Thursday, 31 January 2013

6 minutes and 33 seconds

I love a good Rom-Com.  Here's a lovely animated one that only takes 6 minutes and 33 seconds to watch and guaranteed to make you smile!

Click on this and fall in love:

Monday, 28 January 2013

Sweetheart Dark Chocolate Chip Scones

My sister-in-law, Jena, has a saying,  'Everything's better with chocolate chips.'    Jena is a wise woman.   When I saw a recipe for Chocolate Chip Scones I knew I had to give them a try.  This recipe is for Jena because she is right, almost everything is better with chocolate chips!  

If you like pain au chocolat, then you will love these.  I am going to show you a little trick that will make your scones light and lovely.  Before you measure out the flour, place one heaping tablespoon of cornflour (corn starch) into the measuring cup then continue measuring out the plain flour as usual.  The addition of cornflour makes the flour lighter, almost like cake flour, so your scones will be lighter in texture, too.  Of course, you can skip this step and just use all plain flour to make the dough. 

Here are the ingredients you will need:

1 1/4 cup plain flour (remember the cornflour trick when measuring out flour)
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 heaping teaspoon baking powder
3 Tablespoons cold butter
3 fluid ounces of cream
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 to 1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 400F/200C and line a baking sheet with baking paper.  

Place the flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder into mixing bowl and stir them all together to combine them.  Add the butter and cut or rub it into the flour mixture until it looks crumbly.  I use a pastry cutter to keep the butter from getting soft.  It is one of my favourite kitchen tools.

Pour the chocolate chips into the crumbly mixture.  Stir until the chocolate chips are well distributed.  

Combine the cream, egg and vanilla extract.  Add most of the liquid mixture to the dry ingredients.  Save back a couple of teaspoons to brush over the tops of the scones before baking.  Gently stir the ingredients until they form a soft dough.  DO NOT OVER MIX or you will make tough scones. 

Dust your work surface with a generous amount of flour and gently pat the dough into a thick circle.  The dough should be about 3/4 inch thick. Dip a heart shaped cookie cutter into flour and cut out the scones.  Gather the scraps to finish cutting out the scones.  Try not to add too much additional flour to the remaining dough.

Place the scones on the lined baking tray and brush the tops with the reserved cream mixture.  If you want, you can press a few extra chocolate chips into the top of the scones.  This is a trick professional bakers do to make food look luscious! 

Bake the scones for about 20 minutes or until they are a light golden brown.  Serve them warm.   Store any leftover scones in an airtight container and warm them in a 350F/180C oven for a few minutes before serving.  

You can dust these with icing sugar or serve them with apricot jam, but I thought they were lovely plain, warm out of the oven.  Jena is right, everything is better with chocolate chips!

Wednesday, 23 January 2013


Arthur, my allotment friend, is away for a day or two so he asked me if I would like to feed the chickens.   Of course, I said YES!

Before going to feed the girls, I made some muffins for my breakfast.  It's cold and snowing here so I needed something warm and filling.

While chatting to Celia, ace hen keeper and talented artist, I mentioned my muffins.  Celia said the hens would love them for breakfast, too.   So I pulled on my wellies, packed a couple of muffins and made my way to the allotment. 

And these are what the chickens gave me in exchange for a couple of muffins and a few chicken pellets.  These beautiful eggs were so fresh they were still WARM!  Amazing.

Thanks to Celia for her excellent  advice.  Please take a moment to look at her lovely work.  Just click on the link below:

Celia Hart - Purple Podded Peas

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Indoor Ornithology

It's been cold and grey and rainy today, not a good day to go out.  So I've pottered about the house a lot, drinking cups of hot tea and watching the birds in the garden.  

Four well stocked feeders bring in a lot of hungry little visitors so I thought I'd try to take a few photos through the French doors.  As a result, the quality of the photos isn't very good but I stayed warm and dry.

I won't attempt to identify the birds.  My Ornithological knowledge is limited at the best of times.  But we have several varieties of finches, tits and a robin or three that are regulars in our garden.

The robins are very territorial so we have witnessed a few Robin Wars. 

The blackbirds are a bit argumentative, too.  

But most of the little birds just get on quietly with their dinner.

All the while keeping an eye out for the most committed Ornithologist of all..

That very fluffy cat known as the DUST BUNNY!

