Sunday Sevens #24

I thought I’d scrape some pictures together and participate once again in this weeks Sunday Sevens devised by Natalie.

Baking: I ended last week’s Sunday Sevens with a picture of David’s endeavours. I’ll begin this week with another of his creations. It took five hours to make, baking in the oven for 1.5 hours but the result was a bouncy sponge with soft coffee buttercream and chocolate ganache to decorate.

Reading: This week I finished Katherine Webb’s The English Girl. Susanna from Fred the Needle asked if I would review the book, so here’s some of my thoughts. Despite the story not being as strong as Webb’s first two books The Legacy and The Unseen, The English Girl was a far better story than The Night Falling. Webb used the Jebel War of 1958-59 as the backdrop to the novel. It is another of those weaving dual narratives. The two protagonists are Maude Vickary in the 1900’s and Joan Seabrook in the 1950’s. The main theme is adventure, of two women breaking the bonds of society and finding themselves (or losing themselves) to the desert wastes of Oman. I found Joan’s character rather wishy-washy and I wished she would stop faffing about and make a decision. I preferred reading the story of Maude and her adventures of trying to be the first woman/Westerner to cross the Empty Quarter. Her struggle across huge dunes and facing sheer exhaustion was well described. I had my hand to my mouth when she encountered a camel spider (look them up) and shocked at her betrayal, but I won’t spoil the end for you! All in all it wasn’t a bad read. It took me a whole year to read The Night Falling. I read The English Girl in a fraction of that time. If you enjoy Arabian adventures then this novel is for you!

Have you read it? Let me know what you think?

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Walk 1000 miles: I’ve walked 21.4 miles this week, a touch better than last week. While on my daily walk to the bus stop to work, I noticed the central reservation was awash with the golden heads of daffodils. It certainly brought to mind the iconic William Wordsworth poem. ‘I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud.’

Wildlife: On Thursday my eyes spied a small green/brown bird flitting around the yarden. It was the size of a blue tit, but it wasn’t a blue tit. It was a chiffchaff. I only see these birds once a year. They must pass through the city on way to woodland for the summer. I reached for my camcorder but the camera wasn’t charged, so an old video I took in 2013 will just have to do!

Pets: This weekend has been a stressful one! On Saturday I witnessed our new parrot finch, Leaf attacking our other newbie, Gouldian finch, Set! Afterwards, David managed to pick Set up and noticed the damage Leaf had done. His feathers around his head and eyes had been plucked, leaving red skin exposed. Poor Set was scared so much he just sat in David’s hand. We noticed that Set still had his baby mouth. He must only be as young as six months old!

I have read that if there is an aggressor in an aviary, then the only course of action is to take the aggressor away. That was when our problem began. We managed to isolate Leaf and his other parrot friend, Forrest from the aviary, but the only other cage we had was the hospital cage which was where Set was recovering in. Our other cage, the one in which our aviary had begun five years ago was at David’s Mum’s housing their two budgies.

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Leaf and Forrest’s new home

Kindly, David’s Mum and Dad said that we could have our cage back as they had one which could house their budgies until they got a bigger cage. I was so relieved, more so when back at home the two parrot finches explored the cage and were soon housed in it.

Set has recovered from his ordeal and though still looking a little worse for wear he has been reintegrated into the aviary with the more placid finches. Leaf and Forrest are flitting about their new home, they never keep still for long, hence needing a bigger cage to house them.

Who would have guessed such small birds would cause so much distress!

Cooking: For Saturday’s dinner I cooked a three bean quinoa chili. The recipe was very versatile and I substituted a few ingredients to what I had in the store-cupboard. I served it with oven baked tortillas and a crisp glass of white wine. It made for a healthy and filling meal. Definitely one to make again.

Gardening: This Sunday David and I spent some time in the yarden planting our Centurion onions. I snapped some pictures of Stellata magnolia and dwarf rhododendron flowers. The yarden is definitely awakening!

So that was my week. How have you spent yours?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

‘Ladies that Lunch’ at Leaf – Liverpool.

Recently I met up with the lady I work with, Sue and her new guide dog, Kallie for lunch in Liverpool. With both of us not being ‘girls about town’ we were scratching our heads as to where to go for lunch. I know there are a myriad of places to visit but I was after somewhere were you weren’t turfed out after about an hour. Then I recalled an independent tea shop and restaurant in Bold Street, Leaf. I remembered visiting with a student of mine, now friend, years ago. I searched my blog and found that the visit was three years ago! How time flies!!

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We visited Leaf at probably the most busiest time of day, 12 noon. The restaurant covers two floors with stages for live bands. The furniture is made up of an eclectic mix of wooden tables, picnic tables, leather sofas, arm chairs and plastic canteen chairs. Drapes cover the walls in a building that was once a tea shop, cinema, then clothes shop.

