Friday, 25 October 2013

Family Food - Spicy Roast Butternut Soup

Been properly poorly this week with a stinky, horrible cold (or dare I say, flu?) - with which I have likely infected most of my family near and distant, at my cousin's wedding. I'm a naturally huggy/kiss-on-cheek type person. I did try to curtail my affection, but one hug-n-kiss combo issued unavoidably involves a sequence of events whereby you can't leave anyone out - can you? They might feel left out, for goodness sake! What kind of animal would omit a relative from a (virus) cuddle? Not I!

On my first rare day off sick, I decided soup was required. The usual "go-to" staple in our home when we feel guff (or just really lazy) is Heinz Cream of Tomato soup, so you can imagine my disgust on finding NONE in the tin drawer! Horrified screams may have been heard as far away as Wick, or even Jupiter.

What I did have in the Busyalibee fridge was a butternut squash and half a leftover huge sweet potato.



Medium sized butternut squash
Half a huge sweet potato, or a normal sized one
An onion chopped finely
2 garlic cloves
Teaspoon of cumin
1cm cube of fresh ginger - I use frozen
Sea salt
Black pepper
Chilli flakes
1/2 pint Vegetable stock


  1. Pre-heat oven to 160 degrees C.
  2. Slice butternut squash in half lengthwise, then each lengthwise again.
  3. Place on roasting tray, drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper.
  4. Roast for 1 hour. Meantime, set timer for 30 mins and...
  5. Peel and roughly chop sweet potato, add to roasting tin, drizzle with oil and season.
  6. Roast for remaining 30 minutes with squash (hope that makes sense?)
  7. When veg is roasted, fry up onion and crushed garlic with teaspoon cumin, ginger and teaspoon of chilli flakes.
  8. Scoop flesh from squash skins and chuck in pan, with sweet potato.
  9. Add stock, stir, simmer for 5 minutes.
  10. Blitz with hand blender until smooth.
  11. Add more water/milk if it's too thick for you.

And that's it! Very easy - and absolutely gorgeous. Though I still feel like absolute crap, so it's medicinal qualities are perhaps lacking somewhat. And do you know what? It actually tastes better today than it did 2 days ago when I made it!

Lovely Jubbly.

Expecting.... What Exactly?

Very exciting news, chaps.

I'm gestating another human..... As I type! In approximately 5 months, all going well, the above person (although a fair bit larger) will have escaped the confines of my uterus and announced his/her arrival with with a disappointed yell of "Aw come on Mammy - this place sucks! I was much cosier in there!"

There will be much general exhaustion, crying (on all our parts) and absolute overwhelming bliss - or let's all hope so anyway. I'm hoping to feast on Brie and cranberry toasties several times daily - thanks to the incredible Other Half; enjoy countless episodes of Ben And Holly - thanks to The Bairn; and (please please please) easy, breezy, whip-em-out-and-feed, totally painless breast feeding. My lovely bump will instantly tighten back down to resembling a washboard again (when was it a washboard? When you were 14?) but my gargantuan boobies will remain). I'm hoping they might stretch to a C-cup one of these days. Imagine!

The Bairn! How will he cope? The boy who is centre of our universe will have to be content to share his solar glow with his sibling. I may not be able to respond so quickly to such demands as "Mammy. In there!" pointing to the living room; or "Gingerbread bin man, yes please!" He will be gutted.

But in a couple of years, when they're playing in/fighting over the sand pit, or holding hands as they walk along in the park - it'll all be worth it.

We're all so excited!


Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Family Food - Summer Risotto

This recipe is sublime. And I'm not even exaggerating!

Also, risotto is easy.

Yes, you will need to stand at the hob for about 30-40 minutes or so - but that's what cbeebies was invented for. And Classic FM. And grannies, who may expect some risotto in payment for their short babysitting stint, if that's what it's come to.

