Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Cookery Calendar Challenge: August

I'm joining with Penny at The Homemade Heart who invites fellow bloggers to choose one cookery book each month, select and cook two dishes from it and post their thoughts at the beginning of the following month.

For August I chose Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall's Three Good Things.  We have my elder daughter's signed copy on loan and I've been taking full advantage of the opportunity to try out as many of the recipes as I can manage.

The idea behind the book is simple and exactly as its title suggests, that many of the dishes we enjoy can be reduced to the winning combinations of a few (three?) good things on a plate.

I'll preface my chosen dishes with the confession that they involve little or no cooking and the explanation that this is due to them being the only ones for which I have any photographic evidence.  More complicated recipes were attempted on occasions when the light was too poor for a good shot, or when we scoffed the lot before I remembered to capture them.

My first offering is a breakfast duo: Egg, Toast & Anchovy and Toast, Olive Oil & Honey.  Spreading mashed anchovies onto soldiers before dunking them in a soft boiled egg takes is ingenious (if you relish the rich saltiness of  anchovies as much as I do).  As for the pairing of olive oil and honey, you have to try it to realise that it does work.  Holidays in Greece suggest that a smear of soft cream cheese might add another dimension  I'm always on the lookout for ideas to brighten up weekend breakfasts and these two fit the bill, with the added advantage of being simple enough to fit into a weekday routine as well.

My second offering of Tomatoes, Bread & Olive Oil, makes the perfect summer's lunch, but only if you use the best quality ingredients you can find.  Pallid tomatoes and plastic bread won't cut it.  

Three Good Things is divided into chapters offering recipes for salads, starters and soups, snacks and sides, vegetables, fish, meat, pasta and grains, fruits and deserts.  Although each contains three main ingredients most of them require a few extra, but they are all simple to prepare.  Hugh also suggests variations to ring the changes.

Of the other dishes I've prepared the Chicken, Plums & Soy is my favourite, but I also enjoyed the Leeks, Cheese & Bread and the Lentils, Spinach and Potato.

I'd recommend this book to inspire courage to challenge your taste buds, to be bold in your combinations of flavours and textures and to produce a delicious plate of food within a very short time. 

My book for September is Prasad by Kaushy Patel.

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Cookery Calendar Challenge: July

I'm joining with Penny at The Homemade Heart who invites fellow bloggers to choose one cookery book each month, select and cook two dishes from it and post their thoughts at the beginning of the following month.

 In July I finally got round to cooking from Persiana.  They say you shouldn't judge a book by its cover but I'd defy anyone to resist the seductive colours and textures of Sabrina Ghayour's delightful book.  I'd coveted it for some time but it wasn't until the beginning of the year that my husband used a money off voucher to pick it up in Foyles.

Having been brought up in India I appreciate the use of herbs and spices and have recently enjoyed visits to our local Middle Eastern restaurant, Souk Kitchen.  Now I had the opportunity to recreate them at home.

The first dish I chose was Baked Eggs with Feta, Harissa Tomato Sauce and Coriander.  It's traditionally a breakfast dish, but I cooked it for dinner  I began with the harissa tomato sauce, spiced with warm tones of turmeric, ground coriander, cumin and cinnamon, as well as the fiery kick of harissa.  I've eaten in before in the Souk Kitchen but I don't remember there being any feta in it.  I  think its salty creaminess adds another dimension.  The eggs are slipped into craters created in the rich sauce before the dish being finished off in the oven.  We ate it with flatbreads to scoop up the rich juices.

The second dish was Lahmacun, or spicy minced lamb pizzas.  First I kneaded the dough which is similar to bread dough, but with the addition of Greek yoghurt which gives it a softer tangier flavour.  The topping is a paste made from minced lamb, onion, tomatoes, chilli flakes and parsley.  The recipe specified Turkish chilli flakes and advised holding back to avoid too much heat.  I used normal chilli flakes, which I imagine are milder, but held back anyway, which I regretted.  I would have liked more of a punch.  I would also turn the oven temperature down a little bit as they browned very quickly.  We ate the lahmacun with a coleslaw dressed in a mint and orange blossom dressing lifted from a salad recipe in the same book.  It went down well even with my daughter who's particular about her dressings.

