Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Days worth a mention

Happy days!!  My little blog was a whole 2 years old on the 25th and I forgot - oops!  Knowing my own propensity for starting projects and not finishing them (or getting all the equipment together then never getting any further - my house is fair littered with various bits of kit for projects that consumed me with interest just long enough to outlay my hard earned pennies on the necessary items then the wave of interest retreated leaving said items beached high and dry on the dust-gathering shelf marked 'to be returned to') I'm a weeny bit pleased with myself that this at least I have kept up.  I find it a handy place to bung recipes so I can come back to them and hopefully I have entertained and possibly even educated a little over the last 2 years.  The blogging world has certainly taught me a lot both in terms of recipes found to frugal tips to simple inspiration from other's beautiful images or words.  Although to be fair blogs are possibly also quite responsible for a fair few of my non-starter projects from the cider making (demi-john, hydrometer plus associated tube, campden tablets, sterilising stuff, bungs and airlocks) to the home sewn skirt (pattern cut from brown paper, material, ebay saved search for 'fold over elastic' [you try finding the stuff in uk haberdasheries], half working grandmothers Singer in the back bedroom) to proper jam making (jam pan, thermometer, muslin).  [I am a martyr to the compulsive need to follow all links posted.]  Hey ho - at least all this stuff can be gone back to, it's just taking up a bunch of space in the meantime.  One of my nebulous new years resolutions was to finish various half started projects so perhaps by the end of this year I will have made use of some of the clutter.
The second day to mention is today!  It's a leap year so we have an extra day - the 29th February - for the first time since 2008 in order to balance us out to the solar year.  The solar year is actually more like 365.25 days long rather than the 365 days we (well Julius Caesar in fact) adapted so every 4 years an extra day makes up the difference(The Julian calendar).  The fact that this isn't quite exact but is in fact out by 11 minutes and however many seconds means that 3 times in each 400 years the leap year doesn't occur (that's the Gregorian calendar now).  Got all that??!  Apparently it's tradition that women can propose to men instead of the other way round on a leap day [like they can't on any other day?  Pffft] but fret not - I don't think the Chap and  are quite at that point yet!  ;-)
Finally there's tomorrow - as of the morrow I will have officially been employed by my current firm for 5 years.  5 whole years!  Damn.  I have to say it - much as I'm grateful for a job in these uncertain times and still more it's a reasonable job in the dry and warm - I'm so so so bored of it now.  However - we will focus on the positives and in honour of that and the fact that tomorrow is Saint David's day (patron saint of Wales - though I don't have any Welsh in me) I may make a batch of welsh related goodies tonight to bring in for my colleagues in the morning.  Nom.  Happy days my friends.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Avocado & Lime Ice-Cream!

Now depending how much you like avocado you'll either be going 'yeargh' and thinking I've taken leave of my senses at the moment, or going 'ooh - interesting concept' or falling somewhere in-between in a mildly puzzled kinda way.  The first time I saw mention of avocado ice-cream on the CSH forum I fell into this final category, despite being a very definite avocado devotee.  I just didn't see it as an ice-cream; or for that matter as a sweet based item of any kind.  I eat my avocado with sour cream and a dash of paprika, or old school with prawns or smoked salmon, or once as a starter in a *pub grilled with goats cheese melted over the top or just plain with a dash of lemon or lime juice and a spoon.  Whichever way most certainly it's a savoury item in my head.  [Totally off topic but does anyone else (and you may have to be fairly specifically of my age group + cultural background here) find that whenever yourself / anyone else says 'in my head' the Cranberries song 'Zombie' pops unbidden into your mind and an overwhelming compunction to sing 'in my head, in my head, in my head, zombie, zombie, zombie' comes over you?  No?  Just me then.  [And yes - I know it's 'in your head' in the song]]  Anyway, to haul this back on track - ice-cream - of the avocado variety.  Having heard about it I found that the more I thought about it the more it a) sounded like a good idea and b) I wanted to try it out myself.  So...having followed back from the original link posted to the David Lebovitz book 'The Perfect Scoop' it came from and having taken a days leave yesterday [it's soooo quiet at work at the moment] I decided to give it a go for myself so here it is - my version tweaked with extra lime and 'English-ified' measurements.  :-)  (The original recipe is USA-centric with cup measurements.)  As an aside if you shop for all your ingredients in Aldi when they have the avocados on special at 29p each as I did, this works out pretty cheap too!

