When I was younger I used to hate kedgeree. I don’t know why, as I love it as an adult (then again, I also used to eat picked onions whole from the jar and now I can’t stand them!)
As with many things, some recipes are only at their best when cooked by mum. But this week I had a change of heart and decided to make kedgeree for the first time myself – using my mum’s recipe of course.
My mum’s recipe is slightly different as she doesn’t use curry powder like so many others do, but she does add cubes of cheese to the mixture at the end. The cheese partially melts and is a lovely addition to the fish, so I would definitely recommend it!
Now, I didn’t happen to have any haddock when I made this recipe and as it was hailing outside I didn’t much feel like running over to the supermarket to get some. So my dish is made with kippers and salmon; this was a lovely change though kippers have quite literally 403 bones in each fillet so I probably wouldn’t use them again.
To make my mumma’s kedgeree, you will need:
1 cup of rice
2 hard boiled eggs
2 portions of haddock or other white fish (the less bones the better)
3 tbsp single cream
2 tbsp Philadelphia cream cheese
½ handful of cheddar cheese (cubed)
Boil the eggs for approximately 7 minutes so that they are hard boiled. Drain, and put to one side to cool.
Boil the rice. Whilst the rice is cooking, simmer the fish in a pan of water for around 10-15 minutes until cooked.
Drain the fish, de-skin, and then flake. Do not put the fish back in the pan before flaking as you are unlikely to be able to remove as many of the bones.
Once flaked, add the fish to the rice and simmer on a low heat to keep warm. Pour in the cream and mix. Then add the Philadelphia; sometimes I find it easier to pour a tablespoon of hot water on top of the Philadelphia as it helps it to mix better, but its up to you.
Whilst the mixture is simmering, peel the eggs and chop into slices.
Add the cheddar to the mixture and keep on a low heat for a few minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat, dish up and add the boiled eggs on top with parsley to serve.
The last few weeks have flown by and it’s nice to finally have the opportunity to sit down and reflect. We had what felt like a rushed Christmas and New Year, covering nearly 1,000 miles seeing our various family members across the country. And whilst the festivities were lovely and it was nice not to be at work, our attention was somewhat elsewhere despite the busyiness.
We were let down on our house purchase only a couple of days before Christmas so, naturally, at my work Christmas party I hit the red wine with full force! Our agent advised us that whilst the market is always slow in the winter, there was definitely a downturn – and we could see that ourselves.
I was quite content to move back into rented, confident that we would find somewhere to buy within a few months and then we would be in a really good position as ‘first’ time buyers. Sam was more sceptical and even talked about doing up our house a bit more and staying there for another couple of years. I went along with that briefly, but ultimately had to ‘fess up that I simply didn’t have the heart to empty all of the boxes we had already packed (at that stage, the count was 32).
We arrived at my parents’ home on Christmas Eve and discussed the hells of the house buying process whilst baking mince pies and swigging mulled wine. We had a quick look online and I widened our search to include a village which was literally the furthest I would consider living. The house I had loved several months before was still for sale and both Sam and my mum loved it. We decided to view it over New Year. Since then it’s been 100mph!
We loved the house so much we put an offer on it, which was accepted 🙂 the best part was, as it had previously been rented we were able to move in and break the chain for our amazingly tolerant buyers. We are now renting the house for a month whilst the conveyancing goes through and then we will once again be home owners. But this time, of a much larger family home!
We’ve been here 10 days now and it feels like home, not a house. It’s fair to say I was a bit apprehensive on moving day as it felt like the end of an era and I wondered if we had made the right decision. Once our first little home was empty of our belongings it suddenly didn’t feel like a home, it was back to being a house again. It felt strange suddenly realising that it is not the bricks and mortar that make a home, but the items and memories that fill it.
Our new home is wonderful and I am so glad we made the move. My commute is better and that has made me so much happier; I am able to have an extra half hour in bed and still have a whole hour to get myself ready before having to leave, rather than rush about! I’m planning on using this time constructively in the morning to work on my appearance (I sometimes look like I’ve been dragged through a bush backwards) and to make my lunch.
To top it all off, I decided to make a pie today. It’s my favourite food and the ultimate in making me feel content and warm and squishy. This is the life I’ve always wanted; a home smelling of baked bread and cooking, the radio on in the background whilst I leaf through my bookcase and think about what the next novel should be. I’m sat at our breakfast bar typing this with a mug of earl grey for company and a big grin on my face!
Part of my happiness is probably down to my cooker; it is a Rangemaster, a brand and type of cooker I’ve always wanted and the sellers are leaving it here for us for free! Life win, right there.
