Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Woop woop!

The sun has come out!! Oh glory be!! I'm hoping desperately that it stays until I finish work; although the forecast is atrocious, but I so need to finish digging my plot. Anyone know any good sun dances? Decent ones mind, none of your 'blazing sunshine absolutely guaranteed' ones that actually mean I end up with a wet weekend in Wigan. Or something.

Monday, 29 March 2010

Cake Sunday #3

I was saved from having to think too hard for this weeks choice of calorific installment by an opportune post on Friday on a rather good forum I frequent. This then is Pam's Spiced Bread Pudding how I made it.
8oz seeded wholemeal bread, torn into small pieces
0.5 pint milk
6oz dried mixed fruit
1oz dried cranberries
1oz candied peel
4oz soft brown sugar
2oz butter
1 heaped tbsp ground mixed spice
1 egg
4 tbsp milk
Ground nutmeg + demerara sugar for the top

I followed Pam's instructions just changed the composition of the fruit content as I had dried cranberries in the house (to make some fudge for a friend I'm visiting later this week) and I like the zingy taste they give. Candied peel is a personal favourite of mine hence that was added. Mine took nearer an hour at gas 4 - 4.5. [I think my oven is particularly rubbish at lower temps like gas 4. Many cake recipes seem to use this temp and my efforts always take way longer, yet at higher temps it behaves perfectly, so from now on it's 4.5 - 5 for me.]

Preheat oven. Gas 4 is 180 c if your oven behaves at this temp.

Soak bread in half pint milk until softened, mine took about 20 mins with frequent stirring round.
Whilst this is sitting measure out the fruit, peel, sugar and mixed spice - I kept them all in the same weighing jug.
Melt the butter, meanwhile lightly whisk the egg and 4 tbsp milk together. Add melted butter and mix together. [Ensure your butter isn't spittingly hot otherwise I guess it could start cooking the egg - eggy lumps in the pud we do not want!]
Stir dry ingredients into the bread mix. Then add the liquid and stir all well together.
Grease a dish well and pour mix in, smoothing the top. Sprinkle with nutmeg and bake. Once set on top sprinkle sugar over then return to oven. Total cooking time 45 mins + dependant on your oven's performance.
I didn't have vanilla sugar as Pam uses in the original recipe so used brown demerara sugar.

This was really tasty and smelled glorious whilst cooking. I'm thinking that you could make whatever combination of fruit and spices you fancy - dried apple and cinnamon or a caribbean type one with dried papaya and pineapple perhaps? Or how about the addition of alcohol for a little extra kick? I'm a sucker for Baileys and this could be a winter comfort winner, maybe with chocolate chips? Ooh! I think this is definitely one to come back to and experiment. Only when I can feed most of it to someone else though or I'll be the size of a house! :-D

Friday, 26 March 2010

Random food advice #2

"...put the self made seasoning into the frying pan till 8 percent cooked."
That's remarkably exact is it not? :-D [BTW the usage of 'till' is all their own. Oh yes.]
How exactly does one determine when something is 8% cooked? Do we think they meant 80%? Probably but it's not as funny.

Anyway, time I wasn't here. It's another grey rainy day after a week of them so fingers x-ed for the weekend - I've digging to be done! Given the weather I'm afraid I have no photo for you today so I'll leave you with a glimpse of my offical 'bad joke' front covered recipe notebook in preparation for a full blown food porn post sometime next week. Enjoy!

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Random thought of the arvo

You can not eat and watch a subtitled film at the same time. Especially not when using chopsticks. Grasshopper. :-D

Can you tell what it is yet?

