Monday, 27 January 2014

Chinese New Year: Leftover Rice

It's Chinese New Year this Friday and if you're looking for a thrifty dish, how about using up leftover rice* to make egg fried rice?


Leftover rice
1 egg
2 tbsp soy sauce
Handful of frozen peas
Salt & pepper to season

1. Heat a glug of olive oil in a non-stick pan until sizzling
2. Add the rice and stir fry for 3-4 minutes, breaking up all of the rice
3. Add the frozen peas and soy sauce and continue to fry until hot through
4. Crack the egg into a mug and whisk with a fork, adding salt and pepper
5. Push aside the rice in the pan, then add the egg, leave for 10 seconds to set a little before breaking up with a wooden spoon and stirring through the rice
6. Serve immediately

I had my egg-fried rice with pork stir fry, thriftily made with leftover meat from the Sunday roast for a delicious week day dinner.

* See here for advice on storing and re-heating rice safely

PS 31st January will see us usher in the year of the horse, but what animal are you? Find out here... Apparently I'm a snake!

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Dyeing Clothes in the Washing Machine

I had this cream trench coat stuck in the back of the wardrobe for years. It was an impulse buy (most unlike me!) and I never quite managed to make it work, but nor did I quite manage to part with it, as it's a nice fit and length on me.

I decided it was time to try Dylon washing machine dye and that if I was going to do this, I might as well do it properly, so I went the whole hog and ordered a box in Tropical Green from eBay:

When it arrived, I initially got cold feet (it's pretty darn bright!), but decided as this jacket has been languishing in the cupboard for so long unworn, I had nothing to lose!

How to use Dylon washing machine dye:

Empty the whole packet of dye into the drum and then add 500g of ordinary salt (some retailers sell this with the dye but I found it cheaper to buy separately). Place the fabric you wish to dye on top (the box suggests you'll get the full effect of the colour on 600g of fabric or a paler colour on a full-load, e.g. bedsheets) and run a 40 degree cycle.

Once you're done, run the washing machine empty on a 40 degree cycle to rid of any traces of the dye (just in case there was any residue, I ran a coloured wash on the next use, not a white one!) then voila, stand back and admire your handiwork:

I love the green and am so glad I didn't go with a 'safe' colour, although it's worth noting that the thread hasn't taken such a bright shade and is a minty green, as you can see in the picture below.

I'm really pleased that for £6.50 I've got myself a 'new' jacket that I can't wait to wear and that I'm hoping will make me feel like spring is just around the corner!

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Pina Colada Curd Cake

Curd is one of those fridge lurkers; you buy it for a recipe and then it sits there, taking up precious space (or worse, being thrown out)... but no more; this cake is a great way to use up curd leftovers.

Today's recipe uses a pretty cool curd - pina colada curd! I got given a jar of Cherry Tree curd as a Christmas present and it's delicious, but you could use any curd - lemon, passionfruit or mango would work well here.

Pina Colada Cake

Sponge Recipe
175g butter
175g caster sugar
175g self-raising flour
3 eggs, gently whisked
1 tsp vanilla essence

1. Pre-heat the oven to 190℃/375℉/Gas Mark 5 and grease two 20cm round cake tins
2. Soften the butter, then combine with the sugar and vanilla essence using an electric whisk, until pale and fluffy
3. Gradually add the eggs, whisking well between each addition
4. Sift in half of the flour and fold into the mixture using a metal spoon
5. Fold in the remaining flour
6. Divide the mixture between the two cake tins and bake in the centre of the pre-heated oven for 20-25 minutes until golden and well-risen

Leave the cakes on a wire rack to cool. Once cooled, spread a layer of pina colada curd across one of the cakes and sandwich the other on top.

Pina Colada Curd Icing
125g butter
250g sifted icing sugar
4 tbsp curd

1. Soften the butter, then whisk together with the icing sugar and curd until thick and creamy
2. Spread generously over the top of the cake.

