Hedgehog Potatoes

Hedgehog potatoes

I am a self confessed lover of potatoes.  They are, in my humble opinion, one of the most diverse vegetables to cook with, and always taste delicious.  Especially when you find a different way to cook them.  Enter the hedgehog potato.

This simple twist on a baked potato has just found it’s way onto my top ten cooking list. They look beautiful, need hardly any attention, and taste absolutely divine.  Sort of a cross between a baked and a roast potato.  All you need to do is cut slices three quarters of the way down the potato, brush with a warmed mixture of olive oil, butter, salt and pepper and pop in the oven for around fifty minutes.  Then hey presto, they’re done.  Yes, my friends, that is all it takes.  They have a wonderfully crisp exterior, but still maintain a soft interior.  Perfect with a Sunday dinner.

Meanwhile in the world of me, them and the puppy, I found a small part of the wee boy’s pants the other day, lounging idly on the living room floor.  A little bemused, I thought nothing more about it.  Out on a dog walk the following day, I discovered where the rest of that particular pair of pants had gone.  I have absolutely no idea why the puppy would even consider a small, perfectly shaped red and navy blue striped pair of boys pants edible, but then I’m not a chocolate labrador.  Anyone would think the poor wee thing was never fed.

I have also recently rediscovered the beauty of short journey train travel, although it also turns out that I’m still not very good at it.  Getting lost in my thoughts, the ability I have to block out all sounds around me to concentrate on the inner idle banter of my mind, I managed to completely miss my stop and had to go to the next main station before catching a train back to my original destination.

I guess the phrase ‘quicker by rail’ only works if you’re paying attention.

 

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Butter Wouldn’t Melt…

Butter wouldn't Melt

This is the face of a puppy which looks as though butter wouldn’t melt – a proverb meaning someone is acting as if innocent.  In this case, Billie, our puppy.  Now I know I have mentioned her quite a lot recently in the few blogs I’ve managed to write, and I promise you normal service will resume shortly, but if you will do me the honour of indulging me for a while longer, I would be eternally grateful.

Although Billie has, naturally, shifted our family rhythm, there are some things which remain a constant.  The bat mobile (car) breaking down, the bath overflowing and water coming through the kitchen ceiling, the heating system deciding to work full blast every time the hot water tap is used, on the hottest day of the year so far.  You know the score and I’m sure we all have these little things come to try us.

So today’s chapter went something like this…

As you know we have attempted to make some Elderflower champagne recently the success of which is, as we speak, unknown.  However, we did bottle one sample which hadn’t had the yeast added to it, as an experiment, you understand. Although our partner in crime had bought corks, it turns out they didn’t have the metal twisty thing, so we improvised and stuck a bit of tape around the bottle top after having pushed the cork in as far as it would go.  Strange thing to do you may think, but I have grown up with a dad who truly believes that ‘a bit of tape’ will resolve most practical issues, and who am I to disagree?

The bottle was then left on a shelf to do it’s thing.

This morning I noticed a funny black thing lounging incongruously on the table and for a while I thought nothing of it. Living with boys you get used to unfathomable small bits just hanging around and I have learnt not to touch or move them. However, it dawned on me after a short while, that this thing bore a striking resemblance to our champagne cork, which, on further inspection, proved to be correct.

So I knocked it back in with a mallet, and double taped it.

As the weather is doing an extremely brilliant impression of being summery, we have taken to having our morning cup of tea outside and having a moment to just enjoy the sunlight.  It’s also imperative that we spend this time outside as Billie needs her morning shenanigans.

Today’s foray into the unknown revolved around digging out some soil from a plant pot.  As she dug deeper she happened upon a few dormant daffodil bulbs and, as is a puppies want, chewed them.  Thinking very little of it, we prepared for the day.

As the bat mobile is now fully up and running again, I was able to book Billie in for her first vaccination at the vets.  We arrived, and waited.  Nothing unusual there. Eventually the vet was ready to see us, and, full of anticipation, we strolled in.

I mentioned, in passing, the daffodil saga of a couple of hours ago, enquiring without much thought, whether it was ok for dogs to chew bulbs.  As she’d not heard of a dog eating daffodil bulbs before, the vet Google’d it only to find that daffodil bulbs are, indeed, not conducive to a dogs health and can actually cause all sorts of tummy upsets.  So we were advised that it would probably be best to come back later.

