Charity fun run registration number, apples, new catnip toys, best lettuce, abnormal loads, cats against video games, Quiet by Susan Cain
Sunday, 31 March 2013
Saturday, 30 March 2013
I used to collect china rabbits when I was a kid, I had a whole shelf full of them, lined up like the Terracotta Army. I think that is why I was drawn to this little guy for my dressing table. Not only is he quite cute...
...He is also functional.
As we are in the season for all things rabbit shaped, I had to share these bunny bites for you.
1, First make the meringue by preheating your oven to 100o/c and line a baking sheet with parchment.
2, Beat the egg whites until just foamy, add in the sugar and vinegar beat vigorously until you have stiff peaks.
3,Transfer into a piping bag fitted with a small star nozzle. Pipe little mounds of meringue that are just less than a centimetre in diameter.
4, Bake for an hour and a half or until the meringues are dried through, crumbly, and crunchy. Leave to cool completely before using.
5, Melt the white chocolate and leave to cool slightly before add in the cooked meringue, mini mini marshmallows and soft shimmer pearls.
6, Stir together until everything is coated, you will need to break down the meringue a little.
7, Take your chocolate moulds and press the meringue mixture into the moulds, push it down hard to get into all the nooks and crannies loftier moulds. Alternatively, you could spread into the base of a lined cake tin.
8, Chill for at least 1 hour in the fridge until set.
9, Unmould carefully. Like there china counterparts, these rabbits are prone to ears snapping off. You can spread a little melted chocolate on the broken sides and stick back together.
Dr Oetker kindly sent me some baking supplies to use.
Sunday, 24 March 2013
I haven't lost it. I just love the smell of mixed spice. On everything. And Easter is the last time you can indulge in something sweet, spicy, and dried fruit studded, like that until the next time Christmas rolls around. The humble hot cross bun.
Another set of fantastically daft English traditions go along with this cross topped bun of wonders. Ones baked on Good Friday will never spoil. A slice of hot cross bun will cure your ills. Hang them in your kitchen and prevent kitchen fires. Kiss them before you eat them. They'll even prevent shipwrecks. That's a lot for a bun to live up to.
Tear it up.
500gr strong bread flour plus 2tbsp
7gr easy blend yeast
2tbsp soft light brown sugar
1tsp mixed spice
Small pinch of salt
50gr unsalted butter
1/2tsp vanilla extract
250ml warm water
100gr marzipan, chopped into small chunks
1, Add the 500gr of flour, yeast, soft brown sugar, mixed spice and salt into a large bowl. Cut the butter into chunks and rub into flour.
2, Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture and add in the egg and vanilla extract with 200ml of the tepid water. Start to bring this together with a fork, adding more water if necessary, until you are left with a lump of dough that isn’t sticky to the touch.
3, Turn the dough out onto a work surface that has been lightly dredged in flour and knead for between 5-10minutes until the dough is soft and elastic. Knead in the raisins and marzipan gently. Pop in an oiled bowl and cover with oiled clingfilm. Leave this somewhere warm for an hour or until it has doubled in size.
4, Knock back the dough with your fist and give it another quick knead so that it is smooth. Divide the dough into six equal pieces and stretch and roll into sausages about 3cm thick. I couldn’t video myself doing the plaiting but I followed this video. It’s really easy when you get into the swing of it.
7, Remove from the oven when the loaf is cooked. To test this, tap the bottom of the loaf, if it sounds hollow then you’re on to a winner.
8, Leave to cool, slightly, before tearing apart.
Wednesday, 20 March 2013
I had the nastiest cold in the world a few weeks ago.
Do you want to know what I do when I get sick?
Watch appallingly dated TV shows. Murder mystery and science fiction is my hospital. Fox Mulder, Poirot and Jesscia Fletcher are my doctors. Grisly murder scenes, secret love affairs, aliens are my prescription. I self medicate with 80s hairdos, dramatic music and hazy dream flashbacks.
This bout of lurgy was overseen by the FBI's finest "Doctor" Agent Cooper. Even if you haven't watched Twin Peaks, I'm pretty sure you'll know that it's famous for pie. Cherry pie and coffee. I've heard its pretty "damn good".
