Blog of destiny

Blackberry Jelly 


I am bery, er, very lucky to live beside a huge common which is filled with enormous mountains of brambles. I took my boyfriend up for a wander this week and we harvested a huge load of fruit!

Collecting blackberries from the wild does give you something to consider. They will inevitably have wee beasties lurking within. Wild fruit isn’t sprayed with insecticide or chemicals so it can’t be avoided! To combat this, place your fruit in a large bowl or sink of cold water, give it a good shake (about 2 or 3 tablespoons) of table salt on top, swoosh it about and leave it aside for a good 20-30 mins. Then rinse your fruit thoroughly. This will rid you of the majority of anything living within. Sorted. 

As its my friends birthday this week I thought I would turn this into something useful for both myself and a cake, so I have made some Blackberry Jelly to use as a filler.

I’ve made jam in previous years but I am not a fan of blackberry pips so this year they are coming out!

I dug around for a recipe, and after reading a few and realising I didn’t have quite the ingredients/ quantitys required, I went for it myself.  And its tasty! Yey! 

Ingredients 

  • 950g Blackberries 
  • 950g White Sugar 
  • 1 large Cooking Apple – peeled and diced

Method

Tip your blackberries and apple into a large sturdy pan, add 200ml of water and gently cook them off till the berries are squidgy and apple is soft. For me that was about 20mins.

Now mash the heck out if it all to get all the lumps out. Grr!


Next add the sugar and let that melt down gently, about 10 mins or so.

Now cook it all fast for 10 mins or so, stir once in a while to stop it sticking.

Meanwhile get a big bowl and hang a sive lined with muslin over it to get ready for the straining.
When your fruit is suitably cooked, pour it into the sive and whiz a spoon round to get it all dripping through. Get as much as you can out of that cloth! I wrapped it round a wooden spoon to squeeze more out – carefully guys its ruddy hot and burns your hand! A silicon mitten is advisable!! It also looks like you are harvesting organs so don’t freak out your flatmates like I did…

Once its all through, pour into warm sterilised jars and allow to cool.  

This made me two good sized jars. Voila! Enjoy delicious pip free jelly!

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Prune Flapjacks 

I have had rather a long break from my mission over the last few months. Life has pretty much gotten in the way but I’m back and feeling great!

A lucky find in a charity shop yesterday had me on a mission to do some baking.  I came across a multi partitioned rectangular silicon baking tray for the princely sum of 50p. Excellent! I’d been pondering getting for one for ages but hadn’t seen any in the shops. It needed a wash but it’s silicon so nothing fairy liquid couldn’t handle! 

Doing my usual sweep of the supermarket and on a mission to improve the calorie count of my breakfast flapjacks I stopped at the dried fruit isle and had a good look around what was there.

Raisens were a few calories less than the sultanas I had been adding so they were a contender and heading for the trolley, but then I picked up a bag of good old prunes. HALF the calories of the sultanas?! And they are sweet and sticky and yummy?! Just chop them up small and voila! IN THE TROLLEY YOU GO!


When I started compiling the mixture I figured that I could shave off a few calories from the flora and sugar as well – may as well give it a whirl.

Ingredients 

  • Scottish Porridge Oats- 125g
  • Flora Light – 70g
  • Soft Brown Sugar – 70g
  • Ready to eat Prunes – 50g
  • Plain flour – 35g
  • Golden Syrup – 15g

The partitioned tray made life SO easy. I squished the mixture down and bunged it in the oven.


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The results? Really delicious breakfast bars! I’ve baked them a little crisp and golden so the texture is a bit crunchy, but thats how I like them.  The new silicon tray is fab! Makes life so much easier. I highly recommend getting hold of one if you’re making bars – its much less crumbly.

Spine is knackered- time for cake!


I’ve written before about health problems and fitness. Being motivated to get fit when your body is less functional than others can be a real barrier to people trying to get into shape for so many reasons. It’s not just the physical restrictions, but the mental and emotional ones which can hold you back. It certainly has for me from time to time. But for me recently, just getting up, dressed and to work has been a but of a challenge. I love my job so motivation is not the issue, it’s purely physical challenges holding me back. Or my back to be specific.
After another bout of back pain and no improvements, I pressed my Doctor once again for help. I have a new GP who is really great and responsive and she agreed to send me for an MRI scan on my lower back. Really I should have had this years ago. I’ve had back problems since I was a kid but have never actually had anyone look at my spine so see what’s really going on.
I’ve had physio multiple times which helped a bit or helped for a while then wham, my back would go again and I’m back to square one.
They referred me to a hospital a lone way away from my house and the appointment came through to attend on the morning of my 35th birthday. Excellent present right?! On the day, my boyfriend came along with me for the trek which included a huge road traffic jam and a train signal failure – you got to love a glorious commute right? 

