Mrs. Jackson Cooks

Life through food

Easter dinner: Juniper & garlic lamb

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I had a leg of lamb in the freezer from our lovely lady who brings us eggs. She has a small farm and also rears pigs, ducks, geese and sheep. I try to get meat from her when I can as it’s always so much more delicious than anything from the supermarket – much like her wonderful deep yellow yolk eggs.

As it was Easter I thought I’d make the lamb. I found a simple recipe on the bbcgoodfood website, here http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/251631/roast-leg-of-lamb-with-juniper-and-rosemary and didn’t alter very much from it. The only thing was my leg was smaller, at about 1.5kg so I altered the times accordingly.

The recipe suggests Welsh onion cake to go with it, and that was very simple and delicious too, recipe is here http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/251633/welsh-onion-cake and I did some sweet and sour Italian style carrots from my Italian Comfort Food cookbook.

I found this pretty easy for a roast and didn’t take that long either. All done within about 1.5-2 hours from the start. And the meat was delicious, so tender, cooked perfectly and the onion cake went with it really well.

There’s plenty of meat leftover too, which I’ll make into curry or tagine I think.

Juniper and garlic lamb with Welsh onion cake

Serves 4

  • Small leg of lamb – approx 1.5kg (if larger adjust times accordingly)
  • 6 juniper berries
  • 1/2 tsp whole peppercorns
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • handful of sage leaves, chopped (or use rosemary if you have it)
  • 3 tbsp olive oil.
  • 800g potatoes, peeled
  • 400g onions (2 large ones approx), finely sliced.
  • 70g butter, melted
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 120ml white wine
  1. Bring the lamb leg up to room temperature
  2. Preheat the oven to 190 degrees celsius.
  3. Crush the juniper berries and peppercorns in a pestle and mortar, then add the garlic, sage or rosemary and olive oil to make a paste.
  4. Cover the lamb in the paste and roast in the middle of the oven for approximately 1 hour for meat which is cooked but still pink in the middle. If you’d like it more well done, add an extra 10 minutes.
  5. Remove from the oven, cover in foil and tea towels and leave to rest for 30 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, put half the melted butter in a pan with the onions and a little salt and cook covered over a low heat until melted and golden – about 20 minutes. Stir them occasionally to make sure they don’t stick and cook evenly.
  7. Slice the potatoes thinly on the long side, and place straight into a bowl with the remaining melted butter. Coat the potatoes in it.
  8. Line a medium sized frying pan with greaseproof paper
  9. Arrange half the potatoes on the bottom of the pan in neat patterns from the outside to the middle, overlapping slightly. Place the onions on top of them and spread them out.
  10. Layer the remaining potatoes over the top of the onions in the same way as before and place on a medium heat on the hob to brown the bottom of the cake, for about 5 minutes.
  11. Then place in the oven with the lamb for about 45-50 minutes or until cooked through and golden.
  12. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes before inverting onto a plate.
  13. Whilst the lamb is resting, add a tablespoon of flour to the juices in the roasting pan and mix well to combine. Place directly on a medium heat and allow to cook out for a minute or two. Then gradually add the wine mixing well to combine, scraping up any bits from the bottom and not allowing the flour to go lumpy. Bring to the boil, add extra water if it’s too thick, add salt and pepper as needed and simmer until you have a nice gravy.
  14. Carve your meat and serve with the Welsh cake and gravy. Enjoy!

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Hangover breakfast pie

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This is the other recipe I wanted to share from the Hairy Bikers Perfect Pies cookbook. I do adapt it quite a bit though – but what I put in depends on what’s in the fridge and how hungover I am. This is great if you’ve had lots of people on a night out and they’re staying over and you need to feed them but are too hungover to do much. It also works if there’s just 2 of you – just reduce the quantities.

This really does help hangovers, although I can’t promise a total cure – if you’ve had a large one, nothing beats a day on the sofa, but this makes that sofa day more bearable.

This is another no pastry pie. It’s got potatoes in it instead. And this is my version, my favourite one, not the Hairy Bikers one.

