A Year Without…

…Supermarkets.  The title of a blog I recently found, which is written by Team Pugh.

A Year Without Supermarkets.

It’s obviously all about a year without supermarkets, but please take a look at their site for more information.  They also have a Twitter feed which I follow for updates.  Their idea, and their achievement, is pretty inspiring.  They were featured on BBC Radio 4’s ‘You and Yours’ Programme on 03.04.2013 – you might still be able to find it on BBC iPlayer Radio.

The many-and-varied things this family have learned as they set out to achieve this provide much food for thought.  It has highlighted multiple issues when trying to shop ethically.  It’s interesting to consider:  How can this be applied to my situation, living in a small town…?  What are one’s priorities…?  The discussion from contributors in the comments sections also adds to the debate, and it can hurt the mind to decide what’s important!

Please head over to their blog to find lots of inspiration  🙂

A Little Something Cornish

Oh my word, and my wonderful Mother.

P1060802She brought me this delicious treat recently.

P1060801Cheese.

P1060799Cornish Yarg – see the nettle leaves with veins on the top…?

P1060800Totally drool-worthy.  The cheese is tangy, with an earthy flavour from the nettles applied to the edges.  The flavour is mild, strong flavours overwhelm it.  Bring to room temperature before eating, for the best flavour.

It seems – from internet research – that Yarg is not some Cornish word but the reverse surname of the chap who created it originally.  He he!  Mr Gray!

There is also a Yarg prepared with wild garlic leaves which I’ve tried – not so good in my opinion.

You like nettles with your cheese?

Oh Dear…

…my friends, it’s been too, too long 😦

Life – namely work – has got in the way of blogging again.  Bleurgh!

First things first – Happy 2013 to you all! I hope the year is good for you.  I looked back at this post to reflect on how much I achieved in 2012 over the past year:

* Learn to sew – simple items, with a sewing-machine: Done but not done: I did some hand-sewing shown in this post and was so pleased with the results. Boosted my confidence.

* Have a plant-strong dietary intake: Big, fat success – yay! I love veggies more than ever and am eating far more.  Much more mindful of including them in my diet more frequently, and making them interesting to eat. Fruit – not so much.  I’ve never been a big fruit-lover, and that’s okay with me.

* Maintain the list of books I read each month: Done.

* Read the library I received for Christmas(2011): Not quite done. But much reading achieved.

* Keep taking photos: Ooo-er – this one’s dwindling… 😦

* Work: I remain in the same post and at long, long last it’s starting to feel good. It’s been hard.  I’ve learnt so much. But now there is positive feedback coming from outside of the Team and it’s great! I still love working with people with mental health needs – always have enjoyed it.

* Enjoy life and remain thankful to God: Always.

* Seize each day and opportunity to creat memories: Needs some work!

For 2013 I haven’t really identified any things to achieve.  Not really feeling inspired, which is not a good thing at all.  I keep having some thoughts about a bit of voluntary work but nothing grabs me. I’ve also started doing a bit of drawing and painting – I used to love this when I was little and haven’t done it for ages.  It’s quite nice to dabble.

The Slow Cooker came out today for a party – I’ve been craving beef for a few weeks now and decided to buy some diced stewing steak for a casserole.  I couldn’t decide whether to do a tomatoey-based casserole, which can be very tasty, or a traditional English beef casserole.  The second option won.

Beef Casserole & Dumplings(serves 5)

For the Casserole:

400g Stewing Steak, diced

1 heaped tbsp plain flour

1 tsp dried, mixed herbs

2 tbsp vegetable oil

3 medium onions, sliced

4 cloves garlic, chopped

1 large carrot, sliced

1 small swede, diced

1 Knorr beef Stock Pot

300ml boiling water

1 tbsp mustard

150g peas

For the Dumplings:

100g Atora vegetable suet

200g self-raising flour

1/2 tsp dried, mixed herbs

salt & pepper

10 tbsp cold water

Turn the Slow Cooker to low. In a plastic freezer bag mix the plain flour & 1 tsp mixed herbs, add a good grinding of fresh black pepper. Tip the diced steak into the bag and mix/smush it well to cover the beef with flour. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a non-stick frying pan on a low-medium heat, add the floured beef. Allow it to cook until browned, turn the beef and repeat. Remove to the slow cooker.

Heat the remaining 1 tbsp oil in the frying-pan and add the sliced onions. Cover and allow to sweat – stir occasionally to avoid colouring/burning. Once the onions are soft add the garlic, carrot, swede and a good grinding of fresh black pepper and stir. Cover and allow to heat. Place the beef Stock Pot in a jug and cover with the boiling water.  Stir thoroughly.  Mix in the mustard then pour the liquid over the vegetable mix and turn the heat up high. Once the vegetable and stock mix is boiling transfer to the Slow Cooker and mix well. Cover the Slow Cooker with the lid and leave for 5.5 hours. Add the peas to the casserole and stir well. Cover and leave for 1 hours.

To make the dumplings: Mix the suet, self-raising flour and mixed herbs in a mixing bowl. Add a little salt and plenty of fresh black pepper and stir. Add the cold water and mix with a fork – the mixture will be thick and a little sticky. Roll as many dumplings as you wish. Place on top of the beef casserole mix in the Slow Cooker. Turn the heat to high and leave for 1-2 hours depending on the size of the dumplings. I made 5 large dumplings and they took 2 hours to cook.

