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Thursday, 11 February 2016

SNIPPETS FROM MY WEEK ~ A LITTLE OF THIS AND A LITTLE OF THAT

Good Morning to you,


George has been poorly this week.  

He has caught one of the illnesses, which seems to be affecting so many people at the moment, cough, cold and chest infection. 

.... and normally, trying to keep him in bed when he is poorly, is neigh on impossible, but this week he has given in, and stayed in bed and that is an indication of how unwell he is.

So today, I have no recipes to offer you.  The reason is George's appetite has been very poor, so I did not cook any suppers or bake any cakes. Instead I decided to encourage him to eat some of the soups, which I had stored in my freezer, which as you know, is the easiest thing to eat, if you are suffering with a sore throat.

I have to say, it was very strange not cooking.  I suppose I could have cooked for myself, but on the other hand, it did free me, to catch up with things I wanted to do.... plus the added attraction was, there was very little washing up to do.

Of course, I kept a good eye on George and I was amazed to see how many of my daily, 10,000 steps I was able to achieve, running up and down the stairs.

So I hope you are not too disappointed, but instead of a recipe, I thought I would share with you, little snippets from my week.

.... and while I was thinking which bits to share,  the sun shone through the kitchen window, which I have to tell you is a rarity these days.

.... and of course, as you know, when the sunshine arrives, it has a habit of showing up those little nooks and crannies which have not been dusted as thoroughly as you thought.

So armed with my feather duster, I stood in my kitchen and looked upwards, as that is where the culprits usually hide.... and there, on my chandelier I noticed a tiny cobweb.



I dispatched the cobweb with a quick flick of the feather duster. I then checked my other chandeliers, and right enough, they needed a quick flick as well.

I am not very tall, so I could not see if the shelf above my cooker needed to be cleaned, so I collected my stepladder from the garage and low and behold, 


yes it did.  Where on earth does the dust come from. My windows aren't opened for very long during winter time, although I do try to open them once a day.... yes even when it is cold, just to circulate the air.  This is something Phyllis swears by. She feels too much warm air in the house, is a breeding ground for germs... although having said that, George is poorly at the moment, but in truth, he could have caught this illness anywhere, I think it was probably at the swimming pool.  The simple truth is I love fresh air in the house. I love the smell of cooking, on the day of cooking, but I don't want the smell permeating the air the following day.

So, with George upstairs, I opened my kitchen windows, but first I removed my orchids from the window sill, as orchids hate the cold and they certainly hate drafts.

I then decided to take down my Blue Willow plates and my French/German containers.... I'm not sure if they are French or German, as the design is similar to some German plates I once owned, but I have seen these containers with French words written on them, such as Sucre for Sugar, so I am a little confused about their origin. You will notice some of the containers have lost their lids, I am keeping my eyes open for some new lids.... you never know, someone might have broken a container and have a lid which is no longer of use to them.... and hopefully I will be the lucky recipient.

The final things to be removed from the shelf were the Spode spice jars. Everything was then gently washed in soapy water and dried, ready to resume its rightful place on the shelf.

As I was returning everything to its rightful place, I played with the idea of removing the red bows and the sparkly lights, as they were a remnant from Christmas, which I had missed when I took down my Christmas decorations, but I decided, as the weather is still cold, they added a dash of warmth, to my kitchen, so I replaced them.... and if I am being honest, I love how the lights twinkle in the evening.


I repeated the process on the other side of the shelf. With everything spick and span, I felt very happy.... and as Prunella Pepperpot mentioned in her comment last week "You definitely feel you have achieved something once the job is done".... don't you just love the name of this blog.

... and as  always happens, when you start cleaning, one thing, leads to another and so I decided,


to remove my Spode plate from the wall and give it a clean. Let me introduce you to 'May' from the Spode, Blue Room Collection.... isn't she gorgeous.


Of course, when you clean one, you clean another and so it was the turn of my Blue Delft or to give the plate its correct name Delftsblauw.


and another Delft plate, but this time a winter scene. All of these plates are quite large, as they are 12 inches in width, so, in terms of size, these photographs don't really do them justice.


and I went on to wash another 15 plates, this being the final one.


After I had finished dusting, I re-arranged my roses and Alstroemeria, I gave them a fresh drink of water and set about removing the flowers which were a little sad.... all in all,  a good days work.


As you know, I do love a good book and the week before last, I discovered this book in a second hand book shop. The title attracted me to the book, The Happiest People on Earth and I have to say, I have no idea who Demos Shakarian is, but I feel sure this book will be an interesting read.


