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Let’s get something out of the way first: toilet cisterns are a**holes. Absolute a**holes.

And when they leak, they are quite possible the worst a**holes in the world. They are the parking inspector of a**holes. The traffic cop of a**holes.

They are incredibly fiddly and finicky things. If they were a human being, they would be a difficult person to deal with. If they were a person, they’d be the sort of person who can’t eat gluten as a rule, but can eat wholemeal stoneground organic wheat that’s been harvested by virgins. They’d be the sort of person who can’t eat dairy, except goats cheese (but only if those goats were milked under the light of a full moon) and they’d probably be able to eat those woeful cream cheese wheels that have fruit or herbs on the outside (who eats those things? they are a disgusting hangover from the 80s or 90s imho). They’d be the sort of person with weird, unpredictable, but definite food dislikes. Dislikes in spite of never actually having tried the thing in question, so an illogical dislike as opposed to an actual preference for/against something based on experience.

That’s what toilet cisterns are: one of THOSE people. Ugh.

There are 4 places they can go wrong, 3 of them are quite simple – but incredibly fiddly – to fix HOWEVER what usually happens is that they go wrong in combinations of those 3 places. So you might fix one part of the problem, but there’s still another part – and another trip to your local hardware and/or plumbing supply store in your future.

And unfortunately, while you can certainly selectively weed out THOSE people from your life (keeping only the best of a finicky bunch); basic house planning regulations mean that you will always have to have a toilet cistern in your house, and therefore your life. At least one. UGH.

I really hate those a**holes.

/end rant

If you can see water trickling into your toilet bowl even though you haven’t flushed it: know you are dealing with an a**hole. One that is simple to problem solve, and you can fix it yourself with some basic supplies but it will be a little fiddly. But knowing how to problem solve and fix, means you can potentially save money.

What makes is confusing is that:

  • the internals of the cistern can look slightly different
  • there’s no standard washer size (remember my point about incredibly finicky things)

However, there are 3 simple things to check (and fix) before you call in someone, regardless of what the internals look like:

  • The flush or outlet washer
  • The float
  • The ballcock or inlet washer

If water is trickling into your toilet bowl even though you haven’t flushed it…this is how to problem solve

Step One: Lift of the lid of the cistern

The lid is usually held in place on the cistern by the flush button. You should be able to unscrew that, lift out the flush button cover pieces (pieces: the button will be held in place by a threaded seat) and then take off the lid of the cistern.

At this point it’s good to place the lid and the flush button pieces somewhere out of the way, where you won’t step on them.

Step Two: See if you can visually identify the problem

  1. Underneath where the button sits, you will see a piece of equipment that is broadly called the flush unit, or outlet unit. If you press the flush button (you can still do that without its cover on), you should see part of the flush unit lift up to let water into the toilet bowl. The flush unit should also have an outlet for excess water towards the top (so if your cistern gets overfull, water leaks out through the water outlet and to the toilet bowl without you flushing it). There are two things to check here:
    1. When the cistern is full (so the water stops running into the cistern): does the water level sit higher than the outlet for excess water? If it does sit higher, you will see water trickling into the bowl. Then you need to adjust the float so that it sits lower (we’ll get to where the float is in a second).
    2. If the water level does not sit higher than the outlet for excess water, then the problem is probably the washer for the flush unit. This is the easiest thing to fix.
  2. You also need to look at the other piece of equipment in the cistern: this is the unit that is connected to a pipe that runs to the tap in your wall. This is the inlet unit, where water comes into the cistern. The inlet unit also has a washer in it (called a ballcock washer normally or inlet washer), as well as a float (the float floats on the water level in the cistern; when it reaches a predetermined level, the float acts to stop the cistern from filling any further. The predetermined level is adjustable). There are 3 things to check here:
    1. The level of the float, and where you can adjust it (this is the second easiest thing to do): if the water level is sitting higher than the outlet for excess water, you need to adjust the float so it sits lower in the cistern (the water level should be 2.5cm lower than the outlet for excess water). After you have adjusted the float, you will need to flush the toilet, and let the cistern fill. Watch the cistern fill to confirm you’ve adjusted the float properly, and then leave it for about an hour and then check the water level:
      1. If the water level is still 2.5cm lower than the outlet for excess water, you’re golden
      2. If the water level is back up to sitting higher than the outlet for excess water, there are one of two things that could be the problem:
        1. The inlet washer could need replacing. This is the third easiest thing to do.
        2. If the washer is fine (or you replace the washer and the water level still sits higher than the outlet for excess water), the issue will likely be the whole inlet mechanism. Somewhere in the mechanism there is a leak(s) that is bypassing the inlet washer and filling the cistern.

