Slow Cooked Rendang Curry (with Coconut Oil!)

Have you ever cooked using Coconut Oil? Well, I hadn’t but when I saw this fab challenge from HIBS100 to come up with a recipe using Vita Coco Coconut Oil, I decided to give it a go! Therefore, this recipe is an entry into the #Swearbyit challenge with Vita Coco. Find more great coconut oil recipes and tips on using coconut oil at

My coconut oil arrived through the post and is organic, cold-pressed and, as they say at Vita Coco, ready to impress!


This one little pot of delicious smelling divineness (ok, made up word!) can  be used for cooking, baking, nourishing hair and lots more. Once I started talking about it to people I found out I was behind the times as they’re already converted! Pah! So, here’s my catch-up lesson.

As we’re off sweet stuff (in theory) at the moment I decided to go for a savoury dish, and as I was so in the dark about coconut oil, I decided a visit to our local butcher was in order. He’s a really helpful guy who comes up with some brilliant ideas himself and who is currently working on a range of “takeaway” meals so people can eat fresh but quickly if they’re in a hurry. He’d not tried coconut oil yet either (maybe another convert?!) but between us we decided that curry seemed like a natural choice to cook up something extra tasty. To my eternal shame, when he mentioned Rendang I’d never heard of it – to the extent I had to get him to spell it out so I could write it down so I could start searching for the curry paste! I left with some beef and that hunting gleam in my eye!

Before trotting up there, I phoned the local supermarket to see if they had any Rendang  Curry Sauce – I was very pleased they’d never heard of it either and I ended up spelling it for them too! I was even more pleased that they had it in stock – aisle 5, right hand side, cashier end if you’re ever in my local supermarket…..

So, that was 2 ingredients sorted.  I decided, as Kev’s working away at the moment, with a drive home of anything from 1 1/2 hours (more depending on road and weather conditions) a slow cooker recipe seemed to be a good idea.

I gathered together some other ingredients which I thought would go well and this turned out to be my final list –


1tbsp Coconut Oil
Bunch of spring onions (You could use ordinary onion but I was going for “the look”!)
1.5lb diced braising steak
2tbsp Rendang Curry Paste
Tin of chopped tomatoes
Tin of coconut milk
Red pepper
Salt and pepper to taste



Melt 1tbsp coconut oil in a frying pan and add spring onions, cut whichever way you prefer – I went length-ways….not sure why!

Spoon onions into slow cooker and turn up heat before adding seasoned beef to the frying pan.

Flash fry beef, adding 2tbsp Rendang Curry Paste as you stir. Once the meat is browned, pop the whole lot into the slow cooker.

Lower the heat on frying pan and add the tin of tomatoes in order to de-glaze the pan and to get all the delicious flavours from the pan to the slow cooker.

Tip tomatoes into slow cooker.

Pour coconut milk into slow cooker.

You could at this point add the sliced red pepper but I decided to leave mine until an hour before the end of cooking time so that they’d have a bit more texture to them.


Pop the lid on the slow cooker and set it according to your instruction manual. As we were eating at an undetermined time, I put mine on low heat and left it on for approximately 7 hours.

As Rendang is Asian inspired (yup, afraid I was educated by the lid of the jar to start with!) I decided to serve the curry with plain long grain rice to which I added a few squishes of lime juice together with a light grating of the rind of the lime, just for another dash of colour!


Given that I’d tackled so many firsts in one go, I was SO pleased with the resulting meal. It was an absolute triumph, if I say so myself!

We’ve got lots more coconut oil left (tho some is going to go on my bumpy bits on my arms….ta to my sister for that advice!!) and some of the curry paste too so we’ll definitely be having this again. Yay! Thank you so much to HIBS100 and Vita Coco for the inspiration and for giving me a kick into trying something new – I’d forgotten how much I enjoy it! And thank you very much to my local butcher at Porkies (!). If ever you get stuck for ideas, a trip to your local independent butcher may well be your best first step too….



The Best Bit of Autumn…..

In a recent blog post Sykes Cottages asked us to let them know about our favourite bit of autumn. I was quite excited at the prospect because I do love autumn above all other seasons. The smell, the feel, the crispness and crunchiness. Seeing your breath steaming out of your mouth, proving that you really are alive and kicking, and I would also argue with you that autumn is one of the best times of year to go on a UK holiday!

