Wednesday, 31 August 2011

The Kitchen Clock

Moving house saw my old faithful kitchen clock have it's last tick tock. The kitchen clock is very underrated in general with very little written or blogged about and yet I've lost count of the number of cakes I've baked keeping an eye on it. I'm one of those cooks who rarely ( unless I am recipe writing ) times things in the oven other than glancing at the kitchen clock.  It is perhaps one of the most important items in  my kitchen.  I must look at the clock thirty times a day easily and so my choice really needed careful consideration. 

If you are are a regular reader of my blog then you will know that I love British designs so I’ve gone for a Newgate clock.  The company is owned by Jim & Chloe Read and is a British company through and through. Their designs are heavily influenced by classic, vintage and retro with a touch of modernism and their clocks all seem to have a romantic story such as a rare find on on a London market or a rescue from a house being demolished! Their clocks are just seem so versatile and I spotted one a while ago in one of my friend’s kitchens and I had also been considering which one to get a few weeks ago in my local kitchen shop.  
Interestingly my friends kitchen is ultra modern .. but these clocks seem to look good in any setting, but I think this quad clock, which is a recreation of a clock found on Portobello Road looks particularly good in my new kitchen !
So to win one of these gorgeous clocks for your kitchen my question is.. do you use a kitchen timer or do you use the clock alone when you are baking? 

To enter simply comment below

This giveaway is open to all readers over 18 with a UK mainland address. The winner will be chosen using an online randomiser and announced on this page on Friday 9th September. You need to leave your e-mail address in order to comment, I am the only person that can see it. Please do not include your email in the actual comment as well.
This competition on behalf of Newgate Clocks and they will be responsible for sending the prize to the winner. Their decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into.

There is one main way to enter  .. just leave a comment below. There are 3 more chances to win .. . and you must leave a separate comment for each bonus entry otherwise they will not be counted.For a chance to win please comment and tell me what you use in your kitchen to time your baking / cooking.

For a second chance to win please tweet this post using the button below and you MUST comment with your twitter ID telling me you have done so.

For a third chance to win please follow me @VanessaKimbell on Twitter and comment below to tell me you have done so.

For a fourth chance to win please like my facebook page and comment below to tell me you have done so.Each Comment counts and an entrance and you can have a maximum of 4 entries to win this clock.

Closing date: 2pm Friday 9th September 2011

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Northamptonshire Food and Drink Show

Oh my feet are killing me!  I've been on them all day  .. and it's year sine the last show when I met Sophie Grigson.. I can hardly believe this twelve months has flown by .. just flown by!

So today I did my first cooking demonstration today at Holdenby House of the Northamptonshire food and Drink show and for some insane reason I have offered to help out and demo Cake Pops tomorrow. (I was persuaded by Caroline pictured left in pink next to Amanda on the right in the photo's below .. they are the beauty and brains behind this fantastic event)

I was rather nervous about doing a demo .. in fact I have had no sleep for days .. I kept  dreaming that I cut my finger off during the demo  .. and you'd never believe just how relived I was not to find my finger on the chopping board !  All ten fingers still intact  and actually  I quite enjoyed it .. in the same sort of way that you can enjoy and exam if you know the subject.. !

Well it has been a superb day, and promises to be the same again tomorrow.  There are over 70 local food producers, with cakes, jams, chutnesy, oils, burgers, sausages, bacon, wine, beer, fruit, vegetables, cury, spices and ice-cream and cheese  .. glorious cheese .. oh it's foodie heaven .. so if you are reading this tonight or early in the morning then come over to the show .. it's fabulous!

I think the highlights for me have been catching up with Henny from Cooking Gorgeous  - her aprons are quite simply the very best you can buy ... British made and a delight to cook in, and seeing Caroline and Steve from St Giles Cheese. Oh I love love love their shop  .. you guessed it .. it's on St Giles Street in Northampton and I shop there every week. ( Steve pictured above) 
It's such a great show ...  come if you can .. but I must dash now I have cake pops to get ready for noon tomorrow!

Friday, 26 August 2011

I love the Cuisinart Waffle Iron

A week or so ago we went out to a burger joint with friends for a treat.   After our burgers the children wanted waffles with chocolate sauce and we ordered for everyone.  Between the two families we had six children and of course the men wanted them too and I can’t say I blamed them.  On the way home I thought about the cost of the ingredients and that the eight servings of waffles came to almost £40!
I’m always thinking about thinking about how to save money on things without compromising. It’s unbelievable how expensive simple things can be, and we all have to think carefully about our spending.  I also think the children deserve to have treats, but these are something you can make at home in no time so I decided to get a waffle machine and make my own.

There are plenty of waffle irons around .. and they are not expensive, but after years of happily using the Cuisinart Ice-cream maker I decided to stick with the same brand thats worked for me every time. The Cuisinart Waffle maker costs £60.  No .. it doesn’t make it the cheapest on the market however I can honestly tell you that they make the most fabulous fluffy waffles that are seriously professional looking and they are really easy to clean. I just hate faff when it comes to clearing up so this is important to me, so to me they are great value.  We are now on our  4th batch of waffles made with with friends and I can't recommend them enough they are brilliant value for money.

