Autumn Term and a Warming Stew

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Enjoying the colours!

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There is a definite change in the air, the turning of the colour on the leaves and the last few days has seen an omni present dewy dampness in the morning that is burnt off in the September sun.

This is one of my favourite times of the year from a cooks perspective.  The foodie will notice the change on the cover of magazines, long gone are the healthy salads ready to make you virtuous before the day is out ready to hit the beach in your skimpy speedos.  Now is the time to hit the comforting autumn bounty, the central heating is on after all.  With squashes and apple delights adorning the magazine racks.  To pick one up makes you feel comfortable just to the touch.

The weekend saw me caught between the headlights on so many fronts and trying to cope and keep the family nurished is a priority.  If you find yourself in this situation then putting something in a slow cooker is ideal with minimum stress.  This version completely disregards sealing the meat, a faff at the best of times!  Although I can hear a million voices cry out in anger…..I just didn’t have the time.

  • 2 medium sized onions diced
  • 1kg Stewing Lamb
  • 2 tins of pulses (Chefs choice, I use chick peas and canneloni)
  • 250g chopped mushrooms (I quarter them)
  • 1-2 tsp smoked paprika (or a spice mix that gives a little warmth)
  • 2 tins chopped tomatoes
  • 50 grams red split lentils
  • 50 grams brown split lentils
  1. Soften the onions in a glug of olive oil
  2. Add the spice to the onions and stir in for a minute or so
  3. Put everything in the slow cooker at this point, except the split lentils
  4. High heat for a good 2 hours
  5. At this point give it a good stir and use your judgement.  Think about how you like your stew, I find a good hundred grams of lentils at this point is the ideal thing to both soak up and thinken the juices.
  6. I leave in the slow cooker for another hour or so on low heat in order to cook the lentils

This easily does the four of us two meals, great for freezing and good for a quick reheat mid week. Serve with potatoes or couscous. Or as a chunky soup with a big chunky slice of bread.

Scribble and Scran – the why

Day 1 on the 2015 blogging 101 scene reminding me to ask a few fundamental questions about why do this……..that probably runs through my head on a weekly basis.

For the most part I was terrible at English at school, however I have this constant recurring theme that I have an urge to improve on both my writing and share.

Sometimes I feel like there is very little point to adding another food blog into the world, the world is littered with self publishing foodies. The defeatist in me…..then I wrestle with this for a while and I come up with the fact that mine is different, not much but it is! and the best part it comes from me.

I’ve gone through a few site names in my time. I think of a new domain name every couple of months out on my bike or my walk into work. Thankfully I usually forget, however when I do remember and I manage to plug it into a domain checker and find it’s free…..the quandary starts. Do I stay or Do I go? Most the time the price puts me off and I go on my merry way, other times like this one it niggles at me, eats at me and I’m then caught like a rabbit in the head lights. This time I made a run for it and made the switch, it fits me and my thoughts.

I do have a running theme through my head around food and places which are aligned to my non working life. Every now and then there is a social side to me …the optimist that says somebody might be interested in that nugget.

I also just want to make something great that I own, something that I can reflect on. This could be a personal journal, instead I’d like to write to be read and to be absorbed.

I intend to write about food and the odd recipe. How I’ve managed to bring up two boys who seem to hoover up most things. How I’ve fed them on good food with a few treats on the way and how I’ve fed them on the rich tapestry of the open doors. I’ll write about those moments where I prepare a decent meal for the two adults of the house and a few scribbles in between.

If I make a success of this I’d like to write a recipe book of my own, something that will get passed on with phrases like Dad used to make this and this was my favourite. Remember the time I wore my swimming goggles so the onions didn’t make me cry!

2015 Food Bloggers Resolution Advice

Braid HillIt’s at that time of year for me where I start to reflect on what I’ve done this year.  The door closes after boxing day, we get a few stolen moments and a little time to ourselves……and the creative bug comes back.   As a part time blogger and cook I’ve started to think about what I’d like to achieve next year and it led me to think about the advice that I’d like to see and how I might structure myself for success!

Your Only Human – Take Time

Forgive yourself for what you didn’t achieve last year and give yourself a pat on the back for the things you did.  Also recognise or acknowledge that you most likely helped others to achieve through out the year.  At the tail end of November my son got a bronze in a local swimming gala.  At the age of 8 he stood on an actual commonwealth podium from the 2014 games.   This was not only his achievement, his teachers but also his mums for taking the time to get him to class after school in amongst the errands.