If the price of holidays in the summer is off-putting for you, it’s often possible to pick up something cheaper later on in the year. Whereas rain in a summer holiday puts a complete damper on everything, rain during an autumn holiday is a VERY good excuse to curl up in front of the fire with a good book, put your feet up and relax. The last autumn holiday we went on, to Cornwall, the cottage didn’t have a tv and it was WONDERFUL! We were lucky enough to have cat visitations too – here’s Holly curled up on the floor with Mippett, both of them looking very cozy and happy. Can’t see that having happened during a summer holiday!


Attractions are often open all year round these days and, unlike summer, you’re IMG_1567able to look around uninterrupted and for far longer without the pressure to move on because of the crowds. We had a lovely time looking around both St. Michael’s Mount and the Minack Theatre and were fortunate enough to call at the latter on a day a music video was being filmed, which we were more than welcome to sit and watch.

We also managed a trip to the Eden Project, which was lovely to see without the crowds and during a different season. It was in fact so quiet that the steps up to the top viewing platform were open and we had a real birds eye view. The first time we’d been able to get up there as it had been closed when we’d visited previously in the summer.

IMG_1660Even if attractions aren’t your thing, a UK holiday in the autumn can be a richly rewarding pleasure just by going for walks in the countryside with your trusty camera at your side. Here’s a selection of my favourite autumnation……


So really, what could be more beautiful than a UK autumnal holiday? Stunning scenery and snuggled up nights – it’s really my favourite bit of autumn.


If you would like to enter Sykes Cottages competition to win £400 worth of John Lewis vouchers then simply head over to  You could add your link in my comments on here too so I can have a nose at your favourite autumn thing.



Have you had a good summer so far? We have, but we’ve had a little bit of help!

Whilst looking for things to do I came across a blog post from Dragons & Fairydust which linked to a page on the Hillarys website which contained not one great list of things to do but FOUR of them, with a massive 40 great ideas for summery activities, ranging from the quick and simple to the more complicated and challenging but, best of all, cheap or free things to do! Hurray!!

I toyed with the idea of coming up with a new ending for one of my favourite films from when I was in my teens, Pretty in Pink but, without giving too much away, if you’re more of a Duckie fan than a Blehhhhane fan, you should read the book anyway instead of watching the film for a far more satisfactory finish. Oh. Um. Actually that did give a bit too much away didn’t it?!

'ere, 'ands off my blackberries you!

‘ere, ‘ands off my blackberries you!


We attempted a blackberry hunt but were a little early to find any ripe and when we did find some growing they were being guarded by a big and fierce protector, so we gave that a miss.




Our true decision on a summer pursuit was, however, decided for us. We were sat in the car after a trip to Dartmoor when Kev said “Blimey, look at that geezer!”. My eyes shot left and right looking for an escapee from Dartmoor Prison running past in a suit covered in arrows (I’m so old) being chased by a gang of policemen blowing whistles and waving truncheons (so, so, so old!) but my daughter was more astute saying “That’s no geyser, it’s an explosion!!”. I was getting seriously worried by then! I finally looked upwards at their pointing fingers and found out they were both wrong, there was actually a cauliflower in the sky.

Of course then the madness really did begin. Here’s a set of clouds depicting He-Man running (sideways on, the big cloud with the grey is his muscly arm…honest!). What can he be running after? Turns out it’s a fox. Well, that’s not very He-Man-ish is it?! Well, get this, it’s SO not He-Man-ish as both he and the fox are being pursued by a big fat cat (not even Battlecat!!) which is about to bite He-Man’s bum!! Tut. So much for heros! Next time we look for She-Ra!

He-Man? Superhero? Pah!

He-Man? Superhero? Pah!

Going off at a tangent….feeling hungry? Well maybe you will after this amazing BACON cloud!!!


(VERY spookily at this point that nice Ken Bruce on BBC Radio 2 has just started playing Cloud Number 9 by Bryan Adams – I have goosebumps at his timing!)

