Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Winter Wonderland!

Had a wonderful pre Christmas eve day at home today. Was absolutely perfect. Got up and drove to "Lutterworth" to fetch Dave F and we went to "Morrisons". Got ingredients for some cute little Christmas treats we're going to dole out as presents.

Reindeer sweets: melt chocolate and spoon into a circle on greaseproof paper. Add matchmakers for antlers, halved white chocolate buttons for ears, dark choc mini buttons for eyes and another white choc button for nose as I forgot to buy glace cherries.
Then we met Leils, Hayden and Hayden's sister Catherine for a pub lunch in "Chequers" in "Ullesthorpe". These words must sound very alien to outta towners but I assure you they're very normal countryside places. I had chicken tikka. Oh so festive. Maybe I could be like Prince Albert and start some new Christmas traditions!

Then we popped back to "Monks Kirby" and went for our second walk in the fields that day with "Lexie". Had lots of fun playing on the iced over lake until the cracking sounds got ominous. Was less Casualty than earlier on in the day when Lexie was chasing ducks over the ice and fell through. Whoops. It was kinda funny because he looked so amusing struggling to get out but also very worrying and upsetting. Luckily Dave ran to his rescue with no thought to his own safety and managed to pull him out. Poor doggy. Thankfully within seconds of chasing pheasants he was dry and warm again. Aside from that scare we all thoroughly enjoyed the day.
After that we had a cup of tea and I drove everyone back to "Lutterworth". Now I'm sitting by the fire watching Bridget Jones: Edge of Reason. Don't think this day could get any better.

Bye for now reindeers, I love you just the way you are.*. xxxxxx

*Bridget Jones reference just incase others aren't as into RomComs as me.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

I like an animal in every course

AAh had the most wonderful Christmas weekend with my friends in London. After enjoying friday night with Chaz and Bob planning Christmas dinner games schedule over Clementine cava, we went out on Sat for Mark's work party which was probably TOO much fun. Amid the aftermath the next day Chazzy and I met Bob and David Haddrell, his friends, and Alex for Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park.
We cuddled up in the Bavarian village for a Bratwurst and mulled wine.

Once sated we ventured back to make paper chains and peel veg whilst watching Mrs Doubtfire

Sashy and Roast arrived after work and we gathered in our decorated Christmas room for bucks fizz and appetizers of nuts, olives, bread and dip, and these snappy little canopes. Bite sized exquisite morsels of soft cheese and a grape wrapped up in parma ham and secured with a cocktail stick. Have to credit Dave Fairbrother with the design of these beauts but we gave them a wintery twist with cranberry cheese. Very refreshing. Thanks DF.

Dinner was roast chicken, roast potatoes, parnsnip, swede, carrots, brussel sprouts, pigs in blankets, gravy, bread sauce, cranberry sauce from Mulberry Drive, and lots of mulled wine.

Finished off with a white chocolate cheese cake chaser with raspberry coulis. Everyone got a bit freaked out about the way the gelatin had set in little chewy chunks throughout the cheesecake so I pretended it was crystallised fruit until Alex guessed it. Someone said, 'oh that's fine, as long as it's only vegetarian gelatin. At least we've not got bits of beef in our cake..'
Oh and we had a secret santa and everyone loved their presents. I'm wearing all three things Sashy got me right now. We also played games and had lots of fun although there were terrible unfounded rumours that my team cheated.

Then we watched mamma mia sing along all night long shouting the words at the tops of our voices. Bye for now neighbours xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Cheese is no breeze

Went to the most wonderful cafe yesterday with Roasty and Juliet. First we went to the Geoffrye museum to see their display of rooms interiors through the ages done up for the festivities. Felt very fond of the 90s one. Then we went for a hot chocolate at this place. Roasty had an apple strudel with his and I had a large chocolate doughnut. Magazines were spilling from a wooden rack next to our stools so we grabbed latest editions of our faves and sat back and relaxed for a while. It was so warm and cosy and filled with cute antiques and french music. If I was the type of person that did activities on my own I would go there for a sit down.
On reflection outside, the only thing we didn't love was the slightly surly waitress and my chocolate doughnut wasn't great.

