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Christmas Cooking Family Kitty Motherhood Photography {the ordinary moments}

Sliced apples and a dream made reality


Most of the time I love to cook.  There are weeks where I have a complete blank about what we ought to eat, I can’t think of anything to cook and we subsist off a diet of ‘things I can put in the oven and leave for a bit’, but for the most part I’ll be quite happy giving a new recipe a whirl, or playing and tweaking something we’ve already tried.

And ever since the girls have been tall enough to wobble on a step stool I have loved having them in the kitchen with me to help me. Or should that be ‘help’ me?

They’ve made ginormous messes, tasted raw potato and onion, eaten far more uncooked pastry and/or bread dough than can really be tasty for anyone, and on one memorable occasion, added a gentle sprinkling of porridge to a creme caramel.

It’s been a lot of fun; and not too much more clean up – well apart from the giant avalanche of flour that once swamped the kitchen floor.

But I’m starting to see a little sea change; Elma is still very much in the stage of prodding and poking a sacrifical bit of whatever it is we’re baking, though she’s very good at cutting out bells and trees from a biscuit mix, but Kitty is starting to get into real cooking.  She’ll have a good go at peeling a carrot for the casserole, she’s getting the idea of folding and squishing to knead the bread, and if I tell her that I need three cups of flour measuring out into the bowl she know to make sure that they’re full, and we end up with pretty much the amount we were looking for.

This week we made our mincemeat and the first batch of mince pies and for the first time I had Kitty with me in the kitchen as an actual assistant.  I peeled and cored all of the apples and she sliced them all into chunks with a table knife; she helped me measure out the dried fruit, smashed flaked almonds up with a wooden spoon because I’d forgotten to buy the chopped version, and chopped up almost as many glace cherries as she ate all while Elma napped and Pip chattered at the washing machine.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

When she was a teeny tiny baby I would look at her and imagine the toddler and the little girl she would become, and plot and plan all the things we would do together; all the things I remember doing with my Mum, and all the things I love so much I can’t not want her to experience them too.

And occasionally I suspect impatience got the better of me and we’d do something that was really meant for slightly older little people just because I wanted to share it right now.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

But now we’re there.  The pleasure we shared in pottering  around in the kitchen, with the smell of warm spicy apples fugging up the windows wasn’t just the fun in having a little sort of one on one time together, or in the conversations about Father Christmas, the origins of cherries, and whether we ought to put stars or angels on top of the mince pies, it was the realisation that perhaps for the first time we were truly cooking together; I wasn’t redoing Kitty’s contributions, and if the mince pies are a success (and they are) it’s just as much her work as mine.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

It’s the moment I dreamt of holding my tiny mewling newborn come to reality.

And it seems odd to say that it took me by surprise, but it did; the last four years seem very short when what you thought was way off in the future is suddenly standing right their in front of you. But after the surprise came that warmth, that glow that seems to come from the very heart of you and stretch all the way to your finger tips, that looks around you, from the post piling up on the counter, the dirty dishes waiting to be washed and the stray currants dotted over the floor to the intense concentration of your daughter and knows that it is for moments exactly like these that you became a mother.     Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life




Cooking Family

November feasts from the internet


Aside from the whole oven debacle, this has been a cooky sort of a month.  It’s something inevitable about cold weather, dark evenings, and that feeling that you’ll never be warm again that comes from spending far too much time standing on train station platforms.  It needs to be warm, it needs to be slightly mushy and have just a hint of the right sort of stodgy.  And if at all possible it needs to be something that I can make the night before to be shoved in the oven by the first person through the door on work days.  All of which means I’ve mostly been cooking our staples; stew, spaghettis carbonara and Bolognese, and anything that goes with mash.  But there has been time for a little experimentation.

Enter Hachis Parmentier, The recipe you really should make, which, in complete contradiction of the title, is not from the internet, but from the Little Paris Kitchen cookbook.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade life blog - November Feasts from the internet - Three colour shepherds pie

Or as we call it in our house – stripy shepherds pie.  It ticked all of the boxes; it tastes delicious, it was perfect to defrost frozen toes, and I’d not only made it the day before, but washed up the chopping board too.

