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but she loves everything else…

My lovely Foodie Penpal for May

Another month and another wonderful Foodie Penpals package.  Oh how I love getting home to a lovingly prepared box of foodie treats, and this month I was absolutely blown away by my goodies!

Kathryn over London Bakes was bang on with my likes and dislikes.  She catered to my love of all things tea and spice, with a little bit of something nice thrown in as well.  If you are reading my blog and are unsure as to what Foodie Pen Pals is all about head over to Captain Carol Anne’s This is Rock Salt blog for all the info.

Now to my stash, check it out..!!

As you can see Kathryn went all out, sweet and savory treats.  I couldn’t decide what to try first!

There was a delicious bar of Dark Chocolate with Cocoa Nibs, some divine Porcini mushrooms which are destined for a risotto soon, some Teapigs Popcorn Tea which I have fallen in love with and some bakey cake toppers and iced decorations…. the pressure is on now to connect with my inner baker and get creative!

As well as the more recognisable packets there were also two little tubs which grabbed my attention.

Appealing to my love of all things spice Kathryn had sent me two small pots, one of Pepper Steak Rub and another of Naga Jolokia, the world hottest dried chilli…. I’m taking the warning on the label very seriously!

In addition to my lovely foodie gifts, there was also a small packet of Garlic Chive seeds.  Kathryn was sent a pack of seeds in a previous Foodie Pen Pals package and liked the thought so much she send some on to me.  I have to say that I may also carry on this tradition.

So as I write this I’ve shouted to the hubby to put the jug on.  Time for  Popcorn Tea and some Guanaja Grue 70% dark choc..happiness is made of this… thank you again Kathryn for a wonderful parcel!

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My fabulous Foodie Pen Pal no.2.

I think everyone loves to receive gifts, even those ‘givers’ among us who love to shop for the perfect present, really secretly do love to be given something thoughtful by someone who takes the time to think about what you really would love.  This month, the second of Foodie Penpals UK, I was certainly not disappointed, Nicky over at Kabocha Fashionista was right on the money, tempting my sweet tooth and nurturing my inner tea jenny as well as including some tasty savory snacks too.

As you can see I was spoiled rotten! Organic Chocolate and Orange Cookies, Raw Carab Orange Brownies, Clif Bars, Creme Caramel TeaPigs Tea and the most beautiful little squeezy tube of Thai Curry Paste. Over the moon doesn’t even cut it, Nicky you little star, what a booty!

I do love a biccie with my cuppa and these little delights didn’t last long! I’d never heard of carob chocolate before so this bar was a first for me.  Carob is a healthier alternative to chocolate, lower calories and no caffeine, well worth a try as there are lots of carob products available now.

I am in love with this little gem.  I love curries and developed a severe weakness for Thai curry in particular when travelling there.   I’m keeping this last treat for a rainy day.  A day where only a curry will suffice, a day that I want to waste hours in my kitchen and cosy up afterwards warming bowl of hot steaming curry in hand.

So thank you Nicky for your wonderful package, the thought you put into choosing goodies for me and sending them so promptly.  I have absolutely loved taking part in Foodie Pen Pals again this month and can only encourage others to join.  To send and receive foodies treats… you’d be daft not to want to jump on the band wagon…. wouldn’t you?

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Really easy Roulade.. of the Chocolate variety

When it comes to chocolate I have a weakness.  When it comes to cake I have a weakness.  When you add fresh cream to chocolate and cake its sayonara baby, you lost me.. my head drifts into happy place where cosy slippers, cups of tea and cake eating reign supreme.

Back in the real world however, this brings me nicely onto last weeks Weekly Bake Off Challenge set by the lovely Amy.  Amy is baking and making her way through Mary Berry’s 100 Cakes & Bakes and is happily asking twitter friends and followers to join her on her journey.  Each week Amy chooses a bake and whoever wants to join in works their magic and sends a wee pic of the results to Amy to show off on her blogspot.

