Saturday, 31 December 2011

The Wind in the Willows (Folio Society) giveaway c/d 1 February 2012 CLOSED NOW

Reading a post title on one of my forums that everyone has a Kindle now made me a bit sad. I don't have a Kindle and don't want one, it can never substitute real books to me. A technical device, however clever it is, will never be able to provide all the tactile pleasures of opening a new or an old book, replicate its smell, the crispness or softness of pages, the smoothness of paper.
And what about the so called pre-loved books, you open an old volume and find little scribbles and inscriptions that make you wonder who was the person that read this book years ago.
I have always enjoyed reading, since my early days. I love books, collect them, my life would be incomplete without them. They are my salvation and escape from at times almost unbearable reality.

I read recently in the Guardian an interesting feature on how the book has become a precious object once more. The article was about the cover designs. It mentioned the Booker acceptance speech Julian Barnes made recently where he paid an animated tribute to his book designer.

The Folio Society is a world known company which has been publishing exquisite editions of the classic texts since 1947. I joined the Folio Society about ten years ago, when we lived in the States, and every year I choose a few volumes to add to our collection.

To start the new year with the bang (even of mini-proportions, lol), I would like to offer you a beautiful Folio Society edition of The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. It is a gorgeous book with the most fascinating illustrations.

Bound in full cloth, blocked in black and gold with a design by Charles van Sandwyk and with a printed paper label inset.
264 Pages, 85 illustrations, 35 in colour, by Charles van Sandwyk
Printed endpapers and slipcase. Set in Founders Caslon.

To be entered in the draw please follow two simple steps:
1. Answer the question by leaving a comment below this post
2. Leave a comment on any other post.
Only people who will do both steps will be entered in the draw. I love reading comments, so please indulge me, you can choose any older post to leave a comment.

You do not have to follow my blog to be entered in the draw. If you decide to follow my blog, I will be thrilled, of course.
Please leave me some means of getting in touch with you if you win: your Twitter name, or forum name (if you come from any of the comping forums), if you use a Blogger, make sure there is an email address in your profile.

And the question is:
What is (are) your favourite book(s) for children?

This is a not a sponsored giveaway, I have bought the book and would prefer it to go to someone who loves books and who would appreciate a new addition to their home library.
This giveaway is open to the UK residents only, sorry, as the book is quite heavy.

Good luck! The winner will be chosen on 1 February.


Many thanks for all your wonderful entries, I enjoyed reading them all. I wish I had a prize for each and everyone, alas, it is only one copy.
The raffleking made a choice for me from a long list of entries.
And the winner is..... drumroll please - Sharon! Congratulations, Sharon! I will get in touch with you as to where to post your prize and hope you will enjoy it!

Happy New Year!

Happy new year!

This photo must have been taken when my little brother was about 2 years old, and I was about 5. Here we are, dressed smartly for the New Year's party. I presume I was a snowflake, as I am wearing a paper crown made by my Mum.
It feels like this was another life, which never happened to me.

I do hope 2012 will be a good one for all of us, and that all the worries and health problems will stay behind in the new year.

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Have yourself a Merry little Christmas!

Oh yeah, mmm
Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Let your heart be light
From now on your troubles will be out of sight, yeah

Saturday, 24 December 2011

How to eat custard

If you are searching online for the best ways and methods of eating custard and googling for the custard etiquette, go no further. We show you step by step the most enjoyable ways of consuming this product. The demo is done with officially the best custard in the world, i.e. Abel & Cole's Luxury Vanilla Custard (Description: You could freeze this and eat it as ice cream! It’s that creamy, velvety and decadent. Isabel says it's made with 80% cream, and a good heap of vanilla pods are scraped into each pot.)

You are allowed to use the spoon, of course.

Then lick the plate.

Then hold the plate firmly and keep licking.
Use your fingers to scoop it.

Nah, the best way is eating it like this.

Hope you enjoy it as much as we did. Merry Christmas!

Friday, 23 December 2011

Salmon, scallop and mussel soup (Nigel Slater's recipe)

I enjoyed reading Nigel Slater's feature on Oslo and its cuisine in the latest issue of The Observer. The fish soup Oslo-style sounded very tempting, and I was fed up with the pasta dishes and needed something different.

