And give us each day our daily…

Posted February 1st, 2012 by Christine



Takes too much time, and it looks -hard-

Yeah right, whatever. Luckily for Christmas, my in-laws to be were kind enough to buy ‘us’ (meaning me) a food mixer (at Neil’s request, to try to stem some of my mess making tendencies). I have to admit, having not had access to one for the previous 28 years of my existence, I struggled to think of what to do with it. Yes it was wonderful, but it looked scary sat there in it’s box the size of a cupboard. Jamie and Nigella clamour for the use of such a tool in their books, so it must be worth it.

Finally plucking up the courage, I unpacked it.

So far, so good. Most of the contents of the box was (predictably, with hindsight) packaging. There were, granted, a few scary sharp blades in there, but all in all not a bad compact setup. Definately not scary. How can something with only one knob ever be scary? (I said -THING-).

Tucked down the side was a recipe book. Well, where better to start? The first night I made pizza dough and it didn’t go too badly.

Then I realised I was now the proud owner of a bag of strong white flour and some yeast. Could I? Would I? Hell yes!

Catch me slaving to mix and knead a sticky mass of flour and water? Hell no!

It was a little late at night and I was high on sugar ( always the best time to try new ideas I find- pass the sweets!). So I carefully measured out the ingredients and added them to the mixer. 5 minutes later I had dough. Actual dough. And it was easier than making the pizza base! I carefully placed it in the prerequisite warm place to rise, then squished it down and divided it to rise again. 30 mins in the oven later and I had my first two loaves. They weren’t the prettiest or the best risen, but I was proud.

Now Neil at this point was quite full having had quite a large supper of spaghetti bolognese or somesuch (I can’t remember exactly), and then stuffed himself with (probably) Christmas cake. He was also engrossed on catching up on the huge backlog of TV we had accumulated on I-player. I found myself batting my eyelids at him to get him to try my new creation (I was at a disadvantage as sugar was not on of the ingredients in this case). A few minutes later, we both had a large slice in our hamster-like grasps and were less than elegantly nomming on fresh warm bread soaked in butter. The loaves just about survived 24 hours all told. One didn’t even have time to cool.

Scrolling forward about a month, I seem to have replaced our local supermarket as provider of the household bread, which now nestles in the freezer between the mince and the icecream waiting for an upcoming date with some butter and sandwich filling. Apparently ‘it tastes of something’. It certainly gives me a warm glow. The actual amount of work involved is tiny, even the washing up (for once!), and the result is cheaper than shop-bought ‘fresh’ bread too.

(Recipe from Kenwood Creative Food Processor Cooking by Becky Johnson)

Makes: 2 small (half pound) loaves

Time to mouth: 2 hours of mostly waiting

Prep: 1.5 hours of mostly waiting

Cooking time: 30 mins


450g strong white bread flour

2 teaspoons salt (I prefer to just use one)

25g margarine or butter

2 teaspoons (or 7g) fast action dried yeast

300ml warm water (200ml cold, plus 100ml boiling mixed together)

oil for oiling

How to make it:

  1. Fit the mixer with the dough tool if you have one, or a knife blade.
  2. Put in the flour, margarine and salt and mix together for about 30 seconds. (Full speed)
  3. Add the yeast and pulse to mix.
  4. Whilst mixing, gradually add the water until the mixture begins to form into a dough. You may not need it all.
  5. Allow to mix for a few more seconds to knead.
  6. Turn out into a large bowl and cover with cling film or a damp towel. Leave somewhere warm for 45 minutes or until doubled in size.
  7. Wait.
  8. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead a little by hand to get rid of the excess gas.
  9. Separate into two loaves (I prefer to make one big loaf- shaped lump then cut in half with a bread knife and reshape slightly).
  10. Place onto an oiled baking tray, allowing space to expand.
  11. Pre-heat the oven to 220°c/GM7, which provides the heat to help the final rise.
  12. Sit dough on top of the oven (i.e. on the unlit hob) for 30 mins to make use of this heat.
  13. Wait.
  14. Bake in the oven for 30 mins.
  15. Wait.
  16. Remove from oven to cool and meanwhile bask in the warm glow of smug homemaking induced pleasure.


It’s Christmaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaasss! !!!!!

Posted December 18th, 2011 by Christine

Very few things will make me get up willingly in the morning, however I can be very quick to get out of bed at the prospect of cooking, so I was quite happy to amble over to the thermostat to defrost the flat at 7am and start making mince pies. Everyone has their own version of these, so this is mine, lovingly ripped off and then modified from ‘The Great British Book of Baking’.

Makes: between 12 and 20 depending on how mean you are with the pastry/ how lazy you are at rolling out

Time to mouth: 2 hours (ish)- remember you’re still half awake

Prep:30-45 mins including time to gently wake up Neil

Cooking: 20-25 mins per batch


for the pastry:

  • 225g plain flour
  • 50g ground almonds
  • 85g caster sugar (icing sugar can also be used, but might push Neil’s sanity to the limit in terms of mess)
  • 175g unsalted butter, not completely rock hard, diced
  • 1 medium egg from a happy chicken
  • 5ml vanilla essence
  • a dusting of cinnamon

for the filling:

  • about 400g mincemeat (not the type that used to be part of a cow)
  • a good glug of christmassy alcohol such as brandy, rum, amaretto (hic!)

