Sunday, 25 January 2015

Amazing apple pie

Cooked an awesome apple pie today.  It was stacked with fruit and the pastry was fantastic.  The recipe made no sense.  It seemed completely illogical because the pastry didn’t need cold ingredients, but it worked so, hey ho, here’s an amazing apple pie recipe.  Taken from Angela Whatsit on

You’ll need a 20-22cm round and 4cm deep pie tin/dish, oh, and an oven, and ingredients.



  • 1kg ish Bramley apples
  • 140g golden caster sugar
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 225g butter, room temperature
  • 50g golden caster sugar, plus extra
  • 2 eggs
  • 350g plain flour
  • For the pastry, beat the butter and sugar in a large bowl until just mixed.
  • Break in a whole egg and a yolk (keep the white for glazing later).
  • Beat together for just under 1 min – it will look a bit like scrambled egg.
  • Now work in the flour with a wooden spoon, a third at a time, until it’s beginning to clump up, then finish gathering it together with your hands.
  • Gently work the dough into a ball, wrap in cling film or plastic bag, and chill for a minimum of 45 mins.
  • While the pastry is chilling, prepare the apples.
  • Put a layer of paper towels on a large baking sheet.
  • Quarter, core, peel and slice the apples about 5mm thick.  Because I hate apples that turn brown I put the cut apple in water with a dash of lemon juice.  Before the next step the apples need to be drained.
  • Lay sliced apples evenly on the paper towel covered baking sheet.
  • Put paper towels on top and set aside.
  • Now mix the 140g/5oz sugar, the cinnamon and flour for the filling in a bowl that is large enough to take the apples
  • After the pastry has chilled, heat the oven to 190C/fan 170C/gas 5.
  • Lightly beat the egg white with a fork.
  • Grease your pie tin/dish with butter.
  • Cut off a third of the pastry and keep it wrapped while you roll out the rest, and use this to line a pie tin – 20-22cm round and 4cm deep – leaving a slight overhang.
  • Roll the remaining third to a circle about 28cm in diameter.
  • Pat the apples dry with kitchen paper, and tip them into the bowl with the cinnamon-sugar mix. Having dry apples in the pie prevent a soggy bottom.
  • Give a quick mix with your hands and immediately pile high into the pastry-lined tin/dish.
  • Brush a little water around the pastry rim and lay the pastry lid over the apples pressing the edges together to seal.
  • Trim the edge with a sharp knife and make 5 little slashes on top of the lid for the steam to escape. (Can be frozen at this stage.)
  • Brush it all with the egg white and sprinkle with caster sugar.
  • Bake for 40-45 mins, until golden, then remove and let it sit for 5-10 mins before serving with vanilla ice cream, cream or custard.
  • 1kg Bramley apples
  • 140g golden caster sugar
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 3 tbsp flour

Sunday, 18 January 2015

If I were a successful theatre director

We went to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory last night.
It was good.
Wonka was played to perfection.  The set was amazing. Some of the costumes were very clever and I would rather like a Wonka jacket.
But there was something missing.
The children and I agreed that all audience members should have a chocolate bar and inside one, per performance, there should be a golden ticket. That golden ticket should win the holder a prize. It could be a show T-shirt our a trip backstage or the book signed by the cast our something.

Friday, 16 January 2015

Being nice

At school today Hannah saw the result of generosity of spirit.
Someone had used post-it notes on locker doors and in a few other places around the school.
The messages on the post-it notes were all positive. "Smile" "Have a great day." "Your hair looks great." "I like your bag."
I think everyone who saw one of these notes would have had at least five minutes of feeling good.
What a lovely, kind thing to do.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

The war effort

I have war stock.

What’s war stock?

War stock is when the Government sell bonds to finance a war effort.

Cool, which war?

Well I didn’t know until yesterday, but the First World War.

How come you have war stock for the First World War?

It’s called inheritance.  I could have cashed it in but it is a small amount and I liked the reminder that my family had supported the war effort when the country needed it.  I had thought it was Second World War stock but this appears to have made it through two generations.

Great.  And…?

Well the Government don’t want this piece of history to exist anymore. 


They want to pay back the debt.


Well debt is cheaper at the moment so they can pay this back and get cheaper debt.  I think this is a bit of a shame.

Ok, where can I go to find out more?


Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Cheeseboard and Onion Tart

You know those times when you’re being posh and sophisticated, serving a well chosen selection of cheeses on a proper cheeseboard with the correct cheese knives?


