Sunday, 6 March 2011

A Mixed Bag of Everyday Pleasures

Ok who pinched my weekend? Eh? Was it you?

Oh that's alright then!! I'll let you off!

Come with me... into the green...

Hasn't it been an absolutely beautiful day today? I escaped out into the field this afternoon. The back door is a little overgrown as no-one has been out since well before Christmas, but I fought my way out through the undergrowth, fighting off all manner of tigers and lions and bears. And tiny acid green, incredibly vicious baby nettles! Come with me... through the secret passage...

and out into the field. On a clear day you can see forever. Or to the corner of the field at least.

This field is an endless source of pleasure to me. We're blessed to have this right on our back door step and I never get tired of it. I watch the seasons change by it. I walk off bad moods in it. I breathe in it. I go blackberrying and foraging in the Autumn in it. My kids have grown up making dens in the hedgerows and hiding in the barley on the perimeter of the crops. My numerous cats over the years have struck fear into the hearts of multiple generations of voles and field mice in it! It's my little piece of heaven just yards from my back door. My house may be tiny – but I can't see myself wanting to live anywhere else but here.

Look how the shadows are lengthening – these photos were taken at around 4.30pm – how wonderful it is that the days are getting longer now. I can't wait to get out into the garden when I get home from work.

I cleaned out the coop this afternoon, ably hindered assisted by three meddlesome chickens. I wish I'd kept hens years ago. They really are the funniest, friendliest, sweetest birds. They managed to untidy the place more quickly than I could tidy it! But as they were burbling away to me all the time I was in there, allowing me to stroke them occasionally and making me jump by pecking at the holes in my bright pink Crocs (yes I know that's my fault for wearing hideous footwear!) - I can't say that the cleaning operation was a chore at all.

The bin bag full of spent sawdust and straw was lent an investigative foot by Leia – so tipping over the bag and spilling stuff all over the gravel. She also took a liking to the bag of barley straw and gave that a good kicking too!

Hiyeeeee-YAH!  Take that!!
Betty decided that I wasn't spreading the new sawdust quickly enough and also lent a hand foot, scratching sawdust everywhere – mostly out the bliddy doors of the coop thank you very much! 

What? I'm only trying to help!

Hattie merely looked on with disdain

Get on with it woman!

You've missed a bit!  Down there look!
until I'd finished and then immediately dived into the nest box to check whether I'd made her bed correctly. Hope it's to your satisfaction Ma'am. Now get your fluffy bottom settled and get laying!!

Whilst dinner was cooking this evening I decided to make the most of the warm oven and threw together a brownie mix.  These squidgy calorie-shocker slices of indulgence are a firm favourite in our house. I've made them so many time now that I no longer need to look at the recipe.

I always mix cakes/make bread/pastry using my late Nan's Pyrex mixing bowl. She had it for so long it was probably insured against Viking raids but I absolutely love it and use it at any opportunity.

For these brownies, you'll need 200g of chocolate of your choice. These bars of dark choccie are from Asda and cost £1.00 for the two – but they do an even cheaper version which would work just as well. The recipe (it's a Jamie one) calls for good quality chocolate but to be honest I chuck anything in. It's good to experiment and this recipe stands up to most types of chocolate. I've made Rum n' Raisin brownies in the past using some of that Old Jamaica chocolate which were A. Mazing! The flavoured choc is a great way of giving an old fave a bit of an update and there are so many different combinations of chocolate around these days.

Anyway – I'm rambling again.

I have to sing the esteemed Mr O's praises at this stage because I learnt a little bit of magic from his latest bible book.  

Greaseproof paper.  Annoying stuff innit?  You cut a suitable length with which to line your baking tray and it proceeds to do this: 
Well now,  the secret is... if you take the greaseproof paper and wet it under the tap, scrumple it and squeeze out the excess water.... (here's one I prepared earlier:-

You can do this^^^^^^^^^.   Wow eh?  It moulds perfectly.  I was so impressed!  I don't get out much though.

Next....smash up the chocolate. Now you can either do this with the end of a rolling pin but I will warn you that you'll be fishing bits out from the back of your washing machine/oven/fridge for weeks. I've found the best way is to take a hewooooge scary looking knife and chop it up into tiny pieces. It's very satisfying and makes a lovely crunching noise when you do it. This is a good stress buster too – particularly if someone has really hacked you off during the day!! (see – they do have a healthy edge to them!!).

Then... splat 250g room temp butter into your bowl and stir the chopped choccie into it so that it looks like a mess for a mad dog combines.

Then, 6 level tablespoons of cocoa powder. Mix thoroughly.

Add 200g sugar (I've used caster sugar but it works just as well with granulated. Use golden caster sugar if you have it but I've never been precious about me sweetening agent!)

Then, add a pinch of salt, and gradually beat in four medium eggs. Stand back, admire your handiwork, pat your hair, adjust your vintage pinny and look particularly smug if you have just retrieved said eggs from your own coop full of delightfully splendiferous chickens.

Finally, add 4 heaped tablespoons of self raising flour and mix, making sure all of the mixture is comple combined and looks glossy and decadent.

Utilise this lull in proceedings wisely by licking your fingers/bowl/utensils/bits spilled out over the worktop due to vigorous mixing.

Pour the resultant concoction into your prepared tin. Press some pecan nuts into the top if you like em – I have to do half and half because DD (Diva Daughter) doesn't particularly like nuts. Jamie grates some clementine zest over his brownies at this stage – and I agree this is a lovely touch. Bake at Gas Mark 4 for about 14 mins (although I never time anything). You need to remove the cake from the oven whilst it's still verrrry slightly moist on top but cooked through. Remove tray from the oven, flip upside down (the brownie tin not you – but if you're into kitchen gymnastics then who am I to question this activity?) Gently peel away the greaseproof. Then cut into as many slices as you wish.  Or don't cut it at all.  You could start at one end and your partner the other then see who gets to the middle first without being sick.

Et Voila! Shockingly, sinfully indulgent squares of gorgeousness which you might as well apply directly to your hips and thighs with a butter knife.

Or you could just choose a piece of fruit!!

See you soon!!


  1. Hello my Lovely :). How are ya diddling? Love the photos of your field, just how lucky are you to have that at the back of your garden! Super photos of your feathery friends too!
    I love my pyrex bowls too andmuch prefer to use them over my more modern ones.....thanks for the recipe too my dear, they look and sound delish, so I think I may JUST have to try them out.
    Take care my Lovely
    warmest wishes

  2. Oh, lovely views you've got there and it's always good to see your chickens!
    Yummy recipe, I'm salivating here and it's only 8.15am! xxx

  3. Hi Anita!! Yup I'm a very lucky lady - let me know what you think of the brownies! Hope you're well darling xx

    Vix - good to see you here again, thanks so much for your comment - you're very kind xx


Working from home

I've taken a precious day of annual leave today.  I've really struggled this week with feeling so yuk and I needed the restorative ...