Week 41 – Asia to Columbia on a plate

Looking back on my week’s photos, I can see between the thousands of pictures of Ioan that most of our food has been Asian inspired this week, with a little pop across to Colombia for lunch with the girls.

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First up was a prawn stirfry for meat-free Monday – although I normally like to avoid both meat and fish for meat-free Monday, I was feeling lazy and uninspired so just chucked a pile of prawns into my wok:

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Then was a delicious roast dinner of slow-roasted duck which I seasoned with Chinese five spice:

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You may have seen that I used the leftovers for my GBBO challenge and made these Chinese crispy duck inspired yorkshire puddings:

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This Vietnamese-style pork dish was inspired by this recipe, but used what I had in my cupboards, and was one of those meals that you eat and adore, and can’t wait to have again. I’ll be making it – and measuring the ingredients – again, so hope to share the recipe soon:

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We also managed a couple of nice breakfasts including a naughty fry-up after Ioan’s 8 week jabs (totally traumatic for us all):

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And eggs benedict, which Alfie the cat wanted even more than me:

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Onto South America, I met up with the girls for lunch in Wood Green at Green Rooms hotel. This newly opened hotel will be offering a kitchen residence to a new chef every six months, and they have started with the Colombian Street KItchen. We ordered a selection of tapas which ranged from the completely delicious (cassava chips, sweetcorn frittas and beef empinadas) to the dishes that still need work (slow roasted pork belly which was more fat than meat).

Cassava chips with guacamole (my favourites, although a few were a bit hard and undercooked):

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Plantain fries (very tasty, but wow that dip was spicy):

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Beef empinadas (lovely and tasty, generously filled with shredded beef):

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Sweetcorn frittas (not greasy, with a hint of sweetness from the corn):

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Chicken wings (perfectly seasoned with crispy skin and juicy  meat):

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Pork belly (tough and fatty):

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Chicken stew with cornbread (definitely not suitable for tapas, but delicious):

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Prawn ceviche (we wondered if these prawns had been pre-cooked rather than ‘cooked’ in the citrus juice, and the sauce was extremely spicy, but we liked the coconut flavour):

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Friends visited today to meet Ioan, so I cooked slow roasted lamb shoulder with a delicious chilli mint vinegar that I’ll be sharing the recipe for soon – Ioan behaved like a little angel so we had a really lovely day:

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This week I am planning the following:

  • Monday – prawn stirfry (I know, uninspired and lazy again)
  • Tuesday – chicken katsu curry with rice
  • Wednesday – gammon steaks with Angelsey eggs
  • Thursday – shepherd’s pie jackets (bumped again)
  • Friday – cod with tomatoes and potatoes
  • Saturday – chicken and chorizo stew
  • Sunday – hainanese chicken rice

GBBO week 4 – Chinese style duck filled yorkie puds

img_8445For the first time batter has featured in the Great British Bake Off … and probably the last time as the news reaches us that the show is moving over to Channel 4 without Mel, Sue, or Mary Berry. Sad news, as whatever Bake Off becomes, it won’t be the same series we all fell in love with.

Back to batter: the challenges this week were for filled yorkshire puddings, a technical lace pancake, or churros. I love churros and we used to eat it regularly on holiday in Spain, dipped in thick melted chocolate, or drenched in cinnamon sugar. However, I hate deep frying as I don’t own a deep-fryer, and am always paranoid about using a saucepan full of hot oil.

The lace pancakes looked very pretty on the show, but I don’t really understand the point of them: essentially they are just a very small portion of pancake, and therefore don’t appeal to my greedy personality.

I do love yorkshire puddings, and I always use a variation of this Delia recipe for mine, which works very well for plain yorkies, or toad in the hole. But what to fill them with? I had no idea until I slow roasted a duck last weekend with Chinese five spice, and realised that the leftovers would be perfect to fill the puds, as a take on crispy duck and pancakes you’d get from a Chinese restaurant.

