Tuesday, 30 September 2014

My #MorningWin with belVita

As part of the recent BritMums #MorningWin Challenge I was sent three boxes of the new belVita Breakfast Crunchy biscuits - Chocolate Chip, Hazelnut and Apricot to taste and incorporate into our ever increasing busy mornings.

It's funny how something seeming inconsequential becomes such a lifesaver but these three little boxes of joy became just that over the last 2 weeks. Our normal routine was forgotten in an instance when we had to deal with the death of a close family member. Mealtimes were forgotten and appetites disappeared. For the first week Sion was away in Bristol making arrangements and I found that my normal breakfast of granola & yogurt was forgotten about. Come mid morning I'd be getting hungry, but luckily I had taken a selection of the biscuits to work so I could dip in and slowly eat a few biscuits with a cup of tea.
Perhaps it was because my appetite was reduced but they easily sustained me through until lunchtime. The new belVita Breakfast Crunchy biscuits are generously packed with delicious ingredients to make a bigger and crunchier biscuit. They are the only breakfast biscuits proven to slowly release carbohydrates over four hours as part of a balanced breakfast (such as a portion of fruit, a serving of dairy and a drink).
Of the three flavours Hazelnut was my favourite, followed by Choc Chip. The Apricot was just a little too sweet for me, first thing in the morning.
This past week Sion is now back at work as slowly gaining his appetite. I feel much happier knowing he takes a packet of these to work with him along with his fruit and it gives him a good base to start the day.
Sunday was our first free day at home for three weeks. The early morning sun was shining through into our conservatory and while Sion caught up on some much needed sleep I actually took the time to make a "proper" coffee and a simple, balanced breakfast. Using the hazelnut biscuits I layered low fat cream cheese and sliced kiwi fruit & strawberries.
Such a small Morning Win but a sign that life is slowly returning to a more manageable pace. At least I know that when life throws it's next curveball we will be able to keep our energy up with belVita Breakfast Crunchy biscuits.
This post is an entry for #MorningWin Linky Challenge sponsored by belVita Breakfast. Learn more at http://bit.ly/belVitaUK

Monday, 29 September 2014

Time to be in the Kitchen...Chocolate and Cherry tea ring

After the last few weeks there was only one thing I wanted to do on Sunday morning - lose myself for a few hours in a fog of flour and icing sugar. Most people reach for a bar of chocolate when they are feeling stressed or sad, I on the other hand have always reached for bread...luckily for me that this week's GBBO was advanced dough. Taking inspiration from Richard's Swedish tea ring (Richard to win!!) I decided to use chocolate and fruit for my filling, even adding cocoa and vanilla to the bread dough for that extra chocolate-y hit, along with the more traditional eggs and butter for an enriched dough.

Just a word of advice - if you are adding chocolate drops to your filling its probably wiser to leave the ring uncut...within 5 minutes of baking most of my chocolate was bubbling out of the sides! Luckily once it had cooled and I cut into it there were enough drops inside to still give the chocolate richness I was after.

Best served on the same day of baking for that fresh softness, although pretty good the following day dunked into your morning cuppa!

Recipe adapted from Fruity Swedish Tea Ring


For the dough
400g strong white flour
25g cocoa powder
7g salt
10g fast action yeast
25g unsalted butter, softened and cubed
35g caster sugar
2 medium eggs
100ml full fat milk warmed
0.5tsp vanilla paste or seeds from 1/2 vanilla pod

For the filling
150g dried cherries (not glacé)
150g chopped dried apricots
100g chocolate chips (I used dark chocolate)
60g caster sugar
1tbsp cocoa powder
1tsp vanilla paste or seeds from 1 vanilla pod

For the glaze
1 tbsp apricot jam
Juice of 1 lemon
100g icing sugar

Put all the dough ingredients into a bowl along with 50ml of water and mix together using a spoon. 