Serves 2 1/2 as a main

350g arborio rice
Tablespoon rapeseed or olive oil
Knob of butter
One onion - finely chopped
One large clove of garlic, pressed
1200 ml very hot vegetable stock
2 rashers bacon
Lettuce - about half a head roughly shredded
Cup of frozen petit pois
Herbes de Provence
1/2 teaspoon mint sauce, or some chopped fresh garden mint
75g Philadelphia


  1. Heat oil and butter in a wok or large heavy bottomed frying pan.
  2. When hot, add onion, bacon and garlic - fry until onion beginning to go transparent NOT BROWN.
  3. Add rice. Stir until every grain is coated, and beginning to go transparent too.
  4. Add a ladle of hot stock. Stir until it's absorbed.
  5. Repeat this step until you're left with about a ladle or 2 of stock and the rice tastes just a little chewy.
  6. Add mint, herbs, lettuce and peas. It will look like far too much lettuce, but it wilts down to nothing. You'll see!
  7. After 10 minutes, stir in Philly, and some black pepper.
  8. Serve.


Monday, 29 July 2013

And She's Back...

Yes, I have been away for a while.

As some other bloggers may have experienced, I've had a few setbacks. It began with a case of Blogger's Block - every time I looked at my Blogsy app on the ole iPad my heart semi-sunk. I'd be thinking


followed by

"............och, I'll do it later....."

which inevitably and evidently just didn't happen. Until now, anyway!

I can blame this lackadaisical attitude on a number of factors.

  1. The Bairn's energy levels, as he grows, appear to increase exponentially; whereas mine (approaching middle-age) are in a rapid nose-dive.
  2. The ole iPad had been coming up with the generic "I cannot back up because you've clogged me up with a load of crap and now I'm going to torture you with this pop up bollocks every 5 minutes."
  3. Game of Thrones.

Well, I'm still increasingly gubbed by 7.30pm every evening. The Other Half (IT genius that he is - and not at all smug about it) has somehow communicated with the iPad, and an agreement has been reached that it will no longer act like an arse.


Finally, Game of Thrones.


Oh my God! The most amazing TV show I have ever ever ever seen. It's taken The Other Half (who was dragged kicking and screaming into the historical fantasy genre) and I approximately a month to get through all first 3 seasons. It's THAT beautiful.


In fact our next Child will be named either


Daenerys Stormborm Targaryen



Tyrion Lannister

I don't think that's going too far, is it?


Anyway, it's over til next year now (weeping into my Ovaltine) so I suppose I can begin blogging again with some sort of regularity. Stay tuned folks!


Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Family Food - Strawberry Drop Scones

I made a couple of wee discoveries this week.


  1. If you get to Morrisons early enough on a Monday morning - there are bargains to be had!
  2. My seven year-old self was a culinary genius.

I keep a folder of recipes in the kitchen "library" which contains an eclectic mixture of ingredients, like a lot of my own concoctions. It has loads of Her Majesty, Ma Maw's instructions for creating traditional stews, soups and cakes. There are scribbled PROPER curry and pakora recipes from my 2nd generation Pakistani mate's mum (with substantially reduced green chilli content). There's my Auntie Hannah's recipe for cornflake cookies; my Mother-Out-Law's hubby's Liverpudlian specialty - scouse (not yet attempted).


And then there's this.....


My Primary School cookery book.

The 4th page - Drop Scones. To most of you (who are undoubtedly wrong) this will mean "pancakes." Again, you are wrong. And since Great Auntie Beatrice passed away 15 years ago at the age of ninety-two, there's no way you can dispute the fact that the thick-batter cakes (which you may cook in a pan) are called anything but DROP SCONES.

And the other key element to my increasingly rambly blog post is that I bought a pack of almost mushy strawberries at the local snoopy-marche for 9 tiny pence! So here's what I did...

