Category Archives: I love to cook

With A Little Help From My Friends

40 out of 50 ticks completed!!!

I have only got 4 days left until deadline day. In my job, I often have deadline day, and whilst my new job still has deadlines, I don’t have anywhere near the pressures of my last job. The day I left my last job wasn’t just a day of bringing a cake in and saying goodbye; I worked until home time (actually I think I worked later), with the added pressure of a power cut thrown in. A little bit of pressure makes you stronger, right?! So midnight on June the 6th (or should I say 12 a.m. on June the 7th), I will hopefully have completed 50 challenges.

Leaving cake

So what have I been up to the last 5 days. Well I would love to tell you I had completed most of the challenges but that would be fantasy. I have been exhausted but it is time to get on with the show! Actually I had spent most of the bank holiday weekend cooking for one of the challenges I have made a little harder on myself. Challenge number 8 was to host a MacMillan Tea Party. I did make a lovely cake for Macmillan coffee morning and take it into work. We raised £11 but I didn’t think that was good enough for the challenge.

There are so many charities that I would love to raise money for but I do think it is hard to ask for people to part with their money. Charity runs etc are brilliant but sometimes I think if a person is actually taking part in the event, and charged for it, it is a bit easier. Kathryn and I paid £10 each to do a 3 hour zumbathon in April; got fit, had fun and helped raise £1,000 for 2 charities on a Saturday morning.

Our local radio station have a special charity called Cash for Kids to “support local children under the age of 18, who are financially, socially, emotionally or physically disadvantaged”. They hold auctions, collect Christmas presents, wrap and present to the less fortunate, hold quiz nights, take part in local event etc. One of the fundraising events I wanted to take part in was the 1,000 faces where you have to raise £100 in whatever way you want. You have to do it by December. I decided to change challenge 8 a little bit, signed up and instead of going out with family and friends, invite them round and ask them to donate something to cash for kids. The grand total so far is £75 (would love to have made £100 by D day but it will be a great excuse to continue). Here are some of the things I have done so far:

Mother’s Day breakfast prepared by Jordan

Breakfast with Jordan

Lunch with Leanne and Kelly (first try of cheesecake. Dessert of 2017)

Kelly and Leanne

Tea with my sister to celebrate what would have been our mum’s 75th birthday

Chocolate Honeycomb Cake

Tea party with Ellis

Scones for tea

Early birthday celebrations with Joan and Lyn. Vegetarian food with 2nd outing of yummy cheesecake)

Yummy Cheesecake

I do plan to continue having people round; it is hard work but so worth it. My food is made with love so hopefully it tastes as good as what we would have in the pubs, restaurants and cafes. Everything I have done so far has been relaxed (once the cooking is done that is!) and I am enjoying it.

With a little help with my friends, we can hopefully raise a bit more than £100 whilst gaining a tick for the challenge. Tomorrow is the 10k run; I have a poorly foot but if I can’t run it all, I will walk it.

P.S. Kathryn let me have the course challenge.

2 out of 3 ain’t bad

Last Saturday, Kathryn and I set off to London on a  coach  to complete 3 of my challenges:

  • Challenge 2 – visit the Ritz (change of venue due to afternoon tea being a little more expensive than poor student (Kathryn) can afford
  • Challenge 3 – while in London for the Ritz, gone and see a show you haven’t seen before
  • Challenge 20 – try some sort of course with your daughter

Due to a change of plan with going to the Ritz, we were combining 2 and 20; Jordan had given us a Christmas present for the Cookery School in London to do a Cookery course. We picked an afternoon tea course so we were going to be shown how to make and also participate in making tea plus eat it afterwards.

With the show, we put the pressure on Jordan; Kathryn and I gave Jordan the name of 2 shows that we wanted to see and got him to pick one and organise the tickets for us. When we set off, we didn’t know each other’s choices and just had an envelope with tickets in and instructions to get us to the theatre. At the coach station, we told each other the choices.

Kathryn’s choices

The Lion King
Book of Mormons

My choices

42nd Street
Stepping Out

On the coach we opened the envelope. Jordan had chosen Stepping Out with Amanda Holden starring.