Other recipes we've tried are Lamb & Sour Cherry Meatballs (I substituted cranberries for the sour cherries) and Cod in Tamarind, Coriander & Fenugreek Sauce.  I have my eye on plenty of others, particularly ones involving aubergines of which I am very fond.

I'd heartily recommend Persiana to anyone who likes hearty stews, interesting salads and mezze style eating.  It does call for a variety of unusual ingredients, especially spices, but these are now readily available and can be used to brighten up other dishes.  It has even inspired me to attempt a jar of preserved lemons.  

My next book is by one of my favourite cookery writers and food campaigners, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstal.  I heard him speak in Bristol a couple of years ago and got him to sign the book he was promoting,  Three Good Things, for my daughter.  We have it on loan and I intend to take advantage of this to try as many recipes as I can.         

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Making Every Day Count: Days 6-11/40

Day 6

Another sorting and tidying task, this time the shelves in the hallway just outside the kitchen, which serve as an overflow for foodstuffs.  On our last trip to Ikea we bought four flatpack wooden crates to separate and store tins, spices, flour and pulses.  These are now full, with another list of contents.  I could do with another couple, but will resist for the moment as I hope that when I tackle the kitchen cupboards I may be able to rationalise them and free up some space.  At least that's the theory!

Day 7

A light day.  I allowed myself to be distracted by catching up with the previous evening's Celebrity Masterchef and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's War on Waste, and lost momentum.  Still, it is my holiday.  I did however devote 15 minutes to blitzing hot spots in each of the dining and living rooms.

Day 8

I spent an hour and a half on our monthly Green Party stall in our local high street.  We were collecting signatures for the proposed closure to cars of a city centre bridge.  Response was mixed with some car owners admitting to wishing to continue to be able to drive across it.  Still, the sun was out and we stayed on for a cup of coffee and a chat with one of our local councillors afterwards.

Day 9

I spent an hour in the back garden sweeping and tidying.  It's not much more than a concreted yard with a raised rockery and a small pond at the end of it.  We grow (or at least attempt to grow) a variety of plants in pots, window boxes and a mini greenhouse.  As I mentionned in an earlier post, the elections put paid to any serious attempts at planting this year, but we still have a few bushes and herbs which we're keeping alive.  Now that the summer holidays allow us the time and weather to spend more time eating and relaxing outdoors I've spread our table with one of the colourful French tablecloths I bought in the French market one Harbour Festival, and dragged out the umbrella, to create a temporary outside room.

Day 10

I made a start on my kitchen cupboards.  First in line were the corner shelves.  A few items were binned and others rationalised to create more space.  I really should have managed the one over the fridge but we went to the cinema in the afternoon.  We saw The Commune which I enjoyed.  It's been too long since our last visit.

Day 11

Our fortnightly vegetable box was delivered.  Normally it sits in a corner of the kitchen floor from where we pick items as required.  Unfortunately this leads to some vegetables being neglected, rotting and being wasted.  So today I sorted through it as soon as it arrived, refrigerating all the perishable items, making a list of all the items and starting to think of how I would use them and in what order.  I made a start on them this evening adding cavolo nero to our dal at dinner time.    

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Making Every Day Count: 5/40

This morning I drew up an inventory of everything in my freezer.

I counted 102 items ranging from tiny sachets of herbs to a long roll of filo pastry.  My printed list divides them up by drawer, and colour codes them by category.  Orange items are cooked, blue raw, green vegetables and fruit, yellow miscellaneous and pink desert.

There are 12 items coloured red - for danger!  These are items which have been languishing at the back of my freezer for longer than I care to admit, and which may longer be fit for human consumption.  Does anyone know the freezer life of puff pastry?  Or what terrible fate would await you if you ate it?

