Ain’t Nobody

It’s been a while since I have sat at this keyboard. A symptom of what is going on in my life at the moment.  I have recently been diagnosed with MS which completely came from nowhere. One day I was fine – the next day my legs were a bit weird. Within a week I was having trouble walking!

Now there is never, ever a good time to be diagnosed with MS and I was in the middle of designing and installing flowers for two pretty big weddings. Luckily for me, I have a boyfriend who fought for me to be seen and treated as soon as humanely possible and at the moment I am pretty much symptom free. The weddings went really well and as long as I didn’t have to sprint anywhere, no one would have known.

When something like this happens, it takes ages to come to terms with not only the diagnosis but also the realisation or the fear, that suddenly people will treat me differently. I thought that if people knew, then I would no longer be hired. As a self employed mother of three, that is a pretty scary thought.

After much soul searching I just thought fuck it! I am not the first person to be diagnosed with this. I am pretty much ok, just residual numbness in my feet and somedays my legs feel weird but right now, I am ok. Its nothing to be ashamed of and I refuse to allow it to define me.

Another reason why I have been so tardy in updating my lovely blog is that for the last few months my staple diet has been pretty much mackerel and rocket! I could fill a book with all the different ways to cook and prepare mackerel. I figure that maybe the few readers that I have may soon get fed up with yet another mackerel recipe! Apparently oily fish is the way forward when you have a neurological disease. Rufus the 6 year old is the only one who seems to join me in my latest food obsession. His favourite breakfast is smoked mackerel with a scotch egg, from Lidl of course.

I promise not to leave it so long between posts and for now I leave you with my recipe for Banoffi Pie. I made this because the kids were complaining that I never make puddings any more. I told them I was trying to be healthy because well you know, I have MS!

“Well you don’t have to eat it mum” said Lola. Bloody hell the sympathy vote lasted about 3 days in my house.

I found Mary Berry’s recipe online and she makes the base from ginger biscuits. Sorry Mary but no, just no. It has to be digestives. She also put the bananas on top of the cream. I put mine underneath.  Please feel free to put your bananas wherever you see fit,

I leave you a few photos of a not at all low fat lasagne and even more unhealthy Nachos, which are becoming a Saturday night staple in my house.

Banoffi Pie

This is based on Mary Berry’s recipe. Its incredibly indulgent, not for the faint hearted.

FOR THE BASE

  • 65g (2 ½ oz) butter
  • 175g (6 oz) digestive biscuits, crushed

FOR THE FILLING

  • 100g (4 oz) butter
  • 100g (4 oz) light muscovado sugar
  • 2 x 397g (14 oz) cans condensed milk

FOR THE TOPPING

  • 300ml (1/2 pint) double cream
  • 1 large banana
  • a little lemon juice
  • a little grated milk or plain chocolate

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. FOR THE BASE: melt the butter in a small pan, remove from the heat and stir in the crushed biscuits. Mix well, then spread the mixture over the base and sides of a 23cm (9 inch) loose-bottomed fluted flan tin, pressing the mixture with a metal spoon to make it firm.
  2. FOR THE FILLING: measure the butter and light muscovado sugar into a roomy non-stick pan. Heat gently until the sugar had dissolved, add the condensed milk and stir with a flat ended wooden spatula, stirring continuously and evenly for about 5 minutes or until the mixture is a golden toffee colour and thick – watch like a hawk as it burns easily. Turn into the prepared crumb crust case and leave to cool and set.
  3. FOR THE TOPPING: slice the bananas and coat with a little lemon juice to stop them from discolouring. Layer them over the cold toffee. Whip the double cream until it just holds its shape and spread evenly over the bananas and cold toffee mixture, dust the whole pie with grated chocolate. Lift on to a flat plate and remove the ring. Serve very chilled.

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Made In The UK

I have turned back the clock in my house this week. I feel it is apt since this country seems to be going backwards…..Anyway.

It is officially 1976 in my house and I am revelling in such classics as Chicken Kiev and Crumble.

I have never made a Kiev before but then watched Tom Kerridge make his version and I was inspired. My love affair with Lidl is, as always burning brightly and all the ingredients were brought for under £6.

