Friday, 30 December 2011

New Colour Scheme

I just can't make up my mind - so this colour scheme is on trial for the day until I make a decision.

Great Expectations concluded this evening and even though I know the story and how it would end, the ending still had me in tears.  What a great story.

A Tale of Two Cities goes slowly not because the story is slow but because I've been busy.  I thought at one time that I had read it but I now know that I have not read this book but have seen the film!  Aah, enlightenment.

I've been busy having a good clear out - eldest daughter has excelled herself in de-cluttering her room, but there are so many bags for the charity shop, and with rubbish day tomorrow the recycling bags are stretching way up the street!  I'm trying to make space for new kitchen equipment - pasta machine and electric steamer - yet  where I have been ruthless in clearing clutter I seem only to have made everything much more tidy and regimented but not created space - why does this happen?  Tomorrow is the turn of the understairs' cupboard - who knows what lurks in the depths.  I could be gone for quite a while.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Just Playing Around ...............

I'm trying to either re-design this blog for the new year or scrap it completely and just go with my other blog L'heure du the - can't decide ................ so this may change several times this week ......... that's if there is anyone around to read it.

I'm fiddling on the computer whilst trying to also watch the film Charade - I just love this film, Audrey Hepburn is so stylish and beautiful and so well suited to Cary Grant.

We watched the second episode of Great Expectations this evening - as a family - it's not often now that there is a programme we all want to watch but this has been rather good, I'm surprised that the girls like it so much.  Watching Great Expectations has prompted me to pick up A Tale of Two Cities which I have had on my shelves for years and have NEVER read.  So far, so good.

Downton Abbey - oh how I had been waiting for this Christmas Special and it did not disappoint.  So much better than the second series - not that I didn't enjoy that because I did.  I read an article in the newspaper today which said that servants would not have been this clean and their relationship with the family of the house would not have been as it is in the series.  Isn't that what works of fiction are all about?  Does it matter that it's not 100% accurate?  Isn't it enough that it is entertaining?  Do we really want to watch authentic looking servants who (apparently) stank!

Speaking of stinkers - the husband wanted to watch Ben Hur on Channel 5 - three and half hours of tv with ad breaks - not me thank you very much - just as well we recorded it.  It didn't last long though, there was the one scene being highly unsuitable for children and, to my mind, completely unnecessary.  The husband was all for telephoning Channel 5 to complain - we cancelled the recording and deleted what had already been recorded - good riddance to bad rubbish, can't tell you the relief that I don't have to sit through that.

I'm contemplating New Year's Resolutions (you notice I have used capitals) and I think after all the Quality Street I've been munching over the past few days, not to mention trifle and mince pies - I had better start with losing weight.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Friday, 11 November 2011

For The Fallen by Laurence Binyon

On 19th September I posted about my Great Uncle William Madden who died on 19th September 1917 - on that post you will be able to read the whole poem - but here are just a few words that everyone seems to know, which were taken from that poem:

They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old.
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.

And we do.


I received an email from a friend this evening - one of those emails that do the rounds and are sent to numerous friends at one time, requesting that the message be passed on.  Well, I did this, and now I am going to reiterate this message here - hopefully I will manage to get all the details correct - anyway, the message had originated from the Police, warning all females to beware of this latest danger either to ourselves or to our property.  A young woman was at a petrol station filling her car when she was approached by a man who offered to assist her, she declined his help, upon which he then offered her his business card saying that he was a painter and decorator should she ever have need of this service.  She took his card, paid for her petrol and got back into her car and went on her way, however, she noticed that the man got into a car with another man and their car followed her.  She began to feel strange and unable to breathe properly and noticed that there was an aroma on her hands which was causing this feeling - which had been transferred to her hands by the business card the man had passed to her.  Feeling that she was in danger she drove onto the driveway of the nearest house and honked the horn of her car, at which point the car containing the two men continued on its way.

I cannot remember the name of the drug that was on the business card although the Police said that it was stronger than the "date rape drug" and they are not sure whether the men's intention was to steal her car, property or do harm to the woman, they suggested that women should be aware of this latest scam and not accept cards from just anyone when they are on their own or in vulnerable situations.

So often we accept leaflets and cards which are handed to us as we walk along the High Street and think nothing of it - we must start thinking about it now.

