Ice Cream

ice cream

See these cream clouds of fluffy ice?  I made them.  Well, to be honest it was the ice cream maker (bought for us by some of our favourite people) that did the hard work, I just threw all the ingredients together with an insouciant flair.

*takes small bow*

The thing to remember about making ice cream is that you need time and patience.   You cannot start the process in the morning and expect it to be all done by the afternoon.  Oh no.  Not unless you count the early hours of the morning as a humane time to start ice cream preparation, which I most definitely do not.

In fact I would go so far as to say that arising during the hours of darkness should be withheld for special occasions and holidays only.  However, even if you did commence project ice cream very early on in the day, there are processes that have to be adhered to, which all take time.  Processes such as waiting for things to cool down.   Things you’ve just been told to heat up.  There’s a lot of that.

Between you and me, I have placed a small wager with myself that I will be cutting corners in the very near future with regards to this ‘time’ element.  All under the umbrella of research, obviously.  Not because I am the slightest bit impatient to see the results.

I recently made a lemon sorbet in our glorious machine, mainly because we had a plethora of lemons, but also because it takes a lot less time.  I do think, however, that I may have overdone it a little with the lemon content as everyone who tried it did the ‘twisted lemon’ face relatively quickly after having spooned in that first mouthful.  I’m considering changing the balance between the amount of lemon juice, made by dissolving sugar into fresh lemon juice, and water.

I think fourteen lemons may have been a little excessive.

Meanwhile, I have also made an incredible discovery.  Did you know that a crusty loaf is created by putting a small amount of water in a tray at the bottom of an oven when you’re baking bread?  You did?  Right… Back to the ice cream.

I used this recipe as I was completely swayed by the strap line, ‘Is Angela Nilsen’s vanilla ice cream the smoothest, creamiest homemade ice cream in history?’ (sorry Nigella).

But I think, having read quite a few recipes, they all, in the main, have an egg, cream, milk, sugar and vanilla combo.  Probably not a diet staple for the calorie conscious amongst you.  Although to be honest, love of great food and calorie counting does seem to me to be a slightly odd paradox.

Anyway, today I have made black cherry ice cream.  It looks the part but still tastes of vanilla.  Anyone know why that is?

Answers on a postcard, please.





Butterfly Buns

butterfly buns

This weekend I made a decision to bake.  Partly because I have fond memories of winter weekend baking afternoons and partly because the wee boy is quite keen to make a rainbow cake – having watched a youTube video of it endless times – so feel I’d better get the practise in before attempting said cake.  I have until February half term, which is when I have promised we will try it.

Meanwhile, I am still coming to terms with my ‘new to me’ oven.  It seems that I have not quite mastered the time needed to warm an electric oven before putting in the food to be cooked, and am still over compensating.  As a result edges are often cooked way before the middle has time to readjust itself to the heat, which can create surprising results.

For example, I recently cooked some roast white and sweet potatoes together and was taken aback when I popped my head in to have a look only to notice that the sweet potatoes had almost turned to charcoal.  Undeterred I turned them over, kept a closer eye on them and, when serving, muttered something about being well done but probably edible.  Imagine my surprise then, when they actually tasted delicious.

Similarly with mini cakes, I have not yet mastered the art of creating a mini cake that is happy to be peeled out of it’s case.  The attempts I have made so far have all resulted in the cake clinging onto the case for dear life.  However, not to be beaten, this time I resolved to create a distraction by turning the mini cakes into butterfly buns.  After all, who focuses on buncase separation anxiety when there’s a glorious buttercream to devour?  And of course, as we eat with our eyes first and foremost, creating a butterfly bun means that any flaws can be covered with a light dusting of icing sugar… but shhh, let’s keep that little gem between ourselves shall we…?

Butterfly buns aside, there are still a few truly simple but wondrous things in life that genuinely make me tingle inside, one of which is watching that first snowfall of the year.  Yesterday, as the wee boy and I gazed out of the window at the silent white blanket covering the earth around us, he turned to me and whispered,

‘This is the most incredible thing ever’





Plain Sailing


In between the comings and goings of daily life and endless bowls of spaghetti we seem to be devouring at the moment, there is the very occasional moment for reflection.  I absolutely relish these moments, fleeting as they may be, knowing that they will very soon be interjected with a question which I will need to rummage through my densely populated mind files in order to answer.

