Lockdown Expansion

AKA baking frenzy! They were discussing one day on Loose Women (which I’m now watching daily as I’m furloughed!) the trend for women reverting to 1950s house wives during lockdown. Now, I’m certainly not doing that in all its glory – I haven’t touched the hoover any more than normal (never!) and as for ironing, well, I’m pretty sure we own one, but whether it works or not – who knows! However, I have felt an almost uncontrollable urge to bake!

This is not good for several reasons, most importantly, my waistline, but also because the rest of the world also seems to have decided to bake, so getting hold of self raising flour and caster sugar is not an easy feat! I managed to get caster sugar in our local shop but I still haven’t managed to get self raising flour.

This was my first cake of the lockdown which I made for our wedding anniversary on 16th April.

This is the king of cakes in my humble opinion. You can’t beat a simple Victoria sponge, filled with butter icing and strawberry jam and finished with a dusting of icing sugar and edible glitter. It didn’t last long!

The Victoria sponge used up all the self raising flour that I had in the house pre-lockdown so I had to be creative and make something flourless next, so I tried flapjacks. This was my first attempt at flapjacks and they tasted really good, but I think they had too much golden syrup in them so it was pretty much impossible to cut them into individual pieces. Better luck next time.

Next I realised I had plain flour in the cupboard so I searched for recipes using plain flour and stumbled upon a recipe for vintage chocolate chip cookies on the BBC Good Food website. I didn’t measure the salt and I think I probably put more in than I should have but they tasted amazing, so mental note – always put salt in cookie mix!

Ah, the classic Rice Krispie cake but made with Coco Pops instead. I still had no flour at this point, having used all the plain flour in the cookies. I did manageto get a click and collect slot from Asda, they didn’t have any flour of any kind! They did provide me with Coco Pops and marshmallows so these were the next to be made. I don’t know if these count as baking since the only cooking involves melting the butter and marshmallow. I’ve reminded myself that there are several of these left so that’s dessert sorted for later then!

I completely forgot to take a photo of this before I’d cut it! This was a lime drizzle cake made using my Aunt’s recipe and plain flour (with baking powder) that my brother-in-law managed to find for me. It should have been lemon drizzle, but I didn’t have lemons and did have a surplus of limes due to Asda giving me a pack of four in my click and collect instead of just the one I asked for. I think one of the good things to come out of the awful circumstances in which we find ourselves, is that I’m much more conscious of not wasting food. The shock of certain items not being readily available at the beginning of lockdown certainly had an impact on me, hence I didn’t want to waste the limes.

I spread the joy with this cake and dropped off slices to my best friend for her birthday and to my brother-in-law and sister-in-law (only fair as they provided the flour). Fear not, social distancing was maintained at all times (in fact I didn’t actually see any of them) and I was legitimately out and about because I was dropping off food to my Dad (who also had a slice of cake).

Oooh, this one was gooooood (even if I do say so myself!) Basically a chocolate Victoria sponge filled and topped with chocolate butter icing. The raspberries needed eating so this saved wasting them, and the giant buttons, well, that’s just good sense!

Just looking at this one is making me want to make another, but I really mustn’t, for the sake of my circumference! Honestly I’ll be able to roll down the motorway when we can finally go back to work!

This doesn’t look very pretty, does it? Again this one was to use up food that was on its way out – in this case, very ripe bananas. It was another BBC Good Food recipe, this time for chocolate and banana cake. It was supposed to use self raising flour, which, as you know, I don’t have, so I substituted plain flour and baking powder, but it doesn’t seem to have worked and it collapsed in the middle! It tastes good though so I’m counting it as a success. It’s turned out as more of a pudding than a cake, if that makes sense.

The chocolate and banana cake called for two whole eggs and two egg whites, which meant I was left with two egg yolks, so, not wanting to waste them, I searched what I could do with egg yolks and lemon curd popped up. Coincidentally I love lemon curd and I ran out a couple of weeks ago and hadn’t replaced it, so I made some. It’s currently cooling in the fridge so I can’t tell you if it’s successful or not, but I really hope so because I used the last of our butter to make it which means we have no butter for our breakfast so we’ll have to have toast and lemon curd sans butter!

I was initially going to write a post about my lockdown achievements, after we were released from lockdown, but as it’s going on rather longer than I think any of us thought, I’m racking up the accomplishments so I decided to break them down into categories and go for it! So, I hope you’ve enjoyed perusing my kitchen creations and I hope that having written about them will stop me making any more and save the groans on my bathroom scales!

Christmas has started

Hopefully just about time for a quick blog post whilst my blueberry, coconut and sultana baked oats are baking. There are six oaty muffins baking and I have two at a time for breakfast so that’s enough for my whole working week. Yep, I break up for Christmas on Wednesday! Woohoo for three day weeks.

