Category Archives: Family

“Fish Fingers & Custard”

My son turned 9 last month and we had the usual party – at the Center for Computing History in Cambridge – they have ‘Retro Gaming Parties’ for all ages. The kids had a blast and their parents are now planning their own gaming party soon.

He wanted a Tardis Birthday Cake originally and we looked at tutorials online, but as I can’t actually decorate a cake…. we went for “Fish Fingers & Custard” also from Doctor Who. If you don’t remember, Matt Smith’s first episode when he met Amy Pond – he tried out food to see what he liked and decided on ‘Fish fingers and custard’. The show used cake, apparently, but I decided on Shortbread.

Fish Fingers & Custard

They are a little time consuming to make, but worth it for the look on the kids’ faces! Some only tried one because another Mum said they had to try one or they couldn’t play more computer games, and a couple wouldn’t eat them with custard so they had jelly instead. The recipe makes enough for 60 shortbread fingers.

Fish Fingers:

12 oz./375g soft unsalted butter (do not use margarine!)
6 oz./165g white sugar
19 oz./590g plain (all purpose) flour
1/4 tsp salt

5-6 egg yolks
water

200g digestive biscuits or graham crackers
4 tbsp melted butter
3 oz./100g sugar

Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy – I use an electric mixer. Sift in half the flour and the salt, then mix again. Sift in the rest of the flour and mix. Separate into 2 balls, wrap one up in cling film. If it’s very soft, put it into the fridge for 15-20 minutes.

Roll out one ball of dough on a floured surface to about 9-10mm (3/8″) thick – about the thickness of a fish finger. Try to make it as rectangular as possible. Cut out fingers about 7.5cm (3″) long and 2.5cm (1″) wide. I cut each row out as I went along to try to get as many out of each sheet as possible. I used a small ruler so they would all be the same. Place each one on a cookie sheet with parchment/baking paper on it and chill for 15 minutes. Repeat with the other ball of dough, then again using the leftovers of both together.

Cutting out the Shortbread Dough

Crush the biscuits/crackers. I used a food processor to make crumbs then added the sugar and melted butter and pulsed a few times to mix. Place on a plate or pie plate. (you’ll probably need to make this in batches depending on the size of your food processor). Once the fingers are chilled, whisk the egg yolks with enough water to thin them out a little.

Egg Wash
“Breading”

Put each finger in the egg mix and make sure they get covered, then transfer to the coating plate. Cover each one well, pressing down to coat. Remove back to the cookie sheet. Repeat until all the fingers have been coated. Put the cookie sheet back in the fridge to chill again for 15 minutes. Make sure you don’t crowd the cookie sheet, they will spread a little and you don’t want them to stick together. (I put mine a little too close together).

More ” Breading”
Ready to chill again

Bake at 180’C for 15-20 minutes or until they are cooked and start to brown. The ‘breading’ should crack a little and they should look like actual fish fingers. Carefully take off the sheet and onto a rack to cool. They will be soft and break easily when hot.

Baked & Cooling off

We served them in icecream tubs with bought custard – there were a couple of kids who just couldn’t get past the ‘fish fingers’ look and eat them with custard and a couple who gingerly tried then realised they were biscuits and dug right in. It was an easy birthday dessert, and perfect for a party too.

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Happy New Year!

Hello again. I know, I know, I abandoned you – but not intentionally! I ran out of steam to write blog posts – I did’t just want to post new items I have made to sell all the time, but couldn’t think of anything else to blog about!

Happy New Year!

In Real Life, it’s been hectic, son’s settling in well to boarding and singing, hubby’s been very busy at work and helping son with music practice. I’ve been busy labelling new clothes to replace ones that have gone missing at school, and reminding him to wash his hair properly. He’s shot up as well; he’ll need yet more new clothes in a few weeks, I’m sure. We already had to buy new school shoes to replace the half pair he lost a week before the holidays started – 1 went missing after Games and he hasn’t had his ‘Cinderella’ moment yet. We couldn’t wait to see if it did come back when the new term started, though. Right now, we all have colds, so are grotty and grumpy but I stocked up the house before Christmas so we have had enough stuff to make soups and meals you want to eat when you have a cold.