In my ideal cafe I would be having a slice of this white chocolate cheesecake with my drink.

White Chocolate Cheesecake (courtesy of Nigelly) recipe:
100g Melted butter, 225g Digestive or ginger biscuits, cruched, 11g Gelatine Sachet, 3 Tbsp Water, 450g Soft Cheese, softened, 225g White chocolate, melted, 375ml Double Cream, Cocoa Powder to decorate.

Mix Melted butter and crushed biscuit together. Press
into base of a deep loose bottomed 8" cake tin. Sprinkle gelatine over water in a small bowl. Leave to stand for 10mins. Dissolve over a pan of hot water. Leave to cool.Beat together soft cheese, melted cho
colate. Whip the cream until soft peaks. Add gelatine to cheese mixture, gradually add the whipped cream. Pour into prepared tin, chill until set. To serve: Remove from tin, dust with a little cocoa powder. serve with a side helping of a fruit coulis.

But to be honest I feel the cake maker's pain with this little treat. The gelatin is a right trickster.
I have to go to a party now so bye xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Fish delish

Now, I've received a number of complaints about my reference last week to cod. Apparently I shouldn't condone eating it. Stocks declining et al. With that in mind Chazzy and I went round for dinner at Bob's house because we know they can't afford cod in Croydon. Bob whipped us up a speedy, exciting and very tasty meal via Ken Hom. Well as she loves to remind us, she did go to Aayjah. It was salmon, sliced into chunky chunks, and cooked in a pan with some sort of ginger and garlic mixture. It was then served on uncooked spinach and cooked green beans. Absolutely delish.Oh it was with white rice as well. I thought it was lovely and also was amazed at how simple it was. Definitely recommend it.
Have to go as I'm making white chocolate cheesecake and I'm on a really tricky bit.

Bye for now snowgeese xxxxxxxx

Friday, 18 December 2009

Oat what a beautiful morNING!

Ah i've just arrived back in my flat after a dreamy evening away. Went to visit my friend Dani and her boyfriend Sparkles for dinner.
I was quickly settled down infront of the beautiful balcony views of London with a plate of Roquefort cheese and crackers. I very much felt like I was in a film about 20 somethings in London. I think I should eat more cheese and crackers. It feels very grown up and elegant.
For dins we had stuffed peppers.
Recipe: Boil pearl barley like rice, add salt (oh hi Maldon- nice to see
you), ground cumin, cayenne pepper, chopped garlic& red onion, goats cheese. Tuck that all up in a yellow pepper. Roast for about half an hour. The pearl barley slipped down a treat. A refreshing change from rice.

Then Sparkles turned to me and said, 'Now Fran, we've had quite light dinner so far but it's about to get stodgy..' Ooh how intriguing. The apparition of stodge that appeared before me was a cake that a friend's mother had made for Dani. It was showered with pretty sprinkles and looked like the richest most chocolatey chocolate cake ever. But, it was actually more like a fruit cake in taste but not texture. Very strange. Dani hadn't realised when eating it and had found herself questioning the cake, 'woah, what are you??' I imagine it felt similar to when this girl in my halls poured sought after chocolate sauce all over her sponge cake at dinner but once tucking in realised it was gravy. What a shock. Well, anyway, this was a tasty hybrid. I'd eat anything with custard poured over it to be honest. Tip: Dani put nutmeg in her custard. Added a whole new dimension.

Well you'd think dinner would be over by then but imagine my delight when Sparkles turned to me and requested I share a massive mince pie with him. A lady at Dani's work had given them to her, 'to feed up her boys.' What a mum. I was full
by then but Sparkles wanted someone to share the greed shame with and I would never let him down. We accidentally then ate another one but this time filled the space between filling and pastry with custard. Had to eat it over the sink. Dani had nipped out the room just then so we could pretend we weren't being so disgusting with no audience.

We then watched three whole episodes of Summer Heights High all cuddled up together. As regular readers will know, I love a boxset. It feels so indulgent to watch more than one episode at once. What a thrill.