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I always slow roast duck: it’s a fatty bird and slow roasting renders down the fat, allows the skin to crisp, and leaves the meat moist and flavourful. Additionally, when the bird has cooled, the duck meat falls of the bone so nothing is wasted. I find when you don’t slow roast duck, it’s quite hard to remove all the meat from the bones, and it feels like an expensive waste of money (incidentally, I only ever buy duck when it’s on special offer, as otherwise it’s too pricey for my budget).

I generally season duck with Chinese five spice powder, even if I am making a traditional roast dinner. For me it’s the perfect flavour to have with duck. I can never make a gravy with the meat juices as they are too fatty, so I rarely have a ‘traditional’ roast dinner with duck anyway. This time I’d baked some new potatoes in the duck fat and cooked some leeks and peas in chicken stock to accompany the duck (that brings a little sauce to the plate to replace the gravy). Andrew and I had a breast each, leaving plenty of rich dark meat for my GBBO challenge. And this is what I did.

Chinese style duck filled yorkie puds – makes 6 medium sized puddings (serves 6  as a starter or 2-3 as a main course)

  • For the yorkshire puddings – 175g plain flour, 2 eggs, 290ml skimmed milk, pinch of salt, vegetable oil
  • For the filling – approximately 2 legs and 2 wings of cooked duck including the skin, 6 spring onions, 1/4 cucumber, hoisin sauce

Turn your oven on to 220 degrees. Put a teaspoon of oil into each hole in your yorkshire pudding dish (I use a silicone muffin tin which makes six medium yorkies from this mixture) and place in the oven to heat while you make your batter.

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Measure the milk into a large jug (I use skimmed milk as that’s what I have in the house, but you could use a mixture of whole milk and water if you prefer), then beat in the eggs. Add the flour and salt and whisk together until you have a smooth batter (I never sieve my flour, and this has never proved to be a problem). Pour the mixture equally into each hole of your yorkie dish and bake in the oven for approximately 40 minutes until golden and risen.

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10 minutes before your yorkshire puddings are ready, break up your duck meat into small chunks and dry fry in a pan to heat it through. You want any skin to start to become crispy in the heat. Slice 4 spring onions and add them to pan with the duck and stir until they have softened. Season the duck meat with salt.

Assemble each pudding by filling them with the hot duck, top with a squirt of hoisin sauce, and garnish with sliced spring onion and cucumber. Serve immediately. Andrew the greedy pig managed three puddings, and I ate two. I think one per person would make a great little starter.

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I am too late to join in with this week’s GBBO bloggers challenge, but do visit Mummy Mishaps to see what my fellow bloggers made for the batter week challenge.

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Next week is pastry week, and I have a feeling I’ll be making Danish pastries. What about you?

Week 40 – how wonderful life is while you’re in the world

img_8348So, with Ioan at 8 weeks old, we had our first night out without him. My brother, who pretends he is not a  big softy even though he already dotes on Ioan, babysat for us. We were completely confident that Jason would be fine with Ioan, but would Ioan be fine with Jason? He has his moments of grizzles and tears (mainly wind related), and Andrew and I struggle to settle him sometimes in the evening, so I was worried that Jason would end up spending an evening with a screaming baby (and I know how difficult that is when you are looking after him on your own). I should not have worried as Jason is apparently a bit of a baby whisperer, and Ioan was perfectly behaved with him. I am jealous of his baby-skills.

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Andrew and I went to see Elton John at the Apple iTunes festival for our night out. It was a lovely evening, although I think we both spent almost every second of the night thinking of Ioan. And when Elton broke into ‘Your Song’, I listened to the lyrics in tears as I thought about our baby. Other mums warned me that I would cry over everything, and that has definitely been the case. I am an emotional wreck.