Stay safe and take care.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Great British Bake Off Revisited

I've just finished watching The Great British Bake Off Revisited - highlights of last year's competition.  It seems hard to believe that it was so long ago.  So lovely to see what everyone is doing since the programme finished. 

It's hard to watch this programme without needing to have something to eat - cake for preference - fortunately my younger daughter had made a Victoria Sandwich at school this week, which I forgot to photograph before we cut into it, but it was completely delicious.

She Did It ............

Well, despite all my doubts, elder daughter did eventually cook dinner on Monday evening.  She made Borek the recipe for which she found on the website Binnur's Turkish Cookbook.  It was rather an ambitious first meal and she did require help, it did take two hours, but having said that, the outcome was good.  The girls are now going to take turns to cook - next week is younger daughter's turn - my little foodie is already looking at books and thinking about what she is going to make.

So, for anyone who is interested, here's what we had for dinner on Monday evening:

Main Ingredients:

2 x 7 sheets Filo Pastry (we used two packets of frozen)
4-6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 cup of milk
4 eggs
good pinch of salt

2 x 2L casserole dishes

Filling 1:

300g frozen chopped spinach, squeeze out excess water
1 cup crumbled Feta
1 onion, chopped
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Black Pepper

Filling 2:

250g minced beef
1 onion, sliced
2 tomatoes, skinned and diced
1 small pepper (we omitted the pepper on the grounds that the cook doesn't like them!)
1 tsp dried mint
Black Pepper

Filling 1:

Put the salt, pepper, oil and onion in a saucepan, cook on medium heat for about 2 - 3 minutes, add the spinach and continue cooking for a few minutes more - take off the heat and add the feta cheese - stir to combine.  Leave to one side.

Filling 2:

Put the salt, pepper, beef and onion in a saucepan, cook on medium heat until the beef is browned (approximately 10 minutes).  Add the tomatoes and pepper (if using) and a teaspoon of dry mint, stir well and cook for another 5 - 10 minutes.  When cooked, take off the heat and leave to one side.

Next we mixed together in a bowl the eggs, olive oil and milk - this mixture is to be poured between the layers of pastry.

Then we used two casserole dishes - greased - and placed two sheets of the pastry in the bottom, with an overhang - as per the picture above - and spread 2 - 3 tablespoons of the liquid egg mixture over the bottom, two more sheets of pastry were laid on top (folded in half) and then spread the meat or spinach mixture over the top - again as per the picture above for the spinach pie - more pastry was placed on top and more liquid egg mix, and then the edges were folded in to secure it all and then a final flourish of the egg mixture. 

The above was repeated using the meat filling.

The recipe said to leave the casserole dishes in the fridge for 2-3 hours before cooking to ensure a more crispy pie.  We didn't have the time for this so we simply baked it in a pre-heated oven  175C/350F for approximately thirty minutes - although the recipe doesn't give a time, it merely says to bake until golden brown!

So, how did they taste?  Both tasted very good and were well cooked but if I had to make a choice I preferred the meat version, although my husband preferred the spinach version!  Just a matter of taste.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Sunday Dinner

My eldest daughter (17) suggested the other day that she should make dinner one night each week (a very good idea I think, especially as she is not as interested in cooking as my younger daughter (12)) I said that I had suggested this before but she had never taken up the suggestion.  Her reply was that I should force her to do it!  Oh, well, enough said - I will definitely be forcing her.  She decided on Thursday evening as her night for cooking and I was happy to oblige.  So on Wednesday evening I asked her what she was going to make so that I could ensure we had all the ingredients - "haven't decided yet"  was the reply.  I think I asked her twice more, then again on Thursday morning on the way to school, then texted her again at school and finally received a reply that she would cook Friday night instead.  Okay.  I'm not going to let this drop.  I am going to "force" her.  Friday came and she was undecided still.  Finally, during the morning I received her text "I know what I am going to make" - too late though - I had forgotten that we (my husband and I) were going out for dinner Friday night, so we opted for Saturday dinner instead.  But that was no good either, my daughter was going out on Saturday night with her friends and would be eating out!  Hmm.  This is going on and on.  Okay, I said, make it on Sunday instead.  Not a good idea either, she was staying at her friend's house Saturday night and would be home in the afternoon, then she had an essay to write.  So, finally, she is making dinner tonight.

