Thursday, 29 November 2012

Beef stew with chocolate

At the first hint of the unclement weather I start cooking comforting dishes, soups and stews galore. One of our family favourites is the beef stew (my guys are not keen on dumplings, so this stew doesn't have any) so thick that a spoon can be left standing once inserted in the middle of the bowl. I have been playing with adding this ingredient or that, changing some of the flavours, making it spicier or sweeter. Yesterday I felt like adding a bit of chocolate to my stew.

For 4-5 servings:
about 400g brasing beef, cut in chunks
2 medium carrots
1 parsnip
2 medium potatoes
1 red onion
1 sweet potato
1 swede or yellow turnip
2 medium tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato paste or ketchup
20g chocolate with sea salt or chilli
vegetable oil
2 tbsp of wild herbs mix
1 tbsp wholemeal seed & grain bread flour for coating the beef
a handful of raisins or sultanas
about 7-8 dried apricots
1/2 bottle of Sangiovese Toscana or any other robust red wine

On a clean board or working surface, coat the beef with the wholemeal seed & grain bread flour and wild herb rub.
Heat the oil in the deep frying pan, add the beef, cook it until it's well browned on all sides. Remove the beef and put it in the big pan (I used the HomeCooker, in which you can cook any stew on low for hours, or use a slowcooker).
Chop the onion and fry until translucent. Add to the pan with the beef. Chop the carrots and fry for about 5 minutes.
Add the chopped parsnips, swede, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, sultanas and apricots to the pan, pour water and wine. Beef and vegetables should be always covered by the water, so keep checking the level and add more if necessary. Add the chocolate and tomato paste too.
Bring the water/wine to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer on very low for a couple of hours. Add the potatoes cut into bigger chunks and keep cooking for another hour on low.

Don't worry about the stew being sweet, the sea salt chocolate as well as chopped apricots and raisins add a touch of sweetness, but mostly give an unusual depth of flavours when combined with the fruity tones of tannic Sangiovese.
And by all means, while you are cooking, try the wine first, you don't want your stew to be spoilt by the corked wine. Cin-cin!

Monday, 26 November 2012

The discreet charm of figs: Boursin Fig and Nut

Vibrant figs are a beautiful addition to any autumnal table. They are bursting with sweet rich flavours. I often serve ripe figs with the cheese board (I even converted my in-laws).  Now you can treat yourselves to a new Boursin's Limited Edition soft cheese BOURSIN FIG AND NUT which is available in stores this month.
It is very moreish and rich in flavour and texture (smooth cheese with a slight crunchiness of nuts). It is lovely as it is, just with the oatcakes or fresh bread.
Or spread it on the toasted slice of ciabatta and top up with the sliver of prosciutto, add a few sprigs of rocket and enjoy the sweet-salty combination.



For a quick vegetarian snack, spread the Boursin over the flatbread (may I suggest Crosta & Mollica?) and add a few sliced grapes.

This cheese is also lovely in salads, just crumble a couple of tablespoons with the olive oil and lemon juice for a quick easy salad dressing.

If you are familiar with the original Boursin soft cheese, you can expect the same crumbly creaminess from the new addition to the range. But at the same time Boursin fig and nut is deliciously different. It delivers the sweet taste of the figs and crunchy texture of mixed nuts. It will definitely look right on any festive cheese board, especially during the coming holiday season.  This cheese is priced £2.20 per 150g and is available from November in  Tesco and online at Ocado and in most Asda stores from December.

If you are looking for inspiring recipes with Boursin, their website has a special section of recipes to tease your tastebuds. Boursin Garlic and Fine Herbs will take your risotto to the next level.

 This is a chicken breast stuffed with Boursin (Garlic and Fine Herbs) and wrapped with prosciutto.

Or use Boursin to create a creamy garlicky side dish - Potatoes Dauphinoise - perfect with the Sunday roast.

