Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Bit more wintry wondrousness

Another 7 inches of snow landed Sunday night - throws everyone into a right tizz. Looks pretty though. Interesting wading through it to work - once they decided what the hell was happening about work that is!

Monday, 20 December 2010

Lentil fail

I so wanted to call this post 'Delish Dhal-ish' as I made a lentil dhal type of dish and as it was based on one I'd done before I was confident it'd be good and tasty. Oh dear. I decided as a change to make it with green lentils. Then I didn't have enough so it ended up half and half green and red. Now - what I didn't know then (but do now) is that red lentils are used for Dhal as they go into 'mush' more on cooking which is what's needed for this dish. Green ones don't. Also, you'll be amazed but this is the first time ever I'd cooked with green lentils myself and hmm - it was a learning curve. I think they were a wee bit underdone and after macerating my way stolidly through most of a bowlful of this I decided it really was crap. I'll give you the recipe anyway as if it's made with just red lentils it's good. I'll then tell you how I rescued this into something actually edible! :-)
Adapted from a recipe from Mary Berry - The New Cook.

250g lentils - red ones!!
600ml water
1tsp Turmeric
1.5 tsp salt
Recipe called for 1 clove garlic and some grated fresh ginger to be added then simmer all together 20-30 mins. I substituted 0.5 tsp ground ginger and fried off 2 teaspoons minced garlic in pan first.
Add rest of ingredients and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer covered for 30 mins - think the green lentils still weren't quite done at this point. Don't forget to stir every so often so it doesn't stick on the bottom.

Served with a splodge of soured cream and a dust of cayenne for the colour. Looks ok huh - but really was hard work to eat and not that nice tasting. I've made this before with just red lentils and not frying the garlic off first and really enjoyed it. Strange how so little a change can produce so different a dish.
Anyway later on I decided to take my 'chuck it in and see' approach to rescuing this dish [I play pool in the same 'smack it and hope' way].

I added (these are approx amounts) 0.5-1 tsp Garam Masala, a further 0.5 tsp Turmeric, 0.5-1 tsp cayenne, 1 tsp black onion seeds, 1 pint veg stock, a large grated carrot and 'some' cous-cous. Boil the lot until the cous cous absorbs the liquid.
I'm not sure how correct or authentic it is to have cous cous and lentils together but as a veggie stew-consistency kinda dish (ie 'stodge'!) this was pretty nice and suitably tasty. Warming with the inclusion of the cayenne and just so much more interesting than the original version. I think the extra cooking made the green lentils rather more palatable as well; it has at least convinced me that it may actually be worth trying cooking with them again! :-)

Friday, 17 December 2010

Obsessed? Are we??

Yes - I'm going to join in the national obsession and discuss the weather, albeit briefly. We had more snow last night so I awoke to a chilly, white, beautiful morning today.
We're fairly spoilt down here in that we rarely get hit by the snow and when we do it's not normally very bad. I've been forgetting that a lot of the rest of the country's been struggling through the stuff for the last couple of weeks now when all we've had was a sprinkle at the start of the month that very quickly cleared. Of course for anyone from any country that regularly gets decent amounts of snow this is all fairly hilarious to watch as the UK grinds to a halt after 2cm of the white stuff.
We are apparently weather obsessed as it's so changeable due to being surrounded by water in a reasonably temperate area. Whatever the reason it does give some truly beautiful starts to my days as I walk into work. Sensible DM's and hat, scarf and gloves this morning made it an enjoyable experience. As the author of that last link mentions "...to fully appreciate the poetry of nature in Britain, you must first be dressed practically so that you are not distracted by wet feet or sunburn!"
[I am one of those people though that even at the age of thirty-(ahem)-something I enjoy kicking up piles of leaves in the autumn or snow in the winter. Even been known to jump in the occasional puddle too! ;-D]
The one thing that is concerning me is where some bits I've ordered for Chrimble pressies that were posted a week ago have got to...
Not many seemed to have been along my road this morning. It was snowing as I left.

Seems to have caught the local council by surprise as nowhere was gritted. This has been predicted for a week though.

Single swan patrolling this morning as the sun peeked out.

Looking out over the city - see the top of the cathedral in the distance.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Last game of the year a win for Chiefs!