Strawberry Panc... I mean Drop Scones


2oz self-raising wholemeal flour

2oz plain flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

2oz unrefined golden caster sugar

Teaspoon (level) of cinnamon

1 egg

1oz margarine/butter

Splash of milk

Lots of practically foosty (ie over ripe) strawberries

  1. Sieve flours, cinnamon and baking powder (and stir in sugar) together in a bowl.
  2. Melt butter and about 6 or 7 chopped up strawberries in a jug.
  3. Blitz or mash.
  4. Chop up small another few strawberries.
  5. Mix it all together with an egg and enough milk to form a lumpy dropping consistency.
  6. Butter a large, heavy bottomed frying pan. Use a medium to low heat.
  7. Drop spoonfuls of batter mix with plenty space for them to expand.

9. When the bubbles appear on the surface, flip them over. They should be pink with golden crust. If they're black, chuck them and start again with a lower heat!

10. Once that side's golden, take them out and do another batch.

Tips: The cinnamon just enhances the strawberry flavour - you can't taste it as cinnamon at all! Use all self-raising if you prefer, I think it's too heavy if all wholemeal. Any sugar will do! These ingredients are just what I have in my bakery drawer.

Yes, I am still a culinary genius. If you disagree, take it up with Auntie Beatrice.



Thursday, 9 May 2013

Family Food - Pink Porridge

Picture the scene:

5.54am - "Lorr-rry. Dig-ga. Pa's NeeNaw. NeeNaw NeeNaw NeeNaw. Aw done. MUMMEEEEEE! Baba-na." You open your eyes to check the time on your mobile - it's actually 5.54am! You lie watching the lights on the baby monitor, listening to assorted gibberish until 6am, which is, these days at least, an acceptable hour to arise. Because those 6 minutes in bed will ensure a radiant complexion and positively vibrant mood for the rest of the working day.

6.01am - Walking into The Bairn's room - och, alright. We'll let him off this time, because of his wee face and stuff. Look at him! Beaming at this time. Yeah, there may be a crust of bogeys surrounding the button nose, and he may be emitting the foul stench of morning poo - but he's adorable and will only improve following a good scrub.

6.30am - You're sitting on the sofa with a cuppa, increasingly absorbed in Postman Pat ("No honey, it's Pat's Van - not his NeeNaw... I mean fire engine) while policing The Bairn's ever decreasing distance from the TV screen. He's got his Baba-na and a cup of milk - to stave off his hunger until you can face the morning Weetapocalypse.

7.00am - Breakfast!

So here's an alternative to chipping Weetabix from your walls and recovering Rogue Rice Krispies from the Wee Yin's nostrils. Pink Porridge!


A yoghurt pot and a half full of porridge oats

Large tub of yoghurt - or make your own with Easiyo or similar

Some milk

Dried/fresh fruit

  1. The night before, mix together oats and enough yoghurt to form a gloopy mess. Add milk if it seems too thick.
  2. Stir in whatever you like - chopped berries/fruit, handful of currants, seeds....
  3. Put it in the fridge overnight, covered.
  4. Next morning - voila! Yummy sweet flavoured brekkie.
  5. Add milk to loosen consistency if required, serve warm or cold.
  6. Leave dishes soaking til after work. It's the only way. Honest.
I have not attached a photo. Once you've tried this recipe, you'll see why. There's a definite resemblance to up-chuck.

But YUMMY up-chuck! That's a Busyalibee guarantee! If you like that sort of thing.

Friday, 29 March 2013

Model Rail Enthusiasm

First of all, i must apologize for being so neglectful of my little blog.

The reasons for this are manifold. (Amazing word.)

  1. The main reason is that I very stupidly left my BEAUTIFUL iPad (Did I ever mention I have an iPad? I do ALL my blogging, shopping, corresponding, and generally rudely ignoring The Other Half on it.)
  2. Yes, there may be 2 PCs in The Bee Hive - but they lurk in uninhabitable areas of Catland, and Shred Corner. Neither area has an ambient temperature above minus 15 degrees Celsius (Americans - this means cold).
Since I've been gone from Blogland, my living room has been transformed thus....

