Plastic not-so fantastic

Plastic not-so fantastic

Even if you live on a remote island in the Indonesian archipelago, it would be hard to avoid the world’s plastic problem. In fact during a recent ocean clean-up, residents of Bali were removing 100 tonnes of plastic from beaches each day – so what was in my mind the tropical idyll, turns out to be the second biggest consumer/polluter of plastic in the world, after China. Here in the UK, plastic is near the top of the environmental agenda. David Attenborough highlighted the crisis in his awe-inspiring Blue Planet II series. His most thought-provoking moment, was seeing a baby albatross lying dead, its stomach pierced by a plastic toothpick fed to it by its own mother, having mistaken it for healthy food. A small tragedy, which highlights the bigger one we have all become aware of in recent years. It takes 450 years or so to break down a plastic bottle and because we use so much of it – it is ruining our planet. Future archaeologists will be able to date this era in hundreds of years, from the sheer amount of plastic in the ground. Environment Secretary Michael Gove, who is so far proving more radically pro-environmental then anyone expected – is understood to be considering introducing refundable deposits on plastic drinks bottles, encouraging retailers to use fewer types of plastic, as well as a standardised recycling policy for councils. For example, there are two dumps close to me, one takes plastic, the other doesn’t. Like with booze, I was always aware I should cut down on my plastic consumption. But jeez, it was tricky and I have only...
Great balls of rice!

Great balls of rice!

I do love an arancini ball – golden and satisfyingly round. I first came across them on holiday in Sicily and had no idea what they were. In more recent times my husband has become a dab hand at making them. They look impressive and we recently made them for the cafe at our local allotment, and they went down a treat. Perfectly portable, they could be taken in a napkin to munch back at the plot. Then I made them last week for a Saturday night picnic in the park. I want it to be our new summer tradition. Instead of having friends over for dinner, which can take the whole day to prepare for, a Saturday night picnic is similarly sociable, but you don’t need to make quite so much effort, as everyone can bring something. Start it at 5pm so you can feed the kids early, and then as they go off for a cartwheel/back flip extravaganza, you can tuck in to the rest of the food (and the prosecco). By 8pm everyone’s fed, you’ve actually managed to have a conversation with your friends and the kids still get to bed on time. Perfect. I made these arancini balls using Bertolli’s new butter and olive oil spread, which they say is perfect for cooking as it doesn’t burn like butter, as the olive oil lets it go to a higher temperature. I can vouch for that, being the most distracted cook ever. I’ve just fried some flatbreads for lunch (so much nicer than just warming through!) and left the butter/olive oil on for too long and it...
Cauliflower cheese toastie.

Cauliflower cheese toastie.

Cauliflower cheese toastie – you read it here first. The comforting deliciousness of cauliflower cheese in the crunchy yum of a toastie. Inspired? I think so. Just the word toastie makes me want to put brightly striped socks on, sit in front of a fire and wipe away melted cheese from my chin. When I suggest a toastie for lunch my kids reach an almost apoplectic level of happiness, and it makes me realise the simplicity of their desires: they would live off cheese and bread in various guises if they could. And adding cauliflower to the mix doesn’t feel like I’m messing with a classic. Instead I’m adding a classic to a classic – a good thing, surely? I will let you be the judge. Check out our video here on it or follow the recipe below. The one thing you will need is a toastie maker – definitely worth the investment. You can get them cheap from supermarket (about £9), but they make really small sarnies. I got in touch with Cuisinart and they sent me the one I use in the video and have used ever since. It’s bigger and accommodates your usual sliced bread, as well as having a different set of plates which allows you to feel all continental and make a panini.  Gourmet toasties  surely there’s a series in that. Anyone got any ideas or recommendations? Gourmet cauliflower cheese toastie Serves: 2 Half a cauliflower 2 spring onions Salt & pepper 1 tbsp rapeseed oil Bechamel sauce 125ml milk 1 tbsp plain flour 1 tbsp butter 20g cheddar cheese 1 tsp Dijon mustard...
Curry night (not from the takeaway but the freezer)

Curry night (not from the takeaway but the freezer)

