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My Cornmeal Porridge Recipe…

Luke and I like to trawl the supermarket looking for “interesting” things. Being a huge fan of Caribbean food (we both are), and a massive lover of porridge, I recently picked a pot of this up from Tesco…

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…and I LOVED it. It’s amazing.

It’s also pretty expensive to eat on a day to day basis when you consider that you can get 1.5kg of cornmeal for £1.79 from the same aisle in Tesco. When I realised this, I put back the 6 pots of ready made porridge that I’d piled into our trolley, picked up the plain cornmeal and then started Googling recipes like mad.

There’s a lot of recipes to choose from, and a few different ways to prepare it. I tried a couple and ended up disliking them (not stodgy enough) and finding most of them too fraught with difficulty (adding cold cornmeal paste to hot liquid is just asking for lumpy porridge).

In the end I decided to follow my instincts and devised my own recipe, which turned out to be better than the Pronto Pot (even if I do say so myself)…and I wanted to share it with you! This makes enough for two bowls. You could say it makes enough for two people but I love it so much that I always eat it all to myself…

You will need:-

1/2 cup of cornmeal
1/2 cup of water
2 cups of milk
1/4 cup of condensed milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
Cinnamon (about 1/2 tsp according to taste)
Nutmeg (a small sprinkle)

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To make it you…

mix the cornmeal with the water in a small bowl to make a smooth paste

set the milk on the stove in a pan and stir in the cornmeal paste (I used cows milk but I’m sure coconut or almond milk would make a delicious alternative)

bring to the boil, stirring all the time

reduce the heat and add the condensed milk, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg

simmer for 5 minutes whilst stir stir stiring!

It will thicken on the hob, and then get even thicker as it cools.

And enjoy!!

Note:- It almost seems a shame to open a whole can of condensed milk just to use a 1/4 cup of it, but don’t be tempted to leave it out – it is VERY important to achieve the right taste. I omitted it entirely in my first attempt and used maple syrup to sweeten instead. It was not right at all.

My top tip is to make yourself a luxurious coffee with the condensed milk…maybe have a go at a Guinness Punch (it’s like a fizzy milkshake of joy) and then freeze the rest of the milk in an ice cube tray for later use in coffee/more cornmeal porridge. It doesn’t freeze hard (mine hasn’t anyway) but you can scoop it out of the tray very easily with a tiny teaspoon or a knife.

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Posted by on October 25, 2015 in Food, Life

 

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Snacks – Hospital Essentials…

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Along with all the clothing, toiletries, and comfort items you’d normally think of, most ‘hospital bag’ lists suggest that you take snacks and drinks along too. Labour can be a looong and tiring process, so it’s quite likely that you (and your birth partner) will get hungry or just need a bit of an energy boost.

The Babycentre site warns that prolonged physical activity (like labour) on an empty stomach can cause your body to start raiding your fat stores, which could give you a headache and make you feel (or be) sick. I’m not sure if I’ll want to eat anything during labour, or if I’ll have the time, but this is what I’ve packed so far…

– a HUGE bag of jelly babies…lots of people recommend them as high energy snacks, and I LOVE them (partly because I like to say “would you like a jelly baby” in Tom Baker’s voice)

– dried mango…because it’s nice and because it had been sitting in our cupboard for a while

– nature valley protein rich cereal bars…I started out with five of these but have eaten two already. If I’m honest, they’re not that great (too dry!) and I’m worried about taking peanuts into hospital, so I might just eat them all and get some seed bars instead…

– poppy and sesame crackers…these are AMAZING. They’re better with cheese but I love them on their own too. I actually can’t believe that I haven’t eaten these already. Cheese flavour crackers would be good too.

– raspberry leaf tea bags…these are the not-so-nice ones (they have a vague tomato soup smell/flavour) but they are individually wrapped which is a definite bonus. I’m not sure if I should take a thermos or not…they should have boiling water and cups in hospital?…surely?

– straws!…to make drinking easier (especially if I’m trying to focus and don’t want to have to lift a bottle/my head)

…the one thing we don’t have yet is drinks. I’m thinking a bottle of water (that we can then refill) and a couple of bottles of Powerade (blue of course) for its energy-giving properties. I used to inhale the stuff when I was doing skate training so I’m hoping it’ll make me feel like a fierce rollergirl again. I’m nothing if not optimistic!

We also need snacks for Luke, but I think he’ll be happy with a multipack of crisps.

