Monday, 31 December 2012

# 310 Resolutions

At the beginning of 2012 I decided I needed to make an effort to read more books, I used to be an avid reader and I was missing that. Of all the resolutions I made at the beginning of the year this is the one I really stuck to and although I might not have read as much as I would've liked I still managed to read over 30 books which gives me an average of 2 a month.

I plan to continue reading through 2013 and beyond. The other upside to this is that my 13-year old son has caught the bug and now spends most of his free time reading too.

These were my reads for 2012.

What are you reading at the moment and how do you go about choosing the books you want to read?


Friday, 28 December 2012

# 309 Rabanadas

No Christmas table in Portugal is complete without a dish full of Rabanadas or Golden Slices as my mum calls them.

They're made from bread a day or two old which is soaked in a sweet milk mixture, then beaten eggs and fried. The bread needs to be strong and not the fluffy kind or it will break apart during the soaking. I cut my bread slices in 3 but you can fry them whole if you want. Once fried the slices can be sprinkled with a mixture of sugar and cinnamon or soaked in syrup. This last option will ensure the slices will stay moist for much longer.


Thick slices of bread (a day or 2 old)
Zest of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon sugar
450ml milk
3 eggs
Vegetable oil for frying
Sugar and cinnamon for sprinkling

In a bowl mix the milk with the lemon zest and the tablespoon of sugar and stir until the sugar has dissolved.

Beat the eggs in a separate bowl.

Soak the bread slices in the milk mixture for a few minutes, squeeze gently to drain the excess and then dip them in the beaten eggs making sure they're well covered in egg. Fry in hot oil, turning until golden brown on both sides. Place on a  few sheets of kitchen paper to drain the excess oil and then sprinkle with a little sugar and cinnamon.

If you prefer to soak them in syrup you can make it by mixing 100g sugar, 1 cinnamon stick and 200ml water in a pan over a low to medium heat. Stir to dissolve the sugar and bring to the boil. Boil for a few minutes until it thickens and becomes syrupy.



Sunday, 23 December 2012

# 308 A very Merry Christmas and a Happy 2013

Wishing you all a Happy, Peaceful Christmas and a Great New Year.


Tuesday, 18 December 2012

# 307 Walnut bread

This is a lovely bread and it's one of our favourites. And because it's a sort of a special bread I thought it's perfect for the Christmas table.

You can make this all by hand, use a breadmaker (if you have one) to knead the dough or combine the ingredients with the help of a stand mixer with a dough hook and then do the rest by hand.

This is how I make mine.

Walnut bread

1 teaspoon fast action yeast
200g strong brown bread flour
200g strong white bread flour
Pinch of salt
Handful of walnuts, coarsely chopped
27ml water (lukewarm if kneading the dough by hand or just combining the ingredients in the mixer)

In the breadmaker

Add the ingredients to the bread pan in the order specified in your breadmaker manual and select the Basic Dough cycle (2h 20m in mine).

When the cycle finishes, remove the dough from the bread pan and shape it so it fits in a rectangular loaf tin.

I usually shape the dough in one of 2 ways:

1 - I roll out the dough into a rectangle and then roll it up from the short end like a swiss roll tucking in the ends if necessary.

2 - I roll the dough with my hands to form a long "sausage". I then fold it in half and place it in the tin sideways tucking in the ends if needed.

Using a stand mixer

Place all ingredients in the mixing bowl in the order given and mix using the dough hook just until all ingredients are well combined.

Grease your hands with a little olive oil and rub them over the surface where you're going to knead the dough. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes or so until it's smooth and elastic. Don't add any more flour to the dough!

Shape the dough into a ball, grease the mixing bowl with a little olive oil and put the dough in the bowl. Cover with clingfilm and prove in a warm place for about 1 hour.

I usually boil some water in a kettle and pour it into a pan. Then I place the bowl with the dough on the pan and cover with a clean tea towel. The bowl should not touch the water.

After an hour or so the dough should be at least double its original volume. Knock it down, remove from the bowl and knead for 1 or 2 minutes. Shape the dough, put it in a loaf tin and prove again for 30-40 minutes in a warm place.

Bake in a preheated oven to 180 ºC for 30-40 minutes or until golden brown.

I usually line the tin with baking parchment because I like to remove the bread from the tin halfway through the baking process. I find that this way I get a more even bake. To do this I set my timer to 15 or 20 minutes, remove the bread from the tin, remove the baking parchment and place the bread on the oven rack to finish baking.



Sunday, 16 December 2012

# 306 Handmade Christmas cards

I've lost count of how many Christmas cards I made so far but I think I'm almost done, fortunately the last few cards will be hand delivered or they'd never reach their destination before Christmas!

