Tag Archives: Food

Casserole dish of dreams…

Last week it was our six year anniversary…

We don’t normally celebrate with actual presents, so this year I made The Boy a silly present inspired by pinterest and a cheesy chat up line he used on me on our first meeting.

It's Rolos wrapped in red paper...or your very own, home-made "sex-bomb".

The Boy thought he would take it one step further and celebrate by buying us some Iron (that’s the six year present for if you are married, which we aren’t). He did very, very well and I was so excited when I opened the massive box at 6:30 am and found this…

Oh yes...

He’d gone for the grand dame of cooking utensils, something I had coveted for years:

A Le Creuset Casserole dish in the original Volcanic Orange colour. It is a beast of a dish and very heavy (even unfilled!) I think he bought it so he can show off his muscles lifting it in and out of the oven for me! It’s very much a present for us, I will use it, he will reap the rewards by eating it’s contents as often as possible.

We started off with a delicious Lamb recipe from Valentine Warner’s What to Eat Now Autumn and Winter recipe book which looked like this when it went in…

But unfortunately didn’t last long enough to have it’s picture taken afterwards! It was made with lots of herbs, camomile and honey and slow cooked in our new dish for 2 1/2 hours…it was absolutely lovely, I can’t recommend it highly enough! It was perfect on Sunday afternoon after and lot of hard working DIY-ing at the weekend..the fruits of which I will show you soon!

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Guinness Brownies…

I made the fatal error of making a cake for my office to celebrate my birthday. Now, I am “the girl who bakes cakes”. My friend approached me sheepishly the other day with a neatly printed off recipe for these Guinness Stout Brownies with the suggestion that, if I were to do any more baking that I could possibly try making these.  Now, I have seen, and even tried, Nigella’s Chocolate Guinness Cake but these are a whole other story! The recipe (or at least the way I made it) produced the juiciest, fudgiest dense brownies that I have ever eaten (I’ve sampled a few in my time! Especially the day the The Boy’s brother was at Borough Market and helped the guys at Flour Power City Bakery pack their things away out of the rain and came home with a brick of brownie as a thank you!)

So give them a go, they are so easy and so worth it!

Guinness Brownies
Inspired by this recipe

1 cup plain flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
Pinch of salt
6 tablespoons of Stork, room temperature
350g Bournville Chocolate
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 bottles Guinness Foreign Extra
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
100g milk  chocolate chips

– Preheat the oven to 190C and lightly grease a 9×13″ pan.
– Pour both bottles of beer into a medium saucepan, and simmer on medium heat until it’s reduced down by just over half.  It should take about 15 minutes. Leave the beer on the side to cool.
– Mix together flour, cocoa, and salt until evenly combined.
– Melt butter and Bournville in a double-boiler over very low heat, stirring constantly until melted. Remove from heat.
– In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs and sugar  until light and fluffy. Add melted chocolate mixture, beating until combined.
– Slowly to avoid lumps, mix the flour/cocoa mixture into melted chocolate mixture. Whisk in the reduced beer mixture and the vanilla. The batter will be runnier than a normal cake batter, but this is normal. Pour into your baking tin and sprinkle your milk chocolate drops over the top.
– Bake 20 to 25 minutes on middle rack in the oven. Keep an eye on it though and if you think it looks ready stick a skewer in, if it comes out clean then whip them out. Mine only took 20 mins and they were crispy around the edges. It depends how you like them really but 20 mins was perfect for me.
– Cut up the brownies (I cut them too big at first, as in the pics, but they are quite rich so be strict with yourself!) and leave to cool on a cooling rack for as long as you can resist. If you leave them for 20 mins or so then plonk some vanilla ice cream on the top they will be delicious!!

I have put this recipe up for both my Mum and The Boy’s Mum. My Mum asked me for it before I had even made them! I think that they would go down well in New Zealand where The Boy’s Mother lives. I just hope that she can easily get her hands on the Guinness and the Bourneville!!

