A new addition!

For years I have wanted to get another cat after my two beloved cats passed away between 2005 and 2008. They were both living with my parents after I had been moving about quite a bit. Molly had suddenly become ill and my Dad took her to the vets who was going to run some tests and when he came back to collect her, she had sadly passed away. No idea what had caused her death but we were all very sad to be without her. Then a few years later, her daughter Poppy – who had gradually become deaf and was starting to become unable to jump up to sit on the kitchen chairs and was wetting herself in her sleep – went out one morning and possibly had a heart attack and fell into the little stream in my parent’s garden. My Dad found her and buried her in a nice little spot – marked with a little lamb figurine that a friend had given them – out the corner of your eye you always kept thinking it was Poppy, so it seemed right to use it to mark her resting place.

My parents haven’t felt like they wanted to replace them but I’ve always had a cat shaped space in my heart needing to be filled! So after some badgering of my husband, we started to look at a few cats in local rescue shelters and on Saturday decided on one very special cat – who I brought home yesterday!

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Mmmm catnip!

His name is Sam and he’s already been making himself right at home. He was relaxed after about 5 or 10 minutes and although he is still enjoying exploring about, he loves to come and snuggle up with us. Although for his first night we kept him in the kitchen and came in this morning to find he had opened most of the cupboards for a nosey!

He has also discovered how to open our drawers in our bedroom and that he likes to hunt about under the bed and how tasty peacock feathers are…

I think he will settle in just fine!

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Master of all I survey!

 

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How I know my husband loves me…

I’ve known my husband now for just over five years. Later this year we will have been married for three years and together for just over four years. We had become good friends before we got together, we (well I mainly) nattered about pretty much anything and we made each other laugh.

I had always hoped that I might meet someone who loved to read and was just generally very thoughtful and loving. We had no idea if we would ‘work’ as a couple but we thought we would give it a go, and then three months later we were engaged. He turned out to like reading a lot – lucky me!

Since then we’ve gone through some pretty tough times, losing his mother to cancer, his Dad having prostate cancer (thankfully now got the all clear!) as well as work worries, issues with the ex and the like. We still make each other laugh – and I hope we always will.

My husband really gets me. What I mean by this is that he takes an interest in me, in the things I like and *shock horror* – actually listens to me! He does wonderful things for me, gets me presents for birthdays and Christmas that show he has really thought about me. Not just getting me things I have asked for but thinking about little things that I will like. A couple of years ago he got me some craft books and a rotary cutter for Valentine’s Day. I am not really one for chocolates and flowers!

Last year I had really wanted a particular pair of shoes (well a couple of pairs but that is just me being greedy!) but they were hard to get hold of and he was getting a bit stressed out over Christmas because he couldn’t get them for me.

I am not really into high heels and all of that sort of stuff (although I have a stash of shoes I need to sell as after my ankle injury it is no more heels for me!)

So this morning he presented me with the best Valentine’s gift ever!

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Huzzah! Converse Wonder Woman shoes!! My life is now complete!

Cardamom Banana Bread with Dark Chocolate

Now, most people who know me know that I really don’t like bananas. I dislike raw banana, banana flavoured things and smoothies with banana in (it’s all I can taste!) but weirdly I don’t mind eating banana bread.

I don’t think I have ever actually made it myself before. My Mum used to make a nice banana bread, and usually if we have any bananas going manky then my husband will knock up a loaf. This week my best friend Dom (from Kingdom of Appetency) kindly gave me some devils fruit that was on the turn. A couple of years ago I had been watching a River Cottage spin off – Three Go something or other. One episode had a rather yummy sounding spiced banana cake recipe. As usual with most recipes we’ve tried we’ve tweaked it a bit to suit our tastes etc.

So last night I made a loaf and it turned out rather nice!

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Mmmm tasty!

The basic recipe is:

250g of self raising flour

175g light brown soft sugar

100g butter (the original recipe states to use unsalted butter but has a generous pinch of sea salt – we found this to just be a bit too salty so just opted to use salted butter.)

20 cardamom pods (this is the original recipe but we also have some ground cardamom and I used two teaspoons)

100g dark chocolate (either chips or chopped up) (I didn’t quite have 100g but I had 60g of Green & Blacks Dark Chocolate with Lemon which I used instead.)

