Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Local (& Late!) Random Recipes #33

For this month's Random Recipes challenge, our host, Dom at Belleau Kitchen, exhorted us to use a local ingredient in our random culinary creations. He also exhorted us to have it posted by the 28th - oops! It is most definitely the 29th, but whilst I've most likely missed the deadline, it seemed a shame not to write my post anyway. I'm habitually late for many things in life. On a day to day basis usually just by 5 or 10 minutes, rather than 24 hours, but I suppose if you think about it as a % of lateness on the time period, they're not too dissimilar.

Anyway enough of the excuses and percentages - this is supposed to be a blog about making stuff, dubious maths. I'd better get on with the food bit, since there's a salutary lesson about precariously balancing things to finish off the post with!

A shot that belies the disaster that lies ahead...!
So - a local ingredient to inspire a random recipe. My folks generously offloaded the contents of their veg box on us before they went on holiday, and in it was a lovely green cabbage. Their veg comes from Tweed Valley Organics who grow and deliver organic veg around - well, the Tweed Valley.

I've got a couple of Polish cook books, and I figured they would be a good source of cabbage recipes, and so, I found myself embarking on making my own Sauerkraut, from page 98 of "Treasured Polish Recipes for Americans".  I can't help feeling I'm breaking some rules by being Scottish and cooking from it... maybe that's why it all ended in disaster - cookbook karma!


I reduced the quantities a bit - quite thankfully I didn't have 5lb of cabbage to deal with, so here's my version.

Homemade Sauerkraut
  • 1 large head of green cabbage
  • 1.5 tbsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp caraway seeds (I love caraway - reduce or omit if you're not such a fan)
Halve, quarter, and eight your cabbage, then cut away the hard core. Finely shred the rest.
Shredded
In a large bowl sprinkle over the salt and leave for about 10 mins and have a cuppa.
Once you've finished your tea, return to your big bowl of cabbage and get your hands in and start crunching the cabbage up in the salt. It will fairly quickly change consistency and stop being hard and crunch as the salt starts to draw the liquid out of the cabbage.
After salt smushing
After about 5 minutes of cabbage smushing, stir through the caraway seeds.
Pack into a clean glass jar or plastic tub and weight it down well. (I'll come on to this in my salutary tale shortly....).
The cabbage will begin to ferment and release liquid - you want your weights to keep the cabbage below the top of the brine.
Tin of pineapples and books - precarious but crucially stable. I should have stopped at this!
The recipe in the book recommends 10-12 days fermentation time, however some internet research seemed to suggest anything from about 4 days to a a couple of weeks will work, depending on the amount of crunch you want in your sauerkraut.
Once you've finished the fermentation, store in an airtight tub in the fridge, and it should last a good few weeks.

However.... I can't tell you how it worked out, because mid-way through the fermentation process, there was a disaster - a 'kraut catastrophe indeed, largely due to my Heath Robinson style of weighting. Turns out that balancing 4 heavy cookbooks on on top of a spaghetti canister sitting on top of the cabbage isn't such a good idea. Who'd have thought it?! In fact I'd strongly recommend trying anything but this method - because what I ended up with was not sauerkraut, but instead a kitchen carpet covered in fermented cabbage juice and shards of glass. Cleaning it up was really not a fun job!

Weight your sauerkraut down like this....
... and enjoy cleaning up a mess like this. What you can't see in the picture are all the teeny tiny shards of glass. Or indeed the smell of fermented cabbage juice. Nigella may never quite be the same again!
I'm hoping next month's random recipes challenge will be less dramatic!


Monday, 28 October 2013

Halloween Mummy Pie

Not so much a recipe, but a set of instructions to make a bandaged-mummy-style pie. If Halloween on the horizon isn't a good excuse for such pastry shenanigans, then I don't know when is!


The ingredients you will need are...

