Sunday, 28 June 2009

tangy lemon tart

I got this recipe from Hello magazine - yes, in between the articles on who got married this week I found some surprisingly good recipes. We had this last night for pudding and it was delicious. What I would say is that you could half the filling - or at least for my flan in I didn't need it all - but it will depend on how deep your tin is.

sweet short crust pastry case, baked blind
2 tbsp icing sugar
9 eggs
400g/14 oz caster sugar
grated zest of two lemons
juice of 5 lemons
250g/9oz greek yoghurt (I used Total greek yoghurt)

Preheat the oven to 130C, 250F OR gas mark 3
Make up pastry case
Whisk eggs, caster sugar and lemon zest in a bowl until smooth
Stir in the lemon juice then add the yoghurt and mix until fully combined
you can do the above two steps in a food processor
Pour the filling into the pastry case and bake for 30 mins then leave to cool for an hour
When ready to serve, sprinkle over the left over caster sugar and place under a hot grill to caramelize

pastry case - baking blind

Last night was the first time I had ever done this. I have done flaky pastry and wee tartlets before - but not something that required 'baking blind' which my tangy lemon tart required. It kind of scared me a bit because pastry can be tricky and also there is nothing worse than a soggy bottom to your pastry pudding. But, I did it and it worked out really well!

I used Jamie Oliver's sweet shortcrust pastry recipe. I found that I only needed half the recipe for my tangy lemon tart although I would imagine if you were doing a recipe with a top over the filling you would need the whole batch.

500g plain flour
100g icing sugar
250g butter
zest of one lemon
2 large eggs, beaten
splash of milk

by hand
seive the flour into a bowl, seive over the sugar then cut the butter into cubes and rub into the sugar and flour with your fingers
You should end up with a fine, crumbly mixture
At this point you can add any flavourings you would like to the pastry
Add in the milk and eggs and gently work it together until you have a ball of dough

using food processor
seive the flour and sugar into the processor and give it a quick whizz
cut the butter into small chunks and add to the food processor and blitz until you have a fine, crumbly mix
remove from the processor into a bowl and add the milk and egg and gently work it together until you have a ball of dough

flour the dough lightly, cover in cling film and pop in the fridge for half an hour

You should have nice cold hands for making the dough so you don't start to melt the butter. I am lucky because my hands are always freezing! But if you are more warm blooded - or the kitchen has been very warm with all the cooking you have been doing - run them under the cold tap for a minute or two and that will help.
I left out the lemon zest as the filling was lemon and didn't want overkill - and you can add whatever flavourings you like at the end of the dry stage.
I also only had 200g of butter - so cheated and popped in 50g of stork. It turned out fine though.

To bake blind
I needed to make a case for my tart so needed to bake blind. This is the method I used.

grease your tin with butter (if you have non-stick you may feel happy enough to not need to do this. Even with non-stick though if I am doing something delicate I like to grease!)
roll out your rested pastry to the desired size for your tin
place the pastry over the tin and then press in to fit
trim any overhanging edges

then cut a piece of greaseproof/baking paper to fit the pastry case and place inside your case
then fill the case with either uncooked rice or, if you have them, ceramic baking beans
pop the case into a hottish oven (180C, 350F, gas 4)
bake for ten minutes

after ten minutes, remove the paper and the rice/beans and bake the case for a further ten minutes or until golden

leave to cool and then fill it up!

If your case has sides, make sure the beans'rice reach up the sides or else they might flop over.

funky ceramics and glass

i love homeware that incorporate urban themes - that mix of homelyness, warmth, safety etc combined with grittier images is one that appeals to me - and i found an artist called snowden flood who does just that.

she is an interior accessories designer based in London and her work celebrates urban and rural landscapes through an ongoing exploration of the theme of souvenirs and keepsakes

i love the river series of plates - which picks out bridges and scenes you can see from the rivers in London

i also like the wintery glasses she has done - which are more focused on nature - but the white on black gives it that edge

and the barbed wire cup and motorway plate

and she does t-shirts!

