Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Lamb Shanks

These were on offer this week in Lidl. Having never tried them, thought we would give them a go. Each box has one and they were £2.49:
Fresh from the box:
After 30 minutes in the oven:
We don't normally eat such large dinners but were using up leftovers of everything else. So then, what did we think?

Well from a meat point of view, good value for money and you could use the bone to make soup. The meat was tender but we both thought it and the gravy (mint) lacked flavour.

Would we use them again - no. Mainly from the lack of flavour point of view and obviously that is just us.

We both said we would rather buy the lamb, cook it ourselves and be able to make better, more flavoursome gravy ourselves.

Tuesday, 29 November 2016


You may remember me starting a blanket ready for use this winter. Well, it is nearly done. I was going to make it 8 x 8 squares but we now have two armchairs rather than a settee so decided to make it smaller, 6 x 8 squares.

Also, the chairs are in a new colour so I am in the process of adding that colour in wool to the blanket. The squares before the first top line of the new colour added:

A section with one line added - the other line going in the other direction will be done in the next few days. The new colour is also around the edge:

Monday, 28 November 2016

Grand Emptying of the Winter Box

Last year, at the beginning of December, I decided to begin a winter food box for 2016/2017. My plan was to add 1 item every week, preferably under £1 (the odd item over that amount has crept in but was balanced by other items for 19p etc).

This is what has ended up in said box:
Below is a screen shot so is a little blurred. The numbers on the left of each column, are the weekly dates. The items in red are extra, I obviously got a little over excited. The 7 extra items will begin my box for next winter, though not necessarily those in red:
It was as exciting to empty this box as any other Christmas present. All in all, apart from a little too much fruit, we both think it is well balanced. Herewith a picture of them all on my Welsh dresser, waiting to be put away:

I recently gave a large box of requested items to our local Food Bank. If you go on the Trussell web site here, and put in your post code, then work your way to your local bank and keep clicking, it informs you exactly what your bank needs for that week as sometimes, they get inundated with beans!

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Smoothies for breakfast - possible advertisement?

I have for the past week, been having a smoothie for breakfast simply because I was getting fed up with every breakfast being carbohydrate heavy, usually followed by some carbohydrate for lunch:( Thanks for the tip D.

Unfortunately, my blender/liquidizer was not the most powerful and kept leaving chunks of items behind, so we decided to invest in a Nu---bul--t. What a difference! We had a good read first on all the recommended blenders and decided this one was best despite it having one or two negative comments.

There is no way I am using the amount of fruit in the recipes as they would be too calorific. On average I use 1/2 to 1 piece of fruit/fruits, 1 to 2 pieces of dried fruit, seeds, a few nuts and milk. Linseed and Chia seed and occasionally oat bran are also added.

Although it is meant to be drunk out of the blender mug, sometimes I pour it into a bowl so I feel like I am actually eating breakfast. The texture of these trial blends are like yoghurt.

Today we went into town and bought clementines, a cucumber, tomatoes, some oranges, a melon, fresh ginger. Tomorrow during our weekly shop, we shall add spinach, fennel if possible, fresh turmeric and fresh mint. I have also tried 1/2 a yellow pepper with banana, odd but fine in taste. We have carrots and beetroot in the garden so shall start adding a little more vegetables into the mix but not use milk when we do so. Neither of us fancies too much greenery in the blend, certainly not DB so that side of things will be an experiment.

For lunch we whizzed up some butter bean hummous although didn't want to add too much liquid to this so pulsed it instead, removed the lid occasionally, scraped down the sides and pulsed again - very nice.

Watch this space!

Friday, 25 November 2016

Double Chocolate Clementine steamed puddings

The other day, in my desire to get a few more steamed mini puddings in the freezer for the winter and Christmas celebrations, I followed this recipe and added a few extra items.

3 level tablespoons of cocoa powder and 1/2 a packet of chocolate nibs. Other than that the recipe was the same as was the steaming time. I used my new blender to whizz up the two lightly diced clementines with the 3 eggs - easy peasy.

Ready for steaming - greased and base lined tins:
Cooling after being steamed ready to turn out as soon as they pull away from the sides:

Turned out of the little pudding basins:

We had one each with some custard after a light tea. The rest, once cold, were wrapped in pairs in cling film and frozen.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Chocolate Mocha Roulade GF

The Glutenfree Alchemist - aka Kate - posted the recipe for this here.

