Thursday, 10 July 2014

Pear Honey and Almond Upside Down Sponge

Arthur was hankering for an upside down pudding the other night, and while I know what he really wanted was a syrup sponge I fancied something a little fruitier so I put this together.  I think he was pleasantly surprised, I certainly enjoyed it.

Pear, honey and almond upside down sponge

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Made in Water - La Bassine birth pool

Right from the start I knew that I wanted to have a homebirth, hospitals are definitely not or me, but it wasn't until during our hypnobirth classes when we watched some water births, that we considered this as an option.

The more I thought about it the more I liked the idea so I started looking around or a pool that we could use at home.  There seemed to be two options - the birth pool in a box and the made in water La Bassine.  After a good look at both we decided to go with the La Bassine as I wasn't too sure about the seat in the birth pool in a box and the La Bassine seemed to offer a larger internal space for the total dimensions.

We bought the La Bassine birth pool essential kit, including the pool, a heat retaining cover, electric pump, water pump, eco hose, tap connector, repair kit, debris net, protective sheet and a nylon storage bag, everything you need to set up, use and empty the pool.

As directed in the instructions we had a test run setting up and filling the pool.  The pump supplied to inflate the pool was very noisy, but fortunately worked very quickly, the hose was plenty long enough to reach the taps at the other end of the house and the protective sheet was huge and could have covered the entire room.

In just over an hour the pool was inflated, filled and ready to go.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Natural Dye - The Yellow Raspberry Experiment

I have a number of white muslins, baby grows and nappies that I thought it would b fun to brighten up by dying, but maternity pay being what it is, when I came to buy dye I decided it was an unnecessary waste of money.  Then while making my blackcurrant sorbet and appreciating the colour of it, I got to thinking about natural dyes.  I did some reading online about different methods of dying, and mordants to use, and then decided to have a go with what I could find in the garden.

White items to dye
My mum had mentioned earlier in the week that she ha a glut of soft fruit if I wanted to pick some so I started there.  She wasn't too keen when I told her it was for dying rather than eating though!  So I started with the yellow raspberries as she had the most of those.

Yellow raspberries waiting to boil

Friday, 4 July 2014

Homemade cloth nappies - five months later

Before Jen arrived I made a bunch of budget homemade nappies and some wool nappy covers.  I was really pleased with them, they looked cute and were very cost effective.  Five months on I must confess we are not using them, which is a little disappointing!

We are still using cloth nappies but not my own homemade ones, for several reasons.

Having not used real nappies before (or any nappies for that matter) I was a little clueless about them, and despite having done my research, there is nothing like actual use to give you perspective.  The nappies were not absorbent enough, in fact were far from it.  They need to be made from a double layer of absorbent material and/or used with boosters (additional absorbent fabric stuffed inside the nappy).  That alone wouldn't have stopped us using them, I could have easily made boosters.

Only one of my woollen covers fitted.  The crochet one was almost impossible to get on, there just isn't enough flex in the fabric to allow the shape I used to work.  Again this probably wouldn't have stopped us using them, although I definitely would have bought covers as I certainly had no time to knit another.

What did stop us using our homemade ones, is the gift we were given by a friend of some commercially made all-in-one, one size nappies.  She had used them for her son but he had outgrown them so she very kindly passed them on to us to use, and we were spoiled! I will be eternally grateful, they made a world of difference to us in the early days.

They were fab.  So easy to use, with velcro closure an a built in waterproof layer, using the nippers and covers on our homemade ones isn't really so much of a chore, but it is amazing how every little bit helps when trying to adjust to a newborn.  The homemade nappies were just that little bit more to handle, so they weren't first choice when changing.

We have bought more commercially made nappies since, from several brands (mostly preloved) and I'm not sorry.  They are so simple to use and care for and Jen seems comfortable in them.  I am looking at making some of my own again, but they will be similar to the commercial ones.  I will post about them when I get round to it, am also hoping to post some reviews of the brands we have been using.

The good news is, the wipes I made are brilliant, just what is needed, and I'm planning on running up a few more.  So pregnancy sewing wasn't a complete loss!