We were advised by one of the friendly staff that there were more tables upstairs which was less busy at that time. So we hit the button on the lift and made our way to the 1st floor.

At no point was the presence of Kallie an issue. A firm reminder to less welcoming establishments of Guide Dogs for the blind’s Access all Areas campaign.

We chose a table in the corner, where there was lots of natural light coming from the tall art deco styled windows. The first floor felt light and airy. There was a relaxed feel to the place, which I also got the first time I visited. Service was top notch. There were complaints in that area (nor any other for that matter). Our order for drinks and food was taken at the table, though you can opt to order at the bar.

There is a varied choice of lose leaf tea available. Sue chose the English Breakfast Tea and I the Ceylon. We both ordered for lunch the Pepper and Tomato Soup, which we did not have to wait too long for.

The soup was delicious, warming and of good proportion, it was served with a slice of focaccia bread. It also stayed warm for over half an hour as we took our time chatting and catching up. The Ceylon tea was aromatic and better served with no milk, much like the Darjeeling at Jam.

After about an hour we decided to prolong our stay and ordered a Leaf Cream Tea which consisted of another pot of tea (of your choice) and a scone, with clotted cream and jam. At £5.95 I thought was good value. The pots of tea filled three small cups. In total we had six small cups each! It was a very wet, caffeine filled afternoon!

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Leaf Cream Tea

I liked the presentation of the cream tea and the scone was ‘huge’! I went home feeling very full!

In all we spent three and a half hours at leaf and not once did we feel the need to vacate our table. The service was friendly and approachable and the meals were value for money.

I would definitely visit Leaf for lunch again in the future.

Have you had a meal at Leaf? They have restaurants in Liverpool and Manchester. What was your experience like?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Afternoon Tea at Jam – Liverpool

It was a dismal February day, with leaden grey clouds and a chilling north wind. To brighten the mood, I made an advanced booking at local restaurant and bar, Jam. It was thanks to my friend Kelly who gifted me a voucher for afternoon tea, that we visited this restaurant. We had not been before.

Our table was booked for 12.15pm. On arrival, the maître d’ was expecting us and showed David and I to our table with a view of the busy street beyond.

The restaurant is small but well designed. It gave a luxurious vibe without being pretentious. I had had second thoughts about booking for a Saturday at lunch time as I thought the place would be heaving. Thankfully it was not. There were other people enjoying afternoon tea and a party celebrating a baby shower but that was it. I suppose it would be busier of an evening.

tea

Darjeeling Tea

We sat down with the drinks menu and had a choice from over 20+ teas. I chose the Darjeeling (floral, much better without milk) and David had the afternoon blend (which he thought was quite strong). The drinks came in teapots, enough for three cups, and small metal pails for the milk. We were asked later on if we needed hot water top ups for our teapots.

The maître d’ asked for any dietary requirements. I ordered the vegetarian afternoon tea. I was happy as I thought the choice of afternoon tea would be limited with the voucher but it wasn’t. My sandwiches were a little different to David’s when the cake trays arrived, one for each of us! I’ll list the choice of sandwiches and cakes below.

The only other afternoon tea I can make a comparison with is my trip to Browns last year. Though Jam’s price was a little higher for two people, I found the quality was much better! You certainly got more for your money!

roll

Vegetarian Afternoon Tea

Vegetarian Afternoon Tea:

  • Cucumber and cream cheese roll
  • Fried onion and pepper roll
  • Tomato and hallumi roll
  • Grated cheese roll

(All the cakes were homemade.)

  • Sponge cake
  • Nutty chocolate brownie
  • Trifle
  • Fudge
  • Homemade scone (it was still warm) with clotted cream and homemade jam

Afternoon Tea:

  • Ham roll
  • Smoked salmon roll
  • Egg roll
  • Cucumber and cream cheese roll
  • The cakes and scone was the same as above
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Afternoon Tea at Jam

The homemade fudge was sweet and rich, though I couldn’t eat too much of it. David enjoyed the chocolate brownies, indeed, he ate mine too! He said they were moist and nutty. The trifle was smooth and the mixture of cream and custard was delicious! The jam was a little tart but it didn’t detract from the gorgeous fluffy and fruity scones!

Service was good and they even did doggie bags! Our left overs came all wrapped up in silver foil with a handle!

Overall, I enjoyed the afternoon tea experience at Jam. I was even happier that I got the vegetarian option! David enjoyed the cakes but said the choice of sandwiches were not to his liking.

I’ll rate this afternoon tea an 8/10!

Do you enjoy afternoon teas? What are your experiences of them?

