Coconut Cream Cake

Hey everyone, sorry this is a bit late. I’ve been in a training session at a hotel all day today (where the heating was turned up way too high) and ended up being seated next to the Directors at lunch so no break for me! At least I’m going on holiday in 10 days, but more about that soon. In the meantime…..cake!

This is a beautiful, light, not too sweet cake, which is perfect with a cup of Earl Grey, and a lovely break from chocolate cake, cupcakes, cookies……not that they aren’t great in their own way! Plus, you get to use up that tin of coconut cream that has been lolling about in your cupboard for awhile.

A tip for using coconut cream – if you live somewhere cold or it’s winter, you may find that your coconut cream has split into solid parts and watery parts due to the cold temperatures. To fix this, gently heat it in a saucepan, stirring to combine, then take it off the heat and allow it to cool a little before using it.

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You will need:

175g softened butter

175g golden caster sugar

3 eggs

2 tablespoons coconut cream

175g self-raising flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

50g desiccated coconut

For the icing and filling:

100g softened butter

3-4 tbs coconut cream

280g icing (confectioners’) sugar

jam to fill the cake, I like the sharpness of raspberry

50g or so desiccated coconut

glitter sugar, I used gold (optional)

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1. Preheat the oven to 160C fan. Prepare 2 sandwich tins by lining with greaseproof paper and greasing with butter.

2. Cream the butter with a hand/standing mixer until soft and fluffy. Add the sugar and cream again. Mix in the coconut cream and beat.

3. Crack in the eggs and beat until the mixture is full of air and almost mousse-like. Add the coconut and mix in.

4. Fold in the flour and baking powder, gently, trying to keep the air in, and stop mixing as soon as the flour has been properly combined with the mixture.

5. Divined the mixture between the tins and bake for 15-20 mins, or until golden and only just springy to the touch, with the cake coming away from the edges. Allow to cool a little then turn out, peeling the paper from the bases. It’s a good idea to run a paring knife around the edge to stop sticking and breaking first. Set aside to cool completely.

6. Best the softened butter until lighter and fluffy. Add the coconut cream and icing sugar (bring careful not to let it puff out all over you and the kitchen) and cream until combined and fluffy.

7. Once the cakes have cooled, place one upside down on a plate or board. Spread a good layer of jam on it then sandwich the other layer on top.

8. Spread the coconut icing over the top and sides of the cake with a knife or spoon then decorate with sprinklings of coconut and glitter sugar.

Roasted Tomato and Pepper Soup

This weekend, the snowdrops popped out and the sun winked at us for the first time in a good long while. I had a sudden feeling that Sunday might just be the last soup Sunday in awhile. So, for what might be the last hurrah, I had to take on a classic, in a rather majestic way. The secret to the strength of flavour that comes with this smooth, dark orange soup is the oven – pre-roast the veggies and everything intensifies.

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This recipe makes about 6 portions, so plenty to share or put in the freezer.

You will need:

2 large red onions, or 4 small ones

1 1/2 red peppers

3 cloves of garlic

1 large carrot

1 punnet cherry tomatoes

6-8 tomatoes on the vine

12 salad tomatoes

Note: use wherever tomatoes you like in whatever quantity. I tend to mix up the types by what looks good in the supermarket. The salad ones are cheapest and give you bulk, but I like the cherry tomatoes for a sweeter, deeper flavour. Beef tomatoes work well too.

olive oil

chicken or vegetable stock, 2 cubes or about a litre plus extra water

salt and black pepper

oregano, basil, paprika, chilli powder

lemon juice

a pinch of caster sugar

Worcester sauce – just a dash.

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1. Heat the oven to about 200C and line a couple of baking trays with tin foil, then add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and place in the oven to heat.

2. Quarter the onions and chop the the peppers into chunks. Don’t peel the garlic – it’ll roast nicely inside the skin. Chuck into a tray, carefully (don’t burn yourself) and season. Half the tomatoes and add to the trays.