It was Chiefs' last game of the year at Sandy Park with a meeting with Newcastle Falcons for the Amlin Cup. Once again we romped away with it, securing a 36-10 victory over the visitors. A steady racking up of points cheered a cold and quieter than usual crowd. [I think we lost some supporters to the local football derby between Exeter and Plymouth on at the same time - pah - fair weather fans!] For those of us that were there though it was a 5-home-tries fest and balm for losing the previous week 24-12 away to Wasps. I was told previous to the game that due to injuries Newcastle were fielding their top team - within 20 minutes of kick off I was looking at the chap going 'really?' as they just didn't seem up to the job. Anyway, the next home game is on 2nd Jan against the might of Leicester Tigers [Ptooie]. Should be interesting! Before then there's Bath away on the 26th but unfortunately due to chrimble arrangements I'm unable to make that one. Pity as Bath's lovely but I'll be cheering them on mentally. Hoping for another good year for the Chiefs. They announced on Saturday that captain Tom Hayes had won Aviva Premiership Rugby Player of the Month for November. When you remember this includes all the guys playing internationally as well that's not bad going! Chiefs have also just been named the BBC South West's Team of the Year! Get on the Chiefs. :-D

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Duet de panais part deux

Second soup of the weekend was a stonking roast spiced parsnip affair. Deceptively hot, it tastes as if there's a smidge of coconut milk in it (there isn't) and comes across spiced and creamy until the heat hits you after a few seconds. When feeding some to the chap to try he didn't look like he thought it was spicy enough and I told him to 'wait for it' then watched in gratification as his face changed a few seconds later. He he he :-p It's not too hot - just unexpected but deffo a good one for these cold frosty nights we've been having.
Spiced Roast Parsnip Soup
1lb trimmed peeled parsnips
2tbsp EVOO + a small splosh
0.5tsp ground turmeric
0.5tsp ground cayenne
1tsp garam masala
1tsp cumin seed
1tsp black onion seed - not necessary but I had them in the cupboard
2 sml/1large onion
2 sticks celery
1 big (mine was a baker) / 2 small spuds
1 pint veg stock
0.5 pint water
0.5 pint milk
'Dollop' (approx 1-2 tbsp) soured cream - optional

Prefeat oven to Gas 6.

Peel and chop parsnips and put in ceramic roasting dish.
Mix the oil and spices in a jug / mug etc and pour over the parsnips. Mix really well.
Place in oven and roast for 45-60 mins.
As near end of cooking time peel and chop your onion and chop the celery.
Heat a small splosh EVOO in a big pan and gently fry off the onion and celery to soften.
Chop spud into small chunks and add.
Add stock + water + parsnips.
Bring to boil then reduce heat and simmer covered for about 10 mins until veg esp. spuds soft.
Blitz in the FP until quite smooth adding soured cream as you go.
Return to pan, add milk and warm through.

My personal version of the classic spiced / curried parsnip soup. You can adjust this to make it less hot / more hot or use your particular fave spice blend. You could even use coconut milk in place of the regular milk if wanted though I think that'd give a fairly sweet result. This is warming and filling; rich in flavours but relatively low in fat and of course - low cost to make. Yum!
Quick Found £'s update - 40p yesterday. Now have a box on the right with the latest update in so I can keep track of progress over the year. As can you. How exciting. *rolls eyes* *snort*

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

A Parsnip duet - sweet music in the mouth

I made a duo of parsnip soups on sunday and I'm very pleased with how they turned out if I say so myself. They were both roasted but there all similarities end. One was a roast version of spiced parsnip soup, the other however was an idea that I've been tossing around in the back of my mind for some time. It's not one I've seen anywhere though that's not to say no-one's thought of it before - I'm resisting googling it until at least after I've posted this!

Roast Balsamic Parsnip Soup
EVOO - splosh
1lb trimmed peeled parsnips
2.5tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 small-med onion
2 sticks celery inc the leaves
1.5 pints veg stock
Put oven on Gas 6 to preheat. Splosh of EVOO in a ceramic dish in oven to heat up.
Peel and chop the parsnips into chunks.
Place in preheated dish and pour balsamic over - stir well.
Roast for 45mins-1 hour stirring every 15ish mins. (How long dep' on size chunks / age of your parsnip.)
As come to end of cooking time peel and chop onion. Small splosh more EVOO in large pan and fry onion off gently.
Chop celery and add to pan. Fry both off gently for a few mins to soften up.
Add stock and chunks of parsnip - putting a little stock in the roasting dish to deglaze. Give it a good scrape to ensure you get all that lovely balsamic goodness.
Bring to boil then reduce heat and simmer covered for 10mins until all veg soft.
Remove from heat and let cool slightly then blend in batches.
Gives a fairly thick soup so could loosen up with a little more stock if preferred.
This is actually a very simple soup to make but the taste belies this. It allows the flavour of the parsnip to come through but cuts across it at the same time; preventing it from being too sweet. I really really like this and considering I tried it as a pure experiment I'm pretty chuffed. I wouldn't complain at being served this in a gastro pub. It's pretty cheap as well; even more so if your parsnips were from the CFC at 50p for a 750g bag. :-)

Monday, 13 December 2010

Free lunch?

