Baby blanket 2 2016

New Beginnings and What the Hell Just Happened?

For millions of people, waking up on Friday was quite the shock.  It was frustrating in the lead up to the vote for me because not living within the border meant I couldn’t vote on my future.  I’m one of those people that will plan years in advance for certain things, particularly big things.  Moving back to the UK is pretty big, especially with finances.  I knew if the vote swung Leave it would really upset the pound and markets.  Despite what Boris claimed.

Because of the time difference my husband and I were glued to our iPads refreshing the vote counts on the BBC website until after 3am Greenwich time.  The writing was on the wall but I’d hoped something would change while I slept.

While I applaud the attitude of respecting how people voted, I find it disturbing the trend of googling after the vote ended asking what the EU was or what could happen if the vote was Leave.  I don’t care what you vote for but I do care if you understand the ramifications.  And the videos of interviews of people saying they didn’t understand or didn’t think their vote mattered when they voted leave and they wish they could change it bothers me.

I hope cooler heads prevail when the discussions on how the UK exits happen.  I do think the EU should have a do over with a healthy dose of hindsight.  There are a lot of benefits to having a single block but there needs to be more cultural sensitivity.  Whether it has to do with the pint or trying to regulate a cheese made in France for centuries, these things should be allowed to thrive.

But since we’re not invited to the table we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.

In the meantime I got to meet my newest nephew.  He is just over three weeks old and a little peanut.  His only worries are sleeping and eating.  Now I know how long pregnancies last, do you think I planned ahead to crochet something for him?  Alas, no.  So once he was born I went into a bit of a panic and rushed out to buy yarn.  I managed to get the blanket and the little beanie done quickly.

Baby blanket 1 2016

I had bought a book, Crochet Step by Step by Sally Harding, to relearn crochet.  When I was a baby my aunt had crocheted a blanket using a shell pattern so I wanted to do a similar pattern.  The book gave me the stitch count and I came up with how many I needed to do the size I wanted.

Baby blanket 2 2016

The little beanie was very easy to make.  I used a pattern from Mango Tree.  It is a free pattern and she gives instructions for sizes from newborn to adult.

So even though the world can still turn upside down, life goes on.  And that’s ok.

Rosemary lemon chicken 4 2016

Rosemary Lemon Chicken Kebabs

Tomorrow is a big day with the vote in the UK.  It’s surreal because, like for a lot of people, this vote can directly effect how we transition in a few years to move back.  But I can’t vote as subjects of the crown can’t vote if they don’t live in the UK.  So I just have to wait and see.  It will be nice to see the propaganda from both sides to die down.  Talk about muddying the waters!

In the meantime I’ll just keep cooking along.

We didn’t just have a Dalek cake for the small family gathering.  To avoid a sugar high I cooked healthy food as well.  I kept it very simple with grilled veg and chicken kebabs.  I grilled up mushrooms, peppers, onions, scallions, and aubergine.

The inspiration for the chicken came from a restaurant chain, Bertucci’s, where they have a spicy chicken wing with lemon and rosemary.  No idea what the recipe is but I figured I could get close to the recipe.

Rosemary lemon chicken 1 2016

I popped into my local store (my garden) for fresh thyme and rosemary.  I do wish there was an easy way to prep thyme, so annoying, but what can you do?  Finely chop a small handful of each.  In a bowl add a ratio of 2:1 of olive oil and lemon juice, the herbs, 2 cloves of garlic finely chopped, sea salt and pepper to taste.  Then add cayenne pepper to the level of spiciness you want.  I kept it on the mild side as my aunt isn’t a huge fan of spicy food.

Rosemary lemon chicken 2 2016

Mix well and add chicken to marinate.

Rosemary lemon chicken 3 2016

When you are ready to grill add the chicken to the skewers and cook until the chicken is cooked through.  Turn a few times so the chicken is cooked evenly.

Rosemary lemon chicken 4 2016

It was a lovely relaxing lunch with family with plenty of room left over for cake!  And any left over chicken and grilled veg is perfect for a salad later on.  Which is handy after a bike ride and you aren’t up to cooking!

Dalek cake 7 2016

Marshmallow Fondant and Exterminate!

We just had a very busy few days with celebrating Father’s Day and my son’s birthday.  We did a small family gathering on Saturday and our friends have a tradition of hosting a BBQ at a local lake.  It was perfect before the kids are off on their summer adventures of camp and making the rounds with the grandparents.

