28 January 2014

The Great Yorkshire Pudding Disaster ......... AGAIN!!!!!

As some of you may know from reading my blog, I was born and brought up in Sheffield. A wonderfully cosmopolitan, Yorkshire city with lovely, friendly people surrounded by the amazing scenery of the Yorkshire Dales and home to some delicious local food. Yorkshire parkin, pikelets (like crumpets but thinner), Bakewell tart and of course, the Sunday lunch must-have ......Yorkshire pudding. I absolutely love Yorkshire puddings. Sunday lunch is never the same without them. That is why this post is a little bit embarrassing to write. In fact it's A LOT embarrassing to write. The truth of the matter is, for a born and bred Yorkshire lass I am utterly hopeless at making Yorkshire puddings!!!!! In fact, I am so bad at making them that I no longer bother. I use frozen ones instead ......... yes, I know it's cheating and quite possibly sacrilegious but it saves a whole lot of misery and at least they are edible. For this precise reason, I also never make toad-in-the-hole ..... EVER ..... not since the time that the pudding batter around the sausages failed to rise and the kids christened it toad-in-the-swamp! Kids can be so cruel :-)

Anyway, this weekend, while I was roasting the leg of lamb we were having for lunch, along with cooking all the veg, I was panic-stricken to discover that I had completely run out of the frozen puds that I usually use.

No problem, I thought, I will just make some. It will be fine, I said, I can do this. 

Or so I thought.

Turns out ........ I am STILL hopeless at making YorkshireBloodyPuddings!!!!!! 

The frustrating thing is, I don't even know what I'm doing wrong. They taste ok. The problem is they just don't rise. They are flat as pancakes. In fact I could use them as frisbee's. Anyway, after the latest Pudding Palaver, I have vowed to become the Queen of Yorkshire Puddings and have thus warned my daughter accordingly ........ I will be making them every day until I get it right and she will be my chief taster.

So, please please PLEASE could you share your Yorkshire Pudding recipes in the hope that I might produce something that looks less frisbee-esque and more like this .......

And sadly no, this is NOT one I made earlier, I got this picture from the internet  (it's a Delia Smith creation) but essentially ... this is what I am striving for. 

This is the recipe I usually use, I don't know how this compares to other peoples recipes and I will be halving the ingredient amounts or my poor daughter might have to eat hundreds of puddings before I get it right and I'm mindful of her digestion, not to mention her waistline should it take me more than a couple of days to perfect the puds :-)

    Yorkshire Pudding Recipe.

    140g plain flour (this is about 200ml/7fl oz)
    4 eggs (200ml/7fl oz)
    200ml milk
    sunflower oil, for cooking

    Heat oven to 230C/fan 210C/gas 8. Drizzle a little sunflower oil evenly into 2 x 4-hole Yorkshire pudding tins or a 12-hole non-stick muffin tin and place in the oven to heat through.
    To make the batter, tip 140g plain flour into a bowl and beat in four eggs until smooth. Gradually add 200ml milk and carry on beating until the mix is completely lump-free. Season with salt and pepper. Pour the batter into a jug, then remove the hot tins from the oven. Carefully and evenly pour the batter into the holes. Place the tins back in the oven and leave undisturbed for 20-25 mins until the puddings have puffed up and browned. Serve immediately. You can now cool them and freeze for up to 1 month.
  • Recipe from Good Food magazine, February 2009
  • So ........ watch this space for a perfect pudding update :-)

27 January 2014

Dreaming of a Kitchen Garden

It's Monday, it's raining and I'm ill. I have had a stinking cold for almost a week now, I ache all over and I have a horrible sore throat. However, being the stubborn person that I am, I am resolutely refusing to give in to it ........ not that I have much choice. Some kindly, well-meaning soul at the market the other day, told me that I should go home and spend a couple of days in bed! As if I actually have the time for that!! However, when I got up this morning, my throat was so sore that I could hardly speak so, after yomping through the mud to sort out the animals in the pouring rain I decided to make myself a mug of tea, wrap myself in a blanket and look at pictures of beautifully designed, inspirational kitchen gardens on the internet and try and figure out how to do that to mine. At the moment, the chickens are doing a sterling job of ripping the garden to shreds and they have rapidly turned the lawn from grass, into something akin to a mud wrestling pit! On the plus side though, they are also doing a grand job of clearing all the weeds from the raised beds and demolishing slugs galore as the two of  roam the garden causing chickeny havoc all over the place. 

