Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Muesli Bars

It has taken me six months to finally try out the Breakfast Muesli Bar recipe from Carl Legge.

I already make Muesli, Granola and Oat Bars but what intrigued me about Carl's recipe was that he uses eggs to bind the mix.

I will admit right now that I took liberties with his recipe but, as Carl himself says,

"Essentially you have 400g oats plus 500g of nuts/seeds/fruit. So you can make up your own favourite mix."

I chose to leave out the optional Chocolate for my first attempt.
I did hover with some Honey but the whole point of this recipe is that the eggs replace the usual bindings, so I left it out.

The Bars are not sweet enough for my tooth but Steve likes them.

"Should I have added chocolate? Honey?"
"No" was the answer.
He's much healthier than I am!

The texture reminds me a little of the Bread Pudding my Nan used to make, which is probably why I miss the sweetness.

I plan to make more. It is something I would make anyway and has the added bonus of utilising our eggs. Thanks Carl!

There will be plain for himself, and some with added chocolate for me, so I can pretend that I am being healthy.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Taking Stock of Pork

Very few Western Cookery Books list Pork Stock as an ingredient.
I have no idea why.
I have been making Pork Stock after a Pork Roast for years and now that we butcher our own Pigs, we have an abundance of Pork Bones and Bone-in-Roasts to keep us well supplied with Stock.

Hats off, then, to Hugh Fearnely-Whittingstall for his three paragraphs about Pork Stock in The River Cottage Meat Book.

I don't just use Pork Stock in Pork dishes, either. It really is just as good for recipes that call for Chicken, or even Lamb Stock.

As I say, I have been making Stock with bones left over from a Pork Roast for years.
When using raw bones from our Pigs, I roast them first, just to brown them - just like Hugh.
Also like Hugh, I sometimes throw in a Trotter (we did have 16 of them!) and this gives you a Stock that sets to a jelly.

My Stock Recipe varies according to what I have on hand.
The staples are, of course, Onions, Carrots and Peppercorns. I rarely add Celery, prefering to use Lovage. Sometimes I will use Leeks or Shallots instead of Onions. Often I will add Juniper Berries. The Herbs depend upon what I have that is fresh, or I will trun to my Dried Herbs. Bay is pretty much a constant.

When I batch cook Stock this way, I reduce it down to concentrate the flavour before freezing. Much better than bought in Stock Cubes.

Interestingly, the only supplier of Pork Stock Cubes I could find is Knorr. This is pretty amazing considering that Chinese Cookery puts Pork Stock through it's paces pretty rigorously.

Don't be afraid of your Pork Bones. They do make a delicious, versatile Stock.
Why is it rarely mentioned?

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Hardy Annuals from Higgeldy Garden

Way back in August last year, Ben from Higgeldy Garden very kindly did a Guest Post for us:

Higgeldy Garden Cornflowers

I'm ashamed to say that we failed to do any sowing that early.
Furthermore, none of our Seeds have had so much as a whiff of compost yet.

I've never been great with Hardy Annuals, but I do aspire to having a Cut Flower Patch.

Last year my Asters were too short, bless 'em!

This year, I have availed myself of Ben's Hardy Annuals. Early Sowing collection at £10 with free p&p.  Ben tells me that if I let these self-seed my flower patch could last until I'm "old and wrinkly"  - I have a head start in that direction :)

They arrived yesterday and I am tickled pink with the packaging.

Some people want to see pictures and instructions on seed packets but, to be fair, these are bought online and there is (possibly more than) all you need to know on the Higgeldy site.

Besides, I know these flowers. My Grandad grew them. My Mum grew them. It seems only right that I should at least have a go.

I won't go through the whole list, I shall save that for future posts when I let you know how I'm doing with them.
Actually, whilst I'm on that subject, Ben is growing everything he sells and you can follow his progress through his Blog. I think it's a great idea... unless he makes a Pig's Ear of it all :) That said, if his sowings go wrong, what better way to advise you what not to do?
I digress...

