Sunday, 31 March 2013

Happy Easter...

has anyone seen the chocolate? 

the truth about the Easter bunny! 

We were determined to have an easter without all the packaging and commerciality this year. So we bought a pack of quail eggs, that we blew and delicately filled with chocolate to hide around the garden.

We scoffed the chocolate along with a breakfast of boiled eggs and soldiers! 

Easter bunny 'soldiers' for boiled eggs 

Saturday, 30 March 2013


A portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2013

Ted - carefully holding a duckling - well it is Easter after all! 

Alfie - working the sheepdog to herd geese! "come by"

Friday, 29 March 2013

butchery for beginners...

Today I had the pleasure of attending a home butchery workshop at the new Hobbs House Cookery School taught by Fabulous Baker Brother Henry Herbert. The course was brilliant and it was great to attend at a time when I am really mindful of how our family are eating. 

I, like many others, buy my meat mainly from supermarkets pre-prepared in packets, occasionally I buy from the farmers' market or the local farm shop for Sunday roasts. This is for many reasons, convenience, cost, lack of confidence in knowing what to ask for in a butchers shop and I don't have a local butchers shop. Our food bills are really expensive, and the boys stomachs are like bottomless pits, constantly hungry and always hanging around the kitchen asking for food, driving me crazy. Since going back to work in January I feel quite out of control in terms of what the boys are eating and just how little time I have to spend on meal planning and preparation.

I'd have never entertained the thought of going on a home butchery course as I am the worst type of meat eater, one with a squeamish disposition! But I firmly believe that you should know the provenance of your meat and know how to use it all, making good use of all of the animal. Therefore what better way to learn than actually getting hands on?

 rocking the butchers outfit!

Upon arriving at the Cookery School situated in the charming market town of Chipping Sodbury, I was greeted by Tom Herbert, the other half of Channel 4's Fabulous Baker Brothers. After saying hello to the others on the course, we quickly changed into our butchers coats and aprons and were fueled with coffee and plum jam on toast.

The Cookery School bookshelf

Henry, is an excellent teacher, a chef-turned-butcher, he is passionate about the cuts of meat that have gone out of fashion and are often disregarded as waste. He guided us through knife use and sharpening, cutting a lamb breast and stuffing it with a wild garlic stuffing, cutting a chicken to make four meals (stuffed chicken legs, chicken kievs, chicken stock/soup and chicken wings) followed by sausage making. He shared with us chef tips, what to ask butchers for, which are the cheapest cuts of meat, recipes and information on where you can source things from.

learning to make sausages

The 'Herbert's' enthusiasm for their craft is infectious and soon us 'protégées' were stuffing sausages and tying butchers knots with string like we'd been doing it for years! Tom beavered away in the background, ensuring everything ran smoothly, providing coffee and spotify 'meat themed' playlists. The two of them worked together so well, like a foodie equivalent of Morecambe and Wise, telling funny stories (from their childhood escapades to plucked French chickens wearing jumpers) and making us hanger steaks on sour dough toast for lunch, it was like being in an episode of their TV show! We left with full bellies and a large bag of meat to take home and impress our families with.

a communal lunch of hanger steak with mushrooms on wilted watercress

The course was brilliant fun and has really given me the confidence and inspiration to shop more cost effectively and experiment with different cuts of meat. It's also made me want a Kitchen Aid with a sausage making attachment - the boys would love it!

Find out more about the courses run by Hobbs House Cookery School, from bread making with Tom, butchery with Henry and many other guest course leaders too, from knife skills to tea appreciation, visit workshops start from £75. The Fabulous Baker Brothers book Glorious British Grub is also out now. 

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

eats, shoots and leaves...

Now is the perfect time for picking some fresh green shoots and creating some spring recipes. Here is a basic risotto recipe perfect for adding wild garlic and stinging nettle tops, we have made it before just with wild garlic. Cooking with stinging nettles has that 'added danger' element to impress children!

serves 4

30 stinging nettle tops (pinch out the tops carefully)
10 wild garlic leaves (choose young new shoots away from roads)
a few rocket leaves - chopped
small bunch of chives - chopped
a few sage leaves - chopped
1 small onion chopped very finely
glass of white wine
100g butter
250g arborio rice
1 pint chicken or vegetable stock


1. In a large pan, sweat the onion in the butter until soft, but not brown. Add the rice and cook for a few minutes making sure the mixture doesn't catch.

2. Cook the stinging nettle tops in hot water for a few minutes until the leaves blanch, then remove from pan and finely chop with the wild garlic, rocket, sage and chives.

3. Make the stock with hot water and stir in slowly to the rice on a simmering heat until all the liquid has been absorbed.

4. Add a glass of wine to what should be now a creamy risotto.

5. Stir in the finely chopped greens to the risotto and season to taste. Drizzle olive oil to serve and garnish with a wild garlic flower.

Saturday, 23 March 2013

a snow walk in spring...

We woke today to a carpet of snow and freezing temperatures which have arrived only a few days after the spring equinox. So after half an hour of trying to find hats, matching gloves, scarves and putting on many layers, we ventured out into the snow for a long and bracing walk followed by a pub lunch with friends.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

little details...

I've just made this banner for the baby's room by getting some of our favourite instagram pics printed out like poloroids! I'm addicted to Instagram, and some of my favourite memories of Stanley's first year have been captured quickly on my phone. The company I used to get these printed out is called Instapol and I found them very quick and easy to use, and great to actually get the Instagram pictures printed out too rather than just trapped in my phone.