I found some lovely gardens to inspire me. Here are a few ideas that I would absolutely LOVE to put into my garden.

How cute is this, I love the cute little fence all around it. You can find the web source here

I especially love the brick paths, in fact, I am actually considering using bricks in my garden for the paths. Source here

Another fabulous re-purporsing idea Source here

I love this fabulous use of an otherwise useless steep slope. Source here

I love these willow raised beds. 
Source here

Anyway, the weather is still awful, my cold is still grim and my tea has gone cold so I'm off to pop the kettle on and put another log on the fire. 

21 January 2014

Blue Monday

Last weekend was kind of stressful. For reasons I won't bore you with, it was a nightmare weekend. Now, Sunday is usually the one day of the week that I get to sit and veg out, to watch TV and generally to just relax. I don't make things for the market, in fact I actively discourage myself from even thinking about the market but this weekend, due to circumstances apparently way beyond my control, I didn't have a chance to do any of that and I woke up on Monday morning feeling very out of sorts. Despite the weather being lovely and bright my mood did not match the sunny day and I felt an Eeyore day coming on .... you know the one ....... a gloomy day where all you want to do is curl up on the sofa and watch inspiring house makeover programs or dreamy cookery programs using fresh ingredients from delightfully sun-kissed kitcheny-cottagey gardens that, try as you might, just never seem to quite manifest themselves into your "actual" garden. 

In an attempt to shake myself out of my gloom, I grabbed my wellies, put on a nice thick coat and gloves and took three very reluctant dogs out into the field for a run. Metro, my rescue collie, who prefers sleeping on the sofa to romping ankle deep in mud looked at me as if I was taking him to his doom and kept trying to sneak back into the house. Levi, who normally loves muddy fields, but who was extremely miffed at having to leave the delicious, half-masticated, slimy piece of chewy bone that he had unearthed from deep in his bed, was also on a mission to get back inside and even Indie, who has never met a muddy puddle that he didn't want to roll in, looked less than enthusiastic at my attempts to play fetch with him so, eventually, after persevering for about 15 minutes, I finally caved in and we all trudged back inside. Levi to his bone, Metro to the sofa and Indie to his bed where they all flumped down, heaving huge doggy sighs of relief.

Naughty Indie pretending not to hear me when I mentioned going for a walk :-)

It turns out, yesterday was "Blue Monday". Blue Monday is the third Monday in January and apparently is generally gloomy and dark, and allegedly, the most depressing day of the year because it comes after all the Christmas festivities have ended, it is a long time until Spring, and typically people feel rather low on what is often a cold, grey day. Who knew! This year, Mental Health Research UK were trying to encourage people to wear bright and cheerful clothes in an attempt to raise awareness of depression and seasonal affective disorder which, is particularly prevalent in the winter months because it is caused by a lack of sunlight. Although wearing bright clothes won't prevent depression or SAD, there is plenty of research into the effect colour can have on our mood. 

So I put on my brightest Christmas pressie socks, my most colourful fleece, made a gigantic mug of caramel hot chocolate, lit a fire and settled down to watch back-to-back episodes of my favourite program. 
Not such a Blue Monday after all :-)

20 January 2014

Cookies, Casserole and Chickens

Well another week of totally bizarre weather. On Thursday, at the market, the weather was all over the place. One minute it was beautiful blue sky with lovely sunny weather, the next it was absolutely bouncing down with pea sized hail stones or torrential rain. My poor chickens don't know whether they're coming or going and spend their time dashing in and out of their chicken house like mad things depending on what the weather is doing. It's quite funny to see them scuttle off in to their house when the first hail stones start falling and then tentatively poking their heads out when it stops, just to make sure it's safe to some out again. These guys weren't so lucky and had to take shelter under the hedge. They live about a quarter of a mile up the lane and they are truly free range chickens, they regularly wander down to say hello to my girls and have, on occasion, left me an egg as a present on the gravel where I park my car.

