Thursday, 22 January 2015

BROWN LENTIL SHEPHERD'S PIE

Good Afternoon to you,


I love where I live, as everyone is so friendly.

On most days, George and I go for a three mile walk  around the village and on our walks we meet all sorts of lovely people.

Yesterday, for instance, we met a lady with two of the most adorable 'Scottie' dogs, whose names were Millie and Rooney.  I immediately thought that Rooney was named after the football player, Wayne Rooney, but not so.  After talking to the owner, she said she had named her dog Rooney after Mickey Rooney, the actor. Who would of thought it.

When we first saw the lady approaching us in the distance, with her little dogs, both of us stopped talking to each other and broke out into a smile. We both knew we just had to stop and say hello. Both Millie and Rooney were so gorgeous, but the tale of their beginnings was not so rosy. I won't go into details, as it would be too distressing for you to hear, suffice it to say that both Millie and Rooney were found in a dog rescue shelter. Both dogs, who are brother and sister were there because they had been mistreated. The new owner had cared for the dogs for two years and it was so obvious that they were so well loved, but it was so sad to hear that it had taken Millie, who we could see was a nervous little dog, over a year to wag her tail.... how awful. The owner said the first time Millie wagged her tail was such a heartwarming experience that she cried with tears of joy.

We stayed to talk for a while and of course we fussed and stroked Millie and Rooney whilst we talked, but we knew after ten minutes that we had to let the lady carry on with her walk and we needed to be on our way.  As they left us, we watched them walking away and we could see that Rooney's tail was wagging beautifully, but little Millie's was less so. 

It is just so sad to think that a person or persons could be so cruel to these beautiful little dogs, but we consoled ourselves with the fact that both Millie and Rooney were now enjoying  a wonderful life, filled with love.  

Both George and I are hoping that in the near future, we will bump into these little dogs again, just so that we can give them a little more fuss, I'm sure both Millie and Rooney won't mind.

As we walked away, we turned back again to see that the lady had only managed to walk about 30 yards, before someone else had stopped to talk to her. We did wonder how long it would take her to complete her walk, if every few yards she was stopped by someone who wanted to talk to her and fuss Millie and Rooney.   I feel sure, that she would not mind, as she was a lovely lady and is probably very used to it by now. 

Talking of completing a task, it took me an age to cook this,


Brown Lentil Shepherd's Pie, not because it takes an age to make, but because the phone kept ringing and I had to keep stopping what I was doing, but,

I persevered and it was oh so worth it.  I have not made this dish for a year or so, and then I received this months edition of Good Housekeeping, a magazine I love. Inside was a recipe for a vegetarian Shepherd's Pie and it reminded me that I had not shared with you my version.  So I thought it time to remedy that situation.

So, it's on with the pinnie and the music I am listening to today, might surprise you.  The album is,



'X' by Ed Sheeran.  Whilst there are a couple of tracks that don't float my boat, the vast majority do and I feel it is always good to be open to new music. Listen to,


'Tenerife Sea'
'Thinking Out Loud'
and
'Afire Love'

which include the words,


'I would look into your eyes until the sun comes up
and we're wrapped in light and life and love.
Put your open lips on mine and slowly let them shut
for they're designed to be together.
With your body next to mine our hearts will beat as one
and we're set alight, we're Afire love'

They are such beautiful words.

So with 'Even My Dad Does Sometimes' playing, it is time to organise my ingredients.


INGREDIENTS
TO MAKE
BROWN LENTIL SHEPHERD'S PIE

THE FILLING

1 large onion
1 large carrot
125g chestnut mushrooms
1 tablespoon of tomato paste
1 clove of garlic
60 ml red wine (optional)
1/2 pint chicken stock
400g tin of tomatoes
400g tin of brown lentils
or
200g of dried lentils
1 tablespoon of olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

THE TOPPING

500g sweet potatoes
500g white potatoes
A knob of butter

Pre-heat the oven to 180C

HOW 
TO MAKE
BROWN LENTIL SHEPHERD'S PIE

THE POTATO TOPPING


Peel, 
the sweet potato
and
white potato
then
cut into chunks.

Pop into a pan of boiling, salted water
and cook until tender.

When tender, strain the water
and
mash the potato
with 


a knob of butter.
Replace the lid on the saucepan
and set aside until needed.

THE FILLING


Finely chop the onions.


Place the olive oil into a wide pan
and
add the onions.

Using a moderate heat
cook until golden brown.


Chop the mushrooms into small
pieces
and
add to the pan.


Crush the garlic
and 
add to the pan
and cook for a minute or so.


