25 September 2012

Lovely flowers....

Big birthday this year and a friend gave me these lovely flowers.  I especially loved the rose which has the most unusual colouring.  I tried to capture it with the macro part of the camera - am still not that proficient with it as I should be but I do try.

 Have a few other things to post in a bit but still working on the photos.  Enjoy!

2 September 2012

Pickling some Sushi Ginger…

OK – my love of how quick and sushi is well documented.  However, it came that I made sushi and completely forgot to get pickled ginger.  I have always wanted to try making it myself and knew it was super easy but have always found it reduced so never had to worry. 
So now comes the time to attempt to make it, I did a few searches and looked at various recipes on how to make it.  I don’t have an exact recipe and really one isn’t needed as I just kept to a ratio of 1 part of rice vinegar to ¼ of murin/sugar.  I added a bit of water and allowed the ginger to marinate in some salt that I rubbed into it for about 30 minutes.  I heated the rice vinegar/murin/sugar until just to the boil and poured over the ginger. 
I noted that they said it would turn pink if it was ‘new’ ginger – how you know this I haven’t a clue but the taste was really quite good.  I was pleased with it and other than wishing I had done this a week before I had to use it I was impressed at how easy it was.  I spent perhaps a total of 10 minutes between the prep, salting and then getting the mixture into a pan.  I left the rice vinegar to sit until the ginger had waited about 30 minutes and then 2 minutes maximum to get the thing to boil.  
Mine didn’t turn pink but it could have been from the murin I used which was a deep dark brown in colour (it’s organic – not sure that makes a difference?) but who cares.  It’s all about the taste for me and this was surely a good one – give it a try.  So much better than the stuff from the store/packet and well you save a packet making your own!  Enjoy.

25 August 2012

Birthday and cake…

Yet another birthday for J – and as usual another cake from that old favourite book Death by Chocolate.  This year he wanted a simple chocolate cake and picked this one as it was rather simple to make and we had most of the ingredients in the house already.

It was a pretty simple cake batter to make and other than a bit odd in it’s preparation it went well and cake came out really great from the oven.  The frosting however, was beyond bad.  I’m not a ‘big’ icing fan and will usually scrape it off the cake before I even eat it.  It was a simple icing sugar/butter with cocoa powder.  I’m not a fan of chocolate at the best of times (I know this is hard to believe but it really isn’t my favourite thing!) but the icing was bad.  I cannot fault the recipe it just wasn’t a great pairing with the cake.

So a disappointment that all my friends got to enjoy – so they are happy I’m sure.    I think I’d try something different but exactly what I am not sure as it really was a very light cake and closely resembled Angel Food in that lightness kind of way.  Oh well, live and learn but never this icing again!

17 August 2012

Rather disgusting I think....

I am always following links of links and looking at various news sites and such - never one to commit to a single source I am constantly travelling around reading.  I know this habit never dies!  Anyway, I found this article about What half a billion in campaign spending would have bought.  Here's the link to the article but the main impact is this:

  • Food for 9.2 million malnourished children for 50 days
  • Immunizations for 29 million children for life
  • Clean water for 500 million children for 40 days
  • 166 million anti-malarial mosquito bed nets 
It really makes you sick the amount of money being spent on this ONE campaign.  While I still vote back in the US this just about makes me lose my cookies.  What will really do it is whoever gets in as they both are nothing to write home about much less run a country.  So sad and so wasteful....  I usually end with Enjoy but this time I'll end with CHANGE!

12 August 2012

Making a small difference....

I recently saw the movie Food, Inc.   
Yes, it was made in 2008 and we are now in 2012 but hey this is what happens in the UK when movies are made – libraries are slow but do eventually get them! 
Anyway, I won’t make a big song and dance because there isn’t a need for one in this house.  I am the converted. 
I buy in season, local as much as possible or is available, organic/free-range for my meat and eggs and just about everything else.  I also buy fair trade so that people are paid a fair amount for their goods.  I try to do this in every facet of life – not just my eating but clothes, furniture, etc.  Yes, it is more expensive.  Yes, you do have to sometimes wait for that lovely bed (see posting below) but it sure was worth it! 
I kept someone in a job, someone had pride in their skill and I get to sleep in it EVERY night!  If it came from China I’d worry about the person who had to sweat to put it together, etc.  I wouldn’t even mind paying the same amount for a Chinese good – but why pay that and know the person who really got the wage was paid less than what you and I would spend on a cup of coffee for the WHOLE day? 
Enough said – enjoy the movie and THINK!  This is what our brains were made for!

4 August 2012

Goldilocks and her 3 beds for real!

OK this is not about cooking or what I got reduced at the store – I document that quite a bit but thought I’d relay some of the recent horrors we’ve had in attempting to get a new bed.  Yes, we really needed a new bed frame and mattress.  So we’ve been looking for over 2 years at the stuff in the stores putting it off because nothing really ‘sang’ to me or J.
Then last Christmas when we could put it off no longer we saw a frame/mattress at a local company – I’ll call them Bad Demons.  We enquired where was the bed made and told European and the mattress was UK made.  However, when bed arrived (mind you we had to move everything out of the room for this) the box clearly said our not so favourite slogan ‘Made in China’.  When we wanted to return it we weren’t sure if we were going to keep the mattress or not but this ended up from being made in the UK to somehow coming from Ireland.  With all the will in the world that’s not the UK.  We were in doubt.  So back that went and refund dutifully made.
Second place – now this time we took time to find what we thought would be our ‘bed’.  It was handmade in the UK with FSC wood – and the mattress was also made in the UK.  Can you see a pattern here?  Yes, we are trying to keep UK businesses in business.  I’ll call them Wanker Beds.  We even went down to the store in London to see the bed ourselves, measure things, feel the mattress, etc.  We learned from Bad Demons or thought we had.  
So second bed ordered and about a month later it comes.  All wrapped in blankets so as not to use cardboard or other materials.  Great care taken to get it into the flat and again our old bed goes out into the hall temporarily.  The delivery men put the bed together first wrong – it’s not in properly so have to unscrew the screws now and do it again.  This leaves us with severely chipped wood and looks a sight.  Upon closer inspection the slats are warped and some so split we’re sure they won’t last a month much less a lifetime as we anticipated for this bed.  They are screwed in – something we didn’t think to check but think this is not a sound idea.
Meantime in the hallway of our flats our old bed has now walked off with a new owner so we have no bed whatsoever.  The mattress also isn’t right – one half of it looks to be filled less and is at an incline, one roll and you’re off the bed.  We are not pleased.  Wanker beds have to come back and take this away – we are devastated.  
All we want is a bed – made in the UK that will last us more than a year as we know flat pack furniture is not for us.  I love all things old – it’s stood the test of time – nothing new ever lasts.  Now we are up against a wall.  Our ‘new’ bed goes in a month and our ‘old’ bed has walked off.  We’ll be on the floor sleeping because we cannot find anyone who makes something so simple in this country.
Again I turn to the great Internet.  We decide that we’ll have to put more money into the frame because it looks like bespoke will be about our only option.  But wait – I do a search for reclaimed wood bed and what do I find?!  Yes, a company called EatSleepLive.  I found others and in fact we narrowed it down to three companies.  I e-mailed each company with a list of things we were interested in knowing – how is the bed put together, who delivers the item, prices, etc.  
We figured those that did answer would be serious.  It was a test – sorry but as you can see from the above by now we are prepared for disaster.  So two out of the three we emailed initially reply – I guess the third company couldn’t be bothered even to reply.  But we kept this up as more questions came to us, we asked and replies were received.  Both companies were very patient and kind in responding.  We eventually put everything into a grid with a Pro/Con comments.  Both companies were in the running but what made EatSleepLive the final winner?  It was really the loads of pictures we saw on the site and my gut.  J was in favour of the other company but I stood my ground – nope this was the one I wanted.  Something inside me said just ‘go for it’.  It gave us a modicum of hope that finally we found a company that did things the way we liked/wanted.
So we bit the bullet and put in our order for a bed.  It would be about 12 weeks for it to arrive but we knew it would be worth waiting for.  In the meantime we slept on the floor on just about anything that offered us an inkling of cushion-y effect.
It is surprising how fast 12 weeks can go and suddenly we got the call.  Our bed was nearly ready and we needed to arrange delivery.  Oh my – we were nervous and then had to quickly get our mattress as we didn’t want to have a mattress sitting in the flat until the bed was ready or here.  Furious times I must tell you.

But finally the day came and our new bed ARRIVED!  Oh my, it was better than the pictures on their site.  I just really could not believe it was finally here and that the bed was far superior to my expectations.  I’ll let the pictures do the talking but all I can say is save for this stuff as it’s worth it!  We've now had it just about 2 months and how the memories of sleeping on the floor have left - I shall never take that for granted again!  The wood apparently comes from an old brewery in Peterborough which means no trees died in the making of this bed - it is 100% recycled.
We are now looking at a chest of drawers but that’s going to be a bit but well worth the wait.  I’m not paid by them to say this nor am I in anyway compensated for this praise.  I am just pleased to finally find a company that makes an honest living and provides a service that they can be proud of.  
All the time I am disappointed in companies and every once in a while it is great to find something you can say was done right and well.  I’m also proud to say that I did my part and kept China out of it – can you say the same?  Enough said... 

28 July 2012

Lovin' the reduced asile....

Sorry - still busy and even more so with the Olympics now on the telly!  Have had loads of things at work to accomplish and home has been a whirlwind of activity which I cannot discuss just yet but soon!  Nothing bad just cautious before I say it is a fait accompli.

So I have lately been finding herbs reduced - parsley, lemon thyme, lemon grass stalks, coriander.  As I've said before I go in spurts of something all the time then never.  I know weird!  So what to do with them and those lovely big bunches of them?

Well I did a bit of a test on them as the one I had gotten I couldn't use all of the parsley I got reduced so chopped it up and put into a small baggie I had from home - they are half the size of a sandwich bag - so cute and great for those little some thing's that are too big for a container or larger baggie.  Froze the parsley and used in a sauce a few weeks later.

Verdict?  Not a lot of difference in taste (it had lost a bit of it's punch but not enough that I didn't know it was parsley by it's taste) and excellent for when you want a bit of something to add to that sauce.  Now I've tried a few different ones and thought I'd report back what ones seems to freeze well.  Coriander, parsley, lemon grass stalks (for those lovely doodle noodles as I call them!), and lemon thyme so far all have worked out quite well.  Chiles not so great and mint really did lose it's zing (not my words as I hate it but J loves it and he could hardly taste it in the final product).

I know I've seen all these fresh herbs in the freezer section and I must admit that I looked at them but they stayed there for the price they wanted.  And I've never understood the garlic thing - it's really not that hard to peel and it is nothing like the 'real' thing.  So why bother?

I have thought of trying to capture the flavour in an ice cube tray but that will have to wait until I have a bigger freeze - cannot spare the room for that at the moment.  Unlike American fridges, British ones are in a whole other class!

And when I say reduced herbs - I'm talking less than 25p for a huge bunch of corriander or parsley - otherwise it's not worth my time.  I'm keen to try others but obviously only when found reduced so it's a wait and see but hope this is useful.

Next posting will be the bed - sorry - haven't as yet downloaded the pictures from the camera nor the ones from the Olympic torch that went past my work a few weeks ago.  Saw the opening ceremonies and really liked it.

25 June 2012

Busy as always...

Well we've been super busy and thought I'd just come on to say I'm still around and all but life at the moment is very hectic.

Usually we are buzzed quite a bit by the helicopters and such but lately our skies have had a number of unusual incidents.  This was back in mid-May and then again in early June (just before the Jubilee weekend) when we saw the Good Year Blimp

We've never seen it in America and I think it's rather funny that I first get to see this here in the UK!  What a mind trip.

Then last weekend we had another unusual event with a rescue helicopter this time by Essex Air Ambulance.  A motorcyclist crashed into the barriers in the underpass which surprisingly is a common occurrence because of the way people drive around here (it's sometimes really like boy racers around here!).
Thankfully he was lucky according to the local newspaper and will have some life-changing injuries but has lived.  But this isn't something you see every day around here even with the number of accidents we have seen over the years with this underpass.  
My next entry will be about our bed saga so stay tuned - it is not to be missed I assure you!  Stay safe and enjoy!

24 April 2012

Our Daily Bread....

I know I have talked before about making bread.  I still make it every week or just about – depends on what is happening in the house but also the need of it.  Sometimes we often find breads I don’t make (like a wholemeal rye or seeded) reduced that we’ll pick up just to have a go at it.  We usually never buy just bog standard white nor do we buy any of the normal ‘sandwich’ type pappy fluff.
But I saw in May’s issue of Saveur magazine Bread made the cover and how it is being made more and more at home in America – after all it is an American publication.  I usually fondle all the US magazines I can find at the newsagent just to have that small connection of what is going on there – see all the new stuff, etc.
Anyway, Bread!  The article was an interesting one and talks about the slow food movement at home.  It also talks about baking bread and the person who wrote the article about how they grew their own wheat, etc.  I naturally haven’t taken it that far and I don’t see the need to really unless you are a glutton for punishment. 
However, they go on to talk about starters and how this is the next level of baking bread but never give you an idea of how to start your own.  I suppose to be fair it was about making bread and they did include recipes on how to do just that – some jargon for those not familiar with baking terms, etc. 
As I’ve stated in a previous posting I started my starter now about 2 years ago.  I must say it’s going as strong as ever – I cannot kill it and it comes back no matter how long I ignore and don’t feed it.  I know BAD!  But in a way it has relaxed my attitude towards the starter.  At first when you are beginning one – you cannot ignore it.  It does need your attention for the first two weeks and after that every week I fed it and after a few months I just fed it when I was ready to bake.  It now consistently out grows its container.  When it’s exceptionally warm – well it’s even more active! 
Last night I did my first ever overnight rise – no real special reason other than I had some time to do the kneading and thought I’d do it.  I think it was a bit better tasting than if I didn’t but to us the real difference is the starter. 
Bread before I used the starter was OK and even good.  But the starter improves it to that bake shop quality.  Everyone has their opinion on the crust, or the way to knead but it doesn’t matter.  You can even make bread I hear without kneading.  I really do not put a lot of time into making bread.  I spend perhaps 3-5 minutes dumping the items into a bowl and mixing around to get the flour to absorb the water.  I then let it sit for 15-20 minutes – this is the autolyse. 
I then come in and knead it for 5-7 minutes – sometimes longer if it needs it but this is usually sufficient.  I then let it proof once – depends on the day and warmth (1.5-3 hours) and then form it into the loaf or basket and let proof again, the same amount of time – just depends and then bake it.  Now that is by my time clock perhaps 6.5 hours total but I’m not there watching it and certainly if you let it rise overnight in the fridge then you are certainly not attending to it all that time.
So go on now and begin your loaf or make your own starter if you don’t know anyone who has one.  I’m sure they would share it and really it does make all the difference in the world.  Enjoy!

27 March 2012

Been a while...

Sorry - have been really super busy with some projects both at work and at home that have to be accomplished. I've been getting the bargains when I can and hope to show some of that when I get a few moments to compose/document them. Check back soon!

5 February 2012

Mother Nature’s Way of Decorating...

You would think being in England that we’d get a lot of snow – perhaps they do in the north but as close as we are to water and the South East we have only had it a handful of winters that I’ve been living here. In 2010 we had a boat load over a few days that took ages to go away but so far this winter has been exceptionally mild. It’s only been in the last week that we’ve gotten the really cold temperatures (below freezing) with the cold front that came in from Russia and Eastern Europe.

In any event, last night just shortly after 10pm the flurries began and Mother Nature decided to do some of her own decorating. I always marvel at how she does it. Like rain that can fall on one half of the street – one side of the street got more snow than the other.

Here’s a picture of the tree across the road from my flat – all pretty in white – ready for the ball. However, the poor cousin across the street wasn’t so lucky and seemed to be half-undressed on this occasion.And at last my favourite picture all the roofs all shiny and white! At the very end is the estuary we see from our windows – needless to say no boats or ships travelling today.Nothing about cookery today but just had to share this wonder – we don’t see it often here but when you do you are always amazed. Enjoy!

28 January 2012

What to do with reduced blueberries?

Well again I have gotten more reduced produce to tell you about. I know it is just sometimes how things turn out that make it enjoyable. I was at the store and found a rather large punnet of blueberries and on a whim I got them. I was trying to figure out what to do with them – have them on cereal or just eat them plain when J suggested blueberry muffins. I thought yeah, why not?

I had some single cream left over from the week that I’d gotten reduced (this was used to make two other dinners – so this was its third use now) and also a few teaspoons of sour cream that could be useful as well. I also happen to have gotten a bunch of muffin/cup cake cases yes, reduced! You see where I’m going don’t you?Anyway, I found a recipe in one of my recent cookbook acquisitions – The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook and while it did call for buttermilk I didn’t have any. So I used the sour cream/single cream and milk with a bit of lemon juice to be my substitute instead. I know – not same taste but I did have some buttermilk in its dry form so was hoping this would make up for the ‘real’ thing so to speak.

J was quite pleased to have them for breakfast with his coffee and I must admit they came out quite good, despite making about 20 of the said muffins instead of the usual 12. I’m not sure what muffin pans they use but mine were my mother’s so I’m thinking they are by now quite old! Theirs must be huge but in any event I brought a few into work for some colleagues who are always happy to get my leftovers.I liked the recipe and will use it again – especially for other fruits but I’d cut the sugar in the recipe a bit. It was OK with these blueberries as they weren’t too sweet but when they are in season it would of course be too much. Enjoy!

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