My husband and I also got bikes!  Turns out the kids were thrilled as they love the bike paths round here so we’ll have plenty of fun with this family activity.  Though could someone please, please invent a more comfortable bike seat?  Yikes.  We’re lucky that there are many places to bike round town.  This town used to be a hub for the railways, even building the steam locos here.  When the rails were pulled up the lines became trails for bikes and walking.  Miles of them!

As some of you know we are fans of Dr Who and I wanted to do a Dalek cake for my son.  The thing is store bought fondant is, to put it mildly, awful tasting.  Not something you can really truthfully call edible.  While watching the Great British Bakeoff awhile ago we saw one of the contestants make a marshmallow fondant.  Of course the recipe wasn’t disclosed, probably something about editing and not enough time!  Excuses, excuses.

Thank goodness for the intertubes.  There are a few versions on how to make the marshmallow fondant.  I decided to go with the Wilton version as it was pretty simple.  When you have loads going on, simple is best!  Wilton is a cake decorating brand stateside.

The fondant needs to be started the day before.

Dalek cake 1 2016

In a large microwavable bowl add 16oz of good quality marshmallows and a couple of tablespoons of water.  Microwave 30 seconds at a time, stirring each time, until the marshmallow has melted.

Dalek cake 2 2016

As you can imagine this was an extremely sticky enterprise.  Better than superglue!  Add 1 1/2 pounds of confectioner’s sugar.  You will need an additional half pound of the sugar set aside for the kneading.

Dalek cake 3 2016

Now if you know what you are going to do and know you just need one colour, add your colourant at this step.  It will be much easier to incorporate.  However, I was still figuring out how I was going to decorate this cake.  Start incorporating the sugar into the melted marshmallow.  If you want any flavouring this is the step you add it.  I added a teaspoon or so of vanilla. Once the sugar is incorporated tip the mixture out on a greased counter.  And when I say greased, I mean greased.  I used vegetable shortening.  Not only do you need to grease the counter you need to grease your hands as well.  Sounds messy but trust me, it is much needed.

Knead like you would knead bread adding in the extra half pound of the sugar a bit at a time.  You may not need all of the sugar.  I had about an eighth of a cup left after the fondant came together in a smooth ball.

Dalek cake 4 2016

Store in an airtight container or bag and place in the fridge overnight.  In the morning let it come to room temperature.  Add the colourant and then knead until the colour is uniform throughout.  Be patient as this can take awhile and be careful of your wrists as it is a bit of a workout.

Dalek cake 5 2016

I layered the cake and shaped it.  Then coated it with buttercream.

Dalek cake 6 2016

Roll out the fondant until about 1/8″/.3cm thick.  Drap the fondant over the cake.  The mistake I made here was not to keep the fondant cool enough.  So it began to rip as I was doing this.  And because it came into contact with the buttercream I couldn’t roll it up again and chill it.  So the Dalek looked a bit injured.

For the grey parts I used rice crispy treats and gum paste.  I also found edible adhesive.  That was a cool find I must say.

Dalek cake 7 2016

The cool thing about this is I managed to keep this a surprise from my son.  So when I brought it out after the lunch he was very surprised.  That was the best.  And it is wonderful, despite him growing so fast, he still loves stuff like this.

Moroccan chicken 5 2016

Moroccan Chicken and Couscous

Spring seems to be back!  The air is fresh and the days are beautiful.  I hope it lasts awhile.  I wasn’t ready for summer and the sticky heat.  It was lovely being in the garden yesterday getting in the last of the tomatoes.  If only we can get rid of the rabbits.  They are back!  Which means putting more bloodmeal down around the veg so they stay away.

Because it was so cool I took the opportunity to make a warming dish while I still had the chance.  My first Moroccan meal, years ago, was a dish similar to this.  We ate it with our hands round a coffee table, sitting on the floor, in the traditional way.  It was delicious.

Moroccan  chicken 1 2016

Heat up several tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet.  Season chicken thighs with sea salt and pepper on both sides.  Preheat the oven to 400F/200C.  Brown both sides of the thighs then transfer to the oven to cook through.

Moroccan chicken 2 2016

In the skillet cook about 1/2 -3/4 cup of chopped onions and 5 cloves of garlic, finely chopped until the onions have softened.  Add a few sliced mushrooms.