Had a beautiful sleep and woke up to tea AND porridge.
It was really good porridge. Sparkles' Dad has tried all the porridge oats he claims and he says this type (Sainsbury's taste the difference jumbo rolled) are the best you can get. Well he says he's tried them all but Sparkles says he probably just tried Tesco's too, wasn't as fond, then got stuck in his ways on these. Parents love repetition.

Anyway, after all that I feel very happy hence the title of this post.

Bye for now ladybirds xxxxxxxxxx

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Cranstonberry Sauce

(I technically didn't write a single word of this, Dave did. I wish I had though as it sounds really great. Thanks Dave. I'm sure we'll be hearing more from him very soon! xxx)

This is a glorious recipe, and a good one to make for a 'chip in' meal, like our annual Christmas 'DO' on the Cranston Estate. It is incredibly easy to make off-site and transports well in a kilner jar, and will even keep for up to one month in the freezer before turning sour with the seasons. I once went to the Ocean Spray 'Cranberry World' in Massachusetts, so it's always an honour to cook with these little crimson jewels. I've no idea what else you'd use them for, other than a sauce and juice, because they taste FOUL when raw.

I like to add red onions to this sauce so we don't get fooled into thinking it's just a sour poorly made jam. Red onions go wonderfully well in sauces and really do complement a sweet tooth. Next summer I'll give you my recipe for red onion + peach + feta salad.


- 225g Cranstonberries
- 1/2 Small red onion, sliced into delicate rings
- Rind and juice of one happy orange
- 125g Muscovado
- 50ml Port (.....or 70ml for xmas)

-Lightly fry off the red onions in macadamia nut oil (to preserve the natural sweetness)
-Throw EVERYTHING into the pan
-Bring to the boil, stir until the berrys burst and release plumes of deep red
-Simmer, stirring occasionally for 5-10 mins
-Leave to cool and JAR it.


x x x x x

Oh it was Chilli!

Last night Sashy and Roasty came round and then we relocated to Sashy's house because our dvd player was requesting a parental password for the Grinch. Not sure what that was about! Was well fun zipping to Marylebone in the car. Got a completely different restricted steamed up window view of it so it was like I was on holiday. Familiar but not. Like when you go to a European city.
We had a nice sleepover. I retired to the sofa bed a little earlier than sashy and roasty and was serenaded to not quite sleep by their melodic chatter and lady ga ga renditions. They're very good. First time I've ever
eaten in my sleep. I could vaguely hear that they were making toast so I thrust my arm up from the midsts of my coverlet like the Lady of the Lake to recieve it. The butter dripped down my arm very realistically.

In the morning we got up and had a sausage sandwich.

Sausage Sandwich: Cook sausages, put in some bread. Roasty included lots of butter as his tip and even put his sandwich in the microwave so it would get extra melty. Mm. Perfect energy boost for a day on the Oxford street tiles.

We met up with Elle and Blondie and Rory and went to the National Portrait Gallery and had a coffee in Pret. Then we all (apart from B and R who went home) went to a few shops and saw the Christmas displays and played with the life size teddies in Hamleys. Riding the horse was fun.
There was a flurry of snow which made it excitingly Christmassy. We felt quite frequently like we were in a Christmas film- a feeling which was only improved by spotting Rupert Everett and following him a little tiny bit. Roasty was much more sensible and opted out of the latter. I think he was a bit embarassed by Elle and I giggling and getting flustered. As Elle pointed out I was hardly inconspicuous in my red puffa jacket.

Mark made a chilli for dinner. He's watching a Woody Allen film now, like i'm supposed to be, so i can't ask him what in particular he did. I'm sure it was a basic recipe with a few special twists (because it was extra nice) and with fun presentation.

Bye for now, my little sparkles xxxxxx

Monday, 14 December 2009

Tea and Empathy.

Ooh what a lovely day!
Alex and I walked to London Bridge from my house. We stopped off at Monument on the way to have a trip up the tower. If I hadn't already been so breathless from the 311 step climb the view would have had some breath left to take away from me.

