Friday, 26 October 2012

Left-over Pieday

We made things.
This was meant to be a Malaysian Curry Puffs day: I saw a recipe on Ocado, I bought the ingredients**, we were all set.
Then I accidentally got a pot of vegetable curry with my shopping*.
I didn't want to just eat it, I didn't know what else to do with it, so obviously I decided to make a pie out of it.
 Well, pies really.

This is a good recipe to use if you have leftover curry, ours included rice, which actually worked very well, but leftover rice can be a difficult issue: use your own judgement on this.
Also, like the last one***, it's very quick, so it's handy if you need something for lunch in a hurry.

Left-over Curry Puffs

Left-over curry (with or without rice)
Puff pastry (ready rolled unless you have plenty of time)
Mango Chutney
A little milk

Preheat the oven to your usual pie temperature.

Roll out the pastry and cut it into circles, making sure that you have an even number.

Put half the circles onto a lined baking tray and place a spoonful of curry on each, leaving a clear rim around the outside.

Add a dab of mango chutney.

Put one of the remaining circles on top of each pile of curry and chutney, stretching it a little if you need to to make it fit.
Seal the puffs around the edges, pierce with a fork, and brush with milk.

Now put them into the oven for about fifteen minutes.

Remove, pile onto a plate and serve, preferably with some kind of raita****.

*No, really, these things happen.

** Woe is me, now I have to use these too.

*** Make both, add some tiny tarts (watch this space) and have an entirely pie based afternoon tea!

**** Especially handy if your left-overs turn out not to make very good pies: sufficient dip will conceal all evils.

Never Ending Pieday

We are still making danish pastries.

This was going to be a two-day Pieday anyway: the pastry needs to be left in the fridge overnight.
However it turns out that we don't have any icing sugar in the house*, so they'll have to wait a little longer before we can ice them.
We also did not have any baking parchment or, apparently, a spatula.
This was unfortunate.
Also somewhat awkward was the fact that the only recipe I have for danish pastry is Nigella Lawson's Processor Danish Pastry**.
We do not have a food processor.
Luckily I managed to extrapolate a working recipe from the ruins of her creation.
It only later occurred to me that I could have just looked on the internet.

Danish Pastries


60ml warm water
125ml milk (not too cold)
One egg
350g flour (bread flour is best)
15g yeast or one sachet of that instant yeast stuff
A pinch of salt
25g caster sugar
250g butter, straight from the fridge

Everything Else

Another egg
A little milk
100g icing sugar
Another 100g caster sugar
Fruit or something, to fill the pastries

Mix the water, milk and egg (break it first) in a jug and leave it to one side

Mix all the other pastry ingredients except the butter in a bowl.

Cut the butter into small chunks and stir them thoroughly but quickly (so they don't melt) into the dry ingredients.

Pour in the liquid ingredients and quickly stir it all up with a wooden spoon or spatula.

It should look like Swamp Thing's butter-based cousin.

Cover the bowl and put it in the fridge overnight.

Go to bed.

Get up.

Get breakfast.

Get dressed.

Maybe do a little housework.

Get the bowl out of the fridge and roll the gunk out on a floured surface till you have a pastryesque sheet of buttery stuff.

Fold it into thirds (like a letter) and roll it out again.

Turn it round and do that again.

And again.

And once more with feeling.

Now put it in the fridge again for half an hour****

Take it out and cut it into squares, twelve if you're using all of it, six if you've saved half.

Put whatever you're using for the filling in the middle of each square, pretty much any fruit works for this.
We used blackcurrants, because we had some in the freezer, with a little blackcurrant jam to sweeten the sour fruits of our garden's less than magnificent harvest.

Fold them up in some appropriately attractive danish-pastry-looking fashion, pinching opposite corners together works well.

Put them on a baking tray, use baking parchment, please.

Beat the egg in the splash of milk, brush it over the pastries and leave them to rise for an hour and a half.

Now turn the oven on to your usual low setting (180 for us) and, if you're lucky enough to have somewhere other than an oven to leave your bread-like pastry substances,  get them out and put them in the oven.

After fifteen minutes get them out and put them on a rack or something to cool.
If you didn't use baking parchment at least try to use a proper spatula to pry them off with.
Don't try to do it with a potato masher.
Trust me on this.

While they're cooling mix the other hundred grammes of sugar with sixty millilitres of water, then brush this over the pastries.

