Sunday Sevens #3

20160313_110739Last week, after a traumatic Saturday, in which my road witnessed a tragic, sad event. Sunday dawned bleakly. David and I decided it was time to sew the seeds I had bought. We planted sweet peppers, spring onions and green beans, in the hope that something will grow come summer. I am waiting for the frosts to end so I can plant maris bard potatoes and my dahlia tubers.

Now after a week of sitting in front of the window in the guest bedroom, we have shoots finally pushing through the soil! There is hope yet!

Mum decided to treat me on Tuesday with a little trip to Costa for a cappuccino and a toasted teacake. It was very restorative.

This was the final week of my Future Learn course: Literature and Mental Health. The six week course has been tremendous and I have loved reading an eclectic mix of poetry, novels and plays. The course has me reading again after a lull of some time and has inspired me to re-read Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea.

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Aura by David Evans

It was decided that we should capture our elderly and much loved, Lady Gouldian Finch, Aura to clip his overgrowing beak. Last November Aura had the same problem and we don’t know if it was connected but he became very ill. He had fits and lay about the bottom of the cage looking exhausted. It was by fluke that his beak was sheered to its proper size and we started him on vitamin supplements. I put it down to David having healing hands and Aura was nursed back to life. Perhaps it was malnourishment due to an inability to eat with an over long beak? Either way I didn’t want a recurrence. So David captured Aura, not without some stress as the other finches were flying about the room! I held him and David clipped the tip of his beak. He seems much better now!

On Friday I didn’t have a clue what to make for the evening’s dinner. To be honest I am feeling a bit fed up with cooking. I find it exhausting looking for new recipes. So David defrosted the final serving of his curry base and made a vegetable karahi. It indeed had a kick to it!

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The weekend was spent doing the usual, shopping, cleaning, cooking. Artie was exhausted!

While Artie slept during the evening. I decided to dress up, even if it was just for a salad dinner at our house, Bistro No. 49!

What kind of foods do you enjoy? Have you read any good books recently?

Christine x

Sunday Sevens was devised by Threads and bobbins.

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Sunday Sevens #2

Today is Global Scouse Day! So to mark this celebration of the famous regional dish, I made a vegetarian/vegan version, Blind Scouse. I served it with some homemade wholemeal bread.

Monday, David as usual left for work at 7am. I found Artie, sitting by the front door waiting for him to come home. Midweek, Mum bought me some daffodils to cheer me up!

Thursday David had a day off work so we headed up to the Lake District. We got up at an ungodly hour, but saw the sunrise over Haweswater Reservoir and enjoyed a leisurely stroll along Derwentwater.

I’ll finish this post with our Saturday dinner. I made vegetarian bean burgers, using cannellini and borlotti beans. David helped sculpt them to fit the sesame buns. I served the burgers with bistro salad.

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Have you tried scouse? What did you think of the stew?

Christine x

Sunday Sevens was devised by Threads and bobbins.

Up Before the Lark.

Knowing that David had Thursday off work, I had high hopes that we would have another great outdoors adventure! David was in agreement, however he pinned his hopes on seeing the sunrise hit the mountains around Haweswater Reservoir, Cumbria, (inspired by Thomas Heaton‘s Youtube post.

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The Rigg and Haweswater

Unfortunately, the bugbear for me was that we live at least two hours drive from Cumbria and the sunrise on Thursday being at 7.11am, meant that I had to get up at 4am!! I’m a terrible sleeper at the best of times, so I knew this plan would seriously upset my circadian rhythm.

Despite this hiccup, I longed to get out of the house and breathe the free air again! So I agreed. The alarm clock sounded at 4am and I crawled out of bed after a fitful sleep, for breakfast and to get dressed.

By 5am, the car had been packed and so we hit the road.

It took us just over two hours to get to Haweswater Reservoir. We parked up with the first rays of dawn touching the tops of the mountains. We scurried up Swinside Common in the hope of catching the moon above Kidsty Pike, but alas we failed and only had sore calves to show for our climb.

We spent over an hour taking hundreds of pictures in -7° temperatures.

With it being just after 8am, we drove to Derwentwater for a two hour leisurely walk along the banks of the lake, with Blencathra (Saddleback) looking resplendent in the winter sunshine. We took the route to the lake via Kewsick and took the road towards Portinscale then on towards the Adventure Centre. There is free parking but this can get very busy.

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Derwentwater is fast becoming my second favourite lake in Cumbria. The lakeside was so tranquil, it healed my soul. I thoroughly enjoyed the walk.  I got covered in mud on the return journey but it was worth it as I even had a go of a swing tied to a tree by Hawes End Jetty. The Jetty can be found by taking a path through woodland as you walk towards the Adventure Centre.

