Sunday, 23 January 2011

10 Things I did this week: 17th-23rd January 2011

  1. Started my new 'Acting Skills for Beginners' class at Newcastle College (10wk course)
  2. Went ice skating at Centre for Life (and managed not to fall over).
  3. Had an idea back in December, developed it and finally saw it delivered (& hopefully the first of many) a regular webinar to fellow JISC Advance services across the UK - an update of who's doing what.
  4. Wished my grandma a happy 80th birthday (cheekily I sent her an 18th birthday card instead).
  5. Saved us over £100 on a set of blinds from Hilary's for our dining room.  The original quote was £515, then £450 and finally agreed on £400 (good work Yorkshire Lisa).
  6. Began my photoblog - a photo a day for 2011, stored in Flickr and linked into my blog.
  7. Had one of those 'ahhhh' moments when my lovely friends Laura & Roger confirmed the birth of their first child, a son, born on the same day as my grandma.
  8. Was cheered up by the lady who served me in Pret
  9. Finished reading 'The Giggler Treatment' by Roddy Doyle to Matthew (stepson).
  10. Haven't yet baked a cake in 2011.  This is because we have too many Christmas biscuits that need eating.

Friday, 21 January 2011

10 Things I did this week: 10th-16th January 2011

1. Signed up to and watched Hughs Fish Fight - if you don't want to see tons and tons of good fish thrown back into the sea, you'll sign up and join the fight too.

2. Jamies fish suppers: me & Mr Lisa have agreed to try 1 fish per wk from Jamies list (10 fish in 10 weeks)

3. Weekend walk: drove to Warkworth & had a lovely walk round (couldn't go thru the 'ford' as marked on map - more like a river). First visit too.

4. Finished Matthew's bedroom: new bed, carpet & Carl tidied up paintwork. Put most of toys in there too. If there was an appropriate time to use the word 'cool' it's now :)

5. Tried to hire a Whipbike (& failed) - technical fault.

6. Tried to hire a Whipbike (& succeeded) - rode to Leazes Park, Richardson Rd, Town Moor, Exhibition Park & back. Fun. Mental note to do it weekly (weather permitting).

7. Bought my first knitting needles & ball of wool. Learned to knit: combination of book instructions & suprisingly Mr Lisa (a darkhorse in the knitting dept). Continued during the week - to show that I still remember.


8. Made a pledge to myself to blog weekly (about 10 things from my week)

9. Had a positive workplan meeting with my assistant, helping to formulate some objectives for his upcoming PDR next month.

10. Attended a workshop on 'Managing Time & Priorities' & was reminded that there are more important things in my life than work. Also used some techniques in the workshop to make some changes/improvements as work. 

Monday, 10 January 2011

My year so far...

Ten Days into 2011 and I'm now ready to announce my resolution for 2011.

I've had ten days to think about what I want to change, do, and achieve this year, and to be realistic I think I want to change my behaviour and attitude, and in turn this will help me achieve some of the things I've wanted to do for ages.

Stop thinking and start doing!

Over the years, I've looked at activities and thought I'd love to have a go at that and I've just let things go, without actually doing them.

So this year I want be more proactive in doing some of the things I've liked the sound of.  These include:
  • Paintballing (I've booked to go paintballing in February)
  • Horseriding lesson(s) (No progress so far, I might try this in March)
  • Clay pigeon shooting (I might try this in summer)
I know the steps I need to take to acheive the other 2 'things' on my list, I've looked into Horseriding lessons, they do them near me at www.murtonequestriancentre.co.uk - so it's not like I need to go far to have a go and www.stevesmiths.co.uk for Clay Pigeon shooting is just up the road too.  So I don't have any excuses!

I also want to go to Durham for the day, yes Durham, the place just down the road from Newcastle.  The last time I went to Durham I was 11 and on a Primary School trip to Durham Cathedral, so my knowledge of Durham is limited, and I think given that I live close - I should actually go there. Once, at least.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Ultimate Chocolate Cake

It was my friends birthday and I asked her what kind of cake she would like, she said "chocolate cake please" and I had to make this!

It's called an ultimate chocolate cake, and I know why now.  It was surprisingly simple to make, and because my husband got cake-envy, I made a smaller one for him, using a quarter of the recipe (his turned out equally as good as the big one).

