Monday, 29 July 2013

weekend round up


Our-Weekends-Titled

Happy Monday, friends! Our weekend was full of fun, food and hard work.

{1} I started off Saturday morning with a run and a smoothie packed with Summer flavours (fresh orange juice, strawberries, mango and greek yoghurt). It was a refreshing start to the day, and a great way to get a good fruit boost.

{2} I spent Saturday afternoon with two of my favourite little people, Rachel and Annabel. We took a trip to a local farm, which Rachel was very excited about. There's a lot of amazing art around our city, and the tunnel on the way to the farm was no exception. Rachel was particularly interested in this life size drawing of a small boy and his teddy. I knew our time with the animals at St. Werburgh's City Farm would be limited, as the skies were heavy and grey, threatening rain for much of the day. Sure enough, the heavens opened with Summer rain, and we allowed ourselves to get drenched before finding shelter back at the car.

{3) While the rain continued to pour down outside, we returned to my house, and Rachel selected a book for us to read from my ever growing collection of children's stories. It turned out that 5 month old Annabel was far more interested in this book than Rachel, desperate to turn the pages and attempt to eat them, on occasion.

{4 & 5}Baking is one of my favourite things to do, and baking with children is no exception. So, Rachel and I whipped up a batch of gingerbread hearts and men. Rachel was quite the brilliant baker, simultaneously cutting hearts, and attending to Annabel to ensure that she was happy.

{6} The work on our desert of a garden has continued in earnest this weekend, and we were blessed with the help of John's Dad and brother to shift tonnes of rocks and bring a little bit of life to the ground with a tonne of soil. John's brother had travelled over from Paris, and kindly brought us some Parisian macaroons which look too pretty to devour, but I am sure we'll manage somehow!

{7} I mentioned on Friday that I have been thoroughly enjoying making bread from scratch recently. The Bacon & Cheddar bread in Paul Hollywood's How to Bake sounded good enough to make my mouth water, so I baked a loaf of this on Saturday morning, and it turned out beautifully.

{8 & 9} By the time Sunday came around, the sun decided to shine beautifully again, just in time for the annual Bristol Harbour Festival. My talented friend Lydia performed with her trio Just3 Harmony on the BBC Radio Bristol stage. The DJ's from BBC Radio Bristol took a photo of us for their Facebook page, and I just made the cut (see here for the photo - I'm the one in the bottom right hand corner)!

The weekend began and ended with having friends around for dinner, which is perhaps one of my favourite things to do. I hope your weekend was refreshing and restorative too.

Friday, 26 July 2013

cherry tomato & mozzarella bread

One of the things I love about baking is the simplicity of the ingredients in their raw form, and the endless possibilities to transform and create something that is both beautiful and delicious by combining ingredients that amount to so much more together than when they are on their own. Bread is the perfect example of something brilliant coming from very few ingredients, and I am thoroughly enjoying trying out a variety of bread recipes since the demise of our breadmaker. I like that it requires even fewer ingredients to make bread by hand than it did in the breadmaker.

A couple of weeks ago I baked two loaves of cherry tomato and mozarella bread to take to our Church home group to share. I love the way food brings people together, and I especially love it when you can easily share food with others. This is the perfect tear and share bread. It doesn't need to be neat, it just needs to be ripped, passed around and eaten.


This bread is absolutely at its best when eaten fresh from the oven, or warmed at a low temperature before eating. The flavours and texture are greatly improved by warmth, so is the sensation in your mouth and tummy as it is greeted by warm, squishy bread. 