Not as easy as you may think.  Especially when the request comes with a pre requisite of expectation.

I’m thinking of having a default answer, something along the lines of,

‘I’m sorry, the answer to the question you have asked is not available right now, please try again later’

Recently, I have been thinking about little boats and how wonderful it would be to have one.  There are a few set backs.  Not living by water is one, having nowhere to store it, another.  Minor details and nothing that can’t be overcome.

Meanwhile the wee one has been testing out his creativity.

Wee one: Mummy, come here

Me: Hang on (lacking the 100% enthusiasm expected)

Wee one: Quick, I need to show you something on the car.

Me: Just a minute – assembles swimming bag stuff

Wee boy: This stone is much sharper than I thought it would be

Me: …

Wee boy: Come and look, I’ve been drawing on the car

Me: (internally) Oh buggar.  (Externally) On my way…

It turns out that the stone was indeed quite sharp and the two places which have been etched, are prominent.

Himself’s response?

‘Thank goodness it was our car and not someone else’s’

This parenting thing – we’ve got it covered


Chicken Soup

Chicken Soup

I have been slightly distracted this week which I can pin down to three specific things.  Work, general election and an awful thing going on with a tooth that I can go no further into, for everyone’s sake.

Consequently time has done that peculiar thing of continuing as normal but feeling distorted.  It’s a funny old thing which many new parents experience, but when you are having a lot of hours in the day awake, the rhythm of life changes and, for me, makes it feel as though I’m living through blancmange.  I have many things to do that I just haven’t done, or do not have the energy to do, and, if truth be known, am probably, in actuality, doing very little, just thinking about it.

As the Americans say, ‘Go figure’

However, I have managed in some part, to continue to cook a semblance of regular meals, with only the odd quirk here and there.  Interestingly, sometimes these quirks work, and sometimes you look back and ponder,

‘Why did I think throwing everything we had left in the fridge into a pan and just adding tomato ketchup, was a good idea?’

Which is why soup is always a good thing to make.  It’s simple, nourishing and although doesn’t have the appeal to the wee boy of say, spaghetti, it does get eaten.  Almost.

I made a chicken stock with the carcass and usual bits and pieces, boiling for 8 hours or so, then leaving to cool overnight.  Now, here’s the thing.  Often when I make a chicken stock I congratulate myself on using up ever last bit of chicken wisely thus easing my conscience.  Invariably arriving at the cooling stage without a hitch.  And then, mentally having ticked the box in my head for ‘make chicken stock’, I leave it on the hob.

Sometimes for so long that I have to throw the whole lot away… (Oh God, the guilt, even now)

This time though, I was on it like a car bonnet, separating the bones and vegetables from the juice as soon as it was cool enough to do so.  Then awarded myself a medal for achievement.  It’s the little things.

Invariably when making a pot of stock, I divide it into those plastic container boxes that the take-away shops so very kindly donate when they bring you food, although to be fair, it would be a bit odd if they stood at the door waiting until you had emptied the food onto a plate so that you could return their boxes.  Mind you, that’s a pretty good idea don’t you think?

*files away under ‘when I rule the world’*

Anyway, this time I just used all the stock created and turned it into a soup.

Firstly I chopped and diced an onion and carrot and put in the pan with a little vegetable oil.  I then added a slice of bacon, chopped, for saltiness, and the rest of the chicken that had been picked off the bones before making the stock.  The stock was added and a potato, chopped and diced.

I then left the whole thing to simmer for twenty minutes or so.  Took down the trusty steed and whizzed up.

Alongside this we had hummus, carrot sticks and muffins.

I know, not what you’d immediately associate with chicken soup, but hey, I’m doing my best here, and as I say to the boys, that’s all you can do.

Eating Custard Tart

Custard Tart

I would like to say I made this myself, but I didn’t.

