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Mars Bar Cake

This is a bad recipe, an unhealthy recipe, a special treat recipe; but absolutely delicious!  Being Easter, it’s a great excuse to make Mars Bar Cake!

It’s not really a cake, just a kind of posh Crispie Cake.

When I was young I first tasted Mars Bar Cake in Cumbria when visiting my Aunty who lived near Silloth. You could buy Mars Bar cake from lots of the bakeries there, but I can remember eating she made it herself too.  I’d forgotten all about it until a few years ago when I received some as a gift.  Being a teacher, we certainly don’t expect presents at Christmas or at the end of a school year from pupils and I’m always a bit embarrassed by this, but I thoroughly appreciate the wonderful generosity, and kind words that are given.  One Christmas I was given a beautiful gift box and inside was homemade Mars Bar Cake.  It was so appreciated and gorgeous.  After the holidays I passed on my thanks to the pupil and his mam.  She was over the moon that I had enjoyed them so much and explained they had made them together as a family and they always tried to make home-made gifts.  She passed the recipe onto me in the playground and this is my version of it.  I’ve added the mini eggs for Easter, and have made them as gifts for my grandsons.

Mars Bar Cake

6 Mars Bars

3 x 100g Bars Milk Chocolate (I used Asda Milk Chocolate – cheap but the best and tastiest for cooking)

180g unsalted butter

120g Rice Crispies

Mini Eggs to decorate

Method

1. Slice all the Mars Bars into small pieces and put in a pan.

2. Weigh out 180g of butter.  Cut into small pieces and put in pan with chopped Mars Bar.

3. Over a gentle heat, melt the chocolate and butter.  You need to stir constantly so the mixture doesn’t stick and so that it doesn’t split and separate.  The nougat part of the Mars Bar takes the longest to melt.

4. When melted, stir in the crispies.  I added 100g first and then added an extra 20g so that all the crispies were evenly coated.

5. Spoon mixture into a lined baking tray or flan dish.  The one I used was a couple of inches deep.  Spoon evenly and flatten down.  The mixture will cool and set a little as you do the next stage.

6. Break up chocolate into pieces and melt over a bain-marie or in the microwave.

7. When the chocolate is melted pour over the crispie mixture and level out.

8. If making for Easter, sprinkle with mini-eggs.

9. Put in the fridge for a few hours to set.

10. When set, cut into pieces.

As I say, they’re not healthy, but very tasty and may be something to make if you end up with a house-full of Easter Eggs this weekend.

If you try, let me know what you think.

Lesley xx

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Sunday Morning Playlist

This week I’ve finally completed watching Breaking Bad.  I know, better late than never!

Wow! That finale!  OMG! It was the best finale I’ve ever seen and just a perfect ending to the show.  I can’t get the show or that final song out of my head!  I just keep thinking about it all the time.

Anyway, enjoy listening and have a great weekend whatever you’re up to.

 

Swing Life Away – Rise Against

Say Hello, Wave Goodbye – David Grey

One Day Like This – Elbow

The Whole of the Moon – The Waterboys

Baby Blue – Bad Finger

Lesley xx

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Car Mix-Tape (Part 2)

When making mix-tapes I would spend hours choosing all the songs and deciding which order by how the songs transitioned into each other.  In the film High Fidelity, which I love for so many reasons, there’s a scene where John Cusack talks about the intricacies of making a good mix-tape.

I think because of Youtube and Spotify peoples’ listening has changed away from albums and back to this kind of way.  Example was on a few chat-shows recently and said that although he prefers making albums because they tell a story, they have an over-arching feel, tastes are changing, so his latest song was only being made as a single.

As with most of my playlists, my songs are chosen from different eras, have different styles and may be singles or album tracks.  On a 90 minute tape you could, on average, get between twelve and thirteen songs on each side, so some of the songs must be a bit shorter as I managed to squeeze fourteen tracks on Side B.  Hope you enjoy listening to it.

Side B:

Why Don’t You Get A Job – The Offspring

Basket Case – Green Day

Babylon’s Burning – The Ruts

Teenage Kicks – The Undertones

Semi Charmed Kind Of Life – Third Eye Blind

Breakfast At Tiffanys – Deep Blue Something

Brimful of Asha (Norman  Cook Mix) – Cornershop

Pretty Fly (For A White Guy) – The Offspring

Hong Kong Garden – Siouxsie & The Banshees

Sunday, Bloody Sunday (Live from Red Rocks) – U2

Back of Love – Echo & The Bunnymen

The Day We Caught The Train – Ocean Colour Scene

Place Your Hands – Reef

All I Want – The Offspring 

Hope you enjoy – Listen to Side A here.

