Baby in one hand, wooden spoon in the other

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Get inspired with recipes featuring British Apples at www.waitrose.com

Get inspired with recipes featuring British Apples at http://www.waitrose.com

So we had Harvest festival at Big One’s school last week. I confess, I am very fond of Harvest festival, I think primarily because it brings back such vivid memories of growing up in the countryside in Kent, and of the Harvest festival at my primary school which always entailed displays of gigantic plaited loaves, us singing ‘We plough the fields and scatter’ at the tops of our voices, and taking baskets of produce round the village to the OAPs.

I decided to ask my son what Harvest actually means, and I have to confess, he looked at me blankly. Despite the celebration, he hadn’t really grasped that it was about bringing in the crops and the produce from the fields. This little city dweller didn’t know his orange pippins from his coxes. Something had to be done! And so we trundled off to pick apples and get back to nature at Pippins Farm in Kent. Raymond Blanc, who has been in the media recently, talking about how important it is to teach children where food comes from, would be proud of me. I was so pleased we did it – the children both picked and ate apples fresh from the tree and their enthusiasm was evident. It was such a success!

Freshly picked!

Freshly picked!

One supermarket that has a great awareness of the seasons and of local food is Waitrose. This spring they launched the national ‘Grow & Sell’ campaign with schools across the land to encourage schools to grow fruit and veg at school and help kids understand the journey from field to plate. And now British apples are in season – and this is apparently the best harvest season in years, making the apples even more delicious than usual – they are keen to celebrate apples with me and my readers.

So in honour of National Apple Day next Monday 21 October, Waitrose asked me to share my love of apples with you. They are stocking 50 apple varieties this year, of which 70% will be British. Hooray!

I made their wonderful Deep Filled Bramley Apple Pie using Waitrose Bramley apples and their Best of British apples. The pie was a rip-roaring success, with my husband declaring ‘Amazing pastry’ – high praise indeed from a man renowned for his homemade quiche (no, I am not kidding), and the children devouring it – they especially liked the addition of raisins . I served it with double cream, and for the time of year, it was just perfect.

Waitrose Apple Pie

Slice of apple pie

The Deep Filled Bramley Apple Pie recipe is here – it works an absolute treat, and using the food processor meant the pastry was made in moments. The only thing that is a faff – and definitely cannot be done one-handed, folks, is peeling the apples. If only I had the miraculous apple peeler which the wonderful Margot Darling from Margot Tries the Good Life recently featured! Now, that would make life easier for this busy mama.

Waitrose.com is a magnificent source of recipes for everything under the sun, including apples, in fact they recently teamed up with some top food bloggers who contributed their own apple recipes,– they include recipes from the marvellous Becky from English Mum (Apple & Caramel Pie), Helen from Fuss Free Flavours (Estivale Apple & Blackberry Steamed Pudding) and Michelle from Utterly Scrummy (Michelle’s Utterly Scrummy Estivale Apple Cake). Take your pick! http://www.waitrose.com/content/waitrose/en/home/recipes/food_glossary/apple.html

Waitrose has even teamed up with online garden gurus Crocus, to sell apple trees online – they have a wonderful tree called ‘Scrumptious’ which is perfect for smaller gardens as it doesn’t need another apple to tree to pollinate it, and can even be grown in a pot! So, city dwellers with kids, there’s no excuse to not PYO apples next year J

What do you like making with apples? Pies? Cakes? Chutney? I’d love to hear!

Happy Apple Day everyone,

TOHC

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So, it’s back to earth with a bump after our first ever family holiday in Denmark. It really was the perfect fortnight away. We saw family for a few nights – husband’s mother is Danish so he has cousins over there – and then spent time just the four of us, which was much needed.

