Monday, 31 December 2012

Recipe - Indian Fakeaway - Chicken Tikka Masala and Chicken Jalfrezi

This is going to be a mammoth posting - but when you see the end result (and trust me - if you could taste the end result!) I hope you think it's worth it!  Here's a tease, this is the Jalfrezi, how good does that look!

Some of you may have read my Chinese Fakeaway post from earlier this year.  I'm a firm believer that it is possible to make takeaway tasting food at home.  I'm not talking about picking up a recipe book and making a nice curry from it.  Yes, it will be nice.  But.  What I'm talking about is a dish that you can believe is from an Indian or Chinese takeaway - simply because - you make it the same way as they do.  It will never be exactly the same, these chefs guard their recipes with their lives.  At the end of the day, it's their livelihoods so I can't blame them.

Today I've made two curries - a Chicken tikka Masala and a Chicken Jalfrezi.  From start to finish it took me six hours.  Which is a long time.  In between I have make coffees, breakfast, lunch and washed up as I went along (no room for a dishwasher!)  In a restaurant kitchen things are done on a larger scale, there are more people helping out chopping, prepping etc.

I have a friend who is married to an Indian takeaway chef, and years ago, she would talk about him making his 'curry gravy'.  I thought she was bonkers.  She tried to explain it to me but the concept wouldn't sink in about this magical gravy that would be used for all manner of different dishes.  When - a few years later - I went on a mission to find out how to replicate BIR (British Indian Restaurant) takeaway at home, I found out that what she was referring to was what is more commonly known as a curry base sauce.  The word 'gravy' threw me, I was thinking of thick dark beefy stuff!

If you're going to make a BIR Style Indian Curry - you have to start with a base sauce.  Have to.  There are so many out there to choose from.  There are probably nicer ones than the one I use, there are probably inferior ones.  They will all probably make a good curry.  I've found a good one but will keep trying different ones.  It's a case of trying them and seeing how you get on.  The beauty of a base sauce is that you can make it in a large batch and it freezes well, being pretty much vegetables.  Also, from this one sauce - you can make any curry, from a Korma to a Phal, simply by adding additional spices and vegetables.

So - this is how I made my curry, in the steps I took.  Yes, it's long winded.  Yes, you could just open a jar and be done with in 30 minutes.  Yes, I do that myself at least once a week!  But it won't taste like this.

STEP ONE:  Marinating your meat (if necessary)

If you're going to be making a Chicken Tikka Masala you'll need to marinate your chicken first in a yogurt based paste.

500g Chicken, cut into large chunks and put in a large non metallic dish or bowl.

For the marinade:
80g Fat Free Natural Yogurt
1 tbsp Vegetable oil
1 tbsp Lemon juice
2 cloves Garlic
½ tbsp Tomato Puree
¼ tsp Mint sauce
1 tbsp Tandoori Masala
½ tsp Curry powder
½ tsp ground Cumin
½ tsp Garam Masala
¼ tsp Salt
1 red chilli, seeds removed
60 ml Milk

Put all the above ingredients in a food processor and blend.


After blending

Pour the blended marinade over the chicken.  Cover with a lid and place in the refridgerator for (supposedly) a minimum of 12 hours.  The longer the better.  Overnight if possible.  Overnight if you don't forget like I did.

Onwards.  Now the meat is sorted, you need to make a start on your curry base or gravy.  Find a large heavy duty pan.

Ingredients for Base Sauce:
6 small to medium onions, chopped coarsely
6 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 tbsp ginger, chopped
40g Tomato puree
450g fresh Tomatoes, chopped
1 small carrot, peeled and chopped
¼ of a red pepper, chopped
1 tsp salt
60 ml vegetable oil
1500 ml water.

