Sunday, 25 March 2012

Not Enough Hours in the Day ............. ?

I've just read the recent post entitled "What Did We Do Before Blogging?!!"  by My French Country Home - a very good question, it was only this afternoon that I wondered when I would finally get the opportunity to sit down today (dinnertime excluded).  I think it had something to do with waking up late and daylight saving - having lost an hour today, but it seems that as the girls have got older instead of having more time to myself I seem to have less!  Elder daughter is always in need of being driven somewhere, younger daughter always needs help with homework and I do have to drive them to school each day and collect them most afternoons - a round trip journey of one hour, so I know where two hours of my day go at least!   I only work part time two days a week, so I think my blogging time must be taken from my housework time!  Who can complain about that - certainly not me!

I don't read as often as I did, although having said that I've recently finished two books, one by Christie Dickason - entitled The Noble Assassin - gripping story set during the reign of James I - what a tricky time it was, how the nobility had to take great care not to be tainted with any hint of treason.  A very good read, I'm now reading another of Christie Dickason's books entitled The King's Daughter - I should probably have read this first because it details the life of the Princess Elizabeth, daughter of James I, whereas The Noble Assassin is set later and the Princess is therefore older and married.

My second reading project, which didn't take as long to read as I had feared, due in no small part to how well written the book is and how gripping the storyline.

I had never given much thought to Thomas Cromwell in history, yet he was pivotal in history both with Cardinal Wolsey and Henry VIII after the death of Wolsey.  His background was quite humble (the son of a Blacksmith) and yet he managed to rise to a great height and accumulate great wealth.  In Wolf Hall he becomes a likeable character who is a loving and kind father, despite his own father having been a tyrant who would beat him as a child, he became the opposite as a father himself, even taking on the role of father figure to his nephew.  The sadness conveyed when his beloved wife dies, as also the following year when his two young daughters die, makes him a very human figure.  Was he really this likeable?  Could someone as ambitious as he be as caring as he is shown to be? Was he really in love with Jane Seymour?   Really, it no longer matters, I do feel the need to read more about his life and downfall though - apparently brought about by his support of Anne of Cleves - and wish that Hilary Mantel had written more, or at least have written part two!

Thursday Night's Dinner .....................

Younger daughter loves meatballs - if she had her way we would have them for dinner every night but then after about two weeks she would probably declare that she didn't want them ever again - she is like this with most foods.  For weeks she wanted tuna sandwiches for lunch and now won't touch them!  Anyway, younger daughter wanted meatballs on Thursday yet elder daughter had declared her intention to become vegetarian!  No problem though, it seems that the keen vegetarian will make a dispensation for lamb - which she likes! 

Meatballs in Tomato Sauce from Vanessa Kimbell's Prepped (page 140) was perfect - just substituted lamb for beef and we were in business.

The perfect accompanying salad on page 131 - minus a couple of the suggested ingredients but the inspiration was there.

Younger daughter helped with the making of the meatballs

Younger daughter would like to repeat this dinner tomorow!  We'll see.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

A Wander Through The Garden ....................

There is a delicious scent pervading the garden, surprising really because there are only a few hyacinths out there - but well worth the wander all the same.

I've started making my allotment list - I definitely want fruit so for sure I will have raspberry canes, blackberry canes, blackcurrants, redcurrants, whitecurrants and blueberry bushes.  I want to grow lots of herbs for their flowers too.  What I need to decide now is which vegetables to grow, tomatoes, strawberries and probably cucumbers I will continue to grow in the garden at home.  I think I'd better get those catalogues out again.

Mother's Day .........................

Once again I have been blessed with some lovely gifts for Mother's Day .....................

Hmmm ..... I wonder what's in this box!

I love these ....... delicious red boots

No wonder younger daughter was sniggering when we were in the garden centre on Saturday as I looked at the boots!  Are you going to buy some she asked - Yes, when I have some spare cash I replied - which I have been saying ever since I signed on the dotted line for my allotment.  My old green ones had been handed down to elder daughter, although I say old but they had hardly been worn since they no longer fitted me (one of those things that happen after pregnancy, although not to everyone it seems - I'm talking about larger feet).  Thankfully my girls do listen to me when I witter on because I had been saying I can only buy the shorter boots for fear that my fat legs and jeans combined would not fit inside the boots - and there they were on Sunday morning - shorter style red boots.  THANK YOU GIRLS.