I know the stripes look fiddly but there’s something rather satisfying about making them.  The orange is roast butternut squash, mashed up, the cream is ordinary mashed potato and the green is coloured with a combination of finely chopped parsley and spinach.  It was meant to be just parsley, but the dim light of my phone reflected onto my herb garden revealed only a passing approximation of a parsley plant.  I’m not quite sure what happened to it as it used to be maurauding around the planter but alas, there were only a few fronds, enough to turn the mash that “apple white” so beloved of 80’s paint charts, but not really green.  So spinach from the fridge it was, and the result is pleasantly verdant without making the whole dish taste spinachy.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade life blog - November Feasts from the internet - Three colour shepherds pie

We ate every last mouthful, which with a rather neophobic three year old, is somewhat of an achievement.

The slightly experimental recipe

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade life blog - November Feasts from the internet - No Knead Dutch Oven Bread

The idea of no-knead bread is both intriguing and slightly disconcerting; I mean I like the kneading part of breadmaking, that’s what attracted me in the first place, well that and eating bread fresh from the oven dripping with butter, but kneading lets you pummel all of your frustrations out into the dough, and the more angst, the better it is.

But time is not always on my side, and tiny fingers filch the dough when I use the traditional method, so I thought I’d give this No-Knead Dutch Oven Bread recipe a whirl.

I started it before breakfast, and baked it after supper the same day, and it was delicious; very sourdough-esque without having to keep a little pet starter in the fridge and remember to feed it and revive it in time to make a loaf.  Definitely one to repeat.

The recipe I googled 20 minutes before supper

Pork Escalopes with Lemon Butter sauce  .  It was one of those evenings when I just wanted to cook something new, and for this was Google invented.  It’s the third recipe down if you Google Pork Escalopes, and the first where you’re likely to find all of the ingredients in my fridge and store cupboard on any given evening.

It is also crisp, lemoney, yummy, and quite fun to make with a tiny sous chef if you let her do the dipping in the egg/flour/breadcrumbs.

And for this week

Soup.  Carrot and lentil soup.  I’ve made a couple of prototypes at Kitty’s request and as she practically inhaled both versions so I think it might be worthy of a little write up; I just need some more carrots, and a sunny day to take some pictures for the recipe.



Cooking Family

In which my appliances depart this life en masse



Earlier this summer, in a cacophony of failed bearings, our washing machine called time on this family’s laundry, and with one final blast of uneven spin, finished a load of nappies, and went to live on a nice farm in the countryside surrounded by lots of other very friendly washing machines, fed on only the finest soap suds, and tucked up at night to the lullaby of the Calgon ad.

Then our fridge, taking umbrage at being left in charge of the eggs and half a bottle of orange juice while we went and sunned ourselves in southern Spain for a week, broke up with me in the most passive aggressive way possible, by leaking a sludgy composite of the contents of the freezer all over the kitchen floor to greet me on my return.

It was only a matter of time before the oven was going to get in on the action wasn’t it.  And the writing had been on the wall for a little while, but I thought we’d reached an uneasy compromise.  I promised to open the oven door at least once in every hour of cooking time to let the steam out, and, when finances permitted, to summon the very lovely man with a van to give it the spa treatment; steam bath and a good exfoliation all over including the removal of not only the door, but also the fan plate at the back; and in return it tacitly agreed to keep cooking the food, and only to trip the electricity after that crucial one hour mark, and if possible, not at all, especially if the Celtic game was on.

We were staying together for the sake of the children (and H).

But no longer. At lunchtime on Sunday I turned the oven on to heat some bread rolls.  The fuse box responded with an audible clunk.

In the intervening week, I’ve tried running just the light and the fan for an hour “to encourage it”, cajoling it with the promise of a nice roast, or cake if its preference is for sweet over savoury, and H, in complete support of my pet theory that in the male brain the Pavlovian response to the phrase “problem” is “screwdriver”, even pulled it out of the cabinet to see if a good masculine death stare would do the trick.

We got ten minutes at 200, during which we allowed ourselves to dare to hope that all could be well, before the house was yet again plunged into darkness.  Even our wonderful local electrician sounded the death knell.

I can take a hint.  And so in the next few weeks, subject to a little measuring, and a few financial contortions, I will move on; I will find a new comrade in my daily potterings around the kitchen, and we will be happy (not least because the one I’m eyeing up has a child lock on the door).