Me neither, but there might be times when you have cheese in the fridge that could be used in a tart.  Most cheeses could probably be used in this recipe but I’d recommend cheese that packs a punch.  I’ve made it with mature cheddar, brie and stilton as a combination and also a smoked cheese, stilton, brie and cheddar as a combo.

I don’t own a cheeseboard and I have just one knife that is allegedly for cheese.

You’ll need a tart tin.  This recipe is notionally for a 23cm tin but both times i’ve made it I’ve kept the pastry quantity the same and just upped the filling amount.


  • 250g plain flour
  • 125g cold cubed unsalted butter
  • 1/2 tsp salt (I forgot this)
  • 2 onions (I love onion so used more), sliced into rings or half rings
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 284ml double cream
  • 250g cheese, any cheese but the tastier the better
  1. Put some ice cubes in some water.  Pastry making requires coldness.  I have only learned this through watching endless baking shows.  I avoided pastry for years because it scared me and crappy mince pie making scarred me.
  2. Put the flour, butter and salt in a food processor and pulse until your mixture looks like fine crumbs.
  3. Carefully add about 60ml of the cold water.  Add it slowly whilst pulsing until the mixture starts to come together as a dough.
  4. Shape it into a fat, smooth disc and pop in a plastic bag in the fridge for at least 20 mins.
  5. This can be done a few days in advance.  You can also freeze dough as well.
  6. While your pastry is in the fridge, butter your tart tin.
  7. Also while your pastry is in the fridge soften the onion slices in oil on the hob, medium heat, until the onions are translucent and turning golden - this should take at least ten minutes.
  8. Heat oven to 180C (fan oven).
  9. Roll out pastry on a floured surface until it’s big enough to line your tart tin.  My recipe says line the tin with baking parchment but I didn’t bother.
  10. Line your tin with the pastry.  Use your knuckles to gently push the pastry into place.
  11. You need to choose what to do with the pastry hanging over the edge.  Pastry shrinks which is why many people advise leaving the excess pastry just hanging. Personally I find it easier to remove the pastry at this stage.  Trying to remove the cooked pastry is a faff but you might want to experiment.  Or you might have your own preference.
  12. Prick the pastry with a fork - this stops the pastry puffing up.
  13. Line the pastry with baking paper - cake liners work well here - and fill with baking beans or whatever you would normally use (beans or rice - obviously not baked beans, baking beans).
  14. Bake on a baking sheet for 15 mins.
  15. Remove from oven and carefully remove baking parchment and baking beans.
  16. Put back in the oven for about 10 minutes, or longer until the case is a pale golden colour.
  17. Turn the oven down to 160C (fan)
  18. While the case is cooking beat eggs and cream adding salt and pepper as required.  For bigger tart tins add an egg and use about 440ml cream.
  19. Crumble, chop or pull cheese into smallish (penny-sized) bits and scatter in case.
  20. Scatter softened onion.
  21. Pour in egg/cream mix.  The baking shows recommend doing this with tart on an oven shelf. I’ve tried this and get myself in a muddle because as the oven shelf is pulled out of the oven partially it is no longer properly horizontal.  I take an oven shelf out of the oven and with the baking tray and tart tin on the oven shelf I pour the mix in.  I find it easier to manoeuvre an oven shelf and keep it level than I do just a tart tin on a baking tray.
  22. Bake for 40 minutes.
  23. Can be eaten warm or cold.
  24. Keeps for a few days in the fridge.




Monday, 5 January 2015


So I’m going to fly in the face of public opinion and suggest Ched Evans should be hired by a football club, or at least the football clubs considering hiring him shouldn’t be swayed by vocal public opinion.

I know he protests his innocence, but for the purposes of this argument, let’s assume he’s guilty.

I understand he’s been found guilty of rape and he served half of a five year sentence.

Let me also clear up any misunderstanding about my views on rape.  I think it’s a vile crime and my view on Ched Evan’s employability does not mean I condone the crime.

I consider that Mr Evans has paid the price for his crime and his slate has, as far as society should be concerned, been wiped clean.

You and I may consider the sentence served to be inadequate for the crime, but it is our justice system that decided the original sentence and the decision to release after time served.  We might not like it but those are the rules.

Generally there is a view that people who have served time at Her Majesty’s pleasure should be rehabilitated into society.  Having employment is an ideal part of this jigsaw.

