Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Fudge

Day one of the holidays (well, nearly, they've got a nursery party tomorrow so it's my last day at work until September) and we made cakes and fudge!
Mr Chief decided a few days ago to buy some scones, some strawberry jam and some clotted cream.  There's been clotted cream sitting in my fridge for a couple of days (all the scones have been scoffed) so I thought it shouldn't go to waste.  Clotted cream fudge - yes please!

Ingredients
275g  sugar (I used normal granualted because that's what I've got, the recipe said to use unrefined blah blah blah)
100g golden syrup (this I always have, don't you just love that it's still in a funky tin like our Grandmother's used to use?  The squeezy stuff just isn't the same)
227g clotted cream
½ tsp vanilla essence

What to do
Get a square tin (or one of those microwave meals plastic tubs, which is what I used) and grease it then line it with greaseproof paper.
Bung all the ingredients into a  saucepan and heat gently, stirring until it's all blended. Bring it to the boil, cover the pan and boil it for about 3 minutes. Uncover it and continue to boil for a while ( the recipe said to boil it until the temperature reaches 116 °C / 240 °F - I did it for around 5 minutes - about the length of time it took to get both kids a drink and supervise a toilet trip for Master Chief).
If you don't have a thermometer (and who does?) you can see if the fudge is ready by dropping a little into a cup of cold water. If it turns into a soft ball, it's ready.Remove the pan from the heat and beat the mixture until it becomes thick, this could take up to 10 minutes. Pour into the prepared tin/tub and leave for 30 minutes. Mark into squares with a knife and leave until set. I always do this too soon and the knife drags though the not-yet-set fudge, try and wait until it's cool and it'll cut a lot neater!
Cut it into the pieces that you marked and store in an airtight container.

I would have put a picture here - but it's all been eaten!  I'm going to make some more though, so I'll update when I can get in quick enough to snap a picture.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Sharing party

Sometimes when you just can't think of anything to cook, or it's too hot to eat a"proper" tea or your brain has been turned into a small heap of mush because you've been at home with the kids all day and you know the beebies timetable like your own name - so just occasionally then ;-) - I do a sharing party for the kids.  Master Chief loves it, Miss Chief likes it because he does.
It involves a pound shop divided plate and various bits - grapes, blueberries, satsuma, apple, mini chedders, raisins, or whatever you have really.  It's a great way to get some fruit into them as they have the choice (and usually end up eating more than they would if I just put it in front of them), in fact sometimes Master Chief wants a sharing party just for himself - kind of missing the point there but hey, it's still getting him to eat.



You can just put a little bit in and keep refilling if you want, then there's no waste.
I've got some recipes for fruit gummy sweets that you make yourself which I'm going to try at some point but in the meantime this works a treat - they're happy because they have the controlled choice that we all love and I'm happy because it's quick, easy and healthy (well, as healthy as you want to make it, I suppose you could fill up the plate with chocolate if you wanted!)
One small tip though - if you have a destructor tot like Miss Chief then DON'T let them smash the empty plate down on the table.  Bits break off.  That'll be a trip into town for me then...


Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Pancakes!


We made pancakes!  Well, Master Chief helped me mix the batter and I did the cooking but it all counts.
We had them for breakfast and they were yummed up by the whole family.  The recipe below makes about 6 pancakes but that obviously depends how big you make them.  I doubled the amount and then we had some cold - absolutely delicious spread with butter!







Ingredients
50g sugar (the recipe said caster but I only had granulated)
100g flour (the recipe said you can use either plain or self-raising - I used self-raising)
1 egg
Milk - just a little bit

What to do
Sieve the flour into a bowl and add the sugar.
Add the egg and mix it all up using a whisk (or a fork if you don't have a whisk!).  It'll be a lumpy, dry, floury mixture.
Add the milk, a little bit at a time - mixing and adding, mixing and adding until it's a smooth thick batter, like cream or melted ice cream.  You shouldn't need a lot of milk, I think I used less than a teacupful.
Oil or grease a frying pan, when the pan is hot pour or ladle in a bit of batter.  You can use as much or as little as you like, the pancakes can be any size but if you make them too big then it gets really difficult to turn them over.  The recipe said cook for about a minute on each side but I think this depends on your cooker.  I used a plastic ladle to ease the edges up until it was loose and then flipped it (I'm a flipper, some people just turn it with a spatula - where's the fun in that!). 
When the pancake was done I put it on a baking tray in a warm oven - this is so I could cook all the pancakes and then we could all eat them together, rather than me standing there at the stove while Mr, Master & Miss Chief devoured them!
You'll probably need to re-grease or oil the pan between pancakes.

I find that my first pancake is usually pretty crappy, either over or under done so maybe you eat that while you're cooking the rest.... chef's perks, right?

Eat with sugar & lemon, or golden syrup (we didn't have maple), or chocolate spread, or jam, or anything really.

Fairly quick and easy breakfast or dessert - don't wait for pancake day!





Friday, 11 July 2014

Eggshell art

We have chickens, did I mention that?  Lots of lovely fresh eggs, yum.  Lots of eggshells.  Not a problem for us, we seem to live in one of the few areas where the food recycling bins are emptied regularly, also there are uses for eggshells, putting them round your plants to stop the snails and slugs, using them to grow seedlings in (as you can put them straight into the ground) or - eggshell art!
I saw this on a children's television program and stored it away in the dim and distant recesses of my memory where it was only dredged out recently when Master Chief wanted to make cards.