But there’s one thing that still smarts.  You see right up until a week ago I had an oddly functioning, but still actually functioning oven.  At that time it contained the usual amount of grease and tarnish for a domestic oven, but crucially, it also contained the remains of an ex baked potato.  The sort that explode into a thousand tiny lumps that frazzle and singe into some bizarre crisps/popcorn hybrid before becoming welded to the floor of the oven.

And so on Saturday night, I removed the shelves, I scooped up as much potato debris as I could, and I set the oven up overnight with its favourite all natural cleaning mixture.  I cleaned it out on Sunday morning before church and the rest of the sorry tale, well, you already know how it ends.

Yes, I admit it, and it’s what really cuts to the bone; my oven died a death because I lovingly and tenderly cleaned it.

I can only conclude that it was shock.


Cooking Recipes Uncategorized

Mmmm! Blackcurrant or Red Gooseberry Ice Cream Recipe


Once upon a time (that would be August), on one of those lovely hot days currently fading from our memories, a girl looked in the fridge.  A packet of blackcurrants looked back.  Red gooseberries peered over their shoulders, and in the door sat a little pot of double cream, bought to splosh over apple pie and sadly overlooked in favour of vanilla ice-cream.

Well I didn’t want any of it to go to waste, especially the blackcurrants, and so on a whim I decided to make a little ice-cream.  And while I think I might own an ice-cream maker, if I’m right it’s (a) the sort that needs to be pre-frozen, which isn’t exactly conducive to impulse cooking, and (b) in a place that involves discussing the minutiae of cupboard ownership with the family spiders.  I went without.

So, just in case you fancy clinging onto the last vestiges of the summer, I have a little treat to share:

Red Gooseberry or Blackcurrant Ice Cream Recipe

Blackcurrant or Red Gooseberry Ice Cream – Ice cream maker optional

At its bare bones this is a recipe for a custard ice cream base, taken from a River Cottage recipe, which is mixed with a stewed fruit puree.  The custard recipe makes enough for both purees, or you can substitute anything else you fancy having in an ice-cream from a drop or two of vanilla extract to the ends of your imagination.

Part 1 – The Custard

Note: this makes enough custard for both purees.

You will need:

  • 4 egg yolks
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 200ml double cream
  • 200ml whole milk

Whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until pale and creamy.

Heat the milk and cream in a pan until it’s just about to boil.

Pour the hot milk/cream over the egg/sugar mix, whisking as you do. (You need to do it this way around to stop the egg being scrambled).

Pour it all back into the saucepan and place over a low heat, whisking gently but constantly until the custard thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Take it off the heat and allow it to cool, stirring occasionally to stop a skin forming.

Divide into two roughly equal portions.

Part 2 – The Flavours

For Blackcurrant you will need:

  • 100g blackcurrants, washed
  • 25g caster sugar

For Red Gooseberry you will need:

  • 100g red gooseberries, washed and top and tailed
  • caster sugar to taste

For each puree, put the fruit in a saucepan and add just enough water to cover the base of the pan.



Place on the heat, bring to the boil and then simmer very gently until the fruit has softened, usually about 5-10 minutes.

Blackcurrant Icecream Recipe, Red Gooseberry Icecream recipe

Push the softened fruit through a metal sieve to make the puree.

Return the puree to the pan.

Taste. How sweet or tart it is will depend entirely on your fruit.  Blackcurrants are notoriously tart so you will probably want to add most if not all of the suggested amount of sugar.  Red gooseberries are naturally much sweeter than their green cousins so I would taste first and then add sugar a tablespoon at a time until you think it tastes sweet enough.  If you’re havering over a final spoonful it is better to be a smidgen too sweet than too tart as the big freeze will take the edge off the sweetness.

Stir the sugar to dissolve, you can place the pan briefly on a very low heat to help dissolve it, but you shouldn’t need to, the warmth of the fruit puree should do it all.

Part 3 – The Ice cream

Pour a puree into each of your portions of custard.

Taste again. (Note I said taste, not eat – try to resist the temptation to deny all knowledge of ice cream and retreat to the sofa with the pan and a spoon). You want the molten ice cream to be a smidge too sweet.  This would also be your chance to tone things down a bit if you find the flavour is a bit full on.  Personally I like my blackcurrants to have a punch but you could add up to another 50ml of cream to either if you wanted to.Blackcurrant Icecream Recipe, Red Gooseberry Icecream recipe

Place each in a plastic freezeable pot with a lid, leave to cool then place in the freezer.

