Fat Rascals

Sat morn. I find myself on Norwich market for the second time in 24 hours. Daisy is doing her thing at Maddermarket Theatre, and I’m sitting at The Little Red Roaster stall having a cuppa. The spring sunlight is coming through the gaps in the perspex roof and I can smell the sausages frying at Tony’s Food Bar next door. A good place to write a post. 

Opposite is the guy selling herbs and spices. Claire and I used to make a trip here every October to buy the ingredients for our Christmas cakes. I am unable to make Christmas cake without Claire, and so it hasn’t happened for several years. She is precise and organised and makes us weigh out all of the ingredients the night before. She cuts the grease proof paper with a 10p size hole for the top, and she gets us to soak our fruit before we go to bed. I, on the other hand, pour the sherry, and follow Claire around, doing as instructed. It’s a whole day baking extravaganza and there’s no way I would manage it on my own. 



 “Zut Alors!” I look up from my cuppa as the Herbs man shouts over to the French girl serving at The Red Roaster. “I can’t take it any more! Je suis fatigue. I need un café!” She laughs. I am smiling because I’ve just read the last line of Cat’s comment on yesterday’s post:  ‘Do some more baking you lazy sod!’ 

Looking at his stall of dried fruit and spices has given me an idea: we’ll make Fat Rascals today. They’re a lovely Northern treat and Cat is Northern, the wrong side of the Pennines admittedly, but still Northern. I hop off my stool and buy currants and raisins double-bagged in brown paper. 

Then I go mad, loving the hum and buzz of the Saturday morning market.  I buy Guatemalan coffee beans for Tom; a huge artisan ciabatta loaf for brunch sandwiches; and eight rashers of premium smoked bacon. This is all done in the spirit of Cat: she loves good food, she loves to shop and she’s partial to throwing money around. 

After a lip smackingly good brunch (thank you Pickerings butcher and Norwich Providore Bakery) Tom and I decide we deserve to lounge on the sofas and read the papers (get us!). We tell the kids they need to entertain themselves for half an hour and they do this with gusto, in a way that causes maximum disruption, noise and mess. They cackle in the kitchen over a mixture of vinegar, cinnamon and a whole bulb of garlic; then they start on foot painting, doing foot prints in different coloured paints onto A4 paper.

Tom goes in to put the kettle on and all hell breaks loose. There’s blue paint on the new floors, paint on the walls and green footprints up the stairs. There’s shouting, followed by sobbing in the shower as Daisy tries to get green paint off her legs and out of her hair. Tom gets the 1001 spray out, although this is not unusual, he has it out every day and sees as a remedy for all evil. 

Time for a calming down activity with something nice to eat at the end. Fat Rascals. A signature dish of Betty’s Tearooms with a secret recipe that everyone would like to get their hands on. This is my take on it:



Ingredients

  • 150g plain flour
  • 150g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 150g cold butter, cubed
  • 75g golden caster sugar
  • finely grated zest of 1 orange
  • finely grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • half a tsp ground nutmeg
  • 50g each currants, raisins, glacé cherries
  • 2 medium eggs, lightly beaten
  • a little milk, if necessary
  • TO GLAZE AND FINISH:
  • 1 medium egg yolk
  • slivered blanched almonds and halved glacé cherries
  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C, fan 180°C, gas 6. Sieve the flours and baking powder into a large mixing bowl.
  2. Rub the butter into the flour. Add the sugar, zests, spices, fruit and eggs. Mix together to a soft dough; add a little milk if the dough seems very dry.
  3. Divide the dough into 12 pieces and roll into balls. Place on a baking sheet.
  4. In a small bowl, lightly beat the egg yolk with a pinch of salt and a tablespoon of cold water to combine. Brush on top of the Fat Rascals.
  5. Decorate with three almonds and two cherries. Bake for 20 minutes or until lightly golden. Serve warm with butter.

http://www.sainsburysmagazine.co.uk/blog/food-news/item/betty-s-fat-rascals

Happy Eating! X

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Feedback Fifty

So 50 posts into a year long blog and I’m giving myself a breather. No recipe tonight but I can tell you that our lunch-time chips off the market tasted pretty good. 