Step 3: Fixes

A) Replacing the washer for the flush unit

This is the most common problem, and the easiest to fix. Although it is a little fiddly.

Before you do anything: turn the tap off at the wall, and flush the cistern. Then you need to look at the flush unit to work out how you can lift it out so that you can change the flush washer.

The washer sits at the bottom of the flush valve (between that mechanism and the pipe that carries the water from the cistern to the toilet bowl), it seals the flush valve so water does not leak out. To replace this, you will want to google your brand and model of cistern (should be written on the front of the cistern) to determine what washer you need to purchase.

Equipment

  • Needle nose pliers: some inlet parts are detachable, they are held together by plastic pegs. You can pull out the pegs using the needle nose pliers
  • Replacement washer:
    • If the degraded washer is still in place, take it out and go to your local hardware/plumbing supplies store to pick up one.
    • If there’s no washer, you might have to google or buy a couple of different washers to see what fits

Note: sometimes the recommended washer does not sit nicely on your outlet. I use a washer that’s different to the one recommended for the flush outlet in my cistern. I tried the recommended one, and literally would have to flush 4/5 times before the valve would seal, who needs that in their life? So I bought 4 different washers and tried them until I found the one that worked best. The washers are $4-5 each normally, so not a huge expense to try a couple.

There are different ways to get to the washer, so I’ve included a couple of videos to illustrate

B) Adjusting the float level

This is the second most common problem, and the second easiest thing to fix.

Before you do anything: turn the tap off at the wall, and flush the cistern. Then you need to look at the inlet unit to work out where the float is, and what is keeping it in place. That should be adjustable: you should see a little knob or screw you can turn. You might have to google your cistern brand and model to see if you can see inlet units and find instructions for where to tighten/loosen floats.

Equipment

  • Flat head or phillips head screwdriver: some floats can only be adjusted by turning a little knob, which usually can be easily tightened/loosened with a screwdriver. The type of screwdriver depends on the float.

C) Replacing the washer for the inlet unit

This is a little more fiddly, as you will likely have to take off the float to get to the ballcock washer/inlet washer.

Before you do anything: turn the tap off at the wall, and flush the cistern. Then you need to look at the inlet unit to work out how you can  unscrew it so you can change the inlet washer.

The washer sits in the inlet unit, normally below the float, and when the float reaches the level, the float presses on the washer and seals the inlet so water does not leak out. To replace this, you will want to google your brand and model of cistern (should be written on the front of the cistern) to determine what washer you need to purchase.

Equipment

  • Needle nose pliers: some inlet parts are detachable, they are held together by plastic pegs. You can pull out the pegs using the needle nose pliers
  • Replacement washer:
    • If the degraded washer is still in place, take it out and go to your local hardware/plumbing supplies store to pick up one.
    • If there’s no washer, you might have to google or buy a couple of different washers to see what fits

There are different ways to get to the washer, so I’ve included a couple of videos to illustrate

D) Replacing the inlet unit

This is the most fiddly, and I’d only do this if I’d exhausted all other avenues as it’s also the least likely. But if you’ve replaced the flush washer, adjusted the float to get the water level right, replaced the inlet washer AND THE CISTERN IS STILL OVERFILLING AND LEAKING OUT THE OVERFLOW OUTLET AND DOWN TO YOUR TOILET BOWL…then you need to replace the inlet unit.