This was my second week of taking part, you can see my original efforts on my Hot Cross Buns post.  I love the fact that taking part encourages me to try new recipes and techniques with thus far really tasty results! The Kiwi is loving this new found love of baking… I might even get a KitchenAid yet!

So the Chocolate Roulade, it had my name all over it.  Creamy choclately cakey goodness, yes please..

Here’s what you need

  • 175g (6 oz) plain chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 175g (6 oz) caster sugar
  • 6 eggs, separated
  • 30 ml (2 level tbsp) cocoa, sieved
  • 300ml (10 fl oz) double cream
  • Icing sugar


Firstly you need to grab a swiss roll tin and line it with baking paper.  Marys suggests a 13 x 9 inch tin, mine was a wee bit bigger so although my roulade was thinner it rolled up a treat!

Next its chocolate time.  The recipe calls for plain chocolate but for for me there is nothing more luxurious and slightly naughty than a bar of dark Green & Blacks, rich, strong, and as I have now found, absolutely mouthwatering in this bakey treat.

Melt the choc over a pot of simmering water and allow to cool slightly.

To the egg yolks add the sugar and mix until really creamy, I used my hand mixer.  Once the mix was thick I added the cooled melted chocolate and stirred well.

Next up is the egg whites, Mary says whisk them in your mixer until they are stiff white peaks, not too dry though…. I wasn’t really sure what ‘not too dry’ meant?! I tipped the bowl upside down and they didnt fall out… I thought bonus, must be ready!

So far so good, stiff egg whites and thick egg yolks… check..

Once you have the chocolatey yolk mixture ready you should mix in two spoonful of egg whites to loosen the mixture before folding the rest of the egg whites in to make a rather unattractive brown sloppy concontion.  At this stage I was wondering what the hell Amy.. and Mary for that matter was on… however I bashed on.

So into the pan and in the oven to bake for 20 minutes or so… fingers and toes well and truely crossed!

And result… after a wee while a sheet of luscious dark sponge emerged.

The recipe states that you are best to leave the sponge over night covered with a damp tea towel, I did this however laid a cooling rack over the baking tin so the tea towel stayed off the sponge.  The next morning rolling and preeening was all that was required.

I was well chuffed by this stage, my first attempt at a roulade and it was looking.. thank the lord….like it could quite easily turn into a roulade! Happy Days!

Next came the tricky bit however… not whipping the cream, not slicing the strawberries… but to roll the bugger!

and then one final roll, a dash of icing sugar, a lovely plate and… Ta Da.. my first ever Choclate Roulade with fresh cream and Strawberries….. do I sounds smug?? … thats because I am…I made this!!  Cheers Mary!

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Our Clara takes the Type 1 cause to Westminster..

My good friend Clara has Type 1 diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes is a chronic, life theatening condition that affects 2.6 million people in the UK.  People with Type 1 diabetes rely on multiple insulin injections or pump infusions every day just to stay alive, until we find the cure.

Clara is 11.

Next week on the 25th April Clara will be one of only 3 children from Scotland to attend the Type 1 Parliament event at Westminster with JDRF.

At present, there is no definitive answer to what causes or how to cure Type 1 diabetes.  The only way for the cure for type 1 to be found is through greater investment in medical research.  The Type 1 Parliament event aims to secure further government funding into type 1 diabetes medical research and to push type 1 up the political agenda.

I am so proud of Clara, this bright, happy, energetic 11 year old that deals with type 1 every single day.. I have no doubt she will go to Westminster and prove a valuable member of the Type 1 team in promoting JDRF, Type 1 diabetes and raising awareness of a cause that can and may well affect each and every single one of us.

The following is a press release from Clara’s family, please do help share and spread the word about the event and Type 1.

………………………………………………………………………………………

Eleven year old Clara Cameron has won a competition to attend the first Type One Parliament. A day long flagship event at Westminster on Wednesday April 25th commencing at 8.15  a.m.

