Wednesday, 27 August 2014

S is for September

Another month is nearly through.

So we've come to the time to post September's activities.

And if the first celebration is puzzling you, then all will be revealed in a couple of days!

What else have you got planned?

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
1 2 3

Anna Maria Russell's Birthday

4 5 6
7 8

UK National Mushroom Day

9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 19 19 20

British Food Fortnight

21 22 23 24 25 26

World's Biggest Coffee Morning
28 29

International Coffee Day


Sunday, 24 August 2014

W is for Waffles

When I noted that today is Waffle Day, I baulked.  I have quite a large number of gadgets in my kitchen as I have the space and I like them (like father, like daughter).

But I wasn't going to buy a waffle machine.  Years ago my parents used to own a toastie maker which would churn out grilled cheese sandwiches on a Sunday for tea.  They were amazing (apart from burning the top of your mouth every time), but the machine cleaning post cheese heaven was not so fun.  You had to clean it while it was still warm so the melted fat didn't set but not too hot to burn fingers.  It was a right pain!

And waffle machines are in the same camp as far as I'm concerned.  Great if someone else owns one, but one's not going to live a rancid life in my cupboards.  Especially since I came across the recipe for one that could be made in a griddle pan!

Half an hour later and I'm having to use the picture from Jamie Oliver's site as the waffle smelled so good as it came out the pan and was inhaled so quickly, there wasn't anything left to photograph.

  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 300 mls (whole) milk
  • 225 gms self raising flour
  • 2 teaspns baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 100 gms butter, melted and allowed to cool
  • Extra butter to grease the pan

  1. Whisk the eggs and the milk together
  2. Sift in the flour, baking powder and salt
  3. Once combined, add in the 100 gms melted butter and gently fold it in
  4. Do not whisk any more or else you'll have stodgy waffles
  5. Put the pan on a high heat and grease it with the extra butter
  6. Pour in the batter and swirl it around gently until it's covered the pan base
  7. Turn down the heat to allow the mixture to start to set without burning on the bottom
  8. Cook for 6 mins until it's golden brown on the bottom
  9. Flip the waffle on the other side and cook for a further 6 mins or so*
  10. Flip the waffle again and cook for another min or so and then back onto the other side for another min
  11. Serve with your desired topping of bacon/maple syrup/eggs or berries/crème fraîche

* We flipped it onto a plate and slide it back in to the pan the other way up.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

H is for Hawaii

Regular readers of my posts know I don't need much of an excuse for a celebration. That's mostly because I like mixing it up and having different types of evenings.

It's also because while lots of people come around for food, my guests typically include a core cohort of family members. The regularity of their attendance means I want to keep them surprised...and that's easier through themes.

I also firmly believe that an evening is made up of so much more than food.  Having quirky decorations that work with the food and spark conversations also help an evening along.  You don't just go to restaurant for food and for someone else to do the washing up.

This weekend is no exception to the above and sees me shift the celebration of Hawaii Day from 21st August a couple of days back to the 23rd and a Saturday evening for a film night.  The choice of film is going to divide the guests as I'm asking them to choose between From Here to Eternity and Runaway Bride.

And what connects these two...well both incorporate my Hawaii Luau themed food and decorations.  Didn't see that coming, did you!?!  Well you probably did...

So here's the idea board behind my party.

So I've raided Amazon for cheap rattan screens, tacky plastic flower leis, half coconut shells, cocktail umbrellas and paper lanterns.  Tesco/Supermarkets do some great orchid plants which can jazz up the table before spending the rest of their days in the bathroom...they love the humidity of that room.

We actually already have the shirts and flip flops from a pool party a number of years ago.

And the Tiki totem poles are just clip art that I will print off and stick to tall glass handle holders.

And for a menu, I've gone for one featured on Sunset.

Everything's being served as a buffet so people can watch and eat, or eat and chat.  Whatever suits them most.  And here are the food cards I'm using for the buffet, which can be downloaded here and then printed off.

Now where's that Beach Boys' CD...

Sunday, 10 August 2014

L is for Left-Handers' Day

My brother is left handed which puts him in a group that makes up only 10 to 12% of the population.

