Thursday, 29 November 2012

Brean Down In Black & White

Brean Sands

Last August the boy & I visited Brean Down. It was a very windy day, I was in the second day of one of the worst hangovers I've ever had (never buy reduced wine), and our romantic picnic lunch happened at 4pm. Not the best memories of the place, but at least we took some nice photos.

  . . Steep Holm
These were all taken on my Pentax ME Super with Legacy Pro 100 film - more photos from the day can be found in my Flickr set.
Sadly I didn't take any photos of the goats, perhaps I'll go back one day and have a nicer time!

Sunday, 25 November 2012

This Week I Have...

... been amused by this sign in the local indoor market

... been very glad to see this beast after he worried us by staying away for a few days


... received postcards from my parents, and prepared for their impending return. Lots of gardening.

... baked American style apple scones

... cosied up with my crochet, a cup of coffee and Grand Designs

... nearly burnt my face off trying kimchi-fried rice

... enjoyed brief moments of sunshine amongst the torrential rain showers Somerset has experienced

... cooked up a LOT of veg curry - this has homegrown garlic, swiss chard, courgette and pak choi

... had some peaceful sewing time with Simplicity 2451 - it's getting there

... and started on the leftover curry mountain.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Middleterranean Lamb Stew & Tabouleh

On Tuesday afternoon I was home alone and felt like breaking my chiefly vegetarian dietary habits so I opened up the freezer and looked for inspiration. The only thing that wasn't in a huge family-sized packet was some lamb leg. Probably something my Dad bought back before his heart scare, we've been policing his meat intake fiercely since then!
Anyway, I'd already planned to make tabouleh and bought parsley for it so I thought I'd make something sort of middle eastern / Mediterranean from the lamb to go with it.

Bowl of stew and tabouleh with a fork

The lamb became a sort of tagine with spices and apricots, sweet and warm and a good counterpart to the fresher, sharper taste of the tabouleh. I made a couple of changes to what I'd usually do to fit with the ingredients I had - cous cous instead of bulghur wheat and an added courgette in the stew (we still have several kilos in the fridge) and a purple halloween carrot! I made my tabouleh while the stew cooked but it could be done in advance and left to sit.

lamb stew in a pot, tabouleh in a bowl


The first tabouleh I ever had was in a small Lebanese café near the seafront in Santa Cruz (CA). My friends' parents made friends with the owners and chatted about being Lebanese & Israeli in California. They encouraged me to have a tahini-heavy falafel wrap and share their tangy, lemony tabouleh, scooped up in lettuce leaves.
The tabouleh was made in the Lebanese style - more parsley based with just a sprinkling of wheat. Many commercially available taboulehs are grain-based & only seasoned with herbs. To me this is missing the point. Every time I make this I think back to the Santa Cruz sun and the lovely day we spent visiting the UCSC botanical garden, seeing sea lions on the pier, and cycling along the coast path.
  • 1/4 cup bulghur or cous cous
  • handful of cherry tomatoes or a couple of larger ones
  • 3 spring onions
  • large bunch of parsley (I used a whole large pack from Sainsbury's)
  • handful of mint leaves
  • juice of half a lemon plus more to taste
  • olive oil
  • salt & pepper
 First soak the bulghur in water (The Book of Jewish Food has you use cold water first & then leave it in the tomato juices for a while) and let it fluff up. Make sure you strain it well, we don't want tabouleh gazpacho (although that might be quite nice?). Put your drained grains in the serving bowl, then chop up the tomatoes into little chunks and add them.
Now chop up the spring onions, parsley and mint. Add them to the bowl and squeeze the lemon juice over the whole lot (look out for pips!). Season with oil, salt & pepper and leave to infuse.

Tabouleh in a salad bowl

Middleterranean Lamb Stew (serves 2)

I've made North African style tagines previously but wanted to find out what Lebanese people might do with lamb. The recipes I found had some similar ingredients but the most significant difference was sumac. I didn't have any sumac. It's only occurred to me now that my sister's pomegranite molasses (not like normal molasses) might have been a good addition.
  • Olive oil
  • Lamb leg, in chunks*
  • One carrot, chopped small
  • Small onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • lump of ginger  (about the same size as a big garlic clove)
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 2 tsps ground mixed spice
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • Salt & pepper
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • handful of mint leaves, chopped
  • handful of coriander leaves, chopped
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped roughly
  • half a red pepper, cut into chunks
  • one medium courgette, mine was in semi-circular shaped pieces
First put the olive oil, lamb, carrot and onion into a pan with a lid (I used my Mum's Le Creuset enamel-y thing) and press the garlic and ginger** into them. Add the spices and salt and pepper and begin to heat gently. Stir occasionally and allow the meat to brown, and the onions and carrot to soften. After a while add the tomato paste & keep stirring until the meat appears cooked.
Add the courgette, pepper, and half of the herbs, then give it a bit of a stir and put the lid on. This should allow the courgette to soften and mush down a bit. Once it has done so, give it another stir.
From now on you could call it done at any point, but I think it's worth keeping going. Keep the heat gentle and stir it plenty.
Eventually your stew will start to look like this:

At this point it has reduced a lot and the meat falls apart quite easily when poked. The courgette had mostly disappeared now. It did pretty well at bulking out what was probably a rather mean portion of lamb.
Just before you want to eat it, stir through the rest of the herbs.