Clara, who lives near Dunkeld in Perthshire is one of only three children from Scotland and the only representative from Central and Southern Scotland. 

Her win was through a competition run by event organizers JDRF – the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. http://www.jdrf.org.uk  .

Clara was diagnosed with Type one diabetes on her 6th birthday, now 5 years ago. (Her father, Charlie, is also a Type 1 diabetic.) Since her diagnosis life has been a roller coaster, due to this very serious and life long disease. Clara lives with her parents and has two younger sisters.  All her family have written about how it has affected them. Quotes further on in this press release.

Why is she going to Westminster although health is a devolved matter in Scotland? Because the medical research budget is much larger in Westminster.  The Medical Research Council (MRC) which is responsible for setting the research agenda and identifying research priorities (of which we would like type 1 to be top of their list).

Key facts – of the £51m allocated for research into the growing problem of diabetes only £6m was applicable to Type 1. Those diagnosed with Type 1 in the under fives is growing five fold a year. It is essential to raise the profile of Type 1 diabetes, which is very different from Type2.

How does this condition affect Clara and her family?

Clara (11) wrote that

“When I got diabetes I felt … scared and terrified of what I had ahead of me.. awful, sad and upset that I had been diagnosed and annoyed.  But better in some ways, for I felt awful  and ill when I had not been diagnosed. Daddy had to cling onto me so that I would let the nurse do an injection, and we were in the ‘quiet room’ as they called it but I was making a terrible racket.

“ Even when I am feeling down I just have to think that I am still alive and that there are other people in this world with worse diseases and in the country.”

Her youngest sister  Grace  (aged 7) remembered that :

“I wanted to know what it was. When I knew it was  diabetes I was very sad and I wish I could change it. I wish I could make an inventions what takes away diabetes.  I don’t like it when she is low (her blood sugar level falls) she is shouty, but I know it is not her fault.  I can remember when daddy told me and Amy that Clara and Mummy had gone to hospital.”

Her other sister Amy (aged 9) said how 

“Scared, upset and worried she was when they found out about her  diabetes.  We felt as …. we were in a dream . She gets tearful sometimes.  Me and Grace always feel worried about Clara even if she is not low or high.”

How does type 1 differ to type 2 diabetes?

 

Type 1 diabetes is a very different, distinct condition to type 2 diabetes.  Type 1 is not linked to lifestyle choices, such as diet and exercise.

Type 1 diabetes is caused by a problem with the immune system that causes it to turn on itself and destroy the cells in the pancreas which produce insulin.

People living with type 1 diabetes rely on multiple daily insulin injections or pump infusions and finger prick blood tests every day, just to stay alive.

Fiona  Cameron, Clara’s mother wrote:

“I thought – my goodness she is having a big stretch because she was becoming skinny. She was then peeing her bed two or three times per night.  I went in to her room one night and saw the dark circles under her eyes, along with another wet bed. I went in to our room and the only thing I could see was my Charlie’s (my type 1 diabetic husband – Clara’s father)   test kit lying on the bed – it was as if there was a light shining on it.

“I tested her and then spoke to the doctor at NHS 24 who was very kind and lovely. I was clinging on to straws and said to him ‘is there ANY other explanation why her blood sugar could be this high?’ He said NO, – I then remember saying, ‘so, THIS IS IT’. I went downstairs and showed the blood sugar meter to Charlie. He sobbed his heart out (the only time he has ever been able to cry about this).

 

“We had specifically been told by a diabetes specialist doctor that our children were HIGHLY unlikely to develop diabetes  Maybe I would have worked it out sooner if I wasn’t actively thinking that it was NOT going to happen to us? As it was, we still diagnosed Clara very quickly –she had no ketones and therefore no long term damage  even though her blood sugar was 33. (A non Diabetic will have blood sugar of between 4 and 5).

 

“It was her 6th birthday.

