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 :-)

Experiment - Chinese 'Fakeaway'

There's nothing we like better on a Saturday evening than settling down with a takeaway watching The X Factor, or whatever tat is currently airing here in the UK.  Dancing, singing, ice skating, insect-munching Z list celebrities.  Saturday evening is one of the nights that I just can't be bothered to cook.  In the week, mealtimes are an extension of the day's housework.  On a Sunday, a roast dinner is traditional.  But on a Saturday, which is a slow day for our family, by the time it comes to tea time it's far too easy to send my husband out for a takeaway.

I'm not going to do this tonight for several reasons:
a)  Due to his operations, my husband can't drive.
b)  Even if he hadn't been operated on, or if I could drive, the car is in the garage.
c)  I've just spent an obscene amount of money on Christmas presents.  Sob.
d)  It's a waste of money when our car is in the garage having work done on it, and so close to Christmas, there's going to be enough paid out shortly! 
e)  I'm too lazy, and it's too cold to walk to the Takeaway.

So, tonight Matthew, I am going to be making our takeaway.  Or, as it's otherwise known, our 'fakeaway'.   Let's see how much money I can save for our family by sacrificing one little treat.

I'm going to base this costing on my husband, myself and my two eldest children (the younger two won't entertain Chinese food).

I'm going to be making: Chicken and Sweetcorn soup, Chicken Curry, Egg Fried Rice and Chips for four.
Looking at the menu, the soup costs £1.90 per person; the curry comes with chips, at a cost of £4.50 per person.  The Egg fried rice costs £1.50 per portion.  So this, for four of us, would cost £31.60.
I bet that I can make the same meal for four, for around the cost of one person's takeaway - £7.90 - using food I already have in and general storecupboard items (which I won't be costing as the amount will be negligible).

The ingredients for the whole meal:
1 kg Aldi Everyday Essentials Chicken Breast - £4.00
1/2 pack Spring Onions - 40p
127g Chinese Curry Paste (from Oriental Grocers) - 50p
2 Onions - 20p
100g Frozen peas - 10p
200g Frozen sweetcorn - 20p
300g Easy cook Long Grain Rice - 30p
3 Eggs - 30p
Potatoes - £1.00
Garlic, Cornflour, Lemon juice, Dark and Light Soy Sauce, Salt, water, stock cubes, Groundnut oil - storecupboard.

Total cost - £7.00

Recipes and pictures will be in the next post :-) or click here

Recipe - Creamy King Prawn Pasta

I'm on a roll - two days of cooking something (kind of) from scratch!  I've been making this recipe for about 4 years now, and when I first came across it, I didn't think it would work, but it did.  The best part about it is, it's so simple, if you get your bits and bobs chopped and measured out, you can literally make it in the time it takes your accompanying pan of pasta to cook.

I don't get any marks out of ten for presentation, I know, but trust me that this dish tastes amazing.

Olive or groundnut oil
1 ½ teaspoons minced garlic
250g King Prawns, preferably raw
4 chopped spring onions
125 ml Dry white wine (tonight I used Pinot Grigio)
125 ml Double cream
Fresh Basil leaves (I used about 8 large ones)
16 baby plum tomatoes, chopped
Pinch of Cayenne pepper, or to taste (I use a good teaspoon!)
Salt and pepper to taste

Crusty bread or garlic bread slices to dip

Gather all your ingredients together

The bottle of wine, incidentally, is hiding THE most sorriest looking basil plant you've ever seen.  It's only a week old.  It's died twice.  Once more and it's going in the compost bin.

Chop all your bits and bobs up ready

 Put your pasta on to boil.

Garlic and spring onions cooking on a medium heat

Ideally I use raw king prawns, which go into the pan with the garlic and spring onion, and they are cooked until pink, turned over until the other side is pink, then you set the prawns aside on a plate. I only had cooked prawns tonight, so I set them aside until the last stage.  Everything else in the recipe continues the same whether or not.

White wine and cream added

Add the glass of wine and double cream to the pan, bring to the boil and then reduce heat and simmer for 2 minutes.

Tomatoes added

Add the baby plum tomatoes and simmer for 2 minutes more.

Add the Cayenne pepper

Add the Cayenne pepper as you like it (I use a lot!) and season with salt and ground black pepper, if desired.

Add your prawns to the pan

Return your prawns to the pan, this is just to warm them through, don't overcook them or they'll be rubbery.  Add the basil to the pan, tear the leaves by hand.  Stir everything together.  By this point, your pasta should be cooked. 