Base Sauce ingredients pre water and oil

Place all of the above in your saucepan, bring to the boil, cover and simmer gently for about an hour.  While this is doing, make your spice mix.  If it's too much put it in an empty spice jar or clean dry jar with a lid.
Spice Mix:
2 tbsp Turmeric
1½ tbsp ground Coriander
1½ tbsp Paprika
1 tbsp Cumin
½ tbsp Garlic powder
¼ tsp ground Ginger
½ tsp ground Fenugreek
1 chicken Stock cube, crumbled

Additionally - 1 tsp curry powder

After the sauce has cooked for an hour, stir in 3 heaped tablespoons of the above spice mix, and the curry powder.  Allow to simmer for a further 10 minutes.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.  When cool enough, blend with a hand blender until smooth.

At this point, I began to make my Jalfrezi.

500g Chicken breast, diced
1 onion, sliced
1 red pepper, chopped into chunks
1 green pepper, chopped into chunks
½ red chilli, deseeded and chopped finely
1 green chilli, deseeded and chopped finely
1 large tomato, chopped (I only had cherry tomatoes left!)
1 tsp Garlic, minced
½ tsp Ginger, chopped
1 tbsp Tomato puree, diluted with 3 tbsp water
3 ladles of Base Sauce (approx)
1 tsp Spice Mix
1 tsp Curry powder
1 tsp Chilli powder
½ tsp Salt
1 tsp granulated Sugar

Heat a little oil in a pan and add the chicken breast.  Fry for about 10 minutes until no longer pink.

Add the onions, peppers, chillies and tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes over a medium heat.  Add the garlic and ginger and cook for a few more minutes.

Remove from the heat, add the Spice mix, curry and chilli powder.  Stir in, and return to the heat.

Add the spices L-R Chilli, Spice mix and Curry

Add the tomato puree mixture and fry for a further 30 seconds.  Add three ladles of the curry base sauce.  Add the salt and the sugar - if using.   The end result is the first picture in this post.  A beautiful pan of Chicken Jalfrezi.

Assuming your chicken has been absorbing the wonderful flavours from the marinade for at least twelve hours *cough - four* - now we get to work on the second curry, the Chicken Tikka Masala.

1 tbsp grated or crumbled cream of coconut
1 tbsp ground almonds
100 ml double cream
1 tsp garlic, minced
½ tsp ginger
1 tbsp Tandoori Masala
1 tsp Spice Mix
1 tbsp Tomato Puree, mixed with 3 tbsp water
3 ladles of Curry Base sauce
½ tsp salt
1 tsp Lemon juice

Place a wire rack or old grill pan over a foil lined baking sheet and place your chunks of meat onto the rack like below.  (Trust me on the foil - baked on yogurt can be a b*tch to get off).

 Put the meat into a preheated oven, Gas Mark 5, 190°C for about 25 minutes.

While the meat is cooking, mix the creamed coconut and almonds into the double cream.

Heat a little oil in a frying pan or wok, and add the garlic and ginger.  Remove from the heat and add the Tandoori Masala and Spice Mix.  Put back on the heat and fry over a low heat for a few seconds.

Add the Tomato puree mixture and stir in.

Add the tomato puree

Add a ladle of the curry base sauce and stir in.  The sauce should now be a deep rich red colour.  At this point add the cooked chicken.

Add a ladle of the curry base

The cooked meat

Add to the pan or wok

Add another two ladles of the base sauce to the meat, and then the cream and coconut mixture.  Stir in well and the resulting curry should look a little something like this...

And there we have it.  Chicken Tikka Masala and Chicken Jalfrezi - from scratch - and, if you're prepared, like I wasn't - reasonably simple.  Believe me, if I can make this, anyone can.  It's firmly passed the taste test from Mr G and three of the four children (I have one curry hater).

Sheesh - nearly took me as long to write the blog post as it did to make the curries!

M x

Monday, 24 December 2012

Merry Christmas everyone

The computer is going off now, time for family and relaxation - finally.  Wishing you all a wonderful holiday season however you choose to celebrate it in your families.

Looking forward to seeing everyone's Christmas Blog posts in a couple of days!

M x

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Lovely friends

Today was homemade goodies drop off day for my two friends, Helen A and Helen S.  Helen S arrived first and handed me an empty eggbox.  Not even a full empty egg box, but a cut up one. I wasn't even worth a full empty eggbox to a so-called best friend.

