Thursday, 31 December 2015

New TV for early 2016

First of all, welcome to Ariel El Vikingo dark via here. I think the other 'new' follower is probably  one of my lost ones being added back in!

All the decorations are down and put away. I have been busy going through the Radio Times (up in price again to £2.30). For us, there are some great programmes starting in January:

Sunday: War & Peace, Beowulf - Return to the Shieldlands, Endeavour and Deutschland 93.

Monday: In the afternoon new Father Brown, Great British Railway Journeys and Silent Witness.

Tuesday: some of the above plus Victorian Bakers which we may watch the first one then see how it goes.

Wednesday: Trust me, I'm a doctor, Midsomer Murders and I think, the final part of 24 hours in A & E.

Thursday: Death in Paradise and Jericho.

Friday: On More 4, a new subtitled French series entitled Spin. We like More 4 because it brings us quite a few foreign series, which so far, have been excellent!

We have recorded the first few installments of Series 9 of The Big Bang Theory and won't start watching it until we have all of them. Drives our friend T. mad as she watches them as they are shown and finds it hard not to discuss it:)

All in all, a good start to the New Year.

On that note, I hope you and yours have a good, busy or quiet time tonight. We usually watch films then Jools Holland as we are on our own.

May 2016 bless you with some of your hopes, give you the strength to face your fears and may it bring you a happy, healthy and wise 2016. See you next week!

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Changing weather!

I have looked at the weather forecast for the next week or so. Tomorrow, we see a big change from mild to cold. Daytime dropping from 12C to 7C and nights from 8-10C, down to 1-2C. I think we will notice the difference!

DB chopped some logs into big kindling as some of the new logs are a bit hard to keep going. We thought we would have some thinner ones as in between sizes. No doubt we will need the burner on by then.

A large pan of soup was made Monday which has kept us going, the last batch will be today. We had a Turkey crown for when the visitors were here but only ate some on Christmas day. The rest was picked, cut into chunks, open frozen overnight, then bagged. Can't say it had much taste and as it isn't our favourite meat, doubt we shall choose it again.

I only have a few meals left in the freezer so we shall eat those before making small fresh meals to use up Christmas food. If I don't need to do a normal food shop until 7th January, that should help towards getting back to normal from a money point of view.

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

For Christmas ....

I got quite a few things off my list, even if that list took an age to create as there is very little that I need or want:
There were a few surprises so that was nice. Our annual £2 coin save bought all the presents for others. We saved and bought ourselves a PS4 and just a couple of little things to open on the day.I haven't shown our Christmas eve presents that we do each year but all items will certainly come in handy!

Presents are also received from DDiL's parents (the funky vegetable kit and edible flower kit plus jars of pickles). Ones from us have gone down with them for their New Year break.

We spent a total of £64 for Christmas/New Year food and drinks, and £30 for all GF products and trials, split over two months. We have enough left over to last us for several meals. We have been shopping today for essentials, but I still hope our total food/toiletry bill from 24th December to 23rd January will be normal. We shall see.

The heating whilst on for 45 minutes every morning, was only put on once or twice. Hot water a few more times so our water usage and electricity will be up, but should now be back to near normal for this time of year. As well as being relatively mild weather wise, two extra people and 3 dogs certainly pump out extra heat.

We seemed to all be constantly putting on or removing jumpers!

Monday, 28 December 2015

I'm Back!

Our family guests left yesterday and the house is back to normal from a space point of view, but we miss them already!

Two of many loads of washing are on the line. I doubt they will fully dry but even if half dry, will save on the tumble drying and can be finished off indoors if necessary.

I think we only lit the wood burner once or twice. The room got too hot very quickly so after a log or two, it was allowed to burn out. Extra people and animals certainly make the place warmer.

We have slept like logs, something to do with daily long walks and plenty of beach air. My camera died on the visit to Old Hunstanton, so I only got these two:

Although the sea was relatively calm, it was blowing a gale along the beach. After a quick swim and frolic for the dogs, we headed inland to get out of the wind.

A few days later, saw us (and huge crowds/dogs) at Wells next the Sea:

Once home, the dogs were pooped:

You are always warned about Springers and Labradors being boisterious but these three bound in first thing after their toilet break, greet you like long lost friends (re-connecting with the pack I guess), then go to sleep. They stay like that until a walk is mentioned, when their energy levels switch fully on,once off their leads.