Lesley xx

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Car Mix-Tape

As you can guess I love a good playlist.  I love listening to other people’s playlists and suggestions on Spotify.  As a teenager I would spend hours making mix-tapes: I had hundreds of tapes in my music collection.  Later when the lads were young and we finally got a car, it was a pleasure making mix-tapes to play when we were going on holiday.  This tape here was our favourite and it got played so much I’m sure it unravelled many years ago.  But for some reason the hand-written list and case long outlived the tape itself, so here in two parts, Side A and Side B, originally titled, is our Car Mix Tape (No.1).

Side A:

Local Boy (In the Photograph) – Stereophonics

Don’t Stop Believing – Journey

Motorcycle Emptiness  – Manic Street Preachers

Nothing Ever Lasts Forever – Echo & The Bunnymen

Another Girl, Another Planet  – The Only Ones

She’s Got Issues – The Offspring

Hope Street – Levellers

Top Of The Pops – The Rezillos

Weak – Skunk Anansie

Ray of Light – Madonna

Identity  – X-Ray Spex

If You Tolerate this Your Children Will Be Next  – Manic Street Preachers

Hope you enjoy – Listen to Side B here.

Lesley xx

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Sunday Morning Playlist

Well, we’ve got snow back again! It just means an extra cup of tea, then make sure you wrap up warm when you go outside. It’s really windy out there this morning.

Blossom’s been out for a little walk and she’s happy whatever the weather.  Whatever you’re up to, have a great day.

Happy Sunday everyone!

Hit with a Fist – Florence and the Machine

Cherry Bomb – The Runaways

Pyscho Killer – Talking Heads

Are You Gonna Be My Girl – Jet

Hammer to Fall – Queen

Lesley xx

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Bake in Time for Tea

Following on from last week’s post on Back in Time for Tea and reminiscing about my memories and favourite meals as I was growing up I really fancied a baking session.  I haven’t been too well the last couple of weeks so decided just to make do with ingredients I had in the house.  I had bananas that needed using up and in the back of the fridge two jars of marmalade that were just sitting doing nothing.  I googled recipes for Banana Bread and Marmalade or Orange Cake to see which would best suit the ingredients I had in my store cupboard.

Now, there are two types of cooks or bakers.  One, who sticks meticulously to recipes and carefully weighs out ingredients, and two, those that are more creative, throwing in extra ingredients, taking out some and ‘judging’ measurements and weights.  I’m definitely in the second category.  I love cooking and baking but I like to add extra herbs and spice, try to use less sugar, and in this case use wholemeal flour where I can.   I tweaked the recipes a little and the cakes were absolutely delicious!

For the Banana Bread I really wanted to recreate a breakfast brunch I had on holiday in London last summer.  In a little café in Bloomsbury called Morish I ordered toasted banana bread served with greek yogurt and honey.  It took a while to come as they were a little busy, so I sat and read the paper and being a corner café I was able to watch the world go by. When it arrived it was delicious and definitely worth the weight.  I thoroughly enjoyed my recreation of it, served with Earl Grey tea.

The Marmalade Cake was very rich and moist, with a strong orange flavour.  You could slice this and put on butter too, like malt-loaf.  I had it with Red Bush tea and it was gorgeous.

Banana Bread

Ingredients:

285g plain wholemeal flour

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

½ tsp salt

110g butter

200g caster sugar

2 eggs

4 ripe bananas

85ml milk

1 ½ tsp lemon juice

1 tsp vanilla extract

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4
  2. Sift flour, bicarb of soda, and salt into a mixing bowl.
  3. In another bowl cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
  4. Add eggs, mashed banana, milk, lemon juice and vanilla extract into the creamed mixture and mix well. Fold in the flour mixture.
  5. Spoon into a greased loaf tin (20cmx12.5cm/8”x5”).
  6. Bake for about an hour, until well-risen and golden brown.
  7. Cool in the tin for a few minutes before turning out to cool.

Can be eaten as it is, spread with butter or toasted.

I served it lightly toasted, spread with butter and drizzled with honey.  Served with greek yogurt and sliced bananas.

