Thursday, 7 August 2014

Complications and Chicken Stock, and The Comforting Soup


It has been a long time since I finished a post. Many have been started.

In the past two months I have:

1: Taken both husband and son to hospital. Both fine now, but had many learning experiences re NHS.

2. Seen the builders go, but not 4evah. Snagging. Bah.

3. Seen the electricians not quite go. Half life.

4. Seen the plumbers refuse to return. New plumbers needed.

5. Seen an awful amount of awful news. Perhaps more than usual?

6. Tried to shove a lot of 11+ learning into 2 small heads.

7. Been sadly disillusioned about Jeremy Paxman. One Party Toryman. Pah. All those years lost...

The only recipe which can deal with everything in the past few months has to be the world's most comforting soup

Lentil and Veg Soup

First you must know how to make chicken stock, which involves roasting a chicken. 

But that is another post...

Sub-post: Chicken Stock

Assuming you have roasted your chicken, add the carcass and any available bones with one roughly chopped onion, a sliced leek, two celery sticks roughly chopped, two chopped carrots, a bay leaf and whatever herbs (but definitely a bay leaf and some thyme. Rosemary is strong so add only a little if you must. No garlic.) take your fancy, with a few peppercorns, to your slow cooker. You can add salt but if you are going to freeze the stock the salt will dissolve so best wait until you plan to use the stock to add it. Top up with water and set the cooker to its lowest setting overnight - 8 hours will do nicely. In the morning switch off the cooker, leave the contents to cool and then drain and discard all the stock ingredients. 

Aaand.. breathe. 


Now you have a good stock.

If you haven't a) roasted a chicken, or b) made stock, you can use a stock cube. But the healing properties will not be so strong.

ps. I am assuming a slow-cooker stock here. If you have no slow cooker, just take your biggest pan and add all the stock ingredients. Simmer for a couple of hours. Do not boil hard! 

Back to the Soup

First heat a tablespoon of oil in your big soup pan. You can use butter (my mother says this makes things taste better, but up to you). While the oil (or butter) is heating, finely dice an onion, throw it in and let it sweat gently while you dice a stick or two of celery and two carrots. You can add a sliced leek if you feel like it. Put in a bay leaf, and a sliced clove of garlic.

While these are cooking gently, take a cupful of red lentils and rinse them at least 4 times in cold water until the water starts to run clear. Throw them in the pot. 

Then add 500ml stock and bring to the boil. Simmer gently for around half an hour, adding a little more stock if the soup looks too thick. 

When the lentils are cooked, the soup is ready. 

Check the seasoning. 


Be calm. 

Tuesday, 17 June 2014


I'm sitting watching an uninspiring football match - USA vs Ghana. Something falls down the chimney. Twice. It sounds like rubble. I have blocked off the fireplace with my amazingly efficient colour coded 11+ planning table which is held in place by a chair propped up on the Thesaurus, so that the nervous cat will not once again try to climb up the chimney when the builders make loud noises.

Should I remove the planner (it's quite nice that I can't see it; too much pressure for us all) and face the rubble?

Or should I ignore the ominous noises and hope that no more stuff falls down? As far as I know the chimneys are not actively disintegrating, unlike some other parts of the house.

View planner and/or chimney disintegration? Or ignore both?

This is the stuff of life.

It could be worse. But since the Thesaurus is under the chair I have no alternative words to describe that.

Friday, 13 June 2014

Bathroom Bliss

Hello! First I have to tell you, today's post is purely self-interested and self-indulgent. You will see from my page that I am a proud Mumsnet Blogger. Mumsnet and Victoria Plumb have got together to create a competition in which us bloggers, a) take a quiz, and b) based on the results of the quiz, write a blog post about our ideal bathroom. Then we spread the good word about Victoria Plumb through our extensive social media networks. And then we can possibly win loads of vouchers. Yay!

As the builders are still here, domestic perfection is on my mind so this has been an inspirational and apposite prompt for some thoughts about my ideal bathroom. Once the builders have gone all things will of course be perfect; in the meantime I am comforted that the cats' runny poo problem has been temporarily solved by their daily intake of plaster dust. This is definitely much easier than injecting clay down their throats. #silverlinings.

But I digress. Although not that far from the bathroom topic.

I took the quiz, and this is what Victoria Plumb thinks of me:

Everything about you screams glamour; you always look photo-ready, whether you are working out, shopping in designer boutiques or snuggled up at home in your designer onesie. You crave home comforts that make a statement - a faux fur blanket, embellished cushions and lots of crushed velvet. You use neutral shades mixed with metallic. Pride of place are family portraits, kitchen gadgets and the keys to your Range Rover.