 

“I wasn’t scared of managing the condition because I had been doing it for years, but this does not make the diagnosis any less upsetting – perhaps even more so as you know what is ahead.”

 

“I was and still am so so sad about the brutal removal of what should be a basic right of every child – freedom. Freedom to run up a hill at a whim, freedom to eat chocolate sundaes until you are sick just because your Mum isn’t watching, freedom to jump in to a car at the last minute with friends; everything needs to be planned.

 

The number of people who I trust to look after Clara is dramatically reduced. She CAN do EVERYTHING, but it just requires a few seconds thought and planning before hand. An easily treatable hypo could turn in to a disaster without dextrose or other fast acting energy on hand. All of my coat pockets, handbags etc are full of dextrose and the same goes for relatives and the parents of Clara’s close friends. Her teachers and other school staff carry glucose on them at all times and her own friends are always quick to share a snack if they think she needs it – they are all now fabulous at recognising the symptoms of a hypo.”

 

“I found myself worrying about the future in those first few days – what is it going to be like when she is pregnant – but she won’t be able to be a fighter pilot – but she won’t be able to join the army etc etc. Do I want her to be a fighter pilot – not particularly, but do I want her to have these choices restricted – not at all.

 

“I literally felt as if my insides had been pulled out. We were just devastated.

 

“Stupid things people say – ‘oh well, it is only a pen these days’ ‘oh well, they are making such great advances’ ‘oh yes, I know all about diabetes – my 90 year old 90 stone gran has it’ ‘oh, too many sweeties was it’. All around us it seems that we have got posters saying – breast feed your child and protect against diabetes – exercise and….. eat well and…… I DID breast feed her, we DO exercise and we DO eat well. I think that this gives other people the message that we have done something wrong. Extra guilt and pressure that you don’t need when you secretly are wondering every day if there was something you could have done to prevent this happening.

 

“One child came up to me completely straight faced and said ‘I am not going to invite Clara to my birthday party because there will be lot of running around’.

 

“I am absolutely constantly ‘on watch’ for her; unless someone I trust implicitly has got her. We are lucky enough to be surrounded with incredible friends who are prepared to learn about the illness and look after her and I am very aware that there are so many parents who do not have this support.

 

“We hope that Clara’s trip to Westminster will highlight the implications of Type 1 diabetes. “

 

Monica Stewart, Clara’s grandmother wrote:

“Of course, it might be a drunk or a friend in San Diego with their time zones muddled, but when the phone rings at 4 in the morning, my heart is still banging in my ears by the time I find the receiver – and it’s my daughter Fi, sounding as if she’s running, Just coherent enough for me to understand that she is on her way to Ninewells with Clara who has diabetes.  No question, even though she has diagnosed it herself – she tested her with Charlie’s kit.  (Clara’s father Charlie also has Type  1 diabetes)

“There had been some symptoms – bed wetting, tiredness – and her urine had been tested for infections but not,  as Fi & Charlie had assumed it would be,  for diabetes. 

“By the time I get to Ninewells later that morning – pausing briefly to argue with a parking warden who was slapping a ticket on Fi’s wide open car – Fi has projected forward quite a lot – Clara will have trouble:  getting into the army and several other professions; doing many sports; conceiving a child; driving an HGV; travelling abroad.  

“All I can do is hold my sobbing daughter and suggest we concentrate on the next few weeks first.  Or even that first, ghastly day when we watch Clara run, screaming, away from the nurse who is trying to show her how to inject.  Charlie is incredible, hiding his heartbreak and trying to show his 6 year old [on her birthday] that it is, in fact, very easy.

“There are,  undoubtedly, advantages to knowing a lot already about this condition, but it does mean that the diagnosis is a road crash of knowledge rather than a slow dawning of implications.  Both ultimately terribly sad for the family, but perhaps the latter is kinder on the system – I don’t know.

