Sunday, 30 December 2012

Still making them...

Hello everyone, I do hope you have all had a happy and peaceful Christmas.

Hmm, well posting shorter blogs has still not happened as often as I would like, but  it does tend to get rather busy around December, and time seems to speed as it gets nearer and nearer to Christmas Day.  Anyway, having just finished baking another 3 dozen mince pies I was reminded that I was going to let you know how the tally is going.

As you know I had opened the last jar of mincemeat so next job was to make some more.  The Mincemeat with Port was very tasty but alas the recipe was proving rather elusive to find so I went back to an old favourite.  This is from Nigella's 'Domestic Godess' book, and has no suet in so you could say that it is healthy!  Slightly healthier anyway!  

More mincemeat meant more baking could be done.  I didn't get around to taking photos of all of them, and actually one batch of mince pies usually looks very much like the next.  However, just before Christmas I did use up a packet of puff pastry in the fridge and thought we would try a variation on eccles cakes.

Circles stamped out and a spoonful of mincemeat in the middle.

Gather the edges in, a little at a time, overlapping as you go.

The very last turn in pulled across the rest of the pleats, and then turned over and a cross cut into the top.  I normally would just score three slices across the top of eccles cakes having first rolled them again, but was a little concerned that the mincemeat was a little runnier and did not fancy scrubbing baking trays clean.

 I forgot to photograph these when cooked - I did tell you that they don't last long in my house!  However, I did also use up half a packet of filo pastry, cut into small squares, each layer brushed with melted butter and 4 layers put together so they form a star shape then pushed into a tartlet tin before filling with mincemeat. 

Now, for the tally.  We went from 4 and a half dozen, to 6 and a half dozen, then the puff pastry and filo pies took us up to 10 dozen.  More pastry was made last Thursday, although I only baked 2 dozen that day, so the tally went to 12 dozen, and I have just used the rest of the pastry so the count is now 15 dozen!  170 mince pies.  

Although I haven't actually had any assistants helping with mince pie making, my son did make gingerbread men, ladies and trees.  He used the Baker Brothers gingerbread recipe from their television special and it is delicious.  He did halve the quantities though as a kilo and a half of flour did sound rather an excessive amount.  My daughter was extremely pleased about this as she sat and iced them until her hand was aching!  She doesn't like her photo being taken but I managed to sneak one!  They looked very professional when she had finished and quite a number have been given as presents.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas...

We are starting to see more and more decorations in the streets, and the odd little bits are creeping into the house.  Two very cute snowmen candle holders came home with me today from the German Christmas Market in Birmingham.  I didn't think to take a picture earlier but will definitely do so soon.  It was the first time we had been to this Market and I would highly recommend it, so reminiscent of a fantastic trip to the one in Dortmund a few years ago.  We found some fun Christmas presents, listened to Street musicians, drank gluwein, ate frankfurters, and also potato cakes with apple sauce (very unusual).  Then hot chocolate with whipped cream before catching the train home.  A fun day out.

Before we went this morning I did manage to bake some more mince pies, although I did use a packet of pastry rather than making my own.  There is a definite preference for home made pastry though as I still have mince pies left this evening! The count is now 4 and a half dozen.

I had to open the last jar of the 2011 Mincemeat today so will need to make some more fairly soon.  This one was very tasty but I am not sure where I got the recipe from.

Hubby was busy too before we went out and just look at this wonderful sour dough loaf.  He went on a course a few months back and now we have a weekly treat.  Needless to say it doesn't last long in this house!


Sunday, 2 December 2012

Time Flies... and the Tale of Mince Pies

Well the phrase says that, 'time flies when you are having fun'.   This year, for me, time seems to fly by for too many reasons and since the new academic year started back in September time seems to have speeded up even more!  So having been very remiss at posting on the blog as whenever I think about it there is just so much to include, that procrastination sets in.  It is often hard to start if you think there is not enough time to complete something, and then you don't actually start at all.  So, having dilly dallyed far too long, short posts must be the answer in the meantime.

The start of Advent heralds the start of the mince pies in our house and here is the very first tray out of the oven yesterday.  Two and a half dozen mince pies came out the oven but my family don't eat just one at a time but rather a lot.  Any time of day is mince pie time, especially for my husband and sons, one of whom was eating them for breakfast today!  Actually it was probably only because he wasn't here yesterday when I baked that there were any left this morning!

For the last few years I have kept a tally on the kitchen blackboard of mince pies made and the record was 20 dozen (240 mince pies made and eaten).  I only make them for the family and not to stock the local coffee shop, so it is a rather alarming amount and today came a suggestion that I really don't make enough!

I will let you know how the baking goes.  Speaking of which I still haven't made the Christmas cake yet as I cannot decide which recipe to use!

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Harry Pottering Cake Games

My daughter is Harry Potter mad, along with several of her friends, and for a recent 2 day Harry Potterathon ( watching the films non stop) I became inspired the other day to join in with the fun.

First I made an ordinary fairy cake mix, split it into 6 bowls and added different flavours.  Any guesses what they might be?

Baked as normal it becomes even harder to see what they might be.

Does a closer peek help?

Next I made icing in six different bowls and added different flavours to each.

Hard to tell the difference isn't it, so here's a little help.

Now to add some colouring and then ice some little cakes.

A sprinkle of glitter and there you have the finished article.


Well the cake and icings are different flavours and the colour of the icing does not match the flavour at all, so perhaps a little message is required.

Oh what fun!  Will they guess?  Perhaps I should give them the answers so a little message on an envelope.

