Sunday, 1 July 2012

Custard & White Chocolate Cookies

During last years Strictly Come Dancing season I thought it would be a good idea to run a sweepstake at work to get us all involved in the ballroom fun.  It was surprisingly popular and we ended up having five games on the go.  

Picture courtesy of
As well as the sweepstake I thought it would be fun to create a Strictly evictee themed bake each week. I was wrong! Whilst my colleagues seemed to enjoy Nancie's fondant fancies, Lulu's popping candy 'Boom Bang-a-Bang' cupcakes and breakfast TV presenter Dan's candied bacon cookies, Wednesday's 'bake night' was a bit of a war zone at the Hooson's.  Hubster new to keep his distance from the stressed, crazy baker in the kitchen. The folks at work may have also gotten the idea that I'd had enough when, towards the end of the season as Holly Valance was voted off, I created a Marmite cheesecake. That was definitely a low point.  

Strictly turned me off baking for quite some time but, just last week, nearly six months after the series ended,  I finally donned my apron, picked up my spatula and ventured back in the kitchen to bake custard and white chocolate biscuits.  Even I couldn't resist that combination.  

Give the recipe a try, I got it from, where else, but BBC Good Food

My attempt at the delicious cookies
Note to self: must work on food styling / photo

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Midweek Melody

It's about this time of the week when my mind turns from roasted poultry to the song choice for our midweek melody.  With this random patch of glorious sunshine we are enjoying it's difficult to pick just one. Isn't it strange how a little bit of sunshine can make everything, and every song, just seem better?  Well except that the sunshine highlights how badly my living room needs dusting and my eyebrows need plucking!  

The sunshine makes me feel so good I even found myself humming Morecambe and Wise's 'Give Me Sunshine' at work! I know, weird, but it has been very sunny.  I think I may have had an overdose of vitamin D.  It was also very early in the morning and no one else had arrived yet.  I may have sent everyone home sick if they had to endure my singing.  

I'm not even sure if Morecambe and Wise were the original artists of the song but it was their tune which nearly made it onto this week's coveted music slot, that is until I remembered I have decided to ditch the midweek melody feature.  

Yes, just as I suspected no one is that upset. All the songs I've featured have been naff, let's face it. Between you and me I only started the midweek melody so I could feature a tune from boy band Fives, Scott Robinson. Geeky huh?  Well I am geeky and proud which is why the last ever mid-week melody is going to be Scott Robinson's version of 'A Team. I think you will be pleasantly surprised. 

Darn Youtube vid wouldn't work so you will just have to follow this linkScott Robinson 'A-Team''. 

Monday, 11 June 2012

Craft Stall

Ma Hooson, the craft goddess that she is, has booked a craft stall at this year's Biddulph Well Dressing Festival.  

Well Dressing, the ancient English tradition of decorating wells with designs made from flower petals, takes place at wells across Derbyshire and Staffordshire. According to Wikipedia that is anyway.  I have yet to experience the excitement of dressing a well.  This year Biddulph is hosting the first ever well dressing for 'The Head of the Trent' on Saturday 23rd June.  

Foolishly I have agreed to join Ma H on the stall.  When I say agreed I don't actually think I was officially asked but rather invited myself. The trouble is there is only two weeks to go and I have nothing to contribute to the stall other than these crochet flower coasters which I think are rather too chunky for a coaster. At least they'd soak up your brew if you spilt it. That could be a selling point right?  

I may whip up some bibs and some burp cloths too, or crochet some cotton dishcloths. What do you think? What would you buy if you went to a craft stall?

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Baby Bundle

My names Jen and I'm a crochetaholic! 

My addiction is getting so bad that whilst watching a movie or a TV show, instead of concentrating on the plot line, I am pointing out crocheted items. Hubster is getting rather fed up of me interrupting the dialogue to point out an adorable granny blanket or cute hooked scarf, and please don't ask him what he thinks about the the bag of wool I have to carry with me whenever we leave the house. You never know when the opportunity to stitch a couple of rows may occur and I get rather anxious if I don't have the facility to crochet with me at all times.  You could say that the bag of wool is my yet to be assembled security blanket.  

