Wednesday, 24 December 2014

One Last Gift

I've not made many gifts this year, moving house and extra hours at work have thrown me all out of kilter, but last night I took a little time to make a rather special something for which I will receive no thanks but the pleasure of doing a kind thing.
Just recently our house seems to be attracting ladybirds, I'm constantly finding them crawling about on the ceilings and walls! After doing a bit of research I discovered the sweeest thing - Ladybirds cuddle together to hibernate!


I found a great tutorial on the UK Safari website on how to make an insect hotel (for free!) and this is what I made:

It took less than half an hour. Naturally I tweaked mine a little (well it is Christmas!) by lining the inside of the bottle with some spare gift wrap. I hope it keeps them safe and warm all winter.

Wishing you All a Very Merry Christmas!

Friday, 12 December 2014

Christmas Crafts

Oh dear, I've been neglecting you again haven't I?
I'm sorry. I've been very terribly awful at managing my time lately. I really must buck up! Life has got a bit kerfuffely again and I am just not managing to keep up with all my grand schemes and dreams.
I think I'm pretty much up on top of things again now (at least I hope I am!) and so after I've marzipanned the cakes tomorrow, I think I might curl up on the sofa with a Christmas movie and try some of these festive crafts I found on Pinterest:

Pom-pom wreath from Wipkits Blog.

Upcycled icicles from Cut Out and Keep
Twig Trees from Stow and Tell U
What do you think of them? I think they all look quick, easy and super-cute ~ I can't wait to try them!
You can follow any or all of my boards on Pinterest here.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Bread Pudding

I don't often have a lot of stale bread around the house, but this week I happened to be in the supermarket when they were reducing sell-by-date loaves to 12p to clear them! I'm not a huge fan of defrosted bread, and besides I don't have a lot of space in my freezer at the moment, but none of that matters, because my favourite way of using up stale bread is, of course, cake-related . . .
Bread Pudding 

450g stale bread
225g sultanas
100g Demerara sugar
2tsp mixed spice
2 eggs
granulated sugar for topping

Tear the stale bread (crusts and all!) into roughly inch squared pieces, put them in a bowl and cover with cold water. Leave to soak for about an hour.

Preheat oven to 170C / 325F / Gas3
Grease a 8" square tin

Drain the bread and squeeze the excess water out. Don't worry too much about getting every last drop out, just do your best ~ I tip the whole lot into a sieve and squeeze handfuls as I transfer the bread back into the bowl. Add the sultanas, sugar, spice and eggs and give it a good mix to ensure the ingredients are evenly distributed. Add just enough milk to make a soft dropping consistency, then turn into your tin and bake for about an hour to an hour and a half.
Allow to cool in the tin for a few minutes then turn out onto a rack to cool. Sprinkle generously with granulated sugar and serve cut into thick slabs, either warm with custard or cold with a nice cup of tea.

You can use any kind of bread for this. If you never have much bread left when your loaf is going stale, simply save the slices you do have in the freezer until you get the amount you need.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Shepherd's Pie

It's that cosy comfort-food time of year ~ hoorah!

I've wanted to share this recipe with you for a while but thought it might be tricky. This is one of the most bung-it-in dishes I make, I never weigh any of the ingredients, so how can I share it? Then I figured what the hell, I'll just tell it like it is and let you try my way of cooking. Everybody has their own spin on a Shepherd's Pie anyway so feel free to tweak away to your heart's content. Here's how I do it:

250g mince (beef or lamb)
gravy granules
baked beans
brown sauce / Worcestershire sauce

Preheat the oven to 180C / 350F / Gas 4

Start off by filling a pan with chopped peeled potatoes, and boil these until they're cooked.

While the potatoes are cooking, brown the mince. I often cook mine from frozen, flipping the block of meat over as each side browns and scraping the cooked part off with my spoon. So long as you cook all the meat through this is fine. While the mince is browning, finely chop your onion and add it to the pan. Once all the meat is cooked and the onion has softened, drain the excess fat ~ not down the sink!!! It will congeal in the pipes somewhere and cause a horrible blockage! I usually line a bowl with kitchen roll, drain the fat into this and throw it in the bin when it's cold.
Add a mugful of gravy to the meat and onions. I use about 3 heaped teaspoons of beef gravy granules. You want a nice thick gravy because you don't want your meat mixture to be too runny. You can add a crumbled beef oxo cube too for an extra oomph of flavour if you like.
Next I add a handful (yes, literally!) of peas, a handful of sweetcorn, about half a small tin of baked beans, and either a big squeeze of brown sauce, or a generous splash of Worcestershire sauce.