Every hour or so, bring the pots out, beat vigorously with a fork and return to the freezer.  Do this at least four times, then leave it to freeze.  Or use an ice cream maker if you have one.

Red Gooseberry or Blackcurrant Ice Cream Recipe

Part 4 – Mmmmm!

Serving notes: You will need to take it out of the freezer 10-15 minutes before you want to eat it (depending on the temperature of your house).

Also, small children will approach you with spoons and pleading expressions while you try to take photographs for your blog.  If you give in to them they will wolf it down with only an occasional break to exclaim:

“Mmmm! Tasty!”

Get your own spoon ready first.

Baby Cooking Elma Family



This week’s moment was a little bit of a spoiler.

Because as Tuesday became Wednesday, a flick of the calendar took our little Elma into the heady realms of “old enough for food”.  It seems a very arbitrary milestone to do it entirely on date, unless of course magic health visitor fairies came to visit in the wee small hours of Wednesday morning and sprinkled her with digestive pixie dust … actually that could explain both the small scrabbling noise that I heard on the roof (attributed at the time to squirrels) and the fact that she uncharacteristically woke up at 3.30am for a little milky top up; maybe I’m on to something.

But we digress.  In the absence of fairy intervention we went back to the tried and tested parental instinct method and decided that as she can sit up with a little help, can pick things up and put them in her mouth, has taken to filching any food left within her reach (bye bye Mama’s green beans), and has spent at least the last two weeks sat at the dinner table giving us a bit of the “where’s mine?!” stink eye, she was ready to begin her new adventure.

And as it happened, H had to work late on Tuesday, and had a training session on Wednesday, and we wanted our first full family meal to be special, and relaxed; not filled with a rushing father and a grumpy toddler, so we had it on Monday; pork T-bones marinated in honey, lemon, olive oil and garlic with new potatoes, carrots and broccoli for the over-ones and carrot and broccoli sticks and a little peach fromage frais for Elma.

first food, baby led weaning

If I thought she was excited about swimming we hadn’t seen anything yet, you could see the cogs whirring; “at last, they’re letting me try some!”.  She was quivering with excitement the whole time, and whilst as family photographer it might have been nice if she’d stayed still just for a moment, as her Mama I couldn’t care less, as sticks of carrot were flailed around, and broccoli forests started to crop up on my floor once again.




As with her big sister, the plan is to let Elma lead the way; we’re still nursing and that’s where her main nutrition will continue to come from as she explores all these new tastes and textures, and doubtless smears most of them over herself, her chair, her sister and the floor before almost accidentally managing to eat some.



And so my little one, what would I wish for you now as we stand on the brink of a new chapter of babyhood?

Darling girl,

Well this is food.  It’s yummy.  I think you’re going to like it. I hope that you always find food to be a joy, take pleasure in cooking and in eating (although you’re allowed to gripe about the washing up, especially if Daddy forgets to put the porridge pan in to soak in the morning).

So far you’ve tried carrots, broccoli, courgette, bananas, sweet potato and fromage frais (as well as the green beans and cucumber purloined from my plate last week).  You loved using your gums to suck the tender green flesh from the courgette rind, but the baked sweet potato sticks were the biggest hit; when you’d chewed and dropped all of yours you started patting the table, scrabbling around for another one.  Don’t tell your sister but I pinched one off her plate to give to you; my reward was your beaming orange smile and a splodgy handprint on my arm.


Some things are wonderful to eat and full of things that make us healthy and strong; eat lots of those; some things are equally wonderful, but perhaps not as healthy; enjoy them, just not so often; and some things don’t taste that great and don’t do much for you; I wouldn’t bother with those, although your father swears that there’s a spot that only Pickled Onion Monster Munch can hit.  Your beloved Grannie used to say “everything in moderation”, and it’s a pretty good mantra, you won’t come too unstuck with that one.

I hope that you learn to love all sorts of different food, and that your curiosity about the world will open you up to a taste of thing that you haven’t tried before, and I’ll certainly be encouraging you along the way.

And finally, just for reference, because it’s going to be a little while before I put any of this in front of you, please remember that the food of your people is clotted cream then jam on the scone, not the other way around.  Don’t let your aunt lead you astray; your uncle is Cornish and he converted her to his strange outlandish ways.

Now then, what would you like for supper?

Love, Mama xxx