I've chosen to tart (groan...) up this combo and give you sweet, crumbly chocolate pastry filled with chocolate and coffee ganache and sticky cherries.
200gr plain flour
2tbsp cocoa powder
Pinch of salt
45gr caster sugar
110 gr cold butter
Ice cold water
100gr dark chocolate
1tsp instant coffee granules
200ml double cream
1 x 425gr tin of pitted black cherries in a light syrup
2tbsp caster sugar
1, First make the pastry by sifting the flour, cocoa powder, salt and sugar in a large bowl. Rub in the flour until you have a shaggy kind of texture. Add in the egg and bring together with your hands. You want a soft pastry that is smooth and not sticky to the touch. Add a little splash of ice cold water it's not coming together.
2, Chill the pastry for around 5 minutes before rolling out to around 5mm and laying in a tart tin that is 15cm by 24cm. Trim off the excess pastry. You will have a little pastry left. Re-roll this pastry and cut out some fir trees.
3, Scrunch up a piece of greaseproof paper and lay across the pastry lined tin. Fill with ceramic baking beans or rice and blind bake for 20 minutes or until the pastry is starting to go crisp. Remove from the oven and carefully remove the baking bean or rise. Leave the pastry shell to cool completely. I made mine in a silicone tin so I was happy to let it go cold in the tin. If you are making it in a metal tin, you might want to use a loose bottomed one and remove it from the tin to prevent it sticking. Bake the trees on a lined baking sheet for around 5-10 mins depending on size.
4, Make the ganache by melting the chocolate in a bain marie and heating the cream to a gentle simmer in a small saucepan. Dissolve the coffee granules in the cream. Gently combine the coffee cream and the chocolate and leave to cool completely.
5, To make the cherry filling, strain the cherries and measure out 200ml of strained syrup. Reduce this with the caster sugar in a small saucepan over a medium heat to around 100ml. Whilst this is reducing, cut each of the cherries in half. Take 1tbsp of the reduced cherry syrup and mix it into a smooth paste with the cornflour.
6, Turn your hob down to a low setting and add in the cherries. Add in the cornflour paste and stir gently until it begins to thicken. Remove from the heat, transfer into a heatproof bowl and leave to go completely cold.
7, Once you have the three components ready, you can begin construction.
8, Beat the ganache so that it is easier to manipulate and spread on the base of the pastry shell. Place the cherries cut side down onto the ganache and spoon over the rest of the sauce to create a glossy finish. Add on the pastry trees.
9, Cool the constructed tart for an hour in the fridge before slicing.
Sunday, 17 March 2013
Wednesday, 13 March 2013
Every year Jim digs over the vegetable side of our garden. As he makes his way along it with a garden fork, he pulls out stones, tough roots, weeds, small bulbs and occasionally the rogue onion or beetroot which missed the harvests. He's fairly meticulous.
Yet every year, without fail, when that strip of land looks bare, in the middle of spring, a single plant sprouts up. Slap bang in the middle. Sending a thin bending-on-the-wind kind of green leaf up. Some sort of narcissus. Every year. No matter how thoroughly you dig. Or pluck. Or pull. It must grow slowly, yet I never notice it until it's at least eight inches tall. Like a chin hair. Not that they are ever 8 inches long. Unless you're going for that kind of look.
This year, rather than scowl at it, I'm going to let it grow. Give it a little bit of time, maybe it'll turn into something beautiful. Like this homemade strained yoghurt cheese. It transforms sour natural yoghurt, something I don't eat on its own (unless it has a copious amount of honey in/on it), into a soft spreadable creamy cheese with just the application of time and a little bit of gravity. Really.
You don't need fancy thermometers, muslin, pans or chemicals. Two ingredients.
Makes around 8 golf ball sized lumps
500ml natural full fat yoghurt (I used Yeo Valley)
Pinch of salt
You will also need:
A large, fresh, clean jay-cloth folded in half
A large bowl
Sterlised jars for storage
Herbs and spices for coating
1, Lay your clean jay cloth into the base of the sieve creating a bowl. Place the sieve over a large bowl.
2, Gently stir the salt into the yoghurt and pour into the prepared sieve.Gather the edges and tie securely.
