Another side to Stockholm

I first visited Stockholm in Spring 2018, practically the same dates as this year, although this time we were there for a very different reason.

In May 2018 we did the usual tourist trips ( http://perpetually49.com/stockholm-in-the-spring/). We were lucky again with the weather and this time we spent the majority of the time walking in the easily accessible parks and riverside trails seeing a different side to the city.

We stayed in the suburb of Aspudden, the local Metro trains made travelling around the city very easy.

lake at Vinterviken

A new find was the park known as Vinterviken (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vinterviken).

Originally the site of Alfred Nobel’s dynamite factory it now hosts really good cafés and a restaurant area, parks, small lakes, gardens. Allotments, attended to by local inhabitants, in the park are open to the public (as long as they do not pick the produce and remember to keep the gates closed to keep the deer away!). In our 10 days we must have visited 4 times, it is a very popular area for family gatherings and walks yet never appeared crowded.

My tourist guide (Lonely Planet) had an 8Km walk along the water’s edge in the city which we followed one evening, it was not difficult although had a couple of ‘uphill’ sections. It meandered through historic houses and views of the city, then alongside the water’s edge of Gamla Stan, passing the Royal Palace, the Medeltidsmusset, over the Noroboro (north Bridge) to Steppsholem. This is one of the many small islands that are part of the city and it led onto the islet of Kastelholmen to view the Kastellet Fortress.

All the time enjoying the panoramic views across the water. Once we had finished we realised – the walk was not a circular route and we then had a 4Km walk back to our restaurant for dinner (‘could have thought that one through’ I said).

Now, my husband loves a museum and is always determined to read every printed word on every display and I always have to ‘manage’ such visits in order not to be the last visitor at closing time. The museum of choice for this visit was the Medeltidsmusset (https://medeltidsmuseet.stockholm.se/in-english/). This small area of the city’s history was only discovered when the site was being prepared as a car park – the diggers unearthed preserved city walls! A museum depicting medieval life was constructed and opened to the public. We invested in the audio guide – which was very informative so I would recommend it. The cost was small and as entrance to the building is free I felt we had contributed. The added bonus of the audio guide was that my husband had to keep up with me as we had one machine with a dual set of earphones (!). We were in and out in just over an hour – a small but very interesting museum.

Nearby was an outdoor café with seating overlooking the water so purchasing coffee and cake we sat to watch what we thought was a local festival –  it was the mid-point of the annual Stockholm Marathon. So we leisurely watched both energetic runners and the strollers before moving on.

Whilst we did see plenty that was that was new to us we also re-visited areas that had impressed us on our previous visit and one of those was ‘Meatballs for the People’. As suggested by its name this restaurant’s focus is the national dish – meatballs. Again, lunch was tasty and I suspect this is somewhere we will visit every time.  http://meatball.se/en-se I would recommend going at lunchtime, evenings are very popular and the queue is literally out on the pavement.

Another re-visit was to the Fotogrfiska, the photography museum in the city https://www.fotografiska.com/. The main exhibition was a selection of the work of Jesper Waldersten – not known to me although I did find it interesting https://www.fotografiska.com/sto/en/news/jesper-waldersten-all-over/. There are also smaller exhibitions and visiting the museum café is very worthwhile, try to obtain a seat near the windows and watch the boats pass as you eat delicious traditional foods.

Stockholm is very much an island city so you will not be surprised to find that sight-seeing by boat is very popular and readily available.

Last year we took the short trip to the royal palace at Drottningholm and this year we decided to travel further afield taking a 2.5 hour round trip along the Stockholm Archiplelago to Vaxholm. The day was sunny and the water calm so even ‘seasick’ husband managed to relax and enjoy the journey, helped by listening to the guide using the Tannoy, pointing areas of interest and snippets of local history. It was possible to leave the boat at Vaxholm and return later in the day.

 

From what we could see the area certainly looked worth a visit – we have added it to our list for next time.

 

 

As well as the many parks easily accessible from Aspudden there were also the small islands to explore and one that we all enjoyed was the island of Langholmen. An easy walk from the Hornstull metro station the island once housed a large prison (currently a hostel and museum) although now a popular site for both locals and tourists.

