Sunday, 31 March 2013

I am a contender for the world's slowest knitter!

I started knitting a baby pinafore almost a year ago, when we were on our Highland Fling road trip.

On Friday, I finally finished it.
Moss stitch close up
It began life as a baby present, but its intended recipient is almost walking! So now it's a new dress for Mini-M's doll, Tiger. (Or Tiger Felicity Cheerio Ellis to give her full name, but thankfully although she chose it, Mini-M seems to be happy to abbreviate it most of the time.) For a little while, she was determined the doll would be called 'Sister' and I could foresee many embarrassing situations in public where I found myself saying things like... "Stop pushing Sister off the side of the buggy"and "Don't chew Sister's foot" etc.

The pattern I used was the Super Simple Baby Tunic by Rebecca Gunn Designs, and even for a moderately incompetent knitter like me, it was fairly easily achievable. I should explain that the reason it took a year is not that I knit at snail's pace, slogging away diligently every evening, but that I do a bit, forget about it for ages, come back to it, realise I have no idea where I was in the pattern, do a lot of counting, working it out, then it's time to go to bed. The next time I feel like knitting, I don't have internet access and can't find the scrap of paper I copied the pattern onto etc etc etc. It's a miracle it ever got finished at all.
Tiger modelling her new dress
And looking at the back of the dress, there's another reason it's only fit for Tiger - there are a few rather glaring mistakes, where I clearly didn't count properly! The thing I hate most about knitting is unpicking, so I have a bad habit of carrying on regardless. My next project has been cast on and is underway, and although I may surprise myself, I think there's a high chance that about this time next year, Tiger will be getting another wardrobe addition...
Oooooooooooops!

Friday, 29 March 2013

A day in the life...

I was going to write a post about marbling Easter Eggs since it was one of today's many activities. However although it was a lot of fun, we didn't quite get the results we were hoping for, and a tutorial on how to do a rather underwhelming job of marbling eggs is fairly useless.

So I'll start with the eggs, and then segue straight into a sort of photo diary of our day - today was a bank holiday, so no work for me :o) Through some creative shifting of working days, we jigged things so that I looked after Mini-M today, and Mr E worked, but took a day off earlier in the week on a nursery day to get a bit of time to himself. Parental juggling!

The sun was shining today too, for the first time in what felt like weeks, so there was daylight - photos look better in proper light, heck everything looks better when the sun shines, so I was a bit camera happy, and Mini-M was obliging with smiles for once...

Eggs - sort of marbled - using oil, vinegar, food colouring and water

The day began with an 8:30am ASDA trip - and a play on the ice cream van after clearing the checkouts

Promptly on returning home, the newly purchased outfit for next weekend's wedding was tried on. This is what happens when you let a 2yr old choose... it's not subtle!
Turning last night's paintings into vaguely Eastery chicks

Deep in concentration for some animal alphabet jigsaw puzzling
Aqua-doodling whilst waiting for a friend to come round to play
Dressing up and dancing! (It's a pink witches hat, not a traffic cone...)
Multi-tasking - eating a  picnic lunch and playing bingo
Some post-lunch, pre-nap Cbeebies iPlayer time - we watched Sarah and Duck
We went to Ocean Terminal and debated which of the Build-A-Bears looked more like Mr E - this one...
... or this one!
A cup of coffee with friends, some drawing (spiders on hands, and even some on the paper...) and a fair amount of bad behaviour meant a shorter than planned afternoon outing
But Mini-M was a reformed character by the time Mr E came home and instigated a silicone cake case hunt in the living room (although slightly missed the point by a) hiding them all in the same place under the sofa and b) telling Mr E she'd put them there!)
Pinny on, plastic sheet down, food colouring mixed - time to dye eggs. Thumbs up if you're ready to go... cue general thumb confusion (not from Mr E - he was clearly ready!)
Thumbs up eventually - eyes crossed with the effort of looking at them!
Which brings us back to the eggs!
Hope you all have a lovely Easter weekend whatever you have planned :o)

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

The Daring Bakers' March 2013 Challenge - Hidden Veggies

I thought I should put in an extra concerted effort to post this month's Daring Bakers' challenge on time, since I was in fact the host!

Here's the obligatory challenge post blurb to prove it...

Ruth from Makey-Cakey was our March 2013 Daring Bakers' challenge host. She encouraged us all to get experimental in the kitchen and sneak some hidden veggies into our baking, with surprising and delicious results!