The following conversations with both the vet and the veterinary nurse regarding the daffodil episode, ended with both of them rolling their eyes knowingly with a ‘that’s chocolate labradors for you’ kind of look.

This makes me think of two things.  One, we will probably be seeing them quite a lot and two, I must check the insurance policy to see if it specifically covers a chocolate labrador’s undiscerning palette.

So for the rest of the day I have become particularly vigilant of all things going in, and coming out of the puppy, whilst trying to cool down the house and find a way of restoring some semblance of order back into the household contents. This includes moving all jars, bottles, cups, paper, boys hair, and soft items that we would prefer to keep intact, out of reach of a small, but ever growing, puppy.

Which brings me to why, I believe, puppies have a butter wouldn’t melt face. Because even though nothing is out of bounds for investigation as far as Billie is concerned, her total dependence on us, her unashamed and completely innocent curiosity about everything, coupled with the most beautiful expressive face, creates the perfect environment to fall in love.  Which is what we have.  Hook, line and sinker.

Cinnamon & Sultana Loaf

Cinnamon and Sultana Loaf

I have been slightly remiss on keeping up with the blog at the latter end of this week.  Partly because we haven’t solved our oven conundrum yet, a situation which lends itself to less innovative meals, and partly because the bat mobile is still out of action thanks to the clutch slave* breaking which has meant we’ve had to rework our travel timings to include buses or walking.  But mainly because we have a new addition to our family who we picked up on Thursday evening.

So, in honour of both my first birthday as a blogger, and the excitement of it all, I am going to break my usual pattern of behaviour and insert another photo

Billie2

May I introduce you to Billie, our beautiful eight week old chocolate labrador puppy, who is heart-meltingly gorgeous in every way.  Her full name, for those who may be interested, is Billie Jo Bob, (chosen by the wee boy), although we are just using Billie for everyday wear.

Now who amongst you didn’t go ‘ahhh’?  Not many, I imagine.

Beautiful distractions aside, we still need to eat and although our oven may have gone on a permanent holiday, we do have other gadgets, such as the bread maker, that can cook.  So today, at the request of the wee one, I made some cinnamon and sultana loaf.

I tend to use a basic bread recipe and add stuff to it, then call the bread whatever I may have added.

So, my basic bread recipe (apologies, it is in ‘old money’) is 14floz lukewarm water, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 20lb 10oz good strong white bread flour – I always get my flour from Bradshaws – 2 teaspoons salt, 2 teaspoons sugar, 2 generous teaspoons dried yeast.

To make this particular loaf I added another 2 teaspoons of sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg and a bowlful of sultanas.  I like my fruit loafs to have a lot of fruit in them, you may feel less inclined to pack in the fruit.  It is, once again, your own personal taste.

Now this is the thing.  The nutmeg is a rough guess really as I have been using whole nutmegs and grating them.  So in this bread recipe, I grated some nutmeg into the flour mixture until I got a little weary.  But I’m guessing it was about half a teaspoonful.

Put the bread machine onto a sweet bread setting and start.  I have one of those machines which is not as meticulous as I at getting into the corners, so I tend to give it a starting hand with a spatula.  At some point, about 10 – 15 minutes in, the machine beeps like a very annoyed alarm clock for approximately one minute.  This is when I add the sultanas. Then leave the whole thing to bake, which in my case, takes 3 hours and 25 minutes.

I never find bread maker bread tastes as good as bread cooked in an oven but it does the job.  The top of the loaf always looks as though it’s just recovering from a debilitating bout of influenza, and the bread maker ‘paddle’ as it’s called, has to be pulled out which leaves a slight gap in the bread half way through the loaf, but none of these slight irritations are insurmountable and, quite frankly, we are very lucky to have the bread maker at all.

Finally, whilst the bread top is still warm, melt a dessertspoonful of castor sugar in a drop of boiled water and brush on the top of the loaf.

Delicious warm or cold, with or without butter.  Perfect with a cup of tea.

*Whoever named car parts should take a long hard look in the mirror and ask themselves where they left their soul when they named the inner workings of a car.