Fudgy, chocolatey goodness…just perfect now that the evenings are drawing in. I wonder if they would mind if you took them to the pub to eat with a Guinness by the fire?

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Engagement picnic…

Whilst I get on with my more…ahem, nitty gritty DIY jobs, I will distract you with pictures of my friends beautiful hand crafted Engagement picnic. Even if it hadn’t been a beautiful, sunny day the atmosphere would still have been as magical.

Yummy food, beautiful bunting and home made decorations made the day extra special and stylish.

I can’t wait for next year when the bride-to-be will turn her crafty hand to create her very own wedding day that will be personal and as special as the couple themselves.

I thought that they deserved a crafty present to celebrate their impending crafty nuptials…first the card…bunting was essential!

It’s a unique way to make a bland engagement card (and I was surprised by how bland these cards are) something a little more special.

Then, as a nod to the groom-to-be, the present…

I bought this awesome 1950’s illustrated map from frontispiece which is a great vintage maps and prints shop that sits incongruously in the mega slick shopping mall at Canary Wharf. The Groom-to-be is a map fan (a cartographile??) and a Londoner so this was the perfect present for their love nest. I was just going to frame it on white paper when The Boy pointed out that it would look great on a map (ooo, he is a secret crafting genius…he just needs to give in to it!). Passing Stanfords in town he came across a sheet of wrapping paper printed with an old Stanford’s map on it and bought it home to frame the map with. Little did he know that the map itself was originally from Stanford’s back in the day, what a perfect coincidence! So the end result was…

We loved it so much that I wanted to keep it! But we managed to pass it on from one crafty couple to another!

We have been ploughing on with the work at the house, it’s just all a bit boring. Maybe that might explain how The Boy and I have each managed to injure ourselves over the weekend, out of sheer boredom! Stay tuned for the less boring stuff, coming soon!

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The Big Three-Oh!

The Boy and I spent the weekend celebrating my big sister’s 30th in the countryside. It was wonderful when we eventually got there at 1am (a long drive accentuated by missing our turning off the M25!!). We had a garden party in the garden that my father had spent the winter toiling over and the weather gave us a gem of an afternoon to enjoy it in!

My sister found a design she liked in a book and my father proceeded to create it for her. It looked stunning, unfortunately my camera was jealous and didn’t capture it’s full beauty. (Ed. Note: There is a photo to follow, I’m just waiting for Big Sister to email me a good one!)

Update:

Gorgeous Garden!

We laid on a huge spread, I provided some salads…

But it was Mum who, as usual, impressed with her excellent baking skills as she recreated mini version of the Italian wedding cake (it was not so small but smaller than the huge one we had in Italy!)

After we had stuffed ourselves silly and sung Karaoke on the X-box at the top of our lungs (you have to, that’s how you get the points!) we warmed ourselves up around the fire pit

It was a magical evening, we had so much fun! I want to show you my crafty idea for giving my sister her present too. She wanted to buy herself a Pandora ring so we were all giving her money. I had seen some ideas from America where you could make a note into a box to put the money in to gift it but that’s in America where you get a one dollar note and somehow I didn’t think it would look as good with a fiver! So I came up with a message in a bottle idea

I wrapped the money up with a little poem I had written and tied it with string. I then placed it in a old glass juice bottle (from a Firefly) with some sand. I thought it was a cute idea, what do you say? It looks pretty so, if you were so inclined, you could keep it as a nautical keepsake but, it was so thrifty that, if nautical’s not your thing, then you could toss it in the recycling, no problems!

Anyway, things are pretty hectic here at the moment as we bought my Dad back down with to fit the kitchen!! It is very exciting ! I can’t wait to be able to show it to you sometime soon…

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Pea Shoot Update

Last weekend I finally got around to using the pea shoots. After the amazing food we had in Italy I was inspired use them in a sunny summer salad or two. They have such a crazy shape to them that they add a fantastic 3D twist to what would otherwise be a normal salad.

