Monday, 30 January 2012

# 176 Of books and libraries

I've finally finished the book I was reading, I'm ashamed to say it took me a whole month to do it but I read it from beginning to end and, not to loose momentum, I've begun a new book, this one.

I've always been a library goer and nowadays that's where I get most of my reading books from. There's a small public library here in Berkeley, only a 5-minute walk from my house but unfortunately it's one of the many small public libraries that will be closing down very soon due to budget cuts. The good news is that a group of people got together and everything seems set so the library is run as a community library by volunteers.

Anyway, all this to say if there's a public library near you please visit it as often as you can and borrow a book or 2 once a while, this will help increase numbers and maybe help garantee its future.

What are you reading at the moment?


Friday, 27 January 2012

# 175 Fridays recipes: Individual chicken pies

Every Friday I plan my menu for the week ahead and do my shopping accordingly, the part I have most difficulty about is what to send A. in his packed lunch and as if this wasn't enough the husband often needs to take one too. I like them to have something they'll like and I know A. would gladly have sausages every single day but I think variety is important too. These individual chicken pies are perfect both for a family meal served with white rice, vegetables or a salad or eaten on their own when included in a packed lunch. The filling can be cooked from scratch or better still you can use any meat leftovers you might have.

I use my muffin tray which has 12 holes, this gives me enough pies for a meal and then have some extra for their packed lunches the following day.

Individual chicken pies

2 chicken breasts cut into small pieces
A few bacon rashers cut into thing strips
1/2 onion, finely chopped
Olive oil
2 or 3 tablespoons mushroom soup powder
1/2 tub double cream
Block shortcrust pastry
Beaten egg to brush the pastry

Preheat the oven to 180 ºC / gas mark 5.

In a pan soften the onion in a little olive oil, add the bacon and the chicken and allow to cook for a few minutes until it's no longer pink.

Add the double cream and the soup powder, mix well. Add a little boiling water if needed. Check the seasoning and cook for 10-15 minutes over a low heat stirring occasionally.

Roll out the pastry following the instructions on the packet. Cut circles of pastry and line the holes of a muffin tray with them. Fill with the chicken, brush the edge of the pastry cases with the beaten egg and add a pastry lidd.

Press all around the edge of each pie to make sure both the pastry case and the lid stick together. Brush the top with the remaining beaten egg and bake for about 20 minutes or until golden.



Wednesday, 25 January 2012

# 174 January craft's review

Craftwise January is turning out to be quite a productive month which surprises even me. I guess this is due in part to one of my resolutions for 2012, to spend less time on sites like Pinterest and Flickr admiring what other people have made and actually spend that time making stuff myself.

Here are a few of the things I made so far. I've included below the links to the tutorials I wrote for both cushions and which were posted on my other blog.

Crochet patchwork cushion
Mini circle in a square cushion


Tuesday, 24 January 2012

# 173 Making Winter: Jam thumbprints

One of my favourite activities on a cold, gloomy Winter day is to bake. The warmth that comes from the oven during baking, the smell of a freshly made cake or batch of biscuits is so, so comforting then add to that a nice, hot cup of tea with a slice of that cake or one of those biscuits and I can't help feeling so much better no matter how bad it is outside.

Lately, these biscuits have been making regular appearances in our biscuit box and are much appreciated by us 3 especially me and A. I've been using the pumpkin jam I made back in November from the flesh of the Halloween pumpkin but obviously you can use any jam you have.

Jam thumbprints

1 large egg
100g sugar (both caster sugar or light brown soft sugar work fine)
100g butter, softened
250g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

Preheat the oven to 180 ºC.

In a large bowl mix all the ingredients, except the jam, and mix to make a dough.

Make small balls with the dough and place them on a baking sheet lined with greaseproof paper, they will spread a little so don't put them too close together.

With your thumb make an indentation in the centre of each ball and fill with jam. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden. Allow them to cool a little before removing to a wire rack to cool completely. Keep in an air tight container.