Recipe adapted from BBC Food   www.bbc.co.uk/food

Moreish Cafe, Bloomsbury, London

Marmalade Cake

Ingredients:

175g butter

150g caster sugar

3 medium eggs, beaten

100g self-raising flour

75g wholemeal self-raising flour

1 tsp baking powder

3 tbsp marmalade

To decorate:

1 ½ tbsp heated marmalade

Grated orange rind

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4
  2. Grease baking tin.
  3. Place all cake ingredients in a bowl and beat all together until well mixed and creamy.
  4. Spoon into tin and bake for 50 mins to 1 hour.
  5. When cooled, turn out.
  6. Gently heat marmalade and decorate with glaze and grated rind.

Hope you’ve enjoyed and if you try let me know what you think or post your pics of your bakes.

Lesley xx

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Sunday Morning Playlist

Well, the snow has gone.  Maybe we’re a little closer to spring.  I hope so.  The days are getting longer and the snowdrops and crocuses are coming along nicely so everything is looking up.  Here’s to a lovely sunny Sunday and a good week ahead.

Have fun today and hope you enjoy this week’s playlist.

Drive – Tracy Chapman

Jack and Diane – John Cougar Mellancamp

We Could Be Kings – Dave Hause

Nobody Wins – Bryan Fallon

Lucky Man – The Verve

Lesley xx

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Back in Time for Tea

My memories of teatimes and home life in a North East Working Class Family

At school I never enjoyed History.  It was boring. It was about wars and stuff that had already gone so I found no interest in it.  But as I’ve got older I really enjoy looking back on recent social history; things that are personal memories or from my parents and grandparents era.  The BBC are excellent at making social historical documentary series and over the last few years I have relished watching Victorian Farm, Edwardian Farm, Wartime Farm, Victorian Christmas and Victorian Bakers.  I was fascinated at how much times have changed in such a relatively short period of time.

I was surprised at how much I took an interest in these programmes, and welcomed the Back in Time series when it began with Back in Time for Dinner in 2015 when the Robshaw family saw how life, homes and meals changed from 1950 to the 1990’s and giving an insight into the taste of the future.  This was captivating and I was gripped for the whole six episodes and the accompanying Christmas special.

The success of this series was followed up the next year with Back in Time for the Weekend when the Ashby-Hawkins family travelled through the sparse post-war years and rationing of the 1950’s to the decadent and materialistic 1990’s looking at how our homes, holidays and leisure activities had changed over the decades and what the future might hold for free time.

Now, on BBC2, we are approaching the last episode of the current series Back in Time for Tea, a hundred year history of a working-class Northern family, the Ellis’s.  I don’t know if it’s because it’s a working-class family or because there’s a northern feel, but this series has really been a step-back in time for me.

Being brought up in a small, quite poor, very much working class town, in a working class family I do feel that I have been lucky to live through a wider range of experiences than maybe people of a similar age.  My first home was in my Granda and uncles’ house, and it is in the same home I live now. So I really have gone full circle.  My happiest memories are here. From there we moved into terraced, railway, close-knit community, where everyone knew everyone and most of the fathers, grandfathers and uncles worked at the Railway works, Shildon Shops.  There was no bathroom, only an outside toilet next to the coalhouse. I hated the outside toilet!  It was cold and dark and horrible on a night and in winter, and in the summer it was full of daddy-long legs!  I got a bath in the pot sink and my mam and dad had a tin bath to bathe in front of the fire.  Watching Back in Time for Tea sparked lots of memories for me and my mam and after watching the Ellis family receiving their first fridge at the end of the sixties, we worked out that we didn’t get a fridge until 1974 or 1975 when the council renovated our home.  We had to move out, to a house across the road for about six months, and when we returned home we not only had a fridge, but a new cooker, an indoor toilet and a bathroom!  Prior to this I can remember the huge walk in pantry with meat hooks hanging from the ceiling.  Even after these renovations, I remember that when I went to my Granda’s toilet, who just lived a few doors away down the street, he only ever had squares of newspaper hung on a string to use instead of toilet paper.  Why I didn’t run the few yards home for the luxury or having real toilet-paper I’ll never know!