However, back home, they have a quick drink of water then go back to sleep! Master L is the youngest so is awake a little more wanting a quick play before succumbing to sleep.

Mind you, they are exceedingly well trained and I guess that makes all the difference.

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Christmas Cake finished...

On the non GF front, I finally finished the Christmas cake. It is a Dundee version, fed every weekend with whiskey and now, topped off with marzipan. I am not too keen on icing so it hasn't got any:

I used a mini kitchen blow torch to brown the marzipan shapes.

The final bread making for Christmas has taken place, one GF Oat bread (recipe under bread on my Gluten Free tab above) and one normal brown loaf. I am hoping the normal one (on the right) is okay as I only wanted to bake one loaf, so the recipe should have been halved.

However, half way through, I forgot I was halving it and added the last 2 dry ingredients in full. Took a while to divide up the mistaken piles and remove half, whether I got half out or not remains to be seen:

It had risen higher than it looks but as it was in danger of climbing over the edges of the pan, I slashed it several times and it slightly deflated.

Isn't it amazing to see a GF loaf (on the left), the same height as a normal one:)

This will be my last post until after Christmas as my visitors have already arrived. Have a good Christmas everyone.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Cheese Scones - Gluten Free

We love cheese scones and I hadn't yet attempted any with GF flour exchanged for my normal flour to see if they would work. Luckily, I have now found this wonderful site here
which is a UK blog. We used her recipe to make these, which can be found here.

I didn't have any sour cream so used creme fraiche and added 1/2 tsp lemon juice to the liquid element - seemed to work but they may have risen further with the sour cream.

Herewith the pictures:

From the top and side to show their look and height before baking:

From the top and side again after baking:

They expanded sideways and a little in height, although you wouldn't think so from these pictures. Anyway, we cut one in half within a few minutes of being out the oven to check its texture:
As you can see, nice, light and fluffy, about as close to normal as you can get. They taste about the same as normal ones (we ate the bottom bit first to check) and as per usual, the top cheesy bit was better still.

The next day, in the same way that normal scones dry out, they were slightly dry but a quick microwave re-steamed them. The final few were eaten the day after, again, microwaved, just as good as the first so.

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Sausage Rolls

First of all, congratulations to Andy Murray for winning Sports Personality of the year 2015 and to Team GB for the Team award for their sterling work in winning the Davis Cup final.

I have just updated my menu for last week. I shall be finishing doing it after the next one but will leave it up to read. Also, welcome to jangray via Bloglovin.

I baked some normal sausage rolls using bought in puff pastry:
They are now in the freezer. A small batch of GF pastry was also made to trial a GF version:
Before the others were frozen, I cut one of each in half (GF on the bottom) and got DB to blind taste:
He couldn't really tell the difference so that is good. I made a batch of just GF ones over the weekend (also using GF sausages):


And then they were gone - followers that is!

Friday evening 242, Saturday morning 239, how odd. One hour later, down to 235, two hours later down to 230, odder still. Must be writing boring stuff, not following them, or Google is having a glitch! I admit I don't follow everyone who follows me and that is often enough to lose a few, especially if they come and go in a few days!

It is not about the numbers though, follow me or not, entirely up to you. I write this blog for family, if you wish to read, you are most welcome. If not, that is also up to you:)

Friday, 18 December 2015

Eating Out

Our old school annual get together was last night. E. picked us up and off we went to a relatively local eatery. E. & DB had beef strips in gravy, mash, and vegetables (all the vegetables DB doesn't eat so we shared them and he got our carrots). T. and myself had turkey dinner. To say it was huge was an understantement.

We had purposely paid for 2 rather than 3 courses and chosen small puddings. I ended up leaving the biggest Yorkshire pudding I have ever seen, 3 out of the 5 roast potatoes and a large stuffing ball. There were loads of vegetables plus a bacon wrapped sausage, stuffing and 3 large slices of turkey. E.  ate my sausage.

