Sunday, December 23, 2012

Modular Buildings are gaining popularity fast

Commercial modular buildings are fast gaining popularity owing to the fact that most people are becoming aware of the advantages that these buildings offer. Commercial buildings are used for a variety of purposes such as classrooms, offices, educational complexes, dormitories, hotels and medical facilities among others. As such, these buildings usually vary in terms of modules so that some are multiple units while others are single units.

Going Mobile - Portable Buildings explained

A portable building is a building designed and built to be relocated (transportable). portable buildings are used for office space, like a construction site office or site shed, mobile classrooms, training rooms, relocatable office buildings, accommodation, dongas and general storage.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Pear and hazelnut muffins




Muffins are a little bit passe these days. Like Friends and Snapple, they're just a bit nineties. They have been overtaken by their brash, rather disgusting, cupcake cousin.

But I still have a lot of affection for them. I think muffins are nice. And I came across this very straightforward looking recipe in a newspaper, but which utilised American cup measurements.

I was annoyed about this, just as I am always annoyed when a recipe specifies some sort of wildly exotic spice, cut of meat or fruit in an offhand manner, which implies that of course you ought to know where to source it from. I fucking don't!! And even if I did, I am not going to spend one of my three child-free mornings a week tracking it down. If you can't get it in Waitrose I am. Not. Interested.

Of course these days I DO, however, have a set of cup measurements, which I bought in Waitrose, so can convert the measurements for you.

On a whim, I decided to make these muffins with some pear and hazelnut because those were some things I had knocking about. I also used soured cream instead of buttermilk, (buttermilk!! we are in ENGLAND, nowhere sells it except big branches of Waitrose and I'm not always near one of those), which worked just fine.

You do not have to use pear and hazelnut in these - pretty much anything works: apple, chocolate, sultanas, banana, whatever. It's a very flexible vehicle, muffin mix. Having said that, the pear and hazelnut combination was really terrific and I recommend it to you.

Pear and hazelnut muffins - makes 8

2.5 cups plain flour - 340g
1.5 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup sugar - 160g
1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 cup soured cream or buttermilk - 120ml
3 drops vanilla essence
1/cup melted butter - 75g butter, melted
2 ripe pears, diced
2 lady-handfuls of hazelnuts, chopped and toasted in a dry frying pan for about 10 mins

1 In one bowl combine the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. You do not have to sieve this but you could swizzle it about with a whisk for a bit.

2 In another bowl mix the beaten egg with the soured cream, vanilla extract and melted butter. Someone like Raymond Blanc would separate the eggs first, beat the whites and then add them separately, to make the muffins lighter.

3 Add the flour to the egg mixture and mix just until there is still about 10% flour showing, then tip in your pear and hazelnuts (or whatever you are using) and mix to combine.

4 Spoon immediately into muffin cases. Fill these to just below the brim. This is important, as these will not rise that much on cooking and you want that big luscious, over-spilt look.

5 Bake at 200C for 16-20 mins. Keep an eye on them if you have a light on in your oven. Mine were slightly underdone as I put them in at 180 (because of fan nuke horror panic) but if you have a normal oven I think you'll be okay at 200C for 16 mins. Bake in the middle shelf.

 

Friday, November 9, 2012

Date bread



If this looks familiar, it's because it is almost identical in every way to a Banana Bread For Dory (q.v.) but it uses dates instead of bananas.

I wanted to try this out because my friend Becky B brought over a sticky date cake the other day and it reminded me of the packet of dates in the larder I had been meaning to use to make a sticky toffee pudding, but have never quite found the excuse for.

It's also because I do LOVE that banana bread recipe but quite often don't find I have quite the right number of overripe bananas to justify it. So I wondered if it was possible with dates. And it is! It is still a sort of date bread, rather than a cake, because it's not especially sweet, which I think is a good thing. You could definitely spread this with butter, for example. Like all cakey/breads that are not a sponge, this keeps very well in tupperware for a few days.

Becky B did a terribly clever thing with HER date cake, which was to soak it, in the manner of a lemon drizzle cake, with a caramel sauce that she bought from Waitrose - it was Bonne Maman, she said: "Confiture de Caramel". She thinned it with some hot water, pricked the cake all over with a skewer and then went MAD with the sauce. It was really, really fab. My mother always says that things that other people have made for you are always more delicious than something you have made yourself, but still - Becky B is a terrific cook.

You can also make your own caramel sauce if you are that sort of person - there is a recipe somewhere on here, have a rummage.

So here we go

Date bread

150 veg oil
200g dark brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
250g dates
75g natural yoghurt
1 tsp bicarb of soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
225g wholemeal spelt flour (get it from Waitrose)
2 tbs caster sugar or cane sugar

1 Pre-heat your oven to 170C and butter a 2lb loaf tin and line it (YES you must do this, don't be lazy) and line a baking sheet, too.

1 In a bowl whisk together the oil, sugar, vanilla and eggs

2 Chop up the dates roughly then put them in a bowl and pour over boiling water to just cover them. Leave them to soak for 20 mins then drain them and sort of gently mash them through the sieve to get out most of the water.

3 Add the youghurt to the dates and mix together. Sprinkle over the bicarb of soda, baking powder, and salt and stir again.

4 Mix the date mixture and the sugar/egg mixture together. Then sprinkle over the flour and stir until things are only just combined. Over-mixing is disastrous here so stop as soon as you can't see any more flour. Spoon the batter into your smugly-lined tin.

5 Sprinkle some sugar - caster, cane or granulated -down the spine of the loaf and then put in the oven.

7 Bake for 45-50 mins.


HOW is Kitty, people say to me. How is she, how is she? I don't talk about her that much any more because she is just off my hands. She turns two in February but she has been off since she turned 18 months old and could walk, talk, ask for things, watch tv, sit and draw or look at her books, play imaginary games with her stuffed animals, scoot around the kitchen on her little trike and so on. She is an actual person these days and it's such a relief, I can't tell you.

When I look back on some of the darker things I wrote when she was small I feel awful, so guilty. But it must have been bad for me to write those things, it must have been like that. She's now this little chattering pixie, everyone wants a piece of her, everyone wants a smile and to hear her squeak "I'm knackered!" - her first party trick.

I used to dread her waking up in the night - the thought of it made me feel actually sick with anxiety. Now sometimes I wake in the night and hope that she might wake, too and need me. But she never does.

Here is a picture of Kitty with her bunny, her hair a bit wild from her nap. Note how she is gripping the bunny quite hard round the neck - I think she is trying to get him to tell her where the chocolate is. I can get pictures printed on t-shirts, mugs, bags and mousemats for a small fee if anyone is interested?

Though I can see the benefits of babies, I suppose. They are not constantly after your iPad and whatever it is that you are eating. And they don't have a massive fucking tantrum when you try to stop them from doing incredibly dangerous things.

 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Pot-roast partridge with savoy cabbage



I felt so guilty all of yesterday for the carpet disaster that I set about making a very elaborate partridge thing for my husband's dinner, using the two partridge he had bought on an impulse at the Farmer's Market the previous Saturday.

This was a slightly over the top thing to have on a cold November weeknight but I think my husband liked it - though I had a sudden and unexpected massive attack of nausea at 7.45pm so couldn't eat a thing.

This would be very good for a dinner party - everyone gets their own partridge and the sides are straightforward and easy to do in bulk. I'm sure you could do this with quail, as well. Or pheasant? Or are pheasant huge?

Pot-roast partridge with Savoy cabbage

For the partridge

2 partridge
1 small savoy cabbage
2 carrots
1 medium onion
2 bay leaves
4 sage leaves
4 sticks thyme, leaves picked off
2 sticks celery
1 glass white wine
1 pint chicken stock

For the cabbage
(you do not have to have cabbage with this. Maybe some lovely mash instead, or a cauliflower cheese?)

