Thursday, 10 December 2015

A gluten-free pudding!

Eve's Pudding?

Why this pudding has that name is hard to know.

In the recipe below you will not find a single piece, not even a slice, of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (the FotTotKoGaE).  Not even a speck.

There are apples though, which are easier, in once sense, to come by. 

I say that apples are easier to come by than the FotTotKoGaE.  Actually, we "eat" a lot of that fruit in my house.

For example, I tell my children not to shout at each other, because that is wrong and unkind.  And I then I spend 10 minutes shouting unkindly at a child who has wet themselves.  Why?  Because I am having a bad day - that is, one full of opportunities to lift stresses to the Lord in prayer, chances to trust Him, but completely fail, and instead carry a weight too heavy for me to bear, the salvation of the souls of the people who come to our after-school club.

How is this eating the FotTotKoGaE?  Well, I decide what is right and wrong for myself, and even change the definition of acceptable behaviour depending on how I feel and who is the subject.

It is EVIL for eldest to screech at me or youngest in frustration.

It is GOOD for me to screech abuse at them for an accident.

I'm sure you can think of many examples in your own life where you've overthrown God and taken the definition of good and evil into your own hands.

Even as I am screaming, I am so grateful for my Saviour, Jesus, who only ever did good.  But who chose the cross deserved by evil people, so that we could walk free.

I have a friend who has one birth child and has since adopted three other children.  I told her that one thing that scares me about the thought of adoption is losing my temper at scarred children in the same way I speak to my own children.   My wise friend said that it is the way that we restore relationship after sinning which makes the difference.   Children of neglect do not see that a relationship can be restored.  Nobody says sorry, and relationships don't recover.  This is damaging to a child.  Although I've always thought that it is important to say sorry when I sin against my children, my friend opened the door to a new way to thinking about how I restore relationship with my kids after I have sinned against them.  Now I battle my way through hard-hearted pride to restore peace. 

Our Creator, the Lord, could condemn all of us to an eternity without him because of our rebellion against his right to choose what is good and what is evil.   Instead he sent his Son to die for us rebels.  He chose to restore relationship with people.  What a gift of grace.


Gluten-free Eve's Pudding

4 cooking apples, peeled and chopped
75g light brown soft sugar
200g butter
200g granulated sugar
180g Dove's Farm wheat-free self-raising flour
40g ground almonds
4 eggs

Preheat oven to 180C.

Put the apples into a square oven dish (about 20x20cm).  Sprinkle the brown sugar over.

Put the rest of the ingredients into a food processor and whizz until well combined.  Spread the mixture over the top of the apples.

Put the dish on a baking tray (this helps to conduct heat), and bake for about 40 minutes, until well browned.

Enjoy this with custard, or like me, Creme Fraiche.


Friday, 4 December 2015

Infidelity... the pulpit

Another week, another person leaving their wife and moving in with someone else.   Oh yes, and did I mention this was an evangelical vicar?



Then, belief.





And then a thought process.

A couple of weeks ago I spoke to the women in our church from Colossians 1.  The aim was to remind us all of the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ.  I spoke from the heart about my failure to keep Jesus commands, specifically about adultery and murder.

Woah!  Have I committed adultery and murder? 

Matthew reports that Jesus said:

"You have heard that it was said, “You shall not commit adultery.” But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart...

"You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.' But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment."

So, in that case then, yes. Guilty as charged.

When I spoke to my ladies, I was hoping for a sombre tone.  I was imagining that they would be convicted of the sin in their hearts.

But they laughed.   

Repeatedly, through that whole part of my talk.

When I asked (from the front!) why, the answer given was that they identified exactly with what I was saying, but the laughter came from the shock of someone standing in front of them and admitting it.  Admitting to the deep darkness in my heart, the desperate need for a saviour, because on my own terms I will never come close to the standard of love of God or neighbour that He requires.  And no-one had heard this coming out of the mouth of a preacher before.

So when I hear about a vicar leaving his wife for the church secretary, although one of my first reactions is JUDGEMENT, what comes afterward is the memory that I said to my ladies "If I had the opportunity, would I?"

Would I?

Would you?

Have you already?  

Are you a pastor, or pastor's wife and have already taken a step towards this?  

Have you made someone an idol?  Have you compared them with your spouse and thought that actually, that other person would be much better for you.  They would treat you as you deserve.  They would respect you.  They would love you unselfishly.  They would love you in the way you need, which apparently your spouse hasn't noticed you need.  Perhaps they seem to love Jesus more than your current spouse does.  They don't have the struggle with sin that your spouse does, and would be so much better for you.  They'd help you in your relationship with God.  Perhaps God wants you to be with them instead?  Because then your relationship with God would be better...

If these things are going through your mind, can I urge you to bring them out into God's light.  Tell Him.  But please also realise that these are lies.  