3 bananas (the original recipe is 2 but I used three in mine)

1 egg – beaten

1 tablespoon demerara sugar for the top

Method:

Preheat oven to 180C (fan assisted)

Sift the flour in with salt (if using) and ground cardamom (if using cardamom pods – split them and take out the seeds and toast lightly before crushing into a powder). Then chop the butter into small pieces and add to the flour and rub in with your fingers until it resembles breadcrumbs. Mix in the light brown sugar and the chocolate pieces. Then mash up the bananas (not too much – keep some texture) and mix in the beaten egg. Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture and then pour in the banana mush and mix in and beat together until all well combined then pour into a lined loaf tin. Smooth the top with a spatula and then sprinkle the demerara on top. Pop into the oven and bake for at least 45 mins – but in reality mine took more like just over 1 hour. Keep testing with a skewer to see if it comes out clean – when it does you know it is ready.

We love it nice and warm from the oven with some butter on. But equally nice cold (also with butter on!)

Chinese New Year

As most of you probably know, yesterday was Chinese New Year – the Year of the Horse. We decided we wanted to join in with some homemade Chinese food.

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Homemade Extravaganza (No Horses Included)

We both love crispy duck and pancakes. I have made pancakes before but they somehow had ended up being a bit fragile and weren’t so great, but I thought I would give it another go this year.

So last night we had crispy duck with pancakes and plum sauce, crispy chilli chicken and some vegetable noodles.

I started off with putting the oven onto 170C and while I waited for it to heat up I dried off the skin on my duck crown. Once it was dry I gave it a liberal covering of salt, pepper and Chinese five spice. Once the oven was up to temperature I whacked the duck in. I set my timer for half hour intervals so I could take it out and give it a good baste. Then after two hours I cranked the temperature up to 200C for a final 15 mins to give it some final crisp!

Meanwhile I quartered a dozen plums and popped them in a saucepan with 5 tablespoons of sugar, 2 tablespoons of light soy sauce, half a teaspoon of chilli powder and the same of Chinese five spice. Then a couple of tablespoons of water and got it up to the boil and left it to simmer away for about 45 mins until it was all broken down and looking jammy. Popped it into a little serving dish and left it to cool.

I made my pancake dough with 300g of plain flour (well mine was more like 60g of plain flour and then I ran out so the rest was strong white bread flour) and a tablespoon of sugar and 240ml of boiling water added slowly until it formed a dough. Then turned out onto a floured surface and kneaded until smooth. Then roll it out nice and thin. I used my largest circular cutter to cut out loads of circles until you have an even number. Then get some olive oil and sesame oil mixed together and with a pastry brush give one side of each circle a liberal brushing and then pair two together – oiled sides together – do this for all of them. Then take a joined pair and give them another roll out with the rolling pin until they are nice and thin and larger. I ensured the outsides were well floured and stacked up each rolled pair and covered the stack with clingfilm until I was ready. Once the duck is ready you can then fry the pancakes in a non-stick pan for a minute or so each side and they can then be peeled apart fairly easily ready for rolling up with duck. I thinly sliced some spring onion and cucumber to go with them. Tasty!

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Mmmm good to the last quack!

For my crispy chilli chicken I used some chicken thighs – off the bone, skinned and with any fat trimmed. I chopped them into bite sized morsels and seasoned well with salt and pepper. I made a batter out of one egg white and a few teaspoons of cornflour and whisked it up till light and frothy and poured it over the chicken and gave it a good mix to coat. I then deep fried them in some oil until golden and put to one side on some kitchen roll to absorb any extra oil.

In a wok I put some groundnut oil and quickly fried some matchsticks of fresh ginger root, sliced garlic and sliced chilli and then poured about half a bottle of sweet chilli sauce into the pan. I put a decent glug of light soy sauce in and added some pineapple chunks and the juice of half a lime. Once all mixed together and heated through I added the chicken into the pan to stir through and get nice and coated in the sauce. It was finished off with some raw spring onion and some fresh coriander leaf.

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Nice and spicy! Although more really from the ginger than the chilli!

Then my noodles were nice and simple, thin egg noodles in boiling water for 3 mins. In a wok some groundnut oil, some slices of baby sweetcorn and mange tout and some carrot (I cut mine into little flower shapes with a cookie cutter to look pretty). I put a small sliced clove of garlic and a little bit of fresh ginger in too. Then added the noodles and some toasted sesame seeds and a little light soy sauce and sesame oil and a tiny bit of rice wine vinegar. Again just some raw spring onion popped on the top at the end.

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Nice and light and flavourful!

It was all super scrummy. The duck was so very nice, the plum sauce was out of this world and it all was nicer than the takeaway! (Even if I do say so myself!) There was plenty left over for us to have duck pancakes for lunch today!

I went to the library today and picked up a Chinese cookery book to see if I can get some more ideas! Hope you enjoyed Chinese New Year too!