3,You now need to suspend the yoghurt over the bowl. I used a fruit bowl which had a banana hook. It's really important that you don't poke the bag or squish it - no matter how tempting that would be. The whey will start to drip out almost immediately.
4, You need to hang the yoghurt in a cool place for at least 18 hours or more if you want a firmer cheese. I left mine in a cool spot in the kitchen, but the fridge is good if your kitchen is a bit warm.
5, After 18 hours, you will have a ball of cheese which you can pick up. Cut into 8 pieces and roll into equal sized balls. A little splosh of olive oil on your hands will stop them sticking.
7, You can then roll them in herbs or spices. I rolled mine in rosemary, mint and black pepper.
8, Place them in a sterilised jar with enough olive oil to cover them. Store the labneh in the fridge, it will last a couple of weeks. You can also cover and store the whey, brilliant for baking bread. I used mine in Spelt & Pumpkin Seed Crackers.
Tuesday, 5 March 2013
I think decorating is like the sea. The ebb and the flow. The high tides and low tides. Of inspiration and of willingness. I'll binge in Homebase and Toast and scour the internet for the perfect dressing table mirror. Some days, I'll stare at the Ikea catalogue and then toddle off to make a cup of tea and play video games. If you're wallowing in wallpaper, tile and curtain samples, there is one thing you can do make it more interesting.
Jim and I have slowly been repairing and decorating the cottage. Ripping up carpets, laying wooden floors, fixing those dodgy DIY coverups from the last owners and painting.
But if you feel you are in an ebb, just grab some paint charts and laugh at the ridiculous names given to some paints.
They go from the obvious like Buttercup and Barely Beige to the downright crazy. Some of the best are Whisper of Rodeo Drive, Mizzle, Fluffy Bunny and Almost Oyster.
But there is one. One that stands out about all of the rest. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you:
Another problem is that you can run your finger across the paint charts and hit things like Rum & Raisin, and rather than sway me into buying brown paint, it just made me hungry.
Adapted from this recipe
600gr plain flour (plus a little more)
Pinch of salt
1 x 7gr sachet of easy blend dried yeast
250ml semi skimmed milk
70gr caster sugar
1tsp vanilla extract
2tbsp boiling water
2tsbp melted butter
30gr caster sugar
Icing sugar for dusting
1, Sift the flour into the bowl of your stand mixer. Rub in the butter until fully combined and stir through the salt and yeast.
2, In a medium saucepan over a low heat, stir the milk and sugar together until the sugar has dissolved and it has come to a lukewarm consistency.
3, Pour this into the flour and using a dough hook attachment, combine together.
4, Add in the rum, vanilla extract and crack in the eggs.
5, Knead the dough for a couple of minutes, you're aiming for a smooth dough that isnt sticky to the touch so you might need to add in more flour at this point. Add it slowly, spoonful by spoonful. When you've banished the stickiness, knead for a few more minutes or until your dough is stretchy and elastic.
6, Remove the dough from the mixer and place in a bowl. Cover with clingfilm and pop somewhere warm for an hour or until the dough had doubled in size.
7, Whilst the dough is proving, you need to make the filling. Ideally, if you can soak the raisins with the rum and hot water overnight that would be awesome but I'm not the most organised so we'll go with popping the raisins, rum and hot water in a small saucepan and setting over a really low heat. Stir until the raisins have plumped up a bit but you still have a little liquid in the pan. Let this go completely cold.
8, Knock the dough back with your fist and roll into a 30cm squareish shape.
9, Brush with the melted bitter and sprinkled on the caster sugar. Spread the rum and raisin mix all over the dough and press it in lightly with your hands.
10, Roll the dough up, trim off the edges and cut into 10 rolls.
11, I baked mine off in two batches, I put seven of my rolls in an 10 inch round tin and the remaining three in a 7 inch round tin. If you want to bake them on the same day you make them then simply cover with clingfilm, leave to rise for 30 minutes and then bake at 190o/c for 20-25minutes. If you want soft, raisin studded buns for the morning, cover with clingfilm and put in the fridge. You can leave these for up to 24 hours. To bake from the fridge, leave to stand for 30minutes at room temperature before baking as above.
12, Leave to cool slightly before dusting with icing sugar.