Nana’s teddy bear

My Nana was clearing out this week and she sent us this teddy bear which our grandfather gave her in their first year of marriage.

This teddy bear is fifty three years old.

My grandparents are fifty three years married and counting. She still won’t let him into the kitchen, even to butter his bread, and he still makes her laugh. “Oh Tom,” she says, “you’re full of your fun today.”

But she knows how to set him off too. She will stand behind his chair and wink at me while she says something about the political party that he and his father and his grandfather belonged to and served. He will look at me and throw his eyes up to heaven and then say something to her while looking grieved as grieved can be. She will bend over in silent laughter and run back into the kitchen to make him a mug of tea to drink while he watches the news.

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Flexible baking: Raisin-studded Sconebread

Yesterday I told you a story about my heavenly herb and tomato sconebread. Today I show you my other sconebread, just perfect for breakfast or supper with jam and tea.

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Here is the recipe for the scone dough. Now I divided my mixture into two different portions and made two varieties. This mixture will give you enough for two little loaves. If you are using an oven, go ahead and make individual scones if you would like.

makes six large scones or two small loaves:

  • 200g self-raising flour
  • 25g caster sugar
  • 50g flora (or margarine or butter)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp coarse sea salt (or just a good pinch of salt)
  • medium egg
  • splash of milk (literally a “splash”:  I measure everything else, then I use the egg to bring the mixture together as much as possible, and then I add a tiny splash of milk and then another if needed until the dough is just right)
  • At this point I divided into two portions to make little loaves.
  • Incorporate a fistful of raisins into the dough for one loaf, two fistfuls for two loaves.
  • Shape into a little loaf, pat down into a dish or onto a baking tray.
  • Sprinkle some milk on top.

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Put under low to medium heat grill for five minutes, watching closely for burning.

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After five minutes turn the loaf over so that the base is exposed to the grill… after five minutes the loaf should be baked through.

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Herb & Tomato Sconebread

DSC_0402This is a story about flexible baking, about making tiny loaves of bread from a scone dough and calling it {sconebread}. This is a story about loving cherry tomatoes and the fragrance of herbs at any time of the morning.

As my stories invariably begin, it was morning time and the first thing I wanted to do when I woke up was mix up a scone dough.

You see, I knew from a few days ago that it was possible for me to bake scones on my grill. I had also found that the loaf shape baked better on my grill than individual scones. And last night when I was planning my meals for the week, I had pulled out the mixed herbs to go into the meatballs I hope to make sometime in the next few days (with wholewheat spaghetti, another first for me!). And I had bought yet another carton of cherry tomatoes because some things are just necessary for a happy week.

So this morning when my groggy-but-bent-on-creativity brain sent me to the cupboard to pull out the self raising flour and the salt and sugar, those mixed dried herbs just stared me down.

And I thought about the lovely fresh tomatoes even as I opened the bag of raisins for my usual breakfast scone mix.

So I divided the dough into two portions: one for a small loaf of raisin studded breakfast sconebread, and another for mixed dried herbs and chopped up tomatoes. My oh my, was it ever worth it.

DSC_0403I used my usual plain scone mixture, with reduced sugar content, because of health and because I didn’t want a sweet dough anyway.

makes six large scones or two small loaves:

  • 200g self-raising flour
  • 25g caster sugar
  • 50g flora (or margarine or butter)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp coarse sea salt (or just a good pinch of salt)
  • medium egg
  • splash of milk

Now when I say literally I mean literally a “splash” of milk and here is why: I measure everything else, then I use the egg to bring the mixture together as much as possible, and then I add a tiny splash of milk and then another if needed until the dough is just right. I find that it is far too easy to add too much milk and it is harder to rescue a too-wet mixture than to just add the milk very gradually until I have added enough.

Now I divided my mixture into two different portions at this point. Tomorrow I will post the recipe and photos for the Raisin-studded Sconebread. Today I will show you how to make the Herb and Tomato Bread. This mixture will give you enough for two little loaves. If you are using an oven, go ahead and make individual scones if you would like.

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Herb & tomato sconebread:

  • You will need about four cherry tomatoes per loaf and two teaspoons of dried herbs per loaf.
  • Cut tomatoes into quarters.
  • Scatter dried herbs and quartered tomatoes over the dough.
  • Gently fold into the dough.
  • This dough will be a lot wetter than the raisin mixture because of the juice from the tomatoes.
  • Sprinkle some coarse sea salt salt and grind some black pepper on top of the loaf before putting under the grill at low to medium heat for five minutes, watching closely for burning.
  • After five minutes turn the loaf over so that the base is exposed to the grill… after another five minutes the loaf should be baked through. After baking it will be lovely and fragrant because of the herbs. Your kitchen will smell divine.