Meals were always home-cooked, with the exception of visits to the chippy.  I know my mam and dad followed the tradition of Fish-Shop Friday when me and my brother were in bed and my dad came in from the Club. We had fish and chips with curry sauce for our dinner on a Saturday at my uncles’ house. (It’s said that Northerners like wet chips.) These were always eaten from the newspaper, never a plate, covered in scraps.  On the very rare occasions I get chip-shop chips now I still eat then in the paper.  In the 70’s tea would be a dinner, shepherd’s pie, stew and dumplings or steak and chips: home-made chips, made in a chip pan with lard.  I remember coming home from school one day and a fire-engine being parked half-way up the street near my house.  It was at my house.  My mam had left the chip-pan on when she’d gone to collect me and my brother from school.  There was no damage done, just smoke, but she was in real trouble off my dad because of it!  Unlike the teenage girls from the TV show, I never had a Chinese meal until I was about sixteen or seventeen, and then it was Chinese chips and gravy from the take-away, not a restaurant.

Even now nobody makes stew and dumplings as good as my mam’s.  To make a good stock she got bones from the Butcher’s van that came round the streets a couple of times a week.  I was sent to ask the butcher is he had any bones I could have for the dog, but these were first boiled to make flavoursome, salty stock, then much to my horror the rest of the family would eat all the meat straight from the bones! I could eat the meat but not bring myself to sit and chew directly from these bones! Our dog would get to eat the bones eventually!  I know it’s no different than spare ribs now, but I’m not keen on that either.  In fact I stopped eating meat for a lot of my teenage years, only eating it for my Christmas dinner.  We also had the Pop Van that came round once a week, and this was the one and only bottle of fizzy pop we were allowed. Once it was gone it was gone.  Each week we would choose a different, luminous colour to try.  Sometimes we made this into ice-cream floats, which were a favourite of mine when we went to Rossi’s café in Bishop Auckland.  I remember it had big leather booths to sit in.  It’s funny how kids can hear an ice-cream van from miles away and I was no exception.  I can remember buying a screwball for 2 ½p!

It wasn’t until the 80’s that I really had convenience foods.  I remember tinned ravioli and beans with little sausages in, crispy pancakes and frozen pizzas becoming popular.  Again, I don’t think I had a real pizza from a take-away until the later 80’s, when I had my own home.  I never tasted a real Indian meal until much later than that.  For a taste of the orient, an indulgent and new food experience was Batchelors Vesta boxed, dehydrated meals.  Me and my mam had these as a treat, in my teens, on a Friday night.  My dad must have been at work, as he wouldn’t have eaten such ‘muck’, my brother in bed, and we would eat paella or chicken chow mein with crispy noodles that you cooked in the deep-fat fryer while watching the Golden Girls on telly.

When I was young we spent a lot of time at my Granda’s and uncles’ house. We went on Tuesday and Thursday nights for tea, which was always a cooked dinner and pudding (or ‘afters’) of steamed sponge pudding and custard, and we visited on a Saturday and Sunday. For Sunday dinner we always had our Yorkshire pudding first, with lots of onion gravy, almost as a starter, and then our dinner and roast with any leftover Yorkshire puds.  I learnt to bake at their house too.  We made plate pies, top-hat and butterfly cakes, maids-of-honours and jam tarts.  Pastry was rolled out with a milk bottle and cut out with a cup.

We always ate lots of fruit and vegetables, but not as exotic as now, and tangerines and pomegranates were only ever seen at Christmas.  As kids we would go bramble picking, coming home with purple hands and faces and covered in thorn-scratches.  These would be made into pies or crumbles, as would windfall apples we found in the autumn.  Rhubarb was a real treat in the spring, dipping the stalks straight into a little bag of sugar; sweet and sour at the same time! Both Granda’s had gardens or allotments so veg was always in fresh supply. After the annual Leek Shows that took place in the local Working Men’s Club there was always an abundance of leeks so most families would be eating leek puddings steamed in a pressure cooker for what seemed like hours.

As a little side-note, on the TV show, they very quickly passed through the 90’s.  I know it’s harder to focus on things that are closer to us, it doesn’t seem as though things have changed much.  I loved when the teenage girls were introduced to Shaun Ryder as an experience of the 90’s!  One of my memories of the 90’s is when I was expecting Jordan.  David was five at the time and things were quite hard financially for us as a family.  Most meals were toast or veg that I grew in my garden.  Anyway at this time there were the EEC Food Mountains.  Each week we could go and queue up for an allocation of butter, which was great; it was a super treat to have real butter on our toast! Also on offer were unmarked tins of either stewing steak or mince.  You didn’t know which it was until you opened it.  Being pregnant, I couldn’t bear to open the tins: it looked like dog-food!  Once it was in the pan, (we didn’t own a microwave yet) and the gravy began to resemble real food, then I was ok to take over, and it really was delicious.

