Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Recipe - Venison Boulangere.

Last weekend there was a farmers market in Fleet and we picked up a beautiful piece of venison rump. I decided to cook it in a similar way to Gordon Ramsay's Lamb Rump with potatoes boulangere.

Here is my version of the dish, which served two of us with leftovers. The venison weighed about 600g and as well as that I used:

400g potatoes, peeled and very thinly sliced in the food processor then soaked in cold water for an hour
2 small onions, peeled and very thinly sliced
1 tbs balsamic vinegar
25g butter plus a small knob (about 5g)
1 tsp light olive oil
about 200ml beef stock

Pre heat the oven to 160 C, 140 C fan, gas  mark 3
Heat the 25g butter in a frying pan and fry the onions gently until soft then increase the heat for a couple of minutes until they start to brown at the edges. Then stir in the balsamic vinegar and boil hard for a minute until it has mostly evaporated, stirring well to coat the onions with flavour.

Layer the potatoes and onions in a wide, shallow ovenproof dish, seasoning between layers unless your stock is already well seasoned, and making sure you finish with a layer of potatoes, then pour stock over to almost cover. Cover the dish with foil or a lid and cook in the oven for 1 hour,

Score the skin surface of the venison then heat the oil and remaining butter in the same frying pan you used for the onions and sear the venison, skin side down, for a few minutes, then turn to lightly brown the other surfaces.

Remove the foil from the potatoes and increase the temperature to 190 C, 170 C fan, gas mark 5. Place the lamb  on top of the potatoes and press the potatoes around it down slightly so any liquid in the dish runs over them. Pour the pan juices over the potatoes.

Roast for 45 minutes (for medium, longer for well done) then remove the venison from the oven and let stand for 15 minutes before carving. Return the potatoes to the oven to crisp the top while the venison rests.

Ready to go in the oven

It tastes (and smells) better than it looks - honest it does! 

Tender, succulent and delicious  - just as venison should be

We had this with red cabbage that had been slowly braised with raisins, red onions and cloves,  and for a brighter, fresher contrast, some steamed leeks.

One for the boys

Isn't it hard to think of cards for men? So when I spotted this great card on Pinterest I had to repin it to my own board, I knew I would need it for inspiration some time! (It's the first time I've ever embedded a pin  - I hope I've got it right and managed to include links to the creator and original pinner. Many apologies to both of them if I have messed up!) d

And within days I saw that this week's challenge at Addicted to CAS is "Masculine". It didn't take much mental energy (thank goodness) to translate this into a clean and simple design.

I'm also playing along with CAS-ual Fridays where the theme is Hi-Ho Silver

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

A giveaway at Going Buggy

There's a lovely set of skintone Flexmarkers up for grabs at Going Buggy. You have until March 5th to join in.

That's all from me for now - I'll be back with a recipe later on.

Monday, 25 February 2013

The Streets of London

The current Craft Room Challenge is "Something for a man" so I am sharing the birthday card I made for my son-in-law Juan, whose birthday is today. He and my daughter met when they were both studying in London, so the city has some very special memories from them, and the gorgeous new X-Cut Build-a-Scene dies of the London skyline were perfect for his card.

Wish Upon a Star

This week's challenge at CD Sundays is "Hugs and Wishes". I thought it would be a perfect challenge for a first outing for the Forever Friends Black  & Gold CD that was free with Simply Cards and Papercraft a year or so ago - I think it is a taster of one available from Docrafts.

The trouble is, I've never made  a digital card before. Using the design tools was quite a steep learning curve, but this is what I came up with

However I tohught it looked very flat, and I didn't like the way the edges of the star had pixellated (I think with hindsight they were menat to look distressed) so instead of treating it as a purely digital creation, I printed it out and mounted it on an A5 card then added some glitter.

