A Celebration by the RLPO!

I had been excited about attending this concert for some time. The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and chief conductor Vasily Petrenko had earlier in the week been wowing the audience at the Royal Albert Hall, London in the biannual Classic FM Live. Friday’s programme borrowed heavily from their earlier London performance, though sadly Petrenko did not return to Liverpool with his glittering sequinned jacket which he wore in celebration of Classic FM’s Make Some Noise charity.

Vasily Petrenko

Vasily Petrenko Picture: Ian West/PA

David and I were in the cheap seats in the upper circle. The auditorium filled up nicely, but was not a full house as Thursday’s performance of the same programme was. I was thankful for this and we enjoyed a unobstructed view of the orchestra!

View from our seats

View from our seats

After the National Anthem, the orchestra started the evening as they meant to go on with a Celebration Overture composed by Nigel Hess and commissioned for the Philharmonic’s 175th anniversary! It was a fun opening to the concert though I was more interested in what came next.

Ji Liu who had also graced the stage of the Royal Albert Hall with Petrenko and co on Tuesday, came to Liverpool to perform Rachmaninov’s ultimately romantic second Piano Concerto!

Ju Liu

Ji Liu

It is undoubtedly my favourite piano concerto! I love the lyricism of the piece and the second movement (adagio sostenuto) is spine tingly good. Ji Liu cuts a very slender frame on the stage and at times during the performance the piano seemed too small for him, (if that make’s any sense)! He played the piece deftly and with skill.

During the opening movement (moderato), I found that the orchestra seemed to drown out the piano at times. I have noted this earlier in my review of Nobuyuki Tsujii‘s performance of Rachmaninov’s third piano concerto. Perhaps this was why the orchestra was surrounded by padding that adorned the walls? In part to rectify the change in acoustics due to the earlier renovations? Either way, the performance was exceptional.

While Ji Liu took the audience into the slow, second movement, made famous by David Lean’s Brief Encounter, I prepared myself to be swept away with romantic feeling. However the reality was that any sentimental musings were disrupted by some unfortunate, who coughed and retched about five minutes into this musical reverie. I imagined the poor stricken soul expiring in his chair. I gripped David’s arm hoping the gentleman would recover or graciously leave the auditorium. He thankfully recovered so we could all enjoy the remaining performance which culminated in Ji Liu coming onto the stage three times to raucous approval and then satisfying the appreciative crowd with his rendition of Skyfall.

After the interval, the Philharmonic continued their celebratory mood, with Glinka’s Overture to Ruslan and Ludmila, Vaughan William’s English Folk Song Suite and Verdi’s Aida march and ballet music. The concert was rounded off loudly with the much played 1812 Overture by Tchaikovsky. I would have loved this performance even more, if it were not for the recorded playback of cannons near the cymbal crashing culmination! To me it seemed a little forced. I was content with the wonderful playing of the percussion section whose bells sounded glorious!

Overall it was a fun concert to see and a great start to the Philharmonic’s new season. I look forward even more to Petrenko’s Mahler in November when the RLPO perform Mahler’s Sixth Symphony, a symphony very close to my heart!

© 2015 Christine Lucas

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Chester Cathedral Falconry and Nature Gardens

Friday was a busy day for David and I.

I don’t want to waste the two weeks I have off work by just staying at home, languishing. So I suggested to David that we spend the day at Chester. Chester is close enough to home yet has places we have yet to visit. Also we had to be back by 7.30 pm for a concert by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic!!

So Chester it was, and we decided to visit Chester Cathedral’s Falconry and Nature Gardens. We arrived at 11 am. The entrance fee was £3 per adult, with the ticket we could enter the site as many times as we wanted throughout the day. We looked around the ‘nature gardens’ and I was not impressed. There was only a small green area designated for picnics which had bee hotels and insect homes around the perimeter and another square where the birds of prey were housed, tethered by jess’s.

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David and I visited during school term time so there was not many people at the centre. During the flight display I counted five couples, David and I included! It was the flight displays that were the highpoint of the visit. The first one was at 12.30 pm so with time to spare David and I visited Chester Cathedral.