But when we were kids, I never realized what a struggle he had with every day objects.  Fortunately my parents were not the type to make him use his right hand, but everyday objects are not so forgiving so things like pens, scissors and even tin-openers were a daily challenge.

But having come across the website Anything Left Handed a while ago, his next few presents may see some items work their way into the packages that work for him properly...although after all these years, he may have more difficulty using these left handed design ones than the regular ones at home!

His first present will be a bit of a surprise as am sure he doesn't know that there's a Left-Handers' Day, let alone that it's on 13 August.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

B is for Book Lover's Day

This Sunday (10 August) is a day I can designate to celebrate two of my main passions: books and food.

Throughout literature, many memorable moments have been marked with meals.

And this book looks to bring to life the food hidden in pages.  It's called Fictitious Dishes: An Album of Literature's Most Memorable Meals and is written by Dinah Fried.

It's beautiful.  If you do buy a copy, please buy the hardback version. And this is not one for the Kindle.

One of my most memorable meals was detailed in Heidi by Johanna Spyri and features the toasted cheese & bread that the eponymous girl was fed when she spent her first night with her grandfather--cheese that was so golden from its time on the fork near the fire that it was as soft as butter.

And it's faithfully recreated in the book.

As are a number of other meals from many of my favourite reads...

For me, it's something to relax over and the perfect way to spend Book Lover's Day.  But if you need more prompting, check out the book's website before you buy.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

A is for August

Writing a blog post always results in two main emotions.

On the positive front, joy. I enjoy writing. I like the positive feedback I get from family and friends and when someone tells me that an activity / a recipe posted was copied and worked.

On the negative side, it can be quite boring.  You have to do quite a lot of research to come up with a new post and just as you're about to publish, you realize that that type of topic has traditionally scored very low on your traffic analysis.

One post that did see a bit of a spike though was the July calendar one and so while some could accuse me of pandering, I would argue that I should give people what they want!

So here's my initial calendar for the month of August for things to do (some very self explanatory) and ideas that I will cover this coming month:

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat

International Beer Day

3 4 5 6 7 8 9

Book Lover’s Day

10 11 12 13


14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21

Hawaii Day

22 23

Waffle Day

25 26 27 28 29 30

Trail Mix Day

Let me know if you'd like to see a special event in your country or culture listed here.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

C is for Crème Brûlée

There is something very simple, but very delicious about a luscious Crème Brûlée.  Cracking through that crispy disc of caramelized sugar to dip into the velvet smoothness of vanilla custard.  

And this is the recipe I use to make six ramekins of ambrosia (and that's not the canned/packet stuff)!

  • 500 mls double cream
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 100 gms caster sugar
  • 6 tblspn caster sugar (to sprinkle)

  1. Turn on the oven to 150℃ to pre-heat
  2. Cut the vanilla pod down the middle and scrape out the seeds by running the back of your knife along the skin of the pod (both sides inside) and dumping the seed pulp into the cream.  Put in the pod too.
  3. Bring the vanilla cream in a pan to boiling point (when you can see it's just beyond scalded) and then simmer for 5 mins
  4. While this is simmering, whisk the egg yolks with the 100 gms sugar until the mix is pale and fluffy
  5. Fish out the (empty) pod and bring the cream back up to the boiling point and then whisking the egg mix furiously, pour the cream into the bowl.  If you don't whisk enough, you will only have scrambled eggs
  6. Pour the mix into six ramekins until they're about ⅔-rds full
  7. Put the ramekins in a deep roasting tray and pour water into the tray (not the ramekins) until the water's about half way up the outside of the dishes to form a bain marie
  8. Then carefully put the tray in the oven and leave to cook for 40-45 mins.  It should still wobble a bit as the dish will continue to cook slightly out of the oven
  9. Immediately take out the ramekins from the water (I use my kitchen tongs to do this) and leave to cool
  10. Chill until needed (easily left overnight)
  11. When you come to serve, sprinkle over a tablespoon of caster sugar per ramekin and put under your hottest grill setting to caramelize OR you can use a blowtorch
Obviously you have to be careful, but I tend to use my husband's blow torch as it's a lot quicker.

