Waffles

photo (1)

Guess what I got for Christmas?  And what a piece of glory and wonder it is.  A fabulous, on the hob, no nonsense, edible heart maker.  Otherwise known as a waffle iron.

So himself and I, whilst others may have begun the arduous task of stuffing birds, rolling flesh and peeling for all they’re worth, spent Christmas morning endlessly scraping waffle mixture from very irritating metal peaks, until eventually, a second batch of mixture later, we cracked it.  Mainly due to the fact that we worked out, through blood sweat and tears, that the correct way to cook the mixture was to add it to the deeper ‘pan’ part of the waffle iron.  It’s all in the detail.

But hang on a minute, I hear you cry, we hear nothing, zilch, nada from you for months and then you waltz back into our lives with not an iota of an explanation.  Where the bobbins have you been?

Well, it turns out that it’s quite difficult to write a blog that loosely hangs itself on the notion of food, if you don’t have an oven, the struggle only being heightened by having no internet connection.

However you will all be delighted to hear, I’m back and on schedule to share with you the day to day ramblings of someone who, against all odds, manages to create mostly edible day to day foodstuffs amidst the chaos of daily family life.  And a puppy.

Which allows me to seamlessly sashay into a short list of what our ever growing boundless ball of energy, has been up to recently.

She has, since we last spoke, eaten most of the Christmas cake, devoured endless bin loads of recyclable goods, toys and other small objects, swallowed whole a stretchy plastic octopus (which came out the other end completely intact), eaten the collar of a pyjama top, floored the Christmas Tree ‘due to unforeseen circumstances’ and, most recently, taken a good chunk out of my favourite wooden spoon.

She has also learnt to smile, and her helicopter tail twirls with delight at the mere sound of her family members all of whom she relishes and protects with a fervent, unconditional passion.  She is, in essence, an absolute delight, which is probably a good thing as we have stopped counting the amount of times we walk in to the kitchen which has been ‘redesigned’ by an over exuberant puppy.

Meanwhile, we still have many seasonal days left, and today I will be attempting, for the second time, to make some gingerbread in my new to me, electric oven (with a gas hob.  Oh yes, I’m in the posh cook league now…), which has embedded into it the element of surprise.  By which I mean, it cooks everything on time, unlike the old trusty steed which cooked everything as and when it felt like it, if at all.

I’ll let you know how I get on…

 

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Eating Chocolate

chocolate

Well, that’s it for another year.  We have, over the last three days, over indulged in almost everything, and rolled ourselves in and out of bed with an enthusiasm only reserved for Christmas.  At last we are safely snuggled up in front of the fire at home with only one minor crisis now behind us.  That of losing Boba Fett, the wee boy’s Santa present.

The thing about going away for Christmas is that everything needs to be packed up, which we duly did this morning.  The whole floor space was checked over to make sure that not one iota of paper, small piece of lego, or sparkly thing was left behind. So imagine our surprise when, on returning home, we couldn’t find Boba.

All the bags were emptied with an increased fervour, some may call it panic, as it gradually dawned on us that we may have thrown him away, inadvertently, with the copious amounts of recycling that we conscientiously disposed of.

However, we live in an age where telephone calls can be made, and actions put into place.  Situations such as this also serve to remind us that actually, most gifts are replaceable.

Thankfully Boba has been found, hiding behind cushions in the cottage.  Easy to lose, you might think.  Therefore, it is only right I point out that he is a three dimensional figure, who is approximately 40cm tall.

I know, incredible.

Anyway, all is now as it should be and we have absolutely nothing to do except lounge around, eating chocolate.

Magic and Sparkle

decorated Christmas Cake

So here it is, at last, the day before the day.  With only one more sleep to go until the big man flies by, we are ensconced, with family, in a place none of us have ever been to before, but that has enough comfortable sleeping spots for everyone to fit in.

We have released the Christmas Cake from it’s catacomb of greaseproof paper and tin foil, and duly covered it in the requisite marzipan and icing. Then, just for good measure, we have sprinkled a little edible glitter on the top.

Of course we haven’t, as I write this, managed to wrap all the presents yet, but then it has become tradition for himself and I to leave some wrapping for the dying embers of Christmas Eve.  I remember one year I was still wrapping presents on Christmas Day as the family were walking up the drive, which does somewhat eradicate the notion of being ‘ready for Christmas’.

To be honest, I’m never quite sure what ‘being ready’ means, although I must have been asked the question more than fifteen times over the last week.

To which I always reply, ‘no, not quite’ and raise my eyes skyward.   It’s a tradition.

Meanwhile, the wee boy has managed to spend the whole day, once again, in his pyjamas, whilst son #1 is experimenting with various drinks combinations, most of which include pepsi – a drink he is only allowed on special occasions – all of which, in my humble opinion, taste vile.  I don’t however, have the palette of an 11 year old boy.

