Monday, 28 February 2011

# 42 Mini kitchen garden

We're lucky that we have a small garden at the back of the house with a very small sort of "patio" area which we use as a kitchen garden. I'm not a keen gardener and my skills are very basic in that department but I do like the idea of picking my own herbs, salad and vegetables. Somehow they seem to taste so much better than bought ones and are much less expensive.

So, last week I checked with an online farmer's almanac to make sure the phase of the moon was propitious and I got to work mixing soil with manure (not the best smelling job!) and sowed peas, coriander, basil, rosemary and lettuces. I also sowed some flowers for my hanging baskets. I do hope they all grow.

The white pots were made from paint buckets cut in half and with a few holes on the bottom for drainage.


Wednesday, 23 February 2011

# 41 Treasure

A couple of weeks ago we set off on a long walk to the Deer Park, this time however instead of following the usual path we decided to explore a part of the park we'd never been to before and I'm glad we did because the view was just amazing.

Even better was the fact that A. found part of a deer's antler, he was so chuffed with it. He says it's his treasure and keeps it in his "explorer" rucksack as a souvenir :-)

We've since been up there again to try and find another antler as A. found out they are shed between December and February but no luck. We're planning another antler finding expedition for next Friday, weather permitting.

Part of a deer antler.

View from the Deer Park towards the River Severn.

Can you see the deer grazing?

Deer Park in Ham, near Berkeley.


Monday, 21 February 2011

# 40 Weekend baking: Chocolate Butterfly Cupcakes

I made these for the 1st time as a New Year's treat and they were a hit especially with my son who is chocolate mad. I made them again this weekend but decided to turn them into "butterfly" cupcakes and as you can see it didn't quite work as planned but they were delicious all the same.

The original recipe is one for Speedy Chocolate Muffins but as usual I made a few changes as below.

250g self-raising flour (or use plain flour and add a teaspoon of baking powder)
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
140g demerara sugar
175ml milk
2 large eggs, beaten
150g butter at room temperature
75g plain chocolate
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat the oven and line a cupcake tray with paper cases.

Cream the butter and sugar and then add the beaten eggs mixing well.  Add the flour together with the cocoa powder and cinnamon, add the milk and mix lightly together.

Spoon the mixture into the paper cases and bake until done.

The cream I used on these butterfly cupcakes was shop bought chocolate buttercream.



Thursday, 17 February 2011

# 39 Handmade gifts

As the title of this blog suggests I'm a homemade/handmade sort of person and with 3 family birthdays this month I've been busy trying to finish my handmade gifts to them on time and so far so good.

My mum received her shawl right on her birthday and later today I'm posting my niece's packet so it has enough time to travel between the UK and Portugal.

I made her 2 aprons and a felt crown, this last one had actually been on my To Do list for quite a while. You can find more info about the patterns on my crafts blog.

I had so much fun making her the aprons that I think I might actually make a couple for me too, on a much larger size of course ;-)


Wednesday, 16 February 2011

# 38 Roasted almonds

At the end of last year the supermarket where we usually do our shopping was selling these 800g packets of raw almonds and we bought a few because normally they only sell very small packets with only a handful of them inside.

Personally I really don't like raw almonds, they're bitter and I don't like the texture but when roasted it's a completely different story because suddenly they become quite difficult to resist.

If you'd like to try roasting raw almonds the 1st step is to take their brown skin off and for that you need a big enough container to put the almonds in and then cover them with boiling water. Put aside to let them soak so the hot water can work its magic. I usually repeat this process once or twice more so the skin comes off more easily.

When the almonds have had a good soaking and while the water is still warm pick one, hold it with the tips of your fingers and sort of pinch and twist the skin at the same time. It should come off fairly easily.

After you've taken the skin off all the almonds put them on a tray and roast them in a pre-heated oven until they turn golden in colour. Stir once in a while to make sure they roast evenly. They are ready when they are golden and crunchy.

The roasted almonds can be kept in a hermetic plastic container for at least a week, that's how long we've managed to make them last for!

Almonds have a wide variety of uses both in sweet and savoury dishes and they can also be eaten as a healthy snack just as they are.

Very soon, I'll be sharing with you a recipe for an almond tart that is very moreish.


Tuesday, 15 February 2011

# 37 A mild curry recipe

When I plan our weekly meals I like to introduce a new dish now and then for a little variety and the other day it occurred to me that it's been many years since I last had curry.

Sometimes my mum would make curry for Sunday lunch and although I can't remember what it tasted like I know we all loved it. The recipe was completely different from mine, much more time consuming and I remember it included apple and coconut milk.

Anyway, this recipe is very mild and easy to make. My son loves it and likes to take 2 or 3 pieces of the meat in a pitta bread in his packed lunch.

On to the recipe then:

1 tub of crème fraiche (300 ml)
Concentrated tomato puree (2 tablespoons)
Mild curry powder (2 teaspoons)
Garam massala (1 teaspoon)
Ground turmeric (1 teaspoon)
Ground cumin (1 teaspoon)
Fresh coriander
Turkey steaks
Small onion
Olive oil

In a plastic container mix well the crème fraiche with the concentrated tomato puree and then add the spices (curry, ground turmeric, ground cumin and garam massala), season with salt and mix well.

Cut the turkey steaks into strips and marinate in the créme fraiche, make sure the meat is well covered. Let it marinate for at least a couple of hours before cooking.

Finely slice the onion and put in a frying pan with a little olive oil and let it cook for a few minutes then add the meat and the crème fraiche mixture, cover with a lid and let it cook over a low heat stirring occasionally. While the meat is cooking make the white rice.

When the meat is done, sprinkle with some chopped fresh coriander and serve.

Ooops, I seem to have forgotten the coriander but it was still yummy.

Enjoy :-)


Tuesday, 8 February 2011

# 36 NT season

I've been having a look at the new National Trust handbook and wishing it was the end of February already.

For those of you that don't know, the National Trust is a conservation organisation that preserves and protects places of historic interest or natural beauty in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Most of their properties close for the Winter and many will reopen at the end of the month and I can't wait!

This will be our 2nd year as members and we're hoping to revisit some of our favourite properties but also to explore new ones. Looking back through last year's photos I realised we visited 39 properties from stately homes, to castles, gardens, parklands and woodlands and we had such a great time.

Of course everytime we go on a NT adventure I always take my camera and shoot lots of pictures. You can see some on my Flickr page if you like, just click here, on the right hand side there's an album titled National Trust.


Thursday, 3 February 2011

# 35 Make way for Spring

It's a sunny day today so instead of my usual exercise session on the Wii I grabbed my camera and went for a walk. It was really good to feel the warmth of the sun on my face and it felt even better to see that slowly but surely Spring is definitely on the way.

Sunny Berkeley


Wednesday, 2 February 2011

# 34 Splash of colour: February

I've always said I prefer the cold of Winter to the heat of Summer but this Winter has been so cold and grey that really I just want it to end. I want blue skies, sunshine and colour, lots and lots of colour. And this brings me to this month's Splash of Colour hosted by Emma from Silverpebble.

This is also the last Splash of Colour as Spring is on the way, have you noticed the signs everywhere?