When the potatoes are cooked, drain then mash them with a generous knob of butter and enough milk to make a creamy mash.
Half fill an ovenproof dish with meat mixture then top with spoonfuls of mash, this is easiest to do if you go around the edges first then fill in the middle. You want the mash to be about 4 - 5 cm (1 1/2 inches?) deep. You may well have made more mash than you need but that's ok, homemade mash freezes well and is a godsend to have stashed in your freezer for those days when you're short on time.

Put the pie on a baking tray and cook in the centre of the oven for about 20 - 30 mins until the mash is golden and the gravy is bubbling up around the edges.

How lush is that? Just the thing for a cold autumnal tea. The quantities I listed makes roughly 3 or 4 portions. I usually make one large pie to share then two individual pies for the freezer. Unless I've done a lot of taste testing, then there might just be one individual pie . . .

Oh, and if you're wondering ~ a Shepherd's Pie is made with lamb mince, a Cottage Pie is made from beef.
And they're both delicious.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Cheesy Bacon Loaf

Oh dear, it has been a while hasn't it ~ a whole month! I'm sorry! I blame my lack of ability to take decent photos, I've made some yummy things I'd like to share with you but I've found it really hard to get a good shot now it's getting dark so early.
Well today I decided I wasn't going to let that stop me.
I found this recipe on Pinterest and it looked lush! Except the original recipe had jalapenos in ~ yuk! It was also rather higgledy-piggledy ~ using cups, ounces and grammes. So I did my usual trick of tweaking here and there, and Oh My what a result!

I've made savoury 'cakes' before (cheese and bacon too) and they can be a bit odd ~ your eyes see a cakey texture so your taste buds expect sweet. But this one really worked. It has a gently savoury flavour and a moist spongy texture with a lovely crunchy crust. Give it a go, you won't be disappointed!

Cheesy Bacon Loaf

6-8 slices back bacon (1 x 225g pack)
340g plain flour
2 rsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
4 tsp sugar
150g cream cheese
150g grated cheddar
250ml buttermilk (or 250ml milk soured with 1 tbsp. lemon juice)
2 tsp vegetable oil

Preheat the oven to 180C / 350F / Gas 4

Grease a loaf tin (mine was about 7 x 4")

Grill the bacon and chop into roughly 1cm chunks. If you're not using buttermilk, mix the lemon juice and milk together and let it stand (to sour) while you mix the other ingredients.
Mix flour, baking powder, salt and sugar in a bowl.
In a separate bowl, beat the cream cheese to loosen it a little then mix in the bacon and cheddar, then the buttermilk and oil. Add the liquid to the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Turn into your loaf tin and bake in the centre of the oven for about 45 mins until golden brown on top.
Allow to cool for a few minutes in the tin then turn out onto a wire rack.
Cut a nice thick slice and enjoy!

This would make a lovely breakfast, or a hearty snack. I'm pretty sure the guys at work will enjoy a slice too, if there's any left in the morning!

Friday, 3 October 2014

Neapolitan Core Cupcakes

Last week I hurt my shoulder in a minor DIY mishap involving a bag of sand which turned out to be a lot heavier than expected. As I slumped on the sofa, merrily medicated on co-codamol, a wondrous idea came to me ~ I would make cupcakes the like of which the world has never seen before.
Well, the world may have seen something like this before, but I've certainly never made them. I tweaked and twisted an old tried-and-true recipe and came up with these . . .
Neapolitan Core Cupcakes

Wanna know how to make these lush babies? Here's how:

185g self raising flour
225g sugar
1/2 tsp salt
40g cocoa
100g margarine
2 eggs
150ml milk
few drops vanilla essence

125g cream cheese
25g butter
325g icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp strawberry flavouring
few drops red food colouring

Preheat the oven to 180C / 350F / Gas 4

Sieve flour, sugar, salt and cocoa into a bowl then rub in the margarine. Beat the eggs and milk together in a jug with a few drops of vanilla essence. Pour liquids into dry mixture and beat well. Fill each cupcake case two-thirds full and bake for approx. 25 mins until risen and springy to the touch.
Allow cakes to cool completely then remove a core using an apple-corer or small knife, don't cut all the way to the bottom but make a nice deep well.

