Monday, 27 June 2011


One of the first houses J and I lived in was tiny – there was about a metre from the chair on one side of the living room to the little sofa on the other side. And I used to think something along the lines of, “If only we had a slightly bigger house, I’d feel more able to invite people round, as I wouldn’t worry about them being too squashed.” About a year after moving into that house, we moved to another house. That one was bigger, but I still found myself wishing for more living space, and a slightly bigger sofa, and room for a dining table... The next move involved not only a new house but a new part of the country, to the house we live in currently. Although I’ve always appreciated the space we have in this house, at times I again found myself wishing for material things I don’t have and worrying about what people might think about those I do have. I’m learning that it is very easy to focus on material things – to want a house that’s a bit bigger, a car that’s a bit nicer, a job that pays a bit more - and to lose sight of more important things, like serving God and appreciating the people that I’m blessed to have in my life.

Whilst there’s nothing wrong with dreams and aspirations, I’ll probably never be satisfied if I don’t learn contentment as part of my attitude to life as I have it now. I’m challenged to change my general attitude from a desire for bigger, better, faster, to one of contentment – appreciating and giving thanks to God for the blessings He’s given me today. I want to become someone who’s first focus is relationships – with God, with my husband and family, with my friends, with those around me, and someone who appreciates both the people and the stuff in my life right now. It’s a slow process, but I think I’m getting somewhere. How about you?

Oh yes, and it’s even better if I get to enjoy sunrises like this with my loved ones along the way…


Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Paprika Potato Wedges

A number of years ago, I had some potato wedges that were delicious. They were crispy on the outside with a spicy flavour, and soft in the middle. I don’t know exactly what the spices on the outside were, but paprika was the flavour that stood out most strongly to me. Although I’ve yet to make wedges as good as those, my latest attempt is pretty tasty, and makes a nice change if you want a bit of potato-flavoured variety in your meals! The recipe below is for four small-medium sized potatoes – just reduce or increase the quantities based on the general ratios given here according to however many potatoes you need for the number of people you’re cooking for, and the size of their appetites!


What you’ll need:

4 small-medium potatoes, washed

2 rounded dessertspoons cornflour

1 teaspoon dried oregano

3-4 teaspoons paprika

Ground chilli powder (optional, if you do add chilli powder, add however much feels right for how spicy you like your food)

4 dessertspoons extra-virgin olive oil (I justify the amount of oil needed by using some that’s supposed to be good for you!)


What to do:

1. Cut the potatoes into wedges. The easiest way to do this is to cut them in half and then cut each half into four or five wedges in the same way you would cut a tomato into wedges.


2. Add a pinch of salt to a pan of boiling water and then add the potato wedges to the water. Boil the wedges for about five minutes, then drain the potatoes.


3. Put the oven on to gas mark 7 to pre-heat. Whilst the oven is pre-heating, put the wedges into a bowl. Add the cornflour, oregano, paprika, a generous pinch of salt and the olive oil to the bowl and mix thoroughly until all the dry ingredients have mixed into the oil and all the wedges are thoroughly coated.





4. Tip the wedges into a baking tray and spread out to make sure you have only one layer of wedges – if you have wedges on top of each other they won’t cook and crisp up as well as if they are in a single layer.


5. Bake the wedges in the top half of the pre-heated oven (I used the shelf above the middle shelf) for about an hour, stirring around once or twice during that time with a spatula to make sure they cook all over. When the wedges are cooked, sprinkle them with a bit more salt. I haven’t tried it, but another sprinkling of paprika might be good at this point too. Then serve and enjoy!



