Friday, 29 June 2012

firsts

Well, it has been a little scarce round here recently hasn't it? I had not anticipated just how busy this last term of school would be. It is a little all consuming, so blogging has been a pushed to the sidelines. I've missed writing and taking photos of everything. So to catch up on recent happenings, here's a little list of firsts, as last week was a week of firsts for me. (Be warned this is a little on the random side.)

First experience of hayfever. Oh my. I have never sneezed so much in my life. Driving has just got a little more dangerous. 
First time of baking a batch of delicious goodies only to let them go mouldy. What a waste.
First time baking a cake covered entirely with Malteasers. This cake did not go to waste at all.

First encounter with Jesca Hoop. It was a spontaneous trip to the Colston Hall, initiated by new friends. I went home with a happy heart full of music and resolutions to be more spontaneous. 

First time to attend an annual Early Years Conference. I have lots of thoughts swimming around my head which I might just write about.

First visit to the circus! A while back John and I watched Water for elephants. I loved it and it made me cry. I think perhaps I rate a film on whether or not it makes me cry. This was a good one that I definitely recommend.
 
{This was perhaps the most impressive act of all - a giant spinning contraption that a man and a woman ran around on. My heart was in my mouth for quite a considerable amount of time!}

First time of picking school-grown strawberries. The children in my class have absolutely delighted in growing and harvesting produce this year.

We transformed the strawberries into jam today & baked a loaf of bread to eat the jam with. I love days like these.

I'm going on a weekend adventure for the hen party of one of my old housemates from university. It'll be lovely to catch up with some old friends and make some new friends too! Happy weekend one and all.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

nectarines.

There is nothing fancy going on in this post. Just pure, simple, juicy fruit. This afternoon, as I sat typing up reports for school, all I could smell was the aroma of the nectarines sat in our fruit bowl. I did not resist their temptations for long. Of course, I had to photograph them before consuming, and then blog about them. That's all. Thank you for humouring me in my choice of blog topic today. If you are sat reading this and shaking your head, thinking that I must be just a little bit crazy, I would not be at all surprised. If you are feeling in need of reading nourishment that is lacking here, I would highly recommend visiting Jessi at Naptime Diaries. She is a wise woman with 3 little sprogs (and she's my age). 

Friday, 15 June 2012

Foodie Friday

Can we talk about eggs for just a moment? They really are brilliant, aren't they? They are an integral ingredients in cakes. You separate them and the whites rise to the occasion and make perfect meringues, or macaroons, while the yolks make luscious lemon curd or fresh custard. You can scramble them, poach them, boil them, bake them and fry them. Seriously, how incredibly versatile are eggs? 

Despite their versatility, we don't often have them as the main protein in a main course. This could quite possibly be because Mr King might not find them filling enough. John's away at the moment, so I decided my dinner-for-one this evening would be baked eggs. The original recipe is one I came across in a lovely Marie Claire Seasonal recipe book. I made quite a few adaptions and the end result was tasty and surprisingly filling
Ingredients (makes 1 portion)
2 eggs
5 slices of courgette (also known as zucchini in other countries)
half an onion
6 slices chorizo
1 inch worth of celery
quarter of red bell pepper
cheddar cheese 
1. Pre-heat the oven to 190C / Gas mark 5 and butter an 8" ramekin / small ovenproof dish. 
2. In a deep frying pan / skillet, heat a knob of butter and a tiny slosh of oil.
3. Finely chop the onion, chorizo, celery, courgette & pepper, then gently saute until softened.
4. In a small bowl beat the eggs with a healthy amount of salt and pepper.
5. Transfer the sauteed vegetables into the buttered ramekin, and pour the beaten eggs over the top.
6. Grate cheese onto the top and place the ramekin into a roasting tin, half full with water.
7. Bake for 15 - 20mins or until set. (Mine took a lot longer - more like 50 mins but as I have mentioned before, our oven is a little funky. You'll know how powerful your oven is, so just go with the flow!)

50mm focus / pink {in the light of grey}

If you are reading this and you are not a current resident of England, it might enlighten you to know that Summer here is oh so very unpredictable. Every year, we are hopeful that this year, it will be different. This year, we will have a constant supply of sunshine. That maybe, just maybe, when the sun starts shining in April / May, it will carry on shining until September. Oh if only. Right now, I am not a great advocate of living in England - especially not for the weather. It is a wonderful place, but the weather is most definitely unreliable. Anyhow, the reason why I preclude this photo walk post with my sentiments about British weather is because the lack of sunshine means that the light for photography is far from best. The grey sky does not illuminate colour in the same way that sun does. I partly chose pink as the theme for this week because of the dominance of grey at the moment, and I needed to bring a little contrast in the form of pops of pink. My very need to go looking for colour was the idea for my first photo walk post.


