Category Archives: Uncategorized

22Aug/17

Moussaka

My version of a quick and simple moussaka using soya mince, aubergines, beans and potatoes! Give it a go

Serves 4

Ingredients

4 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 onion sliced
1½ cup frozen soya mince
1 tin of white beans (haricot), drained (tin of any other bean or green lentil will also do)
1 large aubergine, sliced thickly
2 tablespoons Cook’s Sauce (sun dried tomato paste) and 2 tablespoons tomato puree (use 4 tablespoons tomato puree if Cook’s Sauce not available)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Half vegetable stock cube dissolved in 400ml hot water
6 potatoes, thickly sliced

Method

  1. In a little oil fry the aubergine slices quickly for a few minutes, set aside on a plate
  2. Add the rest of the oil and fry onion and garlic for a few minutes – don’t brown
  3. Add soya mince, beans, tomato puree/Cook’s sauce, oregano and stock – cover and cook for about 10 minutes to make a nice rich sauce, not too thick though
  4. Lay a few slices of potatoes in an ovenproof dish, top with aubergine slices and pour the mince and bean mixture. Cover with rest of the potato slices
  5. Cover dish and cook for 50 minutes on 200C/400F/Gas 6

11Mar/16

Potato & French bean biryani

Potato & beans biryani

Here is a simpler variation on the traditional biryani I have posted earlier, with fewer spices and easier to put together. Remember to use good quality Basmati rice and boil for a few minutes only until el dente and don’t forget to soak it for at least 1 hour – I usually soak my rice for 2 hours

Ingredients

2 cups Basmati rice (200-225 grams) soaked for 1 hour at least
Approximately 300 grams French beans, chopped into half inch pieces
4 medium waxy potatoes (approx. 500 grams), cut into large chunks
2 medium onions, sliced
4 tablespoons oil
1 teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon cumin powder
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
3-4 cloves garlic, finely minced (can use ½ teaspoon powder or paste)
2 inch piece ginger, finely minced (can use ½ teaspoon powder or paste)
2 bay leaves
3 tablespoons natural yogurt unsweetened (I like Sojade best available at As Nature Intended and Wholefoods)
2 tablespoons tomato puree (you can do omit the tomato puree, just add more yogurt)
Salt to taste

Potato & French bean biryani(1)

Method

  1. Fry the onion in 3 tablespoons oil until golden
  2. Add all the spices, yogurt and tomato puree and a little water
  3. Fry spices for about 5 minutes, adding tiny splashes of water to keep it from burning
  4. Add potatoes and beans and about 200ml of water
  5. Bring to boil, lower heat to lowest, cover and cook for about 20 minutes until potatoes are cooked but firm
  6. In a large saucepan, bring the rinsed rice to boil in lots of water – about 2 inches above the level of the rice. Boil for about 3-4 minutes checking to ensure the rice doesn’t overcook
  7. Strain the rice. In the saucepan add 1 tablespoon oil and about ¼ cup of water. Put half of the rice back into the pan
  8. Pour the potato and bean curry on to this and then top it with the remaining rice
  9. Cover the lid with a teacloth and steam on medium heat for 5 minutes, and then lower heat to lowest and steam for a further 20 minutes until the rice is steaming
  10. For more pictures and a step-by-step guide click here

Note:
Serve with either fried or baked tofu (use firm tofu). It’s all in the marinade with tofu and you can make a spicy one by mixing a little curry powder with yogurt, tomato puree and soya sauce or add a little something to sweeten it and some lemon juice  – bake and/or fry. If baking, put a little oil in a tray and coat the tofu by turning it over in the tray – bake for 20 minutes at 200C. Here is a link for crispy fried tofu.

All rice freezes very well – so make a large pot!

02Jul/14

Our Cornish Holiday

Every year in June John and I pack our bags, find someone reliable to look after our three furry feline friends (Tony, my brother in law did the honours this year and he loves the kitties) and set off to Paddington to catch the train to Saltash, just across the River Tamar in Cornwall. We are not “holiday folk” – we don’t “do” holidays as such; just our annual visit to Saltash to visit John’s Mum (now 94!) and his brother Robert and his family to whom we are very grateful for inviting us and driving us around and being the perfect hosts. His son Rupert and partner Nicola come down with their two babies – handsome Cole and absolutely scrumptious Maisy who is a bundle of baby-joy!