Because the weather has been so awful I am now in full-on-winter-hibernation mode. This includes being in soup and casserole mode. I love stews and casseroles. I always make it with loads of veg, usually whatever I have in the house but, at the moment, my favourites are carrots, butternut squash and sweet potato. I read somewhere that the orange pigment found in carrots is due to the antioxidant beta-carotene, also found in other deep orange foods such as sweet potatoes, pumpkin, butternut squash and papaya and that Beta-carotene is converted to vitamin A in the body which helps to maintain healthy eyes, support your immune system, keep your skin healthy, and is thought to protect against certain cancers. An added bonus to the fabulous taste in my opinion :-). I also usually add some meat to my casserole. I prefer beef or lamb but whatever meat you like will work just as well, with enough stock to cover everything. The whole thing is then simmered slowly in the oven in my oh-so-cute, pink, cast iron casserole pot et voila, it turns into the most delicious stew. The flavours are rich and deep and the meat is so tender it melts in your mouth. The same goes for soup. I love homemade soup. It always feels as if it's good for you. My favourite at the moment is watercress and potato. Silky and smooth, it has a lovely earthy flavour and the watercress adds a delicate peppery-ness which is delicious. And with all the veg in there you just know it has to be good for you.

The other thing I tend to do when the weather is not very nice is bake. While the oven is on cooking the casserole, I always try and put something else in there with it so it's not such a waste of energy so, I bake. Cakes or cookies or maybe a crumble. Anything I can think of really that will go nicely with a steaming mug of tea or a smooth frothy coffee or with some thick Jersey cream for pudding. As with everything else, when I bake I do tend to wing it slightly. I know you really aren't supposed to but if I don't have a particular ingredient I substitute something else. I made some chocolate chip cookies the other day but I didn't have the right kind of sugar it needed for the recipes so, I substituted the light muscovado sugar for some dark brown sticky sugar I had in the cupboard. The cookies were completely delicious, they had a chewy caramel flavour to them and quite frankly, they didn't last very long at all.

I wonder why it is totally impossible to just eat one cookie :-)

15 January 2014

Beware ...... Computer Scam Doing The Rounds.

I don't know about you but lately, the amount of spam phone calls I have been getting on my home number, despite being signed up for the BT no marketing calls scheme, has been increasing rapidly and now, I'm getting about 6 or 7 calls a day, sometimes more, of PPI calls or debt consolidation calls or marketing calls and frankly I'm getting very sick of it. Yesterday, I was happily crafting away making cards for my stall when my land line rang. Usually, I check the caller ID and if it's unavailable or blocked I don't answer it figuring that it's another spam call and that if it is someone genuine, they will leave a message and I can call them back. Yesterday, however, I grabbed the phone before checking the number to be confronted by yet another spam call. This one, however was not just a spam call it was also a SCAM call. 

The man on the other end of the phone told me that he was from the technical department of "World Wide Web" and proceeded to tell me that my computer had been sending out error messages regarding my windows application and if I would just open my computer he could send me the report and fix the problem for me. Now, by nature I am a very wary person and I knew that this was a load of rubbish. I know there is nothing wrong with my computer and I told him so. He then told me that I wouldn't know if there was something wrong because the error message was to do with the part of the computer that would tell me if there was something wrong. When I refused to even open my computer, telling him that I had no idea who he was and that he could be anybody, the man became more and more aggressive until I eventually put the phone down. What happened next astounded me. Usually, when you hang up on a call like that it's the end of the conversation but this man was so desperate to get into my computer he actually rang me back! He said that we appeared to have been cut off and continued to hassle me for another 15 minutes trying to get me to open my laptop. I asked him for a phone number, which he eventually gave to me and when I told him |I was going to call the number and check he put the phone down. 

The point of him doing all this was to gain remote access to my computer. When they gain access, they then proceed to lock you out of your computer and ask for money to "fix" the problem. So ..... if you get a call like this 


Hang up and don't answer if they try and phone you back. As far as I know, you have to type in a code on your computer to let them have access so whatever you do don't.

If you do find yourself in the position of having fallen for a scam like this 


My nephew works for a computer company and after I posted a bit of a rant on a popular networking site, he replied with the following. 