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Of course, at other times I am nearly in tears of frustration as I wonder how to calm little Ioan and get on with things around the house … but I guess that is life as a mummy …

So this week I managed to make a few decent meals, including ricotta and parmesan fritters with ratatouille (recipe coming after I have made a few tweaks):

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Barbecued steak (I am still slightly addicted to red meat):

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Homemade cheese and potato waffles (not entirely successful so I need to work on these a bit more before I share a recipe with you):

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This week’s plan is as follows:

  • Monday – prawn stirfry for meat free Monday
  • Tuesday – slow roasted Chinese style duck
  • Wednesday – mum’s over so TBC
  • Thursday – shepherd’s pie jackets, bumped from last week
  • Friday – roasted cod with potato rosti
  • Saturday – Vietnamese pork bumped from last week
  • Sunday – pulled lamb shoulder

And no plans to be away from my adorable little one this week!

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GBBO week 3 – plaited loaf: cheese, tomato and pesto couronne

img_8242The latest edition of Bake Off involved delicious bread – possibly one of my favourite things ever, but sadly something which  makes me fat: because once I start eating the stuff I literally cannot stop. Mmmmmm, lovely bread.

Anyway, the options this week were chocolate bread, which sounds utterly amazing but there’s no way Andrew would eat chocolate flavoured bread and a whole loaf to myself would do my post-pregnancy body no favours; Dampfnudeln, which I quite like the idea of making until I saw the show and thought they looked bland, boring and difficult; and plaited loaves of bread as the showstopper.

The final option was the only suitable one really, as Andrew would eat it too. I looked online for various recipes and eventually decided to tweak this recipe for cheese and pesto whirls, made into a couronne (a sweet version of which I had made for a previous Bake Off challenge).

Here is what I did.

img_8241Cheese, tomato and pesto couronne – makes one large loaf

  • For the dough: 450g strong white bread flour, 7g fast action yeast, 1tsp caster sugar, 1.5tsp salt, 2tbsp olive oil, 280ml warm water
  • For the filling: 145g pesto, 150g grated mozzarella, 100g semi dried tomatoes, salt and pepper

Firstly make the dough by mixing all of the ingredients together and then kneading the mixture for around 10 minutes until smooth. I did this in my KitchenAid freestanding mixer using the dough hook. Then lightly grease a bowl with olive oil and put the dough in the bowl, covered with clingfilm, in a warm place for around one to two hours until the dough has doubled in size.

Roll out the dough into a rough rectangle, making it around 1cm thick. If the dough has proven properly then it will be a real pain in the neck to roll as it will keep trying to spring back into a ball, but persevere. I find it a bit easier to roll and stretch the dough rather than just rely on a rolling pin. Eventually my piece of dough was approximately 20cm x 40cm in size and at that point I gave up, although it possibly should be thinner and larger.

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Spread the dough with the pesto – I have suggested 145g because that’s the size of the pot I bought from Waitrose, but it was a little bit much and some escaped from the dough when I was rolling it, so around 115g would be optimum, but what would you do with the rest of the pesto? If you have another potential use (freeze it?) then feel free to use less pesto.

Sprinkle grated mozzarella onto the dough next. I took the advice of the website and used pre-grated cheese. However, this is a fair bit more expensive than a ball of mozzarella so you may prefer to go with the ball and then drain it.

Next, chop up some semi-dried tomatoes and sprinkle them over the pesto, cheesy dough, and season with salt and pepper.

Now to create the couronne (which means a crown). Roll the filled dough into a long sausage, rolling the long end rather than the short end. Then cut the rolled dough in half lengthways (this is where it gets messy) and twist the two strands together, then coil into a circle (crown). Place on a greased baking tray, cover with clingfilm, and allow to prove again for another hour.

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Bake the proved couronne at 180 degrees for around 35 minutes until golden, then allow to cool before serving. I would have eaten it warm but I ended up baking my loaf quite late in the evening, so we didn’t eat it until the following day. The olive oil in the dough keeps the loaf nice and moist, so I’d say it would keep for 4-5 days in an airtight container.

