The Best Turkey Recipe

If you regularly cook turkey for Christmas, you’ll know one of the hardest things to do it have a moist bird. In 2007, I discovered this recipe by Phil Vickery and it was absolutely perfect. Although we have stopped having turkey at Christmas now, the memory of Christmas 2007 is stolen by the best turkey ever. If you are having turkey this Christmas, try this, I assure you it, won’t disappoint.

Serves: 8-10 adults
Preparation time: 25 minutes
Cooking time: 2½ hours, approx

Ingredients

1 x 5 kg or just under 12lb, Bronze turkey, with giblets and the wish bone removed
2 large carrots, peeled
2 large onion, peeled
6 sticks of celery
1 leek
2 bay leaves
2 chicken stock cubes
½ bottle dry white wine
2 pints cold water
salt and freshly ground black pepper
55g melted butter
2 tbsp roughly cornflour
4-6 tbsp cold water

Method

    1. Preheat the oven to 200°C, gas 6
    2. The first job is to remove the giblets from the bird and if you are using a frozen bird then make sure that it is fully defrosted
    3. Season the bird well inside and out with salt and pepper and pack the stuffing into the body cavity
    4. Tie the legs and the parsons nose together with a piece of string and secure well, so the stuffing is held inside the bird
    5. Chop all the vegetables into large chunks and place in the bottom of a large baking tray. Place the turkey on top. The tray should be large enough so the bird has at least 2 inches gap around it.
    6. Pour in the white wine, cold water and chicken stock cube, and place the whole tray on to the stove
    7. Bring to the boil and cover tightly with two layers of foil and pop into a preheated oven

THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT POINT Simmer for 5 minutes, covered to get the steam and heat going!

  1.  Cook the bird for about approximately 2 hours
  2. To check if the bird is cooked, carefully remove from the oven as there will be a lot of stock, wine and turkey juices
  3. Remove the foil and insert a knife where the thigh attaches itself to the body of the bird. The juices should run clear and if not, cover again with foil and cook for a further 20 minutes.
  4. When the bird is cooked, remove from the oven and turn it up to 230°C, gas 8. Brush with the melted butter and cook until browned for about 15 minutes.
  5. When nicely browned, remove from the oven and carefully tip off all the stock and keep warm
  6. Wrap the turkey in foil to keep warm, it will keep perfectly wrapped for 1 hour
  7. Reboil the stock and juices, you may need to add a little more water in a saucepan and skim well
  8. Mix the cornflour and water together and thicken the bubbling stock
  9. Carve the bird; the flesh will be soft and juicy. Serve the gravy and stuffing separately.

You can find the recipe here.

A Simplified Christmas

I wrote this post this last year and it has served as a useful reminder. If last year was simplified, this year will be simplified to the max! Enjoy!

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It’s been a long and busy year. And I am really looking forward to two weeks off work and just simply relaxing. Today is my last day at work this year and I’m pumped – as my son would say. 🙂

So this year, as I’m determined to have a simple Christmas, we did all Christmas presents shopping online, in fact at the same store. Anything that required veering into other stores has been relegated to a nice-to-have list for 2015. Plus we’ve had a chat about being grateful for whatever you get. So I’m optimistic about no I-didn’t-get-the-present-I-wanted drama. 😂😂😂😂😂 I crack myself up. I’ll let you know if that worked out. (update, it did!)

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Still hidden away to avoid hypertension in young children

The other thing that always goes off kilter at Christmas is my food shopping habit. I’ve found that I shop like there’s been a hurricane warning and my family is going into a bunker for two weeks; rather than for one day which is essentially how long the shops will be closed for. So this year I was determined not to do that and I’ve succeeded. I did my food shopping online too so I wouldn’t be distracted by great offers in the stores. I have a few items left but I’ve made a list and I’m sticking to it when I hit the grocery shop shortly.

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The cookbooks begat the shopping list

I like – scratch that – I love cooking and Christmas is usually the time that I experiment with new recipes, but that’s another stressful thing and this year I’m not doing stress at Christmas. So I’ve stuck to what we all like and is tried and tested. For the first time ever, I won’t be peeling potatoes. I’m a food snob like that I know but in the name of a stress-free Christmas we are getting frozen potatoes 🙈🙈🙈 – a suggestion made by my husband which no doubt takes him off potatoes peeling duty. However, I got his point. If you want a stress-free meal then take the stress away. I’m still processing that one though. I might just nip out and get potatoes in the morning and so I can make my gorgeous hassleback potatoes.