So why, you ask, is this post entitled Christmas has started if I haven’t broken up yet? Well it’s because I’ve been in Surrey this weekend for the annual Christmas pressie swap with my Granny and my Mum. I don’t get to see them very often because there’s nearly a hundred and fifty miles between us so when I do get down there it’s always special. I listen to Christmas songs on the radio all the way there and back and it always makes me smile if Chris Rea’s Driving Home for Christmas comes on because, whichever direction I’m going in, it feels like I am driving home for Christmas.

Granny’s had a rough couple of years! I’m sure she won’t mind me telling you that she’s eighty eight but almost exactly two years ago she had a heart bypass and recovered from it quicker and with more aplomb than someone half her age would’ve done, and this year she’s had various medical issues and a couple of stays in hospital, the latest being just a couple of weeks ago when she lost a pint of blood after knocking a scab off which happened to be on an artery (her bedroom and hallway currently look like a scene out of a horror film!) Anyway, she’s bounced back from it all but it makes it all the more important to spend time with her. My hubby calls her Super Gran. She really is amazing!

Despite all of this, she’d still taken the trouble to get all my favourite things in to feed me! You wouldn’t believe how excited I was to see these sitting on top of the fridge when I arrived!

I LOVE crumpets! Especially Warburtons and I hadn’t had them since May when I started Slimming World! Of course, I could’ve rung her before I went and said I’d bring baked oats instead, but somehow, it completely slipped my mind to do so!

Ooooooh! What a treat! Hot toasted crumpets with Flora Buttery and, you either love it or hate it, and I LOVE LOVE LOVE it! Marmite!

I devoured my crumpets whilst Granny popped to the shop to get her paper (a kind gentleman paid for it for her – Granny has an admirer (in my head at least!)) and while we were waiting for my Mum to arrive. Much excitement – hadn’t seen her since last Christmas!

Mum brought with her Christmas presents, a knitting stitch holder because I’d forgotten mine and news of my Great Aunt who’s unfortunately suffering from fairly advanced dementia. Mum initially moved away from Birmingham to help my Great Aunt when she was in the early stages of the disease but she’s now ably cared for in a home.

A home which apparently also caters for donkeys! She doesn’t look overly impressed, does she!

We had a lovely day together just chatting and catching up. Granny’s still catching up on sleep after losing all that blood and didn’t feel up to Scrabble so Mum and I had a game. My Mum is the Gyles Brandreth of Scrabble (or Suzy Dent for the younger amongst you) but somehow I managed to be winning, right up, that is, until she went and got ninety something points for one word! Honestly, I ask you! How does she do it? Anyway, she ended on something like three hundred and twenty nine and I managed two hundred and ninetyish so I don’t feel too beaten up.

I headed back up the M40 after the tea of kings! Granny’s Shepherd’s Pie! It deserves to be capitalised because it’s soooooo good! She makes it the day before and reheats it when needed. It’s some concoction of lamb mince, celery, carrot, onion salt and vegetable stock topped with potato, but believe me, even with the correct ingredients it is impossible to make it as well without the Granny magic!

It tastes a-ma-zing! Sets you right up for the rest of the day.

Today I’ve had a relatively lazy day chilling out with hubby and the gorgeous twosome …

… but, and I think I deserve a round of applause for this, I did go out in the garden, in the bucketing down rain, to harvest the remainder of my produce.

Now, if we can all just imagine that I intended to grow baby potatoes and baby leeks, then it will have all been worth it!

These are Musselburgh leeks which, according to the internet, should be ‘whoopers’ and reliable and easy to grow. Hmmmm! I sowed them in about April and this is what I got! They look like spring onions. I assure you they’re not! Oh well, they’ll be fine chopped up in a stir fry.

The potatoes are Charlottes and I planted them in bags about the end of September time. They were advertised as ready for Christmas, which I suppose they are, but I was rather hoping they’d be big enough for our roasties. They’re not!

They sprouted masses of leaves to start off with. This is how they looked halfway through November …

… but I noticed last week that all the foliage had died down so I thought I’d best check if any potatoes had actually grown.

Anyway, my baked oats are cooked and cooling …

… so I’m off to get some beauty sleep ready for my last three working days of 2019. Nighty night.

A week of food

I’m actually halfway through a draft of a post I’ve been pondering for a few weeks, but it’s taking me a little while to get it right, so in the meantime I’ve come to tell you about my week of scrummy food. Honestly it’s no wonder I struggle to lose weight!

We had another Gousto box this week and, oh my, it was full of deliciousness!

We started the week with a veggie offering. Neither of us is vegetarian, but we are both animal lovers so we do try to reduce the amount of meat we eat. Hubby tries to only eat it once a day, and I will often choose a veggie option over meat. I’m not a massive meat lover anyway, I don’t really like the texture and I can’t bear fatty or gristly cuts. I find that I get very tired after prolonged periods without meat, so I don’t cut it out altogether. I’m obviously not getting everything I need from my veggie choices.

