Monday, 31 October 2011

# 142 Weekend outing: Packwood House & Baddesley Clinton

This was our 1st proper weekend outing since the accident we had ealier this month and although we're still a little on edge, or at least I am, it felt good to go back to our normal weekend routine.

Because we didn't want to drive too far we chose Packwood House and Baddesley Clinton, both are National Trust properties only a couple of miles from each other and a little over an hour from where we live. As usual we visited the houses first and then went for a walk in the gardens and woodlands which are looking beautiful in their Autumnal colours even if haunted at this time of the year, especially Baddesley Clinton where there were lots of witches and scary things about :-)

Yews at Packwood House

Packwood House

Witch at Baddesley Clinton

Baddesley Clinton


Friday, 28 October 2011

# 141 Fridays recipes: Fish fillets in breadcrumbs with rice cooked in tomato sauce

We had this recently for Sunday lunch, it makes a nice change from the usual roast or meat dish and it reminded me of my mum's cooking.

I used frozen pollock fillets but any other frozen white fish fillets will do just as well.

Fish fillets in breadcrumbs

In a plastic container mix milk (just enough to cover the fillets), 1 or 2 cloves of garlic crushed, 1 bay leaf, pinch of salt, fresh dill (optional), lemon juice. Marinate the fish fillets for at least a couple of hours.

Use a few sheets of kitchen roll to dry the fish fillets as much as possible and dip them in beaten egg before coating them thoroughly in breadcrumbs. Fry in hot vegetable oil until golden and crispy.

Rice cooked in tomato sauce

1/2 cup of rice
1/2 onion finely chopped
1/2 can of plum or chopped tomatoes
Fresh coriander
Chicken stock cube
Olive oil
1 1/2 cup of boiling water

Drizzle a little olive oil into a pan and soften the onion, add the rice and let it cook for a couple of minutes. Add the tomatoes, the stock cube, the fresh coriander and the boiling water. Cook until the rice is ready.

If you want you can add sliced carrots or a mix of frozen vegetables to the rice. This should be done when adding the tomatoes.



Note: the amounts especified above for the rice are the amounts I usually use for the 3 of us.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

# 140 Autumn walks in Berkeley

I was just going to say what a lovely sunny day it is but as I sat down to write this post a dark grey cloud settled above making everything look gloomy. Anyway I'm glad me and A. went out for a walk earlier when the sun was shining.

These photos were all taken today. It drizzled a little when we were coming back home but I didn't mind because when I looked around I saw this lovely rainbow, not a whole one as you can see but still quite amazing.


Monday, 24 October 2011

# 139 Sunday walk

Nearby Woodchester Park is often our destination of choice when we want to go for a long walk through some lovely, tranquil woods and it looks beautiful at this time of the year in its Autumnal colours.


Friday, 21 October 2011

# 138 Fridays recipes: Spinach, bacon and chorizo pizza with mozzarella

This is one of my favourite pizzas and I've just realised I haven't made it in quite a while now so top on my grocery shopping list for tomorrow is spinach and smoked pork belly.

I usually make my own pizza base following this recipe but if you're short on time you can buy a ready made pizza base and prepare only the topping. If you prefer to make a deep crust pizza base you'll find the instructions here.

Pizza topping

1/2 an onion, finely chopped
Olive oil
A few slices of chorizo
A few cubes of smoked pork belly
Mozzarella cheese

Pour a little olive oil into a frying pan, add the chopped onion and let it soften for a couple of minutes. Add the chorizo slices and the cubes of smoked pork belly and cook for 5 minutes or so until they brown slightly. Remove to a plate and set aside. Add the spinach to the frying pan and cook until just wilted. Press the spinach with a potato masher to get rid of most of the water.

Spread the spinach over the pizza base and then the chorizo and the smoked pork belly. Finish with the mozzarella broken into pieces and bake in a pre-heated oven until the cheese melts. Serve with a lettuce salad.

