Festival Time

I’ve been to a fair few festivals in my time. I got stuck in the mud at Glastonbury, relaxed at the Big Chill, but it wasn’t until I went to a day long festival on Clapham Common about fifteen years ago, that I put my finger on how I felt about festivals. I remember seeing plastic pint glasses littering the bushes as the smell of pee floated towards me. I remember thinking “oh, I’m getting that festival feeling!” And then I realised that that feeling was one of dislike. What was I doing? Listening to music on terrible sound systems, squatting in the bushes to do a pee because the loos were so disgusting, and paying through the nose for the pleasure. So you may be surprised to hear that not only am I going to Camp Bestival, but I’m excited about it! I’ve heard a lot about it, and some of my best blogging mates go every year, which makes me a bit jealous. Knackered Mum always pulls a crowd and the Scummy Mummies are a riot. With the introduction of the camper van into our lives (it’s been christened Douglas Parker by the kids, not sure why) a visit to a festival is suddenly a great idea – if only to gloat at everyone in their tent. There’s a dressing up theme, and if you’ve been paying attention you’ll know that fancy dress isn’t my forte, but I’m even excited about that. It’s outer space, and I plan to put the kids in their all-in-one pyjamas with stars on them, and do a Bowie-esque flash on their faces. Inspired. And that’s just for day...
Thud

Thud

Thud. That’s the sound of me coming back down to earth. I’m now the mum of an eight year old and a six year old. I’ve dabbled in three day weeks, I’ve dabbled in blogging. But finally, I am back to work. Full time. With a thud. Obviously, I’d rather not. But needs must, and tbh, several years of part time has been pretty unsatisfactory. You don’t feel involved with where you work and you rush around at home like a mad thing, taking too much on. Now I am working full time I am very aware I can’t take anything on. I can maybe see friends on a Thursday (two came to dinner last week – I warned them there would be no food unless they bought it. They did. It was yummy).  So I’m looking for shortcuts at home. Things which will make my life easier. My husband’s pretty good at home, but he doesn’t do the washing (mainly because I don’t trust him with it). But realistically we both need to do it now, so I’m going to teach him (and he’s not going to take kindly to that). I’m going to do a regular supermarket shop online, which I’ve never done. And I may just dabble in Thud. Thud is a new food delivery service. It helps you create decent meals with the help of your store cupboard staples by posting you some of the ingredients. This means no-one has to be in to receive them (great when you work full time!), and they send you a shopping list at the start of week, so...
Chocolate and raspberry birthday cake

Chocolate and raspberry birthday cake

  I’m a terrible parent. I have never made a novelty birthday cake. There have been no Thomas the Tank Engines, Caterpillars or Fairy Princess Castles. Not that I haven’t been begged. And occasionally I succumb. But not really. One year I created a Cyclops, but take a look at the picture below and see if you can guess my cunning secret!    Yes! I make the same cake each time, with some concession to my child’s request. This is perhaps my personal favourite, as I think the cake looks rather like a baby Cyclops wearing a bonnet.    The main thing about my cake is that it tastes delicious, and so it should with two whole bars of Green & Black’s melted into it. It is possibly the most chocolate-y cake ever, and I NEVER wrap it in a paper napkin and give it to the kids to trample into the car’s upholstery on the way home. No way. This cake is there to be eaten, on the spot. Devoured, by parents, children and me.  I have other cunning customisations. The 6yo is obsessed with pigs and has been for a couple of years. This year I made exactly the same cake with pink fondant pigs wallowing in the chocolate-y mud. The chocolate fingers looked like a pen. Tragically my photos don’t do my brilliance justice. For some reason the pigs look a bit washed out. Please believe me when I tell you this was an absolute triumph!  Chocolate Birthday Cake 100g dark chocolate 150ml milk 225gself raising flour 2 tbsp cocoa powder 2 tsp baking powder 225g butter, at...
Rice crispy cakes – but not as you know them

