We had a Mum’s night out on Friday. There were cocktails, kale crisps, wine, koftas, steak, cheese, pie and brownies. Plus gossip and laughter and comparing and contrasting. It was fun. I didn’t want it to end. But my inbuilt guilt alarm struck at about midnight. Like some kind of baggier, older Cinders I felt the need to hail cabs, gingerly unlock the door and creep up the creaky stairs. And then I felt this strange low-level sadness sweep over me. READ MORE
It was Lawrence’s first birthday today. My grandmother had two children in her early twenties and two in her thirties. She swore her forties were her favourite decade; I’m not sure what that says about early years child rearing back in the 40s/50s! Here are my observations and learnings from raising a baby from 0 to 1 in my mid thirties, the third time round:
Did you know it’s National Picnic Week? Now let’s not be all British and moan about the weather. I personally don’t give two hoots about how sunny it is when it comes to eating al fresco; I have been known to pack up warm soupy picnics for snowy sledging trips after all.
If the kids are crying that it really is too rainy then a carpet picnic is a perfect British alternative. Here are my ‘rules’ for a successful indoor picnic:
These crunchy meatballs are seriously moreish. Delicious served with homemade tomato sauce for dipping the meatballs in. Now if you don’t have a picky eater then huge bow to you. I have been blessed with one picky eater and two little chaps who will try pretty much anything. As I am not a woman who wants to cook more than one dinner, but I do want Mr Picky to eat well, this hidden vegetable tomato sauce has become a firm favourite. You can watch the recipe being made on ITV’s This Morning by clicking here.
I am hurtling towards the grand old age of 35. I know many reading this will scoff that really, that’s so young. But I’m worried. Less about the actual say it out loud age and more about my increasingly regular curmudgeon’s behaviour. I can only think my advancing years are to blame. Just a few examples of my new found angry lady status:
It’s hard not to notice that my anger is generally related to modes of transport. Maybe I should just stay in the house and be hermit like? I’d likely be a chirpy little hermit. Anyway, on to the recipe. These meatballs are easy, they’re low carb, they’re delightfully crunchy and they contain chorizo which makes them mighty moreish. My sons love them. I love them. Beware the pinkish colour of the inside of the balls post baking – that’s just the chorizo. They’re not raw I promise. Enjoy.
Crunchy pork & coriander meatballs
Makes 15, though depends on size of balls
In a food processor whizz up the bread and set aside two thirds for later. Add the black pepper, chorizo, coriander, minced pork and ketchup and pulse until combined then roll into meatballs about the size of golf balls. Then dip in beaten egg and roll in the fresh breadcrumbs made earlier.
Oven bake at 180c/gas mark 4 for about 25 mins until sizzling. My boys ate theirs with pasta but they are a delicious little morsel to eat alone.
I do love Halloween though I have never been trick or treating. It’s just not in my British nature to knock on someone’s door and give out ultimatums. I’d likely apologise or stutter. But any celebration where there’s even a sniff of novelty food up for grabs and I’m there. All over it.
I’ve been working with Flora lately to develop lots of spooky recipes and ideas. If you fancy hosting your own party then take a look at the ideas here in the Halloween Fun Pack from Flora. Loads of recipes from fiendish finger butter biscuits to pumpkin pie to a graveyard cake to pumpkin bread and of course some arts and crafts ideas. My own recipes for Flora include bloodshot eyeball truffles and treacle toffee flapjack. You can find both the recipes here. (And rather excitingly Flora will be giving away 5 copies of my book on Twitter in November. Follow them here).
Now I know that jelly worms have caused a few people some trouble. Here are mine; they happen to be nestling on a spiced apple cupcake covered in Oreo ‘dirt’. Full details of how to make them below.
I used two packs of regular full fat jelly (Hartleys I think) to make my worms. Just make up the jelly with half the amount of water it tells you to on the packet, then pour the jelly into a pint glass with lots of bendy straws jammed into it, bend side down, with the bend bit pulled apart and fully extended, but still straight. Leave to set overnight in the fridge, weighing down the tops of the straws if they’re bobbing upwards.
The next day fill a tall container up with half boiling water and half cold water. Remove a straw from the pint glass (makes a satisfying squelching sound) and then dip into the water for 1 second. Use your finger and thumb to squash the straw at the top (non bendy end) and push your finger and thumb pinched together all the way along the straw to push the worm out onto a plate. First time I did it the water was too hot and the worm melted. Poor worm! Experiment with the temperature of the water until your worms happily squash out without meeting a sticky end. I made about 35 worms I think with two packs of jelly but could probably have made more if I’d had more straws to jam into the pint glass.