i think the clean colours and lines are really effective and while some pieces are expensive - some of the plates can go up to around £80 - if you had two or three mixed in with plain white then you could still have a slice of the action on a budget.

pretty wardrobe

I spotted this lovely wardrobe (£725) by the French Bedroom Company - I don't normally go for fancy style furniture but what I like here is that it is a pretty and detailed finish but with a simple wardrobe frame -I reckon if you kept everything else in the room simple this could make a great centerpiece to a room. Only problem being I would need about five to fit my extensive collection of clothes and shoes...

wooden furniture

Two things I like looking for are lovely big fireplaces and mantlepieces and beautiful chairs. This is probably because I love sitting in front of the fire reading a book or newspaper with a pot of tea and a tasty slice of cake. I found this site for solid wood furniture by Steven Burgess and Peter Lyon that can be finished to your own spec and made to the size that would fit your space. Thier furniture looks lovely and will be keeping them in mind when I come to furnish my dream house!

book ends

I love my books and like seeking out cool bookends for them. I found this pair at the hiccup gifts website. The site has a variety of kitsch type gifts - some of which are good and some not so good - but they get the thumbs up for these. And at £14.99 they are a wee bargain too.

Saturday, 27 June 2009

my dream desk

I have always imagined having a lovely sunny room, lined with bookshelves with some comfy chairs, a coffee machine and an elegant yet sturdy desk for me to read, write and dream at. Well, I have at least found the desk! The winner of this year's Grand Design (best furniture design) is the Yves desk from Pinch Design and I love it to pieces. The best pic is on the front page of the website so go visit - I just have the one below - although it still makes me wish I had a spare £1850.

It is sleek and simple and I love the green leather surface. I hate desks that have bits and pieces under the main surface - racks or drawers - I like space to wriggle my legs about! Also - while you can't see it, there are management holes in the back in case you have computer equipment you want to hook up on the desk but keep tidy and neat and not detracting from the beauty of the desk itself. I am sure if I had this desk that Booker prize winning novel would be produced in no time...

Friday, 26 June 2009

EcoHab - livin' in a round pod!

I have a thing about living in a round house - like a lighthouse - and wish one day to have one. Andy says furniture will be an issue...

Anyway - came across EcoHab which produces round pods that are small but well-designed and are also eco-friendly (and cost effective). Apparently they were shown at the Grand Designs show this year - I must go to that one year - I would spend my whole time gawping in amazement at all the fantastic design.

Anyway - here are some pics - the coverings come in different types and there is a more wood-like one which I prefer but couldn't sort a photo out.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Feeling better

So I am starting to feel more back to normal. Very tired but at least my brain feels like the neurons might be firing.

I hate being stuck indoors and so yesterday I risked going up to Balgay Park. It is just up the road so figured if I started feeling unwell I could make it back to the flat. It was a lovely sunny day and just sitting on the bench in the sun for half an hour really boosted my mood.

This image comes from the weblink if you click 'Balgay Park' above and isn't my own photo

While I was there a man sat on the bench and we had a wee chat - just a meandering out-in-the-sun chat and it was really lovely. Usually people who start speaking to you have no idea of boundaries or of being respectful that you might just want to sit in peace, but this guy was really sweet. He had travelled all over the world and he talked about how he goes out for a walk every day, no matter the weather. For someone who is retired and getting on in years I envied his fitness levels! I was tired afterwards and had wobbly legs but it was worth it - and it reminded me that there are good people all around and to not fall into the trap of viewing people you don't know with suspicion. It was a great wee moment to have had and cheered me up a lot.


Because we will be moving house at some point and I like to day dream! I have been picking up wee idea-inspiring notes from magazines, blogs, newspapers, TV etc on housey type stuff. So will be posting up what I find!