The inspiration for these came from a colouring page found online sometime ago and the baubles templates are also available online for free. The shiny, patterned card was saved from last year's Christmas crackers, I thought it was so pretty I couldn't throw it away and I'm so glad I didn't because it was just perfect to make the baubles with.

Here are 2 of the cards I made.

Are you done with your Christmas cards?


Monday, 10 December 2012

# 305 Chicken and Spinach Tart

At least once a week we have a meal made up of leftovers and this tart was the result of a fridge cleanup. I'll definitely make it again as it was delicious but next time I need to make sure I have a little more filling to fill up the pastry case!


Chicken and Spinach Tart

1 block of shortcrust pastry
Chicken leftovers (I had some of this Chicken in Tomato Sauce but roast chicken will do as well).
1/2 packet of spinach leaves
1 garlic clove, crushed
Drizzle of olive oil
White sauce (recipe here)

Roll out the pastry according to the instructions on the packet. Rolll it out as thin as possible and line a tart tin with a removable base with the pastry. Cover with kitchen foil and weight it down with baking beans. Blind bake in a preheated oven to 180 ºC for 10-15 minutes. Remove the baking beans and the kitchen foil and bake for another 5 minutes or so.

Meanwhile cut the chicken into small pieces and set aside.

Put a pan over a low heat, drizzle a little olive oil and add the crushed garlic. Add the spinach leaves and cook for a few minutes until they begin to wilt.

Make the white sauce and season with a pinch of salt and ground nutmeg.

Distribute the chicken so it covers the bottom of the pastry. Add the spinach on top after you've drained it to get rid of most of its water. Top with the white sauce and decorate using any pastry cut outs.

Bake for 15-20 minutes.



Friday, 7 December 2012

# 304 Lemon Victoria Sandwich with Lemon Curd and Whipped Cream Filling

This is a light, lemoney cake. The recipe for this Lemon Victoria Sandwich is on a torn page that looks like it came from a supermarket magazine, although I can't say which one. The original recipe makes a larger cake but my tins are small so I halved the quantities as below.

The idea for the filling came about because I had a jar of lemon curd in the cupboard and a tub of whipped cream in the fridge. I thought the 2 together would work and they do making this cake even more lemoney and delicious.

Lemon Victoria Sandwich with Lemon Curd and Whipped Cream Filling

175g butter, softened
175g golden caster sugar
3 eggs
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
175g plain flour + 1 teaspoon baking powder

For the filling

1 tub of whipping cream
3 to 4 tablespoons of lemon curd

Preheat the oven to 180 ºC. Grease and line 3 sandwich cake tins.

In a bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, lemon zest and juice until well combined and then fold in the flour.

Divide the mixture equally in to cake tins and bake for 20 minutes or until a skewer inserted into each one comes out clean.

Allow the cakes to cool in the tins for 10 minutes or so before turning them out. Carefully peel the baking parchment and let the cakes cool completely on a wire rack.

To make the filling pour the whipping cream into a bowl and whisk until it thickens. Gently fold in the lemon curd. Spread some of the filling on 2 of the cakes and make a sandwich. Spread the rest of the lemon curd and whipped cream on top.



Thursday, 6 December 2012

# 303 Photo Friday: Orderly

Here's my entry for this week's Photo Friday challenge. This photo was taken earlier this year when we revisited the Blaise Castle House Museum in Bristol.

If you've never been to this museum, it's well worth a visit plus it's free.

Also please visit the Photo Friday website by clicking the button at the bottom of the sidebar.


Monday, 3 December 2012

# 302 Decorating the library for Christmas

In our house we usually put up the Christmas decorations on the 1st day of December but this year we broke the tradition and helped decorate the library for the festive season instead.

This is my modest contribution, I spent many hours cutting things out, glueing, painting, etc. and enjoyed every minute of it. Would you like to see the result of my labour? Here it is then.

This cardboard village is a Martha Stewart's project and you can read more about how it was put together on my other blog here.

These branches were also cut out of cardboard with the holly leaves and the berries made from cardstock. This display will be added to later on when me and the children make some cute Christmas birds to perch on the branches. Meanwhile I've cut a few more leaves and berries as I think the branches look a little bare.

Most evenings for the past 2 weeks were spent folding and cutting paper snowflakes, 172 in total and I still need to cut a few more to go an a window. I really like these snowflakes, they turned out better than expected.

And finally, my book Christmas tree which looks nothing like I thought it would. I got the idea off the Internet but unfortunately it looks like it's been squashed. I'm so disappointed with how this turned out I almost feel like undoing it all.

