26 October 2012

Still Very Pregnant

I feel bad because I haven't blogged for ages. It's not that I haven't been cooking and eating, I have, but I haven't been cooking anything new or exciting. I've mostly been using my maternity leave (started 3 days ago) to bounce on a Pilate's ball and drink Raspberry Leaf tea in an effort to make the baby to get a move on. I'll be 39 weeks tomorrow and if you were to look uncomfortable up in the dictionary there would be a big picture of my balloony face wincing back at you. I'm also trying to slow down on the eating a bit, I'm hungry all the time but, well I don't want to go into it but lets just say I'm not going to go in there with a full stomach (hopefully).

So, I thought I'd put in a few links here to what I have been eating, reading, doing...

A few friends have been coming round for tea so I've used this as an excuse to continually be making my Mumma's Ultimate Coffee Cake, it's been incredibly well received by all so far, even those not keen on coffee and because it uses margarine and it's the only thing I use margarine for I may as well keep making it until I run out! I think I'll make this after I've had the baby too as its really quick and apparently there will be visitors and it is so quick that even if I can't make it I should be able to boss Joe from the sofa.

Mostly I've been re-making tried and trusted recipes that are quick and tasty. We have my cousin staying with us for a couple of nights and so this evening I'm going to make the chicken part of Jamie's Stuffed Cypriot Chicken and serve it with tomato salad, green salad and mini conchigliette pasta with lots of butter and garlic salt. She's at university at the moment so feels the need for some salad - this chicken is the perfect accompaniment. My pudding of choice for when we have people over for supper has been thanks to trusty Nigella and her Instant Chocolate Mousse - pregnancy friendly and the perfect vehicle for double cream.

Over the last couple of weeks I've been filling the freezer up with easy-to-cook comfort food in 2 person portions so when we come back from the hospital we have something to eat. I also have fish fingers, chips, peas, bread etc in there ready to go. Have managed to freeze all Joe's favourites so I'm slightly worried that if I get kept in the hospital for a couple of days I'll come home to find that he's eaten it (it's sometimes like living with Homer Simpson: 'the freezer defrosted so i had to eat everything'...). So the main things in there are Macaroni Cheese, Spaghetti Bolognaise and Piquant Basil Chicken

I have been reading a few baby books but find the whole thing rather over-whelming. How can you possibly remember everything when you have a pregnant brain and can't put anything into practise yet? I really loved A Perfect Start: Or coping with the first months of parenthood by Christine Hill and Joe actually read it too and wasn't too pained by the whole experience. Because there is so much information I've now been alternating ready a baby book occasionally during the day and a non-baby book at night (baby books just before bed are a sure cause of anxiety dreams). At the moment the baby book is French Children Don't Throw Food by Pamela Druckerman which Joe bought me by accident and I thought was for older children but has some great advice, and the non-baby book is The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, recommended to me by a friend for my holiday to France so I uploaded it onto my trusty Kindle and then never got round to it - it's fantastic.

I've been trying to look after myself too - pregnancy is not unstressful on the body so I think a bit of TLC is just what's needed. For the past four months (and indeed in an hours time) I've been having massages with Agnes through Return to Glory. Incredibly good value for money and having someone appear on your doorstep so you don't have to heave yourself out of the house is a big deal when you get this big. I've also made sure that my skin has been moisturised - my two must have products have been Embryolisse Baume Riche and Origins Make a Difference + creams. You don't need to be pregnant, these are perfect for this time of year if you suffer from dry/tight skin.

I'm not big on having my photo taken so there haven't been any bump update pictures but there is the occasional one on Instagram so if you use it then follow me there @corinnaharrod.

So thats it really, I will update here when there's any news of an arrival... or a non arrival if it's really late. Then hopefully I'll be back in the kitchen soon - strange to think that by this time I'm usually elbow deep making flavoured vodka, pickles, chutneys and jams for Christmas. This year it'll be 'thank goodness for the Internet'!

