aged 25, has been diagnosed with cervical cancer and is currently undergoing treatment. Another friend, also 25, died suddenly last week; the cause of death currently unknown, but is probably related to an illness she picked up a few days before she passed away. Why am I telling you all this? It’s not to depress you, but to share a couple of thoughts about relationships that all these and many other events have made me come back to a number of times lately.

1. How are your relationships with people around you? Be right with other people, be at peace with them and appreciate them. Live with them in all that they’re going through. Tell someone precious to you that you love them. The Bible says, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice. Weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; never be conceited. Repay no one evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends upon you, live peaceably with all.” (Romans 12:14-18; RSV).

2. How is your relationship with God? “What then shall we say to this? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, will he not also give us all things with him? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies; who is to condemn? Is it Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us? Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, “For thy sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:31-39; RSV). If this doesn’t mean anything to you, or you feel it once did, but you’ve grown tired and weary, I would encourage you to get a Bible and read it daily, get involved in a church, go to an alpha course (see, DO SOMETHING – it’s too important to put off for another day.

Funny Sign Friday (on Monday)

Having been duly (and rightly) and rightly reprimanded for not keeping up with weekly Funny Sign Friday posts (I fell far too soon – didn’t even make a month of weekly posts!), I present to you a somewhat delayed, but very much finally-here Funny Sign “Friday” photo. This is another sign from the Coast to Coast walk that I mentioned in my last Funny Sign Friday post ( I find this sign poetic and beautiful, and some days, just all too true…image Let’s hope this doesn’t ring true for your weather today…

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Funny Sign Friday (on Saturday)

Hello. Well, I’ve got to begin this with an apology that I didn’t post a funny sign yesterday – I didn’t get home until after 9pm, by which time I really didn’t have the energy to hunt through photo albums to find a funny sign. Today I haven’t hunted through albums for a funny sign either – I’ve obtained one from my sister. This was taken earlier this summer when she and my Mum did the Coast to Coast. For information on the Coast to Coast, take a look at or For those who don’t know what it is and just want a quick answer without visiting any websites, the Coast to Coast is a walk from one side of Britain (St Bees on the west coast) to the other (Robin Hood’s Bay on the east coast). It crosses some spectacular scenery, taking in the Lake District, Yorkshire Dales and North Yorkshire Moors along the way – if you can survive crossing two or three major roads (i.e. 60 to 70 mile an hour roads) with no pedestrian crossing that is. And, if you get bored along the way (unlikely) you can look at the local animals – like the donkeys mentioned in today’s sign…


Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Little Connections

On Friday night my husband and I had supper with a group of people that are somewhere in that funny space between acquaintances and maybe-one-day friends – mostly all people that we’ve met at church over the last few months. Yesterday, as I went running (great time for thinking!!) I thought about the little connections that we have with people, of which I had a couple of examples on Friday. Little connections like common likes or dislikes, or common personality traits or characteristics. On Friday, one little connection I shared with someone was taking a little peak at the end of books – just to see where I’m headed. Another was a love of books in general (that one was shared by a number of people). Another little connection was a little partiality for chocolate spread such that one might start out being very good and only having it on bread or toast (that lasts for about a day or two, if I’m lucky) and then suddenly be overtaken with a desire for much more of the creamy badness goodness. On its own – delicious spoonful and after spoonful straight from the jar. And before you know it, the ‘only one mouthful’ is half the jar.

To make little connections with other people, to built bridges and relationships, you’ve got to be open to others – often near-strangers – about your own little quirks, and that can be quite scary. But it can also be fun. You might feel you’ve found a kindred in a sea of not-very-well-known. You might feel that you’re not the only slightly strange one. You might even make a friend. What little connections have you had with new people lately?

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Psalm 19


The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard; yet their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.

In them he has set a tent for the sun, which comes forth like a bridegroom leaving his chamber, and like a strong man runs its course with joy. Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them; and there is nothing hid from its heat.

The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever; the ordinances of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.