1 cabbage
1 small onion
4 rashers streaky bacon
1 tbsp cream if you have it

1 In a casserole pan with a lid, melt some oil and butter and then brown the partridge all over. Do this quite thoroughly - I'd say for about 6 minutes in total. Once browned, remove the birds to a plate and take the casserole pan off the heat.

2 Now make your mirepoix. Don't panic! I will explain what this is.

A mirepoix is a mound of very finely-chopped onion, celery and carrot, (although there are variations on this), which makes up the base of a lot of French sauces and soups. This is one of the reasons to own an incredibly expensive, very sharp knife from the likes of Global. Ask for one for Christmas! (I am not on commission)

Chopping up carrot and celery very small is easy enough, but I always struggle with onion. What I tend to do is try my best and then when it all starts going to piss and slipping about everywhere, I just go over it with my knife in a levering motion to get the rest really small. Not what Jamie would do BUT HE'S NOT HERE :(

Anyway so that is a mirepoix. Make one of these and then add to it your bay leaves, thyme leave and torn sage leaves.

This is a mirepoix. The veg could stand to be even smaller but I am a bit ham-fisted.


3 Add the mirepoix to the recently-vacated casserole pan and cook this over a medium flame for 4 minutes. I chose to stir this a lot to stop the onions from catching and it was a good idea. After this time, add your glass of white wine and turn the heat up so that it all bubbles down to just a thin pool of liquid at the bottom of your casserole. This takes a few minutes.

Now add your stock - it really must be decent stock, not from a cube - and put the partridge back in. Put the casserole with a lid on in a 180C oven.

The recipe I followed, although good, left the partidge rather scarily underdone as it only specified a 15 min cooking time. So if I were to do this again I would do 15 min with the lid on and then 10 mins with the lid off. Another benefit of this is that partridge can have an unfortunate greyish tinge to the skin and taking the lid off allows the top to brown, which is so important for presentation. And, because this is a pot-roast, you don't have to worry about the partridge drying out because it is protected by the surrounding liquid.

4 While the partridge is cooking, shred the savoy cabbage and chop up the onion and bacon. Sweat the onion for a few minutes in some butter and oil and then add the bacon. Cook this for about four minutes and then add the cabbage. Put a lid on and leave for another four minutes. I was not happy about leaving this with so little liquid so added a ladleful from the partridge cooking sauce. In all I reckon I cooked the cabbage for about 10 minutes. The recommended 4 minutes just left it raw and crunchy. I finished the cabbage with some cream I had knocking about.

4 Once the partridge is done, remove and put somewhere to rest and keep warm. Put the casserole pan back on the hob and give it a good boil to reduce the sauce. Season generously with salt and pepper after it has reduced.

5 Serve with a pile of cabbage, a partridge (on or off the bone, up to you) and the cooking sauce.

 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Cinnamon buns



The plan for this morning was to write some hilarious thing about something or other as an introduction to these terrific cinammon buns, while the carpet man replaced the scraggy old carpet in what is about to be Kitty's new bedroom.

It was all going so well. I hadn't lost the recipe for the cinnamon buns, (a miracle), my laptop was working (double miracle), I'd had a cup of tea and the carpet man was actually early (such a miracle that I ought, then, to have smelled a rat).

But then he brought in the wrong carpet. It was a stripey one, the one we use on the stairs. Not the plain beige one, that we use in bedrooms.

Oh god!! Oh god oh god oh god I've ordered the wrong fucking carpet.

I searched my email, shaking, looking, searching frantically for some indication that this wasn't my fault. But it just completely was. Is. Is my fault. So I now have to re-order the carpet at vast expense and try, for the rest of the day, not to burst into tears about it.

"YOU KNEW I WAS AN IDIOT WHEN YOU MARRIED ME," I screamed pre-emptively and defensively at my husband, who was standing in the kitchen looking at me sympathetically.

Anyway here's a recipe for some cinnamon buns. They're nice.

Cinnamon buns by Edd Kimber
makes 16

For the dough

250ml whole milk
50g butter, plus extra for greasing tin
500g strong white bread flour
30g caster sugar
1 tsp salt
7g fast-action yeast. This is the equivalent of one of those sachets you get in boxes of yeast. I decided instead to use 7g of yeast in a tin, which was past its sell-by date, so the first lot of dough I made didn't rise and I had to throw it away and start again. It's all just going so well in my world at the moment.
1 egg, beaten
veg oil for greasing

For the filling

150g light brown soft sugar
3 tbsp ground cinnamon
60g butter, very soft, plus a bit extra to brush over the buns pre-baking
75g currants

... and some icing sugar. Edd mixes 125g icing sugar with 75 cream cheese and 2 tbsp whole milk. I didn't do this and plain icing is just fine. However, I have tasted this other sort of icing and it is very nice, so if you are so inclined, give it a go.

1 Put the milk and the butter in a small saucepan and heat very gently over the lowest available heat until the butter has melted. Set aside and leave it to cool to a lukewarm temperature.

2 In a bowl, mix together the:

- flour
- sugar
- salt
- yeast

to this add the milk/butter mix and the beaten egg. Mix this round until you have a dough.

3 Flour a surface and knead this for 10 minutes. Ten minutes is a VERY long time, so put a timer on or something because you will want, powerfully, to give up after about 3 minutes.

4 Put the dough in a bowl that is large enough for it to double in size. I do not have a bowl that big so I used a massive saucepan instead. Anyway whatever you use, lightly oil the base and sides.

And NOW stretch some cling film across the top of the pan/bowl in order to form an airtight seal over the dough. I think I am possibly the only person in the world who doesn't know that you are supposed to do this with dough, but I didn't. Maybe you don't know either. Maybe you think, like I used to, that you could just sling a tea-towel over it. No. If you do that air will get to it and form a very thin crust, which will both stop the dough from rising properly and also make it very difficult to shape later.

You're all laughing at me now, I can tell. Go ahead! I don't care! Kick me while I'm down why don't you.

5 Leave the dough to rise in a warm place for 1 hr. While this is happening grease with butter a 23cm x 33cm high sided baking tin. If you, like me, don't have one of these, you can use whatever combination of high-sided baking tins you've got to fit the buns in.

6 Tip your dough out onto a floured surface and roll out to 40x50cm. I ended up using a tape measure for this. The funny thing about rolling out dough like this is that at first you think - how am I going to roll this out to any sort of rectangle shape? If you try the dough sort springs back on itself and will only go into a round shape. But if you keep on rolling it out thinner and thinner it suddenly complies and relaxes into a rounded sort of rectangle. It has to be seen to be believed.

7 Mix the brown sugar and the cinnamon together in a bowl. Now take your 60g of very soft butter and spread the dough with it. Now sprinkle over the sugar mixture and then the currants. Don't be afraid to press all this into the dough reasonably firmly.



8 Now roll all this up into a tight log shape. I'm sure the Bake-Off Masterclasses showed a terribly clever way of doing this, but I missed that episode, so just do this the best way you can see how.

9 Trim the ends off the roll and then cut into 16 pieces. I used a tape measure again for this. All you do is mark out the middle of the roll, and then mark out the middles of those two halves and then again until you've got 16 bits. Cut these up and then arrange in your collection (or not) of baking tins then leave THESE to rise for 45 mins, again with the tins covered with an airtight seal of clingfilm. Before baking brush these with some melted butter.



10 Now - to bake. My oven is a fan oven and therefore nukes anything I bake, which is why I don't do much baking. If you have one of these wretched bloody ovens then bake your buns at 165 for 30 mins, laying a sheet of foil over the buns for the last 15 mins of baking time. If you don't have a fan oven, bake these at 180 for 30 mins, but also cover for the last 15 mins of baking time.

I lost my nerve halfway through baking these and turned the temp up to 180 and although the buns were a triumph, if anything they were a tiny bit over-cooked. So next time I will just stick to 165 the whole way.