Here is the recipe for Salmon, scallop and mussel soup (if you fancy reading the article, study the recipe in full and the other recipes go here).

Nigel being a talented chef has included a home-made stock in his recipe, but he also suggested that we simple mortals can use a good-quality readymade fish stock (which is exactly what I did).
You will need 800ml.

Serves 4
For the stock:
carrot 1
leek 1, small
olive or rapeseed oil 1 tbsp
onion 1, small
bay leaf 1
black peppercorns 6
fish bones 800g

For the basil purée (optional):
basil leaves 20g
olive oil 75ml

For the soup:
salmon fillet 400g, skinned
scallops 8
dill 10g
mussels 12
double cream 250ml

Make the fish stock. Roughly chop the carrot and the leek, put them in a deep pan with the oil and let them cook for 5 minutes over a low to moderate heat. Peel and chop the onion, add it to the carrot and leek and continue cooking for 10 minutes or until the vegetables are soft and sweet. Add the bay leaf, the peppercorns and the fish bones, then pour in enough water to cover the bones, at least 1.5 litres, and bring to the boil. Remove any froth with a draining spoon, then leave the stock to simmer for no more than 30 minutes. Drain the stock, you will need 800ml, and discard the bones.
To make the basil purée, put the basil leaves and olive oil in a blender and whizz to a thick, dark green cream, then set aside.
Pour 800ml of stock into a clean pan and bring to the boil before turning down to a simmer. Cut the salmon into 3-4cm cubes and lower into the stock, then almost immediately add the scallops, chopped dill and the mussels. The second the mussels have opened, add the cream, season the soup with a little salt, then ladle into warm bowls. Stir in the basil purée if you are using it, and serve."

I confess: I didn't make the fish stock myself, I don't have any fish bones or heads stored in the fridge, though I have been pestering the guy at the fish counter in Waitrose many times if they have any salmon heads for sale, he thinks I have a salmon head fetish or something. I keep buying fish and freeze all the heads, but I need it for cooking a dish of my own for which I will need a clear fish stock. For Nigel's recipe I used the fresh fish stock courtesy of Waitrose. I added a shallot and a bay leaf, plus a small chopped carrot a small potato.
Also I adjusted the amount of fish, for two of us. Sasha would only eat the tuna pate, and Eddie loves the fish fingers. I'm afraid the wonders of the Scandinavian soup would not be appreciated by them.
Reader, I tried, they both declined. :)

The first thing to take into account is that it is not a cheap soup. A 200 g fillet of salmon and scallops with mussels cost about £8, plus the fresh fish stock and the basil plant for £1.99, so not exactly a frugal meal. Perhaps if you are a Scandinavian fisherman, the price is low. Alas, I am not. Neither am I married to a Russian oligarch, and thanks goodness for life's little mercies.

Let me tell you, it was one of the best fish soups I ever had. Totally mouthwatering. Both my husband and I thought it was delicious. I will definitely cook it again.
And the basil puree was an inspired touch. Bravo, Nigel Slater, you are a genius.

Bakestone Bread's Baker's Dozen and I

I saw an appeal from Bakestone Bread company recently, looking for new members for the bread testing panel. How could I not try my luck?! I was delighted to receive the news that I am one of the chosen testers.
Bakestone has enlisted thirteen bakery aficionados to join The Baker’s Dozen, a panel of taste testers who will sample their new products to help perfect the newest recipes.
I could write an essay about bread and how much we love it. Being born and bred in Russia, I cannot live a day without it. Bread is the most sacred food, and in the old times guests were welcomed with a bread and salt. Just like this Russian beauty greeting her guests.

But my post today is not about Russian traditions, perhaps I should post about them one day.
Today I am talking about the Bakestone Bread and being a part of the Baker's Dozen.

Their motto is: At Bakestone, we pride ourselves on creating the tastiest, wholesome baked goods using traditional recipes and only the freshest ingredients. However, we know that we have to keep innovating and refining our recipes to make them the best they can be for the British public.

My first parcel contained all sorts of bread products: Bakestone's classic white and brown loaves, fruited teacakes and a selection of potato cakes (bubble & squeak, leek and spring onion).

I first made toast with the brown bread, and offered a slice each to my guys, who were more than happy to be testers. As you can see, happy indeed.