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At 12 noon David and I ventured back to Chester Falconry and Nature Garden and had our lunch there, waiting for the 12.30 pm display.

The 12.30 pm display featured an American Black Vulture and a Harris Hawk. I had wanted to see one of the falcons flying but we could not make the 2.30 pm show.

The flight display with Head of Falconry Tommy McNally, was very authoritative and educational. He explained why American Black Vulture’s had no feathers on their heads and how their white legs were a by-product of their own urine, which coats their legs with a sort of antibacterial to keep them clean and free from disease whilst feeding on carrion.

During the performance, we stood in the display field and Tommy asked for a volunteer. A tall, lithe girl volunteered and had to run the length of the field with a chicken head, thus causing the Vulture to run, then fly after her! Tommy said that vultures were lazy birds and this was one way to show them flying!

He then asked for another volunteer and I volunteered David, as I can’t run!! He had a glove put on his left hand and a chicken head placed amongst his fingers. Tommy asked David to run as fast as he could so that the vulture would have to forsake bounding on the ground and flap his wings! David set off with the vulture following his heels. The vulture took flight and soon got the chicken head! David was asked to run back and the vulture was rewarded again with a chicken head!

Frankie the Harris Hawk was next up, and he flew deftly between the heads of the small crowd and also wolfed down a chicken head, much like an owl would!

I find birds of prey highly thrilling and enjoyed my time at Chester Cathedral’s Falconry and Nature Garden’s. It would be a great place to visit during the summer, when in-between shows you can go shopping, have something to eat or visit the river Dee or castle! There is more to see in Chester than meets the eye! A visit to the Roman amphitheatre and the city walls is something that should be on every tourist’s to see list when visiting the area!

#PoppiesTour

Thursday dawned bright, yet cold, there was condensation on the windows. David and I, at 9 am set off on our journey to Yorkshire Sculpture Park. The journey took us just under an hour and a half and the sat nav guided us through winding country lanes towards the park. We have been to the park before in April this year. We went then to see the outside exhibition of Henry Moore sculpture. This time we planned to go and see The Wave, part of the Tower of London Poppies.

Like everyone else I was mesmerised by photographs of the poppies that graced the Tower of London last year. I was excited when it was announced that the poppies were going on a UK tour!

The poppies were created by artist Paul Cummins and designer Tom Piper for their installation Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, commissioned for the World War One centenary. I think their work of thousands of poppies, each one symbolising a fallen British or Colonial soldier took on a life of it’s own.

If you expect to see a sight like there was at the Tower of London, then you will be sorely disappointed. If, like me, you go to visit The Wave, and it’s counterpart The Weeping Window, presently displayed at Woodhorn Colliery, Northumberland, to see a unique art installation, then you will not be disappointed.

The Wave

The Wave at Yorkshire Sculpture Park

Once the car was parked and the £8 parking fee was paid (it’s for all day so relatively cheap), we walked the paths and followed the cardboard cut outs of poppies leading the way. It took us about 20 minutes to walk towards the poppies arching over the Cascade Bridge. From a distance you could see the red haze that the many poppy heads created and as you drew nearer, each one had a unique individuality.

Poppies

Poppies

We spent just over two hours at the park. Had our picnic lunch with The Wave resplendent before us. Even on a week day there were streams of visitors coming to look at the poppies, to photograph them or to just take in their symbolic meaning.

Christine and the Poppies

Christine and the Poppies

I wish I could make it to Woodhorn but at three hours drive there and three hours back I don’t think David will be too keen to make that journey. Luckily for us The Weeping Window is set to come to Liverpool’s St. George’s Hall in November so I will get to see the second part of this striking art installation. I can’t wait! 😀

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I’ll end this post with the poem that inspired the poppy WW1 centenary art commission.

Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red
By Anon – Unknown Soldier

The blood swept lands and seas of red,
Where angels dare to tread.
As I put my hand to reach,
As God cried a tear of pain as the angels fell,
Again and again.
As the tears of mine fell to the ground,
To sleep with the flowers of red,
As any be dead.
My children see and work through fields
of my own with corn and wheat,
Blessed by love so far from pain of my resting
Fields so far from my love.
It be time to put my hand up and end this pain
Of living hell, to see the people around me
Fall someone angel as the mist falls around,
And the rain so thick with black
thunder I hear
Over the clouds, to sleep forever and kiss
The flower of my people gone before time
To sleep and cry no more.
I put my hand up and see the land of red,
This is my time to go over,
I may not come back So sleep, kiss the boys for me.