Moreover by them is they servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward. But who can discern his errors? Clear thou from me hidden faults. Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me! Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my hear by acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

Psalm 19 (RSV)

Friday, 25 September 2009

Funny Sign Friday

Well, first of all a HUGE thank you to my trusty womanservant for taking care of last week’s Funny Sign Friday whilst I was working hard* in the lovely Med. If you’re planning a trip to Crete anytime soon, today’s sign demonstrates one end of the range of car hire options available:IMG_4324 Economy Car Hire – Engine Optional.

*Okay, okay - and sunning myself. But there were many archaeological site visits, relevant to what I’m studying so I did a lot of work as well.

Friday, 18 September 2009

Funny Sign Friday

So, B is currently rocking the world elsewhere, and I've zoomed in here to be her trusty womanservant and provide you the readers with a sign to make up for both her extreme absence and lack of presence.

I therefore present you with this wonderful trophy:

Oh how we love those wise authorities who think everything through fully and would never ever make empty threats.

Friday, 4 September 2009

Funny Sign Friday

We’re going to kick off “Funny Sign Friday” with a warning, and an apology to any environmentalists who may take exception to favour shown to land cruisers in this sign, which comes from Belgium…


“LAND CRUISER PARKING ONLY” All others will be crushed.

Monday, 31 August 2009

Campsite Review – North York Moors

CAMPSITE: Pexton Moor Farm

LOCATION: Near Dalby Forest on the North York Moors, Yorkshire, United Kingdom

COST: £10 for two people with one very small tent and a car

WOULD I GO AGAIN: Yes, despite showers (see below)

WHEN VISITED: August 2009

GOOD FOR: The entrance to Dalby Forest is right opposite the campsite. At the time of our visit it cost £7 to go into the forest with a car, but from this campsite, you can enter the forest and enjoy its walks on foot for free. Pickering is also very close for supplies.


ABLUTIONS: This campsite promised so much. The site itself wasn’t bad and the bathroom block was warm, the toilets clean and the shower hot. However, the shower was one of those press-button ones on a timer. Most showers like this are timed to go off after five or so minutes. This one went off after about 1 minute, which was very annoying and most unsatisfactory. The total score for this campsite’s shower would have been 7, but because of the short timer I don’t feel I can give it more than 3.

THOUGHTS: The main space at this campsite, right near the ablution block is quite small so I was asked, when I phoned to make the booking, if I minded being in the overflow field, and warned that being in the overflow field meant a bit of a walk to the ablution block. The field itself wasn’t bad, though the grass could have done with a mow. There was a drinking water tap in the overflow field, and the walk to the ablution block wasn’t too bad, although I would advise you to take a torch if you go there around dusk. I went to shower as it was getting dark and did not take a torch. By the time I’d finished showering it was pitch black, so I started to, rather hesitantly, walk back to the overflow field, and ended up walking into a large pile of gravel which made me rather dirty. A second trip to the showers ensued and whilst I cleaned myself up I considered my options and sent a rather hopeful text message to my husband, who was safely in the tent, to ask him to come meet me with a torch. His phone was in the car, not the tent at the time, so he didn’t get the message. I walked out of the ablution block and prayed, asking the Lord what I should do. And He provided the answer! A man with a bright torch came out of the men’s bathroom and started walking towards the overflow field. He kindly let me walk with him and I made it safely back unharmed and clean!

“Funny Sign Friday” and other new things

I’ve decided I’d like to try extend the currently very limited range of topics that I talk about on this blog and to try post more often. One idea for how to do this was recently presented to me in a series of photos that some family members took, which included a number of funny signs. So, I’m initiating a new series on this blog called “Funny Sign Friday” – every Friday I’ll post one or more funny signs and possibly a little write-up about them too.