Moroccan chicken 3 2016

Add a cup of chicken stock and bring to a simmer.  I didn’t have any fresh ginger (forgot to put it on the list!) so I used ground ginger.   Start with a 1/2 a teaspoon of ground ginger, a teaspoon of ground cinnamon, 1-2 teaspoons of ground tumeric, 1 teaspoon of ground cumin, and 1-2 teaspoons of paprika.  Allow to simmer for a bit.  Taste the broth and adjust the spices as needed.  At this point I added more tumeric and paprika.  Everyone’s tastebuds are different.  Moroccan chicken 4 2016

Dice up half of a red pepper, a great colour to go along with the tumeric, and add the pepper and the chicken to the broth and simmer for a few minutes.  While this had been cooking I cooked up the couscous according to the instructions on the package.

Moroccan chicken 5 2016

Layer the ingredients and serve.  Make sure you put enough of the broth on the couscous as couscous can be a bit dry.  Which isn’t good for a nice meal!

Coconut chicken curry 4 2016

There is a Curry for Everyone

When we visited my in-laws I wanted to do a curry night because my father-in-law loves curry  but knowing that my mother-in-law isn’t a huge fan of curries I planned on doing something for her as well.  Especially since the curry I wanted to make was the tomato garlic beef curry which is really spicy.   When my MIL said that it’s the heat that turns her off of the curry I thought I would make her the mild chicken curry I make for those that aren’t into the spicy side of things.

This recipe uses thai curry paste.  I agree with both camps of buying the paste or making it.  Making it isn’t difficult if you have some time and all the ingredients.  However, we had the kids this weekend and now that the weather is warm we have to work on a ton of projects, so time was limited.

My husband also made naan to go along with this.

Coconut chicken curry 1 2016

Because this was just for me and my husband I cubed a breast and a half of chicken and heated up a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet.  Start cooking the chicken.  Finely chop 3-4 cloves of garlic and slice a couple of scallions.  Cook for a few minutes.

Coconut chicken curry 2 2016

Slice a few mushrooms and about a cup of pepper.  I chose orange to make the dish pop.  Add half a cup of chicken stock and bring to a simmer.  Add Thai Green Chili paste.  Start off with a little bit and build up to the heat level you would like.   Add 1/2 -3/4 cup of coconut milk.  Adjust the heat level with the curry paste.  Season with cilantro (coriander leaf) and a teaspoon of garam masala.

Coconut chicken curry 3 2016

Once the chicken is cooked through serve in a bowl with the naan.  My husband also made a wonderful mango chutney to go along with this.

Coconut chicken curry 4 2016

When I made this for my mother in-law she really enjoyed it.  Success!  It was nice to make something she liked since she had made us so many yummy meals while we visited.  We ate very well!

Warship 5 2016

Warship D832 Onslaught

I am a very lucky woman.  I have a husband that supports me 100% and takes amazing care of me.  This past year has been very hard with issues with my family and my health.  He never wavered and really had to do more than his fair share while I worked to get healthy again.  Plus he works crazy hours.  I wanted to give him a treat that would make him smile.  Since I am horrible at winning any lottery ticket I thought something train related would do the trick.

My husband is a fan of the Warship class of diesels and luckily one was going to be at the Swanage Railway Diesel Gala.  I asked my MIL if there was a possibility of setting up a driver’s experience but as she rightly pointed out, that wasn’t an option for safety reasons.  I’m sure the passengers would prefer experienced drivers!

But the option of a cab ride was a go as long as everyone was ok with it.  As the drivers were staying with us, that part was easy and as my FIL works with the railway and we know a few people that was taken care of as well.  I can’t lie, I was excited to get this set up.  Then when I found out I could have a cab ride as well, that was just a bonus!  My husband went first then I got to have my ride.

Warship 5 2016

Warship 1 2016

Warship 3 2016

Warship 4 2016

I had some videos but they are too large.  Wordpress recommends I upgrade to Premium.  Those of you who have upgraded, do you recommend?  And have they improved importing your followers to the new upgraded site?

Both of us enjoyed the cab ride very much.  Everyone was such a great help and so generous with their time.  It was a fabulous gala.

 

Brioche 10 2016

Bringing Out the Big Buns

I think if you are a parent you will find yourself at some point say something that your young child will think is the funniest thing and from that time forward it becomes an in joke.

Several years ago we were having a family game afternoon, I think it was Monopoly, and I was ready to make a big move.  I meant to say “I’m bringing out the big guns!”  Instead I said “I’m bringing out the big buns!”  Oh boy.  The kids just lost it laughing.

