Monthly Archives: June 2011

Mid Century-ish glasses with apples on

I’m a total sucker for anything from the 1950s and 60s (and bits of the 1970s). It reminds me of my childhood, because invariably the stuff the grown ups had around them heralded from that time. I think my all time favourite year for design (and the year I think the perfect man’s suit was made, it never got any better) was 1963, coincidentally also the year my parents got married.

Anyway. I wanted some every day drinking glasses that had a pattern on that was jolly, a bit retro, reminded me of my childhood in Italy (sniff) but weren’t so expensive I’d never use them. I looked everywhere and then I found these from of all places – Tesco. £1.25 a glass or £6 for six. I love the design, which is a bit Scanda.

Worth straying away from Waitrose for, but then hurry straight back.

Baked ricotta and sweet potato salad

This is so delicious that I started eating it and then remembered I hadn’t photographed it which is why it’s half eaten. But it looks very good when first assembled and will appeal to those who like prettiness on a plate.
If I had tons of money, one of the things I’d do is hire a chef. Someone to make wonderful little delicate salads for me. I love salads. I’m not talking limp lettuce with enough vinegar to make your hair shine, I’m talking big, blousey salads with lotsa things in them.
The problem is I don’t always feel like making them. Since my first pregnancy, sometimes preparing a salad can make me feel a bit sick. I have to do it before hunger makes me stupid, so a bit of pre-planning is required.
I’m hugely fortunate, but utterly deserving, because my partner is a fantastic cook, and I can sometimes boss him into making me a delicious salad, giving him the above reason/excuse and it seems to work. Despite me telling you all this, I’ve got quite a salad repertoire and this is one of them. It’s from Peter Gordon’s Salads. I think Gordon (The Sugar Club, The Providores) is hugely underrated by the at-home cook. I love Salads – published in 2005 – because Gordon proves that a proper salad can be a meal in its own right, not just an add-on to lessen the guilt.
The recipe below can withstand a lot of tweaking, so if as you make it you think “I can’t possibly eat this much spinach” then don’t put so much in. I found 400g waaaaay too much and only used about 150g. Don’t know if it’s a typo but see how you get on. I’ve reproduced the recipe here the way he printed it however.
Here’s what you need for four worthy people:
400g ricotta
half a teaspoon smoked sweet paprika
quarter of a spoon of cumin seeds – leave them as they are no need to crush
quarter of a teaspoon of ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
600g sweet potatoes, Gordon says to scrub their skins, I peeled mine cos I didn’t read that bit
4 tablespoons of hot water
300g grapes off the stems. He doesn’t specify which, I used red seedless. You’d be insane to use seeded ones unless you want your guests to be spitting all over lunch.
2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses (I got mine from a food market)
3 table spoons of grapeseed oil (I used a mixture of olive and rapeseed)
1 teaspoon soy sauce
2 handfuls of olives, stoned and roughly chopped
2 tablespoons of baby capers, rinsed
12 mint leaves, shredded
2 tablespoons thinly sliced chives
400g baby spinach (see above)
First you preheat the oven to 180. Line a baking tray with baking parchment and then slice the ricotta into 2cm pieces. Don’t worry if it crumbles a bit. I sliced mine whilst still  in its little round container, and then lifted it out, and it worked fine. Mix the paprika, cumin and cinnamon together with a teaspoon of the olive oil and brush this on the cheese. Sprinkle with sea salt and cook for 15 mins. Take out and leave to one side to cool.
Turn the oven up to 200C.
You’re now going to cook the sweet potatoes and grapes together, so pick two containers that will fit side by side. If you don’t have, don’t fret. This salad is served at room temperature so you can just cook one at a time. I’d probably do the grapes first.
So, cut the sweet pots into thin wedges and place in a small roasting tin. Pour in the hot water, season with salt and pepper and drizzle over the remaining olive oil. I know it sounds mad but just do it. Bake until just cooked – about 20 mins.
Place the grapes in a non-reactive dish and pour on the pomegranate molasses, grapeseed/other oil you’re using and soy sauce. Bake for 20 mins. Remove when done and leave to cool.
Once everything is at room temperature, pour the juice from the cooked grapes into a bowl and mix in the olives, capers, mint and chives to form the dressing.
To serve, toss the spinach with half the dressing and place on four plates. Scatter the sweet potato wedges on top, then flake the ricotta on top of that. Scatter over the grapes then pour the rest of the dressing over the top.
Eat. You will enjoy it.   

