Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Parsnip and Baked Apple Soup

I came across this recipe last week when looking through Tamasin Day-Lewis' book "Good Tempered Food" and tried it out on the Husband. He raved about it and said it was really delicious and when was I going to make it again. Soon, dear. It is easy to make too.

Parsnip and Baked Apple Soup
1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped
750g parsnips, peeled and diced
1 large cooking apple
2oz butter
1.2 litres chicken or vegetable stock
6 sage leaves
salt, pepper, parsley leaves
  1. Score the apple around its circumference, core it and bake it in a dish with about 1/2 inch water and NO sugar. Bake in a hot oven until tender right through.
  2. Sweat the onion and parsnips in the melted butter for 10-15 minutes with some seasoning. Then pour on the stock and sage and simmer until tender. Fish out the sage leaves. Peel the baked apple and add it to the mixture. Liquidise until smooth. Check the seasoning and add some chopped parsley and a little cream if you wish. Serve.

Monday, November 28, 2005

The Day from Hell

Last Thursday I decided to visit my mother for the day, as she had been sounding a little down when I spoke to her on the phone. Now I live in Chelmsford, Essex, about 15 miles from the sea on the eastern coast of England. She lives in one of the suburbs of Cardiff, the capital of Wales. Now, despite the distances involved it usually isn't a difficult journey by public transport - just straight to London, tube to Paddington Station and a two hour train journey straight to Cardiff Central station and then a taxi. I can do a day trip, therefore, without any difficulty. Usually.

I got to the station here and up to London Liverpool Street easily. A tube train arrived promptly and took me straight to Paddington Station where I got on the right train, which left on time. So far so good.

About half-way between Paddington and Reading, with fields all around the train stopped. The carriage next to mine was filled with smoke and all the passengers moved into our carriage, At the same time there were urgent announcements for all buffet staff to return to the buffet. Then we waited some more. Then the conductor announced to one and all that the problem was nothing to do with the buffet but because three brake boxes were dragging along the ground and they were trying to mend the problem. Later another announcement said that they were awaiting the arrival of a maintenance team to repair the problem. Still later and finally we were told that the problem had been solved and the train now met Health and Safety requirements and we could move again. So we set off to Cardiff which we reached over two hours later than planned.

The taxi got me to where my mother lives at 4.30. She gets a bit fussed easily nowadays and was upset about the delays I had experienced and whether I'd be stranded there (I wasn't, after over 30 years of commuting to London by train I had experienced far worse than this before). Obviously I couldn't spend as much time with her as I usually do or would have liked as I needed to get home the same day.

Anyway, I got back to Cardiff Central station to discover that London bound trains were running about 20 minutes late. The winds from the Arctic promised by our weather forecasters had arrived and it was a chilly wait. The train arrived and got to London, taking at least 30 minutes longer than anticipated. A quick tube to Liverpool Street. As I arrived at that station I heaved a sigh of relief at the thought I had only a 40 minute train journey to home. I thought too soon though. No trains were leaving the station at all due to overhead cable problems at Romford and a broken down goods train at Chelmsford. I had an hour wait before the first train left Liverpool Street station, and then it took longer than usual to get home. Then the queues for taxis were so long I phoned up the Husband and got him to drive across town to pick me up. I got home well after midnight, fortunately just before the snows fell that so disrupted Britain on Friday.

Than, to add insult to injury the following two days I had a nasty tummy upset that laid me low. Whether it is the bug currently going around Cardiff or the effects of the junk food I ate to get me through the day I do not know. Anyway, I am back to normal now.

Such days don't happen very often. Just one of those things but I am glad it's over.

Thursday, November 17, 2005


My forehead is covered with perspiration...
my nose is running...
my tongue is on fire...
my breathing is harsh...
my temperature is too high...
and I think the wax in my ears is melting....

just what is it about men and Curry?

When the Husband handed me lunch today he said, rather grimly, "I deliberately made it mild for you". Well you could have fooled me. One bite of the chicken curry he had made and the top of my head almost hit the ceiling. And I felt hotter and hotter as I struggled to finish the gargantuan portion he had made me (he always has a slight problem over portion sizes, often a single portion of the meals he makes is enough for two or three).

I am convinced though that many men have a view of curry that says "the hotter the better". It is a total cliche over here that young men who have been out drinking then go to the nearest Indian take-away for a hot curry - and they compete on who can eat the hottest. Well, I'm afraid I prefer some subtly to taste than just heat in the curries I eat. It also isn't, I believe, a traditional Indian thing to go for very hot curries. I can remember that sometime ago I worked in a building adjacent to Waterloo Station in London (the building now overlooks Waterloo International) and one member of the team was a really nice Indian lady of ~ahem~ somewhat mature years. One lunchtime we all went out to an Indian restaurant close to the office building and the men there insisted on ordering. The curry that appeared was too hot for the Indian lady, and she told us that she didn't know one Indian person who would eat a curry that hot.

The husband made the curry with some left-over chicken and various bits in the fridge and store-cupboard. For two portions he used four big fat cloves of garlic. Well, it should keep the vampires away, I suppose.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Thought of the Day

And inside you is your real freedom, because your consciousness cannot
be touched by anybody. You are the only master of your being.