The beginning of…

…my fortnight off from work did not go to plan! Monday morning dawned forebodingly as I found lying at the bottom of the finch aviary my beloved Romeo!

Romeo

Romeo

There was no indication that he was ill. He was a little quiet and fluffed up on Sunday but by the next day David and I were saying our farewells and burying him under the Pieris Forest Flame. 😦

The aviary did not seem to be the same after his little character had gone. Chocolate his mate was quiet and the other finches seemed to know of his absence.

Come Thursday, David and I took a trip to Clipsley Pets and Aquatics in St. Helens and acquired a new friend for Chocolate, a Bengalese called Fudge and a new member of the finch family, Pi, a Cut-throat.

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On Tuesday, I had the urge to cook something. I think it was to fill the void of sadness that Romeo’s sudden passing had left. So I merged a few recipes I found on-line to make a Curry Spiced Red Lentil Soup. The result was not unpleasant, though it could have done with a bit more of a kick. I fixed the recipe in line with this. If you don’t like spice/heat then reduce.

Ingredients

  • 1 litre of vegetable stock. I used reduced salt
  • 300g of red lentils
  • 1 medium onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 small red chilli, chopped
  • One potato, peeled and sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
  • Tin of tomatoes, drained
  • 2 tbsp tomato purée
  • 2 tsp of curry powder, and one tsp each of cumin, turmeric and coriander
  • 100 ml of milk
  • 1-2 tbsps of olive oil
  • Optional: Some cooked basmati rice to serve

Method

  1. In a large saucepan heat the olive oil, then add the garlic, onion and chilli to the pan. Fry over a gentle heat till soft.
  2. Add the potato, tomato, tomato puree and spices to the pan and fry gently for another 5 mins, stirring regularly.
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients, stirring well, then pop a lid on the pan and simmer the soup for approx 15 20 mins, or until lentils are soft.
  4. Pour the soup into a blender and blend at high speed till smooth and creamy. Alternatively, blend only half the soup for a chunkier texture.

I served with home-made wholemeal bread rolls.

Curry Spiced Red Lentil Soup

Curry Spiced Red Lentil Soup

At the start of the week the weather had been appalling, but nearing the weekend things started to look up! David had also taken Thursday and Friday off from work, so on Thursday we headed to Yorkshire Sculpture Park and the Tower of London Poppies… but that will do for another blog post!

Monsoon Forest at Chester Zoo

Monsoon Forest, the largest indoor zoo exhibit in the UK is finally open!

Monsoon Forest

Monsoon Forest

David and I decided to use what time we had left of our Chester Zoo membership, and take a day trip to see how the new exhibit had taken shape.

Monsoon Forest is part of the bigger project, Islands, at Chester Zoo and I have reviewed our preview visit here: https://redpanda08.wordpress.com/2015/07/12/islands-at-chester-zoo/.

After walking through the islands of Panay and the mysterious Papua with it’s Cassowary’s and mist.

We finally reached Sumba with it’s Lazy Boat Ride. I personally love this ride, it is so tranquil and today was no exception. While the zoo filled up with guests we sat in a boat and relaxed in the quietude of the river ride.

We saw the Visayan Warty Pigs and later on the Banteng, both enclosures look lovely!

After disembarking the boat we made our way to Bali where we watched doves and Javan Sparrows flit about freely. It made me comment that Islands is almost like a zoo within a zoo! There are many facets of Islands yet to be discovered.

Finally, it was onto Monsoon Forest! The biome is temperature controlled and the first area we entered was Tripa Forest Research Station which has views of the Orang-utan’s enclosure for when they are finally settled.

Tripa Forest Research Station

Tripa Forest Research Station

The research station was well designed and very authentic feeling. I loved the display of research papers amongst actual exhibits for the smaller insects/animals in the zoo’s collection.