Any guesses?
It's pickled white beetroot from my friend and very good stuff it is too. That vinegar is strong! Wincingly so in fact. But in a good way.
They have also given me some runner bean chutney which I am looking forward to trying this weekend with some crackers and nice cheese.
A lunch of crackers and cheese and olives and other lovely nibbly things; if taken in the french style - long and with a bottle of good wine - is one of the finer ways to spend a lunchtime hour or two in my opinion. I thank my parents wholeheartedly for introducing me to this at a young age.
You may be gathering by now that I'm a little bit 'foodie'. Not in a snobbish way but in an 'I get terribly excited by foodie stuff' type of way. If you're in the Devon area in a couple of weeks check out the snappily titled (deep breath) 'Exeter Festival of South West Food and Drink.' This festival includes numerous producers and suppliers of food stuffs, condiments, tracklements, alcohol of all conceivable types, equipment and lots of lovely things to eat and drink whilst there and I heartily recommend it. I'm looking forward to it!

Tuesday, 23 March 2010


My actual post today before getting sidetracked by the whole 'more stuff I don't need but want for the kitchen' thing was going to be a quick - ooh my amaryllis is just starting to flower. This was a present from eldest sis at xmas, and has surprised me by surviving my innate house plant death force field I seem to exude. (Love plants, have an allotment, houseplants though I kill. Accidentally of course.) It's a groovy stripey kinda thing, and satisfyingly impressive. Get me and my indoor plant skills eh?!

Kitchenalia Avarice

Why is it I can go from complete ignorance of something to a state of - 'I must have it' in seconds? I love kitchen gadgets. I mean, really LOVE them. I don't have space for them though. Nor do I need them. Nor, in this latest case, can I afford them. But, but - they are so lovely.
It started with me stumbling across this rather cute retro-esque 'moules' pot. I've never heard of mussel pots for cooking. (I fear a conspiracy.) This is enough to make me decide it must be mine. So I googled, and I found, oh my, the rolls royce of mussel pots in the shape of the Staub mussel pot. Wow - are these gorgeous or what? And, er - £80-90. *gulp* But lovely right?
Thing is, I probably only cook mussels at home a couple of times a year so why would I need either version of these? I don't obviously, but I love having the specific gadget / tool for the job. This is someone who has one of those big comb type spaghetti fork things, with holes in the handle to measure the serving size and I never cook spaghetti. I love pasta in other shapes but not spaghetti so why did I need this tool? It's not even as if it was a gift - I bought the damn thing myself, and no - it has never been used. It lurks reproachfully at the back of the drawer waiting for it's moment to come. So even though I do cook mussels I really don't need a specific pot for them. Not that that will stop me checking out amazon and ebay...

Monday, 22 March 2010

Cake Sunday #2

Decided to make a variation of jam infused cake inspired by Nigel Slaters Marmalade cake recipe. I wanted to use some of the bramble jelly recently given to me by my ma.

Jam buns

6oz / 175g s.r.flour
6oz / 175g butter
6oz / 175g sugar
3 lg eggs
4oz / 100g / 4 tbsp jam

Preheat oven Gas 4 / 180 c.
Soften butter - I did mine in the microwave. Beat well with the sugar. Beat eggs and add bit by bit, beating each time. Soften jam - again in the microwave and beat in. Flour - sift a bit in then fold in, sift the next bit in until all incorporated.
Bake 40mins. Makes 18-20 buns.

Next time - more jam and less sugar I reckon. These came out nice and moist but didn't taste hugely jammy to my mind and my mothers jam is very definitely high fruit content!

Think I may try a marmalade version - could help cut through the sweetness if I used a lime marmalade perhaps?

Beer Bread

Saturday I woke up and with a mournful cry realised the house was bereft of bread for my breakfast egg with soldiers - disaster! Given that the weekend is about the only time I bother with breakfast it's a bit of a 'treat' chillin thing for me so a lack of toasty soldiers deffo put the damper on the whole thing. I decided to whip up this easy bread I've been meaning to try, figuring it could bake whilst I performed my morning ablutions.

Now - Beer Bread seems to be one of those things that one whole nation of people know all about but is unheard of (by me anyway) outside of there. Beer Bread is American. Very. It sounded a fantastic idea - in it's purest form is self-raising flour and beer. That's it. Stir it in and chuck it in the oven, no proving, no kneading - brilliant! Having done a little research I found recipes ranging from the basic 2 ingredients listed above to those with the addition of sugar, salt, melted butter etc etc. I decided to go fairly basic with mine; just adding a little cheese and some seeds.