I hate food waste...

Unfortunately, you will have a good two-thirds of a bottle of wine left over.  This can now be poured down the sink.  Or, apparently Pinot Grigio goes well with Seafood and creamy pasta dishes... I don't know if there's any truth in that though*.

* Yes, there is an absolute truth in that.  Hence why I 'forgot' to post this last night...

Let me know if you try this recipe!

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Recipe - Blackened Pork (or Chicken)

I'm posting this recipe as I promised it to someone, and just as it so happens my husband had requested it for tea tonight, so I thought I'd take some pictures as I went along. Apologies for the pictures though, my camera isn't the greatest and I'm not the best behind the lens (nor in front of it for that matter...!)

This is one of our favourite meals, and we usually do make it with chicken, but I had pork steaks to hand tonight.  It works just as well. 

4 chicken breasts or pork steaks, fat trimmed
Extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp Paprika
1 tsp Cayenne Pepper
½ tsp ground Cumin
½ tsp dried Mixed Herbs
¼ tsp ground white Pepper
¼ tsp Onion or Garlic Powder

Mix all the dried ingredients together in a little pot

Sprinkle on the meat and leave for about 15 minutes

Heat a griddle pan with a liberal splash of oil until smoking hot.

Place in the meat, spice side down, and cook on full heat for 4 - 5 minutes

Turn over and cook on the other side for 4 - 5 minutes

Apologies for the splattered cooker, it's not normally this dirty, but this baby gets fierce! Wear an apron!


 My Blackened Pork, served with Mushroom rice, salad, tortillas, hot salsa and yogurt and mint dip.

When I make it with chicken, in addition to the cooking on both sides, I then put it on a baking tray in the oven for about 10 minutes. 

When making this, your kitchen will get really smoky, so if you have an extractor fan make sure it's on, and also open the kitchen window if possible.

I love it, because it's the only meal we have that I can justifiably burn!

November 15th is Frazzled Gratitude Day

In my house at least. The other alternative is 'Clean your Refrigerator Day'. It's not happening. Not today anyway. If anyone wants to come and clean my refrigerator though, I won't refuse. It's the one bearing the sign 'Abandon all hope ye who enter here'. Bring rubber gloves. And don't judge me.

I've woke up today in a stinky mood. Really feeling sorry for myself, and for me, that's a slippery slope. Walking downstairs to last night's dishes waiting for me, the living room untidy (a coffee cup and a few cushions on the floor but untidy cushions are a bug bear - I turn into Monica from 'Friends' and it's not pleasant), an ironing pile currently at three feet high (and rising) and the children who take anything up to half an hour to eat a bowl of cereal. Husband in bed, and two children to take to their physiotherapy appointment at 9.30 am. I don't drive. Whinge, whinge, whinge...

Strong coffee outside in my back garden and I realise - it's November, and I'm in my back garden, in the morning. The sky is blue, birds are chirping away, it's not even cold. Not Autumn/Winter cold anyway. What on earth am I moaning about? I am one woman doing the work of two parents. This is the reality for single parents the world over, every day. My situation is temporary. My husband isn't in bed because he's lazy, or unhelpful, he's there because it's 6 days on from his three operations and he's zonked out on strong pain killers. His operation was to hopefully return his quality of life by leaving him pain free for the first time in about 5 years, but at least he's not critically ill. The dishes, when washed, dried and kept, make a reappearance three times, every day. The ironing the same, with every washload.  It can wait. I'll be in the same boat again tomorrow.  My home may be upside down, but I have a home, and it is a home too.  My husband is on the mend thanks to free healthcare we receive here in the UK.  What's a few dishes and scatter cushions?

Sometimes we're just so stressed that we don't realise how lucky we really are, and we don't half sweat the small stuff!  So I am a really Frazzled Shell today, but I am a grateful Frazzled Shell at that!

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Oh Liz Jones... tsk.

I woke up in a rather zombiefied state this morning to find a Twitter furore surrounding the Daily Mail's Liz Jones (quelle surprise).  Makes a change from that awful blonde woman (the beautiful one that my husband would thrust flowers at in the street and want to leave me for if he ever clapped eyes on her).

I'm not a 'Mummy Blogger' specifically, I'm not an anything blogger.  I'm a crap one if the truth be known.  I'm inconsistent.  I'm boring.  But I do it for me.  It's a little self indulgence of mine, I'm not harming anybody. You can read it, or don't read it.  Makes no difference to me. However, I did take umbrage with Ms Jones' article, both for myself, and on behalf of the Mum Bloggers.

