19 February 2015

Grey Day Comfort Food

This week has been a bit grey. The lovely sunny weather we had last week has been replaced with grey skies and gloomy days and it's really been a week for comfort food. On days like these, my go-to food is either a wonderfully warming casserole or a deliciously hearty pie. In my weekly shop from Aldi this week, I bought a pork joint for &1.99. It was a decent sized joint which I knew would make a couple of lovely meals.

First of all, I popped the joint into my casserole dish, added a good squeeze of BBQ sauce, a beef stock cube and some water and I cooked it on a low-ish heat for about 3 hours until the pork was falling apart, stickey and tender. Half way through, while I was turning the meat, I took off the skin, put it on a baking sheet, sprinkled it with salt and turned it into golden crackling which I then broke into pieces to snack on while the pork finished cooking.

Once the pork was cooked, I tore it into pieces and my first supper was pork and refried bean tacos with sour cream and salad. Completely messy to eat but totally delicious. I used tinned refried beans but there are plenty of recipes out there if you wanted to make your own. I just happened to have a tin in the cupboard and I was feeling lazy and hungry and I couldn't be bothered to go to the shop to buy the ingredients! Sorry but I didn't take any photos because after smelling the delicious pork roasting away in the oven all afternoon, I was absolutely ravenous and I was too busy scoffing my tacos to think about my camera. 

My second meal from the pork was a pie. Into a pan I chopped a sweet potato, 3 carrots and about 1/3 of a butternut squash. A little tip I have discovered about butternut squashes, If you buy one that has a small round bit on the bottom and a long neck bit (if you know what I mean), you get more flesh and fewer seeds so there is less wastage ...... I'm sure most people have figured that out but I just thought I would mention it. As they cost the same no matter what shape you buy it makes sense to get as much out of them as you can :-)

So buy one like this                                                        not like this

Anyway, back to the pie, I added a beef stock cube to the pan containing the pork, squash, carrots and sweet potato, along with some water and I cooked everything together until the vegetables were tender and the gravy had thickened up and then I tipped it all into a pie dish, added a shortcrust pastry top and popped it in the oven until it was golden brown. 

I just added some veg and there you have it, a delicious supper for about £2.00 for the whole thing. 

17 February 2015

Fancy Schmancy v's Good Old Fashioned Real Life

I read lots of blogs. Lots and lots of blogs. Even more since I hurt my knee and have a lot of time on my hands when I'm resting it and I love reading them. I love having a peek into other people's lives, seeing how they live, what they sew and knit and create, how they make their houses and gardens look amazing and also, what they cook. I read all types of blogs but, the ones that seem to always catch my eye when I'm looking for new blogs to read are the ones that are slick and beautifully presented. Amazingly perfect pictures, mouthwatering food and the most exquisite hand-made items that could happily grace the pages of a high-end magazine. I love reading them and looking at the artfully composed and fabulously lit pictures. I love stepping into their lives for a short while and experiencing how they live and it's 100% pure escapism because a part of me, a very big part of me in fact, wonders how on earth these people find time to do all the stuff they do, lead these perfectly, beautifully, wonderfully photogenic lives and still have time to blog about it! They must have way more hours in a day than I do, they must all be fully qualified photographers, chefs, seamstresses and interior designers and the only logical conclusion I can come to is that they either have servants or a magic wand ....... possibly both! :-)

My blog is very much a way for me to write down all the stuff that is going on in my life, both good and not-so-good. My photographs are generally passable but not usually great and sometimes, when I read back through old blog posts I can't help but notice the odd spelling mistake or grammatical error, which the compulsive perfectionist in me always has to go back and correct. My blog, like my life isn't perfect and it isn't always photogenic. I never seem to have enough spare money to do all the things that I would like to my house and garden and there are never, ever enough hours in the day to get everything done that I would like to get done. But hey ..... that's life. Apart from a bit of extra cash every now and then and a less leaky roof, there isn't very much that I would change.

So, in the spirit of my not-so-perfect, lovely life, here are the cleaned out and organised cupboards that I have spent the last week sorting out. No out of date food, well ..... nothing more than a few months out of date anyway and now, there is no danger of a head injury from falling tins or bags of flour when the cupboards are opened. It's fabulous :-)

 And here is the car-full of junk that was taken to the tip this morning!!!

Now ...... what next?!!

16 February 2015

8 Cupboards Down ...... Only 4 More To Go!!!!

Well, I am totally into all this de-cluttering malarkey. I have now completely emptied most of kitchen cupboards and I have dumped maybe 70% of the stuff that was in there. A good 20% of what was left has gone either to charity shops or is being saved to make a bit of money in the summer when the car boot sales start and what is left has been put through the dishwasher or thoroughly cleaned and scrubbed and has been put back into the lovely spotlessly clean cupboards. It's heaven! I still have some of the food cupboards left to sort out and then I intend to paint anything that doesn't move with brilliant white paint. After that, I can start the fun bit of putting everything back in and making it look pretty. My knee also seems to be behaving itself at the moment too so I am getting a fair amount done before I have to stop and give it a rest.