11 Mix up whatever icing you are using and drizzle or spread once the buns have cooled a bit.

Eat and then hang yourself with a length of carpet gripper.


 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Bond, villain






I hope you don't mind my husband butting in on our conversation (that is not my husband above, that of course is Daniel Craig).

My husband, Giles Coren, will only be with us for a moment. He's just got a few words to say. It's a piece that was supposed to go in The Times on Saturday, you see - only they wouldn't run it. It was about James Bond and there's been too much Bond, they said, someone else is doing something on something or other. So write something else, yeah Giles? Well my husband is an accommodating sort of chap so he said okay then - but it's such a good piece it deserves to be read and Tweeted and to bust out from behind the paywall will make him so very chipper.

I promise this won't be a regular thing.

Coming soon: a recipe!!!



BOND, VILLAIN
(The piece they tried to ban. Warning! This contains plot spoilers...)

by Giles Coren
 
There is a moment in the new James Bond film so vile, sexist and sad that it made me feel physically sick. If you have not seen the film and fear a spoiler, then look away now. Or cancel your tickets and do something less horrible instead. Like pull all your fingernails out.

In short, there is a young woman in this film whom Bond correctly identifies (in his smug, smart-arse way) as a sex-worker who was kidnapped and enslaved as a child by human traffickers. She is now a brutalised and unwilling gangster’s moll. She gives no sign of being sexually interested in Bond, merely of being incredibly scared and unhappy. So he creeps uninvited into her hotel shower cubicle later that night, like Jimmy Savile, and silently screws her because he is bored.

That is vile enough. And totally out of keeping, I’d have thought, with Daniel Craig’s Bond. But it gets much worse when she is later tied up with a glass of whisky on her head in a hilarious William Tell spoof, and shot dead in a game devised by the baddie. We knew already knew the baddie was bad, so there was no plot developing element here. It was merely disgusting, exploitative, 1970s-style death-porn (like when Roger Moore torpedoed the beautiful girl in the helicopter in The Spy Who Loved Me and then joked about it – a scene from which it has taken me 35 years to recover).

The ‘new’ Bond’s immediate response to the killing of a tragic, abused, indentured slave woman is to say, “waste of good scotch” (this must be the ‘humour’ Daniel Craig said he was keen to put back into the role) and then kill everyone. He could have done it three minutes before and saved her. But that wouldn’t have been as funny, I guess.

That Macallan (the whisky brand on her head) presumably paid to be involved in the scene, as part of the film’s much-touted product placement programme, is utterly baffling to me.

Personally, I am ashamed, as a journalist, of the five star ratings this film garnered across the board from sheep-like critics afraid or unable to look through the hype, to its rotten soul.

I am ashamed, as a man, that women are still compelled in the 21st century to watch movies in which the three female outcomes are:

1) Judi Dench’s ‘M’ dies, and is replaced by a man;

2) The young abuse victim is shagged by Bond and then killed for a joke; and

3) The pretty girl who manages to remain chaste despite Bond’s ‘charms’ is rewarded at the end with a job as his secretary.

And I am ashamed, as a British person, that this film will be mistaken abroad for an example of prevailing values here. It is a sick, reactionary, depressing film and its director, Sam Mendes, should be ashamed of himself, all the way to the bank.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Surrendering onions



I've been away. I know. I have noticed. Thank you for your patience during the disruption to your service.

I've been terribly ill, you see. Sick, so sick. Morning sickness it is. Was. It's over now - sort of. I still get the odd billowing wave of it, bobbing up around my solar plexus but I'm no longer a drooping, greyish figure haunting my house. Urgh. I hate - hate - people who say that horrid thing to pregnant women - "You're not ill, you're pregnant." Really? Because it feels an awful lot like norovirus to me.

Anyway I feel better now. And I had my 12 week scan - just one spratling, thank god, in the right place - and so I can start moaning on about being pregnant again. The other thing that's happened is that I've finished putting together that book I was talking about. In the end it really wasn't very much work, it was just impossible to do anything feeling so sick. Ten minutes typing, 1 hour lying down, ten minutes typing, one hour lying down. SO SO SICK. I got some pills off my doctor, The Beast, in the end. I just couldn't take it anymore. But they only took the edge off, it wasn't like I was bouncing out of bed in the mornings.

I honestly am still reeling from how awful it was. It just wasn't that bad with Kitty. And I wasn't that tired either. But for the last six weeks I've been wiped out, asleep from 1-3pm every day. Wiped out like chalk on a blackboard. And then wake up feeling like shit. Poor old Kitty. Or rather lucky Kitty - she has eaten biscuits and watched telly solidly for six weeks. But thank god for telly. Thank GOD! What would we have done without it.

I am trying not to think too much about being plunged back into a babyhood. I am trying to look on the bright side. I must have learned something since Kitty was born. It surely won't be as awful as it was. I don't want to go mad again, I really don't.

It has to be different this time - for one, Kitty was brought home to a house that didn't have any children in it. It was a grown-up house, really quite spooky in a lot of ways - silent and strange and unfit for a baby. These days it has a chattering lunatic nearly-two-year-old in it, dropping crumbs and kicking balloons and watching telly and running from one end of the house to the other for no reason other than youthful high spirits. The changing mat now has its own room, rather than squatting on the kitchen table. The kitchen extension means that everyone can slob about in the kitchen, rather than me being at the stove, running out every ten seconds into the living room to make sure everyone's okay.

And maybe I'm different. Broken in, broken down. Resigned. Institutionalised. Used to that special sort of monotony you get with small children, so intense particularly in babies. My expectations from life are different now. I am surrendered, like onions.

Surrendering onions is a slow but pleasing task. It is what you do if you want very soft, aromatic, almost creamy onions (for an onion gravy for example, or a tangle alongside some sausages) and the trick is to cook them for a good 1.5-2 hours on the lowest heat on your smallest available burner.

You slice them into rings, reasonably thinly and scatter them in a pan with some oil - and butter, if you like. Then sprinkle over a generous pinch of salt and put a lid on and leave them. Do not turn the heat up and do not poke them about too much. Take the lid off if at any point the onions start to even think about sizzling. Towards the end of the cooking time, the onions will almost in a matter of seconds collapse into themselves - they will surrender. I can't help but think of motherhood like that. But not in a bad way.


 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

How to Flip Food in a Pan Like a Chef

I always feel a little guilty when I post one of these technique videos, which is kind of strange since I get just as many “wishes” for this type of demo, as I do for straight recipes. People seem to like them, and I’ll get lots of comments asking for more of the same, but there’s just something about not being able to take a bite out of the final product that leaves me slightly unsatisfied.

Of course, I could have eaten some more cheese balls at the end, but you know what I’m saying. Anyway, lack of proper money shot notwithstanding, I hope this “cheesy” trick helps you master this very basic and desirable kitchen skill.

By the way, this is about much more than just looking cool. Depending on the recipe, flipping the food around without having to use a spoon or spatula can be a big advantage. It’s faster, more effective, and yes, it looks super cool too. I hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Chicken Riggies – What if You Never Saw This?

Way back when, the only way you would’ve found out about a regional recipe like Chicken Riggies, would have been to eat it while traveling through Central New York. 

You would’ve loved it (because there’s nothing not to love) and maybe even tried to recreate it when you got home, but more likely it would have ended up fading into nothing more than a pleasant memory; referred to as “that rigatoni we had in Utica.”

I’m sure you’ll plan a trip through the lovely Utica/Rome area of New York State eventually, but in the meantime, I offer up my take on this thoroughly enjoyable plate of pasta. I think it’s fairly authentic, with two notable exceptions. I use Marsala instead of the standard white wine, and use roughly chopped thigh meat, instead of the more popular chicken breasts.