This past weekend I managed to do it for real with brioche.  I was going for small but ended up with the opposite.  I was planning on making cheeseburgers so I wanted to make the buns.  I found a brioche recipe by Paul Hollywood.  Most of the recipes follow pretty much the same ingredient list.  I chose to follow his because he used weights for the ingredients.  This is a two day affair.

Brioche 1 2016

In a large mixer bowl add 500g of bread flour, 7g of salt, 50g of sugar, and 10g of yeast.  Keep the yeast separate from the salt until you start mixing.

Brioche 2 2016

Add 5 medium eggs and 140ml of whole milk that has been warmed.  You don’t want the milk to be hot, just warm to the touch.

Brioche 3 2016

With a dough hook blend all the ingredients together.  Once the ingredients are combined increase the speed of the mixer to medium and “knead” for 6-8 minutes.  The dough will become shiny and elastic.

Brioche 4 2016

Add 250g of softened butter.

Brioche 5 2016

Mix until the butter is completely incorporated.  You will need to scrap the sides of the bowl a few times to make sure all the butter is mixed in.  This will create a very soft pliable dough.

Brioche 6 2016

Place the dough into a plastic container with a lid.  Put it into the fridge overnight.  You want at least 7 hours to chill.  The next day flour a counter well and tip out the stiffened dough onto the countertop.

Brioche 7 2016

Punch the dough down to remove the air.  I followed the recipe and divided the dough into 9 equal pieces.  Paul Hollywood’s recipe called for baking this in a round tin with nine balls proofing together.  I wanted separate buns so I got out a cookie sheet.  Roll out each piece into smooth balls.

Brioche 8 2016

Evenly space out the balls.  Spray cling film with oil and cover the dough.  Proof the dough for 2-3 hours.   They will be about double the size.   Preheat the oven to 375F/190C.

Brioche 9 2016.JPG

Bake until the brioche is golden brown and cooked through.  You will need to check with a skewer to make sure the brioche is done.  It takes about 20-30 minutes.

Brioche 10 2016

It was at this point I realised I probably should have made 18 balls of dough.  Here were the big buns.  Keep in mind I only had a pound of ground beef which means quarter pounders with buns that could take a lot more.  Harkens back to the “Where’s the Beef” adverts.

Brioche 11 2016

You want an even crumb that is soft and bounces back when pressed with your finger.  If it stays indented it wasn’t baked completely.

Brioche 12 2016

I made up our gourmet burgers and kept it simple with a side of chips.  This bread isn’t difficult to make and the flavour is really good.  If you can find the time I highly recommend giving this a go.

White wine sage pork 4 2016

White Wine and Sage for Pork

It was a fantastic weekend.  It just felt really productive and it was fun to hang out with the kids after our holiday.  The meds for the fibro have started to work so I feel like I’m on a roll now.  And gathering steam!

The weather was perfect and no forecast of frost so it was time to clear out the house of the multitude of seedlings we have growing.  It can be hard to time when to start them because we have no idea when the danger of frost has past.  It can be the beginning of April or the end of May.  We got most of it planted and we’re just left with the tomatoes.  I was playing it safe in case the weather people were wrong.  Which never happens.  Ahem.

I was also in crazy baking mode.  I found some burratta at the shops and wanted to do an Italian night with the kids so I made ciabatta and chopped up fresh tomatoes to go with the burratta as a starter.  I also made brioche and shortbread which I’ll be posting about soon.

I flipped through the cookery book that I have by Marcella Hazan and she had a recipe with white wine and sage for pork ribs.  I used it as an inspiration though the only two ingredients I used was the white wine and the sage.  I had a pork loin to cook for this.

White wine sage pork 1 2016

We have discovered that my son, who hates mushrooms, is ok with oyster mushrooms.  So we found some nice fresh mushrooms to pair with the fresh sage.   I chopped enough mushrooms to make up a cups’ worth.  I also finely chopped 3-4 cloves of garlic and a handful of fresh sage.

In a skillet heat up a couple of tablespoons of olive oil.  Season the pork with sea salt and pepper.  Brown all sides.

White wine sage pork 2 2016

Finish it off in the oven at 350F/175C.   In the skillet add a bit more olive oil and the mushrooms.  Saute for a few minutes then add the garlic.

White wine 3 2016

Once the mushrooms have browned a bit add 3/4 cup of dry white wine and 1/2 a cup of chicken stock.  Bring to a simmer and add the sage.  After the sauce has reduced by a third season to taste with sea salt and pepper.

I also made a mash with potato and parsnip.  To dish up add the mash and topped with sliced pork and the sauce.