So if, like me, you like or LOVE pies, here is my chicken and mushroom pie extraordinaire:
You will need:
Knob of butter
Half an onion, chopped
1 garlic clove
4 chicken thighs (boneless)
1 chicken stock cube
200ml water (boiled)
3 tbsp single cream
For the pastry you can either buy ready-made short crust (for the base) and puff pastry (for the top) or you can make it yourself. I’m hopeless with puff pastry so I used a ready-made block but it’s definitely worth making the shortcrust yourself if you can:
1 beaten egg
1 tbsp water
1. To make the filling melt the butter in the pan and added the chopped onions and garlic. When golden add the mushrooms. Chop the chicken into small bite sized pieces and add.
2 Leave to cook, stirring occasionally, Add the thyme and salt and pepper as necessary to season and mix up the stock with the water.
3. Once the chicken is no longer pink, add the flour and slowly add the milk, Then add the stock and stir. You want to keep it on a low heat so that it is only simmering. 4. Add the cream and stir. As soon as the sauce is thick and creamy take it off the heat to cool.
5. Now for the pastry. First make up the shortcrust base by either rolling out your pre-made dough or by making your own. Mix the flour and butter together with your fingertips until it looks like breadcrumbs. Add the egg and water and scoop up the flour mixture so that it it becomes a doughy ball. Now roll out so that it is just bigger than your pie dish.
6. Place the shortcrust base into the dish then spoon in the filling.
7. Roll out your puff pastry and place on top. If you are very good then you should be able to slip your knife into the outer edge of the puff pastry to loosen it. That will help it to rise and puff!
8. Then brush on some beaten egg round the edges and on top and bake in the oven for c.45minutes at 180-200 degrees.
Perfect pie if I do say so myself. I hope you enjoy it
What is it about the magic of Christmas that makes you excited? The fairy lights? The chance to spend some quality time with your nearest and dearest? Or perhaps the turkey with all the trimmings, Christmas pud, chocolates, and the never-ending finger buffet?
It doesn’t matter what it is, most foods makes me feel uncomfortable (unless its cheese because, lets be honest, there’s no such thing as too much cheese). And whilst its inevitable that I’ll put a couple of pounds on over Christmas, its the bloating that I hate. And its not just over Christmas itself, I primarily feel bloated in the lead up to it.
My weakness is bread and all manner of bread-related food. I could eat a whole loaf in a day if I let myself. But unfortunately, whilst I have learnt to eat bread in moderation (I have two slices of toast each morning), it still makes my feel bloated, even the wholewheat seeded variety.
Having a calm tummy makes my day so much better and I’ve learnt over the years a few tips and tricks to enable me to have an enjoyable festive season. Please note that this is in no way a diet, I’ve just learnt to be in tune with my body and its needs. I’m lactose intolerant and have to substitute some foods – my post about it covers some of that – so I have quite an awareness of food generally.
I’ve discovered that just 5 days are enough to help me feel better, and the changes to my everyday life are tiny. No green juices or gym memberships here!
Drinking lemon with hot water each evening. Lemons contain calcium, potassium and vitamin C and helps both digestion and your colon.
Walking more. Taking the steps instead of the escalator at the train station.
Reducing my bread intake. Not all carbohydrates, just bread.
Eating more vegetables. I already eat plenty of red peppers, mushrooms, potatoes, garlic, squash and leaves, but I feel much better for adding a few stems of broccoli here and there – it goes a long way. Bananas and ginger specifically help to reduce bloating. Try spiralizing vegetables to get them into your diet – courgetti with your spaghetti!
Getting more sleep. Everybody needs more rest but so many people over look it. Take time to look after yourself.
These are simple steps for me, and don’t involve drastic changes to my life or habits. I try to live by them but ordinary life does get in the way sometimes. A positive outlook and an awareness of what you are doing – eating, sleeping, moving, etc, – all helps. So far, on the 4th day of December, I am feeling quite well and have no bloating issues yet.
The crisp clear mornings, the crunch of leaves underfoot and the coolness in the air – it must be bobble hat and mittens time again!
Autumn is truly my favourite time of year. I think spring and summer walks are really over-rated. I don’t want to trek for miles getting all hot and bothered when I could be kicking back with an iced lolly. For me, autumn and winter are much better times of year to be outside hiking and appreciating the countryside. I absolutely love seeing the change of seasons, and none is more magical then the beginning of autumn. Look at all the lovely gold, orange and copper tones:
We are lucky to live in such a beautiful part of the country. These photos were taken at Badbury Woods on the Oxfordshire border where you can enjoy many walks through the woods and across the fields.