Thanks for reading,

Christine (and David!) x

2016 – A Year in Food.

With New Year drawing closer, it got me thinking what posts I should do as a round up of the year! One idea was ‘a year in food,’ to post 12 pictures that give a flavour of 2016! I have followed many recipes this year and prepared hundreds of dishes, (some successful, others not!), so I thought I would do a little summary.

I hope you enjoy!

January:

 At the start of the New Year I was determined to make meals that were filling, yet healthy and with produce that help reduce cholesterol. So one of the meals I made was a Red Lentil, Chickpea and Chilli soup.

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Red Lentil, Chickpea and Chilli Soup

Lentils are a good source of fiber, help with stabilising blood sugars and promote heart health.

You can find the original recipe here.

February:

The 28th of February was Global Scouse Day! Scouse is the signature dish of the city of Liverpool, usually made with meat. I prefer this vegetarian version with butter-beans called Blind Scouse.

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Blind Scouse

You can find the original recipe here:

March:

One recipe I have returned to time and time again this year has been this One Pan Mexican Quinoa. It is healthy, filling and can be used with either quinoa or brown rice. It’s a very versatile dish. I see me making this for many years to come.

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One Pan Mexican Quinoa

You can find the original recipe here: 

April:

This Pearl Barley Risotto with a crumbling of goats cheese would have been nice if it wasn’t for the very off putting buttery taste. I may attempt the recipe again, but leave out the butter!

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Pearl Barley Risotto

You can find the original recipe here:

May:

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Vegetable and Quorn Sausage Frittata

I am not a big lover of eggs, but this 4-6 egg Vegetable and Quorn Sausage Frittata was surprisingly filling and enjoyable.

June:

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Sea Turtle loaves

As I participated in The Wildlife Trust’s 30 Days Wild. I decided to get creative in the kitchen and made some mini loaves in the shape of Sea Turtles.

You can find the original recipe here:

July:

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Bramley Apple Pie

One of David’s friends kindly gifted us a load of Bramley apples. For weeks after I was baking and eating apple pies! They were yummy though!

The recipe I used was one by the Hairy Bikers.

August:

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Vegetable Tagine

I got the recipe for this Vegetable Tagine from a free Asda booklet. It makes a tasty dish with lots of different textures. For David, I complete it by topping it with a chicken breast, while for myself, I chop up a Quorn chicken style fillet for added protein.

September: 

A meal we don’t make too often and we should as it’s yummy, are these Spicy Mexican Bean Burgers. The recipe can be changed for any type of beans found in your store-cupboard. I serve with mounds of fresh salad.

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Spicy Mexican Bean Burger

October: 

I am not a big fan of pastry, however I decided to try this Indian Samosa Casserole. I like Indian spices so that was a plus. It served 3 to 4 people generously. I will definitely be trying the recipe again.

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Indian Samosa Caserole

You can find the original recipe here:

November:

Another dish I have made quite a few times this year is this Quinoa and Bean Soup. The original recipe called for white beans but I just used whatever beans I found in the store-cupboard! I have cooked a lot with quinoa this year due to its many health benefits.

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Quinoa and Bean Soup

December:

For the final meal, I thought I would choose the wonderful Curried Red Lentils. I have been cooking this easy peasy dish since the summer. I even make a big batch of them and take them to work. They are scrumptious, keep me fueled all afternoon and are healthy! I even throw in a teaspoon of turmeric just for its cancer busting properties!

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Curried Red Lentils

You can find the original recipe here:

So there you have it, a flavour of my 2016!

Let me know if you have tried any of the recipes featured? Or my post has inspired you to try some of them!

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2016 – Week Four

o0OhgWNNIt’s been a rather depressing week here in the UK. To escape the dirge from the media I have dived headlong into wildlife and The Wildlife Trusts’s 30 Days Wild. Below is an account of my fourth week, the last full week of June. I have tried to find light within the gloom!

 

Day 22: Wednesday

Sing a rainbowOn the 30 Days Wild Facebook page, someone had created a collage of rainbow colours taken from nature. I thought I’d try one. All pictures are taken from the yarden. Featuring: antirrhinum, honeysuckle, foxglove, jasmine, campanula, erysimum and lithodora.

Day 23: Thursday

This week has been National Insect Week, an initiative to encourage people to learn more about insects. In celebration of this week, I have been putting out insect pitfall traps in the hope of catching sight of the creepy crawlies that make the yarden their home. Unfortunately on both occasions, the traps were empty, probably because they were not the best traps.

Since we have had some fair weather these past few days in the NW of England, I decided to try my hand at a moth light trap. During the day we see many Cinnabar Moths, but I wanted to see what night moths we attract to the yarden. I draped a white sheet over two chairs and positioned a light directly behind and waited for the darkness to deepen.

