Pancake Day!

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Tuesday was Pancake Day, a favourite in the calendar of British Traditions, and I have to say my Dad and I made a pretty good go of it!

The ingredients and method are simple- 110g of plain flour, 200ml of milk, and 2 eggs. Blend together until lumpless and then fry.

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Then, following a couple of successful flips, serve up with whatever your heart desires.

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Traditional Lemon & Sugar

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Unusual Kiwi with Lemon

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Outrageous buttered brandy blueberries

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Or classic raspberry.

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Happy Birthday, Me!

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I have just finished a week of celebrating my 25th birthday, and am justifiably exhausted!

It all began last weekend with my family. I made a rather cheeky request this year that my father cook a 3 course meal for all the family! This wasn’t just so my mum could have a break so soon after Christmas, but also to give my Dad a chance to do what the rest of us indulge in so frequently… Showing off!

First, there was a simply spectacular starter! The stuffed pepper re-awakened!!!

Pepper Trio

Cod fillet, chorizo, lemon zest, tomato pesto and toasted pine nuts, all baked to perfection inside a sweet red pepper! My mum actually helped him out in the invention of this beauty… I’d say it’s the third best thing they’ve created as husband and wife!

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Successfully (and rapidly) polished off.

This was followed some time later by a devilishly delicious dessert…

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A classic of my mother’s- Pear poached in port and spiced with vanilla and cinnamon, served with clotted cream

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Ooooohh…

But what I really want to talk about is the main course. The truly irresistable

Daddy Duck

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The dreaded visa

It’s hard to believe it, but in just 6 weeks and 5 days I will be beginning my adventure! I realise I ummed and ahhed about a variety of routes and may have left some confusion, so for clarity, here is my absolute plan of what’s what:

India

26th February I will depart London Heathrow at 8:50pm and arrive in Delhi, India, on 27th February at 10:40am! I will then engage in a month long guided tour of all the best bits, including a variety of beautiful temples and the Himalayas Mountains!

South Africa

Then, on 29th March I will depart Dabolim Goa, India Airport at 6:45pm and arrive Chhatrapati Shivaji, Mumbai airport at 7:55pm. Then at 1:35am (so, 30th March now) I will depart Chhatrapati Shivaji, Mumbai and arrive in O R Tambo Johannesburg Airport, South Africa at 6:55am. THEN at 10:45am I will depart O R Tambo Johannesburg Airport only to arrive, finally, at 12:25pm in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. Here, I will spend two months working within a Game Ranger internship, helping on the Safari and by the end have a FGASA qualification. Will it come in handy one day? Who can say!

Zambia

So! 25th May at 6:10am I will depart Port Elizabeth, South Africa, and arrive at 7:50am in O R Tambo Johannesburg, South Africa. Then I’ll catch another flight at 10:40am, which will see me land safely at Livingstone Airport, Africa, at 12:30pm. I’ll then be transferred over to an area of Zambia where I’ll be volunteering within the community. I will also drift over to Botswana for 4 days somewhere in the middle, to explore the Safari and go bush camping!

Botswana

And finally

Wednesday 17th June at 1:10pm I will depart Livingstone Airport, Africa, and arrive at O R Tambo Johannesburg, South Africa, at 2:55pm. I will hostel it up for a night, then 18th June I will get an 11:25am from O R Tambo Johannesburg, South Africa in order to arrive at Chhatrapati Shivaji, Mumbai at 12:05am (now, by all technicalities, on 19th June). Then, at 1:05am I will depart Chhatrapati Shivaji, Mumbai, arriving at Suvarnabhumi International Airport Bangkok, Thailand, at 6:55am!
After what I’m sure will be a memorable night on Khao San Road and a day tour of Bangkok, I will jump on the train all the way up to Surin where I’ll stay for four weeks caring for elephants!

Thailand

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Christmas Dinner and Kitchen Promotions!

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This has been, I think, the best Christmas of my life. The family all together on the 25th, the gifts I gave seem very much appreciated (particularly a cardigan to my Grandfather), the gifts I received were just WONDERFUL (such as a number of useful books and equipment for my travelling!) … And my Mum cooked a terrific lamb Christmas dinner with a prawny starter!

