Monday, 31 January 2011

site visit

We went and saw how things were going down at the house at the weekend - our house hasn't seen much movement but the 'mirror' house on the other side of the church is further along and Bobby showed us round to get an idea of how ours will look in a few weeks time.

This is one of the beams in the main bedroom coming through the 1st floor -

This picture shows the way the ceiling copes with the very large church window - when you stand under it you are under a pointed roof bit and although I couldn't quite capture it here there is a lot of space between the lower part of the ceiling and the window.

This picture is of the ground floor stairs entry to the 1st floor [on the right] and the stairs going up to the mezzanine [on the left]. The 1st floor is where the kitchen, dining and reading/quite area will be.

Looking down from the mezzanine onto the first floor you can see the raised dining area and Andy in the pic gives it a bit of scale - there is a lot of height in the building. The beam you can see is the one in the previous pic that started off in the main bedroom.

And here is that same beam stretching right up into the mezzanine...

Andy is standing on the raised dining room area...

I love the shape the beams make high up in the roof...

This is the 1st floor looking at it standing on the raised dining area - the doorway goes through into the utility room and WC. The bit you can see under the mezzanine is where I will have my books and reading area. And the kitchen will be against the back wall and come out to teh far side of the beam from where I am standing taking this pic and the pine mezzanine pillar. The bit between teh beam and pillar will be a breakfast bar.

So, although this isn't our house it gave us a good feel, albeit the opposite way round, for how ours will be. It has been quite interesting because each house has taken ideas from each other and so while they will be different there are probably things we wouldn't have thought of ourselves and vice versa. For example, the raised dining area came from our house but the idea of a stained glass panel in the stair partition to capture light in the dining area came from our neighbour.

What we are quite pleased about though is that in a few weeks our house will look like this and then the site team will be focusing on our side of the building and we should be ready earlier than other houses for moving in. Right now that moment can't come soon enough!

Sunday, 30 January 2011

coffee cake

It was Andy's birthday this week and I wanted to bake him a cake. I bought carrots for carrot cake but when it came to making it my hands couldn't cope with the cold [I have raynauds] and after a close call with a sharp knife I decided that fridge-cold carrots to grate were not a good idea.

So I decided to go off piste and make a coffee cake instead.

ingredients - cake

150g of caster sugar
150g self raising flour
150g of butter
3 eggs
1 tbsp of [good] instant coffee
1 tbsp hot water
1 and a half tsp baking powder

ingredients - icing

Some walnuts
225g icing sugar
100g butter
1 and a half tbsp [good] instant coffee


Preheat the oven to 160C/325F/Gas 3

Grease and line a cake tin

Cream the sugar and butter in a bowl [or cheat like me and use the food processor]

Whisk the eggs in a mug

Add the eggs to the creamed butter and sugar in stages alongside a tbsp of flour and mix well each time you add

Add the rest of the flour and the baking powder and fold in gently

Dissolve the coffee in the hot water and add to the mixture still folding

Spoon the mixture into the tin and cook for 40-50 mins [my cooker is rubbish so it may take a bit shorter for a fan oven]

While the cake is cooking you can make the icing

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy

Dissolve the coffee in the hot water and then add to the butter and sugar

If it seems a bit runny let it set in the fridge for a while - if you do this though you will need to let it come to room temprature again before icing the cake or else it will be so cold it won't spread easily and will tear up the cake

When the cake is done take it out of the oven to cool for five minutes then remove from the tin

Let it cool for a further five minutes before carefully removing the greaseproof paper

Cool fully on a rack before icing

While the cake is cooling, select 7 whole walnuts - one will go in the middle of the cake and the rest spaced out around it's edges

Take a handful of walnuts and chop up - not too finely as you don't want walnut dust

Ice the cake, place your whole walnuts and then scatter the chopped walnuts over the cake

Brew a fresh pot of coffee, grab a good book, put on some music and relax!

You can double the cake mixture and then divide it between two sandwish tins if you want a really big, deep cake - make sure you double your icing too though for the filling.

As you can see from the pic the cake was half gone before I got to use the camera...

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

indexed chopping boards - yes please!

I like practical but stylish kitchen equipment. I want items to be simple - too complicated means you are less likely to want to use them and try out that new recipe and too decorative means cleaning and storage is difficult. Anything that has a glut of twirls and carved bits is a haven for food to get stuck and for cleaning to be a right chore.

Joseph Joseph is a company run by two twins, Antony and Richard, and grew from their family's glass business. The kitchen items are modern in design so perhaps more traditional cooks may not find them appealing, but I love the very simple and practical designs that have a look and feel that takes them out of the ordinary.

One of the issues I often have is my rather odd assortment of chopping boards that has been built up over several years. There are different sizes, colours, designs but despite the variety there is no sense of organisation or that the collection actually houses the right types of board. We keep 'the white chopping board' for just meat but I would like to be much better at having chopping boards for specific uses. In fact, really the only 'good' chopping board I have is an amazing block wood number my sister's [Alice] friend, Ruth, got us when we got married - it has survived the past ten years admirably and sometimes it is used to serve food as well as be used in its preparation.

I woudl be happy with any item from this company but I was very pleased to unwrap our Christmas gift from my sister Emma to discover the Index set of chopping boards from Joseph Joseph.

There is one for veg, cooked meat, raw meat and fish. The come colour co-ordinated and in a smart 'file' - and each board has a file tab telling you what it is to be used for - perfect.

And because they look so good having them out on the work surface in our new open plan kitchen will be great.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011


I have posted previously the recipe I tested for morrocan lamb - I made it in a pot but at Christmas my lovely sister gave me a beautiful tagine dish. Not only does this mean my New Year's Eve dinner could be made in a proper dish - the dish itself is black and aubergine in colour - perfect for the new kitchen!

I was trying to cut down on time in the kitchen over new year so I made up the morrocan lamb dish up until the point you add the chickpeas. I then froze it. I defrosted it overnight and then popped it in the tagine with the chickpeas and followed the instructions to slowly heat the dish in the oven. This worked very well - even though I am sure some will frown upon it - and I added the fresh herbs and toasted pine and pistachio nuts just before serving. This meant that on the day the preparation was only about an hour giving me more time to drink wine and chat to Andy and Calum.

It was great to be able to serve it directly at the table and you could keep the lid on to keep it all warm for serving seconds. Also, taking the lid of to reveal the dark tasty sauce and meat, with the bright green flashes of parsley and coriander topped of with the crunchy nuts was a good 'reveal' - food deserves to have a bit of the spotlight.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

new year's day dinner

After a big fry up breakie - and a walk up the Wallace - I made New Year's Day dinner which for us is good old steak pie, roasty potatoes and veg followed by trifle.

I was up against the steak pie we have had the past two years from the excellent butcher in Innerleithen and so wanted a recipe that was particularly moreish. I went with Jamie Oliver's steak, guiness and cheese pie which I made in my lovely new pie dish - a great Christmas present from my Mum.

I usually make our trifle so stuck to the tried and tested trifle sponges, jelly, custard and whipped cream. The jelly asked for 2 pts of hot water but I put in one and three quarters as I like my jelly quite solid - and the boys seemed quite happy with it.