 

“I cannot speak too highly of the diabetic team in Ninewells, particularly Val, the liaison nurse who was and is a tower of strength and support.  I am horrified to learn that her funding has been cut.

“For the rest of the family and close friends, looking after Clara poses challenges. Knowing Clara so well, Fi and Charlie can just glance at her and be fairly certain if she is high or low – although sometimes she’s wrong – she may just be being an ordinary 11 year old – tired, excited, naughty, angry with her sister.   If her levels are too high or low, you think you are doing the right thing, but it can take a long time to correct, or sometimes over-correct. 

“Hopes for the future?  That the treatment gets more & more refined and that the blood sugar monitoring will be linked to her pump – more like an artificial pancreas.  I feel it can be achieved with the necessary will.

“Magic wand?  Better education, understanding that the injection is NOT the worst thing about diabetes?

“Benefits?  An unbelievably empathetic, mature young girl – she may have turned out like this anyway, but boy she is good at putting herself in other peoples’ shoes.”

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A weekend of wildlife

It has to be said that I’m one of those jammy people that love where they live.  I love the fact that I can walk out of my front door and be on a farm track leading to a paddock full of horses within seconds, a field of Highland Cows in minutes and have the beautiful River Tay within skipping distance. I love that within an hour I can be in the middle of Edinburgh or centre of Glasgow. I love that the Highlands of Scotland are on my doorstep and their great outdoors are my playground.

I live in Perthshire.. you should come and visit… but, come quietly, dont tell everyone or they will all want to come too!

I want to tell you about my adventures last Sunday, a gloriously sunny day with a little nip in the air.  I dont know anyone that doesn’t like getting rugged up and heading out for walk to take in some fresh air, see some beautiful scenerey and on this mission to see our world famous local Osprey who comes each year to nest only a few miles away.

Lady, our local Osprey has been coming to nest near Dunkeld in Scotland for the past 22 years, she is the oldest breeding Osprey in the UK and to be quite honest is just blooming marvellous.  This was my first visit to the Loch of the Lowes Scottish Wildlife Trust visitors centre and it certainly wont be the last.

Anyhow, I’m getting ahead of myself.  After the aformentioned layering up, packing the picnic.. flask of tea and sweet treats included of course we set off for Dunkeld where we would start a nice 8km loop walk up to the Loch of the Lowes nature reserve.  Dunkeld is around 30 minutes drive from Perth so really accessibly from anywhere in Scotland.  Car packed and backpacks on we headed up towards Birnam Golf Club up and over the hill to the east of the village.

Along the way we had a fab view right over the golf course towards the loch, the track was easy to walk, perfect for families and bikes too if you fancied a not to technical ride.  As well as enjoying the sunshine and blethering we also kept our eyes peeled for activity up above, you often see the Osprey or other birds of prey swooping about in our neck of the woods.  Thankfully we had mums trusty binoculars to spot any suspects.

So on we toddled finding a lovely bench for our picnic along the side of the loch.  The closer we got to the centre we became aware of lots of well placed bird boxes and feeders attracting all manner of furry critters, infact there is also SquirrelCam for those city dwellers who want a taste of the countryside.  As well as many garden varieties of feathereed friends we were also able to spot 3 Woodpeckers.  I was blown away, I’ve heard Woodpeckers in the wild before but have never seen them, normally I’m either too loud or too impatient! They were beautiful… along with the 3 Red Squirrels playing the feeders they could have kept my attention for hours.

We headed into one of the three hides at the loch edge.  All three hides have binoculars to view the Osprey nest and other wildlife out on the loch, what a stunning view.  A panoramic view of the loch greeted us with many a camera trained on the lone nest high above where Lady the Osprey and her dark feather friend held court.

We spent ages spying on these glorious creatures, from in the hide watching to back in the visitors centre glued to the live webcams which stream from the nest.  On Saturday night Lady layed her first egg, I’ve just heard this evening that egg no. 2 arrived this afternoon so will be shifting promptly from writing this post to clicking on the OspreyCam for a good noesy at what’s been going on.