Gee, thanks.  You shouldn't have bothered.  No, seriously, you shouldn't have bothered.

'This is your Christmas card this year.' she announced.  

I made a mental note to myself to make her one out of a toilet roll tube next year.  Woman's batpoop crazy, I decided to myself.

'Go on!' she urged. 'Open it!'  

What were the chances, I thought to myself, that she's lost the plot finally, and when I open it she's probably crapped in it or something?  But when I opened it, this is what lay inside.

H's beautiful hand decorated egg tree decorations
Carrot Cake
Helen told me that she'd used the egg from the blown egg decorations for the carrot cake itself.  Helen makes the best carrot cake bar none.  The recipe is closely guarded and admittedly quite vague as it uses cups as measurement as opposed to weight, it's never ever exactly the same as the last one but it is consistently a really good carrot cake.

A few minutes after Helen S departed, Helen A arrived (hmmmm, it's a bit like Thing 1 and Thing 2...) with her goodies for me.

Helen A's homemade goodies
Helen always makes me a Christmas table centrepiece in return for homemade Christmas puddings and in the last few years she's been making pickles and sweets as well.   I had 2 jars of pickled onions, picallilli, plum jam, caramelised onion chutney (which is so good it can be eaten out of the jar, as well as with cold turkey). Clotted cream and cranberry fudge, chocolate fudge and Pecan praline.  I felt that I hadn't done enough in return with just the Christmas puddings so I made her a cheesecake with her favourite chocolates, Maltesers.

Maltesers Cheesecake
I want it back!!!
So, that's all the exchanges over and done with, just a few bags of presents to be dropped off (and no doubt more to bring back than is being dropped off...) and - bring it on.  I'm ready!  And on that note, back to the kitchen for me!  More cooking to be done...

Merry Christmas!

Recipe - Sausage Rolls

I was a busy bee yesterday!  Homemade sausage rolls, Pea and Ham soup, Malteser cheesecake, Mince Pies, I was so tired that I was in bed by 9pm.  Today the intention is to attempt some festive type savoury pastries, but we'll see how that goes, best laid plans and all that!

Homemade Sausage Rolls

I'm quite shocked at something I did last night, I wanted to know how to make a roux - for my sins, I have never ever made a white sauce before.  I knew this potential recipe-in-my-head didn't warrant cream, just a plain white sauce.  I was just about to bounce up the stairs to my computer (Google...) and I stopped myself.  I have over one hundred cookbooks.  What was I doing?  It just goes to show how we've come to rely so heavily on technology, doesn't it?

Anyway, back to the sausage rolls.  I don't know the origin of this recipe, it was given to me by a friend, must be at least 7 years ago now, after I tried them at one of her gatherings.

Remember 'Sorry-looking Basil'?  Meet his sister 'Sorrier Sage'...

454g good quality Pork sausages
Large red onion, finely chopped
375g sheet of Puff pastry
1 tsp fennel seeds (I ground mine in a spice grinder)
2 slices white bread, crusts removed, blitzed into breadcrumbs
50g dried Apricots, snipped finely
6 small sage leaves, snipped finely
Sprinkle of ground nutmeg
Salt and ground black pepper
1 beaten egg
Poppy seeds, to garnish

Saute the diced red onion in a little oil on a low heat for about 5 minutes.  Don't fry them, just soften them.  Set aside to cool.

Snip the sausage skins and squeeze the meat into a bowl.  Add the cooled onion, apricots, sage, breadcrumbs, nutmeg, fennel seeds and seasoning.

Combine until thoroughly well-mixed

 Lay the pastry sheet out flat and cut in half lengthways

Put the meat onto a lightly floured chopping board or work surface and mould into a long sausage shape.  Place this in the middle of one of the rectangular strips of pastry.

Lay the second strip of pastry on top of the first and mould over the sausage mixture.

Brush the overlapping edges with a little beaten egg, and fold in towards the sausage meat.

Crimp the edges with a fork

Brush the top of the sausage roll with beaten egg and sprinkle the poppy seeds on top

Cut the roll into slices, I got 12 out of it, approximately an inch thick.  Place on a baking tray and put in the oven on the second shelf down (these were scraping the top of my top shelf!), 180C/Gas Mark 4 for approximately 20 - 25 minutes.  Keep an eye on them!

