RECIPE: Gingerbread Pancakes

The pancakes in the picture in the post below are made using the recipe from Feast:Nigella Lawson. I know the recipe is on her website and I was just going to post a link but I couldn’t find her site this morning…so I thought I’d post an alternative version of breakfast pancakes from Frost Bite: Susan Austin which I occasionally make when I haven’t any banana’s… but then I do keep banana’s frozen in my freezer anyway, a tip I got from one of Nigella’s books and from Frost Bite… I also tend to keep frozen pancakes in my freezer (plain, banana, gingerbread, whatever) so that I can be an indulgent mummy even when i don’t get a lie in !


240g SR flour

100g  brown sugar

1.5 tsp ground ginger

1.5 tsp cinnamon

0.5 tsp ground nutmeg

2 eggs

250 ml milk

60g melted butter

1. In a large bowl combine all the dry ingredient. In a jug whisk together the wet ingredients.

2. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and  stir them until they are combined in a smoothish batter – presumably you could also bung them all in a food processor and whizz them together that way.

3. Heat a small amount of oil or butter in a frying pan. Then drop small amounts of batter in the frying pan, should be able to do 3 or 4 in the pan at the same time

4. Cook the pancakes until small bubbles start forming on the surface, then flip the pancakes and cook the otherside for a minute or 2 until golden brown on both sides. Makes about 15

Can be frozen once cool. Defrost in microwave when needed or slowly in fridge if you have the time

Movie Night and the mythical “lie in”

I have hi-lighted in my future diary a particular day in 2018 which will be the day that Spider turns 13. By then hopefully it will be me nagging him to get out of bed rather than the other way round. My commute to work means that I have to get up at 6.30, my aim (some would say obsession) is for a small lie in on Sunday… one strategy has been the introduction of movie night.

On Saturday evenings we have movie night where Spider gets to watch Disney films until late (9pm), I get to watch Spider watching Disney (I love watching the expressions on his face change as he gets caught up in the story) and Teenager gets to enjoy watching the films without having to remember he’s a teenager and therefore Disney isn’t cool…they also get to eat home made popcorn and hot dogs, pizza and other cinema related food.

The ulterior motive of movie night is that a late night for Spider usually means a lie in for me as he tends to sleep for just over 10.5 hours straight… there is the added bonus of course that Husband and I get to watch the films too and spot all the jokes or references that went right over our heads as kids.

Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Spider is currently down stairs watching cbeebies (having spent an hour in hour bed pretending he was camping) with a stand in snack of grapes and apple and a digestive. I am here drinking a cup of tea and working out which way is up…I know I know “bad Mummy” but in my defence I do have one hell of a sore throat and the beginnings of a cold…when I am slightly more alive I shall go down and make some Banana Pancakes (Feast:Nigella Lawson) as I have a banana that won’t survive to see another day and most of an egg left over from Thursday’s scone experiment – we even have some maple syrup somewhere… so that hopefully will win me some “good Mummy points”, and some green points for using up leftovers.

Anyone got any suggestions with what to do with half a plate of cold chips and a leftover hot dog in bun…?

ps. Having just visited the BBC website to get the link for cbeebies I noticed links on the front page to some upcoming christmas cooking. I knew that Nigella had a new christmas show/book – it would have made my Christmas if Nigel had too, but unfortunately its just his christmas recipes on the bbc food pages.

Rare shot of pancakes, normally they don't last long enough to be photgraphed

Can I have that one mummy ?: Rare shot of pancakes, normally they don

‘t last long enough to be photographed…

Hugh Fernley Whittingstall

Been meaning to stick something up here about Hugh for several weeks now, along with other “food heroes” and I will…at some point…

Anyway was pleased to hear on the Radio (Friday lunchtime on the way back from surrey) that Hugh has been voted Radio 4’s Food Programme’s Food personality of the year [more here]

Unidentified Breaded Objects

Circumstances meant I had a day off on Thursday. I tried to make good on a long held promise to Husband for scones, clotted cream and lemon curd (this was a celebration week).

When I was growing up my Mum would make scones at the drop of a hat, she even used scone dough as a pizza base…once, after I’d left home my parents visited me (160 mile round day trip) and I wanted to give them afternoon tea. So I telephoned Mum and got her recipe for scones, rolled the dough out, cut them out, put them in the oven. When my parents arrived however, what they got was not a delicate, light, fresh vehicle for cream and jam but dense hard little biscuits… Mum had assumed I knew that scone dough has to be rolled out quite thickly…

On this occasion I wanted to avoid any chance of the scone resembling a digestive and opted for a guaranteed light and delicate scone so followed the recipe for “Lily’s Scones” (Domestic Goddess: Nigella Lawson) which Nigella describes as “dreamy lightness” . I even got the tape measure out to ensure that the dough was at least 3cm high.

Anyway, should have followed my instinct

Scones ready for lift off

Scones ready for lift off

which told me that you don’t need a thick dough when using raising agent… this was the result !

