American Breakfast Pancakes

Tom’s birthday today. Always a relief as it means we are the same age again, and I am (for 5 brief months) no longer the older woman. 

As is tradition, we always have pancakes for birthday breakfasts, and for the last two years Daisy has made them. She is more than capable, and yet I still find myself breathing down her neck about whether they are ready to flip or not. She just bats me away with the fish slice and tells me to sit down. 

I use Nigella’s American Breakfast Pancake recipe: http://www.nigella.com/recipes/view/american-breakfast-pancakes-141 

And we have them one of two ways:

1) with streaky bacon and maple syrup OR

2) with raspberries, bananas & maple syrup OR

3) my preferred option – think you’re going to have option (2) then eat two rashers of bacon off the grill while you’re waiting for your pancakes to be done. Streaky bacon is so good, it’s irresistible. 


I didn’t have time to make myself a separate gluten free batter, so I had the ingenious idea of using a packet of gluten free Yorkshire Pudding mix instead. Bit of a crazy idea but it made delicious pancakes and I will do it again. 


Right, time to get back to the birthday fun! Happy weekend. X

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Coffee and Walnut Cake

No rest for the wicked. After the epic marmalade making session last night, I’d quite like to avoid the kitchen today, BUT it’s Tom’s birthday tomorrow, so time for the annual coffee-cake-baking-session. Coffee cake is Tom’s favourite, and one of mine too, so why do I only bake it once a year? Maybe because I always follow Delia’s recipe, and her icing – mixing a pot of mascarpone with a shot of espresso (or something like that) makes me nervous. It probably curdled in the past. 

 This evening, Daisy and I made it together and we doubled the quantity to make it a 4-egg cake as last year it seemed a bit small. If you do this, just remember that it will obviously take longer to bake. I got it out after the designated 25mins and looked mystified as to why it was uncooked….

 I will post a picture tomorrow when I’ve iced it. It really needs to be iced and eaten on the same day as the mascarpone icing goes a bit funny by the next day.

In the meantime, here’s some pictures of Tom receiving his cake 4 years ago. Ollie’s eyes on the second one always make me laugh. Poor thing. The shock of seeing candles blown out for the first time.

If you’d like to have a go, here’s the link to her recipe: http://www.deliaonline.com/recipes/cuisine/european/english/coffee-and-walnut-sponge-cake.html

Happy baking!

Next day….and here’s the finished article: 

Marmalade

The kids are finally in bed and I have a very big pan of orange marmalade on the hob. It seems to have taken all day to get to this point and there’s still an hour of boiling to go! It’s going to be a long night….

Saying that though, the house smells amazing. It’s almost worth it just for that. And I’m sure around midnight when I finally get to try some on a piece of toast, with a cuppa tea, it’ll taste pretty blooming good. Slater says it better than I ever could in this article about marmalade-making: http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2013/jan/27/nigel-slater-marmalade-recipes

So what have I learnt from this marmalade-marathon?

1) Follow one recipe. Do not consult three, then harass the veg box man on his views while his engine is left running for 20 minutes. It just leads to confusion. 

2) Read a recipe ALL the way through before starting. Having to stop to go into town to buy a square of muslin is a pain. 

3) Buy this book: River Cottage Handbook No.2 Preserves by Pam Corbin. It is the best book on preserves and the marmalade recipe has no pushing-pulp-through-muslin stage to it. 

4) Make marmalade when the children are away. However much TV you offer them, they will always prefer to get involved. Sharp knives, boiling marmalade + a four year old = added stress to an already stressful situation (mainly because you still haven’t decided which of the three recipes to follow!) 

Aside from that, and the fact that I’ve written this post twice because the site crashed, it’s been great fun! Now to sterilise the jars and put the saucers in the fridge (ask Delia)……

And finally: early hours of the morning….

PostScript to self for next year:

1) You never have enough jars! Raking through the shed at midnight, looking for more, is not fun. 

2) Do not wait until the morning to clean up any marmalade spills. It’s like getting tar off a work surface. 

3) Do not embark on this project again until you have bought a jam funnel. You slop marmalade everywhere when you pour it into jars. 