After seeing the Danish relations in their beautiful house full of lovely Danish-designed furniture and kitchenware (I had serious kitchen envy… am now saving for an Alessi kettle), we spent time on the northernmost tip of the Jutland peninsula – a beautiful headland called Skagen (pronounced ‘Skay-en’), a place famed for its beautiful light, enormous sand dunes and vast sandy beaches. From there we headed to the west coast, to Henne Strand, where were lucky enough to stay in a traditional wooden summerhouse nestled in its own sand dune, surrounded by wild heather, just a 10-minute walk from the beach. The stars were beautiful, and the silence very welcome.  We rounded it all off with three days in Copenhagen, which teems with bicycles, wonderful restaurants, trendy districts and beautiful harbour views. Oh, and I almost forgot – of course, we went to Legoland in Billund, which was superb – perfect for the little one and the big one, and us even bigger ones. We were all captivated by Miniland. Overall, it was organised, fun, nice vibe, hardly any queues. Loved it.

Spending time together as a family is like a tonic. Yes, of course, travelling with young children can be stressful at times, but being together, finding a new rhythm, not rushing to school, or checking the clock all the time, discovering new things together, having time to just potter around our surroundings, taking a breather from the city… holidays are the moments memories are made of. So I will be making a holiday photo album, and remembering Denmark with fondness.

In the mean time, particularly food-wise, I will have to make do with Signe Johansen’s wonderful Scandilicious cook books, the occasional trip to The Scandinavian Kitchen in London, and maybe a trip to the Scandinavia Show later in the year.

While we were away, I compiled a little list of Good Danish Things and Bad Danish Things. See below.

Good Danish things:

–       Smørrebrød (open sandwiches topped with things like pickled herring, potato and dill, or little slices of cheese, or Danish salami). Son (6) astonished everyone by announcing that he ‘loves’ pickled herring.

–       Individual duvets – there are no duvet-hoggers in Denmark, because everyone has their own! Even on a double bed, you get a duvet each. Heaven.

–       Cycle lanes – they are everywhere and they are amazing. Makes us look rather backwards in the UK, frankly. Cycling keeps you fit, the whole family can do it together, and it’s safe. Top marks.

–       Mini shopping trolleys – we visited a few supermarkets and they all had them for the kids to push around. A godsend. Why don’t we have in the UK?

–       Cheese slicers  – the breakfast buffet at the hotel in Copenhagen featured an amazing wheel-like cheese cutter with a wire that you rotate by hand and it slices the cheese. Soooo cool. I wanted to slip it into my suitcase. Called a ostekærer it looks like this, and is completely awesome.

Brilliant Danish cheese slicer

Brilliant Danish cheese slicer

–       Trendy kitchenware shops – I discovered Danish kitchenware brands Eva Solo (available from John Lewis, Rig Tig and Rosti Mepal, all of which feature beautiful designs and useful gadgets and products. I was in heaven (again!).

Bad Danish Things

–       Charging for tap water – this seemed to be the norm in restaurants, and was a bit of a shock given that it’s always free in the UK of course.

–       Nearly being run over by a bike every five minutes  😉

If you fancy a trip to Denmark, I suggest you visit Visit Denmark as a starting point.

Hope you’ve had a great holiday with your family,

TOHC

xx


Trolley dash!

“I knew I should have brought more mini rice cakes with me…”

I am psychologically preparing myself for a bit of a strange one next week. For it will be the first time I will be away from both my children for a whole week. A whole week. It is half-term, and they are going to Granny and Grandad’s (well, actually not Granny, because she is Danish, and therefore she is known as Farmor – father’s mother – geddit?) while hub and I are staying in London. All parties are hugely looking forward to it. As for me, there is part of me that knows I am going to really really miss them, but also part of me that is elated and can’t wait to have a child-free week. We already have dinner booked one night, and cinema another, for example. But I know it will be strange without the Gruesome Twosome. One thing I will relish will be supermarket shopping on my own. No toddler to placate, no whining 6-year-old to buy tat for. Just little old me freewheelin’ down the aisles with a small trolley (sans child seat of course).