Exhibit with spiders and leeches etc..

Exhibit with spiders and leeches etc..

Then it was into the rainforest itself, where apparently it rains sometimes! There were no birds free flying but there will be in time!

Monsoon Forest

Monsoon Forest

As like any other exhibit you see the animals when they want to be seen, and today the Rhinoceros Hornbill was sitting on it’s perch but the Sulawesi Macaques were fast asleep high up in their enclosure. The Sumatran Tigers have been relocated to islands but are acclimatising to their new surroundings. It will be wonderful to see them in their huge new home when it is open to the public.

There have been many pictures of the new exhibit, the Sunda Gharial crocodile but all David and I saw was the head of the animal, it’s huge body and tail was submerged under water!

We spent a good hour in Islands, this our second visit. It is an exhibit that can be visited again and again and something new would be witnessed each time. The new venture for Chester Zoo can only go from strength to strength. Also with this new land being available it is opening up more space within the zoo to bring in more species. The Sun Bear is an excellent example which will be housed in the old tiger enclosure. Something to look forward to in the future. 🙂


Today was also The Red Panda Network’s International Red Panda Day!

I celebrated it at the Red Panda enclosure of Chester Zoo, while waiting and failing to see the two baby Red Pandas. Maybe next time?

International Red Panda Day

International Red Panda Day

Later on while leaving the zoo and perusing their gift shop, David and I came across Roxie the Charlie Bear Red Panda, and I just had to have her for my ever growing collection of Red Pandas!

Roxie the Charlie Bear Red Panda

Roxie the Charlie Bear Red Panda

Happy International Red Panda Day!!

Christine xx

Micro – Actions!

This past week I have embarked on the You with Jamie Oliver app. It’s all about positive changes you can do, one little step at a time. You are set daily/weekly challenges. Previous one’s I have had were, ‘the best part of the day‘, ‘what makes you happy‘, and ‘think positive.‘ You take a picture to symbolise the topic. One was to show ‘beauty around you.’ So I took a picture of a Passion Flower.

Honey Bee and Passion Flower

Honey Bee and Passion Flower

This past week however I have found it rather difficult to be positive, what with the boiler being serviced and a leaking pump found! It made us £300 the poorer, though come the winter we will hopefully be toasty!

This weekend has been fun. We had planned on going to Chester Zoo before our membership ran out, but the weather was dodgy so we spent the weekend at home.

It was Saturday after 4.30pm which I really enjoyed. With the radio cranked up as Classic FM’s Saturday Night at the Movies, celebrated Hans Zimmer’s music. I embarked on chopping vegetables and cooking the evening dinner. I used and adapted Jools Oliver’s Wholesome Vegetable and Bean Soup. My volumes are to serve three people.

Ingredients:

  • 1 carrot
  • 1 onion
  • 1 large leek
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 sprig of fresh rosemary
  • olive oil
  • 1 x 400 g tin of borlotti or cannellini beans. (I used borlotti beans)
  • 1 litre low salt vegetable
  • Hand full of barley
  • 35 g baby spinach or kale (I used kale)
  • 150 g frozen peas/ green beans. (I just used a handful of peas and 75g of green beans)
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Method:

  • Start by preparing the base of your soup. Peel, roughly chop the carrot and potato, trim, wash and roughly chop the leek. Peel and very finely slice the garlic, chop the onion and then pick and finely chop the rosemary.
  • Heat a lug of oil in a large pan on a medium heat, then add the rosemary. Fry for a few minutes, then add the chopped carrot, leek, onion and garlic. Cook gently for around 15 minutes, or until soft, stirring regularly, with the lid on.
  • Add the beans (drained), chopped potato (small,) and a hand full of barley. Then finally add the stock. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer for 30 minutes – add a little more stock or water if you think it needs it. (Leave the lid on.)
  • Finally, add the spinach or kale and chopped green beans/peas, and cook for a further 10 minutes, or until the greens are cooked but still vibrant green. (Keep the lid on.) Have a taste and season, if needed, then tuck in.
  • Serve with bread… I was requested to make Focaccia.
Wholesome Vegetable and Bean Soup

Wholesome Vegetable and Bean Soup

The recipe for Focaccia was taken from an Asda seasonal brochure.

