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?

20170314_110031 (2)

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.

20170318_205903_001 (2)

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

Sunday Sevens #12

I’ve begun compiling this week’s Sunday Sevens (devised by Threads and bobbins) early. It’s Thursday and I am eagerly dipping into my loaned library copy of Kate Rew’s Wild Swim. I am particularly interested in the section featuring lakes and tarns. I am looking for suggestions on where to do my next swim. My first being in Derwentwater on Sunday!

Monday saw David having a day off work. So we headed to our local park, Sefton Park to walk the family dog Riley. I think by the look on his face, Riley enjoyed himself!

This week has been National Vegetarian Week, which has been all about ‘celebrating the stories and the traditions behind the food we eat.’ David joked that it is vegetarian week in our house all of the time! Of the dishes I have made this week, this Italian flavoured Quiona and Bean Soup was healthy and surprisingly filling.

Ingredients (serves 2):

  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 can of beans, rinsed, I used Pinto, but you can use any
  • 1/2 white onion, chopped
  • 1/2 pepper, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed and chopped,
  • 1 chilli, chopped
  • 1 tbsp oregano, fresh, chopped
  • 1 can of tomatoes and juice
  • 500 ml of vegetable stock (I used one stock cube)
  • 50g of quinoa
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

  1. Heat oil in a medium saucepan, over medium heat. Add the onions, pepper and chilli and sauté until barely tender, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the beans and garlic and stir for 2 minutes.
  3. Stir in the tomatoes and their juices, and vegetable stock.
  4. Add the quinoa, oregano and bay leaf. Cover and simmer until quinoa is cooked, 12 to 15 minutes.
  5. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove bay leaf and serve.

Earlier in the week mum showed me the ‘wild’ flowers that had seeded themselves in the alleyway behind our houses. Among them was a yellow poppy, which I later researched and found out was a Welsh Poppy. Also the yarden seems to be blooming, even if the weather has been grimy this week. Everything has suddenly become green and lush. The maris bard potatoes are huge and I’ve discovered that the clematis David’s mum had given us, has flowered!

This Saturday has been a busy one! After the weekly shop, David and I headed to Harefield Water Gardens, a family run business in Widnes. We visited in a ‘monsoon!’ At least we tested out our new waterproof coats! Harefield Water Gardens have a farm shop and cafe where you can look out towards their herd of alpacas. Unfortunately they were all huddled together by their barn when we visited. We manged to purchase some pond plants and then headed towards Dobbies to get some alpines.

In the past week, we (or should I more truthfully say David), have been constructing a small pond in an area of the yarden that had once been a rockery but the plants had all died and was looking a bit sorry for itself. I suggested creating a small pond. We followed the tips on the RSPB site, used a washing up bowl and placed soil around it. We are both proud of the new instillation and hope that the plants survive and maybe one day small insects will make it their home. What do you think?

20160521_134554 (2)

It looks like Sunday is going to be a lazy, rainy kind of day. I’m watching David play on his PS4 while planning the evenings dinner and dreaming of warmer, sunnier weather!

I hope you have a good week ahead,

Christine x

Sunday Sevens #11

I wasn’t going to do a Sunday Sevens (devised by Threads and bobbins), this week, but after coming home from a lovely day out to Derwentwater, the Lake District (again), I decided to make a quick post.

20160513_130745Let’s begin with a Great British obsession, the weather. Once again it has been glorious this week in the NW of England. I have spent many afternoons doing a bit of sunbathing. I noticed that I have many allium bulbs growing this year, (left) is just one flowering.

I managed to finish Dan Brown’s Inferno. It wasn’t his best novel. I felt at times he broke the narrative to give the reader a history lesson or lecture. It did however make me think of past holidays to Florence, Italy and Istanbul, Turkey.

On Wednesday, David and I visited his brother, sister-in-law and nephew for a curry night. I forgot to take a picture but did take one of my curried red lentils which I made for lunch.

20160505_125801

The recipe is as follows for 3 people:

Ingredients:

  • 1 white onion, chopped
  • 1 – 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tsp of turmeric
  • 1 tsp of curry powder
  • 150g of red lentils
  • 600ml of vegetable stock

Method:

  • Heat oil in pan and gently fry the onions
  • Add the garlic and spices and stir
  • Add the lentils and stock and bring to the boil
  • Simmer for 20-30 minutes or until the lentils soften
  • Pour into bowls and enjoy!

This week saw the return of the second series of The Hollow Crown. I am enjoying the BBC’s lush productions of the Shakespeare history plays.

