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.