There are walks, water, bathing, boats and cafes. On a warm sunny day there is nowhere better, and I am guessing that a brisk walk along its shores in the winter is also a joy.

 

 

 

Sweden’s National Day is June 6th and is celebrated with parades, displays of national dress and the Royal family attending a public event in the open-air museum at Skansen. The city was busy that day but in a good humoured and friendly way.

 

 

And the main reason we had dashed to Stockholm – our first grandchild – and with no bias (?) I can say he is an absolute cutie.   

 

 

Portuguese Custard Tart

I am not a great lover of pastry – pies and tarts – but I do like Portuguese Custard Tarts. I have enjoyed many when abroad, as well as from London’s Brixton and Borough Markets where they do taste authentic, unlike others I have purchased from local supermarkets, (although not yet in Portugal, still a country I have to visit).

Anyway, thought I would ‘give it a go’ and try making my own. A mixture of success and error, mostly errors, and as the saying goes ‘you  should learn from the mistakes of others as you will not live long enough to make them all yourself’ I thought I would share my experience.

I used a recipe from Pinterest – just Google ‘Portuguese Custard Tarts’ and read through the hundreds of options then pick one that appeals to you. The one I choose was written very simply in a ‘Steps’ format (appealed to the Simpleton in me)

Gather together the ingredients – I used half the recipe as I did not want, or need, 24 tarts. Rolled out the pastry to half the suggested length but the same width – am guessing the idea is to have many flaky layers so the more turns you have the better

I would suggest making the syrup first, although it was Step 5 in my instructions, as it needs to cool. 1st error – so I had to wait an hour before proceeding.

Having rolled out the pastry to a rectangle, then rolled it into the required sausage shape I cut this into 12 pieces and followed the instructions to slightly flatten out each circle. As instructed, I used a 12-hole fairy cake tin – 2nd error – this turned out to be too shallow and as a consequence my tarts could not hold the expected amount of the custard (it was not wasted as I cooked the remaining custard separately and ate it)

Don’t skip chilling the pastry cases once in the tin – pastry chefs are correct when they say this assists the cooking process and helps prevent shrinkage. A good pastry chef always sieves a sauce so don’t skip this step either.

This is a tart that needs time and attention so not one to do in a last-minute hurry, that said making them correctly is worth the effort. Not sure that they freeze so best eaten on the day.

Enjoy.

 

 

Harrogate Flower Show April 2019

The first (and only) time I had previously been to a Flower Show in Harrogate it was held in the Valley Gardens and the sun shone all day, so I was looking forward to going again even though it is decades later.

Now the Flower Show is held at the Great Yorkshire Showground and it is massive! Fortunately we had purchased the tickets in advance as the queue to buy the tickets at the entrance looked a mile long. We were there on the Friday, which we had thought would be the quieter of the days. The weekend weather report was not good – so I am guessing that those who could do so were also visiting on Friday to avoid the approaching Storm Hannah (I do agree that since we started naming storms there appears to be an increasing number – as if the naming is an invite!).

The morning weather was to be the best of the day, so we walked around the outside exhibits then moved inside once the wind and rain arrived. Although, we kept thinking of exhibits we had missed so still ended up wet and windblown.

Plenty of opportunities to purchase seeds, plants and equipment – the small hot tub may not fit in everyone’s boot. I know two people in Edinburgh who may try to fit it into their apartment!

 

Also, there are frequent specific talks given by experts (which provided a chance to sit and rest your legs).

Another source of advice and information was, of course, the many exhibitors who were very generous in their time sharing their expertise, hints and tips. Admiring a Chrysanthemum stand with its many colours we were kindly given advice on both growing and techniques on how to display these flowers.

The gardener also gave us advice on how to pitch our horticultural skill ‘If you can’t grow Chrysanthemums, grow Dahlias, if they don’t grow try Carnations, if that’s not successful then plant daffodils and if they don’t grow – get a pond!’

I could imagine a group of youngsters sitting amongst the Urban style garden, pictured below. With paintings forming part of the structure and the stone seating it seemed to encourage company.