Hangover breakfast pie

Serves 4

  • 850g potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 8 sausages
  • 1 onion, finely sliced
  • 10 mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 green chilli (optional)
  • 2 cans baked beans
  • handful of chopped fresh parsley
  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees celsius
  2. Grill the sausages until browned on all sides. Remove from the grill and set aside.
  3. Boil the potatoes with a little salt until cooked through – about 15 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, heat 1 tsp of oil in a large frying pan, on a medium heat and fry the onion until is starts to cook, then add the garlic, mushrooms and chilli if using. Fry gently until the mushrooms release their juices and hte onions are starting to brown.
  5. Tip them into a deep sided baking dish and top with the sausages.
  6. Pour the cans of baked beans over the sausages and sprinkle over the parsley.
  7. Put the remaining oil in the frying pan and fry the potatoes until they get brown spots and burnt bits on them.
  8. Tip the potatoes over the top of the beans and bake in the oven for about 20-30 minutes, or until hot all the way through the potatoes are crispy.
  9. Serve immediately with your favourite sauces and feel the hangover receed.
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Very simple, comforting mince and dumplings

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I’ve been a bit busy and distracted the past week or so, but I’ve wanted to post this recipe for a while.  It’s super simple and its a lower fat version of a full blown pie and a lot simpler to make.  And as the weather can’t decide if it’s spring or not, it’s really warming and comforting on the days it decides to snow.  

I got the recipe from the Hairy Bikers.  I do love their cookbooks.  This is from their Perfect Pies cookbook, which you can find here http://www.hairybikers.com/books/perfect-pies/1323.  Mr J bought it for me because he wanted me to make more pies and I complained that I’m not good at them, which really meant, I’m not very confident with them.  This book has helped me get more confident, although I do prefer the non-pastry ones!

I’ve another recipe I love from this book that I made recently and want to share, so that’ll be coming next.

The mince mixture is very similar to making a bolognaise sauce but instead of spaghetti, it’s topped with lovely doughy crispy dumplings, very similar to savoury scones.  And they’re very simple to make.  

You can make the full thing for friends or family, or I like to make it and then heat the leftovers up the next day.  Or you can halve it if there’s just a couple of you.  

Hairy Biker’s mince and dumplings

Serves 4-6

  • 1 tsp oil (olive, sunflower, vegetable etc)
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 celery sticks, finely chopped
  • 2 carrots, finely chopped
  • 500g lean mince (lamb, beef, chicken, pork, quorn – whatever you like.  I used lean steak beef mince, but have used lamb in the past)
  • 400g can chopped tomatoes (or use plum and chop them with a wooden spoon)
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • 350ml beef stock
  • 150ml red wine (or use extra stock)
  • pinch of sugar
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt & pepper

For the dumplings:

  • 250g self-raising flour
  • 75g frozen or hard butter, grated (or use 125g beef suet instead)
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 200ml cold water
  • salt & pepper
  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees celsius.
  2. Heat the oil in a large pan and on a low-medium heat cook the onion, garlic, celery and carrots until softened and the onion translucent, but they’ve not browned.  
  3. Add the mince and cook until it’s browned, breaking it up with the spatula or spoon.
  4. Then add the tomatoes, puree, stock (wine if using), sugar, bay leaf and season.  Bring to the boil, then reduce to a low simmer for about 20 minutes or until the sauce is thickened and the meat and vege cooked through.  Stir occasionally to prevent it sticking to the bottom.
  5. Whilst that’s simmering, make the dumplings.  Put the flour, butter or suet, salt, pepper and parsley into a bowl and stir well.
  6. Make a well in the middle and pour 3/4 of the water into it.  
  7. Mix to make a dough – you don’t want it too sticky, but if its not coming together into a ball, add the extra water.  If it’s too sticky, add a spoonful of flour.
  8. Lightly flour your hands.  Divide the dough into 12 and roll into balls before flattening slightly.  
  9. Place the mince mixture in a deep baking dish and cover with the dumplings, leaving space between them to allow them to expand.
  10. Cover with tin foil, and tent is so there’s space for the dumplings to rise.
  11. Place in the oven for 15 minutes.  Then remove the foil and return to the oven for another 5-10 minutes or until the dumplings are golden brown and everything is piping hot.
  12. Serve immediately and enjoy the comforting goodness.

