Attempting to make it as a writer

Archive for September, 2013

5 Minute Meal

Five minutes and Five easy steps! 

This is such a fabulous store-cupboard quickie and absolutely perfect to send off to those youngsters starting out in the unknown territory of student digs.     I rarely do this as with a family of five it no longer takes just five minutes and I forget that just because it is a fast foods it still provides all the essentials needed at mealtimes.   I would agree it is not the most elegant meal served up but quick, convenient and cheap are all essentials a young student will need.

I use packet mash potato as this was given to me by a vegetarian cook who balanced all her meals. Packet mash contains certain necessary nutrients lacking from real mash, it also means the meal can be produced in 5 minutes. 

Packet of instant mashed potato
Tin of Tuna 
Tin of baked beans 
Cheese – cheddar grated

Mix the mash according to packet instructions.  

Empty the tin of tuna and mix in

Add the baked beans and again mix in 

Finally put in half the cheese and stir through 

Top with remaining cheese and cook in the oven, under the grill or I have been known to zap in the microwave.  As the potato is already hot when you begin this all takes minutes to prepare.  When the potato browns and the cheese melts it is ready.  My son loves it with lashings of tomato sauce,  I prefer a sprinkling of course ground pepper.  You don’t really have to add anything it is fine as it is.

Sit down at the table and enjoy before rushing back to finish that essay.

See how this goes down,  it is easier and quicker for one person than for a family but is such a great standby in case.  Do you have any student recipes let me have them to share?


See how I am coping with the business of day to day living in my other blog  Tiggy Hayes

Warm Chicken Salad

Autumn, particularly early on is a difficult time.  Just too hot for the full roast but too cold for another Sunday barbecue so what do you serve?   Having planned according to the weather forecast I was doing a roast dinner.  The day turned out to be far too hot and we ended up have an extra four people so this went down very well.

Chicken 1 – 2 for roasting
Oranges – halved
Onions – unpeeled but halved
Cranberries (I had some in the freezer.  Pomegranate seeds would work as well but I would add right at the end as decoration) – defrosted
bag of mixed Spinach, Watercress and Rocket

Stuff the chickens with the Oranges, onions and cranberries. I used four oranges so put two halves in then the onions and then finished with the other two oranges.

I did use pepper and salt over the skin before cooking.

Roast these according to your normal cooking process, removing them when they are brown and crispy on top.

In to a bowl carve the chicken, or pick it to bits keeping the legs and wings separate.    

Add the salad to the chicken bowl and mix well with hands.  The heat of the chicken allows the salad to begin to wilt.

Taking out the oranges, squeeze any remaining juice from them into the roasting dish.  Let any cranberries fall into the dish.

Pour some of the juices over making sure all the cranberries are used.   (This is when I would add the pomegranates if using).

Arrange on serving platter and then add the reserved legs and wings on top.

Serve with buttery minted new potatoes and a warm bean salad.

Enjoy  and let me know what different combinations you come up with.


See the last of the Swanwick trilogy at my other blog Tiggy Hayes

To Become or Not To Become!

I was tired.

Not just from lack of sleep but from the learning overload and insightful knowledge that I had gained over the week.   There was also a sadness tugging at the emotions and the tangible fear of returning to normality that greets the final days of any holiday.  Mine ran deeper than that; the fear that when I close the door on this week would I ever be able to recreate the feeling of inclusion, of being one with the world, of belonging.

The final night brought the week to a close.   A rousing and heartfelt round of Auld Lang Syne touched a nerve unlike any New Year’s Eve version had.  These people, the same ones that only a week ago, I had once been so apprehensive about were now my friends. Should they be forgot, should they never be brought to mind; I think not.  I suspect that these wonderful, welcoming, creative people will be on my mind and in my heart for a long time to come yet.

It was a very late night, I had stayed the course and now was not going to miss a moment of the final farewells.  The early start next morning was habitual rather than with any of the previous week’s eagerness. I joined friends for breakfast before waving off the bus full of new acquaintances headed for the station and home to their various lives.

Slowly I returned to my room and packed.  No longer a white badger, no matter how many times I return I will never be that scared, timid, terrified person arriving so nervously again.    It had taken an age to unpack but a week ago, now everything was tossed carelessly, unloved into the case with little caution.   I checked and rechecked every drawer to make sure nothing was left.   I had yet another cup of instant hotel coffee using my last remaining miniscule pot of milk as I wandered backwards and forwards packing the car.  Finally it was time and with cries of “see you next year”, “keep writing” wringing in my ears I turned the engine on.

Warm in the cocooned chrysalis of my car I slowed as I said good-bye to the Swanwick lake, gardens, dreams and drove up, up over the hill to Carsington lake and back to reality.  The hill stretched up towards storm ridden skies of uncertainty until I reached the very precipice of the future.  One lake fading behind me as one emerged open and inviting before me.  Exorcising any lingering feelings of self-doubt, I drove over the abyss and back to my family, no longer a moth flittering towards the early morning light of the breaking dawn I emerged a beautiful multi-faceted ambitious writer.