Getting several computers in a week at work with this, just to add to the information you've provided, just in case anyone has allowed these people to take remote access of their pc the "errors" that they will show you are in the event viewer, a built in log that windows uses to record any issues with programs/hardware most of which are nothing to worry about because the computer will have resolved these issues by itself by either restarting a program or service. If you find yourself in the very unfortunate position of having been locked out of your pc by these con artists it is nothing to worry about as all they have done is activated a security feature on your pc called Syskey, something that is very easily rectifiable just do not under any circumstances pay these people for your "ransomed" pc take it to the nearest pc repair specialist.

He then went on to add....

you will never, ever, ever be contacted by any organization such as Microsoft or any large I.T corporation with information regarding your personal PC

I actually reported the incident to Action Fraud (you can click to see the link to their website). Usually I wouldn't do this but the fact that the man was so pushy and even called me back got me slightly concerned. They were very helpful and took a report and gave me a reference number. 

Anyway, I wanted to just let people out there in Blogland know that these scammers are doing the rounds. Apparently this has been going on for a couple of years now but lately, it seems to be getting more widespread and they seem to be getting more and more aggressive so ....... take care people. 

14 January 2014

Yummy Beef Pie

On Sunday, for lunch, I slow cooked a piece of brisket that was on special offer at the local supermarket. It was in the oven for ages in a red wine gravy with some carrots and a couple of parsnips and it emerged from the oven beautifully tender and was absolutely delicious with roast spuds, parsnips and loads of fresh veg, but, as usual I cooked for an army and there was loads and loads left. Yesterday, rather than divide the leftovers between the dogs, and in the  recently revived spirit of thrifty living, I scooped it into my trusty earthenware pie dish ........ 20p from a car boot sale a couple of years ago ....... along with the leftover stuffing, roast potatoes and parsnips and made a shortcrust pastry top to turn it into a pie. It was extremely yummy. I know that I should try to be health conscious and curb my enthusiasm for hearty pies and warming stews but quite frankly, the weather is so depressing at the moment that I just don't seem to be able to help it. Add to that some apple crumble with a big dollop of thick Jersey cream for desert and I'm a very happy bunny.

In the afternoon, I set about making some cards for the market. I realised last week that I'm very low on stock and of course, I can't make any money if I have nothing to sell. So I switched on the TV ...... I like to have something in the background that I can listen to ...... and I set to work. I love making cards. It's actually my favourite crafty thing to to do because I find it very relaxing. Kind of like when you were a child and made collages out of pasta and seashells. In fact I actually used to use seashells and sea glass, that I had collected from the beach, on some of the cards I used to make many, many years ago. Come to think of it, I can't believe I have been making cards and doing crafty stuff for such a long time. I used to have a stall at Tavistock pannier market about 17ish years ago! I even had a website! Back then though, the market stall was only once a month and it was really more of a hobby. Now I do three days a week at the market at Trerulefoot here in Cornwall and I am trying to build up my hobby into more of a little cottage industry. I'm thinking though that when, and if, spring ever arrives, I might have to take a trip to the beach and find some little shells and some lovely sea glass and once again incorporate them into my cards. 

13 January 2014

Thrifty Living ...... Getting Back On Track

As most of you know, I don't like to waste things. Not food or fabric or bits of paper or ribbon, not a thing do I chuck away if I think I might have a use for it. Lately however, complacency has been creeping in and I am ashamed to say that I have, on more than one occasion thrown food away that I have let go too out of date for me to eat. Now I'm generally of the mind that if it looks ok and smells ok and has no obviously mouldy or icky bits then it's probably ok to eat. When I did my food hygiene course a few months ago, the man teaching the course almost had a fit when I happened to mention this and almost failed me on the spot. I hastened to add that anything I prepare for the market is made from completely fresh ingredients and following the hygiene course standards to the letter but, in my everyday cooking and eating, I am a little more relaxed about things like best before dates and such like. 