The nights are drawing in quite quickly now. Its twilight by 4pm and dark by 5pm. I must admit – I love the early nights. I don’t feel guilty coming home, getting into my pjs and having a hot cup of tea in front of the telly. Soon, we will have a log burner and I can’t wait!
When we came in today I felt a bit of baking was needed. Now the house smells of doughy sweetness and Earl Grey; perfect, right?
To make my super simple basic biscuit you’ll only need the following:
150g caster sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp milk
To make biscuit-y goodness:
Mix together the flour, butter and sugar. Using your fingers, rub it together until it forms a consistency similar to breadcrumbs.
Add the vanilla extract and milk and mix some more.
Lightly flour a surface and roll on the mixture to about 5mm thickness.
Cut out your shapes and place on a non-stick baking tray.
Bake for between 12-15 minutes at 180 degrees. I prefer to turn it to up 200g for the last couple of minutes as I prefer them slightly more golden, but its up to you.
I’ve only made a few pies in my time, despite my overwhelming love of pie, and those have always been made using the go-to cheater’s guide to pastry: Jus’ roll. But this time, I thought I’d have a go myself.
I was aiming for puff pastry but I’m quite heavy handed so it turned into some form of shortcrust pastry. Either way, it was damned delicious and I’m never buying pre-fab pastry again.
To make my deep-fill pie, you will need:
225g plain flour
1/4 teaspoon of salt
250g salted butter (you could use unsalted, but why would you?)
150ml of cold water
Making the pastry
Mix the flour and salt together in a bowl then put in the fridge for a few minutes.
Cut the butter into cubes, then add to the flour and mix until coated.
Pour over the water slowly and mix together. It should form a rough dough. Place on a surface and form into a sausage shape, without kneading it. Wrap in clingfilm and put in the fridge for 20-30 minutes.
Once chilled, lightly flour a surface and roll out the dough into a rectangle shape. You are now going to make a square out of a rectangle; fold one-third of the pastry into the middle, then last third into the middle. Press down at the edges.
Now roll out again, and fold, twice more. Place in the fridge for an hour.
Whilst the pastry is in the fridge, brown the beef on a high heat.
Add the mushrooms, finely sliced, and stir.
Finally, add some beef stock and remove from the heat.
Take the pastry out of the fridge and roll out to fit your pie dish.
Line your pie dish, leaving enough pastry for the lid.
Add your filing. As I left my beef quite dry and made up some quick, thick gravy using granules and poured a little on top. If you have a wet mix, don’t do add any more gravy/water.
Finish your pie by folding the pastry over at the edges and seal with some milk.
Ask anyone if they have a problem with food, and the honest answer will probably be ‘yes’. Whether its to lose weight or tone up, to meet society’s expectations or just to get a decent Instagram photo, countless numbers of people will have issues with food.
My issue isn’t environmental. It found me.
I’m lactose intolerant, and whilst this may seem pretty run of the mill nowadays given loads of people have some kind of GI, FODMAP, celiac problem, let me tell you it was not easy growing up with it. Being lactose intolerant was just not a ‘thing’ in the 90’s.
I started to become sick at the age of 3 from something as mundane as a bowl of cornflakes. For the following 7 years I would vomit approximately 3 times each evening, 4-5 evenings a week or more. That means I’ve been physically ill more times that many people will be in the course of their whole life times. The doctors thought my mother had munchausen by proxy syndrome because they couldn’t find anything wrong with me and that my mother was on some kind of attention-seeking trip. Just before my 10th birthday and very much a last ditch attempt, my mother took me to a see a private consultant miles away from our home. I can vaguely remember his kind face, crinkling with a smile as soon as he saw me. Before I had even sat down he told my mother that I was lactose intolerant and, sure enough, he was proved right. The doctor was Indian and I’m quite olive-skinned for an English person (more so when I was younger than now); nearly half the Indian population have some form of lactose intolerance and the doctor had recognised the sallowness in my skin.
It was remarkable and the diagnosis literally changed my life. Of course, now I don’t remember much of what my diet was pre-age 10, but I do know it included the usual milk on cereal, milk in tea, etc.
My mother and I were fascinated that a food could do this to me.