Add a further 50ml of water and knead using an electric mixer. I kneaded on slow for two minutes then on a medium speed for a further three minutes. Continue mixing until you have a smooth soft dough. Cover with a tea towl and leave to prove in a warm place. Your dough should be twice it's original size ( approximately 45 minutes prove time).

For the filling mix the fruit, nuts and vanilla in one bowl and the cocoa and sugar in another.

When the dough has proved, turn it out onto a floured surface. Knock back and lightly knead.

Roll out the dough to a 40cm/60cm rectangle, taking care to keep as much air in the dough as possible.

Sprinkle the sugar and cocoa over the dough then cover with the fruit and chocolate.

Starting at a long side, carefully roll the dough up into a cylinder (like you would a Swiss roll). Shape into a ring and use water to stick the two ends together.

Grease a large baking tin with butter and carefully lift the dough ring onto the tray. Using scissors make vertical cuts into the dough at 4cm intervals around the ring. 

Cover the tray loosely with a proving bag or clean carrier bag and leave to rise for 40 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 190C/gas 5

Bake your loaf for 15 minutes and check the colour. If it is browning too quickly cover with foil before returning to the oven and continue cooking for a further 10 minutes until it is a deep brown.

Gently heat the apricot jam to make a glaze.

Once baked, remove the tea ring from the oven, brush with the apricot glaze and transfer to a cooling rack.

Allow to cool completely before making your icing by combining the lemon juice and icing sugar together. Drizzle the lemon icing over the loaf and serve.

Friday, 26 September 2014

HomeSense makes sense...

Imagine going to a store where the stock changes daily, you get up to 60% off well known brands and there's parking a-plenty...you've just imagined HomeSense!

I got a sneaky peek inside the Salisbury store on Wednesday prior to it's grand opening on Thursday to get an understanding behind it's concept and to take a look at the range of goods being sold.


There are more than 30 stores across the UK, ranging from Taunton to Lincoln, Poole to Fort Kinnaird in Scotland.

Homesense is part of the TK Maxx family and specialises in quality and branded home wear. Deliveries are brought in store every evening and the stock is immediately put on the shelves, meaning each days offerings are different. HomeSense is not the place to go to if you want 10 items all the same, but if you are after something a little different, that you won't find everywhere else - you have to take a look at their offerings!

The home wear available covers every room in your home - In Salisbury there is even a pet section and a brilliant range of children's toys and books. Dotted throughout the two floor store is what I call "inspiration stations". The styling is not rigid, but instead gives a good overview of how items can compliment each other.


After taking photos of my favourite pieces I now cannot wait to return for a little spending spree - I'm thinking cook wear and crockery may feature heavily, although with the stock constantly changing, who knows what I'll end up with? I promise I'll share my finds with you all though!

HomeSense Salisbury can be found at Churchill Way West, Salisbury SP2 7TS. Opening Hours are 9am-8pm Mon-Friday, 9am-7pm Saturday and 11am-5pm Sunday.

 We're going on an adventure

Thursday, 25 September 2014

On feeling Powerless...

For almost the last two weeks I've felt powerless. Powerless to stop someone's pain, powerless to change circumstances, powerless to give comfort and I don't know what to do.

On Friday 12th September we were told that Sion's dad had passed away suddenly. It was as if the world stopped spinning. I'll never forget the look of absolute shock and devastation of the faces of Sion and his sisters. My immediate response was to comfort, to wrap my arms around him, to offer words of understanding, but in those first moments of shock he pushed me away, unable to bear anyone else intruding in his world.

We spent the weekend in a fog of tears and wine, desperately trying to find out what had happened, unable to answer people's questions. Being sucker punched when the man I loved looked at me through tear reddened eyes and said "He's not really gone, is he?"

This last week has been spent apart while Sion and his family sort through paperwork and funeral arrangements. Almost every unopened piece of mail has revealed secrets and lies, clouding their memories of the man they have lost. His story in death has overshadowed his story as a father and friend.