Every Christmas for years now, my Grandmother and I have played happy helpers to my Mother in the preparation for Christmas dinner. My Grandma is responsible for the peeling and chopping of veg and the ever important carving of the meat. She’s notoriously good at it, while I’m yet to learn how to slice anything thinner than a dictionary. My role is to provide assistance with the afore mentioned veg as appropriate, but THIS YEAR I’m so proud to say I was promoted! This year I was IN CHARGE of Roast Potatoes and Yorkshire Puddings!

This decision was made by my Mum after she tried the spuds and puds I cooked alongside the Mulled Beef for us a couple of weeks ago! They went down a treat with her, and I’m pleased to say they received a similar response with Christmas Dinner!

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Merry Fudge-mas!

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This Christmas, I wanted to take on a new challenge to show the people I love how much they mean to me at this special time of year. Fudge, I decided, was something I had never done before AND something I could get experimental with when it came to choosing flavours!

After a little research and ensuring I had the correct equipment (mainly a food thermometer capable of exceeding temperatures of 150c) I finally managed to limit myself to the following 3 festive fudges:

Traditional Vanilla
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Chilli Chocolate
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Bailey’s Coffee
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before portioning them into bags and decorating to sit on Christmas Tree branches, or posting off to loved ones!

It was an intimidating quest, but once you get into it it’s not too hard… You should have a go!

So! Here’s how it’s done.

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The Best of British

Recently, a selection of Spanish friends challenged me to cook a British meal that was “actually good and not boring”. Immediately, I was up to the challenge! But I must admit to being stuck. What’s the British classic that stands out as a beauty?

Like any modern woman with a question that can be resolved with a public vote, I turned to Facebook. There were oodles of suggestions each more British than the last- Roast Dinner, Pie & Mash, Fish and Chips… But one stood out to me as deliciously challenging and I couldn’t resist. I opted for Beef Wellington.

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Now, first and foremost the theme of this dinner was British, and nothing but! So after deciding on Beef Wellington, I thought very carefully about what ingredients are to be used, where they are to be sourced, and what sides and beverages are to be selected.

For the ingredients, my local farm shop sorted me out nicely.
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As someone that had never cooked or eaten a Beef Wellington before, I was incredibly nervous about this dish. I had no idea about cooking times or temps, so I used this Gordon Ramsay Recipe as a guide. You will see it calls for smoked pancetta to be wrapped around the beef… Which sounds absolutely amazing and something I will do in the future, but was unfortunately something I knew I would lose British points for. I still wanted that smoky bite to it though, so was very happy to find Smoked Garlic in my farm shop! Just what I needed for the job!

Among other items, Smith’s Farm Shop is also where I bought our starter- the royally delicious Brixworth Pâté, local to my home town of Northamptonshire and so perfect it’s rumoured the Queen of England herself has it ordered in to Buckingham Palace by the kilo!

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For the sauce? I wracked my brains to come up with something. A red wine or brandy sauce would be good, but wouldn’t work with my accompaniments. A white wine sauce? Also good, but name me one decent British white wine. Finally it came to me… A bizarr invention that might just be crazy enough to work…

Gin Stilton Sauce
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Finally, the drinks. It can only be Real Ale! I had great fun introducing people to their first sips of a variety of top ones! Noted favourites included Hob Goblin and Well’s Banana Bread. The Scottish Innis & Gunn was used to get the Spanish pallets adjusted and ready for the taste of ale and seemed to do the job very nicely as there was no holding back the beer from this point!
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The final point I’ll mention is the cut of beef to be used. Any Beef Wellington recipe will tell you to use fillet, which sounds like a delicious and tender treat… But go into Waitrose and ask for a piece of fillet steak big enough to feed 4 people in a Beef Wellington, and you will be quoted in the region of £30-£40. After 5 minutes of jumping from one foot to the other in a little panic as to which is the best alternative cut that will cook nicely, have a good flavour and remain tender, the kindly butcher eventually guided me to a silver side joint, bigger than the fillet cut I had just been shown and more than half the price. Better! So, if you follow this recipe, keep in mind that it’s with this particular cut of beef and I took very delicate measures with the cooking times as a result!
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So, now we know the facts, let’s press on!

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Mum’s Banana Bread

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A cold rainy Sunday plus old black bananas can only mean one thing. Mum’s making Banana Bread! The very Banana Bread that is SO DAMN DELICIOUS, as a child Dinner Ladies would demand I bring extra into school for them.

Unfortunately,  I don’t live with my Mum anymore so her Banana Bread is not so accessible for me. This left me with no choice but to badger her for the recipe!

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Excellent! Cup measurements rarely work out for me, so here’s my translation:

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