However I still wasn't happy with the lack of dimension - the shadow of the star just wasn't enough  to create the illusion. I also couldn't work out how to flood the frame around the text with white space in order to make the text show up (any tiops welcome!). So I  decided to print out the elements I wanted separately, framing the main image first and cutting it out in one piece. That would give me chance to raise the inages from the background and give it some depth. At the same time I reduced the size of the background a little to give a white border, to give the whole card a little lift, and reduced the size of the main image and star to keep the balance. I made the resulting design up into a card and defined the border with peel offs.

Just for comparison, here are the two finished cards side by side

I'm just taking my first baby steps into the world of digital crafting. I think I still have a long way to go (and anyway, what good is crafting if you don't get messy?)

Meal Planning Monday 25th February - "Home alone"

This week Mark will be away for a few days, so I'll be able to indulge in fish while he is away. And when he gets home, after several days of hotel food, he will be craving veg!

Monday chicken "Nigel Slater style" - I don't know why we always call it that, as he has written hundreds of chicken recipes and this doesn't follow any of them, but it's a family habit that has stuck. Pan fried chicken with mushrooms in a creamy sauce, with rice, baked tomatoes and green beans. I'll cook extra rice to make fried rice tomorrow.

Tuesday while the cat's away, the mice will play!  Sweet chilli prawns with red peppers - Mark's nightmare meal but I'll be able to enjoy it all to myself, with fried rice made from yesterday's leftovers.

Wednesday I have a piece of salmon in the freezer, earmarked for salmon and broccoli mornay, but I might go out to buy fish and chips instead - I've been fancying some fish and chips for months now but seldom get the chance to have them.

Thursday Mark is due home late evening and will be tired and hungry. Comfort food is called for - and comfort food that won't spoil if his flight is delayed and he gets in late. So I'll make macaroni cheese - I can make it in individual portions. Then if he's late I can eat at my normal time and not throw my blood  sugar levels into a state of confusion.

Friday I'm planning to try cheesy lentil pie with cornmeal pastry  which we'll probably have hot with lots of veg on Friday and cold with salad for weekend lunches.

Saturday I expect Mark will be cooking, so the choice will be up to him

Sunday grilled Merguez sausages and vegetable tagine with couscous

I'm joining in the linky over at At Home With Mrs M  - why don't you?

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Less is More 108 - Paper Piercing

Challenge #108 at Less Is More is paper piercing.

I've never used paper piercing before except as an aid do embroidery, so I wasn't quite sure what to do for this week's challenge. An insect flight path? A border? For the flight path I would have needed  to so some freehand drawing and I'm hopeless at that - that's what drew me to stamping in the first place.

So I had a go at a border. Several attempts ended up in the bin, before I realised I needed to measure out where to place the border before starting the piercing!

I'd hoped the dark card would show up through the holes better - perhaps I should have wiggled my pokey tool a bit more? (oooh Mrs!) and I still think the holes would have served better as the basis for some stitching.

So I decided to try a completely different angle and pierce an outline. First of all I used a rosebud stencil sponging the design through the stencil. Then I outlined it with piercing. This too involved several attempts - at first I was so keen to produce a sharp outline that I pierced the holes far too close and ended up perforating the image so it could be punched out of the card! Here is my finished effort - I think if I were to do this again I would try to improve it by adding in some of the detail such as veining on the leaves and separate petals on the bud, but then we're getting back to the freehand work that I'm so bad at!

Well, I gave it a try - but I think from now on I'll be leaving paper piercing to the parchment craft experts and the wonderful things they do with it!

Saturday, 23 February 2013

A vintage tulip

I've been playing around with one of my old favourite stamps this week, the Hero Arts Large Tulip etching which I've had for many years and used in scores of different ways. Surprisingly, it's my three year old granddaughter's favourite too, and has been since the moment her hands were big enough to hold it. She always bypasses the cute animal and fairy stamps I put out for her and goes straight to my stamp drawers where she knows she will find it.