Serve and enjoy! 
On the block:

P1060980Freezer bag + flour:P1060981Brown the beef in the pan:P1060982Heat lots of lovely chopped veggies in the pan with stock:P1060987And transfer to the Slow Cooker:P1060988Look at those beauties – plopped on top of the hot casserole!P1060990And……done!P1060991This was a pleasure to tuck into. The herby dumplings were big, fat and fluffy and totally satisfying. The casserole was full of flavour – especially that wonderful swede. It has a strong flavour which some might not like, but I love it and it reminds me of a traditional stew or casserole. Another root vegetable to use might be parsnips. Both of these vegetables add mild sweetness to the flavour.

Confession: I don’t like boiled carrots! Why are they in the casserole?  Because they’re good for you! And thinly sliced, they lose their flavour and can be mashed in the gravy.  So I eat health without the taste of it – win!

The floured beef helps to thicken the casserole juices. Adding the herbs to the bag helps to distribute them throughout the dish.

I used the basic dumpling recipe found on the side of the Atora packet but doubled it.  The last few times I have made dumplings I have followed the recipe exactly and they turned out to be hard little lumps.  This is not how dumplings should be!  So this time I doubled the recipe and made 5 large dumplings – they turned out just great!  They rise and swell when they’re cooking.  The finished texture should be sort of spongy.

As with so many of my dishes the quantities of ingredients can be varied.  Adding plenty of vegetables makes the dish go much further.  Seasonings and vegetables can be altered to suit one’s taste.  I didn’t add potatoes as I was making the dumplings.  If I didn’t do the dumplings then I would add potato for carbohydrate.  Another option would be to serve with bread & butter – those were the days of heavy manual labour and people being able to get away with eating such food!

I’m going to try freezing the casserole and dumplings.  I don’t think frozen dumplings should be a problem but I’ll let you know.

Have you ever made dumplings?

Christmas Sauce

I hope everyone has had a peaceful Christmastime.  We’ve had a lovely time with the family, and I’ve been so thankful – for loved ones, for all that I have, for how blessed I am compared to those who are suffering, in pain, trying to cope with the weather and its consequences.  It’s so important to count our blessings.

For Christmas Dinner we indulged in…

P1060879

Not jars, nor lids, but…

P1060877

Cranberry Sauce – with Port.  I used this recipe from Nigella Lawson.  It can be found on her website, but I also have ‘Nigella Christmas’ and have used the recipe from the book for the last couple of years.  It’s great.  Simple to make.  Creates wonderful smells in the kitchen.  Beautiful festive colours.  Works out perfectly every time.  I always make double quantity so there’s plenty for everyone.  One adjustment I make:  I use Port rather than Cherry Brandy.  And it’s always necessary to taste the Port first… 😉

Plain ‘ole cranberries in plastic bags:

P1060863Washed and in the pan:

P1060869With sugar coating, Port and water:

P1060872P1060870All stirred up and bubbling away:

P1060875So easy and satisfying.  The additional step I take is to bottle the Sauce in heat-sterilised jars.  Wash jars and lids in hot, soapy water and rinse with hot water.  Stand the jars on a baking tray(jars upside down) and place in oven(approx 110*C) for 10 minutes.  Remove and pour the Sauce straight into the jars – everything is extremely hot, be very careful.  Place a waxed-paper disc on the Sauce and screw on the lid.  Stand to cool.  Label the jars – except I ran out of labels!  Everyone knew what was in the jars…  Because the jar is sterilised it will keep well if stored in a cool place – once opened keep in the fridge.

Cranberries are naturally very tart, hence the need for the sugar.  The Sauce remains tart, even with the sugar.  It is fruity, a slight taste of Port to it, with lovely fat cranberries.  So good.

Did you know…that fresh cranberries bounce?  They really do!

Christmas Craft

P1060818Fun sorting through the sewing tin

P1060817Old, old sewing needles which belonged to my Great Grandmother

P1060819This time last year I wanted to make these cards for friends and family but a) I didn’t have sufficient time  b) I didn’t have all of the necessary equipment  c) I didn’t think I would be any good at making them.

P1060821A little pin-cushion which I made many years ago

P1060825Ribbons saved through the year, cut from the insides of garment shoulders – reuse, reduce, recycle!

The last hurdle above came about as a result of childhood experience.  As a small child at school, one of my friends had made this wonderful little felt, stuffed rabbit.  I wanted to make exactly the same.  When I showed the teacher(who was not actually a teacher but someone from the village who came in to do the sewing class each week) she was not impressed:  It was untidy, the stitching was far too large, it was a mess.  I was to undo it all and start again.  I was devastated.  I don’t recall if I actually did remake it.  But I do know that event has hindered me from hand-stitching ever since…until now!  Ha – she didn’t win!

Felt ornaments in the making…

P1060828P1060830With ribbons and beads and sequins and threads and buttons…

P1060831P1060832P1060833And the finished product…

P1060834P1060836P1060839These ornaments were a pleasure to sew to create the cards.  My hand-stitching isn’t that bad(I don’t think!).  The ornament is attached to the card by a black thread through the back of the ornament, through the card and knotted on the inside of the card.  I included a small, printed explanation in each card to say the black thread can be cut and removed so the ornament can be used if desired.  Perhaps as a tree decoration, a bookmark or to hang in the car.

It was fun to choose colours and items.  I’ve never sewn beads or sequins before – they were enjoyable to do, and they’re fairly simple and look pretty.  Who knows what next year’s Christmas craft will be?!!

Have you handmade Christmas?

Seasonal Sarnie

P1060809

This time last year I was enjoying brie and cranberry wraps.

This year I fancied a variation on a theme – cranberry with turkey and stuffing, spinach for nutriton factor.  A little mayo to wet the bread  Lashings of cranberry with juicy, fat berries.  Not home-made.

P1060812Good all the same.

Your seasonal favourite?