I'm aware, like many other internet sites, that people use Mumsnet forums probably as a social network of sorts, like they will do on any other site, competition sites, diet sites, gaming sites.  I personally don't,  Liz hints that it's 'bitchy and competitive' - isn't any site capable of being that? Isn't any situation capable of being that when people get together, in any capacity?

Ms Jones slates women, who are making a living from blogging by carrying advertising on their sites.  These women are described by her having a holiday on their year long maternity leave (A HOLIDAY, yes, I kid you not, a holiday).  What would she sooner they do, roll over and die?  If the money is there to be made, and someone's willing to pay, what is the problem exactly with these Bloggers being 'paid' for what they write?  Someone's paying her for the tripe she consistently rolls out!  Her life, and her Prada bowling bag are of no interest to me.  That has nothing to do with me being a Mum and her not.  I'd sooner hear about someone's sleepless night through a child because I can empathise, or coo over their baby because I remember how proud I was of mine, or have advice from other Mums with Autistic children, or even be in the position to give advice to them back because I've raised two ASD kids for 10 years, or be in awe over a picture of a wonderful cake and be inspired to bake it myself.  I post pictures of cakes I make, does it occur to Liz that the woman who posts pics of cakes she'll bake on demand, might be trying to earn herself a little bit of money?  Maybe, to put towards a bloody Prada bowling bag of her own?

I'm not going to bother linking to the original article and feed the traffic to her bile, but this is the brilliant response from one of the Bloggers named in the article, Cambridge Mummy.  You can find a link to Liz Jones' narrowminded rant on there, if you want...

A lot of mums at home, especially those who have worked, may feel pretty isolated when finding themselves at home. There's nothing wrong with finding a network of like minded people, there's nothing wrong with having something for you, when every other minute of your day is spent putting someone else's needs above your own, in my case, five other people.  There's nothing wrong with keeping your brain active, or is it better that I sit down and watch an hour of Jeremy Kyle, than write a blog post that she'll never read?  It doesn't need Liz Jones's derision nor generalisation. 

Oh this one was brilliant too...

Prada bowling bag.  Fuckwit.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Book I read #1 - The Wicked Girls by Alex Marwood

The title of the post, this doesn't mean it's the first book I've ever read.  Don't be silly.  That was Tolstoy's 'War and Peace'.  I read a lot so I thought I would give my opinions on the books I read.  This is the first book I'm giving my opinion on.  Will contain spoilers, but I'll try not to ruin it too much.

I'm always a bit in awe of people who review books, the depth they go into the story and the whys and wherefores. I tend to read books and I love them or hate them.  Don't expect any highbrow literary shenanigans from me. Put it this way, I would be out of place in a book club, unless "THIS? Was SHIT!" counts as an adequate critique.  This is my opinion, not a review.  Occasionally though, a book will leave a lasting impression on me, for several reasons, not always because it made me cry (Time Traveler's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger), or laugh until there was snot (The Tent, The Bucket and Me - Emma Kennedy) or Chick Lit that unexpectedly broke my heart and made me cry with snot (Let's Meet on Platform 8 - Carole Matthews).  This, however, was a book that I lost a whole night's sleep over.

This is the book description from Amazon:

"One summer morning, three little girls meet for the first time. By the end of the day, two will be charged with murder.

Twenty-five years later, journalist Kirsty Lindsay is reporting on a series of sickening attacks on young female tourists in a seaside town when her investigation leads her to interview funfair cleaner Amber Gordon. For Kirsty and Amber, it's the first time they've seen each other since that dark day when they were just children. But with new lives - and families - to protect, will they really be able to keep their wicked secret hidden?"

Basically, Kirsty and Amber were known as Jade and Bel previously, until they murdered (?) a four year old child, Chloe, when they were 11 years old.  They were sent to prison, rehabilitated and released into the community with new names to start afresh, and never to contact each other again.

Jade's character was one of those poor kids.  The kid being dragged up, the problem family. The child that everyone was told to stay away from.  Never any food in the house, lazy parents, hovel home.  Bel was the exact polar opposite.  Large house, staff, fancy cars, but the common tie was that their parents, or in Bel's case, her mother and step-father, had no time for her, favouring their own child, Bel's half sister.