I can highly suggest this beautiful walk in Highland Perthshire as well as visiting to find out more about the Loch of the Lowes Osprey and local wildlife.  Take your time, bring a picnic, chill out by the loch and breath in the fresh air, the perfect Sunday stroll in my opinion.

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Pizza Perfection.. and it was a doddle..!

Normally the Kiwi and I are really organised for tea time.  I guess this comes from the fact that we are inevitably always ravenous when we get home from the daily grind and knowing what kitchen goodies lie ahead helps bridge the gap between lunch and tea time.

Tonight however was not the norm, getting home and realising there was nothing exciting to whip up into a culinary masterpiece sent me swifty into a Ready, Steady, Cook esque state.  A la Ainsley I then raided the fridge and pondered over the store cupboard, a couple of peppers, some mushrooms, pesto, tomato paste, flour, yeast.. oh yes sireee, homemade pizza perfection.. just call me Mario and shout bellissima!

So friends, this is a speedy, easy and absolutely delicious week night supper that can help use up all of those bits and pieces kicking about your fridge.  Anything goes, veggie feast, meat lovers delight, you choose… that’s the beauty, just knead, prove, decorate and bake.. everybody lovesa tha pizza.. (in an italian accent if you can muster one!)

Could serve 4 but the Kiwi and I scoffed the lot…!

For the dough

260g strong white flour

3/4 teaspoon yeast (the dry one that you can add straight to the flour)

3/4 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

140ml water

olive oil

To make the dough put all the dry ingredients into a big bowl.  Make a well in the centre and gradually add the water to bind the dough.  As the dough is coming together add in two tablespoons of oil and gradually the rest of the water.  Once you have a nice squidgy ball of dough knead it for 5 minutes on a floured surface until its lovely and smooth.  Put the dough in a lightly oiled bowl covered with a tea towel and leave it somewhere cosy for an hour.

After an hour the dough should have risen and is ready to shape.  We have a round pizza stone but you can use a baking tray, just shape the dough to whatever size you have.  2mm thickness is good to ensure crispy perfection.

Now the creative bit.. making your own perfect Pizza..

Our masterpiece tonight included a base of tomato paste and pesto topped with red onion, ham, mushrooms, green peppers, black olives, cheddar and mozzarella. This is where you choose, anything you like, chop and drop.. make this your idea of heaven on a plate!

Next put the Pizza into a hot oven, ours was at 200C for 15-20 mins until golden, oozy and smells wonderful.

Pull out and eat when its piping, dipped delicately in a good dollop of Helmans…divine, my Pizza Perfection.

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Friday night footering in the kitchen… I do love a good curry.

Footering is a verb, to Footer.  Footering is similar to bimbling, moseying, and fannying…. all equally important words in my vocabulary used invariably to describe time used to potter and peruse.  Footering time is that glorious time of nothingness usually between what you have done and should do.. me time, my time and time quite commonly spent in the haven of my kitchen.

Curry, another favorite of mine.  Indian curries, Malay curries, Thai curries, Cambodian curries, curries of any culture are a welcome addition to my table.  Whenever I can I love to play and practise with recipes, ingredients and techniques for creating the perfect curry, tonight being just one of those opportunities.

Tonight’s feast was an easy to prepare Chicken and Coconut curry, a recipe I found in a Good Food mag a while back.  I usually have all the basics in the fridge, chilli, ginger, garlic, onions and spices so today all I needed to pick up was some chicken.

I discovered a fantastic new blog this week, Middle Class Value where the lovely Jo shares tips and techniques for living a full but frugal lifestyle.  With Jo in mind I picked up bone in chicken thighs and de-boned them at home, more than half the price of chicken breast with much more flavour.

Anyhoo, onto the curry of which I have just devoured.. it’s a cracker and easy peasy, well worth a bash.