To relieve some boredom (and to get back at the fact my theatre choice had been chosen), Kathryn decided that I should have a German lesson. Well, I soon got her back for that; remember Phoebe trying to teach Joey French in one of the Friend’s episode. That was exactly what it was like. My pronunciation was definitely not coming out the same as I was hearing it. By the end of the coach journey, I could almost remember the German for:

I am an accountant
On Wednesday, I dance at Zumba
But last week I read

By the end of Saturday, I remembered nothing. Oh well, another challenge on the way.

We had lots of time before the course started so instead of taking the tube, we decided to walk. Walking instructions are easy to find when you have a mobile phone; following the starting instructions are another matter. No idea what go north on this road means. Needless to say, a few wrong directions but we did find our destination. On the way, we did pass the Ritz. We are going to have tea there one day.

We needed food. I spotted a Slug and Lettuce and decided that would be a good place to go. One of my things now I am 50 is to try to avoid the chains but Slug and Lettuce does give you reasonably priced food and a variety of choices. I went semi healthy and chose a chicken Caesar salad in a tortilla bowl. I wasn’t expecting this but it was nice.

It was then time to get wet. My weather app hasn’t been too helpful recently but it had said rain in London between 12 and 2 so I was prepared. Gave us an excuse to pop into some shops. Then we headed to Little Portland Street for our course.

We were both a bit nervous about this. There were eight of us altogether and the other people were very nice. We had a glass of wine at the start; probably not a good thing for me. Course started promptly at 2 p.m. and we were shown how to make a sweet pastry which we were going to be using for small lemon tarts. Then we were shown how to make bread and how to prove it. Some mixture had already been made to use for some rolls. This was our first job; we were expected to roll into rolls. Now something you should know is I hated home economics at school. I was never going to be a cook and I was happy to give up the subject. Ironic that as soon as I had my own kitchen and, with the aid of cookery books, I began to enjoy cooking. Memories of my dread at school came back and whilst I would never shine in this cookery course, I certainly know I had the skill to pull off some, if not all of the recipes. Some would need practice but in Tina’s way, I will do them.

We were soon filling pastry cases, watching lemon curd and jam being made, getting tips on how to make a ganache (I will be trying this), preparing scotch eggs, slicing and buttering bread (really do you need all that butter) and watching scones being made. It was soon time to eat what had been prepared. With a glass of sparkling wine, we sat down and toasted to our tea. It was all yummy and the cucumber in the sandwiches which had been salted and allowed to drain with a saucer on top, was very good. The rather delicious cake with cream in the middle and ganache on top but it was a little too much after all the other delights.

All in all, the course was very good and I came away with some good tips but I am not sure if I would take part in another course like this. I alway follow recipe instructions but do like to have the freedom to make my own mistakes and learn about them in my own.

The streets of London were very crowded and Jordan’s detailed instructions to get us to the theatre had to be abandoned due to the station being closed. We thought we would walk there. Once again, directions proved a little difficult to decipher and it probably took us longer to get there.

The show was at the Vauderville theatre situated in the Strand. On presenting our tickets, we were told to see one of the other ladies who would reseat us. I had given Jordan a budget for our seats and we should have been seated in the upper circle. We were changed to stalls and had a great position. Feeling very good for the change certainly encouraged me to buy a programme for my 50th box.

Stepping Out isn’t one of the singing musicals we normally go for but more a comedy with characters who had sad stories to tell but with a very good feel ending. It was written by Richard Harris as a play and later into a film with Liza Minnelli playing a former Broadway dancer. Mavis now teaching a weekly tap dancer to a group of women and one man who have different personal issues but enjoy their one night trying to learn to tap. Mavis hears about a competition and decides to enter the group in it.

I don’t think I have seen the film but it has always been highly recommended by Lana, our Zumba teacher. Amanda Holden, who plays Vera in the production we saw, actually saw the film and decided she would love to act in a theatre production with some of her acting friends.