3. Roast for 30 to 40 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, chop the carrot into fine pieces and sauté without browning and prepare the stock.

5. Take the first tray out of the oven when the onions are starting to look vaguely translucent and the skin on the peppers is starting to shrivel. Allow to cool for a short time as this will help you to remove the pepper skins more easily. Chop up the onions, peel and chop the garlic and peppers, add to the soup pot and sauté.

6. The tomatoes are a bit fiddly, but it will help everything go more smoothly if you roast them until the skins have started to come away themselves, and if you let them cool a little so you can pull the skins off with your fingers. Then chop the larger ones and add to the pot.

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7. Add the stock and seasoning, stir, put a lid on and allow to simmer on a medium heat for around 40 minutes, stirring every now and then to prevent sticking.

8. As you’ve removed the skins, most of the stuff you would normally need to sieve out has been taken away, however, you’ll still need to blend with a stick blender and sieve out the tomato seeds and any bits of stringy pulp. Be patient – your soup is worth it!

The soup will keep well in the fridge for around 4 days, and is great frozen and reheated.

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Rib Eye Steak with Oven-Baked Chips

This is a great weekend night supper. It doesn’t take that long to cook, but it’s a nice treat to cook for people you love, and to enjoy with a nice glass of red wine.

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There are a number of cardinal rules for steak:

1. Buy the highest quality beef your budget allows. I like rib eye because it’s marbled with fat which adds more flavour to the steak, but you have to heed how thick it’s been cut when you’re considering the cooking time.

2. Take it out of the fridge at least half an hour before you intend to cook it. To get flavour, you need colour, and to get colour, you need the steak to sear on the outside, not boil.

3. Season. Salt and pepper always, but I think paprika adds an extra something delicious to the mix.

4. Oil the steak on both sides after seasoning, not the pan.

5. Heat the griddle/pan until it’s smoking hot. Cook for max 2 mins each side for a medium steak (depending on the thickness). But be careful not to burn yourself like I did.

6. Rest. It might be a cliché but it’s really important to let the grain relax, preventing a chewy steak.

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For the chips, you need an oven as hot as you dare, about 200 – 220C should do it. Pour a couple of tablespoons of oil on a tray and pop it on the top shelf of the oven to heat. Cut a couple of large potatoes into narrow wedges and season. Once the oil is hot, chuck them in the tray, carefully toss them around and put in the oven. They should take about 30- 40 minutes to get nice and crisp, so keep an eye on them and turn once when they’re more than halfway ready.

Serve with caramelised onions, mushrooms, cubed and cooked in butter and mustard or ketchup on the side. Also great with roasted peppers!

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Kitchen Chair Cushions

My kitchen came with a tiny square breakfast bar which is perfect for sewing at, eating at, and having extra space available if I’m doing an especially large bake. Trouble was, all the bar stools I could find were far too heavy/chunky for the space. The solution presented itself when I bought my dining set, as it came with 6 chairs, but any more than 4 made the furniture look at bit too big for its space. My Mum suggested moving the extra two to the kitchen, which has been a perfect solution. However, given the breakfast bar is as high as my worktops, the chairs were a few inches too low. My solution was chair cushions, but nothing I could find quite matched my colour scheme or preferred style.

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Although I bought the fabric for these a good few months ago, I’ve only just got round to making them. They can be a bit fiddly (challenging I suppose) but I think the results are worth it. As ever, this was entirely self-taught, so you’ll have to bear with me, but this pattern is a great starting point.