Enjoy :-)


Note: The recipe given here for the pizza dough makes quite a large pizza base which is good if you have a big family or a healthy appetite but if like us you only have a small slice of pizza then you'll have lots leftover. I don't mind eating pizza from the day before but the base tends to become slightly soggy and it doesn't taste as good. What I do is I divide the dough in 2 portions, one for the pizza base and the other I divide into 2 or 3 buns which are baked at the same time as the pizza. My son loves these little pizza buns and usually saves one to take to school the next day.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

# 137 The BMM (Bread Making Machine) challenge: Sweet brioche buns

I love my breadmaking machine, I've had it for nearly 2 years now and  have not bought bread from the shop since. However, I realised that during this time I've not been very creative in the bread making department and I want to change that, I want to try different breads and with the machine doing most of the hard work there really is no reason or excuse  not to.

So from now on I'll posting recipes for breads, buns, baps, rolls, etc. both sweet and savoury and aimed at bread machines. I'm starting off with a favourite of ours, sweet brioche buns. These are perfect to take on a picnic filled with cured ham, cheese or bacon or eaten warm with butter and jam for Sunday tea.

Egg glazed brioche buns.

Sweet brioche buns

1 tabespoon fast action yeast
250g strong white flour
3 tablespoons sugar (I've used caster sugar, demerara sugar, honey or golden syrup)
Sprinkle of cinnamon or mixed spice
75g butter
Pinch of salt (sometimes I leave it out)
2 eggs + 1 for glazing (optional)
2 tablespoons milk (on occasion I've replaced the milk with buttermilk or natural yogurt)

Place all of the above ingredients in the bread pan following the order recommended by the manufacturer of your bread machine. Select the Basic Dough programme (2h 20mins in mine).

When the cycle is complete tip the dough out of the bread pan onto a lightly floured surface and cut small portions of the dough to roll into little balls. Place these on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper and allow to prove until doubled in size or for about 20 to 30 minutes. What I do at this stage is turn my oven on to the slow cook setting and place the tray with my brioche buns in the grill compartment which is above the oven. Alternatively you can boil some water, pour it into a bowl and place the tray on top covered with clingfilm or a tea towel.

Once the buns have risen glaze with the beaten egg if you want and bake at 190 ÂșC/gas mark 5 until golden brown. In my oven this usually takes about 20 minutes.

Brioche buns without any glazing.

Enjoy :-)


Monday, 17 October 2011

# 136 Autumn Walks in Berkeley

I'd heard it from someone before but I didn't believe it and then heard it again on the radio on Saturday: temperatures are going to drop and there's even the possibility of snow in some parts of the country!

Well, it has certainly turned colder and today I had to put on my much loved and much worn wool cardigan.

Early yesterday (9.30 is early for a Sunday, isn't it?) we sett off for a walk up to the Deer Park and back, we were expecting a windy, very cold walk and dressed accordingly. It turned out  to be quite a mild and warm morning and on the way home we were carrying ours coats not on our backs but on our hands.

Early morning mist.

The sun finally making a breakthrough.

Did you go for a long walk this weekend?


Friday, 14 October 2011

# 135 Fridays recipes: Black eye bean soup with bread chips

As the days get shorter and colder there's nothing like a delicious, hot, comforting bowl of soup and this one ticks all those boxes.

Black eye bean soup with bread chips

1/2 a butternut squash, peeled and cut into cubes
3 big carrots, peeled and sliced
1/2 a leek, washed and sliced
1/2 an onion, chopped
2 to 3 courgettes, peeled and sliced
1 can of black eye beans, drained
2 vegetable stock cubes
(I also added some leftover veggies I had in the fridge)

Put all the above ingredients in a pan and cover with water. Bring to the boil and then simmer over a low heat for 30-40 minutes. Remove from the heat, drizzle a little olive oil and add salt if needed before blending.