Personally I would much rather see this ex-con employed doing something where he has some skill rather than living on the money that can probably be made from selling exclusive stories to different tabloid rags or checkout gossip mags.

I understand that footballers are role models (in theory).  Boxers are too.  Anyone remember Mike Tyson’s rape conviction?  

I don’t think Ched Evans is seeking the easy route.  The prosecution was very public.  Everyone knows what he did.  He’s choosing to be in the public eye and under the scrutiny of the media, something he could avoid if he disappeared into obscurity.  I think that he could be a role model if he behaved appropriately now.  A reformed character can be inspirational.

I also wonder what society would think if the crime was GBH, or theft, or tax evasion, or fraud, or manslaughter, or possession, or…you get the idea.  The time served could have been the same for tax evasion (or possession of a class B drug).  Would the view be that tax evasion is OK?  I’m not sure it provides a great role model.  We wouldn’t want children thinking it was OK to avoid paying tax.

But if someone who happened to be a good footballer, evaded tax, served their time and then behaved responsibly and within the law then I think there’s no reason why they shouldn’t play football again.  

Did you know Wesley Snipes did three years jail time for tax offences and yet nobody seems to have objected to him appearing in Expendables 3 following his release?

It’s not as though Evans is commanding a price that matches his football skill.  From what I understand his fee is much cheaper than it would be for someone else who wasn’t an ex-con.

There is an opportunity for a mutually beneficial relationship here.  Oldham Athletic need a change of fortune and so does Ched Evans.  

I understand the commercial decision being made by sponsors.  The public reaction to Oldham’s tentative steps towards signing Ched Evans is something you wouldn’t want associated with your brand.

Oldham need to balance potential sponsorship loss with the potential of improved team performance, but I think the guy has been given his punishment and shouldn’t be further penalised.

I don’t envy the people making the decision though.

Friday, 2 January 2015

It's all about me

We booked a train journey from Shenfield to Sheringham.

It takes slightly longer than driving because two changes are involved but it does allow us to sit at a table and read books and play games and it should be less tiring.

There's only one stretch of the journey that affords us the luxury of reserved seating but it's the longest stretch between Chelmsford and Norwich.

We were travelling on a quiet day.  As we parked in Shenfield train station car park at 8:00 we were one of four cars in what is normally a nearly full car park.

At Chelmsford we hopped onto the carriage with our reserved seats and 90% off the seats weren't reserved making it easy to spot our reserved seats. The carriage was barely occupied so we headed to the seats with reserved tickets.

At our reserved table was a woman who had clearly made herself at home.

Hannah and Ethan sat down opposite her and when she finished her phone call she shuffled a couple of belongings and said "I could move."

We moved and sat at a different table because there was plenty of space and it wasn't a problem.

But what kind of person sees an empty carriage with barely any reservations and actively chooses to sit in reserved seats?

Is it arrogance,  stupidity or just an absence of awareness?

It's just something that wouldn't occur to me and I don't understand it.

Thursday, 1 January 2015

A fine mess

I watch baking/cooking shows.  Sometimes I might make something I’ve seen.  This happened most recently with Tom Kerridge’s spiced orange cake and yes, I will put this recipe online because it worked well, and was gluten free.

The thing that annoys me about these programmes is that my experience is generally nothing like the one portrayed on screen.  The finished result never looks as professional and the my process of cooking whatever it is always lacks the finesse and skill of the chef on the TV.

But my main bugbear is mess.  Nobody ever seems to tidy up mess.

Paul Hollywood is always shaking flour and icing sugar all over work surfaces but I don’t think i’ve ever seen that mess cleaned up.  When I clean up flour I end up with wallpaper paste because that’s what happens when I mix water and flour.

My floor also gets covered in flour and sugar and that is not fun to tidy up.  Do the professionals have a particular tidy up technique that I could learn?

Then there’s dough whether it’s bread or pastry that gets stuck to the work surface.  If that’s not cleaned up quickly it sticks hard and needs chipping off.

Egg whites spilled by My Hollywood’s one-handed egg cracking technique also have glue-like properties.  This is why royal icing sets rock hard - it’s because of the egg whites.  He never cleans this up.

I would like a programme where the presenter prepares ingredients, makes everything, tidies up and does the washing up.  I want to see how messy their kitchen is because I can’t believe I’m the only one to create such a disaster zone every time I venture towards the hob or oven.