Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Happy Birthday Martina (and happy birthday Tea Time Treats)

Martina was 2 last week. As last year, I used the bbc good food wedding chocolate cake recipe for her cake. It is a very easy recipe which turns out great each time - very chocolatey and moist (so it can be prepared ahead of time and decorated later).

I didn't bother layering the cake (actually I was too scared it would crack, being moist), and would prefer to use same sized tins and layer them on top of each other than cut into two or more layers horizontally. Rather than a 30cm round cake, I baked 2 cakes - 17cm and 20cm, which I then covered with marzipan and sugar paste and stacked on top of each other.

Since this month's Tea Time Treats theme is 'Cake', I am entering this post for November's Tea Time Treat challenge.

Tea Time Treats is a monthly baking challenge co-hosted by Karen at Lavender and Lovage, and Kate at What Kate Baked. Each challenge involves a style of bake or popular teatime ingredient. This month's challenge is 'Cake' hosted by Karen at Lavender and Lovage. The full rules can be found here, if you are interested in taking part.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Update from moi!

Dear all, it has been a few months since I updated this blog. This is not from lack of happenings but on the contrary, due to an overwhelmingly busy schedule. I simply have not had the time to update about all the wonderful and not so wonderful things going on.

My 30th birthday will definately be remembered for all the wrong reasons - I was in hospital at 5am at the A&E with my daughter who had a very high fever (and who had had a fever for over a week by then). We were discharged by noon after the consultant pediatrician dismissed her ailment as a simple viral infection ... only to be back two days later! And this time we were there to stay! Several shots of antibiotics later and we were discharged four days later. Oh, and her apetite is back now!

I have also become an aunt to a lovely boy, J, who at 4 months is almost as big as my 2-year-old! This has made me ever more broody! M will be 2 next week, so it feels just the right time to start planning about further additions to the family (well the planning is already done, it's more a waiting game now)!Speaking of M's upcoming birthday, next week we'll be having a weekend of celebrations, which I'll hopefulyt get round to blog about.

As regards the big home project, we got the necessary permits at the end of September and construction finally commenced this week. Yesterday I left a deposit on the new kitchen appliances, and will hopefully be visiting the carpenter doing the kitchen next Saturday. It is still early days, but I really hope that our home is ready come Spring. We are currently in a rented apartment and although its fab to be living by the sea with all amenities close by (M particularly loves going to the swings), I really miss home.

Now off I go to prepare some yummy chicken curry which I'll share with my daughter!

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

What are we eating this week - 16 to 22 Jul

I'm sorry for not posting last week! The past few days (or rather weeks!) have been so crazy - my almost 20 month daughter has decided she won't eat any food (well, apart from a few bites off my plate). The fact that she was down with a cold on Saturday and that she's getting her eye teeth don't help as well! So the past few days have revolved around getting her to eat dinner, so much so that we often ended up just having something quick from the freezer with a poor salad! At least on Tuesday we were invited round to our in-laws for home-made pizza in their wood-fired oven (and M had more than a few bites of pizza). On Saturday we had a BBQ at home - just a few burgers and sausages and a salad. Same on Sunday - this time it was BBQ chicken breast and a salad. Sunday night I had a not so little meltdown. The frustration of M not eating dinner got a bit too much. I felt like I was a failure - that M didn't like my food, that it's purely a power struggle for her, that she finds no joy whatsoever in food! She refuses food even more strongly on a weekend when dad is home, making me lose my temper even more and then making me feel like a bad mummy. Cue hours of sobbing till the early hours on Monday and very puffy eyes!

So last Monday I decided that enough is enough! I vouched to keep on offering healthy food and try not to make too much fuss about it. On Sunday I had prepared some chicken croquettes for her (recipe to follow). So on Monday I warmed one up for her, but she wouldn't have any of it! Instead, all she wanted was my spicy couscous!!! So couscous it was! She seems to only want food from my plate, so yesterday I played her game. I prepared a puttanesca/norma spaghetti concoction for us, while for her I prepared a pasta bolognese with ricotta (and some double cream to get some fat in her!). I put my portion and her portion on the same plate, and she was happy to eat from my plate! In fact, she ate almost all of her quite big portion (although the cheeky little monkey didn't want to eat until she saw me actually having some from my portion) :)

All this blabber to point that as from today, our meal plans will have to revolve around food that would be suitable for M.

Today, I'll prepare a summery pork stew with cubed pork shoulder, coloured peppers, mushrooms, and aubergines served with basmati rice. I'll process part of the stew with a hand blender and mix it with the rice for M. Fingers crossed my strategy works out!

Tomorrow, we'll be having a frittata with eggs (obviously), spinach, grated courgettes, spinach and grated cheese, served with salad. I'll make M's portion scrambled with some mashed spuds on the side.

On Friday we'll have fish pie with salmon, grouper and chopped hard boiled egges and topped with mash (we were supposed to be at in laws for another pizza night but SIL is in hospital expecting her first baby any day now - oh I'll be an auntie soon - so pizza plans have been cancelled for now).