Maisy June 2014 Maisy

Every year we look forward to the trip and are never disappointed – Pat, my sister in law is adamant that we bring the sun with us and judging from our recent trips, she may be right! We mostly got away with it again – it usually poured at night and the days were glorious.  The heavens did open for a short while when we were at the Warren Inn on Dartmoor but that was not enough to deter the hardy brigade!  We managed to miss the downpour on our way back from Dartmoor to the coast as we were nicely tucked in the car and then the clouds drifted away and the sun shone again – how lucky is that?

Warren Inn - Dartmoor Warren Inn Dartmoor June 2014
John and me on Dartmoor in the rain – magic!

Every year it is the same – we leave on Thursday morning and head back on Monday afternoon – always Thursday and Monday…… that’s the way it is. We love Cornwall and although we have been on this pilgrimage for many years now, it never loses its magic.   Traditionally we go for a pub lunch on one of these days to the Warren Inn in Dartmoor and come what may with the weather, we look forward to it and are never disappointed.

This year Robert drove us to Millendreath – a small seaside resort not far from Saltash. He said he hadn’t been there in many years and it was a bit run down when he last visited. Imagine our surprise when we arrived there to find that Millendreath was in the process of a huge regeneration programme which would transform this run down little resort to a haven for holiday makers. As a huge bonus we discovered the only café on the beach was truly out of this world of usual beachside cafés – excellent food, tastefully selected wines and a friendly and willing staff. The Black Rock Café made our day perfect – the memory of that day, basking in the hot June sun, sipping an excellent glass of rosé, looking out to Looe and Looe Island will be something to cherish for a long time and I am already looking forward to our next trip to Millendreath.

Millendreath beach 2014 Millendreath beach

John - Millendreath 2014 John doing Tarzan

Black Rock Cafe Millendreath 2014 Black Rock Cafe

I got chatting to the young chef Matt and told him of the struggling vegans who could barely find anything on menus which catered for our dietary requirements. The day will come when vegan food will be a regular feature on restaurant menus as awareness is growing, and with it the vegan population is on the rise. I was very pleased that he showed an interest and even took details of my blog and said he would check out the recipes. He also promised to produce an excellent meal and cater for vegans provided he was given 24 hours’ notice – isn’t this the attitude you expect from a forward thinking entrepreneur running a business? Well done Matt, and thank you James for serving us with a smile on your face despite the fact that you were extremely busy!

I must tell you a little about the fascinating story of Looe Island – a dream come true for those fearless few who venture forth when most of us can only dream. I was told by my brother-in-law Robert that two adventurous and brave sisters, Evelyn and Babs, bought Looe Island in 1965 and lived there for many years, making it their home, far from the madding crowd. I couldn’t take my eyes of Looe Island from then on, seeing the sisters pottering about in my mind’s eye and thinking how I would love to have the courage to follow in their footsteps. Robert let me borrow the books Evelyn, the elder of the two sisters, wrote called We Bought an Island followed by a sequel Tales from Our Cornish Island. I got half way through We Bought an Island on the train back to London – the sisters were not only heroic, impetuous and simply loved islands, they were almost reckless! But the gods were on their side and eventually their dream became a reality and they bought Looe Island! You can buy both books from Abe Books if you’re interested and I have linked the titles above accordingly. I am sure if you ever dreamt of buying an island, or at least living on one, you will love these books and the intrepid Evelyn and Bab Atkins.

Looe Island Looe Island on the left and Looe to the right

Another beautiful Cornish holiday stored in our memories to reminisce in years to come. We got back to London and home around 7ish Monday evening. Come Tuesday and I could think of nothing else but a luscious rice one-pot dinner – something tomatoey with potatoes and aubergines? Yes! Luckily the aubergine in the salad drawer was still useable, just, and there were potatoes and rice so the scene was set for a one-pot rice dinner with frills. It took a little longer than most one-pot rice dishes but it was well worth it – the pot was wiped clean by John who is the best person in the world to cook for – always cleans his plate and the pot!

