A Random Act Of Kindness.. and Stan goes Viral

No cooking today. Just rambling.

Yesterday started out as a normal Tuesday, I went to work and ate too many crisps. The kids are off school for Easter so I left the house reasonably unscathed from the usual morning madness. Then Dick called me midmorning…left a message, “quick, call me back, I want to share something lovely with you”. While on the tube, the smelly unfriendly London tube of torture and pain for working people and tourists alike.. something remarkable had happened. A young man gave Stanley his skateboard.. just. like. that. A simple, kindness. A straightforward, altruistic act that made my 7 year old son beam all day. And that, it would seem was that. Later, before bed I decided to post a little comment about this on The Motherload – do you know The Motherload? its an awesome parenting community of non-judgemental women (and the odd man) – its the sort of place where a story of kindness belongs. I urge you to visit it. Anyway, I posted. I went to bed.

This morning started as a normal Day. well, for about 5 bloody minutes. shuffle downstairs, check phone.. WTF are all these bloody notifications? Christ, over a thousand likes on The Motherload Facebook page, shitloads of comments and a request from Alison the lovely editor to ask if she could write up a little story! Fuck it says I.. sure, why not…

Its evening again. There are over 1.7k likes on my post, Stanley’s story made The MotherloadThe Evening Standard and The Sun (yes I know, The Sun, I did say no to The Mail so i’m not all bad). I’m a bit overwhelmed to be honest. I half hope they don’t find the poor man.. Though if they do I have to find out if he’s single because my friend at work thinks he would be good marriage material – now that WOULD be a story…

With all the horrible crap happening all over the world today, its easy to fall into a endless trudge of thinking nobody gives a damn about anybody else – Especially on the tube – a place where ‘baby on board’ badges are to be ignored at all costs and nobody says excuse me.

The that mug I am my sipping tea from reads… “Kindness don’t cost a damn thing.. sprinkle that shit everywhere”…. Yeah, I might try that tomorrow. I salute you Skateboard man! Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

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Mums, Mediocrity and Meatballs

I was speaking with a friend last Friday about Mumsnet Blogfest16, which I was attending on the Saturday. I was excited to be going, my friend (a mother and blogger, a damn good one actually) would not be attending however and informed me that she felt it celebrated ‘mediocrity’. For the record, I love and respect this friend, but I do not agree with her.

Not because I felt personally affronted in any way. No way was I being put off a child-free day listening to Miranda Sawyer and a goodie bag! But because I just think she’s wrong. Whether their blog is about expressing milk, crafting or the grief of losing a child – all of these women are using their voice. Making themselves vulnerable. Speaking up.

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In a year where an idiotic misogynistic despot and reality TV star can become the Commander in Chief, where horrific online abuse of women is the norm, Where Gina Miller, a woman prepared to stand up to our government over Article 50 can receive death and rape threats, when feminism (and we are in the 4th wave people) is treated with disdain and derision by men AND women – I need to hear these woman and their voices – all of them. I just want and need to hear the voices of women. Large, small, sad, depressed, enraged or delighted. And I need my daughter and son to hear them. Never have we needed Geri Halliwell in a minidress screaming about ‘girl power’ as much as we do today.

I have this week and last taken tremendous solace in a Facebook group that my American Sister in law signed me up to. She is grief stricken by it all and I can see why this page has got millions talking. Its called Pantsuit Nation – head over and take a look.

In the meantime , while I await the end of the world as we know it I cook.. Meatballs. Baked in the oven with lots of oozing cheese… enjoy.

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These are made with pork, but you can easily use Beef, Lamb or Turkey Mince. No problem.

You will need for the meatballs:

400g pork mince

1 egg

1 cup breadcrumbs – homemade or shop bought

3 spring onions, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, very finely chopped

1 level teaspoon smoked paprika

1 handful of finely chopped parsley

salt and pepper

2 tablespoon olive or coconut oil for cooking

Half a teaspoon or dried red chilli flakes (optional)

For the sauce:

2 tinned chopped tomatoes

1 pack mozzarella (the good round one, not the cheap square version), chopped into chunks

a handful of cherry tomatoes

roughly chopped basil, a handful

Salt and pepper

Combine all of the the meatball ingredients in a large bowl. Add more breadcrumbs if the mixture is too wet.