You’ll need:

1 cushion pad, of a size of your choice

cotton or upholstery fabric, cut to about an inch narrower and shorter than the size of your cushion, so that it gives you a nice snug fit while also factoring in your seam allowance

1 fat quarter sized piece of fabric in the same fabric, or in a contrasting colour or pattern. This will be for your piping, ties and covered buttons

1 zip, 4-5 inches shorter than the width of your cushion fabric

1 reel of cotton thread in a matching colour

piping cord, about 4 times the length of the fabric’s side

8 plain domed buttons with shanks

sewing machine, pins, regular sewing needle, large sewing needle (the kind you get for doll making, for stitching the buttons through the finished cushion), thicker thread or polycord

The buttons and ties are of course optional! This pattern makes great scatter cushions – I just adapted it to make them more fit for purpose.

1. Cut 1.5 inch strips from your fat quarter…3 should be enough to cover your piping.

2. Pin the strips together at right angles, pinning on the diagonal from side to corner then sew along the line – when folded back, this should give you a continuous strip. Once you’re sure you have sewn in the right place, trim the excess triangle to reduce bulk.

3. Pin the strip around the binding, leaving you with an even amount of fabric overlapping above and below that can be pinned together – this will be your seam allowance.

4. Change the presser foot on your sewing machine to a zip foot – this is perfect for getting the stitching as close to the piping as you can. Most machines come with a zip foot as a standard accessory, but you should be able to buy one online or at a fabric shop. Sew along the piping fabric, close to the piping , reverse stitching at both ends to secure your work.

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5. Next, pin your covered piping along the edges of what will be the front of your cushion, pinning on the right side of the fabric. The seam allowance will end up on the inside of the finished cushion. I find it helps to notch the seam allowance of the piping fabric a little when you come to the corners to help you get round the corners without pushing the piping out of shape. I’m afraid this photo is from a previous project so the fabric doesn’t match the rest of the photos, but I thought it was a good example.  Getting the ends to match up can be a little tricky.  I usually pin one end down first, pin around the cushion and then match them up once I’ve made it back to the start.  My method involves trimming back the loose end, measuring it up against the piece that’s there.  What you’re aiming to do is trim back the piping inside the starting end of the piping, but leave the fabric intact, whilst also threading an extra couple of cm of the other end into the fabric tube – you may need to unpick the end of the stitching a little.  Then what you want to do is fold the end of the fabric tube inwards to avoid having a cut edge before wrapping this around the other piping tube – you can use either side here – whichever looks neater.  Once it’s nicely overlapping, pin across the join. The stitching you’ll do next will secure it plenty.

6. Keeping your zipper foot on the machine, stitch all the way round the piping, as close to the piping as you can get. Reverse stitch at the start and end to secure. If you’d like, you can zig zag stitch outside the straight stitching to make things extra secure.

7. The ties. These guys are one of the extras I added to these cushions to turn them from regular scatter cushions into kitchen chair cushions. You just need a couple of strips of fabric for each one – length will depend on the width of the chair legs you are tying them around, plus your seam allowance to stitch them in. I just wrapped the fabric round the chair back posts and cut to eye. They need to be just over double the width of the final ties as you are going to hem these bad boys all the way around, then fold each side into the middle. This is where your best hand stitching will come into play! You can machine stitch if you’d like but the stitching would be visible on the visible, right sides of the ties.

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8. Lay the ties on the edge of the piping, facing inwards. The positioning width-wise will again depend on the chairs you are making them for. Try to flatten out the ends so the hand stitched seams face towards each other. Pin, then stitch into place. Leave them facing inwards so they’ll be on the outside when you turn the cushions out.

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9. The zip! On the same edge as your piping joins and your ties have been sewn on (I like to keep the scrappiest parts to one side….they should end up looking pretty seamless, but still!) lay the zip along, centred, teeth and tab facing downwards, so the teeth are sort of buried in the piping. Pin, then see, zipper foot still attached, as close to the teeth as you can manage but bearing in mind the zip will have to run along the teeth.