How to make them:

  1. Combine the flour, almonds and sugar in a mixing bowl until well mixed.
  2. Add the butter and rub together to form fine crumbs. If the mixture insists on sticking together, try adding a tiny bit more flour and rubbing for a few more minutes.
  3. Make a well in the middle, chuck in the egg, vanilla and cinnamon. Knead together to form a firm, damp but not sticky ball. Knead a bit more to make sure you’ve mixed thoroughly. If the dough starts to fall apart or crack, very carefully add a teaspoon of water and knead again.
  4. Wrap the dough in cling-film and shove it in the fridge for 15 minutes to make it easier to work with.
  5. Gently wake up Neil keeping in mind the sleeping beauty theme, with a drink of your choice. Leave to marinate in the shower at his own pace.
  6. Mix the mincemeat with the alcohol. Keep the jar, as there may be leftovers.
  7. When the dough has had it’s time, roll out on a floured surface. It may be that you find it is too dry to work with and falls apart. See point 3.
  8. Cut out 8cm rounds for the pie bases and smooth into the mince pie tin, gently evicting any air bubbles.
  9. Put a teaspoon blob of mince in the middle of each pie. Any more and the pies will explode/boil over.
  10. Using the smallest cutter or novelty cutter of your choice, make some hats for the pies. These should not seal them, unless you like cleaning mince-glass-varnish off the top inside of your oven.
  11. Place in the pre-heated oven at 180°c./GM4 for 20-25 minutes. Keep an eye on the pastry, as it browns rapidly.
  12. Let them sit in the tin a few minutes before lifting onto the cooling rack. Boiling mince hurts.
  13. Neil should now be awake enough to deal with the mess. If not, make him a bacon sandwich and put on your best cute face.

Beans on Toast

Posted November 11th, 2011 by Christine

Neil and I got to thinking whilst slightly drunk last night… what would beans on toast look like in a Michelin starred restaurant?


Really Expensive Dining in Rarified Atmosphere Restaurant, London

Gourmet Menu



Haricot Fusion- A salad of three beans on a spar of golden foccacia with microherbs and an organic green tomato dressing, served blindfolded to the sound of one hand clapping. £15.00


Space Age Cookies

Posted November 10th, 2011 by Christine

I decided to make some cookies for the after show party. As far as my cooking decision making goes, I start off with ‘wouldn’t this simple, fast recipe be a good idea…’ and after that it gets a bits blurred. Here’s what I did after a careful revision of the the Be-ro recipe for chocolate chip cookies:

Coloured Party Cookies

Makes: 12

BUSOM rating:  TBC

Time to mouth: 20 minutes plus cooling

Prep: 15 minutes

Cooking: 8-10 mins per tray


100g margerine or very soft butter

75g soft light brown sugar (light muscavado sugar)

colourings, flavourings and munchables

175g self raising flour

a couple of splashes of milk

How to make them:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to GM4/180°c
  2. Using an electric whisk, beat the margarine/butter until soft then beat in the sugar until light and fluffy
  3. Add the flavourings and colourings gradually and carefully to achieve the desired effect. Mix thoroughly after each addition.
  4. Stir in the flour with a spoon until incorporated.
  5. Unleash the whisk on the mixture and very carefully splash and mix in milk until a workable paste is formed.
  6. Mix in the solid ingredients (munchables) of your choice.
  7. Blob onto a (greaseproof paper) lined baking tray using a dessert spoon.
  8. Bake for 8-10 minutes.
  9. Transfer onto a wire rack to cool once soft enough to handle with a spatula.
  10. Decide, when the cake tin drops on your head from the top shelf, that Neil is doing the washing up.

Flavouring/colour combinations:

Green apple and cinnamon– 5 to 10ml cinnamon and (lots of) green food colouring at step 3, finely diced apple at step 6. If you coat the apple well in the mixture it will not brown.

Purple party popper– a splash of vanilla essence and a mix of red and blue food colouring at step 3 (you will need much less than the green), 150g of an 185g bag of chocolate M&Ms or similar at step 6.

Suspicious blue squidgies- blue food colouring at step 3, large handful or more of mini marshmallows and a handful of pea sized or smaller boiled sweets (I used popping candy, but sadly it doesn’t pop- it just looks pretty) at step 6.

Try not to:

  • Get the bleep of the dishwasher and the cooker timer confused and remove part cooked cookies from the oven.
  • Dye yourself suspicious blue.




The X-Factor

Posted November 9th, 2011 by Christine

Tonight is the dress rehearsal for our next show at BUSOM, which is a scratch show based around ‘Return to the Forbidden Planet’. As part of this, one of the characters has to eat a sample of the ‘X-factor’- a substance which makes all his deepest thoughts into reality and ends up generating a monster. I thought long and hard about what I’m going to use for the edible version of this and finally came up with Fruit Pastilles in a tin, but here’s one of my whackier musings (thanks to DEVA Senior Section, who do some awesome Guide Challenge Badges.)