It looked so good I just had to try it. I didn't buy enough mascapone (250g instead of 300g) so used what I had and used 50g less icing sugar, there was plenty. I normally hate making rolled bakes of any kind as they can be difficult and very nearly didn't even try but I did and herewith some photographs. Ready for the oven:
The method calls for baking at 180C for 15 minutes but mine was ready after 10! Turned out onto parchment paper covered in cocoa and icing sugar:
Carefully rolled up and pegged into place before leaving to go cold. It also looked similar to this once the mascapone layer had been added and it was put into the fridge to firm up:
Just removed from the fridge - look at that roll:
A portion of mascapone and cream flowers added. I can't ice to save myself so just did a couple of rows then tipped the rest into a bowl for another day. A few chocolate drops added to the centre of each 'flower':

The flavour is intense, very strong in the coffee department. I think this would be great for Christmas but I would have to make a simple vanilla or just a chocolate one for my guests as they are not too keen on strong coffee. The combinations are endless.

The texture is beautiful but we would reduce the sugar a little next time, in both the sponge and mascapone elements, maybe 10g or so less as we are not too keen on too sweet a dessert.

Ab fab darling!

Tuesday, 22 November 2016


For those not in the know, that is the Electric Light Orchestra. Last night there was not much on the tv or even on our recorder so we went online. I had previously seen this advertised but hadn't checked it out.

Anyway, we found ELO in Hyde Park 2014 which was on tv last Friday I believe and clicked to watch it. Although Jeff's voice has faded a little, particularly on the higher notes, he sounded almost the same and my memories returned to 1978 when I went to see them live in Germany, where I was living at the time.

We were in a venue (can't remember where though probably Dortmund), that had an upper tier, where we were sitting at a 90 degree angle to the stage, middle right on this picture, I seem to remember coming up the stair and sitting on the left:
I remember the multi-coloured UFO being on stage and the fact we were almost deafened by the loudness of the music (we were not that far from the speakers unfortunately).

The whole of my rib cage and in particular my sternum, was vibrating and I was getting just a tad worried about my ears. Off I went to get a frankfurter in a roll, ate it and then proceeded to chew on the cardboard holder until I had enough softish mush to stuff into my ears. I know, pretty gross but it did the trick.

The whole show was fantastic, people singing at the top of their voices, dancing on the floor below. I was immersed not only in the sound and atmosphere but also had a good view of the music mixers/directors operating their machines just below us.

It is still on the iplayer so if you get a chance, check it out. Also, click here to have a listen!

Ah memories...

Monday, 21 November 2016

GF Sausage Rolls - trialling frozen puff pastry...

Welcome to Liz Penistone via Bloglovin.

Having tried Jus-Roll chilled GF puff pastry, this time, it was the turn of Genius frozen puff pastry. Once defrosted and rolled out (felt and acted the same as normal puff pastry during this process), I cut it into two and added my skinned sausages:
Beaten egg was added at the sides to seal once rolled. Using scissors, I cut them into 1" rolls and baked them:
There were enough scraps leftover to make one mincemeat pasty. Still warm, they were nice, once cold, they were a little harder. They were then frozen so I shall try and remember to report back what they are like once thawed and either eaten as is or warmed through.

I wouldn't exactly call either of these pastries 'puff' but better than nothing!

Sunday, 20 November 2016


Andy has won and ended the year still Number 1:)

That means that both the Murray brothers end the year at number 1. Andy as the number 1 singles player and Jamie, along with Bruno the Number 1 doubles team.

ATP Tennis Finals

I hope you win today Andy but I fear you may be just too tired. You have had the strongest competitors in your group (with the exception of Raonic in the other group) and the two longest matches in the history of the tournament. Djokovic in comparison, has had a leisurely stroll through his matches.

Should it prove too much (and I hope it doesn't), you will always be Number 1 to me:)

Friday, 18 November 2016

Jelly and apple dessert

Our walking buddy E., told us about this dessert but I don't know where she got it from. Anyhow, weigh 1lb of cooking apples AFTER removing skin and cores. Simmer in just enough water to cook. Add a small amount of sugar and stir it - you need to leave it slightly tart otherwise the end result may be too sweet. Mash or puree and leave to go cold.

When cold, make up a packet of jelly with only half the recommended amount of water. Below I am using a lemon jelly - not our favourite so far:
Whilst the jelly is still hot, stir it into the apples:
Cover and put into the fridge for 24 hours. It takes this long to set. You can use any jelly, normal or sugar free. So far we have used the above, black cherry and blackcurrant.