This is the second book I bought, 'Ten Things I've Learnt About Love'. Again it was the title which attracted me and when I read the book jacket,


 'Heart wrenching and life affirming, this is
 a unique story of love lost and found, 
of rootlessness and homecoming and
 the power of the ties that bind. It is
 a story for fathers and daughters everywhere.' 

I just knew this book was for me.  Interestingly, this was a brand new book and whoever bought it did not read it, which I thought was a shame.

I cannot decide which book to read first, but before I can read either, I need to finish my current book, The Diary of a Provincial Lady written by E.M. Delafield (born Edmee Elizabeth Monica de la Pasture in 1890). It's written in the form of a diary by a long suffering Devonshire lady in the 1930s, who tries so hard to keep her ramshackled, upperclass household from falling into chaos.

I have read the first 20 pages and I am enjoying this book very much.  


Whilst George has been sleeping, I have been crocheting, so I thought I would show you my attempts at crochet. It has been years and years since I crocheted.  I remember the first thing I ever made in the 1970s was a doily and then I moved onto something much, much larger.... a poncho, using rows of different colours.  Do you remember when crocheted ponchos were the thing to wear?

This blanket started out life as a practise piece, to test my skills and to see how much I remembered, but when I showed it to Natasha, she loved it so much, that it is now, neatly folded and put away in my sewing room, waiting for Natasha to collect it, the next time she comes home.


.... and a closer look at the edging.  I love how the pink stands out.  

I of course, have two daughters, so I am currently crocheting a blanket for Danielle. I am using the same colours, but Danielle's has a twist to it.  I will show you when I have moved on a little more with it.

.... and after that, I am going to attempt a crochet fish tail blanket, which seems to be all the rage on Pinterest at the moment.  I have a certain little girl in mind, who I know will love it, especially as I am going to crochet the fish tail in various colours of pink.... her favourite colour.


After all that activity, a cup of coffee and a sit down was needed... I know the words say 'tea cup' but for me the cup is too large for tea, but it's the perfect size, for a cup of coffee.

So with my coffee on the table beside me and my new crochet project on the other side of me, it's time,


to put my feet up, sit back and relax and watch 'The African Queen'.... don't you just love old films.

Take care and I will see you next Thursday when I hope George will be well and things will be back to normal.

This week I will be joining,






As Always,






Thursday, 4 February 2016

AUBERGINES WITH TOMATO SAUCE

Good Morning to you,


You'll never guess how we spent Saturday afternoon?

.... we didn't do anything interesting.

.... and it certainly was not fun.

Actually, it is something I have avoided doing since Christmas time.... isn't that dreadful.  A full month of avoidance.

I think I had better tell you.

We cleaned our Rangemaster ovens.... I bet you didn't expect me to say that, did you.

.... and I hate the job. 

Is hate too strong a word. No I don't think so. For some reason or another it is a job I really detest doing. I resist cleaning my ovens for as long as humanly possible.  I don't ignore my ovens, I do check them each week and I think to myself, I'll do that job next week, I just haven't the time at the moment.... which of course isn't true, I just convince myself that it is.

.... you know what I am doing don't you. I am deflecting. I convince myself that all the other things I have to do, are far more important, so the ovens can wait to be cleaned for another week.

I suppose, I shouldn't detest the job, because I make the mess, don't I.  On second thoughts, that's not strictly true is it. It's the 'whatever I am cooking' which makes the mess.... yes, I feel much happier with that explanation.

.... and I hear you thinking, why is Daphne writing ovens, instead of oven. Did you think I had made a spelling mistake and not deleted the 's'.

I confess, I am the owner of two ovens, which makes double the work.... two ovens to clean, when I hate cleaning just one oven.... how silly is that.  Two ovens means double the cleaning and double the avoidance.

Now, I have to tell you, I'm not averse to clean ovens, in fact I love to see my ovens sparkling like new.  I love to see the racks without a mark on them.  I love to see the oven doors clean.... so why the resistance.... shall I be honest, yes I had better come clean.

Yes it's time to admit it.  

My name is Daphne and I don't want to be the one who cleans the ovens.

There, I've said it.  That's a weight lifted.... I feel a lot happier now.

I blame my father..... only kidding.  

My father used to clean our family oven every Sunday after our Sunday lunch.  It was routine.  The table would be cleared, the dishes washed, dried and put away and then it was the turn of the cooker to be cleaned..... and so the following Sunday the process would be repeated.  It makes sense doesn't it, because the more you clean the oven, the easier it becomes.  

