Friday, 29 February 2008

Lamb Stew

I often buy local whole lambs from a couple of friends of mine, so sometimes I am left with odd bits, half a shoulder blade here, a scrag end of neck there. As I was rummaging through my freezer the other day I noticed a few odds and ends and decided to make them all into a lamb stew.

I put a few carrots in mine, I've always put vegetables in stews, its a sneaky way to get children to eat some vegetables and I like the way the carrots suck up the flavour and leave a sweetness to the stew, but if you don't like it, leave it out.

Its difficult to give weights for a stew, this is a rough guide.

In this stew there was,

4 pounds of lamb left on the bone
3 large onions
6 large cloves of garlic
1.5lb of carrots, peeled and chopped into nice big chunks
1 bottle of red wine in this case it was a Fitou
1 50g tin of anchovies
2 lamb stock cubes
1 good tablespoon of tomato puree
1 good tablespoon of fresh chopped rosemary or 1 teaspoon of dried
1 tablespoon of oil for frying
water
salt and black pepper
possibly a little cornflour

Slice the onions, fry gently, add the meat having cut off any obvious spare fat, brown the meat, then add the garlic at this stage, otherwise you will burn it and then it will be bitter, fry for a couple of minutes being careful not to burn the garlic, add the wine, tin of anchovies, stock cubes, carrots, tomato puree, rosemary, black pepper, but not the salt, you can check the seasoning in a couple of hours, you have added stock cubes and anchovies so it may not need any. Top up with water so that the liquid is just covering the meat and pop in a medium oven for a couple of hours or so, or in a low oven for longer. Check it every so often just incase it gets too dry.

Just before popping in the oven.

Cook until the meat is very tender and falling off the bone, then take the meat off the bone and slightly shred it, skim the fat off as there will be plenty. If you have time, let it go cold to room temperature, then chill it in the fridge and lift the fat off. Look at the thickness of the stew you may need to thicken it a little with cornflour. During all of this check for seasoning, you may need to add a little salt and more pepper. Then gently reheat in the oven.

You could at the gently reheating stage go the extra mile and add dumplings.

I will serve it with mashed potatoes and something green and leafy.

Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Did the earth move for you..

Well apparently it did for me,

news of earthquake

Me, well I was fast asleep but having met up with my folks today and Auntie Barbara and Uncle Werner I was told all about it, even in Warwickshire Auntie Barbara's large mirror hanging on her chimney breast was bouncing up and down and Dad who at the time was watching CSI (how old are you!!) described the rumblings in great and graphic detail.

Us girls, Mum, Auntie Barbara and I escaped to the conservatory to enjoy coffee and chat, whilst the boys were able to engage in their manly conversations in peace. Well actually its the other way around, we got to chat without interruption, you know how it is.. I showed the girls my holiday knitting, they were most impressed.

But when I showed my Dad, well, it was Amazing, he nearly took my knitting to bits, he examined every piece in great detail, studying it at length, looking at seams, decreases, increases, finishings off, testing the rib, looking at the pattern in great detail, he knew what he was looking at. I watched him whilst he was doing this, he was loving it and you know what, I was loving it too.

It was his mother that originally taught me how to knit, it was Him that caused the trouble, on my very first knitting experience with plastic brightly coloured needles and the brightest pink wool you could ever imagine. I had slowly managed to knit about seven rows of a scarf one Sunday evening under the direction of my Grandmother. I galloped home on Monday after school and mum greeted me, I darted into the living room where I had carefully left my knitting and it wasn't there. Mum had followed me, I turned around, in innocent tones "where's me knitting". Mum started to look shifty, even at that age I recognised the signs.. "Well" in a high pitched tone, "your dads been helping you" "helping me?", I replied. "Yes, well helping you" At this point I think my mother dried up and gave me my knitting.... I Howled,.

He had knitted about 12 inches of my scarf, with two huge holes in it each the size of my fist. Mum said that he'd made one mistake and just as he was trying to close up the hole to make my knitting easier he made another.. You have got to laugh, this fellow, my Dad is huge, his hands are enormous, so to knit for several hours with brightly coloured needles and pink wool, well, you only have to admire the knitter within.

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

I would like to introduce...

Utterly Good Grub

Leek and Potato Soup

I thought it was time to start blogging about food, I thought an independent blog might be the thing to do. One of my reasons for blogging is son no.2 will be off to uni in a couple of years time and you never know, son no.1 might leave home, well in the next thirty years, so I thought it might be nice to have a written record of some of my recipes, just in case they want to recreate something that mum used to make.