When set, use:
I think you will really enjoy this. We think the more traditional flavours that go with apple suit best but it is up to you. Adjust the sugar to your tastes.

That's it for this week, have a lovely weekend.

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Satsuma Steamed Sponges GF

You can make these with normal flour but for these, the recipe is under the Gluten Free tab above, as Clementine Sponges. I only had Satsuma's so used 3 as they were quite small,  plus the zest off a 4th one. Here they are fresh from being steamed for 1 hour and resting for 10 minutes:
A palette knife is used to fully free them from the tins:
We had one each with custard, the rest were frozen. Yum.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Faggots - Gluten Free

Welcome to ncornet69 via Bloglovin.

I can't abide bought faggots as I like to know what is in them. They are very easy to make at home, taste lovely and you know what they contain. Herewith an adapted recipe originally from Frugal Queen.

1lb Pork shoulder minced - or pork mince
1lb Value Bacon pieces - minced
1/2lb chicken or lambs liver - minced
1 x 170g GF Sage & Onion Stuffing, made up with 50ml less than the packet instructions - if made up using boiling water, leave to go cold.
1 beaten egg
About 10 grinds of black pepper

Combine everything in a bowl. You really will need to get yours hands dirty when mixing everything together! Leave for about 30 minutes to solidify in the fridge.

Test the flavour by frying a small spoonful in a little oil. Doing this enables you to adjust seasoning and flavouring so you know you will enjoy the end product.

Using lightly oiled hand, make balls of the mixture, about 2" wide and place them onto a greased deep pan and baked them at 200C for 30 minutes. Also in the pan were 3 tomatoes halved. Whilst they were roasting, we made a large pan of gravy.

4 medium onions were sliced and fried. 4 pints of pork stock were added (water and 3 stock cubes). We also added 3 tablespoons tomato purée and 1 teaspoon mild paprika. Once cooked, it was thicken with cornflour.

When the first tray had cooked for 30 minutes, cut one in half to ensure it is cooked through and remove onto a place to cool. Pour some of the gravy into the pan and scrape to remove any residue. Pour it back into the gravy pan. Clean the roasting tray and cook the final batch of the rest of the faggots. Remove when cooked, add gravy to pan, scrape the residue and pour back into the gravy. We managed to make 21:
We put two into 8 foil containers, along with 2 1/2 ladles of the cold gravy. They were then frozen. One tray each is required for a meal. The other 5 faggots and some of the gravy, we had for tea. In the picture above, they fell apart slightly during cooking which is why the recipe calls for a beaten egg and then cooling.

We had enough liver and bacon leftover to give us a meal the next night and enough gravy to go towards some soup.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Cheese and Pancetta Palmiers - Gluten Free

The lovely Kate at The Gluten Free Alchemist, recently trialled some GF Puff Pastry courtesy of Mr. T., which you will find in a red packet in the chiller cabinets, see here.

One of the things I like to cook for Christmas - oh dear, there's that word already, is Cheese and Pancetta Palmiers by Delia Smith. Whilst I can't find her recipe online, there are numerous others to choose from.

As this pastry is readly rolled, and free of almost everything, I decided to melt some butter to coat the inner layers with as I was working. Edit - don't need it! Although the recipe method calls for a slight re-roll halfway through, I also didn't want to risk it as I didn't know how the pastry would work. Anyway, herewith my stages:

This pastry, very irritatingly, comes in a circle so I measured and just about managed to get the required size of 12" x 8":

Onto this surface, I brushed melted butter and ground on some black pepper:
Differing from the recipe method, I covered this entire piece with most of the cheese and all the pancetta:
Folded both edges into the middle and brushed with more butter and added the rest of the cheese:
Both edges were brought together again, adding another brush of melted butter, to help them stick slightly, before being cut into fingers:
I had to do fingers rather than the more flat biscuit type recommended as GF pastry seems to behave a little differently at this particular stage.

They were put onto a baking tray, lined with greaseproof paper, slightly flattened and baked at 220C for 18 - 20 minutes until done:

Once out the oven, put them onto kitchen roll for a few seconds, to dry up the excess grease before transferring onto the cooling rack.

DB gave the pastry 8/10 and I gave it 7/10 because it was a little greasy. Mind you, I think that might be because of the added butter and using pancetta rather than proscuitto ham - changes to be made next time.