The basic waffle mixture is easy and fun - effectively it’s a thick pancake batter but I thought I’d zizz things up with a seriously chocolate treat and make a chocolate and orange brownie waffle mix. It takes minutes to make and serves 16, anyone can make these and the cost for the ingredients was just £3.35 ..  and to be honest my waffles are far nicer!


Chocolate Brownie Waffles
Makes 16
Cooking time 4 -5 minutes
Preparation 5 minutes
300g plain flour
200g vanilla sugar (or ordinary sugar with 4/5 drops of vanilla essence)
100g cocoa powder
3tsp baking powder
460ml skimmed milk
zest of 1 large orange
2 eggs
130g melted unsalted butter
150g chocolate (cut up to the size of chocolate chips)

1 Place all the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl and mix well to evenly distribute.
2 Add the milk, eggs, orange zest and melted butter.
3 Whisk really well for about 2 -3 minutes.  Leave to stand for 5 minutes, whilst preheating your waffle maker.
4 Allow about 75g per waffle, but  if you don’t have a Cuisinart machine do check the size recommended by your manufacturer.  Spoon the batter into the waffle maker and spread with a heatproof spatula 1 cm away from the edge.
WARNING.. DO NOT over do the amount of mixture .. it will double in size and if you overfill then you will get the batter pouring out of the sides of the machine as it cooks.  Believe me when I say it makes a dreadful mess!  Better less mix then too much!
When the waffles are done serve hot with chocolate sauce and ice-cream.

Puppy love

For years we have talked about getting a dog, but with a garden that was just not big enough and very young children it wasn't practical. So now we've moved house the time is right and the children are old enough to enjoy a dog.. I am delighted to announce a new member of our family. Please meet Bodie.
He is a 13 weeks old rescue from a delightful lady who runs a Golden Retriever rescue centre and he is a cross golden retriever with a flat coat ... and I think he's utterly utterly gorgeous!

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Random Bakes of Kindness

I hope to create a ripple across the blogosphere. #RBOKindness  -  To be part of it takes no extra effort.. and trust me .. it’s good for the soul  -  if you are already baking then it cost’s nothing other than just a few more ingredients and it brings real people and their stories into the mix.

Blogging seems so me myself and I recently.  It’s so easy to focus on nothing but the food and my own life and I  really wanted to add a human element to baking.  Sometimes it’s not about the food as such .. it’s more about the person eating the food and how it makes them feel.

A coupe of weeks ago I made double the amount of cookies. The extra batch I popped into a tin and took with me to my local car wash.  The chap who has been cleaning my car for the past 4 years works all day no matter what the weather.  I have watched him clean my car in the freezing cold and the baking hot.  He always smiles and asks after the children and I ask after his.  He is a kind and hard working chap who always goes the extra to do the job right no matter how much my children have trashed my car!

So as he finished cleaning my car I paid him and then gave him my tin of extra cookies.  These are for you I told him.  They are because you always do a great job no matter what and take the time to chat with me every time I bring my car here.  He beamed, and beamed and beamed the biggest smile.

It made my day.

This is the challenge. Take part  I am sure there must be someone in your life who deserves a spontaneous thank you, a kind word and some recognition for just being a marvelous person. I know it's a bit random .. but that is what makes it out of the usual and for me that makes it special.  The unexpected just means more.

It's no trouble to bake extra .. so the next time you are baking make two and then all you need to do is decide who to give your random bake to,  blog about the bake, the person who you gave the bake to and  write up why you choose them, with a link to this post and add this logo to your  site.. and I shall do another too.

I shall write up all the random bakes of kindness in a post on Thursday the 8th of September .. just add your comment below and let me know you want to take part.

It will be fun.

What would you buy ?


 I am terribly fussy about items I buy for the kitchen.. especially because I tend to keep things for years and grow fond of my belongings.   I love British products, and feel really passionately about supporting our own designers and manufactures.  When this isn't possible  ( which is sometimes the case )  I like things that are built to last, that are iconic with consistent, fair customer services -  it goes with out saying I like things to be beautiful.  I have so many plans for my new kitchen and garden  ... what else does a girl do when she moves house?  
Well, seeing that most of the clutter has been cleared out and I really do need some new bits for the kitchen I thought I'd go and have a look at what there is in the shops.  For a start my kitchen clock broke in the move and I want to make ice-cream for two families that are coming for a meal next week.. and yet  my fabulous Cuisineart ice-cream maker isn't big enough to make the amount of ice-cream I need in one go .... and how am I meant to time making ice-cream with no clock? And what about the cups of tea I drink whilst I am writing up the recipes? I need some new mugs and my kettle is playing up  .. so I popped into my local kitchen shop Abraxus on St Giles Street in Northampton on Sunday and took photo’s of all the essential things I have ear marked to buy .. soon .... so I thought I'd share the photo's whilst deciding which I should get first! 
I must admit it feels delicious to be able to update certain things!
I'm not sure which of these lovely things I shall be treating my household to in the kitchen in the next week or two  ... 
So if you are reading this now I'd love to know ..  Do you freshen things up every now and again .. or are you a dies hard keeper of the things you initially bought? 
Do you hanker after a particular kitchen gadget or a new set of crockery .. or is it just me who loves to shake things up with some new bits? 
What exactly would you buy if you could?
Do tell me .. I'd love to know what makes you tick... tock in your kitchen!

