Friday, 10 May 2013

Little treasures

Keith the dog has been keeping us up in the night - first he thought it was really important to bark at the scaffolding outside the 3:45am (!) and the following night he let us sleep in until 4:45am before alerting us the the "terrible threat" of a badger by the back door.  Several jugs of coffee later and I slowly resembled more than a mere shell of a person.  Bless him - he was only trying to be a good watchdog.  Needless to say that he went on to have a snooze, just like when he was a small puppy.

Despite the lack of sleep I am pleased to say that I have finally got the search function on the blog to work - now, the "Search for Inspiration" button on the right-hand side will make it so much easier to find dishes and good food ideas.

The recipe I tried out yesterday was one I found in a handwritten cookbook which must be a good few decades old.  What a treasure! This date & walnut loaf is so easy, you can make it in your sleep - which is probably just as well - see above :-).  The result is what I call an old-fashioned, simple cake/bread that isn't too sweet.

You could amend the recipe by adding raisins, other dried fruit or chocolate chips but I must say I like the original version and enjoyed a couple of slices for my breakfast.

Have a lovely weekend!

Thursday, 9 May 2013

The staff of life

A batch of muffins cooling down
Bread has to be one of the most satisfying things to make and eat.  In my view, there are not a lot of things that beat freshly baked bread with butter.  And there are just so many types to choose from!  When I first arrived in the UK, I came across some breads that I had never heard of before - one of these was the good old English muffin.  I thought it was a cake but little did I know - had Wikipedia existed then (gosh, I am showing my age) I would have found that "a muffin or English muffin is a small, round, flat (or thin) type of yeast-leavened bread which is commonly served split horizontally, toasted, and buttered.".

So, there you have it - little breads made for toasting. Topped with butter, cheese, poached eggs or even jam they are hard to resist. And if you are partial to a bacon sandwich, look no further - these make the best bacon butties ever!

I had never made these muffins before and was surprised to learn that they are actually baked in a pan on top of the stove.  The dough is a yeast one which needs to rise and the cooking/baking method is really quick and simple.  I took the recipe from the River Cottage Bread Handbook and was very pleased with the result.  The dough yielded 12 muffins rather than the 9 stated in the book but you won't see me complaining :-)  A batch has already gone into the freezer - each muffin cut in half, so that we can just toast them from frozen when we feel like having "fresh" muffins for breakfast.  And in the meantime, I have enjoyed one with cottage cheese and homemade strawberry jam.  These will definitely become a firm favourite in the Happy Larder household!

Wednesday, 8 May 2013


Every now and again I write about a recipe that Mr Happy Larder has introduced me to.  The following one he cooked for me the other day and I loved it - we had enjoyed so much lovely seafood in Savannah and had promised ourselves that we would make even better use of the fresh fish available to us here by the Welsh coast.  So, I thought it would be nice if in fact he told you himself about his creation:

A long time ago, I went to an Italian restaurant in west London somewhere and ordered Zuppe di Pesce Siciliana. It was a delicious combination of tomato, fish and scented Mediterranean herbs: a week in a hammock slung between cypress trees overlooking the beach, right there in a bowl. It was filling too – more of a thick stew than a soup. It didn't seem very complicated to make so I resolved to have a go at recreating it at home. 

(I think the story might have been a bit more involved than this, and may have involved trying to impress young ladies, but I can't remember the details and it's Kirsten's blog so I'd keep quiet even if I could. This was at least ten years before we met, you understand.)

There was one thing I wanted to change from the original: in the restaurant, by the time I'd finished shelling the mussels, beheading the prawns and de-suckering the octopus tentacles, the soup was barely lukewarm. Purists (and Sicilians) may well look down their noses at me, but my crustacean dissection skills were never going to wow the girls so I made it shell-less that time and always have since. That way, it's as easy to eat as it is to make, which is to say very easy indeed.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Spring cleaning...updated

Another beautiful Spring day today and we are - very appropriately - Spring cleaning.  There is lots of sorting out to be done as we'll have some building work done in the house soon and we might as well use this opportunity to rationalise what we have.  There are a few items that are perfectly good still but are no longer used by us such as our bread maker.  It's been gathering dust for a good couple of years because I switched to kneading and baking bread without the machine.  I am pleased to say it's going to find a new home this afternoon, thanks to the magic of the internet and Freecycle.  If you haven't heard of Freecycle before, it's basically a local website where people advertise stuff for free that they no longer have use for.  Great idea!  Someone is coming to collect the bread maker later on which means more room in our kitchen for us and a new toy for someone else to play with.

As we are busy, dinner will most likely be a basic and quick affair...something like sausages, baked potatoes and coleslaw.  I cook sausages in the oven on a wire rack above a lined tray - that way, any fat can just drain off.  There's also a lot less splatter than when doing them under the grill - 25 minutes in a medium hot oven and yummy sausages are cooked and ready :-) For the coleslaw I simply finely slice either red or white cabbage, grate some carrot and add a couple of teaspoons of mayonnaise as well as a good amount of salt and pepper.  Much nicer than shop-bought and a lot less fatty.  And finally, for the jacket potatoes, I always put a metal skewer through the potatoes as I find they cook faster that way with the metal transferring the heat through the potato.  A little trick Mr Happy Larder told me :-)  I'll add a food photo later...

So, dinner is we just have to sort through all those boxes of stuff...phew! is the dinner photo...

Monday, 6 May 2013

Monday surprise...

It's time to reveal the winner of the latest giveaway - the prize is a selection of beautiful Somerset Suds soaps made by my friend Sue. 
 Her soaps are just lovely and I have decided that this time, I'd like even more people to enjoy these, so...wait for this...we have THREE winners! 
Congratulations Kim, Jolouise and Aska Lodge - you will all get a set of soaps! 

Just bear with me whilst I order some more from Sue to send on to you - in the meantime, please email me your address (my email is on my profile page), so I can send your prize on its way to you as soon as possible.  Thank you so much for taking part and for reading my blog!


On of my favourite things to do at the weekend is to get The Guardian newspaper on a Saturday and - armed with a mug of coffee - sit on the sofa and read.  I always read it the same way:  first, the general news bit, then travel , followed by the family section (usually, there is something in that one that will make me shed a couple of tears like articles about bereavement, illness etc) and last but certainly not least the recipe section and magazine.  It's my little tradition and I always do it the same way.  Do you have a weekend tradition?

A couple of weeks ago I found a breakfast cake recipe in the newspaper that I had to give a go.  It looked delicious on paper but also healthy with oats and fresh raspberries  Perfect for sharing here on the blog or at least so I thought...the result was pretty terrible!  I double-checked I hadn't made any mistakes - no, it was just really really bland with a strange spongy texture.  Not pleasant at all and definitely not for sharing.  Luckily, I had made only half the amount - the only way to eat this "healthy" cake was to slather it in jam.  So, as you can see, things don't always go according to plan in the kitchen at The Happy Larder :-)  Saying that, we have had a beautiful fish dish made by Mr Happy Larder which he will write about in a guest post over the next couple of days and there will be lots more recipes to come...

Have a great start to your week!