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Hassleback potatoes. The best way to do them!

My family and I also made a pact not to get presents for one another until the New Year which is just perfect and I can avoid the Christmas madness out there. I have a super organised friend whose Christmas shopping is usually done by October. Alas, I have not been blessed with such genes so I’m very happy with this unanimous decision.

Another thing that adds to my stress is baking a Christmas cake for church. Well I’ve scrapped that this year. And will do something in the New Year when I’m chilled. Although it’s sounding like my New Year is getting pretty full already. Eek!

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Merry Christmas

Lastly, I cancelled my hair appointment just because the last thing I feel like doing right now is spending a couple of hours in a hair salon under a dryer when I could be home with my feet up. Well-being before beauty for me. My hair will just have to do as it is for one day.

So here’s to a truly simplified Christmas day and holiday. 🍸

In My Kitchen

I accepted ages ago that I actually love cooking and have stopped resenting standing for hours in the kitchen preparing food for my family.

I really love cooking. In my kitchen, I’m in my own world. I create and I relax. I love the colours and different smells. And certain ingredients reappear over and over again because I’m just in love with with them. I mean if I was left stranded on a desert island without them, it just wouldn’t be good. 😐
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Of course I hate cooking under obligation and my simple way out of feeling that obligation is to experiment and introduce my children, and husband, to different kinds of food. I love to challenge myself to cook whatever is in my cupboard without going out to shop. Makes me feel really accomplished and smart. LOL.

I’m alive in my kitchen right now cooking a chicken and coconut curry. Feeling so so happy! Very rewarding.

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Live Life

What does it mean to live life?

To walk on the beach and feel the water caress your feet; being aware of every grain of sand that gets caught between your toes.

To feel the sun shining on your face; it’s warmth like a healing balm that keeps the cold away.

To hear the chirping of birds outside your window; discerning each and every distinct call they make.

To walk down the street with your head up; making eye contact with each stranger and offering the gift of a smile.

To be ruffled by the blustery wind, pulling your coat tighter around your neck and bracing yourself for the next gust.

To smell sizzling sausages and onions from the hot dog van and have a myriad of childhood memories flood your mind.

To feel pain and cry.

To experience the experience yourself and not through someone else’s eye.

To have an opinion and be able to articulate it.

To be in the moment and not just a passer-by.

To keep learning new things.

To notice others around you.

To appreciate the people in your life and their contribution to shaping you.

To develop friendships with strangers even when you share different values.

To discover spiritual insights.

To take risks and step out of your comfort zone.

To ask the questions no one asks.

To fail and get up again.

To listen more.

To have the courage to stand up for yourself.

To educate yourself.

To love yourself.

Redefining Wonder Woman Series 3: From Home Baker To Café Owner

When I decided to start a baking business, I started to connect with other bakers on twitter. It was there I ‘met’ Jo Kruczynska. Shortly after we connected on twitter, which was soon after I moved to Cambridge, she made a bold announcement – she was opening a café. Although I didn’t know her personally, as one woman to another, I was proud of her. Afternoon Tease opened about six months ago and it has very quickly become a favourite hang out for students and locales. Jo has been on the food scene in Cambridge for some time, supplying museums and local cafés but owning your own place is a totally different thing. It’s been inspiring and educational watching Jo from afar. As a business graduate it is fascinating to watch her apply the simple principles of product, price, promotion and place. So one day I simply asked if she wouldn’t mind sharing her experience on my blog and I’m honoured she agreed. If you are looking to turn your passion into a business, I hope you find this a starter for ten.

RWW: Where did your love for food and cakes come from?
Jo: My family loves food! All of our family holidays have always been planned around food and our family gatherings are centred around eating! We love it! Both of my grannies (Polish and English) were great home cooks.

RWW: Was your first cake a disaster or a success?
Jo: I remember telling my Mum one day that I wanted to bake a Victoria sponge for my Grandad’s birthday. She let me and it was a success. I’m not sure I would think so now, but at the time everyone was pretty impressed. From then on, I started baking more and more. I have had (and still do) have my fair share of baking disasters though!