Looking Glass Designs has been doing well, too. I haven’t finalised accounts for November & December yet, but it looks like I have passed last year’s turnover for those 2 months. Not sure about the tax year as a whole yet. I also started selling on Amazon Handmade and am pleasantly surprised at how quickly I got busy on there.

I have plans for several new product lines that I hope will sell well, and another style of Camera strap too. This one will be a cover, so I can use some of the fabric on my shelves – I have some gorgeous fat quarters!

I smacked my hand on the edge of our kitchen door jamb in August and it’s still not healed. I’m going to look for a physiotherapist – I went to the doctor’s but as it wasn’t ‘deformed, bruised or not bending’ they wouldn’t do anything…

Pippy’s still missing Annie, he spends a lot of time wanting cuddles and sleeping beside me. He got “old” very quickly once she was gone; he refused to go outside almost at all for most of September. We used to have to pick him up and take him outside. He’s slightly better now, but I’m not allowed out of the house for longer than a couple of hours or he’s very upset when I/we get home. He will be 14 this year, in May/June time.

I hope you and yours have a 2018 that is mostly good – if there were no ‘downs’ the ‘highs’ wouldn’t be so wonderful!

Pear & Ginger Chutney Recipe

Here’s the Pear & Ginger Chutney Recipe…

Pear & Ginger Chutney

It’s thick, a little tangy, a little sweet, slightly hot with the tiny chunks of ginger, and gorgeous with a mature cheddar. You can use unripe pears and then blitz a few cups of the cooked chutney while hot to make it less syrupy and more thick. (I did).

Ingredients:

10 cups peeled and chopped pears (fairly finely chopped) (15-20 pears, depending on their size)
3 medium red onions, diced
3 cloves garlic, finely minced or grated
4 cups white sugar
3 cups apple cider vinegar
1 cup seedless raisins or sultanas
1 cup crystallised ginger
1 tsp salt
3 star anise
10 whole cloves
2 sticks cinnamon, or 2 tsp ground cinnamon
6 crushed juniper berries

Pour the vinegar in the pot you are going to use to cook the chutney in, then add the pears to it as you chop them up so they don’t turn brown. Take 1 cup of the sugar and the ginger and put in a food processor. Pulse the ginger and sugar together until the ginger is finely chopped, then add to the pot. Add the rest of the ingredients. Stir well and bring to a simmer. Stir regularly so the bottom doesn’t catch. Cook gently for 1-2 hours or until the pears are cooked and the chutney has come together. You can blitz a couple of cups of the chutney if the pears haven’t broken down at all, just leave out the whole spices from blitzing.

Sterilise clean jars (you’ll need 8-9 pint jars) by placing them in a tray in the oven at 100’C for 20 minutes. Put the lids in a bowlful of boiling water for at least 5 minutes. Quickly fill the hot jars with the hot chutney to 4-5mm from the top, keeping the rims clean (if you’ve spilled the chutney on the rims, wipe them with a wet sponge and wipe dry). Dry off the lids and screw them on to finger-tight. Leave on a clean dry tea towel on the counter for several days before moving. I usually fill 2-3 jars at a time, then put the lids on.

As long as the lids stay sealed, the chutney will last for years.

Pear Chutney on Cheddar
Makings of a ploughmans’ lunch
Closeup

Rice Crispie Chicken

Yup, you read it right. Rice Crispie Chicken. Sorry, there’s no marshmallows in it. It’s a baked chicken dish my son and I made for dinner tonight. We had some rice crispies that needed using, so… we coated boneless chicken thighs in the crushed rice crispies and baked them. My son did most of the work, I only boned & skinned the chicken thighs for him, but you can buy boneless, skinless ones.

It turned out better than expected, so I thought I’d pop the recipe on here for you to try. It would work with other cereal as well like cornflakes or bran flakes.