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The next challenge for the Bake off is batter: yorkshire pudding, churros and pancakes. I am probably going to brave the deep fat frier and give churros a go, as even Andrew likes that.

Check out all of the recipes in the link up here.

Mummy Mishaps

Week 39 – a carb-tastic week

Obviously, as any new mum could have told me, I didn’t manage to meet my meal plan every day this week. However, I didn’t do too badly … and I even managed breakfast on Friday (Ioan started crying the second I took this photo!):

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Obviously I didn’t manage to make my own spinach and ricotta ravioli (oh dear me, who was I kidding?!), but this bought version (tortellini as Ocado had substituted my requested ravioli) with fresh tomato sauce was very tasty for meat free Monday:

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This chicken and pine nut pasta is so easy to make – I basically take some short cuts on this Nigella recipe (who wants sultanas with chicken? not me – yuck), added some spinach, and used the pasta I had in the house as I didn’t have any tagliatelle:

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No photos from Wednesday, which was supposed to be curry but ended up being takeaway pizza, so here’s my brother on babysitting duties … not sure who looks more scared!

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Homemade chilli from my freezer stash was bulked out with brown rice mixed with kale, fresh tomatoes with coriander, and guacamole – a proper superfood meal:

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On Friday we went for comfort food which was within Andrew’s comfort zone – fish fingers, potato waffles and baked beans. Delicious, and I also had a Magnum for pudding.

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Roasted pork chops – you can’t really go wrong with these – except forget to take a picture, so here’s one of the delicious gin and tonic I had after the pork chops:

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For the upcoming week, I am planning the following:

  • Monday – to use up the ricotta which never made it into ravioli, I am going to make ricotta and parmesan fritters using a Jamie recipe, with a tomato and vegetable sauce
  • Tuesday – roasted cod with vegetables
  • Wednesday – I am out and about with the young man today, so chicken and chorizo stew from the freezer is on the cards, or perhaps a barbecue if the weather is nice and Andrew is feeling like he might be able to spark up our Weber …
  • Thursday – sausage tray bake
  • Friday – fishcakes
  • Saturday – Vietnamese style caramelised pork with jasmine rice and veg
  • Sunday – shepherd’s pie jackets

What plans do you have for the week?

Week 38 – a new normal

img_7605Since the birth of our son, life has changed dramatically. Of course that won’t surprise you – whether you have kids or not, you know that a baby in the house means that your life is dictated to by a tiny human who can only communicate through crying (and the odd scream), who you simply have to become a slave to.

I had high hopes of re-introducing some structure to our lives after Ioan turned one month old, and I have been a tiny bit successful. A very tiny bit … so rather than get frustrated I have decided to try and embrace this new ‘normal’.

I will still try to plan my meals (at least that means I can be somewhat organised with my supermarket shop) but am now getting a bit more realistic and won’t expect to meet my plan more than 50% of the time.

Ioan has a delightful (not) little habit of getting truly stroppy at around dinner time, which means as Andrew and I sit down to eat, he turns into a little screamer, who won’t settle. It’s like he smells our food and takes that as a sign to kick off. Until I can figure out how to manage this, I need to simplify meals so that they can be eaten one-handed if necessary! Any tips of course are much appreciated!

Some successes this week included …

An actual breakfast! In the garden! I took this photo, took one bite, and Ioan started crying. This Special K nourish I was sent is quite tasty with some natural yoghurt, although the boxes are on the small side.

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Another breakfast in the garden but Andrew was here to look after Ioan so I am not sure it counts … eggs benedict with sliced tomatoes.

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A healthy lunch! Beetroot, goats cheese and parma ham salad. It was delicious.

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Homemade pizza – yep, I even made the dough, following my wholemeal pizza recipe. I am impressed by this as I HAVE A BABY!