We felt a bit faint on the descent so after gathering our certificates of the climb we sat to have a rest before continuing to London Bridge and onto the train to Norwood Junction.

Met Bob coming up Norwood a.k.a Hinckley High Street and she scooped us onto the bus. I was very intruiged by her heaving Cath Kidston tote of picnic and it did not disappoint. But more about that later. You'll have to wait like I did.
We got the bus to Crystal Palace and it was very exciting. There was some actual countryside. As we approached it the massive stone dinosaur approximations loomed dramatically out of the undergrowth.
You can imagine them being really scary to Victorians in 1854 . The Crystal Palace Dinosaur Court was the first exhibition of dinosaurs in the world! They're Grade I listed.

The picnic was lovely. Smoked salmon, several different cheeses, baguette, pork pie, clementines, mini rolls, and carrot sticks. Oh and a thermos of tea. Perfect winter picnic.

Got home and were all frozen so warmed up with tea and homemade crumpets. Look how cold they were.

Crumpets (via Hugh F-W): 450 g plain white flour, 350ml warm milk, 350ml warm water, 5g powdered yeast, 10g salt, 1tsp baking powder, a little sunflower/veg oil for the pan.
In a bowl whisk the liquids and yeast into a batter consistency of single cream. Cover with cling film and leave for an hourish until it is bubbly. Whisk salt and bking pwdr into batter. Heat frying pan. Meant to use cooking rings to shape the crumpets but who has them? Whisk extra 50g flour into batter to stiffen into round shapes without cooking ring aid.

Eurgh my photos of the crumpets won't load but lets just say they looked nice and tasted great. What an afternoon treat.

Sweet slumber, sweetpeas xxxxx

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Even London sometimes closes

When I went to Liverpool recently I was really suprised to find that they have don't have colour print in the metro newspaper, or a uniqlo. However, although London does have everything even it has some disappointments up its sleeve. One Monday not so long ago, Bob, Dave and I decided to set out to explore some culture in the East. We planned to go to the Geoffrey museum to see their Christmas display. However, as we arrived and pressed our cold pink noses against the wrought iron gates we were astonished to find that it was closed on a Monday. We're not in Paris. What is this?? We had already had our first two plans felled by Monday madness (Hackney city farm and Spitalfields city farm) so we were quite dismayed. Luckily, we remembered the Museum of Childhood in Bethnal green so dragged ourselves on and soon were settled happily on their modern block stone benches enjoying our pack lunch.
A good pack lunch is pasta with tuna, broccoli and cheese. Cook pasta then when nearly done add broccoli to the pan to cook. Drain and return them to pan. Gently stir in grated cheddar cheese so it melts into the pasta. Carefully mix in the chunks of tuna, trying not to break them up to much. Very tasty.

The Museum of Childhood didn't take too long but we were already worn out from all our disappointment so that didn't matter. We really liked the doll houses and the rocking horses.

Bob had loads of fun!

I'm off today on another adventure with Bob to Crystal Palace. Who knows what will happen!

Woke up this morning in a right pile with Alex and Dave. Very nice to have the company. Big Ted isn't much of a chatter normally.

Better go. Much love dolls xxxxxxxxx

AH Cava bien merci! Et Vous?

Spent a lovely weekend in Liverpool with James, Dave, Hayden, Leils and Sarah.
Went on the ferry which was loads of fun. The water was beautiful in the silver winter sun. Later, continuing the nautical theme we feasted on an absolute ocean of smoked salmon pasta which slipped down nicely with a few bottles of cava bien.

Sarah made it wonderfully. Her recipe was: Soften garlic in olive oil, add blanched chopped tomatoes, cook both in white wine and double cream (a safe amount of both), tomato puree (just enough to tickle it pink), wait for a moment and add the smoked salmon and finely chopped dill.
Ladle over spaghetti and eat. I think this is a really great quick weekday supper as it doesn't take too much cooking- mostly mixing.