If you want to make Oero ‘dirt’ firstly I should mention that I got the idea from a lovely lady called Jules who writes an excellent blog called Butcher, Baker and secondly I should mention you will make your life inordinately easier if you buy double chocolate Oero cookies with dark chocolate cream in the middle of the biscuits rather than the white stuff. This way you just blitz the lot in a food processor and the dirt is done. If you buy the variety with white cream then you need to remove this first and then blitz the biscuits. What a pain. I attached the dirt to the cupcakes by simply melting some milk chocolate and spreading a thin layer over the top of a cupcake. Then I dipped the still molten chocolate covered cake into a bowl of Oreo ‘dirt’. Done. You can of course use any excess dirt to sprinkle onto jelly’s and adorn with bugs:
All this dirt and bug chat may leave some in need of a drink. Never let the opportunity for novelty food fall at the hurdle of a thirst quencher. Try making these ice cubes with a scorpion or a skeleton frozen into them:
…so easy and yet so well received by the under 10’s. You could freeze spooky rings, necklaces or spiky false teeth too. And if you want to introduce fruit to a Halloween party without going to the trouble of apple bobbing then try these:
Just little nectarines, peeled and poked with celery to resemble pumpkins. Of course anything this healthy may need a savoury accompaniment. How about pepper noodle brains?
Of course, Halloween wouldn’t be Halloween without a sausage disguised as a Mummy with the aid of some pastry strips and an olive or two for eyes:
And last but not at all least, maybe try my bloodshot eyeball truffles. See if you can swallow them whole, pupils and all…
What’s the best bit of Christmas lunch? Not for me the meat, nor the roasties. Not even the honey glazed parsnips or gravy. The stuffing has it all; a bit herby, a bit porky and a bit fruity. These stuffing balls are delicious with the roast as well as sliced cold in sandwiches or eaten with pickles in front of a favourite Christmas film.
Cranberry stuffing balls
Makes enough for 16 – 30 balls
(about 2 slices)
Remove the sausages from the casing, then mix together with all the other ingredients in a stand mixer (using the paddle attachment) or with your hands until well combined. With wet hands form balls of mixture about 5cm across and bake on a greaseproof paper lined baking tray in a preheated 200C/gas mark 6 oven for 20 – 25 minutes.
Do you have a best friend? I hate the very label.
I went to a school where every girl had to have a best friend. The class was divided into neat little pairs. Every so often someone would decide they wanted to break best friends and have a new best friend, which would of course mean everyone had to break best friends. It was barbaric. One girl in particular was responsible for a lot of the rumours spread that resulted in the inevitable breaking of friends, tears, sleepless nights and snotty tissues. She was expelled in the end. Although at my school it was called being ‘asked to leave.’ Private schools love a euphemism.
Recently I noticed a friend of a friend on Facebook post a photo of herself and the mutual pal together with the label ‘I love my best friend!’ or something similarly twee. It made my blood boil. So territorial, so exclusive to every other friend either woman may have. It’s as rude as not replying to a party invite. Don’t even get me started on that.
The only kind of best friends chat I tolerate in this house is between brothers. Ie/ my sons. I tell them all the time to look after each other, that they’re so lucky to always be best friends etc etc until I feel my voice grow hoarse. Years ago, when my eldest were still in utero, I read that if you tell a child something enough it becomes their reality. So I carry on with my indoctrination of sibling best friendery. It’s working so far. Who knows how long it may last.
These samosas were made by my little boy Max who is almost 3. He did a mighty fine job, brushed the filo, folding the triangles. They’re delicious warm with a stir fry as a ‘fusion supper’ (husband’s words not mine) or cold in lunch boxes. Beware they’re moreish.
Pork, beef and apple samosas
Make the filling by frying the onion and garlic in the oil until soft on a medium heat in a frying pan. Add the pork and beef and turn the heat up. Fry until browned then turn the heat down and add the crumbled stock cube. Chuck in the mushroom, pepper, carrots, apple, cranberry sauce and black pepper and fry until everything is soft and the carrots and apples are starting to stick to the pan. You basically want a really dry mixture. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6 and line two baking trays with non stick paper. Take a square of filo and brush with melted butter then fold in half into a long rectangle. Brush with butter again and place some filling into one corner then fold that end over to make a triangle. Keep folding, using butter as an adhesive until you reach the end of the samsosa and then paint the edges shut using the butter to fold the filo over. This video is very useful if my instructions are lacking.
Repeat for all 12 samosas making sure to pack them tightly then bake in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes or until golden brown and very hot. Be careful if small people are eating them warm as the filling really retains it’s heat.
Every day is not a pastry day. Some days are a mashed potato day and there’s no mash I love more than Red Leicester cheese mash. The colour is admittedly, alarming. But the hug it delivers forgives it’s technicolour appearance. With sausage, sage and butter beans hiding under the Red Leicester blanket this is nigh on the perfect Autumn pie.
Sausage and butterbean pie with red Leicester mash lid
Cut the sausages into 4 pieces each using scissors and fry with the onion in the oil on a low heat in a large frying pan until both are browned. Add the sage leaves and fry for another minute then pour in the beans, chopped tomatoes and garlic. Give it a good stir and allow to simmer for 20 minutes. Boil the potatoes until a knife passes through them easily then drain and allow to sit in a colander over the pan they were boiled in for 3 minutes; this helps to evaporate any excess water. Place in the stand mixer and use the flat beater to mash the potato on a low speed until creamy and without any lumps. Add the hot milk very slowly with the beater running at speed 1, then the butter and the cheddar. Mix until combined being careful not to overwork the potato. Taste and season as required.
Pour the sausage and butterbean mixture into a large pie dish then spoon the mash over the top and bake in a preheated oven at 180C/gas mark 4 for 30 minutes. Serve with lots of green buttered vegetables.