There’s hope for the lovelorn amongst us too, thanks to this cloud which clearly shows there is a bright shining light of hope coming through behind that poor old broken heart…


We found this lovely mole poking his head out of his hole and looking to his right to admire the sunset….

Goodnight Ratty. Goodnight Mr. Toad.

Goodnight Ratty. Goodnight Mr. Toad.

And of course we had to look for a dragon in honour of Dragons & Fairydust as a thank you for pointing us in the way of Hillarys’ summer of fun (and madness, and neck ache!). Here’s one in the evening sky (with close up of his head just in case you can’t see it as clearly as we can!!).

2014-08-211So, a HUGE thank you to Hillarys and Dragons & Fairydust because we’ve had such great fun looking for shapes in the sky. I won’t bore you with the hundreds of photos we took of what we believed to be hilarious clouds which we just couldn’t fathom out when we got home!!

I’ll just leave you with this fantastic thought (you’ll love me for this one!!) – it’s only 126 days until Christmas – which is why Rudolph’s out practicing for his night out on the skies with Father Christmas (see, even a red nose! See? SEE?! PLEASE tell me you can see! And pretend you can’t see he morphed into the dragon a little later!).

Go Rudi, go!!

Go Rudi, go!!

Remember, even though Christmas is looming, summer is not over yet! Please go and check out the list on Hillarys’ website for yourself and have some summer fun. Summer’s certainly looked up (groan!) for us since we visited the site!


Fantastic Forman’s Feast

Have you heard of food writer and stylist Ren Behan before? If not you’re missing a treat and should follow her delicious posts. I thoroughly recommend you join up now, immediately make her Chocolate Rolo Cake and then share it with me!! Seriously, her posts are engaging, entertaining and always a really good read. I’ve followed her for a while and, at the end of last year, was lucky enough to win a meal for two at Forman’s Restaurant in London from her site.

We don’t get treats like this very often at all and, after quite a bit of tussling on our part to find a date we could both do given our current circumstances, my husband and I had an amazing meal there at the end of March.

Tucked away neatly in Stour Road, Fish Island, London, the restaurant is first floor, overlooking the Olympic Park and very classy and stylish. Here is where I admit that none of the photos we took that evening, unfortunately, came out that well – sorry! The website does show you wonderful images of the interior of this lovely location and I’ll add some of ours just to give you the general idea.

Forman's Restaurant, London

Forman’s Restaurant, London

Forman’s are world-famous for smoked salmon and seasonal British foods so, of course, the menu was a real treat. My husband and I both chose a salmon starter. He opted for London Cure Smoked Salmon with Buckwheat Blinis and I went for Smoked Scottish Salmon and Cornish Crab Salad with Fennel and Apple. Both were absolutely stunning, equally to look at and to eat. My husband isn’t usually a fish eater so I was surprised at his choice and a little nervous that he wouldn’t be keen, but he was bowled over by it. They do have a photo of it in their tasty, glossy catalogue so I’ve cheated and include a photo of that….

London Cure Smoked Salmon, Buckwheat Blinis & Accompaniments

London Cure Smoked Salmon, Buckwheat Blinis & Accompaniments

We both opted for Pepper Encrusted Rump of Rhug Organic Salt Marsh Lamb with Bubble & Squeak and a Port Reduction for our main and it was absolutely delicious. My husband’s a devil for adding salt and pepper to absolutely every meal he has, never mind if it’s already seasoned, but these were not touched during on our table during this meal – which I take to be a pretty big compliment and certainly not one I’ve ever had from him!! I just wish we had a photo of the meal to show you as it was gorgeous! We were also treated to a delicious bottle of House Red which accompanied the meal absolutely perfectly.

We opted to share a selection of British Cheeses, Melba Toast and Spiced Chutney to finish and, again, brilliant tastes and textures and a wonderful end to the best meal we’ve had in a very long time. Accompanied with a warming glass of port, we left very happy, comfortably full and wishing we lived closer so that we could call back on a regular basis.

Some of our friends thought we were mad travelling all the way from Devon to London “just” for a meal; having to pay for travel, parking and a night in a hotel, but this meal was more than worth it. It was a lovely and very rare weekend on our own and one we’d love to repeat.