Beer Bread

2.5 cup s.r.flour
0.5 cup wholemeal flour
12fl oz / 330ml beer - I used a Co-op honey beer
Pinch salt
2-2.5 tsp onion seeds
0.5 cup cheese - Cornish Yarg was my choice
Butter - I guess I used approx 10g

Preheat oven to Gas 5/190 c/375 F. Grease loaf tin very well.
Sift flour into mixing bowl and add beer. Mix together really well. Add 2tsp seeds and stir in. [I would have added other seeds had I had any in the house - chuck in what you like basically.] Grate cheese and mix in well.
Pour mix into tin and sprinkle reserved seeds over top.
Bake 50 mins. Melt butter in microwave and pour over top of loaf. Return to oven for a further 5 mins.

Gave a pleasingly golden looking loaf, although mine could perhaps have done with an ince more cooking time. Being new to bread baking I'm still sussing out my oven's idiosyncracies for this type of cooking.

Now - although the loaf looked good I wasn't vastly over enamoured with the taste. I think that the taste of the beer came through a little too much. Given that this is an American recipe which means beer can mean lager; as well as actual ale, I think that I'll try this with a tasteless lager next time. I know that it doesn't need the yeast in a bottle conditioned ale to work as one of the first recipes I found mentioned they used Budweiser to make it with.

I'll be finishing the rest off with soup so it buries the taste somewhat. ;-)

Friday, 19 March 2010

Weather Sadness

I sometimes do wish my mood wasn't so linked to the weather. Not only am I an extremely diurnal person - well, when it comes to being able to get up in the morning anyway, but I am also buoyed up by the sun and conversely brought down when it is grey and bleak and cold and miserable. Like right now in fact. What a difference from the possibilities exuded last week!
Just checked the Met office 5 day forcast and it's rain every single day - I mean - is it really necessary? We know what rain looks like, we've had a fair amount of practice at that these last few months. We'd like to try our hand at recognising sun, and warmth, and spring now please.
Welly time down the allotment this weekend then!

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Ruth's random take on Dauphinoise

Inspired by luscious images of various potato combos yesterday I went home determined to make a delish dish for dinner. Armed with my freebie pot of cheese spread I perused a couple of dauphinoise recipes and came up with my own version. What follows is the recipe as I made it, followed by amendments if I was doing it again. Not half bad in the end though!

Ruth's Dauphinoise-stylee spuds
Spuds - approx 400g (mine were Romano)
1 small onion / half a larger one
2 cloves garlic
150ml dbl cream
100ml milk
100g dairylea cheese spread
0.5 tsp dried basil
0.25 tsp grated nutmeg
Hard cheese - I used Cornish Yarg - whatever's your fave
Sea salt + freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven Gas 5 / 190c.
Parboil spuds 10 mins until just softening. Drain and rinse in cold water to cool down.
Finely chop onion. Finely chop and crush garlic. Put both in pan with the milk, cream and black pepper. Gently warm and stir in the cheese spread to melt it through. Bring to a gentle simmer for 5 mins to soften the onion. Keep a close eye on it to ensure it doesn't boil over!
Remove from heat and stir in basil and nutmeg. [I forgot to do this so sprinkled them over the dish after pouring the cream in!]

Slice potatoes thinly - approx 3-5mm. Butter your oven dish - to be honest I forgot to do this and I'm not sure how much difference it actually makes. Stand slices in dish on edge, building up row by row. Season with S + P. Carefully pour the cream over, leaving space in the top of the dish for bubbling in the oven. [This is the point at which I remembered the basil and nutmeg and hastily sprinkled them over the top instead.]

Grate cheese over and bake in oven 30ish mins. As previously mentioned I used Cornish Yarg, a lovely cheese with a softer flavour than the mature cheddar which was the other choice in my fridge. It's wrapped in nettle leaves too!