 

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Mother’s day pineapple upside down cake

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My parents came over to see us today, as it’s mother’s day, and so I cooked us lunch.  We had mussels for starters with bacon and leeks, tenderloin of pork stuffed with basil and pecorino cheese and pineapple and mango upside down cake for dessert.

I promised my mum I’d share the recipe for the dessert, and so here it is.  And it was quite delicious and pretty easy to make, especially if you have helpers in the kitchen!  It’s great for a dinner party or something special (Friday night perhaps?!).  I’ve no idea about the calories and I’m not sure I want to know.  This is for celebrating, not dieting.

 

It’s an Asian take on the traditional pineapple upside down cake, so it’s a bit different from what you’d expect, but still just as delicious.  You can find the original recipe here.  I think the only change I made was to add maple syrup to the caramel instead of molasses.  It’s in cups, but I’ve translated to grams for those without cup measurements (most of us).

http://thaifood.about.com/od/thaidesserts/r/pineapplemangoupsidedowncake.htm

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Pineapple and Mango upside down cake

  • 4-5 slices of fresh or canned pineapple (dry the canned pineapple with kitchen towel)
  • 1 mango, peeled, de-seeded and sliced

For the caramel:

  • 110g brown sugar
  • 4 tbsp water
  • 25g butter

For the cake:

  • 3 eggs
  • 100g granulated sugar
  • 80g butter
  • pinch of salt
  • 130g plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 170ml thick coconut milk (or whole milk)
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius.  Grease a large round cake tin (about 9 inches)
  2. Place the pineapple rings in the bottom of the cake tin and use the mango to fill in the gaps. 
  3. Put the brown sugar and water in a pan and heat until boiling.  Stir well and reduce slightly for a few minutes.  Then reduce the heat, add the butter and simmer until the butter melts. Turn off and set aside.
  4. Separate the eggs with the whites in a medium bowl and the yolks in a large mixing bowl.  Whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks and set aside.
  5. Add the white sugar and butter to the yolks and beat until smooth.  
  6. Add the flour, baking powder, coconut milk and vanilla essence to the egg, sugar and butter mix and beat until well combined.  It should be quite thick.  
  7. Either gently fold in the egg whites with a wooden spoon or use electric beaters on a low setting until just combined.  
  8. Pour caramel over the fruit.  Then pour the cake mix on top.
  9. Place in the middle of the oven for about 35 minutes or until a skewer comes out of the middle clean (don’t go down to the bottom or you’ll hit caramel and fruit).
  10. Leave in the tin until cooled.  Then place a plate on top of it and turn upside down onto the plate.
  11. Serve with ice cream, cream or custard and enjoy the delicious fruity caramelly flavours.  
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Skinny banana & chocolate muffins

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It’s been a while.  And a lot has happened.  I’ve been wanting to start this blog again, but not really sure how or where to start. But then I made these muffins and they’re so delicious, it just seemed perfect.  

The great thing about these muffins is the taste amazing, but they are very low fat and low calorie, so you can eat them and not worry about having to spend 3 hours in the  gym to make up for it.  They’re 139 calories each – less if you use sweetener instead of sugar, which I did but the calorie converter thing objected to.  But they don’t taste like they’re a low fat option at all.   I’ve tried these out on several people who came to a party and there was general approval all round.  

So here goes, something to cheer a Monday up, without expanding your waistline.  I found this recipe on another blog, which looks like a pretty cool blog to me.  You can be sure I’ll be reproducing more of her recipes.  http://sallysbakingaddiction.com/2012/11/11/skinny-chocolate-banana-fudge-muffins/ 

I changed it slightly, using half sugar and half sweetener and replacing the applesauce with low fat yoghurt.  But as you can see – no butter or oil is used.  I have now got myself some cup measurement thingys, so this recipe was pretty simple with them, but in case you don’t have them, I’ve converted it to grams for you.