To prep the chicken breast fillets cut a pocket into the thick end of the fillets then fill a disposable piping bag with garlic and parsley butter and inject the butter into pocket.

Place breadcrumbs and 2 whisked eggs into two bowls. Dip the fillets into the egg then breadcrumbs and repeat so each fillet has a really good coating. Put the fillets in the fridge for at least 20 mins then gently fry in butter so they are golden brown on each side. I finished off the cooking in the oven set at 180C for 10 mins. Serve with steamed broccoli and a glass of Liebfraumilch!

I leave you with my crumble recipe and a few photos including one of the kids happy to be delivering said crumble to their uncle.

 

chkiev

crumbleingredients mangoplumcrumble monkeykids

Plum and Mango Crumble

Ok so this is not your usual combination for an autumn crumble but bear with me. Its good! Its surprisingly good, I wish I had added some gratings of fresh coconut to the crumble mixture and next time I will. I had promised the kids a crumble but there were no cooking apples in the grocery so instead picked up plums and a mango and a lime. I served it with fresh cream which I felt would suit better then a vanilla custard. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • A punnet of plums (not too ripe they need to hold their shape)
  • A lime
  • A mango (again not a super ripe one)
  • knob of butter
  • 100g rolled oats
  • 50g of butter
  • 50g plain flour
  • 50g golden caster sugar
  • pinch of salt

Method

Turn the oven on to 180C and then take a saucepan and gently melt the knob of butter in it. Chop in half and de stone the plums, peel and chop up the mango. Don’t chop the mango too small. Add to the gently simmering butter. Then zest and squeeze the lime in. Cook for about 10 mins until the fruit is shiny and beginning to colour a little.  Set aside.

In a bowl add the oats, butter, flour and salt and sugar then rub together with your fingertips until the butter is dispersed through the mix.

In a heatproof bowl add the fruit and then top with the crumble mix.

Place in the oven and cook for about 20mins until the top is golden brown and the fruit is bubbling.

Serve with fresh cream or ice cream.

 


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Sour-dough Starter

I have been wanting to make a sourdough starter for years. I thought that it would be complicated and time consuming. How wrong was I! After a bit of research, I began the process of making a wild yeast starter. Now the first couple of attempts went in the bin as nothing seemed to be happening. Then I decided to not be so impatient and within a week, I made my first batch of sourdough which became pizza for the kids supper.

What You Need
Ingredients
Plain flour
Water

Equipment
500ml glass or plastic container (not metal)
Measuring cups
Mixing spoon
Cling film or a food bag

Instructions
Making sourdough starter takes about 5 days. Each day you “feed” the starter with equal amounts of fresh flour and water. As the wild yeast grows stronger, the starter will become more frothy and sour-smelling. On average, this process takes about 5 days, but it can take longer depending on the conditions in your kitchen. As long as you see bubbles and sings of yeast activity, continue feeding it regularly. If you see zero signs of bubbles after three days, take a look at the Troubleshooting section below.

Day 1: Make the Initial Starter

1 cup of plain flour
1 cup of water

Combine them in the container. Stir vigorously into a smooth batter. It will look like a sticky, thick dough. Scrape down the sides and loosely cover the container with cling film.

Put the container somewhere with a consistent room temperature, the same temperature that you would use to proof dough and let sit for 24 hours.

Day 2: Feed the Starter

1/2 cup water
1/2 cup plus a tablespoon plain flour

Take down your starter and give it a look. You may see a few small bubbles here and there. This is good! The bubbles mean that wild yeast have started making themselves at home in your starter. They will eat the sugars in the the flour and release carbon dioxide (the bubbles) and alcohol. They will also increase the acidity of the mixture, which helps fend off any bad bacterias. At this point, the starter should smell fresh, mildly sweet, and yeasty.

If you don’t see any bubbles yet, don’t panic like I did — depending on the conditions in your kitchen, the average room temperature, and other factors, your starter might just be slow to get going.

Combine the flour and water in with the starter. Leave again for 24 hours loosely covered.

Day 3: Feed the Starter

1/4 cup water
1/4 cup flour

Check your starter. By now, the surface of your starter should look dotted with bubbles and your starter should look visibly larger in volume. If you stir the starter, it will still feel thick and batter-like, but you’ll hear bubbles popping. It should also start smelling a little sour and musty.