I've said before that I find Higgeldy a "bloomin' good read" and here are some of the nuggets I have gleaned about some of the seeds I have purchased:

Larkspur -  "just the jolly job" for a cut flower.
Nigella  - "Be without this at your peril."
Gysophila - "the old wrinklies love it".
Candytuft - Ben's "Aunty Flip Flop goes loopy for it"

Ben also popped some Dahlia "Coltness" in with my order, which I eyed with mixed feelings.

My Grandad grew Dahlias for showing and I still use one of the tin baths he used to use - not for bathing in, I hasten to add!
My abiding memory of them is earwigs.
Of course, my Grandad traumatised me with tales of them going in one ear and eating their way through my brain to get out of the other ear - I wouldn't be the woman I am today if he hadn't.
I don't have a phobia, or anything drastic, I'm just not keen on them - earwigs that is, not Dahlias.
The BBC tells me that they are harmless and interesting. Harmless I will accept.

Still, Thank You Ben... and if I have nightmares I shall know who to blame :)

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Ash Wednesday 2012

Yes, I know, that is a picture of our Pancake Pan and the title of this post is, quite clearly, not Shrove Tuesday.

However, this is the pan that came down last night to make our pancakes. We won it in the  Cutlery and Catering Blog Competition last year.

Amidst the lemon squeezing and sugar sprinkling frenzy last night, I managed to take only one photo. Quite frankly, it looks a little obscene and I really couldn't compete with the beautiful photo on Lavender and Lovage. Suffice it to say, our Pancake Pan worked wonders and our Pancakes were very tasty.

So, Ash Wednesday, a day that should remind us all of our own mortality... why am I planning fish for supper?

It is traditional during Lent to eat no meat, eggs or dairy produce. What's left? Fish.
Personally, I find it curious that faced with 40 days potentially filled with fish, people would be so eager to jump in and have fish on the first day of Lent.
Still, as a nod to Lent and because it is Ash Wednesday, we shall have fish.

We would probably have had fish anyway, if I am honest.

Steve cooked at the weekend and during his trip to the Fish Market for his menu he picked up some "Fish Bits" that the stallholders helpfully sell for making Fish Pies & etc.
He also made Fish Stock and I have leftovers from that.

The only question now is... Chowder or Fish Pie?

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Bloggers Voluntary Code of Fair Practice

I was over at Mark's Veg Plot the other day (having a rummage round, as you do) when I came across this:

Clicking on Mark's link took me to the Blog of Goddess on a Budget, and more specifically to a post about her idea for a sign of fair practice.

The comments also make for interesting reading.

I like it, and I am going to join in and place a link in my sidebar.

If you are interested and want to know more please click on Bloggers Voluntary Code of Fair Practice

Monday, 20 February 2012

Collop Monday 2012

Today is Collop Monday and, traditionally, we would be using up the last of our fresh meat before the start of Lent.
We are actually having our Sunday Roast because I just couldn't be bothered to do it yesterday.
Once again, I shall be tailoring this week's meals to try and fit with the traditional days of this week.
So, Pancakes tomorrow, naturally!

As I was checking through our Calendar, I wondered if I had forgotten to remind you about the World Marmalade Awards.

I had forgotten, but I am not too late.
They take place this weekend - 25th & 26th February -  and this year they herald the start of the first ever National Marmalade Week.

I do hope that nobody is giving up Marmalade for Lent.

Speaking of which, do you abstain from anything during Lent?

We don't observe Lent but I do recall giving up sweets during Lent when I was a child... I don't recall how long I lasted!

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Chocolate Swirl Cheesecake

For our Valentine's Dinner I made Gordon Ramsey's Chocolate Swirl Cheesecake.

The last Cheesecake I made was a bit of a disaster.
It was my favourite -  New York Cheesecake - and it just went horribly wrong.

This time I cheated by making one that required no baking and I was pretty chuffed with the result.

I adapted Gordon's recipe a little, mainly because I didn't have enough Double Cream to make the Chocolate Swirl. I used yoghurt instead and it worked out just fine.

The swirls are achieved by making a layer of cheesecake mix on the base then piping a chocolate swirl on top before adding another layer of cheesecake mix. You do this three times and then enhance the swirls by sticking a skewer into the cheesecake and swirling.