Sasha is very particular about trying new foods, and I was very pleased that he enjoyed the brown bread. In fact he enjoyed it so much, that I am in trouble now. The loaf is finished, and when I bought another brand brown bread, he sniffed at it, had a bite and decided it is not for him. I wish Bakestone bread was more widely available.
Apart from the toast, I also made simple butter and cheese sandwiches with it.

Sasha lives on tuna pate sandwiches, and the white bread from Bakestone is perfect for this purpose. We also tried it as a toast with butter and jam.

My favourite part of the parcel was potato cakes, these are far the best potato cakes I ever tried. My, aren't they scrummy!
We had them as they are, warmed up, we had them with a bit of cheese and prosciutto. My husband was asking for seconds and his verdict was Excellent! And again, I wish they were available in the local shops.

My personal favourites among the selection were Bubble & Squeak, they were absolutely delicious.

I hardly ever buy fruited teacakes, as this is a product I am never sure what to eat with. Bakestone fruited teacakes are made with sultanas, and are plump and on the big size, perhaps too big (that's my only issue). We had them toasted and served with a bit of butter and jam. I also used half of the pack to make a bread and butter pudding (with an egg, milk, apricot jam, sugar and a small fromage frais) to be served with custard. Yum!

The Bakestone range is widely available in the North, I believe, and I say: bring it down to the South.

Don't stay vexed, get back in shape with Davina and Next

I've been scoffing this season mince pies and panforte,
My figure right now is far from sporty.
I'm no material for the Olympic arena,
I need to lose weight, come to the rescue, Davina!
It doesn't matter if you're 20 or 40,
Exercise, eat healthy and be fit and sporty!

OK, I exaggerated a bit, I am not that much in need of losing weight, maybe just a tiny bit, but that's winter for you, you gain weight like a bear ready to hibernate and then lose it with the warmer weather and lighter meals. I am no fitness fanatic, and for me nothing could more boring than going the gym. Looking after my family is challenging enough and running after my two guys keeps me quite fit, in fact carrying Eddie around the house makes me think of Bruce Willis's muscles (not a very flattering comparison for a woman, he he).
Also as a breastfeeding Mum, I don't find it a problem to keep weight at bay. One of the advantages of breastfeeding is that you can have your cake and eat it and still keep trim.
Saying all that, I used to exercise at home, and hope to start the routine again, doing simple exercises with Eddie while listening to the music, at least that is a big plan.
I do not believe in the New Year resolutions, my resolution is not to make any. But teaching my kid to enjoy exercising as a fun activity rather than a chore might inspire me to do more for myself.
As I don't drive, and walk every day into town for a bit of grocery shopping if not the fresh air, comfy shoes are very important. Sadly comfy often comes as unflattering or plain ugly. That's why I was reading with interest that Davina has teamed up with Next and is going to launch a line of shoes and fitness clothes.

Through her hugely successful fitness DVD’s, Davina McCall’s infectious enthusiasm has inspired countless women to exercise. Launching in time for Spring 2012, Davina For Next provides the ultimate workout and post work-out clothing along with a range of innovative everyday shoes which feature dual density mid-sole technology to reduce stress on joints. From aerobics to running, power-lifting to pilates – all in great modern shapes, fabulous colours and outstanding fabrics, there’s something for every activity.

Davina says: “My approach was to concentrate on what I would wear, thinking very carefully about the details that matter to me, like a place for an MP3 player, or reflective strips on the bottoms – essential when you’re jogging in the early morning or at dusk. And I’ve ensured the workout tops are extremely solid and secure so your boobs won’t be bobbing around while you’re working out!”  

There’s an important footnote to this fruitful collaboration. Harnessing Next’s F.I.T. technology, Davina has developed a line of stylish everyday shoes that offer aspects of comfort, performance and muscle activation previously restricted to cumbersome sports footwear. Think cute ballerinas in bright patent or animal print – and imagine a reduction in stress on load bearing joints. Elegant citysmart flats are engineered to increase calf and hamstring activation by up to 12% while canvas pumps carry the promise of decreased heel impact. And Davina’s ultra-feminine trainers will exert 25% less pressure on the ball of the foot.

Spot Corsage Ballerinas £32 - White Sports Trainers £45 - Floral Ballerinas £30

Davina For Next promises to shake up what any woman wears before, during and after her workout. Her comfort and style are assured as she gets into great shape!