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There were many ducks and geese quietly drifting on the lake. The woodland walk was graced with the drumming of woodpeckers and the cackle of blue tits. On our journey back to the car David spied a pheasant feather lying on the ground, so I took it as a memento of our lovely day.

I am busily planning the next adventure. Do you have any suggestions of where to go?

Christine x

30 Days Wild…Week Three!

Well it’s half way through The Wildlife Trust‘s 30 Days Wild and I have to admit, I am loving it! The two weeks have gone so fast, though it really has made me look extra hard at the nature in my environ and made me value what’s there.

Monday and Tuesday:

As I made my ‘merry’ way to work I noticed that some wild poppy plants had seeded themselves between the cracks of flag stones in my road. I saw today that they had bloomed! They have huge, crimson heads! They grew in the same place last summer and Mum harvested their seeds. I now have some growing in my garden! 🙂

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One of the 101 things ‘wild’ to do over the 30 Day’s of June was to plant Borage for bees. Two weeks ago I bought Borage seeds. I had tried looking in garden centres for the actual plant but none had any, so seeds had to do! While watering my garden, I discovered that the Borage seeds I had planted are now starting to grow! The plant seems to be a quick grower, so I have high hopes they will flourish, though perhaps I have one too many growing! :p

Many Borage seedlings

I also noticed tiny seedlings popping through the soil in the other planters where I planted Teasel seeds, I hope some mature! Fingers crossed!

Teasel seedlings

Teasel seedlings

We had another bee visitor to the garden to add to the numerous, Garden, Tree Bumblebees and Red Mason Bees already visiting. It was the first sighting of a Wool Carder Bee. To be honest I have never heard of one, until now! But I am amazed at how much diversity of species is found in just one small garden! My planting for wildlife has really been a great success!

Wool Carder Bee

Wool Carder Bee

I also spotted while in the garden the visiting Swallows. I was honoured to see one had finally settled and sat on a TV aerial! The footage isn’t great, I couldn’t keep my hand from shaking, but you can clearly hear his song!

Wednesday:

R.I.P Pearl

R.I.P Pearl

Today was a grim day weather wise and while I stopped for lunch at work, it also became a dark day emotionally too. I always check my phone during lunch break and today noticed three text messages all from my Mum! I read them in ascending order and my stomach knotted after reading the last. My Mum was home on her own. Pearl, one of the three remaining of the 15 cats we once had, had a turn. It was not totally expected, Pearl had become frail over the passing weeks, she was 17 years old!

I later found out that Pearl was found unconscious and Mum hastily took her to the vets. On arrival the vets checked Pearl out and could have attempted resuscitation. However the decision was made that resuscitating Pearl wouldn’t be beneficial after the vets found that she had a tumour in her stomach and shrunken kidneys. Mum bravely went in to be with Pearl, though Pearl was unconscious and oblivious. Due to Pearl’s lungs shutting down she had a gas mask over her mouth. The vet said that Mum had done the correct thing in bringing Pearl to the vets, as if she had left her at home, she would have died there! Mum said Pearl passed away peacefully. The vets at Adams veterinary Centre were fantastic and cared both for Mum and Pearl. Whenever we have been to Adams vets, we have had immaculate service, it’s just a shame that most of the time we go because one of our cats is ill!

On a lighter note, once David and I were home from our respective employment, after dinner we noticed a lethargic bee sitting on the Cat Mint. I noticed she hadn’t moved for over half an hour! We decided to pop out into the garden and see what was wrong!

As soon as David placed his hand by the bee it sauntered towards him and sat contently on his hand.

Tree Bumblebee on David's hand

Buff Tailed Bumblebee on David’s hand

I rushed inside to make a spoonful of sugar, (as the Disney song goes) and water. With the solution, David placed a droplet before the bee. The bee walked about his hand and then it smelled the sugar. It was almost as if the bee sat up! Her proboscis shot out and she started lapping up the solution. It was indeed fascinating to watch as inside her proboscis it looked like the bee had a little tongue also! After a few droplets of solution the bee seemed to get more energised and she eventually started to fly, a little laboured to start with. David described the bee as flying a circle around us as a ‘thank you’ before she flew over the wall! I hope she was just tired after foraging and that there was nothing more serious, she indeed had a full basket of pollen!