This results in a sauce that seems much richer than it actually is, and I think you’ll love the subtle sweetness the wine imparts, which works wonderfully with the heat from the peppers. Of course, as I joke about in the video, forget how tasty the recipe is…it’s worth making just for the name alone. What’s for dinner? Chicken Riggies! Riggies? Yes, Riggies!

Anyway, if you’re from Central New York, I hope I did your venerable recipe proud. If you’re not, I hope you give this gorgeous rigatoni recipe a try, and experience what only a few decades ago, you may not have ever heard of. Enjoy!


Ingredients for 4 portions:
1 tbsp olive oil
4 oz hot Italian sausage, crumbled
1 onion, sliced or diced
1 cup sliced mushrooms
salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs, roughly chopped or cubed
1/2 cup Marsala wine
1 (28-oz) can whole, peeled San Marzano tomatoes, crushed
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup water, or as needed
1 1/2 cups chopped hot and/or sweet peppers (any jarred or fresh peppers will work, but cherry peppers are a good choice)
*if using mild peppers, use chili flakes or chili paste to increase the spiciness.
1/2 cup pitted, halved Greek olives
3 cloves minced garlic
1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
1 pound rigatoni
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Romano cheese

Monday, October 1, 2012

How to get ahead in journalism




I spent almost all of my adult working life feeling like a fraud. I wanted to be a journalist because of a television series in the 80s called Press Gang, to which I was completely addicted. I wanted badly to be the Julia Sawalha character: brilliant, tough, uncompromising. I was a terribly unfriendly child, very angry, resistant to organised fun, terrified of humiliation - in this cold and unbending fictional telly character I saw how some of my unfortunate personality traits could be handy.

But it became very obvious very early in the postgraduate thingummy I did in journalism after leaving university, that I was never going to be a good journalist.

Please, by the way, do not laugh at me for having done a "course"; people do these things nowadays because it's so hard to get a job in newspapers. In fact, unless you are incredibly brilliant or insanely hard-working (with a private income), getting a job in journalism these days comes down to luck. When pompous parents tell me that their blobby children are "thinking about" going into journalism I laugh nastily and say "as if it's that easy".

Anyway, the course director declared to us on the first day that journalism is "not about writing. It is about information. It is about being nosy. It is about being a gossip. It is about always wanting to be the person who knows things first."

My heart sank. I am none of those things. I am terrific at keeping secrets and I'm always the last to know everything, I don't pry, I feel sorry for people and do not want to put them through the media mill even if they've done rotten things. I think pretty much everyone is entitled to a private life.

I struggled on, experiencing full-body cringes whenever I had to make awkward phone calls, hating every second of interviews, fighting with sub-editors over ultra-mean headlines to interviews with people I had thought were perfectly nice. I edited quotes so that interviewees wouldn't get into trouble.

Years ago, before the media was in such a terrible state, I probably would have been able to swing some sort of "mummy" column when I chucked in my job and smugly retreat home with purpose. But those gigs are few and far between these days. My husband has a friend who in the early 90s earned £80,000 from writing two weekly columns. £80,000!!! Those were the days.

I resigned myself to never making any money again, and took to the internet and here we are. The internet being, as it happens, the reason that newspapers and magazines are in the toilet. But you certainly can't beat the internet, so I joined it.

So much so that I threw open the doors of my home the other day to some of the editorial staff of a website called What's In My Handbag.

They wanted to photograph the contents of my handbag, focusing particularly on my make-up, which they would then use to do something or other. I don't really understand how it works. But I've always wanted someone to come round to my house and talk to me about make-up, so I screamed "YES!" when they emailed to ask if I wanted to do it.

Browsing their website the night before, I saw with rising panic that other handbag interviewees had prepared exciting banquets for the website's photo shoot staff, or at least plied them with exotic breakfast liquers.

It was a full week since my last Ocado order. I had no eggs, no milk, very little butter not at freezing temperature. It was 10.30pm and I had just returned from a night out, the remains beside me of a hastily-scoffed kebab from E-Mono, London's finest kebab house (I am not joking).

I suppressed a luscious burp. My mind started to race. These bitches would be expecting treats!! My mind first turned, as it always does, to in what ways I could throw money at the sitution. Could I beg my husband 10 minutes' grace in the morning while I ran up the road to Sainsbury's, bought 25 assorted pastries and then try to pass them off as being from an artisan bakery?!

No, think - think!!! I don't know how it came to me, but it did. Divine inspiration, or something, I don't know.

The answer was: flapjacks.

No flour, eggs or milk required. Some might say they are a thing that requires no actual cooking. But in that moment, they presented themselves not as a delirious cop-out, but as a lifesaver.

What I did happen to have, which made all the difference, was a box of extremely expensive posh museli from a company called Dorset Cereals, which are filled with all sorts of exciting nuts, grains, raisins and sultanas. I had only to bind the whole lot together with an appropriately enormous amount of melted butter and golden syrup.

I am not going to give you exact quantities for this, because flapjacks are, thank god, a thing you can basically do by guessing.

I got a square, loose-bottomed tin and filled it with museli to a depth I considered respectable for a flapjack (about 2in). Then I melted about 3/4 of a block of butter in a saucepan, added to that 3 generous tablespoon dollops of golden syrup and a big pinch of salt, poured in the museli and mixed it round.

Then at this point I, fatally, panicked and poured over a tin of condensed milk. I mean, the flapjacks were really delicious but the condensed milk made them fall apart in an annoying way and in actual fact, they were a bit too sweet. So leave the condensed milk out, if I were you. I also chopped up some chocolate and sprinkled it on the top, which probably wasn't neccessary.

After turning out the buttery rubble, (sorry that's all a bit Nigella isn't it), into the square tin, I patted it down with a spatula and shoved it in the oven for 20 minutes.

They worked incredibly well, even allowing for the condensed milk over-kill and the girls pretended to like them well enough, while marvelling at how quickly and efficiently I had filed the product descriptions for my chosen make-up.

What can I say? I should have been a journalist.

 

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Next Up: Chicken Riggies!


Muy Ooey-Gooey Cinnamon Buns

Photo by Allrecipes user foodelicious
Someone asked recently, what's the most requested recipe that I've still not done on the blog? That's an easy one...cinnamon rolls or buns! 

I'm not exactly sure why these sweet, sticky treats haven't made an appearance yet, and I'm sure they will eventually, in one form or another, but in the meantime I'd like to present this very sexy version from my friends at Allrecipes

Check out the video, and then follow this link to see the official written recipe for Dakota Kelly's Ooey-Gooey Cinnamon Buns. Enjoy!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Cream of Cauliflower – Come for the Soup, Stay for the Bacon Gremolata

We’re heading into the heart of hot soup season, and this cream of cauliflower will ward off autumn’s chill with the best of them. I’m a big fan of the cauliflower in all forms, but this simple soup may be my favorite application.

Of course, human nature being what it is, I wasn’t satisfied with just the soup, and wanted to garnish with something new and exciting. Unfortunately, I couldn’t think of anything, so I decided to follow that age-old advice which says, “when in doubt, bacon.”

I’ve garnished soups like this with bacon before, but never tried toasting breadcrumbs in the rendered fat. Not surprisingly, it worked very well, and the additions of lemon zest and parsley elevated things even more. The only problem with a recipe like this is the next time I’m served a cream of cauliflower, no matter how good it is, I’m going to be a little sad there’s no bacon gremolata floating on top.

By the way, I realize there are no breadcrumbs in a true gremolata, but I thought it sounded kind of cool, and besides, I’ve never been that big on respecting the sanctity of culinary terms. I was going to go with “baconized breadcrumbs,” but that sounded a little too much like molecular gastronomy, which is much worse.

If you’re not into eating animals, some diced shiitake mushrooms and a pinch of smoked paprika would be a great substitute in the gremolata. You’d also need to add some olive oil to replace the rendered bacon fat, but you probably knew that.