E.  and I had panacotta for pudding, DB and T. had a mini Christmas pudding, about 1" high.

We had to have a 6pm for 6:30pm start as there was a large party in for the next slot. As it happened, they all arrived not long after us. Gee they were so noisy we had to shout at each other to make ourselves heard. The manager came and apologised as they had phoned shortly before to say they wouldn't be ready until 8pm. Obviously, word did not get around.

We came back to ours about 9pm - to blissful silence, for a cup of tea and a biscuit.

This morning, my throat is sore from 2 hours of shouting. Isn't it amazing how we used to be used to going out, now, in general, we find it horrible!

We aren't putting our decorations up until this weekend. I still have a few things to bake and make, so have started what I hope will be a final list to take us up to Tuesday when our guests arrive. Can't wait:)

Have a lovely weekend everyone - onwards and upwards!

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Gluten Free Bread - success at last

Over the past few weeks, we have made and eaten several GF breads with mixed results!

We tried one oat bread version from The Gluten Free Alchemist but didn't have one key ingredient. It wasn't too bad but may have been better with it.

However, we found her original trial bread and made that instead - the recipe is here.
The only difference from this and other breads we have tried, is that it used instant yeast, the kind that stirs into the flour rather than water. Up she rose, not only during proving (very quickly in about one hour), but also in the final bake:

It was practically the same size as my normal bread, also gave us 17 slices, which for a GF bread, is very good!

The texture is springy and just slightly moist without being sticky. It tastes lovely, both as sandwiches and as toast, doesn't fall apart when you use it and was still the same the next day!

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Ice Cream for Christmas!

Presents are all bought, as is the drink and extra food items. GF baking is almost but not quite finished - still got to tackle normal and GF pork pies!

We have so much fruit in the freezer, some from 2014, so decided to thaw some blackberries. They were cooked, pureed, sweetened until just the pleasant side of tart, then strained and pushed through a sieve to remove the pips - I hate pips in ice cream. We wanted 5 fl. oz for this particular ice cream, which was what we ended up with, so that was lucky!

We made our chosen ice cream base, have several that we use - stirred in the puree and froze:
If you make a custard or yoghurt base, you probably need an ice cream maker, which we have. If you don't have one, you could try recipe that we sometime use. It is a no churn Mary Berry recipe from here.

We also made a different one, with Bailey's, but it is not quite so light in texture and some of the Bailey's has sunk to the bottom - which will be a nice surprise when we get down to it. The picture below looks different because we investigated it:

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Nigella's Buckwheat Triple Chocolate Cookies

Welcome to Frugal Fingers via here.

I watched the hour long Nigella Christmas special last night and found two recipes that I quite liked and have bookmarked for future use.

The first was for triple chocolate buckwheat cookies. As the only flour in them is buckwheat, this recipe is ideal for gluten free baking. You can find the recipe here

The other thing she 'cooked', was a potato and pepper base - using a jar of cool bell peppers in oil as the dressing for potatoes, see here.

Nowadays, I find it quite rare to watch any cookery programme and feel the need to make any of the dishes, but both of these caught my attention, so I think I shall have a go sometime, at them both.

Monday, 14 December 2015

Clementine Steamed Puddings

I adapted the whole orange cake from Rhonda's blog here. One of the things I like about her version (which is itself adapted), is you don't have the faff of boiling an orange for 2 hours!

Individual Clementine Steamed Puddings

2 clementines
3 eggs
180g melted butter, cooled but not set
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup ground almonds
1 cup Gluten Free flour plus 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder (if not Gluten Free, simply use the same amount of plain flour)

Cut the clementines in half, then chunks, remove pips and put into a food blender.

Blend the clementines, several times, scraping down the bowl at intervals, until it is a thick puree.

In a mixing bowl, fully mix the flour, sugar, ground almonds and baking powder. Add the 3 beaten eggs, melted butter and clementine puree.

Stir very well to fully incorporate the flour mixture.

Lightly grease and base line 6 or 8 mini pudding tins:
This recipe should give you enough for 8 puddings but I made 6 and then 5 small cup cakes!

Fill each tin 2/3's full:
Use the rest of the mixture to make some small cakes. If making 8 puddings, simply divide the mixture between the tins, preferably only 3/4 full.

Cover with greaseproof paper and foil lids:

Put into a steamer and steam for 1 hour. They should be ready but check one. If it bounces back up when lightly pressed, it is ready.