The chocolates, nibbles and various other food items we don’t buy any other time of year, have all been opened, and we are slowly devouring our way through the lot.

If we’re not eating food, we are talking about it.

Gradually, throughout the day, we have sashayed from drinking tea, to coffee, to something that sparkles.

And so the magic begins.

Only one more sleep to go…

Reflections

glass bauble

Someone described the Winter Solstice to me the other day as the longest night, which I find extremely endearing.  Not only because it seems to sum up perfectly the blanket of darkness that has gradually been swallowing us up over the last few months, but it also puts the darkness into a finite concept, which can often be lost amidst the hustle and bustle of Christmas life.

Indeed, it is with great relief that we have shimmied into a natural pace of Christmas which is much slower than my imagined perception.  And whilst we’re on the theme of the Winter Solstice, I always thought that the sun stayed in the same position for three days from this point on, before the nights start to become lighter. That is, until I found this little nugget,

http://www.timeanddate.com/sun

the science of which, astonishes me.  There’s probably a scientific reason for how Father Christmas and his reindeer can fly, but there are some things that I enjoy being ignorant about.

Moreover, tonights longest night coincides with the new moon, which, for those of us who have a sneaking suspicion that everything impacts on everything else, is very auspicious indeed.

But back to the Christmas kerfuffle.  A moment for reflection there.  What a fabulous word kerfuffle is.

Anyway, we have almost bought everything needed for our shindig extraordinaire. If I’m absolutely honest, we definitely don’t need half the things we have acquired to have a wonderful time, and, on reflection, the furore of trying to sort everything out is an indulgence we are able to partake of, but in no way necessary.   How lucky we are to be able to indulge.

Meanwhile, we are settling down to watching the classic Christmas movies, eating after eights in the middle of the day and acknowledging, but not necessarily eating, the copious amounts of fruit languishing in a plethora of bowls. Ooooo….

*tingles inside*

I love Christmas

 

 

Strawberry Cake

strawberry cake

We are nearing the end of our family birthday season as son #1 celebrated his 11th birthday yesterday.  As usual, we made a birthday cake which the wee boy decided should be a strawberry cake.  In December.

Funnily enough, I had seen some strawberries (from Egypt) in our local supermarket the other day as I was flying in for yet another thing that I had forgotten, so we, once again, flew into the shop and picked up a couple of punnets of strawberries.

I made a Victoria Sponge which consisted of 225g of butter, castor sugar and self raising flour, 2 teaspoons of baking powder and 4 eggs.  But instead of adding vanilla extract, put a splash of strawberry essence into the mix.

Now here’s an interesting thing.  I used to cream the butter and sugar together, add the eggs and extract/essence then sift in the flour and baking powder before folding it all into the creamed butter scenario.  However, I watched this very informative food history programme a couple of months ago which said that the only reason people sifted their flour, was to make sure there were no bugs or remnants of other wee beasties, hanging out in the flour.  No other reason.  So, now I just shove the whole lot into my glorious Kenwood and turn the knob on.

I tell you what, I think the cake comes out lighter than it used to.  Obviously both tins of mixture, when cooked, still resemble an attempt at K2, but that’s my oven.

So, back to the cake.  Having successfully cooked the sponge I turned my attention to the icing and, having tasted the strawberries, decided that they were not pleasant enough to plonk on top of the cake, and went on to severely reprimand myself for even considering buying strawberries in December.  However, as I had already purchased said offending article, I thought it probably best to whizz them up with icing sugar and a little butter to bring out their sweetness and make a beautiful coloured icing.

And this is where everything went a little pear shaped.

Firstly, I hadn’t taken into consideration the amount of water strawberries hold, naturally.  So, having whizzed up the amounts I normally use (half amount of butter to icing sugar) I found myself faced with a beautiful river of deep pink sweetness. No problem, I thought, I’ll just add more icing sugar.  After all, I had plenty.

After the whole jar of icing sugar had been used to no avail, I then did that thing which I presume most people do when they haven’t quite come to terms with the inevitable.  I opened the fridge door, and looked inside.

I’m not sure whether I’ve mentioned it before, but our fridge is a little temperamental and has taken upon itself to make unilateral decisions as to the level of cold it pumps through itself.  Recently, it’s gone to full blast, almost freezing. As a consequence of which, a can of fizzy pop that has been lingering in the fridge for the last few months, decided it had had enough of hanging around in the ever increasing cold with no attention being given to it, and exploded.  Inside the fridge.

The thing about Christmas, is that the amount of time I can dedicate to menial tasks diminishes exponentially with the amount of time left until the big day.  In reality, this means that anything, such as the fridge wearing the after effects of an exploding can of pop, that should really be given my full attention, is given the ‘quick flick’ treatment.  As in, wipe away what you can see, leave the deep clean for another day.