Was more than pleased therefore when Husband announced a change of plan, we were going to Birmingham to indulge the family noodle obsession at Wagamama’s. Have therefore bunged both the scones and clotted cream in the freezer as the start of Christmas preparation.

Tomorrow I start the christmas cards, can’t avoid christmas anymore…the problem with christmas is that I am so used to “not” buying things that I’m not sure I know how to shop anymore !

Birmingham’s Fuzzy Navel

Too late now to write anything tonight. We went to Birmingham. We had a good time. We went to Wagamama’s. Will rewrite this tomorrow…oh did some baking on my day off… long day tomorrow, meeting in Surrey then back to Reading before heading home with a detour to Toys R Us…

Edit: The Fuzzy Navel refers to the ice lolly that Spider had after his noodles at Wagamama. Fuzzy Navel is the name of a cocktail from the ’80’s based on orange (Navel) and Peach (Fuzzy) – the original has alcolhol in it, am pretty certain that the ice lolly didn’t – can’t be sure as my boy wasn’t in a sharing mood ! His noodles were just that, have learnt from experience that he doesn’t actually want any of the meat/vegetables or soup, he just likes the noodles…

Birmingham currently has a german market on, set to run until the 23rd I think…we will be back after the next pay day, although that will bring it rather close to christmas and I am not a fan of shopping on the last w/e before christmas

What (no) pictures ? What (no) photographs ?

A number of people have commented over the lack of photographs on these pages, commented with some surprise in fact as they know it is rare to find any member of the family, including Toddler, without a camera.


There are a number of reasons for this. The first one is technical ineptitude. I am still trying to work out how to save my pics in the right format so that picture quality remains good without the file being unreasonably large. Managed it once so far but forgot how I did it!


The other problem is that when I bake it’s usually quite late at night. Although I hate the yellow cast the kitchen lights give the pics, I’m usually too tired to mess around with alternative lighting. Waiting until the next day is no good as by then the cakes, muffins whathaveyou have usually been partially consumed by the gannets I live with.


The final reason is that although what I cook usually tastes nice, its not exactly photogenic…I am not very artistic…


Anyway I am going to take a few days away from this blog to do a bit of redesigning and editing of the pages…and also to make a start on Project Brownie – having restocked the cupboards in the kitchen…and I guess I really should do something about Christmas as I probably can’t get away with ignoring it for much longer.

Thank you for your custom and support…


Just outside of Henley, on the road to Reading there is a small farm shop/nursery type place. Outside the gates there are a set of boards where they used to advertise what was currently in season or what their special offers are. I often used to think as I passed that I must stop and see what was on offer – I remember one October, back when I fancied myself as a photographer, they had a lovely display of pumpkins right out front…


I never did stop, as I was usually in a hurry either to or from work, and not living in the area there was never the opportunity to visit at other times. And now I can’t as they seem to have closed down.  The yard stands empty the boards are blank and the whole site has an air of disuse and abandonment.  No doubt if I stopped and checked there would be a sign on the gate saying “We would like to thank our customers for their support over the years. We regret that we have ceased trading”… should have guessed there were problems when they started offering “free meat cuts” as a way of enticing customers in.


This sign is becoming more and more common, especially in niche shops. It started when fuel went up; people stopped spending on the treats, the olives and fancy cheeses. The town Toddler was born in has lost one of its delicatessens and what arguably was the best butcher in Oxfordshire. He was friendly, always happy to advise on the best way to cook various cuts and sold good quality meat, but at a price. The butcher never stood a chance due to his location. When money became tight the local passing trade probably dried up as it was not an affluent area and his meat although good was not cheap and lack of car parking meant a lack of out of area custom.


The village I live in is slowly losing services. The British Legion club closed last year and the pub closed 2 weeks ago. We try and buy some of our groceries from the co-op and there are some items we opt to buy from the post office even though they are cheaper elsewhere (but not without a car journey). Money is tight for us, but life in the village would be so less vibrant, so less communal if we lost our shops and I don’t want to be thanked, with regret, for my custom…


So buying less and shopping local, tomorrow I will have some spare change at last and can buy some more four !

Indigo Days

Feeling down. Too blue today to want to talk, to communicate. Can’t get passed the grey skies this morning.

Evening: I know its silly to feel like this, by the end of the week we will be on the upward path again whereas some other people are only just discovering how painful it can be trying to survive on one income. We have managed it. We have survived on one salary for close on 15 months and it has been really difficult but we stayed afloat for most of it, and then just as we were starting to spiral down we got a lifeline of more hours for me and a new job for Husband.