If I have a milk product, my body starts to shut down; within 20 minutes I will become very heady, soon after I will start to sweat and then the tummy ache kicks in. Its not like being sick from a hang over or a tummy bug – then you are only sick from your stomach. With my intolerance I am sick from my small intestine which can be excruciating – everything basically has to go back the way it came from, re-enter my stomach and pick up stomach acids before coming out. Once the tummy aches start its hard to say how long it’ll be before I’m physically sick, each time is different, but I will know in myself whether it will be a short process or if I’m in it for the long haul. The tummy aches cause all the energy in my limbs to be sapped and to be ‘re-directed’ to my digestive system. I’ve lost count of the number of times I don’t have the energy to get out of bed, or have been slumped on the bathroom floor pressing my forehead against the cold tiles. The amount of times I’ve cried for a towel, some water and for my hair to be tied back.
My mother and I started looking into other food groups and were surprised that the power of food can have on our bodies. This was still back in the 90’s and our general understanding of food and how to stay healthy has vastly improved since then, but its always something I find myself coming back to. I watch every episode of the BBC Superfoods series with Kate Quilton and anything else that investigates the pros and cons of eating a particular food. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a health freak, but at the back of my mind there is always this subconscious nagging to eat well and to eat healthily.
Earlier in the year when I first started blogging I wrote about how I was having a bit of a health and fitness overhaul, the primary objective being to lose some weight.
I’d noticed in August 2016 that I was getting rather tubby and felt increasingly uncomfortable in my clothes. I’d put on so much weight that my work wear was straining on me and that made me lack confidence.
& more bread
I joined the gym in September and just started doing some basic work outs (I used to really be into fitness so I have some idea of what to do). I admit I wasn’t 100% committed, partly because, with hindsight, I was doing the same thing, day in, day out.
I would rush from the office to the gym, do 20 minutes on the cross-trainer, 10 minutes on the bike and then use some really easy assisted weights to improve muscle tone on my legs. Occasionally I’d use the rower.
Than about November time I got Instagram and came across a fitness fanatic called Kayla Itsines who advocates a wellness lifestyle, but from the comfort of your own room. I don’t particularly like paying for someone to tell me how to exercise and what to eat so I’ve never downloaded her program, but there was enough information and videos on her Instagram feed for me to take away a few pointers. The concept of exercising without having a gym membership or running (though I am partial to the odd run) was intriguing. Although, as I understand it, Itsines builds up the intensity of her programs, it starts by telling you to do a round of exercises that involve no equipment and could be done from your living room.
I carried on with my gym membership, but decided to build in some ‘floor work’ to my routine. I felt so self-conscious using the mats at the side of my gym, in full view of everyone, that I started using the area where they hold classes. I quickly realised there are a lot of people like me who feel uncomfortable struggling to do a sit up in front of everyone else! I started doing a mini-round of basic exercises: 10 squats, 25 sit-ups, 25 Russian twists, 10 leg lifts, 40 cycle sit-ups (I don’t know what they’re called!) and some stretches.
The sit-ups were the killer. For as long as I can remember I’ve never been able to do a sit-up without feeling faint or sick. But I persevered and after two weeks I could do 10 sit-ups without feeling like I was going to black out and that was a real achievement for me. I would still do my time on the cross-trainer and some assisted leg weight lifts, but otherwise I focused on my abs.
Our office Christmas party was in December and I remember being able to buy a size 10 skirt because my waist had gotten smaller. I was so chuffed, even though I had not lost much weight from anywhere else. But it gave me the boost I needed to see me through Christmas and into the New Year if nothing else. From January through to June I was desperate to get back to how I’d been at university. I didn’t set myself any unrealistic goals, just a target weight that I knew was achievable whilst still allowing me to have the occasional treat. I bought a couple of new figure-hugging dresses ready for our holiday in June and I was over the moon that not only could I fit into them, but I actually looked good. I was proud to be me and, for once, wanted to show off my figure rather than hide away in jeans and baggy jumpers.
I must confess that I haven’t been to the gym much since we came back from holiday in July, and I stopped going altogether in August. I realised that it wasn’t the fitness that I was enjoying (though being half-way toned was quite pleasing!), but rather what I was fuelling my body with. I LOVE food and I could never restrict myself from eating carbs, or having no sugar or doing some weird paleo-diet. I’m a firm believer of everything in moderation.
I’ve always enjoyed cooking and I’m not afraid to throw a few odd ingredients into a meal to make up for an ingredient I’m lacking, but I think I became stuck in a rut. Do you buy the same items in your food shop every week? I was. Do you cook the same meals most weeks? I was. I was watching cooking programmes and thinking ‘that’s great, I’ll do that’, but would then never get round to it. And after over-analysing my food habits I’ve come to the conclusion that its all to do with vegetables.