It was, in fact, bought from a supermarket round the corner from where we live. Because sometimes you just have to buy in, eat, and smugly congratulate yourself on the research you have done proving that you could, more than likely, have made a much better one.

Had you the time and inclination.

The thing is, they come in packs of two, which was a perfect calculation in my mind as it’s the wee boy and my, ‘me and you’ day.  However, the wee one took one look at it and said,

‘What’s that?’ pointing to the nutmeg on the top.

And then before I had time to formulate an encouraging response he said,

‘I can’t eat that, I’m too busy’

So now I have a lonely custard tart that doesn’t taste of anything in particular, sitting on a plate waiting patiently for someone to taste test and confirm the wee ones suspicions.

Seeing is, sometimes, believing.



Time seems to be flying by much quicker than I had planned, recently.  May was supposed to be a while away yet, but here it is, rolling round the corner with it’s two bank holidays and plethora of activities, already on the doorstep.

I always find, when life is busy, that cooking meals becomes a little more of a task than a pleasure, and it is times like this that frittatas and the like, come to the fore.

The word frittata is Italian and translates to ‘fried’, but unlike an omelette, my bete noir, you simply pour the egg over whatever you’ve decided to put into the frying pan and let it cook.  But for me, the beauty of this dish is two fold.  Firstly, it is an opportunity to use up any left over bits and pieces such as potato, peas, asparagus, meats or cheeses, and secondly it is absolutely delicious hot or cold.

I tend to cook the frittata on the hob and finish it off under the grill.  And magically, it takes just minutes to make.

Of course the other wonder of a frittata is that it is a meal that can be eaten at any time of the day.  Perfect for those ‘so much to do, so little time’ moments in life.

Piccalilli Part 2

photo (89)

As promised, here is the update of my attempt to make Pam the Jam’s Piccalilli.

All starts well, the sun is out but not blasting into the outhouse and therefore the salted vegetables are merrily doing their thing.  Of course, on reflection I can now see why they should really be in a large colander.  When I go to rinse them in very cold water I find there is a small salty pool of water lingering in the bottom of the bowl.  Not conducive for the vegetables to be in really, but I’ll know for next time.

Just as a little aside, I revisited Pam’s recipe earlier on only to discover that the amount of cider vinegar needed exceeded by far, the amount I had.  So I popped out to buy some more, only to catch my reflection and notice that I hadn’t really attended to my hair at all, and the clothes I had on were, being polite, ‘weekend wear’.  Enough holes in them to carry off posing as a string vest.

Too late to do anything about it, I flew around the various establishments I needed to be in, noticing that although others in the shops looked as though they were also dressed in weekend wear, theirs didn’t look as though they’d had a fight with an army of moths and come out the losers.

Back home I was now all ready to continue with Pam’s recipe.  As I’m grinding together coriander and cumin seeds, I begin to collate all the other ingredients, merrily stepping over various items of clothing the boys have left on the floor.  They are recreating their version of Star Wars and have been rehearsing ‘Episode 1: Capture of the Jedi’.  It’s hilarious.  Scripts have been written, storyboards compiled and treatments written.  All by son#1. The wee boy is multi tasking as many characters and son#1 is the director.

Son#1: Put the Darth Vader mask on

Wee Boy: Ermmm, no

Son#1: Go on, put it on

Wee Boy: I’ll do it later

Son#1: But we’re filming

Wee boy goes off to do something else.

Back to the Piccalilli.  So, I’ve ground and mixed various spices and added some cider vinegar (I now have lots), and realise I need to start cooking dinner.  Which I begin to do.  We are on a tight-ish time frame and all of a sudden everything needs doing at once and things are happening to the Piccalilli sauce that I didn’t expect.

Feeling slightly out of control but nontheless determined to get the stuff into the jars I have waiting in the wings, washed and ready to go, I once again slip on the Darth Vader costume which is still availing itself of my kitchen floor.

Finally the Piccalilli finds its way into the jars.  I’m not too sure whether the sauce is too thin, or whether it will all taste way too salty but, for now, I am just enjoying looking at it.  Finished.

Part 3 – the eating of Pam’s Piccalilli – in 6 weeks time.