No plans yet for the weekend, though I would like to do some baking using the fruit that is sitting in the fridge and that needs to be used up asap.

Until next week!

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

What are we eating this week - 2 to 8 Jul

This week I'm feeling a bit more organised. Indeed, this week's meal plan was drafted Thursday last week! (though I still struggled with posting it in time yesterday!!!)

Yesterday it was seafood risotto for dinner, with squid, prawns, clams, mussels and crab meat, and some cherry tomatoes and basil thrown in for some colour.

Tonight we are invited to a restaurant opening do, so no cooking today!

Tomorrow it's pizza, from the freezer I'm afraid (I need to make some space in the freezer).

Ditto on Thursday - sausage stew from the freezer (I'll add some yellow peppers and a dried Italian sausage that need using up) - not sure whether to serve it with dumplings or basmati.

On Friday, it's pan fried courgette rounds, with a side of marinara sauce and potato wedges.

On Saturday we'll be going to the farmers' market, so most probably we'll have a light lunch and go out somewhere for dinner.

Monday, 2 July 2012

Lamb and artichoke tart

Almost two weeks ago I had a go at this tart. The main novelty was the pastry - a mixture of flour, white wine and olive oil. I had never used white wine in pastry before. I know cannoli pastry has some red wine in (marsala) but the pastry is then deep fried not baked. I used the same quantities of ingredients for the pastry as indicated in the recipe and it turned out really well - the ratios of wet to dry ingredients turned out to be spot on!

For the filling, I used some leftover lamb, so I did not have to pre-cook the lamb. I also used canned artichokes as the fresh ones are unfortunately no longer in season. I also added some ricotta that needed to be used up in the egg and yoghurt mixture.

The pie tasted great. The pastry lifted the tart to a new dimension - it was light and crispy. I will definately be doing this tart again!

Last week I used the same pastry recipe for a pork pie. I substituted water for the wine. I heated the water and the oil in a pan, just like for a hot water crust pastry. When it was starting to simmer, I added the flour and mixed into a dough. I let it rest a bit whilst I prepared the filling - pork cut into small cubes, parsley, onion salt, black pepper and mixed spice.

We ate the first two portions hot from the oven and we were not impressed - the parsley was overpowering, and the texture of the meat was odd (too gelatinous). However we had the leftovers cold (as pork pie should be had afterall!) and it was really good! The pastry is great both hot and cold - in other word, this pastry recipe is a keeper!

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

What are we eating this week - 25 Jun to 1 Jul

The last 2 weeks, temperatures have hovered in the mid 30s, so I'm really struggling to find inspiration and motivation to prepare dinner. Add to that rushing to our family doctor yesterday afternoon with my 19-month old with a 39.1 degree fever and a rash covering her face and torso (luckily it's just a viral throat infection and she's already much better) and any motivation was out of the window! So yesterday I banged a few fish and prawn kebabs in the grill pan and that was it! (though I did prepare a version of salsa verde as accompaniment, together with some steamed green beans and asparagus)

Today I'll prepare a summery sausage stew with a glut of yellow peppers, and some green beans and asparagus (these need using up). Don't have a specific recipe yet, will most probably make it up as I go along!

Last week I prepared a greekish tart (I will report on the tart later on this week). Hubby has requested I use the pastry to prepare a raised pork pie. Indeed, the unusual pastry (using olive oil and white wine instead of butter/lard) is not dissimilar in texture to hot water crust pastry! So tomorrow I'll most probably have a go at that.

On Thursday I'm planning a beef and veg stir fry with noodles (I didn't get round to it last week).

On Friday we have friends coming over for a BBQ, so it'll be the ubiquitous Angus burgers (marinated chicken breast for a friend who doesn't like beef), potato salad and dips and dippers to start with. Dessert will most likely be Sicilian cannoli stuffed with goats' milk ricotta, ice cream, and a non-dairy gluten free concoction I still need to come up with for the same friend!

The weekend is still undecided, depending on errands and jobs we need to do/finish.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

What are we eating this week - 18 to 24 Jun

Last Friday, K had a work do, a BBQ organised by the staff themselves. This year, on the menu, they had doner kebab. As often happens when inexperienced cooks prepare food for a largish crowd, there were many leftovers, so K brought home quite a big chunk of mixed beef and lamb doner kebab. So I'm afraid that with no space in the freezer whatsoever, most of this week's meal plan will evolve around this blessed doner kebab!

On Monday, it was doner kebab salad served with pitta and some of Sunday's leftover chickpea dip. It was really filling.

Today it'll be pasta with lamb ragu and ricotta (perhaps baked).

Tomorrow, it's Mario Batali's lamb and artichoke tart. The pastry should be very light, with olive oil and white wine instead of butter. I'll report back on this recipe, hopefully with some pictures.

On Thursday, hoping that the lamb would be finished by then, I'm planning a fish feast - sushi, prawn dumplings, and fish kebabs.

Friday will be stir fry with noodles.

The weekend seems too distant for any foody plans as yet. If England will be playing Italy on Saturday, we'll most likely go watch the game somewhere. Otherwise, we could do a BBQ.