Shape the mixture into little meatballs. I like them about the size of a walnut. Then put on a plate and pop in the fridge for about half an hour – this will chill them and make them less likely to fall apart when you cook them.

Heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan till brown and sticking to the bottom.

Once done, transfer into a baking dish. Including any burnt, sticky bits from the bottom of the frying pan.

Pour over the tinned tomatoes, thrown over the cherry toms, chopped mozzarella, basil, salt and pepper. You could grate over parmesan too if you are cheese crazy.

Bake for 30-40 mins at 170 till bubbling.

Great with salad and a baguette.

The Winter Children – Book review

I’ve gone all off piste! Warning… this post is not about food.

When the lovely people at Mumsnet Bloggers Network said here, read a book for free! Then tell us what you thought, I had to say yes. Free books? I’m in.

A week later, The Winter Children arrived.

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This is, it has to be said, not my usual sort of a read. But I was nicely surprised. This is Lulu Taylor’s 7th novel, and she really can write. From the outset I was actually hooked. The characters are extremely well constructed, hopelessly cliched at times, but readable and (mostly) believable. They were likeable too, for the most part. Although I have to say that I found the character of Olivia a bit problematic. Her constant selflessness and blind ability to put everyone else’s needs before her own was more than a little bit annoying.

One of the key hooks for me was Taylor’s tandem narrative. Cleverly telling two stories at the same time, different chapters being given to each. The principal story, that of Olivia, Dan and Francesca is set in London, Norfolk and Switzerland. Its very much a story of the here and now, contemporary and up to date. The characters lives and its events, from IVF to redundancy are very much of the here and now. The second story is set in Norfolk in the 1950’s, this story is also very much of its time, a very different story that is linked to the first. It would be difficult to say much more without giving the game away, for a game is definitely afoot. The tale is fast paced and gripping, I read it in a week on the tube as I travelled too and from work, snatching every moment I could to find out what was going to happen next. Its atmospheric and exciting. At times bleak and creepy.

The cold, snowy cover and winter setting make this a great stocking filler for your mum or sister. It would make a most excellent holiday book, if you or someone you love are lucky enough to be jetting off over Christmas. I will be taking a look at Lulu’s other books the next time I head to the book shop.

Thanks to Mumsnet Bloggers Network and Pan Books for the opportunity to read and share.

Mince-Pies and Chutney…

Its the 30th November. Stanley went to bed dreaming of being able to attack his advent calendar tomorrow. I love that they are both complete and utterly excited beyond belief that tomorrow is December! Its beginning to feel a lot like Christmas. If I make it to Christmas. If I don’t drop dead of exhaustion before hand. I’ve had a flu-jab. I have decided that this will save me, this will prevent me from dying of flu, even if I crap out with exhaustion before the 25th December.

The weekend was spent mostly trying to avoid Black Friday/Cyber Monday emails and flyers, while being the taxi-of-mum to music rehearsals and recitals, kick-boxing, visiting friends in hospital etc etc. Anyway, a jar of old fashioned-traditional mince-meat caught my eye at the supermarket and I HAD to buy it, and a roll of Shortcrust Pastry. I LOVE mince-pies, so do Stan and Daisy so we commenced to make them on Sunday. Mince-pies are great, they are so easy (unless you make the mince-meat from scratch, in which case you are obviously insane or really really bored), the kids get to cut shapes and then make a mess with he flour and leftover pastry, easy peasy…

You Don’t need much –

  • 2 x 12 hole baking trays
  • 1 x rolling pin
  • Cutters – you can just use a glass, but I like stars for the top. I use a glass for the base
  • 1 x roll Shortcrust pastry
  • 1 x jar of mince-meat
  • Icing sugar to dust
  • Milk and a pastry brush

You should grease each hole in the baking trays set the oven to 180 degrees.

Assemble the mince-pies using the cutters, don’t put more than a tea-spoon of mince-meat in each or it will ooze too much over the sides. A bit of ooze is good. But not too much.

Once they are all assembled, brush lightly with the milk and put in the oven for about 15 mins. check after 12 minutes as you don’t want them to burn.