I always try to cook as seasonally as possible, however we do need to import food in the winter months in this country. I don't really agree with strawberries in December, but somehow imported bananas seem okay. I'm not going to make any statements about what is right and what is wrong, I would like to say we only eat organic free range chicken, but that is simply not the case, maybe it will be when I am no longer feeding teenage boys on a daily basis.

Soup has always been a passion of mine, from enjoying home made chicken and vegetable soups on a Monday evening made from the carcasses of chickens from Sunday lunch. (we always had two chickens, there were seven of us) Nans homemade lamb and pearl barley broth/stew/soup, which she always seemed to have on the go on a slow simmer on the coke stove in the kitchen. It certainly fitted the bill in the ice cold winters we used to have, it had lovely glistening yellow globs of fat in and homegrown, straight out of the garden earthy sweet carrots and swede. At the age of 10 my class were taught how to make French Onion soup or at least a version of it, we were not allowed to bring alcohol to school at that age! It was delicious. To me a pan of homemade soup bubbling on the stove is a very reassuring loving thing. The first occasion I was invited to hubbys home with a group of friends after a few sherberts down the local hostelry, he certainly had no intention of feeding guests that evening, but whilst whipping up a chow mein he offered me a bowl of homemade sweetcorn and ginger soup which he had made from scratch, stock included. It was absolutely delicious, lets just say I was very impressed. My food passions change but in one way or another I always come back to soup. So it seems fitting to start my blog with a soup recipe.

Firstly, save your chicken carcasses, place them in a carrier bag and pop them in the freezer, they quickly mount up. My preserving pan which I use as a stock pot takes about five to six chicken carcasses to make a huge amount of stock, which I then freeze.

To make chicken stock, for me anyway, I just use chicken carcasses and water, you can add onion, carrots etc to the pan, but I don't. I just like the pure flavour of the chicken. You can off course cheat, there is a liquid chicken stock which is very good, I think its a little salty and is quite expensive, but if it inspires you to make homemade soup, well, that can only be a good thing. So to make your own, bring your chicken carcasses and water to the boil and simmer very gently for the longer the better, two hours is a minimum, four would be better. Strain through a sieve.

I think you need twice the amount of leeks to potato, its not an exact science, I just tend to know when its about right. Some recipes call for half and half, food is about what you like to eat, so feel free to change the recipe.

Todays recipe has an extra treat of using my home grown leeks and potatoes.

The ingredients were,

1lb 10 oz of trimmed and washed leeks.
13 oz of peeled potatoes
2 pints of chicken stock
1/2 pint of milk (today it was semi-skimmed but use full fat or skimmed, its fine)
2 oz butter
salt and pepper

Trim the leeks leaving about an inch or so of dark green, then slice them and fill a sink full of water and wash them, popping as many of the rings out as you can, this is to ensure there is no dirt or grit left in them. Dry the leeks and gently fry them in the butter.



When they are soft add the potatoes which you have diced up into 1 inch chunks and the stock and simmer gently until the potatoes are cooked, whiz with a hand blender or mash them as finely as you can, some people leave it quite rough, which can be very nice too.




Add the milk and season to taste, its probably better to use white pepper, but if you don't have any it just means you will have black specks in your soup. Then reheat gently, do not boil after you have added the milk, if you do accidentally boil the soup, its not the end of the world it just means that it will look a little curdled, it will still taste the same.

You could make this with cream or you could make a skinny version, you do need a little bit of butter though, it does make a difference to the flavour.

relax and enjoy

Leeks, parsnips, potatoes and swedes

are just some of my treasures from the plot today, I also took some onions and shallots from storage. We have some nice spring cabbages developing for Sunday lunch, along with some purple sprouting and kale. The brussels are finished, we didn't seem to do very well with those this year.

I'm getting quite giddy with excitement at the thought of all the sowing to come. This weekend is promised to the plot, I must get some of my brassicas started or we will not be enjoying our summer cabbages or lovely cauliflowers.

The days are getting longer, I can feel spring is very nearly sprung.

This afternoons duties involve making delicious leek and potato soup starting with rescuing lots of chicken carcases from the freezer.

Monday, 25 February 2008

Another landmark in life.

My oldest son, my first born child, passed his driving test today.