Apologies for the brevity of the last post - Zeke deserves a far longer stomp about on my blog and he'll get it - as soon as he sits still long enough to have a decent photo taken! I was also rushing out for the works chrimble do so any typos that remained over the weekend were a direct result of that but should now be cleared up.
I mentioned that I had intended that post initially to mention some of the freebie sites around on the internet. Here you can (sometimes) get something for nothing - or for your sign up details generally. I don't see a problem with this myself. Create a 'dump' email address with a free provider like Hotmail or Yahoo and use that for freebie signing up purposes. The pic on the last post showed a few recent items I've received - a Rimmel Max Volume Mascara £6-7 in the shops. [Verdict - pants; clumps like a git. I'd rather stick with my £2 boots number.] A Barbara Daly (who?) mascara £5+ [not used yet], a 50ml sample size of Dove intense repair conditioner and a full size pack of Whiskas Temptations treats (91p in S'burys) plus a 50p off voucher - this being what Zeke was mauling in the photo. Previously I've had sample size cat foods of James Wellbeloved, Purina, Felix, Oil of Olay moisturisers, Cheerios, tea bags various, a nice heavy 1/2 pint Grolsch glass and a personalised notepad [definitely my fave] amongst other things. So long as you set up an email addy specifically for use signing up for these and keep a close eye on any tick boxes to opt in / out of communication I think there's no harm with these. The main site I check regularly-ish is Magic Freebies UK. From experience Oil of Olay and all the pet food sites are good responders. Others vary and also bear in mind that there's often a limited amount of freebies available. Oh and the free lunch? Here will give you a voucher for a sarnie/wrap at Walkabout; valid until the 19th. Here will currently give you a voucher for a glass of coke at Yates. Go forth and garner my friends. :-D

Friday, 10 December 2010

Ode to a furry pawed Zekester

On Sunday Zeke will be 6 months. I can barely believe the transformation. Here he is; back when he was a tiny thing that skittered about in that constantly-startled-by-the-world kitten way. Doesn't look like any trouble right? Well, at very nearly 6 months he's now bigger than my mother's last little cat, bless her, when she was full size. I reckon there's some growing to do yet as well! These days he thunders about the place on less than dainty furry great plates. But he's still great fun. :-D Happy half a year Zekester. xxx
This was going to be a post mentioning the freebie sites out there but Zeke didn't want to wait for his Whiskas Temptations!

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

The beauty of ingredients

Look at these chestnut mushrooms. Do they not speak to you of promises of deep earthy flavours hidden within, of succulent juices released with a bite, of woodland and calm places and still shadows under trees? Well they do me.
I was struck by them last night as the Chap chopped some for the lovely veg curry he made me. Can't give you a recipe as I was 'encouraged' away from the cooking area (:-D) but it included onion, garlic, spuds, carrot, butternut squash, chestnut mushrooms, broccoli and green beans and served on top of nutty brown rice squeezed with lemon was a warming winter winner. Well done Chap. *claps*
Quick update on the found £'s - 80p today already! Woop!!

A distinctly nippy start...

Driving in from Feniton with the Chap this morning. Temps down to -9 in Devon last night. Looked like it had snowed but was just lots and lots of frost; think it had fallen with a clang overnight! Pretty to admire; once the van started and I spent 20 minutes scraping the ice off the windows. :-D