Cream together the butter and cream cheese. Sieve the icing sugar and beat in a bit at a time ~ this quantity makes a fairly loose icing so if you'd prefer it a bit firmer add a little more icing sugar until you get the consistency you like.
Put approx. one third of the icing into a separate bowl, add the strawberry flavouring and the food colouring. Mix well and pipe into the cores of the cupcakes, leaving a small blob peeping out.
Add the vanilla essence to the remaining two thirds of the icing and mix well. Pipe swirls around the top of each cake, surrounding the pink strawberry core. I then piped an extra strawberry rosette on top of the core blob to top it off nicely.

Sadly, red food colouring these days is pretty lame (I don't know what they've done to it, but it ain't very red) but it still provides a nice contrast to the white vanilla. If you can't find strawberry flavouring (another thing that seems to have disappeared lately) you can always make a batch of icing from my strawberry clouds recipe. 

Friday, 26 September 2014

Lacy Switch Surround

I fitted a new light switch when I decorated my pretty pretty bedroom, but it looked so blank and bare all on its own. There are lots of switch surrounds you can get to help define your switch and protect the wall from grubby fingerprints, but I do so love to find alternate uses for things, and so I set my heart on a paper doily.

I knew the crisp lacy whiteness would look lovely against the dove grey wall, and it ties in nicely with the lace window coverings I mentioned here a while ago. I found these doilies in Lakeland after quite a search for the most perfectly pretty lacy ones.

It goes without saying that you must be extra careful around electricity. I turned off the power at the mains to unscrew the switch from the wall. After cutting out the centre of the doily I was just about able to slip it over the switch. I had to make a little snip in the doily but it doesn't show when pasted down. You can use spray adhesive to mount your doily but I prefer wallpaper paste ~ I find it sticks better, it's repositionable, and it's easy to remove if necessary. But I say again ~ be careful around electricity!!!

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Monkey In The Hole!

This is a recipe I've been meaning to make for such a long time and just hadn't got around to it. I'm sure you've all heard of Toad In The Hole, right? That delicious British dish of sausages cooked in a tray of huge puffy batter? Well this is the pudding version of that ~ Monkey In The Hole.

I know, you can thank me later. For now, here's how you make it:

4 bananas
4 eggs
200ml milk
200ml plain flour (about 140g)

Preheat the oven to 220C / 425F / Gas 7

Put a knob of lard (or tablespoon of oil if you prefer) in a small roasting tin and put on the top shelf of the oven to heat up.

Put the eggs, milk and flour in a jug ~ you want equal quantities of each so it's easy to increase or decrease as appropriate ~ and beat thoroughly. You can leave the batter to stand for half hour if you have time but it doesn't matter too much. Peel the bananas.
As soon as the fat is smoking hot put the bananas into the roasting tin and pour the batter quickly over. Bake for about 20 - 25 minutes until the batter is puffed and golden.

Serve drizzled with caramel or toffee sauce, or golden syrup, and a scoop of vanilla ice-cream.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Lovely Lacy Window

When I was designing the look of my bedroom, I did a lot of research for alternative window dressings. There are some beautiful ideas out there, but a lot of them were just impractical for a bedroom. I'm not bothered about blocking light, I rarely struggle to get to sleep, but I do like my privacy ~ bare windows freak me out, but I find net curtains can be a bit frumpy, while plain muslin or voile blocks a little too much light. Then I came across a fabulous idea on Pinterest ~ covering your windows in fabric using only cornflour?!

Yes, that sort of cornflour!

It turns out it's not just for thickening stews and sauces, it's also brilliant for a funky new way to dress your windows! (it also turns out that it doesn't matter if yours is 4 years out of date!)