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Lunch out, with a sleeping baby (and a cheeky glass of wine):

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That’s not too bad is it? This week’s plan is as follows (assuming I manage half, I’ll consider this a win):

  • Monday – spinach and ricotta ravioli with butter sauce (I feel this is a tad ambitious, but will see how I get on … maybe I’ll buy the ravioli)
  • Tuesday – roast chicken and pine nut pasta (plenty of leftover for lunch later in the week)
  • Wednesday – chicken curry, which has been continuously bumped from my menu plan each week, using up the rest of the roast chicken
  • Thursday – chilli from my freezer stash
  • Friday – fishfingers, chips and beans
  • Saturday – pork chop traybake
  • Sunday – we have been invited to a barbecue, so will play this one by ear

What plans do you have for the coming week? I’ll spend most of my time out of the kitchen watching this little beauty develop his smile …

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GBBO week 2 – chocolate hazelnut (Nutella) viennese whirls

img_8026For the second week running my newborn son (well, he’s over a month old now – where has that time gone?!) has allowed me to 1) watch the Bake Off, 2) bake my week’s challenge, and 3) blog about the challenge. Now if only he’d allow me to have more than a 3 hour stretch of sleep at night and stop crying as soon as we sit down to eat dinner, life would be a lot calmer. But it’s still early days, so hopefully we’ll get there soon.

Anyway, on to this week’s bake, which was for biscuits. The signature challenge was to make identical iced biscuits, and I am not artistic or patient, so that was out. The technical challenge was for viennese whirls, which I love, and the showstopper challenge was for a 3-D biscuit structure. I made one of those last year which was pretty rubbish, so easily decided to go with the viennese whirls.

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Viennese whirls are surprisingly easy to make: a simple mix of flour, butter, icing sugar and cornflour (the cornflour adds the short, crumbly texture to the biscuit … a similar effect can be achieved by adding custard powder to your biscuit mix). The mixture is then piped, baked and filled – classically with buttercream and jam.

Although I don’t mind the classic buttercream and jam filling, I wanted to make something a bit different, and had two ideas in mind: a millionaire’s shortbread with caramel centre and topped with chocolate, or a chocolate hazelnut version, filled with Nutella and topped with melted chocolate and hazelnuts.

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I loved both ideas but as I have a huge stockpile of chocolate spread, plumped for the Nutella version. Millionaire’s shortbread Viennese whirls will be coming your way sometime soon though … after some recipe development.

So, for the actual biscuit recipe, I followed this one on the BBC website. I had trouble piping my whirls as the mixture was too thick for the nozzle – an issue some of the bakers also faced. Unlike them, I gave up on the idea of beautiful piping and just took the nozzle off of the piping bag. Okay so that meant my whirls looked a touch like something out of the cat’s litter tray, but the taste was still there.

Chocolate hazelnut (Nutella) viennese whirls – makes approximately 10 biscuits

  • For the biscuit: 250g softened butter, 50g icing sugar, 250g plain flour, 50g cornflour, 1/2tsp vanilla extract
  • For the filling: approximately 200g Nutella or any other chocolate spread
  • For the topping: 100g milk chocolate, 50 chopped roasted hazelnuts

Follow this recipe to make your biscuits. Once they have cooled, sandwich them together by spreading one side with Nutella or any other chocolate spread you fancy.

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Melt the chocolate in the microwave for approximately 90 seconds (keep checking as you don’t want it to burn), and then spread it onto the top of each biscuit and sprinkle with chopped nuts.

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These biscuits are quite substantial, but I still managed to get through them in 3 days (with a little help from my friends). I should imagine they would keep for 5 days in an airtight tine, but I’d recommend scoffing them as soon as you can.

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Next week’s Bake Off focuses on bread – I couldn’t figure out from the trailer exactly what the challenges are but they look difficult, so I am not sure how successful I will be in making one of them – we’ll see! Until then, a biscuit is a good antidote to a crying baby!