Saturday night is more often than night curry night in our house. We draw the curtains, light the fire, choose a film or some Saturday night TV, and snuggle down. My husband has something like a Madras and some pilau rice, whilst I have a daal, onion bhajis and a Peshwari Naan. We rarely deviate from this tried and tested formula, but recently (duh duh duhhhhh!) the kids have been staying up and having it with us. They are at that age now where we can’t fob them off with a seven o’clock bed time because one is nearly 11 and the other is 8. Our time together as a couple has shrunk but actually, Saturday night curry is starting to be a wonderful family routine. We started the girls on pappadums (aka giant crisps), before progressing to Naan bread and then chicken tikka. They have yet to embrace my tarka daal or even a bhaji, but I actually caught my eldest eating cold curry from the fridge the other day, and whilst mildly annoyed she was tucking into my leftovers, I also thought she had all the hallmarks of becoming a fine McDonald. We have experimented with our local takeaways but on a recent dash around Centerparc’s supermarket I grabbed some Cook frozen curries, out of desperation really. I had low expectations, but was confounded and the frozen food chain (they deliver and have fairly good animal welfare credentials) has bumped my local takeaway Peppers off the top spot. The Chicken Korma and Beef Madras felt fresh and just spicy enough and most importantly they didn’t have that greasy film...
Save the date – Wednesday January 18th.

Save the date – Wednesday January 18th.

After yesterday’s revelations you may be breathless in anticipation of more news… Ever eager not to disappoint, we have some. The lovely Helen McGinn from Knackered Mother’s Wine Club has written a book called Teetotal Tipples. Without wanting to cast aspersions, I think it’s fair to say that Helen loves to drink. As a wine writer and buyer for some of the biggest supermarkets, she is rarely far from a bottle of wine. So for her to drink something without the complex deliciousness of alcohol means it must be pretty good. Behold her new book! Stuffed to the gills with great recipes for grown up non-alcoholic drinks which won’t have you reaching for a big glass of something more tasty (and alcoholic).  I urge you to buy it. And if you live in the London vicinity come and get your copy signed by the lovely lady herself, in our wine shop!  In a lovely synergy of our blogging life and our new life as owner of a wine shop, Helen is coming to chat about her new book in the shop on Wednesday January 18th. There will be Seedlip cocktails, maybe a mocktail or two (if we get our act together) and, controversially, booze! A free glass of fizz for self-confessed lushes. Come along! We’d love to see you. And if that isn’t sufficiently enticing, I think we just need to mention that The Scummy Mummies will also be there. Broadcasters of a hilarious fortnightly podcast, recommended by both the Telegraph and the Guardian, and definitely the Christmas highlight on Women’s Hour. These are probably the only women who can...
Life changes and other news…

Life changes and other news…

So. It used to be that no change in our life was left undocumented on the blog. Kids’ first day at school. There it is, in all it’s slightly neurotic glory. Holidays abroad. We wouldn’t shut up about them.  But as the kids have got older, work demands have taken over, and the blog has stopped being our first port of call when something happens. Which is why we haven’t told you about… Our new wine shop!  Crazy huh? It’s not actually mine and Lucy’s. If truth be told, it’s not really mine at all. It’s my husband’s. He left his job doing something complicated and dull in the advertising industry to fly by the seat of his pants and start a wine shop in our little part of South London. It opened at the beginning of November and the whole thing has been a huge thrill. While it’s been finding its feet I’ve stopped working. Ostensibly to help, but more specifically to get under Mr McDonald’s feet. I think he’s found my innate ability to add stress to every situation extremely helpful.  There are many things which opening a new business teaches you. The first is that just because you and your husband get on quite well most of the time, this will not necessarily be enhanced by working together. The second is that when someone doesn’t ask for your advice on the name of the business, the colour of the logo, or elements of what it is going to stock, then the chances are they are not going to take that advice when it is offered. On the up side,...
How to drink less (maybe)

How to drink less (maybe)

“That’s the problem with drinking, I thought, as I poured myself a drink. If something bad happens you drink in an attempt to forget; if something good happens you drink in order to celebrate; and if nothing happens you drink to make something happen.” ― Charles Bukowski We all know we’re supposed to drink less (some experts say a couple of consecutive booze free nights a week is ideal – because it gives your body a break and resets your tolerance levels) but at this time of year? C’mon! Prosecco at a neighbours at 10am? Well it’s Christmas! A slug of brandy in your hot chocolate? Very hygge. A glass of red wine? Well, we have lit the fire. Drinking is almost an obligation. To yourself. To your host. To that bottle of half-drunk Pinot Gris in the fridge. I mean, you wouldn’t want it to feel unwanted, would you? This may surprise those that know me, but I don’t enjoy drinking every night. Once something loses its treat status, it becomes a bit boring and besides I am a lightweight. All too often I have a midweek glass of red only to wake an hour later on the sofa, with dribble down my chin and a whole night wasted. My husband argues a snooze on the sofa is an evening well spent, but on my booze-free nights the house becomes a well-oiled operation worthy of a feature in Good Housekeeping. The ironing gets done. The forgotten emails sent. The window boxes watered. I am on fire. Often for me the ritual of having a drink – the popping of a cork, the...
Panettone ice cream bomb recipe