4) Do not put a 4 year old in charge of orange pip quality control. They do not have very high standards and you will end up fishing pips out of molten jars of marmalade late at night. 

Mexican Salad & the best Gluten-Free Sponge

So I take back what I said yesterday about spring being round the corner. After a day of greyness and freezing sleety rain, it’s clear that we’re still in the middle of winter. 

There couldn’t be a better day then, to go to a friend’s house (Sundari who lives two doors up), and eat the best gluten-free sponge (lovely and lemony and light), that I’ve ever had. I tend to avoid cakes and biscuits altogether because gluten-free things can often be crumbly and sawdust-like. Not so with this wonderful fatless sponge with lemon icing soaked through it. Here’s a pic of what remained after we’d all had a fat slab with a cup of vanilla chai tea: 

Here is the link for the recipe. The flour was substituted with Dove’s Gluten Free Self Raising Flour. http://orangeblossomshoney.blogspot.co.uk/2011/05/lemon-fatless-sponge-cake-with-lemon.html 

For tea, after a cold, dark walk home from teaching drama, we had jacket potatoes with a Mexican salad. We had a tin of black beans lurking in the cupboard and this recipe in Gwyneth Paltrow’s book It’s All Good was a good way to use them up.

Ingredients

  • Half tin of black beans, drained & rinsed
  • Half tin of sweetcorn, drained
  • 2 baby gem lettuces, shredded
  • Cherry toms, cut in quarters
  • 4 spring onions, sliced
  • Avocado, chopped
  • Handful of coriander, chopped

Arrange on a large dish. 

Gwyneth suggests a complicated dressing involving sheep’s milk yogurt. As I didn’t have any to hand(!), I made a dressing with the following. Quantities are not exact:

  • Mayola (dairy-free mayo), big squeeze
  • Olive oil, big glug
  • Juice of half a lime
  • Garlic clove, crushed
  • 2 spring onions, finely chopped
  • Salt, pinch of
  • Tsp honey

A very delicious salad which Daisy had seconds of. Ollie just had the avocado and tomatoes. Something good must’ve been in it because it suddenly gave me the strength to pick up these two chimps at the same time: Goodnight from us. X

Chicken Noodle Soup with Spring Greens. 

Spring is here! Yes, it was -2 degrees this morning, and yes it did feel like my face was going to freeze off on the way to school, BUT the sun is out now and the first yellow crocuses have come up in the front garden. Admittedly they didn’t last long – by the time we got home from school Alfie (the cat) had trampled their delicate petals into the frozen earth, BUT I’m taking their blooming as a sign of the seasons changing. 

With this in mind, I decided to make a soup for lunch with some spring vegetables, plus the added benefits of ginger, garlic & onion to help fight off the lingering winter viruses which the whole household seems to have. It turned out later that I had not explained this plan fully to Ollie.

As soon as he heard we were making soup, he leapt up to his position by the food processor and began feeding in leeks, carrots & onions etc. 

Here he is examining the inner-workings of the processor. (It was turned off at the time). 

Once he had sliced all the veg in the processor, he moved his chair to the stove for phase two of his soup making: crumbling the stock cube into the pan. This is his favourite job because he can lick his salty, little fingers afterwards. This is probably bad parenting & bad for his kidneys, but we’ve got into a habit now. 

As he crumbled, he looked down into the pan at all the green veg cooking. “What is this?!” He cried. “WHAT. IS. THIS? This is not OUR soup!” By ‘our’ soup, he means HIS soup which we normally make (see earlier in Jan), and which is orange from all the carrot in it and has been blended with the hand blender so it’s not obvious that there’s any veg in it at all.

 He looked at me like I’d lost my mind. “I can’t eat this!” he said and sloped off out of the kitchen. At the door he turned and stared at me with the look of a boy who had been conned. Conned in to making the wrong type of soup. 

As far as I was concerned though, it was absolutely delicious and I had a second bowlful. Ollie had four mouthfuls, which I had to feed him, but really he was more interested in the cheese on toasted muffin that came with it. 