I was intrigued by the play and I managed to escape to my own little world watching it. It was a play which I laughed so much at but cried too with the pain each character went through. The cast was fantastic and played each character so well. It was easy to miss something going on in the background. The first half is short. The final half longer and leads you up to the finale which you are expecting.

There are so many shows in the West End that it is hard to pick one to go to. That’s why we gave the choice to Jordan. The theatre wasn’t full which is why we probably had a change of seats but I really enjoyed the show and am pleased that we went to see something different.

On starting this post,2 Kathryn has told me that I am not allowed a tick for challenge 20 which disappointed me. With only 12 days left, I don’t think I’ve enough time to fit a different course in. Oh well, guess 2 out of 3 isn’t bad and going to have to get ready for not getting 50 ticks! We did have a lovely day in London.

Voulez-vous faire des croissants?

Challenge 30 – Make croissants. Now did I want to make croissants? I can say after reading the recipe from Paul Hollywood’s How To Bake, I really didn’t want to make croissants. I was so frightened about this challenge and I kept putting it off.

First of all, about Paul Hollywood. When I first saw Paul Hollywood on Great British Bake Off, he came over like a Simon Cowell type judge of the baking world; the villain you want to hiss at like you would in the pantomime. Just like Simon Cowell, he is the bad boy you can’t help liking and all contestants want to impress. Jordan has bought me two of his books, the one I was using for the croissants and British Baking. I have used British Baking more but both books do have a good layout; the croissant recipe explains what ingredients to use and there is a step-by-step photograph section. Easy stuff!!

First part of the recipe is easy enough. The good old food processor was used and the instructions are very clear for this. The first part of the dough was made easily. Croissants take a long time to do because there is a lot of chilling to do; the dough needed to go in the fridge for an hour.

Next part didn’t seem too difficult but I didn’t achieve what Paul was asking. The butter has to be chilled and you have to bash it with a rolling pin. I did not have the skills for this at all. Not to be put off, I consulted other books; my favourites let me down and didn’t have any recipes but the food processor book did. It said to dot the with butter. I took that method but folded as Paul’s recipe. I was not convinced and, at this stage, I thought I was doing this recipe for a tick and would never make croissants ever again. The shop over the road sold them so why should I! I put the dough back in the fridge for another hour.

I had to roll out and fold into three, three more times chilling for an hour in-between each folding; the dough, not me! I was at this stage thinking are these ever going to be edible. To make up for the likelihood of them failing, I baked a Victoria sponge just to prove I could bake!

After the last roll out and fold, the dough had to be put back in the fridge overnight. Despite my changing the method a little, I did actually think that it did look like Paul’s photo so was hoping it would turn out okay. That didn’t stop me waking up at 6.15 a.m. and rushing down the stairs to check I had added the yeast correctly at stage 1. Huge relief when I found I had.

The final process of making the croissants needed to be done; rolling the dough to a particular size, cutting the pastry into 12 triangles and then rolling up into a croissant. I had convinced myself this would be hard but it was much easier. Had to leave to rise for 2 hours before baking. By 9.50 a.m. we had croissants which, surprise, surprise, looked like croissants and tasted like them too!

I ask myself the question again; voulez-vous faire des croissants? The answer is yes I will make you croissants. Would you like normal, almond or pain au chocolat?

It’s All About The Cake

I have now completed another cooking challenge – challenge 13 – bake a cake you never have before

I have taken advantage of this challenge and practiced this quite a few times really. With the aid of the Baking club, I have made all sorts of cakes and bakes including biscotti, hot cross buns, banoffee cookies and a delicious chocolate honeycomb cake. This month’s kit is for eclairs which I am keen to try after the success of the profiteroles. I have also made some lovely cakes from A Year of Cakes which I have loved. When I reached 50, I was quite trim; gained a bit of weight with all this eating but it’s worth it for the challenge!

I thought I would celebrate the anniversary of the first date I had with Chris, by trying to bake an old favourite of ours which we would buy at a pub which Kathryn often visits now. I don’t think they serve food now but when we were her age, the pub had a display of delicious desserts; our favourites were cheesecake and the black forest gateau. I have actually made both this week although the cheesecake was for part of another challenge. The challenge was originally to host a coffee morning for Macmillan or something similar. I did raise a little bit of money by baking this delicious bake and taking it to work but I wanted to do something at home.