24 October 2012

Beef, Stout and Anchovy Pie

It's that time of year again - pie night - where I make a pie for my friends Libby and Ian. I'm not even a huge fan of pie but they are fun to make, they take time but are very satisfying when they come out of the oven all golden and lovely. Last years pie was Steak and Stout and this years was a quicker, simpler (pregnancy) version courtesy of Rachel Allen's lovely book Bake. I say simpler, it was still time consuming but you can make it quicker by using puff or flaky pastry from the shop in place of the hot water crust pastry she recommends and I used here. I served this with baked potatoes and peas.

Beef, Stout and Anchovy Pie

Serves 4-6

For the pie: 
4tbsp olive oil
600g stewing beef, trimmed and cut into 2cm chunks
salt and freshly ground black pepper
400g button mushrooms, cut into quarters
2 large onions, peeled and sliced
4 large cloves of garlic peeled and chopped
500ml beef or chicken stock
250ml bottle of stout
1 tbsp chopped tarragon
30g tin anchovies, drained
1 x quantity hot water crust pastry (see below)

For the pastry:
75g butter, cubed,
100ml water
225g plain flour
pinch of salt
1 egg, beaten

You will need 1 medium pie dish or 4-6 individual dishes, a large oven-proof casserole and a big mixing bowl and rolling pin for the pastry. Pre-heat the oven to 150C/300F/Gas Mark 2.

1. Place a large ovenproof casserole over a medium heat. Add 2 tbsps of olive oil and the beef and cook until brown (do this in batches if necessary). Season with salt and pepper, then remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

2. You may need to tip some excess juices out, then add 1 more tbsp of olive oil and the mushrooms, season and cook until browned. Remove and set aside.

Chopped mushrooms
 3. Pour the last tbsp of olive oil into the casserole and add the onions and garlic. Toss these for 1 minute, then add the beef, mushrooms, stock and stout. Bring to the boil, cover, reduce the heat and simmer gently on the hob or, as I did, into the preheated oven for 1-1½ hours or until the meat is tender. Depending on the meat, it may even take a bit longer.

4. Add the chopped tarragon and season to taste, but go slightly easy on the salt as you'll be adding anchovies later on. Allow to cool, while you make or prepare the pastry. Preheat the oven to 230C/450F/Gas Mark 8.

5. To make the pastry: place the butter and water in a medium-sized saucepan and heat gently, stirring occasionally, until the butter melts, then allow the mixture to come to a rolling boil.

 6. Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl. Make a well in the middle and add the egg and stir it in to the flour slightly.

7. Pour the hot liquid into the flour and stir with a wooden spoon to mix.

8. Spread the mixture out on a large plate with a wooden spoon and allow to cool (about 15 mins), then remove the pastry from the plate (easiest done with a metal spatula) wrap in cling film and place in the fridge for 30 mins until firm.

Pastry cooling on a plate
9.  Place the pie filling in the dish/s. Place 1-2 anchovies in each individual dish or all the anchovies in the large dish spaced apart from each other.

Pie filling in dish


10. Roll the pastry out, cut out rough lengths and stick these to the edge of the pie dish using egg or beaten water. Paste these strips with water or beaten egg and then add your pie top. Crimp the edges with your thumb and index fingers and add decoration of your choice (I use a cow cookie cutter as its a beef pie).

Pie pre-cooking
11. Cook in the oven for 10 mins before reducing the heat to 200C/400F/Gas Mark 6 and cooking for a further 20-30 mins.


18 October 2012

The Ultimate Coffee Cake

I had to work on my birthday for the first time ever this year. Typically I've avoided being at school or work for the first 28 and then when I'm finally free from the office and working for myself I manage to land a 12 hour day. I'm not complaining as it was doing makeup on a film set so it was really fun but pretty exhausting when you are 6 ½ months pregnant. I was tired when I drove home but got back to a spankingly clean house, champagne in the fridge and my family there with lots of presents and ready to order me illicit sushi. As I didn't get home til 8 I assumed that I'd missed the cake slot but no, my Mumma had not only made me a cake but it turned out to be actually the best cake in the whole world.