Then there are the unlabelled containers filled with orangey yellow substances that could be dhal, or mashed swede or stewed apple.  Who knows?  Fruit puree on a bed of basmati anybody?  How I wish I'd taken the few minutes to label them before squeezing them in beside yet another nameless package.

There are 7 balls of pastry, 12 egg whites, the juice of 14 lemons, four bags of bread in various forms, another four of grated cheese and half a dozen sachets of fresh herbs.  You'll gather I don't believe in throwing anything away, but equally that I don't often get round to using up these leftovers.

I reckon I've enough frozen food to keep me going for some time, even if I do ditch the dodgy items.  On which note I'll leave you to consult Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall on what to do with a tub of cubed beetroot.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Making Every Day Count: 2,3 & 4/40

Day 2

On Sunday I led our Quaker Children's Meeting on the theme of 'Living Adventurously'.  It was inspired by no 27 of the Advices & Queries:

Live adventurously. When choices arise, do you take the way that offers the fullest opportunity for the use of your gifts in the service of God and the community? Let your life speak. When decisions have to be made, are you ready to join with others in seeking clearness, asking for God’s guidance and offering counsel to one another?

We talked about adventures, adventurers and the qualities that might be required.  We then played a game which involved plotting symbols on a compass, drawing a map, looking for blue birds in the trees, drawing mini beasts, taking bark rubbings and tying knots.  Card cutouts for each task fitted neatly into coloured card backpacks, all designed and drawn by my younger daughter.  The rain held off allowing the meeting to be held in the garden with plenty of scope for mini adventuring.

One of the aspects of Quakerism I find attractive is this notion of allowing one's life to speak.  It's also quite a challenge.

Day 3

On Monday I cleared my kitchen windowsill and planted some herbs.  My daughter brought home an Ikea pack containing pots, soil, and basil, mint and parsley seeds in circular tissue mats.  We potted them up, sprayed them with water and are checking daily for the first signs of green.

I've failed miserably on the gardening front this year.  I blame the local elections which had me out leafleting and campaigning when I should have been digging and sowing.  Although I've missed the boat for anything major I'm determined to grow some herbs, and perhaps a few salad leaves. 

Day 4

I attended a interview to become a volunteer for b.friend.  This is an organisation that matches local people with refugees and asylum seekers to develop mutually rewarding relationships.  Once matched I'll meet my befriendee once a week for a cuppa, or go for a walk, or to introduce her to the local library or to help her with English or ... the possibilities are endless.

Issues surrounding refugees have been headline news for some time now.  I've been sympathetic to their plight but, apart from making the odd donation and signing the odd petition, I haven't personally done anything about it ... until now.  It's a totally new experience and I'd be lying if I pretended I wasn't a bit apprehensive, but I'm sure it will be fine.  I'd like to be able to make even one person feel at home in Bristol and I suspect that I will receive as much, if not more, that I can offer.

I'm back to where I started in this post - living adventurously! - although I'm sure that even my most daring adventure will pale into insignificance when compared with what most refugees have to go through.

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Making Every Day Count: 1/40

Today is the first day of my summer holidays.  I work term time only in a primary school office and and am looking at 40 days of freedom before the beginning of another academic year.  With such a long break and very few concrete plans, it would be easy to fritter the time away.  In years gone by I've drawn up lists of activities and am already working on one in my head.  But this year I've decided to raise the stakes, and recognise my good fortune by making every day count in some way or another.  I haven't yet worked out all the details and perhaps I never will.  Maybe I'll just run with it.

Anyway this afternoon I attended Bristol's Green Party leadership hustings.  You may not have realised that the Green Party is in the process of re-electing its leaders, perhaps because the media often overlook the Greens' activities or perhaps because they are (thankfully) not nearly as dramatic or contentious as those of the Tories or Labour.  We're just getting on with it.  Polls open at the beginning of next week and, as a result of today's question and answer sessions, I'm now pretty well decided on who is going to get my votes and pleased that under the single transferable voting system each of them will count.