I mean I am not thoroughly bad, I clean the top of the cooker each evening after supper.  I wipe down the outside of the cooker as well.... its just the inside which I cannot work up enthusiasm for.

There is guidance out there.  I have read blogs which encourage us to create a timetable, to do our housework, which of course is a brilliant idea and something I could do.... but I have to tell you, timetables and me, they don't work anymore.... and they don't need to, as I am retired and there's the rub, I feel I have all the time in the world. If something isn't done one day, it can be done another day and that is how the days turn into weeks and dare I say it, sometimes months.

I spent my working years with timetables to make sure that jobs were completed when they needed to be. I also had timetables for our girls after school activities, Brownies, Guides, Gym classes and swimming classes. If I am honest, I feel I've earned the right to be timetable free. 

Luckily I am with someone who really does not mind cleaning the cooker.... George is amazing, he does the lion's share of the work, and I come behind making sure everything is dried and spick and span.... if there are marks which George has missed, it is my job to remove them.... that's how we work. We work very well together, even though we are as different as chalk and cheese, but  after 45 years of marriage, we seem to have fallen into roles which work for both of us.

I am pleased to report, the ovens are sparkling once more, so I have made a conscious decision to clean them more often, as it will make my life a lot easier.

.... I do hope I can keep that promise.... what do you think the chances are.....probably 50/50 or would 60/40 be a fairer percentage.  

If I'm being honest, it's 100% as I speak to you. Yes I really mean it, but I think once the moment has gone, it's going to be more like 80/20.... sorry, but I feel, it's better to be honest.

.... all I can say is, thank heavens I have George.

So in return for George's hard work, I made him one of his favourite suppers.



Baked Aubergines with Tomato Sauce and Feta Cheese.  I say George's favourite.... he has quite a few favourites, so it's hard to pin down his actual favourite.... but he really did enjoy this aubergine dish.

So it's on with the pinnie and the music I am listening to today, is in honour of the most wonderful, Sir Terry Wogan, who passed away on Sunday.  Sir Terry was a radio and television presenter of the highest order.  I have listened to his programmes for years and he is the only person, who amidst the chaos of getting two little girls ready for school and a husband off to work, made me laugh. He had a wonderful sense of humour that will be missed by so many people. The BBC have been honouring Sir Terry for the past couple of days, with reminders of his broadcasts, which had me laughing out loud. We were also treated to Sir Terry's favourite music.

So today, in honour of Sir Terry, who had so much wit and wonderful Irish charm, I am playing a couple of songs which Sir Terry loved.


  
The first one is the beautiful song True Love from High Society sung by Bing Crosby and Grace Kelly.

.... and while I organise my ingredients, I am listening to the wonderful Nancy Wilson singing (You Don't Know) How Glad I am

Sir Terry, thank you so much for all the fun and laughter. I will never forget you. You will be missed.

THE INGREDIENTS
YOU WILL NEED
TO MAKE
AUBERGINES WITH TOMATO SAUCE
AND
 FETA CHEESE

2 large aubergines
200g Feta cheese
2 tablespoons of olive oil

TOMATO SAUCE

2 x 400g tins of tomatoes
2 cloves of garlic
1 teaspoon of sugar
1 medium onion
400 ml of chicken stock
3 sprigs of fresh basil
1 tablespoon of olive oil
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

HOW TO MAKE
AUBERGINES WITH TOMATO SAUCE
AND
FETA CHEESE

You will need.

1 round dish size 25cm x 25cm x 5cm
1 large or 2 medium sized baking trays
parchment paper


TOMATO SAUCE


Finely chop the onion.


Place 1 tablespoon of olive oil
into a medium sized pan
and add the chopped onion.
Cook until the onions
are translucent.


Crush the garlic
and
add to the onions. 
Cook for a minute or so.


Chop the tomatoes
and
add to the pan.


Add the sugar
and 
stir the ingredients together.


Add the
chicken stock
and stir.
Bring the mixture to a boil,
then reduce the heat,
to medium.
Cook for 25-30 minutes
until the sauce has thickened,
stirring occasionally.
(Do not place a lid on the pan as 
the sauce needs to reduce)


Chop the basil
and
add to the tomato sauce.


Season
with sea salt
and


freshly ground
black pepper.

WHILE THE TOMATO SAUCE
IS COOKING.

Pre-heat the oven to 180C/160C Fan


Wash
and
slice the aubergines
into 1/2 inch slices.


Place the parchment
paper onto the baking trays
and
arrange the sliced aubergines 
on the parchment paper.