Avocado & Lime Ice-Cream
3 ripe avocados
150g sugar
250ml sour cream
125ml double cream
2 tbsp lime juice
pinch salt

Cut the avocados open and de-stone.
Scoop the flesh out into a blender.
Add all the other ingredients and blend until smooth.  if you have no FP/blender stick them all in a bowl and use a stick blender.
Pour into a freezable plastic container and chuck in the freezer.  (For reference this made just under 800ml for me - will vary depending on the size of your avocados though.)  It's a beautiful light shade of green here.
At this point you will taste it and probably think it's way too sweet but fret not!  Frozen foods impact on your taste buds far less so when making ice-cream / sorbet you need to take this into account and add more flavour and more sugar than you would otherwise.  [Incidentally I presume this is why revoltingly awful lagers like Fosters sell themselves in extra-chilled versions now - so no-one can taste how dire they really are.  That's just my opinion though...]
Over the next few hours I took my ice-cream out of the freezer a couple of times and stirred it round with a fork to 'break up the crystals' as approved ice-cream making methodology seems to suggest but after that I went to bed so it was left to it's own devices.  TBH I'm not sure if that stirring stuff is only for 'proper' ice-cream recipes with egg and stuff in?  I've only made one other ice-cream recipe before and it's even simpler than this one.  :-)
With eager anticipation then I pulled the container from the freezer this morning to test the finished product.  Firstly - it freezes pretty solid - I think like Haagen Dazs recommend it's one that needs to be pulled out 10 mins before serving to soften up slightly.
Secondly - it's absolutely nom-alicious!!  I really really rate this.  From being fairly sceptical at the original idea to thinking the avocado was going to be drowned out by the sweetness (or possible even my addition of extra lime) when I was making it I am now totally converted.  It's lovely stuff.  Very rich as you'd expect with so much cream in it so you only need a little but then tbh avocado and lime is more of a grown up flavour for serving a small portion in a pretty bowl than it is a kids style dessert.  I can picture this in chic simple white tubular dishes on a gorgeous wooden platter at a gastro type pub or similar.

I also think it could safely be left a little bit less smooth when blending as the odd tiny bit of avocado flesh would work here.  If you like avocado that is.  I think avocado is one of those things you either really do get on with or you really don't. I think I read first in Adrian Mole many years ago that it's considered by some people to have a consistency a little akin to that of soap.  I don't agree but I do see where people may be coming from with that observation.  It's certainly an individual in the fruit world!
*The pub in question was The Coventry Arms in Dorset, lovely 15th C riverside place complete with mummified cat in a glass case on the wall.  It was found bricked into the walls during refurb' work some years ago and is believed to have been shut in for good luck when the building originally went up.  Not good luck for the cat evidently!  This pub has been a perennial favourite of my family and seems to have remained in good hands judging from the internet reviews.  Give it a try  if you're in the area - they were always good for seafood in particular.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

My beautiful Exeter

I've been thinking recently that I really should share a little more of the beauty of the place I live with the world. Exeter is a lovely city; small enough to still be friendly and fairly safe and dating back to pre-Roman times.  Extensively bombed in the second world war it was lucky enough to escape significant damage to the cathedral and some of the old buildings in the city centre remain there to this day.
Anyway - to start (not being that well planned) I have a couple of images of the river.  I walk along and then cross this river every day on my way to and from work so I see it in all moods; swollen and brown with the mud-laden run off from the moors after heavy storms, shallow and burbling gently in the summer sun when you can spot a little fish through it's lucid ripples, partly iced over in the harshest part of winter or just reflecting serenely the sky above on a still and calm evening.
This first image then (and I am well aware that you will have seen numerous images of the river before this if you are a regular visitor here) was from a couple of mornings ago when we had one of the (so far) very few frosty starts to the day this winter.  Although the frost laid heavy on every grass stalk the sun shone down and glinted such sparkles off the river it made me want to run to the hills for the day rather than go to work.  Or at least get down the allotment for some digging!

This second image is from my journey home last night when the river was in one of it's languid moods and showed me such a perfect reflection of the trees' bare branches above I had to capture the image; although these dimpsey lighting conditions aren't the best for photography.  I hope however, that the image manages to convey some of the serenity the river regularly gives me, and some of the beauty it is capable of.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Palindrome (& pancake) day

It's a palindrome day.  A palindrome is something that reads the same backwards as forwards which is true of the date today - 21.02.2012.  [Warning - there's probably rather more information that you want there.]  It's also pancake day - here's some I had for lunch with maple syrup on - yum!  Oddly they hadn't got the most traditional / common choice of lemon juice and sugar available.