Remove from steamer, remove foil and paper lids, gently run a knife around the tin, remove pudding, remove paper base, leave to cool:

Once fully cool, wrap in clingfilm, put into a container and freeze if not using immediately.

Lovely colour aren't they. They tasted absolutely lovely.

To serve, remove from freezer and allow to thaw. Unwrap and put on a plate, then microwave between 30 seconds and 1 minute. Serve with whatever you fancy.

Sunday, 13 December 2015


Just to let you know that the last fortnight of our meals has been added un the menu tab, as has the final month of Year V in the War Diary.  Hope you enjoy!

Friday, 11 December 2015

Leek & Potato Soup - adapted to Gluten Free

This is one of our favourite soups but it has normal flour as well as pearl barley in it. Our Christmas guest, who is gluten free, also likes this type of soup. With just a couple of alterations, it is now gluten free!

In a large pan, warm 2 tablespoons of oil, and gently fry, 1 diced onion until soft.
Add 6 rashers of diced, streaky bacon and continue to cook until just turning golden but not brown.
Add 1.4 litres of chicken or vegetable stock (2-3 cubes) and 3oz of risotto rice. Stir well.
Bring to the boil then simmer for 10 minutes. Stir well. Cook for another 10 minutes.

Add 12oz diced potatoes, bring back to the boil then simmer for 20 minutes.
Add 3 finely sliced leeks and continue to simmer for another 15 minutes.
Add 1/4 pint of milk, heat through.
Check for seasoning and add salt and pepper if required.
If you have it, a teaspoon of chopped fresh tarragon or 1/2 teaspoon of dried, helps to add more flavour.
Thicken with cornflour, mixed with water to a slurry, to desired thickness.


Have a lovely weekend everyone.

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Final bits of foot stool

Herewith the final bits of covering the cushion of the foot stool - took ages to fathom out how to get these corners rather than an envelope style finish:
The base now had a piece of fleece blanket put on to cover up the bottom of the scrap wood:
We carefully positioned it into place and held it there with shelf brackets:
This is the top of the stool:
Finally, the whole thing:
It is just the right height, may well end up with a dip in the middle but it is my first (and probably only one), and I am very happy with it!

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Project finished...

Welcome to Sharon Deasy via Bloglovin.

I mentioned many weeks ago, that I was about to start a project. It has been getting put off in lieu of other things that needed doing. Frankly, it probably would still be on the go after the New Year, if I hadn't made myself finish it (with help from DB).

We had one of those small wooden stools, that has woven plastic string to form the seat. It wasn't in the best of condition, having been used for many indoor and outdoor jobs.

I asked DB to take the string off, and cut it down th just above the struts at the base of the legs. He gave it a coat of undercoat and created a top for it:
I then gave it several coats of paint, in a made up colour that would suit the front room:
We used various foam and other things from defunct outside seats and created a sandwich of them:
Put them on the top, before covering them with batting- the only thing we had to buy:
The material for the top, along with an under material were then added, and stapled into place:

More tomorrow!

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Our First GF Pie!

Welcome to Di via Bloglovin.

Having achieved a good result in the GF pastry making department (using just bought in GF flour), I thought I would try making us 2 small corned beef hash pies for tea. Here is the filling of boiled potatoes, corned beef and onion:
Without thinking, I only made the trial amount of pastry (4oz flour, 2oz fats) so there was not enough to give a full lid:
I had lightly greased 2 individual enamel tins with fat and dusted with the flour, it came out quite easily and more importantly, stayed standing. We had it with some beans:
I have been doing a lot of reading on-line regarding the various GF flours, what they are classed as, what they contain, how best to use them etc and I plan to make myself a little chart. The reason for this is a newly arrived order from a company called Real Foods here.
When we went over to King's Lynn, we popped into The Spice Market in Gaywood, on the outskirts of the town. Here I found other things I wanted at a very cheap price.
I had garnered information before ordering and chose from them, items I knew would not be available elsewhere.  Now I am set to experiment further:

We have almost finished the GF oat biscuits made the other day, even our walking buddy E. tried them and siad they were good. They did stay crisp as well but are now nearly gone:(

Monday, 7 December 2015

Getting to grips with inter-country weights and descriptions...