The flower print shoes look very pretty and feminine, and I applaud the idea of the decreased heel impact, as sometimes my feet are killing me after a long walk. Some of the new range footwear is very much Cath Kidstone, whose range I admire for the flowery prints and designs.
I will certainly be looking for them once the collection arrives to the shops in spring. Anything that would make my life easier is welcome, and if it is also pretty, then a double welcome!

Macaroni for Berlusconi,
Fusilli for Aldo Zilli,
FIT technology and fitness cami -
For this yummy Mummy.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Travelling with tots (tips from Tots Too and Chez Maximka)

Do you have to travel at this time of the year with your tots? Then I don't envy you. It could be the most stressful experience.
With years of experience of travelling behind me, my main advice would be to be prepared to any eventuality and brace yourself.

We first travelled with Sasha when he was 17 months old, and we were returning from the States to the UK. It was his first ever flight, and it went reasonably well. He slept for quite a good amount of hours. The next flight was shorter, we went to Italy for Christmas, and for several years we have been travelling with Sasha regularly: to Italy, Russia, Austria and Canada.
Some trips went smoothly, some of them I still recollect with a feeling of quiet horror. One of the worst trips was just after the July 2005 London bombings, we had to fly a couple of days later, and it was a trip from hell from start to finish. The Heathrow authorities went overboard with the security and forbade taking anything on board with you. Sasha by then was diagnosed as having autism, and obviously you cannot explain to a young child with the condition why you are not allowed to take your snacks or toys with you. We had a box of grapes confiscated, and forced to leave his favourite toy elephants behind. For Sasha it was a complete blow, he had a particular attachment to those elephant toys, they travelled everywhere with us, taking them away was just totally unnecessary. How can a small plastic toy be a security issue is beyond my understaning. There was no reasoning with the Heathrow people who are not helpful even at the best of times. As he is very picky about what he eats, and we were not allowed to take any food with us, he stayed hungry for many hours, as the flight was delayed and there was nothing at all inside the food malls that he would eat. I suppose if you don't have a personal experience of living with a child on the spectrum, you might dismiss all the worries we have as insignificant.
So, some things you can plan and some are totally beyond your control. Travelling with little ones can be also a learning journey for you.
Sasha delighted in the airplanes, he has no fear of flying and enjoys looking in the window.
Your little guys and girls might have lots of fun, exploring the airport, if there is a chance and going up and down the escalator is a game that never gets boring, believe me.
It doesn't need to be dramatic, try to think in advance on what might happen and how to avoid the worst. Write down the plan if necessary. I am featuring here advice presented by the Tots Too (and if you want to know whether I agree with all they had to say, keep reading)

As the Christmas holidays are almost upon us, many families are taking the opportunity to escape on holiday over the festive period. However, travelling with children can be a stressful experience, especially if they are excited about Christmas. This is why luxury travel specialists Tots Too have put together 10 tips to help ease the stress of flying with young children.
Tots Too was founded 5 years ago by sisters Emma and Deborah Barnett, when they realised that many people felt they were unable to go on luxury holidays since becoming parents. Tots Too will guide families through every step of the process, from researching suitable hotels, to giving personal advice on what to pack, and there help is still on offer when you are away enjoying your holiday.

Travel Tips from Tots Too

Flying with children of any age can be a challenging and daunting experience. From first time parents, to families with a whole brood, it is never an easy task to keep toddlers comfortable and older children occupied. That’s why luxury family holiday specialists Tots Too (, have put together these top ten simple tips that can help parents and children to travel peacefully and allow you to enjoy your holiday from take-off.

  1. You can send bulky toys and nappies ahead of you so you can travel light.
  2. Small children love to have their own luggage to fill with toys for the journey.
  3. Dress your kids in bright clothes so they’ll be easier to spot if they go astray in a crowd.
  4. If two parents are travelling, you might consider booking one seat separate from the others at check-in, allowing one adult to rest whilst the other manages the kids (swapping at half time of course!).
  5. If the flight’s not full, see if the airline staff will hold an empty seat next to yours, especially if your toddler doesn’t have their own seat.
  6. Bassinet cots are often under the movie screen – if so, a light sheet can shield your child from disturbance.
  7. You can ask the flight attendant to warm up milk or baby food, but do so a little in advance as it may take some time.
  8. New toys will hold the attention the longest, or think ahead and hide away some of their old favourites before travelling so they are a novelty again on the flight.
  9. Don’t bring all the toys out at once, pace yourself throughout the journey.
  10. Dual time watches and clocks are great for keeping track of baby’s routine in different time zones.
Now are you ready to read my thoughts on the matter? They are not meant as criticism but as a debate, and I would also love to know what you think on the subject, what your experience has been and what advice you would give to parents travelling with tots.
Also if you liked the tips from, you can order their brochure.