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10. Once you’re happy with the zip – if it’s not as perfect as you want it to be, feel free to unpick and redo it (a seam ripper is best for this job) – the next stage (we’re nearly there…sort of) is to stitch on the back panel. Take the panel you’ve been working on and lay it out on a flat surface, making sure the seam allowance and piping seam
allowance are folded out flat too, inside of the zip facing upwards. Lay the other panel on top and pin all the way round, skipping the zip. I find it easiest to start at the non-zip tab end of the zip and pin all the way round to the other end of the zip. Leave the gap unpinned for now. You’re aiming to sew all round the outside of the piping, again, with the zipper foot, as close as you can get, so try to feel for the piping when you’re pinning. When you reach the corners, take extra care. You may wish to leave the needle down and lift the foot when you’re cornering to avoid the fabric gathering. If there are uneven gaps between the corners and the stitching, you may wish to go back over things so your corners look neater when you turn the cover out.

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11. Here’s the really complicated part! This is where we sew the other half of the zip to the back panel. The photo above shows how the pinning should work. You want to pull open the the unsewn part of the top panel, push the top of the zip downwards, and pin where the two naturally meet. To sew this, you might want to unzip the zip after it has been pinned in place. I’ve tried this both zipped and unzipped and find it easier to see unzipped, but it can cause issues with visibility of the ends of the zip when you turn the cushion out if you’re not super careful. After you’ve stitched the zip, fold everything back down and secure the ends of the zip from the top panel by stitching back across to the corners.

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12. Cut across the excess fabric on the corners (cutting off a triangle of fabric layers from each corner but still leaving a bit of seam to keep things secure. Unzip and turn out. You may need to grab the zip tab from the inside by pinching it in a bit of the fabric to work it loose. Give it a good iron and it’s ready for your cushion pad!

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13. Stuff the cushion in, zip it up and you’re ready for the covered buttons, which are of course optional. I forgot to take photos when I was making these though I’m afraid, but this is a handy tutorial. You could buy them instead, of course, if you find the right colours. I just made them so I could get them to match the piping exactly. I bought plain domed buttons on amazon and traced around a milk bottle cap to get the right size of fabric. Then, I tied a knot in some thread and tack stitched all way round, keeping the needle in when I was finished. Then I popped the button in the middle and pulled the fabric circle right and sewed through the ruffles to secure.

14. Again, I didn’t take photos of this part, but I learned from this tutorial. Using those principles, measure the cushion to make sure your buttons will be evenly spaced, whether you’re using one or four, and mark with tailor’s chalk. You’ll need to do this on both sides. Take a medium doll-making needle and thick thread or cord, double over and thread the doubled end through the hole in the button shank. Thread the end through the loop and pull to secure. Loop round again and tie. Thread the loose end through the needle and push the needle through one of the chalk marks, finding the corresponding spot on the other side and pull through. Your button should be pulled snugly in so the cushion will puff around it. Thread through the other button and knot as close as you can. I like to wrap the cord around a couple of times and see into a knot. Cut the cord and repeat for the rest of the buttons – sorry it’s a but fiddly.

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15. If you used the handmade ties, cut strips of Velcro and stick to either side, bearing in mind they well wrap around each other so one strip should be on the smooth outside whilst the other should be on the sewn inside. You could use ribbons instead, of course, meaning you’d just tie these to the chair rather than velcroing, but I didn’t want loops hanging at the backs of my chairs. So here’s the finished product! Sorry this was a lot to take in. Please feel free to leave any questions you may have in the comments section, or tips if you have any better techniques to share!

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Happy Valentine’s (from one without a Valentine)

So here’s to another February 14th. I know that most people have a love/hate relationship with this day (or a hate/hate relationship if your name is Charles) but nevertheless, happen it will every year.

I, personally, forego this holiday every year because my boyfriend doesn’t believe in its commerciality. It’s fair enough, he treats me better than any girl deserves, but still, I love love and if we think we’re a good together, then we should be nailing Valentine’s Day, not shunning it. And all girls like to find a man on their doorstep holding a bouquet big enough to block out his head.