Memories of mealtimes bring a real-mixture of emotions to me, but there were many happier memories than I thought.  I’m not a person who looks back with rose-tinted glasses, but watching Back in Time for Tea, as with the other BBC documentaries I mentioned have been so interesting and brought back so many things that I’d forgotten about.  I’ve enjoyed reminiscing with my mam and sharing these memories with Jordan and writing about them here.  I hope this post stirs lots of memories for you.  I look forward to reading other peoples comments about their experiences.

Back in Time for Tea BBC2  

Back in Time for Dinner – 2015 

Back in Time for the Weekend – 2016 

Lesley xx

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Sunday Morning Playlist

Happy Sunday everyone!

It’s been a long, white week this week!  I think everyone’s had enough of the snow now.  We’ve had more snow overnight and it doesn’t look like it’s shifting at all yet.

Wrap up warm, stay cosy and hopefully next week it will all be gone.

Hope you enjoy this week’s choices.

 

Heroes – David Bowie

Getting Away With it (All Messed Up) – James

All These Things That I’ve Done – The Killers

Mr Jones – Counting Crows

Monkey Wrench – Foo Fighters

Lesley xx

 

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World Book Day

My Favourite Books

Today is World Book Day.  I know a lot of schools have been closed today because of the snow, so a lot of children will have missed their opportunity to dress up as their favourite book characters.  Maybe they’ll get the chance when the schools reopen.

Anyway, it got me thinking about my favourite books.  Here’s a few that are really special and meaningful to me.

 

How to Talk to a Widower – Jonathon Tropper

I’ve already written in my blog about how much I enjoy Jonathon Tropper’s books.  This was the first I read, many years ago from a Richard & Judy Book Club recommendation, and remains my favourite.

Doug Parker, after marrying a woman ten years older than him, suddenly and sadly becomes a widower at 29.  The story finds him one year later, stagnant and wallowing in self-pity.  It sounds tremendously sad, and it is to begin with, but the wonderful characters and great comic moments really flip it on its head with laugh-out-loud humour.  Doug’s dysfunctional family, his sixteen year old stepson Russ, who’s also angry and alone and starting to get in with the wrong crowd, and the insatiable neighbour build a real and emotional picture of modern life: unpredictable, moving, yet ultimately optimistic.

I haven’t read this in a while.  I really want to reread it now.

For One More Day – Mitch Albom

Another emotional book.  A beautiful story of Chick Benetto, a former baseball player whose life is in pieces.  Becoming suicidal he goes on a drunken rampage to end his life in his old home town, yet he fails to even succeed in that so he returns to his old house.  There he finds his mother, who has been dead for eight years, who welcomes him with open arms, as though nothing has happened and no time has passed.  Chick gets to spend one last day with his mother, going back over things from his past, to help him decide upon his future.  It’s very poignant and makes you think about your loved ones that have gone and the ones still here, our relationships and being appreciative of the life we have.

People may be more familiar with Mitch Albom’s book Tuesday’s at Morries, and although I enjoyed it, I much prefer this or Five People You Meet in Heaven.

 

Anne of Green Gables – L. M. Montgomery

A well-known classic following the life and adventures of Anne Shirley (Anne with an e), an eleven year old orphan who is mistakenly sent to live with middle-aged Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert.  The placement is to be short-lived as a boy was required, not a girl.  However, Anne wins over kind–hearted Matthew and she is allowed to stay on a trial basis.  Anne is imaginative, dramatic and constantly talkative much to the despair of hard-faced Marilla.  Friendships with Diana Barry, her “bosom friend” and her rivalry, both in and out of the classroom, with Gilbert Blythe are just a pleasure to read.  It’s a gentler and simpler time.  Green Gables and Avonlea both sound idyllic and I’ve always wanted to visit Prince Edward Island from reading this book.

Recently, Netflix aired ‘Anne’ which I haven’t yet watched, but the eighties TV mini-series is delightful and one of my favourite TV shows ever.  The characters, setting and story-lines are so true to the book.  In fact my friend bought me a copy of the full-set of DVDs of Anne of Green Gables for my 50th birthday because she knew it was one of my favourites and how much I loved it.

Trailer for Anne of Green Gables (1985)

The Three Billy Goats Gruff

I loved this as a kid, and I loved sharing it with my boys when they were little.  The story just makes me feel full of happy family memories. I don’t know if it’s the repetition or the opportunity to bring the different voices to life, but it’s just fantastic!

Hope this might inspire you to try some of these books.  Whatever you’re reading – enjoy!

Lesley xx