Monday, 21 January 2013

Sea Salt Baked Potatoes and Creamy Onion Gratin

This weekend we finally got around to eating our Christmas Pudding.  That sounds bad but this is even worse, it was the pudding for Christmas 2011!  Fortunately, Christmas Pudding has a very long shelf life.  It's the booze, you see, it's filled with booze.  Steaming hot with cold double cream, it was delicious!  The pudding is gone but there was a bit of cream left over....just enough to make a creamy gratin of onions for lunch.

And to have with the gratin, Sea Salt Baked Potatoes! I made this dish for two but I will give you the recipe to make enough for four people.   

Wash and dry four fat potatoes.  Stab a knife or fork into the potatoes so they can release steam as they cook. Rub them with vegetable oil and sprinkle them with sea salt. Place the potatoes on a baking sheet and put them in a hot oven to bake, 400F/200C.  They will take 45 minutes to an hour to bake, depending on the size of the potatoes.  

Onion Gratin is so easy to make all you need is a couple of large yellow onions, some cheese, a bit of cream and a slice or two of bread, day old bread is best. 

Peel the onions and slice them into thin-ish strips.  Put a frying pan on a low flame and add a Tablespoon of vegetable oil.  Place the onions in the pan and cook very slowly until the onions become soft and translucent.   Sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper. 

Pour in a bit of double cream,  enough to make a nice sauce over the onions.  I like LOTS of cream.  Let the cream and onions cook together for a few minutes then pour them into a greased baking dish.

Now here comes the 'gratin' bit.  Take two slices of bread and cut them into small croutons.  Chop or grate about 1/2 cup of cheese, you choose the cheese you like.  Mix the bread croutons and cheese together and sprinkle over the top of the creamy onions. 

Pop the baking dish into the oven with the baking potatoes. Cook until the croutons are golden, the cheese melted and the cream is bubbling like lava.  It should take about 20 - 30 minutes.

When the potatoes are crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, you are ready to serve.

Carefully cut open the potatoes, add a bit of butter if you like, and a big scoop of Onion Gratin.  

Enjoy!  But watch out ...this is HOT STUFF!

Friday, 18 January 2013

Quark and Quorn Pie

Writing a blog is a funny old thing.  You start out typing to yourself and gradually people find you.  Nice people, interesting people...people who encourage you. At first it's only family and friends then something wonderful happens, you see people from all over the world are stopping by to take a look.  The really nice readers come back regularly and leave kind comments, like Calendula, a very talented photographer who lives in Germany.  Today I am going to use Calendula's recipe for Quark Pastry and show you how to make a Quark and Quorn pie. 

I must confess, I'd never heard of Quark but a quick Google informed me that it is a soft, fresh cheese.  Actually, it reminds me of a tangy, thick yogurt. 

Here is Calendula's recipe for Quark-Ol-Teig or Quark-Oil-Dough:

150 grams quark
6 Tablespoons of milk
6 Tablespoons of vegetable oil
1 pinch of salt
250 - 300 grams flour
3 teaspoons baking powder

This is such an easy pastry to make.  Simply place all the ingredients into a large mixing bowl and stir to combine the wet and dry ingredients.  Knead the dough to bring it all together.  Wrap in cling film and refrigerate while you make the pie filling.

I used Quorn, a vegetarian mince, but you could use ground beef if you are feeling carnivorous.  You can adjust the amount of filling to suit the size pie you want to make so I can't give you exact measurements... this part is more technique than recipe. 

Using the pie dish, I estimated how much mince I would need for the filling.  If you are using ground beef, a pound of meat should make a pie that will serve 3 or 4 people.  

Chop a large carrot and an onion into small pieces.  Peel and finely slice a clove or two of garlic.  Saute the carrot, onion, garlic and a teaspoon of mixed herbs in a tablespoon of oil. 

Add the Quorn (or beef)  and cook over a low heat until the mince is lightly browned and the vegetables have softened.  Add a splash or two of Worcestershire sauce to spice up the mixture.   Now here's where we cheat......

Using gravy granules or a packet of gravy mix,  make a VERY thick gravy. We LOVE gravy so I made at least half of a large measuring cup's worth.  Pour the gravy over the cooked mince, stir to combine and pour into your pie dish.  Set to the side while you roll out the pastry.

Are you still with me?  I know this seems to be a long process but it's really just pastry, chop, fry, gravy, pastry, bake!   So here we go... 