For those of you who criticise the commerciality of the day, spare a thought for the local florists, gift shops, butchers, bakers and restaurants who rely on this day every year to make up for the January slump. It is always lovely to see a man walking down the street with a stunning bouquet for his lady. Supermarkets, confectioners and Hallmark, though, you guys are vultures. If you’re going to do it, gentlemen, here are some tips for you:

1. If you’re going to buy her flowers, go for a single rose from a local florist, or a completely unrelated bouquet variety.

2. If you’re going to buy her a trite old teddy bear or other cliched gift, think again! Get her something she would want any day of the year: a book, perfume, a candle, something for her home. True romance is about what’s in your heart, not your wallet.

3. If you’re going to feed her, take her to a local restaurant (not a chain!) or make her something from scratch (not a dine in for two meal deal!) preferably from local produce.

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4. Don’t watch 50 Shades of Grey.

5. Don’t propose! It’s just as clichéd as a New Year proposal.

So what do you do if you aren’t in a relationship and that ‘secret admirer’ hasn’t turned up to surprise you at the last minute? Don’t wallow! Remember, the ones who are taking part are probably doing so reluctantly, or because they want something from their special lady. If they can’t love you every day or treat you as you deserve, they’re not worth your time.

Have the girls over, put on a DVD and drink wine. Maybe cocktails. No ice cream. Ice cream is for wallowers. If all your girls are on dates, treat yourself, on your own. Cook yourself your favourite dinner, have a hot bubble bath with music, a book, candles (don’t burn the house down) and a glass of wine. Don’t cry. Make yourself pretty, put on your favourite pjs and watch a comedy. Or a horror. Whatever. Don’t cry. It’s just a day. Tomorrow will swing around soon enough. And if all else fails, it’s Pancake Day on Tuesday!

Turkey Tacos

I happened upon some turkey fillets at the local farmers’ market at the weekend, and then stumbled upon corn taco shells at the supermarket.  Add peppers and onions from the fridge and you’re pretty much there for a delicious Mexican supper!

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You will need:

turkey, chicken, beef or pork, sliced into strips

1/2 red pepper

1/2 onion, red or white, whichever you have or prefer

2 tsp cornflour

1 tsp paprika

1 tsp chilli powder

1 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp oregano

1/2 tsp parsley

salt and pepper

olive oil

1 tsp tomato puree

taco shells (3 if smallish and you’re greedy like me) or tortilla wraps, flour or corn, folded or rolled

sour cream, guacamole, grated cheese and salsa, to serve with, optional

salad to serve alongside, optional

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1.  Slice the onions and peppers and chuck into a hot pan, medium to high heat, in a little oil.  Stir occasionally to keep the veggies moving, to avoid burning.

2.  When almost done, lower the heat and stir in the tomato puree – cook out for a couple of minutes.

3. Whilst all that is going on, mix up the herbs, spices and cornflour in a bowl and cut your meat into strips.  Toss in the spicy flour mixture and turn the heat up under the pan.

4. If using crunchy taco shells, turn them upside down on a tray and put in the oven to heat up – this will make them crunchier.  Remove from the oven, lay on their sides and sprinkle grated cheese inside then pop them back in the oven.

5. Add the turkey to the pan and fry ’til taking on colour and cooked through – this shouldn’t take more than about 5 minutes – stirring back into the vegetables for the last few minutes.

6.  Now it’s time to construct them!  Once the cheese is nice and melted, fill with the turkey and veg filling, layering with sour cream, guacamole and salsa if you wish (which I do), or you can keep those as dips for the side if you prefer.