Brush the sliced aubergines
with the remaining
olive oil.

Sprinkle with a little salt
and 
bake the aubergines
until golden in colour.


When one side
is golden,
turn over and brown the other side.
This takes about 30 minutes.

While the tomato sauce
and
aubergines are cooking


slice the 
Feta cheese into
small cubes.

NOW IT IS TIME
TO ASSEMBLE
THE AUBERGINES,
TOMATO SAUCE
AND
FETA CHEESE


Place a little of
the tomato sauce in the 
base of the dish,
just enough to cover the base of the dish.


Place the browned
aubergines on top.


Using your fingers
crush the Feta cheese
and
sprinkle over the aubergines.

Continue layering,
tomato sauce, aubergines and Feta cheese.

A little tip.
When layering,
place the aubergines on
top of each other,
then when it comes to
serving
the aubergines are stacked together
which makes it much easier to serve.


Finishing with the 
remaining Feta Cheese.

Place in the pre-heated oven
and
bake for 45 minutes.


By which time you
will have
a very healthy supper.


All you need
is
my Soda Bread with Black Olives
to dip into the sauce.

Enjoy.

Forgive me if you feel this recipe is a little long winded, but trust me it isn't really. Once the tomato sauce is cooking, the aubergines are easily sliced and baked at the same time.  

Talking of aubergines, normally I just slice the aubergines and think nothing about the size.  I just slice away automatically, but of course I needed to let you know how thinly to slice them, so I found my quilters ruler and I measured for you....now that's a first for me in the kitchen, but it combines my two loves, cooking and quilting.

I have used Feta cheese, because it is a cheese we love, but you could use another cheese of your choice.

The only thing I would mention, is do not serve this dish piping hot.  As with a lot of Mediterranean dishes, this dish tastes so much better, when it is served warm, as opposed to hot.

Whichever cheese you choose, I just know you will add this recipe to your repertoire.

Take care and I will see you next Thursday.

This week I will be joining,






Thursday, 28 January 2016

SODA BREAD WITH BLACK OLIVES

Good Morning to you,


I do love a good detective story.

I don't like anything which is violent, with scenes of blood and gore, I just love a good old fashioned whodunnit. I love films where you are told something has happened and it is left to your imagination. I enjoy films where there are no horrible images. To be honest, I really am squeamish. I like films, which I can sit and watch comfortably, without having to bob up and down, to hide my face behind a pillow, each time something awful happens. I find it so exhausting that by the end of the film, I'm a nervous wreck.

So I was pleased to discover there is a wonderful detective series, which requires no pillow, showing on the television at the moment.

No, not Agatha Christie mysteries, which incidentally I love, but,

.... a wonderful series called Father Brown.... I love it. Honestly I cannot recommend it highly enough.  If you are a lover of old style detective stories, with charming characters and beautiful scenery, then this is for you.

Let me tell you a little bit about Father Brown.

Father Brown, is a fictional Roman Catholic priest, created by G.K. Chesterton over 100 years ago. Father Brown is an unusual priest, because along with his parish duties, he always seems to get embroiled in investigations of crime, which happen in his village.  He is a bit of an amateur detective, much to the chagrin of the local constabulary, because whenever a crime is committed, Father Brown is around, getting 'in the hair' of the chief inspector, who in turn feels Father Brown should stick to his church duties and not interfere with police investigations. By the end of the series the chief inspector, gradually, but begrudgingly, comes to respect Father Brown's intuitiveness.

The characters are marvellous.

Mark Williams plays Father Brown beautifully.  You will remember Mark as the father of Ron Weasley in the Harry Potter films. I love his quirkiness and he makes you really love the character of Father Brown. Trust me, you will fall in love with him.

Sorcha Cusack is marvellous as Mrs Bridgette McCarthy, the parish secretary. I think it would be fair to say, she is a little bit of a busy body, but with a good heart.... and she wears the most fabulous hats.

Nancy Carroll, well, she is brilliant playing Lady Felecia Montague, the bored aristocrat who vies with Mrs McCarthy for the attentions of Father Brown. Each of the lady's spend much of their time, trying to outdo each other, to capture Father Brown's attention. Mrs McCarthy thinks Lady Felecia is just 'decorative', with nothing else to do, but to spend her time on her appearance. In one of the episodes the ladies decide to help Father Brown, because he has broken his leg and cannot get around. Father Brown asks them to find a letter, which he has seen, being thrown into a dustbin, which he feels is crucial to the investigation. The ladies stand beside the dustbin and both hesitate to put their hands inside. Lady Felecia says 'I can't possibly put my hands inside the dustbin as these gloves are Chanel darling'. Mrs McCarthy replies 'I'm sure Chanel will never know'.... but underneath it all, as much as they bicker, they do like each other.  Have I said too much, I hope not, I am trying to give you a flavour of the characters.