It all began with a bit of toy envy (mine, to be honest) while The Bairn and I were visiting my nephews Thing One (age 3) and Thing Two (nearly 2). A box of wooden pieces, looking like a drunk Glaswegian tramp's precarious Jenga arrangement, was ceremoniously removed from the sideboard and carefully placed on the floor.

"Shall we get the trains out?" says my wee sister, who then proceeds to painstakingly construct a track with bridges, stations, tunnels and even a water tower! Meanwhile, Things One and Two are offered such gentle encouragement as:


"That doesn't go there!"

"NO, look it just won't work like that. LISTEN! Just because, OK?"

And eventually it was complete. A circuit of undulating loops and curves, covering about 8 square feet of floor space - and brought to life with a variety of colourful trains. Some traditional wooden ones, some metallic modern ones, some battery operated ones - and about 7 different Thomas The Tank Engines. Yes, there's the occasional collision and certainly a few derailments (every time a train attempts a corner), but my God it's satisfying.

All of a sudden I've become crusty septuagenarian pop-mogul Pete Waterman (Did you know he's a model rail enthusiast? Got books out and all sorts. Why do I know this?)


So now I spend my evenings on the ole iPad scanning eBay and Gumtree for quality second hand track, especially long bends, tunnels and quality batty operated engines. I spend my days saying

"STOP! Where are you going with my bridge?", and

"Will Mummy fix it? Yes, let Mummy fix it. No! It goes here! Cars can't go on the track for goodness sake!"


Thursday, 21 February 2013


This last couple of weeks I have caught the knitting bug. The "bug" could indeed be referring to some sort of lingering malady, as it seems to have turned me into some sort of a sallow skinned, claw-fingered, lank-haired recluse. It's very more-ish, is knitting. So much so that I have - on at least one occasion - taken my knitting needles and "work" to bed with me; The Other Half burying his head in his pillow ("bright light bright light!) and trying fruitlessly to ignore the click clack click clack clickety click click coming from my lovely self. What can I say? He's a lucky man.

The particular item being crafted was an item known (in 1970s rural Borders country) as a neckwarmer. Something that is just BEGGING to be reintroduced to 2013 city kids! My thinking was as follows:

  1. The Bairn's winter coat has failed to take into account the condition tubby-toddler-no-neck. Result - scratchy zip/Velcro rubbing his delicate chins (plural meant) skin.
  2. He is too wee for a scarf - he'll only strangle himself one way or another.
  3. A scarf is quite long and might take a while.
So I designed this.....  

Hold on! Hold on! Gis a break (as we say in these parts)! Okay, I accept that it may be a little rough around the edges. I concede - a whole lot rough around the edges. And the first finished effort wouldn't even squeeze past his ears. But I TRIED!

The next week my incredible Ma'am (born knitting - ouch, poor Nana! That would bring tears to the eyes.) arrived on my doorstep with a little something she'd Thrown Together. Yes, an actual dog scarf. This photo doesn't do it justice, but there are actual little ears on there too. Ridiculously cute - and know what? - The Bairn didn't strangle himself. Not even a bit. Of course, he's attached to me at all times by safety reins, but still.

Feeling suitably inadequate, I vowed to step up my game and came up with this monstrosity.

An ACTUAL monster hat! I was fairly self-impressed, until I realised

  1. It would fit a 10 year old. God, it would house a 10 year old.
  2. It's so fluffy, The Bairn's breathing is obstructed when its on his little cranium.
  3. Clearly it's only acceptable to wear fluff if you're a girl.
Perhaps I should pursue other hobbies.

Friday, 8 February 2013

Rainy Days - Art, Toddler Style

So so so cold and rainy and dark and miserable and..... Scotland.

Guess I still live here, so may as well shut up and stop whingeing about it! I do love this place with all my heart (except a ventricle that belongs to Iceland, and perhaps a wee section of aorta for Malaysia) but being stuck inside with a hyperactive toddler is enough to have me hyperventilating sometimes.