I know, it’s appalling behaviour and I should feel much more ashamed than I do.  It’s on the list.

Back to the icing.  Having stared, mid distance, into the unappealing fridge, I realised that I had no option but to go out and buy some more icing sugar.  Which I duly did.  And this is where things took another interesting turn.

It seems that the weekend before Christmas, the world and his wife suddenly takes a fancy to buying icing sugar.

Of all the things that worry me, my local supermarket running out of icing sugar has just never made an appearance.   Until now.  Thankfully there was a box of royal icing sugar hiding away at the back of the shelf, so I swiped it up, paid for it, and made a quick exit.

To be honest, it didn’t make that much difference, and I should have maybe let it get itself together in the fridge for a while before popping it onto the cake however, as you all know, birthdays are only 24 hours long, and the clock was ticking.

You’ll be pleased to hear that eventually, everything came together and we managed to put candles onto a sloping cake sat in the middle of a strawberry river. But, as always, once a candle or two is lit, the magic always appears.  And yesterday was no exception.

It tastes pretty good too.

Now then, what else do I have to do?

*pulls out a list as long as your arm*

Christmas Sparkle

Fairy Dust

Well, well, well – how long has it been since I last posted anything?  It seems like forever, but is, in fact, only a few days.

I don’t know about you, but at this time of year, what with the darkness descending so early on in the day, time seems in very short supply.  I know, it’s the same 24 hours at this time of year as the rest of the year, it just feels shorter.

Not only that, but every day there is one form or another of celebration happening, be that birthdays, school pantomimes, christmas parties, or local winter fayres.

This weekend, along with all the other bits and pieces going on, the smoothie bike re-emerged for it’s winter fayre outing.  And so, to add a little magic to the smoothies, I created some very special fairy dust to sprinkle on top of each one, which I have to say, made me gasp with delight every time.

Now for those of you not naturally drawn to all things sparkly you may not realise it, but in the isles of home baking there is a little pot of magic hiding in between the various colourful icings and sprinkles.  It is something I had never imagined would be possible all those years ago whilst making Christmas cards, but thanks to someone who I like to think must be very dedicated to all things sparkly, it has arrived.

Well, what is it?  I hear you ask.

Edible glitter.

*Leaves a moment for you to gasp in awe and wonder*

Not only is this pot of pure fairy dust edible, it can also have things added to it, giving it the smell of Christmas.  I know, how miraculous.

I added cinnamon powder to both the gold and silver edible glitter which meant that every time I sprinkled a little bit onto the smoothie, the slight aroma of Christmas filled the air.  You could, of course, put in whatever spice you fancy. Nutmeg, for example, would work just as well.

The important thing is to add the sound effects whilst sprinkling.  I find that makes all the difference in the world.  Especially to small people who are already gearing up to the most magical event of the year.  Well, most of them.  To be honest, there were a couple of children who were not interested in having magic fairy dust sprinkled onto anything, but I understand it may not be to everyone’s taste, visually.

And now, we are heading into the final few sleeps until Christmas.

So much to do, so little time…

Gravy

gravy

One of our lovely friends brought a relatively new girlfriend round for lunch one Sunday.  As she was Italian and had not been round before, I decided to cook a traditional Sunday Lunch.

Thankfully, everything went well and she even asked for seconds, adding in the most exquisite English,

‘I just love this sauce, what is it?’

Of course we all know the answer to that one.  Gravy.  Which made me warm to her even more as gravy is one of my most favourite savoury sauces.  And so versatile. I’m not sure whether you are aware, but up here in the North, chips and gravy is ‘a thing’.  In fact, gravy and almost any style of potato, manages to hit the spot perfectly.

Now it would normally be at this juncture in the blog that I would pop up a little recipe, or perhaps a series of ingredients which may aide proceedings.  However, that’s another thing about gravy.  There are so many different ways to make it, and not one more successful, necessarily, than the other.

Indeed one of the many wonders of gravy is just how personalised it can be.

When we were growing up, a regular little phrase of big Dave’s was,

‘Ooo, gravy.  I hope it’s not that bloody runny stuff’

Whereas others are quite appalled by anything other than ‘runny’ gravy.  In all fairness, I think big Dave’s beef was more to do with the association of runny gravy with tasteless gravy.  A hallmark of many foods during and post, WWII childhoods.

But back to present day gravy.  If I were to offer any advice or suggestions at all, it would be this.  Make sure that you have carrots and onions simmering away in your gravy as they add a sweetness that cannot be replaced by anything else.  Funnily enough, not even sugar.

Of course there is always the very quick gravy which come out of a container.   You just add boiling water and stir.  But even that gravy is not off my culinary Christmas card list.

Yes, I think it’s safe to say that gravy, above everything else, is the ‘sauce’ closest to my heart.