It was almost 11.30pm when it became dark! I could see many micro moths fluttering but no hawkmoths which I had hoped/wanted to see! As the stars and planets twinkled from the indigo sky, the light trap only attracted one small moth. I think it was a Webbing or Common Clothes Moth!

Though moth sightings were thin on the ground, David and I did manage to have fun in the yarden. David took to photographing the stars and dodgy ‘ghosts,’ while I enjoyed the perfumed scent of the air. Everything feels so calm at night, unlike the madness daylight hours tend to bring.

On clearing up the equipment for the night, as David was in work the following day, a beautiful marbled moth fluttered towards the light. I was half in the house, half out as it danced around the halogen bulb. Sadly we didn’t take a picture, so I don’t know what type of moth it was. I feel I have some unfinished business with moths in the yarden. I hope to maybe fit in another observation session before June is out! Needless to say my dreams were full of moths that night!

Day 24: Friday

The weather this June seems to have conspired against us! Today was another one of those days with sparse sunshine and heavy showers! With having little ‘get up and go,’ I turned to the ‘wild’ cards for inspiration. The card I chose, search for mini wildness, suggested to look for lichens and forests of moss in pavements. So I decided to take a closer look at the liverwort growing in my yarden! (I didn’t know it was liverwort until I started researching it!)

The type of liverwort in the yarden is called Marchantia polymorpha. Apparently they like compacted, wet, acidic soils. Bad luck for my camellia, but the liverwort does look nice as a green base for the plant in its shaded pot. I shall evaluate how the plant is growing and if the liverwort is effecting it in future!

Day 25: Saturday

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I usually make lard cakes for the birds come winter time, but as I did this task for last years 30 Days Wild, I shall replicate it this year too!

I used a block of lard (it’s usually cheap in the supermarkets). I then microwaved it for 3 minutes until it was liquid. Threw in handfuls of mixed seed, (you can use peanuts and fruit also.) I then bulked it up with wholemeal flour. I used the suet holders with paper lined templates and scooped the fat mixture into these. I left to solidify. I shall hang them out tomorrow!

 

Day 26: Sunday

I never thought I was a big technophile but participating in this years, National Unplugging Day, I have discovered I turn to my computer and phone more than I care to. A typical day usually starts around 7am, the alarm on my phone wakes me up! While having breakfast, I scroll through Facebook and look at WordPress. Throughout the working day I communicate with David  via email. I text my mum, even though she lives next door! I use the timer on my phone and playlists on my laptop while I am working out. I also use the timer when I am cooking. I have many books downloaded to my Kindle. I turn to Google whenever I have a question. During 30 Days Wild I have been hooked to my blog feed, looking for new posts from fellow bloggers. I wind down to BBCi and music on YouTube. All day I have Classic FM playing in the background!

So, participating in this initiative is going to be both challenging and enlightening!

1

My unplugged day started at 9.30am. I had asked David when he got up an hour earlier to wake me after 9. I awoke at 9.15am and lay there waiting for my wake-up call. I snoozed and woke up again fifteen minutes later. Still no wake-up call. I was walking down the stairs to make breakfast when David came out of the living room. ‘Oh you’re up!’

‘Yes, where was my wake-up call?’

‘I didn’t know the time,’ meaning he had been busy playing GTA5! I shook my head! I took my breakfast and a hot cup of black coffee back to bed. It was a Sunday after all! While relaxing, I perused the pages of my paperback of Katherine Mansfield short stories. Though I had to fight the urge to reach out and grab my phone!

To counter the boredom I had moved the household chores from Saturday to today. The opposite was done for my session on the treadmill, which I did on Saturday as I use my laptop for motivational music! At 10.30am I climbed out of bed, got dressed and made a start on the cleaning. I dragged Henry around the house and wiped/disinfected surfaces and floors. The whole task took me three hours, with lunch in-between!

I spent the afternoon in the kitchen. I baked bread, which I shaped in the form of butterflies and made a very healthy, (and tasty) pan of blind scouse, (vegetable stew). I got David to take pictures of the finished article! I really missed my phone for taking pictures!

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There wasn’t much opportunity for communing with the wild, as persistent rain arrived in the afternoon. I watched from the kitchen window the birds visiting the freshly filled feeders, of which there were:

  • 2 House Sparrows (males)
  • 2 Goldfinches
  • 1 very disheveled Blue Tit
  • 1 Dunnock
  • 8 Starlings, (1 was a baby)
  • Many Pigeons!

I also saw Tree Bumblebees brave the rain to forage from the campanula flowers.

