Flowers, Sheds and New Recipes …

This could possibly be the worlds most romantic gesture and I don’t think I’m exaggerating! Not only is my husband investing in a brand new shed (we thought our current one was going to collapse soon after we moved in here 12 years ago, we then thought it would collapse when we rotated it 90º a few years ago but it still held strong) but he has offered me a 50-50 share in it. He has spent much of the weekend clearing and sorting through our current shed, he has 3 weeks till the new one arrives and there’s lots to sort through. The plan is that I’ll be able to paint in there when it’s warm enough (might have to invest in a small heater …) instead of having to clear all my painting gear away from the table whenever we want to eat. Needless to say, I’ve had LOTS of ideas regarding the decor, something along the lines of my painting today springs to mind:

ShedWhether I manage to sneak in some bunting, fairy lights and flowers remains to be seen…

Last weekend, I bought a few new plants for the garden, there was such a lovely display of hellebores at the garden centre that I ended up buying three of them. I’ve not managed to take photos of them in colour that really do them justice, so I resorted to black and white, this is my favourite:

Despite forecasts of snow, there is definitely a sense of spring in the garden: For some reason (I am really not sure why, maybe just because I could) I threaded shells onto some string this week and hung them in the garden. We’ve collected hundreds of them over the years, each time we go to our favourite beaches in North Devon, we collect a few more. Anyway, at least they are seen displayed like this instead of being hidden away: I love the simplicity of these flowers:Food wise, we’ve tried out some new recipes this weekend. Yesterday, I made us a ‘Heston’ inspired dinner. We had home made pasta served with his take on a Carbonara Sauce. It was really tasty and as I had help with the pasta machine (from my youngest), it was really straightforward to make:
As the carbonara sauce required 6 egg yolks, I literally had no other option than to try Heston’s meringue recipe! The sugar in his recipe is half caster and half icing. The result was an incredibly smooth meringue mixture. I did then add some vanilla extract which wasn’t in Heston’s recipe but I do like it in meringues. We then added a spot of cream, raspberries, maltesers and really small marshmallows: 

 

Today, we had Pulled Pork served with a Spicy Sauce, Red Cabbage Slaw and Real Ale Bread Rolls (another Paul Hollywood recipe):

It was a delicious combination, we will be having the leftovers for our lunches over the coming days, it was a great way to use a slow roasted joint of pork.

 

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Bread, Chicken Noodles & Chocolate …

This title is a summary of our food this weekend. We had the bread yesterday for tea, it was really tasty and was great fun to make as it contained both bacon and grated cheese :

Bacon & Cheese BreadTwo of these loaves were eaten almost straight from the oven, we had another warmed through for our breakfast this morning and will probably have the last one at some point tomorrow.

Today, friends came for lunch and we had Chicken & Coconut Noodles followed by Chocolate Lava Cakes. The noodles were the highlight of our main meal, they were cooked as normal, then a ginger and coconut sauce that had been made yesterday, was added to them and warmed through whilst the chicken, chillies, ginger, onions and red pepper were stir fried:

Chicken & Coconut NoodlesThis was served with salad and spicy dressing:

Salad & Spicy DressingDessert was Chocolate Lava Cakes. I’ve always shied away from these as they have appeared quite tricky to master. Ensuring the outside of the cakes are cooked whilst the middle is still runny was a bit of a challenge, but I think I just about succeeded:

Chocolate Lava CakeThese were served with raspberries and home made vanilla ice cream. I couldn’t get a decent photo of the inside of the cakes as I’d put them in bowls – next time I’ll serve them on plates just so I can get a shot of the runny insides!!

 

 

 

A ‘Showstopper Challenge’ …

Having recently bought the Great British Bake Off Showstopper Challenge book, I thought I should have a go at one of the recipes. We have several family birthdays from the end of september to the end of october and I always try to use these as an excuse to get my parents and my in-laws together for a catch up over a long lunch. Today, they were served chilli and coriander chicken burgers (or ‘patties’, if you want to be fancy!) with tomato couscous and some home made bread. It was the bread that was the ‘challenge’ from my book. It is an 8 strand plaited loaf, something that I have never attempted before. I followed the recipe to the letter, right up to the point of plaiting, 3 attempts later, I was really struggling, so I decided to try and make it more weave-like and this is the result:

I was pleased with this result and it tasted lovely, this is definitely a recipe I’ll be using again.

To follow our main course we had several options for dessert (well, it is birthday season after all…). We could choose any combination of: home made white chocolate ice cream, mini meringues (see photo below), raspberries, whipped vanilla cream and chocolate brownies (also below).

All in all it was a lovely lunch, with even better company 🌷

 

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.

Enjoy!