Raspberry and Assam Tea Loaf

I decided to hold various events at home for our local radio station’s Cash for Kids charity and need to raise £100 by December. On Friday, I had my two friends for lunch and made a delicious White Chocolate and Raspberry cheesecake from Mary Berry Everyday (just a little hint here – would actually like the book!). I don’t think any of the cheesecakes we had at the pub had white chocolate in them but now I have discovered this one, I will be making it again. I am nearly half way to my £100. I would love to be there by the end of this challenge.

I Love Cheesecake and Mary Berry!

Now to the black forest gateau. I tried to make this many years ago but it didn’t go so well. I decided to use another Mary Berry recipe for this and had to make a fat-less sponge. My favourite cake to bake is using the all in one method so this was different for me. It mixed up well, baked well but I did have my doubts when I looked at the cooked sponge and had to slice it into 3 layers. With the help of Chris, this was achieved and the finished result didn’t look too bad at all.

We can eat this!

One thing that I must look at in future is to maybe not to make so big; having said that we have made short work of eating the cake. I can confirm it was as delicious as the cake we used to buy at the pub. I might actually take a couple of weeks off the baking now!

Life is a Battlefield but we are strong

42 days left and whilst life can feel like a battlefield, I actually like living in it. Well now for the totals this week:

28 completed

10 ongoing/planned

4 changes 

8 still to do

After reading the Challenge Yourself book, I did start getting up early. It was a struggle and for several days I felt it might have a negative effect but I can know say I feel great. Probably the turn around came with the weekend and not lounging in bed but getting on with things.

So this week, I have earned 3 ticks:

Challenge 44 – go out for dinner and pick something that sounds awesome but you wouldn’t normally pick.

Skate Wings were delicious

I could have achieved this much earlier but than would I have gone out so much. One thing I have decided in my 50th year is to, where possible, avoid the restaurant chains and hopefully try something a bit different. Chris and I were off to cinema on Saturday. It is situated at Port Solent so there were lots to choose from. We opted for a fish restaurant. I like fish but don’t tend to order it. I am a bit ignorant with it and sometimes I don’t know how to eat it plus the bones put me off. I ordered skate wings which was delicious. Not a fish I had tried before (more a haddock person) but will eat it again. Restaurant was great too.

Challenge 45 – write a short story.

My story

It took me a while to be confident; gained this from the Challenge Yourself book. I really enjoyed this and even printed it in book form for the family to read. They were impressed. I will share later.

Challenge 39 – mum and daughter pamper evening – bake whoppie cakes, eat cakes and watch 13 going on 30 and paint nails.

Yum yum!

I can’t believe that it has taken us so long to do this challenge and we have already seen 13 going on 30 once this year but it is one of my favourites. Who can resist a film with Mark Ruffalo in. The songs in it are amazing – Ice Ice Baby, I Wanna Dance With Somebody, Jessie’s girl etc. My favourites though are Thriller; fantastic dance scene and Love Is A Battlefield. We made whoppie cakes from the kit I had been sent from the baking club. They were very yummy. Kathryn chose a red for me to paint my nails with whilst she went for a nice frosted cupcake colour for her own. I am sure that we will be able to have lots of evenings like this once Kathryn has finished her degree. Not many days left for that either.

I am still very optimistic that I will achieve all my ticks. I am hoping to finish my cross stitch kit in the next couple of weeks which is a big achievement and frees me up to complete the others. I might even have read Kathryn’s 10 favourite books on time too.

Life is a battlefield at the moment but it is fun.

Cook Tropicana – Let Me Take You To My Place

I have no idea why I have left all my cooking challenges to the end but here was one I was looking forward to attempting ; challenge 7 – cook a three course meal.  I decided that I would like to make this a family meal so Easter Sunday seemed like an ideal time; Jordan would be home from London and Kathryn was on Easter break busily getting ready for her finals.

So first of all, let me take you to the corner of the house which I have taken over. We really do have a lot of cook books. I thought it would be good to use these for my menu.

