Saturday, 19 November 2016


Recipe of the week... Soprano Salad

Time taken: Quarter of an hour max

Ingredients: Rocket, yellow pepper, cherry/plum tomatoes, black olives, sun-dried tomatoes, salad dressing, mozzarella, Italian red wine

Hi readers,

How are things today? How’s the weekend kicking off?? Have you had a fun start to it? There are only 2 days in a weekend so you have to use them wisely! If you’re looking back on today thinking yeahhhh great Saturday… then good for you! Keep up the good work tomorrow!

If you’re looking back on Saturday like… where did the day even go? This is meant to be ‘me time’ it doesn’t look that way?? Do not fear, readers, for there’s still time! You’ve got a whole other day to go at yet – you can turn this weekend around. Sit yourself down and form a plan for tomorrow.

My plans for Sunday tend to be either entirely things I will do – like I WILL feed the squirrels at the park, and I WILL run a bath, and I WILL do a new colouring in my colouring-in book. Or entirely things I won’t do like I WILL NOT check my work email, and I WILL NOT put on make-up, and I WILL NOT spend any money online shopping.

Will just have to see how my Sunday outlook is in the morning! Either way, on quiet weekends like this one I like to have a leisurely time on a Sunday. Often, this involves lounging around in the morning watching Sunday Brunch and then breaking out in the afternoon for some fresh air and human/squirrel contact.

And this is great! I’ve barely been in my home all week, readers, with work and family commitments. And with self-inflicted pressure to make the most of my gym membership. And then today I’ve spent the whole day trying to clean the house – to make it homely and habitable once more – and cleaning the clothes I’ve been running around in all week.

Feels good to have the chores all done. But if that were my last day alive... then I’d feel cheated.

So tomorrow is the day for fun. Guilt-free! Four things happened this week that make me realise just how important it is to take time to enjoy life…

·      First, I read an article in Grazia written about the singer Adele and the struggles she’s had, as many first-time mothers and fathers do, with becoming a new parent. She's said that not a day goes by, where she doesn’t at least once wish that she could just go back… to doing whatever she wants, whenever she wants. Which you can’t always do as a mum.
·      Then, after struggling for two months, one of my best friends quit the teacher training course that they were enrolled on this week, because it made them unhappy every day. They don’t know what else to do in life – but know that it isn’t teaching that will bring them happiness.
·      And my boss told me that he doesn’t care what my working hours are as long as I’m well rested and able to do a good job, working whichever hours suit me.
·      Plus, this week my grandma finally got to leave hospital after 2-3 months there. But she can’t go home and won’t ever go home again – she has to go into a care home instead. If she’d know when she left the bungalow in September that she wouldn’t ever get to go back again – would she have taken one last look back as she walked down the drive?

Readers, all of this adds up to me sitting here on a Saturday night with a large glass of wine and a wonderful plate of food, watching back-to-back episodes of The Sopranos, with nothing but fun lined up for tomorrow.
Not a terrible Saturday night in

If I want to read a Sunday newspaper on a park bench with a festive coffee? Then – so help me – that is what I will do. If I want to swim? Go see a film? Give something warm to a homeless person? Discover some place I’ve never been before? That’s what tomorrow is for.

Readers, whether you have ten children or none at all, whether you have a bath tub, receive work emails, live near a park with squirrels, own a colouring book… or just not at all. Enjoy the rest of your weekend. It’s important that you do.

So tonight, fuelled by my newfound love for The Sopranos boxset, I’ve thrown together a pretty impressive Italian-inspired insalata for my tea. Fancy rustling up your own Soprano Salad in just 10 easy steps?? Course you do. Well here’s how it’s done…

1.     Light a candle and set the table nicely. This is not on-your-knee settee fodder… this is a dish that demands Soprano-style respect.
2.     Take either half of a full-sized yellow pepper, or a few mini yellow peppers, and slice into bite-sized strips of pepper.
3.     Take a dozen cherry or plum tomatoes and chop each one in half.
4.     Fish a dozen black olives from your jar, pat them dry with some kitchen roll, and then slice each one in half.
5.     Fish half a dozen sun dried tomatoes from your jar, pat dry with kitchen roll, and then chop into bite-sized chunks.
6.     Tip a load of fresh rocket out onto a dinner plate, until the plate is covered with leaves.
ChefBeHere Top Tip: If you don’t have rocket, or don’t like rocket, then you can sub in any other leaf – but make sure the country of origin on the packet reads ITALY.
7.     Artistically sprinkle your pepper, tomato, olive and sun-dried tomato over your plateful of rocket.
8.     Drizzle your salad with any dressing you like – I went for a balsamic vinaigrette.
9.     Fish several mini mozzarella balls from their pot, pat dry with kitchen roll, and then top your salad with these.
ChefBeHere Top Tip: If you aren’t shopping in the wonder that is Lidl (finding weird and wonderful ingredients in the fridges!) then just sub-in a regular ball of mozzarella – pat dry and use your hands to tear it into bite-sized chunks of cheese.
10.  Serve your salad with a generous glass of Italian red and as you HAVE been terribly good throwing together a healthy salad… maybe raid the freezer for ice-cream and tuck into some tasty gelato for dessert??