I shall make the Chap and I pancakes for tea tonight and have been thinking of the idea of incorporating ingredients into the batter a la the Full Brekkie Pancake experiment.  (Something I must return to incidentally.)  I'm thinking grated cheese included in the batter with a filling of spinach, mushrooms and tomatoes.  Or perhaps the spinach could be in the batter too along with the cheese?  I shall have to experiment and see what turns out...  Enjoy - whatever way you do them!

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Slow cooker Broccoli (Stalk) and Silton soup

Although I've was a little slack in posting on here over the festive period and January (sorry 'bout that) I have been pretty industrious with the slow cooker once again.  This colder weather is what they excell at - nothing is nicer than coming in the door after a long day at work and being greeted by the aroma of a hot meal ready to eat.  Mmmmm - it helps with the cosiness factor I can tell you!  This soup was one I had in mind to try in the slow cooker for a while having come to the realisation that Broccoli (Calabrese really) stalks are actually very good and should on no account just be ditched into the nearest bin.  Now - I won't pay for excess stalk on purpose and am one of those people with no compunctions or embarassment about standing in the stupormarket or outside the veg shop breaking off the massive stalk from the head of calabrese I want.  If you get it on offer when it's prepackaged you don't get the option of breaking it off but I'll only buy it like this if it's a very good offer - like Aldi's super 6.   However you buy it though; you always end up with some excess stalk so this is a great way to make something of it.  We had, I was somewhat startled to realise, a whole pound of the stuff sitting in the fridge from just a few heads worth along with a surfeit of stilton (festive work gifts for the Chap along with a rather good bottle of port) so this was the ideal combination.

Broc' Stalk & Stilton Soup
1/2 an onion - chopped
2-4 cloves garlic - chopped
1lb broccoli stalks chopped plus a few florets to jazz up the soup if you have some
2pt vegetable stock
2-3 bay leaves
A pinch-.5 tsp each of dried parsley, thyme, oregano and rosemary or use a bouquet garni
1 spud chopped
Couple of tired cabbage leaves (not essential fairly obviously but chuck them in if they're lying around needing to be used up)
2-3oz stilton
S+P if/as needed
Small splosh white wine if you happen to have a bottle open - optional
To serve - a little soured cream / creme fraiche if wanted

Heat the evoo in a frying pan and add the chopped onion and garlic.  Fry off gently until softened.
Add them with all the other ingredients bar the florets, stilton, wine and salt to the SC on high for 3 hours.
Add the florets and leave a further 2 hours (I'm sure you could leave this less time or the whole lot on low for longer  - adjust to suit your schedule.)
Crumble 1oz of the stilton in and blend. 
Taste and adjust seasoning - leaving the salt out for now as cheese contains salt.
If wanted add another 1oz of stilton and blend again then taste again.  Add the final 1 oz if wanted / to taste.
Add the wine and gently reheat when needed.  Can be served with a little soured cream / creme fraiche on top. 

Makes a virtuously cheap yet tasty, nourishing and warming dish.  Couple with some freshly baked warm beer bread rolls and you're onto a frugal winner! 

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Travel via food

As it seems like it may be a few months yet before the Chap and I can think about a holiday this will have to do for now!
We had a fab Indian buffet at work yesterday lunch time - just £5 for all this!  There was also a Chicken Kerala curry option which I didn't have but here we have naan breads, raita, rice, Aloo Gobi, Saag Aloo and Tarka Dahl.  Yum!!!  I was fairly stuffed after all that.  This was cooked up by our Cafe manager who is 'demi' Indian himself - although passionate about supporting English cricket.  [Why??  It's soooooo dull...]  Anyway - he did good with this spread in aid of our corporate charity[Isn't that an awful phrase?]

Today at work we visited another part of the globe with this rather delish rum cake that a collegue brought back from her holiday in the Caymans.  Although it looks like it's going to be very heavy it's actually a light sponge with a lovely but not overpowering flavour of rum through it.  Nom nom nom...  I wonder where we'll go tomorrow...  :-D

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Happy 'V' Day!

With love to all today.  I promise I'll get a decent length post up here soon!!