Now I found I had too much sauce so would make it more like a total liquid content of 150ml next time. You could just use 150ml of straight double cream but I think that would be too rich and cloying with all the cheese spread added so I'll try 100ml dbl cream + 50 ml milk next time.
I'd also reduce the amount of onion - using half a small onion or perhaps just 1-2 shallots.
I also found my potatoes were very slightly less cooked than I like after 30 mins so would add another 5-10 mins to the cooking time.
Anyway - I found it tasty, filling and rather comforting on a chilly evening with enough left for another 2 portions. If you try it let me know what you think - enjoy!

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Homeward bound (I wish I was)

Well I will be shortly. I have a hankering for potato and cheese in some combination - probably something to do with me drooling at some of the ideas on the Daily Spud's Paddy's Day Food Parade. I wonder - could one make Pan Haggerty with Dairylea? Or is that really just a little too heinous an idea? Lol :D Probably sacrilegious. Pan Haggerty's also Northern and not Irish. Maybe I'll do some sort of layered spud and onion and cheese sauce...ah - that would be a dauphinoise then - hey - it's Irish if I say it is! Probably will be the way I do things. What ho - I'll let you know how it turns out.
Maybe seeing WM tonight for a brief pintage - maybe...

Total apathy

My lack of enthusiasm for my work knows no bounds. Hey ho - here's a couple of cheeky nice free things instead:
Cheese! - There is no conceivable time free cheese could be a bad thing lets face it!
Seeds - Finally the BBC Dig In website went live and you can sign up for 5 free packs of seeds.
Go to it my friends. :-)

Friday, 12 March 2010

Home again

Now ensconced back in the familial home, here for mother's birthday and mother's day this sunday. She liked her 'Front Garden Repair Kit' I bought all those seeds for (and you thought they were for me didn't you?!) so hopefully soon the garden will return to the riot of colour it once was.
This photo is an old passport photo of my father; probably taken late 70's, that I had on a board here. Sometimes the past ambushes you rather. Still miss you dad.
Anyway, speaking of seeds (addicted - I know) if you have a Range store near you they have bogof at the moment on their 99p De Ree packs. This includes Runner Bean 'painted lady' which is the pretty two tone one. These are in packs of 9 seeds (kids pack) but coming out at 18 for 99p it's rather better than T&M's £3.49 for 50 or Mr Fothergills £2.99 for 40. They aren't available on line though, you have to visit the store.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

More cake...

Rather randomly considering I'm not a big eater of cake I made more today. This was strictly in the spirit of scientific enquiry though. A friend had recently directed me to a FB group detailing a "5 minute chocolate cake" one can make in a microwave; at work for example. (How evil is that?!) Having perused the photographic evidence of fully microwaved monstrostities my curiosity was piqued. Evidently it worked but did it in fact taste nice at all? I set out to find out for myself...
4 tbsp s.r.flour
4 tsp sugar
2 tbsp cocoa
1 egg
3 tbsp milk
3 tbsp oil
Suggested - splash vanilla extract, 3 tbsp choc chips - I had no vanilla and added more vodka soaked hazelnuts in place of the choc chips I also didn't have.

Mix dry ingredients well. Add egg and mix thoroughly. Pour in milk and oil and mix well. Add choc chips and vanilla if using and mix again.
Microwave for approx 3 mins = done in an 800w oven apparently.
My microwave is old and knackered and I am clueless to it's wattage as it's long since rubbed off the outside (deffo less than 800 though) but I cooked for approx 3.5 mins and that was pretty right.
Verdict? Nice when warm upon removal from microwave, could have done with a scoop of good vanilla ice cream. Too much for one most definitely, I'd suggest 2-3 portions. Once cooled a little rubbery and a whole lot less appetising.