Ingredients:

  • 250g of Strong White Bread Flour
  • 1 level tsp salt
  • 7g of easy bake yeast
  • 2tbsp of reduced fat olive oil
  • On red onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • Chopped sprigs of fresh oregano, (I used some from the garden!)

Method:

  • Mix the flour, salt and yeast in a bowl
  • Pour in the oil and used 15ml of tepid water, mix the ingredients together to form a soft dough
  • Turn the dough onto a floured surface and begin to need, adding more flour until the dough is of a smooth texture.
  • Place the dough in a bowl and put somewhere warm for 45 minutes, until doubled in size.
  • While the dough is proving, chop and fly the red onion and garlic. Leave to one side once cooked.
  • Chop some oregano and leave to one side
  • Once the dough has risen, knock back and then flatten into required shape.
  • With your finger press small indentations into the top of the dough and then sprinkle the onion, garlic and oregano on top.
  • Put in a pre warmed oven at gas mark 6/200° and cook for 30-35 minutes, until golden.
  • Remove from oven, and serve.
Focaccia

Focaccia

Sunday was a lovely early Autumn day. The sun shone and David and I spent over three hours in the garden, cleaning and pruning. I planted some of my bulbs, of Aliums and Snake Heads for the coming spring. Fingers crossed they grow!

Artie enjoyed spending time in the garden and in between terrorising the bumblebees and honey bees, he relaxed taking in the sun.

Artie

Artie

We still have many birds visiting the feeders, and not an hour goes by that numerous Goldfinches are seen feasting on the Sunflower/Nyger seeds.

How many Goldfinches can you See?

How many Goldfinches can you See?

Dinner this Sunday evening was a vegetarian roast. I boiled kale, peas, sweetcorn and green beans in a pan while in the oven Quorn Turkey style slices were cooking alongside Aunt Bessie’s Herb and Garlic roast potatoes. I made some sage and onion stuffing and mixed up some vegetarian gravy. Finally I microwaved some mushy peas for David!

Beautiful, tasty roast dinner

Beautiful, tasty roast dinner

Now I am nursing a headache before the working week ahead. How have you spent your weekend?

Christine xx

A-MA-ZING!!

Can I say that one more time?

AMAZING!!

I’ve been talking about the experience all afternoon and evening! I simply can’t get over it! It’s always only me that sees it! I’ve joked with David that I must be ‘high’ on something! That quinoa last night must have been infected with mould, as this afternoon, after preparing my Sunday dinner, I looked out of the kitchen window to see if there was any bird activity at the feeders and there it was! A Sparrowhawk!

I wish I had my camera to hand as it’s just my word to say that it was in the garden, but there it was attacking whatever was sheltering in the Laurel Bush, probably a Sparrow or Starling!

I gasped in amazement and then it turned its orange eyes towards me before it spread its wings and flew off.

I have seen a Sparrowhawk in the area before, in 2012, the day of my father’s funeral. Today, one was in the garden looking for it’s lunch!

The whole incident happened so fast that I am writing this account so as to remember it!

I have no pictures myself of the Sparrowhawk, so I have had to borrow from Google/YouTube. The below footage is by Brian Ewen.


After some reading I have discovered that if a Sparrowhawk is in your garden then it is a sign of a healthy population of birds/prey. I like to see it as a healthy micro-system. I have put feeders in my garden to encourage small birds like the Blue Tit, Dunnock and Goldfinch. This in turn has encouraged Pigeons and Starlings to visit. This movement and frenzied activity has alerted the next stage of the chain. The predator, like the Sparrowhawk.

The system is very like that of my planting for bees, butterflies and moths. Their presence in the garden has brought the arrival of Swallows to feast on the abundance of insects. It certainly shows that we are all interconnected.

I have read that some people dislike Sparrowhawks being in their neighbourhood. I have to accept that even Sparrowhawks need to feed otherwise they will starve to death.

