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.