However, this meant I had to think of something else for Sunday dinner, too late to take a joint out of the freezer and I had planned to help my younger daughter with her homework on Sunday so I didn't want to spend all day in the kitchen cooking dinner.  So a quick look through the Books for Cooks Favourite Recipes Books 1,2 & 3 turned up "Penne with Spicy Sausage Sauce".  So easy and so tasty.  This recipe was taken from Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers' "The River Cafe Cookbook" and serves 4.

3 tbsp olive oil
2 red onions
4 best fresh Italian pork sausages, skinned and crumbled (I used six as there were 6 in the packet)
2 garlic cloves - crushed
4 fresh rosemary sprigs, leaves stripped and finely chopped
2 fresh (or 1 dry) bay leaves (I used dry because my fresh ones are very small)
1 tsp fennel seeds (I ground these with the pestle and mortar)
1/2 tsp crushed chilli flakes
400g (14 oz) tin of Italian plum tomatoes, chopped
salt, black pepper, grated nutmeg
500g (1lb) penne rigate
150ml (5 fl oz / 2/3 cup) double cream
125g (4 oz) Parmesan, grated

I heated the oil in a large saucepan and cooked the onion until it was soft (about 5 minutes) then stirred in the crumbled sausage, garlic, rosemary, bay, fennel and chilli.  This I then fried quite quickly and stirred it continuously to break up the sausage meat.

I turned down the heat and left it to simmer for about 15 minutes, stirred in the tomatoes, salt, pepper and a good sprinkling of nutmeg.  Again, left it to simmer while I boiled the water for the penne which I then cooked as per the packet instructions.  I then stirred the cream into the sausage mixture together with half of the parmesan. 

I drained the pasta and and added the sausage mixture - stirring to coat all the pasta in the sausage sauce.  Served immediately with the rest of the parmesan.  So good.

So, I'm looking forward to my dinner this evening, elder daughter is cooking (no excuses), I have all the ingredients ready for her to make Turkish Borek  with two different fillings - one with spinach and feta and the other with minced beef.  I hope to bring the recipe, with photographs,  to this blog - tomorrow.  Here's hoping.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

The Grapes of Wrath ............

We harvested the grapes this afternoon and chopped down the vines.  The garden looks quite bare now but I am so pleased to get rid of the vines finally, they were becoming so bedraggled and forlorn as autumn sapped the colour from the leaves.  We harvested quite a lot of grapes (and baby snails and ladybirds too) and I was not too sure what to do with them all ....... jam, jelly, juice or a cake?  Well, to be honest there were so many and they are so tiny with pips in them that the thought of taking the pips out of all of them to make jam or jelly filled me with dread. 

So, tonight, we washed them, liberated the living creatures, set aside one pound of them and juiced the rest.

What a palaver.  We painstakingly took each of the grapes off of the stalks, weighed out those I want for a cake and set about juicing the rest of them.  I washed and sterilised four bottles, wondering if I would have enough bottles for all the juice I was expecting ................. I needn't have worried.

This was all the juice we managed to extract - it'll all be gone tomorrow.

And here's the lovely mess I had to clear up.

We also chopped down all the tomato plants.  And these are the last of them.

And I had to throw in this picture of a pretty box of eggs I found in Sainsburys last week - I've never seen them before.  They're not organic, but the box is pretty!   My daughter who bakes loved them and was aproned up and baking more fairy cakes last night for a table party at school lunchtime today - the girls hold table parties for their birthday.  Then there she was again tonight, baking some for us because she had missed out on a cake at lunchtime today - there were thirteen girls at the party and only twelve fairy cakes.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

BC and AD or BCE and CE

I think I owe Australia an apology!  Whilst I was busy denigrating their government for wanting to remove the terms BC and AD from school history books, our own country is doing something similar.  I fail to see why a corporation like the BBC should remove the reference to Christ's birth when referring to the year - surely we have much bigger concerns with the world economy - what's the expression "Nero fiddled whilst Rome burned"?  (All and any corrections to this quotation gratefully accepted).

Where are our great Statesmen at this time of crisis?  Busy "slagging" each other off at their party conferences - but, sorry - we don't seem to have any great Statesmen any longer.

Friday, 23 September 2011

My New Blog!

