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Plum and white chocolate fragipane tarts

Last weekend when we had our housewarming, one of the guests brought us a bag full of fresh plums. Or rather to be accurate one of the guests friends who we had never met before, brought us a bag of plums. We live in that sort of place, where strangers turn up at our door with bags of fresh fruit and no one bats an eyelid.

So anyway, as I already have a good stash of plums in the freezer, I thought I should turn the plums into a dessert and this is what I came up with. A sort of combination of everything that was in the cupboard/fridge. The result was rather delicious and that comes from someone who has spent most of the last couple of days not eating…. but that’s a whole other story!

Ingredients…
Pastry base
250g plain flour
125g unsalted butter
80g caster sugar
1 egg
Fragipane filling
180g unsalted butter
180g icing sugar
2 free range eggs
120g ground almonds
50g plain flour
50g white chocolate chips
6 fresh plums
(Makes 6)
image


Make the pastry by combining the flour, butter and caster sugar in a food processor until they look like breadcrumbs, then add the egg and allow the mixture to come together in a ball.

Next roll the pastry out and cut to fit your tart tins.

Refrigerate tins with pastry cases while you make the frangipane. To do this beat the butter and icing sugar together until light and fluffy. Mix in the eggs one by one, then stir in the almonds flour and finally the white chocolate chips.

Fill the pastry case with the fragipane mixture and top with fresh plums cut into thin slices.

Bake at 175c for 25 minutes.

plumtart3

I’m entering my plum tarts recipe into the Rix Aga Inspired Recipes competition for a chance to win a £100 Waitrose voucher…

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We’re off to meet Hugh!

You may have noticed I like to enter competitions, but I don’t enter them randomly. I only bother with ones that involve some sort of creative challenge and that are for a prize I actually want to win.

A couple of month’s ago I saw on Twitter that River Cottage were doing a competition to win tea with Hugh, a cookery class and tour of River Cottage. A prize I really wanted to win! To enter they asked for a photo that involved fruit and as luck would have it, I had the perfect pic – the one I took of Theo after our community apple harvest in October. So I entered it and tried my best not to obsessively stalk the River Cottage Twitter feed whilst I waited to hear who the winner was…

Yesterday they finally announced the winner and it’s US. We are so excited!

So next year we are off to meet Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall for tea, which will be a lovely excuse for a short break in the West Country too.  I cannot wait to share the whole adventure with you! What a year 2014 is shaping up to be already!

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My wonderful washing machine
Tots 100 & Part Select are running a competition at the moment giving bloggers the chance to win a full house clean and £250 of John Lewis vouchers by telling them about their favourite appliance.

Whilst household appliances are not the most exciting topic of conversation, our washing machine has lead quite an interesting life. Well, for a household appliance at least…

I bought it in 2007 when I was a single girl living in military quarters in Germany. Typical to many German houses it lived in the basement. There was plumbing for a tumble drier too, but I couldn’t afford one, so the washing machine had a whole floor to itself – I bet even David & Victoria Beckham’s new house couldn’t top that!

When we got married, we were posted to Canada and my poor washing machine had to go in to storage for two years as it wasn’t the right voltage for North America.

Next, the Army moved us to Cyprus, so we filled in the paperwork and requested retrieval of the washing machine from its warehouse. Across the sea it traveled and arrived one hot August afternoon in southern Cyprus, ready for two years duty washing shorts and swimsuits!

But before we knew it we were on the move again, this time to Northern Scotland and I was pregnant. The washing machine was about to face its toughest challenge yet… no not the cold weather kit or even all the baby clothes, my husband had something far worse planned for it!

One day when our son Theo was a small baby, my husband Jim decided to wash an ancient bright orange dry clean only throw in our washing machine. If you’ve ever wondered what happens to a dry clean only bed throw in a washing machine, I will tell you now… it disintegrates!!!

So the poor washing machine had its guts filled with thousands of tiny pieces of fabric which clogged up all the pipes and machinery. It was not a happy washing machine and it ground to a halt mid-cycle! As you can imagine my husband was not flavour of the month (I never liked the bloomin’ throw he was trying to wash anyway!)

Many cross words were exchanged while we worked out a plan. Eventually he forced open the door and soaked up the deluge of water (a drum full!) with every towel we owned, then he spent several hours cleaning out the insides of the machine before tracking down the spare part to replace the latch on it. I was actually quite impressed he managed it!