Yesterday, the weather was once again very grim. Grey and drizzly and not fit for anything other than snuggling up on the sofa so, as the previous week had been hectic I decided it was high time that I caught up on my blog reading. I follow loads of blogs and I love reading about how creative people are when making things last or cooking deliciously mouthwatering meals from hardly anything at all for a few pennies and so, with a new sense of purpose, I leaped off the sofa, grabbed the three bags of tomatoes that had been given to me by a market friend at the end of trading last week because they were too squishy to sell and it set about making some tomato sauce. A little olive oil, a knob of butter, four garlic cloves, some sea salt and an hour in a low oven while I was slow-roasting some beef and I was left with some delicious tomato sauce to pour over pasta or even blitz into some warming soup to eat with some homemade bread.

Yesterday, I also emptied out my penny jar. I have gotten into the habit of putting almost all the 1p and 2p coins that I take at the market into the jar at the end of the week so it stops my cash box from filling up with coppers because I don't tend to use them. The jar wasn't full but it was getting heavy and even though I haven't been collecting them for very long, I was quite curious to see how much was in it. So, I nipped along to my local Morrisons store, which has one of those coin counting machines and after I had removed the screws, curtain hooks and the odd dog biscuit that had gotten mixed in with the coins ........ who knows how on earth that got in there ....... I dumped the whole lot into the machine and waited for it to count them. There was a grand total of £13.87 before the counting fee was taken off which considering there was hardly any high value coins in the jar, was pretty good. I now have a massive total of 6p in my penny jar and the Terramundi pot that I got as a Christmas present has the £1 and £2 coins in it that I'm saving and any bank notes I can spare to put towards my greenhouse fund. 

And finally for today, my next project ..... find some more egg recipes! My two hens, Pepper Potts and Amelia Pond are still happily laying me two eggs a day and consequently I have a fridge full of fabulous eggs but to be honest, I'm getting a bit swamped. I have never known such prolific chickens my friends and neighbours who keep chickens are all bemoaning the fact that they are hardly getting any eggs at all and yet my two are still laying like crazy. I'm thinking that I might actually have a go at making some meringues. Does anyone know if you can freeze meringues? That might solve the problem temporarily, along with a few quiches to freeze. Also, I have heard that it's actually possible to freeze eggs. Apparently, if you crack the eggs into a bag or a tub and write on how many are in there you can pop them into the freezer and use them for making scrambled eggs or cakes, things where the eggs are mixed or whisked. Has anyone else heard of this and has anyone actually tried freezing eggs? I would be very interested to hear from anyone who has and would love to know how they turned out. 

12 January 2014

More Bad Weather and a Trip to Sheffield

Well, at the start of last week, the weather was still battering us unmercifully here in deepest darkest Cornwall. The wind and the rain were pretty much non-stop and have been for the last couple of weeks and quite frankly, I'm getting a bit fed up of being wet and windswept, not to mention being in a constant fret about the house and the animals and reluctantly, on Tuesday of last week, I made a mad dash to Sheffield. Not that I don't love going home to Sheffield to see my mum and my eldest daughter and her husband but I do get kind of nervous leaving my youngest daughter to deal with all the potential problems that the weather could bring. Not that she's a child, she's almost 21 but I guess I always assume that no one can do things the way that I do them. The problem was my car. The exhaust fell off about 3 weeks ago and the tax expired and basically, it is no longer fit to drive. It would most certainly not get through an MOT without massive amounts of cash being spent on it and quite frankly ....... it's a horrible car! It was always meant to be a stop-gap car, bought when my lovely old Pajero blew it's head gasket and I couldn't afford to get it fixed but the time had come for me to sort out something different. Before my dad sadly passed away in September last year, he told me that he wanted me to have his car so on Tuesday, I hopped on a train and went to pick it up.

The countryside was in a sorry state. Flooded fields everywhere, massively high tides as we trundled past Dawlish and the only things that seemed to be enjoying the weather were the hundreds and hundreds of birds that were splashing about in the flooded fields. I have never seen so many birds! Swans, Canada Geese, little black and white sea bird that I have no idea what they were, all having a whale of a time in the newly created lakes.

