Category Archives: Recipes

Home Made Gifts – Lemon Curd

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how to make lemon curdMechanic Man is going to do well this Christmas, chocolate dipped candied orange peel AND lemon curd.  He likes citrussy things almost as much as he likes honey (he’s getting honey too).  The Wee Man and I have already made our trip to our local honey farm near Berwick to buy him some for Christmas.  We had to taste all the honeys several times each before we could choose the best one.

I just made the pine cone elf for the Wee Man – he collects pine cones and I collected that special one for him in Australia.

I have been making lemon curd since I was a kid.  I first made it at Middle School and haven’t been able to eat “shop” lemon curd since.  I always use the recipe from my Mum’s 1966 Good Housekeeping recipe book.

home made lemon curd jars

Lemon curd is ridiculously easy to make.  There’s only four ingredients.  This quantity makes three good-sized jars (we’re keeping all three)!  Our jars are in the fridge but are not be be consumed until Christmas (unless I make a lemon curd Swiss roll).  If you are willing/able to share yours – a jar would make a much appreciated gift for the lemon lover in your life.  Luckily I get to give mine away and still keep them!

Ingredients:

  • 4 free range eggs (beaten)
  • 4 un-waxed lemons (zest and juice).
  • 1 lb (450g) granulated sugar
  • 4 oz (110g) butter

Method:

  1. Place all the ingredients in a double boiler (or a decent-sized bowl over a pan of simmering water).  The bowl should not touch the bottom of the pan but should rest in the water.
  2. Stir the ingredients until thickened (it takes a while, but you needn’t stir the whole time).
  3. Sieve into sterilized jam jars, keep in the fridge when cool and consume within one month.

You can use lemon curd to make jam tarts (heaven) or as a filling for lemon cakes.  It’s wonderful on toast or on crepes, crumpets or pancakes.   Mechanic Man likes his on French toast (yuk) it’s a weird North American thing – we Brits of course treat our eggs as savoury and put ketchup on our French toast!

DIY Candied Orange Peel

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chocolate dipped candied peel

My husband is from California – where Oranges grow on trees! I remember his 80 year-old grandmother giving me some of her home-made candied peel one Thanksgiving.  It was just wonderful and I was so impressed.   Last year I bought Mechanic Man some locally made, dark chocolate dipped, candied peel for Christmas – he adored it.

This year, I tried a sample from the same vendor and although the Belgian chocolate was delicious, the orange just wasn’t zingy enough.  Remembering Grandma Grace, I thought I’d have a go at the peels myself.  I found this great recipe with lovely photos on a  blog called bright eyed baker.  I used her recipe but scaled it up as I had four oranges.

This quantity makes a dinner plate of peel and filled two jam jars before I dipped some of them in chocolate. You could probably fill four jam jars if they were all choc dipped.  I elected to only dip half of each peel in chocolate as I thought they’d look prettier.

  • 4 Navel Oranges
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  1. Wash the oranges and cut the top and bottom off.
  2. Score into quarters (along lines of longitude) through the skin and pith (orange and white bit).
  3. Peel off the skin/pith “quarters”.  I put the “waste” orange on a plate and left it on the kitchen table – it all disappeared within minutes.
  4. Cut these quarters into thin strips lengthwise about 1/4 inch or 5 mm wide.
  5. Place strips in a pan of water and bring to the boil, boil for a few minutes.
  6. Drain and repeat step 5, TWO times more to reduce bitterness of the pith.
  7. Add the measured water and sugar to a pan and stir over a low heat to dissolve the sugar.
  8. Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes.
  9. Add the peel and simmer gently for another 45 minutes DO NOT STIR.  Stirring will cause the sugar to crystallize.  You can occasionally rotate the peels gently if you feel they are not all getting equally “candied.” DO NOT let the pan boil dry.
  10. When the peels are translucent, drain the excess liquid (there won’t be much) and keep this it for another culinary use.
  11. Place the peels on drying racks and dry in the oven for about an hour at 90C.
  12. Put the peels in a ziploc bag with a little extra sugar and shake the bag to coat them (they look prettier this way and are less sticky to handle/wrap).
  13. Store them in an airtight container.

candied orange peel

You can dip some peels in melted chocolate to be extra decadent or eat them as they are (very zingy). The photo above is the jar I made for Hubby. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler and lay the chocolatey peels to harden on a silicon baking mat.