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

(Not the) Cookery Calendar Challenge: June

I'm (sort of) joining with Penny at The Homemade Heart who invites fellow bloggers to choose one cookery book each month, select and cook two dishes from it and post their thoughts at the beginning of the following month.

Finish Potato Salad

In June I should have been cooking from Sabrina Ghayour's Persiana but, in honour of the EU Referendum (to which I fervently hoped the answer would be 'Remain'!) I decided, over the course of the week leading up to the vote, to prepare and eat one dish (or drink one wine/beer) from each of the 28 nations of the union.

Maltese Scrambled Eggs
Danish Bubble

I kicked off with Irish soda bread and rounded it off with a Hungarian goulash.  In between we were treated to a cheese pie from Sweden, a Danish bubble and squeak, a fiery pepper sauce from Coatia to go with Bosnian burgers, an almond cake from Spain and a Finish potato salad.

Bulgarian Yoghurt & Cucumber Soup

I tried two cold soups, the first a refreshing yoghurt and cucumber one, spiked with garlic, from Bulgaria, and the second a dayglo pink beetroot one from Lithuania.  The recipes ranged in effort required from the lightly pickled Latvian cucumbers to the tricky cheese noodles from Austria.  I included a few indulgences including a Dutch apple tart and some Slovenian apple doughnuts.

Lithuanian Beetroot Soup

There were a few dishes that did not particularly inspire, which may have had more to do with the lack of authentic ingredients or my inexperience in cooking them, but there were many more that I would happily try again.  These included a simple yet tasty mushroom and potato gratin from Estonia, a delicious Greek take on ratatouille, a delightful honey and lemon flavoured haloumi dish from Cyprus and a rich and creamy Portuguese custard tart.

Portuguese Custard Tarts
Dutch Apple Tart

Tackling three or four new recipes a day proved to be more of a challenge than I anticipated but I can honestly say I enjoyed the experience.  It's just a pity that what started out as a celebration of our union ended as homage to its demise.  The Italian prosecco bought to cheer our victory ended up drowning our sorrows.

Halloumi with Honey & Thyme

Persiana has not been forgotten and will be my cookery book for July.

Friday, 3 June 2016

Cookery Calendar Challenge: May

I'm joining with Penny at The Homemade Heart who invites fellow bloggers to choose one cookery book each month, select and cook two dishes from it and post their thoughts at the beginning of the following month.

Simon Hopkinson's The Good Cook

This month I chose Simon Hopkinson's The Good Cook, a present from my daughter who knows my love of cookbooks.  We'd watched his television series together and warmed to his gentle presentation and simple yet elegant dishes.  It's an unusual book in that it's arranged by ingredients rather than courses: anchovy and aubergine, nice rice, and ham, bacon & a little pig.  He's a believer in good ingredients, not necessarily expensive, treated well.  Despite having had his book on my shelf for several years I'd only ever baked his rich and creamy rice pudding and looked forward to trying out more of his recipes.

Smoked Haddock Pilaf with Ginger & Parsley

The first I attempted was Smoked Haddock Pilaf with Ginger & Coriander.  My first set back came when my fishmonger didn't have enough smoked haddock in his fridge and I had to resort to a luminous yellow overpackaged fillet from Aldi.  The second was when I discovered I didn't have a suitably sized oven proof lidded pan and had to settle for a larger one which didn't allow sufficient depth.  Lastly I forgot to buy any coriander.  The parsley I'd picked up for Sunday's dinner was acceptable, although not quite as appropriate.

However I didn't let any of these contretemps deter me from recreating Simon Hopkinson's delightfully simple yet deliciously light supper dish.  A few minutes' attention on the stove top and 20 minutes in the oven and it was ready to eat.  Simon declares a pilaf to be possibly his favourite way to eat rice in any form (marginally better than a risotto) and I'm inclined to agree.

Lamb's Liver with Sweet & Sour Onions

The very next day we ate his Calf's Liver with Sweet & Sour Onions.  Offal is not to everyone's taste, but I love it in all its manifestations.  Our butcher didn't have any calf's liver, so I had to make do with lamb's, but that was the only substitution.  There was just enough creme de cassis in the bottle to fill the required tablespoon.