Once cooked and out of the oven, dust with icing sugar and eat while they are still a bit warm. The neighbours helped to demolish ours.

We also made some pretty awesome tomato chutney. Its really good and bit more spicy that I thought it would be. It was a great way to set the oldest one to work in the kitchen, she has been watching Junior Bake -off and is dying to create…

The onions really got me.. Daisy told me that I needed a pair of ‘onion goggles’ – might have to google those before we make the next batch.

One thing I would say about making chutney. Be patient. It took much longer to thicken than I expected. I made this recipe up, having only made it once before, many moons ago. Anyway, I am pretty happy with the results and will be palming jars off onto un-suspecting guests throughout the festive period!

You will Need (everything approx. you do not have to be exact):

  • A huge preserving pan or saucepan
  • 2 kg Tomatoes, any, but fresh and firm, chopped
  • 1 kg red onions, chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2 eating apples, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 x chuck of ginger, about 2 cm, grated
  • 1 teaspoon died red chilli flakes
  • 400 g light muscovado or other soft brown sugar
  • 120 ml malt vinegar
  • 2 teaspoon of pickling spices, crushed in a pestle and mortar
  • 1 x teaspoon of cumin seeds
  • salt and pepper

You could add raisins and sultanas too, we just didn’t have any in the cupboard.

Put everything – except the vinegar – into the huge pan and slowly bring to the boil. Then simmer, The sugar must melt properly and the tomatoes, apples and onions be really soft and bubbly. This will take about 45 minutes.

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Add the vinegar and stir through. You now need to simmer again, slowly, until the mixture has started to thicken and reduce down. This could take about an hour.The mixture will become darker and almost a bit sticky. Let the mixture cool before you put into Jars, big or small.

Meanwhile, prep the jars. I buy mine quite cheaply from Hobby-craft. And I also save them as we go through the year rather and putting in the recycling. Wash them in hot soapy water, then rinse under a really really hot tap. Drain on a tea-towel.

Fill the jars and close the lids tightly. Let it mature in the jars somewhere cool and dark for a couple of weeks.

After all that, thank the heavens for the dish-washer and sit down with a cup of tea!

 

 

 

 

 

Two easy cakes for a Drizzly Sunday afternoon

Finally, its started to feel like Winter, and Christmas is creeping up. Its been so warm recently, We took the kids Trick Or Treating without coats on. But this weekend has been colder and wet, or drizzly. So why not make a lemon drizzle cake? The guys in the office had asked for one anyway and I had some lemons that needed to be used. I made two – One traditional Lemon and also an orange version with poppy seeds. Its the same cake, but with very slightly different additions. This cake is awesome because its a one bowl wonder, throw everything in an off you go! Its pretty difficult to make a mess of it. Enjoy.

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You will need:

  • 6 oz Self-Raising Flour
  • 6 oz Caster Sugar
  • 4 oz very soft un-salted butter
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 tablespoons of milk
  • 1 teaspoon of baking power
  • The Rind of one un-waxed lemon (or orange if orange cake)
  • add one tablespoon of poppy seeds (for the orange cake only)

For the icing:

  • Juice of 1 x lemon OR 1 x orange
  • 1 x tablespoon on normal granulated sugar or Demerara

Heat the oven to 180 Degrees and line and grease a 1lb loaf baking tin

Put all of the cake ingredients into a large bowl and beat until soft. Ideally you should do this in a food mixer. I set my Kitchen Aid to 1 and beat for 3 mins.

Pour into the baking tin and cook for 30-35 mins until golden brown and firm to touch in the centre.

Pour the icing mixture over the cake while still hot and in the backing tray. It seeps in and makes it super sweet and sticky.

Allow to cool then slice and eat. Really good with clotted cream or Creme Fraiche.

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Mushrooms and Truffle Oil, the perfect combination

I can honestly say that I am totally shocked that my last post was in June. I knew it had been a while, but goodness me! Life has been extremely busy. Summer holidays, an unprecedented busy time at work, kids back to school and here we are! OCTOBER. I was disturbed to see mince pies in the supermarket today. Not because I don’t like them, They are actually a favourite Christmas thing, but October, really? Its been unseasonable warm here in the South East of England. Stanley and I took a stroll through the Heath on the way home from school on Friday and the low winter sun peeking through the autumn leaves was gorgeous.

