More Cheese Gromit?

With our wedding now fast approaching, I can only apologise for not writing more on here. I have been totally swamped with work and wedding prep, that I have had little time for anything else. The wedding is now just over 6 weeks away and I have my second dress fitting today.

On the dragon front, I have now crocheted 35 of the little darlings, which will act as favours and table settings. I still have 16 to go, plus table centres, a seating plan, place names and table names.

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However, we did manage to squeeze in a flying visit to Bristol for their Gromit Unleashed 2 trail over the August Bank Holiday. It was such a welcome, albeit brief, break. We headed up on the Saturday afternoon after I had finished work – crocheting accompanied me throughout the journey! We started off in the Clifton village area of the city, where we found our first character – Feathers – on the Clifton Suspension Bridge.

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It was a lovely afternoon and I soon spotted a Gromit a short way away, before finding my first Wallace of the hunt. After a very welcome ice cream, it was off to find our AirB&B for the weekend. We had a great setting in the centre of the city and it would have been perfect, had it not been for the drum and bass firing through our window from a nearby pub from 5pm through until 6am the next day.

We found some more figures when we went out for dinner in the evening and we even found a bar with the Bubble Bobble arcade game, which took me right back to my childhood 😊

The next day, we woke to an absolute deluge outside our window, thankfully no longer accompanied by endless drum and bass. Undeterred, we sported our fetching waterproof jackets and headed out to find breakfast. On the way, we found a couple more statues to pose with too.

As the day went on, we got wetting than I ever thought humanly possible. We were so wet, even our waterproof coats gave up on us! I could ring mine out!! The sheer craziness of what we were doing just added to the fun of it all and we really couldn’t care less about the rain. Staff at one hotel, which was housing a minion Feathers, was kind enough to offer us a towel each and I tried to pull off a few moves to get my legs into a hand dryer – unsuccessfully!

The hunt continued, in museums, on the docks, in shops! We went everywhere and by the end of the day, we concluded we had no choice – new clothes had to be bought, as we hadn’t bought a change with us.

After a poor night’s sleep thanks to our friendly pub again, blasting out its favourite sound until 5am, we were up and out early on Bank Holiday Monday. First, breakfast, then time to check off a few statues we had missed the previous day, before jumping in the car to find a few on the outskirts of the city. Our search finished at the mall, where my lovely fiancé bought me a mini-Gromit figurine for my birthday – not until November, so I need to forget about it until then!

It was a brilliant day and a bit away and a big pat on the back to the organisers of the trail, which was raising money for Bristol Royal Hospital for Children. I believe the statues will be auctioned off in the coming weeks to raise more money and I have to say, I would love to own one of the Gromits!

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Chocolate Courgette Cake

Thanks to my future father-in-law, I found myself with a mini-glut of courgettes. My fiancé isn’t overly keen on them, so after dishing up ratatouille and roasted courgettes, I figured I needed a different approach.

I’d heard of chocolate courgette cake, but never tried it myself. I put the idea to the other half, who looked less than impressed, it must be said, but nevertheless, I pressed ahead, determined not to let these lovely veggies go to waste.

After trawling the web, I found this recipe, which I followed, apart from I used 1tsp of ground mixed spice, as I couldn’t seem to find ground cloves anywhere. I used the two 23cm round tin method and they needed the best part of an hour to cook, so keep checking with a skewer after 40minutes of baking.

When it came to what to fill the two sponges with, I was at a loss for a while, but after rummaging through the fridge and cupboards and realising the shops had closed as it was after 4pm on a Sunday, I decided to just make something up.

Armed with half a block of butter, half a pack of cream cheese, the leftovers from the tub of soured cream and some icing sugar and cocoa powder, I set to making a form of sorts of butter icing. I blended the butter, cheese and soured cream together before adding a couple of dessert spoons each of the icing sugar and cocoa powder, before beating together again. After tasting, I thought it still tasted of cream cheese, so added more of the two dry ingredients. After another mix, I really liked it, so put half the mixture on the first sponge, sprinkled with some chocolate chips (which I confess, along with the walnuts I’d forgotten from the original recipe!) and topped with the second sponge, before spreading the rest of the icing on top.

I found this a lovely, moist sponge and very tasty – even my courgette-hating fiancé enjoyed it. Now that has to be a recommendation surely!!!

chocolate courgette cake

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Seasonal Fruit Crumble

The blackberries around here are really coming on beautifully. My fiancé and I love foraging – possibly me more than him! – and so far, we’ve picked over 12lb of juicy blackberries.

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Last week, I was also given some lovely rhubarb from a friend’s garden and my father-in-law-to-be, gave me some strawberries. He’s a potato farmer near Peterborough and sells a range of produce every weekend in the Notcutts Layby, Oundle Road. Check him out on Facebook and pop along for your veggies if you’re nearby 😊

I was in the mood for something comforting, so I thought I’d knock up a crumble. It’s so simple to do:

Pop your fruit in a saucepan, you need a good 1-1.5lb minimum. Add a splash of water and pop on a low heat to start stewing. Let it cook until the fruit starts to soften, this is when I add some sugar, cinnamon and ginger. Not too much and taste as you go, so you get the flavour you like.

Pour the fruit – carefully, it’s hot – into a well-greased dish. For the crumble, I follow Delia’s basic crumble mix. You may like to do a double batch, if like us, you like a lot of crumble 😊 This is my go-to crumble recipe and it’s never failed me.