What started as just a year long food record for Daisy and Ol has turned in to a whole lot more, and I’d like your feedback before I plough headlong into the next 300 days. 

What, if anything, would keep you reading? What type of posts have you enjoyed the most? How could I improve things? And are there any types of recipes you’d like to see more of?  Any feedback in the comments section would be much appreciated.

I’m time-poor but suggestion-happy in that the blog is written in the evenings when I’m dog-tired and the kids are usually playing up about going to bed, BUT I’m always up for new ideas.

Many positives have come from this project, namely that my anecdotal stand up routines to Tom every evening are a little shorter because I off-load on you guys; and secondly that my fanatiscm for correct grammar and punctuation as been knocked out of me (you can’t write this much EVERY night and have high standards), and d’you know what? It’s a release! Yes, I can start a sentence with ‘And’ if I want!

To end: a BIG thank you for reading this far, and here’s to more food & eating & laughs Xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx



Courgette & Goat’s Cheese Carbonara

 

We’re going to seize the day and make the most of the sunshine. This involves an ambitious trip to a park on the other side of the city with bikes, picnic and flasks of hot drinks. It is ambitious on several levels: impending rain is scheduled for 12 o clock, Ollie is confident on pedalling backwards but not forwards, and there will be a ratio of only 1:3 adults to children. What could possibly go wrong?

The thought of all the preparations needed (flask-finding, bike-pumping…) makes me need a hot bath and a cup of tea before I can do anything, except we have no milk in. I instruct the kids to get dressed in suitable clothes and I jump into the bath. Ollie’s idea of suitable is different to mine. I hear him knocking on Daisy’s door, and lean forward to see what he’s up to. He’s butt-naked apart from a Superman rucksack strapped to his back, and he’s whispering in his sweetest chorister-boy voice: ‘Ameythst! Amethyst!’ 

What on earth is going on?

‘Enter!’ Barks Daisy from the other side of the door. I’d like to get involved but I know better than to disturb them when they’re getting on. They’ve left the door ajar and Daisy is instructing him to pack his bag. Maybe they’re leaving home? Although I don’t think he’d get very far dressed like that. He has packed the essentials though: a treasure map, a harmonica and the wretched metal detector which has made an appearance again. 

An hour later we collect Ollie’s friend, Tommy, and squeeze him and his scooter into the car. First stop, the shop to get some milk. I still haven’t had a cup of tea. I leave the kids in the car with instructions to behave while I nip out. I haven’t even made it to the shop entrance when pumping music starts blaring out from the car. I sigh. Daisy’s put Paul ‘Wellington’ on again. She’s obsessed with the ‘sea-side’ song. I hurry back to the car, worried that Tommy might have had a heart attack in my brief absence.

At the park the kids insist on having the picnic immediately even though it’s only just 11. I lug the huge hamper over to the playground. I can’t believe I’m still functioning on no caffeine. I set the kids up with their lunch boxes and pour myself some tea from the flask. The thing with drinking from a flask in these cold conditions is that you have to pour and drink immediately. Pour and drink. Pour and drink. I pour and Ollie announces he needs a wild wee. I sigh, put down the cup, and take him to stand behind a tree. I wish Tom was here. Wild-weeing boys should really be his department. I hold Ollie’s coat up while the wind whips round his buttocks. I don’t know how he can go in such conditions. 

I just get back to the picnic bench, hand outstretched for my luke-warm cuppa when Tommy cheerfully announces that he’d like a wild wee too. I’m beginning to wonder if we’re going to spend all our time at the park taking it in turns to wee behind a tree. When I finally make it back to the table, the tea is stone-cold and the kids merrily skip off to play. I feel like I’m being punished for something I don’t know about.


