Friday, 28 October 2011

Mum's Famous Dumplings...

There's an internet forum that I frequent, and a while ago, maybe a couple of years back, someone asked for a dumpling recipe. Being a helpful sort, I replied with my mum's recipe, which makes the most gorgeously light and fluffy dumplings with no suet. The original recipe is hand-written inside the cover of Mum's well-worn copy of the Dairy Book of Home Cookery (from the 1970s) and it's also now hand-written inside the cover of my copy (I've got the 'New Edition for the '90s'!). And it became something of an internet sensation - even now, every time someone mentions making a stew, someone else will inevitably pop up saying 'Make sure you use Allie's mum's dumpling recipe!'

So I thought it was about time these famous dumplings made an appearance on the blog...

My mum's dumplings

1 cup plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup milk
2tbsp vegetable oil

Sift dry ingredients into a bowl. 

Mix oil and milk in a separate bowl (or Mum always uses a Pyrex jug).
Stir the wet and dry ingredients together until just mixed.

Place dessertspoonfuls into your bubbling stew, cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

All packed and ready to go...

My parents are moving house this weekend, after 17 years in the current family home. I've already made my last visit to the old house, as I'll be away when the big move actually happens, but my sister's there helping with the packing and the final bits and pieces.

And she sent me this brilliant photo!

Poppy has clearly been listening to my dad (who keeps joking about not telling the cats where the new house is - he loves them really, honest) and has decided to take matters into her own paws!

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

A Belfast hen do...

My friend Ali is getting married on Saturday, and last weekend we all went off to Belfast for her hen do. I'd never been to Northern Ireland before (it was quite strange getting off a plane and just waltzing out of the airport without showing my passport to anyone!) and I had a great time, despite the fact that it absolutely tipped it down for most of Sunday!

We had a few drinks...
...saw a few sights...
...had a Sunday morning Ulster Fry (without meat in my case, but with lovely potato bread and soda farls!)
...and went to the oldest pub in Belfast for a hot whiskey!

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

30: Take Three!

Yesterday I (finally) turned 30! Hoorah!

Unfortunately I had to go to work, but luckily my family brightened things up by sending a HUGE cake, decorated in my favourite colours with loads of glitter, to the office.
It's gorgeous and there's already less than half left!

Then in the evening, I went to a fab bar, Graphic, for lots of cocktails with my friends. I was very impressed with the turnout, given the fact that it was a Tuesday, and I had a brilliant time.

I drank cocktails out of paint tins...
...and I got more lovely presents and cards!
I had a wonderful birthday, and I even managed to avoid a hangover this morning! Gin is good for you!

Monday, 17 October 2011

30: Take Two

I do like to stretch my birthday out for as long as possible! The big day isn't actually until tomorrow, but on Friday night I headed down to the Westcountry for a couple of days of pre-birthday pampering with my parents. And I had the best time!

On Saturday Mum and I went to Exeter for a bit of shopping, and we went to Herbie's for lunch. It's apparently a famous veggie restaurant, but I'd only just heard about it - can't believe we've been going to Exeter for years and years and we've only just found it!
We thought we'd go for 'something small', so we chose tortilla wraps - I went for one stuffed with marinated tofu and vegetable satay. The portions were HUGE, though, and the wraps came with a gorgeous raw root vegetable slaw, a green salad and a potato salad with spring onions and cashew nuts. It was fab!

Somehow we still managed to find room for a three-course meal at our favourite pub in the evening - Mum and I shared a bottle of Prosecco (Dad was on the Merlot) and I had smoked salmon with dill sauce, then gurnard fillets with lemon mash, prawn sauce and runner beans, and then the most beautiful apple tart with a cheeky glass of Calvados.

And then on Sunday, we went down to Lyme for a sunny seaside walk and another gorgeous lunch!