Anyway, feast your eyes on this.

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This is a spinach and feta tart with crispy potatoes and rocket salad. It was really quick and easy to make and so so tasty. It reminded us both of relaxed and restful Greek holidays, probably just because of the feta. Y-um!

Next up I took a bit of a risk. Tandoori fish! I don’t mind fish (as long as it doesn’t still have its eye looking at me *shudder*) but I wasn’t sure if the delicate fishy flavours would work with the strong tasting tandoori marinade, but it absolutely did. I should have known really because good old Gousto has rarely let us down. I forgot to take a photo of this one, so desperate was I to try it but here’s the Gousto pic.

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Next up was another veggie dish. I love love loved this one, and again it was super easy to make and took less than fifteen minutes. Hubby says he liked it, but I didn’t get the vibe that he loved it quite as much as I did. I love picky food – crisps and dips, crudités, a finger buffet – so Gousto’s halloumi shawarma with hummus couldn’t have been further up my alley.

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We grilled the pittas and pumpkin seeds, fried the halloumi in a tiny bit of olive oil and blitzed together chickpeas, garlic, tahini, olive oil and lemon to make the hummus …… and then the dipping commenced. The nommiest of noms!

Finally we had a meat option, chicken schnitzel with apple and potato salad. I have absolutely no doubt that this will become a regular dish in the Green Girl Gardener household. Really simple and easy to make, oh so tasty, and common ingredients that we generally have in the kitchen already.

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We had a lovely, and delicious, surprise at our front door on Monday this week. Our neighbours held their baby son’s christening at the weekend, and it seems they’d over-catered (always safer than under-catering) and they brought us round cake! How amazing! Cake on the doorstep on a Monday evening. How very kind of them to think of us.

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It was a rocky road style cake topped with teeny tiny marshmallows and hundreds and thousands all drizzled with white chocolate. Sooooooo good! Mindful of having to get into swimwear in the near future, I shared the joy and took the last four pieces to work for my lovely colleagues to enjoy.

The working week ended with another delicious meal, this time out with my Dad and our very good friend in town. Yep, that’s right, I went out! Not just out, but out out. In town! Not the local town, but proper city centre, second city, Birmingham town. Whoop! Don’t do this very often so it feels like such a luxury, and oh my goodness, this restaurant didn’t disappoint.

It’s an Indian restaurant called Varanasi, but this is not just your local sit down, bring your own, have a great time Indian restaurant. This one did Indian food and fancy dining with so much aplomb that my head practically exploded with gleeful wonderment!

First of all I have to show you a few snaps of the interior which dazzled and amazed before we’d even got as far as opening the wine list (New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, obviously!) or perusing the menu.

Just look!

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You really feel like you’re entering somewhere special as you’re escorted down that corridor of Buddha-Esque statues. I’m ashamed to say I don’t know who they represented. Krishna maybe?

The restaurant on the other side is laid out over three floors with balconies overlooking the lower levels and low lighting to accentuate the ambience created by the burning incense. I don’t normally like incense, but this was by no means overpowering and made me feel completely immersed in the Hindu inspired environment.

Once we had finished marvelling at our surrounding, and we were seated, we commenced the almost impossible task of deciding what to choose from the menu. Not easy! We had some poppadoms and chutneys whilst we decided.

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Even this was done well with each of us having our own chutney pots to save reaching over each other. This is always awkward I find when you’re out in a larger group and you don’t have the chutney right in front of you and have to either keep leaning over your neighbour or cover your plate in raita which you then can’t quite scoop on to your poppadom!

The waiters were incredibly attentive without being intrusive and were around to give us advice on which dishes to choose. I decided on the Varanasi special chicken curry with steamed rice and I opted to have it cooked with medium spice.

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It was amazing. It had a definite kick (glad I opted for medium) but with a hint of ginger. The dish was beautifully presented and perfectly cooked. It was a veritable delectation for the taste buds! We shared a naan bread which again appeals to my love of picky, dippy food. We were three very satisfied diners.

Goodness knows how, but between us we managed to get through four bottles of the fruity Sauvignon Blanc so a trip to the little girls’ room was required, and luckily I took my phone with me because there were more photo opportunities.

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What a beautiful bathroom.  The hand wash smelt divine! I didn’t use the moisturiser because when our hand towels were brought after dinner which were expanded in little bowls of water in front of us, we were also given a little bottle of moisturiser, so I used that.

All in all, a thoroughly excellent evening of laughs and scrumptious food. I would highly recommend Varanasi to anyone who finds themselves in the vacinity of this great city of mine.

Must dash, we’re off to the matinee performance of War Horse today (in town again, twice within twenty four hours!) so I need to get a wiggle on. I’m super excited about seeing this show. I loved the book and I know several people who have seen the stage show and have raved about it. I’ll let you all know if it lives up to expectations. I have no doubt it will.