On the RSPB website it states that Sparrowhawk numbers were heavily in decline due to pesticides used in farming from the 1950’s onwards. Thankfully, numbers seem to be on the increase due to the banning of certain chemicals. The RSPB also states that the predation of Sparrowhawks on songbirds has ‘no or little impact on songbird populations.’ The Wildlife Trust produced a report on the predation of songbirds and concluded that songbird ‘numbers over the last few decades should not be blamed on predation by Sparrowhawks and Magpies.’

In my area there are not just Magpies, but other crows and Seagulls present. Recently, there seems to be a healthy balance of numbers from the smaller birds. I counted at one time, up to, if not exceeding 20 Goldfinches, 10 House Sparrows and over 20 Starlings, mostly fledglings. Pigeon numbers seem to be increasing steadily also.

The presence of predators therefore does seem to indicate that there are a healthy number of smaller birds. Chris Mead from Jacobi Jayne & Company states, ‘numbers of Sparrowhawks are controlled by the numbers of their prey.’ I like to think that since I have been encouraging Goldfinches, House Sparrows and Starlings to my garden that I am creating a healthy ecosystem where there is enough prey numbers for a predator to flourish. Time will tell if the Sparrowhawk will return.

I have been researching the presence of Sparrowhawks in Liverpool, and have come across a number of blogs from 2010 and 2012 stating Sparrowhawk sightings. It’s not uncommon for Sparrowhawks to predate in city gardens. However, I just find it amazing that one appeared in my inner city garden, though more like a yard than a garden!! I am feeling proud that I have made a little oasis in a rather built up area. 🙂


And in other news:

I seemed to have been on a health kick recently. I have been treadmilling, doing squats and abdominal workouts daily. I don’t know whether this is the fact that I have lost an inch around the chest and half an inch from the waist. Either way I think healthy eating has helped.

Lentils are a great source of protein and low in calories. They lower your cholesterol and help maintain blood sugar levels. So, today I made a Vegan, Spicy Lentil Soup. I got the recipe from Cookie and Kate. Though I changed a few quantities and added a potato and green beans.

Ingredients:

  • Splash of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium white onion, chopped
  • 2 celery sticks chopped
  • 1 small potato, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
  • Handful of green beans chopped
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • 400g can of diced tomatoes
  • 200g of green lentils
  • 1 litre of vegetable stock, reduced salt. I used two cubes
  •  ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Method:

  1. Warm the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat.
  2. Once the oil is shimmering, add the chopped onion, celery and potato and cook, stirring often, until the onion has softened and is turning translucent, (about 5 minutes.)
  3. Add the garlic, cumin, curry powder and thyme. Cook until fragrant while stirring constantly, (about 30 seconds.)
  4. Pour in the tomatoes, green beans and cook for a few more minutes, stirring often, in order to enhance their flavour.
  5. Pour in the lentils and stock. Add 1/2 a teaspoon of cayenne pepper. Season generously with freshly ground black pepper. Raise heat and bring the mixture to a boil, then partially cover the pot and reduce heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook for 30 minutes, or until the lentils are tender but still hold their shape.
  6. Transfer 450ml of the soup to a blender. Protect your hand from steam with a tea towel placed over the lid and purée the soup until smooth. Pour the puréed soup back into the pan and warm up.
  7. Remove the pan from heat.Taste and season with more salt, pepper. Serve immediately.
Spiced Vegan Lentil Soup

Spiced Vegan Lentil Soup

The soup turned out really well. Though it looked more brown than the original recipe. (It doesn’t look very appetising from the picture, but believe me it was very appetising and healthy). It made four bowls, so have enough for tomorrows dinner. 😀

Have a pleasant week ahead.

 

Autumn Light.

For the past few weeks now I have noticed a change in the light.

Afternoon autumn sun flooding the dining room

Afternoon autumn sun flooding the dining room

The shadows have become longer. The sunlight during the day has become more stark, almost piercing. The seasons are changing without us hardly knowing! Autumn is arriving, creeping silently into summer. The days are becoming shorter. Soon it will be night by 4pm! For now, I am valuing every minute of light. Savouring the last bloom of flowers and the remaining buzz of bees before nature slows down for winter.

Part of me wants to mourn the loss of the light, but autumn brings its own pleasures. Like the frenzied activity at the bird feeders and the Sedum finally flowering after budding for so long!