The hospital was great though, apart from the mean lady who told me and my boyfriend off for playing music in the waiting room – as if we were 14 – when it had nothing to do with us and was the club classic ring tone of the elderly lady in the corner! Made us giggle a lot.
I’ve had an MRI scan before on my head which was not my favourite thing as it’s a pretty confined space and I’m rather claustrophobic. This would prove to be a feet first scan – much better than head first but having to stay completely still when you have a bad back isn’t the easiest thing. Also I couldn’t help noticing how much the tube I was being fed into looked like the stone pizza oven in the restaurant at work… into the flamesss oh god nooo… unsettling.
And then a wait for the results.
I was expecting to find a problem – actually I was hoping to find a problem to explain what on earth has been going on all this time.
I wasn’t quite prepared for how much was wrong. Don’t get me wrong, I am aware it could be so much worse. But I was very emotional when I finally sat down with the result sheet and worked through all the Dr speak on the page.
Turns out I have two slipped discs, one bulge and one nearly 50% poking out, a tear in one, dehydrated discs and the beginnings of osteoarthritis. 
Translation – its buggered. That’s what 8 years in a warehouse does for you.
It looks like it’s been like this for a long time. Over the years they have been sending me for treatment for muscle issues rather than discs which possibly explains why I’ve not made much of a recovery.
Next up for me is a wait for an appointment with another physiotherapist. Hopefully armed with this information they can help sort me out a bit, or at least offer advice on how to maintain and not degenerate too quickly.
The other alternative is surgery which until I am at a point where I can’t function properly I won’t be considering. I am not up for that sort of risk digging about around my spine. No thanks. That said I am glad I do have options for the future.
I consider myself very lucky. Despite my knobbly spice I am able for the most part to get on with my life and do the things I love. I have been making adjustments for so long it’s second nature and doesn’t feel like a drag. Well not too much of a drag. It’s a very good job I’m not a sportsperson. That would be a heck of a change and I have huge admiration for people who have had a physical condition which makes them have to battle for their passions.

Writing, cooking and gaming are not exactly high impact pursuits but actually for me sitting down for long periods or leaning forward are my danger zones. Hazardous as hell! Almost as dangerous as putting my socks on, brushing my teeth, and sneezing! Someone call the Xgames, I am living an extreme life here! International Slipped Disc Sneezing is a sport I could truly excel at.
And yet, through making changes to my routine and being mindful of these dangerous pursuits I am able to get up gently, brush my teeth, get dressed and survive a cold. 
Nothing has actually changed from this week to last, but I am now better informed, and have a better chance at staying healthier and maybe even more mobile for longer than before.
In the meantime, I’d say its time for a large piece if cake. 

April Challenge Day 1

And we’re off!  Here were my totals for the beginning of the month.

  • £5.50 Tesco voucher 
  • £20.82 Loose Cash

And that’s what I have to play with this April, plus my old cupboard stocks. There’s going to be a lot of weird mixed pasta and rice dinners coming up..

Things were off to a blooming good start as I found a huge load of yellow sticker treasure in Tesco.


City branch

  • 42p 4 focaccia rolls
  • 47p 6 organic vine tomatoes 
  • 14p box of cherry tomatoes 
  • 21p bag of celery 
  • 7p bag of radishes 
  • 29p stir fry mixed veg bag
  • 22p sweet crunchy lettuce 
  • 11p baby leaf salad

Home branch

  • 15p x 2 six gala apples
  • 10p x 2 big bag of potatoes 
  • 10p x 2 chow mein sauce
  • 85p light mayonnaise (no discount)

Total £3.48

This will keep me going for ages!!! Bloody brilliant!

I used a couple of spuds to make a mash and had that weirdly with the stir fry and a chow mein sauce. Yum. And lunch for tomorrow.

Tonight I have also used up some eggs and fermenting bananas I’ve left to fester in the back of the fridge-oops- and made 2 banana bread loaves. I’m going to freeze one for later in the month. 

All in all a very good start!

Grocery challenge April – not fooling around!


Well folks it’s April the 1st and as promised I am not going to be using my wages from this month to pay for any of my groceries. I’ve been feeding my loose change box and have my £5.50 tesco voucher to tide me over so fingers crossed! I will count up my coins later on and see what I am actually playing with. 

I haven’t cheated and filled my cupboard up to the top, there is some food there just as any normal month but not enough to get me through by any means!!

My rules are as follows.