This was another simple dish.  I fried the liver for longer than Simon suggested and was afraid I might have overcooked it, but I must have judged it accurately as it remained soft and tender.  The red wine vinegar and the creme de cassis lifted the sauce.  I would have enjoyed it with the recommended soft and buttery polenta but we had potatoes and swede to use up which worked just as well.

Later in the week my partner prepared the Aubergine Parmigiana, which was gorgeous.

I've a feeling that The Good Cook will not be languishing on my bookshelf any longer.

My book for June is Persiana by Sabrina Ghayour.

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Cookery Calendar Challenge: April

I'm back with my second Cookery Calendar Challenge report. I'm joining with Penny at The Homemade Heart who invites fellow bloggers to choose one cookery book each month, select and cook two dishes from it and post their thoughts at the beginning of the following month.

My recipe book for April was Five Quarters by Rachel Roddy.  I first came across Rachel when she was the Guardian's cook in residence (she now writes a weekly column) and instantly warmed to her style of writing as much as to her cooking.  Rachel's a British woman who has made her home in Rome where she lives with her Sicilian partner and their wee boy.  She's my favourite kind of food writer ie one who sets each recipe in context - where the ingredients were bought, who sold them to her, the history of the dish and how it is eaten today.  It's as if I was exploring her local market, standing by her in her kitchen or sitting across from her in a local cafe.

I bought her book (her first, there is a second in the pipeline) at the beginning of the year and had already dipped into it on a couple of occasions.  This month I tried out two new recipes:  Pollo alla cacciatora (chicken, hunter's style) and pasta e patate (pasta and potato soup).

Pollo alla cacciatora
(with apologies for the quality of the image)
 The chicken dish was delicious and was well received by everyone, including my daughter's boyfriend who is a bit of connoisseur when it comes to food.  It was simple to prepare, using easy to hand ingredients (with the exception of black olives, optional, but included because I like them).  It is essentially chicken portions sauteed in olive oil flavoured with garlic, chilli flakes, rosemary, wine and vinegar - and those black olives.  We ate it with boiled potatoes and an assortment of vegetables (carrots, cabbage and sweetcorn) which needed using up, but when I cook it again, which I shall, I'll follow Rachel's advice and serve it with green beans or a  green salad and a hunk of sourdough to mop up the fragrant juices.

Pasta e Patate
Once again, my image doesn't do it justice!
The pasta and potato soup doesn't sound right, does it  Too many carbs?  And there's not much else in it.  An onion, a carrot and a celery stalk.  It calls for water, not stock, and even the pancetta is optional.  But it works, falling into the category of comfort food, a dish that throws it arms around you and gives you a big hug.  Simple and honest.  We ate a bowlful before setting out for another session of local election canvassing and it kept us going very nicely.  The only tweak I would try would be to slip half a parmesan rind in with the water to add a touch more depth.

My book for May is Simon Hopkinson's The Good Cook.


Thursday, 7 April 2016

This (last) Weekend

Last weekend was spent in Glasgow.

          Our first booking via airbnb and a huge success.
  I was sorely tempted not to leave.

  • We walked through the Botanic Gardens and along the river Kelvin.

  • We visited Zara Hadid's Riverside Museum.

  • We spent a day in Edinburgh with my sister and her family.
We reckoned it had been five years since all of us were last together.

I was reminded of visits to my great aunt's house in Govan as a child.

I highly recommend the food and service in Glasgow's only Vietnamese restaurant.
  We donated a Bristol £1 note, featuring a cyclist, to add to their collection of bank notes.

  • We viewed the world's first comic at the Hunterian's Comic Invention exhibition.
An interesting history of the comic book & its relationship to other art forms,
 including medieval manuscripts.

  • We had lunch in the famous University Cafe where I ate a scotch pie and chips.
A Byres Road institution!

