In Hel’s Kitchen #3

It seems that every time I talk about starting a new feature on here it is the kiss of death for it! Remember Design classics, Slow Cooking Sunday and In Hel’s kitchen anyone? Note to self – I must try harder!

This post has been in my drafts since May (!!) because I have not got my act together and managed to take any photos of our meals. So instead I will talk about food a bit randomly in bullet points, just because food is my favourite thing. Especially the kind of food that comes covered in chocolate!

    • Lately I have become addicted to eating fresh mangos. So good topped with natural yogurt and a little runny honey. Mmmm, mangos…Yes, she does like the mangos

  • Related – I made these Deliciously Ella lollies. They were good. I used normal cows milk because I could not be bothered to open a can of coconut milk for just five tablespoons BTW.
  • I work a lot of late shifts, so to make my life easier during the summer months, I would typically cook up a load of grains (usually quinoa), wash and chop up loads of lettuce and lots of peppers, carrots, celery etc, all in advance ready for me to chuck together on a plate, with maybe some feta, halloumi, a can of tuna or salad bean mix and whatever dressing I could be bothered to whip up when I get home. Easy peasy.
  • I am also eternally grateful for my slow cooker. I use it at least once a week. I am also thankful that I invested in a decent rice cooker five years ago. My rice cooker has a huge hole in the lid from where I dropped it, the inner bowl is dented out of shape from where I dropped it and will sometimes get stuck in the cooker (yeah, you could say that I am a bit on the clumsy side!) But somehow against all odds it still works!
    When I come home from work after a late shift, straight away I will bung some rice (or quinoa) in the rice cooker, and if I am heating up a defrosted-here’s-one-I-made-earlier-meal instead of using my slow cooker, I bung that in a saucepan and stick it on the stove to warm up at the same time, then go upstairs and get changed into my pj’s, and then by the time I come downstairs, dinner is usually ready. Boom!
  • We also eat a lot of cous cous these days because its so convenient. Chilli or curry with cous cous anyone? I like to break the food rules from time to time. And make my life easier.
  • You might be fooled into thinking that I have got my meal planning game sorted. That is not the case. I do try, but I am just not the organised/type A/super woman/homemaking machine that the internet (or rather a lot of lifestyle blogs and Pinterest) wants me to be. I love this post from Posy Gets Cosy about the pressure we put on ourselves to feed our families with nutritious meals all planned weeks in advance. The comments on the post are good too. There is a lot of wisdom on there.
  • I baked two successful (refined) sugar-free chocolate cakes. First this chocolate cake (not pictured) and these peanut butter brownies (pictured in the photo below). Both were very tasty, and chocolaty enough to kid myself that they were a naughty treat. I am not sure how healthy they are (as honey and dates are still sugar and I think cocoa powder is pretty fattening) but I am definitely going to make these again.
They might not look pretty, but they tasted good!

They might not look pretty, but they tasted good!

…….I guess you could say this post is a little round up on how we eat in my household in spring/summer. Now that the temperatures are cooling, I am looking forward to cooking and eating more soups, stews and lots and lots of stodge! Mmmmm, stodge!

Some Small Updates In Our Bedroom

I thought I would share a few photos of our bedroom on here. I posted the big reveal back in June 2014 here and since then we have made a few small tweeks.bed 15 1

The main changes are the artwork. I treated myself to this print here. Yes, it was expensive, but I have no regrets. Its a long story, but I already had the frame for it when I bought the wrong sized frame for our Velvet Underground print in the dining room from Ikea. So of course it makes complete sense to buy an expensive print for a cheap picture frame rather than throw it away, sell it or donate it. Yep, thats some smart financial thinking from me right there!bed 15 2

I also brought myself the Trellick Tower print above (with a discount code) for my birthday this year. I love it, and who wouldn’t want a bit of Brutalism in the bedroom eh?

That last sentence sounded all kinds of wrong, didn’t it! But I like it because I am proud to live in an ex-local authority house on a council estate and I like big ugly mid century concrete buildings.bed 15 3

I think that I can now say that this room is ‘done’. Phew! All thats left to do is to buy a new door for the room, which we hope to do by the end of the year or early next year when we will be replacing all the crappy, badly hung interior doors in the house in one go.