I plan to use some in my holiday baking, in place of “shop” peel.  I also made little cones out of cellophane and gave some to my baking friends as little pre-Christmas gifts. (Sorry Lizzie I made yours before I raided my “bling” box and found the holly and mini bells)!

candied peel pretty packaging

Let the Good Times Roll – Chocolate Custard Swiss Roll

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chocolate swiss roll with custard

I’ve started thinking about our Christmas food – I admit it.  I like to be organised and want to feel positive and excited about Christmas.  Every year, we always have pretty much exactly the same food – very traditional and delicious.  My Mum was a great one for tradition.  This year, however, I can’t face making/eating a Christmas Cake and a Christmas Pudding that I know my Mum and my My Brother (who is abroad) won’t be able to share.  They were/are the biggest fans of the “dried fruits held together with a teaspoon of flour” delicacies.  So I’ve been thinking about “still traditional” alternatives – that my kids might even like.

I have decided to make Stollen instead of a Christmas Cake as I just adore it and the kids like it too.  The desert for the main event is proving more problematic.

I suggested a lemon cheesecake or something similar but the kids said it wasn’t Christmasssy enough – even though they hate Christmas pudding. They reckoned something chocolatey would be good (but I’m not a huge chocolate fan).  A friend suggested a trifle.  My Mum made the best trifle and I did make one last year for my brother – so that was the best idea so far.   On the Great British Bake Off this year they made a kind off upside down trifle called a Charlotte Royale.  When we watched the episode, my kids thought it looked good and that we should make one – so I thought I had my solution – some sort of upside down trifle.

Bake off charlotte royal

I googled “upside down trifle” and found this –  a chocolate upside down trifle with black cherries.

chocolate upside down trifle

Number one son – the Apprentice – loves black cherries and all the kids love chocolate Swiss roll.  I tried making a Swiss roll when I was a kid and I over-baked it and it turned out like a giant cookie.   Today is Ballet Girl’s 15th Birthday and she had requested I make her profiteroles for her “cake.”   This morning I dutifully made her profiteroles using this recipe and then thought I’d make a practice Swiss roll while I was in the baking mood – the more Birthday cakes the merrier!  I had chocolate sauce left over from the profiteroles too.

chocolate swiss roll with custard

As you can see my practice came out well.  My Swiss roll tin was a bit small so my cake was a bit thick – but hey it’s art not science.   I didn’t have any cream left after I filled the profiteroles so I improvised with half a carton of left over custard.  I painted the ganache sauce on with my silicon pastry brush.  The decorations are left-over butterscotch chips from the Father’s Day Oreo Tart I made back in June.  So, Ballet Girl came home from school to two cakes – a pile of profiteroles and a giant Swiss roll!  Mechanic man just came in from the cold and is pretty pleased too – time to order the Chinese take-away Ballet Girl requested for her Birthday tea.  Not sure how we’ll manage to do the deserts justice but we’ll try.

Giant Jaffa Cake and Leaf Wreath

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DIY fall leaf wreath idea

The “English” get a bit huffy at Halloween, they start complaining about the “Americanisation” of October 31st and all the paraphernalia and hype in the shops.  Guy Fawkes Night (aka Bonfire Night) is their seasonal celebration (November 5th).

Well, here in Scotland, Halloween has always been celebrated with the tradition of “guising” – not “trick or treating” you understand, just dressing up and going round the houses in dis”guise” – performing a wee song, skit, poem or nowadays often just a joke.  Since our household is 50% Scottish and 50% American – we indulge in Halloween.  Also, the Scots are secretly a wee bit annoyed Guy Fawkes didn’t succeed in blowing up the English Parliament – so no “Bonfire Night” for us North of the Border.

The best thing about the Americanization of All Hallow’s Eve, however, is the introduction of the pumpkin.  It wasn’t any fun as a small Scottish child trying to hollow out a “neep” (swede) for your lantern.  In fact it was impossible. My effort below is pretty basic compared to Ballet Girl’s but I was busy making my wreath!

spider carved pumpkin

So pumpkins are fun and my kids, who are denied “sweets” pretty much all year except Easter and Christmas, like Halloween very much.  This year, I am celebrating the fourth and final coat of fresh paint on my front door with a seasonal leaf wreath.  I threaded hundreds of sycamore leaves on to a wire coat-hanger – time consuming but cheap (no cost) and therapeutic.  It used a lot of leaves but I was able to nip up to the Church Yard for more leaves every time I ran out.  To “treat” my kids this year I have made them a giant Jaffa cake.