What you'll need
Eggshells (You'll need way more eggshells than you think)
Normal food dye in whatever colours you want to use (or have)
A bowl for each colour you're using (I used china bowls, I think plastic ones would take on the colouring)
Teaspoons (I used one for each colour but you could use and wash and then use for the next colour)
PVA glue
Card

What to do
Before you want to use the eggshells you'll have to clean them.  I rinsed them in water and then put them in a bowl of water to soak, this cleaned them and also made it easier to peel the inner lining off the shell.  You need to leave them to dry after this so do this the day before, or in the morning for use in the afternoon.
When they are dry, crush the shells using the back of the teaspoon (you want them small but not crushed into powder).  
Put the shells into the bowls and mix in the colouring.  Mix it in well, you want the eggshells to take on the colour thoroughly.
Leave the shells to dry, this shouldn't take long depending on how much dye you used (I spread the shells out on some kitchen towel to dry quicker)


The dye will seep through the kitchen towel so don't put them on anything that could stain.
When they're dry you can start making your card!
Depending on how artistic you are you might want to do this freehand or you might want to draw a design on the card to follow.
Glue the area of the card you want to put the eggshells on and then spread a thin layer of the eggshells on.  Drizzle some more glue over the top so it sticks really well.  If it doesn't look enough then put some more shells and more glue on until you're happy with it.
We did a pirate ship design as Master Chief is a pirate fan (who isn't?) and we added glitter to the blue "sea" for added effect (and because glitter is fab).




We added a little pirate that was cut out of a party cup and a little pirate flag and hey presto!  A lovely pirate card.



I was going to tidy it up a bit but Master Chief wanted it just as it was and he's the artist so we left it.  The recipient was very impressed!



Thursday, 10 July 2014

Blue Monday

Today, as we were driving home, Master Chief made a request. Normally it's "Can I listen to Thomas please Mummy?".  Today it was "Um, I want, um, can I listen to Blue Monday please?".
So proud.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Swordfish!

I found a great little fish shop in Southend.  It's W&G Gilson in Burdett Road, Southend-On-Sea and I bought swordfish from them.  They also sell fresh fish that they catch themselves locally which is great for those who are food miles concious.
I like swordfish, I've eaten it a few times in restaurants but never bought it or cooked it.  So I fell back on good old Google for instructions.  And then, of course me being me, I took the idea and went my own way.  Mr Chief thought it was Christmas, he liked it so much!
I made my garlic potatoes to go with it (I'll tell you about those next time) and washed it down with a nice bottle of Montepulciano (yeah, I know, it's supposed to be white wine with fish, but it's a meaty fish okay?) 








Ingredients
Swordfish (I used 1 steak each)
Garlic, roughly chopped (I used 3 large cloves, but then I love garlic, you might want to use a couple)
Olive oil (it said to use extra virgin, luckily that's what I have, but I would've used normal)
The recipe also called for lemon juice (I had a Jif lemon in the fridge, lucky there, but I think a purest would've shot me)
Salt
I also added some Worcester Sauce to the dish because I love it!  It made the swordfish a bit darker than it would've otherwise been but added a lovely spicy, tangyness.

What to do
Preheat the oven to 180
Pour a bit of oil into an oven proof dish.  Add the Worcester Sauce (if you're using it). 
Put the chopped garlic in the dish with a sprinkle of salt.
Put the swordfish steaks in the dish and move them around, then turn them over so they're nicely coated.  
Put them in the oven at 200°C/Gas Mark 6 for about 15 minutes.  Then add the lemon juice and chopped parsley (if you've got it!) and bake for another 5 minutes.

Yum!






Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Slow cooker saves the day

I love my slow cooker.  I really do.  I know it's probably a bit granny-ish but I find it so convenient to chuck a load of stuff in and then when I come home from work there's dinner!  That's pretty much how I use it, I don't do anything fancy, I rarely brown meat before I bung it in or anything technical like that.

Usually, I chop up some chicken or beef, a load of vegetables and then lob it all into the slow cooker with a tin of tomatoes and it cooks up a treat.  Sometimes I add some herbs or spices.  That's it really.  I used to be concerned about how to use it, if I should follow a recipe or anything like that, but then I just started to use it and realised - it's so easy!

This week, I did a joint of beef in it.  No cutting up of the meat, I literally just put it in.  I chopped up some potatoes and onions and put them on the bottom, put a little water in and then balanced the beef on top and sprinkled it with paprika.  When I got home from work, I sliced the beef and served it up with the potatoes, onions and the juice from the cooker - and it was gorgeous!





Even better, both Miss Chief and Master Chief gave it the seal of approval - and a toddler seal of approval is hard won.

Obviously you have to be a little bit prepared i.e. have the food ready in the morning to put in, but my new slow cooker (a Prolex) even has a setting where you can put frozen stuff in it and it cooks it on a high temperature and then switches to the actual slow cooking - genius!

My advice is - if you have a slow cooker, don't be frightened, just use it.  You'll get better if the first time isn't fantastic, and you can always blend whatever you've cooked and make it into a soup.  If you don't have a slow cooker - buy one!