The sun has made an appearance again which is also nice. It makes me feel so much happier when the sun is out, even if it's not particularly warm. There are signs of life all over the place. 

The snowdrops are starting to flower. 

The daffodils are starting to come through although for some reason this year they are looking very small and stunted, almost like mini-daffodils.

The plant in the next picture, believe it or not, is a sweet pea plant, kind of an everlasting variety. It was given to me by one of my lovely friends when it was past its best and could no longer be sold at the market and I am ashamed to say I dumped it in a bag and left it on the table outside my house. Miraculously, it survived the dry weather last year, it survived being soaked and blown around during the wet and windy Autumn and it has survived the bitterly cold spell we have just had. I think the least it deserves is planting nice and deep in a big pot or maybe next to my wooden arch so it can clamber over it and make it look fabulous. So, as soon as I have finished blitzing the kitchen, I will make sure it's sorted out and find a nice permanent place for it to go. 

And, last but by no means least, my chickens are starting to lay again which is fabulous. My two girls are now laying me an egg every couple of days. They do sterling work keeping me in delicious eggs during the lighter months and I usually get two eggs each day from them from about April 'til the clocks go back in October but, during the shorter days and chilly weather, they take a break from their egg laying duties and concentrate on keeping warm and cosy. They tend to get a bit spoilt in the winter and they love it when I make them some nice warm porridge for breakfast when it's cold. This year, they will be getting a really really big walk-in run so I can open the door during the day when I'm home to keep an eye on them and they can free range around the garden and when I'm not home to look out for them, they will have a really big area to run around in. I have already bought it and it's standing in my hallway waiting for the weather to improve a bit more and my knee to get a bit better then I will be putting it together for them.  

Right, back to the kitchen to finish off the last of the cupboard clearing !

15 February 2015

Beware ...... Spring Cleaning Maniac on the Loose

I don't know if it's the recent bout of spring-like, sunny weather, the inactivity of spending most of my time sat on the sofa resting my knee or the fact I have no sewing to do because I have had to give up my market stall but, I'm really bored and lately, I have felt the urge to spring clean. To de-clutter not only my house but my life too. Next Friday, I will be reaching a milestone birthday (50 .... eeeek!) and I have to be honest, I think I might be having a bit of a mini-mid-life-crisis!! Too much time on my hands to sit and think about things. About where my life is taking me and about whether or not that direction is somewhere I want to go. I feel like I need a change. Maybe a really big change but a change nevertheless so, while I am pondering what this change might be, I am going to sort out my house in the hope that the rest might fall into place or at least become a little clearer and ..... if all else fails, at least I will have a clutter-free house :-)

Kitchen stuff from one of the cupboards waiting to be sorted and broken electrical stuff waiting to be taken to the recycling place.

So, after what feels like a million trips to the tip with junk, several trips to the charity shops to drop off things I think other people might be able to use and a big box tucked away in the spare room for the summer car boot sales, I now have kitchen cupboards that are empty of junk. I have cupboards that hold only the things I use all the time and I have to say, it feels very good. I found things in my cupboards that I haven't used for years. I'm terrible, I never throw anything away, just in case, but I am slowly realising that if things don't work or if I find I don't use them any more, I should either throw them out or pass them on. Something I am going to try and do from now on. My kitchen is still a mess. It's going to a take a bit of time to get things put away and back to normal and I really want to re-paint the kitchen as it's only been done once since we moved here so I still have a way to go before I move on to the next room, probably the living room. I fully intend, over the next few weeks, to go through every drawer and every cupboard in every room and de-clutter. I'm going to free up as much space as I can and simplify the way I live and when I'm finished, I'm going to stand back and take a look and see what's next. 

9 February 2015

Flapjack and a So-Called Fence

Thank you for the message of support on my last post. I'm sorry about the rant, it was a bad day yesterday and I just needed to let off a bit of steam. I spoke to some of my nice neighbours A & P this morning who told me that the fence is not a permanent one but something temporary until the rest of the work has been done. I do hope so because this was what greeted me yesterday, after the hordes of people had gone, and I went out to have a look at what they had put in place of the post and rail fence they ripped down.

Note the very attractive slope of the fence, the wonderful gap next to the wall and the extremely useful HUGE gap between the end of the fence and my gatepost! Such a professional job ..... NOT!!! I have no idea what their plans for this particular fence is are but I am sincerely hoping that A & P are right and that this is just a temporary measure.