What A Basket Case

Rob and I have more or less finished decorating our hallway, landing and spare bedroom. We still need to sort out the finishing touches so it will be a while before I post any pictures on here. Plus I am the worlds slowest blogger when it comes to this type of thing. But one thing we do need to sort out ASAP is a new laundry basket or baskets.

The reason I say possibly baskets is that I have a large load washing machine (I think its 8 or 9KGs?) so it takes almost a week before we have enough clothes for a wash.

We currently have two baskets that we bought to match our bathroom in our old house. Although thinking about it, they may have been bought for the house before that? Who knows? Anyway, the point is that we have had them for a long time and they are on their way out and need replacing. Plus they are ugly as hell and I hate them.

I remember when I first moved in with Rob, I was so naive. I insisted that we have separate laundry baskets and that he did his own washing because he did it himself when he lived with his mates, so why should I do his washing for him when we lived together just because I am female! Oh, I was so optimistic! Of course I do all the washing now! But its only fair because I work less hours than him. I guess I have to pull my weight around the house. If I really have to, that is.

Here is a picture of our current laundry baskets in our old bathroom in our Chatham house. They looked alright in this room because they matched the blind and the colour scheme that was based around the beige bathroom suite.old bathroom

But now I want something large enough yet still discreet, contemporary with a classic mid century vibe, breathable and practical. Is that too much to ask? I think so, because all the available laundry baskets out there seem to be either Ali Baba wicker baskets, plastic monstrosities or fabric bags with ‘Dark’, ‘Whites’ or ‘Washing’ etc all wrote on them. Which are really not to my taste.

Here are my faves so far –

Image from Fermliving.com

Image from Fermliving.com

Image from Fermliving.com

Image from Fermliving.com

The two above from Ferm Living are nice, but they don’t have lids (so I will be able see and smell Robs sweaty sports gear in it!) and I am not sure they are large enough. I like the patterns though.

Habitat Laundry baskets

 

Above are two more from Habitat. They are a better option because they have lids. But are they breathable?

Image from Johnlewis.com

Image from Johnlewis.com

Which brings me to my current favourite – the bad boy above from John Lewis. It ticks all the boxes but is eye wateringly expensive. And I mean really expensive.

Can I justify spending £60 on a laundry basket???????

We Made Some Jam And It Got Me Daydreaming

In my last post I mentioned a chilli eating challenge and I promised to write more on the subject soon.

I think that I might have made things sound more exciting than they actually were, because we took absolutely no part in the challenge! Sorry about that!

Let me explain – There was a person pushing super hot chilli peppers onto poor unsuspecting innocents when we stayed with our friends in Cornwall. Our friends, have a friend who grows extra hot specialist chilli’s as a hobby/side business. A few fools people did take up his challenge and we all laughed at them gurning and crying in pain and then we made unfunny jokes about how they were going to suffer yet again the next morning! Fortunately, Rob and I are now old enough and wise enough to say no to doing stupid things like that just because someone dared us to. Well, most of the time we are sober that is!

Anyway, somehow a tupperware box full of these chilli’s ended up coming home with us as a thank you for the donation we made for the fundraiser.

They look so pretty and innocent. Do not be fooled, these are some mean mofo's!

They look so pretty and innocent. Do not be fooled, these are some mean mofo’s!

That was a very kind gesture from our friends chilli growing friend, but Rob and I cannot handle anything much spicier than a balti. So what were we going to do with this big box full of super duper hot chilli’s?

Well, just for shits and giggles (literally) Rob gave away some to his VW friends down the pub. They were drunk enough to agree to the challenge it seems, but not daft enough to eat them there and then! They promised to film themselves eating them later then upload it to Facebook, as you do. We are still waiting for the videos to appear BTW!

As for the rest of the chilli’s, I was too scared to even handle them without protective gloves! Once upon a time, when I first moved in with Rob, I cooked a meal involving fresh chilli’s and I naively scraped the seeds inside the peppers out with my fingernails and then could not understand why later that night why the tips of my fingers were stinging so bad and my eyes were sore! That was a rookie error that I never made again! (My mum did not cook with chilli’s when I was a kid, nor did I pay any attention to the important bits on Jamie and Nigella’s TV shows, so I was clueless!)

In the end we decided to make some chilli jam with them.