Friday, 17 June 2011

3.14 Pie

Thank you to everyone who suggested names and who voted! I loved the creativity – American influences, Italian slants, giving potpourri, as a combination of a bit of this and a bit of that, a food angle. The results of the vote were:


And that means that the pie has been named 3.14 Pie, after National Pi Day in America, which apparently falls on the 14th of March. I rather fancy the word equivalent of Pi Pie. Thank you to the Maths teacher who suggested that name – obviously it required a Maths enthusiast to know the existence of such a day despite not living in, or being from, America. This pie just became all about promoting Maths and calories in one go – I can’t think of a better way to increase my enthusiasm for Maths than adding a bit of butter, cream and sugar. For those who missed my last post, the original aim of this pie filling was caramel pie filling, intended to fill some excess pastry bases that I had. However, primarily because I didn’t follow a recipe, I ended up with something that wasn’t caramel pie, though it still tasted good. I think this improved with a bit of time to set, so make it 12 to 24 hours in advance of when you need it. All the cup measurements below were made using a 250 ml mug. This comes with apologies for the couple of blurry method photos.


What you’ll need:

A ten-inch sweet shortcrust pastry base. If you want to make one yourself, you can follow the recipe I gave in my Chocolate and Raspberry Tart post.

3 tablespoons of butter

1 1/2 cups of half cream and half milk, divided into 1 cup and half a cup

1 cup of white sugar

2 eggs

3/4 cup of flour (I think I used plain flour)

1 1/2 cups of milk, divided into three lots of half a cup

1/2 cup of maple syrup

1-2 teaspoons of vanilla essence

What to do:

1. Put the butter, 1 cup of cream/milk and sugar into a saucepan over a low heat. Keep it over the heat, stirring occasionally until the butter and sugar have melted/dissolved and been fully mixed into the milk/cream. Once this has happened, bring the mixture to the boil and leave to simmer for a few minutes. Keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn’t boil over – if it does start to boil up, lift the saucepan off the stove whilst the mixture sinks back down, and then turn down the heat a bit before putting the saucepan back onto the stove.




2. Whilst the contents of the saucepan are simmering, crack the eggs into a bowl, sift the flour into the bowl with the eggs and then whisk the eggs and flour together. Pour the final half cup of milk/cream into the bowl with the eggs and flour and whisk to mix everything together.




3. Turn the heat under the saucepan right down and then pour a small amount – the equivalent of just a few tablespoons – of the hot mixture to the eggs and flour and whisk together thoroughly. This tempers the eggs and helps to prevent them turning into a cooked eggy mass when you do the next step…



4. …which is to turn the heat up a bit and then pour the eggs and flour into the saucepan and whisk everything together. Keep the saucepan over the heat, stirring occasionally, and cook the mixture for a few minutes. Next, still keeping the saucepan over a low to medium heat, gradually add the milk and maple syrup. This is done by adding half a cup of milk at a time, whisking the milk into the hot mixture and allowing it to cook for a couple of minutes before adding the next half cup. The maple syrup is added before the last half cup of milk, and like the milk should be whisked into the hot mixture, which should then cook for a couple of minutes before adding the final half cup of milk in the same way as the first two half cups (rinse the cup out with boiling water before measuring the maple syrup so that it pours from the cup into the saucepan easily and doesn’t stick to the cup). Once you’ve added all the milk and maple syrup, keep the mixture over a low to medium heat, stirring occasionally, for as long as it needs to ensure it is fully cooked. If you’re not sure, taste the mixture to test it – the main thing is to make sure that the flour has cooked.







5. When the mixture has cooked, turn off the heat and leave to cool for about 10 minutes. Then add the vanilla essence to the saucepan and whisk into the mixture. Allow to cool for a few more minutes before pouring the filling into the pastry base, and then leave to set in the fridge for quite a while – ideally overnight.





Monday, 13 June 2011

Help Me Name This Pie…

A recent theme in my kitchen seems to have been pie and pastry. One fine and delicious product of this theme was the Chocolate and Raspberry Tart that I posted last week. However, life can’t all be about chocolate and cream, and I ended up with pastry bases and nothing to fill them with. So I got creative. The aim was a caramel pie, but I ended up with something that tastes a bit like condensed milk, and a bit like butterscotch, and a bit like caramel, and a bit like melk tart (for those who know what that is, for those who don’t, that’s not a misspelling!), all with a hint of maple. It isn’t caramel pie, largely because I did not follow a recipe, but it does taste good.

