Oregano & Sundried Tomato Foccacia

As it’s bread week on The Great British Bake Off I couldn’t let it pass without trying my hand at a new bake.

The last few weeks I’ve been going through one of my flatbread addiction phases and they have accompanied a lot of our meals but last night I fancied a change so made a foccacia.

The basic recipe is one I’ve used on numerous occasions to make a rosemary and seasalt foccacia but the beauty of this bread is that you can change it so much just by adding a few herbs or ingredients.

This is a sort of pizza flavoured foccacia with oregano and Sundried tomatoes giving a really summery vibe. I used dried herbs as I was actually feeling too lazy to go out and snip some – and it was cold last night! Fresh would take the flavour up a notch I imagine. It also has a hint of heat because I used chilli and garlic rapeseed oil:

Oregano and Sundried Tomato Foccacia

You will need:

500g of strong white bread flour
1.5 tbsp of oregano
5g of easy bake yeast
350ml of warm water
30ml of chilli & garlic rapeseed oil ( The preservation society )
5g of seasalt
1.5 tbsp of Sundried tomatoes
* some additional oil, salt and herbs for the topping

Mix your oregano, flour and salt in a large bowl. Add your yeast and warm water and make a rough dough before adding your oil and bringing it together into a very sticky dough. Turn onto a floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes. You need to work through the sticky stage, using floured hands and adding more flour to hands as needed. It will become less sticky and more smooth. Then add your Sundried tomatoes and knead for a few more minutes.

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Place in an oiled bowl and cover with a teatowel. Leave until doubled in size ( about an hour to an hour and a half).
Preheat your oven to the highest heat setting.
Now knock back and shape into a rectangle on a floured work surface and place into an oiled rectangular baking tray. Cover again and leave for about 45 minutes. Now using your fingers, press deep dimples into the dough and sprinkle with herbs and salt and drizzle with oil.

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Place into your oven and cook for approximately 18-20 minutes. If it’s browning too quickly you may want to reduce the heat for the last 10 minutes.

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Leave to cool slightly and serve cut into strips with oil for dipping.

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I’m joining in with The Great Bloggers Bake Off 2014

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And Tasty Tuesdays with Honest Mum

Tasty Tuesdays on HonestMum.com

An Arabian Nights Inspired Meal – Spiced Turkey Meatballs & Flatbreads

I was recently invited by Red Tractor to take part in a recipe challenge.

The challenge was to devise a recipe using British Turkey and two other Red Tractor ingredients with an Arabian Nights theme.

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I instantly thought of spiced turkey meatballs, Tzatziki… and flatbreads.

I also thought of a photo I once saw of a middle eastern mint lemonade that I had always intended to try and so there it was. My meal:

Spiced Turkey Meatballs With Flatbreads, Tzatziki and Halloumi Salad served with a mint lemonade slushie.

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Like all good plans they don’t always go the way you want. I forgot to get yoghurt..then my two cucumber mad daughters munched a whole cucumber in two days and I simply have not found enough time to make the lemonade as yet! Arrgghh.

BUT.. I have made my meal of turkey meatballs and flatbreads, with cous cous and halloumi salad and it was good. So good.

You will need:

For the meatballs:

900g of turkey mince ( I used 7% fat mince from Aldi – red tractor approved of course)
3 small British shallots minced or diced ( red tractor approved)
1 large bunch of flat leaf parsley finely chopped ( red tractor approved)
1 cup of breadcrumbs
1 tbsp of oregano
1 tbsp of Garam Masala
1tsp of allspice
1/2 tsp of crushed black and pink peppercorns
1/2 tsp of seasalt
Olive oil

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For the flatbreads:

250g of plain flour
150ml of warm-hot water
1tbsp of olive oil
1/2 tsp of garam masala
1/2 tsp of oregano
1\2 tsp of seasalt

For the cous cous

250g of cous cous
400ml of boiling water
Olive oil
Butter
Lemon zest and 1tbsp of juice

For the salad:

Little Gem Lettuce ( red tractor approved)
Vine tomatoes
Spring onions ( red tractor approved)
Halloumi
Pomegranate molasses

Mix together all meatball ingredients apart from oil in a large bowl. Use your hands to ensure it’s all well blended.

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Form meatballs ( size is entirely up to you- the smaller they are the quicker they will cook) and place on an oiled tray or plate. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to firm up and make them easier to cook. Whilst your meatballs are in the fridge make the dough for your flatbreads by combining all dry ingredients and then adding your oil and warm water and mixing quickly to make a dough, knead on a floured surface for 5 minutes then cover and rest for 20 minutes.