At this point, I call in DIY Dad (sometimes the nuts fastening the cistern and inlet unit to the inlet pipe are quite tight, and the instructions are painful to read when setting up, so it helps to have someone else doing this with you.)

Before you do anything: turn the tap off at the wall, and flush the cistern. You will need to purchase a new inlet unit. To replace this, you will want to google your brand and model of cistern (should be written on the front of the cistern) to determine what inlet unit you need. Or pop to a specialist plumbing supplies shop, so you’re given the right unit

Equipment

  • A spanner
  • Flat head or phillips head screwdriver: some parts of inlet units can only be adjusted by screwdrivers
  • Needle nose pliers: some inlet parts are detachable, they are held together by plastic pegs. You can pull out the pegs using the needle nose pliers
  • New inlet unit
  • Bucket

This video has two parts and includes a section on replacing the inlet unit.

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The front of the house, circa 2015

One of the jobs on my 2017 New Year’s Houseolutions list was to paint the external window frames. Given I did the front and back doors in the early part of my holidays, and was looking for things I could do without DIY Dad assistance, external window frames seemed achievable.

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Looking from the dining room window to the rest of the windows to be painted (taken in 2016)

I had scrape, sand, then use a rust converter on some of them, as they had spot rust, then prime them twice and then do 2 topcoats on them. On top of this, I had to work around when the sun hits some of these windows and also when it was too hot during the day to paint plus a 16 hour drying time between coats.

So I split the windows into 3 groups: back windows except the studio window (I couldn’t unscrew the bolt keeping that window shut, so had to wait until DIY Dad was free to unscrew it), the front windows and the studio and office windows. The back windows are pretty shaded, they get the sun from about 4.30pm onwards. The front window get the sun until 2pm by which time it’s too hot to paint, but if you get up super early (like 5am) you can paint them while the sun is lower in the sky and it’s not as hot. The side window (the office window) gets the sun from about 1pm onwards.

This is a little like one of those awful physics questions, but what it meant was that if I was painting several of these groups in a day, it had to be done in the following order:

  • Front windows
  • Side window
  • Back windows (or if I missed the window before it got too hot, I could come back and do these at 3.30-4.00pm, or after 7.00pm at night)

Back windows, looking from the bathroom, across the newly painted back door and window (they were wood), to the kitchen and on to the dining room window:

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And so it begins…

The back windows where the first to be started. I used the extra wide blue painters masking tape for the windows as some of the window parts are quite narrow, and I didn’t want to have to clean a lot of paint off the glass if I could help it.

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Primed and ready to be top-coated

It is a commonly acknowledged fact that to fix something around your house, before it’s fixed everything has to get a lot messier.

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Looking back at the priming

My front windows took ~45 minutes to an hour to mask, so I started each group of windows in waves.

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A shed load of masking tape.

In case you wondered: I used 3 x 54.8m long rolls of masking tape. That’s 164.4m of window panes that I masked. That’s beyond a shed load of masking tape, into a f*ck load of masking tape.

And once I masked them, I had to paint them x 4 times, waiting 4 hours till they were touch dry and I could close the window, and 16 hours before I could recoat. Once the last coat was on and dry, I then had to remove the portion of the 164.4m of masking tape on those panes of glass. It was an epic job.

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First to be completed, the back windows barring the studio.

I suspect I would be feeling a warm sense of fulfilment at a job well done, if I wasn’t feeling so tired right now.

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Once I could move everything back into place, I could also clean the back garden.

I’ve also painted the gas meter box (also metal) in the same colour (did that when I did the front windows). One day I will take a photo so you can admire my matchy-matchy painting skills. In the meantime, here’s a photo of the front with the windows complete and the masking tape just removed.

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More epic than Lord of the Rings.