Add the tomato paste
and 
stir into the ingredients.
Cook for a further minute.


Finely dice the carrot
and
add to the pan.
Again,
stir the ingredients together.


Add the wine,
and turn up the heat to
allow the alcohol to evaporate.
This should take a couple of minutes.


Reduce the heat.
Chop the tinned tomatoes
and add to the pan
along
with the


chicken stock.
(Looking at this photo you would imagine
it was a cup of tea, but no, honestly,
it is chicken stock.) 

Place a lid on the pan 
and
bring the ingredients to the boil,
reduce the heat
and 
simmer for 10 minutes.


Drain the tin of brown lentils
and wash
under cold, running water.

Add to the pan
and cook for a further 15 minutes.

After 10 minutes,
check,
firstly to make sure the carrots are cooked
and
secondly
if you find the mixture is getting a little too thick,
add a little water to loosen the mixture,
but not too loose
otherwise the mashed potato will 
sink into the filling.


Taste
and
season as necessary.

Give the ingredients a final stir.


Place the lentil mixture into a
relatively deep bowl
or 
deep pie dish

and


place the
mashed sweet potato/white potato on top.
I find spooning it around the edges
first and then filling in the centre
guarantees that I have an even spread of
potato.

Place in a pre-heated oven
for 45 minutes
 or until the top is crispy.

Then all there is left to do
is


spoon yourself
a
couple of scoops of
this
Brown Lentil Shepherd's Pie

and


enjoy!

I have to tell you that usually when I make this Shepherd's pie I make it with dried green or brown lentils. I cook them first, which takes about 40 minutes and whilst they are cooking I start making the mash potato topping, but last week, I was in a supermarket which were selling tinned brown lentils for 29p a tin and it was such a bargain that I decided to try them.... and I am so pleased I did, because it turned this dish into quite a quick meal to prepare.  I actually bought two tins, so when time is of the essence, I can make this Shepherd's pie again, quite quickly.

Also, I added red wine, sometimes I do and sometimes I don't.  If we have a little bit of red wine hanging around which has not been drunk, then I usually add it to a dish, but don't worry, if you have none, as the dish does taste just as scrummy without the wine.

Oh and I thought I would mention that I realise this is another recipe with sweet potato, but I have to tell you, I love sweet potato, and also, they are very reasonably priced at the moment, so I am enjoying them before they become too expensive.

Take care and I will see you next Thursday.





Thursday, 15 January 2015

SWEET POTATO SPAGHETTI

Good Morning to you,


I was wondering,

are you in the habit of making New Year's resolutions?

I used to be.

Religiously, every New Year's Eve I would make a list of three or four resolutions, which at the time of writing, I really meant to keep.

They were never earth shattering resolutions, they tended to be,

I must exercise more.
I must eat more healthily.
I must cut down on my much loved  chocolate.
I must make more time for myself.

..... as I said, not very earth shattering New Year's resolutions,

but this year, I have decided, I am not going to make any New Year's resolutions.  No, not even one. 

Absolutely not, instead I have decided on something completely different.  

Well actually, thinking about it, I suppose this could be classed as a New Year's resolution, but I prefer to think of it as more of a, 'wake up and smell the coffee' moment.

So what is it.

I have decided,  that from now on, I am not going to allow negativity to seep it's way into my life anymore.

Interestingly, I read this quote, and I have to tell you it resonated with me.

'If you are part of the wrong group,
nothing you do is right'

I cannot attribute this quote to anyone, because I discovered it in an old notebook of mine, which believe it or not is 15 years old. I have so many notebooks, which include shopping lists, Christmas present lists, notes on plants I want to buy, plants I need to move, music I hear on the radio..... random information, but all the notes are part of my daily life, but back to the quote. I obviously liked the quote enough to write it down at the time, but I had forgotten about it.  So here I am, in the year 2015 having decided this will be the year that I heed this advice.

Now I am not saying that I am surrounded by negative people, because I am not, I have some really lovely friends, but as you know,  all it takes, is one person to be the fly in the ointment.

Just one person to make you feel that whatever you do is never right.

So, I have 'girded my loins' and had a talk with myself.... and after much soul searching, I have decided to gently cut the person out of my life..... it will not  be easy to do, as I never want to hurt the person concerned.... crazy isn't it, I have to cope with the negativity, but I do not want to hurt the person who is causing the negativity.  

But do you know something, after fighting with the decision for so long, having made the decision, I feel so much better within myself.

I'm not sure that the person I am talking about will feel the same once she realises, but hey ho, this is for my sanity.

How about you, do you struggle with negativity? 