But its been a long slog and I’m tired. I’m tired of watching the pennies and relying on selling books (mainly cookbooks) and other secondhand stuff for treats. I’m tired of the creative cookery (the tomato sauce worked, but the gnocchi didn’t as I forgot to drain the pumpkin enough). oh yes I can feel morally virtuous that we haven’t wasted any food since February but I would kill for a just cooked steak, peas, carrots, sauteed onions and chips with a glass of good red – no more Co-op claret…I want to splurge…well just a bit…but what I really want to do is spoil Toddler for Christmas without feeling guilty, but I can’t because mentally my head cannot cope with the idea of being in debt I am tired and I need a holiday. I am tired of being sensible and responsible and adult and so so reasonable…and yes the road ahead is the road to freedom but it is still going to be another long slog to clear the debts that have built up

So please excuse this little outburst. Tomorrow I will be sensible and reasonable again and start out on that long long road to solvency…but tonight I shall give in to my inner toddler, I shall cry, I shall suck my thumb and I shall hide under my bed with my teddybear.

Can you say “no” to a brownie ?

Almost everyone seems to like brownies, and almost everyone seems to have a recipe for them…from children’s cookbooks to real “cheffy type” writers, they all at some point seem to give a recipe for these soft squishy little chocolate cakes.


I’ve been longing to do a taste comparison, or rather a quest for the best, and an evaluation of the rest!  But since brownies are not exactly diet food, unless perhaps you are in training to be a sumo wrestle, it’s hard to justify having more than one batch at a time in the house. I can’t justify it on cheering myself up grounds either, as I’m never going to have that much chocolate in the house in one go, and baking away the blues never entails (for me) making more than one cake or batch of cakes. Finally it doesn’t fall into the category of “budget” cookery. Chocolate is a luxury ingredient except when you are using up odds and ends of bars, or you are using coco powder.


Fortunately we are coming up to Christmas and I have quite a few “thank yous” to make to people who have made the last few months bearable. Chief amongst these being the lovely Mrs Zee who has battled with HR to make sure I get paid correctly.


So between now and the 25th December I aim to make at least 10 batches of brownies for sharing with friends, family and at times complete strangers.

The first batch despite my concerns has seen to go down quite well with my work colleagues. They agreed that they were different to brownies made with chocolate, but were nice all the same !



Bread Therapy

Sometimes I like to make bread by hand, its not something I do often as I rarely have the time during the week, not unless I stay up til gone midnight to take the loaf out of the oven. Not a glorious prospect for someone whose wake up call is 6.30am

To which most people (well bread machine evangelists at any rate) say “what you need is a bread machine, it makes life sooooooo much easier !”. Now I would never under any circumstance knock the joy of a freshly made loaf from a bread machine – in fact I melt into the floor with delight every time Flapjack Queen sends her husband round with a plate of freshly made bread slathered in lemon curd – and yes, a homemade loaf, even in a bread machine, beats the hell out a chorleywood process plastic loaf but I want more than just the bread.

Bread is therapy. Making it can be calming – I love the sensuous feel of the dough beneath my fingers, to gently knead and fold – or it can be anger management, many cook books cite the joy of working out your frustrations on the dough with intense kneading, stretching, slamming the dough back down on the surface.

I even enjoy watching people making bread – there is a fantastic scene in channel 4’s Real Food series where Nigel Slater makes bread with Emily Green – he has a wonderful, infectious excitement over the feel of the dough, and a childish glee when finally consuming it as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich !

Earlier this year I decided as part of the economy drive to start making bread and bought in a new tin of dried yeast, white and brown strong bread flour. Since then I’ve made bread exactly twice…its because we haven’t bought a full price loaf of bread since march – honest ! OK so its honest we haven’t bought a full price of bread, but not “honest that’s the reason I haven’t made bread”. Basically I haven’t yet mastered the art of the loaf, I keep making mistakes…oh, and as mentioned I lack time in the evenings. [The secret to low price bread is that Husband has been buying end of date bread and filling the freezer with it,we take it out slice by slice as and when needed].

The loaves I have made have been fun though. The first was based on the idea of the Milk Roll which I remember from the ’70’s, roughly following the recipe in Apples for Jam: Tessa Kiros…it made me feel like a proper Mummy (the sort that is not at work from 7-7). Came out a bit yeasty, but slightly sweet. Toddler loved it (which is all that mattered really).

Second one was following recipe from Appetite: Nigel Slater for basic white loaf but following the instructions from Emily Green from the Real Food programme (see above) which involved rolling and folding to keep the air in the bread rather than slamming it periodically on the table and wow what a revelation ! This loaf really really rose. It was a very tall loaf, and sort of resembled a brain in shape. Lovely fresh taste, fantastic texture. No yeasty taste this time, but slightly doughy as I took it out of the oven to early – too desperate to taste it I guess.

Bread, no prescription necessary

Bread, no prescription necessary

Postscript: Found the time to make the first two recipes from The Bread & Bread Machine CookBook: Ingram & Shapter, one white, one brown, both were a little on the sweet side (too much honey or sugar ?) and the white still had too much of a yeasty taste.

The Brown loaf worked quite well except for the fact I got the tin measurements wrong and it ended up in too shallow a tin…very surprised it worked in view of the fact it required less than 1/3 of the usual kneading time.