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!