Also this week we have been worried about the family dog, Riley. He was subjected to a three hour ordeal last Sunday, of hair cut and bath. It seems that he was not happy with the service, as all week he has been quiet, not his normal ‘mad’ self and been rather listless. We all thought he was ill, but he has bucked up and now seems more like his normal self. Animals do make us worry so!

My last picture comes from today, taken while walking towards Catbells, overlooking the enchanting Derwentwater. I have simply fallen in love with this lake and the area. Look out for a following post on the day’s adventures!

20160515_102118 (2)

How have you spent your weekend? Been on any nice country walks recently?

Have a nice week ahead,

Christine x

Sunday Sevens #6…

…although it is a Monday.

4554471I have little excuse. I could have written this post on Saturday night instead of curling up with the last chapters of Kate Riordan’s The Shadow Hour. The novel is one of those that flips between different periods and has two main characters, this time grandmother and granddaughter. The narrative was slow to get going and I felt the protagonists were a little one dimensional but the story soon picked up and was rounded up successfully. I now have a short story to re-read for a Faceboook reading group. Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper, a tale of a woman’s slide into madness! I read it for an Open University course years ago so have fond memories of it.

The past week was plagued with spells of sunshine and showers.

2016-03-30 12.31.13 (2)Thursday turned out to be the best day of the week for me. In the morning my lovely mum dragged me out of the house for a coffee and a tea cake at Costa! Thanks Mum. Then in the afternoon I sat in the yarden for two hours and soaked up the warm spring sunshine. Artie stretched his legs and rolled about the cat mint. The magnolia tree is starting to come back to life. David came home early and surprised me with a big bottle of Philosophy’s Purity cleanser. It was only £5 in the company shop!

For Saturday’s evening meal I made a gorgeous Pearl Barley Risotto with Tomatoes and Spinach. I kept true to the recipe other than using a white onion instead of a red and goats cheese instead of feta. I also used 400ml of passata as it would have been too soggy with the 500ml it stated. I loved it, though David wasn’t so keen. The evening was topped off by drinking a nice glass of shiraz while watching gossamer cirrus clouds grace the sky at sunset.

How did you spend your weekend?

Christine x

Sunday Sevens was devised by Threads and bobbins.

 

Sunday Sevens #4

Saturday 19th March 2016 was Earth Hour, so I plunged David and I into darkness for one hour between 8.30-9.30pm. Did you partake in the hour?

300x600_2

Earlier that evening, after a busy day of ‘spring’ cleaning, I made a One Pan Mexican Quinoa. I tweaked the recipe a little, omitting the avocado and lime but added a red onion and small pepper. I also 20160319_180028 (2)changed the sweetcorn to peas as David doesn’t like corn!

The meal was simple, just cut the vegetables and measure the quinoa and then pop them all into a pan with beans, stock and tinned tomatoes and cook for 20 minutes, until the quinoa releases its tails! The outcome was a fresh, tasting meal. I will definitely be making it again in the future!

On Thursday the postman delivered some lovely news. My tickets for the Hans Zimmer concert in April at the Birmingham Barclaycard Arena arrived!! I was so happy!

WIN_20160317_13_20_37_Pro

That same day while making a cup of tea, I peered out of the kitchen window towards the back garden and my eyes spied a small bird flitting about the tree branches. It was a little Wren! He stayed long enough for me to video him!

The beginning of the week saw lovely blue skies and spring-like temperatures hit the NW of England. David, Artie and I spent some much needed time in the garden, cleaning away old foliage and soaking up the warm rays of the sun. I noticed that there are lots of tulips growing again this season and there are some plants I don’t even know what they are! Perhaps you recognise them?

20160317_175108It’s been two weeks since I planted my seeds of french beans, spring onions and peppers. I have hundreds of beans and onions growing! I don’t know where in the garden I will put them once they are ready to be planted outside! After some studying I read that french beans grow up to a meter in height! I am also going to need some bamboo sticks for support! How do you think my seedlings are coming along?

Do you have any spring projects on the go?

Christine x

Sunday Sevens was devised by Threads and Bobbins.

Sunday Sevens #1

I have wanted to try another blog challenge (after my 12 hours of Day), for a while now and recently Sunshine and Celandines posted a list of some inspiring challenges to do! So I thought today, I would give Sunday Sevens a try!

sunday-sevens-new-logo

At the moment I’m feeling ‘pumped!’ Seeing the late winter sunshine this morning has given me a much needed boost to my mood. I awoke on a lazy Sunday to bright blue skies!