Mummy Plait Pie (serves 4-6)
  • 1 sheet ready rolled puff pastry (lots are dairy free)
  • Your filling of choice (it should be cooked already, i.e. no raw meat, and not too wet, otherwise your Mummy will ooze all over the tray)
  • 1 egg, beaten to glaze
Preheat the oven to 200C.
Unroll the pastry sheet and place onto your baking tray. Mine was handily rolled in parchment that was oven safe, so I just left it on that to minimise tray cleaning.
Next you need to imagine your filling going long-ways down the middle of your pastry, in a line about 3 inches wide. Cut strips from the outside edges into where you estimate the edge of your filling will end up.
Dollop your filling down the middle.
Starting at one end, fold left then right, overlapping slightly each time. You're trying to make it look superficially like a plait without the third strand being there.
I started going at too steep and angle, so had to switch ends - but lets face it, mummy bandages are unlikely to be that neat and pristine!
Once you've finished wrapping, brush all over with the beaten egg. A helpful tip - if you've got some gaps visible, give them a good coating of egg, and it will help seal them and minimise the filling leaking out.
Bake for about 25 mins until the pastry is puffed and golden.
Enjoy and feel spooky!


I filled ours with a tomato, lamb, cumin, couscous and sauerkraut mixture (randomly using things up in the kitchen, but a tasty result thankfully). This would work with any filling really - sweet or savoury. Thick apple compote would make a delicious dessert. Something cheesy and beetroot would cut and look like oozy guts.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Spread Your Wings...

A little while ago we were very kindly given a big bag of felt by a relative, and a soon as I saw the colours - greens, greys, browns and blues, I thought peacock wings.

After a bit of online research, I came across the tutorial for rainbow fabric stash wings at Llevo el invierno, and fell in love - they were so pretty, and I new they were the wings I was going to make - slightly less peacock like, but so simple and beautiful. The tutorial is fantastic - and even better, it really does only involve sewing in straight lines (or slightly curved, but no corners, turning inside out, seams etc). And if you use felt like I did, you don't even have to worry about it fraying.



Here's a few in progress photos. I used the same colours in the same order on each side, but you could also mix it up and make it completely random and rainbow like the original.

There was cutting (I gave myself scissor blisters!) 
Much pinning
Sewing... 
Repeat, repeat, repeat
Possibly not the most ideal working surface!
Ready to be tried on - or so I thought, but then I realised I'd sewn the wrist tie on the wrong side!

And here's a few action shots...


Indoor wings
If it hadn't been for the Peppa Pig coat, this might have looked quite camouflaged
Practicing jumping off tree stumps 
She's off...

And finally, to the gifter of the felt - thank you so much. It will provide lots of fun for a lot of time to come.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Activity Bags: Gumdrop Construction

Last week (and a little bit) I posted about some Activity Bags I'd made up during a day off to help Mr E entertain Mini-M, and assuage a little bit of my part-time parent guilt. Really, I should have been a Catholic, based on how guilty I feel about most things in life!

The bags have been a hit with Mini-M - primarily I think, because she seems to view them a little bit like presents - they are there to be unwrapped. Some of them have provided plenty of lasting entertainment - enough for me to join in the fun at the weekend, or after work.

Step 1 - tip out ALL the sweets
If fact, we had the Gumdrop Construction set up on the storage box in our bedroom for a good four or five days. Mini-M was very concerned we might be playing with it after she went to bed - she didn't want to miss out on the fun. But we convinced her that our evenings were generally filled with dish washing, picking up the chaos of the day distributed around the house and generally vegetating on the sofa, rather than building elaborate wine gum towers...

"Mummy build an animal house"... "Mummy that's not a house it's a tent"
This activity came from Tinkerlab Grumdrop Sculptures. I used miniature wine gums because I couldn't find the American hard gums I was looking for - which ironically would have been softer! Similarly, possibly Poundland cocktail sticks were a little more splintery than ideal... but since we had 5 packs (don't ask me why they are sold as 6-packs. Seriously, who needs a 6 pack of 100 cocktail sticks. Our 600 will be lasting us pretty much indefinitely - I hadn't realised they were a once in a lifetime purchase!)

House. Definitely house. Clearly 5 years of a Civil Engineering degree put to good use...
And how did we persuade Mini-M not to just eat all the sweets? Mr E concocted an elaborate back story (!) that the sweets were really out of date, which is why we were playing with them, but that meant they weren't good for eating and would taste yucky. Hence Mini-M spent a lot of time sniffing them to see if they smelled funny. Apparently the green ones did.