Bird feeder

Bird feeder

Sedum and Honey Bee

Sedum and Honey Bee

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today I have been making ready the house for autumn and the coming winter. The windows got a good clean and the voiles have all been washed. I have also changed the bedroom curtains from the sky blue to the teal in preparation for the darker evenings to come.

Picture from 2013

Picture taken 2013

Come the evening, I was busy in the kitchen making a, Peruvian Quinoa Stew(serves 3 people).

Ingredients:

  • 15og of quinoa, rinsed well
  • 200 – 250 ml of water
  • 1 onion (white) diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic sliced
  • Olive oil for frying (I use lower fat olive oil)
  • 1 celery rib chopped
  • 1 carrot sliced
  • 1 bell pepper (any colour)
  • Handful of green beans, chopped. You can use any variety of vegetables
  • 200ml of vegetable stock (I used reduced salt)
  • 400g of chopped tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons of ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon of chilli powder (I used medium)
  • 1 teaspoon of ground coriander
  • half a teaspoon of cayenne pepper (put more in if you like heat)
  • 1 teaspoon of dried oregano
  • Fresh, chopped coriander for garnish, if preferred. (I left out)

Method:

  1. I rinsed the quinoa. Placed it in a small pan with the 200ml – 250ml of water and cooked, over a medium heat, for about 15 minutes or until soft. Then I set aside with a lid on the pot to absorb the remaining water.
  2. While the quinoa cooked, I had a second pan on the hob. I chopped and sautéed the onions, then added the garlic in a little olive oil for about 5 minutes over a low to medium heat. It may have taken a little longer for me as I was busy chopping the other vegetables while the onion cooked.
  3. Then I peeled and sliced the carrot. Washed and chopped the celery. I added both to the cooking onion and garlic and cooked for a further 5 minutes, stirring often so nothing stuck or burnt to the pan. It took longer as I had the hob on a lower heat.
  4. After chopping the bell pepper and green beans, I added them to the pan with the other vegetables and then added the tin of tomatoes, along with the spices (cumin, chilli powder, coriander, cayenne and oregano). I let them blend together for just a few minutes and then poured in the stock. I covered the pan and let simmer for about 15-20 minutes, maybe longer, until the vegetables were tender
  5. After everything had cooked I stirred in the cooked quinoa, warmed it up again, and adjusted the salt to taste.
  6. Add chopped coriander if needed. (I left out)

While the quinoa had cooked and the vegetables were simmering in their covered pan. I stood by the sink and washed the knives and measuring jugs used in the preparation. I gazed out of the window and cherished the bird antics going on before my eyes.

I counted up to 17 Goldfinches at the sunflower and nyger seed feeders. Amongst them were still some babies flapping their wings, begging! Pigeons pecked at the off-casts the Goldfinches threw out and the visiting Dunnock hopped among the vines of the climbing Passion Flower snatching at insects!

I am happy to report that the Sparrows are still visiting in numbers. There were at least five on the feeders and I watched on as three Sparrows had discovered my ground cage feeder and were happily guzzling the dried meal-worms I had left out for the Dunnock. A Sparrow and Starling fought for the right to feast on the fat block sitting in the Laurel bush. The Sparrow won!

The meal finally came together. I must say the spices were rather muted, maybe some more or an added chilli could have helped? It was however a filling and healthy meal, though my mum disliked the quinoa ‘tails’!

Peruvian Quinoa Stew

Peruvian Quinoa Stew

And also:

I have done some more research on quinoa and its ‘tails.’ The seed is from South America and was the staple diet of the Incas. The tails are not tails at all, actually they are the endosperm of the seed. The nutrition or power house for the growing seed, much like the albumin of an egg. According to BBC Good Food, quinoa, is a complete protein, meaning it has all nine amino acids. It is a fantastic wheat free choice and is highly digestible. It has twice the protein content of rice and barley and is also a good source of calcium, magnesium, vitamin E and dietary fibre.

The health benefits speak for itself. I think I’ll be cooking with this little seed a lot more in the future! 🙂

Have you eaten any good meals with quinoa? I would love to know your thoughts on this super seed!

Christine xx