Whoever we marry will fail us. Perhaps a new spouse would love us in better ways, but they would also, inevitably fail us in some other way.

I have come to realise over the years of wrestling with my heart that anyone else I give the above characteristics to is imaginary at best, or an idol at worst.  The person who I build in my head doesn't really exist on earth. 

But He does in the heavenly realm.  He is my beloved, and I am his.  

Jesus is better for me.  He treats me far better than I deserve.  He loves me unselfishly.  He loves me in the way I need.  He certainly loves me more than Nick does (and, incidentally, even more so, he loves Nick more than I do).  Jesus doesn't struggle with any sin, and he is so good for me.   He helps me (oh, my intercessor!) in my relationship with God.   And in the end, on the last day, when we live in a time when marriage no longer exists, he will replace my husband, and be my eternal groom.

When you're tempted, as we are, to replace, mentally or actually, your spouse with an idol, please remember that you would be replacing one sinner with another.  Wait for that glorious day when we will all be joined to the bridegroom.

Then, remember your vows.  I promised to love, for better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness or health.  And in the presence of God I made that vow.  My commitment to Jesus needs to be reflected in faithfulness to the promise I made in his sight.

And bring it to the Lord.  Fuming at him, crying to him, calling out in desperation to him at a time in your marriage when you are just at the end of wanting to be there is a precious gift.  There is often nobody else we can go to, but He should be the first.


Pastors.  Please.  Preach from your heart and be honest with your congregation because they (we!) need to know that they are not alone, that we all struggle with sin, and here, in the gospel of grace, is the answer.  

And if you're on the verge...please tell someone, and tell yourself the truth.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

The Establishment


When I asked friends to say whether I should rant about the Church of England, wise friends said "No, if it doesn't further the gospel."  This is wise, and absolutely the right answer.

But the ironic thing is, that's exactly what my (deleted) rant was about.  The furthering, or not, of the gospel.

Does "The Church Institutional" further the spread of the gospel in our nation or not? 

This will be an emotional and anecdotal post.  It will probably not be a biblical exposition of ekklesia passages.  

What is our job as a local church?  Broadly, to tell people about the good news of salvation through Jesus and urge them to turn to him.  To do that we need to know people in order to tell them.  Know their problems, their joys, their kids, their hobbies and where they hang out. Know what they have faith in.  Know what they think of God.  Know their history.  Know them.  And, has been pointed out thousands of times this week, to Love our neighbour (which includes your scary would-be enemy).  We've been urged as a (local) church this month, by the vicar and others, to GET OUT of our building!  Each of us, vicar, wife, and all, should be seeking to make the most of every opportunity for the gospel.  That doesn't necessarily mean preaching at every opportunity, and it certainly doesn't mean judging behaviours we don't participate in.    But it means being open to talk when given the opportunity.  

For me personally, it means YEARS living here and meeting people, getting to know them, and praying that God would use hopeless me to build His Church.

We see little signs of God's saving grace in the lives of people as we go along the road, and so we keep going.  Following his lead, knowing Him more, speaking about Jesus.  

So.  What is the BIG CHURCH up to along the way.  The thing, whatever it is, which issues press releases, and creates websites such as Just Pray, and writes reports on issues facing the church at the moment.

This should be a good thing, shouldn't it?  But hang on.  Here's some text from the Just Pray site, from the page entitled, what is prayer:

Just start.

The hardest thing about prayer is beginningSo just start.

Wanting to pray is the beginning of a relationship with God that can grow and grow.
Find the way of praying that is right for you.
Explore different ways of praying.
Listen as well as speak.
Give thanks as well as ask for help.
Don't just look for results. Don't give up when it gets hard. Trying to pray is praying.

Read that again:  "Wanting to pray is the beginning of a relationship with God that can grow and grow."

I do not agree with this!  The Church of England is putting heresy in my mouth!  The beginning of a relationship with God is NOT wanting to pray!  That only comes through my justification, by faith in Jesus Christ.  The one who bore my sin in his body on the cross.  Who washes me clean so that I can have a relationship with the God who made me.    Oh - he's the one who doesn't get a mention on the prayer website, by the way!  The great high priest!  Why must he find his way on to a christian prayer website?!

This is slightly besides my point though.

My point is that they claim to speak for me, and my local church but they do not.  We strive on a daily basis to teach the people in our pews (well, comfy chairs) the truth, to equip them.  But today the Church of England has undermined our teaching, yet again, under the guise of reaching out to people.

In the storm in a teacup (or mug of decent coffee) which has brewed today The Church spokesperson has said "In one way the decision of the cinemas is just plain silly, but the fact that they have insisted upon it, makes it rather chilling in terms of limiting free speech."