If you’re lucky enough to live local to the restaurant please do pay it a visit. Spying on the table next to us, we wish we’d had room to order the Golden Syrup Sponge Pudding with Crushed Praline Ice-cream and indeed hope we’ll get back to try it some time. If you do go and give it a try we want a mouth by mouth review because it looks absolutely breathtaking! The jaws of the diners on the table alongside ours did physically drop as it was brought to the table!

If you’re not lucky enough to live locally, Forman’s do also have a delivery service – we’d love to try one of the hampers from their catalogue, which you can find online here.

View from our hotel room - Olympic Park with Forman's, designed to resemble a darne of salmon, to the right.

View from our hotel room – Olympic Park with Forman’s, designed to resemble a darne of salmon, to the right.

We’d like to thank Ren Behan for the brilliant competition, Forman’s for being so generous as to offer such a wonderful prize and all of the lovely staff at the restaurant who are quick, efficient, friendly and very helpful. Thank you everyone!

Don’t Forget to take a Selfie!

Okay, it’s April the first so, no joke, take a selfie now! Would love it if you’d join us on our mission to take a selfie a day during April – here’s the link to the blog post about being selfie-ish. I will do a link up….if someone will tell me how?! It’s at time like this I remember what a beginner I am at blogging!

In the meantime my friend and colleague Linda has posted her first Selfie of the month over here on her Makes, Bakes and Occasional Shakes blog.

Here’s my first photo, taken with my bezzie (selfie, bezzie?! Oh deary me!!!) friend Katherine…..who has now banned me from her home for the rest of the month!



Time to be Selfie-ish!

I hate photos of me so, bearing that in mind, this might seem a bit of a strange project….but during April I’m going to take a selfie a day!

The idea came from a book I’d heard about, which I subsequently borrowed from the library. It’s called “A Beautiful Mess Photo Idea Book” by Elsie Larson and Emma Chapman and I thoroughly recommend it.  While I was reading it my daughter saw it and said she’d love a copy. I bought it for her birthday and have now pinched it back from her (temporarily of course, I’m not THAT much of a mean mum!)!


My colleague Linda and I thought it might be fun to have a go at one of the projects in particular. Featured on page 148 of the book, the idea is to take the thirty day self-portrait challenge. I have previously taken a photo a day for a year as part of a project over on flickr and, of course, take part in the brilliant Silent Sunday project, so a month of daily photos shouldn’t be too challenging.

Here’s the details of the challenge we’re hoping to do:

Take 30 days of self portraits (one every day for a whole month) (April seems an ideal month to do this!).

The portraits have to be about you or show you in some way (I confess now, bits of me is all you will be seeing!).

You must take the pictures yourself.

As you go, or at the end, share your photos with a close friend, your spouse, online via Facebook or on your blog.

So, what do you think?

Will you give it a go too???? Please?!

Linda and I look forward to sharing our results with you and to hopefully seeing some photos from you too.

Have fun!

30 Days of Selfie Fun!

30 Days of Selfie Fun!

Happy Valentines Day!

As I’ve said, ask me a question and I feel honour bound to answer…. So when Cottage Delight asked about Valentines menus and how you’d use their products, of course I had to rise to the challenge!

We’re very lucky to have a supplier of delicious Cottage Delight products quite close to us – you might have one too, check out the handy Local Stockists section of their website. I thought I’d take two of my favourites of their ingredients and see what I could come up with….. here’s the results.

The great thing about Cottage Delight products is that you can often pick up leaflets and delicious recipe cards, so they’ve done the hard work for you!



This time, however, I thought I’d go it alone with my recipes using, firstly, Caramelised Onion Chutney. Thinking along the Valentines theme, I decided that having my first attempt at palmiers, given their heart-ish shape, would be a good idea.

If you fancy a try it’s very easy and pretty effective looking too – as well as being delicious of course! If you’d like to use make-your-own puff pastry then, please, be my guest! Ready made is, however, far easier and has equally great results so I went with that.

Take your pastry square from the fridge and bash it hard with a rolling pin! Yes, really! See, you’re liking this recipe already! The palmiers don’t actually need to “puff” much so mistreating the poor old pastry on this occasion is a plus, not slapped wrists from Mary Berry time.