Sending nappies ahead is not the most useful advice. First of all, our Royal Mail is very unreliable, your parcel might never make it. From my personal experience, if you want a packet abroad to arrive in one piece, you have to pay for the special delivery, and the cost of the postage will be higher than nappies themselves. Also nappies are sold everywhere. Just take enough with you to last for a couple of days, if you don't want to take the whole lot. The airmail packet to Europe (even to Italy, yes, that's a pathetic service) often takes at least a month to arrive, so unless you send them well in advance, you might never see the sight of your parcel.

Bassinets are suitable only for small light babies. Our Sasha was a 10-pounder at birth, and by 17 months was quite big, and though we booked a seat with the bassinet, the whole setting was so fragile, I was worried the bassinet would collapse, so ended up holding my little guy all the flight over the Atlantic. So be prepared to do the same if your baby is not a newborn or isn't small.

Do not make a mistake of booking a seat separate from your child. Yes, one parent might have a rest, but what about the one who is staying with the child? Even going to the loo or eating anything would be an issue. I would say, stay together, after all, you are both parents and you should share the responsibility.
Also spare a thought for the other people on the plane. Of course, you might be lucky and you little angel will sleep throught the flight or sit quietly on your lap. If your baby is miserable, be prepared morally that everyone around would be either hating you and your screaming kid or sympathetic but still wishing to be elsewhere, preferably as far as possible from you. We've all been there.

If you breastfeed, then the best you can do for your baby is b/f him during the take off and landing to ease the pain in the ears. Or give a bottle to your child if she is a bottle baby.

Don't forget your medication. Airports and the confined airplane space are a breeding material for spreading the germs. Take what you think you might need with you, especially if you are not fluent in the foreign language of the place you are going to visit, and do not expect the pharmacist to understand your English.

Check with the airport if you can take the pushchair with you up to the airplane as many terminals now insist on you leaving it at the check-in, which is very child-unfriendly. Terminals are huge, and carrying a tired child along with the handbag that contains all your necessities could be hard on your back. If your child can sit independently, you might want to take one of those Trunki-type suitcases for kids, that have wheels and could be used to move your child around the airport.
Take your camera with you, and take some photos to keep memories. In a few years time you might laugh even at the the most stressful trip memories.
If anything, you will come out of this new learning experience stronger and wiser.
I wish you a safe journey! Merry Christmas!

Friday, 16 December 2011

All Babies Count - NSPCC

I am lucky. I have my two precious boys, and would fight like a tiger to protect them.
Sadly amost every day there is a new horror story about some parents who abuse and neglect their babies. Sometimes I cannot even force myself to read it, as it's too upsetting.

Some of you might have heard of "All babies Count" campaign (NSPCC).

Sudocrem, the UK’s leading nappy rash treatment, is delighted to announce a donation of up to £25,000 in total to the NSPCC. Sudocrem is currently supporting ‘All babies count’, an online campaign which will support the NSPCC’s work to prevent the abuse and neglect of babies.

Here’s how you can support All babies count:

Visit or tweet about the campaign. Sudocrem will donate 50p for each ‘like’ on Sudocrem’s Facebook page and 25p for every tweet using the #allbabiescount hashtag. Sudocrem will also donate 50p for every comment on the NSPCC Facebook campaign page:

In addition to this support, Sudocrem is also raising funds for the NSPCC by auctioning a jewel encrusted charm bracelet on eBay, designed by world famous jewellery designer Theo Fennell. Created from white gold and 24 rubies, the auction will open in the first week of December.

Ray Stafford CEO of Forest Europe said:
“Sudocrem has been helping to soothe sore skin for almost 80 years. The market leader in the treatment of nappy rash, it’s used by mums, dads and healthcare professionals everywhere. We are proud to support the NSPCC and their work with vulnerable babies and children”.
This is how you can get involved.