Come evening, I chatted to David while he cooked his lunches for work that week. All day he had been teasing me about not using technology. At one point he even came down the stairs with the laptop, and said ‘aww but you can’t watch!’ Meany! I then relaxed by reading some more Katherine Mansfield stories while enjoying a nice cold glass of pinot grigio.

10pm arrived. I cheered and ‘wooped!’ I had survived a day without a phone or laptop! (It was hard!) A text off my mum was waiting for me saying, ‘welcome back to the technological world!’ It was an enlightening initiative. One I would repeat. I find that technology is so habit forming! It’s so easy to reach out for that mobile device, have information at your fingertips. I do think that it contributes to a general lack of concentration and an inability to face boredom. I already don’t like phones at the dining table. I may encourage David and I to have technology ‘black-holes,’ times when we don’t use phones or computers, in the future.

Did you participate in the day? How did you fill your time?

Day 27: Monday

I felt a bit jaded today. In the afternoon Artie and I popped out into the yarden, to see how the plants were getting on (the lily and passion flower have flowered at last,) and to listen to wild sounds. It also gave me the opportunity to sip in the wild, I indulged in a cup of tea and a chocolate biscuit.

I closed my eyes (but not for long as Artie was on the prowl) and could hear the wind rushing through the trees. A plane thrummed overhead. Goldfinches twittered, pigeons cooed, and a family of house sparrows, babies begging, flew onto a roof nearby. The yarden was filled with bees buzzing softly and the dunnock shrilled his song loudly!

Day 28: Tuesday

To end this post I took inspiration from the 30 Days Wild app. Of the 101 ‘random acts of wildness’ I chose look up at the clouds. I actually did this activity yesterday as today the NW of England is shrouded with increasing cloud and the threat of further rain!

Of the clouds gracing the evening sky yesterday, I noticed cirrus (fair weather cloud) and cirrocumulus, (could precursor rain). It shows how contradictory British weather can be!

Final thoughts:

I really don’t want to mention the EU referendum, the result made me sick to the stomach! However like many, I will make a comment.

At present the air is thick with depression! I avoid the news the best of times, but my Facebook page is full of doom and gloom. It makes one want to reach for the razor blades! But we have to endure, what else is there? (Those razor blades look inviting). We have survived plagues, famine, wars. We will endure this!

Life probably will be tough, for a while, but we will recover, (we have to). Instead of the constant backbiting, we must forego bad blood and look to a future, a future we can only make good if we work hard, together!

There has to be a life outside of the EU. We had one before, there will be one now. Though many of us did not vote to leave, we have to make the most of this decision. Perhaps we can learn from the EU and build a better Britain, with transparent laws, human/worker rights, wildlife protection and a more uniformed distribution of wealth throughout the kingdom? Perhaps I am dreaming, maybe not with this government! I have not followed any of the hype surrounding the referendum. I have felt disgusted that we have been placed in this position! But the unthinkable has happened and we have to deal with it. Not with a culture of blame but one of acceptance and action.

I don’t know why but the whole farce calls to mind a soliloquy in Hamlet. To be or not to be!

Hamlet:To be, or not to be–that is the question:

Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer

The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune

Or to take arms against a sea of troubles

And by opposing end them. To die, to sleep–

No more–and by a sleep to say we end

The heartache, and the thousand natural shocks

That flesh is heir to. ‘Tis a consummation

Devoutly to be wished. To die, to sleep–

To sleep–perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub,

For in that sleep of death what dreams may come

When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,

Must give us pause. There’s the respect

That makes calamity of so long life.

For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,

Th’ oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely

The pangs of despised love, the law’s delay,

The insolence of office, and the spurns

That patient merit of th’ unworthy takes,

When he himself might his quietus make

With a bare bodkin? Who would fardels bear,

To grunt and sweat under a weary life,

But that the dread of something after death,

The undiscovered country, from whose bourn

No traveller returns, puzzles the will,

And makes us rather bear those ills we have

Than fly to others that we know not of?

Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,

And thus the native hue of resolution

Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,

And enterprise of great pitch and moment

With this regard their currents turn awry

And lose the name of action.

Only two more days until the end of June! Come with me as I approach the finale of 30 Days Wild 2016 and see what wonders I find!

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

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!

I’ve got the cooking bug again!!

Much to the consternation of my poor purse, as cooking can be both cheap and equally expensive!

This weekend I have been busy in the kitchen. With spring slowly ‘springing’ my desire to cook, (though not dampened by winter) has indeed ‘sprouted’ this past weekend, with that old eager feeling of excited anticipation gnawing at me.