How about New Year's resolutions?  

Do you manage to keep the resolutions you make?

What I do love about a new year, is the idea, that we have a fresh canvas which we can paint any way which way we like.

... and this new year, brought me something new. Do you remember, last week I showed you a strange contraption  and I asked you if you knew what it was?  Well just incase you did not know, it is a Spiralizer.  It was a Christmas gift and I love it.  

With my new Spiralizer this is what  we are going to make today.


sweet potato spaghetti..... it is delicious.  We enjoyed the sweet potato spaghetti with salmon which I marinated in soy sauce, ginger and chilli.

So it's on with the pinnie and the music I am listening to today is another Christmas present.... I am very lucky indeed.



I have played this album over and over again and I absolutely love it.  If you love Barbara Streisand you will just adore this album.  I had never heard of Blake Shelton, but his voice is fabulous.  If I were really pushed to choose a favourite track, then I think it would have to be Barbara's duet with Blake..... but it only slightly nudged itself to be top of the pops, because I really love this whole album.

So with Barbara and Blake singing 'I'd Want It To Be You', it is time  to organise my ingredients.


INGREDIENTS
TO MAKE
SWEET POTATO SPAGHETTI

700g sweet potato
1/2 tablespoon of sesame seeds
1 tablespoon of toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon of dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon of fish sauce
2 tablespoons of sweet chilli sauce
1 tablespoon of olive oil

You will also need,
a Spiralizer
with a Chipper attachment

Pre-heat the oven to 180C

HOW 
TO MAKE
SWEET POTATO SPAGHETTI


Peel the sweet potato
and
cut it in half.


Attach one half
of the sweet potato
to the spiralizer

and


turn the handle
and
ta-daa,
you have sweet potato
which looks like spaghetti.


Place the second half
of the sweet potato
on to the Spiralizer
and
repeat the process.

At this point, you are going to feel that this
is much too much sweet potato spaghetti,
but trust me it isn't.


Oh and you will be left with
little pieces of sweet potato.
I just pop them into a zip lock
bag and use them when I am making
soup.


Brush a large baking tray
with
olive oil
and


place the 
sweet potato spaghetti
onto the baking tray
and
pop the tray into the oven for 10 minutes.

Whilst the sweet potato spaghetti
is in the oven,


make the dressing.

Add the toasted sesame oil,
the
dark soy sauce,


the fish sauce
and the
sweet chilli sauce


into a small bowl
and
mix the ingredients together.


After 10 minutes,
remove the sweet potato spaghetti
from the oven
and toss.
You will notice a few strands
have become a little
brown, but don't worry
this does not spoil the dish.

Return to the oven for a further
5 minutes or until the sweet potato spaghetti
is cooked.


When cooked,
place the sweet potato spaghetti
into a dish.
Here you can see how the sweet potato spaghetti
has reduced, so what seemed like
far too much sweet potato in it's raw state,
turns out to be enough for 2 when it
has been cooked.


Sprinkle over the sesame seeds

and


drizzle over the dressing.
Toss all the ingredients together.

Believe me when I say,
 if you are a lover of
sweet potato,
you will add this recipe to
your repertoire
and
 make it 
over and over again.


We enjoyed the
sweet potato spaghetti
with some Scottish Lochmuir salmon fillets.
Honestly,
I cannot stress enough
how much
we loved this recipe.

Now I have to tell you, the sweet potatoes which are available here at the moment are huge, so I found it difficult to Spiralize.  So I decided to cut the sweet potato in half. You might find that your sweet potatoes are smaller, so there will be no need to cut them in half.

As far as the dressing goes, please do not be put off by the smell of the fish sauce, it isn't the nicest of smells, but added to a dressing it works perfectly.  I add 2 tablespoons of sweet chilli sauce, to the dressing, but perhaps your preference is 1.  I would say, play around with the dressing and taste as you make it, then you will find the right flavour to suit you.  

Also you could toast the sesame seeds, but I find as I include toasted sesame oil, this imparts a lovely sesame flavour, but again, if you wish to you could toast the sesame seeds.

Now then, as for the price of a Spiralizer, I did not want to look up the price as it was a gift, but the Lakeland booklet popped through my letterbox yesterday and inside I saw a Spiralizer for £29.99p. Now as you know, gadgets do not impress me, and if I were to be honest, if I had seen a Spiralizer at an Ideal Home Exhibition, I would have passed it by and just thought of it as another gadget which if bought, would be popped into the cupboard, never to see the light of day again, but I cannot stress enough how impressed I am with this Spiralizer.  I feel for George and I, this is a unique way for us to enjoy vegetables. My Spiralizer sits on the shelf, so that I can pick it up and use it as and when needed, and I have to tell you, it has been needed quite a few times since I received it as a Christmas gift.