A bit of interesting data about Boursin:
     Boursin was developed in Normandy in 1957 and is the UK’s number one branded soft speciality cheese today, with Boursin garlic & herb crowned as the gold medal winner in two categories at The International Cheese Awards 2012. Boursin tomato, onion & chive was awarded a silver medal within the ‘cheese with additives – soft’  category and Boursin fig & nut was awarded a bronze medal within the ‘cheese with additives – soft’ category at The International Cheese Awards 2012. The annual International Cheese Awards are the biggest in the world attracting over 3,700 competitive entries from around the world in 260 categories.


Create your own gift tags with VELCRO

Blogging challenges are always fun, and keep one's grey cells from a sleepy stupor. I was quite thrilled to hear about another challenge for bloggers, this time organised by VELCRO. I received a hamper of VELCRO® products to participate in the VELCRO® #101uses challenge.

Apart from the obvious use like tidying the cables with the reusable ties, I thought the range of Velcro will be perfect for any crafter's stash.
You can make any gift tags with the Velcro super slim stick ons.

To create the  Christmas reindeer tag you will need
a piece of stiff upholstery fabric
Tulip 3d paints (Bronze/Metallics & Diamond/Glitter)
a card tag
1 VELCRO super slim stick on

If you are looking for free materials for crafting, go to your nearest furniture store and ask if they have discontinued fabric samples books. They come in different sizes and types of fabric. Any soft velvets or woolen fabrics won't be good for painting, you will need quite smooth surfaces like cotton or viscosa, linen or silk.

Cut out the desired size tag from the fabric.
Using the 3d paints, draw a reindeer or any other simple design like a snowflake, or a Christmas bauble. Let the paint dry completely, it will take at least an hour, to speed up the drying process, you might put your tags on the radiator (painted side up).
Once dry, attach the Velcro stick on to the cardboard tag.

Tulip 3d paints are versatile, and are not difficult to use, you need a steady hand and a bit of patience.
I found a lovely online shop where you can buy a selection of Tulip paints - CraftMerrily Arts & Crafts. Even a child can do this basic design: this snowflake was painted with Tulip Bronze/Metallics and Diamond/Glitter.

This Christmas bauble gift tag was done with Tulip Glitter paints in Ruby and Champage and Bronze/Metallics. Glitter paints take a bit longer to dry, as the lines are thicker. Once the bauble is dry, cut the tag out around the design, and attach with Velcro to any gift package.

If you are still not confident to paint free-hand, then stamp an image you like on the smooth fabric (I used the Stazon inkpad) and add the highlights with the Tulip 3d paint.

Fot this project I have done some basic designs, but you can do much more complicated and intricate ones, if you have confidence and patience.

To show what you can do with 3d paints, I invite you to have a look at the old blog of mine. This traditonally built mermaid was painted with 3d Pebeo paints (another brand which produces these paints).
That's my first tip for the challenge. You will find me posting more ideas, and I am open to all your suggestions on how to use VELCRO products.


Friday, 23 November 2012

Nutz about Mad Mutz and Chitter Chatter

Mad Mutz are a perfect company for any mischievous tot. Eddie loves dogs, and started playing with this puppy, as soon as I have opened the parcel for him and removed the packaging. As we're at the stage when I try to instil some manners in my child, Eddie finds it absolutely hilarious that the Mad Mutz creature can do lots of things that cannot be called good manners: it barks, burps, scratches, farts and snores.

There are three different puppies in the group and each one has a realistic leg movement that shows off their urge to scratch. They are very cute and are full of beans (RRP £15).

That's Eddie making funny faces. I think he and the puppy can understand each other very well, they both are always ready for mischief.

Rolling on the floor like a puppy? Now who's teaching whom, I wonder?

If your kids are in love with the Talking Tom and Ben apps, they will appreciate the Chitter Chatters toys. The Chitter Chatters are amusing chatterboxes who repeat everything you say. Each animal has its own special voice, and you can choose who to talk to: a mouse, a penguin, a monkey or a meerkat (RRP £10).

Eddie was in stitches when the mouse kept saying silly things after him. So, now instead of one non-stop-talking chatterbox I have two, Eddie and the mouse who's got a nickname Nose (don't ask, that was my little man's idea).
It is an amusing interactive toy. My only issue with it is that the settings are only on/off, and there is no button to reduce the level of the sound and this little mouse has a pretty loud voice.

