Thursday, 28 January 2010


I went to see an allotment today it is on a privately run plot, about ten minutes away from home and near to the station that John uses to get to work.

The plot is slightly smaller than I was expecting, but this might be a good thing as I have a tendency to bite off a bit more than I can chew.

The plots are laid out in a big circle, so all the allotments are wedge shaped, imagine a big cartwheel. The 2 stones on the picture below mark the narrowest point of the allotment and it widens to a path that runs around between the inner and outer plots.

It has been used recently and was apparently quite productive. I'm hoping that along with the veg plot in the garden I will be able to grow all of our vegetables.

So as soon as the weather starts to improve and the ground dries out a bit, the soil is clay and a bit sticky, I will be up there weeding and digging and hopefully in a few months I will be able to post some pictures of some lovely veggies growing on my plot.

Friday, 22 January 2010


I've been making all our bread for a while now. It tastes so much better than shop bought and works out cheaper. Although it takes a couple of hours overall, most of that time it is just sitting rising, I don't need to actually do much to it. I use my food mixer with a dough hook attached, so I don't even knead it myself.

The basic recipe I use is
500g Strong Flour
1Tsp fast acting yeast
1Tsp Salt
1Tsp sugar
A 'glug' of oil (usually olive)
About 300ml warm water

Everything goes into the mixer for about 10 minutes, it should form a ball of dough, sometimes it needs more or less water (if it gets too wet I just add a bit more flour). The dough gets left in the mixer bowl, with a clean tea towel over it, until it has doubled in size.

I then tip it out onto a floured worktop give it a quick knead and put it in a bread tin or sometimes I make it into rolls. Then it needs to be put in a warm place until it has risen.

It needs to be baked in a hot oven for 20 minutes (rolls take 10 minutes).

This is the bread that I make most days. I have also used this recipe to make currant buns by adding extra sugar and some dried fruit and pizza bases by using half plain and half bread flour. If I'm short of time I make soda bread which can be made and baked straight away.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Chocolate Cookies

My sister and my niece (AKA Goldilocks) came to visit today and we decided to make cookies, chocolate of course. I use a recipe from Nigellas' Christmas book.
250g butter
150g caster sugar
40g cocoa
300g plain flour
1/2 tsp bicarb
1tsp baking powder
I like this recipe because I usually have all the ingredients in the cupboard, the recipe in the book has a "Festive Topping" but I don't usually bother with that, they are nice enough without.

Goldilocks had lots of fun mixing, first with a spoon and then with her hands. Then we rolled them into balls, can you tell which ones she did?

I flattened them slightly with a fork and then baked them for 10-15 mins, there was some variation in size for some reason!

The only problem we had was getting her to wait until they were cool, she wanted to try them straight away. We agreed that they were yummy and some were put in a box to take home for Daddy and her big brothers.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

I hate snow!

I've so had enough of this snow! We had another snow fall last night and this morning, actually it's still snowing. It's not much about an inch, I thought that if I could get to the main road it would be fine. I had a phone call from my friend at work at around 7 saying it was probably not a good idea to drive in as the A21 hadn't been gritted and that she had skidded badly, despite driving really slow. I checked the web, the school is open so  Emma and I got in the car to drive her to school at about 7.50. She has to be there at 8.30 plenty of time I thought (it is a journey that usually takes about 10mins).
We crawled along at about 10mph, the roads were icy but I expected that, they are only small lanes.

We got to the main road fairly quickly considering, but it wasn't much diferent except there were more cars. The we stopped, I mean everyone not just me.

We sat like this for ages only edging forward a few yards every now and then, I suspect that that was only because of people turning around and going back. We were listening to the radio this whole time and reports were coming in of trains not runing and road problems. At 9am we decided to turn back, it was still snowing and I was worried that if I eventually got Emma to school I might not be able to pick her up this afternoon.

John is in Cardiff acording to the news the weather is worse there, I have spoken to him and he has managed to get on a train back to London. I hope that he will be able to get home tonight.

Note: I thought I should mention that Emma took all the photos in this post, I didn't drive along the icy roads with my camera perched on top of the steering wheel!

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Store Cupboard

We spent the time while we were snowed in sorting some storage. When we moved in here 2 1/2 years ago we unpacked quickly and everything was shoved into which ever cupboards were handy. We have gradually begun to sort things out but still have a way to go. This cupboard in the hallway had a couple of coat hooks in it but was mainly full of unused assorted items.

