The plan today was to pick friends up from Heathrow and whisk them back up the motorway to our house and their car and then give them the option of staying overnight.  In case they did want to stay and needed feeding the plan was to make a stew and stick it in the slow cooker. Simple plan ? Yep, and although there are lots of things that can go wrong with a plan it’s always the thing that you don’t anticipate…

it’s not the fact that the braising steak I took out of the freezer turned out to be on the turn. No, that wasn’t a problem, it just gave me an excuse to head over to Lidl and check out the wool sale…and whilst there spotting the hobgoblin special ruby ale for Halloween. Bought a bottle for Husband and a second to pour over the beef and onions…

Nosing through Appetite:Nigel Slater I was inspired to chuck 2 tins of chopped tomatoes in with the beef and ale… I grabbed 2 green and white tins which are Asda’s budget line for tomatoes. It was not until I opened the second tin (and emptied it into the saucepan) that I realised that just like Tesco and Sainsbury’s, Asda use the same packaging for their baked beans as they do for their tomatoes…

I cooked it up anyway figuring that the sweet tomato sauce would just vanish into the sauce during cooking. It did and you wouldn’t notice that there were beans in it if someone hadn’t mentioned it (foolishly) in the hearing of Teenager who then said “urgh, beans” in the hearing of Spider, who then decided he didn’t like stew.

Shame really as they’ll just have to like it cos I’ve got a big batch made up and the friends we cooked for decided all they wanted was lots of coffee, a bacon butty and to hit the long road home to Cumbria as soon as possible…

The things I do for you


I have been wanting to make the chocolate loaf from Apples for Jam:Tessa Kiros for some time now but had put bread making on the back burner for a while (Husband buys bread when it’s on sale and fills the freezer and I haven’t needed bread therapy for months).

But, as previously mentioned on these pages I am trying to improve the variety in Spider’s packed lunch so following a tip from The Book fo Sandwiches:Gwen Robyns I gave him a banana sandwiches on chocolate bread.  It was, an unqualified failure ! This despite me telling him what I was doing the night before (“sorry Mummy cannot come and play the Bee game with you now, she’s making chocolate bread for your sandwiches”)…he loved the idea.

The next day however, wouldn’t touch them.  Part of me wishes I had found this post before. The post not only gives the recipe but cautions the cook that it is not as sweet as you might hope, and if I’m being honest it does need to be  a bit sweeter.  However since I could tell from the sandwich remains that he hadn’t even touched them so I  suspect in Spider’s case he just decided he didn’t want a brown lunch.

I do thank the recipe though for making Husband do a double take “What on earth is that !!!!” he said pointing at the top of the cooker where the loaf was cooling, looking for all the world like one of our cats had serious bowel problems and had managed a record breaking poo on top of the hob…

Anyway, not being one to waste food I’m currently noshing a toasted version with damson jam which seems to work as the jam is very sweet and the loaf slightly bitter.



Bananas present an interesting problem to those in the UK who try to eat both seasonally and locally. Unless you have a super heated and large greenhouse it is highly improbable that you will be able to grow your own bananas, even if you do manage it they are unlikely to fruit. Furthermore, as far as I can establish there appears to be no one trying to do so in this country on a commercial basis.

As for seasonal, well once you’ve accepted the fact that bananas have to be imported then they are pretty much available all the year round… So what are you to do ? Well you either ban the carbon traitor from your diet or you accept that fact that you are unlikely ever to achieve carbon neutral nirvana and salve your conscience a bit by buying fair trade. The other thing you can do, having accepted that you’d rather not live without bananas in your life (which my friend Wingnut is more than happy to do, considering them as “the evil yellow devil herb”) is to make sure that you don’t compound the carbon sin by letting them go to waste.

If I haven’t got the time to incorporate banana into muffins, cake or breakfast pancakes prior to freezing then I have been happily skinning them, quartering them and sticking in a plastic bag for several years now. What I had not tried until recently was to follow the Economy Gastronomy trick of freezing them whole, skin and all. For those that try it please note, if you are in a hurry the skin is difficult to get off, and if you leave them to defrost you end up with a nasty black slime all over your work surface….they also take up more room then their quartered brothers.