Maybe it's not such a surprise after all - it's such a timeless classic. I've seen lots of ideas using it on Pinterest recently - here are my interpretations of a couple of them:

I also made a shrink plastic topper with it, but messed up the background I planned to use it with so that will have to wait for another day. I've combined the two ideas above to give a vintage feel to my third card.

This week's challenge at Addicted to Stamps and More is Vintage, so I am submitting this third card to the challenge.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Valentine's Day isn't over yet!

At least not in the crafting community, where every occasion seems to last for 52 weeks of the year. And this sketch at Clean & Simple seemed to cry out for the word "Love"

I've had some rather nice Bazill cardstock with white on white embossed heats languishing in my stash for ages, so I used that along with this rather art-deco styled word stamp and some square gems to complement the art-deco styling. The heart embossed card is above and below the central band - it is so subtle that it doesn't really show up in a still photo, it needs to be turned back and forth to catch the light. Maybe I should try vlogging!
I'm joining in with:

Clean & Simple 228
CAS-ual Fridays CFC90 Black and white +1
Emergency Crafters Romance 
The Cupboard trilogy  A Sprinkling of Red and Romance

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

An impromptu breakfast

For some reason, the sliced loaf i bought (shock, horror!) at the weekend tasted of fish. So I really didn't fancy toast for breakfast yesterday. And having made Yorkshire Pudding the day before, I'd used more milk than planned so there wasn't enough milk left for cereal. What to have for breakfast?

Then a flash of inspiration - there had been a little bit of Yorkshire Pudding batter left over which I had popped in the fridge. I whisked a few drops of vanilla extract into it and bunged it in the waffle maker. I wasn't expecting anything brilliant as the batter was thinner than that recommended for the machine and didn't have any raising agent (apart from elbow grease) in it. But it produced a beautiful waffle, which I enjoyed topped with blueberries and drizzled with Sweet Freedom syrup.

I'm linking this up to Breakfast Club at Fuss Free Flavours and Farmersgirl Kitchen, where a glance at the linky will show that my waffle maker is making its second appearance.

Monday, 18 February 2013

Meal Planning Monday 18 February

First of all, a little flash back to last week. I was making curried turkey sausages on Monday. I just want to warn you.... if anyone offers you curried turkey sausages, walk slowly away. Rather than disguise the nasty grey lumps of sausage, the contrast with the lovely spicy sauce just served to emphasise it.  However the Flamiche was rather more successful!

The promised stewing beef in the meat box turned out to be pork, so Mark made a sort-of Cape Malay curry with it.

Right, on to this week. Plans may well change as although the four weekly  meat boxes I won have finished,  I am half-expecting a delivery of one from somewhere else but I have no idea when it will arrive or what will be in it. But at the moment the plan is:

Monday Cottage Pie made with the left over beef from yesterday's roast.

Tuesday Papardelle with dolcelatte, purple sprouting broccoli and walnuts. The recipe is in the latest issue of Delicious magazine and the PSB is the first from the garden this year.

Wednesday Sausages with lentils and parsnips  an old favourite of ours from a Good Housekeeping recipe book

Thursday Cauliflower cheese

Friday I mentioned last week that we don't do Valentine's Day. That's because the year we got engaged, lots of our friends did too and all chose February 14th to announce it. So we waited until the 21st so we could have a day all of our own. And it's been our "special day" ever since. But this  year because of Mark's working pattern this week we've moved it to Friday, just a day late. We're planning to cook a special meal at home - but it's OURS so I'm not sharing it!

Weekend it's the Farmer's Market in Fleet so I haven't yet planned anything for the weekend - we'll see what looks good and then make a meal each from whatever we buy.

Why not pop over to At Home With Mrs M and share your meal plan or get inspiration from some of the others you'll find there?

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Fly me to the moon!

I wish a blog post could have a sound track, because you can probably guess what I'm humming right now!