This in response to DCM, the cinema advertising people, saying that their policy is not to show any poliical or religious content.  Why does christianity get to be exempt from this?  DCM says that people won't want to see this advert.  I wouldn't want to see an excerpt from the Koran, or any other religious text when I go to the cinema.  Do you?  

Why must the Church spokesperson make it "chilling"?  Why not accept that there is no religious advertising?  

A plea to finish:

Church of England: Please quietly go about supporting your pastors.  Help them.  Listen to them when they are tired.  Ask how you can help more.  But please stop making big pronouncements (especially when they are wrong and counterproductive).  That's our job!  The local church who actually knows who it is speaking to.  If, ABC, you want to teach on prayer, do it in your pulpit on a Sunday, or to your friends in the pub.  

And everyone.  Please keep speaking the truth. "For God so loved the world that he sent his only son, that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life."

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Spanish and Cinnamon Buns


I spent a year in Bogota, South America, a loooooong time ago.  It left me with a love for many things, and one of those was speaking Spanish.  I wanted my children to have the opportunity to learn a language young, as it's often said that it is easier to learn when young.  But I have never felt confident to teach them as I don't want to pass on error.  I've spent hours on the net looking at different curricula for home educating parents. Nothing grabbed me as a way I wanted to use.  I've spent more hours trying to find Spanish lessons locally which I can get to.  Nada.

Through an American Facebook group I'm a member of I discovered Homeschool Spanish Academy.  This is an almost incredible idea, a way of learning Spanish that would have been impossible when I was the age of my children.  My eldest is now having Spanish lessons, via Skype, from a teacher in Guatemala.  And it costs less than any other class she has. Her teacher is enthusiastic and experienced.  She is a native speaker.  And she speaks "proper" Spanish.  According to her, Colombian and Guatemalan Spanish are the clearest versions of the language.  Me alegro!

Our teacher, also tells us about the weather in Guatemala.  It has been raining all week, she says, the rivers have burst their banks, and farming is starting to suffer.  Would I ever have known this, or wondered about the people of Guatemala and how the farmers will survive this if we hadn't spoken this afternoon (well, it was 7.30am in Guatemala, which is serious dedication)?

We also discussed fruit today.  She asked if we have a fruit here called "maraƱon".  We don't. She showed me a picture.  It is the fruit below which a cashew nut grows!  They eat the fruit, and the seed below! I never knew that!  And eldest child certainly didn't!  

From us, our teacher learned that there are Christians in Europe.  She was under the impression that there weren't any.  I was happy to pass on that there were lots of us.  Once she knew we were Christians, she identified herself as a Christian.  What a lovely bond to have across the ocean!

This way of learning Spanish is like no other.  

Here's their website

Not quite as exciting, but still a great way to cheer the day of many people, are cinnamon rolls.  This isn't wheat-free.  Neither is it dairy-free.  It is relatively low in sugar.  And you can burn a few calories kneading the dough.  It's an amalgamation of a few recipes i've found online in my hunt for this wonderful food.

Cinnamon rolls

This makes 24 rolls.  You'll need a very large, deep baking tin, about 30cmx40cm.  You could halve the recipe if you are not feeding the 3000.

bread part:

600g Strong white bread flour
200g plain flour
2 tsp or 2 sachets of quick action yeast
400ml milk, warmed
80g caster sugar
140g butter softened (i put it in the milk and put it all in the microwave for a min or 2)
4 tsp cinnamon

Filling part

200g butter, softened a little
140g caster sugar
2 Tbs cinnamon

egg wash

1 egg, a dash of milk, mixed together

Mix all the dough ingredients together in a large bowl.  You'll need to finish this process with your hands.  Tip out onto your kneading surface and knead for about 10 minutes til stretchy and soft.  Shape into a round (see River Cottage's bread book for more on dough shaping.  It will change your life), put back in the bowl and cover with cling film.  Leave to rise for an hour or two. The longer the better.

Make the filling by mixing all the ingredients together.

Coat the baking tin in melted butter.  On the inside, obviously.

Halve the dough, and roll the first half out to a large, thin rectangle, about 40x50cm.  For this, you'll need a good surface which it's not going to stick to.  I have a lovely block of wood.  It's meant to be a large chopping board, but who needs one that big?

Once the dough is a large rectangle, smear half the filling on it.  Roll it up along the long side.  Slice into 12 equal pieces and put them, spiral up, into half the tin.

Repeat with the second half.  The tin will fit 24 in a 6x4 formation.  

Cover the tin with a tea towel or bag.  Leave to rise for up to an hour.  They are normally just touching each other.  Heat the oven to 220C.  Brush the buns with eggwash.  Put in the oven for about 14 minutes til crispy, risen and dark golden. 

Eat them ALL as soon as they have cooled enough to touch.  10 minutes or so...  you won't regret it.