So apart from the odd orange bit of fluff working its way out of the machine every now and again, it is still going strong and I think Jim learned his lesson about reading washing labels and I learned mine about underestimating my husband’s DIY skills!

This blog post is my  entry into the Tots100/PartSelect ’Love Your Appliance’ competition.

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Exciting news… we won!
CenterParcs Family Blog Club 
You may remember that a few weeks ago I wrote a blog post which featured our video entry to become Center Parcs family bloggers. Well, after a tense and exciting wait, we found out earlier this week that we are one of the chosen families!
As well as taking a short-break at Longleat Forest in the spring, I will also be trying out their spa facilities with a friend and we’ll be taking part in their monthly challenges on this blog. So lots to look forward to!
There were 12 family bloggers selected in total and you can read about the others on the Center Parcs blog.

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Two dogs born six thousand miles apart…

Tots 100 & Swell UK are asking bloggers to tell them about their pets for the chance to win £500 to spend on them and I thought this would be an excellent excuse to introduce you to our two very different dogs, who rather uniquely were born on opposite sides of the globe.

Macy the snow dog

Macy is our Canadian Prairie Dog and was born on a farm in Southern Alberta. Although we are unsure of her genetic make-up she looks like a lot of Canadian cross-breed dogs, with her large build and thick coat. We collected her on a very cold April morning from a barn near Strathmore, where she was living with horses and her two brothers. It was several degrees below zero, but she and all the animals who lived on the farm were completely unphased by the temperature. To this day she still loves the cold.

On the way home we discussed what to call her as she squirmed on a blanket on my lap in the back of the car. Flicking between radio frequencies we found a jazz station and suddenly and instantly she calmed. “That’s it we said, we’ll name her after whoever this is.” Typically the DJ went straight to the next record “Ok, whoever they mention next!” The song finished and they started talking about a jazz musician doing a local gig. He was called Macy O’Parker and so that was it. The name stuck.

Fifteen months after Macy became ours, we were on the move again and she came too. Boarding a flight from Calgary to Cyprus via Germany. The cost of the flights, the paperwork, the vaccines, overnight accommodation and transport to and from the airport (a 6 hour round trip in Canada) was staggering, but all part of what forces families do to try and cling on to a feeling of normality.

Macy our snow-loving prairie dog arrived in Cyprus in August and was not impressed. With new jobs and a new home, our routines changed and we found ourselves away from the house for longer periods during the day. She was hot and bored and she let us know by taking it out on our possessions. The final straw came when she chewed a hole right through the centre of a newly completed quilt! What to do? The answer was obvious to us, though perhaps not to everyone. Get her a companion…

Bella

So along came Bella. A tiny skittish waif of a dog who had been found abandoned at the side of the road and had been taken in hungry and terrified by a rescue shelter. We agreed to trial her for a week and for six of those seven days she did very little except sleep and run away from things. Then on day seven she suddenly relaxed and started to play.

It was a long journey teaching Bella that her new home was safe and 18 months later we were posted by the military again. Unlike Macy, she did not take a long flight to the UK in her stride, emerging from Gatwick pet transport looking utterly terrified whilst Macy merely sniffed the air and looked at us as if to say “Oh, another country?”
 
But three years on (and another house move, this time thankfully by car) Bella is a dog transformed having grown enormously in confidence by hanging out with a larger and more self-assured animal. 

Macy & Bella
Macy & Bella (with snow)

Being a Beagle-cross she is of course terribly naughty and loves nothing more than raiding bins, stealing anything edible and running off after prey, but she’s a massive character and we’d never be without her. True to her Cypriot roots she loves hot temperatures as much as Macy enjoys the cold and so in winter Macy will sit on our patio watching the stars whilst Bella curls up by the radiator inside and in summer Bella will lie stretched out in the sun whilst Macy slopes off to the garage for a doze.

These two unlikely companions have seen the world between them and been on incredible adventures. They have run with cattle across the Canadian prairies, swum with turtles in the Meditarranean and scampered through the ruins of snow covered Scottish castles. If they were humans they’d be propping up a bar with a pint in their hands and telling another of their tales, whilst the other drinkers rolled their eyes and said “Oh no, not another shaggy dog story!”

This post is an entry into the Tots100/Swell UK competition.

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