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Check out all of the recipes in the link up here.

Mummy Mishaps

GBBO week 1 – apple and rum drizzle cake

img_7995It is August 2016 and the Great British Bake Off is back for another year. And not only that, the Great Bloggers Bake Off is also back, so I’ll be participating in Jenny’s challenge each week and making one of the Bake Off bakes.

If you want to join in (you don’t have to be a blogger to do so) then read the full details here. You can read a recap of my previous year’s bakes as follows:

The first episode was a corker as always (and happily helped to take my mind of the sadness of taking my beloved cat Henry to be put to sleep): cake week. The challenges were a signature drizzle cake, a technical jaffa cake, and a showstopper mirror glaze cake. As always, I need other people to help me eat the cake, so I needed something Andrew would actually eat: that usually means something with apple in it, and something with alcohol in it: the answer was an apple and rum drizzle cake!

I made this spiced apple and rum cake as the base (by the way, a fantastic recipe which just gets better over the week if for some reason you aren’t able to gorge on it all in one go) but upped the quantity of rum in both the cake and the drizzle. To make it a bit different from the previous cake, I made a thin icing using rum and icing sugar to drizzle over the top. That meant the original drizzle (rum, honey and sugar) moistened the cake, while the icing drizzle decorated it.

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I recommend you make this cake as it’s so simple (especially if you have a freestanding mixer which does all of the hard work for you), and with the mixed spice in the mixture I think it smells so festive … perfect either for autumn (hey, we are in August!) or over the Christmas period if you are not a fan of a traditional Christmas fruit cake.

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If you wanted to jazz up the cake for a dinner party, I’d whisk some calvados into double cream to make an additional boozy accompaniment to the cake, which is so sticky and soft that it’s almost like a pudding in itself anyway. Or you could make a calvados custard to serve with the warmed cake.

Next week is biscuit week on the Bake Off, and I am thinking of making a viennese whirl, which I believe is the technical challenge. These are surprisingly simple to make (except the piping) and melt in the mouth. I am thinking that perhaps nutella and hazelnut could be a feature of my whirls! I’ll give it a whirl anyway … hahaha.

Are you participating in the Great British Bake Off challenge, and if so what bakes are you planning? Here are some drizzle cakes from fellow bloggers:

Eggless lemon drizzle mini loaf cakes by Nayna from Simply Food
Blueberry Loaf Cake with Lime Drizzle
 by Jac from Tinned Tomatoes
Lime, Coconut and Cardamom Loaf Cake by Choclette from Tin and Thyme
Blackberry cake with Orange drizzle by Jac from Tinned Tomatoes
Lemon rose and gin drizzle cake by Kevin from The crafty Larder

Mummy Mishaps

Week 37 – saying goodbye to Henry

img_7922Being one of life’s worriers, as soon as I got my cat Henry fifteen years ago, I started worrying about the inevitable day when we’d have to say goodbye to him. Henry seemed quite keen to start using up his nine lives almost straight away by developing a chronic illness which included crystals in his urine (lovely), meaning within his first few years he was put on a prescription diet (needless to say, much more expensive than Whiskas or Felix).

Then when we moved house and he was finally allowed outdoors he was attacked by a fox and nearly had his beautiful eye gouged out. Then another time he ripped open his leg on (we think) barbed wire. Then another urinary tract infection or three, and I was starting to believe that the veterinary practices of north London were using me to fund their summer holidays.

But for all the expense and hassle (taking him to the vet was never a fun experience as the motion from the car without fail caused him to evacuate his bowels and bladder quite explosively – exceptionally horrific when he was sharing the cat basket with our other cat – the white furred Alfie), he brought such joy to our lives.

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Henry probably thought he was human, or at the very least a dog, and used to play fetch with us. Many a time did I get home from work to our flat in Arsenal only to discover he’d tipped open a box of tampons and for fun had batted them all under the gap in the front door into our communal hallway (the neighbours never asked what was going on).