We then played Cranium which was fun and I learnt a new word from it. Frangible. It means breakable. Really pleased to add to my selection of words I can put my name into. Frantastic has just about taken off as a nickname.

This by the way was a Frantasy breakfast. MMmm. I really enjoy egg and croissant together. Alex says this is like saying, 'I really like chips and new potatoes together..' Whatevs. I haven't listened to his croissant advice since he shamed me out of slathering butter on my all butter croissant. Oh, Alex is pressuring me to FRANtically hurry the blog post up so he's got something to read so I better go as the pressure has made me so anxious I can't think what else I ate this weekend.

Sweet slumber, shortbreads xxxxxxxx

Friday, 11 December 2009

Anish No-More

Went to Anish Kapoor twice today in a serendipitous twist on the worst day of my life (aka the penultimate day of the exhibition. FYI I can't go tomorrow as I'm helping Blue Granny put up her christmas decorations. She says I'm more agile than her). I was practically crying red waxy tears as I sauntered through it for the last time with Dave. We had a dreamy mince pie to cheer us up as we waited for the canon to loose. Dave's Mum, Annie, has made her best batch yet this year. The icing sugar rose off it in a cloud and mingled with the wax. At least I've left my mark.

We then went to Topshop and got changed for the evening and went for a milkshake at The Diner in Carnaby Street.
Banana Milkshake Recipe: Chop bananas, freeze them, empty into blender. Whurl witz with milk. For the morning add natural yoghurt then go wild in the evening with icecream. If you've got a sweet tooth then add brown yoghurt. If you want extra PEP go for cinammon. Why not.
You can have much milkshake as you like as long as you run as much as me tonight for all the buses we chased back from town. It was an olympic feat.

Then we went to a free drinks magazine launch with chaz, bob, mark, jim, and jodie which was nice. Lovely having girl time with Bob and Chaz. Dave and Alex said they couldn't hear what words we girls were saying- it was just all intonation and high pitches! Once that got dull we went for a drink in the east before Dave and I ditched them for chips and pizza which we gobbled up before we hit home. I can't imagine living in the olden days when smart people didn't eat on the street!

Dave and I are about to curl up so sweet dreams angel delights xxxxxxxxxxxxxx

p.s one last tip. We'd run out of milk so dave and I used single cream for our bedtime tea. Dave thought it similar to blue top. Like being on holiday. Fresh off a cow's teat.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

When 2 become 1...

Just like the Spice Girls, Becky Sunshine and I made 2 prices become 1 at the cinema tonight.
We went to see New Moon which was brilliant escapism. It really transports you to their world. I liked all the sighing at Jacob's chest. I would've picked him over stupid emo Edward. I heard that he really smelt at school and he definitely looked like he did in this film. Rotting. I did like the first film better but not the whole of it. The first 30 mins of beautiful courtship is perfect bath time viewing. I always get out when it gets scary.
Dashy once spitefully told me that he'd met Robert Pattinson and that RPatz told him that he didn't like my vegetable lasagne. Obvs straight away knew that he hadn't met him as I make heartwarming vegetable lasagne. It's like a whole harvest festival.

Becky sweetly picked us up some chips on her way from work so we ate them on the steps of the street in Angel. It felt really naughty and fun because they were all greasy and delicious and we were sitting on some grubby steps. Living on the edge. As I was wearing my new Uniqlo baggy tartan 'relaxing trousers' with my red puffa jacket I probably looked like I was in a gang and Becky was charitably trying to tempt me out of living on the streets with chips. She does work at Comic Relief..

A way to do fish and chips in the comfort of your own home is to buy those breaded cod things (iceland's 4 for £1 are nicer than birds eye!) and make wedges. David Haddrell helped me with my best wedges. Peel and slice the potatoes into wedge shapes, par boil them, drizzle on olive oil and seasoning and herbs/spices (whatever you're in the mood for..) and put them in the oven for about 20 mins. Have them with peas and ketchup. Or maybe if you don't like ketchup as some people don't you could soften some cherry tomatoes in a pan with torn basil and they become a bit saucy.

Bye for now treasures xxxxxxxxxx