This week's theme at Less is More is "Up in the Air"  and I really didn't think I was going to be able to join in. I think we are expected to interpret it as THINGS that go up in the air rather than CREATURES so all my lovely bird, butterfly and dragonfly stamps wouldn't fit the bill, and I didn't have anything in the plane/rocket/balloon line.

But as I was lying in bed at 1am, mentally sorting through my stash (everybody does that, right? it's not just me?) I remembered this sheet of paper in a mixed 12 x 12 pad, one I thought I'd never be using as there are no little boys in the family.


So, just the challenge of turning that rather chaotic paper into something CAS. I cut out various elements from the page and played around with arranging them on various sizes of card before I settled on this.

Spring is in the air!

Today the sun is shining, the first of the crocuses  and miniature irises in the garden are flowering and at last it's possible to believe that spring is on the way. Yes, we may still have snow and severe weather to come for several weeks yet, but the promise is there, somewhere.

So today there's been a spring theme to my crafting - I've made up a side-stepper decoupage image from the gorgeous "Meadows Edge" CD from Design House, and combined it with background paper and an insert from the same CD. I've finished it off with some flowers, including the purple one that has been hanging around my stash for years, and buttons from a jar of pretty orange and yellow ones which I won in a Twitter competition about three years ago.

Sorry about the quality of the photos - my camera's been playing up. At least everything isn't blue any more...... sigh..... but it's focusing as if it's had a heavy night on the gin!

I'm entering this card into two challenges:

CD Sunday where the theme is "Spring is in the Air"
Use It Tuesday where the theme is "Fasteners"

I'm going to finish with a quick question for CD crafters - as well as the Meadow's Edge CD, I have Meadow's Edge - the Next Generation. I've only used it once but it will no longer load on my computer - the disk drive just whirrs alarmingly like somebody trying to start a  temperamental car and then nothing happens. It opens perfectly well on my husband's computer and all my other CDs are fine on mine. Does anybody have any idea what the problem might be and how I can fix it?

Later....... Mark has taken sme photos  for me with his super duper cameera and even more super duper talent. so I'm sharing those too.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Flamiche or Cheese and Leek Quiche

Last week in my Meal Planning Monday post I mentioned that I was going to try a dish called Flamiche which was featured in the March issue of BBC  Good Food magazine. It was adapted from Paul Hollywood's book "How To Bake", which means that unfortunately is isn't available on the Good Food website  but it is a flan case filled with leeks - LOTS of leeks  - that have been sliced and stewed in butter until soft, then filled with the usual egg-and-cream custard and topped with sliced Camembert.

Actually as we had a miniature Cornish Brie that was at just the right point of ripeness to slice without either being chalky or running away, I used that in place of the Camembert. I always make quiche a little in advance, so we can eat it tepid, as that seems to bring out the flavour, but to our  surprise although the texture was great, there wasn't a strong flavour of leeks. Yet the house had smelled wonderful all the time they were cooking. The leftovers, eaten completely cold the next day, were far tastier!

My first cascade card

If you follow me on Pinterest, you may have noticed I've pinned several cascade cards recently. I've been quite in awe of how complex they looked, so I was quite surprised to find a template for one and realise it was just two pieces of wedge-shaped card, folded and slotted together.

I had some co-ordinated sheets of double sided card and had been wondering how to get the best from both sides of the card - a project like this looked perfect for them. Two of the sheets has a stylised floral design, so I decorated the lower tiers with flowers cut from the card and the upper tiers with butterflies cut from textured card to tone with the blue in the patterned cards. The scalloped border was cut from one of the cards.

I've decided to join in with two challenges that I am new to:

Daring Cardmakers where the challenge is Fly, Fly Butterfly
The Alphabet Challenge Blog where this week's theme is A for Anything With Wings.

folded flat for posting



Wednesday, 13 February 2013

The Reward to Effort Ratio

If you read Mark's Veg Plot, the gardening and food blog my husband writes, you'll have seen him occasionally mention the Reward to Effort ratio. This is a yardstick we both use for judging whether something is worth doing - the more effort something is, the better the results need to be in order to justify that effort.