Have you started decorating for Christmas yet?


Friday, 30 November 2012

# 301 Cinnamon biscuits

I made these for the first time last week and the reactions were mixed, the husband said they were OK, I thought they were good but not great and definitely need some tweaking, A. loved them although he said next time I should add some chocolate chips! If you try these please let me know what you think and what changes would you make or have made?

Cinnamon biscuits

500g white plain flour
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
100g golden caster sugar
100g golden syrup
260ml vegetable oil (slightly warm, I did this in the microwave)
3 eggs

Preheat the oven to 180 ºC and line a baking tray with baking parchment.

In a bowl mix the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and sugar.

Make a well in the centre of the above mixture and pour the golden syrup, vegetable oil and the eggs and mix until all ingredients are well combined. Roll small balls of dough with your hands, place them on the baking tray and flatten them slightly with the palm of your hand.

Bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until golden brown.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes before transfering them to a wire rack to cool completely.



Thursday, 29 November 2012

# 300 Photo Friday: Women

As it happens most Thursdays, when I don't forget, I post my chosen photo for this weekly photography challenge.

The theme for this week is Women and although my photo does not include any women it is women related so here it is. This photo was taken on a visit to Croome Landscape Park and I found this little display on the language of the fan very interesting. There's an interesting article about it here.

To see other people's entries or to join in, please click on the button at the bottom of the sidebar.


Tuesday, 27 November 2012

# 299 Gingerbread with lemon curd topping

My weekend bake was a first on many levels, first time ever I made and ate gingerbread, used black treacle and lemon curd so I had no idea how this would turn out.

The recipe is from a little book I found at one of the local charity shops for only £1 and it's this one here. I've tried many of the recipes in this book and they were all great.


This gingerbread turned out very moist and fluffy and it was so moreish it disappeared very quickly. The only thing I'll try to change next time is to make it slightly less sweet maybe by adding lemon zest.


150g butter
175g soft brown sugar
2 tablespoons black treacle
225g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
2 tablespoons ground ginger
150ml milk
1 egg beaten
2 eating apples, peeled and chopped (the recipe called for dessert apples but I used eating apples)

Melt the butter, sugar and treacle in a pan over a low heat. Stir to combine well and once melted leave to cool.

In a bowl mix the dry ingredients. Stir in the milk, beaten egg and the buttery mixture then add the apples and mix everything together gently.

Pour into a tray (I used a brownie tray) lined with baking parchment and bake in a preheated oven to 170ºC Gas Mark 3 for 30-35 minutes or until the cake has risen and is cooked through.

Leave to cool in the tin before turning out. Once cool spread lemon curd on top.



Monday, 26 November 2012

# 298 Water, water everywhere

This is what parts of Berkeley looked like yesterday afternoon after a very wet Saturday.

I've uploaded a few more photos to my Flickr account here if you'd like to take a look. Meanwhile today has been dry and it will remain dry for the rest of the week as the rain is moving north.

Wishing you all a great, safe and dry start to the week.


Friday, 23 November 2012

# 297 Rain, rain go away

The sun is shining again today after 3 days of almost non-stop rain and very strong winds yesterday and apparently it's not over yet with a lot more rain expected to fall over the next few days.

This is what parts of Berkeley looked like this morning but still, it's not as bad as some other places where people have had their houses flooded, in some cases more than once this year.

The field aboved is usually used as a car park when there's events on the castle meadow but today it looked like a lake. The swans and other birds certainly seemed to be enjoying it.

This is the castle meadow just across the road from the field in the first photo. In the olden days this field was actually meant to be flooded if there was any threat of an attack to the castle.

One of the floodgates used then to flood the fields.

I don't think I've ever seen the water level this high.

This is the road at the bottom of the High Street, it's clear now but on Wednesday it turned into a river making it impossible for people to go through. During my walk lots of people stopped and got out of their cars to take photos of the flooded fields.

How has it been where you are?


Tuesday, 20 November 2012

# 296 Sun chasing

These days whenever there's a break in the clouds and the sun comes out I feel the urge to grab that opportunity, go out and enjoy the sunshine while it lasts. Such was the case one day last week and although I had a list of chores I needed to do I just had to go out, soak up the sun and enjoy the blue sky.

This walk usually takes me about 1 hour or so and as you can see from the photo below, half way into my walk the clouds started gathering and the sun was almost gone.


Friday, 16 November 2012

# 295 Cannelloni

Back in September when I asked my son what he wanted for his birthday lunch he said Cannelloni so that's what I made.