Saturday, 16 March 2013


A portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2013

Stanley - this week he's started climbing the stairs! He is everywhere and so quick, pulling himself up on anything and anyone. He is fascinated by anything that goes round, and will watch the washing machine and record player for ages. Click on the logo below and discover more people taking part in the 52 project...

Cider with Stanley...

An afternoon in the pub celebrating work success over a pint of Laurie Lee ale and dominoes! I believe that children should go to pubs and restaurants from an early age so that they learn to behave properly in them, I will always take them out if they become noisy or bored. 

Friday, 15 March 2013

in Spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt...

"in Spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt"
Margaret Atwood, Bluebeard's Egg

Despite the snow and cold weather the wild garlic shoots are starting to push their way through frozen soil. For me, wild garlic leaves signal the start of my foraging year and usually spring! I pick baskets of wild garlic and make soup, pesto and risotto with this delicately flavoured leaf. All we need is some sunshine to help everything grow and I'll be happy.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

environmental education...

planting a hedge to create a new habitat on the school field

I've been helping the boys school run an environmental education programme. The school has a huge outdoor space and a nature area that's packed with wildlife! I've put together a plan with five sessions for each class, from creating new habitats with the older children to pond dipping and mini-beast hunts, to inspire a whole new generation of David Attenboroughs.

Outdoor education is something I care passionately about and I'm concerned that the Governments new curriculum proposals don't adequately reflect the need for children from early years to understand about the environment and our need to protect it. It seems that the emphasis is to introduce it later in key stage 2 (8&9 year olds). You can read about the curriculum here and have your say as the consultation on the reform of the national curriculum is open for response until 16th April 2013.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

knitting an elephant...

I'm trying to knit an elephant for the baby's first birthday. I've found a lovely pattern in this book, which is really easy to follow for knitters with basic skills, such as myself, and having a birthday deadline is keeping me motivated to get it finished! I really don't get any time to do any crafting at the moment, which is making me enjoy this project all the more.

Saturday, 9 March 2013


a portrait of my children, once a week, every week in 2013

Stanley bathing in the kitchen sink!

Looking through the hundreds of pictures from last week, this one caught my eye as I just love the light and how precious are these siblings?

a little mouse, where? there on the stair...

oh dear, upon having a general tidy today I found feathers from the duster in my walking boots! Upon closer inspection it seems that a little mouse (or mice!!!) pinched the sweet chestnuts from Christmas and hid them in secret places that were hardly touched, such as the camping gear and my boots, clever things.

I had wondered where all the chestnuts went - but assumed a small boy had been responsible! All food has now been cleared away and a small hole under the sink sealed, fingers crossed they're on the outside.

Friday, 8 March 2013

back to school...

I was delighted to have a tour of the brand new Hobbs House Cookery School today. The school is situated above the bakers and butchers on Chipping Sodbury High Street and courses range from bread making and butchery, by the Fabulous Baker Brothers Tom and Henry Herbert, to brewing beer and knife skills by guest tutors.

As you can see above the classroom is beautiful and light with an open fire that uses sustainably sourced wood from a local nature reserve. The changing room (apparently Tom's childhood bedroom) now has rows of pegs hanging butchers aprons on one side and aprons on the other.

The school is very tastefully decorated, there is a dining room for people to lunch together, and chairs nestled in cosy corners with sheepskin rugs. The walls are painted in muted Little Greene Paint colours and give the school a sense of calm.

The nice thing about today was meeting everyone who's involved with the school, and listen to them share their passion for what they do, the guys behind the wild beer company, Benjamin who lovingly crafts beautiful knives by hand as well as Sasha, who will be teaching meringue, pastry and chocolate making courses. There's one thing I know for certain, this enthusiasm is contagious and Hobbs House is on a mission to inspire us all through sharing their love of food, I can't wait to go back to school!

Thursday, 7 March 2013

core strength...

I have been going to baby yoga since the babe was five weeks old. I found a really good class in Stroud, in the most beautiful studio that feels like you're in a treehouse set high above a wooded valley.

Frankie the teacher is great and sessions start with an introduction so she can tailor the practice according to the aches, pains and sleepless nights reported by us. The yoga mats are placed in a circle around a central rug with toys in to amuse the babies, although my boy rarely sits still in the middle, instead preferring to crawl around the room finding mischief! I am really weedy and have really benefitted from core strength work and breathing since having babe number three, although I'm prone to fits of giggles which make me collapse in a heap when I find things a bit hard.

We've only got a few weeks left, as it's only for babies up to a year, but I want to practice more as I'm really enjoying yoga, coupled with long walks I think this is exercise than I can actually stick to!

Sunday, 3 March 2013

honesty shops...

Roadside stalls are one of my most favourite things, tables laden with flowers, vegetables or homemade jams and chutney's. There are hardly any near me, but they're something I always notice when on holiday or maybe it's that I have time to notice more on holiday? I always make Pete stop the car so I can pick something up, my favourite were the samphire stalls we found on the coast road in Norfolk and these snowdrops in the village of Snowshill, sold by the National Trust. I dream of taking one huge road trip and photographing them around the country, do let me know if you see any good ones.

Stanley's room...

I've wanted to paint a wall in the baby's room for a little while now, but couldn't find a colour that complemented the elephants head. I eventually found a lovely browny-grey colour by Little Greene Paints called Attic II, which matches perfectly. It looks quite grey in the pic above, but is more browny in real life. I'm really pleased with how it's turned out and it only took two sample pots to do it.
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