Saturday, 30 July 2011

Our five minutes of fame

Facebook baby magazines forums are to be "blamed" on Eddie's and mine appearance in a couple of baby magazines.
Practical Parenting and Pregnancy asked for stories behind babies' names, so I emailed our story, and here it is, in full glory. My husband was impressed that I appear on the same page as Nicole Kidman. :)
"Our son has the mighty name Edgar Maximus and we love it. It's a family name on my husband's side but the history behind it is why I really liked it. There was Edgar the Peaceful and the decent Edgar in King Lear, while Maximus is, of course, homage to the movie Gladiator. We hope our little boy will take after their traits and be strong, peaceful and good"

This is the photo I sent to both magazines, taken in April. Eddie is so much bigger now, he grows so fast.

Askamum on Facebook is a place I visit daily to check on the latest gossip and see the photos of babies. Recently they asked to share
cringe stories from the pregnancy days. I commented online and swiftly forgot about it. Later the editorial assistant Alex got in touch with me, asking my permission to publish my cringe story as a Star letter in Mother & Baby magazine. Of course, I said Yes. This is my favourite parenting magazine.
Kicking off "When I was nearing the end of my pregnancy, I went to the supermarket to pick up some food. While I was queueing up to pay, my baby started kicking really hard inside my tummy. "Don't kick me please", I said softly, touching my bump to soothe him. But apparently I didn't say it quietly enough, as the man behind me looked put out and said "I didn't, thanks". Cringe!"

Monday, 25 July 2011

Friday, 22 July 2011

Peanut butter and chocolate brownies

Peanut butter and chocolate brownies recipe appeared in The Observer in June 2011 in a recipe column written by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. The photo looked gorgeous, and I have been drooling at it ever since. As I had friends coming for a cup of tea today, I decided to try a new recipe, which I have slightly adapted, cutting down the amount of sugar, butter and cream cheese.

For the brownie layer you will need

220g dark chocolate, at least 70%, (Hugh says chopped, I broke it into pieces, also used a variety of different brands, as I have half eaten bars all over the house, so mine was a combination of Lindt sea salt chocolate, Green & Black dark chocolate and some dark Russian chocolate that stayed in the cupboard for too long)
100g+ unsalted butter
100g light muscovado sugar
2 medium eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
120g self-raising flour
a pinch of salt
Melt the chocolate with butter in a heatproof bowl over a simmering water (or just chuck in the warm oven to melt) until smooth. Set aside to cool a bit, then beat in the sugar and eggs until all fluffy. Mix together with the vanilla extract, flour and salt.
Line a brownie tin with a parchment paper or foil and lightly grease it with butter. Spoon the batter into the tin, keeping a few tablespoons for later.
Now that's one layer sorted.

For the peanut butter layer beat together the following ingredients:
1 tub of cream cheese, room temperature (I used Philadelphia light)
227g jar of Whole Earth smooth peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
100g caster or granulated sugar
2 eggs
3 tbsp single cream
3 tbsp plain flour, sifted

Spread the peanut butter layer over the brownie layer and add the remaining spoonfuls of the reserved brownie mix.

Using a wooden toothpick, make swirls in the batter, so that you get a pretty pattern.
Bake for 35 minutes until the edges are puffed and the toothpick comes clean in the centre.
Let it cool on a rack, once cold, cut into squares.

The process of cooking was enjoyable, especially licking the spoon with the remains of the chocolate and peanut mixtures.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

I love my porridge, my porridge loves me

Eddie has a hearty appetite and loves his food. I started weaning him on solids, when he was five months old, and now that he is reaching a ripe old age of 1, he has tried many lovely foods. (And he still loves his Mummy milk. :))
Remembering unpleasant baby rice and constipation issues with our older son when he was a baby, I decided to avoid baby rice altogether and start with veg purees and baby porridge. We have tried all the major brands of baby porridge, and to my disappointment they tasted like shredded cardboard, absolutely unappetising (I won't name them but they are sold everywhere).
That is, until we found Plum.
Plum makes baby porridges and muesli in a variety of flavours.
Plum baby Four Grain Muesli is a combination of four healthy grains. It has a nice texture and a lovely delicate taste. Finally, a baby food that tastes good.
It has the following ingredients:
Organic oat flakes (76%) Organic banana flakes (8%) Organic whole rice flour (5%) Organic popped amaranth (4%) Organic strawberry flakes (4%) Organic quinoa flour (3%) Thiamin (Vitamin B1)
Another favourite is Plum Baby four grain super porridge in a combination of wholegrains. It is creamy, smooth and easy to prepare.
I usually use a mix of Plum muesli and porridge (50/50), prepared with hot milk.
As you can see, Eddie enjoys his porridge.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

July birthday giveaway CLOSED

My little man is growing up. In a few days he will reach his first birthday. To celebrate this occasion I would like to offer you a chance to win a little set of goodies that I personally enjoy: my favourite Burnt Sugar Fudge with sea salt (if you haven't tried it, it is your chance to discover the delicious combination of sweet fudge and sea salt), a new bar of Lindt chocolate with sea salt (I saw an ad in a magazine, and went to Waitrose, looking for it, decided to buy two bars, one for my own delectation, one for the giveaway) and a tub of Yves Rocher Moroccan Clay mask for face and hair.
I started using this clay mask only recently, as we talked about the Moroccan clay with a forum friend online, it is a beauty mask with purifying softening properties, containing organic argan oil. The smell is absolutely heavenly. And the skin does feel softer after the use.
To enter, please comment below, telling me which chocolate you enjoy and leave some contact details, either your email if you don't have a blog, or Twitter name. You absolutely don't have to follow me, or tweet about it, or Like on FB. That's easy, isn't it. :)
I will pick up a winner on 25 July. Good luck!

