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Thank you Marianthe badge makes a lovely companion for my beetle ūüôā

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Hi folks.

If you’ve come this way looking for July’s DB post, I’m terribly sorry but there’s nothing here!

After being so pushed for time with previous challenges, I’ve decided to leave the Daring Bakers for the time being and just noodle along, posting more day-to-day stuff for a while.

Maybe at some point in the future I’ll join the fun again, but at the moment it’s just not really possible.

Have fun out there in DB-land ūüôā

From time to time,¬†I¬†have the chance¬†to work¬†from home –¬†which¬†makes me giddy like a small child at Christmas¬†for two reasons:

1. It’s another 30 or 40 minutes wrapped in the cocoon of my duvet. Bliss.

2. I¬†can make lunch at home and¬†eat something that I wouldn’t normally even think about¬†bringing into the office.

Cherry and goat’s cheese salad from The Sunday Times (Style section), Lucas Hollweg

Serves 4 but it’s pretty easy to cut down to one

You’ll need:

2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
2 big handfuls of baby spinach
4 handfuls of cherries, pitted
200g soft white goat’s cheese (the stuff that comes in plastic tubs, not the rinded logs)
2 handfuls of whole or flaked blanched almonds toasted in a dry frying pan until tinged gold

1. Whisk together the vinegar and oil, and season well.

2. Toss in a salad bowl with the leaves and cherries. Add the goat’s cheese and gently fold in, then scatter with the almonds. Serve.

Cook’s notes

Oops – I misread the recipe and used two tablespoons of sherry vinegar. Happily, this turned out to be a good thing as I hate oily dressing anyway.

I only had the oozy, gooey type of goat’s cheese in the fridge and the recipe was none the worse for it.

Lucas also has a rather tempting-looking cherry frangipane tart in the same article. I think I’ve got enough cherries left over…

At the encouragement of some lovely bloggers I met up with yesterday evening,* I’ve¬†dragged my backside out¬†of the dark ages¬†and signed up for Twitter.

I feel like the scales have fallen from my eyes.

So that’s where you all are during the daytime when you’re pretending to work!

It’s the social networking equivalent of crack.

If you really want to know what I’m having for dinner, look up jen_little_bird.

See you there.

*Walter – I never got your blog name or I’d¬†link you¬†in too!

I know, I know – three posts in one weekend. What is going on around here?

Well, mainly it’s me sprinting for the finishing line again – for this month’s No Croutons Required, hosted by the lovely Holler and Lisa. I just don’t work well without¬†the pressure of a¬†deadline…

Unfortunately, WordPress is not playing nicely today and doesn’t want to publish my pictures. Aaargh.¬†Clearly it’s overwhelmed by my sudden spurt of productivity in the kitchen and has had enough.¬† (Update: oh no, it appears that there’s actually a gremlin¬†in the system¬†and the WordPress folks are trying to fix it. Although I see one of my pics has come up ok…)

Anyhoo, my entry is¬†a butterbean and barley salad, with tangy beetroot-yoghurt sauce taken from Feasts by Silvena Rowe. Lots of lovely parsley and thyme¬†too, since the theme for this month’s challenge was to create a herb-stuffed salad or soup. Handily, it’s also providing me with my lunch for the first few¬†days of the week. Although the sauce is quite garlicky, so¬†woe betide anyone who crosses my path/gets stuck in a meeting room with me¬†tomorrow!

Butterbean and barley salad with beetroot and yoghurt dressing from Feasts by Silvena Rowe

Serves 4

You’ll need:

400g can white beans – anything will do – I used butterbeans because I had a tin lurking in the cupboard
200g cooked barley
50g sultanas (look closely, you’ll see I used raisins – oh, the shame)
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
50g shelled walnuts, roughly chopped
salt and pepper
baby salad leaves to serve

For the dressing:

3 beetroots, washed
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
250ml thick yoghurt
35g ground walnuts

1. For the dressing, cook the beetroots in boiling water for anything from 20 to 45 minutes, until soft. Cool, then peel and place the flesh in a food processor with the garlic and yoghurt. Pulse until it is smooth and creamy. Pour into a bowl and stir in the ground walnuts.

2. In a large bowl, combine the beans, barley, sultanas, herbs and walnuts and mix well. Season to taste. Add the salad leaves and toss everything together gently.

3. Serve accompanied by the beeetroot and yoghurt dressing.

All this talk about breakfast has made me a little hungry…

There are probably a million and one things I could have slathered these puffy little pancakes with. But today I was just in the mood for maple syrup:

The only burning question is: Who gets the sacrificial pancake?*

American Breakfast Pancakes from How to be a Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson

Makes around 12 pancakes

You’ll need:

225g plain flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 large eggs, beaten
30g butter, melted and cooled
300ml milk
butter for frying

Two way of doing this:

1. Put all the ingredients in a blender and blitz.

or

2. Put the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar together in a bowl. Then beat in the eggs, milk and melted butter.

3. Transfer the mix to a jug. Or I used a quarter cup to scoop up the batter and make sure I got similarly-sized pancakes

4. Melt some butter in a frying pan and get cooking! Turn over the pancakes when the upper side is blistering and bubbling. The second side may only need a minute to brown. 