Open the envelope and what is inside?  Another envelope!


Oh, I am a bit of a tease!  Inside the second envelope I did give them the answers.

I wonder if you would have guessed?  The taste of some was quite easy, such as mint and lemon.  Cherry and ginger were not too tricky, but lavender cake and rose icing was likened to bubble bath!  Not sure that I have ever tasted bubble bath!  Not sure that I wish to either. 

I grew up with the delights of Enid Blyton and the Famous Five but although all my children enjoyed those books Harry Potter had a firm place in their childhood.  I well remember a 6 hour journey back from Cornwall in the car with a 4 year old, 7 year old and 9 year old, all totally enthralled by Harry Potter as an audio book.  We only stopped once the whole journey and that was very briefly as they were missing the story and could not wait to get back in the car!

I have to say that making the cakes did take up rather more time than a normal batch of fairy cakes and if I do this again I would probably start the day before, but as it is the summer holidays it was rather fun to 'play' with the cake making.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

The easy way to go on holiday!

Now the weather has been truly un-summer like here in jolly old England.  It rained for the Queens Diamond Jubilee celebrations, cakes made by my daughter and her friend were eaten inside watching festivities, rather than at the local big Picnic in the park event.

It poured with rain on our wedding anniversary (but didn't dampen our happiness)!

It poured with rain on Monday when the Olympic torch came to town.  We were quite soggy by the time we got home.

Now I still have to arrange our summer holiday, and shall we go abroad or stay home?  Decisions are not yet made but if we do want to fly perhaps British Airways new service would be ideal.  Have you seen the advert for it yet?  Do have a look, and remember to put in your postcode or address.  Door to door service especially for you!

Actually a neighbour told me about the BA advert, Olympic themed and courtesy of CGI and Google Maps, you see a B777 taxiing up your own road.  I am not sure whether it only works in the U.K. and I am sure some of you will let me know, but it is rather fun.  The neighbour who told me has lived in the road for 58 years and said she also put in the address she lived at as a child and what a delight it was to see that house just as she remembered it.

Monday, 2 July 2012

It's getting close!

The olympic torch was in town today, there were huge crowds lining the route so although I got a few photographs there are a lot of heads in them!  It was a great atmosphere, lots of cheering and waving, and even police motorbike riders were waving back. It reminded me of the carnival.

Start of the vehicles leading the way.

The side of the Samsung lorry was like a giant television screen, great fun!

These specialised lorries must have cost rather a lot

The flame is here - just about visible over the top of the flag!

That's it! Another 2 seconds and it had gone on its way but I am glad we went to see it.

Monday, 25 June 2012

A new addition to the household

Well as if life isn't busy enough through the main exam period when I work more hours than normal invigilating and acting as a scribe for students, and add to that a very stressy daughter taking her exams, so of course this is the ideal time for a new member of the household to arrive!

It has not only been us humans missing Suki our much loved Bengal, but Samba her litter mate was unhappy for months and not his normal playful happy self.  

Samba had just settled down when we went away at Easter and although my eldest son did not come with us, he works long hours, and came home to an extremely vocal unhappy cat every evening.  That made us decide that he needed a playmate and the advice seemed to be that a kitten would be the easiest to settle in.  However, the first time I looked on the internet for Bengal kittens, one of the first advertisements to appear was for a female Bengal who had lost her brother and needed rehoming.  She had been without her brother for 5 months and had become very vocal.  Her owners had been advised to get her a companion but their circumstances meant that they were unable to.  

God's hand works in mysterious ways and I truly believe she was being sent to us.  We thought about it for a couple of days, as the intention had been to get a kitten, but then phoned the owners, had a long conversation, and two days after that we took a 5 hour round trip bringing home with us 'Marlee'.

Marlee is just 6 months younger than Samba, and very tiny, just half his size.  Was Samba impressed?  Not exactly!  We introduced them very slowly over a couple of weeks, and even then there was lots of hissing and grumbling from both of them, although never physical contact.  Now they will play together in the garden, and chase each other around the house, some of the time.  Marlee eats from Samba's dishes without him objecting but he's trying hard to be the boss.

Marlee is very entertaining, water is flung out of the water bowls with her paw and she adores playing with the many toys she came with, alongside anything else she thinks should be a toy! 

The cat flap in the back door is a new experience and she has struggled to grasp the idea that 'staff' refuse to open the door for her.  She pats the door with her paw, but doesn't like it touching her head!  We have persevered and at long last, with the help of 2 extra paving slabs outside and LOTS of treats she has finally mastered it!  Hooray!  It does make life easier and far more enjoyable for her to be able to go in and out as she likes.  

Thursday, 19 April 2012

How was your Easter?

We celebrated Easter in Cornwall this year, in a lovely cottage in Porthleven on the Lizard Peninsula.  I could not take all my Easter decorations but did slip two bunnies into my case and bought some tulips when we got there.  Easter eggs were put into a large bag and there were strict instructions not to squash it in the boot of the car! 

I also packed some knitting and managed to make 3 little egg cosies.  I do love this pattern from the very talented Julie Williams and knitted 5 last year, although 3 soon went hopping off to new homes very quickly.  What about the remaining 2 you may wonder?  Well, as my eldest son was working and could not come with us I left them at home guarding the secret of where some Easter Eggs were hidden!

The bunny pattern is available here, and if you check out Julie's blog you will see that she is currently fundraising for a very worthy cause and one of her Spring Bunnies will be given in a prize draw to one lucky person making a donation.

Sunday, 4 March 2012