I wanted to get a soft-sided cool bag for my snacks, and after looking around the town centre Luke found these little blue ones in the picnic section of Poundland. They’re about the size of a 6-pack of coke, close securely with a zip, and have a useful little pocket at the front too. The handle isn’t very long but it’s long enough to hook over your arm.

We did find a few others but they weren’t much bigger and were all around £5-10. They were a lot sturdier and thicker (so better as cool bags, I’m guessing) but we didn’t really need anything that was overly fancy.

I was worried that the Poundland ones wouldn’t be big enough so we got two. At the moment I’ve only filled one (and there’s still a bit of space in it) so there’s another for Luke (or me if I suddenly get greedy). They’ll be nice to use again after our little one is here for family-day-out packed lunches too.

 

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Barefoot – Looking Back…Right Back…

***FROM THE ARCHIVE OF DRAFTS***

Despite having Old Red for over a year (*ahem* almost three), I’m still a bit of a newbie when it comes to packing for outings. In some ways I am brilliantly organised, sometimes usually to the point of having way too much stuff, but I’m still learning what we need and what we don’t need, and our trip to Barefoot Festival was yet another education.

What Worked…

  • Our gazebo!…last year (*ahem*…YEARS AGO) for Beat-Herder I bought a gazebo on a whim. This gazebo was NOT waterproof. Pie and I discovered this when we saw torrents of rain pouring through it and onto all our neatly stored stuff. The new gazebo has a woven plastic roof so it was much better at keeping rain out (when it wasn’t falling diagonally that is).
  • Once again, Poundland was a brilliant source of camping supplies…we got some tiny waterproof picnic rugs (just big enough for two people to put their bottoms on, or for one person to stretch their legs out) that were really light and folded up very small so they fitted in my festival bag. The main tent didn’t have any flooring so they were really useful to keep our bums dry.
  • Also from Poundland…a pack of three rain ponchos for a quid. The hoods on them were rubbish but they were easier than a coat to put on for a brisk run to the toilet, and you don’t mind leaving them outside in the rain as much as your favourite mac (we tucked ours into the roof of the gazebo).
  • Big fleecy blankets from Primark…they not only made excellent blankets (as you might expect), but they also worked really well hung from the gazebo as sunshades. We kept them up with pieces of rope (from Poundland of course) and LOTS of gaffa tape. They made our camp feel like a very cosy little den.
  • Instruments!…we took Luke’s guitar, my ukulele and an ocarina, along with quite a few music books. We had many lovely hours sitting in the sunshine and singing our hearts out.
  • Cooking for ourselves…we had a meal plan (of sorts) for the weekend, and took a BBQ along with us. We factored in a few meals out so we got to try wood-fired pizza and an amazing french-toast croissant, but ultimately we spent very little on food and ate really well. Admittedly, the fact that Luke is a chef didn’t hurt either…

Next Time We Will…

  • Remember that it’s never too early to start packing…especially if it’s camping stuff and things you don’t use on a daily basis. On the other hand, there is definitely a point when it’s too late to pack, and that point is about half an hour after you planned to leave. Next time I will try not to blur this line again…
  • Stick to the list…the list is there for a reason. If you don’t give the list the respect it deserves and put it in a pile of paper on the coffee table you are bound to have to go home for pillows and coffee presses, and you’ll end up spending the entire weekend buying tea at £1.50 a cup and having to barter for tiny sachets of sugar…

And We Will Take…

  • MORE BEER!!…we didn’t bring enough so we ended up buying 6 pint bottles of cider from the beer tent on our last night. That set us back twenty-four quid. TWENTY FOUR QUID!
  • More tarpaulins and blankets to make rain/wind/sun shields for the gazebo…and more rope! We took a small bundle but nowhere near enough to make an adequate ‘den’. Our den kept falling apart.
  • Pegs!…both of the clothes and tent variety. These would also have been very useful in the construction of sun/rain shields.
  • More instruments…like drums and a tambourine and maracas. Guitars and ukuleles are ace, but it would have been nice if everyone (kids included) could have joined in an made some noise!

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The majority of this post was written not long after Barefoot Festival, some time in the summer of 2013. Now it’s March 2015, I’m three months pregnant and I’m very aware that the next time we go to a festival we will probably have our little one in tow (unless, by some miracle, we manage to make it to a festival this summer…when I’m six months pregnant) so we’ll have a whole new set of things to take into consideration.

On one hand I’m very excited at the thought of the adventures and fun the three of us will have together.

