Make a lemon meringue pie from scratch – Challenge number 16

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It may seem a strange start to this 50@50 challenge but I would like you to meet my mum, Freda May Davis, nee Noakes ( please see photos below).  I absolutely can’t express just how much I owe to this tremendous lady.  She is so talented at cooking (her cream horns are legendary), sewing, wall papering, making children smile, gardening…I could endlessly go on.   And she has passed on much of this to me….or at least….some of it….as she also spoilt me rotten growing up.  Her attitude then was ( and mine too) “you are a long time an adult so go have a care free, fun-filled life whilst you can”.  So I did 😄.

The only problem with this was that when I started going out seriously with Chris and I wanted to impress him I realised I would have to show him I could cook (and I hadnt a clue). So I invited him around for an anniversary meal of goodness knows what for starter, followed by roast chicken and lemon meringue pie for dessert (which I knew he loved)…. How hard could that be?? 😱.  As it turned out…not that hard at all when you have a Mary Berry equivalent as your sous chef .  Everything went swimmingly, my man was suitably impressed (as he had already suspected anyone who was as good a cook as my mum was bound to have an equally good cook as a daughter…oops) and before I knew it there was a ring on my finger and wedding bells faintly tinkling in our future.  So…a happy ever after story ❤️…..

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NOT!!!  It was only after we were married that Chris discovered the real truth of my cooking ability….ZERO.  I rang my mum every night for a month asking how long to boil eggs, how do you boil potatoes, what is the best way to roast a chicken, how do you make mince go brown, what is the difference between sun flower oil and vegetable oil…..you name it, I asked it and it didn’t end there.  I had no idea how to clean, could not change a light bulb, didn’t know how to use an iron, had never touched a lawn mower…..was bemused by the large white thing in the kitchen you were supposed to put clothes in to wash…really??….and the list went on and on….Chris patiently had to teach me how to do the lot…..poor man!!

So, this challenge is basically to say sorry to Chris.  Only now after almost 32 years of being a couple do I finally feel ready to attempt to make lemon meringue pie for him once again, but this time unassisted. I used this recipe

http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/3482/ultimate-lemon-meringue-pie

And my goodness what a faff!!  Making and rolling pastry out…easy ( even without a fancy food processor)……transferring it to the dish….impossible, unless it is meant to be in 1000 pieces. On the third time I had devised a cunning plan which meant it almost made it!!  I will let you look at the photos to see how I progressed…but I am pleased to say I did manage to get ‘something’ into the oven.

So Chris’ comments were…’it’s the lemonyest meringue I have had since the last one you made me….quite a zing.  Great pastry”

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In reality I am a passable cook and quite a good cake baker, but I don’t think I will be applying any time soon to the Great British Bake Off, and nor will I be making another lemon meringue pie again…….sorry!!!!  I am sure there is a moral to this story; I am just too busy ringing my mum to ask her to come and do the dishes and eating pie to work it out at this moment 😄

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Cake Baking Workshop – Challenge No 38

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So as I have mentioned previously My 50@50 challenges are also a chance to spend quality time with people who are important in my life; and they don’t get much more important than Kate, my daughter.  Aging has benefits as well as drawbacks and one of the greatest things is watching your children grow, flourish and become wonderful adults which I am lucky enough to to have done.  However, they have also turned out cheeky and so both Kate and Matt decided to keep their challenges as a surprise for me ( which secretly I loved)

Kate and I both enjoy baking and watching cooking programmes and even though she now lives in Londin we still message each other throughout entire episodes of the Great British Bake Off.  I introduced her to Delia Smith and Mary Berry and she in turn introduced me to Lorraine Pascale and online recipe searches.  She is a much more adventurous baker so I was thrilled when she said my challenge was to go on a cake baking workshop together.

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The day started well with a great breakfast ( although Kate’s porridge…see above..looked suspiciously like a pudding) in Canterbury before we headed out to the Canterbury Baking School.  We were lucky enough to have booked in half term so as it turned out we were the only people on the course.  If I say that our day with Vicky was quirky and chaotic, it is in no way a criticism and in fact it enhanced the enjoymeant of the days baking.  We chose what to bake, there were no fixed recipes ( which I found scary and totally out of my comfort zone as I religiously weigh and follow recipes) we laughed, baked and I learnt new skills.  

We made a pear frangipani (pre-cooked photo below) with a pastry base which was brilliant as I had never caramelised pears before or made a frangipani, and certainly had not made my own pastry for a very long time.  It was great and the end result was wonderful, especially the fruit aspect and could happily be used as either a pudding or an afternoon cake.

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We also made what I dubbed a ‘St Clements’ cake ( from the old nursery rhyme) as the main flavours were clementines and lemons…see photo below.  This was a flour free cake, using instead semolina and almonds.  Whilst the taste was great ( improved greatly by drizzling lemon juice with sugar over the top) I guess this is the risk you take with winging it when baking because the density was not quite right…too heavy and dry.  I would try a no flour cake again though as I really enjoyed the unusual texture…and adding poppy seeds ( which I turned my nose up at) was inspired…but I think a recipe for me to follow will be called for next time.

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We had fun chatting about Paul Hollywood ( this school mainly has bread making courses), overcoming a slight mishap I might have had with some pastry (no one told me it was a loose bottom pan!!!!!!!), me then reminiscing about cookery lessons at school with my friend Michaela and generally learning and baking together.  

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At the end we got to try Vicky, our tutors bakes, together with some of her Kamut bread (which was totally amazing) and figure out how on earth we were going to get four cakes home…without tins…knowing we were off to the Rum Bar in Canterbury first.

