Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Best pancake recipe

I've tried a few pancake recipes over the years and the one I tried this year is the one I'm sticking with.
It makes ten small pancakes
  • 100g plain flour
  • pinch af salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 300ml milk
  • butter for cooking
  • Put flour in a bowl and add salt.  I have a wonderful big Le Creuset jug that is perfect for this and allows the last dregs to be poured into the frying pan.
  • Make a well in the flour and break the eggs into the well.
  • Add the oil - don't use olive oil because you don't want a strong tasting oil. Rapeseed oil is fine, or corn oil.
  • Add 50ml of the milk.
  • Whisk using hand whisk.  I think using a blender or electric/wand whisk, is overkill.  You are aiming for a sloppy smooth paste consistency.
  • Gradually add remaining milk, mixing all the time.
  • Rest or don’t rest the mix - it doesn’t make any difference.
  • Put a small knob of butter in a frying pan over a medium to high heat and, when it’s bubbling, poor enough mixture to cover two thirds of the pan and whoosh it around so that it covers the whole of the base of the pan.  I use a ladle to try and ensure the same amount (about half a ladle) is used each time.  
  • When the underside has cooked feel free to flip the pancake or use a fish slice if you’re of a more cowardly persuasion (I don’t flip).
  • When the new underside is cooked your pancake is ready.
  • Serve with whatever takes your fancy and start with a new knob of butter for the next pancake.
The depressing thing about making pancakes is that the chef spends all their time making the blasted things and there’s never enough time to eat one.  I end up waiting until the family have had their fill and then I get left with whatever batter is left in the bowl.  I then cook, eat, cook, eat, whereas everyone else enjoys a continual stream of pancakeage.  Pancakes are a lovely treat though and I always mean to enjoy them on more than just Shrove Tuesday.

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Slow sloe gin

This is the easiest way to make sloe gin in my limited experience.

Pick sloes. These look a bit like blueberries but they grow on blackthorn trees often amongst bramble in hedgerows. Google images so that you know what you're looking for. The important thing is to recognise the blackthorn leaf (narrow and about two inches long) as well as the berry. They appear in August/September and stay on the trees until October. If you don't plan to freeze them then you should wait until after the first frost.

The sloe is part of the plum family and is like a smaller, more bitter version of the damson. They taste vile.

In order to use one litre of gin, you will need 425g of sloes. If you use fresh sloes then they will need washing and checking for creepy crawlies. You'll then need to spike each berry with a pin to pierce the skin. I wash, check for bugs and then freeze the berries which dispenses with the need to prick the skin. You can probably use them frozen, but I defrost before using. I open freeze and then, once frozen, scoop into bags for most efficient use of freezer space.

You will need two receptacles: one for the "brewing" process and one for the bottling. Used gin bottles are fine for both of these but Kilner jars are also fine for the brewing process. My preference is the "alcoholics special" 1 1/2 litre gin bottles for the brewing process (Sainsbury sell gin in 1 1/2 litre bottles and I'm sure they're freely available everywhere) and Kilner or Kilner-style bottles (IKEA do a range as do Wilkinsons) for the bottling procedure.

All vessels must be sterilised (allegedly). I do this by cleaning them and rinsing thoroughly in hot water before bunging glass/ceramic bits in the oven at a temperature of about 80-90 degrees Celsius for about 20 mins. Wait until hand warm before handling. All rubber seals/metal lids get boiled in water for about ten minutes. If you're using "fresh" gin bottles then I reckon you can skip the sterilisation. I'm still unconvinced it's absolutely necessary as alcohol kills bacteria (doesn't it?) but I'm too scared to risk it.

If using a litre of gin then pop 225g caster sugar into a 1.5l bottle or Kilner jar that you have sterilised. Follow this with 425g of sloes. If using a bottle then you just pop them in one by one. Finish off with the gin.

Lid on and shake it all about. Store in dark room (I don't know why it needs to be a dark room but I use kitchen cupboards or the cupboard under the stairs.)

For the first week you need to invert/shake daily to try and dissolve the sugar. After the sugar is dissolved you need do this once a week for a month. After this you should have a beautifully ruby red syrupy goo that just needs to mature. The longer you leave it the better. Generally if you make it in early October it should be drinkable for Christmas.

Prior to drinking you need to bottle it. You'll need muslin (the type used for preserving not the type you use on babies), a funnel and a bottle.

It's at this point you'll appreciate my advice regarding the use of the alcoholics special 1 1/2 litre gin bottles.

Arrange funnel into the top of the sterilised bottle. Arrange muslin such the all liquid going into the funnel has to pass through the muslin. I do this by stretching the muslin over the top of the funnel and holding in place with a hi-tech elastic band. I then make the muslin a bit "baggy" so that stray sloes don't bounce off the muslin.