On the other hand, I’m already wondering what essential stuff we’ll forget this time…

 

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Collapsible Camping Accessories…

I use Iwantoneofthose quite a lot for gifts/inspiration, and while doing a spot of Christmas shopping this afternoon I found these in their ‘Camping Gadgets’…

Collapsible Cooking Pot (click to see product in new tab)

They’re made of stainless steel and silicone, they hold 3.8 litres, an they fold down to about 55mm high. They’re not cheap (£39.99), but at the moment I have two small saucepans and am already struggling for space. I plan to do a LOT more cooking in the wild next year so one of these pots is definitely going onto my email to Santa this year!

As well as the cooking pot, you can also get…

Collapsible Washing Up Bowl (click to see product in new tab)

A washing up bowl for £24.99 that would be useful for all sorts of things besides washing up…I mean, it’s got a 7.5 litre capacity so you could probably make the mother of all vodka jellies in that thing.

Red has a little double sink, complete with tap and water pump, but neither of the sinks are very deep and it’s much more pleasant to wash up outside. This silicone bowl looks like it might be a bit sturdier to use than the foldable fabric kind, but it is a lot more expensive.

They also sell…

Collapsible Kettle (click to see product in new tab)

I’ve got a little whistling kettle that holds about the same amount of water as this collapsible kettle, and although it doesn’t take up a lot of room in the cupboards, the handle does make it difficult to get out of the cupboard (especially when the back seat is in bed-mode and the cupboard door doesn’t open fully) and it does have a habit of getting in the way when I’m trying to fish out saucepans or the chopping board. Again, this is another expensive product, and at £29.99 it’s three times what I paid for my kettle. I would be interested to see how sturdy it is, and if it folds as you’re trying to pour from it.

The last collapsible wonder from IWOOT is…

Collapsible Pet Bowl (click to see product in new tab)

For £12.99 you get a 1.6 litre pet bowl that folds down to 4cm high, and I’m fairly certain that it’d be lighter than the big ceramic bowls Fletch drinks out of at the moment. I’ve got a foldable fabric bowl for him that I take walking, but it’s quite small and he doesn’t really seem to like it. It’s also rather hard to clean and you can’t ever seem to rinse it out well enough. I’ll definitely be getting a couple of these ready for when I’m brave enough to take Fletch out in the van!

All in all, these four products come to over £100 if you want to buy the lot (and I do…) and there’s other products in the range that IWOOT don’t stock at the moment, like a collapsible bucket (VERY useful…I’m always moving my bucket around the van and cursing it when it leaves muddy rings) and funnel (also very useful), but there are other sites you can find these products on. For the most part, the cooking pot, kettle and bowls are very similar prices to IWOOT, but I’ve found a seller on Amazon who has the washing up bowl, kettle, bucket and a coffee filter contraption for a very reasonable price…

Collapsible Camp Set from The Friendly Lifestyle Store (click to see product in new tab)

Considering the kettle and washing up bowl come to around £55 together, this set is amazing value. I may not bother emailing Santa…I might just buy myself an early Christmas present before they’re all sold out!

 

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Camping Food – Chilli…

The awesome thing about something like chilli is that you can prepare it all while your camping and cook it (and rice) on your little two-burner stove, or you can cook it at home and take it with you for an instant meal. Even more awesome than that?…you can freeze it so it keeps your fridge/coolbox cold, and it’ll be defrosted after a day or so.

This is my recipe for chilli con carne. It’s pretty good…even if I do say so myself.

You will need…

– A pretty big cooking pot
– 500g minced beef/lamb
– 1 or 2 crushed and chopped garlic cloves
– 1 heaped tsp of cumin powder
– 1 heaped tsp of coriander powder
– 1 heaped tsp of paprika
– 1/2 tsp of cayenne pepper
– 3 pickled green chillies, chopped (seeds and all)
– 1/2 teaspoon of chopped red chillies (I use Really Lazy Chilies)
– a chopped onion
– two chopped bell peppers (I use red and yellow, for colour as well as taste)
– a beef stock cube dissolved in about 200ml of boiling water
– 1 tbsp of tomato puree
– can of chopped tomatoes, drained
– can of beans (kidney, or haricot, or butterbeans, or bean salad…I use mixed)
– salt and pepper
– juice of half a lime (ish…we use the other half of the lime to do tequila shots while waiting for the chilli to cook. Waste not, want not!)
– coriander leaves to garnish

You’ll also need…something to serve it with, like rice, bread, tortilla chips, potatoes, BBQed hotdogs (chilli dogs…mmmmm), or anything else you can think of…and some sour cream…and guacamole if you want…

To cook…(it’s so easy…)

– fry the garlic, onions, peppers and chillies until they’re soft…
– add meat and spices then fry until the meat has browned…
– stir in stock,  tomatoes, beans and tomato puree…
– season with salt and pepper, and add lime juice to taste…
– simmer until the stock has reduced down…the longer the better!
– sprinkle with coriander leaves and plonk the pot on the table for everyone to help themselves.