Naturally we all look out for simple but delicious food for everyday meals - we lead busy lives but we all need to eat regularly. But occasionally anyone who loves cooking wants to take time making a dish for the sheer pleasure of making it. Yet however much we've enjoyed the act of creating it, if the end result doesn't meet expectations we feel let down. One of the best examples  of a dish worth the effort was when I made a dessert that took me two whole days in  the kitchen, a sort of giant replica of a Jaffa Cake with an orange sponge, fresh orange jelly, ganache and rich chocolate icing. Was it worth it? It was worth every single minute.

A  couple of weeks ago I made a version of lamb pulao from a recipe I hadn't used before. I started work on it at 1pm and served dinner at 8pm.  Some spiced were roasted and ground, some were ground raw, some were roasted and used whole, some were used whole and raw. Ingredients were soaked, marinated, blanched, fried, roasted,  parboiled, simmered, sauteed, reduced and stewed. (Sorry about the photo, I only had my phone to hand)

Eventually everything was layered together in a pot and baked.  The  end result looked good, and tasted fine, but wasn't spectacular.

In fact as we were eating this, we both said "This is OK, but not as good as lamb and mixed fruit pilaff".
Now lamb and mixed fruit pilaff is a dish from one of the first recipe books I bought, in my student days, Supercookery. I made it a few days later to compare the effort and result.  The onions are browned, lamb added  and also browned, then stock, spices, apricots and sultanas  (in theory - I use raisins because I prefer them) are added and everything is stewed together for an hour. Meanwhile the rice is parboiled and then everything is layered as with the more authentic pulao and baked.

Total effort - about 20 minutes in the kitchen and an hour relaxing with a glass of wine. Yet the result is  very similar to the pulao. On the reward to effort ratio scale, lamb and mixed fruit pilaff wins hands  down every time!
Simple isn't always better - but a complex dish has to be well worth the effort to find itself being made a second time in this house!

Monday, 11 February 2013

CD Sunday - On Your Bike!

This week's challenge at CD Sunday is "On your bike!"

I'm really enjoying these challenges, they inspire me to use images and ideas I would normally never have thought of. And thank goodness for the La Pashe Best of 2012 CD which seems to have something to fit every occasion.

The CD has quite a few bike and motorbike images. This one caught my eye because of the lady reading the map - I'd just put a couple of out-of-date maps (OK, so old the M25 didn't appear on them!) for recycling so I rescued one to use as background paper.

I didn't have any road signs on CD so I downloaded some images to use as embellishments. I'd been planning to mount the image straight, but just as I was about to stick it  to the card I realised that if I angled it correctly the hill would look even steeper and I could make the poor man work even harder! Cruel of me, I know, but I like the result.

Meal Planning Monday 11th February

Last week went according to plan, with Mark creating a delicious "Gardeners Pie" on Saturday, a sort of vegetarian shepherd's pie with loads and loads of lovely veg, so we did get our vegetarian meal.

So many of you commented or tweeted about the kedgeree last week that I blogged about how to make my super-easy version - you can find the recipe here.

After planning this week's  meals I realised there are three globe artichokes in the fridge that came in the veg box and I've not factored them into any of our meals. I've tried artichokes several times, and never had them in a way that was anything better than indifferent. They seem to me to be far more trouble than they are worth, and you just end up with a grey unappealing lump or a mound of leaves with practically nothing worth eating on them. Or both. Even photos in recipe books seldom manage to make them look attractive. If any of you has a recipe for them that really works, I'd love to know!