The Garden below was more formal, although restful (it had a water feature which on the day we went was not operating due to the weather)

Walking amongst the Show Gardens the creativity of gardeners, designers and artists is amazing and although my photos are not great (mixture of lack of skill, poor quality camera and grey weather) the photos hopefully have inspired you to visit.

There were also many displays of artistry amongst Flower arrangers and the Study in Blue below was one of my favourites.

Ever wondered what to do with the old car?

And my favourite:

The garden above was a small space yet had so much – flower beds, vegetables and herbs with a seating area and a small table for your tea. I just wanted to walk through the entrance, sit and read a book in the sunshine.

The next show is the Autumn Show 13-15th September 2019 (and currently there is an early bird ticket offer advertised)

 

 

And then it was time for home – and a cuppa.

Busy visit to Portland Oregon 2019

(a long post, you may need coffee)

Our trip to Portland (Oregon) did not start well. Storm Gareth delayed our flight from Newcastle to Schiphol and we only managed to board the connecting transatlantic flight by running. Luckily the departure gate was in the terminal we had landed in, so we did not have far to go.

Naturally our luggage did not make the flight so, once landed and out of the airport, we had a stop-off at a shopping mall to collect a few minor requirements (I always carry some basics in my hand luggage – husband, not so prepared)

Well, there is always an up-side and for us it meant waiting in the apartment the next morning for delivery of the luggage. I think the enforced slow start really helped cope with the time-change. We are visiting our eldest daughter and her partner who have recently moved to Portland for 12 months. Waiting for the courier in the ground floor lounge-area near the gym and ‘doggy parlour’ (and pretending to read my book) I was able to casually observe normal life. A busy and popular area for the young professionals, there was a lot of activity – many dogs being walked, runners with various tracking devices and earphones, the occasional ‘elderly’ couple (by that I mean over 50) and the non-stop delivery men. Although the building has nine floors – each with approx. 8 apartments – it really felt like a village.

In the entrance area (beside gym etc.) there are 3 seating areas where residents can meet. I sat near the Cribbage table which is used in the evening by a group of enthusiasts. There are also a number of ‘interest’ groups – Running, Book Club etc. On the top floor is an open area with BBQs, tables and fire pits. An indoor area provides a meeting area with TV, a kitchen, dining area and games room (with, of course, a Pool table) As I said – a little village, communal living at its best.

Once unpacked and feeling refreshed we wandered out of the building to view our new surroundings.

As we expected the area was a mixture of new apartment blocks, old original wooden houses and many restaurants, coffee houses and quirky shops.

 

 

The next morning, after a hearty USA style breakfast (I really should start asking for child portions) we walked the first half of the Lower MacLeay Trail. I was constantly surprised, throughout our stay, how soon you could be ‘in the wild’ by just stepping off an urban pathway.

A good stretch of the legs and we were off to conquer Mount Hood – well, in a small way. We stayed in a cabin near The Meadows ski area https://www.skihood.com/the-mountain the ski area was busy with plenty of snow to enjoy. The cabin, in reality a 4-bed detached house, was set in a small forest along a bumpy track. As you can imagine, waking up on a morning to watch deer grazing in the backyard was magical.

Having skied on Saturday (well, they did, I walked) we headed to the Timberline Lodge for Sunday morning coffee. A hotel worth a visit, if only for its  history, www.TimberlineLodge.com and www.friendsoftimberline.org have more in-depth information. It was built as part of the Works Progress Administration project in the late 1930s offering work to many following the economic depression. It not only provided employment but an opportunity to maintain/regain skills and crafts. The building, inside and out, is a tribute to the high level of ability of the craftsmen, apprentices and their families. Many of the replacement fittings and repairs are undertaken today by local craftsmen using the same hand worked techniques.

Aside from the historical features the hotel itself is set within a popular ski area with picturesque tree lined runs – but, today we were hiking so off we went to the Mirror Lake Trail. Walking through woods and over many bridges (some with snow higher than the safety rails!) was both calming and exciting. We didn’t reach the lake, deciding after an hour we would have to turn back – will try again in the summer.

In the car once again, we headed back to the city stopping at Skyway Diner for lunch and then – a seat in the sun to recover. I would fully recommend a visit – a diner as I imagine them to be and the food was really good. https://skywaybarandgrill.com/

Although we had only travelled for 2 hours from the ski area back to the city, once home the evening temperature was so warm, we took our ‘cuppa’ to the roof to bathe in the sun.

