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cranberry and pistachio granola

… it’s off to work I go.

For, oh yes, ladies and gentlemen, I have a brand new, shiny job – starting today. A new job with new people. Hope they’re going to be nice to the new girl in her new suit 🙂

Of course, as every blogger knows, there’s nothing so irritating as real life* – it gets in the way of the truly important stuff like writing up insightful, witty posts, surfing the net for hours on end and leaving pithy comments on other blogs. A job is going to take out, oooooooh, at least seven or eight hours of perfectly good internet time every day. There could be withdrawal symptoms – although I suspect they’re going to keep me too busy to notice.

However, I’m determined to keep up the cooking and the blogging – it’s far too much fun to give up now. But if there’s a big gap between one post and the next, it’s because I’m fast asleep on a mountain of laundry, a piece of toast in one hand and a spreadsheet in the other, trying to juggle that mythical state of being known as ‘the life/work balance’. Though everyone else seems to manage it, so it shouldn’t be too bad (famous last words). Right?

On the plus side, I have a whole new set of people to inflict my baking on…

carnberry and pistachio granola

Naturally, I need something to lure me out of the bed in the morning (it’s been a loooooooong eight months of unemployment), so here’s what I’ll be eating for breakfast over the next week to break myself in gently to the new routine:

Cranberry and pistachio toasted muesli from the Donna Hay magazine, issue 34

Serves 4

You’ll need:

60g unsalted butter
1/3 cup honey
250g rolled oats
1/2 cup slivered almonds
3/4 cup shredded coconut
1 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
3/4 cup chopped pistachio nuts

1. Preheat the oven to 160C/320F/gas mark 3.

2. Place the butter and honey in a small saucepan over a low heat and stir until the butter is melted.

3. Place the oats, almonds and coconut in a large bowl, pour over the butter mixture and toss well to combine.

4. Spread evenly over the base of a baking dish and bake for 10 minutes. Stir and bake for a further five to 10 minutes, or until crisp and golden.

5. Allow to cool and stir through the cranberries, pumpkin seeds and pistachios.

6. Serve with milk and yogurt. Can be stored in an airtight container for up to one week.

Cook’s notes

I’m not the world’s biggest fan of coconut, so I reduced it a little bit and upped the cranberries/pistachios instead.

*The other thing we all know is not to blog about work or it will get us slung out the door. Let’s just say I think it’s going to be hard work but fun 🙂

gingerbread  

Up for a little lazy weekend baking?  

How does a stickily gorgeous double-ginger cake sound?   

This is the perfect recipe to make on a rainy Sunday afternoon, puttering around in the kitchen. There’s not much to it: a smidgen of melting, a teeny-tiny touch of chopping and then a little bit of mixing to finish off – that’s as strenuous as it gets, which suits me just fine on a day off. 

Plus it tastes great – spiked with stem ginger as well as the more usual ground stuff, it’s a plain cake with a slightly luxurious feel to it. I like to nibble away at a slice while slurping a strong cuppa and getting stuck into a good book (cake helps me concentrate) but it would also work beautifully while still warm with a scoop or two of your favourite icecream. Mmmmmmmmm….

And, if you have tremendous willpower, you can wrap the cake up in tin foil and leave it to grow even more wonderfully sticky over a couple of days. But if you have that kind of towering inner strength then you’re a better person than me! 

Have a lovely weekend everyone 🙂   

 gingerbread 

Double Ginger Cake from The Kitchen Diaries by Nigel Slater

You’ll need:

250g self-raising flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
level teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
pinch of salt
200g golden syrup
2 tablespoons syrup from the stem ginger jar
125g unsalted butter
3 lumps stem ginger
2 heaped tablespoons sultanas
125g dark muscovado sugar
2 large eggs
240ml milk

an 8-inch square tin, lined with parchment/greaseproof paper

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4.

2. Sift the flour with the ginger, cinnamon, bicarbonate of soda and salt.

3. Put the golden and ginger syrups and the butter into a small saucepan and warm over a low heat. Dice the ginger finely, then add it to the pan, along with the sultanas and sugar. Let the mixture bubble gently for a minute, giving it the occasional stir to stop the fruit sticking to the bottom.

