Mutterings of a Fool

Man, Dad, Runner, Chief dog walker

Category: Recipes (page 2 of 5)

Pizza my heart

A pizza oven has been on my dream house wish list for a long time and no I don’t mean one of those attachments you can put on a Weber barbeque. I’m talking roaring wood fire in a domed oven in the garden, long handled pizza peel in hand deftly whisking out the perfect thin and crispy pizza. But it’s always stayed a dream just like having a ride on lawn mower and a kitchen with a stable door. That is until now.

After extensive negotiations and many hours of internet research the lady of the manor has given me the green light to try to build a pizza oven. Because of course I’m not going to do it the easy way and just buy an oven, no that would be far too straightforward (and bloody expensive to be fair) so I’m going down the DIY route. On the face of it it doesn’t appear to be too tricky a task, providing my dome building skills are ok the rest is actually pretty straightforward.

I’ve found a great guide for building one that I spotted on another blog and I have now got most of the materials needed. Having a load of random bricks spread around the garden turned out to actually be quite useful! I’ll try to write at least a couple more blogs about it in due course but the intention is to turn this pile of building materials into the greatest pizza making machine outside of Northern Italy in the next few weeks. Wish me luck!

The ultimate evening snack

I am a grazer, I don’t eat big meals but I’m constantly eating, throw in all the running which increases appetite and come 8.30pm in the evening you can guarantee my belly will start rumbling a little. Well that’s my excuse anyway and I’m sticking to it.

So I’m going to share with you the ultimate evening snack and I hope you’re ready for this because your life is not going to be the same again. It is also of course highly nutritious and healthy (if you ignore the salt). Simply take 2 ingredients:

Rapeseed oil and popcorn

Measure out 3 tablespoons of glorious smoked rapeseed oil into a saucepan, heat until starting to spit a little then tip in half a cup of popcorn kernels. Pop a lid on the saucepan leaving a small gap for steam to escape and leave on a medium heat until the popping slows down. The voila you have the tastiest popcorn you will ever eat. We sprinkle on some salt before eating but that’s down to taste.

I’m a huge fan of rapeseed oil and we use the plain stuff for all our cooking, it’s so tasty and best of all of course local. The one we buy is from fields 20 miles away, much better than imported olive oil and a great way to support British farmers.

So who can beat this for an evening snack (a piece of cheese on a digestive might be a close second)? Also anyone have a different popcorn topping that is a favourite?

Toddler heaven – homemade Easter eggs

When you get an email offering to send you a load of chocolate and assorted sugary treats you have to be pretty silly to say no right? Especially when the idea is for you to have a go at homemade Easter eggs with your children. So it was that last week we received a box full of awesome chocolate from those lovely people at Waitrose which we quickly had to hide from the resident post opener. coincidentally last week also saw the opening of a shiny new Waitrose just down the road from us, both me and the lady of the manor have been down for a look like little kids going to the candy store, I particularly like the ‘grazing’ area near the wine where you can sit for a glass of wine and a cheese platter.

We didn’t get the children to help with actually making the eggs as I’m sure you well know the attention span of a toddler is about 30 seconds and certainly won’t last for the time needed to build up the layers of the egg. So we had fun making them one evening and then leaving them in the moulds in the fridge overnight, this also had the added bonus that we could lick the bowl clean of what was left. You can find full instructions on how to make your own egg, plus lots of other Easter recipes and children’s activities on the Waitrose Easter pages here. (Plus I’ve included some simple instructions at the end of this post)

Making easter eggs with 2 crazy toddlers

Once you’ve made your egg that’s when the fun really begins, we did a half egg each for Matilda and Henry because it meant the egg wouldn’t move while they were decorating it and quite honestly we didn’t have the patience to make 2 more halves. We had a whole bunch of different treats they could use to decorate their eggs; chocolate buttons, marshmallows, jelly tots, sprinkles, popping candy and some honeycomb.