  • No groceries including food, toiletries and household products are to be brought with any of my wages from my last pay cheque.
  • I will avoid using my wages at all through this month – my boyfriend is on side here and wants a frugal month himself.
  • What ever is left over in my account I will put towards my holiday this summer.
  • No cheating and using credit cards!
  • No cheating and letting my fella pay for everything! We split meals when he is around, nothing will change here but he had better look out for weird dinners while I am using things up! 
  • I will try to use up the random bits and bobs lurking in my cupboard I have been avoiding. Get yee gone!
  • I will be honest and confess if things go wrong, but I am not anticipating this as I do what I say.

My two caveats are as follows.

  • Medical purchases like prescriptions are excluded. I consider these bills anyway.
  • I have a birthday gift to purchase – this I am excluding from my mission as it’s not my mates fault I’m doing this!

And so here we go! Wish me luck folks!

Menemen recipe

As this was my first day off in ages my lovely fella Mus decided to make us a super yummy breakfast.

His family are Turkish and he has learned some great recipes from his mum. Today we are having Menemen. This is essentially tomatoes and eggs with a bit of veg in there too and I am really ready for this! 

Menemen can be a spicy dish, but we are going for a non spiced version today.

Ingredients

  • Red pepper x 1
  • Onion x 1
  • Cherry tomatoes x 10
  • Tin chopped Tomatoes x 1 can
  • Egg x 4
  • Olive oil spray x 5 squirts
  • Water x splash
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Deep frying pan or wide shallow saucepan 


Method

Chop up the onion and pepper into slim flakes then quater the cherry tomatoes and add these veg to the pan.


Add the olive oil sparay, a little salt and a splash of water to allow the veg to soften rather than crispy fry.

Next add the chopped tomatoes and put the lid on the pan.


When the mixture has cooked a little make 4 dimple holes in the sauce, and crack an egg into each one. 


Put the lid back on and cook till the eggs are done.


Season and serve.


We had some leek Börek (made by my fella’s mum thank you so much) and flat breads with this tasty dish.  YUMYUMYUM.

Thanks Mus!

Lucky food finds!

It’s been a great few days for food finds. After a long period of not much luck, and slipping off my diet for a couple of weeks it seems my luck has turned again.  Hurrah!

It started in my old favourite Tesco in the city which had a random entire roll cage of medium size eggs for 32p a box.  And the date is not for almost two weeks. Yay! I got two boxes for myself and one for my flatmate. Egg party at our house!

Next up was a random give away stand for Felix cat food I passed in Waterloo station. I was in a bit of a rush so didn’t have time to linger there but it was all in aid of an ad campaign which has been all over Facebook today.  See here. Great fun, I wish I had time to muck about. Two sachets of cat food however, for free? Yes please! Now, the fact I don’t actually own a cat may initially be cause for concern, but my flatmates folks do, so a free dinner for the furry felines Jones and Porkins it is. Meowzers!

And for the grand finale my fella and I popped into the big Tesco to grab some tinned tomatoes for a dish he is making us tomorrow- look out for the recipe coming up soon – when we happened upon the discount bin final reductions. 

  • 2 punnets of finest vine tomatoes – 15p each.
  • 2 bags of finest Ramiro pointed peppers – 15p each.
  • 1 bundle of broccoli – 4p
  • 4 avocado pack – 18p

WIN!!!


Then in the middle of an isle, at the bottom of a roll cage which I initially thought was new stock I spotted a yellow sticker poking out. Uncle Bens Sweet and Sour rice time lunch pots, loads of them at 50p each.  EPIC!  I swooped in and picked up 12.  That’s two and a half weeks of work lunches for 6 quid. I am so chuffed. They aren’t the best calorie wise at 330kcal but not too bad, and they really fill me up.

So, all in all a great week!

Tip – try tesco veg bins at half 10 at night, bargains to be had!

Cadburys Cream Scotch Eggs – Birthday Treat!

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It’s my birthday this week and I need a naughty treat!

Being from that land north of the border in the UK, I was brought up on delicious, hearty, if not ultimately the most healthy snacks.  I am from the wilds of the country side, not a shop for 7 miles of my house so you need fuel in your belly whilst out adventuring.

I know full well that this dish is neither healthy, nor thrifty but I have seen these floating about the internet for a couple of years and for my birthday blow out I have decided to give them a go!

Honestly they are so rich and sweet you only need a quarter of a whole one before you collapse so maybe they are good value after all??

I have used butter in the recipe but you could use flora.  I figured this is such a calorie disaster sod it, have butter!

Have a go guys! Its a lot of fun making these and they are ridiculously good!

