Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Here is an instant pudding for those evenings when hunger strikes, when the resolution crumbles, or when you just fancy it. And it can be in your tum in 10 minutes!

First put your choice of Jam, Marmalade or Syrup into a bowl (If you’re really desperate a plastic jug will do)

Next mix together 30g softened butter, 30g sugar, 60g SR Flour and one egg. Granulated sugar is fine but you could use Caster or Brown.

Spread this mixture over the jam base.

Microwave on High (800w) for 3 minutes or until the top is set.

Leave it for about a minute to finish off, and then serve.

When you get the hang of it you make custard and be heating it whilst mixing the pudding ingredients. Cook the pudding and the custard will still be warm enough to pour on top.

As I said last time Beef Fajitas for Saturday, after the performance I had making the wraps the filling was a no problem. Using the veg you saw last time and some home made Sweet Chilli sauce, they came out well.

Sunday was Slow Roast Lamb day; it’s a long cooking but well worth it. I used a leg joint of 2.4Kg, so it needed about 4 hours cooking.

I scored the fat first, whilst the oven was heating up to max, and rubbed some herbs and garlic in. Also add a little water to stop it drying out.

Cover well with foil.

When the oven is up to temperature, put the covered joint in on the middle shelf and IMMEDIATELY turn the oven down to 150 degrees. Now ignore it for 2.5 hours.

After 2.5 hours uncover and baste, next surround it with chunks of Potato, Parsnip and Swede (or any other root veg you fancy),

Re-cover and put it back for 90 minutes.

At this time the meat will be falling off the bone, so remove it all to another roasting tray and cover with foil.

Leave it somewhere to rest. Increase the oven temp to 200, baste the veg and return for 30 minutes, until they look like this.

And there we are, serve with mint sauce and whatever else you like. Peas and carrots go well!

Use the liquid in the bottom of the dish to make your gravy, adding a little stock, cornflour and seasoning.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

A Day at the Zoo

Well after the unremitting diet of food related posts, here is something a little different. There may still be a few food references but I will try and keep them to a minimum.

When I was growing up in Torbay (and what a place too grow up, and what a time as well) a highlight from when I was about 4 was a trip to Paignton Zoo. We lived within walking distance and it became a sort of annual event.

However one year I nearly managed to ruin the whole thing by telling everyone at school that I was going and having a load of kids appear outside my house at 8am, convinced that I had invited them all. My parents were (understandably) not pleased, especially as all the children seemed to think that we were paying.

Another year I found that if I ran up and down just in front of the Cheetah’s cage, it would follow me, worryingly it never seemed to go faster, just kept pace, watching.

The keepers found my antics amusing, and reminded me that there were only two layers of chain link fence keeping me from being lunch.

Apart from that, the other memories that I have are all good, because it was so close we were always going there on school trips as well, and it came as a surprise when we moved to Kent, that people hardly ever went to the zoo, largely because the nearest one was not just round the corner, but 40 miles away.

There was a good Zoo near Canterbury, called Howletts, which we used to visit, but the highlight was still a trip, on our annual Devon Holiday, to Paignton Zoo. In a way it appeared stuck in a kind of time warp, and was exactly the way I remembered it, even down to the train ride around the lake (although I’m sure it was shortened from when I was little). The girls always enjoyed it, although Yvonne rarely came along, and I expect some of the longer lived animals from my youthful visits were still there as well, especially George the Milk snake and the Giant Tortoises.

Then one year, it changed, and became an “Environmental Park”, gone were a lot of the small cages and there was a new open type of enclosure, it must have been like heaven to the animals, no more concrete floors and boring walls, now they could run and be a lot freer than they had been. I guess it was a response to all the bad publicity that zoos in general were getting, and that’s a debate that could go on for a long time.

I can see that keeping sentient beings in cramped boring conditions is cruel, and I can see that we must care for all living things, but where the problem comes is in balancing the needs of people against those of animals. In an ideal world, we would exist side by side, but where we are removing habitat and causing extinction, surely it is better to preserve the species in places like zoos? In my view it's a dream to say we can halt human expansion, but we can better manage the wildlife that we affect, and ensure its survival. There has to be the will to look after our planet, and all its life, because ultimately we are all in it together. And by Zoos I mean proper ones with large enclosures that provide the animals with a good quality of life. And who knows, one day if we colonise other planets and find them lacking in life, there may be room for our endangered species to thrive, if we preserve them now.

That felt like a bit of a sermon, anyway to get back to the story, after the disappointment of the cancelled bread course, we decided to spend the refund on a day out at the Zoo. Yvonne hadn’t seen it since its makeover, so it was all new to her, and there had been piece on the local news about a baby giraffe born at the zoo and rejected by its mother. Of course she wanted to see it.

There are parts of the place that are the same, although with the changes around them at first you don’t realise, there used to be a huge cage of budgies at the entrance, that’s gone and you now go in past the flamingos, which used to be quite a way inside.

