Friday, 24 September 2010

Umbrella breakfasts & teatime treats

One rainy morning during the summer holidays Buddy came up with an excellent if ambitious idea for an indoor activity. I remember being very surprised at his plan; he was determined that we make our very own home-baked crumpets - from scratch.

Although we eat plenty of the shop-bought variety as pictured above (Buddy has arranged his into breakfast umbrellas here), I had never before thought of actually baking these bubbly wonders. I was delighted when Delia came up trumps with a simple recipe in her Complete Illustrated Cookery Course. Plus it required a very short list of ingredients - perfect.

We had to tweak the recipe slightly, due to our shortage of dried yeast and lack of egg rings - egg rings!? What the heck? as Daisy would say. But we still managed to successfully produce a batch of 10 delicious crumpets with our slightly reduced quantities of ingredients and improvised egg rings - metal cookie cutters. We have since tried making novelty crumpets using our dog and rabbit shaped cutters, but returned to simple circles after severing one too many peripheral crumpet-parts.

250 ml milk
50 ml water
1 teaspoon caster sugar
7g (1 sachet) dried yeast
200g plain flour
level teaspoon salt
butter, for greasing

a non-stick frying pan
metal cookie cutters

Served warm with butter, cream cheese, jam or marmite, these home-made classics get the double thumbs-up from Bud - high praise indeed. They don't stay fresh as long as shop-bought crumpets, a maximum of three days in an air tight container, but they freeze pretty well. Ask a couple of friends over for a teatime treat and you may not need to store or freeze - it's quite possible to polish off the whole batch in one delicious sitting. Enjoy.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

The summer collection

These delightful treasure boxes were decorated by my children at the beginning of the summer holidays. We used the technique of decoupage; lots of ripping and cutting and sticking of paper onto plain cardboard boxes. Then we covered everything in PVA glue to give a varnished hard-wearing exterior.

Over the holidays we filled the boxes with special things, items found when we were out and about. A wonderfully eclectic mix of treasure has accumulated, from shiny beads and broken crockery to finds straight from nature like acorns and crab apples (though these are looking rather wizened now).

Today, we investigated their boxes. Here's a display of some of their treasure - quite an insight into what a four and five year old consider worth collecting.

I am fascinated by the museological process of our summer's treasure box project, from the collecting itself to the storing, sorting and displaying of our finds - albeit in miniature form. And without any of a museum's responsibilities of long term storage and expensive care of artefacts, we were able to enjoy it in its most unhindered form. As Lola (of Lauren Child's Charlie and Lola) would have it, we've been collecting a collection, just for the fun of it.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Cooking club

Eeek! Has it really been over a month since my last post? Well, I'm back; my computer is fixed (finally) and essential software is being reinstalled (slowly).

I've missed being here.

The summer holidays are fast becoming a rosy blur of home adventures and days out, camping trips and family gatherings, but I will endeavour to report on a few of these before September is out.

Today I write about an activity Daisy initiated when just the two of us were at home. By the way, she has recently started using the word activity herself, for which read I don't want to play on my own now mummy. Let's make a mess/noise/thing together.

It began after watching the Cbeebies programme I Can Cook. I am quite a fan, despite its irritating use of canned children's laughter throughout. This particular show featured how to make fresh fruit flapjacks and as it finished Daisy's let's make them now request enabled us to immediately 'switch off the television set and go and do something less boring instead', Why Don't You style.

Daisy insisted that for our activity we play the I Can Cook game whereby I was the presenter Katy and she was one of the children in the TV cooking club. So we followed the format of the show; we washed our hands with 'slippy-dippy' soap, put on aprons, sang about what we were doing, 'tickled' the ingredients and tried to remember the song at the end. Daisy even washed up afterwards because 'you have to put things away, to use another day', or something.

The recipe needed a bit of tweaking - mainly due to our slightly large loaf tin - but all in all the results were very pleasing. Not a fresh fruit flapjack at all really; more a crumble slice. But delicious nonetheless. What I really liked about it was that we made just four crumble slices and the ingredients for this modest amount were easily manageable for Daisy to mix, tip and 'tickle'. It also meant that a few days later, when Nana visited and we needed a quick pudding, Daisy stepped up and happily made another mini batch which we served warm with custard and cream - well, it was Sunday lunch.

It made me realise that when I'm baking at home with the children I rarely give each of them a little set up of their own; their own bowl, their own ingredients and so on (with the exception of homemade pizza) and I plan to experiment with this more in the future.

While I'm a big fan of the communal cooking experience - just look at these gorgeous fairy cakes we made together for Amelia's birthday, for example - individual parallel cooking at home can provide a fabulously fun cooking club atmosphere. And without that awful TV canned laughter.