Sunday, 30 August 2015

How cool are you?!

 Oh,I'm not cool at all! It really is hot here! Yesterday we headed out to the mountains beyond Clermont, hoping it would be cooler there, but it was still about 34°! We had a lovely day despite the heat - I'll blog about it over at The Teapot in the next couple of days. I'd left a meal cooking in the slow cooker so it was good to get back to a meal. I had made an Italian Vegetable Bake - except I didn't put the bread in. I thought it would go soggy, which I didn't fancy very much. There was a lot of juice, so maybe the bread would have soaked it up. But we had it with bread, so we soaked up the juice that way instead.

We were staying at our friends' house overnight, as they were away and it is the Fete Patronale in the village. This means that right outside the house there are two sets of dodgems and a roundabout. Plus associated smaller stalls. The noise from the fair goes on well past midnight, so we always try to get away at least on Saturday night. Sunday night can also be bad - maybe we'll head out to other friends tonight, if the noise is too bad! So we were able to eat out on their terrace, sharing a bottle of artisan beer and enjoying some cheese that we bought on our trip out.

Workwise, this coming week is the lull before the storm - thankfully I have work coming in, but it's going to mean I'm really quite busy. There is  two days of (potentially) 8-hour's of teaching (but possibly reduced to 6) in Clermont, followed by another 8 hours on Wednesday. Thursday and Friday will then be filled with phone lessons and preparation. It's good, but I feel like it's almost more work than I wanted! Mr FD - who is no longer working in the office, but is working from home - will therefore be in charge of food for three days a week, at least! 

So...what's planned for next week?
TODAY: Stuffed pork tenderloin, with gnocchi and veg from the freezer, and braised endives. The pork fillet is stuffed with a mixture of mustard, cheese and chopped gherkins - which frankly sounds a bit bizarre, but there you go! The recipe says "With flavours inspired by the classic Cuban grill sandwich, this recipe is as delicious as it is impressive" We will see. - and served with pan fried gnocchi. 

MONDAY: Simple pesto tart: puff pastry, spread with pesto, covered with salami and marinaded red peppers, served with salad. 

TUESDAY: Pork from Sunday, ratatouille and pasta.

WEDNESDAY:Coconut and squash dhansak - this apparently provides 4 of your 5 a day fruit and vegetables. Excellent. Half to eat and half into the freezer.

I may well make Jamie Oliver's flatbreads to go with this. They are delicious and easy to make too.

THURSDAY: It's Mr FD's birthday! We'll be going out with friends - probably to La Poste around the corner. 

FRIDAY: Slow cooker lasagne - I've got some bolognese sauce in the freezer so I'll use that. 

SATURDAY: The rest of the lasagne. If I've planned to use it, then we can only have half of the dish that I have made. Otherwise we'll eat more than half and the rest will languish in the fridge because I don't know what to do with it and then it will go mouldy and I'll throw it away. I always mean to freeze the 1 portion meals and then have a Choose-your-own meal day, but forget. I wasted some delicious duck ragu sauce that way. Kicks self.

 As I do, at regular intervals, I am trying to eat more fruit and vegetables - it's reasonably easy in the summer, as I adore melon, and have been having it with my breakfast, but as the peach/melon season draws to a close I'm reduced to apples (I only like a few types), or bananas (not my favourite fruit really). I tried some purées 
but I really didn't enjoy them. I think I may use the others in a cake.
I could start buying frozen berries and having those with yoghurt, perhaps. And again upping the vegetables with each meal. This is something I keep resolving every few months or so, but then I forget! Still, I think we do generally eat more healthily than many people: certainly more adventurously!

My friend - who by her own admission is not a good cook, and who has two slightly fussy children - does not eat anywhere near as adventurously as us. Their meals seem to consist of raclette, crepes, frozen-fish-and-vegetables, or steak-frites. Or possibly chicken nuggets and pizza. Certainly food seems to be on a limited timetable. Quite often I won't cook something that we've had again (even when we've really enjoyed it!) for months, as I am too busy trying out lots of new recipes!! What about you? Do you cook a lot of meals over and over, or do you like to have somethingnew and different?

However, this is not an ingredient that I have tried cooking with!


Once again, thank you for your comments!
JAN & KEZZIE admired the idea of a cupcake maker, especially for Hawa out in Africa. I hope she does manage to buy one. Judging by what she told me her diet out in Senegal is severely limited - fish and rice, mostlt - so I like the thought that she can have cake occasionally.

MRS TUBBS - thank you for your compliment on the Gruffalo cakes...though I think you're being too generous to call them "cute" looking! I think the best we can say is that they require imagination...!