Ingredients

  • 3cm piece root ginger , peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves , roughly chopped
  • 1 green chilli , roughly chopped
  • 2 onions , roughly chopped
  • olive oil
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 8 chicken thigh fillets, cut into quarters
  • 400ml tin coconut milk
  • 1 small bunch coriander , chopped

Firstly put the ginger, garlic, green chilli, onion and 1/2 tsp salt in a small food processor and whizz to a purée (use a drop of water if you need to bring it together).

Heat a tbsp of oil in a large wide pan and fry the purée for 3 minutes. Add the cumin, coriander and turmeric and cook for another 2 minutes.

Add the chicken and cook for 3-4 minutes until it starts to colour a little. Stir in the coconut milk and leave to simmer for 20 minutes. Stir in the coriander.

In the end you’ll have a creamy cauldron of chickeny goodness, perfect with fluffy basmati rice, garlic and coriander naan and a healthy side serving of mango chutney.

If it’s a Friday and you’re in a hurry

just think of this quick tea of coconut chicken curry

Chuck in some garlic, ginger, chilli & spice

Blitz in a blender til its smells really nice

Fry up the paste til it sizzles and spits

then add in the chook and brown just a wee bit

tip in the coconut milk and give it a stir

after 20mins, add coriander and you’re ready to serve.

 
Enjoy kids!

 

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Sunday Baking… in the kitchen and in the sunshine..

From the title of my blog you will have worked out that I am not a fan of the rain, I am a lover of all things sunshine.. sunshine in spring when its warm and the daffodils look radiant and happy, sunshine in summer when I live in shorts and jandals and on BBQ’s, sunshine in autumn when the trees are changing and I start to wear cosy welly socks and sunshine in winter when I”m enjoying a vin chaud piste side in the alps.. oh sunshine I love you…

So sorry, yes back to the point.. I digress.. rain yes, I hate it… but my point was that today it was sunny so a perfect day for pottering in the garden whilst baking Hot Cross Buns which require a bit of toing and froing.

This weekends baking exploits were inspired by Amy over at Weekly Bake-Off.  This bakey lady has decided to bake all of the delights in Mary Berry’s 100 cakes & bakes book to improve her baking ability while trying new recipes and having fun and meeting lots of like-minded bakers along the way.

Each Monday on twitter Amy @WeeklyBakeOff announces what the weeks bake is going to be, anyone who fancies joining her then has the week to make their creation.  Amy asks that you send her a pic of your masterpiece by Sunday evening when she then posts all the pics on her fab blog for us all to share.

So to the task, music on, windows open, baking bowl out… and action.

The first step (after putting my sun lounger out on the deck) was to get out my ingredients.  Flour, yeast, spices, milk, an egg, salt, sugar and butter. The recipe was really easy to follow, Mary certainly doesn’t leave anything to chance, all steps were clear and simple.

Mix everything together and knead for 10 minutes until poufy, put in an oiled bowl, cover with clingfilm and leave in a warm place for 90 minutes to double in size.

This then gives you 90 minutes to burn, I’m sure the more conscientious among us would get on with the house work, weed the garden, walk the dog, wash the car…. all well and good but as you previously read, I love sunshine and this afternoon in my part of the world shine the sun did. Fee + sunlounger + brand new Good Food mag = the essence of happiness.

90 minutes, two cups of tea & various words of encouragement to the hubby who was gardening, later and my dough was ready to shape.  My small ‘dod’ (a technical term for my lump of dough) had doubled in size and looked, even if I do say so myself, like a lovely billowey pat of gorgeousness.

After another quick knead it was bun rolling time, 12 little lovelies were shaped and set on an oiled baking tray to prove for another 30 minutes.

You know the drill.. back out to the sunshine, this time to welcome my Mum for an afternoon cuppa who was summoned to come and be suitably impressed by my Berry Baking efforts.