I’ve also decided to start writing campsite reviews. I love camping and do so regularly, so I figured, “why not write about that too?” Now before I start doing these reviews I need to lay out some caveats and ground rules. The reviews will probably be posted sporadically, as dictated by the fact that our camping equipment is suitable only for the summer and by the fickle British weather (yes, we are fair-weather campers…). The twist on these reviews is that I’m going to concentrate on the ablution facilities. Why? Well, there are many great expanses of lovely soft grass upon which to place a tent (for free) around Britain, where wild-camping is not illegal. So, I figure all you really pay for when you camp here is the shower and toilets, and so it is upon this basis that campsites should be judged… We don’t have a caravan, or chemical toilet or even fancy cooking equipment, so whilst facilities for these may be important for some people, I’m afraid they just don’t cross my radar enough for me to consider them…or write about them…or even be faintly qualified to comment on them, so I probably won’t. I may also chuck in the odd review of campsites outside Britain (where sometimes wild camping is illegal so the campsite itself becomes a little more important than just the showers) – it all just depends on where I go. I’ll try include photos, but can’t always guarantee these (sometimes the reviews will be for campsites I’ve visited in the past, where I may not have taken pictures).

Friday, 24 July 2009

Mint and White Chocolate Cupcakes

MintandWhiteChoc I’ve only been ‘into’ blogging for a couple of months. Last month I discovered Iron Cupcakes. and got very excited when I saw that the Iron Cupcake challenges were going to be coming to Britain. Sadly, though, the challenge has only got as far as London, and that’s quite a way from me. But, the good news for people like me, who can’t easily participate in face-to-face Iron Cupcake events, is that there is also a web-based challenge – IronCupcake:Earth. I discovered this, and planned to enter last month, when the ingredient was summer berries (yum, yum!!). Sadly, though, last month was pretty crazy and I didn’t manage to create and post something in time…So, I decided to enter this month. On the day the ingredient for this month was posted online, I eagerly checked it, brimming with enthusiasm and ideas, and immediately hit a down. The ingredient this month is ‘herbs’. My first thought was that I’d never be able to come up with something good for that, but over time I started to think of all sorts of possibilities, and this is the first that I’ve actually seen to completion. I have a couple of other ideas, but realistically speaking, am not sure if I’m going to get round to them by the end of the month. So, here it is, my first, and possibly only for this month, IronCupcake:Earth competition entry: Mint and White Chocolate Cupcakes. The recipe for these is below. In what follows, 1 cup = 250 mls. I just use a 250 ml cup, and when the recipe asks for half or a quarter of a cup, I just fill the cup to roughly that amount – hence the ‘some, some and some’ of my blog title! Its a bit hit and miss, but it works for me…I hope you enjoy these. The few people that have tasted them liked them. Oh, and before I give the recipe, I just want to say a special thank you to my husband who spent a very long time, taking LOTS of pictures so that I’d have a big selection to choose from for this post.

For the cake mixture, you’ll need:

3 eggs

A 200 gram bar of white chocolate

1/2 cup white sugar

1/4 cup margarine or butter (I used margarine in this)

About 11 medium to large mint leaves thinly sliced or chopped very small.

2 cups of flour

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Pinch of salt

For the icing, you’ll need:

A 200 gram bar of white chocolate

1/2 cup icing sugar

1/4 cup margarine or butter (I used margarine)

1/4 cup milk

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

2 egg whites.

To make the cake:

1. Separate the eggs. Then beat the egg whites until they reach soft peak stage, then add the egg yolks, and beat until thoroughly mixed and frothy.MintandWhiteChoc1 2. Beak the white chocolate into little pieces. Then, in a double boiler, or (as I did), in a heatproof bowl over boiling water, melt together the white chocolate, sugar, margarine and mint leaves. Keep stirring the mixture over heat for 10-15 minutes until all the chocolate has melted (and then a few minutes after that) and don’t worry if the fat/oil starts to separate from the rest. Just keep stirring it together. Then take the mixture off the heat and beat it for a couple of minutes to mix everything together thoroughly and introduce some air to the mixture.MintandWhiteChoc2 3. Slowly (about a dessertspoon at a time) add and thoroughly mix about half the beaten egg into the chocolate mixture.

4. Sift the flour and salt together three times, and then (on the fourth sifting) sift into the chocolate/egg mixture.

5. Fold in the flour along with the rest of the egg and the vanilla.IMG_4063 6. Spoon into a tray lined with cupcake liners and bake on gas mark 5 for about 20 minutes. (NOTE – this is what I did and it worked, though next time, I might try them on a lower heat for slightly longer time as these were very brown by the time they’d cooked through).IMG_40647. When baked, leave on a cooling rack to cool and then ice.