4. Break the eggs into a bowl, pour in the milk and beat gently to break up the egg and mix into the milk.

5. Remove the butter and sugar mixture from the heat and pour into the flour, stirring smoothly and firmly with a large metal spoon. Mix in the milk and eggs. The mixture should be sloppy, with no trace of flour.

6. Scoop the mixture into the lined tin and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.

7. Leave in the tin to cool and then tip it out on to a sheet of greaseproof paper. Wrap it up in foil and, if you can, leave it to mature for a day or two before eating.

Cook’s notes

It took about 10 minutes longer to cook in my oven, which I still haven’t got the full measure of after eight months of using the tricksy thing.

Don’t worry about the stem ginger and sultanas sinking to the bottom of the mix – it’s a very runny batter, so that’s just going to happen. Happily, this makes for a extra sticky, super ginger layer at the bottom of the cake, which is extremely tasty, so you can lie sweetly and claim it’s meant to be like that.

Well, knock me down with a feather, that was a nice thing to turn the computer on and see – I’ve been shortlisted in the Food and Drink category at the Irish Blog Awards. (Thanks to Catherine and Yvonne for telling me!) Click here to read the full shortlist – congratulations to everyone!

To celebrate, I went to the Lakeland shop in York and lusted after their tupperware and handy household solutions (well, I was thinking of going anyway, but any excuse will do). I don’t make a particularly good housewife (dusting – what’s that? ditto laundry, sweeping up and just about everything else) but I looooooooove this shop. It’s full of all the home-related bits and pieces you’ll ever need and a few things you didn’t know you needed until you saw them waving at you cheerily from the shelves.

I asked the extremely helpful ladies in the shop if there was even a teensy, wincy chance of Lakeland opening a store in Ireland one day. They said that someone had looked into it but it was a matter of setting up the supply chain, finding good warehouse space etc. So, fingers crossed then. Us bakers need our beehive and garden critter-shaped cake tins (along with the related storage solutions) as well as some Australian Soft Liquorice to snack on as we go along. Oooh – and this would be fantastic if you wanted to bring hot food to work… 

You see? We need this shop in our lives. (Maz – there’s a whole creative/crafty section just for you 🙂 )

Unfortunately, I’m flying home with RyanAir, so I can’t really fit many of these wonderful treasures in my luggage without incurring some kind of extra cost. But I’m sure that we’ll take the ferry and drive over one of these days – then I’ll have a whole boot to fill…

No recipe today as I’m either in Edinburgh or York by the time you’re reading this. Luckily, however, I’ve been tagged once more! This time, it’s Kate over at Pink Whisk, who’s passing on the torch, so here are the rules… 

1. Link to the person that tagged you and post the rules on your blog.

2. Share five random and/or weird facts about yourself on your blog.

3. Share the five top places on your ‘want to see or want to see again’ list.

4. Tag a minimum of five random people at the end of your post and include links to their blogs. Let each person know that they have been tagged by leaving a comment in their blog.

OK then, hold on to your hats, here are five random or weird things about moi:

1.  When I was little, I was absolutely terrified of Dr Bunsen from the Muppets. Like wake-up-in-the-dark-screaming scared. There were no eyes behind his glasses, people, and that was creepy as hell to a small child with an overactive imagination.

2. I know how to card and spin wool and weave the Viking way. Follies of a mis-spent youth. Very smelly but the lanolin made my hands wonderfully soft.

3. I have a tattoo. Sometimes I regret it, sometimes I don’t. Mostly I forget about it because it’s on my back.

4. My eyes are sort of greeny-brown, depending on the light. My husband wastes endless amounts of time trying to link my changing eye colour to my erratic mood swings, er, how I’m feeling at any given time. Thus far, he has been completely unsuccessful.

5. I can’t swim. But I’m going along to swimming classes and, for the first time ever, I’m starting to enjoy the sensation of being in the water. It’s a revelation.

Top five places that I’ve seen or would like to see again…

Italy – Oh yes. I mean, look at this slightly blurry photo and tell me you don’t feel the need to book a ticket on the next flight out to Florence:

Mercato Centrale, Florence

America – I’ve never been and would love to.

Spain – My cousin lives in Barcelona, I’ve promised to visit, but somehow have never managed it yet. For shame.

Stonehenge – I’ve been there during the daytime (it’s smaller than you think) but there’s a bit of hippy in here somewhere that wants to see the sun come up over the standing stones. Maybe sacrifice a few virgins while I’m there.