Rice Crispie Chicken

Rice Crispie Chicken

5 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 eggs
1 tbsp water
salt & pepper
2 cups rice crispies or other crisped puffed rice cereal

Preheat the oven to 350’F. Beat the eggs and water together in a bowl with a little salt & pepper. Put the rice crispies in a freezer bag and crush them with a rolling pin- you’ll need to crush them more than you think you will, or you’ll have whole ones that won’t stick to the chicken very well.

Add a little salt & pepper to the crushed cereal, or any other spice you’d like to add and put on a plate. Dip the chicken in the egg, then into the cereal, covering the chicken, press down then flip and make sure that side’s coated well. Place on a greased or parchment covered cookie sheet. repeat with the remaining chicken pieces, then bake for 15-20 minutes
I’d add some cayenne or paprika when we make them again, rice crispies are sweeter when baked! We had them with pesto pasta and steamed veg, but they’d be good in buns too.

I’ll add more photos when we make it again.

Close-up

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Oatmeal Raisin Cookie

I know there are thousands of oatmeal raisin cookie recipes out there, but this is the one my son and I make – and he does most of the work! LOL

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Ingredients:

1 cup (250g) butter, softened
1/2 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups oatmeal
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
3/4 cup raisins or sultanas

Preheat the oven to 160’C (350’F). Cream the butter and sugar together (we used an electric mixer). Then add the eggs one at a time, then the vanilla, mixing in between until the mix is fluffy. Add all the dry ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon.

Using dessert spoons, scoop the dough onto a cookie sheet, they do spread out, so give them room. Bake for 8-12 minutes until the edges are golden brown. Take off the sheet and place on a cake rack to cool. Try not to eat the whole tray at once. Makes about 4 dozen smallish cookies.

The dough will keep well in the fridge for about a week – we cook a few every day straight from the fridge, and just press the dough down a little before putting in the oven.

Close-up cookie

You can add chocolate chips, cocoa, more spices, wholewheat flour, meusli instead of the oatmeal… what’s your favourite combo?

Plate of cookies

Easter Holidays

My son has a long Easter Holiday break at his school, so he’s been off almost a full month now. I’ve managed to get my orders out, and a few new items started and finished but haven’t managed to get photos done yet.

We have made some cookies, and a chocolate nut butter (recipe soon!) and had several playdates with new friends and old. Son had holiday orchestra for 4 days but I volunteered on 1 day. We went out together several days too, but we didn’t go away anywhere. For most parents when you have a child in private school, holidays are few and far between! Day trips are what we usually do, and we have some good friends who treated us to a day at Audley End House and were willing to drive closer to us to meet up for dog walk & picnic because my car is still not reliable and I don’t want to drive too far from home.

Son took a crochet class at a local yarn shop – The Sheep Shop, where he met Ruth and she taught him how to crochet over a couple of hours. He created a bookmark, and we have a headband pattern for him to try at home. He really enjoyed it, especially the biscuits, Sarah, the owner supplied… lol. Do check out The Sheep Shop – Sarah has regular knitting groups and offers lots of classes as well. There are several more children’s crochet classes available! He also learned to purl and started an easy rainbow winter hat.

We had some disruption too – our boiler died and needed to be replaced, so that was 2 days of pretty much no work getting done, along with no heat/gas or hot water. Trying to knit in a freezing cold house is not conducive to getting much done!

We went out for dinner on day 1 of the boiler replacement, to a newly opened restaurant. It was very disappointing, my chicken burger had cold meat that was cut oddly so it kept falling out of the burger bun and the guacamole was off. I ended up eating english muffins with peanut butter for dinner when we got home.

Hopefully, I’ll be able to get my head down on work come Wednesday when son’s back at school and I have the house to myself again. I have plans for yarn, old quilts, and these scarves!

Scarf Photo 1
Scarf Photo 2
Scarf photo 3
Scarf photo 4

Blackberry & Rhubarb Cobbler

I haven’t added a recipe in a while…. but here goes! lol Son and I made this for breakfast today. We decided not to make it sweet so only added a little sugar to the fruit. (And yes, as usual, the photo was taken after we ate!)

I used frozen fruit from last summer, and let it defrost a little before cooking it.