 Do you know any tots who would love to give Mad Mutz and Chitter Chatters a loving home?


P.S. We received two toys for the purposes of reviewing, all opinions are mine (and Eddie's).

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Banoffee cheesecake

Almost every Saturday my husband takes Sasha out to the Sainsbury's cafe. They used to go to the local coffee shop Huffkins to have a treat of a chocolate eclaire until Sasha decided he didn't fancy it any longer. Then there was a turn of Costa and their Linzer biscuit. Sasha being Sasha, he goes through stages of loving one place and choosing just one particular dessert that he would agree to eat. These days it is the banoffee cheesecake at the Sainsbury's cafe.
I actually tried it myself, and for being a supermarket cake, it is pretty good, creamy and gooey.
I have tried to recreate the similar recipe so that my boys could enjoy a slice of the banoffee cheesecake at home.

I have roughly used Delia's recipe for banoffee cheesecake, but as my guys don't like pecans, I had to change the recipe. I have also altered some other ingredients and quantities, but still feel obliged to say that it was inspired by Delia.


for the base:
150g digestive biscuits, crushed
2 tbsp ground almonds
60g butter, melted

2 ripe bananas, mashed
150g caster sugar
2 eggs
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp orange juice
1 tsp vanilla paste
200g fromage frais
200g light cream cheese

for the topping:
1 banana, sliced
+ sauce made with
40g butter
70g demerara sugar
50g granulated sugar
3 tbsp golden syrup
100ml double cream

Start by crushing the digestive biscuits by putting them in a plastic bag and bashing them with a rolling pin. Mix the crumbs with the melted butter and ground almonds.
Place a layer of foil inside your cake tin, oil it well, put the crumb mix inside and press well to make the base for your cheesecake.

In a big bowl beat the eggs with sugar and mashed bananas. Add the lemon juice, orange juice, vanilla paste, fromage frais and cream cheese. Mix well. Pour the mixture inside the cake tin on top of the biscuit base.

Bake for about an hour at 180C. Leave it in the oven to cool completely before taking it out,or the surface might crack. If it happens, no worries, just add more banana slices for decoration.
Slice the banana and arrange around the cake top.

In a pan melt the butter, add both sugars, the golden syrup and double cream, cook over a very low heat until it is all dissolved and looks like a toffee sauce.

Serve the cake with the sauce, be generous, you won't regret it.

I had several visitors yesterday, so the cake didn't last very long.
As for my darling Sasha, he looked at the cake, sniffed at the slice I offered to him, poked it a few times and left untouched. I guess, I am no competition for Sainsbury's in his mind. :)

Watch and sing along with The Shape Song Swingalong

We first discovered Barefoot Books a few years ago, when Sasha's teachers mentioned how much Sasha enjoyed dancing to the musical CDs that come with the Barefoot Books publications. Since then we have acquired quite a collection of these superb editions, and now it is Eddie's turn to enjoy the music and books. I have signed in for reviewing the Barefoot books recently and kept my fngers crossed that we'd be selected to read and test the new publications. We were delighted to discover The Shape Song Singalong as our assigned task.

Like all Barefoot books that come with the CDs, it is a very bright cheerful edition, with a huge appeal to both mainstream kids and children with special needs. This book is illustrated by the talented David Sim. The illustrations are simple but imaginative. As you read the book, you learn about different shapes. The images remind me of the patchwork quilts. I can easily see them transferred into the fabric appliques.

Music is written and sung by Stevesongs. The song describes the creative process of drawing, using many shapes to assemble a whole world full of wonders: a beachside waterslide or a party in the park.

The tune is very catchy, my little man has been dancing to the music and repeating Line, line, Circle, circle...

The CD is actually a CD-ROM, so you can watch it on a PC. This singalong CD is a fab way to develop the listening and singing skills.

And it's not just shapes. Eddie was delighted to see all the animals, he was especially excited to find a big roaring lion. He kept saying "Yayon, yayon" (he hasn't mastered his Ls and Rs yet).
This book is a fab addition to our collection of Barefoot books.

And once you listened to it, I'd challenge you not to hum to yourself: Line, line, circle, circle...