Going supermarket shopping with a little one in tow can be one of life’s more stressful experiences, shall we say. I remember when oldest child was a baby, all tucked up in his little MaxiCosi carseat, and off I merrily went to Sainsburys for the first time with him, thinking how hard can it be…? The answer is hard. Very hard. What. A. Palaver. You’ve got to park in the right bay, then find the right kind of trolley to perch the carseat on top of, having found one, you then have to hoist the bloody thing up there, invariably hurting your back …

So how did that day go? Well, once I’d finally got in the store and started shopping, he needed a nappy change half way round (of course) … which mean that I then started panicking about him getting hungry and screaming … by which time it was too late, so I just carried on shopping anyway, blindly throwing things in the trolley in a bid to get it done. Only for him to let rip and scream the place down as I tried to unload the trolley onto the conveyer belt, which the cashier kept moving along, making me even more stressed as I couldn’t keep up.

I was, of course, operating one-handed by this stage, having wrenched son out of the MaxiCosi and onto my hip in a bid to calm him down, and as we all know, pushing a trolley one-handed is nigh on impossible. By this time it was starting to feel like it was taking for ever, with no-one asking me if I need any help (‘Yes, if you could just ask security to escort me from the premises that would be lovely, thanks. No, I insist’), as I cursed while trying to placate puce-faced baby and locate my bank card, all while sweating profusely. ‘Why is it so goddamm hot in here? Oh, please stop crying! Nectar card? What? I don’t know. Yes. Somewhere. Nope, can’t find it,’ as I hurled shopping in to plastic bags in a blind panic (having long forgotten I had brought my own bags with me) and then hot-footed it to the café to breastfeed starving child and, for the first time, properly observe contents of shopping bags (‘Baked beans? I don’t even like baked beans… oh shit, I forgot to get bin liners. Well I’m not going back in there with him. I’d rather give birth again…’)

Fast-forward a few years and it’s easier, but it’s still hard at times. Weirdly, I’ve never fully embraced the online shop, although I do do it very occasionally. I have friends who swear by it, but I dunno, I find it all a bit clinical. I quite like going out, seeing what’s new, browsing the books and DVD department (if possible), the wine aisle … So, here are my five top tips for getting round a supermarket with a toddler. Learnt the hard way, from bitter experience. Sorry, I mean happy times shared together. And if you have twins, and you take them to the supermarket, you deserve a medal.

My top 5 tips for getting round a supermarket with a toddler

1. Write a list, and – this is going to sound really crazy, but please stick with me as it WORKS (and I only recommend things that work, remember) – once you’ve written it, rewrite it and organize it according to the different zones or sections in the supermarket. So you’ve got your fruit and veg section, your meats and chilled foods section, your yogurt, milk and cheese section, your store cupboard section, bakery items, toiletries, baby, drinks, baking goods… etc. It will help preserve your sanity, I promise.

2. Before you begin, set a timer – either mentally or on your phone – you’ve got ONE HOUR to get it done (including the checkout). My motto, ‘get in quick, get out quick, nobody gets hurt.’ Nothing focuses the mind like a deadline. And with your mega-organised list you will be like Supermum getting round that store, I promise you.

3.  Always, always, always get your toddler in the trolley before you go into the supermarket. And do up the safety belt thing. Always.

4. Take snacks. Take more snacks than you think you could ever possibly need – rice cakes, squeezy fruit pouches, boxes of raisins, etc. If you run out, go to the cheese counter and get hold of as many sample cubes as possible. Beg if necessary.

5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. You are choosing to spend your money in their store (probably quite a lot of money), and supermarkets are all billing themselves as ‘family friendly’ these days, so get ‘em to practise what they preach. Say, ‘Please can someone help me pack the shopping?’ or if you’re in the queue, tell a member of staff ‘I’ve forgotten x, please can you get it for me?’. They always do for me! So speak up, get help, keep moving.

6. (I know this is number six.) Treat yourself to a nice coffee and a biscuit when you’ve finished. You’ve earned it!

Happy shopping, folks. And think of me skipping down the aisles in Sainsburys on my own next week … ooh, and they’ve got a lovely homeware section…

TOHC

x



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