Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Crafts - Salt Dough Christmas Tree Decorations

The Bairn is 13 months old. I have come to discover that this is NOT an optimal age for attempting to make beautiful, rustic, sentimental type craft-stuffs. It is, in fact, pure folly to suggest such a thing is possible. But YOU CAN start off enthusiastically, involve your own Bairn (to some extent), and come up with something you wouldn't be too ashamed to pass onto The Grannies at Chrimbo. Lets face it - they love anything your wee cherub has had a hand in, and are largely likely to be what we in The Trade call "presbyopic". They need reading specs to see close up, so just make sure the afore-mentioned specs are not to hand on presenting your gift to your mum/dad/in laws/out laws. Unless you're as awesome as me, and have AGAINST ALL ODDS co-produced (with my artisan protégée) some truly impeccable works of absolute art. *Not necessarily a fact.*


1/2 cup table salt
1/2 cup water
1 cup of plain flour

1. Mix together ingredients in a bowl until combined. Knead well, adding extra flour if it's getting a bit icky.
2. Leave dough to rest for about 20 minutes.
3. Take your lump and roll it flat (about 5-8mm thick) onto a floured flat surface.

4. Make some shapes! We used some funky Ikea woodland animal cookie cutters, but the world's your oyster. Or your cookie cutter collection is. Or go crazy with some freehand cutting action! Don't forget to make a hole for the ribbon to go through. We used an icing nozzle - it was perfect.

Elk + imagination = Rudolph
5. Here's the tricky bit (with a child placed at the table around snack time, not a great idea, I concede) persuade your little helper to squash a handprint on your shapes for an extra personal touch. Those Grannies will love it! Tip for you though - extra help squashing those wee handies down will give deeper, more "hand-printy" results after baking. This is the step we had a minor disagreement about, a disgruntled apprentice resulting in some collateral damage.

"Loving it, loving it... HATE IT MUM! TAKE IT AWAY!"
6. Lay all your beasties onto baking trays lined with grease-proof paper.

7. Bake in an oven for aaaaaages. About 110 degrees Celsius for a few hours will do it. Obviously, you'll want to keep checking every half an hour or so. They need to be hard, but not brown. I light golden colour is best. (I tried a tip from some website - microwave for 5 minutes to start it off. DON'T! Mine ended up a bit puffy, still soft - and I blame the microwave.) Alternatively, leave to air dry for a few days. Aye, right! As if you can wait that long!

8. Once your delectable creations have cooled down, paint them! The Bairn attempted his own brushwork here (yes I really am that stupid), and I think you may be able to spot which of the festive furry friends is his.

You may spot The Bairn's impression of Roadkill.
For painting, I used a mixture of pearlescent, metallic and bright acrylic paints. That's because I have them in the house anyway - I suspect PAINTS ARE NOT TO BE EATEN BY WEE ONES. So a close eye was kept on Cheeky Chops, and he was only given a cheapo water-based paint I picked up especially for him.

I've varnished mine too - and when I get a minute might just paint the back with a message of "To Granny _" A, B or C (yes, we have 3 Grannies) and "From The Bairn"

Cute though eh? Have fun!


Monday, 10 December 2012

Family Food - Mackerel Pâté

Pretty recently, we had our 13 month check-up at home with our (quite frankly, terrific) Heath Visiting Team nurse. She is simply one of the nicest ladies I've met. She's helpful, never patronising, always supportive and makes me feel (for the wee while she's in my living room) like I maybe DO KNOW WHAT I'M DOING! Then of course The Bairn and I wave at her from the front door (as usual, The Bairn's wave follows around 3 minutes after the departing person has disappeared from view) and the old familiar feeling of self-doubt creep in. When she's here, handing me leaflets about nutrition and easy family cooking, I'm all....

"Yeah, actually I have a blog all about this kind of stuff, so I TOTALLY know all about it. I'm pretty much a younger, poorer Annabel Karmel/Nigella/Martha Stewart combo. Amazing really. We're all about oily fish, leafy greens, homemade rice-cakes and vitamin D in this household."

Then I'm like (inside my own tiny cranium).....

"Oily fish? Oily fish? Iron? Vitamin supplements? The Bairn only likes Philadelphia sandwiches! Ohmygod I am a MONSTER."

Thus, today's recipe is all about panic purchasing of stuff that's GREAT FOR YOU, and you should be eating all the time! Also, it was absolutely bloody lovely, if I say so myself. I do, and I just did.


250g of smoked mackerel
100g full fat soft cheese
A cube of frozen spinach - defrosted (or fresh - washed and wilted/blanched)
Black pepper

  1. Take the skin off your fillets, then take out ALL of the bones. It's a painstaking process and I STILL stink of fish. That is a fact. Maybe your friendly neighbourhood fishmonger could do it for you?
  2. Chuck the fish chunks in a food processor with the Philadelphia and spinach and pepper.
  3. Blitz.
  4. This is a bit cheeky isn't it?! Can you even call a recipe this short a recipe? Or just an instruction?

Here's a tip for you. Mackerel is sooooo oily, it makes everything it touches REEK. Best way to get rid of the smell from inside the blender is to wash it first with hot soapy water (as you'd expect), but afterwards rinse with very cold soapy water. It really works! I promise!

Nutritionally, this pâté is great for omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, as well as iron and calcium