Banana & chocolate muffins

  • 3 bananas, really mashed up.  The more ripe the bananas the better.
  • 65g granulated sugar
  • 65g sweetener (or double up the sugar)
  • 1 egg
  • 80ml low fat yoghurt
  • 60g plain flour
  • 60g wholemeal flour (or double up the plain flour)
  • 60g unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 100g chocolate drops or pieces (I bashed up a bar of dark chocolate)
  • Sprinkles or more chocolate drops to go on top (optional)
  1. Heat the oven to 200 degrees celsius, and line a muffin tin with muffin cases
  2. Put the mashed banana in a bowl and beat it together with the sugar, sweetener, egg and yoghurt.  
  3. Add the dried ingredients to the banana mixture and mix quickly and sparingly.  Chuck in the chocolate drops and mix 1 more time.  
  4. Spoon the mixture into the muffin cases, filling all the way to the top.  Sprinkle more chocolate drops or sprinkles over the top of the muffins.  
  5. Bake in the oven for about 15-20 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean from the middle of the muffins.
  6. Cool for a few minutes in a tin and then turn onto a wire rack to cool completely.  
  7. Enjoy with a lovely cup of tea, and feel that today has just got a little better.
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Bikini diet-friendly midweek meal: Angry Chicken

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I’m sorry for the general lack of posting – life is a bit hectic so I keep forgetting. Plus I’ve been cooking things I’ve already blogged about. I do keep meaning to blog more about restaurants and cafes but I forget! Will be my mid-year resolution!

In any case because I’ve started a new job and I’ve got bad hayfever, I’ve been not getting active as much as I should be really. So I need to lose some weight. This week is diet and exercise week. It started well – I went to spinning class last night and then ate this delicious Italian meal that I got ready when I got home, and just had a shower whilst it simmered. It’s perfect post exercise as it’s full of low fat protein in the chicken and low in carbs.

This came from my Italian Comfort Food cookbook by Julia Della Croce. Sounds full of calories but actually food can be comforting and low in calories and quick to cook too! Perfection. I checked it out – there’s 435 calories per serving in my version of this recipe. I ate it without bread but Mr J had some pannini with it. I didn’t feel like I needed to eat more after it, it was very filling. I added olives to the original recipe, but you could substitute this for aubergine chunks or sliced mushrooms quite easily – just add these both before you add the chicken back to the pan, and allow them to fry for a couple of minutes.

Angry Chicken

Serves 2

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 skinless chicken thighs (bone in)
  • 1 small onion chopped into wedges
  • 3 garlic cloves crushed
  • 3 whole dried chillis or 1tsp chilli flakes
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary or 1 tsp dried
  • 1 tin plum or chopped tomatoes
  • 100ml chicken stock
  • handful of green olives, drained
  • salt & pepper to taste
  1. Heat the oil in a large high sided frying pan or wok on a medium heat. Fry the chicken on both sides until golden. About 15 minutes
  2. Remove the chicken from the pan and drain on kitchen roll.
  3. Add the onion, garlic, chillis and rosemary to the pan, cooking until the onion is softened but not browned.
  4. Add the chicken back in, followed by the tomatoes and chicken stock.
  5. Stir well, breaking up the tomatoes with the spatula.
  6. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a low simmer. Add the olives in and season well. Allow to cook slowly until the sauce is thick and well reduced and the chicken cooked through (about 20 minutes- perfect shower time).
  7. Serve immediately on its own or with garlic bread to dip in the sauce.
  8. Enjoy 🙂
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An Easter extravaganza: chargrilled squid, slow roasted lamb and st. clements pie

I’ve been debating whether to do this as separate posts or all in one, and I’m going with all in one – hope it’s not too full on!  Although having said that, it felt full on to cook it for 7 people – bit like Christmas all over again, but without the hangover….got something right at least!

But the whole thing was delicious and I did enjoy making it.  If you’re thinking of doing a dinner party there’s some great ideas here.  Not really suitable for veges though – and I was a bit relieved not to have any coming as I’d have to do something completely separate for them.  What I loved about this was all the flavours and spices in it – both the squid and lamb used quite a lot of different spices so we had quite a mix of flavours.  And the tangy lemon tart to finish was perfect after all the richness of the lamb.