I was there for the moment he swam in his heat and won.   Also for the moment when he took to the pool and swam by himself because  of a slight mess up with the race.   The smile on his face, this was one of life’s precious moments for me…..and it’s important to take these moments when you can.

Sharpen Your Saw

Relax and take time out. Remember to live and enjoy the things around you. Go to an art gallery, visit the cinema or simply take a walk. Even maybe taken a different route to work.  The lost art of free time struck a cord with me in that it’s important to plan free time.

Join in

Join a community and get involved.  I was given a huge boost mentally by taking part in the blogging101 course ran by the daily post.  The free course was great for creating momentum, a schedule around activity, genuine feedback and some good old fashioned advice

Avoid Rabbit Holes

This is the process of following link after link. I find following rabbit trails too easy, going from site to site. I find lots of good stuff, and usually end up adding to my list of things I want to do and read. A bit like finding new recipes when I already have some to try! It’s easy to procrastinate and follow too many links. Set yourself a time limit and realise when your doing this.

Daydream

Not the same as procrastination…..this is about visualising your goal. Think about what it is you want to achieve and picture yourself succeeding.  The telegraph wrote an article related to Sports Visualisation and explores this further.

Getting Things Done

Discipline is key here and what you do gets done!

Find yourself a process and stick to it.  David Allen has defined the GTD process.  If you haven’t heard of GTD then for me this guy is the most widely known author of Getting Things Done: How to Achieve Stress-free Productivity.

There are a few GTD videos on YouTube.  This one is a TED talk as well…..be careful you might go down a few rabbit holes with this!

Got a Tablet?

I use OneNote and just recently took Wunderlist under my wing (after trying EvernoteRemember The Milk and Toodledo).  There are quite a few productivity tools out there, my key advice is to choose and give it a good shot, stick with it and your process……saying that if it isn’t working at the same time don’t be afraid to swap and try something new (just to sit on the fence).   The key thing is that it’s you who gets things done……not the app!   The app is purely a mechanism to organise and group your thoughts along with your process.  Discipline is key here!

Get Organised

Easier said than done, juggling is hard work. WE all find time for the things that must be done. Treat your being organised as a priority. Book a regular slot and stick to it in your diary where you choose and stick to just organising yourself. That diary you’ve just bought isn’t going to organise itself. Make it work for you and put the things that are important to you into the regular slots. Can’t find a diary that works for you…..create or tweak your own.  I use CalendarPedia a great free calendar resource.  I take the excel version and tweak to suite my style of working.  I download the school term calendars and fill those into the spreadsheet as well.

The Blog

Sort it out! There is a great list of tasks here Blogging 101 – Zero to Hero.  You could build a plan to achieving this list….they all take time so be realistic.  I’ve definitely not mastered this!  I find myself less proficient throughout the summer as I take to the outdoors at the weekend.   The key message to myself in this space is to take a few moments to plan out the schedule…….take notice of the getting organised section and stick to it.

2015

Have a great new year!  Remember for all the organising and planning that you do there will be curve balls, these can be both good and bad.  It’s how you choose to deal with them that’s important.  One thing is pretty certain, there are 24 hours in the day….and you do choose how to spend them……I’m off to get beaten by the boys on the xbox again!

The Original Commute

I’ve just got on the bus, a mixture of being caught up later than expected at work and being timing ideal as it arrived at the same time as I was passing the bus stop. Rude not to take it, and it gives me a moment to reflect on today’s writing prompt around the good old days.

The commute back in high school was quite a convoluted affair before my sister started the same school.  One week I might be catching a lift with a teacher, the next I might have a bus pass. Both required a mile and a half hike at each end of the day. There was one solid period though where I would take my bike on the train. Trains were fitted with huge parcel bays (not like today) where you could stash your bike and not worry about there being a space. I remember them being dark and dirty, the guard would usually sit in there.   Sometimes the nice one, other times the grumpy one who couldn’t wait to shout at you for the smallest misdemeanour.

The journey from the train station on my bike to school was a fast 5 – 10 mins downhill in the way and if you timed it right you could get across a roundabout without stopping. Back the way was a painfull 20 mins uphill cycle. School finished at 15.50 and the train left at 16:07. You can imagine my state of mind as the bell rang, I’d be high tailing it out of there and cycling at top speed….usually to be greeted with the horn of a train leaving the station. I’d be praying for the train to be late leaving and most the time I’d have to wait for the 17:07.