I have to thank BBC good food for this recipe I can't claim any credit for the recipe, but I will claim credit for sharing it with everyone!

  • 200g good quality dark chocolate , about 60% cocoa solids
  • 200g butter , cut in pieces
  • 1 tbsp coffee*
  • 85g self-raising flour
  • 85g plain flour
  • 1⁄4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 200g light muscovado sugar
  • 200g golden caster sugar
  • 25g cocoa powder
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 75ml buttermilk* (5 tbsp)
*coffee - the original recipe said 'coffee granuales' but I don't do instant coffee, so I made up a serving of nespresso ristretto & used a tablespoon of this.

*buttermilk - I searched high and low for this, in the end I was referred to another recipe for making buttermilk (a tablespoon of whitevinegar topped up to a 'cup' or 250ml with milk, leave for 5mins & use as required)

FOR THE GANACHE

  • 200g good-quality dark chocolate , as above
  • 284ml carton double cream (pouring type)
  • 2 tbsp golden caster sugar
Oven 140°C (fan assisted) or 160°C or Gas 3
  1. Butter a 20cm round cake tin (7.5cm deep) and line the base.
  2. Break the chocolate in pieces into a medium, heavy-based pan, add butter, coffee & warm through over a low heat until everything is melted.
  3. While the chocolate is melting, mix flours, bicarbonate of soda, sugars and cocoa in a big bowl, using your hands to get rid of any lumps.
  4. Beat the eggs in a bowl and stir in the buttermilk.
  5. Pour the melted chocolate mixture and the egg mixture into the flour mixture, stirring just until everything is well blended and you have a smooth, quite runny consistency.
  6. Pour this into the tin and bake for 1 hour 25- 1 hour 30 minutes - if you push a skewer in the centre it should come out clean and the top should feel firm (don't worry if it cracks a bit).
  7. Leave to cool in the tin (don't worry if it dips slightly), then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely - I left this overnight.
  8. When the cake is cold, cut it horizontally into three - this is trickier than it looks, especially if the top cracks like mine did.
  9. Next, make the ganache: chop the chocolate into small pieces and tip into a bowl. Pour the cream into a pan, add the sugar, and heat until it is about to boil. Take off the heat and pour it over the chocolate. Stir until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth. 
  10. Sandwich the layers of cakle together with a little of the ganache and pour the rest over the cake letting it fall down the sides and smoothing to cover with a palette knife.
  11. Decorate with grated chocolate or a pile of chocolate curls.
Behold the cake - it's big, gooey, yummy and delicious. 
My friend couldn't finish the cake herself, so she took it to work and was the envy of the office!
The cake keeps moist and gooey for 3-4 days.

Spicy Edible Christmas Tree Biscuits

Christmas Tree decorations and perfectly edible biscuits with a real Christmassy taste to them, they make the room smell wonderful too.  I found about 3 recipes and combined their ingredients list.  Either that, or I can't find the original

  • 100g unsalted butter softened
  • 100g soft dark sugar
  • 300g plain flour
  • pinch salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1-2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 eggs beaten
  • 4 tbsp honey
Oven 170°C, put greaseproof paper on 2 baking sheets

  1. Butter & sugar in a bowl, mix until pale and creamy.
  2. Put into a food processor and then add: flour, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, cloves, pepper & blitz.
  3. Then add the eggs & honey until a dough is formed.
  4. Cut the dough in half, put half in cling film in the fridge and work the other half on a floured worktop.
  5. Roll to 1/4 inch thick and cut out shapes, put each shape on a piece of greaseproof on an oven tray, until you run out of dough.
  6. Get the other half-mixture and do the same.
  7. Before they go in the oven put a hole near the top of each one, so you can tie a ribbon/string for hanging.
  8. Cook for 20mins and cool on wire trays (preferably overnight).
  9. Mix up a thick icing mixture (water icing will work, royal icing is a bit tougher) & make pretty patterns on the decorations & leave to cool again.
  10. Thread a needle with gold/silver string, or use fancy ribbon to create hanging loops on each decoration and hang from your Christmas tree. 
After Christmas, just take off the tree and eat.  Or leave on the tree and eat :)

Raspberry Honey Cranachan

I used to pronounce it 'cran-ak-han' but after a trip to Scotland in summer 2010, I was reliably informed that the correct pronunciation was 'crana-hun'

Anyway, if you're like me, and not too hot on whisky you can either leave it out (which is a bit dull) or just put less in.