It was very nice. Maybe a little too sweet but it was very light.
I served it with fresh Strawberries which cut the sweetness nicely.

I think I shall make this again, but not until I've mastered the New York Cheesecake.

What is your favourite Cheesecake?

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Kopi Coffee - A Valentine Treat

We had Gourmet Coffee with our Valentine's Dinner, courtesy of Kopi.

Kopi offer an online coffee subscription service, delivering Gourmet Coffee to your door, and they very kindly sent us a sample to try.

The sample arrived a few days ago but I decided to keep it for a Valentine Treat... and it was much appreciated.

The Coffee arrives in a cute "Lil' envelope" designed to fit through most letterboxes.

Our sample was Malawi Geisha AB Msese District and I was tickled to read that this coffee was grown by smallholder farms in Malawi.

There are a variety of coffee subscriptions to choose from but each delivery includes 250g of single estate coffee in a resealable pouch, along with a booklet about the coffee.

You can choose to have the coffee pre ground, or have them send you whole beans to grind yourself.

According to their brewing notes, 250g will make you 25 cups of coffee. That works out at 28-36p per cup, depending on the subscription package.

Our sample, shown here, was only 100g.

The booklet makes interesting reading and tells you about the coffee's background and provenance, as well as giving taste and aroma notes.
We also like that the pouch tells you the date that the coffee was roasted.

You can read more about Kopi on their website and I was particularly interested to read why all their coffee is not Organic or Fairtrade Certified, although they do "fully support the Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance and Soil Association initiatives". I won't repeat it all here, but it explained some things to me.

So, how was the coffee?
The brewing notes are for a Cafetiere, but we used our trusty stove top percolator with admirable results.
I have to say that I have never tasted coffee quite like it.
The promised "sweet sharp lemon-iness" was right there, and it was a nice finish to our meal.
However, I truly appreciated it more as a morning brew. I took it black with no sugar as suggested and I was amazed at how perky it was. There really was no need for my usual sweetening.

I am sorely tempted to take out a subscription and treat my tastebuds to more coffee adventures. If this sample is anything to go by, there's a whole world of Coffee Pleasure out there that I'm keen to explore and there's no doubt in my mind that Kopi can deliver the goods.

There's also the option to give a gift subscription and I think it's a great gift idea for a Coffee Lover... I'll send you my address if you're feeling generous!

We were sent this product free of charge but we have received no financial reward for writing this review, it is simply our opinion

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Valentine's Menu

Just a quick hello this Valentine's morning.

I have my 'Cheffy' hat on today. Normally, Steve does the 'fancy cooking', but on Valentine's Day it is my turn.

My starter will be something with Mushrooms.
The main is simple; Cod Loins in a herby, zesty crust.
But Dessert, well, I am going to attempt a Cheesecake. The last attempt oozed out of the fridge by itself and has become an 'in joke'.
 I shall share my success/failure with you.

I also have some special coffee that I have saved for the occasion and I shall be sharing my thoughts on that with you too.

Everywhere I look, people are Blogging about sowing and chitting, and, well, we have not started.
We have taken our cue from Mother Nature and have decided to delay proceedings.
Of course, the weather appears to be turning and I really should be out today cleaning the Polyutnnel.

Still, to quote a song by Frank Sinatra, Steve makes me "smile with my heart" so I think a special meal is well in order.

Are you cooking anything special for a loved one today?

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Bobble Day

I have to say that I often get fed-up with all the new days for this, that an't'other.
However, this one appealed to me and I thought I would share it with you.

Bobble Day
February 10th is Bobble Day which is part of Age UK's Spread the Warmth Campaign.

"This winter, Age UK is aiming to make winter warmer for 360,000 people by providing information, advice and practical services to help keep older people warm and well in the winter months."

It appeals to me, not only because I happen to think it is a good cause, but also because of the silliness that Bobbles imply.

Deramores are supporting Bobble Day by donating 50p from each 100g of certain yarns sold up until the end of February, which is nice.