Apart from the first photo, all images were shot with my 50mm fixed focus lens. The first image was taken out of our bedroom window with my 24 - 100mm lens, spying on the neighbour's beautiful peonies. The rest were captured at 8.40pm on Wednesday evening.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

apple and cinnamon muffins

This week I have the week off as it is the school holidays. I haven't had much on my agenda except for report writing. I don't know if it's all the extra time I have, or the rainy weather that makes it feel like Winter, but I have gone into baking overload. (Have you noticed? All I seem to be blogging about these days is food.)

I love a good breakfast, and as I had run out of my trusty granola this morning, I had the perfect excuse to bake something. I have lots of fruit to use up, so it was a choice between something containing blueberries, rhubarb or apple. I went with apple and baked up some muffins that went a little like this:

Apple and Cinnamon Muffins

ingredients

  • 2 dessert apples (any variety)
  • 100 g spelt flour
  • 150g plain flour
  • teaspoons baking powder
  • teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 125 g brown sugar, use an extra 4 for sprinkling
  • 60 ml natural or greek yoghurt
  • 60 ml vegetable oil
  • 65 ml applesauce
  • eggs
  • 30g natural almonds, roughly chopped

  • 15g oat bran
    15g ground almonds
    handful of sultanas or raisins
    60ml honey, 60ml hot water with 1 tbsp caster sugar dissolved (or 120ml honey)


    1) Preheat oven to 180C / gas mark 4. Line muffin tray with 12 muffin cases
    2) In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, 1 tsp cinnamon, sultanas, oat bran and ground almonds
    3) In a separate bowl, mix together the eggs, yoghurt, oil, applesauce, brown sugar and honey & sugar water mix
    4) Peel, core and dice the apples, then set aside.


    5) Combine wet and dry ingredients, then gently stir until just combined (overstirring = dense muffins)
    6) Stir in the diced apple
    7) Distribute the mixture between the muffin cases
    8) Combine the blanched, chopped almonds with 1 tsp cinnamon and 4 tsp brown sugar and sprinkle on top of each muffin

    9) Bake for 15 - 20 mins / until golden
    10) Place on cooling rack, or eat warm

    Wednesday, 6 June 2012

    macaroon technique / a work in progress

    For dessert on Sunday, I had meringues on my mind. This may well have been because the latest issue of the Delicious magazine had a giant pavlova on the front, or just because it's simple to make, Summery and delicious. At the last minute, I changed my mind from baking meringues to macaroons. I've never tried to bake macaroons before, but they seem to be quite the trendy thing to eat at the moments, so it seemed like high time I got on with it and baked some of these little delights. 

    The method was pretty simple - my main challenge was our little old oven. The temperature gauge cannot be relied on, and as macaroons exude a delicate nature, I thought that temperature was a very important factor. So I popped my oven thermometer in to give me an accurate reading, and it turns out that 250C in our oven is actually only 160C. I'm glad I checked, otherwise I would probably have ended up deflating my macaroons by opening the oven door too early. 
    I chose to make a mixture of chocolate and strawberry pink macaroons. Sadly, the pink ones turned out more flesh coloured than I was anticipating, so I've learnt a little lesson there.

    The chocolate macaroons were filled with nutella - piping nutella through a tiny star nozzle brought me great satisfaction. There's great pleasure in simple things. I filled the pink macaroons with a strawberry filling consisting of blended fresh strawberries and whipped cream, mixed together.
    ingredients {yields 20)
    175g icing (confectioners) sugar
    125g ground almonds
    3 large free range egg whites
    75g caster sugar
    cocoa (optional)

    for the filling
    120g nutella / chocolate spread
    100ml double cream
    handful of strawberries


    1) Preheat oven to 160C / gas mark 3
    2) Whizz together the icing sugar and ground almonds until well combined and fine in texture.
    3) If making chocolate macaroons, replace 2 tbsp icing sugar with cocoa.
    4) In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt until soft peaks form.
    5) Gradually whisk in the caster sugar.
    6) Stir in food colouring to the egg mixture - divide mixture into separate bowls if using multiple colours.
    7) Fold in half the icing sugar and almond mix using a metal spoon (to keep air in), then fold in second half.
    8) Spoon mixture into a piping bag fitted with a 1cm round nozzle and pipe 3cm rounds, well spaced out.
    {If you are unsure as to what a 3cm macaroon looks like, whip out your ruler!}

    9) Leave to sit for 10 - 15mins until a skin has formed on each macaroon
    10) Bake for 15 minutes then remove from oven and leave to cool for a couple of minutes before transferring to a cooling rack
    11) Pair up macaroons and sandwich together with a filling of your choice!