Wednesday, 7 October 2015

An Offaly good week

Please excuse radio silence

The last couple of weeks have been ridiculously busy.  In 7 nights I was out 4, which never happens in my life, but many meetings coincided.  

The most exciting evening out was in my local pub.  I have finally started a crochet and knitting group in the community.  In all my married homes I have been part of a group which met somewhere in public.  In Southgate I started one in a cafe with Lucy, in Middlesbrough I joined a thriving group which met at Nature's World, and now, after 3 years, I have found enough willing members and a location.  

I fear walking into pubs.  Any pub, anywhere.  I am not sure where I am expected to look or go. Bar?  Restaurant? Dining area?  Where?!  I am not a local - will they all stare?   Gladly (although not for the owners), not many people attend my local pub, and it is HUGE and very well cared-for inside.  Our first night was just a reccy, because I needed to know whether the light would be good enough on a nighttime for us to see our stitches.  Lo, and behold, halogen spots over a large bank of very comfortable chairs.  It is a wonderful place for the group, so Pints & Needles begins next week.  Oh yes!  I am looking forward to our Tuesday nights in there and hope to meet lots of people who I wouldn't meet any other way, and teach them to crochet if they would like to!



Most people can't bear it.  But i have been celebrating the start of autumn this week with Liver and Kidneys.  The children have coped admirably.  Nick and I have delighted in eating them! 

If you have never tried it, I recommend you do.  Cheap and nutritious, easy to cook, very tasty.  What is not to love?

Liver and Bacon

You need (yes, need)

Lambs liver, enough to feed your family.  400g perhaps
Flour (gluten-free is fine)
salt and pepper
1 onion, chopped
Chicken stock cube
boiling water

Put some flour on a plate and mix in some salt and pepper.  Coat your pieces of liver in the flour on both sides.  

Heat up the oil in a big heavy frying pan.  When hot, add the liver (in batches so as not to crowd the pan).  Fry gently for 1-2 minutes until golden.  No more than this!  Turn over and cook until red liquid (alright, blood.  If you've got this far in an offal recipe you're hardy enough to take it) seeps out of the side you fried first.  Take it out.  Liver does NOT NEED over cooking!  Keep the cooked liver on a plate.

Once all the liver is cooked, fry the bacon until yummy. Remove and add to the liver plate

Add your chopped onion and gently fry with the dark, crispy, meaty bits until soft and yummy looking.  Chuck in a stock cube (I use Kallo chicken) and stir about.  Turn up the heat and slowly add boiling water (straight from the kettle), stirring all the time, until the gravy is your preferred consistency.  Bubble for a couple of minutes, then turn down and return the liver and bacon to the gravy to warm through for a few minutes.

Serve with buttery mashed potato and fresh veg.  Nothing fancy.  


I once did a recipe for stir-fried liver with ginger.  I couldn't eat it.  Liver should probably only be cooked as above!

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Why are you listening to...

UCB Radio?

That was the question Nick asked me when yet another Christian pop song, of a style i'm not a fan, came on the radio.

The answer is, of course, a long story.

I don't listen to secular music stations anymore, and barely any secular music on CD.  On the occasions when an old favourite of mine comes on the MP4 in the car, I remember why I don't listen to it.  

From the Backstreet Boys, through Ocean Colour Scene and Paul Weller, to Dido, Faithless and Massive Attack, run my emotions as a teenager and young adult.  Mostly these emotions were related to my idolatrous heart, and most specifically about the boys and men I worshipped and desired.  Every pop song wove its way through my mind and heart and related itself to someone.  Perhaps musical lyrics don't have that effect on you, but they certainly do to me.  

So when I hear a song from my early 20s which was related to any specific person, I am overwhelmed by a return to all the emotions of that time.  So how can Iisten to it now?  I can't.  It is wrong for me to return to the past. 

So that's why no old secular music.  Why no current secular music?  Because I am incapable of not singing along, and since I only want the truth to come out of my mouth, how can I sing the songs now in the charts? How can I give my mouth emotions which aren't mine?   As I said, if music doesn't have this effect on you, listen to it, but I just can't.

So.  Back to UCB radio (a digital radio station.  Our car has a digital radio, which I guess they all will eventually).

There are 2* reasons why I listen.

1.  Because many of the songs are awesome!  Josh Garrels, Phil Wickham, Strahan and Izzy Ray are people I never would have come across without UCB, and I love to sing along with their tunes.  Because I am happy for my heart and my mouth to be singing songs devoted to Jesus.   Because even if I am feeling nothing, my mouth gives voice to truth.  

2.  Because I won't listen to secular music, my children also don't. Nothing wrong with that, but I do want them to experience the best of the culture we live in.  Through UCB they have heard dance music, pop music, folk music, rock music.  And Cliff Richard.   At a (listening) glance the songs are indistinguishable from what you might hear on your local radio station.  But the songs have words of truth, so any joy in the music can also teach them the joyful truth of the gospel.