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Prepare your salad now and assemble it all but the halloumi and molasses. Cover and set aside. Once out of the fridge, heat an oiled pan and start to cook your meatballs. You may need to cook in batches. Once cooked place in a foil covered dish in a warm oven to keep warm and moist.

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Roll your flatbread dough into a sausage and cut into six pieces. Roll out each piece into a thin circle ready for cooking.
Make your cous cous by following packet instructions – we kept ours simple with a bit of butter and lemon but feel free to experiment with flavours and herbs. Cover while you cook your flatbreads and halloumi
Place a pan on a high heat ( no oil required) until almost smoking. Cook your flatbreads one at a time, you can tell when one side is cooked ( approx after 1-2 minutes) as it will start to bubble up in areas, you then need to turn it over and cook the other side for about 45seconds. Don’t worry if some bits are blackened and scorched – it adds to the flavour. Sprinkle with sea salt and oil as soon as you remove from pan and place in a dish wrapped in a clean tea towel to keep soft and warm. Using your already hot pan drizzle some chilli oil in and place your sliced halloumi in carefully. Cook until golden and put atop your salad.

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Serve your meatballs, flatbread, cous cous and salad with a dip or two – Tzatziki would be best but if not sour cream and a chutney would work well.

We all thoroughly enjoyed this meal. The meatballs were succulent and full of flavour. I don’t often cook with Turkey mince but I can certainly see this changing!

Let me know if you try.

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Saving Energy, Water and Time with Happier Homes

I’m on the final additional unpaid part of my maternity leave right now and it’s making me take a long hard look at my budget and where I can save pennies. It’s also making me address the fact that when I go back to work I am going to be quite time poor which means household jobs need to be quick and efficient if I’m going to get anytime at all to spend with my family.

I’ve been sent some info by Happier Homes with advice on how to save energy and also how to save water – handy if you are on a water meter or if you just want to be a bit more environmentally friendly.

Some of the tips were things I had heard before but a couple of things surprised me.

Did you know that it’s better for you and the environment if you use a dishwasher? We have only had a dishwasher for about two years but I wouldn’t be without it now. I always thought that using up electricity to wash dishes meant it was a rather luxurious way to do your dishes and I actually believed it was costing me more money to wash up this way.

But no.

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* Intertek UK 2010 Washing up Study. For more details download the full findings here
** Comparison calculations assume:
One meal per person equates to one place setting washed up
Data from Intertek Study of washing up place settings by hand vs in a dishwasher
Average water and energy costs supplied by uSwitch.com

As a mum of four who cooks a LOT and uses a fair amount of dishes/pans for each meal I was astonished to find that I was saving myself nearly 700 hours a year just by not doing the washing up by hand.. And just think of the benefits to my sensitive hands too :-)

Oh and it saves money too of course. Over £200 in fact. I easily cook a minimum of 50 meals a week. I normally cook at least two meals each day at home for four of us.

And of course there is the issue of water. Saving approximately 600litres per week. Wow.

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Does that surprise you? I wonder how many people thought along the same lines as I did and I wonder how many more people would buy a dishwasher if they knew?

Onto the washing machine..

I always knew that washing clothes at a lower temp was cheaper and obviously a bit more ‘green’ but I didn’t think about the fact that washing machines have improved so much over the years and also a lot of the washing powders have built in stain removal now meaning you can wash at 30 or 40 now and have pretty much the same results as washing at 60 would have given you a few years ago. Good to know.

One washing machine tip is to run a very hot wash every now and again to avoid a musty smell from occurring when you wash frequently at lower temps. I tend to put in a load of towels for a hot wash once a month to combat this.

I hope this informations has been helpful. Do you have any extra tips for helping to save energy and water around the home?

Here are a final few bits of advice:

*When you go shopping, take a reusable bag with you.
*Don’t leave appliances on standby
*In the kitchen, when cooking, keep lids on pans as much as you can, to reduce heat loss.
*Don’t keep the fridge or freezer door open for longer than necessary.
*Cook meals in bulk.
*Only boil the amount of water you need.

*This post is in collaboration with Happier Homes.

Simply Sweet Cookies

Tonight knowing that it was biscuit week on The Great British Bake Off I made sure I had some cookies in the oven before I even thought about sitting down to watch. I had massive cake envy all through last weeks episode and I had NO cake to eat. Not making that mistake again.

I made a very simple cookie recipe which had just a few adaptations to my standard fail safe make in my sleep basic cookie recipe.