Dust the work surface and a rolling pin with a little flour.  Roll out the dough until it is nice and thin and a bit bigger than the pie dish.  You may not need all the dough to cover your pie.  Place the rolled out pastry over the pie dish.  Using the back of a fork, press the dough gently against the edge of the pie dish.  Cut off any extra dough.  I made a few hearts for decoration but that was just me being 'girly'.    Bake the pie for about 30-35 minutes in a pre-heated oven, 180C/350F.

Served with mustard mash and peas, this was the perfect winter dinner.   I hope Calendula will approve of my Quark Pastry.  We certainly enjoyed it.

A special thanks to Calendula for sharing her recipe with me.  Please take a few minutes to visit her blog and look at her wonderful photos, just click on the link below:


Thursday, 17 January 2013

Diving Into the Gene Pool

I've bought a new makeup mirror.  You know the kind that magnifies A LOT!  Needless to say, this has lead to some dramatic revelations.  For example, I have a freckle on my cheek that looks exactly like the one I remember on my Grandma Selph's face.  I didn't realize freckles could be inherited like the family silver.  Not that my family had silver to inherit but you know what I mean.

  Magnifying mirrors play tricks with your eyes.   Since you can only see a small portion of your face at a time, you get a distorted image of what you really look like.  I can see my Mom's cheeks, my Dad's mouth, a bit of Mom's mad hair.  There is a weird combination of both noses, one side slightly upturned like Mom's and one side that resembles Dad's.  I should probably get that fixed!  

   And there is something about my eyes, like my nose, they are a combination of both.  Mom's eyes were dark, dark brown that flashed with mischief and sometimes anger.  Daddy's eyes were a piercing grey-blue.  When he fixed you with that steady gaze you stayed fixed! My eyes are GREEN and betray every thought in my head.  

   When we are young, we pray that we don't turn into our parents.  Now that I am older and have a new magnifying mirror, I can see that I haven't... well, not completely.  Who knew buying a new mirror would be like diving into the gene pool!


Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Spicy Lentil Soup and Cornmeal Scones

It's cold!  I know, it's January but it's really cold.  The kind of weather that makes me crave spicy things like chili and curry and SOUP!  

So for lunch I made some Spicy Lentil Soup and Cornmeal Scones, perfect for a cold winter's day and so easy to make.  

For the soup you will need a just a few store cupboard ingredients:

1 or 2 carrots - chopped
1 onion - chopped
1 cup red lentils - rinse in cold water  
1 stock cube
1 Tablespoon of my Homemade Chili Seasoning

Did you miss the recipe for Homemade Chili Seasoning?  Click HERE to see how to make it.

Pour about a tablespoon of oil into a large sauce pan and gently fry the carrots and onions until they begin to soften.  Add the lentils, a stock cube and enough water to cover the lentils.  Bring this mixture to a boil then turn the heat down. Stir in 1 Tablespoon Chili Seasoning Mix and simmer until the vegetables and lentils are very soft. This will take about 20 - 30 minutes.  You may have to add a bit more water as the lentils cook - but not too much.  You want a thick, rich soup.  I like a smooth soup, so I use a stick blender to whizz together the vegetables and lentils.  

While the soups simmers, we can bake some Cornmeal Scones.  Heat the oven to 220C/420F.  Line a baking sheet with baking paper and set to the side while we make the dough.  You will need the following ingredients:

1 cup plain flour
1/2 cup fine cornmeal  or polenta
1 Tablespoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt
2 oz (1/4 cup) butter
1/2 cup plain yogurt 

Place the the cornmeal, flour, baking soda, baking powder, sugar and a pinch of salt into a large mixing bowl.  Stir to combine the ingredients.  Add the butter and rub or cut it into the dry ingredients until the mixture looks like bread crumbs.  Stir in the yogurt.  If the mixture seems dry you can add a little water, a tablespoon at a time.  

Place the dough on a floured work surface and knead it 4 or 5 times.   Pat the dough into a rough circle, about 3/4 inch thick and cut into 8 pieces with a floured knife.

Place the dough on the lined baking sheet, brush with a little yogurt and sprinkle with freshly ground pepper and a LITTLE sea salt. If you want the edges of the scones to be crispy, separate them into individual pieces.  Bake for 15 -20 minutes, until golden brown.

Serve the scones warm with a bowl of steaming hot soup and lots of butter.   

It may be cold outside but after this lunch you'll feel warm on the inside!

Scone recipe was adapted from