So…15 days into 2017, and one New Year Houseolution = done AND my epic holiday window painting (exterior) task = done. I look forward to a world where I am not moving ladders, chairs or milk crates holding a 1L can of paint in one hand, and a paint brush in the other. I look forward to not having to think about temperatures and angles of the sun throughout the day. I look forward to not having to clean up with turps. Mostly I just look forward to not using my arms for a while.

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Hipsta before shot from 2015 😀

Another holiday job was to paint the exterior windows and doors to my house. Most of the windows are steel, some with a little rust that needed treatment, so it made sense to split the job into front and back door (and window)…and windows. Apart from the different pre-painting treatments required, there are significantly different drying times for metal paint vs wood paint.

Again, I had to scrape, sand and fill the doors and their surrounds. I removed the fly screens on the front and the back doors. The back door screen is in such bad nick, I have popped it aside to chuck. I have kept the front doors but as yet have not put them back on…since I intend to get security screens at some point this year.

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Front door and meter box, pre-painting.

The back door was in particularly bad condition in terms of painting surface: a lot of the original paint had peeled and flaked away, probably as a result of the weather:

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Back door and window, pre-painting.

Given the doors appear to cop a bit of weather (mainly the back door, but since I was on a roll), I primed with an oil-based primer and did 2 coats to ensure full coverage.

Once that was done, it took 3 coats of the British Paints exterior in Ironstone (it’s a colorbond colour, not that I have colourbond but it was really nice) to coat the wood. I even did the meter box out the front (in truth: while I was painting the front door, I completely blanked that there was a wooden meter box about 1m away that could also do with a paint…luck there’s a quick drying time on these paints, so I was able to prime x 2 and paint x 3 in 2 days):

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Front door looking very distinguished.

I haven’d finished cleaning the glass to get rid of the paint accidentally splattered or painted on the doors, but that’s not an urgent job…

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The after shot. Looking mighty fine.

I did find the coverage of the wood exterior paint to be a bit painful: dark colour on light primer, so it took between 3-4 coats to do these surfaces.

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The Ginger Menace inspects the new colour…

I’ve been on holidays for the last month, with a full list of things to do. Some of which I have managed to tick off, in between binge-watching British crime TV and regular nap-times.

One of my holiday jobs was to finally paint the laundry door and window on the interior. When I moved in, I had run out of the paint I used and never quite got around to buying another tin of paint and finishing the job. It wasn’t all paint-tin procrastination, though. I had to fill a hole that had been left in the door thanks to a lock replacement prior to me buying the house, mind you I did that in 2011…there’s still 5 years of “one day I’ll get around to it…” in there.

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The before shot.

I had to remove venetian blinds, scrape, sand, fill and prime the door and window: some of the old paint was in pretty bad nick. Then, after 2 coats of primer (it’s a wet area, so I wanted to get very good coverage before I top-coated), I applied the water-based enamel.

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Job almost done.

The dark surround does make the room a little darker, but it’s so worth it. If I want the room to be lighter, I could open the venetian blinds a tad.

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This looks like…another tick on my to do list 🙂

 

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The horror and the glory

You may, or may not, know that I do like a retro cookbook. I have a vast and fantastic collection thanks to my mum’s collection, which I have posted about previously:

Marvel at the wonder, the glory…and the interesting food photos, people.

There are a couple of twitter accounts which celebrate the wonder and the horror that was the retro cookbook, and regular stories about them (when my friends find these stories, they often tag me in them so I can add to my collection):

Again: marvel at the wonder and the horror. I love it AAAAAALLLLLLLL.

My aunt also has (or shall I say “had”) a glorious cookbook collection, one that I explored when I lived at her house for a while. I have dropped hints over the year that they would find a good home in my collection…

…years passed, and the time came for her to rationalise her house in preparation for a new house. Yes, dear reader, she handed her amazing glorious cook book collection onto me. All of the wonder, all of the horror, all mine. My precious.

It’s a wide ranging collection, from classic Australian cookbooks, to celebrity chefs of the time, to curated cordon bleu cookbooks and more. I’ve taken photos of some of the more amazing recipes and books in the collection.