I didn't know how well this might turn out but for such a cheap and easy project (Ikea do a beautiful lace for only £1.50 per metre) I figured it was worth a try. Fancy giving it a go yourself?

All you need is:

2 tablespoons cornflour
2 tablespoons cold water
400ml boiling water
enough lace to cover your window
a plastic mixing bowl
large paintbrush

First measure your window and cut your piece of lace (or whatever fabric you're using) to size ~ you're better off cutting it a little larger than trying to be exact, you can trim off excess when it's dry. Iron it to ensure you have no creases, you want it to lie flat on the window.

Now mix your paste. Put the cornflour in a large plastic bowl and mix to a paste with the cold water, then add the boiling water and mix well. This made a much looser mix than I expected, about the consistency of . . . um . . . runny wallpaper paste? I don't know, just don't let it worry you, it'll be fine!

While the cornflour mix is cooling, clean your window. Thoroughly. I don't just mean cleaning the glass so it sparkles, make sure you get into all the nooks and crannies around the edges too, because you can guarantee any of those little bits of muck will find their way out when you're painting gloopy cornflour mixture all over.

Now it's time to go for it! Put some old towels down before you start, I had lots of splodges and drips and I didn't want my new carpet ruined before it had been down a week. Paint your cornflour gloop on the window, right into the edges, then place your piece of lace on top and paint with another coat of gloop, smoothing out any air bubbles or creases as you go. Make sure everything is evenly coated right into the edges.

That's it, done! All you need to do is wait for it to dry and trim off any excess with a craft knife. The cornflour gloop gives a cloudy translucent finish to the lace which still lets plenty of light in while keeping my boudoir privacy intact ;-)

I also had enough left over to cover my transom light (I had to look that up, "window-above-the-door" didn't sound very professional!)

I'm quite pleased with the effect, especially as both windows cost me less than £2 to do! But if I wasn't, or if I get bored of it, I can sponge it off with warm water, wash the lace and re-use it for something else.

But you know, I think I'll be keeping it.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Beautiful Budgies

Things have been cra-a-zee round here lately, and I've been very lazy about blogging ~ sorry!
I seem to have been spending every spare minute decorating my bedroom, and yesterday the bulk of the work was finally finished. I'll share some of the more hand-crafted details with you as they get added in, but for now here's a little peek at the view I woke up to this morning: 

Isn't in beautiful! It's Chirpy by Blendworth, a gorgeous wallpaper based on a 1950s design. As soon as I saw it I fell in love, and knew it would go perfectly with my vintage candlewick bedspreads and my love of shabby chic and handmade goodies.

It manages to be crisp and fresh and colourful all at the same time. The tones are perfect, and I love that the budgies are all roosting on blossom branches ~ it lends a tranquil air that is perfect for the bedroom. I've got lots of plans for adding personal touches and accessories, and if they work out as well as I hope then I'll be sure to share tutorials with you.

Until then, I think I might go have an early night ~ it's going to be next to impossible to leave my cosy nest in the morning!

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

A Dotty Interlude

I've been decorating my bedroom this weekend. But in between picking emulsion out of my hair, washing off brushes, and putting off the glosswork, I finally took some time out to do a dot-to-dot out of my new book,

I treated myself to this book after stumbling across it in the Tate Britain gift shop. You can get also get a Cityscapes version too, and Masterpieces, and Iconic Portraits, but I went for the animals.
The dots are clearly marked in a different colour for each group of 100, and number one begins with a star - can you spot it in the picture below? 

You definitely need to concentrate, I went wrong a couple of times but I don't think it shows. It's quite hard to see the picture evolve as you're doing it but my son could spot it from across the room, I guess it's a case of not being able to see the wood for the trees, or the cat from the whiskers?

If you'd like to try one of these fab books, they are available from Amazon. (no fee for me ~ just spreading the love!) and probably most good book shops.

Much as I would like to sit and do another, I really can't keep putting off painting the woodwork . . . can I?