JAN also suggested ginger scones. Now there's a thought! I like ginger and have a lot of crystallised ginger left over from making my white chocolate and ginger cheesecake (which I've not made for months!) I could try them. I made a lot of gingerbread crocs recently, using a crocodile shaped cookie cutter I was sent in a swap. They were good. 

KEZZIE: the South Foreland lighthouse is lovely. It's certainly worth a visit if you're in the area.

Friday, 28 August 2015

Rule 163

 This is really, really important.

With a husband and many friends who are cyclists, I ask all drivers to rush over to Tracing Rainbows and read Ang's post and watch the video. And then take note.


Monday, 24 August 2015

Bake me a cake as fast as you can...

Odette fell in love with scones, clotted cream and jam while in the UK...first discovered in the NT Tea shop at South Foreland lighthouse

My MiL showed her how to make them (but forgot to add both the sugar and the fruit) (!), Mr FD and I had a (ahem) discussion about the correct pronunciation (I'm on the "sconn" side, he's on the "scown" side), we tried some more in Cambridge, and Odette asked for the recipe in French.

Today, having three leopard bananas in the fruit bowl, and having been reminded of scones by making a scone-based pizza yesterday, I made a batch of banana-and-chocolate-chip scones, and a batch of cranberry scones. Plus a banana-and-honey-spiced cake. I found the recipe in French on Google (saves me a lot of hassle!) so I'm taking half of each batch round to Odette in a bit (when my cake's cooked!)

I have to say, the banana-and-choc-chip ones were very good!

Here's the recipe in French should you wish to try your hand at translating...

-         250 g de farine
- 30 g de
- 50 g de
- 1 œuf
- 150 ml de lait
- 50 g de
raisins secs
- 1 pincée de
- 1 sachet de levure chimique

Préparation de la recette :

Dans un bol, mélanger la farine, le
sucre, le sachet de levure et la pincée de sel. Rajouter au mélange le beurre très mou coupé en petites lamelles.

Dans un autre bol, mélanger ensemble le lait avec l'œuf.

Rajouter progressivement ce mélange avec la farine jusqu'à ce que la pâte soit molette, rajouter un peu de farine si elle colle trop.

Rajouter les
raisins. Avec une cuillère, former des boules de 3 à 4 cm de diamètre, les déposer sur une plaque de cuisson antiadhésive. Mettre au four pendant 15 mn (à four chaud : 220°C).

On peut rajouter les autres ingrédients – cranberries secs,  pépites de chocolat etc.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Gruffalo Cup Cakes!

I'm already starting to forget some of the things I got up to while in the UK, but I have written about one of our visits which was to The Hawk Conservancy Trust over at The Teapot

As this is my more Foodie blog, I will tell you about some of our adventures in cooking. At Downe House, Lines Summer School don't have access to ovens/microwaves etc, so last year we were limited to making sweets/chocolate crispy cakes, as we could melt the chocolate in a big bowl of hot water. This year, however, our Head of department splashed out on a couple of Cup Cake Makers, which meant we could make cakes without resorting to ovens! These were a great success! (even if we did have to use them outside in the covered area because we were afraid we would set off the fire alarms!)

In honour of our (aborted) trip to see "The Gruffalo" we made Gruffalo cupcakes. On the internet there are plenty of inspirational examples, such as these, at Mrs Bailey's Cup Cakes:

However, on a limited budget, (and with a limited skill set!) we couldn't aspire to these. We also couldn't find cup cake cases small enough to go in the Cup Cake Maker, so we used normal sized ones, with gave an interesting "kink" to the cakes...

As you can see, ours don't have quite the same attractiveness (nor recognisable qualities!) as Mrs Bailey's do! I don't think she has anything to fear from us as competition!

However the kids enjoyed making them

 Altho' Mary doesn't look too impressed by what she's doing here!

Oleg shows off his two Gruffalo cup cakes (shortly before eating them!)

And here is the entire Kids' department in the pergola, being proud of their Gruffalo cakes!

 The Cup Cake Makers were definitely a good buy! And my colleague, Hawa, who lives most of the year in Senegal, running her own school, was very excited by the thought of a Cup Cake Maker - she has no oven, and misses cakes very much. She was planning on buying one, and possibly using it as a moneyspinning venture...although judging by the number of our "trial run" cup cakes that she scoffed I'm not sure she'll be making much money from them!!