I thought it would be better with shelves so that I could use it as an extra food storage cupboard for jars of homemade jam, chutneys and pickles, bags of flour, tins etc.  I have a small pantry in the kitchen but it is usually so full that it can be really hard to find anything. John used some offcuts of wood that we had in the garage and fitted the cupboard out with shelves.

Here it is finished I even managed to hang the (previously nomadic) ironing board on the back of the door. I  now have a home for all my jars as well as being able to keep a stock of flour, sugar, rice etc. I have realised the value of having a well stocked pantry over the last couple of weeks!

Went back to work today after the snow, they are forecasting more to come but it shouldn't be as bad, fingers crossed.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Mad Dogs and Teenagers

Today the kids decided it was time to build a snowman.

Tom took it very seriously and was outside for ages.

So long in fact that he sent Emma indoors for a flask of tea.

It was dark by the time they finished their "snowlady" complete with conifer hair.

The dogs enjoyed their time in the garden. Bobby showed that he can still behave like a young pup, despite being nearly 10, by charging round and round the garden like a looney. I took lots of blurry pictures of the snow before he finally stood still long enough for me to take a photo of him

Casper seems to like having his photo taken and runs towards me every time I point the camera at him. I have quite a few extreme close ups of him!

The cats Maverick (Above) and Rosie (Below) are far more sensible and prefered to stay warm and confortable indoors.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Bean Encilladas

The bean encilladas that we had for dinner last night were a hit, everyone liked them and that almost never happens. The beans were cooking almost all day, I used dried so they had to be soaked, then cooked, and then simmered in a chilli and tomato sauce that I had made. It sounds like alot of work but there was very little to actually do, they just simmered away in the bottom aga oven.

The flour tortillas were a different matter. I used a recipe from the River Cottage Family Cookbook, the dough had to be made and then rested, divided and shaped into balls and then rolled out. As you can see from the pictures they weren't very round.

The most time consuming bit was cooking them, they had to be cooked in a pan individually for about a minute on each side, and then kept on a plate under a tea towel until they were all ready to be filled.

I rolled them up with they beans inside and then poured over more sauce and then sprinkled cheese over the top. Unfortunately I didn't get any more pictures as by the time they came out of the oven everyone was starving.

We have all been at home again today because of the snow, according to the weather forecast it will probably get worse before it gets better. I've spent most of the day sorting out the pantry, and baking bread, cakes and an pie. This snow is not good for my waistline!

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Snow Day Again

Another snowy day. The school and college are closed so the kids are at home with me. John went off to work today, it took him nearly an hour to get to the station he said the roads were awful, he rang a little while ago and he has made it to London, just has to get home again tonight!

Apart from wandering down the garden to defrost the chickens water and take some pictures, I will be staying indoors in the warm today. I've made bread and will bake a cake later. Bean enchiladas for dinner tonight, this is a new recipe and a bit of an experiment, I will post later and report how it went.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

12th night

It's 12th night, time for the tree to come down, it had started to look a bit sad and droopy. It's still really cold outside again, snow is forecast again! We had a lovely fire and burnt the tree. The house looks really bare without the decorations.

One of our goals for this year is to try to eat less meat. First veggie meal of the year tonight was tarka dhal, with rice and homemade flat bread. Everyone quite liked it, the general consensus was that the flavour was lovely but the texture was a bit sloppy, perhaps I might try different lentils next time.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

It's cold!

It has been snowing today, not that much, but it's cold.

A good day to stay indoors and make soup and soda bread for lunch.

Friday, 1 January 2010

1st blog, Cranberry Jam.

Well I've finally got around to writing something in my blog, New Year ’s Day seems a good day to start.

I've have been making cranberry jam today. I found cranberries reduced in Waitrose yesterday to 29p a packet so bought 10, I may have gone a little mad, that’s a lot of cranberries! I spent the morning looking for recipes to use them in and couldn't decide, until my mum came up with a recipe for jam.

I put 2kg of the cranberries in a pan with 400ml of water and simmered them for about 40 minutes.

When they were nice and soft I mashed them a bit with a potato masher then added 2kg of sugar. I then brought them to a boil until it reached setting point. The jam was a gorgeous colour.

Here are the finished jars waiting to be labelled, notice the big bowl full of more cranberries. I have run out of sugar and jars, so not sure what I am going to do with them yet, but they were a bargain!

Update. I made the rest of the cranberries into cranberry sauce, I had to freeze it as I have run out of Jars.