3.  Because they broadcast news!  And they have a particularly christian focus on what is happening in the world, which I like.  I haven't stopped listening to BBC news, but it makes a great change to listen to UCB.  

4.  Because the presenters find infinite matters to discuss on air which are cheerful, upbeat and inoffensive!

The slight downside to UCB is that you sometimes have to listen to Christians taking the bible out of context.  It's not all relentless truth.  But it is mostly.  So that's why!

* i realise there are now 4 in the list.  As I wrote I realised there were more than 2 reasons.

Monday, 21 September 2015


Recipe book recommendations

This isn't a new book, and perhaps you all have it already, but I would just love to enthuse about Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's book "Every day Veg" (or "Veg everyday"?).  Alongside our incredible lamb joint (from New Close Farm Shop in Sacriston) which we were eating for the third day (I'm fairly sure this is the cheapest way to eat meat), this evening we had caramelised carrots with gremolata (much easier than it sounds) and sweet potato and peanut gratin (also very easy).  And it was just delicious.

I've mentioned before that we have been getting a Riverford veg box for a decade, and still love it.  But there are always veg that I find uninspiring (carrots, again), and veg that some of us don't like (nick is not a sweet potato fan).  My good friend Fiona, also a longtime Riverford customer bought me HF-W's book for Christmas last year.  It took me a while to use it (scared of an entire recipe book with no meat!), but it has revolutionised my veg cooking.

It's £10 from the Book People at the moment.  A bargain to help you get more excited about vegetables.

A year or so ago, I picked up Nigella Lawson's Feast in a second-hand shop.  This is a really old book now!  It is lovely to look through though, because she has compiled and invented recipes for festivals and occasions when you would want to cook for.  From Christmas to Easter via Passover, Thanksgiving and Eid, and many others.  She even has an entire chapter on chocolate cakes.  I have been so impressed with how easy many recipes she has included which turn out incredible tasting food which usually feeds a large crowd.  

I'm including it here now because I recently whipped up 3 decent veg recipes from Feast in about 30 minutes for a  barbecue at which there was a vegetarian.  That makes it a winner!

You can buy a second-hand copy of Feast for 1p (plus postage) from Amazon Marketplace.  Or if you object to Amazon, an old copy will set you back 66p (plus postage) from my favourite online second-hand book seller, alibris .

It's hard to eat veg, but good recipes make life a LOT easier!  

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Why we do what we do

Living in the North and Home education

I have started this blog partly to journal our life with the kids, so that if anyone were to ever ask me to show we've been educating the kids, I'll be able to look back and find out!  It has been overtaken by recipes the last couple of weeks, but this post is an attempt to balance the recipes with the two biggest time-consumers in my life.  The biggest thing is the Lord Jesus, but the time-consumers flow from my (our!) relationship with him.

First comes church.  More specifically, church in the North-east in a new-town which replaced about 15 pit-village collieries.  

We received excellent training, the best possible, at Oak Hill College.  It couldn't have been better.  But what we have learned since moving here, even more so that Middlesbrough, was that there are parts of England which are so different that ministry has to be different.  

I'll admit to feeling clueless and ambivalent about the mining industry for most of my life.  In fact, I would say I was unsympathetic.  Two recent experiences changed that.  The first was a visit to the Woodhorn museum in Northumberland, and the second was a trip down a drift mine at Beamish museum in Durham.  Both those trips changed how I saw the people among who I live.  For two hundred years our nation became advanced and wealthy off the backs of men, children and ponies who worked in unimaginable conditions to provide coal.   Conditions were shocking, pay was meager... but the country ran on coal.  Move forward to the middle of the 20th Century, the decreased need for coal and the cost of extraction mean the mines start to close.  Two hundred years of hereditary jobs and identity is removed in one fell swoop.  No wonder born-and bred locals can resent change. No wonder we're a Labour safe seat.  No wonder it is hard for new people to fit in.  One granny I spoke with said she felt like an outsider in our part of town after 20 years.  She originated 1 mile away, in another part of town.  But it was a different pit village 50 years ago, and many still see the distinction.

This means Nick and I know that vicars here cannot just come and go.  They need to come and stay.  There are very few evangelical churches here, far fewer than any place I have lived, and the job requires phenomenal time, relationships and commitment.   God might move us from here one day, but for the moment, we've chucked our lot in with our town and that takes time.  

Secondly, educating the kids.

Home education can be divisive.  My aim is not to divide, but to try to describe the life we live and why do it.