Photo-2016-02-07-10-51-28

Winter sky

On Monday I cooked my Mum’s favourite meal from my repertoire. Quorn Swedish Meatballs and Spaghetti! The recipe is pretty straightforward and does for 3-4 people.

  • 10897834_10155104847620271_8473106121928313571_nCook 140g of spaghetti (for 2 people) or 280g (for 4)
  • In a pan fry 1 white onion (chopped) and 2 garlic cloves (crushed and chopped)
  • When the onion is soft add a jar of Dolmio sauce for meatballs (or any tomato based sauce), 1 tbsp of brown sauce and handful of frozen peas
  • Crumble one low salt vegetable stock cube and add a bag of Quorn Swedish Meatballs, (or other vegetarian equivalent)
  • Cook for 15 minutes on medium heat, stir occasionally. Serve on bed of spaghetti.

Tuesday was the Christian celebration of light, Candlemas. Once again, Sunshine and Celandines wrote a lovely blog post on the subject. I find it fascinating that most religions of the world have some kind of festival of light! Apparently Snowdrops are also called Candlemas Bells and symbolise the ending of winter. My perusal of the garden at the weekend brought the wondrous sight that I have Snowdrops growing!

On Friday I met up with a work colleague I had not seen in almost three years! We caught up over a Costa coffee and buttered toasted teacakes! 20160205_112255

At the start of 2016, I suggested to David that he should cook at least one meal every month, to give me a bit of a break! Saturday’s have become the day when we try cooking something different. So this Saturday he planned the evening meal.

Last month David made a curry, and again this February he decided to make another one. He is determined to find a recipe that tastes like our favourite take-away, Saffron! For almost three hours he took over the kitchen! The curry turned out to be one of David’s best! He served it with rice, and sides of naan and vegetable samosas!

20160206_183630

David’s Pasanda 

While David sweated in the kitchen, I sat with Artie and relaxed while listening to John William’s soundtracks on Classic FM!

20160206_185303

Artie

Have you undertaken any blog challenges?

Christine x

Quorn Sausage Frittata

This was a Saturday meal a few weekends back. I’m not much of an egg lover, but it was surprisingly filling! The recipe made four decent sized servings, but we shared it between three! Sadly it’s not vegan.

12571209_10153462044424200_686296087_n

Photo by David Evans

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 Quorn Sausages, or any other vegetarian sausage
  • 1-2 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced. (I used a large white onion.)
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 pepper sliced
  • 1 medium potato, peeled, boiled and roughly diced into 1cm cubes (optional)
  • 50g button mushrooms, halved. (I left these out as don’t like mushrooms.)
  • 4 plum or cherry tomatoes, halved. (I used about 10 cherry tomatoes halved and roasted before hand.)
  • 4-6 large eggs
  • 1 tbsp water
  • good pinch paprika (optional)
  • 2-3 tbsp freshly chopped flat leaf parsley (optional)

Method:

1. I oven cooked the sausages for 20 – 25 minutes, at the same time I oven roasted the halved cherry tomatoes for the same time.

2. While the sausages were in the oven I boiled the diced potato on a medium hob for 20 minutes.

3. In a large non-stick frying pan (approx. 26 cm diameter). I fried the onion, garlic and pepper on a medium to low heat, until softened. Then add the cooked sausages which were sliced into chunks.

2. I then added the tomatoes and potato and slowly cooked for a minute. This is where you can add the mushrooms if using.

3. Lightly whisk the eggs, water, paprika and seasoning together in a bowl. Stir in the parsley (optional).

4. Pour the egg mixture into the frying pan and lightly shake the pan to distribute the mixture. Reduce the heat a little and cook the bottom of the frittata for 2-3 minutes until lightly set. We had to cook a little longer due to the amount of eggs we used.

5. Place the pan under a hot grill and finish off the cooking for about 2-3 minutes until the egg mixture is just set.

6. Leave to stand for 1-2 minutes before serving. If liked, dust the top with a little extra paprika.

7. I served with a wilted watercress salad (100g of watercress), with sliced garlic (6 cloves of garlic).

I found the frittata recipe from the Quorn website. I adapted it a little for our preference and so can you!

© 2016 Christine Lucas.

The Beginning…

This new year has begun in much the same vein as the parting year ended. It sees me re-evaluating my life. (You don’t know how fed up I am of doing that!)