Cake Sunday

I went for buns rather than a cake, primarily because I realised late on Sunday afternoon I was bereft of bloody grease proof paper for tin lining so had no choice.
My rather idiosyncratic recipe I evolved is as follows:

4 oz self raising flour
*2 oz wholemeal bread flour
*2 oz plain flour
0.5 tsp bicarb soda
6oz butter - salted
6 oz sugar
Spoon honey
1 cooking apple - large
Approx 2ish oz vodka soaked hazelnuts
0.5 tbsp cinnamon
0.25 tbsp mixed spice
2 eggs

*The flour mix was supposed to be 4oz s.r. and 4oz wholemeal but I realised half way through adding the wholmeal it was actually bread flour and being unsure what affect this could have on the finished product I switched the last 2oz to plain flour as I'd already added the soda for the wholemeal flour.

Preheat oven - I used half way between gas 4 and 5.

Melt butter in microwave and stir thoroughly into sugar. Add honey and stir well again. [I used runny honey - prob easier on the mixing.] Add beaten eggs, stir in. Sift in flour, bicarb and spices, stirring well after each sieve load. Add apple; chopped into small pieces for buns, and nuts and mix well. Bake at gas 4.5 for 45-50 mins until done.

Not bad if I say so myself. Think next time I'll try them with some carrot in as well, being a fan of carrot cake.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Choices, choices...

Despite currently being ensconced in the office on a beautiful sunny afternoon (*sobs*) my mind is somewhat adrift still over the choice of baked good I should present my esteemed friends with this afternoon at the pub for our inaugural 'Cake Sunday.' I think I have just about decided on a cross between a spiced apple and walnut cake recipe given me by a colleague and a very old Dorset apple cake recipe which was the first thing foodwise I ever made at school. Primary school in this case. The Dorset recipe has the advantage of being the quicker of the 2 and with the addition of a few of the bits / ideas from the other recipe will be lifted from the simple to the seriously munchable. I hope. I mean when can vodka soaked hazelnuts ever be a bad idea? I will let you know but for now must once more lower nose to grindstone in order that I may leave, very soon, very soon indeed.

Friday, 5 March 2010

Late nite at the office...

...aka depressing as f*ck.
Choice - either stay even later on a friday night when you're really tired / bored / reached saturation point of work for the day or - leave now - YAY and however - come in at the weekend. BOO!!

I'm opting for a couple of hours at the weekend, really can stand it no longer now. Sure there's a pint with my name on it somewhere...
Musing - is WM wussing out? Hmm...

Random food advice

Is it just me or is this kind of a wierd piece of advice on a packet of noodles. Sure we've all tried dry noodles but they're, well, not really very nice are they? Yet matey boy is happily chomping away, safe in his ignorance of the fact that all those dry noodles will swell in his stomach as they absorb liquid and later he will explode like an aspirin eating seagull!! (Weeeell, it could happen...)
Yesterday on the sachet of flavouring that came with my Super noodles (are you detecting a theme in my lunches here?) it suggested adding ham and cheese - fair enough - but then lobbing the lot on toast and melting it under the grill. Super noodles on toast? With melted cheese on top? Do they not realise that people eat their products other than students, 'bachelors' (slightly intense and geekesque 20-30 something single males that have more electronics than you could shake a big stick at but *zero culinary knowledge) and post pub-goers? (When this would probably actually sound like a perfectly plausible tasty late night snack.) It just seems like a very wrong suggestion to me.

*This book is made for them - should you have recently invited one into your life and are at a loss for ideas for birthdays &c.

A sight for sore eyes

Happy £land card reader chuntering away transferring my previously inaccessible photos. Oh, and did I say hundreds - that'll be 1158 of them to be precise! I am a prolific image capturer. To be fair these never got edited before work's pc chewed the end off the card rendering it useless, or so I thought. Couldn't get it to read in anything so bought the £land reader figuring I could take it apart and physically make the contacts match up that way but I didn't even need to do that - brilliant! Good old £land to the rescue! :-D

Thought - wonder if Optrex own the domain 'asiteforsoreeyes'? lol

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Thought they were gone forever...