It’s a bit dearer as well, and the price includes a “voluntary 10% donation” unless you announce (so that all the people behind you can hear) that you don’t want to pay it. I object to emotional blackmail so I didn’t pay, then I felt guilty for the rest of the day. Of course as soon as I said it, the cashier repeated it in a loud voice, just to rub it in.

Having said that, we had a really good day, there were plenty of animals to see and lots to laugh about. We tend to spend most of our time finding humour in our situation, in a gentle way; it’s surprising how many serious people there are who can’t see the fun in a day out.

Unfortunately, a lot of the animals were a long way away, or behind glass (Is it for our protection or theirs?) Even with the zoom on my trusty camera, they never got close, and they always have thier backs to the paying public but these pictures will give you some idea.

 Yvonne also made some new friends,

Now back to the food. I have been keeping Hortense out for the last week, trying to speed her up a bit, and yesterday I made another mix. This morning when I came downstairs, it had overflowed the bowl and was climbing down the side of the cupboard. The loaf was a lot lighter again, so I think that we are about at the optimum point.

We had a takeaway curry last night, after the Zoo we couldn’t be bothered to cook, so today we wanted something lighter for our meal. There was some sliced roast beef left, so I thought of fajitas, but we had no wraps. “That’s easy to make” I thought, well two hours later, I actually achieved what I wanted.

 The filling will be a mixture of Onions, Peppers, Garlic and strips of the beef, fried and topped with grated cheese.

As promised last time here is the Cushion that Yvonne made, and another of her Greetings cards

 Well I managed to keep away from food for a large part of that post, tomorrow we have slow (6 hour) roasted Leg of Lamb with all the bits and pieces, stay tuned.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

George is Home

Well George is home, totally surprised everyone, I came up to Work and popped in to see Naomi as Amy was there, I don’t get much chance to see Amy as she lives in Nottingham, and as I walked up the stairs to Naomi’s flat George jumped out in front of me. I nearly had a heart attack; she had sneaked home without telling anyone and got her mate to bring her down from the airport. Poor thing she was used to temperatures of 40 degrees in Oz, and it was about 5 here. She's only been home a week, but she's brought a car, had several job interviews and generally whizzed around

I had to stay at work for an extra couple of days on a course, but then brought George and Naomi down to Devon for a few days. I didn’t tell Yvonne, who was as thrilled as me to see her. We had a great time out and about and I took them home when I worked on the 19th.

So that’s why I have been strangely silent for the last few days, which is not to say that it's been quiet, I'm only now catching my breath.

I'm still persevering with the sourdough, and as it gets older (It's now 1 Month) it's getting better, the last loaf was a lot more open, still more like German Rye Bread than an English loaf, but edible and tasty. Hortense is out of the fridge for a few days intensive feeding and hopefully a growth spurt.

Risen Overnight

Ready to Bake

A Better Crumb

Unfortunately, I haven’t got a lot of pictures of food at the moment, Yvonne has been doing a fair bit of the cooking recently, and with all the excitement the camera has been left unused, however as it was shrove Tuesday I made pancakes, with Cherry Compote and Ice-Cream, very nice.

Yvonne is doing her signature dish, Chicken with Peaches and Mushrooms, it's bubbling in the slow cooker as I type, filling the house with a better smell than damp dog!

Seriously, it's a superb meal, served with rice and one of the first things she ever cooked for me. Along with her Pizza, home-made Burgers and her Chilli, I'm exceedingly lucky when she cooks.

Not only that, she has been making a patchwork cushion cover, just needs a pad now, when it's ironed I’ll put a picture up.

Saddest news this week, the Magdelan Project called on Monday, I was expecting them to confirm the Bread Course on Thursday, but instead they said that they had to cancel it. Apparently not enough people had booked to make it worthwhile and the next course in April is on a day that I'm working. To say that I'm disappointed would be an understatement.

I did make some soup, with beef stock and mixed pulses, I added some cooked Chorizo pieces as well.

Yvonne had some Green and Blacks Chocolate left over from the cake, so I made shortbread and topped them with it.

I brought loads of Chorizo when it was on offer, and I have to keep coming up with ideas to use it. The latest was yesterdays lunch, which was Pepper chunks and Chorizo fried until the pepper was soft, with grated cheese stirred in until melted. I toasted slices of Sourdough and topped with the mixture, sort of an alternative Bruschetta.

Today will be a tortilla with peppers, fried potato peels and Chorizo.

And here it is.

 Down to the Black Cat yesterday, the Pink Speckled Cake was superb, as was the conversation.

 The Garden is slowly coming back to life, there are buds on all the fruit trees, Yvonne is just pruning the Buddleia, and I am still waiting to see if my seed potatoes and Horseradish  have survived the frosts. When the weather improves a bit more I have to rebuild the tree house, after the wind assisted demolition last year. Then it will be on with the veg. The wheel turns.