 

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much I enjoyed baking, eating and sharing it.

Crocheting with string…

I’m looking into crocheting with different materials. Using the same stitches, but trying to find materials that are more durable or less expensive  or more suited to the purpose…

Here is my first idea… making a durable table mat, which should be somewhat heatproof, using string. It is just parcel string, I found it in Tesco for about two euro a roll.

March 2014 199So far it is coaster-sized, but I will keep going to make a mat big enough to sit under a serving dish.

March 2014 203Of course, it is, as always, my beloved Granny Square pattern. My little sister has taken to calling me nerdy Granny when she wants to rise me, because of my apparently innumerable idiosyncrasies, not least of which are the inexcusable facts that I wear large spectacles and love to crochet and cook.

March 2014 208 I would like to record that I am in my early twenties. Not that it even matters. Nerdy Granny. Pshaw.

I continued crocheting on the bus going home. I finished the mat when the roll of string ran out.

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Black pudding breakfast

St. Patrick’s weekend. If you asked me which food is for me the most Irish, the strongest taste of home, I would say black pudding.

Black pudding. Tomatoes. Eggs. Nothing like black pudding for breakfast.

Turn on the grill…

DSC_0379Toss a handful of tomatoes in a little oil, salt and pepper.  DSC_0381 DSC_0384Chop the pudding into slices.

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Put them both under the grill for eight to ten minutes.

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Mix up an egg with a splash of milk and salt and pepper.

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Get your tea leaves soaking in some boiling water.

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Turn the slices of pudding on the grill and toss around the tomatoes again. Put the egg into a saucepan and keep the heat really low. Don’t stir too much.

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Strain the tea leaves. Take the egg off the hob and turn off the grill.

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That’s probably the easiest, quickest, healthiest (-ish) breakfast (or lunch or supper) there is. Serve with some grilled scone-bread from yesterday. DSC_0393  Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
We are thankful for the man who brought the good news of God and His Son Jesus to the people of Ireland, my people, all those centuries ago. I pray that my generation will discover for themselves the timeless truth of this old, old message, brought here first by a sheep farmer’s lonely slave who escaped and then returned with priceless news to bring to my people the knowledge of God. DSC_0406 DSC_0408

Weekends are for French toast

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One of those mornings where I wake up and I can’t see properly, let alone think clearly. I shove my glasses somewhere onto my nose and shuffle down the stairs. Open the cupboard. Feel around for the end of the loaf of soda bread I saw in the cupboard last night. Shuffle across to the fridge and pull out the box of eggs.

Slice up that soda bread carefully into even slices. It is old and crusty and just perfect for french toast.

Go back to the cupboard for some golden syrup to dip the finished toast in. DSC_0497 DSC_0498Eyes begin to focus as I mix up the eggs. A splash of milk and a sprinkle of cinnamon later, I feel a little more alive. DSC_0500Slices of crusty bread dipped and soaked a little in the egginess, then placed in a hot pan. DSC_0501

Now this is a breakfast worth waking up for. I got my recipe here… DSC_0502 DSC_0504

Flexible baking: Scones on the grill

Yesterday I just couldn’t take it any longer.

I needed to make scones.

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I don’t have ready access to an oven in my current accommodation and I have got around this so far. But there comes a point in my kitchen calendar when I just have to make scones. I don’t know why. Scones just feel like home to me. Making scones to me is something functional and basic and just… normal. And so if I can’t make scones, it is a bit weird. Which makes me a bit weird. But I never claimed to be explainable. 🙂

So I decided that I needed to make scones. Except that I had to use the grill instead of the oven.

So I mixed up my normal plain scones recipe, I didn’t bother to roll out the dough, and I shaped the dough into golf balls. I flattened these between my palms and put them on a baking tray. I flattened them so that they were thinner than normal scones, because I wasn’t sure how well thick well-risen scones would bake all the way through under a grill.

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Now I need to remind you that this is a first-attempt post and I’m telling you exactly what happened. So I had the grill up high, because I wasn’t sure what to expect. I found that the scones blackened on top after only two to three minutes. So the next time I did this I started the grill on low and I didn’t have this problem again.