And now I want to post the recipe, but I can’t because it doesn’t yet have a name. So I’m throwing it open and looking for your inspiration… What do you think I should name this pie? Post your answers in the comments below (and don’t forget to comment if you like someone else’s answer) in the next few days, and hopefully this pie will have a name by the end of the week when I plan to post the recipe. If it helps, the ingredients of the filling are: eggs, butter, cream, milk, white sugar, flour and maple syrup. Here’s a sneak preview…


Looking forward to hearing what you come up with! And now, if you’ll excuse me I have to go do battle with some more pastry…

EDIT: I’ve added a poll in the top of the side bar of this blog (on the right) so you can vote for current suggestions. If you have any new suggestions, give them to me in the comments below, and I’ll add them to the poll.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Seven Randoms: Blog Posts I’ve Enjoyed Recently

In no particular order…

1. Pastor Ryan’s post pointing out how small we are and how big God is.

2. Nicole’s post on her blog with photos of beautiful flowers.

3. The challenge on the Good Morning Girl’s blog to say kind words to others. I know it’s aimed at mothers, but I think the principles are applicable to anyone.

4. The delicious salads posted by HoneySage.

5. Clairabelle’s post showing the wedding cake she made. I want to pipe like that when I grow up!

6. My friend Ruth’s posts about her son – he sounds very cute and quite a little character. I hope I get to meet him sometime soon!

7. Tartelette’s photos and recipe in her post on mixed berry sorbet with vanilla shortbread cookies. Her photos are always amazing and an inspiration to me.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Friends and Decorated Sugar Cookies

I am blessed to be part of a small group of friends that get together to bake, cook or generally mess around with food every so often. On Tuesday it was my turn to host, and my turn to choose what we’d be doing. I decided that the evening’s activity would be decorating sugar cookies, something I’ve seen on lots of blogs but never attempted myself. Armed with sugar cookies that I’d made earlier, royal icing courtesy of a special recipe book that my Mum handed down to me, and inspiration from here, here and here, we set to work. The photos below show our finished cookies (apologies - some of the pictures were taken late at night with artificial kitchen lighting so they’re not brilliant). I think we deserve at least an A for effort, though perhaps a little more practice is required. And a bit more work to get the icing the right consistency.

I didn’t get process photos as the cookies and icing were made, so that will have to wait for another post (perhaps a little way into the future as it will take us a while to work our way through the share of cookies that were left behind when everyone else had taken their’s). Maybe by then, my icing technique will also have improved a bit! Until then, check out Amanda’s blog for a Sugar Cookie 101, including cookie and icing recipes. Whilst we may not be about to win any cookie decorating awards, this was a fun way to spend an evening with friends, and get in touch with our creative sides.

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If you were there and I’ve managed to not put in any photos of your cookies, or your creations are under-represented, please let me know. I may need you to send me a photo or two of the lovely cookies that you took home with you so I can ensure equal representation for all – no discrimination intended here!

Monday, 6 June 2011

Chocolate and Raspberry Tart

This recipe started as part inspiration and part accident. Once upon a time, we had friends over for supper. For pudding, I served ice-cream, raspberries and a hot chocolate sauce made out of melted milk chocolate and cream. The inspiration happened when I tasted the raspberry and chocolate combination, which was so much better than I had imagined it would be and immediately led me to start thinking about what dishes might have just those two flavours as the stars. The accident happened the next morning when I discovered that the last bit of chocolate sauce, which I’d put in the fridge overnight, had set and was no longer runny (thereby also alerting me to the fact that I had unwittingly made chocolate ganache). And so the idea for a chocolate and raspberry tart was born. Since then, I’ve discovered multiple variations on the theme, but the basic recipe here is the one I came up with based on my inspiration and my accident. The first few times I made this, I used a crushed digestive biscuit and melted butter base instead of the pastry base I’ve used here. J says that he prefers the pastry base; I’ve not yet made up my mind. The advantage of pastry over the biscuit base I used, however, is that is it easier to take the whole tart out of the tin and serve it on a plate or cake stand if that takes your fancy. Just a quick warning – this tart is the epitome of the rule that lots of fat + lots of sugar or salt = yumminess, and you might not want to hear that if you’re on a diet right now, so if that’s you, look away right now.