On Wednesday, I made the 357 mile drive back from Sheffield to Cornwall so I could be back in time for the market in Thursday. It's a real shame that I couldn't stay a few extra days but I'm hoping to go back up there for a few days in a month or so. It's lovely to see my mum and my daughter and there are loads of lovely shops ..... not that I actually go shopping a lot but there are lots of lovely vintage shops and junk shops for me to spend hour rummaging through ....... bliss :-)

Today is a miserable Sunday. It's cold and grey and is definitely a day for sitting in front of the fire flicking through seed catalogues and planning what I am going to do with my garden this year now that the Nasty Neighbours have gone. As I mentioned in my last post, I have started a greenhouse fund. I have found a cute little wooden greenhouse in Argos and I am hoping to have saved enough to buy it by the end of March. I intend to paint it. Not pink, as everyone who knows me assumes it will be, but maybe pale green or a lovely duck-egg blue. I haven't decided yet. This is the one that I'm hoping to get so watch this space :-)

1 January 2014

Happy New Year

Well it's 2014. I have no idea where 2013 went, it just flew by so fast. It was a mixed year. Some good but a lot of sadness and bad times for my family and I'm hoping that this year is going to be a happier one for all of us. I have a big long list of things I want to accomplish this year, not so much resolutions but positive steps to getting my life finally sorted out. I want to develop my market stall and increase my product range so I can make it more profitable and I am absolutely determined, no matter what, to get my garden sorted out. Last year, because my horrible neighbours made my life miserable and made going out in my garden practically impossible, the garden suffered. It looked like a jungle and I hardly grew any fruit or veg at all. This year, all that is going to change. The neighbours are gone, I have started a list of things to sort and I will be working through them one by one as the weather gets better and I have started saving for a greenhouse. My daughter Megan gave me a Terramundi jar for Christmas and the greenhouse fund now has begun. I have picked out the greenhouse that I would like and I can't wait. In my greenhouse I intend to grow lots of tomatoes and cucumbers and things but I also intend to grow lots and lots of basil. I want to start making pesto to sell at the market. I'm so glad that I did the food hygiene course last year, even though, at the time, it was something I would have preferred not to do. It has allowed me to begin selling things I bake at the market. 

I have gradually been doing more cooking and baking, not particularly for the market but really just to get back into the swing of things because, lately, I have found myself falling into the convenience food trap. Not really something that I generally like to do but, when I was feeling fed up and miserable, cooking a meal was the last thing I wanted to do and it was much simpler to nip along to the local supermarket and buy something to simply bung in the oven or microwave! This will now have to stop. Not only are these meals filled with calories and additives but they are expensive too and this year is all about getting things sorted financially before hitting the big 50 next year!

Sausage and Cheese Pinwheels - with some of my gorgeous Christmas pressies from my lovely daughters, a beautiful heart-shaped plate, a gorgeous flour dredger and a fabulous pinnie ..... I'm so lucky.

The weather here in Cornwall is awful. It's been awful for days now. It's wet and windy and has forced me into hibernation mode and in between dashing out to sort out the animals, I seem to spend a lot of my time watching cookery programs and house renovation programs and dreaming of warm weather, strawberries and walks on the beach. At the market, we were extremely lucky not to lose the marquee just before Christmas when a tree was blown down right next to where we are. It missed the marquee by about a centimetre and then a couple of days later, a huge pine tree was blown down blocking part of the road. Luckily there were no cars driving past when it fell or it could have been a real tragedy.

Tree number one which missed the marquee by millimetres. Festively adorned with tinsel in the true Christmas spirit :-)

Tree number two which fell down blocking part of the road.

Well, it's now lunchtime on New Years Day and it's already been an eventful day. This morning, about 9am, I went out and checked the llamas and lugged another bale of hay through to them for their breakfast. At 9.30am I checked them again because the weather has been just awful and once again they were fine, happily munching away and then at 10ish, I nipped out again and found this ........

Within the space of about 30 minutes, one half of my field is flooded. In the 10 years I have lived here this is only the second time this has ever happened. The llamas were fine, there is always part of that half of the field that is safe from the water because it's a lot higher than the rest of the field and so a bucket of food each and move to the other paddock and they were once again munching away happily. I, however, was wet, cold and muddy and still in my PJ's with my waterproof coat over the top :-) 

Ah well, another year another crisis ...... not much changes. 

Mad woman in muddy pyjamas rescuing llamas ..... I feel like Mrs Noah ...... maybe I should build an ark.