Cool ideas for plates etc

Monday, 22 June 2009

Banana Sandwiches

Banana sandwiches are one of my favourite things. They are great for a quick snack and if you are feeling poorly and they are a good snack on the run too - grab a roll and a banana and you can make a sandwich out the back of your cycle bag. Essentially you just need bread and a banana but when I am making one at home and at my leisure it is made in a particular way.

scottish plain bread
one banana per sandwich - must be yellow with no green or black bits on the skin
brown sugar

take out two slices of bread.
remove the skin from your banana and place in a bowl
mash the banana using a fork
spread the banana evenly over one slice of bread
sprinkle brown sugar over the banana - it will dissolve slightly in the banana mush
top with the second slice of bread and cut in half

Serve with a hot piping cup of tea and a wee square of Fry's Cream to follow. Delicious!

If you are using 'normal' bread I would cut it diagonally so you have two triangles - but with plain bread you cut it into two squares.


The past few weeks have been fun (weddings etc) but also have been difficult cause I have been poorly. I was run down anyway through working a wee bit too hard, then caught my Mum's cold at the wedding and, just as I had got over that, caught a stomach bug. The tummy bug was the last straw for my poor body! I managed to do my London trip (which was to meet our new Director of Operations so felt that was important)and just managed to make it back to Dundee before the bug really kicked in. Since then I have been stuck in the house and feeling quite sorry for myself.

The reason I feel so sorry for myself is partly because to me food is such a central thing and so to not be able to, or want to, eat my favourite things, do some cooking and baking, and share meals properly with my husband is very upsetting. I don't see Andy enough as it is and one of the ways I like to make up for being away so much is by making him all the dinners he likes - I am sure he doesn't mind me doing that either! And chatting over dinner is one of our ways of keeping up with each others news.

My favourite things though to eat when I am poorly and that I think - rightly or wrongly - to be good for poorly folks are:

Banana sandwiches
Original Lucozade
Tea - lots of it
Ginger biscuits

Toast and honey

And, when you are feeling like you could cope with a proper meal...

Shepherd's or Cottage Pie!

Mind you, I was barely managing to eat any of these things at all. One thing I didn't reckon on as being good for you is live yoghurt - the idea of yoghurt being something you want to eat when you are not well seemed weird to me but when the cramps got really bad Andy made me phone NHS 24 and the very kind nurse suggested this. She also advised I take rehydration salts as the reason I was getting worse and not better was due to eating too little and the increasing cramp pain suggested I was pretty dehydrated. And I am usually so good at keeping my fluids up - as the child of a nurse I was mighty embarrassed!

So - live yoghurt and rehydration salts were bought and consumed and while I feel like a rung out rag and am not quite ready to trust to being more than a room away from a bathroom, I am beginning to feel more human. I am just hoping that in a few days time I can get back to what I love best - eating!!!

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Afternoon Tea at Ballathie House

A week after Emma's wedding and I find myself out to afternoon tea in Perthshire! Two afternoon teas in such quick succession is a treat! We went along to Ballathie House with James and Alison - Alison is also a fan of afternoon tea - and spent a happy couple of hours drinking tea, munching on sandwiches, scones and cakes and putting the world to rights. Including a discussion on the difference between afternoon tea and high tea. It was a nice afternoon tea but it didn't come near Emma's! I think next will have to be the But 'n' Ben high tea in Arbroath - I have heard it is very good so will be finding an excuse for that soon.

My sister's wonderful wedding

My wee sister - now Mrs Weir!

Two weeks ago my sister got hitched and she went with an afternoon tea themed reception. During planning, it became clear that the man who runs Blairquan Castle where she was having the reception didn't entirely approve and saw the whole affair as being rather unorthodox. By the end of the tea though he was thoroughly convinced that afternoon tea is a great way to celebrate a wedding - or indeed anything.

I love afternoon tea - I think it does a good job of suiting everyone - with different sandwiches and savoury bites to choose from in quantities that match your appetite and appeal to old and young alike. As for being able to try out several types of cake and sweet treats I much prefer that to agonizing over the pudding trolley.

For Emma, we handmade her invites and place settings with cupcakes fashioned from Laura Ashley patterns and my Mum sources different styles and designs of bunting and cake-stands.

The beautiful cake-stands my Mum found.

My sister Alice and my Mum hard at it pinning bunting to the tables.