Thank you all for taking part! I wish I had chocolate for everyone. All the names went in the bag, and as Eddie grabbed the whole lot out, asked our son Sasha to pick one. And the winner is Elvy106. Well done, I'll be in touch regarding where to post your prize!

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Barbapapa, mon amour

Our friend Barbara gave Sasha a book about Barbapapa when he was a little boy. He has been fascinated by Barbapapa ever since.
Looking throught the JojoMamanBebe catalogue, I admired a lovely night lamp shaped as our favourite character. You can imagine how delighted I was to win one of them on Beeniebuds & Co blog. I knew it would be perfect for either Eddie or Sasha.
Barbapapa Lumilove from Pabobo comes with a smart base. Once charged, it keeps glowing through the night, and what makes it different from the other night lights is that it keeps cool to the touch. Our Barbapapa is blue, and his glow is very soft, relaxing and comforting, just like Barbapapa itself.

Eddie smiled seeing Barbapapa for the first time and immediately tried to put it in his mouth, as he does with anything new.
But it was Sasha who fell in love with it. He stroked and touched the little rotund figure with tenderness, put it next to his cheek and sniffed. When Sasha sniffs people, it means he trusts them.

Sasha being Sasha, he has his own ideas about how things should be done. So, after playing with Barbapapa, he installed him back on the base for the night.

First thing in the morning, he got out of his bed, ran to Barbapapa and switched it on and off repeatedly. Satisfied that it works perfectly, he put him back on the base and started getting ready for school.
Looks like Barbapapa is a new member of our family, loved and cherished already.

P.S. You can get your own Barbapapa in blue or pink from

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Pasta alla Norma

This classic Sicilian pasta sauce combines the creaminess of aubergine with the sweet acidity of tomatoes and the fresh tang of ricotta cheese. This dish is named after the heroine of Vincenzo Bellini's opera of the same name. There are many versions of the recipe, but all contain aubergine (recipe taken from Taste Italia/July 2011 issue)
serves 4
prep. 15 minutes
cooking 45 minutes
1 large aubergine, trimmed, cut into 2cm thick slices
350 g fresh tomatoes or 400g tinned tomatoes, chopped
160ml olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled, thinly sliced
a handful of basil, leaves torn
400g conchiglie pasta
150f fresh ricotta cheese
Put the aubergine slices in a bowl of salted water for around 10 minutes. Drain and dry on paper towel. (If the aubergine is freshly picked and young, I would skip this stage, it shouldn't be bitter)
If using fresh tomatoes, remove the stems and score a cross in the bottom of each one. Blanch in boiling water for 30 seconds, transfer to cold water, peel the skin away from the cross, then chop the tomatoes. (Again, don't bother with crosses, the peel will break on its own)
Put a generous amount of olive oil in a frying pan and cook the aubergine in batches over a medium-high heat until golden brown and soft inside, adding more of the oil as you need it. Drain in a colander or on paper towels. Cut the aubergine into 2cm thick slices and set aside. (I am a bit confused here, why do you need to cut the aubergine after you cook it? I just cut it into cubes to start with, and didn't need this amount of olive oil, I added a bit of water and covered the pan with the lid, so it was perfectly cooked and not too oily. It wasn't necessary then to leave it on paper towels to absorb the extra oil).
Remove all but 2 tbsp of the oil from the frying pan, add the garlic, and cook until light golden brown. Add the tomatoes and season. Cook until the sauce has reduced and thickened. Add the aubergine and the basil leaves, mix well, then set aside.
Cook the pasta in a large saucepan of boiling salted water, until al dente. Drain briefly, leaving some of the water clinging to the pasta, then return the pasta to the saucepan with aubergine mixture and 100 g of the ricotta.
Mix briefly, check the seasoning, and serve immediately with the remaining ricotta crumbled over the top.

Friday, 1 July 2011

My photoshoot for Aldi

A few weeks ago Bella magazine was running a competition to create a recipe for Aldi supermarket, using one of their beef products. As I enjoy cooking, I thought a simple dish of Italian style meatballs with pasta could work well. Nothing fancy, something that even people who don't cook "foreign" food would like to try, saying "I can do this". I cooked the meatballs with pappardelle pasta, took a photo and sent to Bella. The photo below is the dish I cooked for our dinner and to enter the comp.

I was surprised when Avril from Bella called to tell me my recipe was chosen as a winner and would I agree to have a photoshoot in my kitchen. I started panicking, what have I gotten myself into. Now, people who've been to my house know that our kitchen is rather dated.
On a set date a food stylist arrived. She is a lovely chatty lady, who immediately put me at ease, as I was rather worried on how it was going to be. She brought all her cooking utensils and food for the photoshoot with her. An hour later a local photographer appeared and started taking photos of me rolling the meatballs, pouring the pasta sauce etc etc We later moved to the garden, where I was posing sitting with a glass of wine and a plate of pasta in front of me. I actually found it utterly hilarious. As if that's how I have my usual lunch. That's how myths and legends are created.
Eddie was as good as gold. It started to drizzle, and we ended the photoshoot with the rain falling on the pasta dish.

I haven't yet seen the brochure with photos, hope there are some better ones of me. I must say, I am a tad disappointed with the one that was chosen for the supermarket website. I think there must have been a better one from many taken.

You can find the recipe here

The photo at the top is meatballs with spaghetti (prepapred by someone at Aldi, not during the photoshoot at my house). My original recipe was for pappardelle, but spaghetti would be fine as well. You could see the dish that was cooked at home in the photo of the two of us in the garden.