On Saturday, and again on Sunday I was busy making ‘Roasted Carrot and Garlic Soup.’ I had many of the ingredients left over hence why I made it again on the Sunday. The recipe says for 4 but I only seemed to make for 3, (depends on how many ladles you dole out!)
The ingredients were:

• 450g of carrots, peeled and chopped
• 2 small potatoes, or a large one (that I used), peeled and chopped
• 1 head/bulb of garlic
• 2 red onions, or a mix of one red and one white (it didn’t change the taste)
• 2-3 celery ribs
• ¼ tsp of cayenne pepper
• 0.7 to 1 litre of vegetable stock.
• Salt and pepper to taste
• Chives chopped to garnish

Method:

When I went to make this recipe I had not read the entire method properly. I thought it was just carrot and garlic soup, not roasted. So it took me longer, about 1 hour from start to finish.

• I peeled and cut the carrots, onions and potato
• Sliced the celery
• In a roasting dish, I put in the carrots, onions and celery with some oil, salt, pepper and the cayenne.
• I then chopped the top off the bulb/head of the garlic to expose the cloves, salt and peppered it and added a touch of oil. I wrapped the head/bulb in tin foil
• I put the roasting dish and wrapped up garlic in the oven 220°/gas mark 7 for 20-30 minutes
• While the vegetables were roasting, in a pan, I put two stock cubes in with 0.7lires of boiling water. I also added the chopped potato to the pan and seasoned it. Use 1 litre of stock to make enough for 4!
• Once the vegetables were roasted I added them, (the carrot, celery, onion) to the pan with the stock and potatoes.
• I then squeezed out the garlic and added that too the pan with the vegetables and stock. I then boiled the pan for 15 minutes or until the vegetables were soft.
• Then pop the mixture into a blender and blend until smooth.
• Warm-up again and serve with a sprinkling of chives or freshly made bread. It made a slightly hot soup, reduce the amount of cayenne if you don’t like heat!

Roasted Carrot and Garlic Soup - First Attempt

Roasted Carrot and Garlic Soup – First Attempt

On Saturday I had bought some bread, but with more time on my hands on the Sunday, I decided to make a loaf of bread.

I always use the BBC Good Foods, recipe.

Easy White Bread

Ingredients:

• 500g of strong white bread flour, plus more for kneading and dusting.
• 2 tsp of salt
• 7g of yeast (fast action)
• 3 tbsp of oil (olive/sunflower/vegetable or your preference). I used sunflower
• 300ml of water. I have mine tepid.

Method:

• In a mixing bowl I measure out the dry ingredients. (I had trouble this Sunday as I only had 400g of strong bread flour, so had to add 100g of plain white flour!)
• I then add the oil and finally the water
• I add the water incrementally and get my hands in to mix the ingredients together
• Once the ingredients come together in some sort of dough, (today was moist; I’ve had others where more water was needed.) Then tip the dough onto a surface with some flour and begin kneading
• I have read recipes were they say knead to 15 to 20 minutes. I think I kneaded for more like 5-10.
• Once the bread has come nicely together and is silky smooth, put in a bowl and leave in a warm place. I left it besides a radiator and left to prove for one hour.
• After the hour, you will discover that the bread has doubled in size (due to carbon dioxide released by the yeast!)
• ‘Knock back’ (I just knead the dough) for 5- 10 minutes, this knocks the air out of the dough, and then return to somewhere warm. I place the dough into a bread tin at this stage and leave for another one hour! You can leave for longer.

Dough.. ready for the oven

Dough.. ready for the oven

• Once ready to put the dough in the oven, use a 200°/gas mark 6 for 25-30 minutes. The aroma of cooked bread is glorious.
• Once cooked, tip the bread onto a rack to cool and then slice accordingly.

perfect bread

perfect bread

Warm bread served with hot cooked soup is delicious and comforting!

Roasted Carrot and Garlic Soup with freshly made bread

Roasted Carrot and Garlic Soup with freshly made bread

On Friday, the beginning of the weekend, after a long week at work, I made some Slimming World Chocolate Brownies, which only had four ingredients.

• 6 eggs (separated.)
• 60g of cocoa powder
• 30g of sweetener. The recipe said 70g of sweetener and another I read said 150g! That is two whole jars! I reduced the sweetener, but with trial and error the right amount can be discerned.
• 1tbs of vanilla essence.

I decided to make these for David’s mother and mine as it was Mothering Sunday in the UK, 15th March 2015.

Method:

• Once all eggs were separated, I whisked the whites to soft fluffy peaks and then left to one side.
• I then added to the yolks, sweetener, vanilla essence and cocoa powder together, adding a touch of water if it went too dry.
• Afterwards, I folded in the fluffy egg whites into the chocolate mixture slowly, so as not to let the air out.
• Once mixed pour into a baking tray lined with baking paper and cook for 25-30 minutes on 180°/gas mark 4.
• I used a cocktail skewer to see if the brownies were cooked. Once clear I tipped onto a tray to cool.
• Once cool I cut into squares. I think it made around 25 brownies and the recipe says only ½ a syn each.