Just look at my seafood platter! It had a massive prawn, a pot of smoked mackerel paté, some crab meat, a little portion of potted shrimp, a herring, marinated anchovies, a huge portion of smoked salmon and a salad with red pepper, prawns and mussels (the mussels were the only bit I didn't eat!) as well as bread, coleslaw and green salad! And I had a massive scoop of ice-cream afterwards!

Then when we got home, we Skyped my sister in Finland and I did some early present opening! I got some seriously amazing things, including...
...this fantastic hardback book with (often totally hilarious) family photos from the last 30 years in it...(and the eagle-eyed among you might also spot that Monsoon jumper I've been coveting!)
This A-MA-ZING Le Creuset teal shallow casserole/frying pan (I am completely in love!)

And, just when I thought I'd done incredibly well with my presents, this utterly incredible ring...
Isn't it beautiful? It's my birthstone, opal, with tiny little diamonds in the little leaves on either side, and it's from the 1930s. Unfortunately I can't wear it yet because it needs to be resized, but I love it!

And I haven't even actually turned 30 yet! Tomorrow I'm off out for lots of gin and lots of cocktails!

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Chilli roasted veg with tofu, pearl barley and tahini

I was completely rubbish with What I Ate Wednesday this week - I've been here, there and everywhere, and doing lots of running (and therefore eating lots of boringly quick post-run meals like egg and beans on toast) and I just didn't manage to get myself organised.

But you can have a recipe for What I Ate This Evening instead! It's not even really a recipe, more a load of things thrown together, but it was gorgeous. I came up with it on Saturday evening and it was so nice I made it again for tonight's supper! 

Chilli roasted veg with tofu, pearl barley and tahini
Serves one fairly greedy person

Olive oil/olive oil spray/cooking spray
As much chilli as you like (I used a couple of blobs of that lazy chilli that comes in a tube)
150g butternut squash, peeled and chopped into chunks
1 orange pepper, deseeded and chopped into chunks
100g tofu (my favourite is Dragonfly smoked tofu) chopped into chunks
50g pearl barley
100g broccoli, cut into florets (I actually used half a pack of tenderstem and I could have done with more broccoli!)
Handful of cherry tomatoes, cut in half
Tahini sauce (I found some lovely tahini sauce in Waitrose, in a squeezy bottle!)

1. Preheat the oven to about 200C. Put your prepared butternut squash and broccoli into two separate plastic containers, with a little splash of water in each, and microwave until just tender (about three minutes for the squash and a minute and a half for the broccoli).
2. Put your olive oil/cooking spray, chilli and a bit of salt and pepper into a roasting tray, add the pepper, butternut squash and tofu, and stir or toss everything around so it's evenly coated with chilli.
3. Roast until the tofu is starting to brown and the pepper is softening, about half an hour.
4. Meanwhile, cook the pearl barley - it doesn't matter if it's ready before the veg, it'll sit quite happily in the pan with a lid on.
5. Remove the roasted veg from the oven, add the broccoli and tomatoes, and return to the oven for another 15 minutes, until everything's nicely browned and the tomatoes are bubbling.
6. Mix the veg into the pearl barley, pile onto a plate or into a bowl, and top with a nice drizzle of tahini sauce.

Eat! It's filling, hearty, autumnal, warming and absolutely delicious. Not to mention ridiculously easy.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Fruit sponge...

My mum's just emailed me the fruit sponge recipe I mentioned in my last post - so here it is in all its glory! It's really easy and absolutely delicious. As it's microwaved, and therefore only has a short cooking time, I wouldn't recommend using raw fruit like apples or pears - on Sunday we cooked some apples down into a compote and used that, or if you wanted the recipe to be seriously easy you could just use a tinned fruit pie filling or something! Fresh raspberries might work, but I've never tried it!