I’m extremely partial to some mushrooms, garlic, chilli, red peppers (not any other colour), green beans, a cabbage and leek mix, a few potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions, tomatoes etc. It sounds a fair amount, but when I look around the supermarket shelves I realise just how many different types of fruits and vegetables are out there that I don’t even consider. So, I still buy the same vegetables, but now I mix it up a little bit each week – substitute some potatoes for a butternut squash. Simple changes, but ones that excite me to come into the kitchen at the weekend to make something slightly different. I put whatever meat, fish or carbs I want with it, but planning a meal around a particular vegetable really makes it the centrepiece, rather than the add-on because I feel obliged to eat my 5 a-day!
So since August I’ve focused on what I’m putting in to my body and I’m hoping to maintain the weight I lost for our holiday. I’ve put on a couple of pounds since July, but as I’ve been under the weather and I was away for a week with an extremely bad diet during that time, I think that’s understandable.
My parents are both vegetarian so although they allowed me to eat meat, I didn’t eat very much of it and even now I probably only have meat once or twice a week, and sometimes not at all. Its just not a big part of my life.
I’m also not a pudding person. Sweet treats just don’t grab me as much as the smell of a pie baking! My distaste for puds is mostly down to my intolerance as it can be very hard finding a sweet after-dinner treat that doesn’t involve some form of milk, cream, custard or the like. After years of not being able to have it, I honestly don’t really miss it.
I feel that I have reached a place of contentment in my life, with my food choices and with my body.
I hope to continue like this for many years to come. The satisfaction of eating right far outweighs the few minutes of eating too much cake! I’m not disillusioned – I know that life has its ups and downs and that my weight will fluctuate from over indulging some months, but I do believe that awareness is key. After all, how can you keep something in check if you don’t recognise when its going wrong? I’m excited to buy vegetables and that is something to be proud of in my book. For now, I just want to focus on making my body as healthy as it can reasonably be, without denying it anything. A balance: enabling your body to let you live life to its fullest.
We move house in a few short weeks and I’m going to start growing my own vegetables. I sincerely hope this will keep me on track but as I’m not a budding gardener it might be a bit trial and error for a while!
My father grows many different varieties of vegetables in all colours of the rainbow, so when I was handed this one I honestly believed that it was a courgette as he said, and planned my dinner accordingly.
Except its not. A courgette that is. Its a squash. And the clue? The massive seeds inside that are similar to a pumpkin! Good job the two vegetables don’t taste vastly different or I might by having words with dearest father for ruining my meal!
Anyway, I happen to love squash and figured it would still work. So here it is, my quick and simple mid-week dinner: squash with bolognaise sauce, topped with Parmesan. A low-carb super-tasty alternative to pasta.
You will need:
1 squash (this will only work if your squash is bowl-shaped)
Quorn mince (or meat, of course)
Tomatoes (fresh, tinned – its up to you)
How to make:
Cut the squash about a third of the way down from the stalk, all the way around. Scoop out the seeds and place on a baking tray.
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Cover the squash with foil and bake in the oven for approximately 40 minutes at 200 degrees.
Whilst the squash is cooking, brown off the mince and mushrooms in a frying pan, adding garlic and chilli as you wish. Add the tomatoes and salt and pepper for seasoning, and let it simmer.
Once the bolognaise sauce is nearly ready, add a handful of spinach leaves and let them wilt in the steam before mixing them into the sauce. Leave on a low heat.
Remove the foil from the squash and bake uncovered for another 8-10 minutes.
It really is that simple. Remove the squash from the oven, pour on your sauce and enjoy! You can eat the squash rind, but make sure it is soft and supple or it will have the texture of orange pith.
We are moving house shortly and I am really looking forward to growing my own vegetables and herbs. Sam is going to make me a vegetable trug and I’m hoping to get a small greenhouse too. Its so exciting – a bit like The Good Life! I can barely keep a few flowers alive each year, so this will definitely be a challenge for me, but one I am going to embrace whole-heartedly. If anyone has any tips for a super-newbie gardener, do let me know what to do and not do!
I honestly have the memory of a goldfish. I’d completely forgotten to share my bread recipe with you all and let you know the results of our little village fete a couple of weeks ago!
The fete was far better than we imagined it would be for such a small village. There were over one hundred entries and at least 5/6 in each category. We were quite proud to have taken part! The main contenders were in the popular categories as you’d expect – there were no fewer than 13 Victoria sponges. In the amateur-baker category of ‘artistic cake’, were these stunning bakes:
I loved looking at all the vegetables though – there were leeks as thick as my arms and runner beans nearly 2 feet long. It really inspired me to get growing my own vegetables once we’ve moved house – there is just nothing like fresh home-grown produce really.