Monday, 14 November 2016

Financial Post - Pension

So then, imagine the worst has happened and you are now on your own and hopefully, at the right age to be collecting your pension. You may have the full pension coming in or you may not. Other than the first year when extra government payments may kick in, after that, you are probably on your own. Could you cope?

We no longer have a mortgage to pay but if you are in rented accommodation, that might be an added problem, could you still afford it?

The chart below reflects our current monthly outgoings, living a reasonably frugal life but still able to treat ourselves occasionally. The reduction % refers to the amount that going down from two people to one person might reflect. See correction for the figures in my reply to Scarlet:

On the minimum pension there would be approximately £32 a week leftover for savings, treats or other unexpected expences. On the maximum pension, there would be £52 a week leftover. For me, this is a no brainer, the extra would be worth it especially as government is now thinking  about getting rid of the annual guaranteed inflation rate increase to the pension. We all know all the above rise annually way above inflation anyway so the extra pension if not required now, will certainly be needed later on.

As I am a few years away from collecting mine, I hope there will still be a little left over each week though I doubt it would be as much as this!

You may spend less than this each month or considerably more. You may still have a mortgage or be paying rent. You may have credit card or other loans to pay. You might have more than one car, numerous phones, like to sit in your tee shirt and shorts whilst your heating works overtime to keep you doing so. You might love takeaways, drinking out with friends, going away for holidays, buying whatever whenever.

Could you still afford to do so? This post isn't just of interest for those approaching pension time. Anyone can be left on their own at any time for whatever reason. You may be unable to work, have young children/elderly relatives to care for, be living on benefits etc. Would those change, would you be better or worse off?

Either way, work things out to see if you can manage, it takes a great weight of your mind I can tell you.

Friday, 11 November 2016

War Diary and Pension Permatations ...

How remiss - again. I have just realised that the rather short entries for October and November of my War Diary have not been uploaded. Now I have done so. As I say, short and sweet!

Onto Pensions. Other than staying at home to bring DS up for a few years, I have always worked. Mostly 3/4 time i.e. 6-7 hours a day, sometimes part time - around 4 hours. Whilst abroad, I worked full time, still paying my N. I. contributions - luckily as it turned out!

Before retiring early, I made sure I was fully paid up, as in having the full 30 years contributions to receive the full pension when it becomes due. Then the government moved the goals posts - now I need to pay another 5 years of contributions, in order to receive what I was once entitled to:(

We have both saved hard throughout our lives and continue to do so. Any £'s on the day the next pension is due (DB not me yet) are transferred into a savings account - it all adds up over time. That is why we live a relatively frugal life, not as hard a life as we once had no alternative but to live, but a happy medium that allows us to be careful, save, and still enjoy ourselves occasionally.

I have already paid one of those five years. The annual payment rises every year that is left. If I had realised I could have started this process earlier it would have been cheaper!

Do we break into the savings and pay it all and be done? That would be the easiest option but we could pay it yearly (and I think you can do it monthly but am not sure). In that case, although the interest rate is low, we would be earning the interest on the amount still owed rather than the government. That is probably the best route.

Some would say "Why bother?" My answer is this, the difference in weekly payments if I don't pay those extra 4 years is £20. Not much to some but over a year, that is £1040 - a big difference. Every year that I pay gives me a few more pounds a week, for a lifetime.

"What if you die beforehand?" Well, none of us know when we will die. If I die before I receive my pension, I feel I would have contributed into a system that would ultimately benefit others. So hard luck for me but DB would financially be secure due to his own pension, so no worries there.

Next time - Can you afford to live on your pension if the government pension was all you had?

That is it for this week folks, have a good weekend.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Parsnip and Blue Shropshire Cheese Flan

I have had this recipe for a number of years. It may have come from a Christmas food magazine but I'm not sure. I used GF flour for the pastry:

I only used 1 teaspoon garam masala on the parsnips, normal instead of blue cheese (which we don't like) and cooked smoked bacon lardons instead of pancetta. Herewith said flan, sitting alongside our weekly loaf of GF bread:
I had just enough pastry leftover to make six GF mince pies!

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Double bed cover

A super king size quilt cover has been cut ready to cover the double part of a cut down coverlet:
This was going to be far harder to do as even when fully extended, the dining room table is neither long nor wide enough to take the whole thing. Anyway, perseverence saw both elements pinned together and tacked into place.