ingredients:
500g strong white bread flour
10g salt
10g instant dried yeast
400ml tepid water
2tbsp olive oil
20 cherry tomatoes, chopped in half
1.5 balls of buffalo mozzarella (approximately 190g)
dried oregano

method:
1) Oil a large plastic container (2-3 litres)
2) Put the flour into a large mixing bowl, along with the salt and the yeast.
3) Add 300ml of the water and use your hands to slowly combine all of the ingredients. As the dough begins to come together, add the remaining 100ml of water.
4) Knead for 5 - 10 minutes, either by hand or in a freestanding mixer using the dough hook attachment until the dough is stretchy and still wet.
5) Add the 2 tbsp of oilive oil and continue to knead for another 2 minutes.
3) Place the dough in the oiled container, cover with an oiled lid, or a tea towel, and leave to prove in a warm place for 1 hour.
4) Line 2 large baking trays with parchment paper.
5) Dust your working surface with plenty of flour, then carefully tip the dough onto the floured surface.
6) Gently handle the dough and shape into a rectangle, taking care not to knock all of the air out - at this stage you would usually knock the dough back to release some of the air - but in this recipe the air is crucial in creating an amazingly light texture.
7) Cover the top of the dough with flour, then cut into quarters.
8) Stretch each piece of dough out, and place 2 pieces of dough on each baking tray.
9) Push 10 tomato halves into each piece of dough, along with a generous amount of shredded mozzarella. If you like a bit of a fiery kick, add some fresh chilli.
10) Sprinkle each loaf with some sea salt, cracked pepper, olive oil and oregano then leave to rest for 15 minutes while your oven pre-heats to 210C / gas mark 7/ 410F.
11) Bake for 15 - 20 mins, or until the loaves sound hollow when you tap them on the underside.
12) Serve warm with olive oil and balsamic vinegar for dipping.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

pregnancy @ 22 weeks

The weeks of this pregnancy seem to be flying past at an incredible speed. Right from the beginning, I have been waiting for pregnancy to stop feeling so normal, but it hasn't. Except for the rate at which I have had to prematurely disregard most of my Summer wardrobe, due to my ever expanding belly, everything feels normal. 

(Would you like to know what I am wearing today? A pair of denim shorts, held together with a hair-tie because they are so far beyond buttoning up! It's the height of maternity fashion, I tell you...or perhaps it is just the most practical alternative I had to wear in this hot weather.)

I have surprised myself at how little reading on pregnancy and parenthood I have done so far. I thought that I would be someone who would want to devour books written on this new-to-me experience, but so far, all I have been reading is Ina May's Guide to Childbirth which is a fantastic book about her decades of experience as a midwife, and her understanding of how incredible the female body is when it comes to giving birth. And yet, at night time, my dreams have been filled with caesarean birth and trying not to laugh post c-section to avoid the sensation of my insides coming apart. Ouch. 

I am beginning to become more familiar with the movements of the little babe inside me. They have progressed from tiny flutters, to being tiny rhythmic movements that I can see through the skin on my belly, which feels as tight and taut as a drum, but looks as round as a football. I have had people comment that I have 'such a neat bump', and others saying how big my bump is for this stage in pregnancy. All I know is that the size of this little bump means that I have to roll over to get up from sitting or lying down, and as far as the scans show, the babe is growing in the best way possible. 

Over the last few weeks, the children in my class at school have been sharing some of their thoughts and questions with me and their parents about the baby in my tummy, and I wanted to write them down so that I can remember their wonderful ways with words:

'Have you got a baby in your tummy, 'cos your tummy's really fat!'

'There's a baby inside Mrs. King's tummy, but they're sleeping so they're not ready to come out yet.'

'You've got a baby inside your tumbly!'

'When can we see your baby? Will we see it tomorrow?'

'How will it get out?'

'There's a baby inside your tummy and it's getting bigger and bigger and then it's gonna come out a hole in your tummy!'

There's nothing quite like children's honesty and curiosity, is there?!

Monday, 22 July 2013

weekend round up


Our-Weekends-Titled

Hello friends, this weekend was a little short of photo documentation, but definitely not short on action. Friday marked the last day of the academic year for me, which feels equal parts hard to believe, and desperately overdue. The last few weeks of school have been a whirlwind, leaving me very little breathing space in the week, which is why I have not managed to write a blog post since this time last week.