So the rules were:

  1. Cook a three course meal – with each course being from three different culture. There was absolutely no reason that I couldn’t have something British but I decided to try something different.
  2. There must be something (whether it’s a little part or the whole thing) in each dish that I haven’t made before.

Here goes for the menu:

The starter – Indian  -Spiced Crab Cakes with Tamarind Mayonnaise

Fish cakes are one of my favourite thing. They are so much more interesting now than the ones I used to be served up as a child. So what was different about these for rule no two. I managed to get this passed; the use of crab. Never used it before and I don’t think I had ever eaten it before. Whilst everything else I used was fresh; fresh ginger, garlic, coriander etc, I did use tinned crab instead of fresh. The actually cooking of the fish cakes brought a lovely aroma to the kitchen. I really enjoyed the preparation of these; George Michael play list kept me company as I chopped up the herbs. I prepared ahead and starting cooking just before serving. The finished result was very tasty and enjoyed by everyone.

I had quite forgotten I had this book in our collection. I am looking forward to using it again.

The main – Italian – Spinach and Ricotta Ravioli

After the success of the pasta machine, I thought I would make my own ravioli. Was feeling quite confident about this. With the actual filling made, I proceeded to make the pasta. Things were looking good then very quickly the pasta didn’t seem to come out well. After a few minutes of panic, decided to just roll out the pasta manually. The result were what probably looked like dumplings. My family tucked in though and they were very tasty dumplings! Our local shop sell some very good fresh ravioli – might use this in future!

Oops – nice though!

The dessert – French – Profiteroles

My first cookery book

I try to avoid making pastry and have never made choux pastry before so I was quite excited about trying this. Kathryn helped me out with this and it was much easier than I thought. We were so impressed with the little buns when cooked. We decided to have a bit of a break between courses as the starter and main were very filling. The actual finished result was delicious. I have many recipes for this dessert but went for Delia’s because she spooned the mixture rather than piping. I didn’t want too much pressure.

This was a wonderful challenge and one which I will be repeating in the future. Whilst not everything was perfect, I certainly had fun trying. Crab cakes will definitely be on the menu again and I am planning on trying savoury choux buns too. I haven’t been put off my pasta machine; I will keep trying.

Our Cake, Stuck to the Middle of the Tin

Challenge 42 ticked

I couldn’t do this challenge until Easter and was so excited to use my new tin. Wasn’t sure how the cake was going to be a showstopper but had an idea with the filling. I have had Mary Berry’s Ultimate Book of Cakes for years and I never had the urge to make that delicious chocolate cake on the cover picture. I actually thought I would like to use the filling with our showstopper. It did mean using gelatine; not my favourite ingredient.

My faithful tatty book

First of all, the cake needed to be made. Now normally I wouldn’t worry about baking a cake. It was a bit of an unknown as the tin was a different size to our normal tins plus this wasn’t our normal Victoria sandwich. I decided that the best cake would be the vanilla cake recipe supplied with the tin as the measurements would be correct. What I didn’t do which I normally would always recommend doing, is read the recipe, then read it again. Do this before you actually start to bake. The recipe hadn’t been printed correctly (that is my excuse and I am sticking to it!) and didn’t seem like a recipe I had followed before. Result was the cake didn’t smell right whilst cooking, it looked pale when cooked and the cake stuck to the tin. Friday night I went to bed very deflated .  Kathryn also remarked that I wouldn’t earn a tick if it wasn’t completed.  What a cheek, this was her challenge too!

Remembering one of my favourite quotes; a winner never quits, I got up on Saturday morning, found a similar recipe on good old Google and baked again. A very good result.  I had greased the tin with the “pockets” well, and with lots of help from Chris, the cakes came out of the tin in one piece.

Now to use the gelatine. Good old Mary proved a very good friend here. She explained how to “sponge” gelatine (that had me scratching my head). Anyway after reading Mary’s tips on how you should sprinkle the gelatine onto the liquid and not the other way round and after a certain point to put the bowl into warm water, my gelatine was ready to be added to my chocolate mixture to make the mousse.