As always, I want to say...
KEZZIE asked about what kind of "English essentials" I stock up on...Well, we now have a list that we always take with us, which includes such things as Branston Baked Beans, Assam loose leaf tea,  mango chutney, Bisto gravy granles, Oat Crunchies, bacon, cheddar, sausages, stilton, Bottlegreen cordials... And other things too. One thing I wanted to get but forgot were some more English-French adapters. We have loads but they all seem to have gone walkabout, so I'm having to resort to juggling the one from the living room light with the slow cooker. Mr FD may be popping back to see his sister, so he will have strict instructions to bring back at least 5 more!
JAN welcomed me back...everything went fine, thank you, although my last week working wasn't so good as I was ill and very tired. But never mind!
SANDRA at Thistle Cove...Thank you for your lovely compliment, but I'm not sure I'm a "great teacher" - after all, it was David our Head of Dept who booked all the trips, but I do think the Kids Dept in general has a great team. We all have different skills and complement each other. The Kids do seem to enjoy themselves. In fact we had one girl who was 10 years old, and had originally joined the Teens group ( we are officially 6 - 10 year olds, but there is some flexibility for the 10 year olds to go into the Teens dept if they seem mature enough and have good enough English) but who had struggled there. She joined us for her second week and had a whale of a time. She was really sweet and enthusiastic anyway, but kept saying "This is so much better than Teens!" to me.
 And finally, the obligatory LolCat:


Friday, 21 August 2015

Over the Summer

I worked at Summer School teaching English to 8,9 and 10 year olds. 

I was lucky, as most of the children in my class were a delight! There was one rather spoiled Spanish girl, who got very sulky if reprimanded, but other than that they were lovely! The weight was towards Spanish and Russian in the first couple of weeks, tipping towards Chinese for the final three. 

We went out to lots of interesting places - we painted plates twice, went to The Living Rainforest
We went to the Look Out Discovery Centre

to the Science Museum

to Beale Park

to Bucklebury Farm Park 

and to other places too. Unfortunately the Fire Station had to cancel at the last minute, so we went to the park instead. Judging by the number of sirens and blue flashing lights that went past while we were there, there must have been some fairly serious emergency going on somewhere.
We had planned to go to two musicals, "The Gruffalo" and "Charlie & the Chocolate Factory" but unfortunately we didn't manage to get to "The Gruffalo". We did lots of work on the story during the week, including making Gruffalo fairy cakes, and talking about descriptive adjectives used in the book, but the best laid plans...and all that.

The performance was at 12.00 and we had planned to treat the kids to a late lunch at MacDonald's afterwards (though, quite frankly, it's not much of a treat in my eyes!) We set off at 9.00 in good spirits, but the traffic was heavy all the way into London, finally grinding to a standstill on the outskirts. We edged forwards, little by little, not knowing what the holdup was, until we came across a car broken down in the middle lane. The bus driver gallantly stopped the bus, hopped out and encouraged our less-than-athletic Kids Leader* to help as well. With the two guys in the car pushing too, while the girl steered, they managed to get the car to the verge. Much applause when the two Heroes climbed back on the bus!

We imagined that the traffic would improve after that, but no. It didn't. We discovered that Hammersmith flyover and Hammersmith bridge were both closed, so one can imagine the effect this had on traffic flow. Time ticked inexorably towards the start of the performance, and by midday we had only just reached the jam that was Hammersmith. So David took the decision to turn round, head back to Newbury and spend the afternoon in the park. Which we did. We went to MacDonalds in Newbury,( who were scarcely fazed by our order for 28 Happy Meals, and various wraps, burgers and other comestibles for the adults) and had a picnic in the park. 

After getting the bus back to Downe House - a ten minute jaunt - one of the kids enquired "David, why did it take so long to get to the park and only a little while to get back...?" I don't think any of them missed "The Gruffalo" after all!!

We did make it to "Charlie..." however, which, despite our seats up in the gods, was very enjoyable. There was some squabbling over the hire of opera glasses, and we are convinced that one child failed to put his/hers back after the performance, and the descent to and queues for the toilets were a bit tedious, but generally A Good Time was had by all. 
I'll tell you about some of our extra curricular activities another time...

* I'm being unfair here. David actually performed some very sprightly cartwheels and - hum - "interesting" yoga poses during the time. It's just that I don't see him as a pushing-cars-kind-of-guy! 

Thank you, as usual, for your comments and "welcome home"s 
MRS TUBBS: I've taken note of the site you linked to for slow cooker recipes...I'm rather tempted to try the SC bread.

POMPOM:Thanks for your good wishes for my health - still not back to normal, so I might ask at the Pharmacy for something to help. I used the SC for the first time last night - I thought the meal was a great success, but poor Mr FD has S-&-D today. I don't think there's a connection, as I am not affected in a similar way, but you never know...!!

MICHELLE: Thank you for your welcome! 