From today's Meditation Tip of the Day

Friday, November 11, 2005

Interesting Mashed Potatoes

Now the term "Interesting Mashed Potatoes" is one that personally I consider somewhat of a contradiction in terms as I find mashed potatoes generally somewhat boring. We do have it at home with some meals. For example the Husband is very fond of them with sausages with onion gravy for example and when he dishes it up I do eat it. Anyway, I have recently treated myself to a new recipe book called "The Kitchen Diaries" by Nigel Slater. The book is big, about 400 pages and basically is a record of what he has cooked each day over the course of a year, with recipes and comments on foods. It is really fascinating and well-worth reading. As the book is very fat and covers a whole year I am trying to read the entry for the day I am living though, to get inspiration, etc for future meals.

Anyway, browsing through the book over the last couple of weeks I came across a couple of entries for mashed potatoes. For the entry for 31st October to have with sausages he suggests "Mustard Mash": this is mashed potatoes flavoured with Dijon mustard and grain mustard - he suggests 1 tablespoon of each in enough mash for two people. The Husband did this with the aforementioned sausages and onion gravy last weekend and it was delicious, Well worth remembering for the future.

The entry for 9th November included "cheese mash", which is basically 125g of grated mature cheese like Cheddar, Lancashire or Wensleydale in enough mashed potatoes for four. Now I haven't tried this yet but I think it well worth considering for the future. Interestingly the entire meal comprised a roast chicken with garlic gravy served with roast potatoes and no other accompaniments then followed by the cheddar mash with the gravy. I must admit that I am not too sure about this meal with no green vegetables and two lots of potatoes. But the cheese mash itself sounds promising.

Obviously one could vary the amount of mustard or cheese that one added to the mashed potatoes, according to personal taste.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Modern Improvements?

Once upon a time if you had bought a new computer printer you just bought it home, took it out of the box, connected the cable to the computer and the power cable to the electricity socket, turned on the printer and you were ready to use it.

Nowadays you buy the printer and bring it home. Then you remove vast quantities of packaging, the disposal of which will have a significant effect on the ozone layer. Then amonst the packaging you find an unconnected bit and work out that it is the English language front panel of the printer and snap it into place which takes a good five minutes fiddling. Then you try to work out which two of the three printer cartridges also buried in the packaging needs to be inserted immediately into the printer and do it. Then you plug the transformer into the electricity cable which in turn is plugged into the electicity socket. Then you turn to the computer and insert one of two CDs which also came with the printer. Once the installation wizard has started up you (a) plug the printer into the computer and (b) much against your better judgement you turn off your Internet Security programme so that the firewall doesn't affect all that is going on in the computer's innards. Then the CD takes about 20 minutes to download and install all of the many, many files connected with the printer. Then you restart your Internet Security software. Then the printer's software connects with its home via the Internet and starts to ask you questions when you have no idea of the implications of your answers. Then you have finished and the printer is ready to use. Then you realise that the new printer will not fit into the space left by the old one. So you have to reorganise the tabletop the screen and mouse stands on so that it can accommodate the printer as well. Then you sit back and contemplate the fact that because you wanted faster printing speeds from a more reliable printer you have bought lots of facilities you do not need and will not need unless you buy a digital camera.

Ain't progress wonderful.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Real life?

There are times when something appears on the news which, if presented in a work of fiction or a tv programme, wouldn't be accepted as being just too ridiculous and improbable.

Ross Kemp has a reputation as a tough man. He acts in a BBC soap opera called Eastenders as a character who is very tough man. The police were called to his house following complaints of a disturbance. It turns out he had been hit by his wife who is the editor of the Sun newspaper, the best-selling newspaper in the UK, which is currently undertaking a campaign against domestic violence. At the same time, the actor who plays his equally tough brother in the same soap, was being beaten up by his ex-girlfriend. See here for what we are all laughing about.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Interesting Websites

There are a few websites and blogs that I've either just found or look at on a regular basis that I thought worth while mentioning here. Eventually I will burrow through the depths of this blog's software to add them to the list of Interesting Sites but until then - here they are.

Mentioned in today's Times T2 supplement was the getcrafty site which looks a lot of fun. I've deliberately started by linking to the Editor's page as her writing seems quite inspirational for those who love crafts of all sorts.

I am a great fan of the author Jenny Cruisie and have read virtually all of her books, like "Manhunting", "Strange Bedfellows", "Welcome to Temptation", "Faking It" and "Bet Me". She writes well and with wit, romatic books which are more than just romances. And she has a new blog that I love reading. It is called Argh Ink and sets out the life of a published and well regarded writer who is also trying to deal with her own life and family and to cope with the ex-Special services author that she is collaborating with on a book called "Agnes and the Hitman. Or as he likes to call it "Shane and the Food Columnist". She cooks, he kills, they have great sex. And the shoes are to die for. Literally." The blog is funny and human and I love reading it. And it is the sort of blog that you can read every post from the beginning and really enjoy.

Another author I really like is Mary Janice Davidson, whose book about a smart-alec female vampire Betsy "Undead and Unwed" is one of the funniest books I think I have read for a long time. Its sequel "Undead and Unemployed" is equally as good. I am frustrated that I have to wait until 2006 for the next books in this series to come out in paperback. But I now have some of her other books. Anyway the author has a blog called MJ's Musings which I also love to read.

Finally another blog, this time one on knitting. Stephanie Pearl-Mcphee is passionate about knitting. And yarn. Somehow much of her life revolves about these pasttimes in a funny and vey human way. Her blog Yarn Harlot is another one I look at daily.