Do I feel old, yes, Do I feel inadequate as I have not passed mine, yes. Will I worry, abso bleeding lootly,

But mostly, I feel very proud.

Scarfs

Seafoam scarf half way through, trying to catch real seafoam in the picture.




Seafoam scarf finished, I love this scarf. I will post all details after I've found the necessary whilst unpacking. Its a lovely scarf to knit, has a really nice rhythm to it, I enjoyed it very much and will probably be making many more.


My so called Scarf. For me anyways this scarf requires concentration, I tend to make silly errors or my bain goes wibbly wobbly and I become easily confused if I knit this when I'm tired in the evening. So this is one to knit for half an hour at a time during the day, therefore its coming along rather slowly. It is lovely though and I can see just how lovely it will be for next autumn.

Sunday, 24 February 2008

I'm home.

I'm back, a few days early. Hubby has projects at work to complete and was feeling a little edgy about time constraints etc, so I trotted home with him tonight. (just incase he gets snowed under and I get stuck) its all okay though, I was ready to come home and see my boys although I had to maintain a zen like composure when I saw the state of the house. I have to admit and all those that know and love me will agree, I am not the best of housekeepers, but even I draw the line at an upended kitchen bin which the dogs have routed through and scattered rubbish in the middle of the living room. Breathe Mandy, Breathe.

I will share my piccies of knitted projects and beach walks later in the week, But this story just tickles me at the moment.

Hubby and I decided to visit the New Forest on the way home, I love ponies and horses but I have no experience of them and to be honest I am nervous. I wish I wasn't because they are so beautiful, but I am.

This picture is taken, as at the same time I'm saying to hubby, "How near is she getting" and I reach for the electric window winder to wind the window up a bit, press the wrong one, become slightly hysterical, then press mine the wrong way so it completely opens, become even more hysterical, hear this weird screaming sound (which was me) as the ponies head enters the car, try to crawl over hubby to get away, even though I am still strapped in, still screaming hysterically and really loudly, have dropped the camera by this point and am screaming for hubby to help me. Who is.... sitting and laughing at me. He eventually after watching me screaming and shaking for a few more seconds does help me and presses the right button to close the window.

I sit there for a few seconds trying to regain my composure,, the pony is so gentle and just waits but we all know, us three, what just happened.


She lets me stroke her lovely soft nose, and then...


just to reward her gentleness we manage to find a few oatibix. I'm sure there are rules about this, but it was only a few and ponies eat oats don't they?

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

A quick update.

The weather here is still very good. It brightened up this afternoon until we had blue hazy skies, which was certainly an improvement on the weather forcast. I have heard that there was snow up North. I wonder if any made it to the Midlands, as I know just how much Carie is longing for it.

I have managed to sew together my secret knitting. It took hours, (said in pained tones)but it is knitted up and resembles the article it is meant to. I just have to sew in all the ends and place buttons appropriately.

Must go as the library computer is just about to log me off. An hour can really fly by.

Monday, 11 February 2008

Blue skys in Boscombe

Some people find an internet cafe whilst abroad, often from lovely mysterious places, me, well, I found one in Boscombe.

I've taken piccies, but I have no idea how to download them in an internet cafe and I am afraid I'll do something silly and lose them from my camera.

The weather here is lovely, I walked, played and knitted for three hours on the beach today, I walked to Bournemouth and back which my husband assures me to my rented flat will be a four mile hike. So, the fitness levels are on the up.

I have finished my Seafoam scarf, am slowly knitting my My so called Scarf and have a learning curve/love/hate/stop/start, with extra research relationship with my secret project. Please send knitting blessings as along with this, it looks very probable that I may run out of wool!!

Things I have learnt whilst enjoying my holiday.

If you wind a skein of wool with a golden retriever in the room there will still be bits of fur attached to it, even if you are knitting said wool in a dog free zone, aka the holiday flat.

Trying to cook mashed potato for one is not very successful. Somehow you need a certain ratio of spud to pan.

There is one, one, knitting shop I have found in Christchurch, nothing in Boscombe unless you count the post office that sells a reasonable amount of acrylic. Of the six shops that I had printed out to find, hubby and I found one, it looks like the others have closed. Which made me realise just how blessed we are.

I get to bed earlier, as I do not have the wonderous internet to distract me.

I really, really do enjoy my own company.

Well, what have I been doing apart from knitting. I've been to museums and art exhibitions, beaches, restaurants, cafes, antiquing, walked lots and still have lots on my to do list.

See you when I get back!