* In our house, that would be Mr B. He’s noble like that.

granola with chocolate

I made¬†Molly’s chocolate granola last week as a present for my mum. Unlike me, she’s a hard-wired early bird and actively enjoys breakfast. So I thought I’d make something that was a¬†little bit luxurious¬†but would still work well for every day.

After packing¬†a Kilner jar to the brim, there was plently left over.¬†So now¬†it has¬†become my¬†morning treat¬†too ūüôā

How do you like to start the day? Are you a coffee-and-cigarette kind of person (Mr B.) or do you dig into something more substantial? What’s your favourite breakfast of all time?

In the end, the plane left only 45 minutes late – the radar was pretty much up and running by Friday afternoon, I think.

So, a trip to Manchester saw us noodling around the Trafford Centre. Where I bought not a single thing.

That’s right. Nothing. Just wasn’t in the mood.¬†(‘But why don’t they do anything for women with hips and boobs?! Who are short-arsed as well! And may be a bit¬†older/fatter/saggier than¬†the Topshop demographic but still want to look good and not like their grannies?! Call that a flattering pattern/cut?!’ etc, etc.)

However,¬†a drive over to Lakeland sorted that right out. It’s a very boring purchase though – lots of tupperware boxes so that I can organise my baking drawer and staple goodies. The drawer is turning into an archaeological dig – more stuff piled on top of the old stuff, bags of flour leaking everywhere¬†–¬†and I keep buying things that I already have but can’t see under the rest of the crap. Ditto the staple goods.

How do you keep on top of things in the kitchen? Do you find yourself throwing a lot of stuff away? What do you think of Gordon Brown’s latest call to action on being thrifty with food? Did anyone see the Beeb’s¬†One Show on Friday evening where they did a piece about ‘re-skilling’ in the kitchen and recycling leftovers? If so, what did you think?

More importantly, who else out there has a tupperware fetish? It can’t just be me!

Update: Doh! How could I forget? I picked up three new cookbooks in a bargain shop:

Cook Simple by Diane Henry
Feasts by Silvena Rowe
The New Family Bread Book by Ursula Ferrigno

Looking forward to curling up with these at bedtime ūüôā

Off to the UK for the weekend – if they’ve fixed the radar at Dublin airport, that is…

Lakeland here I come! Hopefully!

Have a good weekend everyone ūüôā

shortbread with dried cranberries

I’ve been umm-ing and ahh-ing over whether or not to post this recipe for cranberry shortbread. You see, it’s super duper, it’s fab,¬†it’s melt-in-your-mouth taste-tastic, mate. But¬†only for one day.¬†

Next day… meh, not so much – the problem being that¬†this cookie¬†goes soft very quickly. Think it’s all the icing¬†sugar, which isn’t exactly¬†keeping¬†to the traditional¬†ingredients for shortbread. Just goes to show¬†that¬†you¬†shouldn’t mess with perfection.¬†

It’s also¬†a¬†little bit¬†annoying as I was hoping to make them for¬†a friend’s¬†wedding later in the year –¬†cos, oh yeah, cranberry shortbread hearts¬†would be¬†super cute and¬†spot on¬†for the occasion.¬†And it was my wedding anniversary last week, so I was thinking, ‘Oooh, cunning plan… test out the recipe, celebrate with results at the same time, then write it up for the blog and¬†include moving tribute to husband’. Yeah, there goes another super cute (but¬†quite likely¬†nauseating)¬†idea out the window. Count yourself lucky – the way this¬†cookie¬†turned out has¬†saved you from reams of¬†gushy prose and a feeling in your tummy that isn’t so much butterflies as dry heaving.¬†Hey, there’s¬†always next year¬†ūüėČ ¬†

But still, despite all that,¬†if you feel the urge for shortbread and know you’re going to eat it as soon as it comes out of the oven…

Dried Cranberry Shortbread Hearts from Martha Stewart’s Cookies

Makes about 12

You’ll need:

1 cup/2 sticks/225g unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sifted icing sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups sifted plain flour
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 cup finely chopped dried cranberries

1. Preheat the oven to 325F/170C with a rack positioned in the centre of the oven. Put the butter, sugar, vanilla, flour and salt in a large mixing bowl. Stir together with a wooden spoon until combined but not too creamy. Stir in the dried cranberries.

2. Press the dough evenly into an 8-inch square baking tin. Bake until firm and golden brown Рaround 30 minutes. Cool on a wire rack Рabout another 20 minutes.

3. Run a knife around the edges, remove the shortbread from the tin and transfer to a work surface. Cut out the hearts with a 2-inch heart-shaped cookie cutter. Trim any stray bits of cranberry hanging off the edges (that is such a Martha-esque thing to think about).

Cookie can be stored in an airtight container for up to 5 days, according to this recipe. OH NO THEY BLOODY CAN’T!

On another note – don’t bother cutting these into hearts unless you’re set on the idea for reasons of cuteness. It wastes a lot of shortbread – although it does create the perfect excuse to nibble away at the cut-offs and crumbs…

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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).
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