Sunday, 17 August 2014

BeeBee Loaf

Today's recipe was conjured up specifically to use up some bits and bobs of fruit I had knocking around. I do so love bananas, but in this weather it's not long before they start attracting fruit flies ~ and I do not love fruit flies. Not. At. All.
So, how about a banana loaf?
Meh . . .
Don't get me wrong, cake is cake, but I always feel banana loaf needs a little something. Then I remembered I had some blueberries in the freezer! Not enough for jam, or a pie, but just enough to jazz up a banana loaf and turn it into a BeeBee loaf (Bits and Bobs, Banana and Blueberry ~ geddit?!)
Blueberries are awesome. Not just because they're good for you, but who doesn't love the inky swirl you get when you stir them through a cake batter? Or the melty little pop when you bite into one? No one, that's who!

175g butter or margarine
175g sugar
3 eggs
225g self raising flour
1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 large or 3 small ripe bananas
130g (about 1 cup) blueberries

Preheat oven to 180C / 350F / Gas4
Grease a 1lb loaf tin.

Peel the bananas, crush with a fork then sprinkle with the cinnamon and vanilla.
Beat together the butter or margarine and sugar, then add the eggs one at a time alternately with the flour. Stir the banana mixture through the batter until evenly distributed but not well blended ~ chunks and blobs are good ~ then gently stir in the blueberries, again barely enough to mix them through.
Pour batter into loaf tin, sprinkle with a spoon or two of sugar, and bake for about 45-55 mins. Allow to cool in tin for a while before turning out onto a rack.

Beware!!! If you use frozen blueberries like I did, your cake will take a lot longer to cook! After it had been in for an hour I turned the heat down to about 160C and gave it another 45 mins. Test it by sticking a skewer into the centre ~ if it comes out clean, it's done!

Maybe next time I will use fresh berries . . . .

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Magic Spaghetti

My son is a little old for magic spaghetti, but that doesn't stop me making it. We both had a craving for hot dogs tonight but I had no buns and I couldn't be bothered to go out and get some, so magic spaghetti was the perfect solution.

To make your own magic spaghetti, all you have to do is open a tin of hot dog sausages and cut each sausage into 4 pieces, then carefully poke 4 or 5 strands of dried uncooked spaghetti through each piece of sausage.

Cook the pasta and sausage bundles in boiling water for about 5 minutes until the spaghetti is cooked. Drain, and coat gently in a little sauce ~ I used Tesco's Sweet Pepper Stir Through sauce.


Your little ones will love it because it's magic how the spaghetti goes through the sausage ~ you will love it because it's quick, easy and delicious.

and magic . . .

Thursday, 31 July 2014

British Folk Art

Yesterday I spent a lovely day in my favourite Capital City in the whole wide world ~ London!
My friend and I finally found time to go and see the Folk Art exhibition at Tate Britain, and it was well worth the wait.  
This Chicken is not quite so Cheery ~ it was made from discarded mutton bones by Napoleonic prisoners of war!
I've long been a fan of Folk Art, it has such a comfortable appeal. Unlike the grand splendour of Fine Art, Folk Art feels achievable ~ despite the obvious talent of the artisans and crafters exhibited, the rustic homeliness of their creations feels like something you could have a go at yourself, and even if you know perfectly well that your efforts will never be quite up to their standards you also know you will end up with something to be proud of.

Rainbow Roll of Honour
This embroidered cloth for example ~ a neatly stitched rainbow of the names of all those who were awarded the Victoria Cross in WWI. Simple yet stunning, and inspirational in more ways than one.
The Four Alls, a traditional pub sign. This version was painted c. 1850.
Unfortunately I wasn't able to sneak many photos without the guards rushing over so I guess you're going to have to go see for yourself the intricate needlepainitngs by Mary Linwood, the carved figureheads and shop signs, the beautifully constructed patchwork quilts.

British Folk Art will be on display at Tate Britain until 31st August. Go see it, you know you want to!

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Apple and Raspberry Charlotte

For me, the harvest begins with Raspberries. They have a fairly short season at my local Pick Your Own farm so I try to get as many as I can ~ some get jammed straight away, most are frozen so I can make fresh jams as I sell out, and of course, some I eat fresh. This weekend I managed to save a few to add to a recipe I've been wanting to try for ages ~ an Apple Charlotte.

Apple Charlotte is a yummy pudding made with stale bread and fruit ~ kind of like a fruit pie except the 'pastry' is made from crispy buttery bread. I love it because not only is it delicious, it's also a great way to use up leftover bread and any wrinkly apples you might have lingering in the fruit bowl. Plus you don't need to weigh and measure ingredients, which appeals to my lazy disposition.