    Lessons I've learned about macaroon making:

    1) Remember to tap the tray to get the air bubbles out to avoid cracking
    2) Remember to leave macaroons for 15 mins pre-baking to form a skin on top
    3) Add more food colouring than you think you need to - the colour changes during baking

    Tuesday, 5 June 2012

    browned butter strawberry and banana bread


    In true British style, the weather has turned from glorious sunshine (see last weekend's photos at the beach) to grey skies and a whole lot of rain. Being outside is not appealing (although that has not stopped the crowds in London lining up to see all of the Queen's Jubilee processions), and being cosy and warm inside with a cup of coffee and a slice of cake in hand is very much more appealing. So, my line of thinking on a grey Saturday morning went a little like this:

    After reading about the idea for a Summer Manifesto, I started to think about what I might like to do this Summer (I am still just a little bit hopeful that England will see Summer this year...please, oh please). The first thoughts that came to my mind were about food and I didn't get to thinking beyond what I might like to cook, bake and make this Summer because I ended up baking Strawberry and Banana bread.

    Maybe it was because I had just been reading through some recipe books that my first thoughts were about the foods I might eat, or perhaps it was just that I like to think about food. Not so much meals, but what I might bake next. If you ask John, he will tell you that when it comes to thinking about our next meal, I am not very good. What he might not know is that at any one time, I can have numerous baking recipes running around my head, just waiting to be made. If we only needed to eat sweet things, perhaps I would be the one who did most of the cooking instead of John.

    Back to the food I was thinking about. Summer fruits. I love their flavour and I love their colour. Especially red. As I set about getting ready to bake, I thought about how red iugredients seem synonymous with Summer in my head. When it comes to clothes, I don't own many red items, but red shoes? I would happily wear red shoes every day if only they worked with more colours. But seriously, there is something very attractive about red food, especially strawberries and raspberries.

    After hunting around for a recipe, I came across one from Joy the Baker for Strawberry and Banana bread.

    This was the perfect recipe for a number of reasons:
    1) I had 3 incredibly ripe bananas that John was going to dispose of if I didn't make something with them.
    2) I had strawberries in my fridge leftover from cooking with my children at school that were a little bashed and bruised from children and car journeys but still perfectly delicious
    3) This recipe uses yoghurt and I have 2 buckets of the delicious creamy white stuff. (I buy it by the bucket these days and love that when we finish a bucket, I've got a useful storage solution for school)

    As Joy has already written out the recipe on her blog, I won't repeat the method here, but for the benefit of my English readers who might want to try it out, I will convert the ingredients for you from cups to grams to save you that job.
    ingredients
    140g light brown sugar
    70g strawberries
    500g plain flour
    1tsp baking powder
    3 bananas
    170g butter
    70ml plain or greek yoghurt
    {the rest of the ingredients don't need converting!}

    This is not the quickest banana bread recipe ever, but if you have time, the method is enjoyable and satisfying - I would happily bake this bread again for no other reason than the wonderful aroma of browned butter that filled my kitchen. And the addition of strawberries to banana bread? Sheer brilliance.

    Friday, 1 June 2012

    Foodie Friday / Guest Post

    In our house it tends to be the case that John does the cooking. And he is brilliant at it. Every night we eat delicious food (although sometimes he adds so much chilli it sets my mouth on fire) and it is high time I started keeping a record of the savoury goodness that comes out of our kitchen. 
    So today's recipe is for home made scotch eggs. Are they a British thing? I'm not sure. In all honesty, they have never, ever appealed to me before - boiled egg covered in a bit of meat and breadcrumbs. They are the kind of thing British people like to take on picnics. I don't know how or why that tradition started. They are not really my idea of a tasty treat. In fact, before John cooked them for me, a scotch egg had never found its way past my lips. Am I doing a good job of selling this to you?! If you are screwing up your face as you read this, thinking scotch eggs sound just as unappealing to you as they do to me, I am with you. But, let me tell you. Home made scotch eggs are a totally different story. My mouth is watering right now as I remember how delicious they were to eat. 


    As these were John's babies, he's kindly going to share the recipe with you. So, for the first time ever, I am handing my blog over to someone else, which is quite exciting. Enjoy!

    Hi Hannah's blog-fans! This recipe is so easy.  I have to pay tribute to my Mum because she made huge scotch eggs when we were kids with crushed cream cracker coatings. They were amazing and these are similar (though I've used breadcrumbs but cream crackers are more luxury). All you need are some sausages (or sausage meat), some eggs and some breadcrumbs (preferably homemade)... and an oven. 

    First you need to boil some eggs in salty water (the salt helps with peeling). Heston Blumenthal has a method for keeping the yolks all runny, but that involves being overly obsessive and using a deep fat fryer. After about 6 minutes or so put the eggs in cold water and peel them. Get the sausages and de-meat them. This is where you can get creative and add stuff to the sausage meat. This time I just added chopped red onion which works nicely. Take handfuls of sausage meat and wrap each egg in it, making a ball. I ended up with cricket ball sized scotch eggs. Next, roll them in the breadcrumbs. Put them in a hot oven on a baking tray for a while until they're brown and you're not scared that they're still raw. Roll them around a few times to get some nice crispy brown bits as they're cooking. I think these took about half an hour. Enjoy!
    Happy weekend, happy 1st June and Happy Jubille Weekend to anyone who is celebrating!