Let them cool completely, then mix the icing sugar with a spoonful or so of water and drizzle squiggly lines over the pastries.


*I now remember throwing it away because it was the wrong colour: icing sugar is supposed to be white, this wasn't.

** At least she mentioned the processor in the title: I hate it when recipes just potter merrily along then suddenly unleash words like whizz on the unsuspecting technophobe.***

***Yes, this is a blog.
 Yes, it's written on a computer.
Were you expecting consistency?

**** This will make about a dozen danish pastries, unless you need a dozen danish pastries you might want to cut half of the pastry off and put it in the freezer.
Next time you want danish pastries you get to be all smug and domesticated-looking without actually working.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Feelin' Blasé

Eleanor has a new project.

Her previous projects have been a lot of fun*: raising caterpillars, digging up worms, hunting down dinosaurs, we've both had a great time.
 This latest one, however, somehow just doesn't grab me.
The project is on houses.
She chose it herself, which is a wonderful thing: she looked at the world around her and thought "I want to know more about this".
Intellectually I'm thrilled.
Emotionally** I'm less excited.

Don't misunderstand me: we've plenty to do, we won't be sitting around saying "So...houses huh? They're those things with the walls and the pointy bits on top.  Er...".
There ought to be plenty to pique my interest: we're looking at different styles of house, what we need in our homes****, what houses are like in other countries, what they were like in the past, how addresses work*****, What houses might be like in the future, all sorts of things.
 We're going to look at the way Ellie's own ancestors lived, and talk about the problems faced by people whose houses don't belong in any one town, or community.
 We're even going to make models of all the different kinds of home, and put them all together to make a miniature town.

But somehow it all leaves me a little...flat.
I can't shake the sense that we're just going to be sitting on the floor making houses out of cardboard.

This, of course, is one of the realities of home education: sometimes it isn't fun, sometimes what one person enjoys, another won't.
If it were Eleanor or Phoebe who was stuck in the doldrums I'd be looking for a way to tow them out again, perhaps by looking at things in a different way, or by scrapping the whole project in favour of some hands-on investigation of the art of paper-making.
As it is though, Eleanor's having a pretty good time, so all I can do is carry on and try not to dampen her enthusiasm.
Who knows? Maybe I'll learn something along the way.

*As opposed to alot of fun

** Which is the more usual way one experiences thrilledness***

*** Pronounced thrilledness, no particular reason, it just sounds better that way.

****Shelter! Beds! Food! Loo roll! An enormous library!

*****With sneaky hidden maths.

Monday, 22 October 2012


For some reason my last Pieday post did not appear when I posted it.
Sorry about that.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Moon Pieday

We made a mess.

It all started when Richard bought a packet of Wagon Wheels.
I, being of the vegetarian persuasion, cannot eat Wagon Wheels, or Marshmallow Teacakes, or moonpies*.
This is naturally a cause of some woe so, having nothing better to do one night** I decided to look for recipes.

It turns out that the internet is full of moonpie recipes.
Most of these I discarded at once: I don't know what it was, but something just told me that the combination of boiling syrup, a whisk, and a three year old wouldn't be a good idea.
One of those weird, psychic premonition things I suppose.

Then I discovered a cheats version: a recipe which skipped the make-your-own-marshmallow-ooze step in favour of a jar of marshmallow fluff.
Then I sulked a little, on the grounds that of course as a vegetarian I wouldn't be able to eat fluff.
Then I discovered that, Holy Cow***, Marshmallow Fluff is vegetarian.
And they sell it in the UK now.
And it isn't even expensive.

And thus was my doom sealed.

Really Quick Unbelievably Messy Moonpies


Biscuits, digestives are good, chocolate digestives save you time later
Chocolate, dark or milk according to preference.

You can also add peanut butter to make a terrifying hybrid Fluffernutter-Moonpie.

First hide anything you don't want to become unbelievably sticky.
Remove any clothing you cherish and say a prayer to any gods you think are listening.

Melt the chocolate over a bowl of boiling water.

Divide your biscuits into pairs, making sure one of each pair is chocolate side down.
If you did not buy chocolate biscuits this may take you some time.
The recipe we followed suggested that you set them out on a cooling rack, with a plate or tray underneath to catch the drips.
Having done this I suggest you just use a plate with a sheet of greaseproof paper on it.