And I do plan to make recipes from this collection, even if they won’t visually be presented in the same way…or will they? Would you mess with the presentation of the Black Forest Bavarois?

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The 80s called, it says there’s not enough piped cream on this.

On the other hand, not so sure I will make a stuffed cabbage:

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Cabbage leaf rolls fine, stuff cabbage…not so fine?

The books are a fantastic document of food presentation and techniques of the time, including artful platters of fish with grapes on top (Sole Veronique) or piping (Fish in Spinach Sauce):

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Savoury piping is a lost art.

Delia does Sole Veronique differently now. And these days Fish in Spinach sauce comes without the fancy piping and artfully placed toppings.

How could you not marvel at the glory of endives, radishes, and a starburst of white asparagus (probably canned white asparagus)? It is majestic:

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Majestic or Bombastic, To-MAH-To To-May-To.

And then there’s the wonder of some sort of spinach mould, filled with baby potatoes:

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If that was a chocolate cake, and those were chocolate easter eggs I would be like HELLS YEAH HAPPY EASTER. When it’s spinach mould and baby potatoes, my enthusiams are more moderated.

While we are still on the savouries, can I get a holler for the chicken and peanut butter stew…ye satay chicken from ye olden days:

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I plan to make this. You’ve been warned.

And then there’s the variant on beef wellington, which involves stuffing a loin of lamb into a home-made loaf of brioche:

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Note the cold veal pie to the right with the immaculate hard boiled egg in the middle of it. This cookbook is about stuffing foods, into other foods. And I applaud it.

If we leave aside the savouries, there’s always the desserts. Like the Nectarine Cream Mousse, which is now a life goal:

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Who wouldn’t want a jelly mould that’s this fantastical? I ask you!

Then a confection of evaporated milk, lemon jelly and glace cherries, served on a bed of EVEN MORE glace cherries:

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I do like a glace cherry.

While we’re on the subject of mousse, gin and lime mousse anyone?

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An epic of piping.

Then from the Australian Women’s Weekly classics, there’s the children’s cake book. Featuring cakes in shapes and sizes to suit every child…as long as they still make the lollies and chocolates used for decoration. If not, find a suitable alternative or risk making a child cry on their birthday, and no one wants to do that, do they?

Cricket pitch (it’s summer in Australia after all):

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The most boring game on earth, slightly more interesting in cake form. Sorry cricket lovers, I am at best a disinterested party, at worst (when it’s put on the tv in my workplace): a hater.

Soccer pitch (also called football, if you’re not Australian):

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I particularly like the recycled netting used for the goals. Find that in your fruit & veggie compartment if you’re old skool.

Lest we forget, the covers and graphic design of these glorious tomes:

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If the bubble print gets larger on each line, people will know this book is about PARTIES.

Another Australian Women’s Weekly classic, The Big Book Of Beautiful Biscuits:

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Apparently Beauty is in the eye of AWW, and NOT the beholder. Someone tell Margaret Wolfe Hungerford.

I’ve now got two versions of this glorious Cordon Bleu cooking series, one from my mother and one from my aunt (one appears to be the abridged version):

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They’re slightly different. So I can’t part with either.

And then lastly, the glorious recipe that started it all. Frosted Green Cheese Mould. This is the photo that was my epiphany about retro cookbooks and recipe. If you want to blame anything or anyone, blame Hudson and Halls and THIS:

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Check out the milk glass goblets, the painting and the turquoise stoppered bottle. I have home decor envy.

If you’re getting a sense of deja vu, you’ve seen this shape earlier in this post: the spinach mould with baby potatoes. Apparently in the 80s everyone was big on the ring shape, with various fillings piled in artfully. And if that’s kale on the right, Hudson and Halls were well ahead of the kale trend of the 2010s. If it’s curly parsley…it’s bang on their era. Perhaps we could update the recipe with kale?

Let me introduce you to Hudson and Halls, TV chefs from New Zealand who made it big in the UK. FYI: They were actually a couple, and were known for the quote “are we gay – well we’re certainly merry”. Love ’em:

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When I grow up, I want to have a trifle bowl that I fill with Iceberg Lettuce, just like Hudson and Halls.