Yep - I was the evil mastermind behind this months challenge which saw bakers around the world going to great lengths to disguise some veggies in their cakes, bakes, puds and sweets. And boy did folk get creative - in fact I'm going to post a roundup of some of the most inspiring offerings tomorrow, once everyone has published their posts.

In the challenge specification I gave everyone free reign to use whatever veggies they wanted, however they felt like it, although I also gave them a couple of suggestions - Banana and Spinach Muffins, Chocolate Cashew Kidney Bean Brownies, and Parsnip and Caraway Cake which have also previously featured on Makey-Cakey.

As well as encouraging others to get creative in their veggie hiding, I obviously had to join in too, and got a little bit carried away, squeezing in three different hidden veggie experiments this month.

Firstly, I thought I'd pay tribute to my Scottish-ness and make traditional Scottish Macaroons. These are a million miles away from the elegant French macarons which are delicately flavoured, pastel coloured sandwiches of crisp sweet almond perfection. In fact, they are traditionally made with mashed potato!

What's with the blue coconut - I was feeling Braveheart-ish!
In their most basic form, Scottish Macaroons can be made form just mashed potato and icing sugar (crazy, but believe me it works!). I fancied them up a bit, and added a drop of glycerine to help it set without going crunchy. I also added a little zap of lemon extract for flavour.

Scottish Macaroons (makes 1 8x13 inch tray which cuts into 40-50 pieces)

  • 225g mashed potatoes (floury is good - waxy isn't so great)
  • Icing sugar (around 1kg)
  • A couple of drops of glycerine
  • 1 tsp lemon extract
  • 100g dark chocolate
  • 2 tbsp dessicated coconut

Take your mash and beat them with an electric whisk until smooth - you need them to be as lump-free as is humanly possible.
Gradually add the icing sugar, sieving it in each time and beating well - I added it 150g at a time.
Don't worry when you add the sugar and your mash immediately turns into runny potato soup - it will thicken back up eventually.
After a couple of additions of sugar, add the glycerine and lemon too.
Keep adding icing sugar until the mixture becomes stiff and doughy.
Press into a greased swiss-roll or brownie tin and leave to set overnight.
Cut into pieces and turn out onto a tray, then leave upside down for a couple of hours to let the bottoms firm up too (if only firming up real bottoms was this easy!)
Melt the chocolate and drizzle over the top of the squares, then sprinkle with coconut and leave for the chocolate to set.
Well beaten mash
Interim stage - potato and icing sugar soup!
We shared this with friends and family on a very cold day when a whole host of crazy people (Mr E, Grandad E, Uncle P and Auntie L included) were competing in a rather snowy and muddy adventure race - it provided instant pre/post race sugar for the runners, and a proxy to warmth for the spectators!

Proof that it all works out OK in the end, if you just keep adding icing sugar - if only the rest of life were that simple...
Next up, I decided to see if swede (or turnip, or rutabaga depending what part of the world you're in!) would work in a cake. I have to say, even I had a certain sense of trepidation whilst this one was baking - was it a veggie too far - but the end result was delicious and no hint of swede detectable. I shared it with my colleagues at work and 0/12 guessed swede, or indeed any veggie at all in it, and 3 folk asked for the recipe - so I'd definitely hailing this a success. Oh yes, and it's gluten free and dairy free :o)

Well hidden swede - yum!
Lemon Polenta Poppyseed Swede Cake (Makes 1x 8 inch round cake)

  • 200g peeled raw swede
  • 110g polenta
  • 25g brown rice flour
  • 100g sugar
  • 50g dairy free margarine
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp baking powder (gluten free)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp poppy seeds
  • 3 tbsp lemon puree (mine came from a jar I got in a health food shop)
  • 2 tbsp icing sugar
  • 2 tsp lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 180C (160C fan) and grease and base-line an 8 inch round cake tin.
Cube, boil and mash the swede (don't salt it!).
Add the margarine and mash it again.
When you think it's mashed enough, mash it a little bit more - bits of unmashed swede will give the game away!
Mix in the sugar and vanilla, then add the egg and lemon puree.
Finally add the rice flour, polenta, baking powder and poppy seeds and stir well.
Pour into the prepared tin and bake for around 30 mins until risen and golden, and springy on top.
Cool in the tin for 5-10 mins then turn out onto a wire rack.
Mix together the icing sugar and lemon juice for the glaze, then drizzle over the top and allow to dry before sharing and amazing your friends or family when you reveal the hidden veg!