First of all, congratulations to Kyle Edmund, for winning the Tie Break Tens Title at the Albert Hall. Bet that feels good! Shame a lot of us couldn't get to watch any of it:(

One of the very good things about the internet, is the readily available recipes for us all to try out. I hadn't really paid much attention to inter-country measurements. I have a set of American measuring cups which are in constant use, scales that are Imperial, electronic scales which can be changed into metric.

What I don't seem to have, is patience with all the so called conversions, telling me various weights of individual ingredients, measured in a cup, that I can easily convert to what I need in either Imperial or grams.

Weights - yesterday, I tried and just about failed, to convert the weight of ground almonds in a cup to either Imperial or metric, so I could use them to replace the flour in the recipe! The weight of 1 cup of ground almonds , ranged from = 75g right up to 375g - say what!

In the end, I guessed. The normally thick batter mixture, resembled unwhisked double cream, the resulting cakes (decided not to make a whole cake but individual muffins), rose, then fell, then sunk in the middle. The first twelve tasted fine but you needed a spoon to scrape them from the paper muffin cases as opposed to being able to peel it away.

They were also completely the wrong texture. Enough of the mixture was left to make another 4 so I added a tablespoon of GF flour and a tiny pinch of Xanthum Gum, they rose, stayed put but the texture was different. Still tasted fine. You can see the difference below, the pale ones had the flour and gum added:

I'll tackle the recipe another day!

Descriptions - now there is a can of worms. Quite a few recipes that I am trying for GF bread, are American, and say to use corn flour. Being British and not really thinking about it, I used our Cornflour. As I eventually found out, they are not the same. Our cornflour is what they, for the most part, appear to call corn starch (pure white, silky in appearance and used as a thickener).

Finding out what corn flour was, opened up more investigation as some say it is finely ground maize flour, others say finely ground maize meal, some just say corn flour or something different. Anyhow, eventually I settled on finely ground corn meal:
 Natco Corn Meal Fine 1.5Kg 
White rice flour varies as well. A lot of recipes call for this, but there is also sweet white rice flour, so called because it is ground from the rice that is glutenous rice but actually has no gluten in it, and it isn't sweet. White rice flour, is ground from long grain rice and is not glutenous!  Are you still with me!

Finally, some recipes instruct you to weigh all flours used in GF cooking as substitutes for wheat flour. Turns out they are all different weights. Others just say, scoop up and shake level a cupful of this, or scoop and level with a knife. Yet finding a chart of what substitute flours weigh, there are huge differences between them.

Phew! I'm just tired reading that little lot, let alone tackling it to bake with!

Friday, 4 December 2015

Oat and cheese drop scones

I have been following Nigella's latest cooking programme with amused interest. Last week, she made some oat drop scones (which are classified as GF providing you can tolerate oats, some people can't) so I sought out the recipe on-line here

We originally tried out the recipe, using 1/2 oz less sugar, 1/2 the cinnamon just to see how they cooked and tasted - not too bad at all, although we had ours with maple syrup!

Today though, not having any bread available, I decided to try and make a savoury version of the recipe. 

Herewith the pictures:

3 1/2 oz oats:

Ground into a flour (or use oat flour)
Add 1/4 tsp sea salt, 15 grinds of black pepper, 1 teaspoon baking powder and 1/2 oz grated Parmesan or Grand Padano:
Add 3 1/2 fluid oz milk (any kind), and 1 beaten egg. Oops, nearly forgot the 1 oz of mature Cheddar cheese:
Mix well together. Oat flour keeps sucking up the moisture so I let it sit for a few minutes, added another tablespoon of milk, repeated this, until it felt a good dropping consistency.

A few drizzles of oil was put into a hot frying pan and 4 individual tablespoons of the oat mixture put in:
Waiting a couple of minutes or until tiny bubbles rise and the bottom of the scones are turning brown:
Flip over, keep warm inside a clean tea towel, lined with greaseproof until the final 4 scones are cooked. We had 4 each with a lovely bowl of vegetable and chickpea soup:
They tasted of cheese, not too much, just enough for the cheese to lend its flavour rather than overpower the drop scone.