7.  Serve with salad and a heap of napkins – you’re going to have to eat these with your hands!  Buen provecho!

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Sweet Potato Wedges

These are a delicious and nutritious alternative to chips and go really well with anything spicy (they are a delight with chilli con carne) or dishes that don’t really have much in the way of sauce, like baked chicken or salmon.  I know this will seem like a pretty obvious recipe, but they are my go to when I want a substantial veggie accompaniment that’s lighter and tastier than potatoes, and dinner guests have asked for the recipe on a number of occasions.  You may not know that sweet potatoes count as one of your 5-a-day, whereas potatoes don’t, as they apparently don’t contain enough nutrients and vitamins.  By the way, do you guys in the US have the concept of 5-a-day or is it just an NHS thing?  I promise to share a sewing project soon – I have part of it drafted up but the instructions are going to be pretty mammoth!

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You will need (to feed 1):

sweet potato – 1 or 1/2 depending on how big the sweet potato is.  I find the size of these varies tremendously depending on supermarket and crop

1 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp chilli powder or cayenne pepper (optional)

oil for roasting

salt and pepper

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1.  Heat your oven to about 200C.

2.  Chop your sweet potato into wedge-shaped chunks, or cubes, as chunky or narrow as you’d like, bearing in mind that they will shrink with roasting.  When I started making these, I always peeled the sweet potatoes first, but Charles suggested leaving the skins on “because that’s where the nutrients are” (lazy boy) and we tried it.  Now, I leave the skin on every time – it goes chewy and marshmallowy and delicious – plus, no peeling! (Or washing up the peeler…urgh).

3.  Line a baking tray with foil (you may want to fold up the sides if it’s smaller than your tray and add a small glug of oil (sorry, I don’t measure my oil!) onto the foil, and swish it around a bit.  Put it into the oven to get the oil nice and hot  – about 5 mins or so should be fine.

4. Once your oil is nice and hot, remove the tray from the oven and quickly dump in the sweet potato, which should sizzle when it hits the oil.  Be careful here – the oil and tray will be ridiculously hot so please don’t burn yourself.  Toss the wedges in the oil so all sides are covered, with tongs, a fish slice or your hands  (I’m hard like that).

5. Sprinkle on your spices and seasoning and toss again.  Put back in the oven.

6. These take about 30 minutes to cook, depending hot your oven is, but check them after about 20 minutes. When they are looking golden, flip them over and they should only take about another 5 minutes from there.

7. Serve and enjoy!

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Chewy Oat and Sultana Cookies

There are some days when you just have the urge to bake cookies -whether it’s for joy of loading up butter with sugar, vanilla and cinnamon, for the guilty pleasure of licking raw dough off the spoon, or the utterly delightful smell of them baking – nothing can match them.  I recently made a batch of my famous chocolate chunk cookies for a colleague’s birthday (and I’m afraid that recipe is staying a secret for now!) but I knew I had oats and sultanas in the cupboard, so a take on oatmeal raisin it was to be.  I got a decent batch out of this recipe (though not quite the 24 she suggests), though I kept a small amount of the dough back to put in the freezer for emergencies (you know exactly what I mean!).  This isn’t my own creation, but has been adapted from the recipe on Sally’s Baking Addiction, which I found I had to play around with a bit.  they are simple and delicious, but I’ll report back another time as to how well they froze!

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You will need:

230g salted butter, softened to room temperature

150g light brown sugar

50g dark brown sugar

50g caster sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla bean paste (more on this beautiful ingredient another day – use extract if you don’t have paste, but Sally uses   1tablespoon and assures us that it’s correct)

1 tablespoon golden syrup (Sally uses molasses, but I have a horrendous dislike of molasses)

190g plain flour (all-purpose, America)

1 teaspoon baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)

1 and 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

240g rolled oats

190g sultanas or raisins

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1. Cream the butter with your electric beater/mixer until soft and fluffy.

2. Add sugar, syrup and vanilla and beat thoroughly.

3. Add the eggs and mix again until combined.

4. Add cinnamon and oats, mix.

5. Add flour and bicarb, mix until combined, then add the sultanas/raisins. It’s best to use an electric mixer as the dough will be very dense and sticky by this point.