The constant need to hook isn't necessarily a bad thing as there seems to be some kind of pregnancy surge in my home town of Preston.  I think there must be something in the water up there.  How much do you think it would cost to have a tanker of Prestonian H2O shipped to Sandbach? 

This baby boom is the ideal excuse to purchase yet more wool and get hooking.  Cousin Becca has provided the latest addition to my ever expanding extended family and recently brought baby Oren into the world.  I am yet to be formally introduced, I am so excited to meet him.  As a welcome to planet earth gift I hooked him a blanket to keep him snugly, very timely with this Baltic June weather we are experiencing. I also whipped out my beloved sewing machine and stitched some burp cloths and bibs.  

Next baby on the schedule is my step cousin in law, if there is such a term, who should be giving birth in the next week or so. Baby's gender is still a mystery so I will be waiting till he / she has popped out before my next trip to the wool store, I can't wait!   

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Midweek Melody

Burberry Acoustic

I'm no fashion guru, that's obvious just looking at me. My favourite designer is Giorgio, no, not Armani but George at Asda. I'd much rather spend my hard earned cash on lovely soft wool or a metre of gorgeous fabric than a designer label.

Hubster however did treat me to some Burberry the other day. Sadly it wasn't a new handbag or one of their iconic checked scarves but some tunes from Burberry Acoustic. The artists featured in this collection of spine tingling tracks are, no exaggeration, amazing! It would be easy to loose track of a whole afternoon trying to listen to each of these tunes.

My favourites, and trust me it is really hard to choose, are Bobby Long, whose gravelly voice makes me go week at the knees, Roo Panes, mainly for the gorgeous gypsy caravan which makes me all unnecessary, honestly, it's the caravan, and this weeks melody by Misty Miller. I would give up wool for a year if it meant I could sing like Misty. Okay, not really, don't panic.  I would never give up wool.  I couldn't survive 24 hours without fondling a piece of yarn.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner

My quest for the perfect roast chicken continues and the hunt has lead me away from my dependable friend, BBC Good Food, and onwards to Jamie Oliver. 

If I am honest I am not a huge fan of TV chefs, although I do seem to have rather a large selection of celebrity cookbooks. There was a crazed period of my life, and I'm not too proud to admit this, where I had to buy every cookbook I could get my sticky little paws on. I would never cook from these delectable manuscripts, I didn't want to risk splashing the beautiful glossy pages with food debris, but it has meant I have an ample selection of pristine cookery literature. 

Talking of ample there is one celebrity chef who is an exception to the rule, Nigella!   If Hubster hadn't of got there first I could have quiet easily married the voluptuous domestic goddess.  Not sure what Nigella would have made of the proposal but a girl can dream! 

It was Jamie and not Nigella who I turned to for poultry inspiration at the weekend. Jamie's Ministry of Food to be precise. There are some cracking recipes in here, some of which I have actually cooked. I am a lot less anxious about splatter nowadays. When you smother an iPad in ingredients on a daily basis a reasonably priced cookbook doesn't seem so irreplaceable.

Jamie's recipe is plagiarised below. The best tips which I gained from this risky expedition away from my favourite publication were to add red wine to the gravy along with the meat from the chicken wings. Delicious! Hubster and I didn't actually think gravy could get any better until now. Thanks Jamie!  
I must have been too eager to eat our Lady to take a photo so you can enjoy Jamie's photo instead! 

1 x approximately 1.6kg chicken, preferably free-range, organic or higher welfare
2 medium onions
2 carrots
2 sticks of celery
1 bulb of garlic
olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 lemon
a small bunch of fresh thyme, rosemary, bay or sage, or a mixture