Here’s a link to a YouTube video showing how to make them!

I found the brownies were rather leathery but would be nice with some ice cream or cream, and maybe some fresh fruit. I am not the biggest chocolate fan and only made them for family. I hope they liked them?

So as you can see I have been productive in the kitchen. I look forward to making many more delicious dishes and sharing them with you!

Christine x

‘Our Day Out!’ by Christine Lucas.

[The bedroom of number 49. Early morning sun lights the bedroom. The strain of music from Classic FM stream into the chill morning from the radio. The sunlight highlights a woman sitting at her dressing table, applying foundation to her face. A mobile phone beeps.]

Christine: Who is that?

David [lying in bed.] It’s Keith, he will be with us in ten minutes.

Christine: What time is it?

David: Just gone eight.

Christine: He said he’d be here at eight thirty. I am not ready! I will be ready for eight thirty, but not eight fifteen!

David [climbing out of bed]: I’ll tell them they can come in or wait.

 

[Outside, in the road, before a Citroen DS3. Keith and David pack lunch bags and a silver foiled package into the boot of the car. Christine welcome’s Bilgen and Gary. Bilgen holds the door as they all climb into the car. Christine, David (in the middle) and Gary all sit in the back seat. Keith is at the wheel.]

David: Is everyone ready?

Keith: The only postcode for the Angel I could find began with NE?

Christine: I couldn’t find one either. [The satnav calculates the route.]

Keith: It say’s we’ll be there at 11am!

Christine: Only takes two and a half hours from Liverpool.

 

[They set off on their journey. The M62 from Liverpool, then the M60 (around Manchester) then back onto the M62. Bilgen falls asleep. Gary tries to take her picture. Christine cheers when they get to the highest point of any UK motorway, some 372m! The roads are pleasantly quiet. David jokes to Bilgen that it is because after a certain point in England, like the film ’28 Days Later,’ parts of the North are barricaded as a hoard of zombies roam the northern wilds. They leave the M62 and join the A1 (M). Christine looks out of the window and gets excited. They are drawing near to their first destination.]

Keith: We should be getting close now.

Christine [looking at her phone]: It says after the Washington Service Station continue on the A1 (M) until the main roundabout and take the A167 turn off. The Angel site is on your left and parking available nearby. [Looking up] There she is!

 

[They pull into the parking bay beside the A167 and excitedly get out of the car. Christine leaves her jacket in the boot of the car, though there are rain clouds overhead. They all have cameras and mobile phones in hand as they walk the short path towards, Sir Antony Gormely’s ‘The Angel of the North.’]

Christine [taking a different path from the others.] Isn’t it wonderful! [David follows after her.]

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[After a quick bite to eat in the car at the Angel car park. The five-some travel on towards Middlesbrough to visit friends Paul and Gemma. On arrival at their house, Christine hands Paul the silver foiled package.]

Christine: You asked for bread?

Paul: Thank you!

 

[Some four hours of chatting goes by and many pictures taken of Paul and Gemma’s King Charles Spaniels, Kash and Ruby]

Kash

Christine [to David]: What time is it?

David: Half five.

Christine: We can’t stay here all evening, it’s not fair on Paul and Gemma!

Bilgen: I’m getting hungry.

Christine: We have to go home and have dinner.

[They say their goodbyes.]

Paul: Thanks for coming.

Christine: It was nice to meet you!

Gemma: Have a safe journey home.

 

[In the car, they seat belt up.]

David: So what do we do next?

Christine [deflatedly]: Go home. [Cheerful.] Or go to Whitby like Gemma suggested.

Keith: We could go to Maggies?

Christine [corrects]: Magpies in Whitby. [She looks at her phone and finds the postcode for Magpies.] YO21 [Keith programmes the satnav.]

David: What happen’s if it is busy like Gemma said it would be? It being a Saturday and all!

Christine: Then we look for food elsewhere, or go hungry!

 

[They travel for 40 minutes, mainly in silence. Everyone is hungry and tired. Christine looks out of the window at the heathland around them.]

Bilgen [to Gary]: Do you have pain killers? I will have a headache if we do not eat soon!

David [to Christine]: What time is it?

Christine: Six o clock.

David [to Keith]: Put Classic FM on, Saturday Night at the Movies. 