* I'm afraid I don't know how much I had as I threw the packaging away. I do know that I couldn't quite pick it all up with one hand.
** Ginger can be pressed quite easily IF you get it the right way around. You want to have the strings running down, as though they'll go through the holes. If you get it the other way you'll most likely hurt your hand and flatten the ginger without getting anything useful out!

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Kilve Beach

As I mentioned in my Sunday post, my sister and I took a mid-afternoon trip to the beach on Saturday. I took plenty of photos and they all turned out pretty nicely so I thought I'd share a few more. My little camera wasn't charged so I sported a rather hipster combination of film SLR and phone camera, I've spared you the Instagram filters though ;)
Kilve beach is a Site of Special Scientific Interest because of its exciting rock formations - there are huge pavements of rock running across at angles. The cliffs have clearly visible layers of different types, some of which are full of fossils (mostly ammonites) - a geologist's dream! We visited Kilve a lot when I was younger as it's the nearest beach to home which isn't made of mud or home to a nuclear power station. Kilve has amazing rockpools - all those layers catch the receding tide really well. I have many happy memories of hunting for crabs, and somewhat less happy ones of falling in

Steep Holm island on the right-ish, silhouettes of Welsh hills to the left
More rocklakes than rock pools, some of them

An ammonite spotted by my sister, plus a couple of barnacles and some bladderwrack

Big clouds over some industrial-looking chimneys in South Wales

Big clouds over Minehead and Exmoor too

Sunset! At about 4pm. It was much orangier in real life.

The low orangey light lit up the cliffs beautifully

Hopefully it won't be too long before I visit again, there's nothing like sea air for blowing away the cobwebs! (even if that "sea" is the rather brown Bristol channel)

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Cheap Sewing & Knitting Books!

The Works is a chain of discount book shops in the UK which  actually has some quite decent books in a lot of the time. They don't run any kind of ordering service and the staff have no idea what's coming in before it arrives (I've heard them say as much) so it really is hit & miss and not terribly consistent across branches. They generally have lots of craft supplies, cheap local postcards (some amusingly out of date or miss-labelled) and lots of kids toys.
I've known for a while that The Works had the Liberty Book of Home Sewing (I got it for my birthday this year - it's so pretty!) but today I had a proper look at their craft section and look what I found:


The Knitting Book and The Sewing Book from Dorling Kindersley

Sew It Up by Ruth Singer, Homemade Gifts Vintage Style by Sarah Moore and fitted knits by Stefanie Japel

 Knitting Classic Style by Veronik Avery, What to Knit When You're Expecting by Nikki Van De Ca, Glamour Knits by Erika Wright, Knitting Vintage by Claire Montgomarie

Felt It by Maggie Pace and The Encyclopedia of Stitches

Sunday, 18 November 2012

This Week

I thought I'd do a little picture-based round-up of what I've been doing recently using snaps from my phone. My One V really does take much nicer photos than any other phone I've had although I think the camera isn't as good as other models or Samsung or iPhone offerings. Anyway, here they are!

Left: Prior Park Landscape Garden in Bath. I visited with the boy and two other photo-loving friends. After making the mistake of not getting a bus up the hill we revived ourselves with lunch and spent a happy (and cold!) afternoon wandering around the valley. We took photos of autumnal trees and the fancy Palladian bridge and I even spotted a couple of herons nesting in a tree. After that we descended back into Bath and warmed up at Boston Tea Party.
Right: This is Catty, he would dearly love to come inside but isn't allowed as he doesn't belong to us. We've never fed him or (intentionally) let him in but he still sits on our doorstep meowling sadly at all hours. Poor silly cat.

Left: The nice old waiting room on platform 15 at Temple Meads, an unexpected plus side to walking all the way to the other side of the station.
Right: Trees outside my window looking decidedly winterish.

That cat, trying to come to Coventry with me.

My sister & I dropped by Cribbs Causeway Mall for some sushi on the way back from Coventry. Christmas is in full swing there with this very gaudy outdoor skating rink and copious amounts of lights which were switched on by no lesser celebrities than JLS

Stopping for a cup of tea and a brownie at the Folk House Café after a long & nerve-wracking day of flat-hunting with S. She & I are trying to move back to Bristol but thus far have been thwarted by competition and unhelpful lettings agencies.
The Folk House Café is a lovely place to go - it's in an adult education centre tucked away up a passage off Park Street. They do many sorts of tea (in lovely old mismatched china of course), lunchy-type food (with vegetarian/gluten-free/lactose-free options) and very good cake. The cafe isn't trying to be a vintage tearoom, it's a bit more straightforward than that but in a nice sort of a way.
It was wonderful to sit in the warm with tea & cake, looking out over miserable grey weather, with a gentle background hum of french radio. They also have free Wi-Fi :)

My sister & I got around to checking how the car is - it tells us the oil is ok on the dashboard but we've forgotten where on this stick it's meant to come to! We guessed that being in the crossed zone meant it's alright?