At nursery, The Bairn appears to be a prolific artist, turfing out multicoloured abstract pieces on garish sugar paper regularly. I thought to myself - "'Mon The Bairn! Let's get creative here - I'm sure one of your Grannies has space on the fridge door for a poster paint masterpiece!"

I also thought to myself - "Eeeugh. Paint=mess. New travertine (ie pale and impractical) effect flooring may not thank me for this moment of inspiration."

This is the genius idea I came up with.... Put paper in a ziplock freezer bag, squidge paint in, and let your impressionist imp get busy squashing that paint over the paper.

So now I have new confidence in toddler art, we have also expanded into messy painting! Turns out it's a bit boring painting through a plastic bag. And my boy has a taste for painting! Literally, a taste for painting. Especially blue - it seems to be exceedingly tasty.

We made Uncle Ali a birthday card. (White crayon message - The Bairn's handwriting's fair coming on, no? Finger painted over with child friendly water based paint.)

And our favourite creation yet, we made a beautiful butterfly for one of the Grannies who recently moved house. I folded the paper, cut out a butterfly, then my artistic little monkey carefully applied painstakingly selected coloured paint to the entire thing. I then folded again (simultaneously creating a stunning butterfly shaped coloured halo onto the mango wood dining table) to give this SIMPLY SPECTACULAR symmetrical pattern.

Could rainy days be more fun?
No! And that is a fact.

Monday, 21 January 2013

Art, Man!

Sometime in August 2012, I decided...

"Tonight, I will become an artist!"

Or something more like...

"Tonight, I shall procrastinate about painting something for the first time in roughly a kazillion years. I shall find a photo, or set up a still life, or try sketching a portrait. It'll likely be crud, therefore I had better give it some careful consideration. Maybe I should make a cup of tea while I think about this some more."

So in October, an old university friend, now a keen rambler (Who'd have thunk it? Back in the day, the furthest we walked was 20 minutes from our closest nightclub to our flat, having spent our £5 budget on ten 50p vodka and cokes.) had posted this stunning photograph -

Immediately, I knew I simply had to paint it, darling.

And a few weeks later, when I eventually tore myself from Sons of Anarchy, I hauled my lazy backside up the stairs to The Studio (also known by the pseudonyms The Spare Room, Tuff Crate City or Catland) - and began to paint.

I love painting! The tension just flows from every appendage. For the hour and a half that The Bairn naps, I can forget about work, the infinite laundry pile, financial worries. It's unadulterated bliss. All that matters is that the colours sing and the composition is in harmony. Aaaaaah.

And then it's finished. I'm sitting thinking "This is great! I'm really chuffed to bits with this one. I'm going to be finished soon - cant wait to get that last stroke on..... There we go!" Then I'm all "Oh. That'll be that then." And I just know it'll be flipping months before I achieve inspiration PLUS MOTIVATION.

Pretty though, eh?


Monday, 14 January 2013

Family Food - Pasta and Roast Veg Bake

I have been REALLY living up to my industrious pseudonym

I have:

  1. Actually had a proper night out (whoop whoop) with the lovely ladies from my antenatal class. May I add that I AM NOT UP THE DUFF AGAIN - the class in question was pre-The Bairn.
  2. Lost an entire day following the afore-mentioned night out.
  3. Started painting again, after a break of a couple of months.
  4. Began a new exercise regime, a.k.a "toddler chasing" now the Bairn is a confident staggerer.
  5. Got right stuck in at work again - dealing with such delights as eyes stuck together with dried mucus, 5 year olds lying about what they can see, and (the piece de resistance) an argumentative elderly lady with dementia and double vision.
  6. Doing an entire actual SHEDLOAD of cooking.
My very gorgeous fellow optometrist friend was over for lunch today, so I decided I'd make things easy for myself and create a dish using only items I already had in my over-stocked fridge. WRONG! The dish I had chosen necessitated a morning dash to the supermarket, followed by an unscheduled Bairn-related nap-tastrophe; culminating in a wild panic to tidy the house, prepare lunch, prepare dinner (to be heated up later), as the wee monkey then refused another nap until 5.30pm - in a bowl of fish pie.