 

[Music from the film The Prestige plays. As they near Whitby they see the ruined Abbey on the headland. Christine think’s Anne Bronte is buried in St Mary’s Church, but [looking at her phone] finds it is in St Mary’s of Scarborough. They look for the Magpie Cafe and have to turn back as they travel too far. They end up parked in a makeshift car park by the harbour. Keith and Gary go to the paying machine and an Asian man hands them a ticket. They return to the car as a rain shower beings.]

Keith: The Indian man gave me a ticket. It looks like he paid for 24 hours not 4!

Christine: Did you give him any money for it?

Keith: No, he didn’t want it!

 

[They leave the car and walk down the main street of Whitby. They look at the harbour arched in a rainbow. They pass many groups of rowdy men and women dressed in 1950’s clothes. They take pictures of the town and on finding the Magpie Cafe. They look at the menu.]

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David: Do you want to eat in our get a takeaway? It looks busy.

Christine [resigned]: I don’t mind.

David: Shall I look for the takeaway menu?

Christine [sighing to David]: I don’t mind want we do. [David and Keith walk further up the road. Christine turns to Bilgen and Gary]. He never takes me out to restaurants. I would like to go to a restaurant once in a while.

Bilgen [to Christine]: I want to go and get a table inside. I want to eat a proper meal. [Christine shrugs. David and Keith come back.]

Keith: The takeaway menu is on the other side.

Christine: I’ll do whatever you all want to do.

Bilgen: I want to go inside.

David [To Christine]: We’ll do whatever you want?

Christine [To Bilgen]: Go inside and ask if there is a table for five.

Bilgen: Come with me! [They all walk up the steps to the entrance.] 

Maître d’: A table for two?

Bilgen: No five.

Maître d’: The table in the corner over there is available. [Bilgen looks around at Christine and they share a smile.]

Bilgen: A nice table. [The view is over the harbour and towards the abbey. The waitress Joanne comes and takes their order.]

Bilgen: I’ll have grilled Salmon and vegetables.

Gary: The same but no vegetables.

Keith: The Cod and Chips.

David: Grilled Salmon and chips please.

Christine: I’ll have the poached Lemon Sole and vegetables, lots of them! [They order drinks. Christine orders two small glasses of the pinot grigio, for herself and Bilgen. Gary tries to order Bilgen a lemonade. Christine corrects him and laughs with the waitress and the others.]

Christine: I’ve not ordered two glasses for myself. I’m not that bad!

 

[As dusk descends on the fishing village and they tuck into their food. They laugh and enjoy each other’s company.]

 

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[After 9 pm thoroughly fuelled they head from Whitby back along the A1 (m), and M62 to Liverpool in pouring rain. The journey takes just over 2 hours. Christine enjoys listening to the 80’s songs on the radio and watches the cats eyes light their way. She marvels at the cities they pass sparkling with lights. 

On disembarking Keith’s car. Christine thanks them for inviting her, she had had a nice time and gives Bilgen a hug and another silver foiled gift.]

Christine: For Jeanette. [and Christine and David wave them on their journey home!]

 

Christine Lucas © 2014 

A Weekend of Pottering About.

Friday was my day off! It was also my nephew Aaron’s 3rd birthday. I had planned to go to visit my brother with my mum to celebrate my nephew’s birthday, however in the morning I called to wake my mum up and found that she was bent over in agony. She had muscle spasms in her back and could not move for the pain! So that plan was abolished much to our disappointment.

For my day off then, though it wasn’t much of a day of relaxation as I was looking after mum, doing the house work, feeding laundry constantly into the washing machine and then walking the dog and cleaning up cat poop! I managed, in the downtime to make a loaf of bread. I just mixed the below ingredients together and then worked it until it was silky smooth. I left it for one hour to rise and then knocked it back to rest for another hour and double in size! I cooked it on gas mark 7 for 25 minutes and it was perfect! The best loaf I have made yet!

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  • 500g strong white flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 7g sachet fast-action yeast
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 300ml water

On Saturday David went to Aintree with his work colleagues to the races, while I stayed snuggled in bed, listened to Hans Zimmer and dreamed of my ‘happy place’. In the afternoon I helped mum make yet more mince pies!

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My orchid which I bought last December and which I thought was dead has faced all the odds and has bloomed into a second life! How beautiful is it?

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On Sunday we have planned more work on the house. I will probably end up painting a door, but I don’t want to paint. I am sick of painting!!!

Indulging…just a Little.. :)

Sunday was a day of cooking and baking.

I spent most of the afternoon making bread from a recipe on the BBC Good Food website. The result was a well defined loaf which I then served up with the regional delicacy ‘Blind Scouse.’ I have been making the scouse ever since I have found how cheap and tasty it is to make, served with a home baked loaf was divine. I also swilled down the fruits of my labour with a nice glass of J.P. Chenet – Colombard-Sauvignon. Delicious!

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