In true messy play style we let the children have free reign to decorate the eggs, I was going to just post a bunch of photos here but I think this short video better captures the chaos of doing this with 2 toddlers. It was also probably one of the funniest family activities we have ever done; keep your eye on Henry during this, his policy was most definitely 4 for me, 1 for the egg!

Surprisingly we didn’t let them eat the eggs after decorating, I think they’d just about had their sugar allowance for the day from just making them. However I will leave you with one final photo of the finished eggs. While it’s very easy to go and buy an egg from the shops homemade Easter eggs are really quite simple to make and actually a whole lot of fun.

Matildas homemade easter egg

Henrys homemade easter egg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Making your own easter egg

Ingredients

250g of good quality dark or milk chocolate – remember to save a little extra for decorating

What you’ll need

2 chocolate egg moulds

Flat pastry brush or small paintbrush

Heat proof bowl

Spoon

Pan

 

Step 1  – Melt chocolate in a heatproof bowl over simmering water in a pan.

Step 2 – Paint a thin layer of chocolate inside the egg moulds, making sure it meets the edges of the mould. Depending on the size of the moulds you may need more chocolate, have plenty on standby!

Step 3 – Chill for 5 minutes or until the chocolate is firm.

Step 4 – Spread another even layer of chocolate over the first layer and let cool for another 5 minutes or until firm.

Step 5 – Gently ease the mould away from the chocolate. Join the chocolate halves together with a little melted chocolate, using a flat pastry brush or small paint brush – That’s it! Well done, you have made your very own Easter egg!

Wild thing, you make my loaf spring

Ok, first an admission, I stole the post title from the lovely people at the real bread campaign. But I’m not sorry, it’s an awesome title and I just had to use it. You see this month is officially Sourdough September, Britain’s first celebration of the mighty Sourdough.

There seems to be weeks and months dedicated to all sorts of random causes these day but finally one that is truly a worthy cause.

You all know how much of a fan I am of making bread with those magical little natural yeasts and if you follow me on Instagram you are no doubt already bored of my regular loaf photos at the weekend.

Once you get into the routine of feeding your starter and making a loaf every day or every weekend it’s really the easiest thing and with just 15 minutes work in the evening you can have an awesome fresh loaf the next day.

I’ve blogged a few times about making Sourdough and you can find my recipe here which is taken from the Fabulous Baking Brothers. There seems to be a few variations out there on making a loaf but this one has worked well for me and is simple to use.

So why not join me in celebrating Sourdough September and get your own starter bubbling away in the kitchen? Once you start you really won’t regret it and I can assure that a fresh Sourdough loaf makes the most amazing bacon sandwich. If I can help at all then let me know. If you do make a loaf I’d love to see some photos too.

You can also get more information on making sourdough and finding bread making courses near you by checking out the real bread campaign website here.

I’ll leave you with some bread porn as inspiration.

Sourdough loaf

Sourdough bread porn

My nan’s Gooseberry jam recipe

I am tremendously excited to have only my 2nd ever guest post to share with you and it’s from my nan! My uncle (her son) and I chat a fair amount via G+, it’s such a great way to share photos etc but limit who can see them. This week he posted a photo of her sat in the garden topping and tailing gooseberries ready for jam so I asked if she’d share her recipe with me.

So here it is, my nan’s first ever blog post, not bad for someone who’s almost 90 years young. Would love it if you can comment and share and welcome her into this wonderful world of blogging. You never know she might be the new Mary Berry?

Gooseberry jam finished and in jars

The recipe is very simple and one I’ve been following for years, stick to the instructions and you’ll have perfect jam every time.