Lush, Green and Curly Tendrils

A while ago at WI (yes, I am a member of the WI!) the lovely Rosie Lovell came in to talk to us about setting up her business Rosie’s Deli Cafe in Brixton market (If you haven’t already been you have to check it out; the food, the textiles and the atmosphere are completely unique to Brixton, it’s not like any other London market). She made us a wonderful dip with peas and feta from her book Spooning With Rosie, from then on I was hooked on peas and feta. So, what better way to begin my pea shoot experimentation than with feta?

Pea Shoot and Feta Salad

Pea Shoot and Feta Salad

As this is a salad I’ve just listed the ingredients, use as much or as little of each as you like.

Fresh Pea Shoots, whole

Feta, broken up

Fresh Mint Leaves, torn

Rocket, use as your salad base

Twirls of Lemon Rind

Fresh Lemon Juice, to taste

Olive Oil, to taste

Black Pepper, to taste

Pine Nuts, handful

The sweetness of the pea shoots is complemented by the saltiness of the feta and the twirls of lemon look so pretty twirling along with the pea shoot tendrils. This is a great tasting fresh, summer salad that looks as sunny as it tastes.

This next salad I think is a bit naughty really, you can make yourself look virtuous and salad munching whilst satisfying your cravings for sugar and cream all at once!

Pea Shoot and Goat's Cheese

Pea Shoot and Goat’s Cheese Salad

Fresh Pea Shoots, whole

Cooked Beetroot, chopped but not too small

Goat’s Cheese, (e.g. Chevre) ripped into pieces

Red Chard

Lambs Lettuce

Balsamic Vinegar, to taste

Black Pepper, to taste

Hazelnuts, handful

The sweetness and the freshness of the pea shoots works really nicely with the sugary beetroot. They both complement the creamy flavour of the goat’s cheese. Cutting through all of this is the sweet acidity of the balsamic vinegar making this salad full of the sweetness of summer.

Whilst I am mentioning hazelnuts, The Boy and I were sitting out on the balcony the other evening and discovered that one of the trees that over hangs it is a hazel! We are looking forward to collecting them in September and coming up with ingenious ways to use them.

The Boy and I wolfed down these lovely salads along with some parma ham and bread for mopping up the left oil and vinegar, delicious! So what do you think? Aren’t they just so dramatic looking? They turn your plate into a kind of  fairytale cottage garden! If you grow yourself some pea shoots I’d love to know what you did with them.

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Kitchen Ideas…

I promised you more of the house so I thought I would start on the worst room which is soon to be the best room as it is going to get done first!

The kitchen, for me, is THE most important room in the house. Both myself and The Boy love to cook (he is particularly good!) and the kitchen is where we spend the majority of our time in the house. In the early days we lived in a shared house with a kitchen that was big enough for a six seater dining table and we spent many happy an evening in this kitchen together with one or both of us cooking. So, you may think that we are utterly distraught at the disgusting state in which we found the kitchen in the 2ndhandhouse. But in reality it is the first time in years that we have had a kitchen that is big enough of both of us to be in at the same time. Whilst the current kitchen is gross (the cupboard door handles are slicked with some indescribable and irremovable ‘sticky’ substance) we are mightily looking forward to transform the room into our own little social cooking hub.

Introducing the kitchen…

Complete with it's seventies false ceiling...

There is nothing retrievable in the kitchen. The walls are scuffed SuperFresco wallpaper. The cupboard doors are slicked with grease, the hob is crusty and the seals are mouldy.

The only thing for it was to disappear into fantasy land and dream up a new kitchen:

Image via Dream Book Design

I want a bright, open and light kitchen. I am sooo into white at the moment. I love the traditional and utilitarian handles on this kitchen above. I also love the tongue and groove on the ceiling, like this one has too:

Image from gardenerandmarks.com.au

The tongue and groove on the ceiling may actually be a necessity (as I told The Boy one day) as the previous owners had for some completely unknown reason installed a false ceiling. Apparently these were all the rage in the 70s but it made the kitchen look like an office!! This has left the ceiling full of holes where they suspended the polystyrene tiles from the perfectly adequate real ceiling.