Anyway, we didn’t win the cookie nor the bread categories.
I was a bit annoyed as the cookies were lumped in the same category as biscuits, and biscuits placed in all three top spots despite there being several cookie entries. I think the judges were probably traditionalists and not on the cookie band-wagon.
Whilst we are of course slightly biased, the bread was definitely the most eye-catching entry and when we collected it at the end many people came up to us and said we should have won. We won The People’s Choice Award in my opinion given all the amazing comments we had!
So, if you want to make bread that looks a bit like this, follow our easy recipe below.
You will need:
Teaspoon of salt
Mix the flour, salt and yeast together in a mixing bowl.
Add the butter and about ¾ of the water and carry on mixing together, adding the remaining water as you go. The dough should be soft and not too wet when its ready.
Now cover your table with a bit of flour and start to knead the bread. I find kneading quite hard – I think you need strong arm muscles to do it properly! I find circular motions are easier and most effective, but whatever works for you. Knead for about 10 minutes until the dough is malleable and smooth.
Now to prove it. Place in a bowl and cover with cling film or a tea towel or anything similar. Leave it on the side for a couple of hours until the dough has nearly doubled in size (some people I know put theirs in the fridge but I don’t think that works as well). Towards the end of the prove, start to preheat your oven to 220 degrees.
Put some flour on your kitchen table and place the dough on top and start to roll. BE CAREFUL – I find the harder/more I roll the less air is in the bread and it becomes more dense. This is less so if you are using proper white bread flour, but not if you are using a standard white flour. Roll into a long-ish rectangle and then divide length-ways into three sections.
Those three sections will form the plait. If you don’t know how to plait, you simply place the outside strands into the middle of the other two strands, working from side to side; line up the three strands and then pull the 1st far-left strand into the middle between strands 2 and 3. Now, pull the now-3rd strand into the middle of strands 1 and 2. And repeat. Try to keep the plait fairly tight so there are not large holes. At the bottom and top simply tuck the strands together and underneath itself.Some people plait bread differently by only plaiting half way and then turning the dough over and finishing the plait. Apparently this gives the bread a bit of stability but I personally do not notice any difference in the bake. I have long hair and plait it all the time – maybe I’m a pro-plaiter!
Depending on the size of your loaf you may need to prove it again for another hour. See below for an alternative to this.
Next, line a tray with some baking parchment – I like to butter the tray first but I think that’s just because I can be quite clumsy! Place your bread on the tray and bake in the oven for about 30 minutes at 220 degrees. I like to dust some flour on top beforehand but its up to you.
Then leave to cool on a rack for 10 minutes and enjoy whilst its still warm!
Whilst the dough needs proving as at step 4, I’ve found that proving the three individual strands of the plait separately works a bit better – however you need to keep them straight on a flat surface and sometimes the strands may swell more in certain places. I will leave it to you to decide!
We received a small paper leaflet through the post a few weeks ago advertising for our local village fete. We like to support local activities but then realised this fete was very local and invited people to show various fruits, vegetables, flowers, crafts and bakes. It was 15p to enter a particular category and the prize money – get this – was 75p for first place and 50p for second place!
So obviously with that amount of prize money up for grabs we had to enter (!)
We scoured the various categories and eventually settled on making bread (any type) and cookies (very specifically, only 6 were to be shown). I wanted to do a slightly different take on a chocolate cookie so decided to use Daim bars as I think they have a slightly more bitter, salty taste.
Now, I should probably say that whilst I love cooking and baking I am not actually very good at it. Cake baking I find hard as I don’t really like measuring out the ingredients but I’ve quickly learnt that that is pretty key! This was also my first time making cookies and I was really worried they would just spread out on the baking tray and be too thin and burn, or be too soggy. As it was, they turned out pretty good!
I did a trial run a couple of nights before and realised that I should have left them to bake for a couple of minutes longer, as although the chocolate had started to melt, the dough was still super soft underneath.
So, lesson learnt I set about to make the second batch and they turned out lovely!
You will need: (makes approximately 20-25 tasty, gooey cookies)
150g of butter
300g all-purpose flour
1/2 tablespoon of bicarbonate of soda
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract/sugar
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
150g light brown soft sugar
100g caster sugar
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons of milk
5 Daim bars, chopped into small pieces
Melt the butter in a medium-sized saucepan and put to one side to cool.
In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, bicarbonate of soda, salt and vanilla.