To work the crumble into its breadcrumb form, I cannot recommend getting a pastry cutter enough. I used one for the first time the other day and it saved time and joint ache! They’re pretty inexpensive and to me, are a wonder.

When the crumble is done, gentle pour evenly over your fruit and pop the whole thing on another baking tray – in case of bubbling over – and place in the oven at 180C for around half an hour, or until the crumble is golden and the fruit really bubbling.

Serve with cream, custard or ice cream and enjoy.

fruit crumble

Big Breakfast Omelette

My fiancé loves an omelette to set him up for the day, especially what I call the Big Breakfast Omelette.

Start by heating a frying pan and melt a bit of butter. Slice half an onion – we prefer red – and add that to the melted butter, along with a few cherry tomatoes. Season with pepper. I don’t use salt as the bacon will be salty enough.

Give these a little time to soften and then add some chopped mushroom and bacon of your choice. You could also add some sausage slices.

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Once everything has started to cook nicely, whisk four eggs in a bowl and add to the pan. Let the egg sit still for a good minute or so, until you start seeing bubbles on the surface.

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Gently pull the edges back with a fish slice and allow the raw egg from the top of the omelette to run down underneath.

You may like to add a little grated cheese at this point and also some chopped spring onions. If you like your omelette well done, you could pop it under the grill, just to firm up the top. If not, fold it in half in the pan, don’t worry if it breaks, we’re not on TV(!) and allow the heat to just cook the middle a little longer, before transferring to a plate.

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For me, I prefer something a little lighter and my filling of choice is smoked salmon – I just by the trimmings from the supermarket, which are a fraction of the cost of the posh stuff.

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Upside-Down Chicken Pie

In the summer months, we may not feel like a warming pie for dinner, but turn that pie upside-down and you have a perfect summer dinner.

Start with ready-rolled sheet of puff pastry and score a margin, around 1.5inches around the edge. Don’t cut all the way through, you just want to fine where the edge is. Prick the centre many times with a fork, line it with greaseproof paper and weigh it down with baking beans. Give the edge of the pastry a milk wash and pop in the oven at 200C for 10minutes.

Whilst the pastry is cooking, toss two chopped chicken breasts into a large, deep frying pan and start to brown the meat. After a couple of minutes, add a chopped aubergine, courgette and onion to the pan and start to cook the veg through.

In a separate saucepan, melt some butter and mix in plain flour, to form a rue. Slowly pour in some milk, whisking all the time to avoid lumps. Allow a chicken stock pot to melt into the sauce.

When the pastry has had its 10 minutes, take it out of the oven and very carefully, remove the baking beans and paper – hopefully you should now have a big well, like a giant vol-au-vent! Lay the meat and veggies in the well, add a few cherry tomatoes and pour the sauce over the top.

Pop back into the oven for another 10-15minutes and then serve it up. You could, of course, ditch the meat for a veggie option and bulk out with any veggies you like.

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Baby Bird Rescue

This is neither about food nor crafts, but I felt I wanted to share this.

This morning, I was woken by the sound of very upset birds and when I looked out of the window, I saw a family of starlings, chasing off a crow. The other day, I was unfortunate enough to see nature at its , when the crow few off with a tiny nestling, again causing the parents to be frantic.

This time, the crow wasn’t so lucky. Whatever the parents had done, it was enough to make it drop the chick. I saw the poor little thing, laying motionless on the ground, save for its rapid breathing. The nest is on the top floor of the building, with no way to reach it without a cherry picker, so I couldn’t return it to its nest. Nor could I leave it to the crow or the cats. So, I picked it up and dashed it inside. His wing didn’t look too good and he gripped to my finger with his little foot. Now, I’m assuming it was a boy, it may well have been a girl.

I popped him into a shoe box, lined with kitchen paper to keep him warm. Within a few minutes, his wing was back in its proper place and he looked a lot brighter. I called East Sussex Wildlife Rescue and Ambulance Service (WRAS) to ask for their help, knowing they take in little birds like this one.

Whilst waiting, I kept a close watch on the little chick, who on occasion, would flap his wings and jump about in the box. He kept snuggling himself into the tissue to keep warm and cosy, but always looked intrigued when I peeked in on him.

When Chris from WRAS arrived, he took a look and agreed that the baby was too young to be able to fly and took him back to their casualty centre to give him the care he needs to hopefully reach maturity. If he does, it’s likely he’ll be released back here, so I may get to see him again.

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Garlic Chilli Prawns

We’re still trying to ‘eat right’ as our wedding fast approaches, but there are only so many days a week I can eat chicken breast! In the search for something different, I invested in some jumbo, raw prawns, which I turned into a tasty garlic, chilli prawn dish.

I started by adding some oil to a frying pan and allowing that to warm up, before adding 5 small cloves of garlic, crushed – if you really like garlic, add some more! To the garlic, I added two finely chopped chillis – not too fiery for me, but again, cook to your taste – the seeds were left in and some paprika sprinkled over the top.

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Allow these to come together for a couple of minutes and then add some small pieces of chorizo if you have it, don’t panic if you don’t. Cook until it starts to release some of its juices and then throw in some freshly chopped tomatoes.

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Now it’s time to throw in your lovely prawns, along with the juice of one lemon. When the prawns start to turn pink, add some chopped mushrooms.

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To serve, we had pasta, but you could have crusty bread or a salad.

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