Serious sweetie smelling. Number of sweets smelled - LOTS but number eaten - none :-)
Almost as much playing time was dedicated to a weird sweet shop / hairdressing crossover activity, whereby Mini-M gave both Mr E and me "rockstar hair" by balancing as many sweets as she could on our heads, whilst we were seated on the floor with a tea towel over her shoulders, and she was brandishing a comb and an imaginary hairdryer. Somewhat bizarre, but definitely creative play!

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Toddler Trifle Tart

Tonight it has been the Great British Bake Off Final - a nail biting finish, and what a monumental final challenge - 6 hrs to make and ice a 3 tier wedding cake. I have made 2 three tier wedding cakes, and I think it probably too me a lot closer to 6 days rather than 6 hours. Mind you that's probably why those guys are in the GBBO final, and I'm not ;-)

So to counteract their 3 tiered triumphs, I'm posting something at the opposite end of the sophistication scale. For that sake of alliteration, I'm calling it Toddler Trifle Tart. Mini-M was heavily involved in the making of it and we had it for pudding when Uncle P and Auntie P came round for tea on Sunday. (Apologies - that was a little accidentally rhyme-y).

Last minute sprinkle sprinkling
This is unashamedly unsophisticated, and really more of an assembly of ready made ingredients than any triumph of home baking. But it did taste nice, and Mini-M was very proud of her efforts.

Toddler Trifle Tart (serves 6-8)

  • 1 ready made sponge flan case (quite a few brands are dairy free, since they are a very dry sponge - check the ingredients)
  • 1/2 block strawberry jelly
  • 1 tin peach slices in juice
  • 1/2 carton soya custard
  • 4 tbsp plain soya yoghurt
  • 1 tbsp icing sugar (we used strawberry flavour Silver Spoon)
  • Sprinkles

Place your flan case onto your chosen serving dish.
Make up the jelly according to the packed instructions (remember to half the liquid quantities too).
Pour the jelly all over the flan case (it will soak in) and chill for a couple of hours until it has set.
Drain the peach slices well, and arrange them all over the jelly soaked flan case.
Dollop the custard on top, and spread out a little.
Mix together the yoghurt and icing sugar and drizzle over the top.
Refrigerate until you are ready to eat, then sprinkle with the sprinkles (!) just before serving.

Obviously, if you don't need to keep the finished tart dairy free, then use thick regular custard and whipped cream on top, and it will probably end up being slightly less sloppy!

Monday, 14 October 2013

Part-time parent guilt: Activity Bags

I've been working full time again for almost a year - it has certainly passed at quite a pace. And sometimes I feel like I'm a bit of a part-time Mum. 

I leave the house bleary eyed at 7:15am, then rush home at the end of the day, generally managing to get there about 15 minutes before Mr E and Mini-M and just about managing to get tea on the table as they are arriving home.

Mr E does nursery drop off and pick up, and Mini-M also has two Daddy days each week, when they hit playgroup, the swimming pool, the park, the home brew shop and other places of small person / Dad entertainment.

It's probably not exactly how we might have imagined things working out, but it does seem to do just that - work. However that doesn't stop me feeling just a little bit guilty sometimes - I think there's always something that Mums feel guilty about: it's part of the job description.

Knowing that I feel guilty about being at work, whilst he is honing his toddler negotiating skills, after a day of nap refusal and tantrums is probably little comfort for Mr E however, so I thought I'd use an afternoon off a few weeks back to put together some activity bags which might be a little bit more helpful!


After a mammoth Google/Pinterest bashing session, I came up with a series of easy and cheap activities that mainly comprised of materials we had already kicking around the house, or were easy to get hold of, and grouped them into bags, which I labelled and sealed with tape, to prevent little fingers doing unsupervised investigating:
  • Googley Eyed Ghosties
  • Gumdrop Construction
  • Butterfly Snack Bags
  • Neon Stained Glass
  • Tape Resist Painting
  • Masking Tape Race Track
  • Insect Fossil Biscuits
  • Paper Button Flowers
This post is therefore as much for Mr E as a reference than anything else - since I didn't actually include any instructions.... (!) Here's the end point of each bag.