Now that I think about it, that vegetarian version sounds pretty amazing as well. Maybe next time I’ll skip the bacon and…oh, who am I kidding? Anyway, I hope you give this delicious fall soup a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients for about 8 servings:
1 onion, chopped
1 rib celery, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic
salt to taste
1 large russet potato, peeled, quartered
2 heads cauliflower, trimmed
1 quart chicken broth
1 quart water
1/2 cup cream
cayenne to taste
For the gremolata:
4 strips bacon
1 1/2 cups fresh breadcrumbs
1 tbsp lemon zest
2 tbsp chopped Italian parsley

Monday, September 24, 2012

Banana bread. Again.





There is an American writer - dead now - called Richard Yates. You will know him because he wrote a book called Revolutionary Road, which was made into a film with Leonardo di Caprio and Kate Winslet a few years ago - 2007 I think, or 8.

Anyway he wrote loads of books and I read them all. That's not a boast, they're mostly very short. But I did also read his biography, which was really long. And then I wrote a very long piece, almost as long as the biography, for The Independent about him, which I think they still owe me my £90 fee for.

The thing about Richard Yates, the reason why you don't know his name as well as you know other big American writers, is that he was just really obsessed with his mother. In every single book he wrote, there she is. Irritating, mad, feckless, vain, selfish, shrill, talentless, deluded. In Revolutionary Road she appears as an estate agent and because that's the only book of his most people have read, they think nothing of it.

But she's there, in all the others, lurking. And when you read one Yates book after the other, it ends up seeming really quite mad. After the third or fourth book you get a horrible psycho "ehhr ehhr ehhr" tingly feeling, like if you were to walk into the bedroom of a friend and it was plastered with photographs of you.

So the reason that Yates never really made it, died alone and mad in a tiny dirty flat, despite being a really terrific writer, was that he was unable to tackle the big themes that make you properly famous; instead he zeroed in, time after time, on miserable little people leading miserable little lives, every book, every page, stalked by his unbearable mother. Revolutionary Road was a hit by accident, while obsessing about how much he hated Ma, Yates also - almost as a side-line - struck a chord with discombobulated middle America. But it was a fluke.

I fell to thinking about Richard Yates and his unwitting, untherapised obsession with his mother when I found myself, almost trance-like, making yet another type of banana bread. Considering I am trying to get material for a book, it seems so mental and obsesseive compulsive to keep making the same thing over and over again with no reason, no explanation.

Although I suppose there is an explanation. And that is, banana bread is fucking delicious.

This recipe I found on a card in Waitrose, and it was originally a banana, chocolate and caramel cake, using a tin of Carnation caramel, but I got home and didn't have any caramel but did have a tin of condensed milk, so I used that instead.

I know it's just banana bread and I know there are already about fifteen recipes for it on this blog and I probably belong in a nuthouse but this is really terrific, all the same.

Banana and Condensed Milk Bread
Makes a 1kg loaf

75g butter
25g caster sugar
1 large egg
1 397g can condensed milk
225g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
3 ripe bananas, mashed

Preheat your oven to 180c or 170c for fan ovens. Grease and line your 1kg loaf tin. You can get away with just lining the sides with one long strip of greaseproof paper, but you must grease the ends well.

1 Beat the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy then add the egg - do not worry too much if this curdles -  followed by your can of condensed milk. Mix the flour and baking powder together and fold into the mixture.

2 Fold in the banana and then pour into the tin. You can decorate this, if you like, bearing in mind that it is going to rise quite significantly. I dotted a spine of walnut halves down the middle, which then heaved away to the left - like a hip tattoo on a pregnant woman.

3 Bake for 1 hr

Eat, then ring your shrink.



 

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Poached chicken breast and its sauce for Laura*




Most diet plans and recipes featured in newspaper colour supplements and in magazines will at some point instruct you to eat a poached chicken breast. I am not averse to diet recipes but a poached chicken breast has always struck me as a terrible thing. Tasteless, papery, depressing.

But I have to lose some weight. I don't know how it happened, but I've got fatter. I don't recall eating more, or differently, but some cosmic shift has occurred to make me acquire more weight. I don't know how much because I don't weigh myself, but I know that a few months ago all my clothes fit and now they don't. Specifically certain pairs of jeans. Specifically round my middle. I would go on my own-brand Shitty Food Diet, but it has been failing me. I don't know why.

Things were made worse recently by going on holiday to a Greek island where among the guests were two 40-year-old women who were in terrific shape. They were lean and mean like Japanese calligraphy; they exercised all the time - running down to the beach at 7am to swim to a neighbouring island and back - and ate practically nothing. AND there was this 18 year old boy who had abs you could grate cheese on. He looked like he'd been Photoshopped. All round it was not a terrific week for feeling hot and sexy and whippet-like. And my hands swelled up so much in the heat that I had to stop wearing my wedding ring.

By the way, don't all rush to shriek that I am pregnant, because I am not - chance would be a fine thing. (Not quite as easy second time around, it seems.)

Anyway looking pregnant without actually being pregnant is the worst of both worlds. So I have been casting about for things to eat that won't make me get any fatter and thought that things may have got to such a drastic stage that I will have to give poached chicken breast a whirl.

The thing that made me definitely decide to do this was recalling an interview with Cheryl Cole about two years ago, when we were still in thrall to her and were not yet weary of her chocolatey eyes and perfect teeth and cavernous dimples, where she talked about losing a lot of weight. She would eat for dinner, she said, poached chicken breast (A-HA!) with "some kind of creamy sauce" and steamed vegetables.

The creamy sauce here is key - a rich creamy sauce will liven anything up, even a sodding chicken breast and you can, if you are doing a low-carbohydrate regime, as I am, slobber it all over whatever you're eating. It will just make everything okay.

Please do not be daunted by the sauce I have invented here. It is the same principle as Hollandaise but very easy as you are not required to do that awful buggery thing where you cook the egg-and-butter mixture only for it to fucking split and make you cry (this may only apply if you have PMT). What you sacrifice for ease and speed is a small amount in the way of consistency, which in the case of this sauce is a little thinner than an echt Hollandaise. But it is the key to being thin. So just do it.

Poached chicken with its sauce
For 2

2 chicken breasts
3 egg yolks
200g butter
a dash of vinegar
salt and pepper
juice of half a lemon
1 tsp of stock powder if you have it, don't worry if not


1 In a pan large enough to accommodate both chicken breasts heat up about two inches deep of water with your stock powder and bring to the boil. Turn down the heat until it is simmering and then add the chicken. Cook this for 12 minutes, turning occasionally. Try not to let the water hit a rolling boil, or dip below a brisk simmer.

2 If I were you, I would wait until the chicken was cooked then take it out of the pan to rest before you attempt the sauce because although the sauce is not hard, it is best to have no distractions while you are doing it.

(I made sure Kitty and husband were both watching television while doing this and not liable to pester me for biscuits, stickers, hugs or story-reading. Kitty can be pretty demanding, too.)

The chicken needs to rest for a bit anyway. Don't be put off by how utterly disgusting the chicken looks when cooked - all pale and dead-looking - this will be disguised later; see picture above.

3 For the sauce first melt the butter in a saucepan. If you have one of those marvellous pans with a little pouring lip, use that, if not don't worry. After it has melted keep it over the lowest flame possible to keep warm. Then separate the three yolks into a small bowl.

4 I have an electric whisk for this step. I'm sure you could do it by hand but it might be tough on the old wrists. So, while continuously beating the yolks, add the melted butter in a thin stream. People make a lot of fuss about how hard this is, it really isn't, just be careful.

5 Once add the butter has been added, season with salt, pepper, lemon juice and vinegar. Add all these cautiously and taste all the time. Egg yolks are precious; leftover egg whites are a bore - you do not want to have to do the whole thing all over again. I like a very vinegary Hollandaise - or should I say "Hollandaise" - but you might not.