The lamb, incidentally came from a farm near Hebden Bridge.  I happen to know the lady that owns the farm and she sold me a load of lamb cuts, as well as regular egg deliveries.  And I do notice the difference in the meat.  I don’t really notice it with organic meat from the supermarket or butchers but definitely with it coming fresh from this farm – and the eggs are so yellow and tasty too.  I think the lamb had a lot more flavour and was a lot more tender than supermarket versions.  But you can do it with any lamb – not only if you happen to know someone with a farm!

The squid recipe is an Ottolenghi recipe and so it’s a bit bitty and fiddly but it’s not complicated.  There’s just lots of steps – I think you could combine some of them quite easily but it’s up to you – I followed it more or less – with the exception of replacing sumac with lemon juice and zest because I didn’t have it and had no idea where to get it!  By comparison, the lamb is ridiculously simple!  And great for dinner parties because you can shove it in the oven and forget about it.  And the pudding can be made the day before if you want.

The original recipes are here – I have adapted all slightly, to reflect what I had available to me.  The shoulder of lamb served 7 very well – there wasn’t much at all left over, but if you did have fewer guests the leftovers would make very nice sandwiches for lunches in the following week.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2012/mar/30/squid-salad-braised-chicory-recipes

http://www.channel4.com/4food/recipes/chefs/hugh-fearnley-whittingstall/slow-roast-shoulder-of-lamb-with-merguez-spices-recipe

http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/2063673/st-clements-pie

Tangy squid and pitta salad

Serves 7

  • 700g cleaned and prepared baby or adult squid (adult squid cut into thin rings)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 lemons, 1 juiced and zested
  • salt & pepper
  • 2 large pitta (white or wholemeal) sliced into thin strips
  • 60g capers
  • 4 celery stalks cut thinly on the diagonal
  • large handful of celery leaves chopped or rocket (if leaves unavailable) – I used a combination as I had some leaves but not enough
  • 1 tsp all spice berries (or ground all spice), ground
  • 1/2 tsp chilli flakes
  • 1 tsp pink or green peppercorns, crushed and ground
  • handful of chopped fresh parsley
  1. Put the squid rings in a bowl with the oil, lemon juice and zest, salt & pepper.  cover and place in the fridge until needed.
  2. Meanwhile, peel the remaining lemon and chop the segments up into small bits and place in a large serving bowl.
  3. Add the celery leaves or rocket to the lemon and the spices and parsley – mix well and set aside.
  4. Toast the pitta in some olive oil in a pan for a few minutes until crispy and starting to char in spots, remove these onto a plate to keep warm.
  5. Follow the pitta with the capers – fry until crispy and turn onto the pitta slices.
  6. Follow the capers with the celery and fry for a few minutes until softened slightly and tip onto the pitta and capers.
  7. Finally flash fry the squid with the marinade juices and zest for a minute until just cooked through.  Tip the pitta, capers and celery into the serving bowl with the lemon and leaves and stir well.  Then tip in the squid and give it another stir before serving immediately with a nice dry white wine.
  8. Enjoy all the spicy zingy flavours!

Slow roast spiced lamb shoulder

Serves 6-8 (or 4-5 with leftovers)

  • 1 shoulder of lamb
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • ½ cinnamon stick, broken up
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1/2 tsp chilli powder
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • Leaves from 2 large rosemary sprigs, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • Roast potatoes and veges to serve
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 22o degrees celsius.  
  2. Score the shoulder joint all over with a knife to just under the skin.  
  3. Put all the whole spices in a pan and lightly toast still the start popping.  Tip into a pestle and mortar and roughly grind.  Add the ground spices, garlic, salt and olive oil to mortar and stir well to combine to a thick paste.
  4. Using your fingers spread half the spices all over the lamb-  including sides and underneath and especially in the cuts that you’ve made.  
  5. Roast in the oven for 30 minutes.
  6. Remove from the oven and turn the oven down to 120 degrees celsius
  7. spread the remaining spices over the lamb using the back of a spoon, pour a glass of water in the bottom of the roasting pan the lamb is sat in (not over it) and cover in foil.  
  8. Return to the oven for 6 hours.
  9. Remove, allow to rest for a bit and then using a carving fork, tear the lamb off the bones (it should fall off easily) and serve with the roasted vege and potatoes and the juices from the pan poured over it.  
  10. Enjoy (perhaps with some red wine this time?!).  