Pour from brewing container into muslin adorned funnel. Be careful not to over-pour. The advantage of brewing in a bottle is that pouring process is quite un-messy. Take it from me that pouring from a Kilner jar will break your heart as the ruby red elixir will spill onto your work surface without any opportunity for retrieval.

It will keep for a really long time, not that I'd know...

It tastes like cough syrup remembered through rose-tinted tastebuds (not sure that works linguistically), is good to keep and lovely to give.

I would recommend that when sloes are on the trees you go mad, pick loads and make as much as you can.

Friday, 23 October 2015

Happy Half Term Cake

This recipe is an amalgamation of two recipes and I haven’t followed the recipes exactly so I’m posting this for the next time I want to make it.


I should explain that I’m not always one to bake a Happy Half Term Cake, and this particular cake followed a fractious car journey in which I annoyed Ethan by mentioning the lost scrum cap and the fact he has to buy a replacement, and then Ethan annoyed Hannah by telling her she was rubbish at doing homework.  I told them there was no cake for anyone in a bad mood and by the end of the journey we were all smiles.


  • 165g butter, plus extra for greasing - I used Stork baking marg which often produces better results than butter
  • 165g soft light brown or light brown muscovado sugar
  • 325g self-raising flour
  • 1 rounded tsp baking powder
  • 1 rounded tsp ground cinnamon
  • 4 large eggs
  • 4 tbsp milk
  • 2 large ripe bananas - I think the recipe can take an extra half a banana
For buttercream
  • 125g soft butter (i.e. not straight from the fridge)
  • 350g icing sugar
  • 150g Carnation Caramel
For Caramel drizzle
  • Most of the rest of the Caramel tin.  If you’re a pig like me half of the rest will end up in your mouth and never make it to the cake.
You will also need three cake tins, mine were 8 inch.  The original cake recipe only used one deep tin but I cannot cut cake to make layers; things just get messy when I try.  If you only have one deep cake tin and do have the skill to do this then by all means knock yourself out - just increase the baking time to about 45 mins.
  • Pre-heat oven to 170C fan.
  • Grease and line the bottom of three round 21cm/8 inch loose-bottomed cake tins.
  • Cream the butter and sugar together until smooth and a pale, creamy colour.
  • In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and cinnamon.
  • One at a time, beat each egg into the butter mixture along with a tbsp of the dry mixture
  • Beat in the milk and fold in the rest of the dry ingredients until well combined (you can just use the mixer but don’t go mad - you just need to mix until it’s all combined).
  • In the bowl that contained the flour, mash the bananas until smooth and lump-free
  • Then fold into the rest of the mixture until well combined or just mix in using a mixer.
  • Spoon into the tins and smooth over the surface.
  • Bake for 20-25 mins, until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. The edges of the cake should also be coming away from the sides of the tins.
  • Leave to cool for 5 mins, then remove from tin and continue cooling on a wire rack.
  • Beat butter, icing sugar and caramel.  Start this slowly to avoid icing sugar clouds.
  • When it’s light and buttercreamy then it’s ready to use.
  • I found it’s best to stack the cakes with the top bit facing uppermost as the buttercream can lift cake crumbs as it’s being spread.  This only really matters for the top deck so stack in a way that suits you.
  • I use slightly less than a third of the icing sandwiching the cakes and just over a third for the top layer.
  • Beat the remaining caramel to loosen it and try and drizzle it on the top of the buttercream.  I got in a mess doing this and ended up blobbing lines of caramel on the top.  To make it look like this was deliberate I used a skewer and dragged the icing in a spiral.  Go mad, do whatever comes naturally.  For me that was trying to rescue something that hadn’t quite gone to plan. 
Eat with tea or coffee, or a bottle of wine.  Remember, this is Happy Half Term Cake.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Still running

Having moved onto the 10K app you might think I’m now ready for a marathon.

Not quite.  I’m keeping my jogging to roughly 30 mins which means that I don’t complete the whole programme each session.  So if it wants me to do three 15 minute sessions I’ll stop after the first two.  Today it required three 17 minute sessions and I did the first two.  

I found today difficult so took a couple of “get my breath back” breaks which I did whilst pausing the programme.

I’m getting out at least twice a week and, when I can, three times.

I’m not being as tough on myself when I’m out.  I don’t blindly carry on if I’m finding it really difficult; I’ll take a break.

I hope I can carry on when it gets colder and wetter.  I don’t want to be a fair weather jogger.

My aim is to try and get a little bit faster.  Extra distance would be a bonus but a bit faster than walking pace would be good.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Labouring under a misapprehension

I'm a bit pissed off.

