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Mum’s “sort me out” crumble…

I might be a Mum, but I still need MY Mum.

Partly because she turns up at my door with homemade cottage pie, freshly pulled cabbage from her garden and rhubarb crumble.

Why did I move out again?! 

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But it’s on days like these when the world is in turmoil and my days are currently spent bent over trying to help Maggie walk and dodging (actually loving underneath it all) puréed broccoli kisses, where I really just bloody appreciate my wonderful family and the simplicity of it all.

You don’t need a lot to be ok with life.

You just need a bit of tenderness, love and the odd crumble.

Mum’s crumble (kind of…)

I say ‘kind of’ because Mum has only gone and done a Grandma on me!

It goes like this:

“Mum (or Grandma when it’s one of her recipes) how do you make this?”

“Oh this? Just a bit of flour, pour in some milk, a bit of sugar and rub in some butter.”

Me: “Yeah but I need…measurements?”

“Oh I don’t use measurements…”

Me: “ERM I WRITE A FOOD BLOG. I NEED NUMBERS!”

Blank expressions meet my requests.

But I guess that’s the beauty of how people used to do it. The knowledge of how to cook basic yet delicious dishes was just instilled in you because you grew up with it.

So at a push, here is what Mother responded with:

8oz flour

3oz sugar

3oz butter

The butter needs to be in cubes as you rub the ingredients together until a crumble consistency is formed.

The rhubarb from Mum’s garden was cooked down until soft in brown sugar (sprinkle to cover) and cooked for 20 minutes at 180 degrees (electric fan).

You could use sliced apples or pears or any fruit really.

And that’s it.

One day I’ll do that for Maggie when she’s having a moment because food makes you feel better.

And so does knowing the measurements!

But then again, you can’t measure love…

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Vegetables for the soul, vegetables for the Mums…

I don’t think there is a truer quote than the following:

You wait for bus then three come along at once.

I’ve had about 65 buses in the past couple of weeks and I’m feeling the pressure a little.

This is not me complaining, this is me saying you’ve got a bit of time to breathe now Emily, so take it, relax a little and most of all, keep yourself well.

There’s been filming, there’s been radio interviews, then there’s the book writing – all inbetween looking after a toddler, a couple of nights with literally no sleep and oh yes, my day job.

And what I don’t have time for most? Cooking. 

While Maggie May had her nap, I sat down with a bowl of tasty vegetable stew and a chunk of homemade bread.

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I felt as though I hadn’t had much food in the form of vegetables lately either so used the opportunity to make use of the leftovers in my fridge.

I could hear Maggie snoring softly, the rain was lightly pattering the window and I felt…OK.

Nothing worth striving for is easy.

I just want to make sure I have a little bit of restoration in the minutes that I can then I can recharge and continue on this exciting journey that seems to gaining momentum.

Whenever I ring Grandma and I tell her I’m feeling a little low or under the weather, she’ll say, “Oh Emily, make sure you keep warm, eat something and rest.”

So here is a little recipe for anyone who needs a quick, healthy, wholesome fix, and a bit of a rest.

Never give up, just pause for a little while…

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You need:

1 sweet potato, peeled and cubed

1 parsnip, peeled and cubed,

1 onion finely chopped

1 carrot, peeled and cubed

1 garlic clove, crushed

2 tablespoons tomato puree

Vegetable stock

2 handfuls of peas

Salt and pepper

Fresh coriander to finish

How:

Fry the onion and garlic lightly in butter or olive oil.

Add in the vegetables and season very well.

Mix in the puree and cover with vegetable stock.

Add in the peas and boil for 15-20 minutes.

Finish with corriander.

I served with a slice of homemade bread from Greendale View Kitchen, Chatburn, Lancashire.

I sat on my own.

I ate on my own.

I relaxed on my own.

The moments are rare, but like the best things in life, worth the wait.

When I meat Jean, 90, a former Women’s Land Army lass…

I think people sometimes wonder why I’m so intent on bringing up the past, or question my fascination for it.

But it is days like today where I just don’t care what anybody else thinks, because this journey I’m currently embarking on has been a dream of mine for some time and to see it coming together is somewhat overwhelming.

On my way to meet Jean this morning, I couldn’t help but smile. I knew what she was going to be like – she was going to be like my Grandma.

A sharp memory, funny, direct and simply wonderful. She has been the first former Land Girl I’ve met for my book and she lived up to every expectation I had, and then some.

At 90, Jean is so alive, you know?

Like other members of the Women’s Land Army I have spoken to, she speaks vividly and lovingly of her time there, laughing wickedly as she tells me some of the tales from her colourful past.

Sitting next to her, I just instantly enjoyed her company.

It is women like her that spurs me on to make this book a success.

We can learn a lot from ladies like Jean – enjoy each day, see the world, do what has to be done and don’t complain about it.

So, I am about to sit down while Maggie May sleeps and write up Jean’s chapter, the first inspiring lady to appear in my book and hopefully, the start of something epic.

Thank you!

My Women’s Land Army journey: A book to honour my Grandma…

I’ve been so lucky.

To grow up with two beautiful, inspiring Grandmothers has been such an honour and I have the chance to ensure their legacies live on.

My Grandma Vera left me almost a year ago now, but there isn’t a day goes by where her smile or her twinkling blue eyes don’t appear in my thoughts.

Even Maggie May has started to have a look of her.

I have always said I wanted to write a book about Grandma and her endless ream of tales she had and you know what?

I’m doing it.

She, as many of you know, was a Land Girl during World War Two and soon, the remaining ladies from the Women’s Land Army will be lost time.

It is my duty to uncover their stories – the friendships, the romances, the sadness, the joy – and make that book I’ve always wanted to create.

One of my favourite books of all time is The Help, with the way it documents the lives of women who nobody knew about until their words were put on paper. That’s how I want this book to be.

The women of the WLA were unsung heroes who without, we would not have survived the war.

They are women our daughters should look up to.

And I’m going to make sure my daughter knows.

So please follow my journey on here and help me remember the strong, spirited women that played a vital part in our lives today.

This is for you Gran.

I will be on BBC Radio Lancashire on Tuesday January 30, at 10:30am talking about it. Tune in!

Chicken and nutmeg stew: A one pot winter warmer…

The nights are long and the days short.

Yep, we are still in that winter phase and up here, in the North, we’re freezing basically.

I can’t even put the bins out without getting frostbite so what I need, is some warmth and some comfort – from the inside out.

These days, time is of the essence.

I love cooking – without it, I kind of crumble but I work and I’ve got a toddler.

I need something I can whip up while she’s asleep or have a dish Maggie May can sit and help with meaning, we have about twenty minutes to spare before she gets bored of me enthusiastically waving a carrot in her face.

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This chicken stew is exactly what your cockles need.

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And the secret ingredient that will really set your chilly evenings a glow?

Nutmeg!

Winter can bring a real need for hibernation. It’s difficult to get outdoors and enjoy yourself in such horrid weather but what was so nice about this stew was the smell that filled the house – it was that homely aroma you get when you go back to your parents and your Mum is cooking dinner. It felt wholesome yet it was so easy.

And that, is what life is about isn’t it?

Ingredients:

1 onion
2 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
1 parsnip, peeled and roughly chopped
2 free range high welfare chicken breasts, cut in to large chunks
2 large garlic cloves, crushed
2 bay leaves
2 pints of chicken stock – if your using cubes, use 2
Half a teaspoon of nutmeg
Salt and pepper
Olive oil or butter

(Parsley to top)

Lightly fry off the onion, nutmeg and garlic in a large pot in the oil or butter. Season well.

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This French pink garlic from Clitheroe market really is to die for. It gives the most wonderful flavour to dishes like this.

Add in the bay leaves and stir.

Add the chicken stock and once simmering,  add in the chicken.

Cook for ten minutes before adding in the carrots and parsnips, and leave to simmer for  further 10 – 15 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley.

Then I would highly recommend taking a dish of this and yourself to a fireside with a good helping of crusty bread, because you may just find yourself falling asleep, satisfied, cosy and with a belly full of warmth.

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Potters Barn Cafe: Bringing a splash of colour to my grey Northern Christmas!

I spent my childhood doing all sorts every weekend with my Mum and Dad, or my Grandma. They are memories that will stick with me forever – from the holidays abroad to the little things like walks or trips to our favourite cafe before my ballet lesson.

Having Maggie May has made me realise just how important time together is, and there is nothing I love better than finding a fabulous day out.

After learning about Potters Barn at the Lancashire Toursim Awards, it was high on my “must eat” list and I can confirm, it was the heart-warming, zingy experience I so badly wanted.

In the heart of Ribchester, Lancashire, from the outside you can’t begin to understand the little wonder that lies inside until you walk to the back door and find yourself entering through a small, cottage-like door, almost as if in to someone’s house.

Although only small, there is a homely, lively buzz. It feels alive.

Everything about this place is so me! From the spotted tablecloths to the teapot wallpaper; the rainbow coloured plates and the mismatch lamps.

But I suppose what you really want to know is if the food lives up to the joy of the decor itself: Yes. And actually, it exceeds it.

What you’re going to find here is bowls of warmth, brimming with comfort.

I had the Tuscan bean stew accompanied by two chunks of the most succulent, homemade bread, dotted with dates.

Mr. GTMHTC had the cauliflower korma – on my request – and Helen, his sister, the chicken and bacon salad. Sometimes I find that when people bend to the phrase “homemade”, it can be a little underwhelming, but these meals were packed with flavour without losing that rustic touch.

I was seriously impressed by the fact though, that when asked if the bread contained certain ingredients (a member of our party has a restricted diet at the moment), they took the time to ring the bakers themselves.

It’s nice to know that someone else really knows what’s in their product.

After lunch we ventured upstairs to the pottery area.

The room up there is deliciously condensed with trinkets, jams, cards, bunting and pots for you to decorate.

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Over coffee we sat with our children and painted away, while the fire burned down and the cafe quietened down after the mid-day rush.

I think it’s nice to be somewhere you could happily sit all afternoon.

As we left, with two weighty slices of salted caramel gingerbread in tow, it was a slight reality check stepping back out in to such a wintery, rainy scene, after being so cosy and feeling delightfully full.

It won’t be long before I go back – especially as I need to pick up our somewhat abstract art work! (Yeah, thanks Maggie…!)

But it is safe to say, I’m definitely a little bit potty over Potters Barn….

 

An ode to Christmas: To new loves and love lost…

I’ve been thinking about this blog for a few days now because everyone who knows me will tell you I. Am. A. Christmas. Maniac.

I love it.

It isn’t about the stuff wrapped up under the tree (although I am a ‘buyer’!), it’s about people. It’s the one day where people just shake off all that dust, talk to each other, carry out family traditions, sit around the table, be close, be merry and be together.

This year has been a tough one for me. I’ve lost people I truly loved and many things have changed in quick succession, meaning I was left running trying to catch up. It’s been exhausting.

But, I’ve also seen life come in to the world. We welcomed Maggie’s cousins in to the family – one in February and one in April – so my emotions have been, in a word, chaotic.

I said goodbye to my beloved Grandma but hello to two little boys who have stolen my heart.

It was my first Christmas without Gran, but our first as a huge family with all the babies and family.

So the only way I thought I could really explain, was with a poem.

I hope you’ve enjoyed your festive break and remember, a lot can change in a year.

Tell them you love them. Take holidays. Spend time with your friends and make memories with your family.

Merry Christmas and a happy New Year everyone…

An ode to Christmas

This year has been rough, there’s been ups, there’s been downs,

I’ve laughed and I’ve cried, there’s been smiles, there’s been frowns,

This Christmas has been one for a couple of firsts,

The first without Grandma, I can tell you, that hurts,

But it’s also been a time where new family have seen,

The joy and the wonder that Santa has been,

We’ve sat at the table full of family old and new, 

And, that, my friend Christmas, is what I love about you,

You can take a hard year and make it seem all OK,

When you’re eating and merry and together for a day,

Because Christmas, I’ve found, yes I’ve grown to realise,

Is about people, about love, about magic and surprise,

I know Grandma would have been watching, as Maggie toddled around, 

As she opened her presents, as we laughed and sang aloud,

Christmas, I thank you for ending this year with such fun,

And I’ve got a feeling there’s so much more of that to come,

I hope next year is filled with joy that never ends,

And I’ll be spending all my time with special family and friends,

So Christmas it’s time to say god bless and goodnight,

And I promise to hold all that’s dear very close and very tight. 

 

 

 

 

 

Mama’s oozy boozy mince pies: The perfect pastry and filling recipe…

If there’s one thing we don’t do in our family, it’s neat little mince pies, perfectly topped, all uniform and compact.

No, I’m afraid Mum’s mince pies are anything but good looking, but god they’re tasty!

It’s down to Dad – he likes em’ bursting at the seams, filled to the brim with mince meat and reeking of brandy.

And that’s really how it should be shouldn’t it? Too many times have we been full of hungry anticipation when ordering a mince pie, only to be left thoroughly disheartened by the “all pie no meat” scenario.

So this year I took on the task. I was a little anxious: Do NOT disappoint Dad!

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And truthfully, I will never make them exactly like Mum because I’m simply not her. She has her own little tricks and know how’s, but I think I did this festive little delight justice.

It’s only now I think I truly understand the saying, “Christmas spirit” literally – it’s all the booze in the mince pies!

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Please make sure to check out these wonderfully festive tea towels by the talented Izzi Rainey. Hand crafted in England, they are truly beautiful and perfect for your kitchen this Christmas!

Makes 20

You need:

10 oz self raising flour (Mum says she always uses this where as I use plain!)

8 oz butter, cold and cubed

Half a cup of water, room temp

2 jars of mince meat – 417g each

4-5 tablespoons of good brandy

Icing sugar to dust

A bun tin

Butter for greasing

Milk for brushing

How:

Preheat the oven 200 degrees electric fan.

Rub the floor and butter together to create a breadcrumb like consistency. Add the water in slowly and mix in with your hands to make a ball. You may not need all the water.

Roll out on a floured surface – quite thinly.

In a bowl mix the mince meat with the brandy.

Very lightly butter the bun tin.

You need to cut out two sets of rounds – slightly larger rounds for your mince pie bottoms and smaller ones for the top.

Place all the bottoms in and fill with each with the mixture – about 1.5 teaspoons.

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Place all the lids on, push the edges together with a fork and pierce the top once.

Brush with milk and bake for about 8-10 minutes, turning if needed for an even bake.

Then, eat and I am sure you will be feeling festive (or slightly woozy!) afterwards!