Next morning the workers were up and off at dawn returning at sunset to catch up on paperwork, domestic chores and finding time to eat – oh, I remember those days! We spent the next 4 days looking after ourselves in the city. We had considered visiting Seattle and other nearby towns, but our purpose was to spend time with Emma and Chris, so we stayed put. It did help that the weather was sunny and warm – which is not typical of Portland, so I’m told. Apparently it normally rains, it would have felt like home I guess.

Portland is not what I would call a touristy city – in the manner of London or Edinburgh – there are no obvious historical sites or buildings. Yet, there is plenty to do, many walks to follow and nearby trails within easy reach. (e.g. Walking Portland, Becky Ohlsen Wilderness Press). The transport system was easy to use, although we mainly walked as the city is not big.

Walking meant we became familiar with the layout and also noticed more than if we had been in a car. Homelessness, especially of young men, is an obvious social problem. I did notice ‘Walk-in’ Social Support centres as well as ‘Social Services Support Workers’ in Hi-Vis jackets so perhaps this is a concern the authorities are attempting to address.

When shopping we were frequently asked how we were coping with Brexit – apparently there is a lot of genuine concern for us Brits and how we will manage in the future!

Our average daily walk was 14Km so I will just pick out the highlights. We set off one day to walk to the Willamette River following one of the walks in our book. It took us past the Union Station (a Victorian red brick building) built to accommodate the growing availability of railway travel and an increasing internal migration.

Street art, definitely not graffiti, was tastefully done on the sides of buildings – representing events and charities. We noticed many as we walked the city.

The first ‘surprise’ was the Lan Su Chinese Garden in the Chinatown District. https://lansugarden.org/ We were not going to go in at first, it looked small and our walk had many other points of interest. As we walked towards it we noticed that, whilst there was not a queue, there was always someone at the gate so decided to ‘drop-in’ – and so glad we did. An oasis in the city, beautiful set out in a traditional style with explanations of the motifs and selected plants. And joy of joys- the Teahouse was real and so naturally we had to stop and sample the mooncakes and one of the many varieties of loose-leaf tea.

As well as the street art we noticed many sculptures placed throughout the city – some representing events although many seemed to represent values and aspirations of the citizens.

Lunch was another highlight of the day – nearing the river we came to ‘Huber’s’, one of the oldest restaurants in the city and famous for its Roast Ham as well as its Chowder. https://www.hubers.com/ I chose a small bowl of the Chowder (yes, I’m learning about portion size) and a Caesar salad. Both were very good; in fact the salad was the nicest Caesar salad I have ever tasted. Huber’s setting and deco reminded me of ‘Betty’s Tearooms’ in North Yorkshire. We then walked along the riverside and back to the apartment passing many of the micro-breweries and coffee-roasters that Portland is renowned for.

Another day we ventured on a tram towards Washington Park, a comparison to NYC Central Park would not be out of place. Our first stop was Oregon Zoo, https://www.oregonzoo.org/ which is currently undergoing a major renovation. At times it was like being in a building site. All will be complete and re-opened in 2020 so a visit then will be worthwhile. The Zoo’s involvement in a variety of conservation programmes is encouraging. We walked from there to the Japanese Garden https://japanesegarden.org/

The route took us further into Washington Park through the Hoyt Arboretum along the Wildwood Trail. The Garden, once we arrived, provided a sense of tranquillity which, in a way, prepared us for what we next witnessed. Walking back to the city we walked through the Holocaust Memorial, sculptures of abandoned belongings telling their poignant story.

The following day we walked the rest of the MacLeay Trail and up to Pittock Mansion. It was a tough uphill 3 mile walk and, compared to the lower section, not for the weak-hearted. You can drive to the Mansion and park outside the door!

The Mansion itself is worth a visit especially if you are interested in history – the building and it’s artefacts tell the story of Portland’s early days using the life of Henry Pittock, publisher of The Oregonian http://pittockmansion.org/ Take a camera as the views from the garden are fantastic.

