Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Lemon drizzle cake with lemon curd icing

"In Britain, a cup of tea is the answer to every problem.
Fallen off your bicycle? Nice cup of tea.
Your house has been destroyed by a meteorite? Nice cup of tea and a biscuit.
Your entire family has been eaten by a Tyrannosaurus Rex that has travelled through a space/time portal? Nice cup of tea and a piece of cake. Possibly a svaoury option would be welcome here too, for example a Scotch egg or a sausage roll".
David Walliams, Mr Stink

Can't argue with that quote, as it is entirely true. You have life problems, you reach for the kettle. And if there's a slice of cake, life definitely looks more promising. At least for the next five minutes.
In the last year I've been mostly baking numerous variations of the carrot cake as it's my older son's favourite kind of cake. Me? A chocolate cake wins every time. But I do love a slice of a good old-fashioned lemon drizzle cake as well/

Lemon drizzle cake with lemon curd icing

zest of 2 lemons, unwaxed
200g caster sugar
3 medium eggs
150g self-raising flour
50g cornflour
1tsp baking powder
120g butter, melted
2tbsp lemon juice
5tbsp lemon curd for the filling
6tbsp icing sugar with enough lemon juice to make a runny icing

Mix the zest of 2 lemons with the caster sugar, beat in 3 medium eggs, one at a time. Add the flour, cornflour, baking powder, melted butter and mix well until the cake batter is of smooth consistency.
Pour the contents of the mixing bowl into an oiled cake spring form cake tin, about 20cm in diameter. Put the cake tin in the oven preheated to 180C. Bake for about 40-45 minutes. Check readiness with a wooden toothpick.
Let the cake cool a bit in the tin before taking it out. Cut the cake into two round slices, using a thin knife or a cake wire slicer. Spread 3tbsp of lemon curd on the lower layer and sandwich two layers.
For the icing mix 2tbsp of lemon curd with 6tbsp of icing sugar and enough freshly squeezed lemon juice to make a runny icing. Drizzle over the cake, and shake a bit more of the icing sugar on top.
Serve with a cup of tea. Don't forget to lick your fingers.

In this recipe I used a delicious lemon curd Lemoncello from The Hawkshead's Relish's new range Culinary Couture, but if you cannot find it, any good quality lemon curd will do.

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Photo diary: week 25, 366

We're fast approaching the end of the school year. A few more weeks, I have to tell myself every morning, forcing myself out of bed. I'm sooo not a morning person. Last weekend we spent at home, as my husband was away in Rome and Milan. I finally trimmed Eddie's hair, as he was turning into a Goldilocks. OK, it's not the straightest haircut in the neighbourhood, but I've done worse before.
Not the best photo either, as it was quite dark indoors, and the flash on my camera refuses to work.

Eddie and I baked Finding Dory cupcakes after school. We found the baking kit at Tesco online.

On Tuesday I was trying to take photos of the infused water. The sun was in full blast, and Eddie was jumping around.

I don't know what this little plant is, it's more of a weed than anything else. It looked very pretty after the rain, sparkling like a diamond diadem.

A glamorous rose with a sweet scent

Rain, rain, rain, every day it's raining. June, where are you? It's not different from April weather-wise.
Dog rose after the rain:

Tired after a tennis class, Eddie's lounging on the sofa, watching Alvin & the Chipmunks, while I keep telling him off and asking to lower the sound, as I find their voices mightily annoying.

How did your week go?

Alvin and the Chipmunks: the Road Chip

- Eddie, not so loud please!
- But Mummy, I love the music!


Our chipmunks' movies collection has just been expanded by the latest installment called Alvin and the Chipmunks: the Road Chip (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment).

The chipmunks are back with a vengeance. These mini pop-stars hit the road and make your head spin.
The blurb promises: "Alvin, Simon and Theodore race to Miami on a wild road trip, but their jaunt takes a nutty detour, leading to hilarious hijinks and music-packed adventures across the country".
The mischievous chipmunks whom my son calls cheek-munks are in trouble. Their father-figure Dave has got a new girlfriend Samantha. Not only that, Samantha has a teenager son Miles who hates the little rodents.
The trio suspect that the proposal is in the wings when they find an engagement ring packed in the bags for the trip. There is only one thing they could do - to ruin the matrimonial plans and save themselves from the unwelcome addition to the family.

What did we think about the film? Eddie loved it, but then again, he enjoyed all the previous chipmunks' adventures.

As for my opinion, let's just say, I have never been a fan of any of the Chipmunks films, I find the voices and songs very irritating. These silly little creatures grate on my nerves. Though I'm obviously not in the age group of those who appreciate the series.
While I find all the fart-poop jokes tedious and annoying, Eddie thinks they're ever so funny.