Back in the hub-bub of normal life my thoughts often flit back to my week away.    Was it all just a dream?  Possibly, it all seems to have faded quickly like any holiday memory, but inside has changed.  I am a writer maybe more so than before.   Since my return I have written a lot, I have done a huge amount of editing of Memories already with lots more to go still, the new character is emerging very much in the background so the emphasis does not change.  I have even sent some stuff to a magazine as a filler; although there is no reply as yet.   I have a short story which needs a little more editing and another in mind to be sent off.  I need to write the new blog for the magazine, not many words but time critical.

And, I have a dream; a personal, special achievable dream.

I will return to the wonderful Swanwick and see all my friends again.  I will find some way of funding that from my writing.   When I return, I want Memories to be finished and in the hands of someone else; agent, publisher, readers.  My fading memory of the week I emerged as a writer will become an investment in my future not just another pie in the sky wish.


Have a look at what I am up to with my cooking blog at Tea Time Treats




Caramelised Fruit Crumble

My husband and I found ourselves scrumping apples from a pub garden the other day. It is not quite as naughty as it may sound; we did have full permission from both the owner and the chef who had so many apples he did not know what to do with them and these were the ones he could not cope with.  

The apples themselves were eaters but very sharp and by caramelising them they softened and sweetened.   Added to them I had other fruit needing using up so it became a full on fruit mixture.

Apples – peeled, cored and sliced
Pears – peeled, cored and sliced
Brown sugar
Seeds – I used Vanilla flavoured pumpkin and sunflower

Melt the butter and add the fruit depending on what you are using.   I cooked the apples first with sugar.

When they had softened and the sugar dissolved into a dark liquid coating the apples I added the remaining fruit which did not require as long.

I cooked this stirring regularly allowing the blueberries to split and the differing tastes harmonise amongst themselves.  Then I transferred to the serving dish.  

With a crumble top I do like to use measured ingredients, this is what I use for the family of 5 or 6 but double for more people.  175g of plain flour with 75g of butter which you rub together until it resembles the texture of breadcrumbs.   

Then I add the same amount of brown sugar (75g).  Mix it through thoroughly and then scatter over  the fruit.  It should  cover the fruit liberally.  I had ready mixed seeds in the cupboard but any neutral seeds or oats could be sprinkled at this point.  It gives an added crunch to the crumble.

Cook in a pre-heated oven until you can see the fruit bubbling round the edges and the top has turned a deep golden brown.   Top with ice-cream, clotted cream, regular double cream or warm custard.  I can guarantee this will go down a treat.

Crumble is a wonderful winter’s pudding but I try to utilise what fruit is available.   Blackberries are another great free fruit that has its abundance in the autumn, with sugar added to these they do not necessarily need the pre-cooking. 

 I also serve my family a wonderful spicy plum crumble when the plums are falling and in abundance.  Cut lots of plums in half and remove the stones, add to a pan of melted butter.  Add a star anise, freshly grated nutmeg and a couple of cinnamon sticks.  Cover this with red wine, golden syrup and some sugar (not too much by now) and allow the fruit to break down and marry the flavours before transferring to the dish.  This particular crumble is great if you have visitors, it tastes exquisite and looks professional.

Fruit puddings are a fabulous way of getting fruit into children and mine love the different combinations which work well with each other. 

Have you any different combinations that surprisingly work well, share them with me and my other readers.  

Take a look at what I am up to in my day to day life at Tiggy Hayes


Beetroot and Fennel Gratin

Sometimes especially with side dishes I am a little more adventurous and cook separate sides for us and the children.    We had this to accompany our fish but it would go equally well with cold meats or could stand alone as a vegetarian alternative.

In a bid to try and be a bit more diet conscious I tried to do away with the heavy cheese sauce which I know works  but used low fat yoghurt and a dash of cheap mayonnaise.  This worked surprisingly well adding an extra dimension to the dish.

Beetroot – top and tailed.
Low fat Yoghurt

Bake the beetroot in a hot oven until you can prod with a knife and it comes out easily.  About 40 minutes for the three medium sized ones I used.
Peel them while they are still warm. Then slice them roughly.

Cover the base of your serving dish with lots of spinach.

Add in your fennel.   I don’t pre-cook this as I love the crunchy texture but if you wish to pre-boil this before adding it will work the same.

 Layer the beetroot slices on top of the dish  then I mixed low fat yoghurt with a dollop of mayonnaise and dotted it over the vegetables. (Cheese sauce is a good substitute)

Cover in a good sprinkling of grated cheese.   I used cheddar but low fat varieties are available. 

Bake in the oven until it is golden brown on top, then serve as a truly delicious accompaniment. 

This is a great combination of vegetables that seem to be in abundance late summer and a change to the normal plain vegetables that I serve up for my pernickety children.

Enjoy and let me know other combinations that work together.


check out what I have been up to at my blog Tiggy Hayes

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