In anticipation of Christmas I have started a new blog!  That's not to say that I will not still be posting here - I will, I just felt that Christmas should have a blog of its own.  So I hope to see you at The Christmas List soon.

Have a good weekend.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Downton Abbey, First World War and My Parent's Anniversary ...............

Downton Abbey returned tonight - what a fabulous opening.  This time the First World War is underway.

How poignant that tomorrow - Monday 19th September is the anniversary of the death of my great uncle - William Madden - who died during the First World War on 19th September 1917 aged just 22.  He is remembered with honour at La Clytte Military Cemetery in Belgium.

My father was named for his uncle - another William Madden.  Surprisingly my parents were married on 19th September 1953.  They had no idea at the time that it was the date of my great uncle's death.  I find that rather a coincidence.

                                                       FOR THE FALLEN

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill;  Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres,
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England's foam.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.

Laurence Binyon (1914)

Although none of us that are alive today knew him - we will remember him with love and affection for the greatest sacrifice he made - William Madden may you rest in peace.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Lentil, Tomato and Pasta Soup

Sadly I took no photographs of this soup which I made for supper yesterday, and I cannot photograph the leftovers because they no longer look like soup!  However, after reading my sister's latest post (see claiming she is being stalked by puy lentils I felt duty bound to post the recipe here.

I was looking for someting to make for supper and looked through Tamasin Day-Lewis' Kitchen Bible - always inspirational - and came across this soup which was perfect for last night's supper.

This recipe serves 6.

3 tbs olive oil, 2 onions - finely chopped, 6 cloves of garlic (I only used two), 2 sticks of celery, 110g smoked streaky bacon chopped small, 225g puy lentils, 400g tin of chick peas,  4 tomatoes skinned seeded and chopped, 400g tin Italian plum tomatoes, approx 1.5 litres of chicken stock, 3-4 sprigs of thyme, 2 bay leaves, 225g macaroni or similar small pasta, salt and pepper, 2-3 tbs chopped fresh parsley, 110g Parmesan cheese grated.

To make things easier I put the onions, garlic and celery into my kenwood chopper and blended them all together before putting them into the saucepan with the olive oil and bacon - cook these over a low heat until they are softened and translucent (approx 10-15 minutes).  Add the lentils and chick peas and stir to coat them in oil.  Add the fresh and tinned tomatoes, chopping the tinned ones into their juice.  Bring to a bubble, then add the stock, thyme and bay leaves.  Bring to the boil, then cover and simmer until the lentils are cooked, about 40 minutes.  If the mixture is absorbing a lot of stock, ladle in some more keeping the level above the lentils.  Cook the pasta in boiling water, drain and add to the soup with an extra couple of ladles of stock.  Season well and sprinkle with parsley.  Serve in bowls, sprinkled with the Parmesan.  Serve with garlic bread.

As my local Tesco seems reluctant to replenish its stock of bay leaves I was fortunate enough to have some in the garden and was quite pleased with myself that not only did the bay leaves come from the garden but the thyme and fresh tomatoes

Friday, 9 September 2011

A Little Beauty For The End Of The Week

The first week back to school after the summer holidays is always the worst.  I miss having the girls at home during the day. 

Looking through some photographs that I had taken and not posted I came across these -

This is Ferdinand Pichard - rather handsome I think - it's an old Bourbon Rose with a beautifully rich fragrance.

My previous post sparked a series of emails amongst my family in Australia - they had not heard about this change!  Their government seems to be as informative to the electorate as ours!

Monday, 5 September 2011

What's Happening to Australia?

I didn't plan on using this blog as a platform for a rant, but I read something yesterday that has left me shocked.  I love Australia and the people that live there - I wouldn't have spent so many years there if I hadn't, and of course, I have family and friends there too.  I always believed the people to be very down to earth and "no nonsense" yet completely welcoming and with big hearts, but how have they managed to elect a government that is more PC than the EU?

The world is in a financial crisis, people are dying in parts of the world because of famine and war, the Arab world is in turmoil - so what is Australia concerned with?  Removing the birth of Jesus Christ as a reference point for dates in school history books.  So what year are we really living in if not 2011AD?  The terms BC (Before Christ) and AD (Anno Domini) are to be replaced with BCE (Before Common Era) and CE (Common Era).  It may be a secular government but it is a Christian country surely.  What's next - are they going to ban Christmas or just rename it so that they can still benefit from public holidays?  Surely changes such these are for public debate and a referendum.  I hope that common sense will prevail and the row that has delayed these changes from being pushed through for next year will halt this idiocy.