Put a dollop of fluff on the chocolate-side-down biscuit of each pair.

Don't be tempted to use a big dollop, we did, because the recipe we were following claimed that they "could have used more", they were wrong: more makes a big oozy mess.
Like Swamp Thing on a plate.

Put the second biscuit of each pair on top of the fluff.

Now seal the biscuits with chocolate: splodge some on top of each moonpie and spread it over the top and round the sides to cover the biscuit and contain the fluff.

Leave to set.

If you bought non-chocolate biscuits**** then once they have set turn them over, melt some more chocolate and cover the bottoms.
Or leave them plain, but why would you want to do that?

Eat, licking the chocolate off your fingers.

As you can see from the pictures, ours oozed all over the place.
From this we learned that you shouldn't use too much fluff, or it'll seep out through the chocolate and go everywhere.
Really, everywhere.
We also learned that fluff is incredibly hard to get out of carpet.
Or hair.
Or clothes.

But who cares? The results were a sticky mess but we had a great time making it.

Of course everything has a downside: which in this case is the fact that I, usually an advocate of natural, real foods, now have most of a jar of fluff***** in the cupboard.
On the bright side: if the worst should happen I'm pretty sure this stuff could survive the apocalypse.

*Which are basically Wagon Wheels by any other name.

**Ok I had something better to do: I was feeding Phoebe, but I wasn't using my hands or all that much of my brain.



***** Neither natural nor particularly real.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Happy Birthday Phoebe!

Our smallest is one today! Ellie was convinced that now she was one she was going to be able to walk and talk and spent the first few minutes of the day trying to explain to Phoebe what she was doing wrong.

She has received much loot, Moon bases  Ride on mice, dolly's & phones, but by far the best present was the big box...actually at the moment the phone is winning

After a nice day she was made a cake by her big sister. It had to be star shaped as Phoebe is a star we're informed.

So a fruity, carrot cake infused with maple syrup and butter icing later Ellie and Amelia produce this!

Dear readers there are no pictures that follow this. Phoebe's first encounter with cakes and sugar was...interesting.

She spent the rest of the evening through her bath and into her bedtime giggling at just about everything.I have a feeling we're going to pay for that tonight or tomorrow with the comedown.

However a nice day was had by all.


Friday, 5 October 2012

Not Exactly Pieday

We made lemon meringue fairy cakes.
Now you may argue that these are not valid candidates for Pieday as they are not, in point of fact, pies.
You would, of course, be entirely wrong.
They are definitely pies, for their spiritual ancestor is none other than the lemon meringue pie.
They are therefore pies by descent, pies in spirit, and just as a drunk New Yorker on St Patrick's day is far more Irish than the most gaelic man ever to draw breath in Belfast, so these are far more truly pies than any mere filled party case could ever pretend to be.
Well, that's my story anyway.

Besides, these are amazing cakes.
Eleanor made them to sell, to raise money for rockhopper penguins*, and Richard took them in to work with him, to palm off on his coworkers for "whatever you think they're worth".
He sold nine cakes, he brought home over ten pounds, that's more than a pound a cake.
Even accounting for the obvious power of an endearing three year old raising money to help tiny aquatic butlers, that's pretty impressive.
So clearly these deserve their place in the spotlight, if only because everyone deserves a chance to make, and eat, them.
If you wanted to give some money to the penguins while you were at it I'm sure they'd appreciate that.

Lemon Meringue Fairy Cakes

125g butter
125g caster sugar
125g self raising flour
Two eggs
The juice and zest of one lemon
A tiny bit of vanilla extract

Lemon Meringue

One egg white
225g caster sugar
Some lemon curd

Preheat the oven to about 180 degrees, unless you think you know better than me, in which case you probably do so go with whatever you'd normally have done.

Beat the butter and sugar together till fluffy

Add the eggs, the lemon zest and the teeny bit of vanilla**
Beat it all again adding the flour a little at a time.

Now add just enough lemon juice to get a soft cake batter.

Share this between fairy cake cases***.
Put into the oven for ten minutes and quickly start making your meringue.****

Beat the egg whites.
When they form stiff peaks begin whisking in the sugar, bit by bit.
At no time should you leave the whisk leaning inside the bowl, particularly if the bowl is made of plastic.
Should you have been so irredeemably stupid as to do such a thing then as Eleanor to get a wet cloth while you separate another egg, then decide who is going to mop up and who should make the meringue.
Once all the sugar is whisked in you should have something white and glossy that will hold its shape when piled up in the bowl.
Stop whisking at this point because even if you didn't have to stop to mop up egg whites your cakes will probably be ready to come out.