They're a bit 'faffy' - which is why I only ever make them at Christmas - but they were definitely worth the 'faff', they taste so much nicer than shop bought ones, with the added bonus that you know what's gone into them! 

M x

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Howler of the week

While I try to pluck up the inner strength to stop procrastinating and get my backside in the kitchen to first clean it and secondly make some more Christmas bits and bobs, I'll just tell you about a little conversation I had with my ASD son earlier this week.

Him:  Mum?

Me:  Yes?

Him:  Do you know the little baby Jesus?

Me:  Yes.

Him:  Was Mary married to two men at the same time?

Me:  No sweetheart, just Joseph.

Him.  Oh.  So, was she cheating on Joseph with God?

Me:  Er, no, she wasn't cheating sweetheart.

Him:  But God is Jesus's father.

Me:  Yes. God put Jesus in Mary's belly, I suppose you could call it by magic.

Him:  Ah.  So Jesus is like a genie then?   Only you didn't have to rub Mary's belly for him to come out and he came out the normal way?

Me:  No, Jesus isn't like a genie.  Nothing like a genie.  More toast?

How did I handle THAT one?

Recipe - Brie's Mini Pizza Pot Pies

Every once in a while you'll happen upon a blog that blows your mind, and that happened to me this week when I happened upon Brie's Darling Doodles.  I found it looking for something I wouldn't ordinarily be looking for online - crafts - and while I was there ended up having a gander at her recipes and came across her Mini Pot Pies recipe.  I had to try them.  Had to.

Those of you who properly know me, will know that I loved to cook - and that I lost my cooking mojo when I moved to this new house.  For those who don't, I cooked everything from scratch.  I'd make work for myself, if the truth be known.  My old house had a mahoosive kitchen and that's where I was most days, batch cooking, baking up a storm.  We had to move to provide an extra bedroom for our son and - you've seen the kitchen I have now, right?  This post here - third picture down.  This is where the magic is supposed to happen?  This is where I have to force myself to cook most days, but I am trying to get my groove back though!

My kids love homemade pizza.  We all do.  But with being a family of six, it's not always the most practical thing to make, I can only cook them two at a time, the kids all want to make their own their way, I can only fit one child at a time in the kitchen and what should be a fun experience can be quite stressy.

I'm very wary about copyright, especially when someone has taken the time to write a post for their followers, and take lovely pictures to go with it (yes, my followers, lovely pictures, I will try harder in 2013) - I don't want to plagurise.  I have contacted Brie to tell her I'd like to do a post on the pies, and what I've said I will do is link to her original post, where you can see her recipe and directions, and I'll put my pictures here on the blog with any changes or comments of my own.

So here - once more - is the recipe in it's original glory Mini Pot Pies... have a read of the post and then come back to see my pictures (so, so sorry...) and notes about the recipe.

Done?  Don't they look amazing?  Now for MY shamazing pictures.  *Cough*

Point 1 - unfortunately I didn't read Brie's ingredient list properly, too busy drooling at the pies, and I found the post the night before I went to do my Christmas food shopping.  The word that stuck out in my mind was 'Bisquik'.  You'll see she doesn't actually use that, she makes her own mix.  Those of you in the US will be familiar with it - don't know if it's a good or bad thing?  Those in the UK will be familiar with it from US recipes where it's left us scratching our heads and Googling frantically (for me - Bisquik?  WTH is Cilantro?  Is heavy cream the same as double cream?  Are Digestive biscuits the same as Graham crackers?)

I find Bisquik in Tesco, it makes everything, scones, pancakes, yorkshire pudding, steak au poivre (that one's a lie) and when I get it home, I realise I don't know what to do with the bloody stuff.  Do I add water to it?  Egg?  Milk?  What sort of batter am I making here?  How thick do I make it???  Help?  So I look again at Brie's recipe and I see that her homemade recipe has fat in it, which the Bisquik does in the form of vegetable fat.  Brie's has butter - and I don't like butter or margarine (except in cake #hypocrite) and I don't like pastries that taste overly buttery.  Bisquik also has skimmed milk powder in it, so after consulting with my husband we decide to add water.