Thankfully Kathryn decided the artistic part of the cake belonged to her so she took over filling the cake bottom pockets with raspberries and mini eggs. We layered with chocolate mousse, added top layer on and put in fridge overnight.

Pockets filled
Kathryn did her artistic bit on Sunday morning, when she added melted chocolate drizzle over cake. Carrot and mini eggs became our decorations and we had made a showstopper that I am sure Mary and Paul would be proud of.
Cake photo courtesy of Kathryn
 Did I mention I did get a tick for this?!!

It’s all about the food

8 weeks until D-day and this is the position:

23 completed
12 ongoing/planned
4 changes 
11 still to do 

I have not actually got any ticks this week but I thought I would inspire myself by moving two of my still to do into my planned category. I have to say I am so excited about these and they are going to happen at the weekend.

The first one is challenge no 42 – at Easter, make an Easter showstopper with daughter. For this, we have purchased a new bit of bakeware. It was a bit pricey but I do intend to use it a lot. Here is the beauty.

Cake tins for Easter Showstopper

I can’t promise a showstopper as seen on the Great British Bake Off but it will still be amazing.

Easter Sunday will see me abandoning the usual roast and attempting challenge no 7 – cook a three course meal consisting of three dishes which belong to three different cultures. There were rules:


I will reveal all later but this little beauty will be brought out again.

I have warned the family that the three courses might come out over the course of the day and they might not turn out perfect! Jordan did say that there is nothing to say it has to be perfect. We will have the cake to fall back on.

I am still busily stitching away and also took part in a 3 hour zumbathon for charity with Kathryn at the weekend. This certainly was good practice for the 10k run will be doing in June. It was also longer in time than my 10 mile run!

On our way to zumbathon – happy then!
Tonight’s update

Next week there will be more ticks!

It started with a cake

Challenge no 16  – Day trip to Cardiff to visit daughter, go to Cardiff Bay for lunch and buy Welsh cakes.

Any journey or trip with the family will involve planning around eating. We are particularly fond of cake especially cream teas. As I was visiting Kathryn at her 2nd home, I thought I would make her a cake. She has insisted that I only take a few slices up as she is eating healthily. I am sure the boys won’t mind be left with the remainder. As I was going to Wales, I opted for Paul Hollywood’s version of the Welsh plate cake, white chocolate and cherry cake. I think it went down very well.

My trip was taking place on Saturday 25th March, the day before Mother’s day and I was looking forward to having a lovely day with Kathryn. After a three hour train journey, I was able to see my daughter and experience, in unusual March warm weather, a walk in Kathryn’s favourite parks. One of the parks gave me an excuse to use Kathryn’s camera, a very thoughtful present from Aaron. I want one; I meant the camera but Aaron is a lovely lad too! With the camera, I was able to capture an arty picture for challenge 26. I will share later.

After having a delicious blackcurrant and clotted cream ice-cream (another family favourite), we reluctantly left Roath Park and the many families enjoying the sun, swans and beautiful scenery, and made our way to catch the train. As much as she is clever, my beautiful daughter can be a bit dipsy too; she honestly thought that the restaurants and pubs would stop serving food at 3 p.m. I personally think she was just hungry and wanted me to walk a bit faster. Cardiff Bay isn’t too far away from the City so it didn’t take long before we were sitting down enjoying a lovely lunch.

First ice cream of 2017
Beautiful daughter

There is certainly a great selection of places to eat. We opted for Bill’s and loved the look of everything on the menu. I opted for a fish pie and Kathryn decided to go for a burger. Although we were very full, we still needed to buy the welsh cakes. For these we went to Fabulous bakery on the quay and chose blueberry and white chocolate. We didn’t actually try them until on the train back to the City; they were yummy.

Bill’s Fish Pie

We took in the scenery and enjoyed a walk along the quay. Kathryn was trying her hardest to try to get a good “selfie” of us but the bright sun and wind had other ideas for that. Another photo we both wanted was the carousel; on our first trip to Cardiff Bay when we were viewing the university, we watched with amusement, a wedding party enjoying this carousel. What great memories for the start of your marriage. We even got to enjoy a female choir singing The Climb (apparently from Hannah Montana, information courtesy of Kathryn).