  • Pasta - I used shells, enough for 4 people
  • About 1 pint of white sauce (or a jar if you're cheating, as I did)
  • Red onion
  • Yellow pepper
  • 1/2 a large aubergine
  • Courgette
  • 10 cherry tomatoes
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • Mozzarella
  • Seasonings as required - salt, pepper, Italian herbs
  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees C, heat up 2 roasting trays with a drizzle of olive oil.
  2. Roughly chop garlic, aubergine, pepper, courgette and red onion - 1cm thick at least for aubergine and courgette.
  3. Scatter veg over trays, should be spaced out a little, add seasoning and a drizzle of oil on top.
  4. Roast in oven for 30 minutes, mixing up half way through.
  5. Cook pasta as per packet instructions.
  6. When it's all done, put it all in a casserole dish, stir through the white sauce, handful of grated mozzarella on top.
  7. Bake for 30 minutes.
  8. Serve with garlic bread.
It's not hard, it's just the washing up after that puts me off making this regularly! But then again, I am a lazy cow.


I also used about a "tit and a bit" of roasted chicken from the previous night's leftovers.

Plus, a few wee blobs of pesto over the top with the mozzarella, and added cheddar.

If making a homemade white sauce, laying off the salt etc - it could be mushed for babies.


Sunday, 6 January 2013

Family Food - Sauce for Meatballs

There's really no excuse for this title not being "Family Food - Homemade Meatballs and Sauce", but let's face it, I'm a lazy bint. I mean to say, I'm SUPER BUSY. And a bit lazy. And the meatballs you can buy ready made are fantabulous too. Yes, they have salt and other additives in them, but you can't have it all. They might well still be repeating on me 24 hours later - again, you can't have it all. Buuuurp.

The Bairn is going through an horrendously fussy period just now - teething, as well as run down after the usual marathon of nursery-donated bugs - so I was delighted when he had enthusiastic second helpings of this meal! I felt compelled to share my genius with you all. Also, my New Year's Resolution is to blog AT LEAST ONCE A WEEK. You heard it here first! On New Year's Day, the original Resolution was to blog twice a week, but (as I have admittedly fallen at the first hurdle) I had to give this careful reconsideration.

So... The recipe. It's got loads of veg in it. For wee ones, teethers, and fussy tikes, you could blitz it all (without the meatballs) in a food processor and serve it with orzo - that really tiny rice-like pasta. Or rice. Or couscous.

One onion, finely chopped
One large clove of garlic, crushed
A medium carrot, grated
Tomato purée (optionally - some are salted) - dessert spoon
A red pepper, chopped small
1/2 pint of beef stock (baby stock for little ones)
Seasonings - salt, pepper, herbs

  1. Fry onion in a little olive oil until transparent.
  2. Add carrot, red pepper, tomato puree and garlic, stir and cook for further few minutes.
  3. After another few minutes, add in tomatoes and stock.
  4. At this point - if serving with meatballs, brown them about 5 minutes on each side in olive oil, then transfer into the sauce.
  5. Simmer for 30 minutes, lid on the pan.
  6. 10 minutes from the end, add your generous handful of spinach - season to taste.

I chopped up the meatball for The Bairn, and mixed it all up with small pasta shapes - he will ONLY eat with a spoon at the moment, with which he has pebble-dashed the entire back wall of our dining room in a mixture of Weetabix, porridge, ketchup and yoghurt hues. But more on interior design in future blogs.

The next day, I served the leftovers with pasta, sweetcorn and grated cheese - second helpings again! Go, The Bairn!