Mix the two sugars together and add to the butter, stirring to remove any lumps. Add the egg, the egg yolk and the milk and stir until smooth.
Slowly add the flour and mix, ensuring there are no lumps.
Add the Daim pieces and stir through to even them out.
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Place in a mixing bowl and cover with cling film and place it in the fridge for a few hours.
Preheat your oven to 190 degrees and grease a baking tray, covering with baking paper.
Form the dough into rough balls (trust me, mine weren’t balls but more like odd-shaped blobs!) and place on the baking tray, about 2 inches apart.
Bake in the oven for 8-10 minutes. I found that setting a timer for 7 minutes and then monitoring it minute by minute helped. Although you want the Daim bars to be gooey, you also the cookies to have a lovely golden colour to them so try not to take them out too early. About 9 minutes is perfect depending on your oven.
I was up at 7am this morning finishing off the bake so that they would be fresh for the fete today. Then Sam said that presentation was likely to add points, so I couldn’t possibly just put them on a plate! After a bit of panicking I came across a super-simple way of creating a little box from a paper plate on Google, so sent Sam to the shop to buy some paper plates.
To make the box, you just need to make 4 cuts, 2 at the top about 2 inches apart, and 2 at the bottom. Then fold from cut to cut on each side, and then across so that the fold dissects the cuts at 90 degrees. Then sellotape into place. These are possibly the worst instructions in the world so I’ve copied a picture of where the cuts and folds need to be below:
& here are the amazing hopefully-category-winning Daim cookies!
We’re off to the fete now so I’ll let you let you know it goes! Wish us luck!
We also made some bloomer bread as well so I’ll have to remember to post our recipe for that soon too.
We’ve had a hectic few months so when our holiday to Greece finally rolled around a couple of weeks ago, Sam and I were both ready for it.
What with being very busy at work and trying to move house (whole other story!), we both felt exhausted so a holiday was long overdue. We’d been away over Easter to Devon, and went up to the Lake District in May, but its not the same as a week (or 10 days in our case) in the sun. One of my favourite feelings in the whole world is stepping off the plane and feeling the hot dusty air hit you square in the face. Within minutes your skin has a slight sheen to it – especially if you have to get one of those buses between the plane and the terminal. And I LOVE it. You just know you are on holiday then.
We had a beautiful holiday; though I can’t say much about the island itself as we didn’t leave the hotel! We went to Crete at the end of June and had good intentions to explore part of the island, including the temple of Knoss not far from the airport. Very quickly though, we realised that that was simply not going to happen. We did a couple of walks into the local village, Elounda, but that was it!
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I love tanning; I would say it one of my best talents. If I didn’t come back from holiday looking like a native with very obvious tan lines I think I’d question what the point of the holiday was. That sounds awfully shallow, but I do find myself checking how well I’ve tanned each and every day. If I had pale English rose skin I obviously wouldn’t bother, but as I have an olive skin tone I treat it as an annual personal challenge to see how dark I can go. Sam on the other hand doesn’t usually like sitting in the sun for days on end. But even he was happy to fly and flop this time. He even got his chest and back out in the sun and has gone a wonderful golden colour.
Greece is beautiful. I’ve been to Mykonos, Santorini, Kos, Rhodes, Corfu, Athens and Olympia, besides Crete. And it really does look how it does on the internet! Cute cube-shaped white-washed houses with blue shutters, pink and white bougainvillea growing up the sides and stunning views out over the sea. Tavernas with rickety wooden tables and chairs but the most amazing feta, olives and all types of salads and seafood on offer. I think I was Greek in a past life, because I can’t get enough of it.
We didn’t obviously see much of Crete save for the journey to and from the airport and two short hops into Elounda. Crete is the most southerly of the Greek islands and very mountainous. It doesn’t have the picturesque buildings I described above (for the most part – there are some quaint towns on the west side of the island though). It is more rustic, more weathered I guess. It is not as green as the more northern islands, such as Corfu, and has a hardened feel about it; plants that are clearly used to drought conditions and high temperatures.
But Greece is all about the food and Crete is no different. We enjoyed many Cretan specialities (including raki which nearly blew my head off) and every dish was amazing. If you do not like olives, oils, mussels, soft cheese and salads, Greece isn’t the place for you. It has the most eclectic culinary mixes; tea infused oils, mint, basil and oregano salads with beetroot, walnuts, feta and artichoke.
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The best pork and lamb, falling off the bone, and more types of fish than I thought I’d see in one sitting. I managed to lose 1 stone in weight in the lead up to our holiday, but I came back 5 pounds heavier!