After a few hours of being buffeted about in the cold, the wind and eventually the rain, this is definitely the type of meal you want: comforting but quick. It’s a wonderful dairy-free carbonara and is Tom’s favourite pasta dish. It’s from Anjum Anand’s Eat Right For Your Body Type. 



ingredients.                            Serves 2 

  • 140g penne pasta
  • 1tbsp olive oil
  • Garlic clove, finely chopped
  • Onion, finely sliced
  • Large courgette, finely sliced
  • 12 basil leaves
  • 60g goat’s cheese, weight without rind
  • tsp lemon zest
  • Squeeze of lemon juice
  • I egg yolk
  • Seasoning

Put the pasta on and cook until al dente, approx 10 minutes.  

Fry the onion and courgette in the olive oil on a gentle heat for a few minutes. Add the garlic. Fry for a minute, then add six of the whole basil leaves, a little salt & mix then cover for approx five minutes, until the courgette is tender. 

Reserve 2-3tbsp of the cooking water. Drain the pasta and add it and the water to the courgettes. Turn off the heat and add the goat’s cheese, basil, lemon zest, lemon juice and then the yolk. Stir quickly so that the yolk coats everything, and season. 

Serve up, adding extra basil and lemon zest as required, plus plenty of black pepper. 

This is very delicious, give it a try!

http://www.anjumanand.co.uk

Vegetarian Mezze 

Nanna and Pops are arriving early doors and I will have done two hours of cleaning before they get here. Except things don’t work out like that. I wake at 8am, Ollie and I wrapped in each other’s arms, with a sweaty teddy between us. 

I’m an hour behind schedule, already on the back foot. Daisy is downstairs, wrapped in a blanket, putting in some hours with Tracey Beaker. Where do I start? The house is a tip. I send the kids to tidy their rooms (a pointless exercise as far as Ollie is concerned) and Daisy emerges moments later in a flamenco dress (the girl has a great sense of occasion).

Ollie’s shouts for breakfast mean I have to feed them, never a simple task, and actually creates more mess on top of the existing mess. They’re bickering at the table and a pile of washing is occupying the only other chair, so on the pretence of getting dressed, I carry my breakfast upstairs,  and eat it staring out of the window. 

I come to my senses when I see Tom pulling up outside. Is that the time? I’m panic-stricken!  I throw off my dressing gown and wipe the crumbs from my face. But I needn’t worry. He has the look of a troubled man – deathly pale and clutching his jaw as he crosses the street. 

I remember that he’s just been to the dentists. An emergency appointment booked by me yesterday. All other NHS dentists had waiting lists of a year, but I’d stumbled across this back street one that could take him on immediately. Ok, so it only had 2/5 stars on its rating, but sometimes needs must. 

I race downstairs in concerned-wife mode, hoping to shepherd him into the lounge, the only vaguely tidy room. He is traumatised. He talks of a flickering light, a dirty reception-area, and a locum who may or may not have been a qualified dentist. I try and sooth him with my words whilst gradually backing out of the door. I leave him to the children, who have no sense of delicacy and leap all over him while I run for the shower.

Nanna and Pops arrive to the usual chaos – Ollie is the only one available to answer the door to them – but then they’ve had six children and are quite used to it.

After a leisurely lunch out, we don’t get peckish til 7, and so the idea of the mezze came about:

Houmous



  • 400g can of chick peas, drained
  • 1&half tbsp of olive oil
  • 2 tbsp light tahini
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • Juice of a lemon
  • 50ml of water, approx
  • Sea salt
  • To serve: a few reserved chick peas, tsp olive oil, sprinkle of cumin.

Whizz it all in a food processor until smooth, apart from the water. Slowly add the water depending on what consistency you want the houmous to have. Blitz again. Taste. Add more salt/lemon juice/garlic as required. Put into a bowl. Sprinkle with cumin, put the extra chick peas and oil on top. 

Courgette, feta and mint salad



  • 2 courgettes, thinly sliced length ways, brushed with oil
  • 30g pine nuts, toasted in a dry pan
  • 50g feta, cubed
  • Mint leaves

Griddle the courgette slices in batches on a hot griddle pan. Turn after a few minutes so cooked on both sides. Cut them into thin strips. Arrange on a dish, put the feta, pine nuts and mint sprinkled on top. Add a squeeze of lemon if needed. 