To Make the Icing:

1. Break the white chocolate up into small pieces and then melt. As this is melting, place the icing sugar, margarine, milk and vanilla into a pan and stir together until the margarine has melted and the mixture thoroughly combined.IMG_4065 2. Add the melted chocolate to the warm icing sugar mixture and whisk together. IMG_4066 3. Beat egg whites in a separate bowl until they reach soft-to-medium peak.

4. Bring the chocolate/icing sugar mixture to the boil, remove from heat and SLOWLY drizzle over the egg whites, beating continuously (I don’t have a food processor, but managed to do this with a handheld mixer in one hand and the saucepan with the chocolate mixture in the other).

5. Once all the chocolate mixture has been added, keep beating as the mixture cools. Once it is warm, alternate leaving it in the fridge to cool further, for about 20 minutes at a time, and beating the mixture until it has reached a good consistency for piping. IMG_4067 6. Give the mixture one last beat with the mixer and then pipe or spread with a knife onto cupcakes.

7. Decorate with a mint leaf, or two, if you like!MintandWhiteChoc3 MintandWhiteChoc

IMG_4107As noted above, these cupcakes are my entry for this month’s IronCupcake:Earth challenge. The last day for entry is the 24th July (ie today – I have left this a bit late!). Voting is open from Tuesday 28th July until Wednesday 5th August at Go have a look and vote for me, if you think its worth it, or for whoever you think is the best. If you want to take part in future challenges, take a look at the IronCupcake:Earth website.

According to the IronCupcake:Earth website, the prizes for this month are:

Last and certainly not least, don’t forget our corporate prize providers: HEAD CHEFS by FIESTA PRODUCTS,, HELLO CUPCAKE by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson,, JESSIE STEELE APRONS; TASTE OF HOME books,; a t-shirt from UPWITHCUPCAKES.COM Iron Cupcake:Earth is sponsored in part by 1-800-Flowers, .

CoffeeChoc Marble Cupcakes with Mocha Marshmallow Topping


Unlike my previous attempt at marble cake, see here, this actually worked! The coffee and chocolate cake mixtures that I used are a bit of an experiment, and in the end, complimented the marshmallow topping beautifully, but if you have a favourite of each, go ahead and use it! As a variation, you could also fill the cupcakes with the marshmallow topping, and then ice them with a coffee (or, if you prefer, chocolate) icing. You can see examples of both variations below. To me, these actually tasted better the day after I made them, but that may just have been because of a sugar overload from too much tasting, er, um, I mean testing, as I made them. In the recipe below, 1 cup = 250 mls. I used a 250 ml. cup and just filled it to half, or a quarter (etc) as the recipe required. Using one cup saves on washing up, and using a mug I already own saves on buying measuring cups specially.

To make these cupcakes, you will need:

Coffee Cake Mixture:

2 eggs, separated

1/3 cup margarine or butter (I used margarine when I made this)

1 1/3 cups white sugar

1 tablespoon instant coffee powder

1/3 cup boiling water

1 3/4 cups self-raising flour

Pinch of salt

Chocolate Cake Mixture:

2 eggs, separated

1/3 cup margarine or butter (I used marg.)

3/4 cup white sugar

1 1/3 cup self-raising flour

3 dessertspoons cocoa powder

Pinch of salt

1/2 cup milk

Marshmallow Topping:

3 cups marshmallows (I used a mixture of pink and white ones)

3 dessertspoons margarine or butter (I used marg.)

3 dessertspoons cocoa powder

2 dessertspoons instant coffee

1/4 cup boiling water

2 1/2 cups icing sugar

CoffeeChocPicture2 To Make the Coffee Cake Mixture:

1. Beat the egg whites until stiff and put aside.

2. Cream together margarine/butter and white sugar. Add egg yolks to margarine/sugar mixture a little at a time, thoroughly mixing them in before adding the next bit.