Are you ready to serve up Crème Brûlée on Crème Brûlée Day on 27 July.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

T is for Teddy Bears' Picnic Day

So it's not helpful that it's ended up being mid-week, but you could always shift the celebrations from 10th July to the weekend...

And I'm not talking about a party to suit a slightly scary Peter Pan-personality type that has hundreds of plush toys that have taken over the corner of the master bedroom of a 40-year-old.  I'm talking about a party for the kiddies.

So here are some of the ideas I have:

I already have the tiffin boxes and will be serving lots of child-friendly food drawing from the list from the Beeb.  And to keep costs down, I will make a bright picnic blanket and similar tree cushions to mimic the woods in which the picnic will take place as the patterns are very easy, although you can buy a similar picnic blanket and the cushions should you so choose.

Now all I have to do is to download the music by John Walter Bratton, which dates back to 1907.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

J is for July

I do love my planning!  Know it's a bit much for some people...but for others....

And for all those of you out there, here's my overview of July food-related celebrations for any prior preparation.

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat

Canada Day
2 3 4

Independence Day

6 7

Macaroni Day

8 9 10

Teddy Bears' Picnic Day

11 12
13 14

Bastille Day

15 16 17 18 19
20 21 22 23 24 25 26

Cuban Revolution Day


Crème Brûlée Day

28 29 30


Friday, 4 July 2014

T is for Tour de France - Le Grand Départ

We're off up to Yorkshire ce soir to see the Tour de France come through the county which has gone to town on yellow shirts and cyclists. And I spotted this in a butchers' window in Ripon.

Am looking forward to the weekend and seeing the action unfold.  And to ensure everyone understands what's going on...

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

I is for Independence Day

I have always shied away from Fourth July celebrations, but I'm currently doing some work for an American company and we're getting the day off!  So I'll ignore the fact that it's a celebration of becoming independent from the UK, and dig out the bunting I made for the Jubilee celebrations given the red/white/blue theme works for both!

And after a quick conflab with some colleagues, I'm also now hosting a small soirée.  I'm going for the full American experience...for which I'm turning to Martha for support.

First off...given the heatwave we're experiencing...I'm making up some fans.

Couldn't be easier.  Print off the templates onto light card, fold and stick to the stick.

These napkin rings are just as easy. Cut out four stars per 'ring', attach two to either side of the end of the string and wrap loosely around your cloth.  Adjust the colours according to your table linen.

And I'm also using a Martha menu for the day although I'm replacing the pudding with a star-themed one (also from Martha) to mirror the stars on the table.   I know the design of the menu's OTT (and that I may have to explain that phrase)...but it's fun!

And finally here's some music to play (in no particular order):
  • America – Tracy Chapman
  • Englishman in New York – Sting (given it’s being served in England)
  • Breakfast in America – Supertramp
  • Fairytale of New York – The Pogues
  • America – Neil Diamond
  • New York – Paloma Faith
  • Kids in America – Kim Wilde
  • King of New York – Fun Lovin’ Criminals
  • Living in America – James Brown
  • New York, New York – Frank Sinatra
  • Let the Rover Run – Carly Simon
  • Americanos – Holly Johnson
  • American Woman – The Guess Who
  • American Pie – Don McLean
  • American Beauty – Dead Already
  • American Life - Madonna
  • Young Americans – David Bowie
  • America! – Cast of West Side Story
  • Americano – Brian Setzer Orchestra
  • Born in the USA – Bruce Springsteen

What will you be up to?

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

C is for Constance Spry (and Coronation Chicken)

I bought the biography of Constance Spry before Christmas last year, but for some reason have only just gotten 'round to reading it.

Am so glad I did...although it has now led to a few more purchases from the Amazon used book options as was inspired to find out more about her work.

Spry (née Fletcher) was a British educator, florist and author in the mid-20th century.  Her main line was flowers...fashioning bouquets for all the right aristos...although she became a huge advocate of 'Grow Your Own' during the Second World War.

After the war she'd made enough of a name to team up with Rosemary Hume (of Le Cordon Bleu fame) to found a domestic science school at Winkfield Place (now closed).