Kilmarnock Willow

Unexpectedly, the husband also bought me a gift for Mother's Day - not his usual form at all - I love these willows and had seen them in Tesco for £7 - yes that's right only £7 - so, it turns out that he too listens to me when I witter on about things I love.  THANK YOU HUSBAND!

Finally a little gift to myself!  Yes, it's allowed and it was only little after all. 

It's the poem about Mother which Rachel Ashwell has in her shop and a photograph of which is on the dedication page of her book Shabby Chic Interiors - Vanessa Kimbell mentioned it on her blog post about Mother's Day - this is a DIY version - I typed up the poem, popped it in a cheap black Ikea frame, tied a ribbon on the side and voila - it's on the wall now, I love it and stop and read it every day.

I hope everyone had a lovely day on Sunday.

Friday, 9 March 2012

Lamb Stew with Aubergine Sauce - Random Recipe

Encourged by my sister's Random Recipe offering I decided to take part this month myself.  So late in the evening I counted to the seventeenth book on the bookshelf and pulled out Claudia Roden's Arabesque.  I was lucky.  I've had this book quite a few years and have cooked several good recipes from it and particularly love the Yoghurt Cake, so it was quite tempting to cheat and choose something I knew I would like!  However, I resisted the temptation and the page fell open on Hunkar Begendi otherwise known as Lamb Stew with Aubergine Sauce.  The literal translation of the name is "Her Majesty's Delight" and dates back to 1869.  Apparently the Sultan Abdul Aziz entertained the wife of Napoleon III in his palace on the Bosphorous and this is what he had his cook make for her.  Napoleon's wife, Empress Eugenie, loved this dish so much she asked for the recipe to be given to her cooks, however, the Sultan's cook could not oblige because he "cooked with his eyes and his nose"!  I love it when you get some background history to a recipe and so many Turkish recipes have a history behind them that is passed on so it's not forgotten.

Anyway, this recipe was very simple and easy and I can see why the Empress Eugenie was enchanted by the creamy aubergine sauce - it is so unusual and so "moreish" - not sure if that is a proper word but I'm sure everyone knows what I mean.

So, enough waffle, onto the recipe - oh, by the way, this recipe serves 6 and was served with rice.


1 large onion, chopped
3 tablespoons sunflower oil
1kg boned leg or neck fillet of lamb
500g tomatoes, chopped and peeled
1 teaspoon of sugar
salt and black pepper

For the Aubergine Sauce:

1.5kg aubergines
75g butter
3 tablespoons flour
500ml hot milk
good pinch of ground nutmeg
50g grated cheese - this is a little tricky because the recipe calls for kasar (a turkish cheese which is quite strong) but suggests Gruyere would be a suitable alternative or a mature cheddar.  I used gruyere.

To make the stew I chopped up the onion and put it in the pan with the oil, fried it until it was soft, then I browned the meat in the same pan with the onions.  This was followed by the tomatoes, sugar, salt and pepper.  I then covered this with water and set it to simmer for about an hour.

What I forgot to mention was turning on the oven before doing all the above - set to 240 C.

Then I took the aubergines and pricked them with a knife and put them into the oven  - the pricking stops them from bursting in the oven- these were cooked in the oven for about 45-55 minutes.

In the meantime I made the bechamel sauce by first heating the milk.  After this in another pan I melted the butter to this I added the flour and cooked them together until the paste turned a biscuity colour.  Then I gradually added the warm milk a ladle-full at a time and stirred well to make sure no lumps appeared.  At this point I added some salt and nutmeg.  I then cooked this for about 15 minutes.

By this time the aubergines were ready to take  from the oven after the allotted time, I peeled them and put them into a sieve - mashed and mashed with a wooden spoon.  The aubergine was then added to the bechamel sauce along with the grated cheese and mixed well.

After the hour, I took the lid off of the stew and let it bubble away for a good twenty minutes.

Instructions are to put the stew in the middle of a shallow dish and pour the aubergine sauce around it.

Rice served in a separate bowl

I am entering this recipe in the Belleau Kitchen Random Recipes challenge.