We decided long ago, before having children that we would educate them at home.  Nick and I are naturally non-conformers.  My dad said we were only doing it to be different, and i think he is only 90% wrong!  We knew a few adults who had been home-educated and it appealed to us in itself.  Then, when our gifts of children came along, and we loved them, our natural inclination seemed to be with them all the time.  I never felt like leaving them in a creche on Sunday, for example. I wasn't working out of the home, our parents lived miles away, and we were used to them being wherever we were, and we enjoyed that.  Not sending them to nursery or school wasn't, therefore, a decision.  It just wasn't ever really a consideration, except in those times when I panicked about ruining their education.  It has nothing to do with local schools.  

I am often told by people that they couldn't home educate.  I have no opinion on whether that is true or not, but I would say a few things.  I am not patient, I am often unkind, I am not a genius and I struggle to impart mathematical concepts to my children despite having maths A level.  I am disorganised by nature, and I am not a completer-finisher.  I am weak, I am sinful.  However, I know that the Lord is with us in our journey with the kids.  In a way, educating at home is just a different way of discipling the children in their walk with the Lord ( With maths thrown in).  We read the wonderful word of God together like any family, we sin against them and repent, we are sinned against and forgive.  And we do addition equations.  The point it, as the Lord is with families in their struggle against the fallen nature of everything, so he is with us.  My fallen mind struggles with maths but he provides help.  My fallen heart struggles to be patient with a new reader, but He provides strength.   We just choose to do it 24/7.  Not because we are better Christians, but because He is in it with us, every minute.  And it is a great privilege.  Germans, Dutch, some Scandinavians, they are not allowed to home-educate, so we give thanks that we have the freedom to choose.

The other help is social media, and the other is the PLETHORA of curriucula to choose from. More of which, another time!

Friday, 18 September 2015

Cakes! Ginger and Apple. But not in the same cake...

Farm shops

Friday is Nick's day off and today was an errand day. Prescriptions, broken glasses, haircuts, banks...  But after all that we did the rounds of farm shops.  Lunch at one, where the children could run around outside, and then shopping at New Close.  Of course we could have shopped at the first, but we love the second, they love our kids and it is still the best shop ever.  I am tempted to see if we could live on just the groceries they sell there, alongside their meat, and Riverford veg (we've been Riverford customers for 10 years and love them still).  

Buying local (or from a supermarket which we're sure of) has become more important to us over the decade we've been married.  I can't really explain a lot of it, but I do know farmers shouldn't be losing money on feeding us, just as a carpenter shouldn't lose money in his job, or anyone else.  I've no idea where this puts me politically or economically, but I'm glad we're able to do it because we have a local shop which sells meat the way we want to buy it:  VERY local, animals which were cared for well in life, and direct from the farmers, with no middle man.

Tomorrow, we  head to beautiful Alnmouth in the Northumberland, home of my favourite beach.  And Alnmouth Priory.  A large group of the older folk from church are spending the day there and Nick will join them.  The children and I will lunch with everyone, but will either hit the beach or the famous Barter Books in Alnwick (depends on the weather).  The lovely ladies love my cakes, and there are a couple I have been meaning to try, so I made them this afternoon, and have just had a slice of each so I can report back here!

Gluten-free Sticky Ginger Loaf

The first was waitrose's Sticky Ginger Loaf.  This is a gluten-free recipe and I've been very excited about making it.  I have to say, it isn't quite as good as I was hoping.  I also burned the top.  The recipe does talk about covering it but I lost track of time.  If you are gluten-free and love ginger and like less sweet cakes, this is for you, but just watch the top!  I'd probably also turn the temperature down to 160C.  

You'll find the recipe here.

Gluten-free Apple Fritter Traybake

This is even better than the last apple cake.  The original recipe was from a facebook post, and I have made it.  But my poor husband didn't get to try it since he is the wheat-free one. I prefer to make a cake in its original form before trying it gluten-free so I know what it is meant to taste like, but today was the day for the experiment.  I reckon converting plain or self-raising flour to Dove's Farm self-raising GF flour and ground almonds, and adding an extra egg does the job in converting cakes, so I did that.  And it's yummy!  (I'll post the original too when i find where it came from, for all you wheat eaters). Oh, and it's not as faffy as the list of ingredients suggests.


Cake mix

120g butter, melted
240g Dove's Farm Self-raising Wheat-free flour
130g ground almonds
200g caster sugar
4 tsp baking powder (make sure it's wheat-free)
360g milk*
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
5-6 small eating apples, peeled, cored, chopped into small pieces

Cinnamon topping

230g butter, softened in the microwave 
200g caster sugar
2 Tbs wheat-free flour, as above
1 Tbs cinnamon


240g icing sugar
5 Tbs milk
1 tsp vanilla extract


Heat oven to 170C, line an A4 sized, 5cm deep baking tin

Put all the cake ingredients into a bowl, APART FROM THE APPLES, and mix together.  Pour into the tin, then sprinkle the apple chunks evenly over the cake mix.

Mix the topping ingredients together then blob all over the top of the apples.