Oh yes, and just in case you notice how bad the pastry is in the final photos of this tart (which of course you will all do now…), the pastry recipe I’ve given here is different to the one I used in the photographed tart, and much, much better. The method photos are a combination of pictures from the first attempt and from the second attempt. I used a 10 inch round tart tin, and the recipe makes 8-12 servings depending on how hard each eater wants their heart to work once they’ve finished eating. Ideally, you should make this at least 24 hours before you want it to give the chocolate filling time to set.


EDIT: I’ve amended the method instructions given here for making the pastry slightly to make things a bit more clear.

How to make the pastry base (cup measurements based on a 250 ml mug):

This actually makes twice as much pastry as is needed for this recipe so be prepared to make twice the filling described below, or another pie/tart or maybe even jam tarts.

What you’ll need:

2 cups plain flour

Small pinch of salt

1/3 cup icing sugar

1 cup margarine or butter

1 egg yolk

Up to 1/3 cup cold water

What to do:

1. Sift the flour, salt and icing sugar into a bowl.

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2. Rub the margarine or butter into the flour/sugar/salt until it resembles breadcrumbs. Don’t be like me and do cut the fat into cubes before rubbing it into the flour (if you can be bothered, which I couldn’t right then).

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3. Add the egg yolk and a very small amount of the cold water to the flour/butter/sugar mixture and then mix it with a butter knife until it all comes together (this should take just a couple of stirs). Add more cold water if necessary until you have a soft dough. The amount of water you add each time you make this dough may vary, as different flours absorb different amounts of moisture, and I’ve noticed things like room temperature also affect the dough.

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4. Put the dough into a freezer bag and then refrigerate it for about an hour.


5. When the hour is up, divide the pastry in half and then roll out one half and line the tin with it (no need to grease the tin first).



6. Prick the pastry all over with a fork, to help stop it bubbling up, and then put the tin with the pastry base back in the fridge for about 10 minutes (this helps to stop the pastry shrinking too much in the oven) and turn the oven on to gas mark 5 to pre-heat. Bake the pastry base in the middle of the pre-heated oven to bake in the middle of the pre-heated oven for about 20-25 minutes until baked but not too brown.


7. Remove the pastry base from the oven and put to one side to cool completely before filling the tart, ideally on a cooling rack.


How to make the tart filling and fill the tart:

This is enough to fill one tart – if you want to use all the pastry and make two tarts, double the ingredients or just go through this process twice.

What you’ll need:

400 grams of milk chocolate

600 mls double cream

A punnet of raspberries (about 125-150 grams should be fine). If the raspberries need washing, make sure they are thoroughly dry before you use them.

What to do:

1. Break up the chocolate and put into a heatproof bowl or the top of a double boiler with the cream.


2. Heat the chocolate and cream together over boiling water (or in a double boiler, if that’s what you’re using), stirring occasionally. Once all the chocolate has melted and been fully mixed into the cream, keep over the heat for a few more minutes to get rid of a bit of extra moisture, and then turn off the heat.

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3. Evenly scatter the raspberries over the cooled tart base and then pour the hot chocolate and cream mixture over the raspberries. If this pouring process disturbs the evenly scattered raspberries, you may need to reposition them with a spoon. Licking the spoon after (emphasis on after!) you’ve done that is completely okay.

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4. Put the tart in the fridge and wait impatiently until the filling has set – ideally about 24 hours after you first started making it. If you do things properly (which I tend not to) you might prefer to let the tart cool on your kitchen counter before putting it in the fridge.



This tart is rich enough to serve as it is, but if you want to fancy it up a bit, you could put a squiggle of chocolate sauce below or beside each slice of tart and maybe scatter some berries around the plate. Sadly, I didn’t have chocolate sauce or berries on hand when I took the final photos so you’ll just have to imagine what it might look like!