But it was in 1953 though when Spry really shot to fame when she arranged the flowers for Queen Elizabeth II's coronation, and was involved in the celebratory meal enjoyed by the visiting dignitaries that was cooked by the Winkfield students.

And so, although it was Hume's recipe, its first publication was in the 1956 publication The Constance Spry Cookery Book under the far posher title of Poulet Reine Elizabeth.

And it's an excellent recipe for both a meaty salad and a sandwich filling, but I now use Felicity Cloake's recipe as it's lighter than the original.

  • 1 chicken
  • 6 peppercorns
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 cm piece of ginger, chopped in half
  • Pinch of saffron
  • Pinch of salt
  •  5 tblspns mango chutney
  • 50 grms dried apricots, finely chopped
  • 2 tblspn mild curry powder
  • 2 teaspns Worcestershire Sauce
  • 200 mls mayonnaise
  • 200 mls Greek yoghurt
  • 50 grms flaked almonds, lightly toasted
  • 2 tblspn flatleaf parsley, roughly chopped*
  • S&P
  • Some cos/little gem lettuce leaves
* You can (obviously) use coriander as per the recipe

  1. Poach the chicken in a pan of water with the peppercorns, cinnamon, bay leaves, half the ginger, saffron and some salt
  2. Simmer very gently for 1½ hours or until the chicken's cooked (test the leg meat)
  3. Pour off the liquid, discard the spices and shred the chicken meat
  4. Toast the curry powder in a pan bring out the fragrance and finely chop the remaining ginger
  5. Mix these with the mango chutney and the apricot 
  6. Then add in the Worcestershire Sauce, mayo and yoghurt
  7. Season to taste
  8. Once the chicken is cold, fold into the sauce with the parsley and refrigerate for a couple of hours
  9. Serve on the lettuce and scatter over the toasted almonds at the last minute

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

T is for Ten Mistakes in the Kitchen

**Warning...blood mentioned in this post**

A friend of mine nearly sliced half her finger in half today.  We were sitting in her kitchen as she chopped up her vegetables and...arghh...splurt.

It's fine...she's wasn't (incredibly fortunately) as bad as it looked.  And the reason...a blunt knife.   As it was blunt she'd inadvertently put more pressure on the knife and when it didn't cut through the onion, it sheared into her finger.  Ouch.'s my starter for ten on the top mistakes made when cooking (most of which only lead to bad food).   Just note the with the English language, the exceptions prove the rule!

1. Blunt knives
To avoid the above injury, please keep your knives sharp using a steel.

There are lots of videos and guides on the web as to how to use one. If your knife is already blunt (often called dull), then go to a professional to resharpen properly (i.e. your local butcher).

2. Read the whole recipe
There's nothing more frustrating than getting halfway through a recipe and then realize that your sauce is developing a skin as you chop up some more ingredients.

Reading through the recipe (actually best done twice) before you start cooking means you know what's coming up and can prep everything up front so you look like a pro.  And you can put your oven on to heat up as needed.

3. Cook food at room temperature
This especially applies to meat, fish, eggs and butter.

The meat, fish and eggs won't cook through properly if you've put them in a hot pan/oven straight from the fridge.

Butter meanwhile is a pig to mix in when it's cold hard.

The exception is a pastry (pie) case. If it's not chilled your pastry shrinks in the oven and can crack.

4. Cook at the right temperature
This applies to both the hob and the oven.

With protein (fish and meat), your pan needs to be hot so that it sears the flesh and stops the juices leaking.  With onions/leeks/garlic, you want your pan to be on a low heat to allow them to soften gently.

And what you dial your oven temperature to on the controls may not be the real temperature inside.  A cheap self-standing gauge will tell you if your oven is actually (sometimes as much as 15-20℃) hotter or cooler than you think.

5. Add ingredients to a warm/hot pan
If you add ingredients to a cold pan with the oil, the food will soak up the oil and stick more easily.  Heat up your pan. Wait till it's the right temperature and add your oil. Wait five seconds and then add your food.

There are two exceptions to this: bacon and duck.  Both are fatty and bringing the pan to temperature with the food in them (no fat needed, duck skin side down) means they start to render their fat before browning/being seared.