We are ODing on bananas at the moment as in addition to buying a large bag of bananas at the weekend I decided to start clearing out the freezer prior to Christmas and the first thing I was confronted with was a number of EG style frozen bananas. So I have been working my way through recipe books. I didn’t try on this occasion, but I have in the past tried Nigella’s healthy banana muffins. (the original recipe doesn’t have the chocolate)  My recommendation is “don’t”; they sacrifice taste in the pursuit of healthiness, would rather eat less and enjoy some flavour (interestingly her Banana and Butterscotch muffins are nice).

Alternatively a healthy muffin that is surprisingly nice are the Banana Bran Muffins from “Economy Gastronomy” – yes there is a reasonable amount of sugar in them, but they do make over 24 reasonably sized muffins and the mixture keeps in the fridge so you can make them in advance and cook them when ready and freeze your leftovers. Disadvantages are they are more complicated than usual muffins and take longer to cook. Recommendation from Spider is that they are nicer warm.

Nigella’s Banana Bread is nice, thought Tessa Kiros’ banana bread from “Apples for Jam” would be nicer due to use of brown sugar but there was no marginal difference. Susan Austin’s Banana Pancakes are what breakfasts were invented for, and they freeze. I’ve also tried the Banana and Oats Smoothie from Leon:Allegra Mcevedy which…I am hoping to tempt Spider with at the weekend.

Finally this is more a serving suggestion than an actual recipe and has been known in my family for at least 35 years as “Banana’s Valentine”. Take a skinned banana. Sprinkle with dark brown sugar. Pour over a reasonable amount of evaporated milk, leave to stand for a few minutes. Eat with enthusiasm.



So how is the rationalisation going ?

What rationalisation ?

The rationalisation of your house and contents you were attempting

Ask me another

Not good then ?

You could say that…

Things were going well. We had Spider’s room pretty much nailed and we’d managed to tame the playmobil downstairs. I’d finished a skirt and put the sewing machine away in my corner of Teenager’s bedroom, the kitchen was clean and tidy – we even had a dining table we could use !  Then…

Then what ?

Husband decided to tackle the office. This is not a speedy job. It entailed taking everything out, vacuuming and then rearranging the furniture. Everything was taken out and put on the Teenager’s bed. Husband got half way through and then, not feeling too good decided to finish the task the following day. Unfortunately the next day he work up with a sore throat and a streaming nose and overwhelming tiredness. So he left it until he was feeling better. Which is fine as the Teenager wasn’t with us that weekend. Unfortunately the cold continued for over a week and the following weekend of course Teenager needed his bed, so the contents of the office then got moved off the bed and into the small corner of his bedroom where I had previously started the big clear up operation so that I had somewhere for my clothes, knitting and sewing machine…

Bit disheartening then ?

You can say that again. So instead I lured a friend round (Wingnut) with the promise of Sunday lunch and together we tackled the wood and soil in the back garden, because this is one place that if it gets organised will stay organised.

This is the before picture

december 2008 068

This is the after picture before we all ran out of energy.

september 2009 042

Husband did a fabulous job of cutting all the wood up for the stove – however I’m feeling very, very guilty as he was still short of energy due to this blasted cold…but Husband is a kind soul, a caring sharing sort of guy and he shared his germs with me…which has meant that the house is now in a worse state than it was when I started trying to organise it…

I think I need help. I need a strategy. A plan. Either that or I need someone to dob me in to Aggie and Kim and get them to come round and sort the house out…I am encouraging Spider to say “I believe in fairies” everynight, just in case there are such things as housework fairies…I am as you can tell an optimist.

Tea Estates on the windswept upland slopes of cornwall…

A few weeks ago we went on holiday to the lake district. It rained…a lot !. At one point during a break in the downpour we took Spider and Teenager out to indulge in a guilty pleasure that Husband and I have been enjoying ever since some friends took us and Spider there 3 years ago.