We still had a few hours left so we returned to the City and I managed another challenge; buy a physical copy of an album. This had rules and had to be spontaneous so I was not allowed to buy The Osmonds because I had wanted that one.  Honestly, I would not have thought about that had I not heard Let Me in on Radio 2 a few weeks ago. What can I say, the kids today would definitely love that music. In the end, I decided to by Eva Cassidy and I can confirm I love it; with a song on it called Kathy’s Song, I would say it was the perfect choice.

I was then taken towards the car park in St David’s shopping centre to play adventure golf. There are 2 courses; we chose to play the Ancient explorer trail and Kathryn joked that it would be funny if one of us got a hole in one at the end and got a free play. Funny as it sounded and I’d like to pretend beginner’s luck but we have both been rubbish at crazy golf for years, we both did get a hole in one and Kathryn has 2 free games to play in the next couple of months. Thanks Bob, we did beat the 19th. I must add that Kathryn did win our game.

Perfect selfie taken by Kathryn

With sadness, I said goodbye to Kathryn (I will probably see her at the end of the week!), and made my way home. This challenge was a joy and I am looking forward to my next day out with my (I know this is getting boring now!) beautiful daughter. Three ticks for this adventure.


In our Italian restaurant, anything can happen

My weekends have certainly been taken up by challenges just recently and I have got just under 7 weeks to finish. Very busy weekends. Preparation is going very well.

The challenge I completed at the weekend certainly goes into the top 10 of my favourite challenges. Believe it or not, I found it fun, a little challenging and rewarding too. There were 2 challenges here; buy a new baking machine and make something with the baking machine. Also have to document it in my scrapbook.

I had been searching for the right “baking” machine for a while. It didn’t have to be baking like a bread machine or doughnut maker; it could be something like a soup maker which I did think about. Looking at my blender attachment for my food processor, I decided against that. I did also think an attachment for the food processor would be a good idea; I really want the mincer attachment. I could make great chicken burgers. In the end, a book helped me with my decision. I was reading From Rome With Love, when it gave me the idea for a pasta maker (also an idea for this month’s book to read with a different genre too so a worthwhile read!). I investigated the different sorts, a manual machine and an attachment for the food processor. I ruled out the attachment out due to cost and after reading the reviews, went for this little beauty from Marks and Spencers.

Shine pasta machine


I decided to use it when everyone would be home and after looking at the many recipe books we own (I was delighted to read in Mike Gayle’s The To Do List that he has cookbooks to that he hasn’t used), with Chris’s input, I decided to make a carbonara recipe from one of Gary Rhodes book. For the pasta recipe, I used different books to find the the best method and ingredients. All you need for the pasta dough is flour and eggs. The flour needs to be 00 flour (I didn’t have a clue either) and some need semolina flour too. In the end, I opted for Tesco pasta flour and it worked a treat. It even has a recipe on the side.

I was a little surprised to see that I was expected to sift the flour on the worktop and make a well to add the eggs. I decided on a less messy approach; my good old food processor. Such an easy method. Whilst I rested the dough, I assembled the machine. The only fault with it was the clamp did not fit my worktop but that didn’t beat me; I had a new vegetable rack with worktop that fitted the job perfectly.

When the pasta dough was ready, I had to feed it through the flat rollers which according to The Ask Italian book, proves the dough, and the gluten’s in the flour will be kneaded and elastic. It needed to go through this part several times. It was amazing when I looked at the photograph in the book to find that mine looked the same.

Proving the pasta
Like the book said!


Next job was cutting the dough. It did make me so happy watching the machine cut the dough into tagliatelle. I concocted a rack to dry the pasta on for two hours before making the carbonara. The pasta does not take long to cook so dinner was made very quickly. End result was fantastic; my description would be a creamy Italian version of an English cooked breakfast. Delicious.

Cutting the pasta

I loved this challenge and although it won’t be used every week, I am determined to use it regularly. Might even attempt the manual method of making the dough next time.

Two big ticks earned here.