Do give this a go and let me know how you get on. If you have any questions I am happy to help out – honest it is pretty easy, and once you’ve done it, you’ll be throwing one-pot rice meals together like an expert. Bon appétit!

09Jun/14

Walkabout in Kew Gardens…

Thursday, 5th June –  the sun was shining, John had a day off and the first promise of summer was in the air.  In a moment of carpe diem, we put on our togs and hopped on the bus to Kew gardens.  As we are fortunate enough to be only 30 minutes away by bus, we make good use of our annual membership which is well worth the £90 we pay and we get to take one guest each!

No matter what the time of year Kew always delivers and a walkabout is never disappointing; however, some days are special and this was one of those days.  The weather was just perfect; the sun shone and a gentle breeze carried the unmistakable fragrance of freshly cut grass – we breathed deeply and felt blessed.  I always find Kew is good for the soul, more so than any other park in London.

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The rose arches were laden with blooming rose ramblers and a hundred varieties of salvia in bloom.

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Came across a display of artwork (Kew often has displays) where a couple of ancient tree trunks had been pinned with colourful crochet doilies – took a pic with my blackberry and regretted not having picked up my camera.

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Spot the sheep sculptures in the background

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This sweet chestnut took my breath away… look at the awesome trunk and that amazing bark!  it’s a funny feeling touching it, knowing that it has been touched by many now gone and here for those who follow …

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…..and here’s John accentuating a group of flowering poppies and eschscholtzias

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If you haven’t yet visited Kew, I hope you will be inspired by the pictures and pack your bags and head to these magical gardens- I am sure you won’t be disappointed.  Entry is £15 and children 16 and under go free of charge.

Monday today, hope you enjoyed your weekend and until the next post, take care all!

01Jun/14

AHA on veggie diet

DSC_0001_resized

Following was published by the American Heart Association on its website – here is an excerpt….. What is a vegetarian diet? Some people follow a “vegetarian” diet, but there’s no single vegetarian eating pattern. The vegan or total vegetarian diet includes only foods from plants: fruits, vegetables, legumes (dried beans and peas), grains, seeds and nuts. The lactovegetarian diet includes plant foods plus cheese and other dairy products. The ovo-lactovegetarian (or lacto-ovovegetarian) diet also includes eggs. Semi-vegetarians don’t eat red meat but include chicken and fish with plant foods, dairy products and eggs Are vegetarian diets healthful? Most vegetarian diets are low in or devoid of animal products. They’re also usually lower than nonvegetarian diets in total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol. Many studies have shown that vegetarians seem to have a lower risk of obesity, coronary heart disease (which causes heart attack), high blood pressure, diabetes mellitus and some forms of cancer. Vegetarian diets can be healthful and nutritionally sound if they’re carefully planned to include essential nutrients. However, a vegetarian diet can be unhealthy if it contains too many calories and/or saturated fat and not enough important nutrients What are the nutrients to consider in a vegetarian diet?

  • Protein: You don’t need to eat foods from animals to have enough protein in your diet. Plant proteins alone can provide enough of the essential and non-essential amino acids, as long as sources of dietary protein are varied and caloric intake is high enough to meet energy needs.
  • Whole grains, legumes, vegetables, seeds and nuts all contain both essential and non-essential amino acids. You don’t need to consciously combine these foods (“complementary proteins”) within a given meal.
  • Soy protein has been shown to be equal to proteins of animal origin. It can be your sole protein source if you choose.
  • Iron: Vegetarians may have a greater risk of iron deficiency than nonvegetarians. The richest sources of iron are red meat, liver and egg yolk — all high in cholesterol. However, dried beans, spinach, enriched products, brewer’s yeast and dried fruits are all good plant sources of iron.
  • Vitamin B-12: This comes naturally only from animal sources. Vegans need a reliable source of vitamin B-12. It can be found in some fortified (not enriched) breakfast cereals, fortified soy beverages, some brands of nutritional (brewer’s) yeast and other foods (check the labels), as well as vitamin supplements.
  • Vitamin D: Vegans should have a reliable source of vitamin D. Vegans who don’t get much sunlight may need a supplement.
  • Calcium: Studies show that vegetarians absorb and retain more calcium from foods than nonvegetarians do. Vegetable greens such as spinach, kale and broccoli, and some legumes and soybean products, are good sources of calcium from plants.
  • Zinc: Zinc is needed for growth and development. Good plant sources include grains, nuts and legumes. Shellfish are an excellent source of zinc. Take care to select supplements containing no more than 15-18 mg zinc. Supplements containing 50 mg or more may lower HDL (“good”) cholesterol in some people.