  1. Sudocrem will donate 50p for each new ‘like’ on Sudocrem’s Facebook page (Visit
  2. For every tweet using the #allbabiescount hashtag Sudocrem will donate 25p

I hope you will support the campaign. It only takes a couple of minutes. Thank you!

Where's Eddie (It's Your Story personalised book review)

My little vain man Eddie loves looking at his own photos. You can say, it is a love from the first sight.
I have been thinking of ordering a personalised book for Eddie for quite a while, so when The Independent sent me an email discount for It's Your Story site, I jumped at the chance.
Ordering on couldn't be easier, you choose a book, add a jpeg with a photo of your child and a few personal details like a child's name and which words you want to add.
I have chosen a book with a title "Where's ...?" (insert the name of your child). It is a lovely story by Holly Acland about a mischevious little one who is too excited about the arrival of Christmas, wakes up too early and cannot go back to sleep. There are 28 pages in the story, with your child's name appearing ten times and his photo - nine times.
The illustrations are by Rebecka Hagerfors, they are bright, cheerful, colourful and appealing to the young person.

The book arrived promptly, and we have already enjoyed reading it with Eddie. He was delighted to see his own image in the book.

There are quite a few reviews of personalised books done by Mummy bloggers who seem to praise to heaven the freebies that they were sent. They tend to forget one thing: the price. The question remains: would they still give the standing ovation to the product if they had to pay for it?
At £17.50 plus postage of £2.50 this is not a cheap book for a child. I could spend as much on one of the Folio Society editions that are bound in the high-grade materials.
The paper is of good quality, the illustrations are fun, but it is still a paperback. Quite pricey for a paperback.
The book could also benefit from more detailed editing: some of the images would have been better flipped to the other side to be more aligned with the image. Also, I think two or even three different photos of the same child would be the best option. One image is rather limiting and repetitive.

It seems I have chosen the right book for Eddie as the little boy's companion in the book is his teddy bear, and Eddie is  obsessed with teddies. This is one of the few words he can say. He points to the book, saying with excitement "Bea, bea".
This is one of my favourite illustrations in the book.

Pros: a good story, funky illustrations and your child's delight to see his own face in print.
Cons: too pricey, paperback edition and use of only one photo in all illustrations

Will I use It's Your Story again? Yes, if the price is right.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Club Penguin and Coins for Change Campaign

Club Penguin Empowers Players to Turn Online Play into Real World Change

5th Annual Coins For Change Campaign Promises Largest Donation Yet

December 8, 2011 – Fans of Club Penguin ( can unite this holiday season to use online play to enact real-world social change aspart of the fifth annual Coins For Change event. Coins For Change allows children who visit the snow-covered virtual world to donate virtual coins they earn playing games online to real world causes that matter to them. This year, kids will be challenged to fill the island lighthouse with donated coins. If this goal is reached, Club Penguin has committed to doubling its overall cash donation to $2M US.

Coins For Change is designed to inspire, encourage, and enable kids to make a positive difference in the lives of families around the world. Players can direct their virtual donations to provide medical help, build safe places and protect the earth. At the end of the event, which runs from December 15 to 27 2011, the players’ virtual donations will serve as votes to determine how the contribution from Disney Online Studios will be divided among pre-selected charitable projects aimed at helping children, families and the planet.

“I am continuously amazed by the commitment and passion our players have for helping improve the lives of others," says Lane Merrifield, one of Club Penguin’s co-founders and executive vice president of Disney Online Studios. “The Club Penguin community has already helped more than a million people all over the world through Coins for Change and I hope by doubling the donation, they can help even more."

As a result of the generous in-world contributions kids have made to Coins For Change, Club Penguin has helped in excess of a million people in more than 40 countries by funding schools, libraries, health clinics, clean water programs and more. To find out more, visit

The results of Coins for Change 2011 will be announced on January 1, 2012.

P.S. This is not a sponsored post in case you are wondering. I just thought this is a worthy campaign, and if you kids are computer-crazy like mine, then it might be something they will enjoy doing.