3. Dissolve the instant coffee in the boiling water and mix into the margarine/sugar/egg yolk mixture.

4. Sift and fold the self-raising flour and salt into the margarine/sugar/egg yolk/coffee mixture.

5. Fold the egg whites into the mixture and put it aside whilst you make the chocolate cake.

To Make the Chocolate Cake Mixture:

1. Beat the egg whites until stiff and put aside.

2. Cream margarine and sugar together, then add and thoroughly mix in egg yolks, a little at a time.

3. Sift and fold in the flour, cocoa powder and salt.

4. Fold in the egg white.

To Make and Bake Cupcakes:

1. Line a cupcake tin with cupcake liners.

2. Drop about a teaspoon of each mixture into each cupcake liner and swirl together with the tip of a knife or the top end of a fork.

3. Bake in a pre-heated oven on about gas mark 5 1/2 for 20-25 minutes.

To Make Marshmallow Topping:


1. Dissolve the instant coffee powder into the boiling water.

2. Melt together the marshmallows, margarine, cocoa powder and coffee in a double boiler, or, as I did (see the photos above) in a heatproof bowl over boiling water, stirring occasionally.

3. When about half of the marshmallows have melted, add the milk.

4. When everything has melted together, remove it from the heat and thoroughly mix in the icing sugar. Put aside to cool.

To Finish:

There are two ways to finish these cupcakes. You can either simply top with the marshmallow topping, and perhaps sprinkle icing sugar or cocoa powder onto them in a decorative pattern…IMG_4050 …or you can fill them with the marshmallow topping, and then ice them with regular coffee or chocolate icing, and perhaps top them with a chocolate button or magic star.CoffeeChocPicture4

Monday, 13 July 2009

Back soon...

This is just a little note to say I haven't forgotten you, but will be back soon! Its been a rather busy few weeks for me. Coming up, hopefully in the next week, will be two cupcake recipes, including one that I might just enter into IronCupcake:Earth (I was having doubts but hubby assured me that the cupcakes are delicious and I must enter). Just got to do a photoshoot of the final result before I post those though. I'm also going to try think up some yummy savory recipes, so watch out for those in the next month or so. Til then, hope you have a great day!

Friday, 5 June 2009

Disaster follows disaster

Hmmm...I had hoped to post some delicious recipes here, but instead all I can do is report that I have had a number of culinary disasters lately. Now, I'm not saying that my food is restaurant-worthy on a daily, or even monthly basis, although occassionally I do get it really right. But, I generally manage to make edible and even quite tasty food. Except lately - three disasters in two weeks - that's more than my total number of absolute culinary disasters over the last five or six years! Although I experiment occassionally when cooking for myself and my husband, when we have guests over I tend to stick to five or so dishes that I know taste good. Last week, though, when a good friend was coming to stay the night, I decided I was bored with those stand-by dishes and wanted to try something different...

One night, as I was flicking through a very lovely recipe book, given to me by my even more lovely mother-in-law (I mean that quite seriously - I get on very well with her) I found a very simple and yummy looking recipe for beef in red wine. Now, my husband could probably have told me in advance that it wasn't going to work, because I was actually going to try follow the recipe (as opposed to just being inspired and then doing it my own way). I decided, just to be on the safe side, to do a trial run the night before our friend was due to arrive, and, in hindsight, I should have guessed it was not a good recipe to follow when it asked for a whole bottle of wine for a dish with less than 700g of beef. After marinading it all day, as instructed, and then cooking it for two hours in the oven with the marinade, as instructed, the alcohol was far from being cooked off and the sauce was runny and bitter. To make matters worse, I dedided to deal with my lumpy mashed potatoes, to which I'd added too much liquid, by taking my blender to them - they result was most akin, in texture and probably also in taste, to wallpaper paste. Not wanting to waste precious food (we are in a recession you know, and I didn't feel like making anything else by then), my husband and I bravely sat down to and finished this meal. I think it must be the only beef-based meal my husband has ever had which he would happily have swapped for a plate of soggy cabbage (although he didn't tell me that - I'm just guessing here...).

As you can imagine, this was followed by a day of crisis - I'd bought beef and wine and garlic and potatoes specially for the meal the next night, but had no idea what to do with them as I did not want a repeat of this disaster. Thankfully I managed to work out a stew-type thing which did what I should have done in the first place - used the recipe for inspiration rather than instruction, that actually worked out quite well. Recipe to follow when I make it next (and gather together ingredient quantities etc).