I learned to make Bobbles with my Nana, but we called them Pom-poms. Happy memories.
You can learn how to make them on the Age UK website, just follow the highlighted link above.

This evening I shall be making my Bobbles and we shall be wearing them tomorrow.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012


"Rissoles!" I cry... and show you a picture of Meatballs.

There is method in my madness, trust me.

Rissoles featured quite a lot in my Childhood.
I recall Lamb, Chicken and Pork Rissoles - but never Beef.
The Beef omission has only just occurred to me and I wonder if it was considered just too special to turn into Rissoles after Sunday Lunch?

We would have Rissoles on a Monday, or a Tuesday if the Sunday Roast was big enough to stretch that far, because Rissoles were made from left-over meat.

Actually, what I know as Rissoles are not Rissoles according to the OED - they tell me a Rissole is coated in breadcrumbs... my breadcrumbs get mixed in.

I don't have a Rissole Recipe, I just follow Mum's guidelines and, generally, I make balls instead of flat Rissoles.

I mince left over meat with onion, bulk it out with breadcrumbs, throw in herbs and seasoning and bind it altogether with an egg. If it's too sticky I simply add more breadcrumbs.

You can make any shapes you like. Mum favoured the Rissole shape, a bit like a burger. I favour balls (no sniggering at the back!).
Then you have options.
I dust mine with flour and fry them off.

Lady and the Tramp
This batch were destined to end up in Tomato Sauce to be eaten with Pasta, which is why they are on the small side.

They can be eaten cold with dips, or sliced into sandwiches.
We like them with a hot, spicy tomato dip.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

VetVits Joint Treat Bones for Jilly

Jilly is 11 years old and, like many Humans, she feels her advancing age in her bones.

I can sympathise all too well.

We have tried to give her Glucosamine and Cod Liver Oil with varying degrees of success.

Glucosamine needs to build up in your system and spitting out the tablets willy-nilly does not help to achieve this.

I say willy-nilly but she is quite methodical about it and the same goes for Cod Liver Oil capsules. The latter she seems able to hide in her mouth until no-one is looking.
Life is too short to be piercing Cod Liver Oil capsules and getting more smelly fish oil all over yourself than in the Dog Bowl, so our attempts to try and alleviate her aches and pains remain hit and miss.

Until now.

Those nice people at VetVits sent some Joint Treat Bones for Jilly to try.

She wasn't at all interested in how good they are for her, she just knew that they smelled good.
To her at least.

I could get the definite aroma of Salmon Oil, which makes sense because that is what is in there, along with Green Lipped Mussel, Calcium and an Antioxidant Herb Mix. All this combines to make "An advanced and unique treat to help everyday mobility"... according to VetVits, but who are they?

Actually, I find their About Us page reassuring.
Formed 10 years ago, they developed their products with "2 former presidents of the British Small Veterinary Association" one of whom continues to be an Consultant.
Their range of products includes supplements for Dogs, Cats and Horses.

Success! She likes them. Was there ever any doubt that she would?
The smell alone, pungent to a Human nose, is quite obviously 'heaven scent' to a dog.
They are very crunchy and added pleasure is gained from 'hoovering up' the crumbs that inevitably escape.

Jilly gets treats every day, but we are sensible about it.
The only time I worry that she may be having too many is when we have visitors.

These Treats take longer to eat than her normal ones, reminding me that you consume more calories eating Celery than it contains, and I wonder if the same can be applied to Dog Biscuits? I doubt it somehow.

The recommeded dosage of Joint Treat Bones for Jilly is 4-6 a day and these are a much healthier option than the treats she gets now.

They are also a more expensive option.
A bag costs £10.95 and these will last 2-3 weeks.  
On the plus side, VetVits offer free delivery and I already have my eye on their Flexi-Joint Tablets
We also have to take into account how much Cod Liver Oil we waste in our attempts to get some Omega 3 into her on a regular basis.
Finally, I have to remember what a Grumpy So-and-So I became because of joint pain.
Being Human, I am more than able to express my pain and discomfort, and I can let people know in no uncertain terms that I am miserable.
Jilly can't. She can only hope that we notice when she's aching and so, to coin a well-know phrase,

"She's worth it!"