Our holiday was just that; a holiday. A break away from the reality of our lives in the UK and time for us to just relax and be us. We didn’t just sit in the sun all day, we swam in the sea and the pool (I have an irrational fear of little fish so the pool is much safer!) and spent endless hours sipping wine and tea on our beautiful garden terrace overlooking the sea in our dressing gowns. It was wonderful spending time together doing nothing in particular. Sam and I can spend all day with each other and not get bored, talking about anything and everything . We treated ourselves to a rasul spa treatment; a self-applying mud treatment which rejuvenates your skin. We have come back refreshed, tanned (!) and with more love for each other than ever before.
I would thoroughly recommend visiting the Greek isles – though I’ll have to see more of Crete before I decide either way!
I’m on a bit of a weight loss journey. I guess you could call it a lifestyle overhaul, as I’ve come to realise that is what it is.
I’m not obese, just carrying a few extra unwanted pounds.
It’s funny, I lost over half a stone in the year Sam and I became engaged, but I ended up putting it all back on in the lead up to our wedding last year. Thankfully I had an A-line dress so a bit of extra podge wasn’t going to show (I carry my weight on my tummy and thighs).
I did feel a bit chubby on our honeymoon though; when you’re in a bikini on the sun-drenched island of St Lucia you do become aware of your body hang ups even more. I don’t think I really noticed it until we got back though and I looked at some pictures and thought ‘Omg. I should have made more of an effort to get trim’.
In fact, it wasn’t until 2 months after our honeymoon that I realised I needed to do something about my creeping weight gain. We were having a long weekend in Paris with my family. It was 30+ degrees, but you can’t wear a bikini around town (I sound so British talking about the weather! Brits can’t help talking about it, moaning about it or rejoicing in the few days of sunshine we get each year!)
The Eiffel Tower!
Wearing my dungarees & about to put a love lock on the bridge
So I wore a summery skirt and vest top. Most of us wear slightly heavier clothing than our European counterparts in the summer; we are a nation of jeans-lovers. They hide a multitude of sins and wobbly bits! But I’d have passed out if I wore that in Paris. I couldn’t hide from my wobbly bits there. My skirt was too tight. It dug into my tummy, making my love handles protrude even more.
I know where my weight gain started. I can pin point it. Sure, I probably put on a few lbs at uni what with all the junk food and alcohol you get through as a student. But it really took hold once I graduated and got my first job. I was living in a studio flat on my own. It was a lovely flat, don’t get me wrong. But I was lonely. I’d put the telly on all the time for company and hated being in the kitchen cooking. I lived not far from my work, so I was home by 6pm most nights. I’d shower and wash my hair and by 6.30pm the evening seemed to stretch out before me endlessly. I quickly got into a bad routine of buying a pizza each night on my way home. I was lazy, but I didn’t think much of it at the time. My family started to notice the sheer amount of pizza boxes whenever they visited. I’d stack them near the fridge and would forget to hide/recycle them before my family arrived! I was getting through 4 or 5 a week and would probably only cook a proper meal on the Friday night if I had a visitor. I even had the same pizza topping most nights! No wonder why now I can’t stand eating the same thing two nights running!
I put on well over a stone in 11 months. Probably 1 ½ stone actually (my scales were on the blink).
That was 6 years ago… and not much has really changed. My weight still fluctuates by that amount in the course of any given year.
I’ve tried to analyse the reason behind my extra baggage. That’s what all those dietician experts do on the telly right? Well the only conclusion I’ve reached is that I simply enjoy eating. & I do it out of boredom more often than not too.
Convenience is an awful word – I hate it! But its so true. Convenience is everywhere and it only takes one bad thing to happen during the day for you to make bad food choices.
Sam and I try to eat healthily. I say this loosely because although our dinners contain lots of vegetables (usually, clearly not tonight ^), Sam can eat a whole packet of chocolate digestives in one sitting. I’ll come home from work and there’ll be a token biscuit left at the bottom. Charming. But WHOEVER said eating fruit was a healthy alternative was WRONG. According to my app, by having just 3 pieces of fruit I’ve had about 500 calories. Its ridiculous. Pears are the worst apparently.
I’ve come to the conclusion that as long as I’m aware of my weight, that’s a good thing. After all, if you’re aware then you can do something about it. It would be worse if I woke up one morning and realised I’d gained 5 stone as that is a much larger battle to face than a few pounds. So, like many other women, I’ll probably be on a diet for the rest of my life.
Ahem, not ‘diet’ – lifestyle choice.
(I’ll let you know how I get on with my new fandangled app soon!)