Our final day of city walking was forecast to be rainy, so we had planned indoor activities starting with a visit to Powell’s City of Books – it is reported to be the largest bookshop in the world. https://www.powells.com/locations/powells-city-of-books/ Accept the store map on entering – you will need it! I am an avid reader and really looked forward to this visit. To be honest there was just so much to see, read, digest I was overwhelmed. I think visiting regularly and having some idea of what you are looking for is the better way to understand the content.

We then moved on to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry https://omsi.edu/ There were so many schoolchildren (I mean – hundreds!) on a City Educational Day. So, there was only one thing to do – jump straight in and attempt all the tasks in the exhibitions. Mixed successes, truth be told the children had a much better idea than us, although I did manage to build a boat that sailed and James used cogs and cables to generate enough electricity to power one house.

The main challenge of the day was to collect a birthday cake and deliver it to the restaurant we would be dining in that evening.

Walking and using the tram whilst carrying the cake-box was successfully achieved – despite bumps, sudden turns and bizarre ‘spaced out’ fellow passengers on the final tram ride.

 

The second weekend of our trip was spent on the Pacific Coast and our luck with the weather ran out, although not too wet the sun disappeared and the stormy clouds rolled in. this was disappointing as it was national Whale Watching weekend and we learnt that whales do not come as close to the shoreline in such conditions. That said we did see ‘shadows’ and the water ‘blows’ so we knew they were there. Emma was lucky enough to see the tail end of a dive. https://oregonstateparks.org/index.cfm?do=thingstodo.dsp_whalewatching The State Park Rangers based at ‘Lookout’ points were very friendly and informative so do stop by and ask them questions (and look at the footage on their webcams).

We visited Newport, Depoe Bay and Canon Beach in our search for the whales and each stop had its own charm.   Depoe Bay had the feel of an English Seaside resort and our Fish and Chips lunch confirmed my thoughts – freshly caught and cooked with crispy batter, yummy. We had a late afternoon walk along Canon Beach, so picturesque with the sun setting and the sea, at last, calming.

Then it was back to the city and packing of suitcases. Portland is not the easiest of cities to travel to from Europe as there are few direct flights (and not a daily event). Our return journey required 3 flights with a total of 7 hours sitting in 2 airports so learning that Delta are commencing daily direct flights from London is good news. We left Portland midday Sunday and arrive at Newcastle upon Tyne at 6.00pm on Monday (even allowing for the time difference it was long and exhausting). We collected our luggage, met the minibus to the car park, collected the car keys and placed suitcases into the boot. Turned the ignition key – nothing!  You just have to laugh.

(PS – we arrived home at 8.00pm thanks to the RAC and their jump leads)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brining a Chicken, a positive experience.

Looking through my recipe books I came to ‘Mushroom Butter Chicken with Jerusalem Artichokes’ in Tom Kerridge’s Best Ever Dishes. This is not a book I use often as many of the recipes need a lot of preparation and/or marinating for 8 hours – not a process compatible with full time working and 3 children. Time has now moved on and as a retiree with an empty nest I can look differently at these books.

This recipe, for example, needs to start the day before you need to eat (at least – it can be then left for up to 2 days but as I am a ‘bit iffy’ about chicken I kept to the minimum time). Also, I have never even considered ‘brining’ a chicken so had no idea of the merits/consequences of such a process.

Brined, ready for the butter and mushroom mixture (the brine is in the large pan – you need a container that is both big enough to carry the chicken and will fit into your fridge, my pasta pan suited the task)

Following the recipe steps as directed it was very simple. Pushing the butter mixture between the flesh and skin was easier if you did first separate the skin with oiled hands (as advised), it was delicate and easy to tear.

It was moist and tasty – delicious. Definitely worth a try

 

Acknowledgements:

Featured Image – Sink – Photo by Scott Umstattd on Unsplash

A madness in January

I have decided that trying to eat healthy in January is a waste – of time and food. Until recently we always declared January a ‘healthy eating month’ and from the 2nd of the month we would strive to starve ourselves back to our pre-Christmas weight whilst at the same time commencing some mad fitness regime which in reality was far too ambitious for the time of year.