Again, if your starter doesn’t look quite like mine in the photo, don’t worry. Give it a few more days. The photo I have taken is of my third attempt so please don’t panic it does work.

Add the flour and water for today. Stir vigorously until combined into a smooth batter and let sit for 24 hours.

Day 4: Feed the Starter

1/4 cup water
1/4 cup flour

Check your starter. By now, the starter should be looking very bubbly with large and small bubbles, and it will have doubled in volume. If you stir the starter, it will feel looser than yesterday and honeycombed with bubbles. It should also be smelling quite sour and pungent. You can taste a little too! It should taste sour and somewhat vinegary.

When I made my starter here, I didn’t notice much visual change from Day 3 to Day 4, but could tell things had progress by the looseness of the starter and the sourness of the aroma.

Combine the flour and water with the starter. Let sit for 24 hours.

Day 5: Starter is Ready to Use

Check your starter. It should have doubled in bulk since yesterday. By now, the starter should also be looking very bubbly — even frothy. If you stir the starter, it will feel looser than yesterday and be completely webbed with bubbles. It should also be smelling quite sour and pungent. You can taste a little too! It should taste even more sour and vinegary.

If everything is looking, smelling, and tasting good, you can consider your starter ripe and ready to use! If your starter is lagging behind a bit, continue on with the Day 5 and Beyond instructions.

Day 5 and Beyond: Maintaining Your Starter
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup flour

Once your starter is ripe (or even if it’s not quite ripe yet), you no longer need to bulk it up. To maintain the starter, discard (or use) about half of the starter and then “feed” it with new flour and water: weigh the flour and water, and combine them in the container with the starter. Stir vigorously until combined into a smooth batter.

If you’re using the starter within the next few days, leave it out on the counter and continue discarding half and “feeding” it daily. If it will be longer before you use your starter, cover it tightly and place it in the fridge. Remember to take it out and feed it at least once a week — I also usually let the starter sit out overnight to give the yeast time to recuperate before putting it back in the fridge.

How to Reduce the Amount of Starter:

Maybe you don’t need all the starter we’ve made here on an ongoing basis. That’s fine! Discard half the starter as usual, but feed it with half the amount of flour and water. Continue until you have whatever amount of starter works for your baking habits.

How to Take a Long Break from Your Starter:

If you’re taking a break from baking, but want to keep your starter, you can do two things:

Make a Thick Starter: Feed your starter double the amount of flour to make a thicker dough-like starter. This thicker batter will maintain the yeast better over long periods of inactivity in the fridge.
Dry the Starter: Smear your starter on a Silpat sheet and let it dry. Once completely dry, break it into flakes and store it in an airtight container. Dried sourdough can be stored for months. To re-start it, dissolve a 1/4 cup of the flakes in 4 ounces of water, and stir in 4 ounces of flour. Continue feeding the starter until it is active again.

Troubleshooting Your Sourdough Starter
No signs of bubbles or yeast activity after several days: Add a pinch of sugar next time you feed your starter — this can help kickstart yeast activity. Also, make sure your starter is being kept somewhere warm and stir vigorously when you stir in the fresh flour and water. If it starts to smell spoiled, discard it and start again.
Still no signs of activity! Something’s not going right. Discard your starter and begin again with a clean container. Use filtered water if at all possible. If it’s very warm in your kitchen, also be sure that the starter is not too hot — if you’re sweating, your yeast is also not so happy. Try to keep the starter around 70°F to 75°F.
There’s a thin layer of liquid on the top: This often happens if your water to flour ratio is off (too much water) or if your starter has gone too long between feedings. Just pour off this layer off and feed your starter as normal. Be sure you’re adding the right amount of flour and water (slightly more flour than water by volume) — weigh your ingredients if at all possible.
The top of my starter looks moldy or is tinged red: I’ve read in several places that it’s ok to scrape this layer off (or pour it off, if it’s liquidy), but personally, I’d discard the starter and start again. If you can’t bear to discard an old starter, try to scoop about 1/4 cup from the bottom of the container and use this to seed a new batch of flour and water.

Good Luck!

sourdough starter whitepizza


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