Very happy bunny here as have managed to rescue the 100's of images from my damaged 2gb card. This includes sis's hen weekend in Madeira a year and a half ago, two sets of friend's first babies as new borns, sis's wedding etc etc. This picture though is dear not because it's technically brilliant in any way, it very obviously isn't that in fact, but that is my beloved Douglas cat who passed away last september at the grand age of 16 whom I sorely miss so to come across this image is lovely. So yes, a happy if slightly wistful bunny here.

"Do you sometimes wish you were wearing paper clothes?"

This is a Yukamoro Lucky Cat which was a chrimble gift from a rather spiffing friend of mine. It's weeblesque in it's abilities to remain upright and has a variety of mews, bells and shouty japanese phrases when you move it. Personal fave is the angry meow which never fails to make me laugh myself stupid! Mind you, you have to chuck it about a bit to get that one.
Anyway, perhaps it has been at work, good things may be coming about for a change in my life so I'll be looking after it regularly as it takes up residence on my desk.
Had a frank chat with WB yest pm and as a result seem to have reached some sort of mutual agreement so all that remains is to see how that pans out. Fingers x-ed all! (Btw the header is one of his! I had to smile.)

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Lovely free stuff!

Today my free jute bag has turned up. This is part of a promotion by these people for fair trade fortnight. You have until the 7th to send them 10 plastic bags, which they'll recycle, and you'll receive this handy jute shopper in return. It's a nice size with decently long shoulder straps. Get in there! :-)

Tuesday, 2 March 2010


Well - I had a nice long post all typed out and off I went to find a link and the entire t'internet followed by my pc had a massive effing up fit and lost everything. Goramit I'm sick of this happening!!!

I went to find the link to a sensibly sized blank printable seed packet template I found here.
I have ordered yet more seeds this time from T&M (For my Ma!) but am only now wondering if they'll turn up in time as the last lot I had from them took over a week to arrive. If it's later than next Thurs / Fri that's too late for me as that's when I'm off to visit. These along with various other seeds are forming her Mothers day gift of a 'Front Garden Rescue Kit' as the whole thing had to be dug up last year to put a new soakaway in; whatever one of those is. It involved a lot of mess and concrete and the loss of years of care and attention lavished on the garden anyway. Today I've managed to get the labels with a pic on printed for them all, handy for colours etc. The rest of the details I'll maybe write freehand or if I can work out the correct spacing print onto the template sheets. I'm hoping she'll like it anyway.
Off to the local pub quiz tonight with he of the 'win' at the weekend and friends various. Wish me luck!

Morning of Gorgeousness

Wow it's beautiful out today. Pure blue sky, sunshine and the frost sparkling as it melts away. I so want to be outside...

Monday, 1 March 2010

False sense of security

The weather that is. Incredibly misty start, walking alongside the river on my way to work and couldn't see the other side, or the river in fact. Gorgeous day the rest of it though, far too nice to be coped up indoors.

Really do feel a frustration when the first odd nice day of 'Spring' comes along and here I am slaving away over a hot keyboard answering the same damn fool emails over and over again. It does get my goat rather when people are just completely incapable of reading for themselves and just rely on me feeding them the answer. Grrrr. Phew - rant over methinks!

Anyway, may see if I can do a sneaky lunch swap and leave early tomorrow in order to see what poor state my allotment is in after this weather. Gonna have to be 2mo as apparently the rest of the week is sleet. Bleargh!

Win of the weekend?

A good weekend all round I think. Well...except for the lack of tidying achieved but, meh - it's not exactly scintillating stuff is it?

Beach party at my local on Saturday was good fun after the lacklustre performance in the rugby. Dear me England is a wee bit dire this tournament. Play like that against France and we'll get cheesed.
Fun evening though even feeling ridiculous in a short skirt, flip flops and flowery lei! Promptly lost the lei to the drunken rugby boys - doh!
Sunday was a day of chillaxing and dvd watching, finished catching up on season 3 of Heroes and enjoyed Angels and Demons although I didn't find it totally immersing me.
Really should have got a little more achieved but now the evenings are getting lighter I'm hoping to make the allotment after work this week. Fingers x-ed!