So, today, after all the stress of yesterday, I was really craving something sweet. I'm on a very tight budget again this month, particularly as I have had to give up my market stall, so, I hunted through the cupboard to see what I had to make some cakes or cookies with. Lurking right at the back of the cupboard, there was a 1kg bag of porridge oats and a bag of very hard, lumpy, supposedly "soft" dark brown sugar. Who knows how long they've been in there but, never one to throw something away unless it's absolutely necessary, I immediately thought of flapjack. Deliciously sticky, oaty goodness to help relieve the stress of the weekend.

I have no idea where I originally got this recipe, it's been written in my note book for years so here is is, in case you have a craving for flapjack :-) I will post some pictures after they are cooked and chopped into slices if I remember. 


175 grams butter
175 grams soft brown sugar
1 tablespoon golden syrup
250 grams porridge oats

Preheat oven to 150C. Lightly grease a 20cm baking tin.
In a large pan, melt together the butter, sugar & syrup, while stirring. When melted, remove from the heat and stir in the porridge oats.
Pour into tin and smooth the surface with a spoon. Bake for 35-40 mins or until the edges are brown and the surface has turned golden.
Place the tin on a wire rack. Cut into squares after 10 minutes, but leave to cool completely before removing from the tin.

8 February 2015

I Think it's Time to Go and Live in a Field ..... where there are NO NEIGHBOURS!!!!

Most of you who have been reading this blog for a while will know that in the past, I have had problems with horrible neighbours. One set of nasty, intimidating and just downright horrible neighbours who, for a long time, made living here very difficult. About a year ago, these neighbours packed up and left, returning only occasionally to sort out the place ready to sell. Over the weeks, after they left, things slowly returned to the nice peaceful existence where people chatted over the garden fences and stopped to say hello to each other as they pottered about their business instead of scurrying off inside to avoid seeing the neighbours. Then, towards the end of last year, the two flats were purchased by an elderly woman who, at first, seemed to be lovely. She was chatty, if a bit brusque and I had high hopes that the lovely peaceful atmosphere would continue. Until, that is, about 3 weeks after she bought the place, I came home to find the whole place filled with cars and vans and crawling with people all wandering about the place. Fair enough, I thought, the woman is readying the flats for renting and as such, I resigned myself to the fact that for the time being, there would be people around sorting things out. What I wasn't prepared for was the fact that these people, grandchildren and friends of the grandchildren of this woman, have no respect for other peoples property. This morning, when I went outside to the field to check the llamas, I found that yesterday, while the place was once again crawling with people, someone has hacked my honeysuckle plant and my beautiful climbing rose that were next to my front gate, to pieces. Now I understand that if there are tendrils of plants hanging over the fence they might need a trim but it's not as if these tendrils were hanging into someone else's garden or blocking the light or even as if there were very many of them or that they were massively long, they weren't. They were just hanging over my fence a bit onto the communal driveway, which is a kind of track. Now, I'm sure there are people reading this who are thinking "what's the big deal" or "if it's hanging over their property they have every right to cut it down" well it's not the fact that they did it it's the fact that they hacked my rose bush and my honeysuckle to pieces and that they didn't say anything to me. If they had said "do you mind if we trim it" I would have said of course. I would probably have done it myself if I had thought it was really that bad but it wasn't AND not only did they chop down my lovely plants but they left all the bloody brambles that were growing out of their side of the drive and didn't even bother to touch them! I really give up. I want to live in a field with nothing around me except cows, sheep and horses for at least a mile so I don't ever have to put up with this ever again. I think I am going to become a hermit, it's much less hassle!

An Apology

I would like to say a big sorry to Rambler, who is wondering what on earth she has done to have her comment removed from the comment section. Rambler, you didn't do anything, it's my fault entirely. I broke my reading glasses and I was in such a rush to publish the comment that I accidentally published a spam comment at the same time as publishing yours. When I tried to delete the spam comment, in my blind-as-a-bat state without my glasses, using my itsy-bitsy iPad mini, I deleted the wrong comment. Unfortunately I don't know how to retrieve the comment but now I have found my spare specs I will definitely be having a good old rootle around on Blogger to see if I can find it and re-publish it. Again ..... sorry Rambler :-)

4 February 2015

Raspberry Vodka and Smoked Mackerel Pate

Today, I have been wandering around the house trying to figure out a way to change things around. I have mentioned before that I get bored with things very easily because in the past, I have been used to moving around on a regular basis, usually every 2-3 years. When we bought this house 11 years ago, the moving stopped and for the most part I like the security of having my own house but I do sometimes still miss the packing up and the moving to pastures new, the de-cluttering and the feeling of staring a fresh chapter. I kind-of know what I want to do and I know that there are definitely things I need to get rid of ..... the piano for one. I have never liked it, no one has ever played it and in fact, the only thing it's ever been used for is displaying photo, gathering dust and putting junk on. The trouble is, it will cost me money to get it taken away so I need to come up with a way to get rid of it for free. I even tried to give it away and no one wanted it!! Anyway, while I have been thinking about where to put things and how to get rid of the dreaded piano, I have been trying to keep busy by doing a bit of kitchen wizardry. I can't call it cooking because it's not actually cooking. 