Thursday:

On a mid week shopping spree I bought some lard as I had run out of fat balls and did not know when the next time I could get to B&M. I decided to do another suggestion from the 30 Day’s Wild challenge and make some food for the birds!

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I used a 250g pack of lard (I warmed this up in the microwave for 2 minutes). I sprinkled some bird seed, dried meal-worms, and plain flour into the mix. I then found the mixture was too runny so I added some dried oats and then spooned the concoction into plastic cups (I bought 50 for £1) with string fitted so I could hang them on branches. I also put an A4 piece of paper into a fat ball feeder and spooned the mixture inside to make a fat block! I left them to one side to solidify! Once hardened, I hung in the garden. It didn’t take the Starlings long to notice the new food!

Fat column I made for the birds

Fat cake I made for the birds

In the evening I attempted to watch the setting sun, however the clouds (I couldn’t tell what type even after half an hour trawling through the internet,) were not best placed and all I got was a slight tinge. I will have to keep trying to capture a good sunset!

The setting sun

The setting sun

Friday:

David is becoming a real Dr. Bee-little. Again he saved a bee from being tired and cold! This time after the sugar/water solution did not do wonders, David brought the bee into the house for a warm! It soon revived and David said once he had taken the bee back outside it orientated itself and flew off.

Buff Tailed Bumblebee

Another Buff Tailed Bumblebee

Saturday:

Can I say ‘phew’ what an epic Saturday? I haven’t stopped, nor had time to do any house work! In the morning we spent hours shopping and in the afternoon, after lunch, we visited David’s parent’s and spent a lovely few hours with them! We got home just before 5pm and the rain that had blighted the day had cleared to leave a lovely sunny, and warm afternoon!

I rushed out to sit in the garden for a few minutes before making a start on the evenings dinner.

The Cat Mint was full with bees! I counted at lest seven on it at one time!

The numerous bees have become a food source for the visiting Swallows who I saw swoop over our garden! It was a joy to behold. I really need to get a life. I get excited at such small things of late! 😀 I said to David that to think the Swallows had come all the way from Africa to summer here! What sights they must have seen and to summer vacate in Liverpool!?! We are so blessed to have them here! 😀

I saw what I thought were Honeybees on the Cat Mint, but apparently they were just tired Mason Bees. Poor little fellas!

Tired Mason Bee

Tired Mason Bee

For dinner I made a Spicy Vegetable and Barley Soup, but it ended up more like a stew than a soup! So I tweaked the recipe for here.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  1.  Tbsp Olive Oil
  2. Cloves Garlic, Minced
  3.  Large Onion, Chopped
  4.  Medium Carrot, Chopped
  5. Pepper de-seeded and chopped
  6. Celery Stalks, Chopped
  7. Leek, Chopped
  8. Chilli de-seeded and chopped
  9. 1L Reduced Salt Vegetable stock
  10. 1 Can Diced Plum Tomatoes
  11. 50g-100g Pearl Barley
  12. Pinch of Cayenne Pepper
  13. Salt and pepper

Method:

  1. Heat the olive oil over a medium heat then add the onion and sauté until the onion is soft (about 3-4 minutes).
  2. Then add the chilli, the Carrots, Celery and Leeks and sauté for another 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Lastly add the garlic and sauté for a minute.
  4. Stir in the vegetable stock, tomatoes and barley.
  5. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and allow to simmer for 30 minutes, stirring the soup occasionally.
  6. Add the cayenne pepper, salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Serve immediately with bread…

The bread I decided to make was a wholemeal Turkish flat bread. However I don’t think it was very flat nor very Turkish, though it was the best thing in the meal!

Wholemeal Turkish Flatbread!

Wholemeal Turkish Flatbread!

Wholemeal Turkish Bread

  1. 500g of wholemeal flour
  2. 1, 7g sachet of dried yeast
  3. 1 tsp sugar
  4. 1 tsp salt
  5. 350ml of warm water
  6. 2 tsp sesame seeds
  7. 1 egg yolk
  8. 1 tbs olive oil

Method:

  1. Combine flour, yeast, sugar and salt in a bowl. Make a well in the centre and then add  the water. Use hands to bring the dough together in the bowl.
  2. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic. Place dough in a bowl and cover with a towel. Set aside place for 1-1 1/2 hours or until the dough has roughly doubled in size.
  3. Preheat oven to 230°C.
  4. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and cut in half to make two pides. Flatten slightly with hands. Place each pride on separate pieces of floured, non-stick baking paper/baking tray. Cover with a towel and set aside in a warm, draught-free place for 15 minutes.
  5. With floured hands, stretch each piece of dough into desired shapes. Leave on non-stick baking paper/baking tray. Cover with a towel and set aside again for 10 minutes.
  6. With egg yolk in a bowl. Brush the top of each pide with egg mixture. Use floured fingers to make indentations on top and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
  7. Cook pides for 15 minutes or until golden. Cool on a wire rack.

