I rarely spend all afternoon cooking something because quite frankly I just don’t have the time. Like this afternoon, there were plenty of things I could have been getting on with, some pleasurable (I have several finished pieces of embroidery that need sewing into their new homes) and some not (I have lots of laundry to sort) but no, I thought I’d take the time to cook something nice, Leon 2′s Chicken with 100 Cloves and Potato Leon-aise. The chicken with 100 cloves (actually it was 93) smelt absolutely amazing as it cooked, the Potato Leon-aise probably smelt nice to, it’s just the smell of the chicken was so overwhelming. So I was really really looking forward to this and yeugh, where shall I start? The potatoes were the worse, sort of like dauphinaise without the cream, the top was over cooked, the bottom undercooked and a thin layer of the middle edible, but not really worth the effort. The chicken at least was cooked properly but you really wouldn’t have thought I’d cooked it with so much garlic, so not worth the effort either. Two recipes I will not cook again (for the record Nigel Slater does do far nicer creamless daphinoise recipes, so the idea can work, I should have stuck with Nigel!).
Despite claiming to be not that interested in the royal wedding and having felt like we’ve had far too many Bank Holiday weekends recently (if that’s possible), I turned out to be sort of looking forward to this day. This morning started out with me, as per often usual on a non-school or dance morning, I decided to have a bit of an experiment with breakfast, serving up the breakfast mini knickerbocker glory from Leon 2, which Boy Lacer demolished, Girl Lacer (when shown the picture in the book) refused to eat (and then asked for it tomorrow when she saw it served up for Boy Lacer).
After that I quickly knocked up a patchwork cushion to show off the Rosie and Bear Royal Wedding piece I had finished stitching last night (pattern from Bustle and Sew).
I had been so attracted to this pattern because of Bear wearing the red soldier jacket, just like my old teddy! (The jacket was made by my gran when I was little, because my teddy “looked cold”, I don’t think my teddy has taken it off since).
We then watched the wedding on TV, I just couldn’t resist, the dress was gorgeous, so tasteful (still shudder at that Diana dress) and I loved the choice of trees and natural greenery in the abbey, it made the whole thing look far more timeless and William and Kate are such a sweet couple.
Then home again, where I put the bolognese, also from Leon 2, to cook slowly on the stove. It was the first time I’d made this particular version and it was lovely, fairly simple (just beef, the all important bacon, tomato, onion, red wine and garlic) but it was packed with flavour. Maybe not quite as nice as my still favourite Tana Ramsay bolognese but the Leon 2 one is now definitely my go to for when I want to make bolognese but don’t want to spend quite so much time preparing the ingredients (lots of chopping and more frying things off in the Ramsay recipe).
So all in all, a really nice day, some crafting, some cooking, a trip to the pub and a historic wedding thrown in to (and it didn’t rain either, the don’t rain songs the kids sang in assembly yesterday for today, worked )
The kids’ school is in full on Royal Wedding mode today, they’ve gone to school dressed as if they were wedding guests and they have been doing (and will be doing) lots of wedding related activities, including making commemorative plates. They will also get a commemorative leather bookmark apparently.
One of the things they will be doing today is having a red, white and blue food lunch, so those with kids who have packed lunches (my two do) have to get a bit creative. I ended up sending my two in with a raspberry jam sandwich for Boy Lacer and a cheese sandwich for Girl Lacer (both on white bread) and both had packets of ready salted crisps (in red packets), bottles of water (in blue bottles) and one of the red, white and blue cupcakes I was sweating over late last night / first thing this morning. Normally the school is a healthy food school and things like jam sandwiches and cupcakes are banned but hey, if they’re suddenly going to introduce (temporary) ‘rules’ about what colour the food should be, they can’t be picky.
Anyway, the red, white and blue cupcakes are actually the vanilla cupcakes from The Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days book, which is a relatively new acquisition for me (I couldn’t resist after reading about all the lovely cakes Cookbook A Month are currently making from it). The whole book looks lovely, definitely fulfilling a must have criteria for me these days with baking books, that it must not be a rehash of all the other common recipes found in baking books elsewhere, I have enough of those as it is, whereas Cake Days definitely has new recipes in and new recipes I am desperate to try. Drool inducing highlights include;
- Lots of different varieties of whoopie pies.
- Caramel cupcakes (made with dulce de leche, which is a dangerous thing for me to have in the house because I always end up eating it straight from the fridge, a sneaky spoon at a time before I even remotely get a chance to cook with it).
- Chocolate fondant cupcakes.
- Lemon and thyme loaf (yummmmmmm)
- Apple blossom cupcakes look a bit of a challenge to get the ingredients for (not actual apple blossom but apple iced tea powder instead, I have no idea where to get that, there are some variations involving herb tea bags instead, I may have to improvise).
- Malted chocolate cupcakes (oh heaven! Cookbook a Month make them here).
- Lemon and poppyseed loaf.
- Marbled cupcakes.
- Blueberry and soured cream loaf (blueberries + sour cream = another heavenly combination, Cookbook a Month makes this here).