My small machine would not be able to stitch this all the way through to the middle, so I went as far as I could, then left the middle two lines out.

Here it is on top of the bed:

Not the best of pictures as I managed to do it all during the day and by now, the evening was drawing in. I had a few more problems with it but all in all, am very happy with it. I reckon it will add between 2 and 4 togs.

Monday, 7 November 2016

Anniversary and Beef Joint

Wow, I have been blogging for 5 years, beginning on 19th October 2011. Where does the time go?

I don't know about you, but I am getting more and more fed up with beef joints that are on the market these days. The cows have been bred to no longer have that delicious marbling throughout the flesh which keeps the joint moist when cooking.

Anyway, we tried again and although okay it wasn't over tasty. We took enough slices off the joint to have a hot meal and left the rest to go cold.

The next day, it was cubed and put through my mincer. I got enough to make a cottage pie for tea:
Reserving some of the gravy for tea, the rest (which tastes delicious despite the meat not tasting as good), had the rest of the minced beef added, plus a tin of tomatoes, an extra stock cube and a squirt of tomato puree added, to create beef and tomato soup for lunch:
There was about two ladles of soup left so fresh chopped tomatoes were added to DB's then pasta and it was topped with cheese:
I added leftover cauliflower to mine:
So, the £7 joint gave us three meals each for tea, and soup for lunch, not too shabby methinks!

Saturday, 5 November 2016


Andy Murray Is World Number 1.

He has moved ahead of Djokovic by 5 points after reaching the final of the Paris Open. Here's hoping he can win that and add a few hundred more on top. Here is a screenshot from the ATP rankings page:

I thought it would all happen after the year end finale at the O2 but apparently, the year end points finish with this tournament 1000 in Paris.

Friday, 4 November 2016

Use it up!

The day before we go food shopping, we use up whatever is in the fridge, therefore, it can't be planned in advance. You just have to be brave and go with it!

Sometimes, it will be lunch or more often then not, the evening meal. As we already had a use it up meal prepared, we decided to do soup for lunch. Here is what was used:

2 tablespoons bacon lardons (or 3 rashers diced)
1 chopped medium onion
1 deseeded and diced chilli
1 pepper
2 thinly sliced leeks
2 pints chicken stock made with 2 chicken stock cubes
3oz risotto rice
Lots of ground black pepper
A dessertspoon of dried tarragon
2 tablespoons instant potato

The bacon and onion were fried until soft. The chilli, pepper and leeks were then added along with the stock. Brought to a simmer and cooked for 20 minutes before the rice was added. Another 20 minutes stirring occasionally then add the ground pepper, instant potato and tarragon.

Once heated through, the soup was whizzed. We got enough for 2 lunches each:
This bowl was served with cheesy oat crackers and the next day, the final bowls of soup were served with vegetable crisps.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Thursday, 3 November 2016

GF Bread

Each week, I used to make us two loaves of GF bread but we both felt it was contributing to too high a carbohydrate intake so we have cut it down to one loaf a week. This weeks is Fluffy Oat bread with pistachio.

Here it is rising on the heated plant propagator:
This is what it looks like when sliced and in a bag ready for freezing:
The recipe can be found under my Gluten Free tab above.

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Cheats Quilt

We had our first frost last night, air rather than ground.

Last year sometime, I bought a single slightly quilted bedspread/coverlet from a charity shop for £7. It was used on the main bed throughout last winter and did make a difference on the really cold nights.

If laid on top of the duvet, it hung over the sides by about 5" and over the foot end by a couple of feet, requiring it to be hitched up and folded over at the top end. This annoyed me so this week, I decided to alter it to create something better.

Measuring it, we realised we could get both a single and a double something out of it and it was duly cut into two.

I have found out I really do not have the patience for proper quilting but do have loads of material and we found a rather colourful sheet that could be sewn onto the shiny side of said coverlet.

The sheet was opened out onto the table, the shiny side of the bedspread laid down onto the back of the sheet, and it was then pinned, tacked and put through the sewing machine. Said machine was not over happy about this and I did snag it a couple of times requiring unpicking and re-sewing.

Herewith some pictures. Here you can see the creamy/yellow shiny side and the start of pinning:
About 18" of sheet has been left on the bottom to tuck it under the mattress at the foot end of the single bed to help keep it in place:
Every 6" it was sewn together to create a slight padded effect and the edges hemmed: