Archive for March, 2009

New things for the garden

I have just purchased a hypericum inodorum bush, from of all places, pound land. Well I felt sorry for it, it is trying to grow shoots and has been kept in the dark so they are a bit pale, at least there is no doubt it is alive at the moment. Well for a pound I thought I’d risk it. Its going to go in the front garden now there is a bit more room after pruning the three huge cornus. Hopefully it will brighten up a fairly shady spot. It was only when I looked it up on the internet to see whether it would mind a bit of shade I found out hypericum is St Johns Wort, interesting, at least I though so.

I also bought 3 small hanging baskets I’m going to try herbs in, a half tray propagator and lid and a collapsable garden rubbish container. I wasn’t planning of buying any of these things today but never mind.

The chilli / pepper plants that have been potted up are all beginning to form there proper leaves, not that it will help me tell them apart. I still have quite a few to pot up so I think I over did the seeds a bit. Thats a lesson learnt for next year.

I also received this morning two new gardening books from Amazon, The Edible Container Garden: Fresh Food from Tiny Spaces and Square Foot Gardening: A New Way to Garden in Less Space with Less Work. Both were reviewed on an episode of The Alternative Kitchen Garden podcast which I recommend if you are at all interested in gardening. I am listening to all the back episodes which, apart from having to keep checking what date they were recorded to see when ‘now’ is, are really interesting and cover a very wide range of topics. I haven’t had chance to read the books yet but I can’t wait to read them and get my veg garden up and growing.

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Quick pasta supper

Last night we had this quick mushroom pasta for tea. I spotted the recipe on maggiedon’s blog and thought it would be nice and quick when we got in after swimming. I could have done with a few more mushrooms (I pinched some sunday for my lunch, woops!) and I also cut down the amount of butter. I used some real Italian pasta I was given after someone’s holiday in Italy. I don’t know what the shape is called but it looke like long bunny ears (individual, not pairs!) and had a nice bite to the edges. Very tasty, very garliky and judging by how fast A ate his he liked it too.

I do need to cook more of my cookbook challange recipes, rather than other peoples, trouble is reading all these yummy cooking blogs is giving me more ideas than time to cook.

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Mother’s Day

Yesterday was Mother’s Day in the UK and I got a lovely card and a planted hanging basket so that was really nice. The hanging basket is currently outside my kitchen window but will probably be moved outside the front door as soon as I can arrange for a bracket to be put up there.

I cooked sunday lunch for my parents and made my mum some rocky road after some hints were dropped. I’ll have to let you know whether they tasted ok. I did offer A one of the marshmallows while I was making them, and after eagerly trying it he pulled a really funny face and picked it out of hs mouth with his fingers and gave it back to me, lovely! So that’s the second thing he’s tried and doesn’t like, the other is ice cream. Funny child!

After lunch we attacked the three cornus bushes in the front garden. They were about 18ft high and hadn’t been pruned for several years. I also think that three is too many for the space, but I can’t do a lot about that. They are now cut right down and I have my fingers crossed they will shoot again, if not, I’ll replace them with something else. I do like cornus, just not ones that are threatening to shade the upstairs window.

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Mmmm moussaka

This has to be my all time favorite moussaka recipe and when I saw two aubergines peeking out of the veg box I knew what I would be cooking with them. I don’t eat it as often as I’d like as M doesn’t like aubergines, but it was easy enough to make a small lasagna for him as well, and as the moussaka doesn’t need you to faff about grilling slices of aubergine and layering it, it is much easier than I imagine. I ought to make it more often.

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Kitchen Gadgets

I love kitchen gadgets. I found it quite difficult in the flat as there was no room for storage and even less worktop space so gadgets had to be put away on top of cupboards and other inaccessible places and they didn’t get used as much as they might. In the bigger kitchen however I have space for the bread machine and a newly aquired microwave combination oven on the work top as well as the steamer, which was one of the few gadgets I did use a lot in the flat. I also have a nice big cupboard to keep the others in so they all get used more.

However the kitchen gadget I couldn’t live without is my slicer – a mandolin (not the musical instrument) – I love it and it makes chopping onions a breeze and is the only way I can get even thin slices of things like potato. Its a rare day I do any cooking and don’t use it. Well, unless I’m baking a cake!

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Curry night and leftovers

I cooked curry for dinner tonight which was a first for A, he loved it! I didn’t follow the recipe exactly as M prefers hotter curries, while I’m the mild and creamy korma type, but veggie, so I quickly boiled a little cubed butternut squash for a couple of minutes and added that instead of the chicken. A then had some cooked chicken added at the end. If the recipe is supposed to make two childs portions then I think I’m in for a shock at how much little people eat. A and I had plenty to eat plus there is a small amount left to go in the freezer for a quick dinner another time. Ok, so I didn’t weigh everything, but I don’t think I over estimated too much, I did measure the liquid ingrediants and there was a lot of (yummy) sauce.

I don’t usually use specific child recipes as I have always tried to cook things we can all eat rather than A having special food, but this recipe sounded nice when I read it in a free leaflet and I fancied trying it as well. I’m glad I did.

I am accumulating an odd selection of leftovers in the fridge:

  • Half a carton of passata
  • Half a tin of coconut milk
  • One egg white
  • Half a butternut squash
  • Lots of kiwi fruit (I haven’t made the sorbet yet)
  • Some over-ripe pears (crumble?)
  • Cabbage
  • Variety of cheeses
  • Cooked chicken
  • Cold roast lamb

Plus I have the usual everyday stuff. I usually make soup if I have things that need using up but this list does not say soup to me. The coconut milk is the most difficult one for me as I usually only use it in curry but I don’t think it will last until next week’s curry night.

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Garden Birds

I have just spotted the 12th species of bird in our garden today. It was a Jackdaw tempted down by some cooked potato. I was hoping the Sparrows would like the change in menu but they seem to have pushed off in protest as the seed feeder is empty. They currently get through approximatly a whole seed feeder full in 2 days and 4 fat balls a week at least! The huge sacks of bird seed are looking very tempting now to keep the cost down.

The full list of species:

Blue Tit
Coal Tit
Collard Dove
Great Tit
Hedge Sparrow
House Sparrow

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Nothing special about tonights dinner, pasta with a quick sauce of roast chicken, red onion, cougette, orange pepper and pasatta, so I won’t talk about it.

However tomorrow I’m hoping to make kiwi fruit sorbet, I have too many fruits in the fridge, A doesn’t seem to be eating them at the moment and they are all going ripe at the same time, I also feel a need to give the ice cream maker some attention. I think today’s sunshine has gone to my head!

I am also hoping to plant some more seeds and maybe pot up the peppers and chillis. I think I have cougettes, aubergines, squash, tomatoes and a few herbs to sow so hopefully the weather will be good and I will have more luck with these than the herbs I tried in feb – out of 6 pots, 2 each of parsley, mint and sage, I have one pot of parsley. I am wondering if the pots were either over watered or dried out at some point as it is whole pots that have failed, but who knows. I will probably try again with the sage and mint, I have saved a few clear plastic trays now to use as mini seed covers so perhaps that would help. I’ll let you know how I get on.

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Big cooking weekend

We had guests this weekend so the little one happy and out of the kitchen and I got a lot of cooking done.

Saturday lunch was leek and potato soup, recipe from ‘The Vegetarian Bible’ (Published by Marks and Spencer 2005) with multi grain bread from the bread machine.

For nibbles I made some little cheese biscuits from p157 of ‘the book’ (Seasonal vegetarian, see cookbook challange post) which were lovely and I think you could change the cheese for whatever you have available.

Saturday dinner started with homemade gnocci with pesto and mushrooms. ‘The book’ has a recipe for pesto in it, but I barely glanced at it and didn’t follow the quantities so I don’t think I’ll count that – I’ll wait until summer when my basil has grown and try it properly.

Then chicken on a bed of roasted veg (aubergine, cougette, red pepper, celery and cherry tomatoes) with kohl rabi and potato gratin (Able and Cole cookbook, pg 142). I had hallumi cheese on the veg instead of chicken. If I was cooking the chicken again I’d put it in a tent of foil, I did mess up the timings slightly and it looked a little dry.

Dessert was a lovely chocolate pudding from a recipe given to me by an OU friend.

Sunday lunch started with asparagus and palma ham, no ham for me.

Then roast lamb, a boned and rolled leg; Its more expensive, but I think its easier to cook a larger joint than a smaller one. I use Hugh’s timings from his ‘Meat‘ book and a meat thermometer to check how well done it is. With the meat I did roast potatoes, parmesan roast parsnips, braised red cabbage, carrots and green beans. I was going to cook a stuffed squash recipe that involved cottage cheese for me, but I can’t find the recipe book it’s in. I’m beginning to think there is another box of cookery books somewhere I haven’t unpacked yet, which is bad news as the bookcase in the kitchen is already full, woops. Instead I had a bought nut cutlet.

For pudding I made rhubarb and orange cake which was yummy even tho know one could remember hearing the timer going off that signalled when to turn the oven down so I had no idea how long it had been cooking. I didn’t look at the recipe and think I turned the oven down too much, so the cake took a lot longer to cook than I expected. Very more-ish. The recipe is a waitrose one, but direct links do not work, however it is easy to find via the search facility. Trust me, its worth it 🙂

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Things I’ve been up to

Unfortunatly this week I’ve been ill 😦 so haven’t done much cooking apart from the bare minimum. I did cook a rather nice (If I do say so myself) pea and bacon risotto, no bacon for me, on friday which resulted in three clean plates.No recipe, I just made it up as I went along. I used one of the new Knor stock pot things for the stock, rather than my usual marigold powder. Its a kind of gel instead of a powder and it did look like very concentrated home made stock but I don’t think I’ll buy any more once I’ve used this packet up as the taste wasn’t significantly different and it contains a lot more salt that the reduced salt marigold I usually use. One plus was there are 8 pots in the pack when I originally thought there was only 4.

Yesterday was my first tutorial / dayschool for my OU course S369, otherwise knows as The geological record of environmental change. Its really interesting although I am very behind already. The tutorial did give me a good overview of the bigger picture and explained some things I’d been struggling with. It also resparked my interest so hopefully the reading should go quicker as it has been taking me ages. The jump to level 3 seems quite large still, I’m not looking forward to the first TMA.

The tutorial was in Bristol and far more interesting than the tutorial itself, was the geocaching I did whilst there. See my log here for the full story. What’s geocaching? Well its a sort of treasure hunt using GPS receivers. Great fun and gets you outside and to all sorts of places you wouldn’t otherwise visit.

On the garden front, I haven’t been out there a lot but the daffs are now out and I the chilli and parsley seeds have started growing. I need to get on with the March seed sowings too. Unfortunatly the two white geraniums I planted out in pots caught the frost, I think, and are not looking happy so I might need to replace them with something else. We need to get a lawn mower soon, I can’t believe how fast the grass is growing.

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