Alex Price plays Sid Carter, the chauffeur of Lady Felecia, and a bit of a rascal.... but lovely with it. Although he is Lady Felecia's chauffeur he always seems to be running errands for Father Brown and getting involved in his investigations.


Now I had better stop, before I start giving too much away, but I would say, if you are a lover of Miss Marple you will really enjoy Father Brown.

Perhaps you have a favourite series you can share. For instance, both Phyllis, my mother and Sadie, my mother-in-law, love Murder She Wrote with Angela Lansbury.  I have been known to ring Phyllis for a chat, then ring Sadie afterwards and they are both watching Murder She Wrote.  A little like the time I told you when George, one Saturday afternoon, was watching a cowboy film, later we discovered, his father was watching the same film and both of his brothers.... as they all love cowboy films.

The series of Father Brown now showing, is a repeat, because I missed it first time around and as it happens, what I am making today, is also a repeat,



this Soda bread... but there are a few differences in the recipe and this time I have added olives to the mix.  I was not sure if it would work, but I am so pleased to say it has, so now I feel confident sharing this recipe with you.

So it's on with the pinnie and the music I am listening to today



is a step back in time.  Do you remember Bobby Rydell?

I heard this song on the radio the other day, and it made me smile.  Listen to Forget Him and tell me what you think.... I even remembered all the words.

So while I organise my ingredients I am listening to, Wild One but first, George and I are having a little bop around the kitchen... this is certainly George's style of dance music.


INGREDIENTS 

YOU WILL

NEED
TO MAKE
SODA BREAD WITH BLACK OLIVES

450g wholegrain flour
23 medium sized black, stoned olives
1 heaped teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon of salt
300ml buttermilk
1 large egg
1 tablespoon water
olive oil to brush around baking tin
1 sheet of aluminium foil to cover baking tin.

HOW TO
MAKE
SODA BREAD WITH BLACK OLIVES

Pre-heat oven to 190C

Brush a 19 cm loose bottom cake tin 
with olive oil. Then line the base
with parchment paper.


Place the flour,
the


bicarbonate of soda
and the
salt
into a large mixing bowl 
and 
stir the ingredients together.
Set aside for the moment.


De-stone the olives
and
cut into quarters.
Set aside for the moment.


In a separate bowl
whisk the egg
and


 the buttermilk
and add 
the


chopped olives.
Mix everything together.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients
and
mix everything together
to form a soft dough ball.



You might find at this point you will need
to add a little water to 
bring the mixture together.


Place the dough ball in the
pre-prepared cake tin.
Pat down the dough ball to fit the cake tin.


Cover with tin foil
and bake for 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes, remove the tin foil
and return the soda bread to the oven.

Bake for a further 20 minutes,
but I would check the bread after 15 minutes.
I'm not sure why, but sometimes the
baking takes a further 20 minutes and
other times it takes 15 minutes.


Remove the soda bread from the cake tin
and allow to cool
a little on a wire rack.


Slice
and
as I always say,


Enjoy.

I thought you would like to see how the black olives had settled in the bread.  Now the amount of olives I gave you was quite exact wasn't it.... 23 in all.  The reason for this is, I had 23 olives which I wanted to use up and so, as a trial, I decided to add them to this soda bread.

Way back in 2012... gosh is it that long, we made soda bread and I shared with you how I made the cross a little too large,  so the bread became a little misshapen.  It did not spoil the taste and texture, it just looked a little odd. Well I recently discovered the book, The Handmade Loaf written by Dan Lepard and if you are a lover of bread making then this is the book for you. This is where I came upon Dan's technique of covering his Waterford Soda Bread with tin foil.  I forgoed the cross and I tried Dan's technique and it makes so much sense, the soda bread rose evenly, making it easy to slice the soda bread evenly.  Not that even slices is really that important, but I have found it is easier to toast the soda bread and also to make open sandwiches.

So I am proud to say, there are no mistakes this time.

Just before I leave you, I wanted to say, I have not been visiting you as much as I should just recently and also I have not replied to your lovely comments. Life has been a little hectic of late, but I promise to catch up with you in the coming week.

Take care, and as always, I will see you next Thursday.

This week I will be joining.


As Always,







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