On the menu: poppy seed bloomer and a complete meal




I’d been craving a decent poppy seed bloomer for ages, they can be quite hard to find, the ones in my local supermarket have a weird after taste and the ones at my local bakers tend to be burnt, so I thought, I’d better have a go at making one myself. The recipe is from Gail’s Artisan Bakery Cookbook and is unusual in that it requires you to make a poolish first, the day before. A poolish is sort of like a sourdough starter except it uses yeast to give it a bit of a boost. You mix together almost equal parts water and strong white bread flour, add some fresh yeast and then stick in the fridge overnight. The result (pictured above) has some bubbles in the next day (if it’s worked). When you make the actual bread it’s obviously more flour and water, plus more fresh yeast and the poolish.

The actual making went well enough, although I wasn’t convinced it was rising enough, in part probably due to a cold kitchen, but I thought, as I stuck it in the oven it would hopefully be edible enough but oh, when I took it out of the oven, wow, if I do say so myself. It had risen so nicely and it looked just like something from the bakers (although in the case of my local bakers, less burnt).


The crust was again beautiful (the secret to that, as with the roasted garlic bread I made the other day, which also had a good crust, is to make sure you add a small amount of water to your oven to create steam) and the inside again would have definitely passed the Paul Hollywood press test.

Taste wise, it was nice, in that unlike a lot of commercially made bread it actually tasted of something. It had a slight sourdough taste which must have obviously come from the poolish. It’s made me wonder if the poppy seed bloomers I don’t like from my local supermarket are also made in a similar way, except the sourdough taste with their bloomers is more obvious (I’m not a massive fan of sourdough, it’s okay though). I think I will have to have another go at making a bloomer, this time with a different recipe, so that I can compare and contrast, as I have a feeling that as well as taste, the poolish may have helped given the loaf such a nice texture too.

Also made on Saturday (but not pictured), was a disastrous attempt at homemade chips. I went off piste with a recipe from My Street Food Kitchen but instead of cutting the chips into 2cm thicknesses, I cheated and used my spiralizer on the thickest setting. The result spiral chips were nowhere near 2cm thick, but I thought all I’d need to adjust was the cooking time. Hmmm, the chips ended up either burning to an instant crisp or steamed and went all soggy, all on the same baking tray. I will have to try again, as the recipe with various salts and flavourings sounds lush.


Although I like cooking (obviously), I rarely cook a complete meal from scratch, I don’t have time, my kitchen is too tiny, etc. etc. etc. Anyway today, for some mad reason, when I was already feeling a bit knackered, I decided to do just that. And the actual cooking of it did wake me up quite nicely but the result of having done all that and feeling rather well fed means I could now fall asleep in an instant and I’m working later tonight. Anyway, this all sounds like I’ve just cooked Sunday lunch on a Thursday evening, when actually all that I really did was make some quesadillas, some coleslaw and a nice pudding, the pudding wasn’t even made this evening, I made it in advance this afternoon. But there you go, I am working on batteries half charged at the moment.


The quesadillas and the coleslaw were from My Street Food Kitchen and were luckily a lot more successful than the chips (perhaps because I didn’t muck around with the recipes so much). The quesadillas were the chorizo, cheese and pickled jalapeno quesadillas recipe, although I didn’t use jalapenos, I used green chili instead as that was what was in the house (I think it would have been nicer with jalapenos though). I make quesadillas quite a lot, not following any particular recipe and I found it weirdly stressful following a recipe (maybe simultaneously helping with homework and trying to prevent Boy Lacer from eating all the bread he made in school today didn’t help). The result was nice but, like I say, would have been nicer with jalapenos but, to be honest, the recipe wasn’t widely better than the quesadillas I normally make and with a lot less effort too. As for the coleslaw or to be precise, creamy lime, chili and coriander coleslaw, that was nice, the recipe (for 4 to 6 people) made loads though, so I have a lot of coleslaw to get through now and whereas all those vegetables are good for my waistline, not so much the mayonnaise.