What is this obsession with change for the sake of change?  I can see no other reason for making a change such as this - and if you're wondering why I'm bothered by this it's because changes which take place in one country usually begin to work their way around to other countries - England next?  I can see no benefit to this change unless it's atheism or some disillusioned attempt to remove christianity from reference points so that other faiths are not "offended" - as if any truly religious person would be offended by another's religious beliefs! 

Oh, and have the people of Queensland who lost so much during the flooding been re-homed and compensated for their losses and are their lives back to normal?  I'm not sure that they are - I think the Australian Labour Government would do better to concentrate on the welfare of the Australian people rather than tinkering with history due to their own sense of superiority - or is that inferiority?

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Tilbury Fort

I had hoped to have this post written yesterday, but one thing led to another and time disappeared - what was I doing?  Do you know I can barely remember!!  There was a lot of preparation for school next week, and of course the usual taxi service to keep running as one daughter went in one direction and the other daughter in another direction - then back later to pick up.

Anyway, I digress, back to Tilbury Fort - the present fort, situated in a defensive position on the Thames estuary was built in 1672 during the reign of Charles II and is on the site of an earlier fort built by Henry VIII.

The entrance doorway - known as the Water Gate because it was accessed from the river - which was originally closer than it now is.

This was a room in the north-east bastion which would have stored cartridges - the passageway outside was quite dark so we didn't venture very far!!

The Bernard Truss collection of military items and wartime memorabilia is held in one of the houses which formed the Officers' Quarters - we were lucky enough to meet these handsome men!

I love a man in uniform!

The fort has also played host to 268 prisoners who had sailed from Inverness for Tilbury enduring appalling conditions of starvation and disease aboard small transport ships - on 11th August 1746 these surviving prisoners landed at Tilbury and were imprisoned in the powder magazines of the fort - 303 had sailed from Inverness, 268 arrived at Tilbury - within a month 45 had died, mainly of typhus.  Those that survived were tried in London in 1747 - some were executed but many were transported to Barbados and Antigua as slave labourers on sugar plantations - only a few men were released.  There is a memorial stone to the bravery and suffering of the Jacobite prisoners which stands in the lea of the river wall at Tilbury - a very sad reminder of shameful and cruel times.

Great place to visit for an afternoon - take your own afternoon tea though because the shop only sells drinks from a machine and there are no tables or chairs or cakes!

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Books, books, books ..................

I love the summer holidays for the opportunity to read and spend the occasional day doing nothing else except read, so I thought I would share some of my reading with you.  As I mentioned before in a previous post I was reading "One Fine Day" by Molly Panter Downs - this book was a delight, not too long and very easy to digest.  The second world war is over and this is a day in the life of a woman who lives in the country and how her life has now changed.

Still on the second world war, I have just finished reading "Doreen" by Barbara Noble this is set during the second world war and details the mental struggle one woman has deciding whether her young daughter should be "evacuated" from London.  She finally agrees to her daughter going away only to be beset by worry as to whether the child will find it too hard to adjust once the war is over and she has to return to London and the hardships incurred by her mother's poorer financial circumstances.

Finally, "Famous Last Words" by Annie Sanders - rather sad and touching in many places but has a happy ending - details five days in the life of a woman who is led to believe that she has only five days to live - happily this was not the case - oh dear have I given it away!

Hope you're all managing to get some reading during the summer.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

This and that ...................

There was so much I was going to write about this week ............ and here we are, another Sunday which means another week gone forever .......... and I haven't written about anything!

I began the week with a little wander around the garden and was pleasantly surprised to discover some mini sized olives on the two olive trees.  Okay, so they are small and not very many, but I'm hoping that this year we may actually get some olives to eat! 

Then there was the kiyma dolma (stuffed vine leaves) that I made during the week.  I finally decided to pick some vine leaves and make dolma - the only problem was that the newer leaves were too small and the larger leaves too old!  Still, I made the best of it and only ended up with a few that were too chewy!!

They look so beautiful before being blanched!  And become such an ugly green afterwards!