Sunday:

Over the weekend our bird feeders have welcomed:

  1. Pigeons
  2. Blue Tits
  3. Goldfinches
  4. Starlings and their babies
  5. House Sparrows and their young!

Sparrows only visit our feeders for a short period of time before moving to better gardens with more variety! I managed to get footage of both Starling and House Sparrow fledglings. The Starling was eating the fat balls I had bought while the House Sparrow was enjoying a nice bath!

David also saved two bumblebees today! One he found in his rockery being pinched by an insect. He couldn’t identify what it was, though did manage to get the bug off the bee’s leg. David then placed the bee on the Cat Mint and watched as the bee happily started collecting nectar.

Minutes later Artie had caught a bumblebee in his mouth and had taken it through the house, with David and myself following after! David managed to rescue the bee from the jaws of Artie and released it outside where it flew off, lucky to have escaped!

As I said at the beginning of the post I am thoroughly enjoying my 30 Days Wild! I am loving the wildlife that frequent my garden and look forward to week four and many more ‘wild’ sightings! 😀

One Magnificent City!

This bank holiday weekend coincided with Cunard’s 175 year celebrations here in Liverpool. The city witnessed a three day spectacle as Cunard’s three Queen passenger ships visited the River Mersey.

On Sunday the Queen Mary 2 docked at port and in the evening there was a laser display projected onto the three Graces followed by fireworks.

Monday was the main event! The Queen Mary 2 was to leave Liverpool to meet and greet her sister ships, Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria. So, David and I decided to go to Crosby Marina in anticipation of seeing the ships. I am afraid I got carried away with all the excitement around this event.

Crosby Beach

Crosby Beach

So on a cloudy, cold Monday morning (25th May 2015), we headed to Crosby. We arrived just after 9am. We managed to find a street to park the car and walked towards the beach. Other sightseers were walking the coastal path, laden with chairs and binoculars, both of which David and I could have brought with us if we had thought on. However, we had to be content with standing as we overlooked the beach dotted with Sir Antony Gormley’s Another Place statues and brave the relentless onslaught of the chilling wind. It felt more like winter than late spring!

We stood in total for three hours during the spectacle. I could not feel my fingers they were that cold! Other spectators also shivered as we all waited for the Queen Mary 2 to leave her berth and make her way to the mouth of the Mersey to greet her two sisters. The crowed swelled. Many even went out towards the edge of the tide (that was going out) to get a better viewpoint. Where David and I stood was good enough, over looking the coast but high enough so no one could be in the way!

In the Irish Sea out in the distance we could see the Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria as they made their joyous approach to the city. Seeing them draw ever closer gave us something to distract from the cold. The sun briefly made an appearance before being blanketed by a thick bank of cloud that did not shift. I was afraid that none of my pictures of the event would come out due to shivering too much!

Then from around the headland the top of the Queen Mary 2 could be seen, she looked so close! She had left Liverpool at 10.45am. The crowd seemed to buzz with excitement. Cameras started clicking and I juggled with three!

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The Queen Mary 2 lead by the mighty Mersey Ferry stopped opposite where David and I stood. She sounded her horns to her sisters. The horns sounded so forlornly to me. The crowed cheered in response! As Queens Elizabeth and Victoria came closer along the coast, Queen Mary 2 pivoted and faced her bow back towards Liverpool. Queen Elizabeth was the first to pass Queen Mary 2 heading along the river, followed by Queen Victoria. Queen Mary 2 brought up the rear as they both followed Queen Elizabeth in a cavalcade towards more awaiting crowds in the city! With the Queens’ departure the spectacle at Crosby was at an end!

While David and I returned home, the Queens paraded up the Mersey and turned 360° before lining up side by side in front of the Cunard building, one of the three Graces. The ships seemed to dwarf the city’s skyline! There was even the obligatory fly over by the Red Arrows en-route to Blackpool! Their flight path took them over our house. A thundering sound announced their approach but it was over too quickly for me to get my camera out. I saw nine red jets flying in arrow formation from my living room window!

I watched the remaining festivities at the Pier Head via webcams. After the three Queens had lined up before the Cunard building the city said its farewell to Queen Mary 2. Queen Victoria docked and Queen Elizabeth anchored in the middle of the river, but she too would leave the city after the second showing of the laser show and fireworks. Queen Victoria would leave the city on Tuesday.