6. Season as you go
The best food flavours are layered.  So add salt and pepper at the beginning of cooking.  Spices are added quite quickly to allow their flavours to develop.  As food cooks, taste and add more seasoning to suit.

Add herbs at the end so their freshness isn't obliterated.  Then, just as you come to serve, taste again and season again if necessary.

7. Use the right amount of water
If you're boiling potatoes, they need to be covered otherwise the bits sticking out of the water don't cook.

If you're cooking broccoli or asparagus, try to keep the tips out of the water so they steam and don't go mushy by the time the thicker stems are tender.

Bring pasta to boil in plenty of salted water so that it has space to swell and not just stick together.

Add the amount stated in the recipe when cooking rice so you don't end up with uncooked rice or a (even worse) watery mush.

8. Don't overcrowd pans
If you put too much food in a pan, it gives off the water from within and your food stews rather than browns.  This applies to meat and fish, but also to mushrooms and any other food that you want to allow to caramelize a little.

9. Cook food for the right amount of time
While this sounds like a simple one, factor in the time that something may sit in the hot pan while you finish off other things or thicken your sauce.  What were perfectly cooked vegetables and pasta have now steamed for another five minutes and are now soggy.

I also have two timers in my kitchen.  One is built into the cooker and one is a magnetic one that I can carry around with me.  Perfect if I have a fruit cake in the oven that takes two hours and I've started doing something else.

10. Rest your meat
I know this is often spoken about, but the number of people that I know that don't factor this into their timeline and so pull the meat out of the oven just as the rest of your food is cooked to perfection... You know who you are!

Also the time for resting is often under-estimated.  A steak needs a good 5+ mins to rest even if it's only taken 4 mins to cook.

A joint can rest up to half an hour so that the meat relaxes properly.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

S is for Soy Sauce

When I am writing recipes, I specify the type of soy sauce I use.  However lots of recipes don't and the people don't understand why their recipes aren't quite right.  It may be down to the soy sauce.

I only keep three types of soy sauce.  I keep two Chinese soy sauces (light and dark) and a bottle of Kikkoman.

I tend not to bother with the flavoured ones as I am using soy as a base and prefer to add my own fresh flavours through the ingredients.

Dark Chinese soy sauce is used for dishes where the sauce will caramelize.  Think hoisin ribs, char sui (barbecued pork)... It's also found in lots of Shanghainese (red) dishes.  You can use dark soy sauce when stir frying rice but I often finds it overpowers more delicate flavours like egg.

You need to cook dark soy sauce to get the flavour going and so while you do see dark soy sauce in some dipping sauce recipes, again I find that it overpowers the dumpling/roll you're dipping without really bringing out the correct flavour.

Light soy sauce is a younger, less fermented version. It is also saltier than its dark sibling which is already pretty salty.  If a recipe doesn't cite which type of Chinese soy sauce to use, I would always use light.

Both of types of Chinese soy sauces have bran when being made to add to depth of taste.  This is where my bottle of Kikkoman comes in.  As it's a lot more expensive, I tend to reserve this one for my sushi (where I'm only mixing in a little wasabi) and in broths where I want only a very light touch of the salty soy taste to come through.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

F is for Father's Day 2014

In 10 days time, Father's Day rolls around again and I'll actually be with my father that Sunday!

So am planning a fiesta with a bit of spice i.e. some dishes that my mother doesn't cook to make the day a bit special using the Mexican menu I drafted in my printables post at the end of April.

This menu comes from Real Simple and is very easy although I switch the red rice for wild rice.  The dishes are really colourful and it's quick to make them look appetizing.

But to make it all a bit more special, I drew up some other (free) printables for the occasion to complement the menu.

So I made some place cards to match...

And while these are available in the download, I have left them blank so you can write your own guests' names in.

And some disposable napkin rings which you can cut out and snip as per the dotted lines to slot together to form a ring.

They're just a bit of fun and package a bundle of serviettes which is useful given you need to use your hands for the tacos.

And if you want to go over the top, you can also cut out the confetti to scatter across your table.  Now, to go and buy a piñata...