St. Clements Pie (orange and lemon pie)

Serves 10 ish

  • 250g digestive biscuits
  • 85g butter (unsalted)
  • 3 lemons zested and juiced
  • 2 oranges zested and juiced
  • 1 tin condensed milk
  • 1 large egg plus 4 large egg yolks
  • 150ml double cream
  • 100g greek yoghurt
  • 4 tbsp icing sugar
  • more lemon zest
  1. Pre heat the oven to 180 degrees celsius
  2. Lightly grease an ovenproof flan dish or removable bottom cake tin
  3. Put the digestives in double bagged food bags tied tightly and bash with a rolling pin or spoon until they form crumbs.
  4. Melt the butter in a pan and remove from the heat.
  5. Add the digestive crumbs to the butter and mix well.  
  6. Tip the crumbs into the dish and spread out and pat down to form a crust along the bottom and up the sides.
  7. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes (keep an eye on this – mine did quite quickly and the first one burnt).  
  8. Remove from the oven, turning it down to 160 degrees celsius and allowing the crust to cool slightly.
  9. Meanwhile whisk the egg and yolks with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.  Add the condensed milk and orange & lemon zests and juices and whisk again until well combined.
  10. Pour the topping over the crust and bake in the oven for about 20-25 minutes until set (not going brown though).  Again keep an eye on this so it doesn’t over cook.
  11. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.  Then refrigerate for about 3-4 hours or overnight.  
  12. Just before serving, whip together the cream, yoghurt and icing sugar and dollop over the pie.  Sprinkle over the remaining zest and serve with some coffee
  13. Enjoy!  
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Off topic: Update on Hope

Please donate and support this lovely family!

This is just a quick update to let you know that Hope passed away peacefully, in her Mum & Dad’s arms, yesterday, on her 5th birthday. The funeral is on Thursday.

Although I never met Hope and only know her dad from school, their journey has really touched me, and I think it’s such a tragic and heartbreaking one.  Rest in Peace little one.

Now, more than ever, the family needs support. If you feel able to support them financially, you can do so here https://www.givealittle.co.nz/cause/hopeosbornesociety

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Hope Osborne – quick update

Hey guys, as promised, I’m updating here from the updates on the facebook group. Hope’s mum has just posted this. Please do donate and support this beautiful family through such a hard time. Here’s the link again to donate https://www.givealittle.co.nz/cause/hopeosbornesociety

Hope is very tired right now. In herself she’s not really much different to how she was last week except that today she has been much more sleepy and she has seemed confused at times. She didn’t get a lot of sleep last night and had quite a bit of extra medication this morning for pain which could account for it, but trying to account for it doesn’t really mean much. Her body is slowing down and it’s difficult to watch. We’re still trying to come to terms with the reality of actively not treating her, knowing the implications of that, but knowing that it’s really the best thing we can do for her. She’s mostly comfortable and we’re still getting some lovely moments from her.

Hope’s fifth birthday is in four days and we’re still not sure if she’ll make it. A month ago I would have said it’s not likely but today I’m quietly holding my breath, not making too many plans but hoping that she will. In the grand scheme of things it really doesn’t matter at all that it’s her birthday. But in other ways it’s hugely meaningful. I am so grateful to have had this beautiful little girl in my life. It hasn’t been an easy road to take but her very existence has brought us such joy and has changed me deeply.

There’s not really much more we can say right now.

Thanks for continuing to support us through this.

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Off topic: Hope Osborne – a very brave little girl (and her family). Please donate

I’m taking time out from food relating posts to tell you about Hope Osborne.  She is an adorable, beautiful four year old girl in New Zealand, and the daughter of a school friend of mine.   But unlike most four year olds, Hope is very sick and it’s untreatable.  She has Neuroblastoma, which is a very rare kind of cancer.  She was diagnosed three years ago, when she was just two.

After countless operations and procedures, she was initially in remission, however about a year ago she relapsed and the progression is such that they can’t treat it, they can only make her comfortable (palliative care).  Her very brave parents have a page on facebook and provide us all with regular updates.