Dessert was chocolate chip cookie dough pots from Simply Nigella, I’ve been meaning to make these for ages. Like I said, I made these in advance this afternoon, although they’re pretty simple. The only change I made was to just use 100g of chocolate chips, as I wasn’t going to stretch to buying two packets and 100g was honestly more than enough. The result was really nice and very popular, particularly with the nearly teenage contingent of this household, I am under strict instructions to make more, so luckily for Girl Lacer, this recipe makes 6 portions and we only ate 3 of them tonight, the other 3 are in the freezer (one of the many, many things I love about the Simply Nigella, all the make ahead and freeze instructions!). The recipe for these pots of heaven is here.

Another Richmond Park walk: Ham Gate to Isabella Plantation


I haven’t blogged about any walks for a week or two, that’s because I haven’t been on any, as I’ve been quite busy (and the weather has been horrible) however I have been trying to make sure that I keep my walking up and there is now significantly less catching of buses, so getting back to how I used to walk in and out of town. So most days I’m walking between 3 – 5km. Anyway, today’s walk was a quick in out job, no particular wandering about but it still managed to be about 6km (I can’t be exact on this one, as my walking app froze on me for part of the route and as usual I’ve included the distance to and from my home too).


Now Isabella Plantation is okay, if you like that sort of thing (can you guess that I don’t really?), it’s a very much more formal and managed part of Richmond Park, so I tend to avoid it but today was very much about putting one foot in front of the other and getting some exercise and well I needed somewhere to aim at. Luckily though the walk to Isabella Plantation is quite nice when the deer are around, which they were today. I kind of wish I had my proper camera with me, as the deer were looking all moody against the morning low light and mist but you’ll just have to put up with them looking tiny on my phone shots.



And finally a token shot actually in Isabella Plantation.




I’ve got a million other things I could / should be making but I needed a new iPad case as I have some travelling coming up, so my thought process basically went “I could make one” (relatively quickly) to “I could make one out of patchwork” (not so quick) to “I could make one with patchwork and embroidery” (definitely not at all quick). Now I have a massive collection of embroidery patterns I have yet to stitch up, so I had fun looking through my collection and I settled on the Bibliophile pattern from Urban Threads. I thought it was nicely ironic considering it’s for an iPad but in my defence it’s got an awful lot of ebooks on it.


I knew, stitching it in white on a patchwork background was a bit risky and I don’t think it’s completely paid off, for a start I’d used Sulky Solvy for this again (is there some sort of embroiderer’s help group to wean me off this stuff?) and when I washed it off, one of the colours in one of the fabrics ran, staining my nice white embroidery grey! Luckily though sticking it in my washing machine with a colour catcher sheet, this time did work, phew! But back to the actual patchwork, I don’t think the embroidery is particularly clear against the greeny – blue fabric with little squares, still, you live and learn and actually, you can’t really get this across in photos but it is one of those things that looks clearer the further away you are from it, it only looks really indistinct close up.


(my back garden, the only place with remotely decent light today)

I constructed the iPad case with a layer of patchwork, some fleece to act as some very minor padding and then an inner lining. When I did the embroidery I embroidered through the fleece layer as well to try and get a bit of a quilted effect, it worked only slightly, but oh well. There’s also a button and a small loop of ribbon to act as a closure. The whole thing is a little tight but it luckily fits, so my iPad is all ready for its travels.


(the back)

The Society of Blood

The Society of Blood (Obsidian Heart #2)The Society of Blood by Mark Morris

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is the second part of the Obsidian Heart trilogy, a fantasy / horror / time travel / multiverse adventure. I remember reading the first book last year, I think I remember liking it but don’t remember that much more, so getting back into the series was a bit confusing at first, but most of it did come back to me, helped by recaps from the author.

In this one, Alex is in Victorian London trying to find the Obsidian Heart in an effort to find his daughter. I particularly liked the descriptions in this part, about how grimy and smelly London was, it was all very atmospheric and the action was quite fast paced but as the book progressed it got a bit bogged down with the characters discussing the nature of time travel and what to do next, so it began to drag a bit. Still, I will be reading the next book.

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The End

The End (The Enemy, #7)The End by Charlie Higson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So, the final book of Charlie Higson’s epic The Enemy series. This one took a little while for me to warm to but *gulp* the final scenes. In this one, the sickos are massing and the kids have to organise themselves for one last final battle, but there are complications that aren’t making it easy. As usual there is a massive death toll but Higson always writes really good death scenes and he does so here.