6 You can just eat this now, or if you need to wait a bit while cooking some veg -  (I made a broccoli accompaniment *cries* by boiling some broccoli for 5 minutes then tossing in toasted sesame oil, soy sauce and sesame seeds) - then get any old pan, fill it 2 inches with water and then heat to skin temperature and keep it there, then place your "Hollandaise" in the water to keep it a sort of baby-bath temperature, which will stop it from going grainy. Stir every now and again anyway.

7 To serve! (And this is key, for morale) slice the chicken into what is know in the restuarant menu trade as "medallions" and lay out on the plate, slather generously with sauce, and also any accompanying boring vegetables.

Giles, to my total astonishment, declared this "the most delicious thing" I've ever cooked. I was stunned. He hasn't said that for ages. So there you go. Although just between you and me, I think he might have just been trying to be nice because I'm so fat and spotty at the moment.

Happy dieting! :(






N.B. I have not been posting because my publisher wants an absolutely terrifying amount of original copy and so I have been sitting in my room in front of my computer not posting anything because any new ideas I have must go into the book... but I haven't been writing any new copy either. What is wrong with me?


*This post is dedicated to a really terrific girl I know on Twitter, @lauraewelsh, who once said the funniest thing to me ever, which is that the greatest skill a parent can have is to eat an entire packet of crisps with their head in a cupboard. She is on a diet, too.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Strawberry Pizza {Foodie Fake Out}




I am super excited for today's post. It is an amazing summer treat. It also looks like pepperoni pizza.

But, it's not. It's Strawberry Pizza! The slices of strawberries look like pepperoni, the pie filling looks like pizza sauce, and the white chocolate looks like mozzerella cheese. It is part of a blog hop called Foodie Fake Out. Stephanie from Back For Seconds asked if I wanted to join in

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Recipe Rifle: a digital original

Last year, in secret, I spent an awfully long time trying to get someone to publish Recipe Rifle as a book, but in the end failed.

It was a perfectly ghastly experience, looking back. At the time it seemed sort of fun, a respite from the tedious task of administering to a small baby. But in actual fact it was just disappointment after disappointment, I existed in a horrid limbo. Hopes up, hopes dashed. Eventually, total disaster, angry words and a general collapse. I wasn't really surprised: dancing in front of a weary, malfunctioning publishing industry, chronically unable to sell myself, I often said things in meetings like "You know, the way things are at the moment, I probably wouldn't take this book on if I were you."

And, worse, these publishing people would say to me: "Why would someone buy this book? I mean, why would they pick it up in Waterstones?" By the third time I heard this I would want, powerfully, to claw their eyes out, kick them in the stomach and scream "You tell me you fucking idiot! That's your job not mine! Jesus fucking Christ, no wonder the whole damn thing is collapsing round your ears if you're asking me why someone would buy a freaking book. I'm going home."

But I did not do that.

Instead I cut all ties to that miserable year, sulked in my tent for a while, then sought out instead The Friday Project, a publishing house that specialises in bringing blogs to a wider audience. And when I say that, I mean that they make it possible for otherwise unpublishable authors (that's me) to sell their work, without it being considered "vanity" (i.e. "mad") publishing.

The bloke who runs The Friday Project, Scott, is terrific. He doesn't ask me who will buy my book. He doesn't ask me, looking worried, how I think I am going to turn the blog into a "story". He just said "Put together whatever you think is best and maybe some people will buy it if they like it."

"Will you make it really cheap?" I asked, anxiously. "I mean, like, 50p so it's crazy not to buy it, like a vest top from H&M??"

"Not that cheap," he said. "But not expensive either."

The catch is that you will only be able to buy it online and read it on your iPad or Kindle or other e-reader, (unless it becomes a freak hit and the cost of printing the book becomes negligable). A "digital original", they call it, with graceful euphemism. and I don't get an advance, I am only paid for what I sell. But frankly with my shitty attitude that's a good thing. Give me money and I won't do anything. Give me a deadline and the possibility of money and I will work. A bit.

SO - my readers, my lovely, lovely readers who have been with me through thick and thin, through marriage, births, ups and downs (no deaths - yet) do you have a favourite post that you think I ought to definitely include? One that you can recall made you laugh? Are there any that were really bad - have I had a dodgy patch? Am I boring when I bang on about a certain thing?

Tell me! Tell me, tell me. I have to file my first draft in October.

BE HONEST.



Mango salsa

SORRY NO PIC, BLOGGER PLAYING UP. COMING SOON. IT SORT OF LOOKS LIKE A BOWL OF CHOPPED MANGO WITH GREEN AND RED BITS IN IT. VERY NICE. YOU CAN FIND SOMETHING SIMILAR BY GOOGLING "MANGO SALSA"



It's been an epiphanous week.

It started when my nanny got flu. "I can come in, I suppose," she said faintly down the phone last Monday. "My temperature is only 103."

"No you're alright," I said. And then started to panic about how the fuck I was going to cope alone, no nanny, no cleaner (holiday) no husband (out covering the Olympics) no mummy (holiday) no sisters (holiday) no local friends (holiday - and I don't have that many anyway) for an entire week.

I won't lie, I have never looked forward to being in sole charge of Kitty. It's a thing that depresses me - both spending a lot of time alone with her and also being depressed about being depressed about it.

At first it was ghastly. She didn't seem to want to be with me any more than I wanted to be with her. I dragged her hither and thither in her buggy, shunting her quickly from one activity to the next, shied away from the tv like it was an unexploded bomb. If it got turned on, I fretted, it would never turn off again until she goes to nursery next September.

When Kitty would go down for her lunchtime nap I would get in to bed and pull the duvet over me, squeeze my eyes shut and think "Christ, how are we going to manage this?"

But by Tuesday afternoon I had it licked.

I don't know if all toddlers are the same but Kitty has this incredibly short attention span, like a drunk, and what she likes to do is roam. So I turned the ground floor into a sort of toddler fresher's fair, with small activities ranged around, from telly at one end, stickers, drawing and playdoh in the middle, the iPad somewhere around, books and rice cakes towards the kitchen, a paddling pool in the garden and her own mini-buggy with which to commute between these activities.

The telly was on all day, every day, all week, set to a murmuring background volume, tuned to CBeebies, although she was not, in the end, as interested in it as I feared. And anyway I ceased to care one way or the other. I let go. She ranged around, singing, talking to herself, talking to me, talking to the mirror, climbing on and off furniture, digging around in the dirt, flopping out on her beanbag in front of Mr Tumble, gorging on raspberries from the garden, vomiting dramatically and then saying "Oh dear!!" while she regarded the red puddle. Meanwhile, I found that I did actually have time to cook and the house didn't fall into irreparable chaos, (although there has been an awful lot of scrabbling around for things at the last minute).

We had a wicked time. Honestly we did. I'm not just saying that, in some sort of "Ooo and then everything was alright" kind of way. It was great. I learned all sorts of things about her I didn't know. It was genuinely hilarious. I didn't miss any of the things I do when I've got a nanny. I realised, in fact, that I don't especially enjoy myself when I do have that free time.

Like now. I am sitting alone in my huge, spooky house while Kitty is out with her nanny and 40,000 other Caribbean children somewhere in Peckham having an amazing time and will not be back until bathtime.

And if I think about it too much, I might get upset. So let's go; let's fly you and I away from this gloomy now, to a different time, back to 2006 when I had just started on Londoner's Diary, which as I'm sure you know is the gossip page of the Evening Standard.

One day appeared a new girl in the editor's office. The editor liked to have a lot of girls around and she was very mean to all of them. She thought she was in the Devil Wears Prada or something and that being mean to your assistants is terribly glamorous, but we knew that we were actually in a scummy daily newspaper office in West London and that people who are mean to their assistants are bitches who will rot in hell.