I poured the Bisquik mix in a bowl and mixed while adding water to what I'd say was a cake mixture consistency.  I spooned this into the muffin tin and added the pepperoni.  Unfortunately this was too big and so I had to fold it to fit - not the best idea, I'll tell you why later.  The tomato sauce I used was plain old concentrated tomato puree watered down a bit.

And of course you can see above how my first six turned out.  I was immediately sent back into the kitchen to make some more.  Unfortunately I added a bit too much water to the mixture and the batter was now the consistency of  a thick pancake batter.  Also I only had 12 pieces of pepperoni left and each pie calls for two so I chopped some ham up and made some ham and cheese ones as well.

Batch no 2 - Pepperoni and Ham

Far from being the disaster I envisaged, with the runny batter - I found personally these worked better, in that - they came out of the muffin trays easier.  I ran a knife around the edges after they had been out of the oven for about 5 minutes and when cooler, they came out in one piece.  The first batch I made, the fillings seemed to have leaked out because the top and bottom batters had been too thick to bake together (if that makes sense).  These were more like Pizza muffins.  The next time I make them I may try to arrive at a happy medium - not as thick as the first lot, and not as runny as the second lot.

Point 2 - Because the pepperoni were bigger than the actual muffin holes, as you can see above I had to fold them.  It's not the cheapest thing to buy, and these I bought from Aldi for under £1.  They're much pricier elsewhere.  Unfortunately, the nature of massive slices of pepperoni meant that when you bit into the pies, both slices of pepperoni came out in the first bite, dragging most of the other filling with it.  My daughter commented that these would be a lovely change for their school packed lunch boxes, even if cold, but perhaps it would be an idea to quarter the big slices of pepperoni first so it wasn't so messy.  That's my girl, always thinking when I'm not!

These were so, so simple to make and all it took was four ingredients, a Box of Bisquik, pack of pepperoni, bag of grated mozzarella cheese and a tube of tomato puree.  From start to finish these can be made in just over 30 minutes.  They tasted absolutely amazing and now we're all brainstorming as to what fillings we can use next time, my husband is talking about making bigger ones.  Men. 

Make sure you check out the rest of Brie's lovely blog, it's well worth some of your me-time, with a coffee and some cake maybe.  Bar of chocolate... you get me...

More recipes coming up soon - a very Merry Christmas to those who celebrate it and a Happy Holiday to those who don't!

M x

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Recipe - Curried Parsnip Soup

Well, it's been a nippy few days all right, and what better thing to warm the old cockles than a big pan of homemade soup.  I don't make this often enough, I've spent the last nearly two years on and off at Weight Watchers (and parsnips contain Propoints!) plus, they're not the cheapest of vegetables unless you manage to find them on offer somewhere, I was lucky to find them as part of Aldi's Super 6 so they were only 39p a bag.                       .                           


Parsnips - I had three 500g bags to use up     
4 Stock cubes - I used chicken, vegetable is also fine
Hot water
Bay leaves - I used 3
Sea salt and ground black pepper
Curry powder - I used Hot
Double cream - optional

Peel the parsnips and dice into small pieces.  Place in a large pan with the bay leaves, with enough hot water to cover them. Bring to the boil and add the stock cubes, stirring well to ensure they've dissolved.  Add the curry powder - I used 3 heaped teaspoons.

Simmer for 25 - 30 minutes or until the parsnips are soft.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.  Remove bay leaves and blend with a hand blender until thick.  If too thick, add a little hot water to the soup to thin it out.

I served mine with a swirl of double cream for a little treat, Dan decided against it.  We didn't have any crusty bread with this, as it is a very heavy soup so it wasn't needed, one bowl and I was stuffed.

Total cost of pan of soup, less than £1.50 and I'd estimate there's a good 6 large bowls in there.  You can't buy soup for that price! 

M x

Friday, 14 December 2012

Can someone daub a big red 'X' on my front door, please?