Fruit Sponge

1 1/4 cups plain flour
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup butter or margarine
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk
Fruit compote or pie filling of your choice

1. Place flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, butter, egg, milk and vanilla in a mixing bowl. Beat for 3 minutes on lowest speed, scraping the bowl to make sure everything is incorporated.
2. Place fruit in a microwave-safe serving dish and carefully spread the sponge mixture over the fruit.
3. Microwave for 9-12 minutes. When the cake is done, a toothpick will come out clean. 
4. You can then either invert the cake onto a warm plate, for an upside-down pudding effect, or just spoon it into bowls. Serve warm with cream, ice-cream or custard.

WIAW - or rather, WIA-Sunday-and-Tuesday!

I really need to get better at this WIAW lark! This week I thought I'd ring the changes and give you a Sunday's worth of food - a particularly interesting Sunday, too, as I was down at my parents' house. However, having lovingly taken a photo of my Sunday morning breakfast...

 ...which was my usual porridge and grated apple with a cheeky drizzle of maple syrup, I then completely forgot to take photos of my lunch. If you're interested, it was a tuna sandwich! I then also completely forgot to take a photo of dinner, which was a lovely prawn stir-fry with loads of veg and rice. I did remember about pudding, though!

As I've mentioned, there's a bit of a glut of apples at home, and Mum and I decided to revive a favourite recipe from my childhood - fruit sponge. Amazingly it's made in the microwave, and it's lovely and light and fluffy. We made an apple compote, piled it into a Pyrex dish, spread the sponge topping over the fruit and microwaved it for about 12 minutes. And of course we had it with good old Bird's custard! I've asked my mum for the recipe, so I'll post that when I get it.

And then we move on to Tuesday! Breakfast was the same as Sunday but with no maple syrup, so you don't need a photo of that. For lunch, I went out with a colleague to a fantastic veggie restaurant just round the corner from the office.

They do an all-you-can-eat lunchtime buffet for £7.50 - that was my first plate, plus my carrot, apple and ginger juice, but I ended up having two helpings! There are all sorts of gorgeous things to choose from - here I think I've got some bean and avocado salad, raw broccoli salad with mushrooms and onion, stir-fried veg, a stuffed tomato and some of their incredible vegan carrot quiche thing.

After all of that, I wasn't particularly hungry in the evening, but I had a yummy bowl of stir-fried cabbage, courgette and mushrooms with a few prawns. I never used to eat prawns but I love them now!

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

From summer to autumn...

Having been down to visit my parents for the weekend, I came home with a very heavy bag of apples from their trees! My mum and dad currently have apples coming out of their ears - even the horse is getting slightly sick of them and they've resorted to heaping them up in a cardboard box outside the house with a big 'FREE APPLES' sign - so I gladly took a few off their hands.

And what am I doing with said apples? Well, some lovely small ones, gorgeously sweet and juicy, are making a fab addition to my morning porridge. And there are a couple of eating apples and a couple of pears in the fruit bowl for future snacking. But I also brought a load of cooking apples back with me, and I knew exactly what they were destined for. Yep, another batch of caramel apple jam - just like last year! There's a direct link to the recipe here - although, as before, I didn't use any pectin. I just boiled the jam for a good 20 minutes and (fingers crossed) it looks like it's going to set perfectly.

My apples made six jars - three smaller ones and three ordinary-sized ones. They keep making alarming popping noises as the lids seal themselves! Can't wait to try this year's batch - last year's was seriously addictive! If you've got a surplus of apples, give it a go - it's so easy and unbelievably delicious.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Indian summer...

The weather has been incredible just recently. A proper Indian summer, with temperatures getting up to nearly 30 degrees. Boiling at any time of year in the UK, let alone the last week of September!

Just look at this...

I went down to Somerset for the second weekend in a row, to help my parents clear out the attic in preparation for their imminent house move. And there were idyllic rural views all around!
 As well as some glorious summery flowers...
...and we managed to rescue Big Ted, a childhood favourite, from the attic! A thorough hoover, a squirt of Febreze and an afternoon relaxing in the garden, and he was good as new!
Unfortunately I think things are going to get decidedly cold and rainy over the next few days, but it really was lovely to have one last warm and sunny week to ease us into autumn a little more gently!
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