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Gingerbread men Christmas tree decorations

"Run, run, as fast as you can. You can't catch me. I'm a gingerbread man."

I am slowly starting to get back into crafting, albeit by mini-steps. I wanted to make some Christmas decorations and knew that FIMO would be just the right material for my mini gingerbread men.

FIMO Christmas decorations, Chez Maximka

If you'd like to follow my example, you will need

1 cookie cutter from Lakeland (mini gingerbread man which costs just above £1)
1 pack of metallic FIMO
1 pack of flesh FIMO
rolling pin
acrylic paints

making your own christmas decorations, Chez Maximka

Take a pack of terracotta metallic FIMO and roll it with a pin on a clean surface. You might want to use the foil so that your table stays clean. It has to be about 3mm thickness. Cut the mini men.
Make the loops from the wire and insert the ends into the top of your mini men.
If using a light coloured FIMO, roll little balls and sausages and put them on the mini men. Slightly press them down.
Bake the FIMO at 110C for half an hour. That's what the gingerbread men look like after baking. Let them cool completely before decorating.

making your own Christmas decorations, Chez Maximka, easy Christmas crafts projects

Using a selection of the acrylic paints decorate your mini men.The actual wire loops are on the small side, so I will be using a thread to put them on the tree. As the gingerbread men are small, I didn't want to attach the big loops to them.

Pleased with my mini men, I showed them to Eddie who looked at them and said: Monkeys.
And that's the verdict of my harsh critic.

making your own Christmas decorations, Chez Maximka, how to make easy Christmas tree decorations with FIMO

Monday, 19 November 2012

Christmas cardmaking giveaway (c/d 29 November 2012)

While browsing in the local crafts shop earlier today (I needed some new brushes and paint), I found this pretty set of Christmas stamps. Long gone are the days when Papermania range of stamps was a bit of an embarrassment. They have changed their philosophy and have been making very decent stamps for the last couple of years. I've been thinking of doing a small papercrafting and cardmaking giveaway on my blog, and decided these stamps will be a nice gift for any cardmaker.

One winner of my blog giveaway will receive a set of Papermania Urban Stamps: Home for Christmas (Baubles) set...

... as well as the three different card toppers, two Christmas ribbons (red and golden) and a VersaColor inkpad in rose red.

I promise to send this prize as soon as the winner is announced and gets back to me with their address details. Hopefully you will have time to do some cards before Christmas.

To be in with a chance of winning, please leave me a comment, answering my question.
You do not have to follow my blog to enter this giveaway. I'll be very happy if you decide you like my blog enough to follow, but it won't give you any bonus entries.

My question is: what are your family Christmas traditions? or if you don't have any, do you have a particularly lovely/amusing/curious memory of your Christmases past?

For a bonus entry, leave me a comment on any other of my old posts.

Good luck!


Many thanks for all comments, I enjoyed reading about your family traditions very much.
Wishing you all a happy festive season!

All the names went in the hat, and the winner is...

Shelly Jessup

Big well done, Shelly, I have emailed you.

Greatness in small things: Clipper tea

"When tea becomes ritual, it takes its place at the heart of our ability to see greatness in small things. Where is beauty to be found? In great things that, like everything else, are doomed to die, or in small things that aspire to nothing, yet know how to set a jewel of infinity in a single moment?”  (Muriel Barbery)

Last summer Clipper announced an addition of six new infusions to their range. And what a varied selection it is, from the morning wakey-wakey cuppa to a bedtime drink that would send you in the land of dreams.

Rise & Shine is a great pick-me-up in the morning or in the afternoon slumber after lunch. It is so refreshingly zingy and jazzy-lemony, it makes your tongue tingle. Its ingredients include organic mate, lemongrass and lemon verbena, as well as liquorice root and lemon peel. Clipper call it "sunshine in a cup", and this definition is spot on. An absolutely delightful infusion that makes you feel wide awake and full of energy. The colour is jolly bright golden yellow, the flavours are intense and concentrated. A fabulous addition to the Clipper range. Top marks for the taste and energising properties.