Recently those updates have become more and more heartbreaking and it’s clear that Hope probably only has a short period of time left in this world.  And so I was moved to try and do something.  I also found out there is the Hope Osborne Society, set up by friends to help provide financial support to the family for all her additional health care needs and also because she requires constant care so her parents can’t work and greatly appreciate any financial support they get.

I am trying to get some better photos of Hope to put on here (these came from facebook and the resolution isn’t good) and will do so as soon as I do.  I’ll also post updates from the facebook group here.

If you want to donate, you can do so online here https://www.givealittle.co.nz/cause/hopeosbornesociety.  It is in NZ dollars but you can donate in any currency and it’ll convert it for you.

I’m not wanting to insist you donate, but if her story moves you and like me you want to help, then this is a good way of doing it.   They will also appreciate your thoughts, messages, and prayers.  Any comments you put on my blog for them I’ll pass on.

Here is an extract from her mum’s most recent update (today infact).  It’s quite long, mostly because it’s new to all of you so I wanted to give you a real sense of her life and what they’re dealing with.  Further updates will likely be shorter.

Thanks for all you posts and thoughts. After last week’s update where Hope’s health was apparently stable I realised it would have been good to mention that sometimes what appears to be happening on the outside is not often an good indication of what is going on inside. Like we expected, the latest blood transfusion was a bit of a pick-up for Hope’s energy levels, although her blood counts were not as low this time as they had been previously. But while we’ve managed to get out and about a little bit with Hope this week, her health seems to have taken quite a dive due to what seems to be pretty rapid disease progression.

Earlier in the week she started complaining that her eyes weren’t working properly and we eventually worked out that she had double vision. It bothered her a little but she seems to have taken it all in her stride – she wore a patch over one eye for a while that helped but got a bit sick of it and took it off. She hasn’t really complained of it since but looking at her, we can see that her eyes are crossed some of the time. I’m not sure why but this really had a big impact on me. For the last few weeks I feel like I’ve been in a kind of practical, functional mode – we can’t live in the deep sadness of our reality all the time or we just wouldn’t be able to do anything. We definitely have moments of sadness but they’re in quieter times like in the morning or evening, when we’re not surrounded by the busyness of the day. Every now and then something will happen health-wise with Hope that reminds us of the inevitable, and for me Hope’s eyes did that. So I have had a couple of really difficult days this week, thinking about what she is going through and wondering about our life after she has gone. It’s not really something that brings any kind of resolution because I have no idea how things will be later on, I just have to move through those days and deal with the emotion as it comes. Today is better…

We had a meeting with some of Hope’s medical team this morning. We had wondered if there would be any benefit in her having more radiotherapy to the skull/brain to alleviate the pain and deal with her vision issues. After a lot of discussion I think the consensus is that while they could do radiotherapy (and are willing to if we want it) the benefits, if any, would probably pretty limited. The same with the blood transfusions, and there is a pretty high chance that continuing with the transfusions might only cause her dying process to be more drawn out and possibly more distressing to her if the disease causes other major problems elsewhere in her body, i.e. progressive problems with her eyes, or hearing etc. A year ago, when we had the relapse diagnosis, I remember talking about Hope’s birth and thinking that if this is the road we have to travel, then it is our privilege to see Hope through it. Writing it down makes it sound kind of odd but I guess I mean that as parents we want to make sure that Hope is surrounded by the security of her parents’ love and care as she leaves us. I’m sure it’s not a unique feeling to any parent who has been in this kind of situation, but it is this feeling that has underpinned every decision we have made for her.

And as for Hope herself, she has been okay today after getting the pain under control. She is surprisingly UN-sleepy for a child who is on a big increase in morphine and who didn’t get a lot of sleep last night! She still has quite a few smiles that sneak out here and there – like when she is watching Jonas trying to scare people by flashing his tummy, or when she hears that there is chocolate cake around – and she still has periods where she is engaged with things going on around her. We are expecting, though, that in the next week or so, as her red blood count decreases, she will get very tired and will sleep a lot more of the day. 

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