Serves 2

4 slices stale bread
3 eating apples
60g raspberries
2 / 3 tablespoons sugar
75g butter

Preheat your oven to 180C / 350F / Gas 4

Peel and core your apples, and cut into thin slices. Put in a pan with the sugar, about 25g of the butter, and about a tablespoon of water. Cover and cook gently for about 10 minutes until soft. Stir in the raspberries.
Cut the crusts off your bread and butter both sides. Cut two circles for the base and top of your ramekin (you can use the ramekin as a template) and cut the other slices into 3 or 4 strips each. Press the buttered strips of bread around the sides of the ramekin. Make sure you leave no gaps and allow a little to overhang at the top and a little on the base, then press one of the circles of bread into the base.
Spoon the apple and raspberry mixture into the ramekin. Fold the overhanging strips of bread over the fruit filling then top with the second circle and press gently but firmly to seal. Sprinkle with a spoon of sugar and bake for approx. 20-30 minutes until the bread is golden brown.

Serve hot with vanilla ice-cream or custard.

You can try this with any fruit of course, how about apple & blueberries, or peaches and a little sprinkle of cinnamon? The fruit bowl is your oyster!

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Operation Tanktop!

I'm not usually a fan of yarnbombing, but when I saw this poster on talented local crafter Georgina Giles blog I thought it was a great idea. I found out some colourful odds and ends, and started making some squares to join in the campaign.
I felt brightness and variety were the order of the day ~ after all, we're covering a weapon. I'm a self-taught crocheter, and haven't been doing it all that long, so I'm taking full advantage of the opportunity to experiment and try different kinds of squares.

I can't wait until the tank is covered! I'll be sure to share some photos when it's done, but of course if you're local please do join in yourself!

Sunday, 6 July 2014

And Now For Something Completely Fabulous!

While our friends across the pond were celebrating their Independence Day, I was in our nation's capital celebrating one of the most talented and successful comedy teams of all time . . .

Monty Python!

With a combined age of 357, some critics questioned if the Python team reuniting was a good idea. I wondered the same thing myself. I'm a huge Python fan, but would this show be painful to watch or hilarious? And what about the 'One Down' - how would they get around missing the late Graham Chapman?

Well I was prepared to risk it, after all how many times are we likely to get this sort of opportunity?

I gladly spent a fortune at the merchandise stands scattered around the O2 ~ a programme was a must, and of course t-shirts! (I had to promise this would be the only time we would wear them in public together!)

Our seats were terrifyingly high up, they were the only ones I could afford! But once the lights dimmed and the show started I forgot how far the fall was, I was too busy laughing!
There was no way there was time for all the favourite sketches (there are just too many!) but of course there were Vikings, Spam, a Dead Parrot, a Lumberjack, Four Yorkshiremen, a Wink and a Nudge, and everybody expected the Spanish Inquisition! There was a Penguin on the Telly, Ann Elk shared her latest theory, and a special celebrity surprise on Blackmail.

The on-stage sketches were interspersed with dance routines (and chorus scenes, and footwork im-pecc-able!) and on screen snippets of old sketches and Gilliam's wonderful animation, including one of my personal favourites, Conrad Poohs and his Dancing Teeth!

The big screens were put to great use while costume changes were made ~ Brian Cox came on screen to explain the factual inaccuracies of the Galaxy Song, but it was ok because Stephen Hawking ran him over and even sang a few lines! As well as appearing in a few of the old sketches, Graham Chapman occasionally popped on screen to warn us when things were getting too silly, and even kicked off the final number - Christmas in Heaven.

The occasional fluffed line and corpsing Python only added to the joy of seeing five comedy geniuses enjoying what they do best. If you can get hold of a ticket for one of the remaining shows, I urge you to do so. If not, you can watch their very last show in cinemas around the country on 20th July.
Now . . .

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Chocolate Pinwheel Cookies

It's been all go here lately. The house sale went through a few days earlier than expected and the last few weeks have been a blur of boxes and bubblewrap. However I did manage to take a few photos of the last goodies I baked in my old house ~ Chocolate Shortbread Pinwheels.
These are a buttery melty delight, and taste as good as they look.