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Mabel Pearman's Burford Brown's

I’ve been buying Mabel Pearman's Burford Brown eggs by the Clarence Court label from Waitrose for years -  they are free-range and they are the most glorious darkest brown glossy shelled eggs you can find.   So even before I started unpacking it was never mind the roof that needs fixing  -  I needed chickens to lay the eggs I use to bake and cook with!

These feathered ladies represent the very reason for moving house and I was fascinated to learn that chickens have been domesticated for over 8000 years.  So fresh air, outdoor living, delicious home made ice-cream, fabulous souffl├ęs and glorious cakes made with eggs collected by oh so careful children’s little hands is what I have dreamed of for such a long time.

The original  idea was to have 6 chicken that each laid a different colored egg.. but I bought three Burford Browns because I just fell in love with them and the children just adore just them.  Since we have had them instead of rushing downstairs to switch the TV on (which I have banned in the summer) the children rush outside to let the chickens out - their names are Babette, Fenella, Camilla, Calpernia, Victoria and Beatrix.

I contacted Philip Lee Woolf, who's grandmother invented the breed and drove over to Lammy Down Farm in Wilshire to meet him. . The drive to the farm was over a mile of semi wilderness with a herd of cows mooing along the lane and I was made very welcome by Philip’s wife Janet, who went to the trouble of making us a lovely lunch. I spent a delightful couple of hours finding out all about these lovely creatures and you can find out much more in the interview below.">Burford Brown Chickens in the stable (mp3)


I came home with three chickens at 15 weeks old just at point of lay .. so I shall have free range eggs in the truest sense of the word in the next few weeks!  The chicken themselves are lovely as their eggs and importantly they lay on a commercial scale ( 240 eggs a year.)  They more than pay for themselves.  They also have the advantage of being rather gentle, sociable placid and easy to tame.

So now I have chickens that eat leftovers and convert the scraps into eggs!  (Yes even I with my delicious food we have leftovers.)  When the children abandon their crusts I so much feel better about it!  Just yesterday, when I would normally throw crusts to my resident crows, my youngest tottered off and threw the bits into the run.  I felt great knowing I would have eggs in return.  To keep the fox away my husband and father in law have spent the last two weekends building a run for them to live in and I have put a radio on in the barn. It really amused me that they were eating hand made sourdough crusts…  whilst listening to Vivaldi!

Al & Bunny building the chicken run. 

Monday, 15 August 2011

Two weeks with no internet access


I’ve moved house and it’s everything I imagined it to be. The gardens are fabulous and the Victoria features are simply beautiful. The ceilings are high, the windows are huge the privacy is fabulous! Yes I know the roof leaks and the electrics need redoing and that there is no insulation, but there is so much to do .. and more, and I love it. I just love the space for the children to run about in, and that I have a project to keep me busy for years and years to come!

Moving house meant two weeks without internet access. I practically had a panic attack when my husband told me to expect no surfing for that long! I denied that it would take that long for BT to get a line in. My coping mechanism -it would come much earlier I told myself... but here I am to confirm that it did take that long and that actually I really rather enjoyed parts of what felt like an enforced 1960’s pre-technology social experiment. My husband tells me that I’ve been a far nicer person to live with. Ok so I am always lovely to live with .. but with out internet am even more so! It was loosing twitter that was the hardest bit because I was cut off from my virtual friends, but it forced me to make the effort and catch up with all my girlfriends and their children. I’ve had lots and lots of friends for tea. I found that I talked more to my own children because I haven't been working and I've banned the TV for the whole holiday anyway. Interestingly I've got ten times as much done in the house, and I am on top of the washing and ironing for the first time in about a year .. how mundane - and yet oddly satisfying! That said I am here, back at my computer typing the second I got back on line!


I really missed the detail in life. Going to David Austin roses to get some plants for the garden, was overwhelming - there were just so many roses to choose from. If I had internet I would have researched the varieties I wanted to look at carefully and it would have been a far more productive and enjoyable experience, as a result I bought far fewer then I wanted to.
I missed the creative process of writing terribly. From about the age of seven I kept a diary. Of course they are excruciating to read and I never look at them, but in much the same way blogging is good for my soul. I have so much to write - including some fabulous recipes, roses and chickens and children - I am practically bursting to write. I need to write

Of course we shall of course keep the internet, however I have decided that there are to be some new rules. I shall shut my study door and leave it alone. From now on I'll be taking time out every week and switch it all off and get into my garden. So I will be spending far more time away from my computer. The sun is shining and there is some serious weeding to be done so .. I’m off to get my hoe out and my gloves on and I'l catch you all later!