Quite shocked to see the last time I posted was the 1st of December.  We have been hit, and hit hard with anything and everything that is going around - and then some.  It started off 14 days ago, when Adam started vomiting.  The next night Ryan was vomiting.  Carpets had to be cleaned... Caitlin and Adam them came down with a really nasty night cough.  A visit to the Doctor on Monday was fruitless, he said to just continue giving them cough medicine.  On the Wednesday, it appears I was struck down with the Norovirus, vomiting, runs, stomach cramps and flu like symptoms, luckily the bug only lasted 24 hours but it has left me wiped out.  Caitlin went back to school at the end of last week, and Ryan came down with the cough the same day and was off.  Daniel was vomiting Monday, while Adam went back to school and when home fell asleep in front of his tea, didn't want it, high temperature.  Has a skin rash which I know four children later to be a viral rash so have been battling to get him to take Piriton (doesn't like the taste).  Wednesday Caitlin told me her thumb was hurting and it was swollen and red and looked like it was going to burst around the nail, so the Doctor has put her on Penicillin.  Instead of telling us she'd shut it in the door (and then had been nibbling at the skin around the nail!) we didn't find out until she told the Doctor.  Adam managed to do one of his two school concerts, and was really upset at missing the second one.  Steve has come down with a sore throat and Man-flu (common cold) and to cap off the fortnight, tonight, Daniel managed to vomit in his room, the hallway, my living room - including on his brother, over my kitchen wall - including down the back of water pipes, over my kitchen door, back porch carpet, all over the walls and floor of my toilet, the LID of the toilet seat - despite it being up, behind the toilet, in the hinges of the toilet seat... you get the picture, quite how he's managed to do it - a 17 year old man near enough, is beyond comprehension.  Oh, and today, I get struck down with the mother of Sciatica attacks.

We were meant to be going away tomorrow to see my husband's family and do the dropping off of gifts and cards, but that's not going to happen now, so we're going to be spending the weekend split in half.  He'll go with the two healthy children and I'll be stuck inside cleaning up sick and trying to reason with (bribe) a 6 year old to take his medicine.  I have just about had enough.

That's my little whinge over, I'll have some time on my hands tomorrow after I've re-cleaned the hastily swilled toilet properly, I may post a recipe.  Merry bloody Christmas!

A truly Frazzled Shell!

Friday, 23 November 2012

November 23rd is...

...going to be a day of madness.  First of all, my husband has to have his stitches out from his hand and his shoulder.  Then my 9 year old son has to have dental work done on his front tooth (he fell at school two weeks ago and chipped his adult front tooth diagonally, losing I'd estimate, half the tooth).  I then have to work on the 'Baking for Brownies'.  Still don't know what I'm making yet.  That helps, I guess, knowing what you're baking.  Meh.

Hopefully the weather will be better today than yesterday, which caused a lot of destruction and inconvenience to a lot of people locally yesterday.  Up to 70 mph winds, floods, people stranded on the main route in to the area, children stranded at schools.  I'm lucky that it didn't impact on my life apart from the soakings I received on the school run (only a 5 minute walk but it feels like an hour in torrential rain!)

The A55

I hope all my U.S readers had a lovely Thanksgiving and enjoy your Black Friday whatever you choose to do - be it a mad shopping spree, or a relaxing day.  My day's going to be madness so if I had a choice, I'd plump for the relaxation!

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

What a liberty...

I'm not a public transport user, I live within 3 miles of anywhere I need to go on a day to day basis.  If I don't walk it, we'll go in the car.  Except him indoors can't drive at the moment.  So - and this is perfectly timed - from bus outside my door at 09.19 am to bus back to my door 10.25 am, I make a trip in to Bangor, to the Post Office to pay a bill, to the Bank... oh and yes, for a Greggs pastie (Veg for me, Meat and Potato for him).

It's raining, and the chirpy, bearded, bird-whistling Big Issue seller is stood in his usual place by the old JJB on the corner.  Seeing me coming, he walks into the centre of the road (pavement - but it's not pedestrianised until 10 or 10.30 am) and stops the traffic for me to cross.  I thank him, and on my way back I go over to him to buy a copy.