The cycle home from the train was quick and painless apart from the time I went over the handle bars (another story) and the time the police stopped me because the batteries had gone on my lights (the days before LEDs and good rechargeables!). Come to think of it the time I came over my handle bars was the time I was turning my lights on whilst cycling!

Tea time was a mixed affair, If I’d come home to an empty house it would be my job to start the tea, either pork chops or fish fingers under the grill with usually chips or potatoes. My job would be to start the potatoes by peeling them. Dad would buy the big sacks of potatoes. I remember the smell as I opened the sack and peered in trying to grab the potatoes that were going to be easiest and quickest to peel. Most were covered in mud and you could never tell if you were getting the odd rotten one out, which to hold was pretty grizzly. Getting new potatoes was a real treat….but came with a different technique of peeling. Dad was a great believer in scraping the skins off!

Nice to be taken back to simpler times. Getting myself to and from school in the country was a simple affair, no smart phones and no texting. If things had really gone badly there was a call box at the station and I’d be in big trouble if I didn’t use it!

Monday

AutumnChoked up with cold this morning, a sign of the November cold nights or the close encounters of messing around with my 2 year old nephew!

I had a productive weekend in the kitchen, set my self a recipe list on Friday evening and by in large made my way through it.

Finally got myself organised and tried Nigel Slaters Christmas cake. Hoping for an early December tasting. We typically go for a good house keeping recipe, year in year out and never fails us…always room to try something new. The addition of ground almonds, hazelnuts and an orange twist will be adding to the excitement.

I was also going to try Nigel’s no nonsense brownie…..however the boss sidetracked me and suggested I try Green and Blacks version. If your looking for a good sized brownie to feed the masses, this is the one. None of your little square baking tins, this one fills the battleship roasting tin!

On the savoury side, I made a new soup inspired by Peter Jackson and a variation of Nigel’s Osso Bucco that just hit the spot for a Saturday night meal for two.

Set my eldest a challenge on the Sunday night tea front. I was browsing through the options when his eyes lit up on spaghetti carbonara, I thought I’d tap into this excitement with a shopping challenge. Gave him his list, a mere 4 ingredients and whilst I did my messages he hunter gathered bacon, eggs, mushrooms and a packet of spaghetti. The mushrooms were my idea to try and make it a little more healthier.

I also got around to writing last weeks recipe up Lamb Topside Stew

Bold Over by Inspiration

Scot monument in amongst the pop up Christmas villageBold Over by the number of likes that I received over the last few days by blogging directly on wordpress.com rather than self hosted.  Which fits neatly into todays #blogging101.   Quite an inspiration to feel that positivity.

Came across Fragile and Blowballs, on my neighbourhood travels.  I know blowballs as dandelion clocks where I come from and I loved the metaphor that the author introduced around the seeds covering large distances just like a blog.

I thought I’d try and introduce my own bit of wisdom, inspiration.  As I walk in each day to work the pop up Christmas Village is starting to grow, bit by bit, everyday there is something new.  My observation is that this doesn’t just happen in a matter of minutes….a bit like blogging.  It takes hard graft and time and over time you build something great!

The First Recipe

tattiehash letterWhen I left for university I wasn’t hapless when it came to food.  I could boil an egg just as well as the next guy, and better than my dad who was the only person I’ve known who’s burnt a boiled egg!  I knew how to grill a chop, boil a potato and cook rice.  A sauce was a luxury item that you bought in a jar and as a student you could make last over a couple of meals.  Looking back now….I knew how to survive, I learnt to shop for myself and I remember the long walk back from Tesco with too much to carry back to my digs after the first shop.  I learned to use a basket rather than a trolley after that day!

The first recipe I consciously remember asking for was from my Gran whilst at university in Sheffield.  This was long before e-mail and I wrote to ask her for it!  She must have thought it strange as this was probably something that was second nature to her.

Back in 94 though, I needed a prescriptive guide that would teach me to cook and if I could crack Tattiehash the world would be my oyster on the culinary front.  My Gran did send me the recipe and I had to interpret a couple of things and in a micro movement that gave the game away….for that small moment I became a cook and I created a little bit of alchemy.   It tasted ok, and now armed with a box of OXO cubes I made it a few times.

I wish back then I’d paid more attention to her notes, and whether she had a recipe collection.   I’d be all over it now!

Do you remember your first recipe?