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Back from my Wanderings...

Hello dear Peeps! It's nice to be back. I hope you are all having a good summer/winter (should you be in southern climes)

I have had a busy six weeks - five of them working, one on holiday, and I may well tell you about some of my "adventures" sometime. In fact you can read about My Journey to England over at The Teapot which relates how British Border Control helped one poor traveller find her way to the UK!

Sadly I have come back not feeling great - nothing specific, but generally not "right". I've been feeling under the weather (or, as it is charmingly put in France "not on my plate") for about three weeks, with various stomach-and-related issues. Not wanting to go into too much detail!! I've just managed to get a doctor's appointment for next Tuesday. Let's hope I actually feel beter by then! It's tricky knowing what to say when the receptionist asks "What is it for?" - how much detail does she want? I decided on "Well, it's not urgent, but..." hoping she'd pick up on the "but" bit. She didn't. I suppose that if it is just general under-the-weather-ishness it will have gone by next week. And if it hasn't, then it may be something more serious!

On a brighter note, we bought a new toy in the UK.

A new Slow Cooker! We have had one since we were married - it was a wedding present, so is over 30 years old - but I've been convinced it's not working properly. So when we saw this one on offer in Lakeland, we bought it. And a recipe book too
So you can expect quite a few of my menu plans to include slow cooker recipes! I've already planned this week's menus - we got back on Sunday evening, but I ddn't unpack until Monday morning. As we were shopping on Tuesday I had to get organised!!

So here we are, back in the swing of things!

TODAY: Bolognaise stuffed peppers and a tomato/onion/basil salad. I'm thinking of cooking a little rice to add to the mix, although we do have some crusty bread to use up too.

THURSDAY: Chorizo, chilli and Bean stew (first outing for the Slow Cooker!)  We'll have a littlegem-and-cucumber salad with this.

FRIDAY: Pasta bake, using the rest of the sauce from today's peppers, and some extra added vegetables.

SATURDAY: Slow cooker chicken mulligatawny soup for lunch. And Sticky stem ginger duck for evening meal, which apparantly provides 3 of one's 5-a-day fruit & veggies.
SUNDAY: Another slow cooker meal. This one is Sundried tomato and balsamic lamb stew.

With either mash, or (more likely) crushed new potatoes and some green beans.

MONDAY: Something from the freezer - I think I might take out the ham that is in there and bake that, with a marmalade glaze. Then we can use it for several meals. So baked ham, baked potatoes and salad. Or something similar.

TUESDAY: Ham and vegetable crumble sounds nice (although it is 750 calories a portion!) Maybe I can reduce the fat content a little somehow. Or maybe I'll just embrace it!

While in the UK on holiday with our French friends Louis and Odette, we managed to persuade them that English food (or rather, British food) was actually much better than they imagined. Tey were particularly impressed by the food at the pubs we took them to - admittedly ones that had been recommended or that were in the Good Pub Guide. We were very well fed, and I only had one disappointment of a tasteless pasta dish in one place (altough the French onion soup I had as a starter was excellent!) Odette loved her Feesh-and-cheeps but neither of them were very adventurous on their choices. 

The most adventurous they got was on Saturday when we went to The Ambrette in Canterbury, where we had the "Tasting Menu" - and that was really because we forced them into it!!

Wild fennel lassi, chargrilled artichoke hearts, stir-fried wild garlic
Wild fennel is a fantastic coastal vegetable with a characteristic numbing effect on the tongue. Wild garlic is abundant this time of the year and almost unmistakable with its wide dark green leaves and balls of star shaped white flowers.

Soft shell crab, exotic Nutbourne tomatoes, Sevenscore asparagus 

Cumin flavoured gazpacho, Kent goat’s cheese, spiced home-made bread

Gazpacho, the famous soup from the Andalusia region of southern Spain, is an amazingly refreshing foil to a hot summer day.  This drinkable salad has been around since Roman times.

English Grain fed beef striploin

Yukon gold potatoes, poached beetroot, pickled pears, sauce of apricot and root ginger.

Summer pudding, rum soaked lychees, passion fruit kulfi

(descriptions taken from the menu)

Mind you, let's be honest, that is fairly adventurous!! I wasn't totally sure about some of the courses, but they were all delicious. The only slight letdown was the pudding, which didn't quite go with all the other delicate (and not-so-delicate) Indian flavours. If you should ever be in the Canterbury/Margate/Rye area (there's a restaurant in each town) I would recommend the Ambrette, even if you don't think you like Indian food. 

Well, that's about it for now. I look forward to catching up with all your blogs, which I've missed while I've been away. It's nice to be back!