 Butterfly Treats from Toddler Craft Ideas (That Won't Stress You Out) at the Bump

 Fossil Cookies from Martha Stewart

 Halloween Tradition: Little Fabric Ghosts at Tinkerlab

 Gumdrop Sculptures at Tinkerlab

 Crafting with Kids: Mother's Day Art at Multiples and More

 DIY Paper Tape Roads at Tinkerlab


And as for the neon stained glass - you're on your own Mr E - but it's all in the bag...

In fact, several of the activities have already been tackled my Mr E, Mini-M and myself in various combinations - I'll post some photos soon of how we got on.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Celery Rose Cake Stamping

I have no idea how best to describe this post. Well, actually I do - and it's the title I've chosen: Celery Rose Cake Stamping, but I can't help feeling that just sounds like a random selection of words, or involves a small child (admittedly with a weird name, but parents are a funny bunch - it could happen) stamping on a Victoria Sponge.


But actually, it's a really easy and quick way to decorate a cake, that is also suitable for little kitchen pixies to help with. I can assure you that the finished result doesn't taste of celery either - honest!

It's super easy to do - all you need is...

  1. a cake
  2. jam
  3. fondant icing
  4. a head of celery
  5. a rubber band
  6. gel food colouring
  7. a small clean paint brush
I made a coconut and blueberry cake from the BBC Good Food website - no modifications required since it is dairy free to begin with. It did cause a weird phenomenon... when I put the batter in the tin, all the blueberries were evenly spread across the cake (I put half the batter in, scattered over the blueberries, topped with the remaining batter) - so why is it that during baking they all decided to form a little circle around the edges?! I've heard of fruit sinking to the bottom before many time, but the blueberries stayed in the vertical middle and just rearranged themselves on their plane.

The great centrifugal blueberry mystery
Once it was cooled I cut it in half and filled it with raspberry jam, then brushed the outsides with jam too, before covering with plain white fondant.

Bring on the celery. Cut the head in half - this forms the large rose head. Take a few of the cut stalks that are now unattached and rubber-band them together to make a small rosebud. Lastly pick a couple of single stalks to be the leaves.

Celery stamps at the ready!
Squeeze some pink and green food colouring gel into two separate shallow bowls. Use the paint brush to paint the cut sides of the celery with the gel. If the celery seems quite wet, stamp it a few times first of all on a piece of kitchen roll before painting.

I did a little practice on a spare piece of icing - and Mini-M did some practices too.

Practice makes perfect (or sort of passable)
Then taking a deep breath we got stuck in and started stamping the real cake. It was easy and quite to come together, so it was a very satisfying activity for Mini-M. We did almost start with disaster as she was fairly forceful with her first stamp, and if I hadn't intervened very quickly, the decoration may have ended up being a cake, impaled with a stick of celery through to the base.

I like to think the end result is heading towards Cath Kidston-esque - that was certainly the intention, since the recipient is a big fan of all things suitably floral, however I'm not sure any cake decorating involving a 3 year old is every really going to achieve elegance and sophistication! It'll make up for it with enthusiasm and sticky fingerprints around the rest of the house though... 

You can't beat an egg box and blue cloth as appetising styling props...
As for where I saw the celery stamping idea first, I have to confess I can't remember. There are lots of folk out there in the internet ether who have tried it (with much more beautiful results) but despite having another browse this evening before posting, I've not managed to find one that looked in any way familiar as my source. But to my anonymous inspiration - thank you - it's a great idea.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Some recent dinners chez Makey-Cakey

Life is busy. Sometimes as a result food, and dinners in particular suffer and end up veering frequently into repeated pasta and tomato sauce territory. 

So I thought that deciding to record a week of meals might spur us into doing a little better.

It did: although I'm now feeling ashamed we had sausages twice in a week. Ah well - they may have shortened our lifespan significantly, but they tasted good. And now that I look at the photos again, we still had pasta twice...

So here we go:
Monday: Chili linguine with chard and pecan pesto and roasted tomatoes
Tuesday: Wurst (minus the curry) with pickled kimchi and salad
Tuna pasta. We did actually eat it from plates, not tupperware - this is the leftovers
Little sausages with baked wedges and sweetcorn
Beef, pineapple and green pepper stir fry with brown rice
Fish stew with bulghur and quinoa
Winter vegetable 'shepherds' pie
Hands down the favourite was the beef and pineapple stir fry - it will be on the menu again!

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