- Lemonade cupcakes (I have to make these, but where on earth do you get lemonade syrup from?)
- Raspberry trifle cupcakes (I am going weak at the knees now).
- Coconut jam sandwich bars (just looking at this book is putting inches on my hips).
- Cola cupcakes (ditto the lemonade cupcakes).
- Apple and oatmeal cookies.
- Hot chocolate cupcakes (oooooooh)
- Beetroot and chocolate cupcakes (a must try).
- Gingerbread cupcakes.
As you can see, some of the recipes involve ingredients which may be a little tricky to get hold off (I would guess lemonade and cola syrup, that’s sodastream stuff, right?) and Cookbook a Month (who have cooked far more recipes, obviously, from this book than I have) report that some of the recipes involve a lot of stages that can take all day but I guess the reward is having something unique and delicious on your plate. The vanilla cupcakes (aka the red, white and blue cupcakes) were certainly delicious, I’ve had some problems making cupcakes before, starting off (and having some disasters with) a Nigella recipe before moving to an amalgam of two different Annabel Karmel recipes, which did work but in no way shape or form did it produce cupcakes as light, moist and tasty as the Cake Days recipe. I’ve often had problems with my cupcakes sinking back and problems with the mixture not mixing properly to, but these were perfect shape and I don’t really think that’s anything much to do with any baking skills I may or may not have. My only criticism of the recipe is that although you can taste the vanilla very well, the recipe also has a lot of sugar, so the sweetness over powers the vanilla a little bit, but I think the high sugar content has probably helped produce a nice, almost caramelised outside of the cake, which probably helps with the shape and helps keep it moist to. As for the icing, which I did this morning (i.e. one slightly stressed mummy wishing that Sainsburys hadn’t missed out on an obvious marketing ploy in their bakery and had actually sold some red, white and blue cupcakes or biscuits or something, so that I wouldn’t have to be faffing around with cakes alongside everything else I have to do in the morning, because if Sainsburys had sold something like that (and I had checked), that’s what the kids would have been going to school with this morning). The icing was nice, although as you can probably see from photo, sieving the icing sugar was one step I missed out on this morning. I’m not normally a big fan of icing but this one wasn’t too sweet and actually tasted of something other than sugar, so a big thumbs up from me!
(Oh and Cookbook a Month have also made the vanilla cupcakes, you can their opinion here).
We managed to drag ourselves out of the flat this afternoon to go and walk up to Isabella Plantation, which is a smallish, enclosed area in Richmond Park. Whereas most of the rest of Richmond Park is quite wild, Isabella Plantation is more managed and there are beautiful flowering bushes, prehistoric looking ferns, cooling ponds and cute little streams with tiny bridges or stepping logs over them, there. The plantation is heavily planted with mature trees and one of the pleasures of going there is getting deliberately lost amongst the shaded winding paths. Another one of the pleasures of visiting Isabella Plantation is the numerous logs and branches for the kids to clamber over. This time they played a mixture of Angry Birds (the softies I made came along for the walk to and were well maltreated) and Dora the Explorer, Boy Lacer being assigned to the role of Boots by Girl (I mean Dora) Lacer. Once again I go somewhere and think “I must do this more often”.
Easter is not really a big deal in our household, previous Easters we’d also brought the kids outdoor toys as well (as with both of them being Autumn babies, they were never really given outdoor toys as presents), but we didn’t this year. But I couldn’t just give them chocolate, so I knocked up a couple of Angry Birds based on the pattern by Obsessively Stitching, as Angry Birds are very big in this flat.
They were relatively easy to make (presuming you have some sewing experience) and I suspect I will be making some more . . .
Ooh and it’s that time of year again when I gush, alot. But how can you not gush when you get an opening episode to the latest Doctor Who series, like The Impossible Astronaut? It had some of the most literally spine tingling aliens I’ve ever seen (honestly, I was going all tingly in that scene in the bathroom), the interactions between the main characters are of course brilliant and Stephen Moffat has this wonderful ability to make 45 minutes feel like an hour and a half, the way how he crams so much in it feels like a movie, yet it still feels like a movie that is too short because I want more! Can not wait till next week.
Again from the Nigella app (although the recipe is actually from Feast), it’s Welsh Rarebit but with cider instead of ale (hence the Somerset bit). I’ve never actually made Welsh Rarebit, it’s never seemed worth the bother of getting the ale in (not that keen on ale) but I am partial to a spot of cider (first time I ever got drunk was on Scrumpy Jack on a 6th form biology field trip – ahh good times), so I thought I’d give it a go. And it was rather nice BUT was it nice enough to beat my normal slap a bit of cheese on some bread and stick it under the grill emergency no food in the flat meal? I’m not sure it was quite that level of nice, particularly as the amount of cheese I’ve just had to grate to make this feels like a week’s worth of cheese portions for me in one meal (it’s a typical Nigella recipe, when she uses cheese, she uses ALOT). But still, a good excuse to get a spot of cider in the house . . .