Zen Again is "a spa-inspired blend which brings together the refreshing taste of lemongrass and the menthol freshness of eucalyptus. Perfect for those moments of reflection".  Ingredients include lemongrass, nettle, eucalyptus leaf, rosehip, gingko biloba. When I had the first sip, to me it tasted a bit medicinal. To my surprise, my little man took my cup, had one sip, then another and finished it. When I asked him if he liked it, he said Nice.

Love Me Truly is an organic chai infusion and comforting blend of cinnamon, ginger, cardamom and cloves. Very sumptious indeed. All the flavours are nicely balanced. The drink is beautifully warm and comforting. You might like to add half a teaspoon of honey to it and a bit of milk for a delicious drink. The golden brown colour is very inviting. You can make fun of my tautology but I will say that I truly love Love Me Truly.

Or go for a totally decadent drink: if you have a milk frother, make a chai latte. Perfect for any occasion.

Cloud Nine is a delicious organic elderflower, lemongrass and apple infusion. If you love fruity teas, that's the ideal tea for you. It is very summery in taste, light and fragrant. You might indeed find yourself on cloud nine after drinking it. I would also like to mention that I love the design of the new range of teas, each box has an eye-catching pattern. The boxes look modern, stylish and artful. They would look good on any kitchen shelf, you wouldn't want to hide them away.

After Dinner Mints is "an organic double mint and fennel infusion, perfect post pudding". The peppermint gives a cool refreshing taste of menthol, while the spearmint adds a touch of sweetness. The hints of spice are provided by the fennel and ginger root. If you are a fan of After Eights, you will love this herbal tea that will give you the same minty kick without the chocolate's calories. And you will never get the same aroma from the box of chocolates.

Snore & Peace is an organic chamomile, lemon balm and lavender infusion. Calming and comforting, it makes a lovely bedtime cup. Sometimes lavender could be overwhelming, I have tried several teas that include lavender and found out that you could hardly taste anything else but lavender. Clipper's Snore & Peace infusion managed to achieve just the right balance of flavours, where the lavender is an equal partner rather than a strong-willed dominatrix. Lemon balm adds a refreshing note, while chamomile gives this brew a delicate meadow fragrance. 
And I absolutely love the name of this herbal tea: a literary allusion and a play of words is very inspired.

For more information on their extensive range, visit Clipper.

Disclosure: I received this selection of teas for the purposes of reviewing, all opinions are mine.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Bathtime fun and safety with Anti-slip bath safety circles

Perhaps you have well-behaved tots who decorously sit and don't move when you tell them to sit still. Alas, that's not our case. Our bathtime tends to turn into the splashing-around session with Eddie laughing his socks off when I get splashed. He also moves a lot in the bath, playing with his toys. For active kids like my son there is a good quality safety product called Anti-Slip bath safety circles.

What are they? Essentialy they are quality anti-slip bath invention which is created to reduce the risk of slipping in the bath or shower.

What do they look like? They are rather discreet white self-adhesive circles (3.5cm in diameter). The top surface is textured. You stick them directly onto the bath floor.

They are very easy to apply and as easy to keep clean.

I like the idea that they are white. I have seen similar products on the market, the coloured bath dots, but if you don't want your bath to look like Mr Tumble's spotty bag, then this product offers a discreet safety and protection for your children.

I have been thinking of getting a bath mat for Eddie but hesitated as I read they tend to attract mould. While my Mum kept urging me on the phone to buy a bath mat for Eddie asap, I have seen a tweet, asking bloggers to try this product. That was a good timing.

Eddie can now move in the bath with ease without slipping.

The packet contains 28 white circles and a fitting template to give you an idea in which pattern to put the dots around the bath.

This product is recommended not just for young kids, but for the older people and the disabled.

After a couple of weeks of using, I can say that the dots stay put in the bath, they are easy to clean and make our bathtime safer.

Will I recommend this product to the other parents? Yes, absolutely.

You can find more information about this product at their website.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Pleasures of foraging: Rosehip tea

Scratch the surface: underneath we're all hunters and gatherers. What can be better than free food which hasn't been sprayed with pesticides and chemicals?! You don't have to go in the woods to get wild food as you can easily encourage it to grow in your garden. Rose hip is a beautiful addition to any garden, it has pretty flowers and beautiful red berries.
When the weather is cold and my guys have runny noses, it means it's a time for vitamin boost.
Out come the dried (or fresh) rosehips.