Rob took it upon himself to be my official food stylist and photographer. I kept saying to him 'food photography is so hard' etc and dammit, on his first attempt he is much better than me!

Rob took it upon himself to be my official food stylist and photographer. I kept saying to him ‘food photography is so hard’ etc and dammit, on his first attempt he is much better than me!

Around seven years ago, I tried to make chilli jam (funnily enough, with a recipe from Nigella’s Xmas book) and it was a total disaster. It was messy, it took forever, the jam never set, it tasted really disgusting (far too vinegary), it was a waste of ingredients and it all ended up in the bin. Basically, the experience put me off jam making for life.

Now don’t get me wrong, I like cooking and I like making things from scratch, but I think there are certain things that are just far easier and cheaper to buy readymade in the supermarkets. Like ketchup, Nutella and yogurt for instance (yep, the yogurt maker was donated unused to the charity shop). Ive made my peace with the wasteful packaging and preservatives by pretending they don’t exist. La, la la…whats that you say….Nutella contains palm oil? Plastic doesn’t get recycled it gets shipped to India and then burnt polluting the atmosphere with lovely chemicals?? La, la, la….fluffy bunnies and kittens….think happy thoughts Helen!!!

This time I used a different recipe. I used a top rated recipe from Good Food and I read some of the comments for advice and googled how to sterilise jam jars etc.

This was a project that Rob and I undertook together. It was stressful, sticky, time consuming and for the most part, I hated it. The recipe said that it would take 50 minutes to thicken. It took 2.5 hours. I do not have the patience to spend all evening standing over the stove stirring jam waiting for it to thicken!

But then after pouring it into tiny jars with a huge ladle (fiddly as f**k) and being unsure when to put the lids on (when its hot or after its cooled? They never tell you this kind of useful stuff in the recipe! We did it when the jam was hot BTW. I was to tired to care and I wanted to go to bed!) The next day we excitedly tasted it the fruits of our labour, and boy was it good if I do say so myself! Really tasty and flavoursome, not too hot but with a definite spicy kick to it.

A hot mess.

A hot mess.

The thing that shocked me the most from this project, over than it actually setting and turning out ok, was the feeling of pride that I got from making it!

Call me a smug bastard, but I love knowing that the chutney in my lunchtime sandwich was made from scratch by yours truly! And that it includes homegrown vegetables from a friend of a friend non the less!

Which brings me nicely to the daydreaming part of my post title (well done if you are still reading this post BTW! I do go on a bit, don’t I!) Back in the early days of my blog I talked a little about how I wanted to grow my own veg and keep some chickens etc. Well in the last few years, I have come down to earth and reasoned to myself that its a lot of work, its not the cheapest way to do things and whats the point really when I live a short walk away from a supermarket?

So of course this chilli jam making has now re-triggered the Tom and Barbara Good in me! Also influenced by the fact that we have been eating and enjoying lots of beetroot, sweetcorn, carrots, runner beans (5 days in a row – we have so many bloody runner beans!), spinach and curly kale all grown by my parents on their allotment. And it does taste fresher and better than the veg from the supermarket. It has made me think again that it is worth all the agro and effort after all, cos you cannot beat the feeling of knowing that you grew/made that with your own fair hand.

Rob designed me a special label, bless him!

Rob designed me a special label, bless him!

Plus as an extra bonus I can become a future Instgram bore sharing square (or rectangle!) photos of my homegrown tucker!

Watch this space!chilli jam 3chill jam 4

By space I mean at least five years! Our garden is still a state work in progress!

Devon 2015

Towards the end of August Rob and I enjoyed our annual family holiday. We stayed in a lovely house in Croyde Bay, Devon with my parents, my sister, her husband and the three nephews. Then afterwards, Rob and I travelled on to Cornwall to visit our friends who moved down there a couple of years ago, and camped in the van for two nights on their farmland.

It was a wonderful nine days away and a lovely end to what has been a really good summer. I have been really lucky this year – I went away in March to the New Forest and have also managed to squeeze in lots of camping trips this summer. And that’s despite of Robs shoulder injury and me working weekends!

Sadly, this was probably my last camping trip of the season, as its starting to get colder and more damp now. And lets not talk about how I now have no annual holiday leave left from work until the next holiday year starts in 2016 (sob)!!