My Mum also made the wedding cake - a three tiered stand of vanilla iced cupcakes topped with two pink hearts cut from sugar paste.

Emma's cupcakes awaiting transportation!

The finished wedding cake!

We all went along to the castle the day before to decorate and set everything out and Emma's friends (and my Glasgow flatmate!) Ailie and Alison both came along too to help out.

It was great fun decorating the rooms and it really felt like a true family wedding with everyone doing their bit.

Making the wee pink hearts for the cakes.

More cakes!

On the day Emma looked amazing - her dress was just perfect and she looked beautiful and so grown up which is strange for me as her big sister. Of course, the vows are very important, and the Mass was very moving and my Dad singing the psalm was very special. But, also very important, is feeding all of the guests! And the afternoon tea was just amazing. I have posted previously of Betty's in York and their afternoon tea but I have to say Emma's afternoon tea beat Betty hands down!

After the wedding my Mum asked each of the bridesmaids and Emma's friends to choose a cake-stand and because they were all different designs we each got one that suited our personalities and styles. Mine is a two tier silver art deco-ish stand with glass plates with a star etched in the middle. So now I can't wait to have my own wee afternoon tea!

Strawberries and Balsamic Vinegar

These are really yummy - I first had them at my Aunt Sheila's and while I was a bit wary I like to give everything a go once. Well, once I had tasted them I fell in love with them! If you have had quite a heavy main, perhaps with red meat, they act as a very good light pudding that cuts through the palate nicely. And leaves you very ready for some strong coffee and a slice of tablet or square of dark chocolate!

Punnet of strawberries
Balsamic vinegar - go for a good one for this

Top and hull your strawberries and cut in half. If some of the berries are small leave them. You don't want sliced and diced - you want big pieces to sink your teeth into.

In a large bowl, combine 2-3 tbsp of vinegar and 1-2 of sugar. I used brown but not sure if it matters.

Mix in the strawberries and leave for at least 30 mins but not longer than about an hour. Have a wee taste and add more sugar if you need it.

Serve either with creme fraiche or with a suitable cake - something not too sweet and gooey - my Aunt serves a lovely almond tart alongside.

My special rosemary potatoes

These are my only fried attempt at potatoes and I picked up the recipe in part from my old flatmate Calum and through figuring out one day what to do with some left over rosemary. Now they are my 'posh' alternative to usual boiled potatoes.

New potatoes
Garlic 2-3 cloves
Olive Oil
Sea Salt and black pepper

Cut the potatoes into four - or small pieces - not bigger than 2-3 cms.
Par boil and then drain.
Put the rosemary,peeled garlic, salt, pepper and a slug of oil and crush it all together using a pestle and mortar. Do not food process! You want to bruise rather than mince it up.
Heat enough oil to cover a frying pan by 1 cm.
Add the drained potatoes and then spoon over the rosemary mixture, turning the potatoes so they get covered in oil and the mixture. Fry for about 20-30 mins turning 2-3 times.

I make the mixture as the potatoes are draining because I think that potatoes left to cool before hitting hot oil fry better and get a crispier coating.

If you make enough to have some left over, they are great cold, or reheated, and dipped in sour cream as a wee lunchtime snack or accompaniement to salad.

Roast Veggies

I have posted before about roast veggies where I have cut them up into 1-2 inch pieces. This time around I went for chunky!

Baby onions or shallots

Peel, top and tail carrots. Cut in half then cut in half lengthways. You should have four equal length pieces per carrot.
Do the same to the courgettes.
Parsnips are almost the same but if like me your parsnips are much thicker at one end than the other you should cut up into six rather than four.
Peppers - cut off the tops and slice the pepper using the white lines inside as a guide. You usually don't have to cut more but if you get a really big piece slice it in two.

Peel, top and tail onions and don't slice up.

Chuck all of the veggies in a bowl and drizzle with olive oil. Mix and then spread on a roasting tin. Roast, turning occasionally, for 30-40 minutes. You will get the nice roastie outside but with lots of soft and tasty flesh of veggies inside - and the onions will be almost sweet with roasting. Yum!