Chicken Noodle Soup with Spring Greens

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 2tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • I clove of garlic, sliced
  • Half thumb sized piece of ginger, peeled, thinly sliced
  • 2 leeks, thinly sliced
  • 1 carrot, thinly sliced
  • 2 handfuls of spring greens, thinly sliced
  • Left-over roast chicken, in strips (optional) 
  • Approx 50g thin rice noodles
  • Vegetable stock cube, crumbled
  • Boiling water

Method

  • In a large pan heat the olive oil and fry the onion over a moderate heat for a few minutes.
  • Add the leeks, carrots, garlic and ginger until softened
  • Add the boiling water and crumble in the stock cube. 
  • Add the spring greens, chicken (if using) and the noodles. 
  • Simmer gently for 10 mins. 
  • Taste. Add sea salt & lots of black pepper if wanted. 

Additional: I added a drizzle of toasted sesame oil, some soy sauce & chopped coriander to mine. Tasted amazing! 


 

Piña Coladas

As today is supposedly the most depressing day of the year, I thought we could cheer ourselves up with some after-school cocktails. 

Before you get too excited, they were of the virgin kind and more of a smoothie than anything else, especially as you’d never put a banana near a real piña colada. All the same the kids loved them, (“ten out of ten!” from Daisy who is not a smoothie fan), and they’re pretty healthy too. 

Piña Colada Smoothie

Ingredients

  • 1 cup pineapple chunks, fresh or frozen best but I used tinned 
  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 large banana
  • Half cup of ice cubes
  • 1tsp honey (optional)
  • Lime, a squeeze
  • Pineapple & kiwi slices, for garnish
  • Cocktail straws

Method

In a blender combine the pineapple, coconut milk, banana & ice. Purée until smooth.

Taste. Add lime juice or honey as desired. 

Pour into two large glasses. Garnish with the fruit slices & add some cocktail straws. 

Health kick

I added 1tbsp of Super Greens Mix to mine. It contains wheatgrass, spirulina & barley grass. Green barley grass was recommended to me by a nutritionalist because it has nearly five times the iron content of spinach. In this smoothie the powder was surprisingly palatable. 

If you have any other good smoothies in your repertoire, especially ones that could make such powders more drinkable, I’d love to hear about them. Any suggestions in the comments section are much appreciated. 

And to end: some fine art from Ollie. Enough to cheer anyone up!

Bits and Pieces

So nothing much has been achieved today. Drama hasn’t been planned and marmalade hasn’t been made. I’ve been looking forward to this last one all week. The oranges arrived with the veg box on Thursday, the sugar has been bought & the jars have been dug out of the shed (I suddenly realised how big Daisy’s olive addiction was when most of the labels I was peeling off were olive ones). 

BUT I know from last year how long marmalade making takes. I thought it would be like making jam. I didn’t take into account all the peel that has to be finely cut up. Last year I started at 7pm on a Saturday night. I was still at it at midnight when Tom arrived home from the pub with a half-eaten kebab in his hand. 

Lovely as marmalade making is (it fills the house with an amazing smell and tastes so good), I didn’t have the energy for it today. This is also reflected in our tea, which was, as my grandma would’ve called it, ‘bits and pieces,’ ie: anything you find that needs using up.  

We had ham and cheese, rice cakes & crackers, carrot sticks & cherry tomatoes, and some chicken liver pate. This last thing is something I haven’t bought before but was recommended as having lots of iron in (the liver part). Everyone else refused to eat it but me. 

I’ve tried to make the veg look appealing by arranging it in a jazzy way. I seem to do it automatically & I really hope I’m not still doing it when the kids have left home. It’s just that Ollie is far more likely to eat something healthy if it’s in the shape of say an owl or a bat. Today he sat down for tea and asked Tom for a porcupine. Tom did his best with a slice of ham and crisp shards for the prickles, but he doesn’t have as much experience as me & to be quite honest, it looked poor. Ollie did his sad face & slumped sideways across me. He spent most of the rest of the meal draped across me in one way or another until I nearly lost my rag. 

Below is a pic which pretty much sums up our day. Daisy snuggled down on the sofa looking shocked at something that had just happened on Corrie, or was it Young Dracula?…..