Now I admit that I am one of those people who thinks their mother's cooking is the best (I know my mum's cooking is the best) and her coffee cake, which she has made me for pretty much every birthday for the last 29 years is unbeatable, but this year's took it to a whole other level. I know that a lot of people don't like coffee cake - that is because most shop bought cakes a) come with walnuts (why? WHY?) and b) are incredibly sickly because they use too much coffee but this cake has, so far, gone down well with everyone. This cake is really moist (I think because it uses margarine instead of butter... sounds gross but trust me it works) and has not too much coffee in the sponge or the icing and instead of walnuts either grated chocolate or just sprinkled with caster sugar. If you want to be as amazing as my mother's, topped with extra coffee icing and sprinkled with crumbled flake.

This cake was so good I had to cut it into individual slices and freeze them to stop me eating it all in one sitting. So she gave me the recipe and here it is... I should have take photos of my birthday cake as it was amazing but as I said it didn't last long so you'll have to make do with pictures of my less beautiful attempt. If you do want icing on the top and bottom then make double the amount of icing.

The Ultimate Coffee Cake

For the sponge:
100g soft margarine
150g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
150g caster sugar
2 large eggs
4 tbsp milk
1-2 tsp Camp coffee

For the icing:
200g icing sugar
85g butter
Camp coffee

Pre-heat the oven 180C/350F. I make all of this in a Magimix and use whatever size cake tin I feel like which I know isn't very helpful but I make one cake and chop it in half to ice it so I don't need two tins the same size. It needs to be lined on the bottom.

1. Put all the sponge ingredients into a Magimix (or food processor... or do it by hand) and blitz for 10 seconds.

2. Scrape round the edges of the Magimix bowl with a spatula and blend again for another 5 seconds.

3. Pour into your prepared cake tin and cook in the oven for 25-30 minutes until golden on top and a skewer poked into the middle comes out clean

Cake batter

4. While the cake is cooking wash and clean the Magimix and then make the icing.

Cake cooling

5. Put the icing sugar and butter into the clean Magimix and whizz until smooth. Add Camp coffee to taste, blending to mix thoroughly.

6. When the cake is cooled enough remove it from the tin. Leave to stand for 10 minutes and then cut in half with a bread knife.

7. When the cake is completely cooled layer one half with icing and then add the other half as the top. Then ice, sugar or grate chocolate onto the top.

8. I quite like this cake to be kept in the fridge and then removed 5-10 mins before I have a slice but it's perfectly happy in a cake tin.

Definitely not my most beautiful cake but my god it tasted good


5 October 2012

Lovely Products from French Chemists

Here's a video I made for my other blog when I got back from France with a horrific cold. I get massively overly excited by French chemists (as do most makeup artists) and here's my haul from my latest visit.


2 October 2012

Kindle

After much ummming and ahhhing I asked my husband for a Kindle for my birthday and rather than getting the cheapest on offer which is what I asked for he gave me a Kindle Touch.

The reason for my indecision was that I just love actual books and having worked in publishing for the last seven years I feel that they need my support. What I don't love however, is that huge amount of money we constantly have to spend installing new shelves to fit my book collection on, the effort and palaver of selling books on amazon I don't want anymore and having to lug a book around in my bag, damaging my back and it's cover in the process. My mother loves her Kindle, as does my friend Louise who said it was essential if you are a big reader and have a baby. I'm lucky enough to have an ipad but reading on it is pretty rubbish and at some point it deleted all my books never to be seen again. So I bit the bullet and got a kindle.

I love it. It has already revolutionised my life. Going on holiday when 7½ months pregnant is not something to undertake lightly and considering I average one book every two days when stationed next to a swimming pool that can make for quite a heavy bag. I still took some non-kindle books with me to read in the pool etc but being able to have something so light in my hand luggage was just fantastic. Books are incredibly easy to download and I really don't mind that it's not a book... which I thought I would.And it's made hospital and GP appointments more bearable as it's lighter than most books I usually carry around and doesn't take up very much handbag room.

I'm a complete convert - if you are thinking about getting on then do it.
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