Just before Christmas I wrote a blog post about some delicious raspberry vodka that a friend of mine had brought to the market for us to try. I have been meaning to have a go at making it but never seemed to get around to it so, while pondering the mysteries of furniture relocation and demolition, I whipped up a jar of raspberry vodka. 

The recipe is HERE if you want to have a go for yourself. It's basically vodka, raspberries, sugar and about 8 weeks ..... or as long as you can keep yourself from drinking it!! My raspberries were frozen and had been in the freezer for absolutely ages and I knew that once they were defrosted they would be too squishy to do very much with them so I put them into the vodka while they were still frozen, added the sugar and popped the lid on. I will give you an update when it's done.

I also made some smoked mackerel pate. Again, the simplest of recipes which takes about 5 minutes to make. Simply buy some smoked mackerel fillets, I buy ones that are smoked with lemon and parsley but you can get peppered ones or ones without any added flavours, whichever takes your fancy really. Take the fish out of the packet and remove the skin. Then, using your hands, flake the fish and feel for any bones while you're doing this. It's easier to find any stray bones in the fish if you use your hands instead of a knife or a fork. Then, simply stir in some cream cheese, the Philadelphia type of soft cheese. There are loads of different brands and types, I use one with garlic and herbs, but that's simply a personal preference and again, you can use whatever takes your fancy. 

Once it's stirred in, add a squeeze of lemon and some salt and pepper to taste and it's ready to eat. 

Now ......... where's my hammer, it's time to get rid of that hideous piano!!!

3 February 2015

Time to Get Thrifty

Well, things have been a bit stressful this week. I visited my doctor last week and was told that I probably have ligament damage on my knee and that I need an ultrasound scan to see what's going on When I asked if I should rest my leg, he told me that light exercise is fine but if my knee is painful to just do what I can. Not helpful really when I have animals to feed and stuff to sort and a very painful swollen knee. I then got a letter from my doctor yesterday saying that he had changed his mind and referred me to an orthopaedic surgeon so I can then be referred for an MRI scan, something that, as a GP, he isn't allowed to ask for without a consultant referral. Even with copious amounts of pain killers, my knee is just not getting any better so yesterday, I made the decision to give up my stall at the market. Hopefully, it will only be for a while until I get my knee fixed but, the cold and the stress from standing all day hasn't done it any good. This means that there is no extra income coming in and that I'm going to have to get very creative with my food if I'm going to make ends meet. 

I'm not one to run from a challenge and I am very fortunate in that I do have a regular amount of money coming in each month but with no potential for any extra income, all things thrifty is about to become my new motto. So, this week, I have been shopping around for the best bargains and I have been dividing my money up into weekly segments so I know what I have to spend each week. I have also tried to put a little aside for emergencies, although this month, living might have to take precedent over saving. I managed to bag a couple of bargains on Saturday. I was in my local supermarket at 7.30pm-ish and there were lots of lovely people trotting around the shop reducing things. The lady on the bread counter was bagging up delicious crusty rolls into bags of 6 which are usually £1.25 and pricing them at 5p!!! I managed to get 5 bags and a mini baguette which was also 5p. I was thrilled to bits, I never get such decent bargains. The bread lady was encouraging me to take all the bags of bread because she said they had been so quiet that day that they had had to reduce them to 5p to get rid of them but my darned Britishness got in the way and I left 5 bags for other people. They went straight in the freezer when I got home along with some fish that I picked up for £1.00. I also bought one of their cooked chickens for £2.50 which I got a nice Sunday lunch from and yesterday, I boiled up the bones with half of a leek that had seen better days and some carrots, to make some amazingly delicious chicken stock to make some soup with.

Chicken stock bubbling away

I then removed the chicken carcass and all the icky bits of bones and chicken, added some cauliflower, broccoli and more carrots and turned it into .....

Chicken stock turned into chicken soup ...... Yummy :-)

The weather has turned bitterly cold down here in Cornwall and I have actually turned up my heating a notch from 10 degrees to 12. I don't usually turn up the heating but the cold makes my knee stiff so I have turned it up for a couple of days til things thaw out. We had a flurry of snow last night and I was hoping to wake up to a blanket of snow this morning but all I got was crunchy, icy grass and bright sunshine which has already started to melt the snow.