RWW: Did you always know you wanted to own a café or did you stumble upon it?
Jo: I have a degree in Illustration and did a stint as a Freelance Editorial Illustrator. After 2 years I realised I didn’t want to do that anymore as it was far too solitary for me and I had to do three other part time jobs to make ends meet so I packed up and went travelling, making the most of having zero responsibilities. It’s a bit of a cliche but it was during my travels in New Zealand and Australia that I witnessed their amazing café culture and made my mind up to open my own café. They made it seem so simple – amazing coffee and food in a great environment and yet it was far from what we had managed to achieve in England! The seed had been planted….

RWW: So when you came back to England, what happened next?
Jo: I had been living in London for five years, saving money to start my café business and I decided that it was time to move back to my hometown of Cambridge to re-start my life there and get settled in and, most importantly, get looking for a café premises! I knew that it might take some time to find the right place and I’d been away for quite a while so no one knew anything about me. My first goal was to introduce my cakes to the people of Cambridge and without a premises, the best way to do that was through selling to other cafés in town that I loved.

RWW: Practically, how did you get from home baker to café owner?
Jo: I kept my baking days to Tuesday, Thursday and Friday whilst I dedicated Mondays and Wednesdays to getting the business side of things sorted so that as soon as I found the premises I would be ready to go – it was a little like being in limbo until I found the right place. It was an extremely long winded process particularly as I also had to put in a planning application to get ‘change of use’ on the property. I started negotiating in February and didn’t get the keys until the end of August. Us Kruczynskis don’t mess around though. As soon as we were in, we got cracking and managed to get the fit out done in just 3 months!

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RWW: I know! I was amazed at how quickly you got the shop open from the moment you got the keys. How was that possible? 
Jo: I had done a lot of preparation work and planning whilst running my cake business, which really helped. But really it comes down to the fact that my family and friends are amazing! Everyone was so supportive and threw themselves into the project. My Dad did my fit out for me and all of my family and friends got involved at some point, whether it was helping with painting, tiling, cleaning, overhauling old furniture or wallpapering the loo. 🙂

RWW: I read somewhere that you saved diligently for seven years? You must be extremely disciplined.
Jo: It was tough. I had moved to London to earn my ‘fortune’ 🙂 and managed to get a job as a PA. I was earning good money for the first time in my life but every month I would squirrel away most of my pay packet before I could miss it, meaning that I still lived on a pretty rubbish income. I still managed to have a lot of fun and it’s been worth it!

RWW: What was the toughest part of those seven years?
Jo: I’m very stubborn, so the challenge of saving the money wasn’t so tough. The toughest part was probably doing jobs that weren’t what I really wanted to be doing. Saying that, I had some great experiences during that time that have been very beneficial to starting my own business.

RWW: Six months in, what has it been like?
Jo: A very steep learning curve…but I really couldn’t have asked for a better start. It’s been tougher than I could have ever imagined and I couldn’t have prepared myself for this however many books I read or research I did.

RWW: What is the most difficult thing about running a cafe?
Jo: The long hours, the never ending to-do list and the fact that as a boss, you’re meant to know everything. 🙂

RWW: What mistakes have you made that others in a similar circumstance could learn from?
Jo: I need to work on planning more time away from the café for myself – so that I can step back and see the bigger picture. I think that’s important.

RWW: What have been your highest moment since you opened the cafe?
Jo: That’s difficult to pin point. I have high points all the time and celebrate every small milestone. We recently celebrated our 6 month birthday…I couldn’t believe how far we’d come!

RWW: Lastly, how do you unwind?
Jo: I go running to let go of my stress! I’ve done a couple of half marathons but at the moment I only have time for about one run a week. My aim is to get to a point where I can leave the café enough to get back to three a week. I also love eating and drinking…predictable hey?

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RWW: Thanks for sharing your experience Jo!

Visit Afternoon Tease at 13 King Street, City Centre, Cambridge, CB1 1HL or find out more at www.afternoontease.co.uk
You can also read about my experience there here.

Weird Food

When I was young I hated eggs; any sort of eggs but most especially boiled ones. *sick*

My mum and I had never ending fights about eating eggs.  She felt they were nutritious and should be a part of my diet.  I felt otherwise.   I didn’t mind a fried egg without the yolk but my mum said I was wasting food every time I threw the yolk out.  This led to the issue of an ultimatum – eat your eggs with the yolk or you can’t eat eggs at all.  I gladly chose the latter and didn’t eat eggs for most of my childhood. 