Sleepwear for the bigger breasted, a moan and a tip

One of the (many) things I envy about girls with breasts like tiny mandarins, is that they don’t have to worry about nightwear. They can wear whatever they want and if they have to answer the door to the postman or the milkman or the Milk Tray man (where IS he these days?) they don’t have to do it with their arms folded because their breasts are unsupported.

Naturally, big-breasted girls can do this too, but personally, I don’t like wondering round the house in my pyjamas with unfettered breasts.

Also if your breasts are really large and/or you’re breastfeeding, it really isn’t that comfortable sleeping with no support at all. Many women really don’t like wearing a bra at night but you don’t want nuffin, neither. I know this from years of co-running a parenting board (no not that one, this one).

Now, you can get pyjamas/nighties with ‘secret support’ – Bravissimo being the most obvious – but they are all sleeveless, and I like to have my shoulders covered at night. But also it really limits you to the styles available (which you may or may not like) at a time when, as a big-bosomed woman, you already feel you have limited choice in clothes.

M&S now does (and has done for a while) some secret support camisoles that are really rather good and these work really well at providing a modicum of support and you can wear them on their own, atop a PJ style trouser, if – unlike me – you don’t mind having your shoulders bare. Or under any normal PJ you like, thus opening you up to choose from any PJs out there. You could I guess also wear them with nighties, but I don’t really do nighties.

My favourite M&S secret support camisole vesty things are these and these. Both are £12 a piece and come in a variety of colours, the shoulder straps also adjust, a nice touch.

Although Bravissimo does a racer back PJ top in lots of larger sizes, so it fits better than the M&S ones if you’re big-cupped, they are over double the price and always sold out. It also has great strappy tops, but these cost even more: £32. So I think the M&S ones compare really favourably, especially if all you want is something to wear for a bit of support under your current nightwear without going to bed fully upholstered in a bra.

If you’ve found a solution that works for you, do share..

Lollipops…lovely chocolate lollipops…

A mint leaf enrobed in dark chocolate atop a stick. Joy.

When I was researching how to make my One Giant After Eight mint, I came across this on t’internet which I thought was a fantastic idea.

So I made some and they were great and so easy. There’s something about giving people a little chocolate something on a stick that makes them go crazy. (I got some mint leaves, melted some 70% cocoa chocolate, dripped it over the top and stuck a lollipop stick on, do the lot on some baking parchment, put in fridge for not very long at all, peel off, present with coffee.)

This got me thinking of making other chocolate lollipops. My children like chocolate and I don’t mind them eating it, but prefer them to have good quality dark chocolate which is actually good for you: it’s not easy finding dark chocolate lollies, the choice in milk chocolate whatnot is HUGE, in dark chocolate? Not so much. You can of course also make these chocolollos for adults and serve them after dinner with coffee/instead of a dessert. They are my new BIG NEW THING THAT I’M REALLY EXCITED ABOUT and am pressing chocolate lollies on everyone who comes round.

So I decided to get some lollipop moulds to make the process even simpler and because I’m a sucker for gadgets. This means you can make a tray of choco lollies in under five minutes and they look so neat and perfect. I just melt the chocolate in a jug, in the microwave (about 100g makes seven lollies, roughly), pour them into the moulds, putting in whatever you like – sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, chopped nuts, chopped up mint leaves, whole mint leaves, flakes of chilli, bashed up mints or honeycomb. I mean just GO CRAZY. Up to you with whether you put the ‘filling’ in before or after pouring in the chocolate – you get different effects according to which you do.  I like it cos it means I can give my children a chocolate hit with omega-3 rich seeds which makes this practically a health food.

I got my moulds from Make a Wish Cake Shop, the 7 in one plain one is this one. (Ignore the pic, what you get is a plain tray with seven plain lolly impressions, those funny pics are stick on sugar discs, nothing to do with the mould.) I also got this 4 in one which gives you a much bigger lollipop, only really for special occasions I’d say. Then you need some lolly sticks.

There are lots of other places that do lolly moulds/sticks but that’s where I got mine and the service was fast.

I am aware this is the third chocolate post in a row.

An update in November 2011. I make these all the time and have experimented with crushed coffee beans (espresso ones if it makes a difference): excellent. But the BIG find was popping candy (I get mine from Waitrose, it’s in the baking aisle, near stuff like sprinkles and cooking chocolate. It’s fantastic, you sprinkle some popping candy (it comes in little rocks almost like crystals) into each mould and pour the chocolate on top. Then, when you eat the candy it ‘explodes’ in  your mouth.

Lollies in chocolate. With bits.

And yet more..