There’s a documentary about them: Hudson and Halls: A Love Story.

 

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Good for breakfast, brunch or brinner.

I served these as part of a two-course brunch for Les Chicas. We also had fancy (but very easy to make) breakfast trifles to finish. And champagne. A lot of champagne.

Ingredients

  • 300gm grape tomatoes (approx 5-6 per person)
  • 2 tbsp EVOO
  • 240gm ricotta (I accidentally picked up light ricotta)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 and 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 and 1/4 cups self raising flour
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 4 very thin slices of red onion
  • 250gm rocket

Serves 5 people (3 pancakes per person).

I made the pancakes before my guests arrived, then popped them on a baking tray lined with baking paper and covered with alfoil. Then I popped them back in the oven to heat up closer to brunch time.

In a largish mixing bowl, whisk ricotta and egg until combined. Whisk in milk, then flour. When everything’s combined, stir through basil and parmesan. Season with salt and pepper.

Melt a bit of butter in a large fry pan, then pour in 1/4 cups of mix per pancake. I could fit about 3 pancakes in my largest fry pan (the pancakes will spread to 10-15cm wide, so allow for that). Cook until golden, then flip to cook on the other side.

When your first batch is done, do a second batch. I could do 2 batches before I needed to wipe out the pan and add more butter. It look 5 batches to get through all the mix. When you’ve finished each batch, stack them in servings (3 pancakes per person) in your baking paper lined baking tray. Don’t forget to cover the tray with alfoil when done.

Preheat your oven to 220°C, timing it so that when your guests arrive you can pop the tomatoes in to roast (they take 10-15 minutes). Pop the tomatoes in a baking dish with 1 tbsp of EVOO and season with salt and pepper. Roast until the skins have split.

At 10 minutes, pop in the baking tray with your covered pancakes into the oven. If you are taking the tomatoes out, dial down the oven to 160°C. The pancakes need about 5 minutes to warm again.

Add the rocket and red onion to a bowl, pour over the remaining olive oil and the apple cider vinegar. Toss thoroughly.

To serve: pop a pancake stack (3 pancakes) on the plate, put a pile of the rocket & red onion salad on top, then artfully place 5-6 roasted grape tomatoes on top.

I recommend serving with a french champagne to drink on the side 🙂

 

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Artfully placed tomatoes.

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Little pots of joy

Having made my toasted muesli, I swung on to making breakfast trifles for my brunch with Les Chicas. I made these trifles on the day, because I wanted the muesli to still have crunch.

Ingredients

  • 1 punnet of strawberries
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp agave syrup
  • 125 mL ricotta (I used light ricotta, because I picked it up by accident)
  • 250 mL greek yoghurt (I used light greek yoghurt, mainly because there was no non-light greek yoghurt in stock)
  • 100 mL thick cream
  • Toasted muesli (if you make my recipe, you’ll have leftover muesli for breakfasts)

I made this for 4 people, in Bonne Maman jam jars. The jars are ~7.5cm in diameter, and ~9.5cm high, to give you an idea of portioning ingredients.

Hull and slice the strawberries, then pop in a bowl with the caster sugar and mix well. Leave to macerate for about an hour.

Whisk the ricotta, yoghurt and cream together until smooth, then add the agave syrup. Chill for about an hour.

Assembling the trifles happens in layers, and I discovered over the course of assembling that the perfect proportions for each layer is:

  • 3 soup spoons of the yoghurt mix
  • 2 soup spoons of the muesli
  • Strawberries in a layer

Order of the layers:

  • Yoghurt
  • Muesli
  • Yoghurt
  • Strawberry layer
  • Yoghurt
  • Muesli
  • Yoghurt
  • Strawberries to top

Pop back in the fridge to chill until needed. This is where making them in jars was so handy: I could pop the lid on and chuck them in the fridge.

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Et voila!