  • Take your chicken out of the fridge 30 minutes before it goes into the oven 
  • Preheat your oven to 240°C/475°F/gas 9 
  • There’s no need to peel the vegetables – just give them a wash and roughly chop them 
  • Break the garlic bulb into cloves, leaving them unpeeled 
  • Pile all the veg and garlic into the middle of a large roasting tray and drizzle with olive oil 
  • Drizzle the chicken with olive oil and season well with salt and pepper, rubbing it all over the bird 
  • Carefully prick the lemon all over, using the tip of a sharp knife (if you have a microwave, you could pop the lemon in these for 40 seconds at this point as this will really bring out the flavour) 
  • Put the lemon inside the chicken’s cavity, with the bunch of herbs 
  • Place the chicken on top of the vegetables in the roasting tray and put it into the preheated oven 
  • Turn the heat down immediately to 200°C/400°F/gas 6 and cook the chicken for 1 hour and 20 minutes 
  • If you’re doing roast potatoes and veggies, this is the time to crack on with them – get them into the oven for the last 45 minutes of cooking 
  • Baste the chicken halfway through cooking and if the veg look dry, add a splash of water to the tray to stop them burning 
  • When cooked, take the tray out of the oven and transfer the chicken to a board to rest for 15 minutes or so 
  • Cover it with a layer of tinfoil and a tea towel and put aside. Now is the time to make your gravy

Now the important bit - the gravy! 

As well as your roasted veg and roast chicken, you’ll need:
1 heaped dessertspoon plain flour
a wine glass of red wine, white wine or cider, or a good splash of port or sherry
1 litre vegetable, chicken stock, preferably organic

  • When you come to make your gravy, your chicken will be covered and resting and you’ll have your tray of chicken juices and vegetable trivet in front of you 
  • Using a spoon, carefully remove 90 per cent of the hot fat from the tray by angling it away from yourself and scooping off the fatty layer that settles on top 
  • Put the tray back on the hob over a high heat 
  • Add the flour, stir it around and, holding the tray steady with a tea towel in one hand, use a potato masher to mash all the veg to a pulp – don’t worry if it’s lumpy 
  • You can rip the wings off the chicken and break them up into the tray to add more flavour at this point 
  • When everything is mixed and mashed up, add the alcohol to give a little fragrance before you add your stock (the alcohol will cook away) 
  • Keep it over the heat and let it boil for a few minutes 
  • Pour the stock into the tray, or add 1 litre of hot water 
  • Bring everything in the pan to the boil, scraping all the goodness from the bottom of the pan as you go 
  • Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes, or until you’ve achieved the gravy consistency you’re looking for

To serve your gravy
  • Get yourself a large jug, bowl or pan and put a coarse sieve over it 
  • Pour your gravy through the sieve, using a ladle to really push all the goodness through 
  • Discard any veg or meat left behind 
  • At this point you’ve got a really cracking gravy, and you can either serve it straight away or put it back on the heat to simmer and thicken up

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Geocaching at Bosley Reservoir

Have you ever heard of geocaching? It's kinda like a treasure hunt using a GPS device instead of clues. Actually, that's exactly what it is, it even says so on the Geocaching website so I must be right. Basically what you do is type in coordinates of a cache into your smart phone, sat nav or any other gizmo which can track a GPS signal and go find treasure.  

The 'treasure' is usually a couple of random wax crayons, a plastic toy and a doggy poo bag, empty of course, stuffed in a Duct tape covered Tupperware box hidden in the nook of a tree. 

Hubster and I discovered geocaching about this time last year and have been hooked ever since. Well hooked during the summer months. You won't find me trekking across a soggy field and rooting in hedgerows for an old plastic tub in the depths of winter, no matter how many toy soldiers are stationed inside.  

We got our walking boots out again this weekend and hit Bosley Reservoir near Congleton for our first cache expedition of the year. The weather was sunny and warm with a gentle breeze.  The countryside was picturesque and apart from the odd fisherman slumbering beneath a tree there wasn't another soul in sight. It would have been the most perfect romantic walk if I hadn't of needed the loo before we even got out of the car! Take note there are no lavatory facilities at Bosley Reservoir and this Mrs Hooson does not go behind a tree! I'm not implying the other Mrs Hooson's do, I wouldn't know, but this one definitely does not.  

Despite my bladder we completed the walk but only found one cache. Let's just say that geocaching wasn't high on my list of priorities. The surroundings were so beautiful that we will definitely be heading back to hunt for more junk strangers have hidden amongst the undergrowth.