And lastly... I made a tomato soup cake, which I'm not going to share a recipe for here, because I pretty much just followed this one for 'Tomato Soup Phoenix Cake', just that instead of the cinnamon, I added 25g cocoa powder. I wasn't able to taste it, since the Campbell's Condensed Cream of Tomato Soup I used isn't dairy free. Mr E was duly dispatched to work with it, to see if anyone there could guess what was in it. One person did - and even once they knew, the rest still happily ate it - another hidden veggie success.
Chocolate Tomato Soup Cake

Monday, 25 March 2013

Apple and Rhubarb Crumble, Nakd Style

It may be almost April, but it's most definitely still winter outside - although by all intents, we've so far got off very lightly in Edinburgh, with very little snow disruption.

But freezing cold weather is a good excuse for a warming pudding - the culinary equivalent of turning the thermostat up a degree or two on the central heating!

Puddings are a little more complicated with a 2yr old to feed too - I want Mini-M to try lots of things, enjoy her food and eat what we're having, and puddings are part of that - but I don't want her to eat vast quantities of unnecessary sugar for the sake of it - so over the past couple of years I've made a fair few 'healthier than your average dessert' puds. The most successful of these have unequivocally been crumbles with Super Crumble and Crushed Pineapple Crumble featuring previously.

This time it's rhubarb and apple's turn, and it's crumble with a twist...

What's the twist?
After writing an unsolicited post about baking using Nakd bars, Natural Balance Foods sent me some more flavours to experiment with, as well as some infused raisins. I've a few quirky recipes up my sleeve for some of the other flavours, but to kick off, I decided to use the Rhubarb and Custard bar as the basis of the crumble topping.

A box of inspiring goodies!
The resulting pudding was awesome (more about that in a minute!) and was low in added sugar and fat - I added only 1 tsp honey, 1 tsp brown sugar and 1 tsp olive oil.

Fruit, meet crumble - crumble, meet fruit :o)
Before I share the recipe and give my verdict, here's a summary of Mini-M's review:

After about 1 minute of silent and concentrated eating...
"Mummy I need some of your rhubarb I don't have any left"
About halfway through...
"Maybe having this again tomorrow?" I replied no. "Maybe another day soon. Uh huh."
With only a spoonful left...
"You have any left Daddy? I have some of yours?" (Mr E similarly only had a spoonful left which definitely wasn't being shared)
And on finishing the last mouthful...
"Mmmm nummy scrummy"

Nakd Apple and Rhubarb Crumble (Serves 2.5!)

  • 2 small eating apples
  • 1 medium stalk of rhubarb
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 1 Nakd Rhubarb and Custard bar
  • 1 tbsp quinoa flakes
  • 1 tsp soft brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp flaked almonds
  • 1 tsp olive oil

Preheat the oven to 190C (170C fan)
Chop the rhubarb, then peel, core and chop the apples into chunks and put both in a microwaveable bowl.
Add the water and honey.
Microwave on full for 1 minute, stir, then zap for another minute.
Tip into a small casserole dish.
Chop the Nakd bar into small pieces and separate carefully into a small bowl (they will want to stick together!).
Gently mix in the quinoa flakes.
Before adding the flaked almonds, give then a squeeze in your fist to crush them up a little bit.
Add the sugar and olive oil then mix well and sprinkle the topping over the fruit.
Bake for about 15 minutes until the almonds start to toast and turn golden.
Enjoy!

Now for the grown-up verdict: Nummy Scrummy! It was comforting, sweet and puddingy without being too sweet or heavy or guilt inducing - particularly if enjoy it 'naked' like we did (Don't worry - we were very much clothed - extra layers and woolly jumpers all round!) - without cream, custard, ice cream or milk of any variety. Apparently I am an oddity in the world for choosing to eat my puds unadorned, but since ending up dairy free, it's been a blessing, as it's one area where I've not felt too deprived. I'd go as far as saying I hate custard with a passion - it should be outlawed!

But I digress - back to the crumble. The big question is... does the Nakd bar work in the topping - it certainly does! It adds extra chewy chunks that when warmed in the oven are almost fudgy, and the rhubarb and custard flavour goes really well with the fruity base. It adds sweetness meaning you can get away with just 1tsp sugar, just to help the topping caramelise a little. Try it and broaden your crumble horizons!