I cannot say that I watched the whole film with him, alas, it was too much for me to endure, but I was staying in the same room most of the time, glancing at the screen from time to time, and thinking to myself: just what the heck did I see and hear? It could be just me, but I don't find chipmunks' "sexy" comments about scantily clad girls appropriate for a children's film. I thought they were supposed to be kids, not diminutive sized adults with a one brain cell.

There are two discs in the set, including the Ultimate Playlist featuring the best songs from all the Alvin and the Chipmunks movies.
I haven't told Eddie that the second disc is all music (when he asked what was there, I said it's a documentary on how they made the film). Shall I come clean and let him enjoy the songs? Then I'll have to hide in the garden, away from the squeaky little terrors.

Do your kids love Alvin and the Chipmunks? Have you seen the Road Chip?

Alvin and the Chipmunks display in the local Sainsbury's

Friday, 24 June 2016

Keep calm and drink more water

My boys are fussy eaters, but ,thankfully, I don't have to encourage them to drink more water. They drink plenty of water, both tap and bottled. While my older son prefers a certain brand of flavoured water, he's as happy with just plain water, especially if I add some ice.
With more outdoors activities planned in warmer weather, we need to carry bottles of water with us. Eddie has recently started playing tennis. After every session he is so thirsty, he gulps up the whole bottle.

I know some kids as well as grown-ups need quite a bit of encouragement to drink more. Take my Mum. She says she's not thirsty and might go without water until the afternoon. I am forever nagging her that it's not healthy.
If you or your kids find the taste of plain water boring, Robinsons have recently launched a campaign called Enjoying Drinking More Water.
They say: "With real fruit in every drop, Robinsons is a tasty way to enjoy drinking more water". The Robinsons range contains no added sugar, is free from artificial colours and preservatives. They have recently expanded their range to add the super concentrated squash called Robinsons Squash'd.
It comes in 6 flavours including Summer Fruits, Lemon & Lime, Citrus, Orange & Peach, Apple & Blackcurrant and Passion fruit & Mango. Each container is small and portable, so you can even carry it around with you.

summer squash

You need just a tiny squeeze to flavour a glass of water. And by tiny I do mean tiny, as otherwise your drink will be very sweet. This is a concentrated squash, so you really need just a few droplets.

summer squash

I quite often buy cordials and squash and often jazz the drink up with sliced citrus fruit and fresh mint leaves.

Infused water is one of the foodie trends these days. All the health guru-bloggers seem to be extolling its virtues. But it surely is not a novelty. My Mum has been doing it many years ago, when we were kids. She's been always adding sliced fruit, berries, herbs to the iced or hot tea and water.
It certainly is much more cost-effective to make your own soft drinks at home. I have recently seen the infused water in what Mumsnetters would definitely call a "naice place", and the price was quite shocking really.

cold summer drinks

I tend to slice a whole orange (peel on) and add a couple of slices of lemon to a small jug of water. Sometimes I add mint leaves, sometimes I drizzle a little bit of squash for an extra flavour.

cold summer drinks

Cucumber peel makes a very refreshing drink, while strawberries add a touch of sweetness. And again, if you add a few drops of Squash'd, you have a whole variety of different flavours to choose.

cold summer drinks

cold summer drinks

These little portable squashes will come handy when we stay in Cornwall later in summer. We can jump to our heart's content on the beach, run and scream like noone is watching, play football, dig the trenches in the sand and then have a cool flavoured drink, because holidaying on the beach is a thirsty job.

We are counting days until the school holidays start. So many plans, so much to see and discover...

This post is an entry for BritMums #EnjoyMoreWaterChallenge. sponsored by Robinsons.

Disclosure: I received a selection of Squash'd for the purposes of writing this post. All opinions are mine.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Primrose's Kitchen expands its range

vegan breakfast foods

When I was a child, my Mum used to tell me that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. She also liked to repeat that rather tired maxim "Eat your breakfast yourself, share lunch with a friend and give your dinner to your enemy". The recent research concluded that actually breakfast might not be the most important meal of the day. Either way, I don't quite trust much of the modern research regarding eating habits as it often has its own agenda. I don't skip breakfast, as I need "fuel" to keep me going, and I certainly make sure my boys have their breakfast too before school.
These days the range of breakfast cereals is so vast, you might get lost. Which health benefits to believe, which take with a pinch of salt?
I have recently discovered The Primrose's Kitchen range of natural food. The brand is the brainchild of Primrose Matheson who did Naturopathic and Complementary health studies and has a degree in Homeopathy. She used her knowledge to create a range of the natural and wholesome food which includes muesli and granola, nut and seed butter, sprinkles and smoothie boosters.

The Primrose's Kitchen has recently expanded its range of inspired breakfast products by introducing a new flavour of granola as well as organic oats.