What meal plans are recommended? Any type of vegetarian diet should include a wide variety of foods and enough calories to meet your energy needs.  Keep your intake of sweets and fatty foods to a minimum. These foods are low in nutrients and high in calories.

http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/Vegetarian-Diets_UCM_306032_Article.jsp

01Jun/14

Pigeon Ethics…

Pigeons resized

The Humble Pigeon

A few months ago, when I first started researching the possibility of setting up my blog, the first thing I did was think up domain names – eye-catching, memorable and pertinent domain names. Much to my dismay, I soon realised that any name I chose which made any sense or was catchy was already taken up and not available….. how was this? Soon learnt more… any pertinent name you may think of will almost always be taken and the reason for this is that there are people out there frantically buying domain names, building up a stash for no purpose other than making money, call it investment! I believe some domain names are sold for a small fortune – a racket or business acumen, depending on your perception.

I spent days jotting down any possible domain name which crossed my mind! One of the names which came out of the blue was “pigeonethic” – it was  triggered by the story of the much maligned pigeon.  I bagged the name for who after all would want a domain name called pigeonethic!

I wondered why pigeons were called vermin? I love pigeons and to me they are like any other bird. I trawled the internet for answers and discovered that according to the Scottish Association for Country Sports, “vermin” was a misnomer and that there is no such thing as “vermin”!! What?? Here’s what they had to say….

“Welcome to the section on vermin. The first thing you need to know is that there is no such thing as ‘vermin’.  We use the word to mean species of birds and animals which cause us problems in some way, but different people have different ideas about what should be controlled, why and how.”

Ah! So a pigeon was “vermin” because it was like a weed – a plant in the wrong place…. or something we simply didn’t like because it poops on our well laid lawn, or it coos and coos and drives us insane, and over time the perpetrator of these misdemeanours and inconveniences joins the family of other undeserving creatures also known as “vermin”.  So any creature or living being which bothers us, poops in the wrong place, makes a racket and is what WE consider to be a nuisance could be termed as “vermin” – is that fair?  I love pigeons; I love their little nervous, bobbing heads and feed them in my garden along with any other bird who cares to partake of the nutty feast we put out every day for all to share.

Children & pigeons

Like bird song? here is what I found….. bird song identification tool for Apple iPod and IPhone

http://www.birdjam.com/about

Unbelievable list and images of different kinds of pigoens all over the world!

http://pigeon-kingdom.blogspot.co.uk/

28May/14

Article on nutrition by American Heart Association

I recently found this article on a vegetarian diet published by the American Heart Association on its website and have copied and pasted an extract – hope you find it useful and interesting.

What is a vegetarian diet?

Some people follow a “vegetarian” diet, but there’s no single vegetarian eating pattern. The vegan or total vegetarian diet includes only foods from plants: fruits, vegetables, legumes (dried beans and peas), grains, seeds and nuts. The lactovegetarian diet includes plant foods plus cheese and other dairy products. The ovo-lactovegetarian (or lacto-ovovegetarian) diet also includes eggs. Semi-vegetarians don’t eat red meat but include chicken and fish with plant foods, dairy products and eggs

Are vegetarian diets healthful?

Most vegetarian diets are low in or devoid of animal products. They’re also usually lower than non-vegetarian diets in total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol. Many studies have shown that vegetarians seem to have a lower risk of obesity, coronary heart disease (which causes heart attack), high blood pressure, diabetes mellitus and some forms of cancer.