However before the ban :), in a bid to mask the taste the yolk, I discovered, or rather created, some eggy concoctions.  Scrambled eggs weren’t so bad but with garlic salt they were suddenly absolutely scrumptious but my all time favourite was a fried egg lathered in orange marmalade.  Mmmm mmm mmmmmmmm.

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    Spot the missing yolk.

On a day when I just want to vegetate, this is one of my favourite childhood meals.

Do you have any accidental concoctions?

Afternoon Tease Is King Of The Street

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Ever since I heard it opened last October I’ve been waiting for an opportunity to visit Afternoon Tease. I finally got a chance to on Friday and it was well worth the wait. Owned by Jo Kruczynska, Afternoon Tease is situated on Cambridge’s foodie lane, King Street. The café boasts a fine selection of cakes (gluten free options included), quality tea and coffee as well as a great breakfast, lunch and brunch (weekends only) menu. As with any worthy independent, most of their ingredients are locally sourced and before I forget, I must mention that they are credited with introducing ‘Bacon Bap Friday’ to Cambridge.

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With it’s quirky mismatched vintage crockery, complete with up-cycled sugar bowls (syrup tins), you’ll be forgiven for thinking you are in your favourite aunt’s home. You feel very much at home at Afternoon Tease. I had a raspberry sponge washed down with a Moroccan mint tea which was just what I needed after traipsing round the city centre with two children. The tea earned me a stamp on the café’s loyalty card which I’m very much looking forward to filling.

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I’ve only met Jo once and we have exchanged the occasional tweet, yet she made the time to pop over to our table to have a long chat, despite it being such a busy day. I didn’t feel like I was being served by a waitress but by a friend. Even fellow customers become friends in such an an amiable setting. Sitting next to me that day was an Anglian Ruskin student who was having the most gorgeous smelling lentil and sweet potato soup. How do I know? I asked. That’s how good it smelt so I have to go back to try some of their homemade cooking.

I love their handwritten menu and sign boards which Jo employs to lure unsuspecting would-be-customers on twitter. 😉

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You can see they don’t take themselves too seriously but don’t let the quirkiness deceive you though, the quality of the food is fantastic. This is one café that should be in every guide on where to eat in Cambridge.

After my children scoffed their faces with generous slices of chocolate cake, my son walked up to Jo and said “your café is superb” and my daughter said “your cakes are better than my mum’s”. For someone who often says I’m the best baker in the world, that’s saying a lot.

Visit Afternoon Tease at 13 King Street, City Centre, Cambridge, CB1 1HL or find out more at www.afternoontease.co.uk

My Children Have Food Envy

Since I started eating healthily, I’ve been experimenting more with my food particularly my lunch pack and dinner. Every evening, as I prepare for the next day, my children kids keep staring hungrily at my food or smoothies. And I often hear ‘I wish I would taste that’. They’ve tried my Kale smoothie. They hated it. Surprise, surprise! They have shown a lot more interest in salads though and now they take salads to school for their snack which is a great surprise.

The moral of the story is get your children to envy what you are eating and they’ll want to eat it too. Lol.

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Food Is The Best Form of Bribery

Negotiation skills are very useful in parenting. Just exchanged pancakes for the sorting out of washing with my children.
At last a plan that works for domestic retirement!

Disclaimer: this will only work with children under 10 🙂

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I think that was a fair exchange.

Bake a Spectacle with David Baddiel

I had totally forgotten that David Baddiel was coming to Cambridge to judge a cake competition and was happy when I stumbled across a tent hosting the event today.

In a fun and quirky way, Taank Optometrists decided to celebrate 100 years of eye-care by inviting amateur and professional bakers in Cambridge to bake a ‘spec-tacular’ glasses-themed cake for the bake-off. I guess the Great British Bake Off has set the nation off on a cake loving frenzy.

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The cakes were judged by owner Anjana Taank and comedian David Baddiel but not before David had us all laughing at some really good jokes.

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There were quite a few creative cakes out there. Unfortunately, due to health and safety reasons, we couldn’t taste the cakes.

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The winning cake, below, was baked by Fiona McDuff who also won the Cambridge Bake Off.

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