Blackberry & Rhubarb Cobbler

450g rhubarb, cut into pieces 3/4″ long
450g blackberries
75g white sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp allspice
2 tbsp cornflour (cornstarch)
3 tbsp water

Cobbler:

330g self-raising flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
120g butter
2 eggs
milk to make up to 250ml with the eggs

Put the fruit, sugar, spices into a pot and cook on med. heat until the mixture comes to a boil and the rhubarb just starts to fall apart. Mix the cornflour and water together then stir into the fruit — you might not need all of it depending on the water content of the fruit. Turn down to low, and simmer for 3 minutes while stirring, then turn off the heat.

Mix the dry ingredients together, then cut the butter into the mix. Crack the eggs into a glass measuring cup, then pour in enough milk to make it up to 250ml. Whisk together, then stir into the dry mix. You should have a thick, sticky dough.

Pour the fruit into a 9″x 13″baking pan, then spoon the cobbler mix on top, there should be space in between for the fruit to bubble up.

Bake at 190’C (375’C) for 15-20 minutes or until the cobbler mix is lightly browned. Eat warm as is, or pour on a little cream…

Blackberry and Rhubarb Cobbler
Blackberry and Rhubarb Cobbler

Chocolate Cherry Cake AKA Cheat’s Black Forest Gateau!

I haven’t put a recipe on here in a while, but son wanted to make chocolate cake this weekend, so we decided to add cherry pie filling to it to make a sort-of cheat’s black forest gateau. We decided not to put whipped cream on the cake and just have it on the side as our fridge isn’t working and we’d rather be able to leave the cake on the counter and just keep the cream on ice in the fridge. The engineer will be out on Monday!

The cake is a lovely light sponge cake that as long as you don’t over-mix, is lovely and with a tender crumb. It would also make a great chocolate Victoria Sponge.

Cake!
Cake!

Chocolate Cake:

6 oz/175g unsalted butter, softened
6 oz/175g caster sugar (granulated)
3 large eggs, beaten
6 oz/175g self raising flour (or 170g plain flour and 2 tsp baking powder)
1 oz/25g cocoa powder
1 tbsp warm water

Buttercream Icing:

2 tbsp cocoa powder
3 oz/75g softened butter
3 oz/75g icing sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Whipped Cream:

250ml Double/Whipping Cream
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 oz/25g icing sugar

1 – 14 oz. tin cherry pie filling

Turn oven to 350’F/175’C

Beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until it is light and fluffy, then addin the eggs a little at a time. If it starts to curdle, add a tablespoon of the weighed out flour and keep mixing until it is smooth. Add in the warm water.

Mix the flour and cocoa powder (and baking powder if using) together in a bowl, then add to the butter and sugar bowl and fold in.

Divide the mixture between two 8-inch sandwich tins, buttered and floured or lined. Level with a knife and put both tins in the middle of the oven for about 20-25 minutes. They are ready when you gently push the top with a finger the sponge bounces back and the cake is pulling away from the sides of the tin. Cool for 5 minutes in the pans, then carefully turn out on a wire rack to cool.

Meanwhile, carefully cream together the ingredients for the buttercream icing, then once there is no danger of icing sugar going everywhere, whip with an electric mixer until it’s lighter in colour and fluffy.

Whip the double/whipping cream, icing sugar and vanilla together until ti forms soft peaks.

Spread 1/2 the butter cream onto the top of a layer of cake, putting the remainder in a piping bag with a tip. Once it’s smooth, pipe the remaining buttercream in a circle on the edge, building it up to form a wall to hold the pie filling in. Carefully pour the pie filling on top (it may not take the whole tin), then smooth out. Place the top layer on top and gently wiggle it to center it and level it. Pipe any remaining buttercream on top of the cake, dust with a little icing sugar and serve with the whipped cream and remaining pie filling. Perfect with Earl Grey Tea!

You can also ice the cake with the whipped cream and cover in chocolate sprinkles to make a more authentic looking black forest gateau…

Teacher Gifts Tutorial – Decoupage Plant Pots

I’ve neglected you all lately…. I’m going to try to get a bit more active on here for you all.