Giant Jelly Tots

Serves: As many as you want

Neil’s rating: TBC

Time to mouth: 2 hours

Prep time: 5-10 mins


lots of packs of jelly (1 pack does three tots)

Granulated sugar to coat

How to make them:

Melt each flavour of jelly separately in the microwave and carefully pour into non-stick mince-pie moulds. Leave in the fridge to set. Coat with the sugar.

Get Neil to do the washing up asap as the jelly tastes awful dissolved in cake mix when you accidentally think that the bowl is clean because you don’t see the semi-transparent layer of orange goo. He will thank you for soaking the equipment used in warm water.

Try not to:

  • Burn yourself
  • Stick jelly to the microwave plate or any part of your anatomy


How to get a Be-ro Baking Book.

Posted November 8th, 2011 by Christine

The first Be-ro book was published in 1923 and is a staple book in our family. The recipes are quite basic and allow you to get messy and experiment. There are plenty of recipes on line, but computer keyboards and flour don’t really mix that well. If you are a book facist like me, you want the real thing. so here’s how to get the real thing (a real bargain), taken from the official website:

NEW 41st edition Be-Ro Recipe Book, available August 2011 – 1st edition published in 1923!

In 1880, amongst the most popular products that Thomas Bell sold from his grocery business in the centre of Newcastle was Bells Royal Self-raising Flour, a novelty at the time. Following the death of Edward VII it became illegal to use the Royal name and so this popular baking flour was renamed Be-Ro. To show the nation the quality and variety of home-baking possible with Be-Ro plain and self-raising Flours, Thomas held a series of exhibitions where he sold freshly bakes products for a shilling to visitors. These were so popular that people demanded that they had copies of the recipes so that they could bake the dishes at home. In 1923 the first Be-Ro book was published, it soon became an essential part of running a home and feeding a family. We are now celebrating our 41st edition with a selection of the most popular dishes and delicious new recipes for you to bakes, share and enjoy.

Books cost £2.50 incl. Postage and Packaging for UK addresses only

Cheques or postal orders should be made payable to Be-Ro Baking Recipe Book. No cash please
Send your payment, name and address to:
The Be-Ro kitchen, PO Box 100, Blackburn, Lancs, BB0 1GR

Allow 28 days for delivery – no responsibility can be taken for applications lost in the post

Offer available in the UK only’

Alternatively these little guys occasionally turn up in second hand book shops, although many families tend to keep them for generations, for example I have three different editions and counting.

Mulled Apple Crumble with Vanilla Custard

Posted November 7th, 2011 by Christine

A nice warming apple crumble to complete a filling evening meal

Serves: 4-6

Neil’s rating: 7.5 (out of 10)

Time to table: 50mins (15-20 prep, 20-30 oven)


For the apple layer:

  • 2 cooking apples
  • 100g caster sugar
  • water
  • 5ml ground cinnamon
  • 2.5ml ground nutmeg
  • 1 star anise
  • 2-3 cloves

For the crumble (quantities are approximate):

  • 2oz softened butter or butter-like spread (something that actually tastes of butter!)
  • 50g ground almonds
  • 50g dark muscovado sugar
  • flour to make a nice dry crumble mixture

For the custard:

  • 1.5 pints milk (I do not believe in skimmed)
  • 3 heaped tablespoons of Bird’s Custard Powder
  • 3 tablespoons caster sugar
  • generous (whoops!) splash of vanilla essence

How to make it:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to GM5/200°c
  2. Core, peel and roughly slice the apples
  3. Before they go brown, cover them with the sugar in a small pan and add water to half-cover
  4. Start to heat, stirring regularly and add the spices
  5. Bring just to the boil, then turn the heat right down and shove the lid on, stir occasionally until the apples have broken down into soft lumps then turn the heat off and allow to sit for a while
  6. Throw all of the crumble ingredients apart from the flour in a bowl and begin to rub together
  7. Add flour gradually, incorporating until a nice dry crumb is achieved (that sounds so posh!)
  8. Remove all debris (cloves, star anise) from the apple mixture. Cloves taste awful and the star anise may break teeth.
  9. Throw the apple mixture into an appropriately sized open proof container and smooth the crumble mixture over the top to totally cover it.
  10. Place in the oven and time for 20-30 minutes until bubbling and brown on the top.
  11. place most of the milk into another pan. Use about 20ml to make a paste with the custard powder, sugar and vanilla essence.
  12. Heat the milk, whisking constantly to make it nice and foamy (I have a really cool whisk with beads on the end which are meant to help scrape the bottom of the pan- yeah right!)
  13. When quite hot, add to the paste, give it a good stir then return to the pan. Whisk over the heat until the custard goes thick then decant into the serving jug.
  14. Serve. Eat. Try not to burn tongue.
  15. Get Neil to do the washing up. He may appreciate water being put into the custard pan before it solidifies.

Try not to:

  • Caramelise the hob by splattering it with stewing apples and then carrying on cooking regardless
  • Throw crumble mixture or any part thereof all over the work surface
  • Burn the custard to the bottom of the pan