If you would like the menu or the place cards in the original file formats, please message me.

Saturday, 31 May 2014

P is for Prawns

I love seafood and think it makes a great starter.   This recipe is another of my standbys as the raw prawns are frozen and so can be dug out when needed.  And at this time of year, I always have tomatoes and rocket around.

  • 7 king/tiger prawns per person
  • 2-3 cloves garlic*
  • 2 tblspn fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 tblspn ground cumin
  • Pinch of cayenne
  • 1 tblspn ground coriander
  • 1 teaspn (sweet) paprika
  • Zest and juice of a lemon
  • 4 cherry tomatoes per person, cut in half
  • ½ red bell pepper, skinned and cubed
  • Handful of rocket per person
  • 1 teaspn caster sugar
  • 1 tblspn sherry vinegar
  • 3 tblspns light olive oil / rapeseed oil
  • S&P
* if you're using chopped garlic from a jar, then use a level teaspoon per clove


  1. Mix the frozen prawns in the garlic, herbs, spices and lemon zest and one tablespoon of the oil and leave to defrost
  2. Soak wooden skewers in water for 20 mins so they don't burn when cooked
  3. Thread the defrosted prawns on the skewers
  4. Pan fry the skewers (easier than pan frying individual prawns) until the prawns turn pink/are cooked
  5. Meanwhile toss the tomatoes, pepper cubes (if using) and rocket in the remaining oil, vinegar and sugar
  6. Season the salad to taste
  7. Pour the marinade over the prawns for the last minute of cooking
  8. Un-skewer the prawns and toss them in the lemon juice
  9. Arrange seven prawns and some salad on each plate as desired^
^ Arranging uneven numbers of food on a plate for some reason looks more appealing.

Friday, 23 May 2014

C is for Chelsea Flower Show

It's been a couple of weeks since I've been able to post due to the lovely weather and work in the garden, but I wanted to put up some pictures from RHS Chelsea as it was so lovely again.

Here are a few phone pictures of my taking my better camera next year!

The Telegraph Garden by Tommaso del Buono and Paul Gazerwitz
Love the euphorbia next to the clipped box balls.

The Viking Cruises Norse Artisan Garden by Sadie May Stowell
Liked the runes in the stepping stones

The large Imari china balls in the Arita Artisan Garden by Shuko Noda 
The mini tree sculptures in the Hillier Nurseries section in the Pavilion
But one idea that will be easy to recreate was from the estate agents on the way to the show, using Wellington boots as plant holders.  This would be great by the back door.

And if you missed the show entirely, have a look at the pictures online either on The Telegraph site or elsewhere.

Saturday, 3 May 2014

C is for Chicken Salad

As the weather starts to warm up, I have to rethink most of my weekend meals.  On the vast majority in the winter, I cook up a roast.  They're just so easy.  And it means I get time to relax and do other things.

However with the weather warming up, I have to start to rethink my weekend repasts and 'summer' up my recipes.

And this roast chicken salad is one of my favourites as the chicken is really well flavoured and moist.  Note the roasties so it still 'eats' like a good meal.

  • 1 roast chicken (size depending on number of people being fed)
  • ½ an onion, skinned, top and tailed
  • 1 pack of Boursin (150 gms size, or any other soft flavored creamy cheese)
  • 2 rashers of streaky bacon per person
  • 2 tblspns pine nuts
  • Salad leaves
  • Spring onions
  • Cucumber
  • Radishes
  • 2 teaspns dijon mustard
  • White wine vinegar
  • S&P