The dried cannelloni tubes I bought needed to be pre-cooked in boiling salted water but this was actually quicker than pre-cooking lasagne sheets because I managed to fit them all in the same pan to cook at the same time..

I allowed 3 tubes per person making it a total of 9 which fit perfectly in my oven dish. To fill the tubes I used some of the slow cooked beef from a previous post but you can also use cooked beef mince if you want, you'll find the recipe for the mince here.

On to the recipe.


Dried cannelloni tubes
Pre-cooked casserole beef (shredded with a fork or blitzed in a food processor) or beef mince
Bechamel sauce (recipe here)
A little single or double cream

Pre-cook the cannelloni tubes according to the instructions on the packet. While they cook, pour a little single or double cream on an ovenproof dish, just enough to cover the bottom of the dish.

For Cannelloni I like to use a rectangular dish where the tubes fit nicely side by side but if you don't have one you can lay them in layers with a little bechamel sauce in between.

When the cannelloni tubes are cooked, remove them from the pan and set aside on a clean tea towel.

I find this is easier to do using the handle of a wooden spoon. Just pass it through the cannelloni tubes to easily remove them from the pan.

Now you can start filling the tubes. Hold each tube vertically inside the oven dish and spoon the beef into it.

By doing this inside the oven dish any meat that falls out of the tube will be in the sauce anyway and you won't have a mess all over your work surface.

Lay the filled cannelloni tubes side by side or in layers and spread the bechamel sauce on top.

Cook in a pre-heated oven until the topping is golden.

Serve with a green salad and enjoy.


Thursday, 15 November 2012

# 294 Photo Friday: At play

Another week, another Photo Friday challenge and this is my entry.

This photo was taken 2 or 3 years ago when A. took part in a cricket tournament at a nearby school. That's him in the photo watched closely by a girl from one of the other teams.

To see the other entries or to take part please scroll down the sidebar and click on the button that says Photo Friday.


Tuesday, 13 November 2012

# 293 Slow cooked diced casserole beef

Before we bought our slow cooker I avoided cooking beef, it seemed to me that no matter how long I cooked it for the meat was never as tender or as flavoursome as I wanted it.

With the slow cooker however I have no such problem, the meat is always tender to the point where I can easily cut it or shred it with a fork and it's always full of flavour. Plus there's the added advantage that it cooks slowly away for several hours without the need for constant supervision so I can get on with other things.

When using the slow cooker I usually make extra portions which I keep in a container in the fridge ready to be used at short notice.

Slow cooked diced casserole beef

1,800 kg diced casserole beef
1 small onion, chopped
1 garlic clove
1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes
1/2 teaspoon paprika
A few sprigs of fresh coriander
1/2 tin chopped tomatoes + 1 teaspoon cornflour
2 chicken stock cubes
Olive oil
A few slices of chorizo
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into chunky pieces
Pinch of nutmeg

Pour a little olive oil into a pan and add the chorizo slices, onion and garlic. Cook over a low to medium heat for a few minutes until the onion is soft.

Add the meat and cook until brown. Mix the cornflour with the chopped tomatoes and add to the meat with the remaining ingredients, add a little boiling water if necessary. Stirr, bring to the boil and then simmer for about 5 minutes.

Transfer to the slow cooker and cook on medium for 5-6 hours stirring every 2 hours or so. The meat is ready when you can easily cut through it with a fork.

Shred part of the meat to use in sandwiches with a little mayonnaise or to make a beef and mash pie. On my next post I'll show you what I made with some of this slow cooked beef.



Monday, 12 November 2012

# 292 Sunday walk

Yesterday was a lovely, bright day and so after lunch we put our wellies on and went for a walk. Some of you might've already guessed where we went and if you said deer park you'd be right.

In parts the ground was very wet which also made it very muddy and slippery.

Gate to the field that leads up to the entrance of the park.

The deer park is part of the Berkeley Estate and it's considered to be "one of the best examples of a mediaeval deer park in the country."

Park House or Folly built in 1753.

Apparently, in 1574 Queen Elizabeth I visited Berkeley and stayed at the castle for a few days in the absence of Lord Berkeley. It's said that she loved hunting and as at the time there were deer right next to the castle she went and killed 27 stags in one day. This left Lord Berkeley furious and so he decided to move the deer park to its present location.

Heading home

Hope you have a good start to the week.


Thursday, 8 November 2012

# 291 Photo Friday: Evening

This is my entry for this week's Photo Friday challenge. This photo was taken 2 years ago on a Summer evening in Portugal during our short holiday there.

To see the other entries or to take part please click on the button you find near the bottom of the side bar.