The editor's girls didn't usually last. They all had office affairs eventually, which then went sour, then they went on sick leave, then never came back. But Connie, or "Beautiful Connie" as she quickly became known, was different. She was smart. She couldn't have been less interested in the skinny boys on news or any of the fast-talking, grizzled and jowly back bench. Her boyfriends were always incredibly tall mega-Sloanes that she'd known she was six, who thought journalists were dismal little people. Yet there was a steely glint in her sleepy brown eyes and a taut resiliance in her long, long blonde hair and perky tiny-flower-patterned mini dresses.

The editor had finally met her match.

She was my best - and, sometimes, only - friend at the Standard. I would often poke my head into the editor's office, where she sat drinking pot after pot of fresh ginger tea that was so strong that when you drank it, it felt like your whole face was on fire and she would shriek, quietly: "ESTHER!! Oh my god I've just eaten an entire Bounty and TWO packets of Maltesers!!!"


I have been thinking about Connie recently because I came across a recipe for a mango salsa, which she used to make for me in the weeny galley kitchen of her top floor flat in Notting Hill. Roasting in summer and freezing in winter, ("I think another bad January might finish me off"),  Connie's flat was a miracle of survival, like those plants you get in the desert, or 100,000 miles under the sea.

Anyway she almost always has the ingredients in her kitchen for this spicy mango salsa, and it's quite, quite delicious. My husband and I had this with a very rich jerk pork belly, which didn't work at all, it was too rick and gacky and yuk. It would be very good instead with some plain steak, or a tuna steak (although these days one cannot really eat such things) or a plain white fish like turbot or pollock.

Makes enough for 2-3

1 mango - diced
juice of 1 lime
small handful coriander
a sprinkling of fresh mint
1 chilli - no seeds - chopped finely
1 avocado, diced
salt

1 Put everything in a bowl and mix




TotallyTasty Tuesdays


I went to town yesterday to do some shopping and such. Hannah's birthday is this Saturday so we got her birthday gifts as well as school shopping done. {Yay! Done!} Growing up, my grandma would take each grandchild out to lunch and then birthday shopping, just the two of them. I loved it. That's what I do with my kids now. They love being able to hear mom say, "Yes" when they see something they

Monday, July 30, 2012

Summer Recipes from Carapelli Olive Oil & A Giveaway!


I have some great Summer recipes for you courtesy of Carapelli. At the end there's also a giveaway, so be sure to scroll down.





Summer Salad with Grilled Shrimp & Pineapple in Champagne Vinaigrette






1/4 cup Carapelli Premium 100% Italian Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 tablespoons champagne vinegar or sherry vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt or kosher salt
1/8

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Pineapple Cookies






I've posted these cookies before, but I am in the process of re-photographing my earlier posts. I have come a long ways in my food picture taking and so I want to take pics of the earlier recipes and re-post them. I could just replace the pics in those older posts, but I like to see how I have changed and grown in that way, so I'm leaving them, and re-posting the new pics.

Today I have my

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Totally Tasty Tuesdays


Last night and tonight we're working in the snack shack at our local rodeo. It is really fun. Hannah and I take orders and such while Lance cooks burgers. Preston and Emma wander in and out to watch the rodeo or help us. Our friends run the shack and we have fun working in there. I also had to make a ton of cookies to sell at the bake sale for Preston's school. Busy days, this week. So I am

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Crispy Chicken & Creamy Italian Pasta


Pasta and I are BFF's. Actually, carbs and I are BFF's. You know what I mean. If there was a diet for an all carb weightloss, I would so be that hot girl whose body everyone else would die for. Oh yeah. That's how much I love carbs. And sweets. So someone work on a diet like that, ok? Thanks.







Ingredients

3 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts

5 c. Corn flakes

3/4 c. flour

1/2 tsp.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Treacle tart

I mean, what the fucking fuck do you call this??!


I have for a long time thought that treacle tart is a thing I ought to be able to make, but I have always been scared off by this "baking blind" instruction.

That's that thing, that I'm sure you're all terribly familiar with and do it all the time, (in the evenings and weekends just for a laugh), where you roll out your pastry into a tin and then cover it with ceramic beads or beans and cook it before the filling goes in and then cook it again with the filling in it. A more pointless, time-wasty and stupid instruction I've rarely seen and so have always avoided it.

But tonight we've got some nice people coming round for dinner so I thought I'd break my baking blind, treacle tart duck and do it because the alternative is to cower in darkness - and that's only hilarious for so long.

So off I went to Waitrose brmm brmm in my little car, and got some sweet pastry and a tin of golden syrup and some creme fraiche to go with it and came back and blithely stumbled into the worst and most useless recipe for anything I've ever cooked, ever. Except for that gumbo, remember that?

GARY RHODES I HATE YOU.

Just bad. Bad and wrong and unhelpful and stupid and ill and presumptuous and irresponsible. While the tart was doing its final cook in the oven I sat down for a bit with Waitrose Kitchen and had a flick through and alighted on a Fergus Henderson recipe for treacle tart that was far more detailed, complex and basically entirely different from the Rhodes recipe.

I experienced a terrible bumrush, of the sort you get when you turn over an exam paper and realise that you have spent the last week revising for a different, wrong module, or that the person you have just been massively bitching up is within earshot, or that your period is three weeks late.

I knew then. I knew in that moment that my tart was a bummer. And so it was. I can't be bothered to start listing the catclysmic death roll-call of things wrong with it, but let's just say that the BEST thing about it is that sides are burnt to shit.

FUCK! What a waste of my time! I could have been doing loads of other things! I could have been asleep.

I have nothing else to add. There is no nice ending to this story.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Asian baked salmon



There are a lot of things that you are supposed to enjoy when you are a grown-up, that I don't really enjoy.

Like:
- getting tipsy at dinner parties and arguing about politics
- organising community events
- the theatre
- OPERA AUGHGHGHGH
- Curb Your Enthusiasm
- The Sopranos
- oysters
- striking up conversations with check-out people at supermarkets
- reading the newspaper for fucking HOURS
- classical music
- gardening
- very long lunches where your bum goes to sleep

Fish is another one. And vegetables. If it wouldn't have such invidious effects on my long-term health prospects, (by which I mean make me fat), I would just eat burgers and chips and pizza all the time.

But you're not allowed to do that when you are a grown-up, you have to eat fish and vegetables - often at the same time. And a lot of people LIKE it and order it in RESTAURANTS!!!! I used to dread fish nights. I would buy it because if I didn't my husband would give me a lecture about how we're not allowed to eat burgers all the time and I'll do anything to avoid a lecture.

I'm a bit scared of fish. It smells horrible even when reasonably fresh and stinks the house out when you cook it and it's all slimy and sometimes there are BONES and urgh it's all completely gross and designed, if you ask me, just to make yourself extra grateful that you're having spag bol the next night.

And while I often get a craving for sushi, (I think I'm after the salt in the soy), quite often halfway through some sashimi I am filled with the fear that I might vomit.

Recently though, I have hit on a thing to do with salmon that I actually really genuinely look forward to.

What you do is you cover it in chilli, lime, soy, ginger, garlic and whatever other Asian things you have knocking about, wrap it in foil and then BAKE it for 12 minutes.

It doesn't stink the house out and it isn't slimy. You have it alongside spring greens sliced finely and stir-fried with some oyster sauce and it's honestly really a very nice thing to have. It has really changed my mind about fish. And I'm incredibly stubborn about stuff like that.

So let's go through that again for those of you who weren't listening.

Asian baked salmon for 2

2 salmon fillets
knob of fresh ginger, roughly sliced
1 clove garlic
small bunch coriander(???)
1/2 a chilli, seeds in or out I don't care
5 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp fish sauce
1/4 tsp Chinese five spice

1 Put everything except the salmon fillets in a whizzer and whizz for a few minutes.

2 Put a piece of foil on a baking dish large enough to wrap over the salmon fillets in a loose parcel. Put on the salmon fillets. Pour over your whizzed slush marinade and leave for as long as you can - although it can be baked just how it is.