What do you think, readers? Is this good or is this good?? No fancy or expensive ingredients required – just basic Mediterranean flavours thrown together to form a salad that defies winter. You wanted something warm, I hear? Well, feel that wine warming your belly!

So many people say Italian is their favourite kind of food to eat – but they mean pizza and pasta. When there’s so much more of the Italian cuisine that you can enjoy! From rice dishes like risotto and arancini, to a whole host of warm and cold salads options… adorned with Italian meats, cheeses and breads (for those of us who find life too short to be vegan).

I feel like Soprano Salad could fast become a favourite of mine! Such flavoursome ingredients and lots of colour on the plate. Very tempting and then very tasty once you tuck in. What do you think?? Any ideas for how we can make this even better? Fire away! If this can be bettered then Soprano Salad Take 2 it going to blow everyone away.

Readers, I’ll leave you to your boxsets. And your wine and Italian cuisine. But I hope this post has inspired you to give a winter salad a go… and to plan a super fun Sunday for yourself!

Enjoy life safely,


Give it a go! Soprano Salad

Friday, 4 November 2016


Recipe of the Week... Yorkshire Parkin

Ingredients: 110g soft butter, 110g soft dark brown sugar (very important you get dark sugar for this dastardly devilishly dark cake), 55g black treacle, 200g golden syrup, 225g medium oatmeal, 110g self-raising flour, 2 teaspoons ground ginger, 1 teaspoon ground mixed spice, 2 medium eggs, 1 tablespoon milk, and a pinch of salt.

Time taken: Half an hour making it, then an hour and a half anticipating it, then a lifetime wondering at its glory. 

Hi readers,

And welcome… to November! Can you believe it’s November?? It’s November already! And turning bloody cold, in Sheffield at least. Can you still muster memories of barbecues and sun burn and picnics? Freshly mowed lawns and the sun warming your face? Strawberries and Pimms and sangria? Bikinis and flip flops and bare arms? Those were days.

Suzeroo and me back in the glory days of summer

We’re living in a world that’s getting darker and colder. My Mother Bear confided in me this week that she’s feeling bored with it already. That she’d quite been looking forward to woolly clothes and cosy nights in, and a warm hot chocolate after an icy dog walk. But a few days into November and she’s had enough. As happens every year.

Brr... brrrrr... bored.

I wouldn’t say I’ve had enough yet, readers, but I am having a stroke of good luck! Which may be the cause of my very unseasonable cheer. What good luck, you say? Well. After a painful week of tooth ache, and then a sober week on antibiotics… this week (touch wood!) I can eat pain-free and drink plentifully. What luck.

You'll find me Bridgeting in my pj's later

Also, the gov have decided to refund me a load of tax (that I didn’t even know I’d paid). Which has loosened my knot of dread over money. As some of my friends will merrily remind me… I still don’t HAVE any money. I may never actually own really money – ha! – but my debt has shrunk and it’s cheered me up. Thanks gov.

Cheers to that!

AND my work decided to send me on a ‘business’ trip to Manchester. A day out of the office! What joy. There was actually no business involved – instead there were three art exhibitions, plus one film and one fancy meal. And all I needed to do was observe my surroundings… and rate my experience. Can we all PLEASE pray that I did a good enough job they’ll send me on more of these trips. Like one a week maybe. Forever and ever.

Is this work? An Oasis photography exhibition?

So, yeah, safe to say my luck is on the up at the moment! How’s your fortune been of late, readers?? Is life coming good, so far this November? Or is it all going to shit? Either way – just think – it’s Bonfire Night this weekend. If life’s going your way, then you can enjoy some magical fireworks and have a brilliant evening. If it’s really not, then you can drink and burn anything you like… call it a bonfire. Win win.