I turned the scones over at this point, to let them cook evenly. Remember, the heat is only coming from above, not all around them like in an oven. Later when I checked them I saw that they were almost there, but not quite in the middle, so I split them open. They literally just pulled apart in my fingers. I let them toast away like that for a minute or two.

DSC_0511 DSC_0512  DSC_0514 DSC_0516 DSC_0517 DSC_0518 These were lovely to serve up fresh, but they didn’t hold for later. Time for a second attempt!

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Here is (an awful picture that I took with sticky fingers to show) the “flattened loaf” shaped scone cake that I put under the grill. I kept the grill on low this time, and I had no burning.

DSC_0533 DSC_0541 DSC_0546This second variation was more like bread. The slices were perfect to split apart and eat with scrambled eggs and baked tomatoes for tonight’s supper. For some reason, this variation of the same recipe held much better and tasted as fresh the next day.

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This is by no means a finished process, it is merely attempt #1 as I learn to bake on my grill, and use the facilities I have available to me in my kitchen.

My version of {chicken in milk}

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My resident landlady came into the kitchen when this was just finished, steaming and wafting loveliness up from the hob and she said “oooh that smells gooorgeous” and then a few minutes later when I took it out of the saucepan she said “oh and it looks gorgeous, what did you cook it into make that sauce?!”

DSC_0506So I innocently said ” I cooked it in milk” … and she said “youdidwhat?!”

Apparently it’s not a thing around here. I wouldn’t know because I get my ideas from thinternet and I just follow blindly where foodblogs lead. Actually I… nevermind.

So I found this article in the Kitchn (not my kitchen, the blog the Kitchn) praising Jamie Oliver’s recipe for {Chicken in Milk}. I am using squiggly parentheses to show that I did not come up with that title, Jamie Oliver did, and also because I like squiggly parentheses.

And she sold it so well, I wanted to try it too. Only two problems, namely that I am one person who cannot eat a whole roast chicken and secondly I am not into using ovens if I can possibly help it. Paying for electricity in Ireland is a losing battle which I see no solution to except to use as little as possible whenever possible, and heating up an old oven to roast a large bird for an hour or more is excruciatingly painful to my electricity-bill-conscience and so…

So I can’t roast the bird.

But I can cook it on the hob.

So here is my variation of Jamie Oliver’s {Chicken in Milk} which actually uses two chicken legs and a hob-top rather that a whole bird and an oven.

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Brown your chicken in a pan, I used sunflower oil, but my mother tells me I should use rapeseed oil. Into a saucepan put zest of one lemon, a few cloves of garlic (peeled), about 1 tsp salt, and 1 tsp mixed herbs.

DSC_0492Remember, this is {chicken in milk}, to so our next step is to pour in one glass of milk. You didn’t guess, did you?

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(I also thought my chicken looked a little lonely so I put in two tablespoons of Monday’s chicken stock which by now has jellified because of boiling the bone marrow. Anybody read Pollyanna growing up? She is sent around the neighbourhood to give calves’ foot jelly to the sick people, I think this calves’ foot jelly is essentially the same thing as my chicken stock jelly… just in case you spent your childhood wondering, like I did)

Now let me warn you, as this sauce boils and then simmers, the sauce will split (the lemon splits the milk) and it is going to look abiticky.

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But if you exercise patience, after about thirty minutes, your sauce will turn into this most glorious…

DSC_0506I ate it with a slice of soda bread. And it was beautiful.

And ohmygoodness I just heard/saw the first bumblebee of the summer buzz around my open window. Soomer is a coomin in, loudly sing cuckoo…

Chicken stock noodles

So yesterday I made chicken stock.

And then at around six pm, I suddenly felt starving, even though I had been cooking all day. Being so excited about my first attempt at making the stock, I forgot to make myself a dinner.

So I had to whip up a super-fast supper before I left the house.

On hand: fresh chicken stock.

DSC_0492In the cupboard: noodles, soy sauce, black pepper.

DSC_0476Place one nest of noodles into the smallest saucepan you can find. On top pour one and a half ladles of chicken stock, one ladle boiling water, a dash to a tablespoon of soy sauce and a good grinding of black pepper. Turn on the hob and turn in circles for about five minutes. Or put away your laundry, or something, but basically you don’t have to think about this for five minutes and then you come back and it is ready to eat. Pour into a bowl, and express your supreme happiness in song.

DSC_0488It doesn’t look like much, but it was the simplest and tastiest and most satisfying supper I had eaten in a while.