Get a spoon and dig in! (Blow on it first, it's hot...)

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Random Recipes: Tangerines and Tea!

It's time to blog March's Random Recipes challenge. The event as always is hosted at Belleau Kitchen, and the theme this month was Cuttings, Memories and Clippings.

We were encouraged to randomly delve into our stash of recipe clippings and tonight I did. I have to confess the randomness was slightly less than random... It needed to be something sweet, since main course was already taken care of.
Better than tinned mandarins!
I duly tipped out all of my pudding and baking recipes and kept picking at random until I found one that was a) convertible to make it dairy free and b) I had enough of the ingredients to give it a shot without having to go to the shop. After about 8 failed random picks (some of which did sound lovely!) I ended up with this one: Warm Clementines with Spiced Tea Syrup.

I've snipped it from a magazine at some point in the past 10 years, and based on the typesetting I had a hunch it was probably a Waitrose Food Illustrated. A quick google search confirmed that - here's a link to the recipe on the Waitrose website.

I thought I should provide you with a link to the 'real' recipe, since as usual I changed a whole bunch of things! I abandoned the whole toasted walnuts bit, and the sauteeing the oranges in melted butter (for obvious reasons!). I also just peeled and segmented the oranges as usual, rather than paring off the skin and slicing, because they were teeny and I'd probably have ended up mutilating my hands in the process. I missed out the cinnamon stick because we didn't have any, used crystallised ginger instead of fresh, entirely missed out the pomegranate - the list goes on! Here's my version...

Tangerines and Tea (aka Warm Clementines with Spiced Tea Syrup) Serves 3

  • 4 small tangerines (or clementines but I used tangerines because that's what was in the fruit dish)
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 25g soft brown sugar
  • 4 green cardamom pods
  • 4 cloves
  • 4 star anise 'petals' (or a whole one, but I was using up the broken bits at the bottom of the jar!)
  • 2 chunks of crystallised ginger
  • 1/2 tsp caraway seeds
  • 1 tbsp black tea leaves
  • 200ml water

Put the sugars and water in a small saucepan and heat on low until the sugar has dissolved.
Add the cardamom, cloves, star anise, crystallised ginger and caraway and boil fairly vigorously for 5 mins.
Take off the heat and allow the boiling to subside, then add the tea and steep for 5 mins.
Strain through a fine sieve to remove all the bits and pieces.
Peel and segment the tangerines (remove any pips you can see) then put them in a bowl and pour over the syrup.
Allow to steep for at least another 10 mins.

We enjoyed ours over some dairy free coconut ice cream, with teeny mini pancakes.


I didn't think Mini-M would be a fan of the syrup, but she was - I guess as well as tasting of tea and spices it was fairly sweet which to a 2 year old probably overrides everything else! Indeed immediately after finishing her last spoonful, she asked if there would be the same again tomorrow - and I breathed a sigh of relief that I'd kept a little bit back just in case.

This is a quick and easy recipe, with very little fuss, and is a great way to fancy up a few little oranges - a good Random Recipes find!


Thursday, 14 March 2013

The Daring Cooks' March Challenge: Let's Get Cheesy

Cheese.
One of the things Mini-M and I can't eat because it's pretty much pure unadulterated dairy.
Many dairy ingredients can be successfully substituted without ever noticing much difference, but cheese isn't one of them. Most of the 'dairy free' or vegan cheese substitutes I've tried over the past few years have been vile to put it mildly. And that is coming from someone who never had a sophisticated cheese palate - I wasn't ever a fan of complex flavoured blue cheeses, rinded soft cheeses or even strong hard cheeses. I was more of a medium cheddar / feta / edam / mozzarella sort of person.

So I have to admit my heart sank a little bit when the March Daring Cooks' challenge was announced, and we were tasked with making our own cheese.

I have to confess I have watched the forum posts with more than a little envy as folk have produced some fantastic looking homemade halloumi, labneh, ricotta, farmer cheese, and more.

BUT not one to be deterred, I also thought I'd try my own hand at making some dairy free cheese, and whilst I may be slightly biased, I do think this is better than any of the commercially produced cheese substitutes I've tried.