You could serve salsa on the side too, but Pico de Gallo is also awesome…and very easy to make…

Deseed and finely chop three or four tomatoes, and mix with a chopped red onion and some finely chopped jalapenos (I use about three or four slices of the pickled kind). Add a handful of torn/chopped coriander leaves and season with salt, pepper and lime juice to taste…et voila!

 
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Posted by on November 1, 2012 in Camping, Food

 

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Emporium Tea Room…

To kick of my ‘random reviews’ I thought I’d write about one of my favourite tea rooms in Stratford-upon-Avon.

If you’ve ever been to the beautiful S on A you’ll know that there’s a MASSIVE choice of tea rooms and coffee shops and that most of them are overpriced and not really worth the money you’re paying for them. I’m lazy (I think I may have mentioned this already…) and so end up eating out at lunchtimes in lieu of taking the time to actually make my lunch. This is disastrous for my bank account, but it means I’m quite a good authority on where to get a decent pot of tea and a bite to eat in the town.

The Emporium Tea Room in the Ely Street Antique’s Centre is perhaps the best tea room in the entire town. That’s probably why I find myself there sometimes two or three times a week…

When you first go in you’re met by chequerboard tablecloths (I love chequerboard)  and the tables are already set up with beautiful mismatched china cup and saucer sets, just waiting for you to fill them up with one of the speciality teas. If you happen to take sugar (I don’t) then you get to take it from a china sugar bowl using a cute little teaspoon, rather than having to litter your table with empty sugar packets.

Your tea arrives in one of their random teapots, ranging from the standard flowery numbers, to giant acorns and little theatres that are painted with scenes from Shakespeare’s plays. I absolutely love the teapots and always look forward to seeing which one I’m going to get. I get absurdly excited when it’s one I haven’t had before.

I also love that you get a sugary cookie on a teeny tiny plate to enjoy with your tea.

I pretty much always order tea, and it’s always fantastic. On the odd occasion that I’ve ordered coffee it has been freshly brewed for me and has tasted awesome.

Sardines on toast! And a most excellent teapot (my favourite one) and check out the acorn milk jug!

The menu includes sandwiches, salads, things on toast (of which, sardines is my favourite), a fabulous ploughman’s platter that comes served on a HUGE chopping board, and a selection of cakes and scones. There’s also a specials board that offers home-made soups (delicious)  and things like sardines or melted goats cheese on toast (delicious delicious). The prices are reasonable for Stratford, food is all fantastic, and the portions are incredibly generous.

I usually order sandwiches, which come with a huge freshly cut salad, crisps and home-made coleslaw. I’m obsessed with coleslaws and I’d go as far as to say that theirs is the best I’ve tasted! Their home-made soups are awesome too and not only do you get a big bowlful, but you get freshly baked rolls (hot from the oven) and little pats of real butter. Bliss.

Their carrot and coriander soup is delicious!

I don’t get long for lunch so I never have time to taste the cakes, but I have it on very good authority from my Mom and my workmates (all life-long connoisseurs of baked goods) that the lemon meringue pie and the cream teas at the Emporium are as good as the savouries.

It’s not just the food that’s great though; the staff are also really friendly and helpful. Normally they run table service, so you go in, choose a table and decide what you want, and then they come to you to take your order. Similarly, when you’re done they bring the bill over to you and you pay (with cash) at your table. They know that I only get 30 minutes for lunch though, so they let me save time by ordering and paying at the counter, which I’m really grateful for! They really are kind and accommodating.

The antique’s centre itself is also well worth a look around and I’ve found loads of quirky gifts and hidden treasures in there. There’s a little vintage clothing shop hidden away at the the back too and when I’m not in the tea room I can often be found hanging out in there, spending my money on beautiful old things.

If you’re going into Stratford-upon-Avon and you’ve never been to Emporium Tea Room before then you really should add it to your itinerary. Even if you don’t want to stretch to lunch, it’s worth it for the tea and china alone!

 
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Posted by on October 17, 2012 in Days Out, Food, Random, Reviews

 

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