It turned out SO well that I wanted to share it with you tonight.
It’s simple. Takes less than 5 mins to prep and about 12 minutes to cook.
Not many photos I’m afraid as I didn’t think I wasn’t going to share it but it’s easy and tastes delicious.

Oat & Chocolate cookies

You will need:

100g softened butter
75g of soft brown sugar
175g of self raising flour
50 grams of porridge oats
45ml of golden syrup
75g of milk chocolate chunks
3tbsp of whole milk

Preheat oven to gas mark 3.

Cream your butter and sugar together before adding your remaining ingredients and stirring to combine. Dollop spoonfuls onto a greased baking tray. Bake until lightly golden ( about 12-14 minutes) Makes approximately 12 large (ish) cookies.

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They taste to me exactly as cookies should. A combination of soft, chewy and chocolate with the added texture of oats.

I’m joining in with The Great Bloggers Bake Off 2014

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And Tasty Tuesdays with Honest Mum

Tasty Tuesdays on HonestMum.com

The Big Feastival 2014

In just 3 weeks Alex James will open up his beautiful farm in the Cotswolds to food and music family festival goers.

The weekend of music and food indulgence, which runs from 29-31st August is the brainchild of Alex James and Jamie Oliver with a heady mix of delicious foodie treats and a wide selection of music. There is also an array of children’s entertainment and delicious food stands, there will be something on offer for all of the family.

We first attended the festival in 2012 when Izzy was nearly 1year old. So much has changed for us as a family since then. We have a new addition in Chloe who is now 9 months old and Izzy will be nearly 3years old when we attend this years festival. You can read about our experience here

Izzy at The Big Feastival 2012:

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Yes we are going again! Woo. We have been invited as special guests of AEG who are festival sponsors. AEG will be present throughout the festival offering a fantastic variety of features for all ages that will focus on food and cooking, with a particular emphasis on steam and healthy, flavoursome food.

Some of what AEG will have on offer at The Big Feastival:

The AEG Family Kitchen will host family foodpairing cookery classes using the latest AEG induction hobs for parents and children (8 years +) . This will take place on the AEG mobile academy, which is fully equipped with the latest AEG steam and induction appliances.

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The AEG Family Kitchen Garden: making raw food dishes. This feature is perfect for younger children and accompanying parents. Daylesford vegetable & fruit boxes will be available on benches in the garden area where families can create their own food pairing recipes together by following a simple AEG family food pairing guide. This workshop will combine fun and education allowing parents and children to learn about nutrition, natural ingredients and food pairing. Social media will be integral to sharing this with our online community

The Big Feastival is a fantastic combination of music and food with a big dollop of family fun thrown in.

What we are looking forward to:

AEG Cooking Club : AEG are joining up with Dayleford Organics to hold steam and induction classes cooking simple, family suppers such as chargrilled chicken with bulgar wheat.

AEG Big Kitchen: I’m looking to watching demos from Jamie Oliver, Gennaro Contaldo, Gizzi Erskine and more live on the main AEG cooking stage.

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Music: music from the likes of Jamie Cullum, Levi Roots, Fatboy Slim and The Cuban Brothers plus lots more.

Family Fun: From the Little Dudes Den to Justin Fletcher and Mr Bloom as well as the Disney Roadshow, Roald Dahl museum and much much more. It’s going to be so much fun – I can’t wait to see Izzys face when she realises we are at a festival again.

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Are you going to this years festival? Would be lovely to see some of you.

It’s Snuggle Weather

The last few days when the rain has been torrential and the days have been a lot greyer it’s been perfect snuggle up in soft blankets weather.

I quite like the arrival of Autumn. Don’t get me wrong by April I am yearning for Summer but Autumn with its log fires, mugs of hot chocolate and bowls of comforting casseroles. I like it. Also maybe it’s because I’m not 100% comfortable with my post baby shape but I’m more of a jeans and jumper girl than a short shorts and cropped top one.

I’ve got a super soft fleecy dressing gown which just envelopes me in warmth and I love to just wrap myself up in it and watch the rain against the window. When the weather isn’t great it doesn’t feel as lazy to still be in your pyjamas at 3pm does it.. Not to me anyway.

What if your every day clothes were as soft and comfy as your pjs? Wouldn’t that be nice? I’ve been taking a look at the cashmere jumpers over on the Woolover site. It’s the 25th birthday of Woolover this year – HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

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Woolover was founded in 1989 and now 25 years later has over 750,000 customers all over the world who they have supplied with their classic and contemporary knitwear. With over 160 styles available you are sure to find something to suit your taste.