Make the bread chips (this is what A. calls them!) just before serving. Cut a thick slice of bread, preferably 2 to 3 days old, into finger sized pieces. Drizzle a little olive oil into a frying pan and when it's hot add the bread. Let it cook on all sides until golden and crispy.

Enjoy :-)


Tuesday, 11 October 2011

# 134 A craft minded post

Look what I found the other day in one of the local charity shops.

I love the illustrations, they're so pretty and so perfect for a variety of craft projects like these decoupage pictures I made recently for my mum...

or these bookmarks...

or even these pretty cards...

If you want to know more about decoupage you can start by reading this post and this one too.

By cutting out and arraging images from different sources you can create beautiful and truly unique items for yourself or to gift someone and with Christmas almost around the corner why not have a go at this easy and inexpensive craft?


Monday, 10 October 2011

# 133 Keeping things in perspective

Last Saturday afternoon a woman lost control of her car and crashed into us, we saw her coming straight at us but there was nothing we could do to avoid it. Fortunately no one was hurt not even a tiny scratch and in the end all it comes down to is crushed metal.

Although we managed to drive our car home it's not roadworthy and so now we have no car. I'm staying in all day today waiting for the insurance company to call me to get the ball rolling. Despite all the upset this is causing I'm trying to keep things in perspective because after all it could've been worse, a lot worse.

I found this online earlier today and it's helping me deal with my anxiety and to keep calm about the whole thing.

"A sense of perspective is vital to keeping sane and avoid small problems that can unnecessarily overwhelm us."

"Sometimes we can get worked up about problems that are very insignificant."

"Concentrate on good things, try to ignore the problem/issue completely and throw yourself into something different. If we can absorb ourselves in another task then we give time to ignore the problem. Later we realise that what seemed like a big problem is now less problematic."

You can find the whole article here.


Friday, 7 October 2011

# 132 Fridays recipes: Leftover roast chicken and leek in a creamy sauce with golden potatoes

I made up this dish the other day to try and make a meal for us out of some leftover roast chicken and half a leek forgotten in the veggie drawer of the fridge. It turned out delicious.

Leftover roast chicken and leek in a creamy sauce with golden potatoes

Leftover roast chicken, shredded
1/2 a leek, sliced
Olive oil
1/2 tub of double cream
2 to 3 tablespoons of lekk and chicken soup powder (I used the Knorr one)

Start by boiling the potatoes with their skin on, add a pinch of salt to the boiling water. When cooked through, peel the potatoes and let them cool.

Meanwhile pour a little olive oil into a pan and add the sliced leek. Cook for a few minutes until soft, add the chicken and cook for a few minutes over a low heat.

Remove the chicken and leek from the pan on to a plate and set aside. Add half a tub of double cream to the pan and mix in the leek and chicken soup powder. Keep stirring over a low heat until it thickens. Add the chicken and leek and mix well, add a pinch of salt if needed. Remove from the heat.

Cut the boiled potatoes in half and fry them until slightly golden in colour. Serve with the chicken and the leek.

Enjoy :-)


Wednesday, 5 October 2011

# 131 Autumn colours

After a few glorious days of sunshine and clear blue skies it's back to cooler, wetter, darker and windier weather. It is Autumn after all and this is also one of my favourite seasons, the other one being Spring.

In some places Autumn colours have really started putting on a show as folliage changes from a lush green to hues of yellow, orange, red and brown.


Monday, 3 October 2011

# 130 Weekend outing: Shugborough Estate

What a lovely, sunny weather we've been having here in England, it feels really good to look up and see a bright blue sky and feel the warmth of the sun on your skin.

Yesterday we visited Shugborough, near Stafford in the Middlands. As usual we did a tour of the house, walked around the gardens and explored the parkland.

Here are some photos I took.

Front of the house.

Back of the house and formal garden.

The library.

The park.

Lovely chestnuts, unfortunately there weren't many.