{1&2} Ever since we got married three years ago, we have enjoyed fresh, homemade bread each week, thanks to the bread maker I was given years ago for my 21st birthday. About a month before we moved house, back in May, the beloved bread maker stopped working. Since then, I have entertained the idea of baking more bread from scratch using muscle power and the warmth of our airing cupboard for proving. On Sunday morning, I baked a cottage loaf, and while it is more time consuming than popping all of the ingredients in a bread maker, I am enjoying the variety of breads you can make by hand.

{3} This is just a small glimpse int the work that has taken place in our garden over the weekend. We only have a small garden, but the builders who renovated filled in the entire space with rocks, rubble and clay. So, in order to create any kind of 'garden', we (and by 'we' I mean John) have spent hours and hours pick-axing the rocks and loading them into rubble sacks. On Saturday, we collected some top soil from a couple of different locations around the city and created a small flower patch in the midst of our rocky desert.

{4) I spent some time sewing little hexagons for part of a baby quilt for a friend that desperately needs finishing. I am hoping that now it is finally the school holidays, I will manage to spend some time finishing the quilt, and starting some sewing projects for our baby.

Not pictured but featured in our weekend: Enormous burgers, the acquisition of a new sofa & arm chairs, a smashed iPhone, a vandalised bike and a whole lot of sunshine.


Tuesday, 16 July 2013

weekend round up

Hello friends, this weekend's round up is coming a day later than I had hoped, as yesterday was filled with tying up loose ends at school in this last week of the academic year, present shopping, planning with John, and eating. By the time all of that was said and done, there was not a moment spare to blog about our weekend. But it was a lovely one, so even though this is late, I still wanted to document it.

Our-Weekends-Titled

We had the pleasure of hosting a couple of our friends from London this weekend, and we made made the most of the glorious sunshine on Saturday, spending the entire day outdoors. In the morning we took a trip to the Foodie Festival by the harbourside, where we sampled delicious cheeses, thai food, gelato and ginger beer. It was insanely hot there and I envied the little children running through the fountains wearing as little as possible.
There was the most incredible range of herbs available, which I foolishly didn't take advantage of - hundreds of varieties of mint, coriander and basil that I didn't know existed, along with many, many more. If only I could find out where the man lives who grows them...
On Saturday afternoon, we planned to go to the Lido (open air pool) in Portishead. It's wonderfully retro and cheap, with a beautiful view of the Severn Estuary, We knew it would be busy on such a hot day, but we didn't have the stamina to queue for hours (literally) to get in for a 20 minute swim, So instead, we ascended the little hill behind the Lido where the small number of other people enjoying the breeze and the view was a beautiful contrast to the heaving crowds of people splashing about in the Lido below us. We happily stayed on the hill for a few hours, grazing on salads and napping in the sun, enjoying time with our friends.
I neglected to take many more photos of the rest of the weekend, which included a quick trip to a car boot sale, early on Sunday morning (I found some wonderful bargains, all for 50p each, which I will share another time), rock shovelling, and sharing Sunday lunch with a friend and her five week old son. I love weekends! How was yours?
 

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

hummingbird cake

I love this cake for its name, as much as anything else. I had the pleasure of baking this cake with my brother, Ben, when he came to stay, although I was cruel enough to deny him the pleasure of eating any before he caught the train home! It is a rare occasion that I have company when I am baking, and it made a lovely change.