Organic Porridge oats are sourced in the UK and have been milled, using centuries-old methods.
As you know, oats are a great breakfast food which keeps you going for the whole morning (well, until the elevenses anyway, when I do enjoy a cup of coffee with a biccie).

vegan breakfast

I like to jazz up a meal of porridge by adding some sliced fruit or berries, and pour a syrup or honey. To make it colourful and pretty, slice a couple of small fresh or dried figs and drizzle a good glug of date syrup. Totally delicious! Of course, if you're virtuous, skip the fruit and syrup and have your porridge plain.
Since I don't follow a vegan diet, I used milk to cook the porridge, but for a vegan option cook it with almond milk or water.

breakfast porridge, health food

I also used these oats as an ingredient for baking oat walnut cookies. The oats gave the cookies a lovely texture and flavour. Oats are my favourite way of adding texture and extra fibre to cookies.

Oatmeal & Chia porridge is another tasty porridge. I wasn't sure if I were going to like it, as it does sounds "too healthy" - chia seeds seem to be promoted by all health gurus as a super food.
I cooked the porridge with milk (and again, use almond milk or water for a vegan version) and topped up with a sliced banana and chopped coconut chunks.
The chia seeds add a little bit of crunch to the creamy porridge. It was a very enjoyable porridge.

Organic Orange & Cashew Granola is a wholesome mix of orange, cashew, sunflower seeds, raisins, coconut pieces, cinnamon, nutmeg and Himalayan salt. All my favourite flavours together, this is a perfect granola for me. It has a delightful aroma and a crunchy texture.

vegan breakfast foods

I rarely have a granola in the morning, but I do love a bit of granola in a simple dessert. Just put a handful of granola inside a glass, top up with coconut yogurt (or Greek style yogurt) and a spoonful of your favourite jam for an amazingly moreish treat. Orange & Cashew granola topped up with coconut yogurt and lingonberry jam is just heavenly.
If you want to try exactly the same recipe, look for a coconut yogurt from The Coconut Collaborative and a Swedish rose hips and lingonberry jam from Felix.
My boys enjoy eating granola as a snack, straight from the packet, and without any milk.

We loved Primrose's Kitchen products, they are bursting with flavour and goodness.

Have you tried any of Primrose's Kitchen products?

Primrose's Kitchen orange * cashew granola

Disclosure: I received a selection of Primrose's Kitchen products for the purposes of testing and reviewing. All opinions are mine.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Belledorm luxury percale bed linen

When it comes to bedrooms, I prefer pretty pastel colours and soft patterns. My younger son is the complete opposite, he loves all the bold and bright designs, and has a selection of bed linen with Spiderman, Ninja Turtles, Trucks etc. But like me, he finds the smell of the fresh bedlinen irresistible. Whenever I'm changing the bedding, he'd be right there, jumping on the bed and "helping" me.
Belledorm luxury percale bed linen is available in a wide range of sizes and colours, to suit all tastes and styles.
Browsing at Rooi online, I have picked a Belledorm 200TC polycotton contemporary plain double duvet cover in duck egg blue and matching pillow cases for our older son's bedroom.
The set has arrived in a cotton bag, which could be reused for keeping the linen whenever you don't use it.

As it is a blend of 50% cotton and 50% polyester, it is easy to wash and iron.
Anything that requires minimal ironing is a bonus for me. With three men to look after and iron their clothes on a daily basis, I'm not too enthusiastic when it comes to ironing the bed linen too.
Polycotton keeps cool in summer and warm in winter, and is pretty durable.
I have already washed our set a couple of times, so can confirm that it washes well. It is a stylish and practical range of bed linen, suitable for everyday use, and comes with a seven years guarantee. It is also available in Single, King and Super King sizes.

I like all shades of blue, as I think this colour is classic and timeless, and helps to create a look of serenity in the bedroom. My older son prefers a minimalist look, so this colour scheme worked very well for his bedroom.

The beauty of the plain dye bed linen is that it is available in a colour palette to suit any home and that you can mix and match it with the other bedding sets to create whichever look you fancy.
If a one-colour scheme is not to your taste, jazz it up with a different shade of the same colour or patterned design which includes the same colour or different shades of the colour.

It can be kept simple, uncluttered and stylish, it can be eye-catching and vibrant when matched with a few accessories that make a bold statement. For example, some bold stripes on pillow cases or cushions could be added for a nautical look.
Imagine this lovely blue with a few little cushions which have a floral design and a bit of tatty lace for the shabby chic bedroom.
The possibilities are endless. But then I'm very much a mix-and-match person, in my reading preferences, musical tastes, interior design and culinary trends.
If you're a purist and minimalist, keep it simple.

What does your bedroom say about you?

Disclosure: We received a set of bedlinen for the purposes of testing and reviewing. All opinions are ours.