After their final prove it was time for the crossing and baking of these little gems.  I wasnt convinced by Marys advice to make pastry to make the crosses so I deviated slightly to the oracle that is Mr Paul Hollywood who suggested a little paste of flour and water in a piping bag for X marks the spot.

At this stage I was getting slightly excited, my buns actually looked like they were meant to, my first attempt wasnt looking too shabby and I might actually be able to post a pic to Amy @WeeklyBakeOff without her thinking I’d gone off plan and made baked potatoes instead!

So 15 minutes in a hot ish oven and they were ready, the smell of sweet cinamony bready goodness was amazing, glazed with a little warmed apricot jam these sticky morsels were looking divine.

Cooled slightly we dug in, splitting the first bun open I was over the moon, soft springy dough jewelled with dried fruit, they were perfect.. in a homemade wonky sort of way!

So thank you Amy for the inspiration, my blog will now boast an ‘I’m in the Weekly Bake-Off’ badge with pride.

I thoroughly enjoyed my first bash at baking Hot Cross Buns, a lazy Sunday filled with sunshine and baking, there is nothing better.

I probably shouldnt pack away my baking bowl just yet however, these are Easter buns after all and it looks like I’ll be baking them again soon because I know this batch may not even last until tomorrow!

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my first fabulous foodie penpal package..!

Well not only have I embraced the world of blogging this week, I have also experienced another thrilling first… my first foodie penpals package courtesy of the lovely Helen @HelenatAardvark of Casa Costello blog fame!

To say I was excited about this exchange is perhaps putting it mildly.. to many acquaintances I am Fee ‘the loud girl’, my husband constantly tells me to use my ‘inside voice’ and according to attendees I bounced down the aisle on my wedding day… so the squawk that I let out when I opened my blue wheelie bin to see a lovingly wrapped parcel (thanks postie for leaving it safe) inside was earth shattering…. *cue singing*.. brown paper packages tied up with string.. these are a few of my favorite things!!!! Excited.com !!!

So… running speedily into the house bags left strewn across the floor I carefully unwrapped my stash, under the watchful eye of the hubby of course who was, I’m sure,  trying to eye up items that might take his fancy.. no chance says I.. these beauties are all mine!

Within a beautiful box that I can now use for storing my recipes in, Helen, cakey bakey godess that she is sent me an intriguing little tube of Bronze lustre, no not eye shadow or fake tan but colouring for icing which I’m sure to use soon on my mission to become a better baker.  Along with this were to lovely little pots of Bonne Maman, one apricot and one honey, a jar of basil pesto, a chocolate transfer sheet and a wonderful cook book for finger food and nibbles… from which I have already tried a few recipes!

I do have to admit however that rather than digging into the honey or trawling through the cook book I was straight over to google.. what the hell was a chocolate transfer sheet!?!?!  Thankfully all was revealed and I will be donning my apron and cultivating my chocolatiering skills in a kitchen near you soon.

I was over the moon and still am.. such wonderful goodies from a complete stranger.  As a child I took part in the occasional chain letter, send your pants in the post kind of caper but this is the first time I’ve actually taken part in this circular style of giving and received something in return.  So thank you Helen and thank you Captain Carol Anne @ThisIsRockSalt for opening our eyes to this fantastic foodie penpals world, I for one cannot wait for next month to both send and receive my foodie goodies.

Until the next time. Over and out.

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taking the plunge

After many kinds words of encouragement I have taken the plunge and dived into the world of blogging.  Where this journey might take me is anyones guess.  The blogging world is never-ending, one great post leads onto another then a link to another blog and then hours have passed, new recipes discovered, holiday hot spots noted and must visit restaurants and sights added to the endless ‘to do’ list.

I do hope that my musings keep you interested and entertained, my aim is simple, to share my loves and laughs, feasts and frivolities, to write in cyberspace as if you were here blethering with me cuppa in hand.. which reminds me, my brew is getting cold, time to tickle up the kiwi to put the jug back on!

Until the next step of this new adventure.. over and out.

 

 

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