If you have bananas that are well past their best, and some pineapple that's in need of eating, this is the perfect recipe. You could even say that it's verging on being healthy, with two portions of fruit in it!

ingredients (makes 2 x 8 inch sponges. If you'd like it to be even bigger, increase the quantities by a third, and make another layer!)
200g caster sugar
2 eggs
200ml sunflower oil
180g very ripe bananas, mashed (approx. 2 bananas)
200g plain flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp bi-carbonate of soda
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
35g chopped pineapple
25g pecans, chopped

for the icing
600g icing (confectioner's) sugar
100g unsalted butter at room temperature
250g Philadelphia

method
1) Preheat oven to 170C / Gas mark 3 / 325F. Grease and line 2 x 8 inch round cake tins.
2) Place the sugar, eggs, oil, banana and cinnamon into a large mixing bowl. Beat until the ingredients are well combined.
3) Gradually add the flour, vanilla and bi-carb, and continue to mix until everything is incorporated.
4) Gently stir in the chopped pecans and pineapple.
5) Pour into tins and bake in preheated oven for 20 - 25 mins.
6) Remove from oven and leave to cool for a few minutes before removing from tins to finish cooling on a wire cooling rack.
7) To make the frosting, if you are using a freestanding mixer, place all of the ingredients into the bowl and beat for a few minutes until beautifully smooth.
If you are using am electric hand mixer, or sheer muscle power, I recommend beating the butter first, then gradually adding the icing sugar and cream cheese to get a more even consistency.

Monday, 8 July 2013

weekend round up // London


Our-Weekends-Titled

Happy Monday, Friends! I'm joining in with Mary Beth's weekend link up again. John flew back from Alaska on Friday, and we spent the weekend with his parents in London. How was your weekend?

{1 + 2} Morning walks in Dulwich Park Such a refreshing way to begin my Saturday morning, enjoying the quiet of the day in the warmth of the morning sun. I love the way the name of the entrance to the park is etched into stone in the second photo, withstanding the impact of time in a way that only stone can weather.

{3} Roses - these are my favourite kind of roses with their layers upon layers of petals. Just beautiful. Does anyone know what they are called?

{4) Wildlife - This colourful dragonfly in my in-law's garden seemed extremely placid and happy to sit around having its photo taken!

{5 + 6} Grilled Corn - we dined al fresco in John's parents' garden - this is one of my favourite thing about Summer and I am so excited about the prospect of turning our garden into a beautiful little haven to enjoy while we eat outside. As well as grilled corn, we enjoyed homemade miniature pizza's. Delicious.

{7 }XLP Arts Showcase - XLP is a charity that works with teenagers across London to support and empower them to realise their potential and make great choices with their lives. Each year, they hold an Arts Showcase with a panel of judges from within the music industry, to share the talents of the young people of London. And oh my, were they talented.

{8} Halfway through the Arts Showcase, we had to be evacuated from the building, due to the fire alarms being set off. Thankfully, there wasn't a fire, and we got to spend half an hour on the streets of London, listening to past Showcase Performers sing gospel music - it was basically Sister Act in real life - and if you know me, you know this was one of my favourite films when I was growing up.

{9} On Sunday, we enjoyed some delicious tapas while catching up with friends at Angels and Gypsies, and my virgin mojito provided the perfect refreshing drink on a seriously hot day. (Not pictured - watching Andy Murray win the Wimbledon final - Hooray!!!)

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Cranachan


In my weekend round up post, I mentioned making Cranachan, and that I would share the recipe, so, here it is! Cranachan is a dessert which originates from Scotland, and traditionally has whisky in it. This recipe is a slight variation on the original, with the addition of orange juice and zest, and balancing out the whipped cream with yoghurt.
I think my favourite part of this dessert is the presentation. There is something about dessert in jars that appeals to me. Serving it in jars also means it's very easily transportable, so if you want to pop some spares round to a friend, it's very easy to do so without risking making a mess of the dessert.
 I also added some vanilla bean paste, which always makes sweet treats better, in my humble opinion.