Rosehip tea is very refreshing and is packed with vitamins and minerals. For a few cups of rosehip tea take a small cup of rosehips, place in a pan with two mugs of freshly boiled water and simmer on low for about 10 minutes. Add a tablespoon of honey.

Rosehips dry very well. Store them in a plastic airtight container for up to a year, you can keep them longer, but they lose their medicinal properties with time.

Strain the tea before serving it. You can eat the rosehips as well, just don't consume the hairy bits.

Peppa Pig Theme Park app (review)

If you have little people in the house, there is no escape from Peppa Pig. Eddie loves her, and I bet he thinks she is as real as his family. Peppa Pig's Sports Day app was a huge hit with Eddie, he is still enjoying it a couple of months later. No surprise he was thrilled with a new Peppa Pig Theme Park app, which is playable on iPad (as well as iPhone & iPod touch) and features all his favourite characters plus all the familiar jolly music and funky sound effects from the TV show. Try not to smile when Mummy Pig and Daddy Pig snort loudly, utterly hilarious.
PEPPA PIG THEME PARK is a must-have addition to any Peppa's fan's collection of apps.

Peppa Pig’s brand new app – THEME PARK – will keep young Peppa fans entertained for hours as it includes 10 games and activities. Climb aboard the train with Peppa or ride in a bumper car, enjoy the music activities with the magic water fountains and make some delicious candy floss.

You have a choice of ten games.

1.RIDE ON THE TRAIN AROUND THE THEME PARK: take the passengers to the next station, you decide whether to go slowly or move really fast.

2.MAKE MUSIC WITH THE MAGIC WATER FOUNTAINS: touch the notes to play the tune, create your own music on a mini-piano. We love this game.

3.WATER CANNON GAME: help Peppa to hit the target with the water cannon, you won't be able to stop giggling when you fill up the balloons and make them go pop.

4.RIDE ON THE BUMPER CARS steer the cars to bump into each other.

5.HOT AIR BALLOON RIDE: the basket must touch the balloons to collect them. We were in stitches trying to pick up the balloons and not getting them all.

6.TEA CUP RIDE: turn the wheel and move the teacups faster.

7.REMOTE CONTROL CARS: steer the cars round the course and watch out for those hazards and obstacles.

8.CANDY FLOSS STALL: Peppa and George both have a sweet tooth, help them make the candy floss, move your finger around the bowl but don't stir too much or the candy floss will be too big.

9.THEME PARK SHOP: after you played the games and got your tokens, visit the shop to buy the fun stickers.

10.INTERACTIVE STICKER BOOK: you can buy the stickers in the virtual Theme shop. This activity is one of Eddie's favourites. He loves pulling the little characters down onto the screen and making them smaller or bigger in turns.

What did we think of the app? It's a fun entertaining app for pre-schoolers with lots of games and activities, perfect for a grey day when the outdoors is not exactly welcoming due to the constant drizzle.

Eddie's playing with a new app, please excuse the strawberry jam on his face.

For more information about the app, visit the itunes shop.

P.S. We received a code for a free game for the purposes of testing and reviewing. All opinions are mine (and Eddie's, of course).

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Russian potato pies - shangi

Shangi are the ultimate comfort food from the Urals. They are basically medium-sized open pies made with the mashed potatoes. They go back in history to the pre-Soviet times but were also extremely popular in the Soviet Union. There were even special cafes called shanezhnye where you could come and have these hot pies with a cup of tea. A kind of a working class crêperie.
They are the type of the Russian food which is the equivalent of the Italian cucina povera, i.e. it uses simple wholesome ingredients which don't cost a fortune.

I haven't done any shangi in ages, but after talking to my Mum on the phone, I decided to recreate one of the favourite dishes of my childhood and Uni days. My friend's granma baked the best shangi, they were always fluffy, soft and melted in the mouth. Fab after a walk in the cold weather. And the aroma of the pies baking in the oven once you entered their flat was very tempting. We could hardly wait for a new batch to be taken out of the oven, but the strict grandma would tell us off, they had to be brushed with the hot melted butter and put under a clean towel for 15 minutes or more before she would offer us any.