Me: Well I suppose I'll take a Big Issue seeing as you were so kind as to help an old woman across the road.

Him:  Oh, you're not old, don't be silly.  Wait til you get to my age.  What are you, 40 at the most?

Me:  *Shoots him filthy look*

Him:  38?


(I'm not, I'm actually 36 but I was so... bloody gutted by this, I wasn't going to correct myself.  It's only 9 months away).

I've always prided myself on looking pretty ok for my age.  I've avoided the sun.  I've never used a sunbed.  Because I'm a miserable sod, not because it's the safest route.  I've always been a Winter person.  I have seen people the same age and younger than I who've been abroad and hammering the sunbeds, and I have thought (in the bloody past) 'Yeah Shell, not bad.  Not bad at all for your age, love'.

I then think.  Don't most men look at a woman and then grossly under exaggerate her age to make her feel good?  I think to my husband's FLUKE of a Golden Rule when I met him.  I asked him how old he was, he said guess - I said 29 - he was 37 but agreed with me that he was and LIED for the first 2 months of our relationship (Are you listening Mr G? A relationship built on LIES!).  I asked him how old he thought I was and he said 23.  He was right.  I was.  But as it emerged that was his token answer to any woman.  If she's 18, she's all impressed thinking she looks older but not too old.  If she's 40 then... says it all.  Git.

So, bearing that in mind - for the Big Issue guy to say I was no older than 40 - just how bloody old did he think I really looked?

Anyway.  The misery doesn't end there.

I get home and relay my tale of woe to the husband.  Who, once he's stopped laughing has these words of wisdom for me.

Him:  'Babe, you don't look 40.  I saw this one girl on Jeremy Kyle yesterday (?) and she was dressed smart and that but she looked older than you.  Guess how old she was?

Me:  Don't care.  I'm hurting.

Him:  28.

Me:  Right.  Did she have more than one tooth in her head?

Him:  I know what the problem is with you.

Me:  Oh, pray tell.

Him:  You dress like a Mum.

Me:  I am a Mum?

Him:  You dress like your Mum.  Should.  Even she dresses better than you.

And there we have it, my double insult.

We won't even go into the German Xbox game nor 'What happened to Mrs Healy'.  We'll save that misery for another day!

What a liberty.

You may direct your words of sympathy into the box below :-(

Mass Christmas Baking ahead!

This is a shout out to the bloggers who bake.  This Saturday I am attending the Victorian Day in a local town, and it's one of my daughter's Brownie troops biggest fundraisers of the year, they have tables for local charities and groups and there's a large catchment of people.  We have a cake and homemade crafts stall - and as usual - I don't know if it's like this where you are - the same people get lumbered doing everything, while the majority do very little.  I'm on the cakes, again.

I'm looking for fun, Christmassy bakes but preferably simple.  I am but one woman in a very, very small kitchen (if you're wondering why my recipe pictures are confined to being taken in the same place, it's because that is literally the space I have!) plus I need everything to be made on the Friday.  That's on top of all the Mum stuff and housework.

This is the sort of stuff I have made in previous years Christmas Baking for the Brownies!

So if you have any good posts detailing Christmas bakes can you please link them up for me in the comments section below?

Thank you :-)

Monday, 19 November 2012

Recipe - Cadbury's Crunchie Cheesecake

I love making cheesecake, and the one I am well known for is my Daim Bar Cheesecake. My husband has been saying for a while that he would love me to make one with his favourite chocolate bar, Crunchie. Today I thought I would surprise him by making it for him, so while he was at his Physiotherapy appointment I cracked on!

Cadbury's Crunchie Chocolate Cheesecake

300 ml carton Double Cream
200 g pack of full fat Cream Cheese
200 g Dark chocolate
300 g Chocolate digestive biscuits
75 g butter
5 Cadbury's Crunchie bars

In a saucepan, break the dark chocolate into pieces and add 100 ml of the double cream.  Heat gently, stirring all the time, until the chocolate has all melted and your mixture looks like  the picture below.  Set this aside in a cool place. 