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I haven’t been cooking very much at all, at least not cooking or thinking up any fun recipes. The kids have been eating an early tea after school and by the time he and I eat dinner, its been pasta ALOT and salads. On the sofa, 10 minutes of TV before falling asleep. I did manage to fit in an eye-test in though, I am feeling very middle-aged now that I need glasses all the time. On the upside, Daisy and I now look like twins in our matching specs!…

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One lovely thing that has given me the jolt I needed to get cooking and writing again is this… The lovely people at  http://www.emiliadelizia.com kindly sent me some gorgeous Truffle Oil products to try. And try I did! I’m going to follow up with another recipe, but this one is a perfect quick supper using their Salsa Tartufata. All their products are made in Italy by small producers using only love and their best ingredients. Made locally in small batches, you really cannot buy this stuff in supermarkets. You can find more info here http://www.sfoodle.com.

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You will need:

1 x Pack Jus Roll puff pastry – 320g

Creme Fraiche, about 3-4 heaped tablespoons

250g Closed Cup Chestnut Mushrooms, sliced.

1 x leek, trimmed and clicks thinly

25g butter

3 x teaspoons of Salsa Tartufata (truffle sauce with porcini mushrooms)

A handful of chopped flat leaf Parsley

Salt and pepper

Pre-heat your over to 180 degrees.

  • Grease a large, shallow baking tray with butter and lay the puff pastry sheet gently on it. using a sharp knife, score all around the edge, about a centimetre in, the area of pastry outside the line will puff up when it cooks and form a sort of wall around the ingredients.
  • Next, spread the creme fraiche all over the pastry, inside the scored line and season well with pepper. Set aside.
  • Heat the butter in a small trying pan and add the mushrooms, fry gently until cooked, but not coloured, a few minutes, addthe parsley and stir in. Remove from the pan using a draining spoon and set aside.
  • Into the same pan, with the butter mixture, add the leeks and cook these until soft. Once cooked set aside.
  • Spoon the Mushrooms onto the pastry base and then add the leeks.

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  • Drizzle a few tea-spoons of the gorgeous and rich Truffle mixture all over the mushrooms and leeks, sprinkle over some salt.
  • Bake of about 20-25 mins, till the leeks are slightly charred and the edges are brown and crispy

Ta-dah!….

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Don’t forget to check out http://www.sfoodle.com to see what other lovely thing they have!

Super quick Prawn and Chorizo Linguine

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Prawns and chorizo. Two of my favourite things. And Linguine, my favourite Pasta. The kids will love this as much a the grown ups. Add the chilli once you have served the kids. And serve with crusty sourdough to soak up the liquid. This is a really good, quick supper – it takes as long as the pasta takes to cook and is made up entirely of store cupboard and fridge staples in our house. This serves 2 grown ups and one child generously.

You will need –

  • 200g cooked king prawns (de-frosted if frozen)
  • 50g sliced chorizo
  • 80g dried linguine (per person)
  • 2 shallots, finely sliced
  • 1 clove garlic crushed
  • 50g butter/or 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 x cup chicken stock/ or 1 glass of white wine (i don’t drink so I use stock)
  • 1 handful chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon dried chilli flakes
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • a squeeze of fresh lime
  • Put a large pan of salted water onto boil for the pasta. Cook the pasta for 10 mins, drain and set aside.
  • Meanwhile, heat the butter or oil in a large heavy based frying pan. Add the garlic and shallots and cook gently until sort – but not coloured.
  • Add the chorizo and cook till browning, about 2-3 mins. Add the prawns.
  • At this point, add the wine or stock, it will bubble wildly. Turn it right now and let it simmer for about 5 mins, stirring gently. Season with Salt and pepper.
  • The pasta will be ready now if its not already sitting there – drain and add to the frying pan with everything else. Stir gently until all of the sauce and pasta are well mixed.
  • Finally, sprinkle over the parsley and chilli (if using). Squeeze over some lime juice.
  • Serve in large flat dishes with nice bread