And then, perhaps I had an epiphany, I realised how futile this was. The house would be full of tasty leftovers and foodie Festive gifts which we never managed to ignore so any sneaky trips to the pantry were followed by pangs of guilt and promises to increase the fitness regime to offset any further weight gain – who was I kidding? January is often our coldest, snowy and icy month so I would be very easily persuaded to avoid any exercise for fear of injury. What about the gym I hear you shout ‘surely its safe indoors to stretch and tone’? Obviously, it is but I would have to drive and the road conditions would not encourage that – so back to the fire and a book.

This year I decided that we would delay this routine and instead I declared February the ‘healthy eating’ month. It worked really well although I did not really think why until recently. Besides having only 28 days, by January 31st most of the foodie treats have gone, the days are slightly longer and the weather is starting to warm up so walking outside is more enjoyable. Yet, I think the main reason we were successful is that we had had a month of ‘normal’ behaviour – back to work, back to more regular eating patterns and when not under pressure to be active, going out in the winter sunshine takes on an encouraging pleasure.

As an added bonus the last day of the healthy eating is immediately followed by ‘weigh-in day, March 1st. (No, I have no idea why previously there was 4 weeks between finishing the regime and weigh-day, sounds cruel now I see it written down). Of course, in previous years, I would spend the 4 weeks fretting that I would not have reached the goal! This year all such anxieties were removed – went to bed Feb 28th, up on the scales March 1st – goal achieved, now where’s the cake ?

Photo acknowledgements:

Scales – Photo by Immo Wegmann on Unsplash Featured Image

Tape Measure – Photo by Jennifer Burk on Unsplash

 

A quick tour of Tom Kerridge’s ‘Fresh Start’

I have used some of Tom Kerridge’s recipes in the past and can fully recommend his book ‘Lose Weight for Good’ ( www.perpetually49.com/pre-holiday-health-eating/ )  so looked forward to watching his new TV series. His aim, in this book, is to encourage families not only to cook food from ‘scratch’ but to do so together. Encouraging family interactions whilst preparing and eating wholesome food (and reducing the reliance on ‘Takeaways’). Sounded a good idea and I’m always keen to widen my food repertoire so tuned in – I was, as always, hooked in from the start so thought I would buy the book and try some items out myself.

I noticed the book for sale in my local supermarket so dashed over, keen to add it to my trolley but looked at the price – £26.00! Oh, that’s a shame I thought and put it back. Cannot remember ever noticing that high a price tag on a recipe book and as I had only seen one of the programmes thought it best to wait until either the remaining programmes persuaded me it would be worth the cost or it was in a sale (which often happens after TV series have finished) 

And, so glad I did. The following week I was in Edinburgh and wandered into Waterstones where I noticed a special half-price sale, and the book was included. Hastily picked it up and at the Service Till handed over my Loyalty Card, to be informed I had £10.00 worth of loyalty points. So, in the end I paid £3.00! What a bargain, the book is full of good ideas alongside useful hints and tips. As usual with Tom’s books do read the recipe through at least the day before as the need to marinade for ‘4 hours’ listed in paragraph 4 may come as a shock when you are expecting to put dinner on the table in 30 minutes! (I have been caught out in the past).

I plan meals in advance as a habit, mainly so I only need to shop once a week although many of these recipes used ingredients commonly found in the pantry – or could be easily substituted for similar ingredients.

Thought I would start with something straight forward and Crispy Beef and Pak Choi Noodles fitted the description. I recommend preparing all the ingredients in advance – then cook. It was all so quick and tasty, a great mid-week meal. 

Spanish Hake Bake was simple to put together needing very little attention, just as well as the Brexit Deal vote  was being broadcast and I was distracted – resorted to speaking to TV!  This fish dish was tastier than I expected and definitely one to do again.   

Asian-Style Glazed Chicken Thighs is another easy to make dinner, despite the long line of ingredients. Once in the oven it needed little attention. I cooked the wild rice rather than use ready cooked (I had a packet in the pantry so why buy some – the ‘Best Before’ date would scare you although we survived). Also, I used plain broccoli, besides cooking a little quicker and perhaps appearing more elegant I cannot see the point of tender stem broccoli.  The portion sizes were very generous so if inviting friends around for dinner I would advise a light dessert.