Fish Tacos with Beach Bum Salsa



It’s Shrove Tuesday at last. Daisy’s been counting down the days since last March, such is her love for pancakes. And yet we won’t be eating them today. In fact, Daisy positively cried when I suggested having some for pudding. “Please mum! I’m begging you! Not pancakes, anything but pancakes!” 

The family have pancake-fatigue. It’s a condition well-known to food blog families. They have been my pancake guinea pigs for the last few days and we’ve gorged ourselves on breakfast pancakes, savoury pancakes, gluten free coconut pancakes. I even considered a recipe for courgette and sweetcorn pancakes for tea tonight (http://damndelicious.net/2014/07/19/zucchini-corn-pancakes/ ) but I couldn’t do it to them. We’re sick to the back teeth of the damn things. So while the rest of Britain will be indulging, we will be having Fish Tacos with Beach Bum Salsa. 

We need a good dose of colourful fruit and vegetables to counteract all that batter we’ve been eating. This meal is in my Top Ten dinners. It’s from a favourite recipe book Less Meat, More Veg by Rachel de Thample. Essentially, you need to: 

  1. Make the pineapple salsa
  2. Make some batter
  3. Dip fish pieces in to the batter & fry
  4. Warm some tortillas
  5. Place the crispy fish, avocado, lettuce & salsa in the tortilla
  6. Wrap up and eat



Please learn from my mistakes though, and make the salsa before-hand. It’s utterly delicious but takes time. I had two ratty kids in the car, an hour’s drive and the knowledge that I had to spend half an hour chopping up a pineapple when I got home. 





Ham & Cheese Pancakes

This is a beaut of a recipe. I had all kinds of ideas for tonight’s savoury pancake dinner, (they were going to be rolled, stuffed and sprinkled with three different cheeses), but when it came to it, we were tired, it was late and actually this tasted even better (like a pancake version of creamy cannelloni) and was quick to rustle up.

  1. Make a basic pancake batter
  2. Make a cheese sauce
  3. Fry the pancake, toss it
  4. Sprinkle with ham, spoon some cheese sauce over, add some chopped spring onions & sun-dried  tomatoes, grate some cheese on top
  5. Fold and serve.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/savoury_pancakes_with_52388

Grandma’s last day with us. She is reading last night’s blog post on Coconut Pancakes. “Oh what a lovely picture!” I glance over her shoulder. She’s looking at a picture of a cake. “That’s someone else’s blog, mum,”

Grandma observantly points out that most of my food pictures exhibit the same grubby wipe-clean table cloth, and the same worn plates that she rescued from a car boot sale. We decide that this warrants a trip round the chazzas, (we come from a long line of charity shop lovers).

The kids are given £6 each from grandma and we set off for Wymondham, well known for it’s array of charity shops, in particular the one at the top of the high street which only sells toys. (I have condensed three hours of our lives into that paragraph. Getting out of the house was hell. Both children lost their six pounds several times over before even getting in the car).

Once in Wymondham, Ollie makes us race from one charity shop to the next, never content with the tat on offer. Daisy, on the other hand, is an old hat at this, and uses her money to ‘rescue little ones’ and take them home. The first one, a toy monkey, I don’t object to, but by the second, a porcelain doll in 1950s Christmas garb, the size of a toddler, I remember why so may of her little ones have had to take an extended holiday to the loft.

Ollie remains disgruntled about the lack of Lego on offer, and it’s ruining our ability to browse. I see grandma, out of the corner of my eye, darting upstairs to the book section. “Why don’t you go upstairs?” I whisper conspiratorially, “There might be treasure.” He scampers off, but I pay the price five minutes later with a short, sharp punch to the ribs which nearly sends me to the floor. “You lied, mummy! There is no treasure!” “Books can be treasure,” I breathlessly retort.