ingredients (makes 4 x 250ml tumblers worth of Cranachan)
500g / 2 cups frozen raspberries
Zest & juice of 1 orange
100g / 1 cup rolled oats
50g / 4 tbsp unsalted butter at room temperature
150 ml / half cup of double (heavy) cream
140 ml / half cup of greek or natural yoghurt
2 tbsp caster or granulated sugar
3 tbsp good quality honey
2 fingers of shortbread

method
1) Place the raspberries, orange juice, zest and 1 tbsp of the honey into a saucepan. Bring to the boil.
2) When the berries start releasing their juices, spoon out the berries with a slotted spoon, leaving the juices in the pan, and continue to simmer until the juices boil down to a syrup.
3) Pour the syrup over the raspberries, and leave to cool until ready to serve.
4) Melt the butter and the remaining 2 tablespoons of honey in a large frying pan. Stir in the oats and cook gently, stirring regularly, until the oats are lightly toasted.
5) Whip the double cream and caster sugar until soft peaks form, then stir in the vanilla paste or extract, and the yoghurt.
6) Take your receptacle of choice and start by layering the raspberries, followed by some of the cream mixture and a sprinkling of oats. Crumble some of the shortbread on top of the oats, then repeat until you have filled your jars up.
7) Chill until ready to eat.

Monday, 1 July 2013

weekend round up & link up

Happy Monday, friends! I am linking up with the lovely Mary Beth today on her weekly weekend link up
Our-Weekends-Titled

1) This weekend saw some good, hard labour in our garden - John reached a milestone in his pick-axing of all of the rubble and rocks, and reached a point where he is happy that our ground is ready for some soil so that we can bring some life to this barren piece of land that is our 'garden'.

2 & 3) Making Cranachan. The sweet smell of raspberries simmering with orange juice is the perfect Summery scent to fill your kitchen with on a sunny day. I had been planning on making Cranachan all week long, but it didn't happen until Sunday afternoon, when the cream was threatening to turn if I didn't use it. I was thankful to have friends as neighbours who were happy to help me out with eating the Cranachan. (Look out for the recipe later this week.)

4) After Church on Sunday, I wandered around a part of the city that I don't often to go anymore, and these beautifully bright watering cans caught my eye in Butler's. (A lovely shop if ever you are in need 9of something pretty for your home.) I was slightly tempted to buy one in every colour, but resisted and bought a pretty bowl instead to add to my growing collection.

5) On Saturday morning, I discovered a new restaurant that had opened up nearby, while perusing a Bristol Magazine. River Cottage is part of a family of restaurants run by the well know British chef, Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall.  By the time I had finished reading the article about River Cottage Canteen, my mouth was watering, and I was excited by the prospect of dining in a beautiful Grade II listed building. A quick phone call later, and we had booked a table for that evening. It was a lovely place to spend our last evening together before John flew to Alaska for the week.

6) In preparation for John being away this week, I carried on a tradition that has been a feature of our relationship since the early days, of writing letters to hide in his suitcase for him to discover and read throughout the week.

7) I relished a two hour coffee shop session all by myself after taking John to the coach station to start his journey to Alaska. Sometimes I love taking the time out to read, write and reflect in a coffee shop. I know I can do this at home, but there is something refreshing about being in a different setting that I love.

8) A glimspe of my blue spotty skirt, which is one of the few items of clothing that fits around my growing belly. The only disadvantage is that even though it has been keeping me cool in the sunshine, it does nothing to respect my dignity when a little gust of wind comes along and does its best to whip the skirt up for all to see my underwear. Needless to say, I have been walking around the city like a penguin with my arms glued to my side, and am extremely grateful for the selection of maternity clothes I purchased today which will do a better job of protecting my modesty and dignity.

9) Speaking of dignity, the school chickens have played their role in embarrassing me just a tiny little bit today. Having fed the hungry chickens at 10am this morning, it wasn't until I was lying in the dentist's chair at 3pm this afternoon that I spotted some chicken poop adorning my ankles. Oh the horror. Still, I'll let the chickens off, as they do a great job of providing eggs for me to bake with. I love beginning my week with my children and our chickens at school. Today, the chickens were particularly entertaining - it seems they enjoy chasing butterflies!

How was your weeken? I'd love to hear about it! Did you go adventuring or eat anything delicious? Feel free to share in the comments section.