PS Another of my favourite curd recipes is this no bake lemon cheesecake

PPS Did you know that the pina colada is the official beverage of Puerto Rico?

Sunday, 12 January 2014

January Seasonal Recipe: Brussels Sprout Salad

Brussels sprouts are not just for Christmas and if you try this salad you'll see why! I grabbed a couple of bargain bags of sprouts post-Christmas and this 10p pack is going a long way.

This salad is best served warm and would go nicely with a vinegarette, or is also delicious on its own.

Brussels Sprout Salad (Serves 2)

2 handfuls Brussels sprouts
1 leek
Small pack pancetta
2 cloves garlic
2 tbsp olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper to season

1. Cut the ends of off the sprouts and peel off the outer leaves
2. Slice the leek and peel the garlic
3. Pop all of the above, plus lemon juice and seasoning into the food processor and blitz until everything is shredded
4. Heat the olive oil in a non-stick pan, then add the pancetta
5. Cook for 2 minutes, then add the contents of the food processor and cook for another 4 minutes on a medium to high heat, stirring often until everything is tender
6. Serve warm with fresh bread

Friday, 10 January 2014

Terry's Chocolate Orange Cupcakes

Do you still have Christmas chocolate lurking in the cupboards?

If so, why not try baking some 'leftover chocolate' cupcakes. I made mine with Terry's Chocolate Orange Segsations, but you can substitute any chocolatey leftovers into the buttercream.

The recipe I used is the chocolate cupcake recipe from the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook (find the recipe online here) and is suitably thrifty with only 1 egg and 40g of butter. It makes 12 normal-sized cupcakes or 8 large ones using muffins cases.

Terry's Chocolate Orange Buttercream (for 12 cupcakes*)
75g Segsations
100g Icing Sugar
75g Butter

1. Melt the segments in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and leave to cool
2. Cut the butter into cubes, then sift in the icing sugar
3. Beat into buttercream, then add the cooled chocolate and mix well
4. Decorate (I used a star nozzle to pipe these)

 * This quantity would cover these cupcakes more generously than I did, but I find too much milk chocolate can be a bit sickly - I used about 2/3 of the quantity (and popped a Segsation on a few of them to compensate!)

I'm going to resist a 'they're Segsational' pun to close!

Monday, 6 January 2014

Epiphany - Taking Down the Christmas Decs

Pronunciation: /ɪˈpɪf(ə)ni, ɛ-/

noun (plural epiphanies)

  • 1 (Epiphany) the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles as represented by the Magi (Matthew 2:1-12).
  •  the festival commemorating the Epiphany on 6 January.
  • 2a moment of sudden and great revelation or realization.

Epiphany 'the festival commemorating the Epiphany on 6 January'

Twelfth Night, which marks the coming of Ephiany and the end of the Twelve Days of Christmas is believed by some to be the last date to take down your Christmas decorations, else bad luck will befall you. Whilst I'm not sure I believe in this bad luck, there does come a point when you're ready to pack down the Christmas decs and start afresh. Here are a few things to do before you forget Christmas for another 11 months:

1. Cut out old Christmas cards to make gift tags:

2. Keep any flat pieces of wrapping paper big enough to cut out and use next year:

3. Shop for a few Christmas bargains in the January sales:

String reduced from £3.50 to £1 and 24 Gift Bags reduced from £8 to £1, Ikea

4. Put everything away neatly in a 'Christmas box':

5. Relax and eat leftover Christmas chocolate:

Epiphany 'a moment of sudden and great revelation or realisation'

I came to the realisation over the Christmas break that I can't do everything all the time. I have a demanding job, a long commute, I'm often all over the country and when I get home, I'm pretty knackered. So I need to stop giving myself a hard time; the house won't always be clean and tidy, dinner won't always be made-from-scratch, the ironing pile might start spilling out of the basket and I won't always go to the gym as often as I maybe should. Instead I will pursue the things that make me happy, enjoy each day as it comes and not sweat the small stuff.

So that means more cakes, more sewing and more blogging in 2014, cheers to that!