Luckily, my parents are ‘in the industry’ so to speak.  My Mum works for a kitchen company and my Dad is a carpenter so they have helped us come up with some ideas for our exciting project. So I emailed them these ideas of ‘utilitarian’ and ‘bright’ along with a plan of the room on graph paper and comments like ‘It’s big but it doesn’t feel big’ and ‘it’s got a huge window, but it’s dark’.  They came up with this little beauty:

Having no cupboards above the work surface means that firstly, two tall kids like The Boy and myself get to use the whole of the work surface without doing the limbo and secondly, that we can make the most of the daylight that floods into the kitchen from first thing in the morning. The big cupboard at the end of the room will house the fridge and a large larder cupboard which means we can see all at once whether we have all the necessary ingredients to make that culinary treat for our dinner or not. We are having a lovely light oak wooden block work surfaces and our kitchen cupboards are to be accessorised with those cute utilitarian cup shaped handles.

I am so excited about having the kitchen in, I love to cook and once it is in I think I’ll be able to put up with the grotty bathroom. I may even be able to cope with the large wardrobe that doesn’t actually fit much in it at all. I think The Boy is looking forward to it too, although he’s possibly more looking forward to being all manly and ripping out the old one first!

Ripping out commences this week…

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Distractions…because there’s more to life than DIY (apparently)

This month’s distraction was a family holiday to the hills of Italy. My whole family including parents, sister and brother-in-law took to the mountain passes of Lunigiana, Italy to celebrate the wedding of an old family friend (as in we’ve known her a long time, not that she is old!).

The weather (yes, I am British, it is important!) held up for a beautiful hot, sunny week whilst we explored some of the sleepiest and not so sleepiest hill towns of the area. The food (probably even more important than the weather!) was amazing, especially the six course Italian wedding banquet (that’s the way to do it!).

I took lots of photo’s to show you all although my camera is not the best so please excuse the quality. The boy and I are hankering after a better one, but the house is draining our resources at the moment so we will have to persevere.

Also, I know that I haven’t mentioned the house much yet but we are doing lots of running just to stand still at the moment and nothing is looking that much different from what it was before. I will give you a picture update of the rooms that have changed soon though!

First night dinner…simple, local and fresh-perfect!!

Buono!

We took at trip to Lucca, they call it a ‘small Florence’ it was so beautiful and there were so many old bicycles which I may have been a little obsessed with! I took lots of bicycle photo’s!

Four of us went up the Guinigi Tower which offers amazing views of Lucca after you have navigated the final four most terrifying flights of stairs you will ever encounter! They are rusty and you can see right through them to the solid terracotta tiled floor at the bottom! I was so frightened that my Dad resorted to age-old parenting techniques, even though I am in my late twenties, using the old “Look, that little boy is only 7 and he’s not frightened!”.  Anyway, I made it up in one piece despite my worst fears and the view was amazing…

The rooftops were so beautiful, the colours were gorgeous and if you look close…

How stunning is that roof terrace?! I would love mine to look like that! Amongst the roof tops it just looks like this gem of an entertaining space away from the heat of the city (I know it looks really dull in the photo but it was actually hot and sunny!).

The best thing that we found in Lucca was these little babies…

They only made it as far as the car trip home...

They reminded me of one of my favourite blogs. At Paris Breakfasts Carol Gillott gets to buy things like this everyday for the sake of her art as she creates beautiful watercolours to sell on Etsy, check it out. I bet she would have loved the Italian wedding cake we had a few days later…it totally blew those little guys out of the water…

It’s not a great picture but it tasted AMAZING. We were all so full, in Italy you have antipasti, three pasta courses and then three meats before pudding, we still all squeezed in a piece or two of this creation.

Wow, I am feeling full just having written about that! Whilst I was there I picked  up a home interiors magazine called Casa Chic, it has great ideas and I would strongly recommend it if you thinking of redecorating. I couldn’t find a website for it but they are a lot of english blogs that feature it.

I will update you with pictures of the house and ideas that we have for the kitchen very soon.

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