Yesterday was a lovely sunny day so we went down to Kilve beach to get some fresh air. We found a couple of ammonites and had a nice time wandering about & trying not to slip into rock pools. I might do a separate photo post as I took so many!

This morning I went outside to check on the greenhouse and was "assisted" by this beast. He wasn't quite so intent on getting in as usual, instead he rolled around in the sunshine and scratched at fence posts :)

Now I feel like I should have done one of these posts before! It makes a nice record of what I've been up to. Mostly these types of pictures get shared in person or via Facebook. I haven't joined Instagram because I don't need yet another social network to join & I'm not much of a Twittererer usually (@dichohecho if you care for it). Perhaps I'll make this a regular thing, any thoughts?

Thursday, 8 November 2012

25 Before 23 - November Update

Another month has come & gone and now it's November, and it's COLD. My enjoyment of the autumnalness of it all has been rather tempered by needing to stay inside and do work, and the fact that if I do leave the house it's by car. I miss being able to take a half hour break from work to wander around leafy Bristol streets with my camera, being able to just put on my coat & shoes and cheer myself up with a walk around the block. Here there is no block - a walk is a serious commitment and the narrow lanes and lack of pavement make being run over a constant hazard. It seems like it should be the other way around, walking should be better in the countryside, but it's the ease of it that's missing.
Anyway, here's my list update.

25 Things

  1. Finish my final project - deadline is 03/01/13 but I'll have to finish earlier as getting it printed & bound in late December seems unlikely
  2. Get a job
  3. Move to Bristol - My future flatmate is back in the country & we've got a viewing booked for this weekend
  4. Sew a dress - I've started a Simplicity 2451 skirt and completed a Sorbetto top
  5. Make 10 of my recipe bookmarks / pins - 8/10 This month I've managed to make 5 things I'd not made before! Vegetarian moussaka, a spiced courgette loaf, pumpkin pie, swiss chard pesto and a courgette & green bean chutney. Everything is a way to use up the plague of excess veg.
  6. Send parcels to far-away friends - Need to make a start on the second of two scarves for my twin friends with a December birthday
  7. Go to Southwold at least once
  8. Get rid of my Flickr backlog - in chronological order. Currently: film - July '11, digital - March '12
  9. Get a grip on my finances - I've read my bank statements... Hmm.
  10. Sell my eBay pile, swap my swap pile - Put 2 dresses on eBay but they didn't sell, need to try again. Took some my huge pile to a charity shop instead.
  11. Mend & alter my mending & altering piles - Probably one for Christmas time once I'm done with project
  12. Read a newspaper regularly - Still reading The Week while I'm at home. A week of breakfast reading gets me through the whole thing and Mum's away so I can do the su doku!
  13. Weekend away by train
  14. Buy good shoes - Argh. Boots are a priority.
  15. Crochet 3 items from stashed wool - 0/3 Working on two Christmas items which I bought wool for, oh dear. The scarf for #6 counts though.
  16. Get a new phone - I got an HTC One V and it's exactly what I wanted, hurrah!
  17. Read 3 good/classic books - Added The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon to my list. It is very long and time and fiction made me a little muddled in places. A lot happens but somehow I don't feel like it's rushed. I enjoyed this and read the last third or so in one epic session that left me semi-dazed, slightly melancholy and pajama-ed at 3.30pm.
  18. Print more photos - Need to pick out some to print and keep a folder so I can do it when a good offer comes up online!
  19. Watch 3 good/classic films - Already reached my target but watched Skyfall (at The Little in Bath) and You Don't Mess With The Zohan (at home with my sister) this month. Skyfall was excellent & thoroughly entertaining. I enjoyed the old Bond references and didn't immediately react in the same way as some feminists have to the fate of M or Eve, although I can see their point. I enjoyed Ben Whishaw as Q - an attractively geeky role which played off well against Daniel Craig's alpha male, I know which I prefer. Even the computer science wasn't too cringeworthy.
    You Don't Mess With The Zohan was silly and enjoyable, its predictability was forgiveable and the gentle mocking of middle eastern stereotypes just kept coming. Hummus all round.
  20. Exercise regularly - Shh.
  21. Scrapbook - Still not started but a bit more organised.
  22. Have a picnic - Might have to have an indoor picnic
  23. Visit a city farm
  24. Visit my sister at university - I think I'll be leaving this one 'til after project hand-in
  25. Cycle from Bristol to Bath - still need to buy a helmet