Labour are deciding who is OK to vote in the Labour leadership election.

Apparently not voting for Labour in the recent election means you don't qualify. I think this is garbage.

If you weren't a fan of the way Ed Miliband was running the Labour party at the last election then you're one of the reasons there's a leadership election.  Apparently,  if you expressed your opinion by placing your vote elsewhere,  you don't get a day in who should replace Mr M.  How does that work?

Surely anyone who has a Socialist heart and/or mind should be eligible to have a say in the leadership election.

I know Corbyn is doing well amongst Labour supporters but surely these people didn't vote Labour because the Labour that went into the last election was not Corbyn's Labour.

I'm not sure what the answer is but using the people that voted for Ed as the base for electing a new leader seems to be a flawed policy.

Monday, 17 August 2015

I've graduated

My C25k app tells me I've graduated.

Yesterday's run was for 30 minutes with five minutes for warm up and five minutes to cool down.

The next stage is apparently to run 5k in 30 minutes which I can do whenever I want.

The disconnect is distance.  I can plod in a plodding jog for 30 minutes and yesterday,  including the warm up and cool down my GPS running app tells me I converted a distance of 4k. I guess I just keep going until the time and distance coincide and 5k is done in 30 minutes but I feel somewhat conned. There must be a way of the app helping me to get there. 

The app was called C25k and the plan was 5k. Well I've done everything that was asked of me and I'm not there.  Is it me that failed or the app?

Thursday, 13 August 2015

You'll paella vlot more in the UK

On holiday in Spain it would be rude to avoid paella, the national dish.
A trip to a rather mad local supermarket (in Turre) opened up the possibility of buying a paella pan.
If one plans to cook paella at home does one need a paella pan?
I'm pretty sure the answer is no but that doesn't stop me wanting one.
Dave is adamant that we don't need one as is Ethan. Hannah is in the "let's get a paella pan" camp.
I think I might have to buy one because a 6 portion pan costs less than four Euros even though I don't need one.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

How often?

Every year the Perseids Meteor shower comes around and every year I can't be bothered to look.
But how often do I have access to a roof terrace with loungers already in situ?
I could climb out of the bathroom window and lie on the conservatory ceiling but that neither convenient not comfortable.
Dave took a look and concluded the sky wasn't clear enough.  He was right about the most air rising above nearby mountains but the view straight up seemed good enough.
I had a lie down.  I spotted satellites,  moths,  aircraft and stars.  Just as I was about to give up I saw my first strong,  obvious,  in your face shooting star.
I've been here a while now and seen quite a few.  The people on a nearby rooftop seem to have stopped their oohing and aching so I think it might be time to call it a night but I think meteor showers might be addictive?
Tomorrow night?

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Running away

Yes I have been trying to learn to run.  I don't mean physically how one places one foot in front of the other,  but more how one sustains activity beyond 15 seconds.

That's all very well at home but surely when on holiday such activity ceases.

I confess this is the first time in my life I have packed any kind of exercise clobber into my holiday luggage. This is not through any enjoyment of the activity,  more a fear that any progress will be lost and, when I return home, I'll be back to week one of my C25k programme.

It's hot on holiday though,  very hot. The only option to avoid most of the heat is to run before breakfast,  which for me means about 7:30.

This morning was a warm 27°. This means a lot of sweat and very slow progress for fear of keeling over.

Running away from home can also mean a less than scenic route. The most convenient track is the edge of a dusty local road.  The only thing to remind me of my usual Essex countryside surroundings is the rabbit family I pass.  Today's rabbit count is five.

And today's run was a hour and sweaty 28 minutes,  week eight,  run two.

Monday, 10 August 2015


I might be in holiday in the middle of a desert but it does not give you the right to ignore me.

I don't have 4G here.  I have it in a nearby town, but not here.  The 3G here is also non-existent and I am just about able to get 2G, but only just.

That's all OK because I can get WiFi.  But the WiFi is shared with lots of other people and I imagine we aren't sharing a great signal because we're in the middle of a desert.

What's my point?

Test your websites for loading speed.  Strangle your connection and then see what the other half experience.

I can't tell you how many links I've clicked on and abandoned because after 10 minutes I've exhausted my boredom threshold.

Think about your ad placements.  You may have paid for me to see nothing depending on your contract. I may have clicked to open the page containing your ad but I haven't seen it.

There's no point in paying for Social advertising if my interest results in a spinning circle of frustration.

Don't send me emails telling me about your great new products if I can't view them on your website.

I could move 200yds to a point where the WiFi signal is stronger but I can't be bothered. Your content isn't that interesting, and if you want my engagement then you'll need to try harder.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Beach body

You know those people who have effortless beach bodies?  Well I'm not one of them.