The meat mixture - is actually very easy to make and as you can see, I should have used a larger saucepan which would have prevented the overhang!  Anyway, here's the recipe:

1lb Minced lamb
1 - 2 Onions
2 tbs Olive oil
1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
1 - 2 tsps dried mint
1 tsp cinnamon
Salt and Pepper
1/3 cup filled with rice (I use basmati)
1/3 cup/80ml of water
Handful of chopped Parsley

Chop the onions and fry gently in the olive oil (just to soften).  Add the minced lamb and brown.  Once the meat has browned add the mint, cinnamon, salt, pepper and rice and mix thoroughly.  Add the chopped tomatoes and water (add more water if you feel it is needed, the mixture should not dry out). Add the chopped parsley and cook on a low heat for approximately 20 minutes.  Turn off heat and leave to cool for 10 minutes or so - just long enough to blanche the vine leaves.  You will need approximately 30 - 36 leaves.

Place 2 - 3 large leaves in the bottom of the pan.

Fill the leaves by placing a small amount of the meat mixture on the middle of each leaf, fold the sides in and roll up into a tight parcel.  Place the parcels tightly against each other in the pan and cover with a few leaves.
Place a flat plate turned upside down on top of them, then fill a small turkish coffee pot with water and stand on top of the plate to weight it down.  Mix two tablespoons of tomato puree with water from the kettle and pour into the pan so that it comes up to the edge of the plate.  Cook on medium to lowish heat for about 45 minutes.

I had quite a lot of meat left over and used it to fill some largish tomatoes and cooked them in a separate pan for 45 minutes also.

Unfortunately, I forgot to take some photographs before we had dinner!  So here are photographs of  the leftovers - I love leftovers!

I cooked some bulgur pilau to have with the dolma.

I'm not sure if the dolma count as a seasonal recipe - in one sense they probably do because the fresh vine leaves are only available during the summer months, but on the other hand, it is possible to buy vine leaves in brine throughout the year.  Personally, I don't like the leaves in brine and only cook these when the leaves are available in our garden.  So, I think I will check the Simple and in Season/Fabulicious Food! blog for this recipe's seasonality.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Out in the Garden ...........

The first rose that I bought was Cardinal Hume - it's perfume is so old fashioned - when I smell it I think of Anne Boleyn!  I don't know why - I just do!  Strange I know.

Most mornings I have a little wander around my garden - and it really is a little wander, because the garden is little - and this morning I couldn't take my eyes off of the roses.  They are on their second flush of flowers and not many out at the moment but plenty of buds promising more to come.

I can't remember the name of this rose - it has no perfume to speak of and lasts only one or two days (depending on the weather) - but it is so beautiful that it deserves a place in any garden.

I think we have rain coming this weekend - and I was hoping to cut the grass - oh well ....... there's always next week.

Thursday, 4 August 2011


I started watching Rick Stein in Spain last week and although initially put off watching him eat pig's head (not my kind of thing at all) have enjoyed it more and more.  Tonight's final episode was great and I am eagerly awaiting delivery of his new book.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Another Early Morning ..........

My elder daughter has been working a few extra days at what is normally her "Saturday Job" - as this is in London she has to go out early - so yet another morning I was up early to ensure breakfast was had and to drive her to the station!  I thought this was supposed to be holiday time.

Still, one benefit is that I have more hours in the day to get things done.  Today was cooking day - I decided that as we wouldn't be going to Cyprus this year I would make something that we generally get to eat when we are there, it hasn't turned out exactly as I had expected but I am hoping that by tomorrow it will be as it should be!  I'm talking about a turkish recipe called Fava .........  this is made with dried broad beans which need to be soaked overnight.

Once the beans are cooked the thick puree is moulded into a wedge shape and cut into slices and served with a dill dressing.

225g dried broad beans, soaked for at least 8 hours
2 onions - chopped
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 teaspoon of sugar
1 teaspoon of salt
1 pint/600 ml water
juice of half a lemon

For the Dressing

2 tablespoons of olive oil
juice of half a lemon
a few sprigs of dill - chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a saucepan, soften the onions in the oil.  Stir in the sugar and salt and pour in the water and lemon juice.  Drain the beans and add to the pan.  Cook gently, uncovered, for at least 1 hour until the beans are really tender and most of the liquid has evaporated.