Apparently TOWIE is the inspiration for my life. Martina Cole what have you done to me? It was only one post for feck's sake.

So I am struggling a little with this project but I will do my best. Victoria Plumb here we go!


I stride through the double-height book-matched burr-walnut bathroom doors, noticing that my tan has faded a little. Luckily my state-of-the-art neutral crushed-self-waterproofing-velvet walk-in shower features the fabulous tan at home option. My friends will be wel jel when they come round my drum and see how my skin has colour-matched the tone of B&Q's Moroccan Flame. I shed my crushed-velvet designer onesie and step into the shower.

Once I am the correct shade, I recline a while upon my embellished metallic cushions in the traditional yet contemporary Turkish Hammam area, contemplating whether I should buy a special bin or else install an interactive worktop with which to flummox the new au-pair. I stare distractedly at the photo wall of my beautiful family, captured in touching poses by Terry Richardson. They contrast spectacularly against the creamy wall tiles.

Thinking of Terry makes me want to pee, so I slink sexily towards the half-height-glass-glazed toilet area, especially designed so that I can chat with friends while still doing the bathroom action. I squat luxuriously on the loo, hoping I look photo-ready. After I have wiped my hands on more neutral crushed velvet I skid across the floor towards my free-standing bath.

I am not yet clean enough; I have to open the bespoke bi-folding doors and roll around on my chamomile cleansing lawn before I can approach the sauna. The triple shower diverter surprises me as always and then I am ready for the dry heat of my faux-fur-lined steam room.

As I concentrate on my breath - in through nose; out through mouth - I slowly become aware of a slight discomfort beneath the faux-fur. I shift around and try to focus, but eventually have to disengage from my wonderful contemplation as a persistent beeping alerts me to my lost Range Rover keys.

ps if you want to like my bathroom bliss, go here!

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Over Tired

I was all set to post a good fish dish for when you are tired. You can do a bit, have a lie down, do a little more, have a lie down, etc. I cooked the fish, but am too tired to recount it.

A group of us are doing the Maggie's Culture Walk in September so we have to practice our walking, and the Sgt Suffolk came all the way from, um, Suffolk to make sure we marched properly. We did our best to resist the early start. We did our best to get her properly tanked up last night so she would be too weak to resist our needy cries for coffee stops every few miles. We failed. We only succeeded in tanking ourselves up.

At 9am this morning we got our takeaway coffee and marched down the Regents canal path. I know I promised no weather but we did our first 4 miles in steady rain, and by the time we reached the point where coffee was not only needed but demanded we were all soaked through our waterproofs to the skin.

Luckily it wasn't as bad as the Express promised. On our march we tried to think about the positive aspects of walking through driving rain, which were: a) I can keep my phone dry by holding it in my hand in my pocket, b) there aren't many annoying cyclists tinging their bells at us and c) we will really appreciate being warm and dry later today.

We stopped at The Waterway in Little Venice where the many staff were discombobulated by our slightly manic air and bedraggled appearance. We ate some pastries, once we had discussed with the staff what 'pastries' were, and shamelessly used the bathroom hand drier to air our soaked clothes.

Then we marched back to Regents Park in the sunshine, probably steaming a little. We impressed a football team with our ball returning skills, dodged the goose poo and oohed an aahed at the cygnets, ducklings and goslings. Back to Kings Cross, where this floral event was happening. They will be there tomorrow too if you would like some cheap and lovely flowers, or just a play in the fountains (that photo was not from today).

Very late lunch at Caravan, then the last trek back to Angel. Around 11 miles. Home to continue the normal day after a lie down and a bath.

Footsore and too tired to write a recipe. Perhaps tomorrow, after I have been back to buy some flowers.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

The only recipe book that matters.

The Recipe Book 
It seems that the builders have moved permanently into our house, and so all of my recipe books except for one are still in storage.

The one book I have kept is my own recipe book, which is in a way a record of my family: recipes I cook all the time and know by heart, things I meant to cook but never got round to, some family photos, recipes from my teens (fudge); some recipes given to my mother by her friends which I cooked when I was a child (crumpets). Emails from my father to me with news and recipes and a few from my sister. A lot of Indian dishes taught to my husband by my mother-in-law, written in my husband's tiny indecipherable scrawl, and some more from my own friends.

Most of the recipes were stuck in with sellotape which has lost its stick, and there are a lot which never got stuck at all. There is absolutely no system because things got thrown in as I fancied so whenever I need to find a recipe it is an irritating trawl through sheaves of paper. I constantly mean to organise everything into categories but so far sentiment has triumphed over practicality.

This is the only recipe book I need. 