Rice crispy cakes – but not as you know them

So, what are these little mouthfuls of deliciousness, you may ask. And, admittedly it is not immediately obvious from our typically random photo (we try!). But these are marshmallow rice crispy cakes. That’s right. Rice crispies modified with all the gooeyness of marshmallow, and little else. Unless you count the drizzle of plain chocolate which is added specifically to increase the anti-oxidants consumed by your children at parties. Because, as we all know, kids parties are all about eating healthily (ha!). We Why do we need to change a recipe that has served us so well, ever since our own childhood, you may ask? (That’s the second question you’ve asked in this blogpost so far, pipe down!) And the answer is; just because we can. The advantages to this recipe over the normal Golden Syrup scenario is that the marshmallow holds the rice crispies together really well so you can cut them into different shapes (essential). It also turns the cakes a pinky colour, which is always good. Plus there are large amounts of offcuts (the edges which you have cut from) which Claire shows you what to do with in the film we made about it here.  Plus it’s really easy. What more do you need?  Pimped up rice crispy cake Makes: 6-8 cakes Start to finish: 20 mins prep, 30 mins in fridge 45g butter 220g marshmallows 150g rice crispies 30g chocolate Line a 20x30cm tray bake tin. Put butter into a medium sized saucepan over a low heat. After a few seconds add the marshmallows. Gently heat the mix until the marshmallows have lost their shape and you are left...
Let’s go! Eroica Britannia

Let’s go! Eroica Britannia

A few months ago a friend of mine moved out of London. To say she was dreading it is probably an understatement. I think we both thought she might stop existing if she moved. What happens when you have no little local coffee shops to go to, friends to hang out with, bars to frequent? Surely you disappear into a puff of smoke? Admittedly she was heavily up the duff, so much of that stuff was going to stop anyway. But it was difficult to imagine. Cut to Sheffield, 8 months later: she loves it. She (who would only ever get black cabs) talks of the beauty of the Peak District with a tear in her eye. She no longer hankers for ‘civilisation’. Instead she raves about the local cheese shop and what great independent coffee shops there are. She’s the mother of a glorious 6 month old and she’s really really happy. She’s the one who told me about Eroica Britannia, a three day festival of cycling, food and family fun. All happening outside London, in the Peak District. It sounds brilliant but crazy. There’s dancing, family yoga, a Hendrick’s gin pavilion of the peculiar and the world’s most handsome bike ride. There are even bedtime stories. We really want to go, but are just not sure if the camper van can make that kind of distance over a weekend. Our loss is your gain though! As we have a bundle of tickets to give away:  2 x weekend tickets (3 day access – children under 12 are free) 1 x camping space 1 x parking space 2 x...
Rice pudding with lemon and bay leaf

Rice pudding with lemon and bay leaf

One of my earliest memories was sitting in a tent in the Isle of Wight on a cold rainy British summer holiday, eating a bowl of tinned rice pudding.  It was the first time I had tried it and I remember the sense of anticipation as my mum heated it on the camping stove and served it with a bright red blob of strawberry jam in the middle. I wasn’t disappointed and remember how satisfying it was stirring in the jam until the white of the rice slowly pinkened.  Food punctuates many of my childhood memories (cottage pie for birthdays, chocolate fudge pudding for special occasions, sticky buns from the bakery at the end of my granny’s road every Sunday morning) and even now 30-odd years later I can remember the excitement I felt as mum dolloped out the jam and allowed me to eat it on my lap – a holiday treat. So I have great nostalgia for rice pudding although these days it is less likely to be eaten with jam but made with coconut milk and passion fruit or cardamom. The spice makers Schwartz want people to get more adventurous with their spices and asked me to do a collaboration with them and make a pudding with bay leaves. Luckily, I already am a fan of it in with sweet things. For example, when baking plums with red wine and honey I always add bay for aromatic depth of flavor. It also works well in custard or instead of vanilla when roasting rhubarb. It is traditionally used in rice pudding along with cinnamon and nutmeg. Who knew? Certainly not...