autumn decor and cakes

I was going to put red food colouring in the orange jelly bit to make it “blood orange” for the occasion but in the end chose not to (didn’t want to sully a classic).  I found the recipe on a blog I follow called Tangerine Drawings and you can find it here.  I just love the fact that she uses drawings rather than photographs.  My sponge turned out beautifully, very light.  It’s made from only flour, cornflour, sugar and eggs.  The orange jelly is made from gelatine, fresh squeezed orange and marmalade.  The chocolate top is pure dark chocolate.  So, pretty much like a regular Jaffa Cake only bigger.

home made jaffa cake slice

Basically you bake the sponge, make the jelly in a slightly smaller cake tin lined with cling film, then when it’s set, place the jelly on top of the sponge and smooth the chocolate (melted over a pan of hot water) over the top.  I apologise for my plastic table cloth – mine is a working kitchen not a photo studio.  I cook, I mend, I make; and, sometimes I clean (when absolutely necessary) ‘cos it’s no fun at all and cuts into my “playtime.”

how to make a giant jaffa cake

My giant Jaffa Cake turned out a bit tangy, I’m not sure the kids will actually like it, I maybe shouldn’t have used home made Seville orange marmalade or should have added more sugar.  Still, if it’s too sharp for the kids, we sophisticated grown ups can eat it all.  Jaffa Cakes are pretty low fat you know.  Here’s another shot of my kitchen, I took the table cloth off for this photo but you can see all the normal kitchen mess in the background.

giant jaffa cake recipe

Anyway, have a great All Hallow’s Eve, however you celebrate it, keep warm, crochet yourself a new hat, make a cake, snuggle someone you love.

Plays Well With Knives

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mouth

Just a quickie – proud Mama has to share 14-year old Ballet Girl’s pumpkin.  She may be a ballet girl but she’s pretty handy with a Swiss Army knife; but then she should be, she’s been “playing” with one since she was little.

This is the second pen knife success story from Ballet Girl.  The first one was when she was at Scout Camp and won extra points for her patrol by hanging up their swim suits to dry.  I asked “did you take pegs?” (I never go camping without pegs).  No, she said, “we whittled some out of sticks”.  Proud pen knife moment number one.  Hopefully she never gets her arm caught in some rocks.

His ‘n’ Hers Crochet Earflap Beanie Hats – Free Pattern

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Image I crocheted these two hats from pure wool yarn unravelled from a sweater I bought in a charity shop.  Unravelling a sweater is a labour of love that’s for sure, but you are rewarded with a lot of yarn for the money.  The yarn has to be unpicked, skeined, washed, dried and re-skeined or wound into balls before use!  It took a lot longer to “process” the sweater yarn than it did to crochet the two hats!

I wanted to make Mechanic Man a new work hat for Autum/Winter and thought the colours would look good with his colouring (reddy/blonde).  His garage is freezing even in Summer so he wears a hat all day for most of the year.  He was at work when I took these photos so my daughter is modelling.

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I made him a lovely hat last year but unfortunatly it found it’s way into the washing machine with his uniforms and shrunk spectacularly.  Mechanic Man was sad about his old hat but chuffed that he had managed to make a felt bowl all by himself.  I had a lot of yarn left from my sweater, so I thought I’d make a coordinating hat for me – Hence His ‘n’ Hers!

I made HIS in random stripes – most one colour wide – so that it won’t show the dirt/grease/oil too badly.  I made mine with stripes ‘cos I’m a sucker for stripes. The top of my hat has five rounds of the same colour and then each stripe has four rounds.

I very carefully wrote down the pattern for these hats as I was making them and now I can’t find the piece of paper.  Still, here’s the gist.  It’s basically a beanie hat with a few extra rows added for a neck warmer (on 2/3 of the total stitches and then an ear-flap triangle added on each end of the neck warmer).  My instructions do assume you know how to crochet and have had a go at a hat before.

I have a beginner hat pattern with more detailed instructions here.

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Notes:  This hat is worked in rounds, to join each round you can either slip stitch into the first st of the previous round and chain 2, or single crochet into the first stitch of the previous round and chain one.  This chain counts as your first stitch of the next round.  It must also be noted that my tension is tight, so if you crochet loose, you may want to use a slightly smaller hook.