Panettone ice cream bomb recipe

Some foodie friends came for dinner last month bearing white truffles, Pinot Noir and extra virgin olive oil (my kind of people). They run a swanky grocers in Chelsea and to be honest, I slightly dread having them over, because despite the fact we love them very much, they are such good hosts (and even better guests) that I worry my cooking is not going to be up to par. My tip with dinner parties is to do as much as you can in advance, to avoid a mid-course nervous breakdown. So I did a burrata for starter – unaware until I wrote it down that it rhymes – with olive-studded bread from a fabulous new Italian deli near my house, before serving Claire’s legendary pork ragu recipe which I made the day before, alongside some roasted broccoli and M&S mash potato. I know I should know better and make my own, but I find the stress of making lump-free mash under scrutiny too much, so decanted this into a terracotta dish for the homemade look. But the star of the show was this Panettone ice cream bomb. It was a trial run for Christmas – Claire is cooking this year – hurrah! – and as well as our mum’s Christmas pudding, we will be eating this for afters. It can be made well in advance and only takes 15m to throw together. You literally just hollow out a Panettone, whip up some double cream and condensed milk, stir in some sour cherries and pistachios, fill up the hollow and freeze for at least 24 hours. Just before serving, you...
Roast Dinner Hacks

Roast Dinner Hacks

I love a roast. I never used to do one, and then my eldest started school and it felt like a nice kind of ritual to introduce to the week. A Sunday night roast, hair wash, bed. But not everyone feels the same way, apparently. I saw in a recent survey by McCain that the number of Sunday lunches eaten each week has fallen by 4% – that’s 1.43 billions lunches, they say.  Apparently people find it too much of a faff and can’t be bothered, even though it was voted as the favourite meal of a third of the respondents. Now, obviously, here at Crumbs HQ we know all about ‘can’t be bothered’. It’s pretty much our middle name, but even so, a roast is quite an important part of our week. So, at the request of those potato lovers, McCain, and because we’re kind and can’t bear the thought of people missing out, we’re taking part in the McCain Roast Hack campaign. Here are our seven top roast hacks to help you get your dinner on the table quicker: Often the vegetables in a roast are an afterthought, plopped in a pan just before serving. But that last minute is so fractious, with so much to do, why not get those vegetables underway earlier and make them a more important part of the meal? For example, put the peas on early, simmer in stock with chopped spring onions, a sliced little gem lettuce and butter. This is an easy way to increase the greenery in your roast as well as make it a little more exciting.  Step away from the...
Apple tarte tatin recipe

Apple tarte tatin recipe

Many of us could do with a little comfort at the moment. And I am not just talking about the weather. Although I can’t promise this apple Tarte Tatin will bring world harmony or help you make sense of any of 2016, it will lift the soul ever such a little. It’s a bit of higgledy piggledy affair, but takes no time at all to make (shop bought pastry obviously) and if it fails to lift your mood, may I suggest this warm apple and rum cocktail instead.  Takes: 15m to make, 30 to bake – but very easy! Ingredients 50g butter 50g caster sugar ½ tsp ground cinammone 6 sweet medium apples 1 sheet ready rolled all butter pastry     Preheat the oven to 200c (fan). Melt the butter in a 20cm frying pan. One that you can put in the oven. Stir in the sugar and cook until it starts to caramelise. It will go sticky and brown, but careful you don’t want it to burn! Stir in the cinnamon. Pile in the apples and cook over a medium heat for about 10 minutes, stirring every now and then. Unroll the pastry and prick it all over with a fork. Quickly lay the pastry over the apples. Trim away any excess with a sharp kinfe, allowing a rim of about 2cm, then tuck the pastry snugly round the apples down the inside of the pan. Bake the tin in the middle of the oven for 20-30 minutes until the pastry is risen, firm and golden. Serve with icecream or...
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