So, for me this dish is a blast from the past.

You need to start with making the dough.
Warm up about 200ml of milk in the pan, add 15g of granulated sugar and 2 tsp of dry yeast. Let the sugar and yeast dissolve in the warm milk (it shouldn't be hot). Then add 200g of the strong white flour (or 50/50% of the strong white and wholemeal flour), knead well for about 5 minutes. Let it in the warm place, covered with the clean towel for about an hour. The dough will double in size.

Beat 1 tsp of sugar with 2 egg yolks until pale. Add to the dough and mix well.
Add another 250g of the strong white flour and about 120g of melted butter, plus 1/2 tsp of the Cornish sea salt. Let in the warm place for another hour. Knead at least once during that time.

In the meantime prepare the mashed potatoes from 2 medium potatoes (about 500g), 50g of melted butter, sea salt and hot milk (about 50-70ml, don't add all milk at once, check the consistency, it should not be too runny).

Once the dough is ready, divide it into 8-12 rolls. If you go for 8, they will be quite big. Place the flattened rolls of dough on the trays covered with the foil and oiled. Spread 2 tbsp of the mashed potatoes on top of each bun. Leave them in the warm place for another 15 minutes.

The shangi will get even bigger in size. Now take about 150g of the soured cream or plain Greek yogurt and spread at least a tablespoon on top of each potato pie. Put the trays into the oven preheated to 180C. Bake for 20 minutes.

Once shangi are taken out of the oven, pour a teaspoon of the melted butter on top of each of them. let them rest for 10-15 minutes. Lovely eaten with any pickles. And a cup of hot sweet tea served in a glass.
And that's it. Your culinary trip takes you to the Urals in Russia.

For this recipe I have used Good Natured Splendid Spuds but you can use any good quality potatoes.
Good Natured produces a range of fruit and vegetables including the wholesome Splendid Spuds.
For more information visit their website.
I am offering my recipe to Good Natured's Winter-Warmer recipe challenge, and hope you will be inspired to try it.

Angel heart Christmas tree decoration

I haven't done much crafting since Eddie was born (that is if you don't count the forays into the cake decorating), but hoping to start again, albeit on a very modest scale, as I don't think I'll be given much of an opportunity to plunge into crafting as in the before-Eddie days.

I have found this wooden heart in the local vintage The Old Pill Factory shop which has a crafts section. I have written about this Aladdin's Cave of a shop just the other day (have a giggle with me at the sign I have discovered there). This solid wooden heart is primed, and would make a nice base for any paintwork or stamping.
I wanted to do a Christmas decoration, and remembered that years ago, I did some projects with the face molds. I didn't have any left from the old batch, so I ordered a pack of Sculpey Flexible Push Mold from As you can see, it is a very useful old for making the art doll faces.

That's what the mold looks like. It is quite easy to use, simply mold, flex and release. You might use any polymer clays or air dry clay. I used the FIMO (flesh-coloured, though it could have been any colour, as I eventually painted it over).
It is easier to release the smaller faces than the bigger ones. They suggest to put the mold in the freezer for about 90 seconds before popping it out. I only read that after I baked the doll faces, I used a tiny bit of olive oil to brush the inside of the faces, that also helped to release them.

That's how the art doll faces look after the baking session in the oven (30 mins, as per instructions on the FIMO packet).

I have painted several faces using the acrylic paints. I must confess, that took me quite a long time, as I have lost my knack after a long period of crafting abstinence. I have placed a smaller face on the heart just to see where to position it. Eventually I used a different doll face for my project.

Acrylics were used to paint the wings, hair and dress of the angel. Once the paint was dry, I added a few sparkling gems. The face was attached with the glue dots (thicker variety).

I realised I need to update my supply of paints, as some of them have gone quite dry and I need to invest into some good brushes as well, because my little imp Eddie has destroyed several of my brushes by his over-enthusiastic colouring.

Red Ted Art's Blog will be showcasing a selection of Christmas decorations. Come and join in with your arty creations for the most beautiful festive season.