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Bing! I nuke! Feeling ☆ ♪ thunk

There is a website which I love. When I'm feeling down it is a good place to go. 

Firstly, it has the most delicious array of lunch-ware.

 Secondly, it has the best translations in the world. Bing might have been involved. 

I have been warned not to be condescending about the translations.

I just know that descriptions like: 

'Together with family and friends on a sunny day In the outing. On a picnic. Sports etc. And other snazzy lunch box a difference. Lunch time fun and so your lunchbox. In the for your home is recommended.* Microwave the food washing machine capable (while the lid is not available). Non-packaging, the non-no box.'hold a chaotic joy utterly different to the cynical targeted marketing I experience every time I open a web page. 

They are a scattergunning of nonsensical grammatical delights and my only fear is that Saatchi and co will find a way to make it corporate (although without being condescending of course).

One of these days I shall make a recipe in the style of Rakuten 

How!   !  

I especially like the random use of the word 'thunk', the stars, and the quavers. And I am intrigued by the 'for small nitpicking nitpick athletic bento box', and the use of the phrase (there is reason) (in brackets).

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Martina Cole's Rhubarb Revenge: X-Rated

The rhubarb was coming too close to his turf. He was a powerful man, ruling his own turf and all the beds around it and now the fecking rhubarb was taking the piss. It had more front than a fecking Michael Fish weather forecast. It had to be culled. He knew he was the hard man; he could be jovial but underneath he was a man of fecking steel, and if the rhubarb got the upper hand he would be fecking undermined.

His wife looked on nervously from their upstairs bedroom window. She hadn't left the bedroom for five years now and had crocheted herself a massive fecking igloo. She was the most important fecking woman in his life but he had spent his life tending to her needs, providing ball after ball of three-ply while she spoiled their slag of a daughter rotten with themed jumpers. It was as if they were all enmeshed in that great ball of wool; a spider's web of secrets and death. "Fecking Hell",  he thought, as he slipped his axe from his pocket,"this rhubarb is giving me the naus".

He didn't even care if he got a great lump on his thumb. He poured himself a large whiskey and enjoyed the burn as it hit his stomach. He poured another, and was ready for the task ahead.

After he had vented his anger on the rhubarb it was a three-quarters dead pulpy mass of messy stems. His large Rastafarian bodyguard and swollen leper of a brother-in-law came to clear the mess away.

He was a dangerous man, appearing happy until crossed. He held within him the power to end lives on the turn of a coin and this time he knew he had only one option. The Columbians would never accept his rhubarb. It would be taking the piss. He felt angry at the very thought of those cnuts but quelled his anger with another genial smile and another large whiskey: it was all a fecking mess. Family was the only important thing to him and so he sent the kilos with the leper to his son's idiot wife's drum.

The idiot wife couldn't string a sentence together; when brains were handed out she was having a nice lie down. But she read the right magazines, kept a nice house, and always had a nice meal on the table. She was the only one who could process the rhubarb without trace. Without trace. It would be a good earn for her, a big wedge; for fecks sake they were selling this stuff down Hackney Broadway market for upwards of a ton a kilo. It was her in. He knew he could only trust her so far. If her collar was felt she would grass him up quicker than a greased ping-pong ball leaves a whore's cnut. But he had no choice. He had to trust her with the rhubarb; he would be watching her; it would be a fecking fool who messed about with his rhubarb.

Fecking Rhubarb

First, take an axe and chop the feck out of your 1.5 kg rhubarb. It should be in big wedges, around 10cm.
Don't let the Citrus family take the piss: scrape the unwilling zest from two cowering oranges, squeeze them until they squeal for mercy, add all of that to your pan. You don't want those fecking pips. They will only cause trouble in the future.
Add 200g of brown sugar.
Break the will of a cinnamon stick, slit the throats of two vanilla pods; add those too. Mwahahaha.

Turn up the heat and simmer until the rhubarb is nearly beaten into submission - around 25 minutes of torture should do the job. If you are feeling really angry leave the rhubarb to stew for another 5 minutes.

This will give you a lot of return for your effort. You can freeze little portions of it for a poncey Bircher muesli, keep it to mix into a lovely crumble for hard-working Faces, or make it into a fool.

Fecking Rhubarb Fool

Tonight I made a fecking rhubarb fool.

This is a dangerous pudding, as no-one wants to make a fool of the rhubarb gang.

First take 200ml of double cream, and beat it into submission. It should show you its fecking arsehole.

Then take 400ml of the rhubarb mixture and stir it in gently, so it doesn't even notice it is being fecked about.

Now your rhubarb is clean and clear, you can feed it into your big fecking Face.

ps. if you want to make a really big mess, throw in some strawberries and meringues.