Take out the cakes (they shouldn't be quite cooked yet so don't worry if they look pale).
Put a teaspoonful of lemon curd on top of each cake and cover with spoonfuls of meringue so that no yellow is visible then, once all the meringue is gone, put them back into the oven for at least five minutes.

Once the tops are risen, looking a little golden and generally meringue-like take them out and leave to cool, on a wire rack if you have one.

Now sell for an amazing profit or just eat them.
Share with any wandering penguins you encounter, but only if they ask nicely.

*Her original plan was to give the cakes to the penguins, she has since revised this and intends to give them the money.
She hopes they will spend it on something nice.
Perhaps more cakes.

**Seriously, it's more of an offering to the gods of cake than an actual attempt at flavouring.
It does make a difference to the finished cake, but it's hard to say how.

***And they are fairy cakes: they're little, delicate, nibblable things, not the mountainous creations of sponge and icing better known as cupcakes.

****This is what we did.
I've since found recipes for lemon meringue cakes online which suggest that you should add the lemon curd before putting the cakes into the oven.
I've even seen one that instructs you to add the lemon curd and the meringue all at once and just bake the lot for fifteen minutes.
I suggest trying all the methods to see how they work out.
And eating the results.
For Science!

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Spot the Home Edder

The other day Eleanor made a triceratops mask.
She was terribly proud of it and declared that she wanted to wear it to the library, to show it to the library ladies.
 So off we set, Eleanor in her mask and wellingtons*, me wearing Phoebe and hauling the bag of books, all of us stopping to talk about anything that struck us as interesting, and I thought: "Ye gods, we're a home-ed stereotype".
 It was about half past three, so as we walked we passed several groups of uniformed children, all making their way home from school.
I felt as if I might as well have been carrying a banner that read "Home Educating Crazies", the contrast between them with their regulation hair and shoes and us with our whatever-came-out-of-the-drawer fashion statements, seemed so intense I was sure we must stand out for miles.
 Then we got to the library and the first thing the librarian said was "Did you make that mask at school?"

The fact is that you can't identify a Home Educating family by sight**.
That girl wandering through the park in her bee costume, picking up worms?
Home Educated.
The kid in the television character t-shirt being dragged round the shops?
Home Educated.
The girl in the ballet school t-shirt and jeans practising pliés in the lobby.
The child who bumped a knee coming off the slide and cried for exactly eleven and a half seconds before climbing straight back up and doing it again.
The girl with the sensible plaits and "nice" coat who looks like she just stepped out of an old children's book***
That kid coming back from the park covered head to toe with mud.
All Home Educated.
In fact, in this case, all Eleanor.

I imagine that any of these might be somebody's idea of a typical home educated child, and I know there are many more: a quick scan of modern media presents the scary children from Cougar Town, the  Christian boy from Glee, scholarly warrior Carter Kane from the Kane chronicles****, and many more.
 And the thing that really stands out about them all is this: they're all different.
Even the worst stereotypes of sheltered religious children***** with no idea of how normal kids should behave differ wildly from one place to another.
 Which makes perfect sense to me.
Because Home Educated children differ so widely that, really, you can't pin them down, you can't stereotype them because there is no typical "type" to start from.
 The only thing they have in common is parents who, for whatever reason, don't send their children to school.
Apart from that, really they're as different as any other kids.
They're no different to any other kids

You probably pass home-edded children all the time and don't even notice them: on the bus, at the library, outside the cinema when you thought they should be in school.
We're like a bodysnatching alien invasion from the nineteen fifties: we're everywhere, we could be anybody, we look just like you.

Which is ok really, because, really, we are.

*It wasn't raining, she says she just wanted to make her feet all stompy.

** Unless they're all wearing T-shirts that say Free-Range Kids or something anyway.

***Five Children and It, or The Secret Garden, you know, something with lots of fresh air and knitted underthings.

****Yes, I read children's books.
Because they're good.

***** I know no children like this.
I do know Christian children who are home edded, and Muslim children, and Pagans, Jews, Atheists, and a bunch of others who may or may not believe in something or other but don't think it's worth talking about.