Grief has been put to one side to make room for anger, disappointment and regret. I watch all this from a distance, wishing I could change things, make it all better but I can't. Instead I clean, I cook, I pack up clothes, I drive, I try to help. I still feel powerless.

The mail is all opened now, there can be no more surprises. Songs and photographs have been chosen for the funeral, everyone is back at work for the interim.

I keep my phone with me wherever I go, waiting for the call to say he needs me. I sit nervously each night until he is safely home. I glance at him throughout the evening, looking for signs of upset. I fall asleep only once I am sure there are no silent tears falling beside me.

I don't know what else to do. I know the sadness and pain will come, I know it is a process we must all go through. I hope I am strong enough to get him to better, happier times. I am powerless to change it, I am powerless and scared.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Time to be in the kitchen...Cornish Pasty

Pastry week this week on GBBO and hearing that the technical bake was savoury parcels, there's only one recipe choice for this Cornish lass - PROPER Cornish Pasties.

Despite coming originally from Dorset, my Gran embraced the Cornish Pasty and made it her own legendary treat. The men would get a pasty that could only fit into a large roasting tin diagonally, more oblong than semi circle, it would be maneuvered into the tin for baking, using 2 large spatulas and a prayer. when it came to eating it would be cut in half to be able to fit on a plate...each and every mouthful of it would be finished. As children we would get a mini version - 2 pasties to the roasting tray! The crust would always be saved until last, to be dunked in non-traditionally tomato ketchup.

All too often in baking we look to add new ingredients, put our own twist on a recipe, make it our own. But a Cornish Pasty is set in stone - to add or remove anything would make it only a humble pasty - still tasty, but not quite right. This recipe is taken from The Cornish Pasty Association

Take the time with your pastry, it needs structure to be able to hold it's place and you will not be able to roll and shape it if you miss out the rest period. I use a side plate to make six 6" pasties with a small crimp - you could make 4 larger pasties using a dinner plate as your template.


For the pastry;
500g strong bread flour
120g lard
25g cake margarine or spread (not pure butter)
5g salt
175g cold water 

For the filling;
400g good quality beef skirt or chuck steak, cut into small peices. If you can't get hold of skirt of chuck, look for a good quality cut with no fat or gristle that doesn't need slow cooking.
400g firm, waxy potato such as Maris Piper or Wilja
250g swede
200g onion
salt & pepper

Combine the flour and salt with the chopped lard & fat and rub together to form breadcrumbs. Add the water and using a food mixer beat until the pastry combines and becomes elastic. This will take longer than normal shortcrust pastry, I mixed mine for 4 minutes. Bring together in a ball, wrap in clingfilm and leave in the fridge for 3 hours.

Chop your potato and swede into thin small 1 cm squares and finely dice your onion. Put all three in a bowl, add a generous mix of salt and pepper and mix well.

After the 3 hours rest time roll out the pastry to about a 5mm thickness. Using a plate as your template cut out circles and set to one side.

Preheat your oven to 200C Gas Mark 6.

Put a layer of vegetable mix into the centre of a pastry circle, leaving a 2" outer edge of pastry. Add a layer of beef, add some extra salt & pepper and top with another layer of vegetables. You can really pile on the filling, it will shrink during cooking and you will be left with air pockets.

Bring the edges of the pastry, press lightly to seal and crimp around the outer edge. It's really difficult to explain crimping. Basically you want to bring a small section of edging over itself, secure by pressing down, then repeat. There are lots of videos on You Tube, here's one I found; 

Finish your pasties with an egg or milk wash as place onto baking parchment, or a non stick sheet and bake for 50-60 minutes, or until golden in colour. Leave to cool for 5 minutes and carefully lift to check the underside. If you have slightly soggy bottoms, turn the pasty over and finish off for a further 10 minutes. Don't worry the pastry will be hard enough to keep it's shape will you have this extra bake time.

Eat fresh from the oven or allow to cool, wrap in grease proof paper and eat cold, preferably outside, on a windswept beach. 

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With Supergolden Bakes