Anyway, on with the meal plan:

Monday Curried Turkey Sausages. There's a bit of a story behind this. Our meat box this week contained turkey sausages, an item we are not keen on. We tried one on Saturday and they were OK. Just OK, no more than that. But I'd rather disguise them as something else. I have an old copy of Australian Family Circle. Very old, from 1980. And it has a recipe in it for curried sausages which I've been meaning to try ever since I bought the magazine. Today's the day! There's nothing the least bit authentic about the curry or the vegetable curry that goes with it, but it looks fun and tasty and after 33 years it's about time I gave it a whirl.

Tuesday. I don't know whether this dish has a name. It's a dish we used to enjoy in a couple of restaurants in Hong Kong, where rice is cooked in individual earthen pots with a layer of minced beef on top, and a few minutes before serving an egg is broken on top to cook in the steam. My earthen pots wore out, so both portions will be cooked together in a casserole dish. Stir fried red cabbage, Chinese leaves and salted peanuts to go with it. We don't usually have pudding but of course being Shrove Tuesday we'll be having pancakes.

Wednesday. Duck breasts. I've not completely decided what to do with them yet, I'll do a "fridge audit" on Wednesday afternoon and see what I can put together - Thursday is veg box day so I'll need to clear out all sorts of odds and ends tonight. I know there's some lovely cavalo nero from the garden that's waiting to be used. And by Wednesday we might be nearing the base of the Broccoli Mountain.

Thursday. We don't really do Valentine's day (for the reason, see next week) but I'll probably make a bit more effort than I usually would on a week night. The veg box is due to contain leeks and there's a Camembert in the fridge, so I'm hoping to make a dish called Flamiche which is in this month's Good Food magazine. If the leeks fail to materialise, I might make a tomato tart instead. There will be home made bread and salad with it whatever it turns out to be!

Friday. After reading some of last week's Meal Planning Monday posts I've been craving satay, so tonight we'll be having chicken satay with gado gado.

Saturday and Sunday. Mark will be cooking one day so the choice will be up to him. There's going to be a beef joint and some stewing beef in the meat box, so when it's my turn to cook I will do a beef pot roast or roast beef, depending on what the beef looks like, or if he's used the beef joint I'll do a really old fashioned beef stew from a 1930's recipe book of mine. There's one I love called jugged beef, but it has redcurrant jelly in it which I don't buy now I'm diabetic (I'd be tempted to use far too much of it) but I might be able to produce a similar taste with Sweet Freedom and a handful of cranberries, if I have some in the freezer.
Meal Planning Monday is hosted by At Home With Mrs M where you will find lots more ideas for the week's meals.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Super giveaway at Clare Curd Crafts

Clare, who is a freelance guest presenter at Create and Craft, has opened her own online shop and to celebrate is giving away a wonderful Silhouette SD Die Cutting machine!

To be in the running for this super giveaway, which is only open to the UK, pop over to her blog and follow the instructions. The giveaway closes on March 8th.

If music be the food of love. play on

This week is a one layer challenge at Less is More, and the theme is Music. Meanwhile at CAS-ual Fridays, the theme is Love Songs.

Here is my take on both challenges: I stamped and embossed the piano keyboard, to make the "sharps and flats" keys (I'm  sure they have a proper name) shiny, then masked it and used the negative left over from a die cut heart as a stencil to sponge in the read heart, finally stamping the message on to the heart.

Oh, and I made a discovery - do you remember the square plastic "sticky dots eraser" that used to come with packs of sticky dots from QVC? Well it is GREAT for removing unwanted ink smudges from cards. Useful to know when you're making a one layer card and can't stick something over your bloopers!

I'm submitting this to:
Less is More 106 - Music
CAS-ual Fridays CFC89 - Love  Songs

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Lovepickle Indian Pickle

One of my regular tasks for Grape Vine is to comb through websites and press releases of trade promotions, to see if there are any forthcoming competitions to look out for. And I often get sidetracked, especially when I'm reading the food and drink sections.