  1. Unpack the Boursin into a disposable piping bag / large freezer bag and leave to soften
  2. Take the chicken and using a wooden spoon, carefully part the chicken skin from the breast so it doesn't tear  
  3. Use a pair of scissors to snip the membrane holding the skin to the breast bone without cutting through the skin
  4. Put the half onion in the bird cavity
  5. Snip the end / a corner off the Boursin bag and pipe the cheese into the space between the chicken and the skin.  Massage through the skin to check it evenly covers the whole breast area
  6. Rub the skin with oil, season well and then layer over the bacon rashers to form a protective cover for the chicken/cheese
  7. Roast the chicken @ 180℃ for 1½ to 1¾ hours until the internal meat temperature reaches 72℃
  8. Once cooked, take out the chicken and remove the bacon strips from the chicken and set to one side (don't cover else they'll go soggy)
  9. Leave the chicken to rest
  10. Pour the cooking juices and the fat from the roasting tin into a clean jam jar and leave the lid off to cook a little
  11. Roast the pine nuts for 3½ mins @ 200℃
  12. Prep the salad cutting the spring onions into chunks, and slicing the cucumber and radishes
  13. Add the Dijon mustard to the cooking juices in the jam jar and add half as much vinegar as there are juices (or to taste)
  14. Season the vinaigrette, pop on the lid and shake together vigorously in the jar
  15. Toss the salad leaves, veggies and nuts together with the vinaigrette and serve with chicken carved into slices on top (making sure people get a bit of the cooked cheese), roasties* on the side and two bacon strips in a cross on top of the chicken
* New potatoes tossed with butter and fresh dill work well too.

Monday, 28 April 2014

P is for Printables

After a couple of missed deliveries while I was pottering in the garden, I created the below sign to direct people to find me:

But then got a bit carried away and did a sign for when I'm sewing (given I'm in the attic):

And I got to thinking about the entertaining I'm doing soon, so I decided on the three menus there and then...

Menu care of Real Simple

Leave me a comment if you'd like the template sent over.

Friday, 18 April 2014

P is for Place Cards

Last year we went around Grimsthorpe Castle just outside Bourne in Lincolnshire.  It's a lovely old stately home that's run independently and so still has the family living in it and aristos regularly come to visit.

During her lifetime, one of the regular visitors was Beatrix Potter.  So when I spotted these on the table as plate settings, it gave me inspiration for my Easter table this year.

I use Avery business cards (C32096) as my place cards. They're a good size and I know you're not suppose to put the names through the printer, but it really is much easier given that I'm usually printing a design on them and since I love typography.  

And here are some my B.Potter inspired set for the weekend.

Happy to provide the template upon request.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

L is for Lefton

I'm always looking for more unusual holders for my flowers and this shabby shot shows a Lefton rabbit à la Martha that's full of the joys of spring.

The rabbits will take pride of place on my Easter table this weekend.

Saturday, 5 April 2014

B is for Bread Sauce

Bread sauce is so good with chicken, but a faff to make properly.  So I have a shortcut version of the sauce:
  • Chop up half a white onion finely
  • Sauté the onion in butter over a medium heat until translucent (not coloured)
  • Take the pan off the heat and put in two star anise
  • Heap the onion bits over until the spice is covered
  • Leave for 15-20 mins for the flavour to steep
  • Discard the star anise and stir in a cup of frozen breadcrumbs to soak up any butter
  • Grate over quarter of a teaspoon of nutmeg
  • Stir constantly over a high heat for a full minute before adding in two cups of (whole) milk
  • Continuously stir until the sauce starts to bind together (basically when the milk boils)
  • Decant the contents into your serving dish and cover with cling film to keep it hot until needed
Serves two to four depending on whether you like lots of this tasty, traditional sauce!

Note I have not posted a picture of this as it looks like wallpaper paste.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

C is for Carrot Craft

I finally decided to tackle one of Martha Stewart's creations for April's Easter holiday. Here's how mine looked:

I didn't think they were that bad since I hadn't touched crepe paper for over 30 years. One thing I would change to the instructions is to make a cone out of (greaseproof) paper first, fill with sweets and fasten at the top. Then weave the paper around that. It was a lot easier than trying to wangle in sweets and weave the paper streamers around them to form the carrot especially since my hot hands would melt the sweets.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

R is for Rabbit

I know it's over a month to go before Easter, but I've already got my thinking cap on.  Matthew Mead published this idea on Miss Mustard Seed's blog a couple of years ago and I think it's a bit different.

Download the template from Pinterest, insert in a word document and then create text boxes to write over your menu.

I'm using light beige card (so they stand out from my white plates) and a matching pompom instead of a flower so I can make them up ahead of time.  But here's how my template looked pre-printing:

Now...the pompom...I used to make loads (35 years ago!).