Monday, 20 June 2016

Mr Frosty the ice crunchy maker

I confess I have never had a Mr Frosty, when I was a child, so don't have any personal nostalgic memories to share. But I understand there is a lot of excitement around from bloggers who were kids in the 80s and Mr Frosty was one of the top toys on their Christmas wish list. The Original Mr Frosty is back, with a fresh new look. And doesn't he look cute?!

Mr Frosty the ice crunchy and slushy maker has been revamped and is eager to meet the new generation of mini-chefs. His cool ice-crushing function allows kids to create slushy drinks.

What is included in the kit?
There's Mr Frosty with a pull-out drawer, of course, two ice cube trays, two mini-bowls and spoons, a penguin squirter and a set of ice lolly moulds.

Last week we had a few very warm days, including a scorcher of a Saturday. It was a perfect weather for ice lollies. That was easy-peasy. Since the moulds are quite small, it didn't take long for the juice to set, and we had lovely refreshing fruit juice lollies.

The big bonus of this gadget is that you can make your lollies as healthy as you like, mixing the fruit and vegetable juice. For example, I used Yellow Mellow smoothie from Waitrose which is a mix of fruit and vegetable juice with turmeric.

Eddie was very excited about the ice lolly moulds. He remembers our trip to Cornwall two years ago, when his cousin Sasha and he made ice lollies together from the apple juice and milk. These lolly moulds are quite small, you will get mini-ice lollies.

Now, moving onto a trickier part of the kit - Mr Frosty himself.
First  you need to make novelty shaped ice cubes, using two of the yellow ice cube trays.

Mr Frosty yellow cube tray

Once frozen, take the tray out and let the ice soften a bit before putting them inside Mr Frosty under his hat. Plop the hat on, and turn the handle in the back to crush the ice. Sounds easy enough, alas, my first attempt at slushy making was a total failure.
Maybe I waited for too long for the ice cubes to soften, but all we got was a coloured muddy puddle with little bits of ice, with half of the ice still inside the main body of Mr Frosty.
So, you'll need to find a fine balance between ice being too soft and turning into a puddle of too hard and causing a possible damage to the handle.

ice slushy

I liked the yellow trays, as I think we'll make good use of them this summer, making coloured funky-shaped cubes for drinks in the garden.

Mr Frosty costs £19.99 and is available at Smyths and The Entertainer. It will be a part of a collection of frozen treat making toys including an ice cream maker coming later this year.

Find out more about Flair's range of creative products for children at CoolCreateClub.

Disclosure: I received Mr Frosty for the purposes of testing and reviewing. All opinions are mine.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Tomatoey veal stew

comfort food

Though stews are considered to be mostly winter warmers, in the last month we had a few really cold evenings. On a couple of occasions we got very wet on the way home from school, when even our raincoats didn't manage to cope with the amount of rain (so much for the totally overpriced raincoat from Seasalt! I appreciate it's a very "middle-class-problem", but annoying nevertheless). 
We came home, stripped everything off, dried ourselves with the towels and put on warm fleeces. Eddie requested a cup of hot milk with honey to warm him up. And I cooked a warming stew for dinner, as the salad somehow didn't appeal. I also added a bit more spice than usual, just in case, to prevent any possible cold.

comfort food

Tomatoey veal stew
350g veal, diced
1tbsp Sambhar powder
1 red onion
3tbsp olive oil
1 medium carrot, sliced
2 tomatoes, sliced
a handful of dried apricots, sliced
70g tomato concentrate (SuperCirio double concentrated tomato puree)
1tbsp Jack Daniel's BBQ glaze
2 medium potatoes, cubed

Finely slice the red onion and fry for 5 minutes with the olive oil, stirring regularly. Add the cubed veal and Sambrah powder, cook, until well browned on all sides. Put the veal and onion in a medium sized pan, add the sliced carrot, tomatoes, a handful of sliced dried apricots, tomato concentrate, BBQ glaze and pour hot boiling water over the meat, about 2cm over. Bring to boil, then lower the heat and simmer for an hour, adding more water as necessary. Add the cubed potatoes after half an hour of cooking and season well with the sea salt.
Serve hot, with a nice chunk of bread to mop up the juices.

It is a delicious stew, very flavourful and gloriously red in colour.

Any concentrated tomato puree will do in this recipe, but if you're looking for a good quality tomato product, check out Cirio, one of my favourite Italian brands.

Sambhar powder (Seasoned Pioneers) is a spice blend including channa dal, urad dal, turmeric, red chillies, coriander, cumin, black peppercorns, mustard seeds, fenugreek and asafoetida. It has a spicy nutty taste and gives a nice kick of heat. This spice is widely used in South Indian cuisine.

comfort food

I used some of the spice which I've had for a while (there's still a little bit left) as well as a small tub of tomato concentrate, hence I'm adding my post to #KitchenClearout linky hosted by Cheryl from Madhouse Family Reviews.