6. Cover with cling film and chill in the fridge for 30 mins to an hour.

7. Preheat the oven to 170C fan/190C non-fan and prepare baking sheets/trays with silicone parchment or grease-proof paper. 2 trays at a time is probably enough per bake depending on the size of your oven, so this stage can be much more time consuming than making the dough.

8. Roll balls of dough slightly smaller than a golf ball (but it depends how large you want your cookies to be) and then flatten a little so they look more like small hockey pucks – this helps to speed up the baking and make sure they’ll be cooked through. Try to make sure your sultanas are fairly evenly distributed between the cookies.

9. Spread 3 – 4 cookies on each tray and bake for about 10 minutes, or until brown round the edges and cooked through. If the centre is still transparent, they’ll need a few more minutes. Allow to cool (they’ll harden a little) then enjoy! (They should still be chewy on the inside and will keep for around a week in an airtight container.

Salad Drawer Soup

In winter, I like to make soup on Sundays to keep me in healthy lunches throughout the week. Soup is great because it’s hot and filling, but it can also get lots of vegetables into your day! Add a box of your favourite fruits and you’re well on your way to making your 5-a-day. I had a big old glut of soup in the freezer so I’ve been trying to whittle that down a bit over the last week or so, so although I wanted to make something new this week, I didn’t want my usual monster batch of blended tomato or squash. As I already had a bag of carrots, a couple of onions and fresh parsley in the vegetable drawer, I picked up a leek at the supermarket and threw together something that my nana usually makes (only, she adds turnip…not a fan!), but you could make this with any of your favourite veg. It would be great with some cubed new potatoes added if you fancied something a bit heartier.

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You may want:

1 litre of stock, I used half a litre of homage chicken stock I had in the freezer, plus 1 stock cube dissolved in hot water

3-4 carrots, chopped

1 white onion, sliced relatively finely

1 leek, sliced finely

a couple of handfuls of frozen peas to finish

a spelling of fresh chopped parsley

salt and pepper to taste

1. Chop the rootier veggies and sauté in a little oil or butter, until the onions and leek are translucent.

2. Add stock and seasoning and simmer for a good 40 mins or so.

3. Taste and season if necessary – this will probably need a bit more salt and pepper than usual.

4. Add frozen peas, not long before serving, to make sure they don’t overcook.

Snow White on Ice and Willem Dafoe

Yesterday was a Saturday of culture, starting off with Perth Farmers Market , grocery shopping, lunch and While You Were Sleeping. There wasn’t all that much cooking going on though, as I was visiting my parents, en route to Snow White on Ice, to which I’d bought tickets for my Mum for Christmas.

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Before that, though, we went to Grand Italia for another exceptional Italian supper. There’s not much I can say about it except that the food is always delicious and fresh, the staff welcoming and the service, excellent. It is unchanging. The owner is wonderfully Italian, and encourages any ‘grazies’ and ‘buonaseras’ you have to offer.

I first went to see The Russian Ice Stars 2 years ago, when they performed Beauty and the Beast. They were acrobatic, hilarious and mesmerising, and if anything this performance was better. Goodness knows how they can gather such speed on a rink that is literally the size of the normal stage (which I can tell you is not at all big). There were lifts, rapid pirouettes and aerial acrobatics, with 2 of the company spinning and somersaulting, held only by a hook, a sash and one another’s hands. It was flawless. The only fly in the ointment was former bit part soapstar Rustie Lee, who had been brought in to karate the story for the kids. She fluffed some of her lines, swallowed others, and was not at all a good actress. The kids enjoyed it though as her part was played in pantomime style, and they enjoyed interacting with her. Regardless, the production is a joy. Go and see it!

When we got back, my Dad had picked 1988 classic Mississippi Burning for us all to watch, starring a very young Willem Dafoe and Gene Hackman. I was 1 when it was released and had never heard of it but it was moving, poignant and generally quite wonderful.

Right, off to finish my kitchen cushions!

Common Sense recipes for everyday eating