Monday, 6 December 2010

Found Pounds

Well I achieved very little this weekend - but in a good way. We had a thoroughly relaxed time, a potter round the stores on the Quay - a mix of eclectic, antique style stuff and a glass artist, metalwork and a couple of gorgeous wood furniture places making lovely (expensive) pieces from reclaimed timber. I got a few ideas for chrimble things and had many intentions to get stuff done. Which kind of came to naught. Oops!! In defence though both myself and Chap have got new stinking colds so didn't feel like doing an awful lot. We made it to 2 different birthday celebrations, did some shopping and I cooked a big pot of red bean / quorn mince 'stuff' yesterday for us to feed on before gently drifting into a stupor in front of the fire and whatever film was on the box. Nice. It's been pretty cold here [I nearly put 'extremely' then but I could imagine the cries of 'you southern softy' from more northern readers] so wrapping up well and staying in with the cat and the fire has been the order of things. That said I did suddenly realise yesterday afternoon that there's only 2 weekends left until xmas. Eek!!! I need to get stuff done methinks so that'll be the last lazy weekend this year I reckon.
I've decided to follow the challenge/example set by Atomic Shrimp and from the 1st Dec this year collect all the lost money I find into a jar to be spent on xmas 2011. Started today with a grand total of 11p. 10p of this was in the vending machine - must keep an eye on this as I think people often forget their change and leave it in there. Be interesting to see how this pans out - he made over £100 - not bad going!! Wish me luck...

Friday, 3 December 2010

Free (ish) seeds

Well ok - they cost me the price of the postage but not bad for under £3.00. Looking forwards to trying out the Squash 'Potimarron'; a French heirloom variety that apparently has a chestnut like taste. Sounds like a winner for roasting to me! These arrived in the post yesterday - I ordered them Friday evening so just under a week delivery. T&M send me emails all the time since ordering something off them way back in the mists of time. Sometimes though it's not a bad offer - this was £10 off - you had to spend a minimum of £10 and pay the postage which is what I did. These 5 packs on the site plus the P+P would normally cost you £12.54, I paid £2.54 so just over 50p a packet. That's more like it! I love Pak Choi and the coloured mix sounded interesting. I'm always buying more packets of Celeriac seeds as each year mine seems to be a dismal failure and I'm determined not to be beaten. The Roma tomato sounds tasty and I'm liking the sound of 'nearly seedless' having a strange kind of phobia-but-not-exactly of tomato seeds. I've long had a love affair with flowers like Scabious, Cornflowers, Love-in-a-mist &c. If it's good for the bees too that's an added bonus! Win-win I reckon.
Brighter here today though damn parky. No more snow since yesterday; in the city at least. I don't mind the cold so much when it's bright - cheers me up no end. Sparkling lights like fairy lights on a tree glinting off the ice and snow and tumbling away down the river.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Mid week (ish) round up

Couple of last bits from the weekend - once again Chiefs trashed the opposition; this time Sale Sharks succumbed 24-19. A far more exciting game than the previous weeks 15-9 against Leeds Carnegie - sadly my pic of that score was on the phone that vanished. That was an all penalties game whereas the Sale game was 3-1 try crowd pleaser. That puts us 6th in the table and was worth the extra layers and being out in the first few flakes of snow we've seen this year. Mental note though - next time tights under the jeans as well I reckon!
Sunday I made the roast to feed the 5 thousand - for 2 of us. Got a bit carried away and we had the nut roast I'd got from the veggie deli at Brixham chrimble fair, roast spuds, roast butternut squash, roast carrots, roast swede, roast garlic, sweetcorn, broccoli (calabrese) and boiled carrots, oven braised greens [celery, cabbage and half a tired iceberg] and yorkshire puddings. Oh - and gravy with a splash of red wine in. Phew!! I think we could have fed 6 of us really but it made a nice lunch for me the next day, and then dinner for us in the evening on Monday too! Wasn't totally convinced on the nut roast front - was a very 'bitty' texture that says 'chickpeas' to me. Not bad but I don't think I'd bother again. My oven braised veg went down well with the chap though.
Brief synopsis - butter, celery generally but I used white cabbage too and this worked, veg stock. Preheat oven gas 6. Melt butter in pan. Chop veg into size bits you want. I left the celery 3-4 inches long and shredded the cabbage and lettuce. Saute off in the butter gently for about 10 mins. Put in ovenproof dish - ceramic not metal. Pour stock over and bang in oven for 20-30 mins dep' how crunchy / not you want the veg. Somehow I find something very comforting about this. Mind you I'm one of those few people who actively like celery, even celery soup. You can vary this how you want dep' on veg in the house, what temp' other stuff's in the oven etc. Add cheese too for a more 'full meal with protein' style of dish.
Lastly we have today finally got the snow that's been promised us for the last week. It was distinctly grey this morning though rather than being bright and blue and pretty which was a shame but I suppose you can't have everything. I'm glad to have my DM's and at least I work inside unlike the chap - brrr!