3 Bake in a 180 oven for 10-12 minutes

Please note: you do not have to use all of those ingedients - this is nice just with chilli and soy and ginger; everything else is just showing off, which is a grown-up thing that I do actually enjoy.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

STM Freebie:CD Envelopes


Today's Freebie is from MyMemories courtesy of Me!

I've got a great freebie from Share The Memories...CD Envelopes!

They make great covers for family picture discs, wedding discs, music cd's or for cards.



Sample 1





Sample 2





Sample 3





All freebies are MyMemories Suite Compatible.  What does that mean??? It means that you can now load the freebies directly into your MyMemories

Bang Bang chicken



I have been sulking a lot recently for an unidentifiable reason.

Maybe it's the incredibly swizzy unfair weather we're having. Winter was such a fucking slog this year, what with Kitty not yet walking or watching telly or doing anything remotely compatible with bad weather. All we did was sit around going mad and getting ill, praying for bedtime and lusting after spring. Then spring never came, or summer. We might get a blast in September or October if we're really lucky but in reality we're just going to go straight back into winter.

And we've done all our holidays this year - we've had three already, taking advantage of having a pre-schooler to go away in May, June and early July. We invested, for the holiday, in a preposterous amount of childcare. And on the most recent holiday, to a house in Devon, we had a cook. It wasn't my idea!! So please don't have a massive go at me. We were with another couple who work incredibly hard and get paid stupendous wodges of cash and who do not want to assemble salads or wash up when they are on holiday, or stay in a hotel. So we had Cara, the dark-eyed, pink-cheeked 23 year-old Leiths graduate marvel with whom my husband fell passionately in love on the first day.

Anyway it was amazing. But after seven full days of not doing any cooking or much childcare I have come back in this sulk you see before you. I have forgotten how to look after Kitty - and she knows it. She is well aware that I think that if she cries or is in a bait it's my fault. And at the moment it is my fault because she is incredibly pissed off with me because I have taken away her morning and lunchtime bottle.

There's this tedious thing when you have children about the amount of milk they have. They fucking love milk, little children, and they especially love it out of a bottle. On the grand scale of things, I think that being attached to your bottle isn't especially bad, but people get in a right piss about it and say children ought to have all their drinks out of a toddler cup from 1 year on and no more than this amount of milk but no less than this amount of milk.

I couldn't have cared less about it: Kitty can tell me what she wants, says please and thank you, can sing Baa Baa Black Sheep, doesn't embarrass me in public and goes to bed at night in her own bed and wakes up at a civilised hour. Thus, anything she wants - a constant stream of rice cakes, Peppa Pig, drawing on the walls, three bottles a day - she can have it.

But then I went to see a paediatrician, who also happens to be my husband's cousin. I rang him in a complete blind panic two months ago when Kitty had a temperature of 104 and a head-to-toe rash and he was really nice about it. And when I say "really nice" I mean he said "If she isn't better by tomorrow, give her antibiotics."

No other fucker will do that for you, when your child is sick. They mimsy about like total utter dildos, saying "Well you could do this or you could do that". But Dr Mike just told me what to do. So obviously I fell passionately in love with him. When he rang to check up on Kitty and to say that maybe he ought to see her in person I screamed "Yes!" and raced about doing my hair, putting proper shoes on, picking the crud out of Kitty's ears and ironing her into her Bonpoint.

And when Dr Mike told me that Kitty was having too much milk and ought to drop her multitude of bottle events I meekly nodded and gave him my shy Princess Diana "okay" face, rather than snarling and mentally flicking him a V-sign like I do with everyone else.

Kitty's not that pleased about this bottle cessation. She rages through the kitchen, rummaging deep in cupboards and drawers until only her dirty little feet are poking out, looking for the few Avents we still having hanging about, assembles one with a shaky, addict's hand then staggers about sucking hopefully at air before throwing the bottle across the floor and weeping theatrically.

There was an awful lot of weeping yesterday, imprisoned as we were in the house by the rain and we were at each other's throats. Back when I was reasonably good at childcare, I used to have this thing where when I was was in sole charge of Kitty I would lock away my iPad and only check my emails when she was napping. Otherwise the temptation, like yesterday, to poke the iPad all day and barely focus on the child is overwhelming and she's not stupid and starts wailing and flinging herself about from a lack of attention.

Christ are you still awake? I'm even boring myself with all this. No wonder I'm in a sulk.

Anyway let's just leave things there with the weather, back where we started, and move on to a recipe shall we?

I did this last night for my husband and was terrific except that I didn't use enough vegetables. So if you want to do this, make sure you have 3 parts vegetables - any you like - to 1 part chicken. I ate mostly poached chicken and it was quite strange

Bang Bang Chicken

1 quantity of chicken. It is supposed to be poached and it is supposed to be cold. I did this by poaching an entire chicken; you brown it in oil in a massive casserole whatsit then filling the whatsit with water so that just the top inch of the chicken is visible. Throw in a carrot, a halved onion, some peppercorns, a star anise (??) then put it in the oven for 1hr 45min at 180. Poached chicken is just as nice as roast chicken when it comes to leftovers

A large pile of shredded vegetables - carrots, cucumber, mung beans? sweetcorn? whatever, dressed with:
- a drizzle of toasted sesame oil
- lime juice
- shredded mint

For the bang bang sauce - enough for 2 people.

- 1 tbsp groundnut oil
- 1 tbsp peanut butter
- 1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
- 1/2 tbsp dried red chilli flakes
- 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
- 1 tbsp light soy sauce

Whizz all this up in a food processor

Assemble the salad by layering your vegetables, then the sliced/shredded chicken then the sauce, then sprinkle over some coriander, toasted sesame seeds, chopped chillies. You know the drill.

Totally Tasty Tuesdays


Happy Tuesday! I hope you all had a great weekend. We went to Jackson Hole, WY and had a great time. The kids, of course, loved the pool most. Check out our fun on Instagram and follow me for more.

Now let's get on to the most viewed recipe...







Cheesy Ranch Chicken Pasta

from Semi Homemade Mom



Other Faves...





30 Awesome Cool Whip Recipes

from Something Swanky





Blueberry

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Lemon Chicken with a Kick





While you are reading this, I'm enjoying some family time in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Just a quick overnight trip, but I'll take it. I have a tasty dish for you today.

Yes, another recipe using lemons. I can't get enough of them. This recipe is delicious in a dutch oven or grilled with those grill marks. Yum.

You can adjust the amount of kick by adjusting the amount of Tabasco sauce.







Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Beefy Sour Cream Noodle Bake

This was a great meal to switch up our dinner routine.  My family loved it, well except for the picky one, but we couldn't even get him to try a bite.  I would compare it to a beef stroganoff casserole.  It had the perfect blend of cheeses and sour cream.  This cheesy dish was a hit with our family!


Rating: 3 stars  Difficulty of Recipe: 2 stars
Things I did differently:  Kept it the same.
Things I would change next time:  Nothing
Will I make it again?  Yes
Recipe from:  The Pioneer Woman, adapted by Time for Supper


Ingredients:

1 1/4 lb ground beef
1 (15oz) can tomato sauce
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
8 oz egg noodles
3/4 c sour cream
1 1/4 c small curd cottage cheese
2 c sharp cheddar cheese, grated

Brown ground beef. Season beef with salt, pepper, and some onion powder. Drain any excess fat. Add tomato sauce and simmer for about 10 min. Meanwhile, cook noodles al dente, drain, and set aside. In a medium bowl combine sour cream, cottage cheese, salt, and pepper. Stir the noodles into the sour cream mixture. To assemble grease a 9x13 casserole dish, layer half the noodles on the bottom then half the meat sauce, then half the cheese. Repeat layers. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes until cheese melts.