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Blackcurrant Sorbet and liquorice sticks

Some years ago (more than I care to remember) Ribena held a summer promotion where if you got a purple straw you could send it off to claim a free cutting of the Ribena berry Ben Hope.

I was working at a cafe at the time an more than one customer left behind their purple straw so I ended up with several cuttings which grew incredibly well and strike so easily I am now on third or fourth generation plants.

Despite having a number of very healthy plants, I have eaten very few blackcurrants over the years.  They always seem to ripen while we are on holiday and by the time we are back, the birds have beaten me to it.  Not this year though!

Having returned from a holiday on the Saturday I went out to take stock of the garden and noticed one ripe blackcurrant - great I hadn't missed them.  Gardening on the Sunday I looked up to see a bush full of ripe blackcurrants, they had obviously been waiting for me!

With the weather being so warm I decided that the best use of them would be Blackcurrant sorbet.  I used this recipe from Lavender and Lovage although I only had enough berries for a half batch it was plenty.

 I love the colour that blackcurrants give, such a bonus to the taste.  I'm lucky enough to have an icecream maker - an excellent birthday gift some years back - so making sorbet was really a doddle, boil the fruit and sugar syrup, cool and pour into the maker.  My work was done oh so quickly.

Sorbet after mixing in the icecream maker
 I must confess that I did not read the recipe thoroughly and tossed my fruit in the pan whole, without topping and tailing, however I don't feel that this affected the final product in any way, and candour compels me to admit that even if I had read that part, I probably would have been too lazy to do it.

I served the sorbet with liquorice sticks which were great as they worked really well as spoons.  The recipe said it would serve 4-6, but I only made a half batch and it easily served four (with larger servings than pictured below, I started small and went back for seconds!) with a good size portion left over.

Blackcurrant sorbet served with a liquorice stick spoon
It's the first time I've made sorbet and I was amazed at how easy it was and how healthy I can convince myself it is (just a little bit of sugar, right?).  I will definitely be trying more sorbets with garden fruit this year.

As a bonus the seedy mush left over after straining was enjoyed by the chickens!

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Coffee Lover's Cheesecake

Last weekend, the three of us went for a walk in Ironbridge an stopped at the Tea emporium for a coffee (a slight contradiction I know!).  The coffees came served with ameretti biscuits which I love, and it got me thinking.

The results of these thoughts were this coffee lover's cheescake which I made for Sunday dinner.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

House-warming Saffron Buns

My sister and her family recently moved house after a very (VERY) long time of trying to do so.  I wanted to bake them something nice to celebrate and decided on Saffron buns.

My Grandma grew up in Devon and even after moving to Shropshire, raising a family here, and confessing to a love for her adopted county, she still thought of herself as a Devonshire lass.  We spent a fair few holidays in that part of the world as children and my sister opted to attend university there.

Pasties, saffron cake, and clotted cream have always been popular not just in our house but with all of the family and whenever my sister came home from university she did so laden with huge boxes of pasties, many tubs of cream and saffron cakes ordered by our many uncles.  I remember one time visiting her at Uni before coming home together and we spent the morning driving round several bakeries and clearing them out of stock in order to get as many pasties as needed!

So saffron cake or buns have quite a special place in my heart, and the warming saffron spice seemed an appropriate choice for a house warming gift.  They are also on my current list of bakes to try.

I used a recipe from The Great British Book of Baking, and while I wasn't expecting them to match up to the standards of Budleigh Salterton (small bakery there many moons ago, hands down best saffron cake I have ever tasted) they looked like a tasty bake.

Unfortunately this house-warming gift did not warm well, my dough did not rise.  Not after the 3-4 hours that was suggested, and not after the 24 hours I left it just in case.

Dough after mixing (left), and dough after 24 hours (right)
I didn't bother baking them, it didn't seem worth it.  Still, I do dearly love saffron buns (and am rather fond of my sister!), so will at some point try again.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Walled garden walks

I read somewhere that babies who get at least an hour of fresh air and daylight during the afternoon sleep better at night that those that don't.  So in an effort to improve our night times, Jen and I have an enforced hour of outside time each afternoon.  Providing the weather is not hideous, we go for a walk (well I walk and she generally sleeps!) otherwise we sit outside on our covered patio, but she doesn't seem to enjoy that as much, and really neither do I.