Bake in the oven for 40 minutes.  Leave to cool for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, stir together the glaze ingredients.  When the cake has been cooling for about 20 minutes, pour the glaze over the cake.  It doesn't need to cover it like an icing, and it sinks in to the cake.

Cool completely and cut into 24 pieces.  Then try not to eat it all at once.

* if you weigh your liquid it is more accurate.  If you weigh it straight into the mixing bowl you save washing a jug.  What's not to love?

The original recipe is here

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Squab Lamb Casserole

For the day when a pie is too much effort

A few years ago I found a recipe for Gloucestershire Squab Pie in Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's mum's recipe book.  This is a lamb pie with apples, and seasoned with allspice and nutmeg.  I adore this pie!

This week has been pretty tiring, mostly mentally, with a church event this afternoon to prepare for, and I didn't really have a grip on what I was going to cook when I bought a small lamb joint from New Close Farm Shop (have you visited yet?).  

When I got home, and remembered the vast quantity of apples we have been given this week (both cookers and eaters), I wished I had bought lamb pieces, because then I could have made that wonderful pie (albeit it with gluten-free pastry these days).  Then I thought, I couldn't really face making a pie anyway.  Then I had my ah-ha moment.  Perhaps I could just potroast the lamb joint in the pie gravy ingredients.  So I did, and it was delicious!  The original recipe didn't have carrots or celery in, but since they needed eating, I added them in.  They aren't essential.

Squab Lamb Casserole

Serves 6

1 lamb joint (ours was 1kg shoulder)
1 large onion, finely sliced
3 sticks celery, finely sliced
Carrots, chopped into chunks
4 small/2 large cooking apples, pealed, cored and cut into chunks
1 Tbs flour (gluten-free if necessary)
1tsp ground allspice
1/2tsp ground nutmeg
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 150C

Heat 2Tbs oil in an ovenproof casserole pot which has a lid.  When hot, fry the lamb joint for a couple of minutes each side until browned.  Remove the lamb to a plate.

Add the onions and celery to the pan and cook gently for about 10 minutes until soft and beginning to brown.  Add the apples carrots (and any other veg you have lying about, I guess!) and cook for a few more minutes.  Add the flour and spices, salt and pepper and fry for a minute, stirring.  

Replace the lamb, making sure it nestles down with the veg.  Pour in some hot water until it covers the veg, but is below the top of the lamb.  Put the lid on and bring to the boil.  Transfer to the oven and cook for about 2 hours.  Serve with some potatoes and green veg.


Friday, 11 September 2015

Gluten-free Apple (and Blackberry) Cake

I don't really understand this recipe thing... a recipe becomes yours when you change the words a bit.   I suppose there aren't many new cake recipes which would actually work, but I have spent the evening (while Hama beading) pondering how to introduce this recipe. 

2 days ago I remember seeing a recipe for apple cake on facebook.  The urgency to use it arose when a kind congregation member gave us a LOT of apples, which needed to be used quickly (and a few hours later another kind congregation member came round with lots of blackberries, hence the optional extra in this cake)*.

I searched for the cake, and the person who had posted it then gave me another, simpler recipe for apple cake.  I looked at it, reckoned it could be made gluten-free, adapted it as such, made a few errors along the way, and had delicious cake for dinner.  So whose recipe is it?  Have I written a recipe, or should I credit it?  I think it is actually mine, but i still feel a little guilty, but probably not as guilty as when I'm eating it in bed later.**

It was easy, it was delicious and youngest child had 3 helpings.  Both children refused to eat Apple and Blackberry pie last week so I felt this cake was something of a triumph in the children-eating-cooked-fruit challenge.

Easy Gluten-free Apple Cake

3 Eggs

350g caster sugar 
1 tsp cinnamon
110g oil (It's MUCH easier to weigh liquids!)
180g Doves Farm wheat-free self-raising flour
120g ground almonds
6 apples

Heat oven to 170C.  Line an A4 tin, 5 cm deep, with parchement

Stir together the eggs, sugar, cinnamon, oil, flour and almonds.

Peel, quarter and core the apples.  The slice each quarter thinly widthways and stir into the cake mixture.  Stir in blackberries if using them.

Put into the tin and spread into the corners.  Put into the oven and bake for 35-40 minutes until nicely brown on top.

I left it in the tin to cool a bit, but we ate it warm with creme fraiche or yoghurt.  

* The Bible doesn't command giving homegrown fruit to pastors, but many people act as though it does, for which I am grateful and feel very loved!

**Gluten-free cake goes stale a LOT quicker than normal cake, so should always be eaten in bed at night, for breakfast, morning coffee, lunch, afternoon tea and pudding again.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Flapjacks. yep

Not the most interesting biscuit...

But I'm very glad for flapjacks.