He would eat cat treats with a greediness that I could only admire, gulping them down without chewing them, then vomiting them back up before eating them again with gusto.

Henry demanded any food from our plate (I gave in every time, creating a feline monster), but was especially fond of ham and mushy peas (he would literally eat anything we gave him though, unless medicine was hidden in it).

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He would sleep between us on the bed, demanding our attention with a gurgling miaow (the only time he miaowed like a proper cat was when he was being shipped off to the vet), and licking our noses to say hello. Then after a cuddle, he’d position himself next to Andrew, in front of the fan, ready to settle down for the night.

Three years ago this week Henry suddenly became very ill, and I thought he’d had a stroke, as he couldn’t raise his head. After an emergency trip to the vet and a week’s stay in (unbelievably expensive) cat hospital, he was eventually diagnosed with the very rare Conn’s syndrome. This illness causes muscle weakness in cats due to a lack of potassium, which is the result of tumours on the adrenal glands. Coupled with a huge hole in his heart (the size of which the vet had never seen in a cat before) we were sent home with piles of medicine for Henry to take daily, and the warning that he probably wouldn’t be with us the following year.

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Despite regular trips to the vet to have his blood pressure monitored, blood tests taken, and more pills thrown down his throat, Henry stunned the vets by managing his illness well. His potassium levels remained stupidly low but he never showed the initial signs of muscle weakness again, and although we recognised he was on borrowed time, we were still able to enjoy time with our lovely boy.

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Over the last couple of months we started to realise the inevitable end was drawing closer, as he stopped grooming himself properly, and we took him to the vet last Saturday for their diagnosis. The vet was initially optimistic as he was still eating as greedily as ever, and still came to see us for cuddles, even though he did drink lots of water and spend most of his time sleeping. However, various tests showed that the tumours on his adrenal glands were now a massive 5cm large – huge by any standards but especially for a cat – and the kindest thing to do would be to put him to sleep.

As I type this now, a few days after saying our final goodbyes to Henry, I still have tears rolling down my face. It was absolutely the right thing to do but it was so hard to let him go. As Andrew and I wanted to see him together, we had to take Ioan with us, and – no doubt picking up on our emotional state – he spent the whole time crying unless we held him in our arms, so we had to tag team between holding Ioan and cuddling Henry.

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Henry did manage a last gurgly miaow for us when we cuddled him, and also purred as we stroked him under the chin, which was heartbreaking. When we first brought him home with us as a little six week old kitten we had not long moved to London and were practically children ourselves – now the time had come to say goodbye to our lovely boy.

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The house seems so much emptier without Henry in it, and we miss him such a lot. I think even the other cats are more clingy now he’s gone, although Ioan remains a great distraction by demanding our attention constantly! Unsurprisingly last week’s meal plan went slightly out of the window, but I am trying again this week as follows:

  • Monday – homemade (veggie) pizzas bumped from last week, plus rhubarb crumble as our rhubarb plants are doing fantastically well in the garden
  • Tuesday – curry bumped from last week, with pork leftover from today’s roast
  • Wednesday – sausage, peppers, potato and tomato tray bake
  • Thursday – bolognaise from my freezer stash

Andrew has to work all weekend so I will have to play it by ear for the rest of the week. But I can guarantee I’ll be spending a lot of time cuddling the other cats, and of course Ioan and Andrew.

ALFIE:

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BETTY:

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TRAMPY:

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Thoughts on being a (greedy) mum – month 1

img_7868Before I had my baby, people would say to me that when I am a mum I won’t understand where the time goes; I won’t have time to even drink a still-warm cup of tea; I won’t care about work any more, etc. Honestly, I could not believe that my life would change so much and that I literally would not have time to THINK any more. But yes, it’s true: my daily routine has been overtaken by a little creature who demands my almost constant attention for feeding, winding, changing nappies in a seemingly never-ending cycle of motherhood.