January 2014 saw me working in an ecstatic frenzy! While listening to Hans Zimmer’s Lasiurus, from the Batman Begins film soundtrack, my impassioned imagination took the idea of a historical romance and ran with it. I wrote until the summer. Then I took a job that saw me sitting inanely on a bus for three hours a day, commuting, which killed my soul and subsequently my characters.

Now, with all this wasted time on my hands, it makes me think that maybe 2016 is a year when I should publish a novel? Where I should stop being a lazy writer and work for my living?! Maybe I should not only re-evaluate on the job front but the latest novel to hit the scrapheap? What do you think?


I have been meaning to write a blog post for a while now and yet each time I have planned a post the meal has fallen decidedly flat. Like tonight.

Yesterday, I felt the nervous excitement of finding a recipe I looked forward to making, (I need to get a life) but come this afternoon, I found I had no green lentils and only half a tin of chopped tomatoes. I decided to go ahead with the recipe anyway, which I found in the Asda Good Living magazine. I do like trying out new recipes, so I decided on the Lentil and Chickpea Curry, as I had no spinach.

I used what I had in, meaning half a red onion, half a carrot and half a yellow pepper as well as 100g of red lentils and a can of chickpeas, plus spices. The meal looked and tasted like every other vegetable stew/curry I have ever made. I can’t complain as it was eaten by everyone so it must have been ok?! I served it with brown rice which apparently ages you, according to a report David had recently read. However the health benefits are better than white rice, so a few wrinkles have to be better than being in an early grave?

Ingredients:

  • Olive oil
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves crushed, (also used pepper and carrot… I hate waste)
  • 2tbsp of medium curry powder
  • 400g of chopped tomatoes
  • 400g can of green lentils, drained. (I didn’t have enough so used 100g of red lentils, dried)
  • 400g of chickpeas, drained.
  • Baby spinach (I never had any)
  • salt for seasoning
  • Naan or rice to serve

Method:

  • Heat oil in pan, cook the onion, slowly and then add the garlic.
  • (I added the onion, garlic and pepper together and simmered in a lidded pan until soft)
  • Then add the curry powder and cook for 1 minute
  • (I also added a squirt of tomato paste just to add taste)
  • Add the tomatoes, lentils and chickpeas and simmer for eight minutes, or until thickened.
  • Add the spinach at the last minute to wilt it
  • I also used brown rice which took 25 minutes to cook, adjust cooking times accordingly

The finished recipe if following the above should look like this:

20160112_213541

 

 

One-pot Curried Quinoa with Butternut Squash with Chickpeas

I had recently seen a recipe on the blog Oh My Veggies that looked absolutely delicious. Oh My Veggies is a blog based on vegetarian/vegan recipes using fresh, seasonal vegetables.

I have been wanting to try butternut squash for some time and decided that the time was perfect!

David was not so sure, but he ate the final result!

One-pot Curried Quinoa with Butternut Squash and Chickpeas

Ingredients: makes 4

  • 1 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium red onion, diced
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 300-400ml of light coconut milk, (I just used skimmed milk)
  • 150 ml of water
  • 100g of quinoa, rinsed well
  • Salt, plus more to taste
  • 450-500g of  butternut squash
  • 2 mixed peppers (I used red and yellow)
  • 150g of frozen vegetables, I used peas and green beans
  • 1 400g can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed

Method:

  1. Add the olive oil to a large pot over medium heat. When hot, add the onion and saute until translucent and tender, 3-4 minutes.
  2. Stir in the curry powder, ginger, turmeric, and cardamom. Sauté for 30 seconds, until fragrant, stirring constantly.
  3. Add the coconut milk, water, quinoa, butternut swuash and peppers, and 1 teaspoon salt, scraping the bottom of the pot to remove any stuck bits. Bring to a boil and then lower heat to a simmer. Cover and cook for 15 minutes.
  4. Stir in the frozen vegetables and chickpeas. Return the lid to the pot and cook for 5-15 minutes more, or until the quinoa is tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed.
  5. After the quinoa is done, turn off the heat and let sit, covered, until the vegetables and chickpeas are warmed through, 5-6 minutes.
  6. Taste and add additional lemon juice and salt if desired. Garnish with parsley and serve (optional). I missed this part altogether
One pot curried quinoa and butternut squash

One pot curried quinoa with butternut squash and chickpeas

I am thankful for David and my mum for attempting to eat my creations, though a few days later, mum said that she would not eat the butternut squash stew again. 😮

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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!