This happened a few days ago  when I saw mention  of a new range of Indian Pickles called  Lovepickle. My mind can go off at smutty tangents and ....well,  Lovepickle sounded to me like a pet name for something else, so I made a comment to that effect on Twitter.

Within moments, I got  a reply from @lovepickle_uk who offered me a jar to try. I thought that was a great piece of PR - first of all to be proactively searching social media for mention of their product, and secondly to invite somebody who had been joking about it to try it and see whether it really IS funny. So I replied, telling them about this blog and saying I would write about it here.

The pickle comes in three strengths, mild, medium and hot, so I asked to try the medium one.

The ingredients list is a joy to read - 50% tomatoes, along with vinegar, mustard oil, mustard seed, ginger, garlic, chilli and spices. Nothing synthetic, nothing hydrogentated - in fact nothing that wouldn't be there if you'd made it yourself.

Opening the jar releases a wonderful hot spicy aroma, and looking into the jar confirms this is a natural product with the mustard seeds and pieces of tomato skin clearly visible.

I  decided to try it with breadsticks - after all, that's what you're always offered on tasting stands isn't it? I suppose they have a neutral flavour, but at home we tend to eat pickles and  chutneys either with curries or with cold meats and  cheeses,  so maybe if a tasting stand offered us baskets of mini poppadums and cubes of Cheddar we'd have a better idea about how the products would taste in everyday use. Anyway, I digress...... here's my own  tasting plate. I didn't have any poppadums in the house so I used some of the delicious  cocktail sized crispbreads from Peters Yard.

The pickle was delicious, absolutely packed with flavour. Definitely one for with a curry rather than cheese though. And although I love hot spicy foods, I found it to be as hot as I would like to go - the mustard oil left a pleasant afterburn on the lips and tongue that might cross the line between pleasure and pain if it was any hotter. If you are a fan of Indian pickles such as hot lime pickle, you will LOVE Lovepickle!

Friday, 8 February 2013

Onion bread rolls

I love my bread machine. I've always enjoyed baking bread, but although I used to find kneading it by hand very relaxing and sometimes even therapeutic, I never managed to get the bread light and even enough to be a real treat. I've been using bread machines for about 12 ye4ars now, and my goodness! How they have changed. Early models produced an oddly shaped and often strangely flavoured loaf that everyone would enthuse over to be polite. Nowadays, the shape, texture and taste of a loaf made in a  machine can rival those of the very best bakery-bought breads.  And the magic of putting flour, water and yeast into a box and opening it three hours later to find a freshly baked loaf does wonders  for my inner alchemist!

But does baking your own bread save any money? When you take into account the cost of flour and yeast, the fuel used for baking, any additional ingredients and unless, like me, you won it, the cost of your machine, a home made loaf probably works out at about the same price as a supermarket one, although with a little practice you will end up with a far superior product.

Where the savings start to really mount up is when you start to branch out into speciality breads. Just look at the price of speciality hand made artisan breads in  your local specialist shop  or  at a farmers' market. £3 or more for a smallish loaf is not unusual - yet made at home  similar breads will cost you little or no more than making a simple loaf.

My favourite range of speciality flours comes from Wessex Mill. The flours can be bought online or from farm shops all over the country. I love the onion flour - the smell of it reminds me of the Zwiebelbrotchen we used to buy from the local bakers when we lived in Celle, in Germany, 34 years ago. (And yes, I do sniff bags of flour..... what of it?)

My own rolls can't be described as Brotchen because the -chen suffix  is the diminutive - and there was nothing diminutive about these! I followed the dinner rolls recipe in my bread machine handbook, and the rolls rose.... and rose.... and rose..... The finished rolls were huge, light and utterly delicious. 

Taking everything into account, I reckon the whole batch of rolls cost around £1 and each is big and fulling enough to be the basis of a sandwich  or soup-and-roll meal. Because that makes then such a bargain, I am submitting them to Credit Crunch Munch hosted for Fuss Free Flavours by Fab Food 4 All.