I found a recipe for coconut "cheddar" at Sweet Roots which I changed a bit, due to not having quite the right ingredients (as usual). I'd probably recommend just following the recipe over there, but will share mine anyway, just in case you find yourself in a similar not-quite-having-the-right-things predicament!
So it's not exactly the prettiest "cheese" in the world...
Coconut Milk Cheese (Makes 1 block)

  • 1 400g Tin Coconut Milk
  • 1.5 tbsp Agar Flakes
  • 1 tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
  • 2 tbsp Potato Starch
  • 1/2 tsp Smoked Paprika
  • 1 tsp Sea Salt
  • 1.5 tbsp Nutritional Yeast Flakes

Tip the coconut milk into a saucepan and heat gently until the solids and liquids have melted back together again. If your can of milk is fairly warm it won't have separated too much. I had to cut mine out of the tin with a knife!
Whisk in the vinegar, agar flakes and salt then bring to the boil and boil gently for 15 minutes.
Next whist in the potato starch, nutritional yeast flakes and paprika and simmer for another 10 minutes or so during which time it will start to thicken.
Lightly grease a shallow dish or small loaf tin, then sieve the mixture through a fine sieve into the tin.
Allow to cool for an hour, then pop into the fridge for another couple to firm up.

Eaten as is, it does taste cheesy, and has the slightly rubbery texture of cheese, albeit a little softer and wetter. It grates too :o)
Grated "cheese" - still not pretty!
But the most exciting thing is that it melts - which is where it wins over most of the cheese substitutes I've tried. Many are soya based, and soya isn't known for its melting properties. Coconut oil does melt properly though, and at a reasonably low temperature.

Melty "cheese" and broccoli is slightly more photogenic!
To test out its melty properties, I used some of the cheese to make quesadillas with ham, tomato, broccoli, hummus (to encourage Mini-M to eat it!) and the coconut "cheese" in wholemeal tortillas. They were really good. Definitely my favourite thing I've eaten this week (even better than the apple raisin and marzipan strudel Mr E made today, but don't tell him that ;o)

The non-"cheesy" ingredients
And did they get the Mini-M seal of approval - a resounding yes! She ate four pieces - although she did meticulously remove every trace of broccoli... changed days from when she was just getting started on 'real' food and would happily chew on broccoli spears any time, any place!

Then...
Now...
I also melted a little bit on a baby hasselback potato - which was also pretty tasty!


Blog checking lines: Sawsan fom Chef in Disguise was our March 2013 Daring Cooks hostess! Sawsan challenges us to make our homemade cheeses! She gave us a variety of choices to make, all of them easily accomplished and delicious!

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Geeky Stats Cooking - Azerbaijan (ish)

Time for another offering under the 'countries of the world I've not had blog visitors from' heading.

This one is from Azerbaijan, although we no doubt spoiled the authenticity by serving it with spaghetti, since that is what Mini-M wanted and we were happy to play along if it meant she wanted to eat it! That's the reason for the 'ish' in the title - I wouldn't want to imply that in Azerbaijan folk traditionally eat this with spaghetti!

So here we have... Ordubad usulu Mash Shorbasi which is translated as Dried Bean Stew (although it features lamb too, which I'd have personally put in the title if I'd been in charge of the naming...)

I used this recipe here, but about 300g lamb rather than 450g, and used lemon juice rather than the dried plums as the alternative suggestion.

The result is a hearty, tasty, and relatively cheap stew, since the meat content isn't too high. It's not exactly a glamorous dish, however... even less so when photographed a) by me on my phone and b) served poured over spaghetti (although it does eke it out to serve another meal!).


Ah well - will just have to cook something photogenic soon to make up for it!

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Pimp My Nakd Bar!

Chez Makey-Cakey, it's fairly safe to say that we heart Nakd bars. They don't have dairy in them - win. They do have lots of nuts which are great for calcium and protein, but mushed up really small so Mini-M will happily munch them - more win. (PS - this post is in no way endorsed or sponsored by the Nakd people. It also has no naked people in it which I'm sure will be a relief as you read on.) I felt that I needed to qualify the place Nakd bars play in our snack repertoire, in the context of purchasing 108 said bars in bulk a couple of weeks ago! If there is some sort of unexpected Armageddon requiring us to remain quarantined in our homes, we will be good for quite a while.

The reason for the bulk buying was that some relatively short dated stock was discounted - win for us, since it still keeps until the summer - and so I was able to pick up "Pecan Pie" variety bars at a price which put them on a par with regular supermarket cereal bars. Around about a similar time last year, I picked up a similar deal on the "Cocoa Mint"variety which fuelled us on our very cold camping trip around the Highlands. In fact on more than one evening, we ate them instead of cooking dinner, as it was too cold to contemplate sitting outside stirring something on the stove (don't worry, we fed Mini-M 'proper tea', or at least some cold spaghetti hoops and a banana as well!).