I liked this style the most:

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Soft, slouchy and unisex too. Plus a bit of a steal at just £30.00. There are lots more to choose from and some lovely lambswool cardigans too:

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Go and have a look for yourself!

*This post is in collaboration with Woolover.

Siblings – August

Another month of my girls together. Growing up, growing closer and becoming friends. It’s been a very hard month of parenting – I won’t deny that but somehow looking at back at these photos lifts my spirits.

Izzy and Chloe have two sets of matching outfits – this is one of them. Well a matching patten anyway and they looked so cute together.

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Sometimes with all that is going on in her toddler world, Izzy doesn’t have as much time for Chloe but one time she is always excited to see her is in the morning. Sometimes I let her have Chloe in her bed for a quick cuddle before we get up:

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Sometimes if I’m lucky I will catch a moment like this when Izzy can’t stop herself from going in for a quick impromptu squeeze:

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I love the way Chloe looks at her sister in adoration.

And here are one or two quick pics from our recent trip to Camp Bestival:

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Dad snuck into this one too..

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I’m loving joining in on the Siblings linky each month and keeping an online photo diary of my girls growing up together. Why don’t you join in? Just click the badge below:

dear beautiful

Testing Times

Everything’s not always rosy.

Having just returned from a family break to a fantastic festival with a hundred smiling photos of us all you would be forgiven for thinking all is happy and well with my world.

For the most part it is I guess when you look at the big picture. We are all in reasonably good health, we have a home, a loving family and food on the table every day. But all is certainly not rosy. We seem to have totally lost all semblance of any bedtime routine with both girls of late and it means we never get an evening to ourselves anymore.

Actually never.

Each evening is tiring and stressful and I dread it.

Izzy is pushing boundaries every day. She knows what buttons to push and is not afraid to push them.

Add to this I think my anxiety levels are rising again and nearly 9 months on I’m still having birth trauma issues. Some days are just not fun.

In fact some days are awful.

At least once a day for the past week I have been on the verge of tears for one reason or another. Sometime it’s just tiredness. Sometimes it’s because my darling toddler has told me she doesn’t love me anymore..just Daddy. Sometimes it’s because Chloe is so incredibly frustrated that she can’t do everything she wants to yet and so instead just whines and whines.

I want to carry on breastfeeding, I want to stop breastfeeding. I love the closeness, the feeling of giving Chloe the very best I can but I need the freedom to be able to leave the house for more than an hour or two to clear my head. I don’t know what to do.

I worry so much. About how I will cope when I return to work. How I can possibly fit my job around my family and home life. I can’t work full time anymore as how will I get to know my children the way I want to and be there for them when I am only home for two of their wakeful hours each day. If I work part time how will we afford to bring them up the way we want to. Arrggh. All day questions, stress.. Over tired ..over active mind.

I need to bake. Baking soothes my soul.

A Bargain Summer Drinks Special

I drink more in the summertime. Both non alcoholic and alcoholic drinks. A glass of prosecco tastes so much better in the sun. I don’t drink to excess ..in fact I typically only drink one as I’m breastfeeding but I REALLY enjoy that one drink and when you are limiting the amount that you drink well you want it to taste good.

We have recently started to do a lot of our food shopping at Aldi as one has opened very close by and it’s so reasonably priced for most of the products we use. This is not a review.. Although I guess it is but I want to make it clear that I paid for all of these products myself. We have been so impressed by the drinks in particular that I wanted to tell you about our favourites.

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Starting with the Prosecco. I’ve tried quite a few proseccos over the years and this is by far my favourite. It’s light, crispy and goes perfectly with some strawberry syrup. Delicous. Plus it’s only £5.99 which is a bit of a bargain.

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Next the Alska Strawberry and Lime cider which I LOVE! I really like the rekorderlig version of this drink but it’s a lot pricier and this at just £1.59 is just as good in my opinion.

The Orchard Premium Original Cider is a favourite of my OH and is a steal at 99p.

The Cosmopolitan cocktail is priced at £4.99 and is delicous, although I prefer it in a tall glass filled with ice and wedges of lime as it tastes quite strong when it’s neat.

L’esprit D’Orange is the Aldi version of Cointreau and is perfect for mixing with cocktails or even just added to chilled lemonade and crushed ice. It’s priced at £5.99 which when compared to a price of around £13.00 plus for holes of Cointreau is a bit of a steal.

We have also been really enjoying the Mexican Lime and Raspberry and Mint Vive soft drinks. Priced at 49p for a litre they are an ideal budget mixer.

If you are planning a party or BBQ you may just find it worth popping along to your local store.

*All items were paid for in full by myself.