Grandma ushers us out of the shop and announces she needs a coffee. Shopping has never been so stressful. I look at the coffee shop next door with its teetering displays of china and come out in a cold sweat. One last charity shop then we’ll stop for a drink.

In Age Concern, Grandma and I dash off in opposite directions. We know we have exactly fifteen seconds before Ollie realises there’s no Lego and demands to go. He doesn’t appear, instead a high-pitched beep is being omitted across the store at five second intervals. The elderly clientele look up alarmed. I pass it off as a faulty fire alarm until I see Ollie waving a hand-held metal detector. He is sweeping it over the merchandise looking for metal. He is very happy and demands to buy it. Before I’ve even had time to collect my receipt, Ollie has climbed into the window display and is stroking the mannequins with the detector, hoping to find metal buckles and buttons.

I drag him outside but things are no better on the street. He is scurrying along, hunched over his metal detector and I’m having to hold his hood like a lead. He is madly sweeping the street, letting off loud beeps every time he touches a drain pipe, or manhole cover. Outside the pub the detector goes mad over a metal dogs’ water bowl. Ollie has become a menace to the public. There’s a big scuffle outside the coffee shop and it takes two adults to remove the device off him. Daisy is loving it, we, on the other-hand, have never needed caffeine so much in all our lives.

 

Coconut Pancakes (dairy & gluten-free)



Ingredients

  • 1 cup of Dove’s Farm gluten-free self-raising flour
  • Half cup of dessicated coconut
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • Salt, large pinch
  • Half cup of coconut milk
  • 5 tbsp of coconut oil or creamed coconut*
  • 4 large eggs
  • tsp of vanilla essence 
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • Zest of a lemon

*day 2 of making these & I’d run out of coconut oil so used creamed coconut (much cheaper). The results were lighter & fluffier.

In a food processor, mix together the flour, dessicated coconut, baking powder and salt. Then add the coconut oil and honey. Cream together. Add one egg at a time and give a brief blitz after each one, making sure it’s mixed in with the other ingredients. Add the vanilla essence and lemon zest and give a brief blitz again. 

Now slowly add a bit of milk at a time and mix. Keep checking that you’ve got the right consistency. I wanted slightly thicker American style pancakes, so I made sure the batter wasn’t too thin. You can always add a spoonful of flour to thicken the batter. 

Pour the batter into a jug.

Melt a spoonful of coconut oil in a frying pan over a moderate heat. Pour out an amount  of batter about the size of your palm. Do two at a time if your frying pan’s big enough. When bubbles start forming on the surface of the batter, flip the pancake.

Serve with maple syrup or honey drizzled over the pancakes & fruit and with a squeeze of lemon. 



Sunday morning. I wake up and try and get my bearings. I’m in the top-bunk. It’s musical beds in this house: you never wake up in the bed you went to sleep in.

There’s scratching out in the hall. It’s the sound of the cat digging up the carpet. He’s worked out that regular meowing doesn’t work, so he’s trying a new tactic that gets our attention every time: attacking the soft furnishings. If is isn’t the carpet, it’s the new sofas. He ain’t stupid. 

I’m up and out of bed and meet grandma in the hall. She’s trying to get away from an episode of The Octonauts which is being screened at top volume in her room. Ollie is tucked up in her bed with the iPad. 

We go downstairs and Daisy’s watching something unsuitable about a children’s care home, so we retreat to the only empty room, the kitchen, for a pot of tea. We chew the fat about news from York and Spain, until Ollie joins us for a cup of milky tea and the fun stops there. 

His whinging for breakfast gets so loud that it’s impossible to hold a conversation over the top of it. Worse than that, when I leap up and say I’ll make some pancakes, Ollie takes it as an invitation to ‘help’ me. This is all very well if I know what I’m doing, but as I’m making it up as I go along, it makes things more than a little stressful, and a bottle of expensive vanilla essence gets spilt in the process. 

Somehow we cobble together something which is not only a triumph, but also extremely tasty. So good, that I’ll be making it for breakfast again tomorrow. Well it is the holidays, after all…..