Cookery Calendar Challenge: March

Welcome to my first Cookery Calendar Challenge report. I'm joining with Penny at The Homemade Heart who invites fellow bloggers to choose one cookery book each month, select and cook two dishes from it and post their thoughts at the beginning of the following month.

I chose Jamie Oliver's The Return of the Naked Chef, which I almost instantly regretted.  It's not that I don't like Jamie Oliver.  I do.  He's an entertaining TV cook and I value his contribution to the debate over the nutritional value of school dinners, over-fishing etc.  It's not even that I didn't like the book.  It's just that I'm trying to cut down on my meat intake, and although he does offer a number of vegetarian recipes, very few of them appealed to me.  In addition, because the challenge slipped my mind until the end of the month, which coincided with my attempting to use up the contents of my fridge before going away for a long weekend, I found myself even more restricted.

My first dish was Spaghetti with Anchovies, Dried Chilli & Panagritata. Being quick and easy to prepare - boil pasta, melt anchovies in garlic oil, toast breadcrumbs, throw together - it made the ideal holiday lunch.  I shared it with my daughter.  She didn't like it, mainly because of the anchovies.  I did enjoy it, but found the panagritata made it feel a bit dry in the mouth.  If I made it again I would add a bit more reserved water from the pasta and hope it didn't take the crunch from the breadcrumbs.  Perhaps a touch more olive oil would be better?

I'm afraid my photograph doesn't do it justice.  I though afterwards that it would have looked better if I'd tossed it together beforehand.

My second dish was Pappardelle, Spicy Sausage Meat and Mixed Wild Mushrooms.  For practical reasons I swapped pappardelle for tagliatelle, wild mushrooms for a mixture of button mushrooms and broccoli and stirred in a couple of spoonfuls of cream. We ate it for dinner with a green side salad, sharing it with my daughter's boyfriend.  It went down better than the first dish.  Its versatility and the fact that it makes a little meat go a long way means that I'm sure to make it again.

Again, apologies for the photograph with its very shiny plate!

Flicking through the book there are a couple of other recipes I'd try - pukkolla (Jamie's take on muesli), pan-toasted almonds with a touch of chilli and sea salt, salmon fillet wrapped in prosciutto with herby lentils, spinach and yoghurt, his marinades and rubs and chickpea Moroccan flatbread.

My book for April is Rachel Roddy's Five Quarters.  I first encountered Rachel in the Saturday Guardian where she was one of a series of cooks in residence (she now has a regular column) and clicked through her book in Foyles on many occasions before finally buying it.

Friday, 12 February 2016


Pop over to my other blog to follow my progress as I challenge myself to give up single use plastic for Lent.

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

216 Reading Challenge - My List

A friend, who'd seen  Bristol's 2016 Reading Challenge before me, has offered to send me her list.  Which got me thinking about mine.  Rather than draw up a definitive list I've decided to note down a few possibilities and see which one takes my fancy when the time comes.

A book published this year

I'm going to leave this one until later in the year when there will be more to chose from.

A book you can finish in a day
I've already ticked this box with Food Rules by Michael Pollan, but a friend has suggested Love that Dog by Sharon Creech which intrigues me.

A book you've been meaning to read

There are almost too many to mention but Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies by Hillary Mantel deserve a mention, despite the fact that, having already made a start on Wolf Hall, it should rightly be listed in another category.

A book recommended by your local librarian or bookseller

I wonder if a book picked from the 'Recommended' shelf of Bedminster Library or Foyles would count, or whether I should seek a personal recommendation from the person at the desk.

A book you should have read in school

I'm not sure whether this is a book you failed to read at school or one you feel should have been on the reading list.  I'm going to have to give this one further thought.

A book chosen for you by your spouse, partner, sibling, sibling, or BFF

Last year my elder daughter bought me two books, one for my birthday and the other for Mother's Day.  They are This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein and Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee.

A book published before you were born

Again I am spoilt for choice.  I will probably plump for one of the classics.

A book that was banned at some point

Vladimir Nabokiv's Lolita and Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses - but LFrank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and Lewis Caroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland?