Miso Ramen – Fairly simple to cook although used a lot of dishes, I could not locate any Smoked Tofu so used Silken instead which broke into pieces too easily and did not ‘char’ in the same way, it remained looking pale rather than browning. No strong flavours although not bland, I have made similar dishes with meat/fish which I have preferred – I am not a fan of tofu so perhaps this dish is down to personal taste (luckily the husband liked it enough to eat the leftovers for lunch the next day) As always the servings are a good size and instructions easy to follow. 

Butternut Squash and Chickpea Curry – I made a few changes to this as I had no green beans so substituted baby broad beans from the freezer. I also had a few cooked artichokes going spare so throw them in. It was  not a hot curry so a good one for introducing children to the spices.

Prawn and Broccoli Rice Noodles – The recipe said this would take 30 minutes although it took  me more like 40. I had no Sriracha hot sauce so used chilli sauce and added a few broken sriracha peppers. I added the beaten egg as instructed – you have to be quick and careful that it didn’t become scrambled egg, I  think I prefer my method of making a thin omelette, chopping it up and throwing it in. I used cashew nuts instead of peanuts as I had an open packet, other than that I followed the recipe exactly ? It was very tasty and again one that was warm rather than hot so suitable for all the family.

Italian Turkey Meatballs – Really simple, really filling, really tasty. I served it with bread and salad as suggested but could just as easy have served pasta. As there was only two of us I made a quarter of the recipe and there was still enough left for a small lunch. The full recipe is for 8 although I think could easily feed 10 or supply the freezer. Use an ice cream scope to make the meatballs and then they only need a quick roll to be circular. 

Sausage and Bean Casserole – another easy mix with good sized servings. I had no tins of tomatoes (how did that happen!) so used pasatta instead. Nor did I have any red wine so used a red wine stockpot capsule and slightly extra fluid in the stock and it worked well. This was really filling so could leave out the bread and just serve with a salad. 

I have since made a few more of the dishes and have not been disappointed. I made the Chocolate Chip Cookies recipe recently which disappeared fast! I only used half the amount of ingredients and still made 15 large cookies, which is what the book suggests is the number to make using the full amount of ingredients – they must be enormous!

PS – having used the book for a few weeks, noting the quality of the publication and looked at other cookbooks currently for sale I would say that the original price tag is a fair cost, although only paying £3.00 was an absolute steal!

Fast Easy Food with Lorraine Pascale

To be honest I only bought the book ‘Fast, Fresh and Easy Food’ because it was reduced to £3.00 in a sale.

I have occasionally watched Lorraine Pascale on TV – she does make cooking look easy, so it was good to give some of her recipes ‘a try’.

As always, to really try out a recipe book, I used it every day for a week and everything I tried was simple to make. Most of the ingredients were already in the pantry although those I had to purchase were easily obtained and all in one shopping trip (otherwise we know what happens – go into the store for one item, come away with a basket load!)

I made Main dishes only – although the chapter on Canapes and Cocktails looked so delicious I nearly throw a party (still might)

The Sri Lankan Chicken Curry with Coconut and Cashew Rice was really quick to make. I used the minimum recommended spices and it was ‘warm’ so if you like your food Hot I would suggest using the maximum suggested.

Baked Jerk Chicken with Pineapple Salsa was another tasty dish – and attractive on the table (Below)

The Chicken Apple Cider Casserole required very little effort, although I guess I should rename mine as I used the chicken stock option rather than the cider – it was very tasty.

Tarragon Pork with Creamy Mustard Mushroom Sauce was again simple to make. I felt it needed a green veg otherwise the plate looked bland. I used stock rather than white wine – think the wine would have added more depth but as I didn’t have a bottle of wine open the stock had to do.

Tapenade Crusted Cod on a bed of Crunchy Ciabatta, Tomato and Basil – I thought the tapenade would over power the fish but it didn’t, I used an olive pandaluz bread as I had no Ciabatta. It was all very tasty and simple to cook.