Today was the start of a new year of our after-school club.  Each session I like to provide some yummy homebaking.   For the first 2 1/2 years the yummy homebakes revolved around favourites like mars-bar cake, brownies and malteser fridge cake.  Our club was also full of VERY LOUD children who found it difficult to sit still.

Have you spotted it?

Yep.  After 2 1/2 years we did a food craft which involved filling wraps with spready cheese, raisins, pepper, dates, cucumber, etc.  During this session, the children sat and listened.  Soon after we made bread rolls.  And again, calm children.  Unbelievable that it took me that long to realise that I was making it impossible for the children to listen by giving them an immense amount of sugar as they came in.  Now we've switched to scones, rock cakes, cinnamon rolls and similar which are much lower in sugar.  

I'm not sure where flapjacks come on the sugar scale.  However, they take 3 minutes to make (not including baking time), are enjoyed by everyone, and are easily gluten-free.  On a day like today when I have not got everything ready the night before for craft and visuals, and when you open the cupboards for dried fruit for rock cakes and there isn't any, flapjacks are the only thing to make.  Here is my recipe:

Gluten-free Flapjacks

250g Butter
250g sugar (I like light brown soft but i don't think it matters)
1 Tbs syrup
300g gluten-free oats
60g gluten-free self-raising flour
60g ground almonds

Heat oven to 170C.  Line an A4 sized tin with baking parchment.

Put butter, sugar and syrup in a microwaveable mixing bowl.  Microwave on high for 2-3 minutes until all melted.

Stir in all the other ingredients.  Squish into the tin and cook for 15 minutes.  It shouldn't look too cooked!

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Social media (and bolognese)

The Net at its Best

At a recent family wedding I had a lovely conversation with the girlfriend of my cousins' cousin.  I always worry at weddings about ending up sitting near people to who I have nothing to say, but this one worked well.  My dear beloved big brother, Daniel,  was on my left, and since he is the member of my immediate family I see least of, I was exceptionally grateful for this.  On my right was the cousin family of my cousin.  My brother and I were overheard by the lady (whose name has left me) who was working on a TV programme about social media.   Daniel and I were discussing the way Facebook has enabled very isolated farmers to finally network and be encouraged by shared experiences and support.  Our chat also included the amazing benefits to our home education journey because using Facebook I can find out about curricula which I never could have known about, and I have found a whole network of local home educators for the children and I to hang out with and mutually encourage.  

Overhearing this conversation, our fellow guest joined us because in her research for the telly, she has only found negative stories.  Infidelity and Divorce caused (in part) by Facebook.   And worse.

I added in the fact that Nick and I met on the internet (although in the days before social media!), to say that social media is brilliant.  


During the last few months, our maths home education has been dominated by my lack of ability to explain a concept which I felt eldest could probably grasp.   We tried and tried and tried, and then gave up and turned to Khan Academy to fill the gap.

Returning in September began miserably.  Exactly the same problem, but it was very clear to me that the issue was mine.  I didn't know how to explain this concept in a way which worked with her brain.  And it was frustrating.  The happy ending to the story comes from the very large, american Facebook group I am a member of which follows a particular guide to home education.  I stated my question.  I had 20 answers within a couple of hours.  I checked them all, looked at the different ways of explaining the concept in one evening, spent a few minutes digging through my craft pile in the loft the next day, half an hour colouring balls and cutting up egg boxes.  2 maths lessons later and BOOM.  Cracked it.  

And without Facebook, I would still be sitting here sobbing, my relationship with eldest strained by my inability.  Social media has transformed our world, and I imagine it has transformed mums' abilities to educate their kids at home.  For which I am grateful.


Bolognese sauce

Some recipes develop over years and this is one of them.  It has evolved from the one my mum frequently cooked for us as children, and is one I make frequently.  It is much complemented when I feed it to others, especially when it ends up in a (very cheesy) lasagne.


1 onion, chopped
Optional extra veg: mushrooms, sliced; courgettes, peppers, in 1cm cubes ish!
500g beef mince (full-fat!)
Optional extra meat: chopped pancetta or bacon; chopped chorizo
2 tins chopped tomatoes
1/2 the tomato tin filled with water
2 Tbs tomato puree
2 Tbs sun-dried Tomato puree
1 tsp herbes de provence

Heat your oil in a large saucepan, then add the onions.  Very gently fry for 10 mins or so, with the lid on, stirring from time to time. Add in any other veg.  This makes the sauce go much further.  Fry til everything is soft.  I keep the lid on.

Add all the meat and stir obsessively to break up the mince into tiny pieces.  I cant bear lumps of mince!

once it is all broken and no longer looks raw, chuck in the rest of the ingredients, stir and leave on a very low heat to gently bubble for 30mins-1 hour.  It does get better with a good bubble.

Serve on pasta, with lots of cheese, or make lasagne (particularly yummy with chorizo).  Buen apetito.  Or something!