Fast forward 25 years.  One of the women is a cleaner, the other is a middle-class journalist.  And yes, you guessed it, the poor, illiterate kid isn't the cleaner, and the rich kid isn't the journalist.  It emerges that the rich kid went to the appalling prison, and the poor kid went to the 5 star prison, and received a proper education and rehabilitation.

This book was very clever in that - I feel - it had two layers.  It had the exterior storyline, the murders in the seaside town, which would have been a good read on its own.  But the underlying story, that of Bel and Jade, left a nasty taste in my mouth.  This part made me lose sleep.  I don't really know how to put it into words, because I wouldn't want it to come out wrong, and Lord knows I make a habit of that.

As the story of Chloe's 'murder' eventually emerged throughout the book, it was obviously an accident.  Bel and Jade, specifically Bel, were very careless - but they were just children themselves, left in charge of  Chloe due to the teenage selfishness of Jade's brother and Chloe's sister sneaking away to have sex. Their attempts to awaken what they thought was an unconscious child by putting her in the water, breaking her ribs in an immature attempt at CPR I found heartbreaking, especially as you already know by this time they have been accused of cold-heartedly torturing and murdering the little girl.

Having a daughter months away from their age really made me think. What would she do in that situation? Would she be rational? Would she panic? Would she do something thinking it could help that would be construed as 'evil' by the tabloid press?  Would she be her very immature, sheltered, 11 year old self?  It made me think stereotypes. It made me think about parenting. 

It just made me stop and think.  Full stop.  So, do I recommend you read this book? Definitely.  But will it affect you?  It disturbed me.

You can buy  it here:

or Kindle version here:

Friday, 2 November 2012

Christmas Puddings!

I know I'm being a little bit premature this year, and we're a bit off 'Stir up Sunday' but my husband had his operation date through last week for the 9th of November.  This will render him pretty much out of action for the foreseeable so, I thought this could be one job I could get out of the way now, while he's here to help out elsewhere.  That was the theory behind it anyway...

I've used the same recipe for (I think) 5 years now, and with each year that goes by, I have to make more and more.  I usually make some for my daughter's Brownie group to sell at a local 'Victorian Day' at their cake stall, and I make some for myself, family and friends.

Some of us swap our wares, so I end up with pickles, chutneys and lovely floral table arrangements.  It would be nice if a few more people got involved that way, there's always so much pressure (financial and lack of time!) on people at Christmas, I'd sooner have something homemade from them, if it saves my time making it, and their money buying something.  I like the personal touch.

The fruity stuff soaking in cider and fruit juices.
Flour, breadcrumbs, brown sugar, suet, nuts, and the spices
Mix them all together, doesn't look very appealling though!
Now I have to watch this like a hawk all day so it doesn't boil dry... great!
The recipe:

This is for a large batch, I currently have two medium ones and four small (individual portion) cooking but there's still loads left to be going on with.

1500g Dried mixed fruit
100g Glace cherries, chopped
100g Dates, chopped
1 Cooking apple, peeled, cored and finely chopped
Zest and juice of an orange
Zest and juice of a lemon
500 ml Cider (I used a good quality apple Cider)
*optional - 75g of Candied peel - if you're using bags of mixed fruit, this is already in

165g Self raising flour
3 tsp Mixed spice
4 tsp Cinnamon
330g Shredded Suet
330g Soft dark sugar
330g White breadcrumbs
25g Flaked almonds
25g Pecans, chopped
25g Walnuts, chopped
6 eggs, beaten

Put the fruit and zests in a large mixing bowl, squeeze over the lemon and orange juices and then add the cider.  Stir well, and cover.  I stir this often to make sure the fruit really absorbs the cider.  Leave overnight if possible.

In another large bowl, put the flour, spices, suet, sugar, breadcrumbs and nuts.  Mix well.

Pour the fruit mixture into the dried mixture.  This is where you really have to give it some mixing, to make sure everything is well combined.  When it is, add the beaten eggs, stirring as you go, making sure everything is well mixed in and there's no dry bits left.

Grease your basins or bowls with butter, and fill with the pudding mixture.  Cover the top of the puddings with a double layer of greaseproof paper.  Then tightly wrap the basins in foil.

I steam my puddings in a steamer, and I can't really give a specific time, because they're all different sizes.  It's a case of initiative and common sense, the larger ones can take between 6 - 8 hours, the smaller ones between 4 - 6 hours.

Off to check the steamer again :-/