This week I am going to use another attachment to see how I can use a spiralized cucumber..... this is so much fun..... I am loving it.

So take care of yourself and I will see you next Thursday.











Thursday, 8 January 2015

HAPPY NEW YEAR

Good Afternoon to you,


Firstly, Happy New Year to you and your family.

It is wonderful to be back with you, as I have really missed your company.  

I am so sorry, that during the past couple of months, I could not find the time to sit down and share my recipes with you. I had so many Christmas recipes planned, yes your eyes did not deceive you, I did write planned, not my usual style I know, but for Christmas to run smoothly, as you know, there has to be a bit of planning involved, but  due to family commitments, I could not find the time to share the recipes.

So just for the moment, I will need to reduce the amount of time I write to you each week, so for now, instead of writing twice a week I will be reducing my posts to just once a week.  I have changed the date as well.... I will now be catching up with you each and every Thursday.  


So as today, is my first time of writing to you in 2015, I thought it would be fun to review the past year, which I always enjoy doing, because I don't know about you, but I am always pleased to see how much cooking I have done throughout the year..... and what I share with you is only two meals a week. Imagine if we catalogued all the meals we created, seven days a week, throughout the year...... our files would be bulging.


Do you remember in January we made,


beans in tomato sauce.
I realise a little
more effort
is required
as it is so much easier to
 open a tin of beans,
but,
if you have the time,
the extra effort is really worthwhile
as these beans are so 
much tastier.

Then of course,
 I really had to add one
of my
potato recipes,
because
as
you know 
 I love, love, love,
potatoes.


My
Potatoes Lyonnaise
were made in an unconventional
way,
but which work well for me.
Sorry to all my French friends if I
made you gasp in horror.

.... and
I just had to include
one of George's favourites,


steak pie with a rich gravy.
He so enjoyed this pie whilst watching 
the rugby on television.


I have to say,
one of 
the highlights of the year for me,
was when I was one of
the bloggers interviewed
and featured 
in the
Woman's Weekly Magazine.
What a thrill that was.
I still smile to myself every time I think
about the experience.


..... and really,
it would not be right
if I did not share
my love of chocolate.
These chocolate brownies were divine.
You might think the shape is a little odd,
well, I have to tell you,
 I baked these brownies
 with Phyllis
and I asked her if she would like to cut the
brownies into slices..... and this was the result,
a little off piste, but lovely
all the same.


If you have been reading my blog for a while
you will know about my love
 of Cypriot food, 
this is
my favourite Tzatziki recipe
using 
Greek Yoghurt.


Oh, I love Falafel,
oops
I did not notice at the time that I had
added an extra 's'.


I love aubergines 
especially
when used in
 Baba Ghanoush. 
Along with Tzatziki
and Falafel
these recipes
make me dream of warmer summer days.


Spaghetti Puttanesca
is a very quick and easy recipe,
perfect for when I need to whip
up a meal quickly.
My equivalent of fast food.


My Pear and Ginger 
Upside Down Cake
was lovely
and it is a recipe
I use over and over again
as it never fails to please.


The season for figs is 
very short,
so when they are available 
we eat them with gusto, just as they are,
but sometimes it is nice to do
something a little different
so 
another way to enjoy figs
 is to
wrap figs in prosciutto,
add a little cheese
and
bake..... delicious.


Another fruit I love
is peaches
and
baked peaches
with
crushed Amaretti biscuits
are delightful.
 I love the flavour of Amaretti biscuits.
Don't you just love the 
teacup and saucer.
It is so pretty.


Oh my word,
when I baked this pie
the kitchen was filled
with the gorgeous aroma of
 apples and blackberries
and
George lingered in the kitchen for
quite a while until this pie was ready to eat.


I love fish, and
this mackerel dip certainly 
hit the spot, especially
with my homemade
crisp breads.


As the weather turned
colder,
this 
turkey soup 
with 
pearl barley was a perfect
winter warmer.


 These are just a few of the many recipes we made during 2014.... and what do I have in store for 2015.

..... well one of the Christmas gifts I received was this odd looking contraption,




do you know what it is?

If you don't know, all will be revealed next week..... and no, just in case it had crossed your mind,  it is not an instrument of torture!

Just one more thing before I leave you, I want to say thank you to my friends who have been emailing me privately, I am sorry I have left it so long, but I promise, I will be catching up with you this week.

So take care of yourself and I will see you on Thursday.



































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