Shortbread                                                    Chocolate Shortbread
225g plain flour                                            200g plain flour
140g butter                                                   25g cocoa
55g sugar                                                      55g sugar
few drops vanilla essence                             few drops vanilla essence
few drops water                                            few drops water

approx. 75g chocolate vermicelli

Preheat oven to 180C / 350F / Gas 4. Grease a baking sheet.

First make the plain shortbread by sifting the flour into a bowl and rubbing the butter in until the texture resembles breadcrumbs. Mix in the sugar and vanilla essence then squeeze the dough together with a few drops of water to help make it more pliable. Set aside.

Make the chocolate shortbread in the same way, sifting the cocoa along with the flour.

Next roll out the two batches of dough into roughly rectangular slabs about half a centimetre thick, making one slightly narrower than the other, then place the narrower slab on top of the other. Don't worry if it cracks and crumbles a little, just push it back together and it will be fine. Carefully fold over the long edge of the bottom piece and start to roll up like a swiss roll. Again, don't worry too much if it cracks here and there. just gently roll it back and forth and the cracks should close up again.

Now comes the messy bit ~ the vermicelli. This took a LOT more than I had guestimated, which is why the more eagle-eyed among you will have noticed two different shades of chocolate ~ I had nowhere near enough and had to run out for more! Sprinkle the vermicelli along the length of the roll and keep turning until all sides are covered.

Cut slices approx. 1cm wide and place on a greased baking sheet. Bake for about 10 minutes until the vanilla bit is only just beginning to turn a light golden colour. Cool on  a wire tray. This recipe makes about 35 cookies, depending on how thinly you slice them.

You could make different colour / flavour combinations too ~ Make two plain batches but in one of the batches use Strawberry flavouring and a few drops of red food colouring instead of the vanilla essence and water, and roll in multi-coloured sprinkles. Pretty! If you make some yourself, why not share a picture on my Cheery Chicken Facebook page, I'd love to see how they turn out!

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Procrastination Cakes

You guys are sooo lucky I'm a helluva procrastinator, that's all I can say! I got home from work this afternoon, bubbling with the news that my heel-dragging mortgage company are finally arranging the survey on the house I'm trying to buy. I'm supposed to be out of my current house in less than 3 weeks, so packing is a priority. I wandered around, wondering where to start ~ all the rarely-used stuff is already packed and stashed in a friend's garage, which leaves me with the horrible-messy-drawers-that-need-a-good-sort-out, and the stuff I use regularly.

So I made cakes instead.

I've wanted to do something with pineapple for ages, so I did a bit of tweaking and experimenting, and came up with these li'l beauties:

225g self-raising flour
pinch salt
100g margarine
100g sugar
50g desiccated coconut
1 egg
2tbsp milk
125g tinned pineapple chunks in juice, drained
100ml pineapple juice (from tin)

for the topping:
150g icing sugar
3-4 tbsp. pineapple juice
15g desiccated coconut

Preheat the oven to 180C / 350F / Gas 4. Grease an 18cm cake tin, or line a cupcake tray with 12 paper cases.
Drain the tinned pineapple, saving the juice.
Sieve flour and salt together and rub in margarine. Mix in sugar and coconut. In a jug, beat together the egg, milk and 100ml of the juice. Mix the liquids into the dry mixture, then stir in the pineapple chunks.
Fill cupcake cases about 2/3 full, or pour batter into the tin if you are making one big cake.
Bake for about 25 mins for cupcakes, or an hour for a big cake, until golden brown.
While cakes are cooling, gently toast the 15g dessicated coconut in a dry pan until golden brown.

** ending**

When the cakes are completely cold, make the icing. Sieve the icing sugar into a bowl, warm about 3 or 4 tablespoons of pineapple juice and add a little at a time, mixing until smooth. Top each cake with the icing, then sprinkle the toasted coconut on top.

**alternate ending**

Mix about 70-80ml of warmed pineapple juice with about 80g of sugar and spoon over warm cakes.

There you are ~ Procrastination Cakes. So the next time you have something important to do, forget it all and make these instead!