My faithful friend …

this is the funniest photo of my loveable lakeland terrier:




A Winter Wonderland …

I’ve just returned from walking my dog and the weather is once again turning cold. We’ve been lulled in to a false sense of Spring being on its way over the last few days, but no, Winter is definitely back. Thinking of winter inspired me to look back over my favourite photos from this time last year. We were lucky enough to have snow and plenty of it. The snow shut the majority of  schools at the time and I know many who decided against the drive to work and who chose instead to have a few days ‘working from home’! This time last year, people left their cars at home and walked to our local park. This park has a huge boating lake and a river flowing through it, as well as gently undulating hills. It was transformed into what became known as ‘the slopes’ when it was covered in snow:

Very naughty but oh so very nice …

What can I say? The boys asked for me to make these and it would be cruel to say ‘no’ I think. There are lots of recipes for ‘millionaire’s shortbread‘, all of which are pretty similar. The recipe that I used this time (it was another Mary Berry classic) used TWICE the amount of ingredients for the caramel. The result was clear to see:



Due to the vast amount of caramel, we have renamed this classic ‘Trillionaire’s Shortbread‘! Needless to say, I won’t be making these on a regular basis as I’m sure it’s not a good idea to eat your daily allowance of calories in one hit – it may be time to dig out the wii fit balance board before it’s too late!

Modern Art for a Modern Boy, part 2

Having planned the designs I hoped to use for some modern art to go in my son’s re-decorated bedroom, I had to decide how to best recreate them. I wasn’t convinced that I could get the required shape or texture with simple watercolour paints. I therefore decided to try using pastels. I was pleased with the initial results but felt that the image was lacking something, I had a play with some pen and ink as well as with just a dash of watercolour.

Here are the results:

I’m really pleased with these final images and more importantly, so is my son. I had done some research in to getting the original computer aided designs printed on to canvas and was stunned to find that each one would set me back £50! As it was, I used materials I already had (paints, pastels etc) and following a trip to a local arts store I spent just £12 in total on the three 12″x12″ canvases. A bargain for me and something unique for my son.

A true ‘bread winner’ …

Bread making can be time consuming, it can be messy, it can also be a real joy. This recipe for Focaccia bread is definitely the all of these. We had half of the loaf almost straight from the oven with our salmon at the weekend, the other half was finished yesterday, it was perfect for mopping up the sauce from a Sri Lanken Chicken Curry. The bread tasted amazing both warm and at room temperature and it’s one of those ‘never fail’ recipes which I’ll keep for a lifetime.


Here’s the recipe:

500g strong white flour

5g sea salt + extra for flaking over the bread

5g fast action yeast

2 tbsp olive oil + extra for drizzling over the bread

Fresh herb leaves, chopped (e.g. Rosemary, Thyme, Basil etc)

Mix the flour and salt together in a large bowl. Add the yeast, together with 350ml warm water and mix into a dough. Add the oil and mix it in. Turn the dough out on to a floured surface and knead until the dough is very smooth, this will take about 10 minutes and you will need to keep dusting your hands with flour as the dough will be sticky to begin with. Alternatively, if you have a mixer with a dough hook, switch your machine on and mix your dough for between 5 and 10 minutes.

Shape the dough so that it fits in to the base of a lightly oiled bowl, cover the bowl with a clean tea towel and leave to rise somewhere warm for about an hour or until the dough has doubled in size. Knock back the dough and leave for another hour.

Lightly oil a 25cm x 35cm baking tin, then tip the dough in to it. Press the dough in to the corners. Cover again with a clean tea towel and leave to rise for about 30 minutes.

Once the dough has risen, poke rows of dimples in to the dough with your fingers. Drizzle olive oil over the surface of the bread, sprinkle the sea salt over and then the herbs.

Bake the bread at 200C for about 15 minutes or so.

Serve warm or at room temperature.




Modern Art for a Modern Boy …

Having finally re-decorated the spare bedroom (we decided to start there so we could practice with wallpapering), the rest of the house is now looking somewhat shabby. My 11 year old decided that he’d like his room to be next to be given a make-over, so on saturday we moved everything out – how has an 11 year old managed to accumulate so much stuff?!! He’s chosen his wallpaper, he’ll have 1 wall of graffiti paper (in red, grey, black and white), the rest will be silver/grey. I’ve promised him some modern art, designed on my bamboo tablet, using livebrush. We are very much in the early stages but here’s what we’ve come up with so far:


and last but not least:

I need to decide whether to try to print these (or similar) direct on to canvas, or whether I should try to paint them. My current thinking is that I should paint them although I’m not convinced I’ll be able to recreate the same effects. I guess the best thing to do is have a go on some watercolour paper and then decide.

Simply Stunning Salmon …

These salmon steaks look delicious even before they have been cooked. They didn’t need much to make them perfect, simply a thin sliver of butter, a slice of lemon, a basil leaf and some seasoning. They were then wrapped in foil and steamed in the oven for about 15 minutes. Together with some boiled new potatoes and some steamed broccoli they made a tasty tea: