Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Fried Sweet Potato Dumpling Recipe

fried sweet potato dumpling vegetarian recipe
If you come from the North of England, as I do the word dumpling may conjure up stew and dumplings. Whilst that is one of my favourite comfort food meals the dumpling is so much more than that. I love meals that are filled with lots of different bits, what can I say I am a picker. These were first developed when I was having a South East Asia street food day. They work really well as a snack or lunch too. In any case sweet potatoes are brilliant and work in so many sweet and savoury recipes. Baby Sebastian was a huge fan too.

you will need;

1 large sweet potato 
50g vegetable suet 
100g rice flour 
2tsp baking powder 
2tsp fresh chopped chives 
pinch of salt
sunflower oil (or similar) for frying, enough to make 1/2 inch of oil in your pan

  1. Poke your sweet potato a few times with a sharp knife and bake in a hot oven until soft. 
  2. When your potato is cooked leave it on the side to cool. Once cool the flesh will fall away from the skin easily.
  3. Place the potato flesh into a mixing bowl. Add to this the salt, suet, rice flour, chives and baking powder. Combine but do not over work.
  4. Heat the oil in a frying pan. Batch cook the dumplings around 4-5 at a time. Make them the size of a heaped teaspoon or a conservatively filled dessertspoon. 
They are tasty enough by themselves but most things in the world work with sweet chilli dipping sauce.
sweet potato dumpling recipe

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Speculoos Latte Recipe

recipe speculoos latte
Remember when Speculoos were just the biscuits you occasionally got at the side of your coffee? I do. In fact I remember the first time I had the spread it was not available in the UK my jar had been personally couriered from Belgium and it lasted about 5 minutes, once I had fetched a larger spoon. Since the there has been a global speculoos revolution it is everywhere. Taking a educated guess I would say there are more speculoos products, spread included sold that those little biscuits. To add to this I am sharing my recipe for speculoos latte. I say recipe it is so simple I feel it is more of a guide.

The key to making a coffee shop standard latte at home is frothing the milk. You don't need to have an all singing, all dancing expensive coffee machine. You can use what I did, a hand held milk frother. Mine has cow print on because I like cows and whilst I don't want to be 'that cow stuff lady' it is nice to have one or two cute cow print things. It was really cheap and only cost me £10.

It gives the right effect as you can see from this shot of the foam.
homemade speculoos latte

you will need; (makes 2)

2 shots of espresso (more if need stronger coffee)
milk (fill one of your coffee glasses to get the right amount)
1 tablespoon speculoos spread

  1. Warm your milk in a pan.
  2. Pour your espresso into another pan with the speculoos and gently heat until the spread melts.
  3. Take your hot milk and pour it evenly between your two coffee glasses/mugs.
  4. Using your mini milk frother plunge it in and froth, this takes about 10 seconds per cup.
  5. Now pour your coffee through the froth.

speculoos latte recipe

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Traveling With Babies & Toddlers

how to travel with babies
Before baby Sebastian was 6 months old he had visited 6 countries, taken 17 flights, 3 train rides and a whole mess of road trips. He is currently 15 month old and has continued to travel quite a bit. One thing that I quickly released is that every time I made a trip I made it with a new baby, not literally but in the first year they change so rapidly that every trip brought different challenges. Like with most things there are different schools of thought, routine is one of them. In our family the only real routine that Sebastian has it that waking happens, meals happen, (we don't play of have TV during meals, bathing happens, books happen, playing happens and sleeping happens. When those things happen is very organic. This approach to routine worked to our advantage as he was not expecting things to happen so when they changed, or we changed time zone he went along peacefully.  Not having a rigid routine works for our family. I am self employed so need to be flexible and needed my baby to follow suit. Every family has different needs, you need to do what works for you but that does not mean you cannot travel. I am a huge believer in exposing children to as much as you can throughout their lives and that can start as soon as you like, the sooner the better.
how to travel with toddlers
Many families live globally, and if not we are certainly scattered across the country due to work constraints so some degree of travel is inevitable. Needless to say due to the intense amount of traveling that I do I often get asked for tips. So here they are:
  • if possible arrange your travel for nap time/sleeping they may sleep through it
  • when flying try and get your baby/toddler to feed from breast or bottle on landing and take off to help their ears with the pressure changes
  • a new book they have not yet seen is a great tool in keeping little ones entertained
  • get yourself an interesting box filled with little things for your little one to discover, on the last trip I made the empty ring box was a firm favourite taking the lid on an off again
  • take baby friendly no salt snacks, (yes I developed the usual parental fear of salt)
  • re-useable sticker books, my friend got me on to these and the peel-able stickers are a win for quite activity
  • let them move when you can, when your baby begins to crawl & later walk they will want to move all the time so let them so that when you need them to sit still they will be more compliant, find a quiet spot in the airport or the buffet car of the train are ideal for free range baby action 
  • make a quiet book, a book filled with activity and great for planes trains and automobiles, you can find lots of inspiration online for quiet books, I will share some of the pages from Sebastian's quiet book on here soon
  • talk to them they are just mini people and we hate to be ignored, I narrate everything to Sebastian and he feels part of it, when he feels part of it he is in a good mood
  • relax and be open to change, babies & toddlers are far more adaptable than we give them credit for 
  • travel as lite as you can, I mostly travel on my own with Sebastian and the less I have to carry the better
  • if you don't have one already invest in a good sling, I have a bad back and a toddler that started life 5kilos and is now a little over 11 kilos but I ca carry Sebastian just fine in the Ergobaby, find the best one for your back
  • get a light pousette (buggy, stroller, pram), the lighter the better that way you can carry it up and down steps with the baby still in it, that is how I get around on the Paris metro
  • even if you have not been a co sleeper before give it a go when on the move as travel cots are not small items 
travel treasure basket for babies
travel treasure basket for toddlers
currently in the interesting box
travel activites for babies and toddlers
All babies and toddlers are different so you need to be adaptable to their needs and find a way that works for all of you. Try to look out for cues and don't think that they will stick to the same routine you have at home, they are in a different place with new and exciting things happening so you cannot just use your watch to guess your babies need at a particular time, those babies will change up on you with no notice. Travel and stimulation is important and house bound parents are grumpy parents so being able to roam the globe with your little ones is of benefit to you and them.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Cold Brew Ice Tea - Pina Colada Style

I have been seeing a lot on the internet about cold brew tea and coffee so when I developed my pina colada tea recipe I decided to give it a try. I am married to a physicist so I had to take a scientific approach to this cold brew tea test. I made a batch up using boiling water and let it cool, as one does when they are making an iced tea. Here are my findings;

TIME: The cold brew tea takes longer to brew but considering you have to cool the hot water tea before it can be served chilled the time worked out almost the same either method.
TASTE: The tea that had been brewed with hot water and cooled was not as smooth and had a slight bitterness to it so it had to be sweetened with a sugar syrup. The cold brew tea was lighter and more refreshing and did not have to be sweetened.
METHOD: When making the tea with boiling water I steeped the fruits for 10miutes and then drained the liquid before cooling. The cold brew tea had all the 'bits' left in. So in terms of faffing the hot tea needs to be strained which may sway you.
CONCLUSION: For this particular tea I am convinced that the cold brew method works best, I am interested to attempt this with a few different teas. This tea can of course be drunk warm but my personal taste preference is for the fruity coconut mixture to be enjoyed cold from the fridge, preferably with a record on and my feet up. The feet up part is yet to happen in this house, a girl can dream.
This recipe made up 100g of tea and guess what it uses no actual tea. There are some who define tea as the the infusion of the prepared tea shrub. Others, and I amongst the others, feel that tea can be described as the infusion of a plant. Your tea will keep for at least 8months if stored in an airtight jar although I doubt it will last that long.

you will need:

70g made up of equal parts of;
dried apple
dried pineapple 
dried coconut shavings
dried orange peel
15g dried rose hip 
15g dried hibiscus flowers

  1. Put 2 tablespoons of the tea mixture into a jug that will fit into your fridge.
  2. Fill with 1.5 litres of water, stir and leave in the fridge overnight.
  3. Stir before serving.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Courgette & Tofu Burgers

tofu and courgette vegetarian burger
This last 12 months I have made so many changes in my life and all of those require a complete time management overhaul. In an ideal world opportunities, babies and home renovation would not all come at once but since having cancer I have learned that we are happiest when we deal with the life that we have been given. Plus I am incredibly lucky to have all of those things regardless of when they arrived at my doorstep. Certain areas have slowed down, for instance I do not post on here everyday like I used to but that does not mean I am not still committed to Archie & The Rug. 

I want to achieve as much balance as I can between being the mummy I want to be and the professional that I want to be. For now that means spending less time doing me stuff and I am happy with that because I am so thrilled at the things that are happening for me professionally that it is serving as me time. Eating well and ensuring that my family eats well is massively important to me so batch cooking a freezing ahead has been a life saver for me. You can see my other freeze ahead recipes here. As you may have noticed the blog has had a face lift and the archive pages are undergoing the same treatment so do keep checking back as they are expanding and changing all the time.
vegetarian burger tofu

you will need; (makes 12-15)

3 large courgettes grated 
500g firm tofu 
2 white onions, chopped finely
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 handful of fresh coriander, chopped 
2 eggs, beaten
120g bulgar wheat
3tbsp rice flour
4tsp cumin
1tsp black pepper 
1 vegetable stock cube 
a little olive oil for frying 

  1. Begin by grating your courgette. Leave the grated courgette in a sieve over a bowl to allow the liquid to drain.
  2. Finely chop your onion and garlic and fry them until soft. Transfer to a large bowl.
  3. Boil your bulgar wheat with the stock cube according to the packet instructions, drain and leave to cool. 
  4. Crumble your tofu up, you can do this by hand but I used a food processor. Transfer the tofu to the onions and garlic.
  5. To the tofu mixture add the remainder of the ingredients. Mix well. 
  6. Form into burger shapes and wrap in cling film. Freeze. Make sure you place them in the freezer carefully and flat. Once they are frozen they are hard so you can be a bit more rough and ready with them.
  7. When you want to eat one unwrap and fry from frozen on a low to moderate heat.
courgette and tofu burger

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

How To Paint A Room

how to paint a room
I work hard to make sure that this blog is filled with beautiful things, why shouldn't I it is my job. From time to time though I need to pull back the curtain and show you the not so beautiful. I have renovated four houses now, all of those renovations took place before I was a blogger so there is very little record of them. Blogging has enriched my life in so many ways both professionally and personally, one of the personal improvements is life documentation. Before I was a blogger I took photographs, in fact I did so quite often. I had my own dark room and even sold my work but the photographs were always black and white and the subject matter was more likely to be rust though a macro lens than what I had eaten for supper that day. 

Blogging awakened the snap happy girl inside me. One of the things I am going to enjoy is creating a scrapbook for this house renovation. I have never been able to look back and see the before whilst living in and enjoying the after. This step by step documentation also enables me to show you all of the foundation protects so to speak in creating a beautiful home. Yes there is more to home renovation that the right placement of a cactus.

It will sound terribly dull when I say this but the key to a well painted room is in preparation. Here are the steps you need to take to make your room look like you have just had the professionals in.

During this post I will be advising you to sand wood and plaster surfaces please make sure that you wear a mask. You will be in a room with very fine particles and whilst wearing a mask may not seem sexy trust me respiratory diseases are not sexy either. Your health and safety comes above a pretty room. Got that, good, now I can begin.