The Dingle Peninsula – One of my favourite places in Ireland. Nothing like sitting on the cliffs on a sunny day, tucking into a picnic and admiring the nearby Blasket Islands.

And now to pass on the love:

  • VeggieKate – can’t believe she’s escaped so far…
  • English Mum – returning the favour after being tagged by her last time 😉
  • Peter at Kalofagas – his recipes always look delicious and I enjoy following his exploration of Greek food
  • Yvonne at It Had Better Be Good – this meme could be either be a welcome or unwanted distraction from editing her first novel…
  • You – ok, I’m being a bit lazy but if you’re in the mood to meme, consider yourself tagged!

spicy lentil and pumpkin soup

Some days I think I should just rename this blog ‘I ♥ Soup’ or ‘Queen of Soups’, because we seem to be getting through lot of it around here at the moment. Tis the season, I guess. We all crave something hot, simple and hearty when the weather is playing silly buggers and daylight is just a dim memory. 

And right now I feel like the soup witch as I huddle over my bubbling cauldron of mysterious gloop, mumbling incantations to ward off the winter blues (and cackling like a mad ‘un, of course).

Except it’s just a big pot on the stove, filled with spicy dal-pumpkin soup and I’m not that bad or mad (yet) – just wishing February would get its skates on and disappear. It’s such an uninspiring time for anyone who loves cooking.

So it’s a big thanks to Holler at Tinned Tomatoes and Lisa at Lisa’s Kitchen for coming up with No Croutons Required – a new monthly challenge to create a veggie soup or salad, sometimes according to a theme. It’s the kick in the backside I’ve needed to look at my kitchen cupboards and cookbooks with a fresh eye.

The inaugural challenge is to cook a veggie soup ‘that even the most carnivorous diner would drool over’. Hence my witchy attempts to cast a spell over all soup-lovers out there with this offering from Nigel Slater 😉

Silky roasted pumpkin marries perfectly with the grainy texture of the lentils… the zingy spices make this a soup to warm your soul as well as your body… the fresh note of coriander lifts your spirits, whispering of better, brighter times around the corner. And in these dark, dreary days, who couldn’t do with a bit of hope like that in their belly?

Just remember, I’ll turn you all into toads if you don’t like it.

Dal and pumpkin soup from The Kitchen Diaries by Nigel Slater

Serves 4 generous bowlfuls

You’ll need:

a small onion, peeled and roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
walnut-sized knob of ginger, cut into thin shreds
little bit of olive oil
225g split red lentils, picked over and washed
1 teaspoon ground tumeric
1 teaspoon ground chilli
250g pumpkin, peeled weight, cut into fat chunks
small bunch coriander, roughly chopped
1.5 litres veg or chicken stock

1. Put the onion, garlic, ginger and olive oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan and cook over a medium heat for a couple of minutes. Add the lentils and pour in the stock. Bring to the boil, then turn down to an enthusiastic simmer. Stir in the tumeric and chilli and leave to simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.

2. While the soup is cooking, bring a medium-sized pan of water to the boil. Boil the pumpkin pieces for 10 minutes until they are tender enough to take a skewer without much pressure. Drain and set aside. (Or roast it in the oven for 20 to 30 mins at 200C/gas mark 6.)

3. Remove the lid from the lentils and turn up the heat, boiling hard for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, then add the drained pumpkin. Put the soup through the blender until smooth. Stir in the roughly chopped coriander and check the seasoning (Nigel mentions that he likes more than the usual amount of salt in this soup). 

Cook’s notes

I didn’t have any ground chilli, so I guesstimated with some chilli flakes. Seemed to do the trick.

I roasted the squash – I was shoving a bunch of other veggies into the oven, so it made sense.

Scooting off to spend the weekend with the in-laws. Will be back home on Sunday with big plans to have an afternoon of making icecream – namely banana with chocolate shavings and orange jaffa. Oh yes, it’s a date with destiny… Besides, we’re running low on our stock of icecream and that always makes us a little panicky 😉   

Have a good weekend everyone!

Hello

I'm short of stature (a family trait) but big of appetite (also a family trait). If you're reading this then you're probably big of appetite too. Or a member of my family (hello Mum).
February 2008
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