I thoroughly enjoyed witnessing the three Queens from Crosby beach, even though I was frozen to the bone. Spectacles like these truly show what a magnificent city Liverpool is. It’s street cred is definitely on the increase and quite rightly too! 😀

© 2015 Christine Lucas

Mary, Mary Quite Contrary…

…how does your garden grow?

I’ve not written since Easter when Vaughan William’s The Lark Ascending was voted no.1 in the Classic FM Hall of Fame. (N.B. I did not vote for it!) Since then I have been pottering about the garden and seeing how things are growing. I am quite proud with the plants I have, all, whether new or old are flourishing, so much so that I thought I would share some pictures with you.

The tulips have all grown from their bulbs and the rhododendron and hellebore give much colour/definition to the shaded area of the garden.

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The magnolia and acer trees are looking fantastic and the flame of the forest has sprouted!

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Older plants, such as the primulas and aubrieta have flowered again, and the wallflower has not stopped flowering all winter!

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I have also bought some new plants too. I have bluebells sprouting for the first time, come May I hope they flower.

Bluebells

Bluebells

This Saturday I went to my favourite garden centre, Lady Green and bought another coriander. As this herb is only an annual I am having to buy it every year, but I will keep the seeds and hopefully be able to grow it again next year! In addition to the coriander, I went a bit ‘mad’ and bought a camellia. I have seen some recently and thought they were beautiful, though they are not great for wildlife, I bought one to see how it fares in my garden!?! I also bought a fritillaria which looks bizarre and smells even worse!

My mum kindly gifted me with some lovely orange lilies the other day, which I planted alongside the other newcomers to the garden!

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I have seen my first bees of the season flitting though the blossom of my mum’s tree next door and I took some lovely photographs of a visiting common wasp happily pollinating the laurel bush.

Common Wasp

Common Wasp

On Saturday I had a visitor from a ‘Hover fly, or Drone fly, (true fly)’ who flew about my dining room before trying to exit from my kitchen window (which I opened). I am rather saddened to say that I was hoping it would be something more ‘exotic’ like a solitary bee, but I guess a fly resembling a honeybee is something unique as well.

Hover fly, or drone

Hover fly, or drone

I was listening to podcasts of Alan Titchmarsh on Classic FM the other day and he said something I thought was profound. He said, ‘half the fun in gardening is anticipation, looking forward to things coming out, rather than them being there all the time.’ I agree with the statement wholeheartedly. These past few months while awaiting for bulbs to grow and other plants to awaken from winter has had me peering out of the windows daily.

I have Lily, orchid and gladioli bulbs planted so come summer I will be continuing to peruse my garden to see what has stood the test of nature!

Bulb gowing

Bulb gowing

Fun and frolics!

Saturday, though not as epic a day as Good Friday, was in itself an eventful day.

After shopping, gardening and preparing dinner for the evening (more roasted carrot and garlic soup), David and I took the bus into town, to the Liverpool, Everyman Theatre. We went to see the matinee of their new production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. And what a dream it was, though in places rather nightmarish. I say nightmarish in a good way, as the just under three hour production did not have me reaching for the razor blades. I mean nightmarish in the fact that the woodland scenes were less bucolic, more atmospheric. If you have ever walked in a shaded wood you will be familiar with the tense, tingling feeling of supernatural nervousness. In this Liverpool Everyman production, the faeries are featureless, clad in a black stockinged garb, looking rather menacing in fact. The mischievous Puck was like a ringmaster and it made you think that all the heightened drama between the love sick couples of Hermia/Lysander and Helena/Demetrius was all for Puck’s amusement.

The last play David and I saw at the Everyman was their opening show, Twelfth Night. That was filled with music and laughter and this production was no different. The stage design, though rather austere was effective, as was the use of lighting. The forest scenes were sparse with a mirrored wall giving the impression of a ‘360 degree audience,’ with scrunched up paper littering the floor resembling the mass of leaves and their sound as they were stepped upon.

The backdrop however is irrelevant as the performance of the cast members was foremost. On leaving the theatre the name on many a tongue was Dean (a young Brian Blessed) Nolan’s Bottom, (in one scene he left the audience red with embarrassment and young children giggling with glee), however the entire cast was strong, both seasoned and young actors played their parts well.

For the spectator the three hours filled with much magic and humour flew by. I have not seen another production of this play to compare but I say if you have a ticket to this play, then you will not leave the theatre disappointed.

The Guardian’s Review.

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