Now roll out your bashed pastry to approx 30 x 35cm and spread with your Caramelised Onion Chutney. Crumble cheese over the top. I used Blue Stilton given the strength of its taste, but you could use whatever you wanted.

Turning the short end of your pastry towards you, roll each of the long sides towards the middle of the pastry rectangle, so they kiss (this is Valentines remember) in the middle. Brush whisked egg along the join so that they stay together. Place the whole lot in the fridge for 30 mins to allow the pastry to harden. After the time’s up, take the rolled up pastry out and cut it into thick pieces (about 1cm wide). Lay them on a greased baking tray and spread with lots more of the egg. Bake them in an oven heated to 180 degrees for 10-15 minutes until crisp. They should look something like this….

Caramelised Onion Chutney and Blue Stilton Palmiers

Caramelised Onion Chutney and Blue Stilton Palmiers

Okay, better speed things up or it will be Easter by the time you’ve finished reading this, let alone Valentines Day!

I’ve decided to serve these with Beetroot Risotto…here’s the recipe…

500g fresh beetroot
2tbsp olive oil
Knob of butter
1 heaped tsp Caramelised Onion Chutney
1 finely chopped red onion
1 finely chopped garlic clove
250g risotto rice
150ml white wine
700ml hot veg stock
Grated Parmesan

Heat the oven to 180 degrees (fan). Peel and chop beetroot into large wedges, toss in 1tbsp of olive oil, place on baking foil on a baking tray and place in the oven for an hour until soft.

Heat the remaining oil with the butter in a large frying pan. Saute the onion and garlic until translucent. Stir in the rice, ensuring it’s well covered with the butter/oil. Pour over the wine, add the chutney and allow to bubble for a short while. Stirring again, add the stock and allow the mixture to soak into the rice, softening it. Keep stirring as you go.

Remove the beetroot from the oven and blitz them or chop them into very small pieces and then stir into the risotto mixture with the Parmesan. Serve with palmiers….

Tastes as amazing as it looks!

Tastes as amazing as it looks!

Okay, moving on to the second of my favourite Cottage Delight’s products – Lemon Curd and a Lemon Curd Cake.

The ingredients are:-
100g margarine
75g caster sugar
2 eggs
175g self raising flour
1 jar of Cottage Delight Lemon Curd (I leave 2 tsp in the bottom of the jar to eat later….!)
1 level tsp baking powder

If you’re lazy like me, shove it all in your food processor and whizz it until it’s mixed together nicely! Or, the proper way mix it all together for about 5 mins. Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees (fan).

Pour the cake mixture into a greased (or, lazy me again, one with a paper case) 2lb loaf tin.

Bake for approx 35-40 mins until browned.

Serve drizzled with honey or maple syrup and top with ice cream or clotted cream. Oh, and champagne given the day of course!

Lemon Curd Cake - more amazing colour from lemon curd and free range eggs!

Lemon Curd Cake – more amazing colour from lemon curd and free range eggs!

Happy Valentines Day and thank you very much to Cottage Delight for the inspiration! I would love to hear if you give any of the recipes a go.

Valentines Gifts in Unusual Places (with

Hahaaaaa! have issued a challenge! I cannot resist a challenge!!

This is what they’re asking us to do….

“Bloggers will have the task of finding five products from the website that they would deem acceptable gifts to give to their partner as a Valentines Day presents, using their blog to explain which items they would chose and why. Each item must be £20.00 or under.”

So, let’s take a look at and see what we can find…

Item 1 – Black Zero Stalking Tripod (£9.99). Now the first purpose of this is not for man stalking as you may assume (if you’re me and you’re thinking Fatal Attraction) but a fishing tripod. However,  if you read the description, you’ll see that the tripod, with an attachment, can also be used with a camera. My husband’s a keen photographer and doesn’t have a tripod at the moment, so this is the first item I’d get for him just to show how thoughtful I am (wanting him to be outside taking photos in our current “beautiful” weather!).

Item 2 – Slazenger Metal Pilot Mens Watch (reduced to £8.50 from £39.99!). My husband works on a building site and, though he has an expensive watch, understandably he doesn’t want to wear it on site. This is a good alternative, particularly as it’s currently so much cheaper than the original RRP (no, I’m not being cheap, but I’m sure you know what I mean!).