Trout baked in salt

I have already tried this recipe with the sea bass and it worked well. The salt crust works as a blanket which keeps the fish moist inside, as the steam gets caught under the salt crust.
For the trout baked in the salt crust, you will need
1 medium trout (for 2 people)
350g salt

To keep the cost down you might go for the table salt.
Preheat the oven to 180C.
Gut and thoroughly clean the trout, and wipe it with the paper towel until dry. Stuff some herbs inside (dill works well, but I had only fresh sage yesterday, so I added a few sage leaves instead).
Take a ceramic dish or a foil tray long enough for the fish to fit, but not too wide. Pour half of the salt on the tray in a layer about 1cm thick. Place the trout on the salt layer. Pour the remaining salt over the fish. Drizzle a bit of water on the salt layer to do a better crust.

Pop in the oven for 15-20 minutes at 180C. Take the dish out, carefully tap the crust and using a knife lift the top crust.

Using a spatula, carefully lift one fillet and place on a plate, then remove the bones and lift the second fillet. Discard the salt. Serve the trout with the potatoes or celeriac and potato dauphinoise.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Russian Dolls Mania

Feeling like baking cookies yesterday, I popped into our local Lakeland, looking for a good gingerbread man cookie cutter (I already have one, but thought I might like another one of a different size). To my amusement and delight, there was a display of Russian Doll range of kitchen goodies: an apron, cookie cutters, oven gloves etc
A friend of ours collects Russian dolls, and I thought a birchwood spoon with a tiny Russian doll would make a lovely stocking filler for her. Cookie cutters looked very cute and cheerful, and I knew we would have fun with Eddie, making cookies with them.

For the white chocolate cookies you will need
120 g butter
120 g sugar
60 g golden syrup
100 g white chocolate, grated
250 g self-raising flour
1 medium egg
vanilla essence

Place all the ingredients in a big bowl. Use your hands to knead the dough, it is a rather messy and sticky business, but very satisfactory (unless you have to open the door in the middle of the process, lol). In the meantime, preheat the oven to 180C. Roll the dough, cut the cookies using your cutters, spread the cookies on the tray, leaving quite a good space in between, as they grow in size.
The amount of dough above is enough for two trays of cookies. You might want to use just a half, and freeze the other half. Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes until golden. They will still be soft, so let them cool down completely before decorating them. I used Dr Oetker writing icing.

English Mum is running a Big Christmas BakeOff competition. I offer my Russian Dolls to her judgement.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Marinated herring (Russian recipe)

Sometimes you don't fancy anything complicated. All you want is something plain, like a dish of boiled potatoes with a blob of butter and a few slices of marinated herring.

For the marinated herring you will need two fresh herrings, gutted and cleaned.
2 tbsp of sugar
2 tbsp of sea salt
1 tbsp of black peppercorns
1 tbsp of mixed herbs
1 tsp of mustard seeds
5 cloves

Put all the spices in the mortar and crush and grind them with a pestle. When the mix is fine, add salt and sugar, mix well.
Cut the herring into slices.
Put the herring slices and the spice mix into a plastic food bag, close the bag and shake it well, so that the fish is evenly coated. Place on a plate, with another smaller plate going on top of the fish in the bag. You will need to add weight over the top dish and keep it like this for two days in the fridge. When the herring is ready, rinse it well under the running cold water to remove all the spicy bits. Serve with the boiled potatoes. You might add a bit of sliced spring onions or a few onion rings and a dash of the extra virgin sunflower oil.
No comparison to the herring horrors that you usually buy in the delis.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Eat your heart out, Sarah Lund!

It is all Sarah Lund's "fault", of course, that patterned knitted jumpers and cardis are en vogue recently.

This adorable cardi from Next is made of chunky wool, very soft and nice to touch. Unlike some other woollen garments, it is not of the itchy variety. It is also stylish and trendy.
For details and price of the Totem pattern zip through cardi have a look here (link removed as expired).
Sarah Lund made wearing knitted patterned jumpers very fashionable, and though this is not a Scandinavian pattern, it is ethnic and chic enough to appeal to me. I love the colour scheme and the pattern is suitable for both younger and older boys.

We went to Next today looking for winter hats and ended up buying this uber-cute cardi, as I thought Eddie would look utterly irresistible in it.
In fact, I think of buying something similar for Sasha. Not the same, as he would not want to wear an outfit identical to the one his younger brother is wearing.