A book you previously abandonned

This has to be A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving, which I have unsuccessfully attempted to get though on more than one occasion.  Maybe this time I'll make it to the last page?

A book you own but have never read

There will be plenty to choose from my laden shelves and tottering piles - Life after Life by Kate Atkinson, The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton, or The Hundred Year Old Man who Climbed out of The Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson?

A book that intimidates you

This could be The True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey, for its vernacular style with little punctuation or grammar, or Ulysses by James Joyce, for its modernist stream of consciousness technique.  Or perhaps the relentless horror of The Road by Cormac McCarthy.

A book you've already read at least once

I suspect this will be a toss up between Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels and if nobody speaks of remarkable things by Jon McGregor, both of which I love, not just for their subject matter, but for their exquisitely poetic language.

Which books would you choose?

Monday, 25 January 2016

2016 Reading Challenge

Bristol Libraries have tweeted a Reading Challenge.  On the basis that one book a month should be do-able, even for someone who struggles to find make enough time to read, I've decided to go for it.  I was attracted by the categories which should provide a wide range of possibilities.  I'm particularly looking forward to reading a book that was banned at some point.


What's more, I'm proud to announce that I have already ticked my first box, ie a book you can finish in a day.

A while ago I borrowed Food Rules by Michael Pollan from the library.  I skimmed through it but didn't take time to read it properly until I received an email from the library to say that it had been recalled.  So this afternoon I read it from cover to cover.  It's an expansion of Pollan's philosophy on food, namely 'Eat food.  Not too much.  Mostly plants.' and is packed with commonsense rules to help steer us away from our modern processed food diet to a more traditional one of natural products, simply prepared and carefully eaten.  My favourites include 'Don't eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn't recognise as food', 'Don't eat breakfast cereals that change the colour of the milk' and 'Break the rules once in a while'.

PS  As the mother of a third year art student I should mention that it is exquisitely illustrated, although I can see no indication of the identity of the artist.

Sunday, 24 January 2016

What's for tea?

One of the joys of blogging is being inspired by other bloggers.  Eliane over at faites simple has challenged herself to plan her week's meals in advance on Sunday evening and to make better use of her 'embarrassingly unused cookbook library'.

This is something I have tried at various points in my life.  When I succeed it transforms my week.  No more midday panics over what we're going to eat that evening, no getting halfway through a recipe only to discover that I'm missing a key ingredient, no nasty discoveries at the back of the fridge ...

So this week I'll be (mainly) cooking from Rose Prince's the new english kitchen.

Haggis, neeps & tatties (in celebration of Rabbie Burns)

Baked chick peas, peppers & potatoes with yoghurt sauce

Butternut squash risotto

Braised red lentils with lime juice & feta

Tamarind fish stew (from the freezer)

Chicken curry (from the freezer)

Beef braised with rhubarb

Friday, 1 January 2016


I have succumbed to the recent trend of choosing a word to inspire me during the course of the year ahead.  I pride myself on not jumping on bandwagons but on this occasion I think it makes sense.  Traditional new year's resolutions can very easily, or at least in my experience, become hostages to fortune.  A word is so much more forgiving, especially if it's regarded as being more of an aspiration rather than a fixed goal post.

Anyway, my word for 2016 is 'sustainable'.

It has been prompted by recent events including the Paris Climate Change Conference and the floods in the north of England and Scotland.  The environmental aspect of it is fairly obvious but I'd like to extend it to other areas of my life.  Here are some of the ways in which I'd like to see it work out in practice:

  • I'd like to eat less meat and more plants
  • I'd like to cut down even further on my energy consumption
  • I'd like to get rid of more 'stuff', preferably to other people rather than landfill
  • I'd like to get more sleep
  • I'd like to redress my work/life balance
  • I'd like to make more time for people
  • I'd like to grow more of my own food and prepare more meals from scratch
  • I'd like to push sustainability higher up on the agenda during the coming electoral campaigns
There's plenty to be getting on with!