  • 50g rolled oats
  • 284ml double cream
  • 2 tbsp whisky
  • 2 tbps honey
  • 250g fresh raspberries
  1. Toast the oats either on foil (under the grill) or in a frying pan - no oil, just keep an eye on them, as soon as they start to go a smidge bit brown TURN THE HEAT OFF. Leave to cool.
  2. Add the whisky to the double cream and whisk up (by hand - if you're feeling strong) or with an electric whisk, until the cream forms soft peaks.
  3. Fold in the honey, oats, and gently fold in the raspberries.
  4. Put into 4 dishes and serve.
I know in my picture it all looks a bit pink - that's because I defrosted raspberries for this recipe.  The recipe suggests fresh raspberries because they hold their shape a bit better.

Ultimate Chocolate Cake

It was my friends birthday and I asked her what kind of cake she would like, she said "chocolate cake please" and I had to make this!

It's called an ultimate chocolate cake, and I know why now.  It was surprisingly simple to make, and because my husband got cake-envy, I made a smaller one for him, using a quarter of the recipe (his turned out equally as good as the big one).




I have to thank BBC good food for this recipe I can't claim any credit for the recipe, but I will claim credit for sharing it with everyone!

Ingredients

  • 200g good quality dark chocolate , about 60% cocoa solids


  • 200g butter , cut in pieces


  • 1 tbsp coffee*


  • 85g self-raising flour


  • 85g plain flour


  • 1⁄4 tsp bicarbonate of soda


  • 200g light muscovado sugar


  • 200g golden caster sugar


  • 25g cocoa powder


  • 3 medium eggs


  • 75ml buttermilk* (5 tbsp)



  • *coffee - the original recipe said 'coffee granuales' but I don't do instant coffee, so I made up a serving of nespresso ristretto & used a tablespoon of this.


    *buttermilk - I searched high and low for this, in the end I was referred to another recipe for making buttermilk (a tablespoon of whitevinegar topped up to a 'cup' or 250ml with milk, leave for 5mins & use as required)



    FOR THE GANACHE


  • 200g good-quality dark chocolate , as above

  • 284ml carton double cream (pouring type)

  • 2 tbsp golden caster sugar



  • Oven 140°C (fan assisted) or 160°C or Gas 3

    Method


    1. Butter a 20cm round cake tin (7.5cm deep) and line the base.


    2. Break the chocolate in pieces into a medium, heavy-based pan, add butter, coffee & warm through over a low heat until everything is melted.


    3. While the chocolate is melting, mix flours, bicarbonate of soda, sugars and cocoa in a big bowl, using your hands to get rid of any lumps.


    4. Beat the eggs in a bowl and stir in the buttermilk.


    5. Pour the melted chocolate mixture and the egg mixture into the flour mixture, stirring just until everything is well blended and you have a smooth, quite runny consistency.


    6. Pour this into the tin and bake for 1 hour 25- 1 hour 30 minutes - if you push a skewer in the centre it should come out clean and the top should feel firm (don't worry if it cracks a bit).


    7. Leave to cool in the tin (don't worry if it dips slightly), then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely - I left this overnight.


    8. When the cake is cold, cut it horizontally into three - this is trickier than it looks, especially if the top cracks like mine did.


    9. Next, make the ganache: chop the chocolate into small pieces and tip into a bowl. Pour the cream into a pan, add the sugar, and heat until it is about to boil. Take off the heat and pour it over the chocolate. Stir until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth. 


    10. Sandwich the layers of cakle together with a little of the ganache and pour the rest over the cake letting it fall down the sides and smoothing to cover with a palette knife.


    11. Decorate with grated chocolate or a pile of chocolate curls.




    12. Behold the cake - it's big, gooey, yummy and delicious. 

      My friend couldn't finish the cake herself, so she took it to work and was the envy of the office!

      The cake keeps moist and gooey for 3-4 days.