Enjoy :-)


- With this amount of dough I usually fill 2 baking sheets which I put in the oven at the same time, one in the middle rack the other on the bottom.. When the batch in the middle is ready I remove it and swap the bottom baking sheet to the middle rack letting them cook for a few minutes more until golden.

- I found the perfect tool for these biscuits, a potato cutter (photo below) my mum has had for ages and which she no longer uses so I borrowed it. I use the larger end to make the indentations on the dough and the smaller end to measure the jam for each biscuit.


By the way this post of part of the challenge Making Winter by Silverpebble and Thrifty Household. If you'd like to join in just check their blogs for more information.

Friday, 20 January 2012

# 172 Fridays recipes: Dark chocolate cake

By comparison with previous years this Winter is actually quite a mild one, I think the lowest temperature we've had so far was about 2 ºC during the day. But still it feels very cold and when it's this cold there's nothing better than lots of tea and a slice of the most lovely dark chocolate cake.

I made this cake twice already and one of those times was for Christmas, no one except me likes the traditional English Christmas pudding so we have chocolate cake instead. I filled and covered it with ready made chocolate fudge and then sprinkled with chopped walnuts, it was delicious and didn't last for very long.

This is the recipe for the cake, it really is very good on its own so no need to add any filling or anything else if you want to keep it simple.

Dark chocolate cake

200g plain flour + 1 teaspoon baking powder
200g caster sugar
200g butter, softened
100g dark chocolate, melted
6 eggs

Pre-heat the oven to 180 ºC and line a round cake tin with greaseproof paper.

Beat the butter and the sugar, add the egg yolks and carry on beating. Add the melted chocolate and mix well then add the flour with the baking powder. Lastly add the egg whites beaten to soft peaks and mix gently. Bake for about 40 minutes or until it's done.



Tuesday, 17 January 2012

# 171 I pledge to read the written word

I've added a new button to the bottom of my sidebar and seeing that one of my resolutions for 2012 is to read more I thought  it was very appropriate.

I go to the small local library quite often but mainly bring home cookery and craft books which for some reason don't count as reading books in my mind. So my first book for 2012 is The Children's Book by A.S.Byatt, I remember having read one of her other books before and really liked it so when I saw this one on the shelf I thought I'd give it a go. I'm enjoying it but making very slow progress, I'd better hurry up and read it before I have to return it.

I'd love to know what you're reading at the moment if you'd like to share :-)


Friday, 13 January 2012

# 170 Fridays recipes: Creamy chicken korma

I love collecting recipes for dishes I think we might like, I keep them in 2 binders in A4 plastic pouches. One of the binders contains all the sweet recipes and the other all the savoury ones. This dish is based on one of those recipes taken from the free monthly ASDA magazine, as usual I've adapted it to the ingredients I had at the time leaving out the ones we're not so keen on and including others we like, even the meat I used is slightly different from the one specified on the original recipe (I used chicken instead of turkey!). The recipe below is the one I made, it makes a delicious mild curry with a nice thick sauce but if you like it hotter just add more spices.

Creamy chicken korma

Chicken drumsticks or thighs
Tub of creme fraiche
1 1/2 teaspoon korma curry spices
1 teaspoon mild curry powder
1/2 red onion, chopped
1/2 red pepper, deseeded and cut into pieces
1 courgette, peeled and cut into chunks
1/2 cup coconut milk
Pinch of salt
1/2 chicken stock cube
2 tablespoons tomato concentrate
Chilli flakes
Olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed

In a bowl pour half a tub of creme fraiche, the korma and the curry powder, the tomato concentrate and a pinch of salt. Mix well. Marinate the chicken in this mixture making sure all the pieces are well covered, I usually let the meat marinate over night but at least a couple of hours before cooking is fine.

Pour a little olive oil into a large frying pan and add the onion, the garlic and the red pepper. Cook for a few minutes to soften and then add the chicken. Cook for a few minutes until it's golden on all sides. Add the marinade, the coconut milk, the courgette, the stock cube and a little boiling water just enough to half cover the chicken. Put the lid on the pan and cook over a low heat for about 20-30 minutes stirring occasionally. Remove the chicken from the pan, transfer the sauce to a deep container such as a measuring jug, for instance, and blend*. Pour this back into the pan, add the meat and cook for a few more minutes before serving with white rice.