The next disaster started out in my mind as a beautiful, light, summery marble cake, with pretty pink swirls of strawberry inter-lacing with swirls of creamy vanilla. Initially it seemed so promising - here is a picture of it right before putting it into the oven...
By the time it came out of the oven though, it was terrible. It tasted horrible and somehow the pink part had completely disappeared, leaving just a white-ish cake with no obvious distinction between the vanilla and strawberry parts. Now what I'd like to know is where did the pink food colouring go? How could it be there one moment and gone the next? If anyone knows, please let me know. I assume it's got something to do with the heat of the oven - that's all I can think of. Anyway, this was a productive failure. I have no photo of the final product - I was in too much despair to think of pictures by then. I learnt a number of things from this:
1. Strawberry essence is not good for cakes - tastes completely wrong. Next time I'll try figure something out with strawberries themselves.
2. Pink food colouring can disappear in the oven.
3. The yoghurt icing I made for this does not work. I still like the idea of yoghurt icing - with a bit of a tang from the yoghurt, but currently have no idea how to achieve this mental taste in real life.

The final disaster happened last night. We decided to have toad-in-the-hole, which I thought I'd follow up with a pudding along the same lines as toad-in-the-hole, using caramelised apples in the batter. I decided, just to see, what would happen if I used pancake batter instead of toad-in-the-hole batter, and I can tell you now, it doesn't work. It came out of the oven uncooked and stodgy and horrible, except for the bit right on the top, which was lovely. I won't be trying that again.

But, just so you don't think I'm a complete kitchen disaster, here's a little peek at some chocolate cake I made a couple of week's ago for my sister (sorry, this is not the best photo).......this was actually quite tasty, and, along with some cupcakes I made last week, even inspired her to make a lemon drizzle cake. Unfortunately, I've not tasted it, but I believe it was scrumptious.

Monday, 1 June 2009

Frozen Raspberry Yoghurt

A few days ago I mentioned that I would be posting a recipe for frozen raspberry yoghurt. Unfortunately, I don’t have many pictures to illustrate this, but here you go. Its very easy – try it today!IMG_4032 You will need:

1/2 cup orange juice

9-11 dessertspoons of white sugar (less sugar for more tart yoghurt, more for sweet – I used 11 this time, but will probably use 10 next time I make it)

A 350g pack of frozen raspberries (available in the freezer section of large supermarkets)

1 1/2 cups Greek yoghurt


1. Heat half a cup of orange juice and the sugar over a low heat until all the sugar is dissolved.

2. Add the frozen raspberries (don’t worry about defrosting them first – I used them from frozen) to the orange juice and sugar.

3. Bring orange juice/sugar/raspberry mixture to the boil and then let it simmer for about 20 minutes over a medium heat until it has reduced to about half and is becoming quite syrupy/jam-like.

4. Pour the raspberry mixture into a clean bowl and set it aside to cool. I didn’t strain it to remove the seeds as I wanted it to have a bit texture – I’m not sure how it would work if you did remove the seeds.

5. When the raspberry mixture has cooled completely, add one and a half cups of Greek yoghurt to the bowl and beat until completely mixed together (I used an electric beater for this – much easier than by hand).

6. Pour into a shallow container and place, uncovered, in the freezer. After about 4 hours, beat gently with a fork to break up ice crystals and then place back in freezer for a few hours.

7. Eat!

Note – this doesn’t freeze solid, but to a sort of creamy consistency. Mine was fine when kept uncovered in the freezer for a few days. I can’t comment about after then – it was finished pretty quickly!