But back to the point of this post, since it wasn't primarily to share my snack hoarding habits, or share our rather lazy approach to dinner whilst on holiday! Buying some discounted bars made me feel less guilty about attempting some experimental cooking with them - something I'd been fancying trying for a while.
Cut open and slightly out of focus to reveal the Pecan Pie middle
I combined the concept of Scotch Eggs with a Pecan Pie bar to create...

Quick, take a picture, there's only 2 left!
Carrot Cake Pecan Power Bites (Makes 12)
  • 1/2 cup ground almonds
  • 1/2 cup ground pistachios
  • 1/3 cup brown rice flour
  • 1 medium-large carrot, finely grated
  • 12 small stoned dates
  • 1 tbsp dark agave syrup
  • 1/4 cup plain soya yoghurt
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch ground cinnamon
  • 1 pecan pie Nakd bar
  • 40g carob bar
  • 1/2 tsp chocolate extract
Preheat oven to 180C (160C fan)
Put the dates, coconut oil, vanilla, agave syrup and coconut oil in the microwave for about 30s to melt the oil and soften the dates slightly, then blend until smooth and sticky.
Mix in the almonds, pistachios, brown rice flour, grated carrot and cinnamon.
Cute the Pecan Pie bar into 12 small pieces.
Take a heaped tsp of mixture and form into a ball around a piece of pecan pie bar.
Put on a greased baking sheet and flatten ever so slightly to stop them rolling about.
Repeat until all the mixture and all the pieces are used up.
Bake for about 20 mins until golden, then cool on a rack.
Whilst the bites are cooling, melt the carob (or alternatively just use chocolate) and chocolate extract together and drizzle over the top of the cooled bites.
Allow the carob to harden.
Enjoy!
Baked and waiting to be carob-ed
These are really delicious, and pack an energy punch. They got the thumbs up from my colleagues (in fact they were the first thing I have baked for them) and Mini-M who are probably at opposite ends of the cake sophistication spectrum, which is praise indeed.

The secret centre ingredient
And last year, although not strictly seasonally appropriate at the moment, I used some of the Cocoa Mint bars to make a very passable dairy free, vegan mint choc chip ice cream.

Dalmatian ice cream!
Nakd Cocoa Mint Ice Cream (Serves 4-5)
  • 2 Cocoa Mint Nakd Bars
  • 3 Small Tubs Non-Dairy Yoghurt (I used rice yoghurt)
Chop the Nakd bars into small pieces.
Put the yoghurt into an ice cream machine and churn until frozen but still fairly soft.
Stir through the Nakd bar pieces and put in the freezer for a couple of hours to firm up.
Take out 10 mins before serving.
Enjoy - it's minty, chocolate, refreshing, and the chopped bars create fantastic chewy minty, chocolatey fudgey nuggets.

Photo taken in real sunshine - something that we've not seen much of yet in 2013...

The Christmas Present that Keeps Giving

I explained in this post here that for Christmas Mr E promised me a different culinary and cultural evening each month, with a savoury and sweet culinary offering, a classic album and a noteworthy film.

We started off with Scotland in January, and in February we went to Spain, metaphorically speaking.

For main course, Mr E cooked Cocido Montanes, which is a meaty tomato and bean stew, which according to good old Wikipedia is "originally from and most commonly found in the autonomous community of Cantabria in northern Spain".

Taking hearty to a new level!
It was full of good things - beans, cabbage, potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, chorizo, pork ribs and black pudding, which were slow cooked together for several hours.

As the sweet dish, Mr E made Torta de Aciete which are sweet biscuits from Seville which are made with almonds, sesame seeds, olive oil, flour and flavoured with anise.

Mini-M was very interested in these - mainly because a) they were biscuits and b) involved rolling out, which instantly increases the appeal of whatever is being cooked!

As for the cultural element, we listened to some tracks by Pablo Alboran and watched the film "Inconsciente" which was good, but in a rather bizarre way.

The last Torta de Aceite...
...is...
...about...
...to be...
...appropriated!
And finally, Mini-M showing off a new discovery - hand art - this is apparently a flamingo.

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