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I really can’t remember laughing so much ( although not always when and why we were supposed to be …..my daughter is truly incorrigible) in a long time and I had such an enjoyable day with Kate.  I am thrilled to have passed on a love of baking to her in the same way my beloved Mum has passed it on to me and to be able to share time in a kitchen like this was a real joy.  I will certainly be moving outside my comfort zone next time I decide to bake and am pleased that the grateful recipients of our bountiful offering seemed rather pleased too.  Thanks Kate ❤️

Eat Vegetarian food for two weeks – challenge No 33

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I love my food, and especially meat..bacon, minted lamb steaks, sausages, chicken, fish….mmmmm!!  So this 50@50 challenge was one which I had real trepidation about ( and so did Chris as he thought I was going to be miserable company for two weeks).  To add to my concerns I am back at slimming world, to try and achieve another challenge of losing some weight,……so this meant I had to be careful about cheese ( have I mentioned my love of cheese too??  Can’t think why I may need to lose weight!!). Anyway last night I completed my two weeks and….wait for it

I REALLY ENJOYED IT 😊😊

It was not a hardship at all.  I treated myself to a finale meal of Kodava Mushroom Curry with coconut ( a Madhur Jaffrey recipe ) which was quite high in syns because of the coconut milk, but it was rich, tasty and felt like something you would order out.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/recipe-mushroom-curry-with-coconut-from-cookbook-author-madhur-jaffrey-1.3417791

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I discovered I really like chickpea Dahl ( I am a bit of a food snob and would not normally eat tinned food but more fool me as I have been missing out…only 2 syns per tin and very tasty for a quick lunch on jacket potato).  I have also eaten lots of roasted peppers ( add goats cheese five minutes before the end….heaven) and then cold with couscous made up with ras el hanout stock.

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I also tried some ‘vegetarian’ products like sausages, a pie, meatballs and Quorn.  I found out that Quorn mince was great and as long as you use seasoning and spices there is very little difference, and the meatballs were particularly good.  As for the sausages…..not quite the texture or taste of a wild boar or pork and leek sausage…so not for me.  

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My one big mistake was to use Parmesan cheese which I had no idea that vegetarians did not eat… I think because of the rennet. The big bonuses from these two weeks were the savings I made on my shopping bill….considerable savings (although these may have been swallowed up by Chris who ate at work for two week.  Also at my last weigh-in I lost 3lb and hoping for another loss this week so it obviously agrees with me.

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I did not attempt this for ethical reasons, merely for making myself try different  foods and to see if I missed meat.  After two weeks I have not, however after two more I am sure I would.  But I don’t have to wait that long as I am off soon to my good friend Helen who is cooking a leg of French venison…and I am very much looking forward to it.  But, I am considering having either a designated vegetarian day ( if there is not too much dissent in the camp) or maybe Mon-Fri vegetarian lunches…as I think I will stick to being an omnivore, but with less emphasis on the meat!!

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Roasted vegetable lasagne – Challenge No 33 practice

imageSo whilst Chris (hubby) is still away motorcycling, I thought I would practice some vegetarian meals for my two week 50@50 eating vegetarian challenge.  I have not eaten vegetarian food much, however as we are growing so many vegetables in our garden it seems like a good time to experiment .  

First of all I collected an onion, courgettes, aubergine and the first picking of our beef tomatoes.  I cleaned them, chunkily sliced them and tossed them in olive oil.  Once seasoned I roasted them for 30 minutes on 180 C.

Confessions here are that I cheated and used a jar of tomato sauce ( not what I would usually do but I ran out of time as it was one of the hottest days of the year today here in Kent and I spent it gardening…digging actually, so I used the half hour to have a well needed shower!!)

Then I made a basic white sauce with butter, flour and milk.  I then layered the vegetables with the tomato sauce, pasta, white sauce ( sprinkled some mozzarella I had left over from yesterday’s bake – double cheese and bacon rolls for recipe see yesterday’s post)), and topped with a bit of mature cheddar.  It’s such an easy meal.

 I baked it at 160 C for 40 minutes which gave me plenty of time to have a lovely chat with my sister and sit outside enjoying the setting sun whilst reading Poirot ( a guilty pleasure).

Served simply with lettuce and cucumber this was such a tasty dish and the vegetables tasted amazing; it did not feel like it was “missing something” which has been a worry of mine with vegetarian food.  Certainly encouraged me to try something more.

If you have a favourite please let me know.

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Making Bread – Challenge No 21 (double cheese and bacon rolls)

imageSo my birthday has been and gone and I am now 49!!!  Time to get cracking with the 50@50 challenges and whilst my husband Chris is off motorbiking around America baking seems the ideal way to spend my evenings (especially as the diet does not start until September.)

I thought I would start off easy so went for a recipe I found online which is double cheese and bacon rolls mmmmmmmm…which I thought might go well with the courgette and Brie soup I was making for supper 

http://www.recipetineats.com/easyrecipe-print/7437-0/

They were soooo good, easy to make and I felt like Paul and Mary ( Great British Bake Off) would have been happy with their Virgin bread baker; no soggy bottoms here.  I think I might use a strong cheddar on the topping next time but the gooey mozzarella filling is scrummy. Truly speaking they were like a meal in themselves. So, if like me, you have not tried making bread before I suggest you give it a go as it was fun, the proofing time meant I could water the garden and they really do look and taste like I bought them from some smart deli 😄

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