There's very little that you can't burn really

ALSO either way – you can bake! Because what is Bonfire Night without Yorkshire Parkin?? Is it even Bonfire Night, without it? I think not! Tis the true centrepiece of all Bonfire buffets. This recipe may be from Yorkshire (and I do, admittedly, place an above-average importance on recipes from my county) but I kid you not – this is a bun not to miss. Bake your cares away. Bake Yorkshire Parkin.

Just trust me on this one

For those of you going… well, what is it? I can’t believe you’ve lived this long without Yorkshire Parkin in your life! I find this surprising and, frankly, shocking. Parkin’s basically like Jamaican ginger cake. But with oats and treacle in it. And extra spice. So it’s a lot heavier than ginger cake and it has a kind of wicked wintry taste to it.

This is what all the fuss is about

Whether you’ve heard of it or not… trust me, you need to bake some. Here’s the recipe – it’s no fuss just ingredients ina bowl, ina tin, in’t oven, n in yur mouth – for how you can bake Yorkshire Parkin in just 12 easy steps…

  1. Start by heating your oven to 140C.

ChefBeHere Top Tip: Don’t worry – the temperature isn’t a typing error. We’re using this low oven temperature as your bun’s going to spend a long time in there, cooking slowly.

  1. Grease a 20cm x 20cm (ish) square cake tin, and line your tin with baking paper.

  1. Measure into a saucepan the butter, sugar, treacle and golden syrup.

  1. Gently heat the pan so that the contents melt, and stir them together gently.

ChefBeHere Top Tip: Don't allow the mixture to get too hot or bubble, or else your ingredients could burn like a bonfire.

5. When everything has melted together, remove your pan from the heat and allow to cool slightly.

  1. Measure your dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl.

  1. Crack your eggs into a mug and add the milk, then beat these two ingredients together using a fork.

  1. Add both your melted butter mixture and your eggy mixture into the main mixing bowl, and then use a wooden spoon to fold everything together.

  1. Pour your Parkin mix into your baking tin, and carefully transport this into the oven.

  1. Bake your bun in the oven for around 1 ½ hours

ChefBeHere Top Tip: Keep an eye on it. Parkin can easily become over-baked. I’ve sat at my grandma’s before trying to force dry Parkin down my throat and it isn’t enjoyable, readers.

  1. When the time’s up (or when your Parkin looks like it’s had enough heat) carefully take your Parkin out of the oven and switch it off.

ChefBeHere Top Tip: Your Parkin needs at least half an hour to cool before you try cutting it. Now the stress of the bake is over, I recommend getting the dishes done at this point. It’s therapeutic cleaning up your mess, and you can take deep breaths and inhale the lovely spicy cakey smell of your Parkin.

  1. Once your Parkin feels totally cool, cut it up into hefty wedges and either plate up for afternoon tea, or divide between cake tins to pass on to your friends and family.

ChefBeHere Top Tip: Much like an unopened bottle of wine (or as with myself!) ... Parkin only improves with age. Keep it as long as you like – don’t ever throw any away. Parkin gets richer and stickier and spicier, the longer that it’s in the tin, and I must insist you carry on eating it right through the month. Don’t doubt me.

(Recipe is adapted from the BBC Good Food version, which can be found HERE).

So, that’s all there is to it. What do you think?? Straightforward recipe? Great cake at the end? … or would you beg to differ, readers?? Do let me know!

Would be great to get some non-Yorkshire perspective

 I love Yorkshire Parkin. It’s a bun we’ve had every year on Bonfire Night while I’ve been growing up – makes me think of winter and family and home – and I reckon once you’ve sourced treacle and got the right spices, then it’s really easy to throw together.  

As ever, in life, you just hope for the best

Half of Batch One went up to Father Bear’s and the other half went into the office (to rave reviews). I’m planning on baking Batch Two tonight or tomorrow for Mother Bear’s Bonfire Spectacular this weekend (with accompanying buffet and booze up).

Cannot wait

Then it’s what to do with the rest of the treacle?! Do watch this space for recipes incorporating treacle. If dentists haven’t stripped the internet of them, then I’ll hunt them down and will certainly been giving some treacly recipes a go soon. Teeth beware!

Stop! ... Treacle time.

Well, readers, here’s wishing you a fun and safe Bonfire Night. REMEMBER not to direct fireworks towards people, use your common sense when waving sparklers, and don’t try eating all the Parkin in one go (it’s a heavy cake). Hope you all have a grand time and that your pets aren’t too stressed by the noise! Give them hugs and love from me!

Burn safely,