I'll struggle when removing my outer layer of clothing and my swimming costume will get dislodged during the process which will risk indecent exposure.

I will get sand everywhere.

I will get sun cream in my eyes which will be red and sore for the rest of the week.

I will be wearing a swimming costume that reveals white bits that are the shadows of a former outing in a different costume.

If I go into the water I will slip unceremoniously on rocks or seaweed and land on my arse.

I will do the dance of someone avoiding a wasp.

My hair will not acquire a sun-kissed, salty, tousled appearance but will look more like a clumped mess clinging to my scalp for dear life.

When leaving the beach I will struggle to carry the ridiculous accoutrements that I have decided are essential beach gear.

I'll pop a t-shirt and shorts over a damp body and swimwear producing a look that indicates incontinence and hyperlactation.

I'm just not a cool beach person.  Never have been,  never will be.

What's better?

Sat around the pool I can hear men talking about football scores,  transfers and other football related things of which I know nothing. 

At the beach there is a sea of people and some are English,  some Spanish.  A lot of the very tanned women are topless.

Ethan's told me he's not really a fan of the topless scene and I'm not either. Women look unfinished without something to cover them up, up top.

The language I can hear above everything is Spanish.  I can't understand it.

Is it better to be near a conversation one can understand but finds boring,  or to listen to something that's completely beyond comprehension?

Or should I just be minding my own business?

Friday, 7 August 2015

Hot or cold

I'm offered breakfast.
"Hot or cold?" I'm asked.
"What's the difference? " I reply.
"One's hot and one's cold."
I knew that.  What made her think I couldn't figure out that one of the differences was temperature?
One, it transpires is a full English breakfast and one has fruit and yoghurt. I could have assumed a multitude of variations which is why I asked the question.
I chose cold.

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Week 6 completed

On Sunday morning or was a relief that Week Six Day One seemed to be a step down.  I needed to run for five minutes,  walk,  run for eight minutes,  walk and run for five minutes.

I didn't really understand this because it didn't seem to be continuing the progression but I was grateful nonetheless.

Week Six Day Two had two ten minute runs with a walk between. I took a wrong turn and ended up on an uneven bramble-festooned path and could run properly (not that any of my running is proper). Anyway because I didn't feel I'd given it my best shot I did this session twice with a day in between.

Week Six Day Three had me running for 22 minutes.  This is the longest I have ever run in my life.  It's slow.  I'm not sure how slow because the app I use to calculate average speed includes my warm up walk and cool down walk.  If I were to guess I'd say between eight and nine minutes per kilometre, perhaps closer to eight.

But,  against all of my predictions, it is getting easier.  My legs ache but I'm not gasping for breath as I was when I started.

I think the thing that works for me at this stage is that I'm not trying to be an athlete.  I really am just trying to get to the end.  If the app tells me to run for 22 minutes then that is what I will try to do.  I will plod with one foot in front of the other, hobbling my way to achievement.

My body's ability to cope has surprised me.  My improvement has surprised me. I honestly thought I would fail and I had expected to quit by now.

I don't enjoy the exercise but I do enjoy being surprised by my body and I get a kick from the achievement.

I use the time to think about to do lists,  pay attention to the music of I'm running alone, or catch up with whoever is running with me.  I enjoy the countryside and it feels good to bed outside.  I think about what I'm going to tell you in this blog.

What I don't like is dogs. If I see a dog I'll change direction to get away from it.  I don't like dogs smearing their snot or saliva on my legs and I don't appreciate a dog bashing against my legs and almost knocking me over. 

Some owners seem to think that because I'm in the vicinity of their animal I am up for any kind of canine interaction.  I'm not.  I will actively try and avoid it.

The other thing I'm aware of is my smugness.  I am sharing my progress because whilst it's lame to others it's impressive to me.  I also recognise the accusation of smugness.  Having been a non-runner seeing other people posting the progress from their fitness apps I have viewed others as I am now being viewed.

I won't post from a fitness app because my distance and speed achievements are laughable. I think the smugness accusation is valid and comes from the fact that I've been "good".

I think the accusation would also be leveled at someone sharing weight loss achievements.

I'll take the label though and continue.  I want to know how far I can go and I want to know if I can get faster.

Friday, 24 July 2015

I have never run so far

Week five started with jogging for five minutes, walking for three, jogging for five, walking for three and jogging for five.

I had expected all the week five sessions to be the same which is why session two came as a shock: jog for eight minutes, walk for five, jog for eight.

I survived, just, and then session three really knocked me for six: jog for 20 minutes.  Wait, what, jog for twenty minutes?

The thing that shocked me more than the leap from five to eight to 20 minutes within the space of days, was the fact that my legs, lungs and heart didn’t let me down.