Thinking about what another favourite writer, Matt Haig, has said about the importance of books, in that they connect us and teach us what it is to be human, The Enemy series and, in particular, The End, is exactly that sort of book. Just like ancient hero stories, the series teaches us that it’s not how long we’ve got, it’s what we do with our time that counts, it’s about standing up for your mates, standing together, being sh*t scared but doing it anyway. I know Higson didn’t write The Enemy series to be some sort of moral tome, he wrote it because he wanted to scare kids but oh it so works on both fronts. I bet I’m not the only person though who would have loved a ‘year later’ epilogue.

Oh and as a final aside, anyone else wonder if the naming of David, the up himself leader of the Buckingham Palace kids was deliberate? Ahem.

Cameron Daily Echo

(photo from The Southern Daily Echo)

As The End progressed, every time the character David appeared, all I could picture him as was as a young David Cameron …

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I couldn’t resist


I couldn’t resist after making Boy Lacer’s hat, making one of my own. Again using Rowan’s Big Wool and again using the pattern from this month’s Mollie Makes (issue 60). I love this yellow (heck I love anything yellow at the moment), so I’m day dreaming about a jumper in it at the moment.


On the menu: even more Nigella plus some baking



Leek pasta bake from Nigella, it was okay but, to be honest, it was more fun making it than eating it. I had hoped it would have tasted a bit more savoury, but it didn’t really.


I also made (because I was bored and boredom is more often than not remedied by some fun in the kitchen) some roasted garlic bread from James Morton’s Brilliant Bread book. That was fun to make too and even better tasted delicious! I don’t think I’ve gone wrong with a single bread from Morton’s book yet. The crust was lovely and crusty, not bigging myself up or anything because it was purely down to the recipe, but it was the sort of crust you’d expect at a good baker’s, not at home. And the inside, oh the inside, it would have passed Paul Hollywood’s press test (does the bread spring back when you press it?) easily. I know I say this a lot, but I need to make more bread, actual time spent in the kitchen is so low yet with such minimal effort you get this!




I made spiced apple and blueberry compote from Simply Nigella for breakfast, it didn’t take too long, just the amount of time I would have normally spent mooching around on social media and the result was far better than a few tweets. It’s a really simple dish, just apples, blueberries, some spices and some maple syrup, but the whole thing smelt amazingly Christmas-y, which is the closest I’ve got to feeling Christmas-y so far this year, it also tasted pretty good too.




I wanted to bake something and it was feeling like biscuits, so I picked the first doable biscuit recipe I could find; chocolate flapjack biscuits from Miranda Gore Browne’s Biscuit. I know they’re not the neatest bake ever (although I’m sure a half way neater baker than me could make this recipe look a lot more attractive) but they were okay, they were certainly eaten quickly by me and the kids.



May look like granola, but there are some actual bars in there

I made Breakfast Bars 2.0 from Simply Nigella, I’m not a massive seeded bar fan, but they looked nice on TV and I needed something healthier in my life. They’ve got a lot of ingredients in them though, ingredients that are probably okay to find in London (although I couldn’t find any flax seeds, I didn’t look very hard though), they’re probably a bit harder to find in say, rural Wales. Also, a lot of the ingredients are a bit on the expensive side, luckily though for me though I had a lot of the ingredients already in the cupboard. Anyway, due to the lack of flax seeds these are slightly adapted (I added a bit more oats to compensate).

They were soo pretty to make, all the different colours and textures (that’s one of the things I love about Simply Nigella, it’s like Nigella has not only put time and effort into making sure what the recipe produces is brilliant but also she’s put time and effort into making sure the experience of making the recipes is the best possible relaxing, sense pleasing experience too), unfortunately though I burnt the result a bit (not as burnt as it looks in the photo though!). Taste wise, hmmm, well they are a bit worthy, but they’re okay, I’ve certainly eaten worse. They definitely would set me up for the morning if I had one for breakfast. They’re the sort of snack which I would happily eat if I was hungry but could just as easily avoid eating if I just had the munchies.