I have no doubt that these treats will help her, simply because of the ingredients they contain, and we can rest assured that the help we are offering her will not be spat out behind our backs.
The proof of the pudding, of course, remains in the eating and we shall see how she does over the next few weeks.
In the meantime, we would like to thank VetVits for providing us with a healthier treat option that also offers us a solution.
On Jilly's behalf we would like to thank them for sending some very tasty treats to try.


We were sent this product free of charge but we have received no financial reward for writing this review, it is simply our opinion

Sunday, 5 February 2012

'Sno Joke

The Warren Girls have not seen snow before and they are not keen.

Personally, I find it magical when snow begins to fall and I spent a good while yesterday gazing out of the window as the first snowflakes fluttered down.

As it gained momentum I forsake the Rugby to go and check on the girls.
They all seemed a bit bewildered and were huddled under the old dining table where they often take their dust baths.

I went down several times during the afternoon to clear some paths for them which they traversed, eyeing the white stuff suspiciously.

This morning, they all gathered on the 'runway' just outside the pop hole, each one reluctant to step off into the nasty white stuff.
Then, they all took flight, aiming for the food and water. Some were more successful than others and there were more than a few disgruntled squawks as the less flighty of them crashed into the snow.

Luckily, parts of their enclosure are quite sheltered and there are parts that are not so deep. We have also cleared paths for them and they seem a little happier today.
But they have all told me, in no uncertain terms that...

 "This white stuff? It's no joke!"

Friday, 3 February 2012

Knitting With Toft Alpaca

One of my other birthday presents this year was a Goody Bag from Toft Alpaca.

I was suitably impressed, not only with the gift but also because Steve had visited the Shop himself to purchase it.
He said the Lady was very helpful.
I think this may be an understatement when his offer was probably "She knits....".

My gift comprised of  100g Toft's Fine British Alpaca Yarn along with a pattern for a Fine Bobble-edge Scarf,  Pattern Book 1, a lovely bag to contain it all and a sample card of their other yarns.

The Pattern Book is interesting; it doesn't just have patterns in it.
It tells you about the Company and their Herd, obviously, but also about Alpacas in general and in the UK.  It goes on to explain how the yarn is processed and there are tips on knitting. A nice little book.

Toft's fibre is spun in Banbury and I was a little surprised to read that the Mill uses "original Yorkshire machinery". The mystery was solved for me when I discovered that the Yorkshireman Titus Salt was, apparently, the first to use Alpaca successfully and that Bradford remains "the great spinning and manufacturing centre for alpaca".

I like the idea that my yarn was spun on Yorkshire machinery.

I have started my Scarf.
The yarn is wonderfully soft and is knitting well.
The label indicates the use of 3mm needles, but the pattern calls for 5mm. Since the Nice Lady gave the pattern for use with this yarn, I am using 5mm and I think 3mm would not have produced the same bobble effect; they would have been smaller.

I am very happy with my gift.

I have also had a  quick look for Yorkshire Alpaca and discovered that there is an annual Yorkshire Alpaca Show held in Thirsk. The date for this year's show has not been set yet, it is still showing as 6th or 15th October. The British Alpaca Society website has a programme of all UK events.

We thought about having Alpacas, but we simply don't have enough space for them.

Have you made anything with Alpaca yarn?

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Candles and Snowdrops

Well, here we are at Candlemas again!

Our snowdrops are not looking great this year. They are up and in bloom, but they are quite small.
Still, it's nice to see them.
They bring hope for the new Season of growing.

We could always take a trip to Fountain's Abbey near Ripon if we wanted to see a 'proper' display of Snowdrops.
They are reporting that theirs are up and ready to be admired.

Because ours are so small and delicate this year, I shall refrain from cutting any to bring indoors.
I don't think they would last long and they look better where they are.

I shall be burning Candles this evening though and, once again, going mad and turning all the lights on at Sunset in honour of the Sun.
And I shall take a moment to reflect how quickly the first month of 2012 disappeared!

Oh! And don't forget to take note of the weather.