*This is where I made my mistake by simmering the beans and onions with the lid on when it quite clearly says to cook them uncovered - and is probably why they took a lot more than one hour to soften and actually cooked for about 4 hours!!  And still some of the beans were a little hard!  Oh dear!

Mash the beans with a fork or blend in an electric mixer - I used a hand held blender and blended in the saucepan.   Spoon the mixture on to a dish and shape into a narrow wedge. Leave for  1 - 2 hours to dry out and harden. 

*Again I didn't follow instructions and have spooned the mixture into a plastic container!  Maybe because of this the mixture hasn't yet hardened so I will have to finish this off tomorrow.  I have tasted it however and it is absolutely delicious.

This is how it looks whilst cooking.

This is how it looks in it's plastic container.

To make the dressing simply mix all the ingredients together and pour over the top.  To serve, cut the fava into slices.  You can eat it soft and serve in a bowl after mashing - it has the texture and consistency of houmous.  Lovely, lovely.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Not on the Reading List!!!!

Okay, well the Reading List didn't get off to a very good start!  Witch Child by Celia Rees was given a "no" by the twelve year old because she thought it looked scary!  The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night by Mark Haddon was given a "no" by me because I thought it inappropriate for a twelve year old!  And My Sister Lives on the Mantlepiece by Annabel Pitcher was given a "no" by the twelve year old because she didn't think she would like it!

Tomorrow we are going to make a start on Tom Sawyer - wish me luck!

In the meantime I am reading One Fine Day by Mollie Panter-Downes - only on chapter two but - so far so good!

I hope you have found something interesting to read for the holidays.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Reading List

As promised here is the reading list I have compiled for my twelve year old daughter:-

Tom's Midnight Garden by Phillipa Pearce
The Family from One End Street by Eve Garnett
I Capture the Castle by Dodi Smith
Goodnight Mr. Tom by Michelle Magorian
A little History of the World by E H Grombrich
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
Witch Child by Celia Rees
The Sterkarm Handshake by Susan Price
The White Darkness by Geraldine McCaughrean

The longlist for this year's Guardian children's fiction prize is as follows:-

My Name is Mina by David Almond
Mr. Gum and the Secret Hideout by Andy Stanton
Small Change for Stuart by Lissa Evans
Twilight Robbery by Francis Hardinge
Return to Ribble trop by Andy Mulligan
Moon Pie by Simon Mason
My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher
Momentum by Saci Lloyd

Of course she is not going to be able to read all of these books during the school holidays but I'm aiming for one a week, I've ordered several from the library so we'll see which she reads and I'll be reporting back with her opinion. 

Personally, I love reading and must have at least one book on the go at all times!  Strangely, both of my daughters are not so keen on reading - this may be because they watch too much television or because they have access to so many films (which I did not as a child) that a book is too much effort.  But what they do not realise is that you can learn so much more from books than just a story - grammar, punctuation, vocabulary and lots of bits of information that you retain without realising it - there are so many things I know that I do not know how I know and it must only come from reading so many books!!!!!  Anyway, here's hoping that this year I will finally turn them onto books!

For my seventeen year old daughter I have ordered three books, and these only because we happened to be talking about them in the car this morning on the way to school!  As she is currently reading books that relate to her A level literature course I am not expecting too much from her!  But the list is:-

Nineteen Eighty-four by George Orwell
Animal Farm by George Orwell
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

I remember reading these books  myself (for school) and not liking them at all, but I think there is a valuable lesson to be learned from them about the kind of future we want - and we don't want a future like those in these books!

Last Day of School - Yippee!!

School finishes at lunchtime today - at last.   This last term seems like it has gone on forever.  I finally get my girls back to myself again and we can enjoy being out and about together. 

I'm going to make a book list for them to read their way through this summer and we're going to create a list of places we want to see and go to - if I were to leave it all to them, it would consist of shopping trips to London and Bicester!!  Watch this space for a book list.

Friday, 15 July 2011

New Harry Potter Film

Went to see the new Harry Potter film this evening with my two girls.  It's as good as expected and possibly the best.  We have decided to have a Harry Potter Fest during the summer holidays - watching all of the films back to back - on a rainy day of course (and we're bound to get some). 

Just have to decide what goodies to make for snacks.   I'll be back to share as soon as possible.

As this is my first blog I am rather unprepared and have no photographs to post!  Sorry.

This will get better - I promise.