 

Ingrideints

  • 6 Cadburys Cream Eggs
  • 300g Milk Chocolate
  • 170g Butter
  • 175g Caster Sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 120g Plain Flour
  • 50g Cocoa Powder
  • 2tsp Baking Powder
  • 120g Butter
  • 120g Icing Sugar
  • 10g Cocoa Powder
  • 9 inch cake tin

 

Method

Essentially what we are doing is first making a sponge, which we are going to cool, blitz up and then add ingredients to that to make a dough.  If you want to make this a gluten free or vegan treat (I have found a great vegan cream egg recipe here) simply make the appropriate chocolate sponge and set it aside to cool. It needs to be something that will bind well, so throwing in a banana to the mix wouldn’t go amiss.

Set your oven to 170 degrees C.

Combine your sugar and butter and mix till its light and smooth and lovely.

Add in the rest of the cake ingredients and mix till its smooth.

Pour into the cake tin and pop in the oven till its done.  You want a skewer to come out clean from the cake.  Check after 25 mins, took me about 35 mins.

Meanwhile take 100g of the chocolate and using the medium fine grater size grate it up into little curls and put in the fridge to get nice and hard.

Remove from the tin, and cool.  I broke mine up on a cooking rack to get this done quicker.

Next I put it into a bowl and viciously attacked with a stick blender till it was like crumbs.  This made a small mess so if you have a food processor use that.

Now add the rest of the butter, icing sugar and cocoa powder and mix it till its like a good solid dough.

Take your peeled Cream Eggs and wrap and good handful of the dough around them till they are sound and pleasing.

When they are all wrapped up in dough, put them on a plate and in the fridge to cool the butter and dough down so its harder.

Meanwhile melt the rest of the chocolate in a bowl and set aside.

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Once chilled take the dough balls and chocolate curls out of the fridge. Dip the balls into the melted chocolate and mush it around with your hands till they are covered, then roll in the chocolate curls till they are all covered.  This gets very messy, and you have to play around with the amount of chocolate to cover it with.  Don’t drop the whole ball int he melted chocolate, this gets too warm and it goes mushy and yuk.  dip the end in and spread it with your hand.

Put on a plate and into the fridge to cool.

Success!

 

Enjoy your mighty delicious Scotch egg with an appropriate drink!  When you have recovered, don’t blame me for the sugar coma. You have been warned!

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Ethiopian dinner!!!


After my success with Tikel Gomen I decided to have a go at a whole meal. 

GOOD DECISION.

I am very pleased to report that it was delicious!!!

I made a huge amount of food for my friends and seconds were had – for me thats a good indicator of success.

I made Misr Wat(red lentils), Tikel Gomen(potato and veg), Spinach side and an Injera(sour dough pancake).

It was all so easy to cook, extremely cheap to make and I can’t believe how yummy it was – I’ve eaten Ethiopian food many times before and I was convinced it would be super difficult to replicate. 

None of the ingredients in these dishes are hard to find – there is a spice called Berbere which I had to seek out in Waitrose, but you can use other spices in replacement. 

Misr Wat is such a comforting dish. It’s warm, not too spicy and like a cuddle to the tummy. This was particularly good and yey I have loads left over!

Injera is usually fermented overnight. It’s a sourdough with yeast and teff flour and is really tasty. The version I made was very quick and a good replacement. I was sceptical but really pleased with the result.

Grocery challenge- April

I’m giving myself a challenge. In April this year, I don’t want to spend any of my wages on my grocery shopping.

There is no reason for this particularly, I just want to see if I can, and hopefully I will be able to see what my habits are like – and if they are as good value as I think!

In the last week I’ve had a £5.60 Tesco voucher arrive in the post, and counted up my coin jar which has about 6 quid in it.

I recon even being as tight with cash as I am at the moment I can save my loose change up, and coupon search enough for the rest of February and March to not spend any of Aprils wages on food.

So game on.

I think I need about another £25 to be able to do it realistically.  Now that doesn’t sound like much but just taking £25 and putting it in my jar is no challenge and I can’t afford to do that anyway.  The tricky thing is I don’t get cash out all that often. I am dreadful at spending money in my pocket so I usually just use my card.  I have gotten a couple of things for my flatmates from the shops and they paid me back in change so thats a possible way to help!

Also I know very well it’s possible to eat cheaper. I’ve done it myself in the past, but I want to have fresh fruit and veg in the fridge, I am happy with my diet at the moment.  I would like to be able to have a free month each year like this, or twice a year and for it to be sustainable and enjoyable.

So, £35 ish in total is my target.

My rules are, ONLY;

  • Vouchers
  • Coupons
  • Loose coins

To be stashed up for April. I’ll change up the little coins so I don’t destroy the tills with 2p pieces hehe.

Time to get stashing!