1. Fill The Gaps - By the time you come to actually painting a room you have more than likely spent endless hours pouring over paint chips, even buying sample pots so the last thing you want to do is think about filler, you want colour and lots of it. DO NOT SKIP THE FILLING STAGE. We have all done it because we were impatient but in the long run you will live to regret it. fill all of the holes, even the very small ones with pollyfiller. For deep holes you can get a special deep hole filler but do not think you can fill all in one go, layers, always layers and let it dry in between. Now here is my top tip unless the hole is microscopic you are not aiming for a flush finish. in fact the best way to get a good finish is to over fill your hole. Make a circular motion so that the surface is ridged, let it cure fully then sand it back. You can do this by hand with sandpaper and a bock or use an electric hand sander for larger holes.
how to fill a wall
<a filled and sanded wall>
how to use decorators caulk
Decorators Caulk is a gift from heaven and I could not live without it. Old houses often have historical movement, without going into lots of boring details houses take a little time to settle on their foundations. This means you may have gaps where the wall moved away from the skirting or window frame. When you are left with a long gap this is what you use. It is also perfect for coving where you cannot use the regular fill and sand method without damaging the original plaster work. You will need an application gun and a damp cloth. Simply fill, keep your movement steady and smooth with a wet finger. You can practice on card if you are nervous about diving straight in.
how to fix gaps in woodwork
how to repair plaster coving
2. Sand Your Woodwork: Now that you have filled everything you need to make sure you have a good surface to paint on and that begins with sanding the woodwork. Unless you have replaced the woodwork chances are it has been painted before and the last person to paint is not guaranteed to have done a good job. It is vital that you remove all of the old dried up drips that may be on your woodwork for a smooth finish. Even if you have been lucky and there are not endless layers of  drips to contend with you will still need to 'key in' the wood. All that this means is that you have a slightly rough surface for your new paint to adhere to. If you have old drips to remove I recommend starting with a rough paper grit size 60 or 80. Sandpaper is counter intuitive the rougher the paper the lower the number the higher the finer it is. I recommend that you always finish sanding with 120grade at least.

3. Clean Up: All that boring work and still no colour on your walls, hang in there it will be worth it I promise. You have been busy filling and sanding your walls and woodwork the room is covered in dust. First of all allow it all to settle, overnight if necessary. Then vacuum. Them wait for the dust to settle again, and it will settle. Then mop. Then wait for the dust to settle again, and it will. Then mop again. After the second mop you also need to wipe all of the wood work and the walls. Cleaning the walls is important. If you are painting in a kitchen your walls will be covered in a greasy build up so you will need to wear rubber gloves and scrub the walls with sugar soap which you can find in any hardware store. Often this is a good opportunity to remove any sticky pads or stick tack that has been left on the walls.
how to paint woodwork
4. Paint Your Woodwork; Finally we are getting some painting done. There is an order in which you should paint your room and woodwork comes first. I ALWAYS use a water based eggshell for the woodwork. It is better for the environment, dries faster, has a matte finish and you can wash the brushes out with water. You can get a great range in colours in water based eggshell. When you paint your woodwork paint slightly onto the wall to make sure there is no gap between the wall paint and the trim.
decorating advice
5. Cutting In: This is something that you need to do before you put paint on the main section of the wall nit the other way around. The finish is just nicer this way. You need to paint all the way around each wall giving it a border at least 3 inches wide. If you take your roller into the corners or edges you run the risk of scratching the woodwork or  getting paint onto the other walls. First of all if you are having two colours you should finish the lighter colour first. The reason for this is that when you paint into the corner you will paint round onto the wall that i going to be darker also. When the light paint is dry you can paint a line down. You can see the effect in the image above. A tiny brush is not the best for getting a straight line, I use a 2" brush on the side. Even if you are simply painting a room all white these rules still apply.
white room decor

6. Choose The Right Tools For The Job: You are finally ready to paint the main body of the walls. To do this use a roller. I have experimented with paint pads before but I just do not like the finish as much and they do not cope well with walls that are not flat, so that is most period properties. Go slowly it avoids splatters and gives a nicer finish. Don't be tempted to overload your roller or brush ever, multiple coats is better that thick gloupy paint. There are now no loss plastic bristle brushes on the market, I swear by them they give a great finish and wash out well so they last longer saving you cash and keeping the landfill free.
how to use a paint roller
When you have to leave your wall to dry before a second or even a third coat you should wrap the roller head in a plastic bag to stop it from drying out and move it away from any radiators obviously.

I hope that you have found this post helpful. The more you decorate the better you will become and when you sit down in that finished room you will feel really happy that you did not cut any corners because it will look amazing. I am looking forward to sharing more decorating advice and DIY tips with you.