Monday, 18 May 2009

Simple Vanilla Cupcakes

IMG_3996These step by step instructions will guide you on how to make basic dairy free vanilla cupcakes. To make 24 cupcakes you will need:

4 eggs

2/3 cup margarine (I used the ‘basic’ or ‘value’ supermarket margarine for this recipe, which is – or at least I think it is! – dairy-free)

1 1/2 cups white sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Pinch salt

2 2/3 cups self-raising flour

Now when I say cups, I of course mean those brown, glass type ones, that look something like this…IMG_3912 …just like my Mum always used. I’ll post separately about my cups-versus-weighed-measurements-when-cooking philosophy (and include an approximate measure for my cups and a better photo!) but for now lets just say that it is sort-of linked to my “some, some and some” mentality when it comes to cooking…For now, if you want to try this recipe and happen to have cups like these…USE THEM! Otherwise, just use a smallish mug, but not one that’s too tiny.

Now…on to much sweeter things. Before you make the cupcake mixture put the oven on to pre-heat. I baked these cupcakes on gas mark 5, so put the oven on that, or whatever the equivalent is if you use a celsius or farenheit oven.

First of all, separate the egg yolks from the whites and then put the whites in a large bowl. I usually separate the yolks from the whites over a large bowl, which, when posing for a picture with one hand whilst trying to take the picture with the other looks something like this…IMG_3896Then whisk the egg whites…IMG_3898….until they reach soft-peak stage(ish), which might look something like this…IMG_3907But it doesn’t matter if you overdo them a little. Then put the egg whites aside for a bit. If you’re me, this may involve transferring them to another bowl and then using the bowl you beat them in to mix the other ingredients, which I do because 1. that is the best bowl I’ve got in which to beat ingredients and 2. somehow it feels like I’m saving on washing up if I have one big bowl and one smaller one rather than two big bowls.

Now take your 2/3 cup margarine (or, if you’re feeling really indulgent in these cash-strapped times, butter – but be warned, I’ve not tested that to check it’ll still taste as good…!) IMG_3913and your 1 1/2 (that one and a half) cups of white sugarIMG_3915and put them in a bowl with about 1 1/2 to 2 dessertspoons of vanilla extract (note – if you use vanilla flavouring instead of vanilla extract or essence, you may need a splash more)IMG_3916Then cream them all together. Now, when I say cream, what I mean is beat like crazy until you think you’ve done it enough, and then some more – the more you beat it, the lighter the cupcakes should be as creaming incorporates air into the mixture. The end result will hopefully look something like this (once you’ve taken into account the fact that I’m a beginner at photography)…IMG_3918Then add your 4 egg yolks. I added 2 egg yolks…IMG_3932 …then beat it a bit, and then added the other 2…IMG_3934 Then beat them in. Your mixture should then look something like this…IMG_3935 Then sift in 2 2/3 (that’s two and two thirds) cups of self-raising flour and a small pinch of salt.IMG_3942 (2)Then say a big thank you to your very kind husband for interrupting his very important work to take about 20 pictures of you sifting flour into the cupcake mixture…

…and offer him the bowl to lick out once you’ve finished…

Then fold in the flour (this just means mixing in gently with a motion that goes round the bowl and then straight down the middle) until its all mixed. By then it might look something like this…IMG_3954 Then add your egg whites to the bowl and fold them in as well, like you did with the flour.IMG_3956The egg whites won’t stay as fluffy as they were before when you do this, but don’t worry. When its all mixed and looks a bit like this…IMG_3957 …the mixture is ready (to bake not to eat that is). Now, take a cupcake or muffin tin, put cupcake cases in each of the cavities, and then put about a dessert-spoonful of mixture into each cupcake case.image

IMG_3961 Then put your cupcakes into the middle of the preheated oven for about 15 minutes, until golden-brownish and properly cooked. Whilst you’re doing that, if you have more than one muffin/cupcake tray, you can prepare the next batch of cupcakes (if not, just prepare the next batch as above when the first set of cupcakes are done). When your first batch is done, they’ll look something like this…IMG_3968Place each cupcake on a cooling rack to cool and put the next batch into the oven (if you have more mixture repeat the process of putting mixture into cupcake cases and baking until its all finished). My husband likes these as they are, without icing, but I rather fancy them covered with vanilla butter-icing, which you can put on once the cupcakes have cooled.

I got a bit creative when icing my cupcakes, and, as you can tell from the photos below, gradually tinted my icing more and more blue!IMG_3978IMG_3989 IMG_3980IMG_3988 IMG_3983IMG_3996