White wine sage pork 4 2016

I felt the sage was a strong flavour so I would back off the sage a bit for myself but my family all thought different.  Funny how taste buds work!

Quite the Diesel Show in Swanage

The main reason for the timing of our trip to England was the springtime Diesel Gala at Swanage Railway.  Obviously we were there for friends and family but if we can get our train fix than all the better!

We had the perfect weather for this trip and it really made the gala shine.  A few locos trickled at the beginning of the week but several came in as a convoy on the Wednesday before the gala.  My husband and I have fun “racing” the convoy from Corfe Castle to Swanage.

Diesel gala 1 2016

Because they need to come down when the rails aren’t busy we don’t get a lot of light for the display but it was still loads of fun.  It is so impressive the amount of work the volunteers put into this.  There is quite a lot of logistics to wrangle.  We stayed in Swanage well after dark watching them shunting the locos round to get them staged for the first day.

Diesel gala 2 2016

Diesel gala 3 2016

Diesel gala 9 2016

We bought a three day pass for this so we just rode the rails so to speak enjoying all the different locos and watching the locos changing out at Norden.

Diesel gala 4 2016

Diesel gala 5 2016

I had been noticing people perched up on the hill at the castle in Corfe taking pictures.  When I say perched, I mean just that.  It’s almost like a cliff!  I can’t imagine having to storm the castle with armor, shields, and weapons.  It seems like an impossible task to me!  But it does give you the perfect spot to watch the locos go over the viaduct.

Diesel gala 6 2016

Diesel gala 7 2016

Diesel gala 8 2016

Still need to get over there for a Steam Gala but this was a lot of fun.  The vibe was great and it was just what we needed to have a blast.  A huge success all round.  :)

 

Victorian sponge 9 2016

Victorian Sponge and a Fabulous Trip

There is something really surreal about being in London in the morning and the Hannafords grocery store in NH at night on the same day.  It messes with your head.  But we had an amazing trip.  The weather was just gorgeous, we even got a bit of a tan!  I didn’t blog as much I as planned because I forgot the cord for my camera.  Like most people I always forget something.  At least it wasn’t something major like a passport.

A few years ago I had tried to make a Victorian Sponge and it failed.  The middle wouldn’t cook and it was heavy, basically the opposite of what it should be.  I wasn’t sure if my technique was off or the flour was just different enough.  So it was on my list to make it while visiting my in-laws.  My MIL makes a fabulous Victorian Sponge.  My son is a fan so I wanted to get this figured out.

My MIL is a great teacher as it came out perfect!  Enough that I will be trying this here at home with our flour.

The cookery book she had is called The Dairy Book of Home Cookery.  No idea who wrote it as it didn’t indicate.  Which is weird.

If at all possible use a hand mixer rather than the big mixers as you need to be delicate with the batter.  Preheat the oven to 350F/180C.  Prepare two 7in/18cm tins by greasing with butter.  Cut out circles of parchment paper to line the bottom of the tins.

Victorian sponge 1 2016

In a mixing bowl add 4oz of caster sugar and 4 oz of softened butter.  Cream the two ingredients together with the hand mixer.

Victorian sponge 2 2016

Now this is where I went a bit wrong the first time I made this.  I was about to move on to the next step when my MIL said I wasn’t close!  Keep mixing.  And be patient.  It needs to be pale in colour and fluffy.

Victorian sponge 3 2016

Weigh out 4 oz of self raising flour.  Take a tablespoon of flour to the mixture and add an egg.

Victorian sponge 4 2016

Mix well and repeat this step with another egg.

Victorian sponge 5 2016

Sift the remaining flour in and gently fold it into the egg and butter mixture.

Victorian sponge 6 2016

You want to keep it airy as you do this step, don’t crush the fluffiness!  Divide the batter between the two tins.

Victorian sponge 7 2016

Bake for 25-30 minutes until it is golden brown and is springy to the touch.

Victorian sponge 8 2016

Cool for a few minutes then turn out on cooling racks.  Once it is cool spread jam of your choice onto one of the cakes and top with the other cake.  We used my Mil’s amazing rhubarb and ginger jam.  I’ll have to try to recreate it.  Delicious!  Sift powdered sugar on top.

Victorian sponge 9 2016

Serve when ready.  Add a cup of tea and enjoy!

Victorian sponge 10 2016

So glad my MIL helped me with this because this is definitely a treat we love.  :)

Tips: If the batter comes out a little dry because of the flour add a little milk.  For different flavours add a teaspoon of vanilla or almond extract.