Wednesday, 15 December 2010



3 medium carrots, roughly chopped 
1 onion, chopped
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
1 leek, washed, trimmed and sliced
1 celery stick, trimmed and roughly chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
1 clove of garlic, crushed
2 medium potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
400 gm tin of chopped tomatoes
1 litre vegetable stock
2 tbsp tomato puree
400 gm tin of red kidney beans
70 gm dried spaghetti, cut in quarters

In a large, heavy based pan, heat the oil and then gently fry the onions and garlic over a medium heat, until soft.

Stir in the cayenne pepper, if using.

Add the leek, carrots, potatoes and celery and stir.

Pour in the tinned tomatoes and tomato puree and mix well.

Finally add the vegetable stock and bring to the boil.

Reduce to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes.

After 10 minutes, add the red kidney beans and dried spaghetti pieces and cook for a further 15 minutes, until the spaghetti is cooked and all the vegetables are soft.

Serve with crusty bread and grated cheese on top.

Salt Dough Decorations

We have been getting into the Christmas spirit by making our own tree decorations!  Bob had a couple of friends over for a playdate and so we thought we would get creative.

This is a really simple way of keeping kids occupied and getting them to make something that can adorn your tree all holiday season long.

You will need:

1/2 cup salt
1 cup of flour
1/2 cup of water

Mix all ingredients together well, adding a little more flour if it is too sticky.

You can either use cookie cutters or make shapes with your hands, but remember to not make them too thick, and create whatever ornaments you like.

Using a toothpick or skewer, make a hole at the top of the ornaments for ribbon to go through.

Place the decorations on grease proof paper and either cook them on full heat in the microwave for 3 - 5 minutes or on a very low heat (100C) in the oven for a couple of hours.  Make sure they are cooked through and retain no moisture.

Place them on a cooling tray and let them completely cool before painting.

Use acrylic paints and glitter glue to paint.

Let them dry and then hang on the tree.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Dressember, Christmas Trees and Chicken Pie!

A friend of mine has taken up the challenge and passed the torch, and so too have I now agreed to attempt it.  What? You may ask.

Dressember, of course. 

As some of you may, or may not, know, November has been taken over by many a male out there as Movember.  This is where men grow themselves moustaches throughout the month of November to raise awareness for Prostate Cancer.  It is certainly a worthy cause and one I hope garners more and more attention as time goes by.

Bouyed on by inspiration, a small group of women have decided to set themselves a challenge, and raise money for Refuge, by creating Dressember.  A month dedicated to the sole wearing of dresses.  Were it July or August, this would be a cinch.  Hot days and maxi dresses go together like strawberries and cream, however this being December, things are not so convivial. Apparently jumpers and skirts are an acceptable combination should one run out of winter dresses (I have two!) so that's a bit of a phew!

I ordered myself a new dress, with promised delivery of yesterday,  but alas the snow has kept the delivery man at bay and so I sit in one of my only two dresses, a little cold as I also await the delivery of a thermal vest and thick winter tights, but still, in a dress I am!

Our Christmas tree is up as well!  Bob helped me decorate it and Boo has attempted to steal the baubles and place them in her mouth.  She knows not to do it as she appraoches the tree shaking her head 'no', yet still reaches up and grabs what she can.  I have tried to move as much out of reach as possible, without the tree looking too odd being only half decorated, but have also resorted to bringing in her play pen to the front room so she can have a safe corner from which to play and observe the tree.  Eating christmas decorations would mean serious and possibly fatal consequences, so play pens it is.

We have also been eating more pies! Yum! Chicken Pie to be precise.

For the crust:

I was inspired by the wonderful A Half Baked Life blog and so adapted the following recipe.  You can of course use a butter based short crust pastry, should that be more to your tastes. 

180 gms plain flour
180 gms wholewheat flour
1/2 tsp salt
100 ml olive oil
100 ml of boiling water

Mix the flour and salt together.

Mix the olive oil and boiling water together.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir well with a wooden spoon until a dough is formed.  It shouldn't be too sticky, if it is add a little more flour to it until you get the right consistency.  It should be pliable yet bounce back a little when you poke it.  Divide into two balls and set aside.

For the Filling:

2 chicken breasts, diced

2 potatoes, peeled and diced
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 leek, trimmed, washed and sliced

1 parsnip, peeled and diced
50 gm frozen peas, thawed
1 knob of butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, peeled and chopped
1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
4 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed
1 tsp dried mixed herbs
300 ml chicken stock
300 ml milk
50 gm butter
50 gm flour

In a pan of boiling water, boil the chopped vegetables for 10 minutes, then drain and set aside.

In a separate pan, melt the  butter (50 gm) and stir in the flour.  Remove from the heat and then slowly add a little milk and stock.  Whisk well with a metal whisk then return to the heat, adding the remainder of the stock and milk.  Continue stirring and heating on a low to medium heat, until the sauce thickens and begins to bubble (around 10 minutes).

At the same time,  in a large, heavy based pan, melt the butter with the oil and then add the onion and leeks.  Cook on a medium heat until they has softened and turned translucent (around 10 minutes).

Add the chicken and stir, ensuring all the meat cooks.  Cook for 5 minutes. 

Add the cooked vegetables and stir.

Pour over the sauce and add the herbs and mix well.

Finally stir in the peas and cook for a further 2 minutes. 

Remove from heat.  Divide the filling in two.  (There should be enough left over to make another pie at a later date so you can freeze one batch and use one.  Or make two pies - just make more pastry!)

On a lightly floured surface, roll out one of the dough balls and line a well greased pie dish, leaving enough pastry to go over the sides of the dish.

Pour the filling into the pie dish.

Roll out the remaining pastry and cover the pie.  Fold over the edges and crimp together to get a nice pie crust.  Cut a small cross in the top of the pie with a sharp knife.

Brush with beaten egg and then cook for 40 minutes at 190C.

Stand for 10 minutes before serving.