One of the places we have been walking most often is Attingham Park a National Trust property.  We are National Trust members, so going is free which is a big attraction, but it is also a really lovely place to walk.  The grounds are huge so plenty of different routes to explore, the paths are well kept and easy to use a pushchair on and there is lots to look at, woodlands, the deer park, the mansion, tea rooms, a book shop and my current favourite the walled garden.

Attingham Park - view of the mansion 

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Time flies...

So you may have noticed it's been a little quiet here on the blog of late, an I'm sure you can understand why, I've been busy being a mama.

Our tiny bundle (weighing in at a not so tiny 8lb 15) made her appearance in early February and life as we knew it ceased!

Eight weeks on we are beginning to adjust to our new life as a family rather than a couple.  It has been an amazing, awe inspiring, and incredibly difficult couple of months.  No matter how prepared you may think you are, how many books you've read or advice and experience others have shared, nothing can prepare you for the relentless nature of having a new life totally dependent on you for their survival.

It has taken quite some time but we now have a routine allowing us to eel confident enough to leave the house and which includes more than 3 hours of sleep at a time overnight, making a huge difference to our days.  There is a reason sleep deprivation is used as a torture.

Jen changes and impresses everyday, learning new things and developing new responses, I still find it incredible that we had a part in making this amazing person and am so excited to help her to continue to learn and grow :)

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Pork and Apple Sausage Rolls

I had intended to make these sausage rolls for Arthur's Nan's 90th birthday party last week, it was going to be my first try at puff pastry and I was very excited about it.  However, sometimes things just don't go to plan and two baking disasters last week (saffron buns that didn't rise at all, and brown sugar shortbread that ran off the tray in the oven) combined with tiredness that I suppose is to be expected at this point in pregnancy, meant I just didn't feel up to making them (or the honey rose cupcakes I had planned).

I ended up buying both cakes and sausage rolls to take along, very disappointing to me, but thanks to a little time taken in arrangement and the addition of a pot of amazing chutney (Pear and Ginger made by Heather's Harvest) they seemed to go down pretty well.

With my pork not getting any younger and my inclination to try puff pastry not yet recovered I bought a pack of ready made just to get these made up.  I am very pleased with the filling, so I will have a go at making these again with my own pastry, will see how that goes!

In the meantime, here is the recipe for my pork and apple sausage roll filling, use it with whatever pastry you like!

* 2 medium cooking apples
* 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
* 1/4 tsp ground ginger
* 1tbsp dark brown soft sugar
* 500g minced pork
* 1/2 tsp salt
* 1tsp fresh ground black pepper

Core, peel and chop apples and stew with a little water, nutmeg, ginger and sugar until soft and mushy.

Allow to cool then mix into pork along with salt and pepper.

Use in whatever pastry required.

I used a 500g pack of ready to roll puff pastry, cut the square in half and rolled each half out to a rectangle around 15cm by 60cm.  Placed mix along the middle (longways) then wrapped edges over.  I cut each roll into 6 pieces, slashed the tops and brushed with milk before baking at Gas mark 6 for 25 mins.

Pork and Apple Sausage Rolls

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Wool nappy covers

I have finally completed the last stage of our homemade real nappy system - wool nappy covers.

Two woollen nappy covers one blue one yellow

I decided to try wool for several reasons:

  1. It is more breathable than synthetic alternatives
  2. I could make them myself, without buying expensive PUL fabric
  3. Who wants to wear plastic pants?!
The biggest incentive for me to try wool covers is my own hatred of waterproof clothing.  I mean I really hate it, I would rather be wet.  I have tried any number of waterproof coats over the years, including incredibly expensive 'soft' and 'breathable' fabrics and all of them have been sweaty and uncomfortable.  I do not like them, and the thought of my baby experiencing that discomfort on such a sensitive area was not a pleasant one.