 In a food processor blitz the biscuits and two of the Crunchie bars.  While the processor is still on, pour in the melted butter.  Press the base into a lined tin.

This base is quite fudgy, due to the biscuits I used being chocolate, and the chocolate bars, and the butter melting it all together.  If you prefer a more traditional biscuit base, then just use plain digestives with butter.

In a small jug, whip the remaining 200 ml of cream and when thick, put into a mixing bowl with the pack of cream cheese.  Mix these together until well combined.

When the chocolate is cool, spoon this into the cream and cheese mixture.  Whisk on a slow setting until the chocolate and the cream is well combined.

Leaving the remaining three chocolate bars in their wrappers, whack 2 of them with a rolling pin.  When they're crushed, open and pour into the chocolate mixture.  Fold them in with a spoon.

Spoon the mixture over the ready prepared base, and level with the back of a spoon.

Open your last Crunchie bar and with a sharp knife slice it into chunks.  Some pieces will slice, some will break, it doesn't matter.  Scatter these on the top of your cheesecake.  Place in the fridge until you're ready to eat. 

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Recipes - Chinese 'Fakeaway'

Gather all the ingredients I mentioned in my last post.  First things first, you need to cook your pan of rice, as this needs to be cooked and cooled down before making your egg fried rice.  I always lay it on a baking sheet as it cools down quicker.

Cooked rice cooling on a baking tray

Chicken and Sweetcorn Soup

In a large saucepan, heat a little groundnut oil, and add 300g very finely chopped chicken and 2 cloves of minced garlic.  Cook for about 5 - 6 minutes, until the chicken is no longer pink.

Mix a little cornflour with a little hot chicken stock, stir this into the chicken and then add the remaining 1 litre Chicken stock, 200g sweetcorn, and one finely chopped spring onion.  Bring to the boil and reduce to a simmer for around 5 minutes.

Beat an egg with a tablespoon of fresh lemon juice.  Gently pour this into the soup, stirring with a fork to create strands of egg.  Add a good splash of soy sauce - dark or light - and dish into bowls.  Top with more finely chopped spring onion.  Season to taste.

For the curry:

In a non-stick wok, heat a good splash of groundnut oil and add 600g diced chicken.  Cook on a high heat, stirring, for about 7 - 8 minutes, until the chicken is no longer pink.

Slice 2 onions thickly, slightly separate the layers, and add to the pan.
The curry sauce cooking separately

In a saucepan, whisk 125g Curry Paste (I used Maysan brand) with 1 1/2 pints of cold water.  Bring to the boil, whisking the whole time.  Reduce heat and simmer, and sauce will thicken.

Pour the sauce into the cooked chicken and onions, and add 100g of garden peas.  Simmer for a further 10 minutes.

For the Egg Fried Rice:

Heat a wok with a good splash of groundnut oil, and when it is smoking hot, add the spring onions and the cold rice.  Stir fry for about 2 minutes. 

Beat 2 eggs, and stir this into the rice and onion mixture, continue to cook for 1 - 2 minutes.  Add a good chug of soy sauce, dark or light depending on preference, and 2/3 tsp salt (optional).  Cook for another 30 seconds and serve.

All dished up!

There we have it, my two course Chinese meal for four people, total cost £7.00.  I was quite impressed because I've never taken the time before to work out the cost of things before I cook them.  In future - if all I'm going to be ordering is a curry, will I think twice about it?  Definitely!

Pros - The meal for 4 cost £7.00 - £24.60 cheaper than it would have takeaway - that's a Christmas present!  The portion sizes were just right, meaning no food thrown away.

Cons - I had to cook it.  The dishes I had to wash before, during and afterwards, including an eggy wok (lol).  Because I literally did this on a whim I wasn't properly prepared so it was time consuming.  Wasn't *quite* the same (but near enough for the sake of £25!).

What do you think, do we waste our money on takeaways? Are they really worth the money we spend on them?  Can the tastes be replicated at home?  Do you have a favourite copycat fakeaway that you think is even better than the real thing?  Let me know what you think :-)