We give son’s teachers gifts at Christmas and Year-end. This year we decided on decorating a plant pot and picking out a pretty plant for his teacher and the teacher’s assistant. I try to pick something that he can make or do most of and he likes making gifts and really tries to get them perfect.

It’s an easy and cheap craft that looks wonderful and you can put a lot of thought into the kind of plant and the style of decoupage you want to do when you choose the tissue paper.

The plant pots were 89P each, the saucers were 99p. The pack of tissue paper was £2.20 and a bottle of PVA glue was £1.50. I know we had some around here somewhere but I couldn’t find it!

Son picked out a pretty blue, orange, yellow & pink flower tissue paper. As the paper had a white background, I painted the pots white with some wood paint I already had. We used a flat cardboard box to paint and glue on, but newspaper would work too.

Once the paint was dry, We took 1 sheet of the tissue paper (it was about 20″ x 30″) and ripped it up into pieces – tiny ones and big ones 2-3″ across.

Our pile of ripped up tissue paper
Our pile of ripped up tissue paper

We piled them up and I poured some glue into a plastic container, then used a clean paintbrush to brush it onto the pot. I did a section at a time and then son started to add paper to it, overlapping a bit and mixing up the flower colours and direction. I think if he was a bit older, he could do the gluing as well as the sticking but at 6, I thought he might get covered in more paper than the pot….

Adding more paper
Adding more paper

I smoothed down any bits sticking up and added another coat of glue. We did about 75% of 1 pot then switched to the next.

Smoothing down the edges
Smoothing down the edges
Resting and drying
Resting and drying

We went around and glued, papered and reglued that one too. We let them dry for an hour or so then went back and finished them off; this time I held the pots on my hand upside down. I’d say that each pot took about 15 minutes to cover. I’ll trim off the excess paper once the glue is completely dry tomorrow. We’ll repot the plants, and then give them to the teachers on Weds.

Almost done!
Almost done!

We only used a small amount of the glue and about 2/3 of the paper we ripped up for the 2 pots; we probably have enough ripped up to cover another pot.

Son’s already picked out which pot is going to which teacher even though they are pretty much identical!

Ta Da! Finished!
Ta Da! Finished!

Of course, you don’t have to put a plant in them – add a scrunch of tissue paper to the bottom of the pot and a bog-standard box of chocolates taken out of the box and piled on top look much more expensive. Or a collection of stationery – pens, pencils, a ruler, glue etc. Or pop a goodie bag of home-made treats – cookies, brownies, caramels, home-roasted nuts…. what would you put in it?

Sweet Potato and Chick Pea Fritters

I found this recipe a few weeks ago amid the madness of knitting uteruses, and finally got a chance to try it – http://www.thesugarhit.com/2015/01/sweet-potato-chickpea-burgers-with-tahini-yoghurt-recipe.html

I made a few changes to it – I made small fritters instead of large burger patties and added chives. I left out the paprika and added garam masala too. My son hoovered them up with Raita and fresh raw green beans in a tortilla wrap and ordered me to make them again! These would be great for a starter for a dinner party or if you want, a greedy meal for 2….

Here’s my adaptation:

Sweet Potato & Chick Pea Fritters

1 medium sweet potato, grated (not peeled)
3 tbsp chopped chives
1 egg
1/3 cup flour (could use gram/wholewheat flour if you wanted)
1/2 tsp each salt & pepper
1/2 tsp each garam masala, ground cumin and ground coriander
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 can drained chickpeas, slightly mashed

Mix everything together with your hands and shape into flat discs about 1 1/2″ across (I made 13, but it will depend on the size of the sweet potato).

Heat a large fry pan with 1/2cm of oil and add the patties, cook on med-high heat until golden brown and crispy, and flip to cook the other side. Drain on paper towels while cooking the remainder. Serve with raita (see below), fresh veg, wraps and mango chutney.

Raita –

1/2 cucumber, halved and deseeded, then grated
3/4 c. greek yogurt
salt & pepper to taste
1 tsp lemon juice or to taste

Mix together and let sit to blend flavours.

I’ll add a photo when I make them again….