Friday, 15 February 2013

Of homemade things...or How to sweeten your weekend

Oh, I love homemade things!  Yesterday, I attempted making butter for the first time after reading Rhonda's post at Down to Earth a few days ago.  I had some thick double cream left over and with a bit of elbow grease (due to lack of food processor), I turned it into butter.  Wow!  I am really pleased with the result and shall be making my own butter from now on - it actually turns out that even buying organic cream still makes the butter cheaper than the cheapest "value" brand stuff in the supermarket.  Plus, I end up with bonus buttermilk to use in making soda bread (if you missed the recipe for the soda bread, please click here). Thank you Rhonda for the fabulous instructions!

Little wells in icing sugar...

I have also discovered the joy of making your own lozenges or throat sweets.  It should come with a health warning - truly addictive.  I have now made three different ones (told you it was addictive): honey/lemon/ginger, peppermint tea and also rosehip ones.  The best thing?  Apart from maybe a thermometer you don't need any special equipment.  For the mold, simply use a plate of icing sugar or corn flour and any rounded object to make little wells into the powder (a bit obscure but I used the rounded end of our coffee scoop).  The liquid sugar mix (careful: very hot!) is then poured into the mold and left to cool and the powder also helps to stop the sweets from sticking to each other.  How amazing is that?  I found the instructions online when I was browsing and came across the recipe and instructions at a website called Instructables (you can find the instructions here).

...filled with hot sugar mix
...end up being sweets
So, I hope you will have fun over the weekend and maybe even some time to try making these.  Whatever you do, have a fabulous time!

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Fish Fight...

Did you know that half the fish caught in the North Sea is thrown back dead?  That's over 1.7 million tons of fish per year - discarded!  Strict fishing quotas, consumer choices,...the list of reasons is long. When you have a moment and want to find out a little more, please have a look at Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's Fish Fight campaign - Hugh is of River Cottage fame and an avid campaigner on the subject.  What an eye-opener!

Fish gratin...
I love eating fish but now that I am more aware of what is going on, I am trying to make more ethical choices.  I guess the more consumers are happy to try other types of fish, the more these will become available.  And it's not about never eating cod, tuna or salmon again - that would just create another problem - for me, it's about variety and about us, the consumer, influencing legislation so that it makes sense, for us and the environment.

And because fish is a fabulous food I can't not give you this quick & simple recipe to try: fish gratin.  The recipe originally asked for smoked haddock but why not try another type of white fish such as coley?  Or use a mixture of fish, giving some new varieties a chance together with some old favourites?  Here, the fish is placed on a bed of spinach but as I didn't have enough, I also used some finely sliced gem worked a treat!  I have never cooked lettuce before but it certainly wasn't the last time.  I have also amended the amount of cream and cheese used as there was no way I would have been able to taste the fish - the star of the show - under all that fat.

I hope you'll enjoy this one!

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Don't need much thyme for this...

It feels as if it hasn't really got light here the last few days.  It's making me rather lethargic and slow - I am hoping that my morning coffee will be giving me a bit of a lift.  If I didn't know better, I'd say it is November.  So, maybe this cheery little number will bring a bit of colour into the day...? 

The last couple of posts have included more time-consuming recipes, so I thought a quick & easy one is needed today.  After all, it is the middle of the working week and a straightforward meal is probably what most people are after.  So, how about thyme chicken? 

This dish is one that always comes out slightly differently and depends very much on what I have to hand.  Mr Happy Larder made this for me when we first met - definitely a keeper (both the man & the recipe ;-)).  We usually have this on rice as in the picture but it's also ideal as a filling for a pie.  And you can turn the dish vegetarian by replacing the chicken with mushrooms.  It's tasty, it's filling and it's quick - marvelous!

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Over the Rainbow...

We'd been invited to visit my brother and his family near London at the weekend and with my niece having just had her 13th birthday, I decided to bake her a cake: a rainbow cake.

Rainbow Layer Cake...

Now, I don't know about you but I have a bit of a soft spot for rainbows and was eager to make one of these cakes.  I've seen pictures on the internet but had never eaten or tried making one until now.  Yes, it was a little time consuming but difficult it really wasn't.  The whole cake simply consists of several layers of sponge cake, sandwiched together with icing (or butter cream or jam).  I didn't really follow one particular recipe - more a mixture of different ones but the cake came out well and was very tasty.  And my niece loved it which was the main thing!

For a special occasion, this really is a lovely surprise cake and well worth the effort! And the great thing is that you can make the layers in advance when you have time and just stick them in the freezer until you are ready to assemble the cake.

Monday, 11 February 2013

Pasta perfect...

We were away for the weekend, visiting family - it was lovely to spend time together and very relaxing.  I had made my niece a birthday cake which will feature in one of my next posts but for today I'll write about something my previous posts already touched on: Valentine's Day!

I know people who love it, I know plenty of people who hate it...I guess I am somewhere in the middle.  It's lovely to do something nice and thoughtful for someone but being bombarded with lots of overpriced, fixed menus in restaurants is not my idea of fun or romance.  Maybe making something from scratch is a great way of showing someone you care - not everyone will have the time or inclination for this on 14th February but maybe another day...?

Homemade ravioli...
When this photo was taken a couple of weeks ago, I had never made my own pasta before.  But - in my ever persistent quest to find recipes for this blog - I simply had to give it a go.  I should mention that Mr Happy Larder makes fabulous pasta and his homemade lasagne is to die for (I will sneak a picture & the recipe in when he's not looking ;-)).

So I made ravioli and whilst this recipe does not fall into the category "quick", it still ticks all the boxes for "much easier than I thought it would be".  Plus: you don't need any expensive equipment for this either - just a rolling pin (and if you don't have one of those, then a large empty bottle will also do the trick).  So, here it goes: homemade ravioli with a mushroom filling...and there is a delicious sauce for which you will also find the recipe below.  Enjoy!