1) Top & Tail the fruit (scrape off the bits you don’t want)
2) Wash the fruit
3) Prepare jars – wash thoroughly and dry with clean paper towel. Good idea to also fill with baby sterilizer solution and rinse.
4) Put fruit in saucepan. Add 4 tablespoons water per lb. weight if fruit is ripe. If fruit under-ripe add 1/2 pint water per lb. weight.
5) Bring to boil and stew fruit slowly until fruit is mushy. Time probably 30 minutes.
6) Add 1 lb ordinary granulated sugar per lb of ripe fruit.
Note if fruit is under-ripe add extra 1/4 lb of sugar per lb of fruit.
Keep stirring until sugar is completely dissolved.
7) When sugar is dissolved, boil the jam rapidly without stirring.
8) When mixture has thickened like soup (not watery), after 10 to 20 minutes, test to see if ready.
8) Test by placing a little of the jam on a cold saucer. It should solidify quickly and not run easily.
9) When done, move off heat and allow to cool down for 15 minutes.
10) Prepare the clean sterilized jars by warming in the oven on lowest setting for 10 minutes.
11) Carefully ladle or pour the jam into the jars, leaving a gap of 1/4 inch to the top ( 7mm ).
12) Put the tops on the jars, but don’t tighten excessively! Leave to cool down and clean up all the spills with a damp cloth!
13) Leave for a day or two before enjoying!

Nan topping and tailing gooseberries

Sourdough Sunday

You all know that I have had an obsession with the king of bread, the sourdough, for some time now. Last time I blogged about it (and yes my obsession is sufficient to have written more than one post already) I talked about the routine and the enjoyment of having fresh bread every weekend.

Since then I have taken things up a level. Upped my game. Moved into the big leagues. When once I was happy with a loaf that looked like this.

Sourdough tin

I now consider this the very minimum that is required.

Sourdough loaf

As with a lot of cooking it’s part science and part art and the art is what was missing. The first big change has been taking the starter out of the fridge permanently rather than keeping it in there between bakes. This has made those awesome little natural yeasts so much more active and as a result the bread is much lighter and full of bubbles.

It does mean you have to feed it every day, but actually if you’re making more than one loaf a week you need to do this anyway really to have sufficient volume of starter to use. You do need to remember to do it though otherwise you risk killing your starter for ever.

The second big change is that I finally bought a proving basket. A very simple wooden bowl that you use to prove the dough overnight in. It gives that amazing patter on the top and seems to give a really nice and consistent rise.

What I also like about sourdough is that it doesn’t give you that bloated feeling that bread can, while I have no scientific research to prove it I think the natural yeasts and slow rise are better for your digestion. Maybe I’m just making excuses for baking more bread, but I certainly notice the difference if I eat supermarket bread now.

The next challenge is getting myself a sharp enough knife to slash the top before baking and start getting some even better shapes. I’m always worried that cutting it will mean it collapses and all that time is wasted, but the last few loaves have had a big air bubble near the top which the cutting should help alleviate. But for now Sunday’s are always sourdough days and will soon also be sourdough sausage sandwich days.

Oh yes! Get in my belly!

P.S. If you want to know how to get started in making sourdough then you’ll need this post.

The ultimate ‘I’ve just been ill and need vitamins’ meal

The ultimate veggie stir fry-001

I challenge anyone to look at that photo and not start salivating. This was dinner on Wednesday night, it was a thrown together meal and it was AWESOME. Both the lady of the manor and I had been ill since Sunday with tonsillitis, our meal plan had been forgotten and we’d been mainly eating soup. On Wednesday we started to feel better and were craving some vegetables, something full of flavour and goodness to recharge our bodies.

We did what every normal person does in this situation and opened the fridge. Peppers and mushrooms were grabbed along with some broccolli, then we spotted some bacon at the bottom. From the cupboard came pine nuts and egg noodles.

All the veggies, bacon and pine nuts were thrown into a wok along with some rapeseed oil. Cooked until just soft and then tipped on top of the hot egg noodles. Pretty damn tasty already but then I had a flash of inspiration.

Put a poached egg on top.

Honestly, there are few meals that a freshly cooked poached egg can’t improve. Even better that our eggs come from chickens owned by a guy on our street making them incredibly fresh and tasty.

We added a good dash of soya sauce to the plate and then devoured it like we hadn’t eaten for a week.

DELICIOUS.

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