Enjoy :-)


* You don't need to blend the sauce if you don't want to, I did it mainly because I knew my son would complain about the courgette and the red pepper bits and also because I wanted the sauce to be nice and thick.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

# 169 Resolutions for 2012

So far so good! I made a mental list of the things I want to achieve this year and it's going well, whether it stays that way we shall see.

This year I want to spend less time online and more time doing/making things and generally being more active, this includes walking more (weather permitting), exercing more (on the Wii, I'm not a gym person!), being a little more house proud, reading more and being better organized. I've been managing this with the help of lists, every evening I'll write a list of the chores for the following day and then work my way down the list. Any chores that haven't been done that day will top the list for next day until they are eventually completed.

So far this is working, I'm managing to get a lot more done than I used to and I feel more on top of things which is great. Fingers crossed I'll keep on track.

Have you made any resolutions for 2012?


Friday, 6 January 2012

# 168 Fridays recipes: Spaghetti with bacon, walnuts and pineapple pieces

This is a dish I came up with the other day when we got home quite late from our weekly shopping and I needed to make something quick for lunch. Since them this dish has featured quite often in our weekly meal plan and always goes down a treat especially with A.

Spaghetti with bacon, walnuts and pineapple pieces

Smoked pork belly cut into small cubes (or bacon rashers cut into thin strips or bacon lardons)
Olive oil
Handful of walnuts
2 or 3 tablespoons canned pineapple pieces
2 or 3 tablespoons double cream

Cook the spaghetti in salted boiling water until it's al dente.

Meawhile in a large frying pan fry the bacon in a little olive oil until golden and crispy. Add the walnuts and cook for a couple of minutes more. Drain the olive oil, add the pineapple pieces and the double cream. Mix well and set aside.

Drain the spaghetti and add to the frying pan mixing well so the bacon, the walnuts and the pineapple is evenly distributed. Serve immediately.



Wednesday, 4 January 2012

# 167 The BMM (Bread Making Machine) Challenge: Filhoses

 Filhoses is a traditional Portuguese Christmas dessert of which there are many different versions, as far as I can remember my mum always makes them for Christmas. The dough used to make filhoses is a bread dough to which you then add other ingredients such as sugar or honey, orange zest, orange juice or Port, eggs, etc. This dough is then kneaded and left to prove until doubled in volume.

When ready the dough is cut into small portions which are then stretched thin and fried in vegetable oil. Once fried they can be dipped in a syrupy mixture or sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar.

A few days before Christmas it occurred to me how similar this dough is to that of the sweet brioches I often make and so with a few changes to the recipe I was able to make filhoses just like the ones my mum makes but with a lot less effort.


1 teaspoon fast action yeast
250g strong white flour
2 to 3 tablespoons honey (or you can use caster sugar instead if you want)
75g butter
Pinch of salt
Pinch of cinnamon
2 eggs
2 tablespoons Port wine (you can replace this with orange juice, but I prefer the Port)
Zest of an orange

Put all ingredients in the bread pan in the correct order. Select the basic dough setting (2h 20 mins in mine). When the cycle is complete tip the dough out into a bowl, cover with clingfilm and put in a warm place to prove until doubled in size.

In a deep container mix some caster sugar with cinnamon, also pour a little vegetable oil into a bowl and place near the pan where you're going to fry the filhoses. This is used to grease your fingers so it's easy to stretch the dough without it sticking.

Cut small portions of dough and stretch them gently, I don't worry about any holes that might appear or about the shape. Fry 1 or 2 at a time, the oil should not be too hot or they'll fry too quickly. Keep turning them with a fork until golden on both sides and remove to a tray lined with a few sheets of kitchen paper towels to absorb any excess fat. Sprinkle each filhós with the mixture of sugar and cinnamon. Keep in an air tight container.

Enjoy with a nice cup of tea or coffee.