Our time in Devon involved lots of bike rides, lots of body boarding, amazing sunsets, hikes in stunning scenery and the usual over consumption of cream teas, fudge, ice cream, chips and alcohol.

It was our first time in the county and we fell in love with the area. We will definitely be going back again as north Devon ticks all the boxes for us – plenty of activities to do, stunning countryside and spectacular beaches!

Here are some of my favourite photos from our week. Some are taken by Rob with his DSLR, some are from our Instagram feeds and some are from our phones. Im sure you will be able to tell which are which!

croyde

Croyde bay beach and sand dunes.

baggy point

Baggy Point which is National Trust land.

sunset beach

Sunset on the beach.

sunset

Rob had a play with his filters here, but it was pretty stunning IRL!

A little photography experiment with a filter and the two of us.

A little photography experiment with a filter and the two of us.

baggy point again

The walk along Baggy Point and views towards Woolacombe Bay.

Rob decided he wanted the white contempary house in this snap. Anyone got a spare million or two?

Rob decided that he wanted the white contempary house in this snap. Anyone got a spare million or two?

Croyde beach is officially my favourite sure destination now.

Croyde beach is officially my favourite surf destination now.

My tip for the day - don't allow yourself to be photographed in a wetsuit. Especially standing next to skinny nephews! But I don't care that I am not a size 6 supermodel. Im not going to let it stop me from having fun! (And sharing a photo of my huge arse on the inter webs!)

My advice for the day – don’t allow yourself to be photographed in a wetsuit. Especially standing next to a skinny nephew! But I don’t care that I am not a size 6 supermodel or thin and pretty enough to be in Taylor Swifts girl gang of BFF’s, Im not going to let it stop me from having fun! I managed to squeeze myself into my trusty old wetsuit to catch some waves!

Me bodyboarding!

Me bodyboarding!

We went to Ilfracombe. Its quite a pretty little town. We went to the Weatherspoons as you do.

We went to Ilfracombe. Its quite a pretty little town.

blooming lovely

We went all the way to Ilfracombe and then had lunch in the Weatherspoons, as you do.

We went all the way to Ilfracombe and then had lunch in the Weatherspoons, as you do.

We also went to the famous beach tunnels which were really, really hard to photograph. (This is a snap from my phone). They were not as good as I hoped they would be (we got round them in 5 minutes!) - I preferred the tunnels on the Tarka trail bike route!. Much longer and more fun!

We also went to the famous beach tunnels which were really, really hard to photograph. (This is a snap from my phone). They were not as good as I hoped they would be and we got round them in 5 minutes as we are uncultured townies who don’t read much of the historic stuff! – I preferred the tunnels on the Tarka trail bike route! Much longer and much more fun!

I am getting braver posting more photos of myself on here, ha ha! Its me on the tunnels beach, in my waterproofs. Not a trendy Seasalt mac, but a workmans jacket from my Dads former place of work!

I am getting braver posting more photos of myself on here, ha ha! Its me on the tunnels beach, in my waterproofs. Not a trendy Seasalt mac, but a workmans jacket from my Dads former place of work with a stain on the sleeve! Glamour is my middle name!

Me and the oldest nephew riding through a tunnel on the Tarka trail. He rode 23 miles, not bad for an 8 year old, eh!

Me and the oldest nephew riding through a tunnel on the Tarka trail. He rode 23 miles, not bad for an 8 year old, eh!

IG tunnel 2

After seven lovely days, the family all drove back home to Kent, and Rob and I headed in the opposite direction towards Cornish land to visit our friends for their annual bank holiday BBQ fundraiser weekend in aid of the local school. The event involved lots of drinking, talking, a chilli eating challenge (more on those chilli’s on here soon!), pulled pork and pulled beef eating and then some more drinking. We didn’t take many pictures as I was too busy drinking and Rob was too busy scoffing the pulled meat*, but here are some from our phones.

The obligatory picture of our van, the awning and the Kelly kettle.

The obligatory picture of our van, the awning and the Kelly kettle.

Rob got to drive a tractor. This made him very happy.

Rob got to drive a tractor. This made him very happy.

Another great sunset....

Another great sunset….

...made much better with a vintage VW in the shot and an Instagram filter!

…made even better with a vintage VW in the shot and an Instagram filter!

*Snigger!