Yes, I do have time to watch television, but that’s because I spend a large proportion of my day either on the bed of the sofa feeding a baby. I am now prepared to leave him to cry for a few extra moments so that I can prepare myself for the feeding frenzy by surrounding my chosen space in cushions, muslin, infacol, the remote control, a mobile or laptop and a couple of drinks. My hands are rarely both free though, so apart from scrolling through my Facebook, Twitter or Instagram feed, I am pretty much useless (although I have worked out how I can hold him and type, although I usually can’t see the screen properly over his little head).

I often don’t manage to get downstairs before midday, let alone eat anything, but am desperately trying to resist the temptation to crack open a pack of biscuits instead of a bowl of cereal. I even managed to make myself a cheese and salad sandwich for lunch the other day! AND eat it!

Thanks to my advance preparation of food for the freezer during my maternity leave, plus the purchase of ingredients that even Andrew can cook, we are eating a normal meal each evening (generally one-handed as Ioan must smell a cooked meal and decide that’s the perfect occasion to let loose a scream and demand our attention).

As long as I give myself enough preparation time, I am able to get out of the house in time for appointments with the midwife / health visitor / friends. I just need to give myself as much time in advance to feed and change the baby’s nappy, change his clothes (in case he’s sick) then feed and change him again because the whole process has taken so long. Once he’s in the pram or car seat he’ll pretty much instantly fall asleep (except when we really need him to be asleep, like the time we took him to the vet when we had to have our beloved cat Henry put to sleep).

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I haven’t been able to write out my thank you cards, nap during the day, blog (until Sunday and today), sort out my paperwork, do more than the most cursory clean, cut back the vine in the garden which is slowly covering our conservatory, and more things than I could possibly mention.

It has all been so much harder than I could possibly have anticipated, but suddenly after one month of motherhood I am starting to feel like I am slowly getting the hang of things. Those first few week are unbelievably difficult: the feeling of failure each time your baby cries; the fear of being out of control; the overwhelming sense of responsibility for this tiny, fragile creature; the sense of judgement from people around you; the conflicting ‘advice ‘ from friends, family, the internet, the media, books … all made so much worse by the fact that your body has been through such a traumatic experience, and your hormones are raging.

My turning point came when Andrew went back to work after 3 weeks of paternity leave. I was totally dreading it – he seemed so calm and in control, and Ioan picked up on that when he was around him. When Ioan cried, I often cried as I struggled to understand what he needed, and I am sure my own stress made him worse. I felt like I must be such a bad mum for not understanding his needs – but less than two weeks later my sense of perspective is restored as I realised I can cope on my own.

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I still don’t generally know what Ioan wants when he cries (and sometimes SCREAMS), but as it’s generally either food, winding or changing (rarely sleeping – that’s for wimps), so the options are limited and I can usually get there through the process of elimination (and nine times of out ten, it’s food he wants).

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My body is slowly recovering as well – after a difficult birth with significant blood loss, I have been weak and sore (no one bloody told me I would have to inject myself every day with anti-coagulant or take pills which caused my digestion to cease – not what you need when you need when the prospect of going to the toilet after giving birth is a petrifying experience anyway). I won’t be signed off by the doctor for another two weeks, but I definitely do feel on the road to recovery.

Don’t get be wrong: motherhood is still not easy, and I am still doubting myself more often than not, but every minute of the day which I can reclaim as my own (even if all I do is spend slightly longer in the shower, eat a bar of chocolate with a hot cup of tea, write a bit of a blog post, or sit gazing into Ioan’s cute little face) makes me feel more like my old self: well, not quite my old self, but a new and improved version who has spent nearly 10 months growing a human, then giving birth to it, and now nurturing that child. That’s pretty amazing.

Or maybe I am just utterly delirious and crazy because of sleep deprivation …

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