Vegetarian diets can be healthful and nutritionally sound if they’re carefully planned to include essential nutrients. However, a vegetarian diet can be unhealthy if it contains too many calories and/or saturated fat and not enough important nutrients

What are the nutrients to consider in a vegetarian diet?

  • Protein: You don’t need to eat foods from animals to have enough protein in your diet. Plant proteins alone can provide enough of the essential and non-essential amino acids, as long as sources of dietary protein are varied and caloric intake is high enough to meet energy needs.
  • Whole grains, legumes, vegetables, seeds and nuts all contain both essential and non-essential amino acids. You don’t need to consciously combine these foods (“complementary proteins”) within a given meal.
  • Soy protein has been shown to be equal to proteins of animal origin. It can be your sole protein source if you choose.
  • Iron: Vegetarians may have a greater risk of iron deficiency than nonvegetarians. The richest sources of iron are red meat, liver and egg yolk — all high in cholesterol. However, dried beans, spinach, enriched products, brewer’s yeast and dried fruits are all good plant sources of iron.
  • Vitamin B-12: This comes naturally only from animal sources. Vegans need a reliable source of vitamin B-12. It can be found in some fortified (not enriched) breakfast cereals, fortified soy beverages, some brands of nutritional (brewer’s) yeast and other foods (check the labels), as well as vitamin supplements.
  • Vitamin D: Vegans should have a reliable source of vitamin D. Vegans who don’t get much sunlight may need a supplement.
  • Calcium: Studies show that vegetarians absorb and retain more calcium from foods than nonvegetarians do. Vegetable greens such as spinach, kale and broccoli, and some legumes and soybean products, are good sources of calcium from plants.
  • Zinc: Zinc is needed for growth and development. Good plant sources include grains, nuts and legumes. Shellfish are an excellent source of zinc. Take care to select supplements containing no more than 15-18 mg zinc. Supplements containing 50 mg or more may lower HDL (“good”) cholesterol in some people
28May/14

Bill & Barbara, friends supreme!

I met Bill and Barbara courtesy of Ebay and knew them as The Wobblies, his email address – his Ebay member’s name was Bottomshed Bill!  I was looking for some old cheap tiles as a feature for my bathroom and scoured Ebay on a daily basis.  Old Victorian and Art Deco tiles can be very expensive so hunting for bargains meant a regular Ebay trawl and of course any antique-y shops I came across.  Bill had some tiles for sale at a reasonable price, being a reasonable sort of guy that’s what you would expect of Bill!  I bought the tiles and thanked him and in my response signed off as Raks.  He came back and said something and referred to me as “lad” which I promptly corrected and said I was a lass not a lad!  And this meaningful exchange led to a long-lasting beautiful friendship and he even gave me some tiles for free!  That’s the kind of fella he is and we have been buddies ever since.

Bill and Barbara invited us to their fairytale cottage in Gestingthorpe and we fell in love with them, their house and their garden……..and ever since have exchanged visits as and when we can and keep in regular touch.

Below are pictures of some of Bill’s handicraft…. beautiful pieces made with kindling or odd pieces of old wood

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Bill and Barbara’s beautiful house, bakehouse in the distance and garden to die for!

Bill is my primary port of call if I need help with any DIY project and being a true friend he never fails to oblige!  On visits to us he carries his toolbox, saw and all, and has made and put up shelves for me amongst other little jobs I found impossible with my limited DIY skills – John, who is not very good with the hammer and would be the first to admit it, looks on admiringly while Bill deftly hammers a nail into the wall!!

Bill is a true craftsperson in my opinion, and being a very humble sort of guy he may disagree, but I will leave you to be the judge….

Keychain
Some screw top keychains he knocked off on a rainy day – a very handy way of carrying that tenner you may need

Bill's pendants
Pendants

Bill's mushrooms
Mushrooms

Bill's salt pots
Salt pots 

Cactus 

A beautiful cactus only Bill could grow from seed!!