  • 6mm crochet hook and approx. 70g Aran weight yarn for each hat.
  • Use a magic loop or as small a chain loop as you can to start.
  • Round 1: Make 10 single crochet sts (double crochet UK).
  • Round 2: Make 2 SCs in every stitch (20 sts).
  • Round 3: Work one round (20 sts).
  • Round 4: Make 2 SCs in the first and every other sts (30 sts)
  • Round 5: Make 2 SCs in the first and every third st (40 sts)
  • Round 6: Work one round.
  • Round 7: Make 2 SCs in the first and every fourth st (50 sts)
  • Round 8: Make 2 SCs in the first and evry fifth sts (60 sts)
  • HER hat: Continue to work on these 60 sts until the hat is the desired length (without neck flap)  For my hat I worked approx 33 rounds.
  • HIS hat : Work another increase round, increasing 5 sts evenly around the hat (65 sts) and continue without further increase. You can add a couple of extra rounds too if you want a bigger hat but I worked 33 rounds HIS hat too (I have a big head).
  • Neck Flap: To make the back a little longer than the front (built-in neck warmer) work back and forth in rows for FOUR rows on 40 sts HERS (45 sts HIS).
  • Ear Flaps: Work the ear-flaps backwards and forwards on each end of the neck piece.  I worked the ear-flaps on 9 sts for HERS (11 sts HIS) and decreased one st at each end of every other row until there were no sts remaining.
  • To make a edge, work TWO rounds of SC around the whole hat – decreasing one stitch in internal corners and increasing one stitch at external corners.
  • I added tassels to HER hat but not to HIS as I don’t want HIM getting mangled in a machine at work!
  • I hand stitched lining into the inside of HIS hat with some jersey fabric from an old Marks and Spencer’s T-shirt so it will be super comfy and warm.  You can see in the photo below that the back is a few rows longer to keep HIS neck warm (the lining is level with the edge at the front).

If you find this pattern helpful or utterly confusing please let me know!

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Simple Pleasures

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Today is my 24th Wedding Anniversary, Mechanic Man and I were supposed to be arriving back in Newcastle this morning after a two-night, one day mini-cruise to Haarlem, Holland.  We elected not to go though, as we would have been caught up in the hurricane force winds which battered the South of England, Northern France and Holland in the early hours of Monday.

We were able to reschedule our trip but not for a convenient date.  So, although today didn’t start as planned, it turned out well.  What made it a good day however, was not the fact that it was our anniversary, but the fact that my neighbours and I were able to be neighbourly.

One neighbour has a friend from Italy staying.  He was in her garden this morning doing some pruning so I chatted to him while I hung my washing out.  He said he was making himself useful while his host was working.  I told him I was going to paint my gutter later and he could really help me by holding the ladder for me if he had any more spare moments.  He was delighted to be asked and happy to help.  He wanted to do the painting for me but I had to make a firm stand for women power.

Then, when I was walking my son home from school, another neighbour, who has recently moved to our end of the village, came out of her gate crying. They had just found their missing cat dead on the side of the road.  She was very upset, so I gave her an ear and hugs.

Another pal dropped by later to give me some apples and potatoes from her garden and I gave her some of my pears.  She also gave me a book to read and pass on – it looks good – it’s called WILD by Cheryl Strayed.  Then finally, another neighbour phoned me and asked me if I had any green and brown yarn for a knitting project she is doing to raise funds for the village community trust.  I had a rummage through my stash and will drop my donation of yarn to her house tomorrow.

Then, Mechanic Man came home from work wearing the new hat I crocheted him for Winter 2014 so that made me feel good.  His hat is the one on the right in the photo above – my coordinating hat is on the left.  I will do another post on the his ‘n’ hers hats asap.

Mechanic Man brought me a Toblerone chocolate bar (my favourite) and two of those cute mini bottles of red wine.  I love the mini bottles because they’re just perfect when you fancy a wee drink with your dinner and haven’t the willpower to stop yourself drinking more than you actually want.  He knows I’ll go mad if he buys anything more expensive or frivolous.

Oh, and the sun shone. In fact, it was probably the first nice Autumn day we’ve had this year, it was cold and windy but that meant my sheets dried on the line.  Line dried sheets are in my top 10 all-time favourite things and it’s a bit of a luxury at this time of the year in Scotland.  So, a day filled with simple pleasures and nice neighbours – well, the cat incident was not so good but at least I was able to provide a shoulder to cry on.