We go to Grange over Sands and feed the ducks. Now this probably doesn’t sound very exciting but it is a very important prelude to the “right let’s go and have a cup of tea”.

There are two cafes in the Victorian parade of shops opposite the park but only one of them has a Tea Menu ! The Hazlemere  Cafe and Bakery not only sells bird food (in case you’ve forgotten to bring some) but it also has a 6 page menu of the different sorts of teas it sells.

On this occasion, having spent 5 minutes deciding what tea to have and then having bartered with Husband as to which of us was having which tea (we had both gone for the same Ceylon tea) and we try to have different ones so that we can share) I was in the middle of ordering when inspiration struck.

“I don’t suppose you have that tea which is grown in Cornwall do you, I think it’s called something like trefusis”

“I’ll just go and ask”

A few weeks ago Twitter had produced something useful, I’d been wittering on about tea and my sunday morning ritual when someone had tweeted me a link to Tregothan who genuinely do grow tea in Cornwall. I hadn’t been able to afford it as paying £9 for 50g of tea (plus postage) couldn’t be justified on the budget so I hadn’t followed it up. Anyway, back to the teashop

“The owner had these in the office, this is an earl grey and this is an afternoon tea”

So I had it. And it was nice (not amazing, but very interesting considering a large percentage of the tea came from Cornwall) and then later the owner came out to ask how we had liked it…anyway here are some shots of people enjoying tea and cakes…oh yeah, and some dinosaurs…august 2009 069august 2009 071august 2009 072august 2009 073and this is a shot of my tea

august 2009 074It wasn’t a cheap cuppa but we were on holiday and it is a guilty pleasure…

Some things are more important than cakes

Seeing as I am Mistress of the Phlegm this week, you will not be surprised to hear that not a lot of cooking has been going on this week (not since Tuesday anyway) – despite the fact that it is the first anniversary of these pages.

However there are minor celebrations here at BunTowers (yes I know its only  a Victorian end terrace house but to me, Spider and Husband it’s a castle, turrets and all) and we are celebrating with a bottle of el cheapo cab sav and our favourite meal of sausage and mash.

Part of the celebration is due to it being the end of the week, but partly due to some wonderful developments relating to the world of reading. You see we like books here, we really like books, in fact a love of books reading and scotch whisky is partly what drew me and Husband together (we met online on a climbing site UKC) and Raw Spirit (Iain Banks) is probably the cause of Spider ( it was the final chapter, we had managed to acquire all 10 of the top 10 and we read the final chapter aloud accompanied by a whisky tasting…).

So development number 1 is the fact that you can now use your library ticket in libraries outside of your local area, this is fantastic news to a girl who works 67 miles away from home and doesn’t have time to visit a library. I haven’t done much reading since Spider was born, mainly because I have been refusing to buy books and can’t get to a library regularly, partly because my brain can’t concentrate for long on anything more taxing than a recipe book.

The more interesting development concerns Spider. Now I don’t talk much about how he is developing compared to his peers, part of this is because I don’t know how he compares (work means I am a bit of a “hands off “mummy), partly because I can’t imagine anyone outside of the immediate family is interested, but mainly because he is a stubborn (yes Mum, I know, takes after his Mummy) control freak who refuses to let anyone tell him what to do. If he thinks someone wants him to do anything he puts up a resistance to it, which means that when it comes to reading we have had to back off a lot on the usual encouragement you might want to do, because the more we try to persuade him to learn the alphabet the more he refuses to do so.

Anyway, this week has been a sort of epiphany for him…he is finally connecting the phonics with the marks on the page and he is feeling “clever” because he has worked it out and realised how proud his parents are of him – he is now trying to read everything in sight and we have had to rein him back to trying slightly smaller words, although he did make a decent fist of trying to read “Imagine”

I will accept that the playmobil reward system has played an important part in persuading him to try, but I also think that we were right to back off and let him find letters in his own time, as has the constant assurance that we will still read to him even when he knows how to do it himself.

So short of cake in the house we may be but we are very happy here today – it is definitely an orange coloured day.