Item 3 – Muddyfox Mountain Bike Gloves (£9.99) Someone (!) has tidied up my husband’s cycling gloves, never to be found again. Muddyfox is his favourite brand so I’d be number 1 Valentine if I replaced them for him (hopefully!).

Item 4 – Muddyfox Cycling Jacket Mens  (£19.99) My husband has a Muddyfox Cycling Jersey but not a jacket. This one looks brilliant and would score me MEGA brownie points. Ideal Valentines present!

Item 5 – Calvin Klein 365 2 Pack Boxers Mens (£19.99) Those of a nervous disposition, please do not press the link!! Okay, if I have to explain the thinking behind this then you’re not in a Valentines mood at the moment are you? My only comment is that I hope they come with a note to tell those husbands who just might, that they don’t need to be worn for 365 days non stop each pair….. ‘Nuff said!

So, are you surprised? I was to be honest. When I first took on this challenge I wasn’t sure how easy it would be, but these gifts are actually a very good idea – very low in calories and not a cuddly toy in sight. What a refreshing change! Thank you for the inspiration!



Energise Me!!! (Please!)

You may remember last year that I took part in a brilliant challenge suggested by those clever people at Whittard? I created a cake in a mug….cooked in the microwave! Yes, really! Check back to October 2013 if you don’t believe me!

Well, Whittard have issued another challenge via their Blog – a Healthy New Year Blogger Carnival 

I think you ought to have a go…..

I have!

By far my best discovery so far this year is Whittard’s amazing Cinnamon & Orange Superior Tea Pyramids. They’re a flavoured Green Tea – and we all know how wonderful Green Tea is for you. It’s loaded with antioxidants and nutrients which do you masses of good – go ahead and Google if you don’t believe me (honestly, are you already not believing me for the second time in this one post. Humph!). Anyway, from the very second you open your pack of Cinnamon & Orange tea bags you KNOW you’re in for a special treat and, I swear, you’ll heave a huge satisfied sigh and put the kettle on immediately.  Here, let me tempt you further….

Try it now!

Try it now!

It’s okay, it doesn’t come with a funny sticky out aerial, I just took the photo of it in front of my radio…

So, what does this have to do with cookery and healthy recipes? Well, I decided that I needed a bit of an afternoon energy boost to go with my delicious cuppa so wondered about making some flapjacks (oats are good for digestion, lowers cholesterol and blood pressure, helps control blood sugar levels, helps maintain a healthy weight fact fans – I Googled this time!) …..soaking the dried fruit in my Cinnamon & Orange tea before using it! I know – genius right?! And you know what, it worked!! It was delicious… delicious that I nearly ate all of the fruit before putting it in with the rest of the ingredients. So, here’s the recipe in case you’d like a go for yourself.

150g oats (I used organic jumbo oats)
45g dried fruit (I used cranberries brought back to life by soaking in Cinnamon & Orange tea)
40g seeds (I used sunflower seeds)
2 apples (I used Pink Lady….sorry, I’m being very specific aren’t I?!)
A quick glug of oil (Virgin Olive in this case)
3tbsp honey
1tbsp cinnamon (yes more, I know but yum!)
1tsp Vanilla Extract
Pinch of salt

After heating the oven to 170 degrees (fan) chop your apples and then zap them in a food processor until they’re very finely chopped.

Slop a glug of oil into a saucepan, add the honey and vanilla and heat gently. Add the apples when the mixture is runny and warm and mix together well.

In another bowl mix together the oats, fruit, seeds, salt and cinnamon then add the apple mixture to them.

Press the mixture into a greased/lined tin and bake for 15-20 mins (mine needed 20) until they’re a lovely golden brown.

Turn them out and leave them (if you possibly can!) to cool and then cut them into HUGE pieces…..or normal sized slices if you’re anyone other than me!

Put the kettle on, get a lovely cup of Cinnamon & Orange on the go, sit with your feet up and go AHHHHHH very loudly….. Feel a bit smug and very happy!

Ha, managed to miss the aerial out of this photo!

Ha, managed to miss the aerial out of this photo!