It may be an unnecessary concern, I know that huge numbers of people are using synthetic waterproof covers, both as outer wraps and as part of all in one nappies.  In fact I have recently been given a number of Tots Bots all in one nappies by a friend whose son has outgrown them and they do feel soft and comfortable, and I certainly will be giving them a try, but I wanted to have an alternative.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Honey Chocolate Madeleines

My first bake off my list from my recipe book post.

I recently treated myself to a mini madeleine mould from Lakeland, so when looking for a recipe to make for this months we should cocoa, honey chocolate madeleines won hands down.

Lakeland mini madeleine mould
My new silicone mould
We should cocoa is a monthly chocolate challenge from Chocolate Log Blog and a guest host, this month Lancashire food.  Each month has a theme and January's is 'New Ingredient', the idea being to use an ingredient you have not previously combined with chocolate.

As much as I love honey and chocolate, I've never put the two together before, so this seemed like the perfect opportunity!

The recipe is taken from a fair trade chocolate recipe book: Divine - Heavenly Chocolate Recipes with a heart, by Linda Collister.

I've never made madeleine's before, so I wasn't quite sure how it would go, or to be honest entirely sure what they should be like!

Monday, 13 January 2014

Recipe books - practical or pretty?

With all the clearing out we have done in the house of late to make room for a nursery, I have recently been looking at my ever expanding collection of recipe books (mostly cakes and baking) and wondering if they are really worth the space they are taking up.  They are very pretty to look through (or just look at sometimes) but there are quite a few that I have not baked a single thing from.

A selection of my baking books - some as yet unused
This is a huge step for me to even question, as 
a) I like to keep things 'just in case' and 
b) They are books! (I love books and getting rid of them does not compute)

I certainly haven't been at the point of ditching them, but I have been wondering do I really use them enough?  Do I need more than 20 books with cake recipes?

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Banana scones

I like scones.  They manage to be a comfort food and a luxury one at the same time.  Nothing is better than a warm scone with butter, or cream if you can get it!

I also like bananas, but am rather picky about the point at which they should be eaten.  Slightly too green or hard and I feel a bit sick, too brown and they just don't taste nice.  This often leaves a very short banana eating window, which I occasionally miss leaving the fruit bowl with increasingly black bananas.

Every cloud has a silver lining though as black bananas make beautiful banana bread, which we very much enjoy in our house, but it is always nice to have options.  So when I saw this recipe for banana scones I was excited to give it a go.

I found this recipe for banana bread scones with brown sugar glaze on Lavender and Lovage blog but it has travelled a little further than that!  Kate from Lavender and Lovage found the recipe as part of The Secret Recipe Club on the blog Baking and Creating with Avril, where Avril had seen it on the blog cinnamon spice and everything nice where it is sourced from thekitchn.  Phew!

So earlier this week when I was going to have lunch with my mum, sister and niece and noticed a number of past eating bananas in the bowl I gave these delicious sounding scones a go.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Budget homemade nappies

So after making my first cloth nappy I have been collecting towel and fleece and have finally got around to finishing a batch of nappies and wipes.  I did decide to hem the pieces before stitching together as mentioned in the last post, I also used slightly narrower elastic this time round and I'm much happier with how they sit.

There is a total of 18 nappies and 32 wipes, so I'm sure I will need more but it's a good start.  I'm really pleased with how they've turned out, and incredibly pleased with the cost - or lack of.

Monday, 6 January 2014

A snickerdoodle variation

I have had a bit of a hankering to bake snickerdoodles recently, not sure why, I just haven't made any in a long time and thought it would be nice.  I didn't get much baking done over the Christmas period, given our impending arrival Arthur and I mainly spent the holidays sorting out baby things and banking sleep, so the only baking I really did was the Christmas pudding.  I didn't even manage any mince pies!

So yesterday I made snickerdoodles.  If you don't know what snickerdoodles are, they are a doughnutty tasting, cakey sort of biscuit.  Confused?  Give them a bake and you'll understand.  The recipe I use is from Nigella Lawson's 'How to be a domestic Goddess' one of my favourite baking books.

While mixing up the original batch, I had a burst of inspiration.  I was thinking about making a second batch of 'chocodoodles' (where you replace some of the flour with cocoa), but I've never been a huge fan of them, I like the originals better, then I had a thought.

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