The Buttered Fish with Roasted Ginger Butternut Squash was very enjoyable even though I changed a few ingredients – I did not have any pancetta so used smoked streaky bacon instead, if I had neither I would have used smoked turkey rashers or simply used smoked rapeseed oil as I think the aim was to introduce a ‘smokiness’ to the dish. I had some leftover fine beans and courgettes so used them instead of the peas. I used fish already in the freezer – one cod, one halibut and both cooked well. Think it all worked – no one complained 

 

The Warm Salmon and Lentils with Chorizo was very simple and easy to make. A good mid week supper.

Butternut and Sweet Potato Lasagne was not so simple to organise – there were many steps to this dish so I made it earlier in the day, and I made two so one could be frozen (have since eaten it and it was just as good)

Overall the instructions were easy to follow, I found the added ‘Hints & Tips’ useful. Many of the recipes survived changes in ingredients which always encourages me. This cookbook is definitely staying on my kitchen shelf.

 

 

A Trip to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

We recently went to the Palace Theatre in London to see ‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’. The play is in two parts with the option to see both parts on the same day or on two consecutive days. As we live in the north of England we selected to see them on the same day, although if we lived in London I think seeing them on separate days would have given a breathing space to ‘digest’ the production.

No ‘spoilers’ even though I know that the scripts are available in book form through bookshops. Just to say that the production was truly magic. How stage settings and scenes were changed, and events portrayed was inspirational and I found that I was watching the actors behaviour and the scenery rather than involving myself in the plot.

Although I did not miss out as the storytelling and scene ‘props’ are intertwined (if you know what I mean)

There is a two-hour break between Parts 1 and 2 so we headed over to nearby ChinaTown for dinner. We have eaten regularly at The Imperial China and knew we would enjoy a traditional Chinese meal (and be served quickly – a bonus) http://www.imperialchina-london.com/ It seemed that this was also popular with other members of the audience and we enjoyed short conversations of the ‘plot so far’ with fellow diners.

We also shared out efforts to obtain tickets. This is not as straight forward as contacting the Box Office or TicketMaster. Tickets are released only at certain times so ensuring your name is on the mailing list is the first step. Having the time to sign in and sit waiting is the next – we were on our third attempt when we managed to buy the tickets. I had not appreciated the level of demand so was not prepared on my first attempt. The second attempt, despite signing in with plenty of time, was also unsuccessful as I had to abandon my place in the queue after waiting well over an hour. The third time we were lucky – both by purchasing tickets and because I did so within the first hour, although I had allocated the whole day just in case! https://www.nimaxtheatres.com/shows/harry-potter-cursed-child/ Follow the link for further information and guidance.

Despite the trials and tribulations purchasing tickets we all agreed it had been worth the effort and walked back for Part 2.

 

 

 

Christmas Tree Festival

Looking for ideas for your tree – or just to bolster your Christmas spirit? St Edmund’s Church in Sedgefield recently hosted the village’s Christmas Tree Festival. The theme this year was a Christmas Carol and there were 47 trees in total. Many local groups contributed as did many of the local businesses. 

The Guides and Brownies selected ‘Silent Night’ – which seemed a simple choice until the decorations were needed. I spent a pleasant afternoon with the Trefoil guild making Moonbeams to hang and despite the glue this was the easy part (I dislike Glue intensely – sticky fingers, yuk!). The Guides and Brownies made a good job producing the stars and angels.


 

It contrasted well with its neighbour ‘In the Bleak Midwinter’ which was designed and decorated by the Methodist Church. Grey/white décor and unlit, it certainly encouraged a sombre moment. 


 

Imagination was shown by some of the groups relating a carol to their equipment and/or focus. The Squash Club ‘decked the balls with boughs of holly’ and very pretty they looked. Best use of a squash ball if you ask me ? 

 

 

The Physiotherapy themed their tree ‘Jingle Bones’ and the Handbell Ringers choose ‘Ding Dong Merrily on High’. A local business ‘Right Lines Communications’ decorated their tree with Christmas Greetings in 25 languages representing ‘Joy to the World’

 

The local library made many small images of the book ‘A Christmas Carol’ in its many editions and also made angels out of old books to sit at the base 

 

 

St Edmund’s Choir decorated the front porch with self-portraits (I think ?) 

 

 

 

 

As always, my photographs do not do it justice.