Monday, 17 April 2017

I’ll Start With Dessert

The Easter weekend couldn’t come quick enough – feeling under stress at the moment and the idea of a four day weekend with utterly nothing planned has kept me going (that and the though of some time with the Running Club ladies next weekend, eating cake, and possibly more cake). 

 I seem to have really enjoyed my running over Easter, more than I expected to for some reason, even though the weather keeps flinging the odd curve-ball.  I really wish that wind would just go once and for all, mainly because it’s affecting my judgment about what to wear for my runs, also because I hate battling against a the wind in general.  I braved shorts for the run on Friday (I graduated from long sleeves to t-shirt the week before) though set off wearing a jacket over the t-shirt because it did feel cold at the outset. The jacket ended up coming off before I was even a mile in! Still, did over 8 miles on the road, apart from a small section through the woods at the caravan park.  Saturday looked more promising with blue skies, sunshine and still that chilly breeze – I knew the sun would encourage a few folk out into the countryside, so formulated a route which I was willing to deviate from if there were too many people roaming about.  The idea was to go towards the ford at the entrance to the wildlife reserve at Woodhall Dean, go along through the valley towards Black Loch to Halls, then on the track which would lead me into the wildlife reserve and back towards the farm.  As it was, once at the ford, I spotted a number of cars already in the parking area – a couple having just arrived, with their occupants getting the walking boots/jacket out of their cars, ready to set off, so decided I would probably get to Halls and Pathhead (not to be confused with the Pathhead in Midlothian) and stick to the road through Spott.

 I climbed the gate to get off the road and along through the valley, following a rough road for the shooting groups who go out from time to time. I came across a closed gate at Black Loch – one not normally closed – so climbed over to discover the reason for the closed gate at the far end – a large herd of cattle.  As they were congregating on the flat, near the end gate, I went up a hillock to come down along the fence line towards the gate – the cattle shifted once they spotted me, wandering back in the direction of the loch, so I got over the gate, down to Halls, admiring the extension recently built on one of the houses near the farm house, then decided, as I had never being up the road to Pathhead, I would give that a go, knowing that I would be turning at the farmhouse there as the road goes no further.  It was funny how much smaller the house looks at close quarters – it seems more imposing from further down the road – still a good sized house though.  By this time, I changed my mind about going right towards Spott at the road end, instead heading over to Pitcox, then to Little Spott, then Spott.  Just after Little Spott, I saw a car approaching the bend, coming in my direction.  I found myself admiring the particular shade of green as I had entertained going for that colour when I last changed the car, then the car slowed down as it got closer, so I was thinking “nice driver” – it was only when there was a blast on the horn, did I realise it was James and Jen Addie, giving me a smile and a wave, obviously out for a nice drive – I hadn’t been able to see who was driving the car until they were at my side.  Nice to see some friendly faces!

 


Yesterday, the weather felt that bit colder and it was duller, but I still went with the t-shirt, though back to the three-quarter length skins rather than shorts.  I’d done the Harehead/Bothwell/Crichness route a few weeks ago, doing it the preferred way round, which is Harehead, then on to Bothwell and Crichness, so decided to do the loop the other way this time and try to round the nineteen and a half miles off to twenty by adding a little bit extra somewhere on the route.  I gave myself the usual flatter three to four miles by way of a warm-up before heading up the climb from Elmscleuch, then onwards by the woods at Monynut, before the descent downwards past Crichness.  There were loads of lambs bounding about the field just above Crichness – fawn-coloured fleeces with white faces and legs.  The shepherdess passed on the quad giving a smile and a wave as she headed along with a sack of animal feed on the back.  The lambs a little further down the hill had black faces and legs – after seeing a couple of fairly new wobbly-legged lambs, I spotted a sheep lying down, looking fit to burst, but decided it was a bit cold in the wind to hang about. Once in the valley, I went by Bothwell then, eventually, out on the Duns to Gifford road for about quarter of a mile, turning left to Harehead.  Once I passed the barns, a short-haired black and white dog bounded down past the cottages to greet me and run alongside me.  I suspected it was more used to herding sheep then runners, but it was giving me a nudge in the legs, as if encouraging me up the climb, giving my hand a lick as well as we headed round to sharp bend and up the back of the cottages.  Once we reached the last outhouse, the dog stopped, as if there was an invisible boundary it couldn’t pass, so I was on my own again.

Once up the hill, I could see the line of the forest stretching into the distance (the reason I prefer the route the other way round – this bit just feels tougher), plus I noticed to my left that the clouds were closing in – the wind turbines seemed to be vanishing under the low cloud – and I caught the rain just a little further along the track.  Once I got to the junction in the forest, I got a little shelter, but soon started to feel quite cold once the wind hit again.  So, cold and wet with around five miles still to go – not ideal, but nothing else to do except keep going.  With about two and a half miles to go, three vehicles passed in short succession, then a few cyclists.  I don’t know if it was the wet, the cold, or a combination of both with wearing the skins, but I had the sensation of being naked from the waist down!!  That feeling only passed once I got further downhill towards Elmscleuch, when decency was restored. The run turned out to be nearly seven minutes quicker than the one a few weeks ago – maybe the need for a hot shower made me run that bit quicker (or the sense that I was streaking round the countryside).

 



I got some tidying done in the garden over the weekend, a couple of small sewing projects, a little painting and some baking – of course. 
New lambs, same old fascination with that drain cover.
Noticed on Thursday evening that this beautiful Amelanchier Lamarckii in my garden had finally come in to blossom!
The Clematis Macropetala finally reaching new heights

To cushion Stuart when he's sitting at the desk 
 
Jazzy new peg bag
I’d done some baking for the clubs 10K a couple of weeks ago, to then realise we were pretty low on cake ourselves, so I’ve rectified that situation with a couple of recipes from the Humming Bird “Cake Days” book – an orange, almond and yoghurt cake (a first try of that one - glad I opted for the bigger tin than the recipe suggested) and a firm favourite, the coffee and chocolate loaf, to which I added some chunks of chocolate.  I’ve also made Chetnas Cumin Loaf again.  It would be rude not to!

Orange, Almond and Honey Cake

 We have twice had Stuart’s lovely parents along for their tea recently – Mother’s Day and George’s birthday last Saturday.  On both occasions, the dessert was decided on first, well before the rest of the meal was thought out. 

 It was while we were watching Mary Berry on TV, making a sticky toffee pudding, that Stuart announced that that should be the dessert on Mother’s Day, so that was the starting point and I eventually settled on some crispy pancakes to start, an onion tarte tatin (a Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall) and vanilla ice-cream to go with the sticky toffee pudding – the pudding recipe itself coming from the first of the Great British Bake-Off books. I just made a standard pancake batter for the starter and made the pancakes in advance.  Once they were cold, I used a side-plate to trim them all down into a neat shape and made a thick white sauce, adding a little grated cheese towards the end.  Once this had cooled, I added small cubes of cheese to it, brushed the edges of the pancakes with beaten egg and put some of the cheese mixture in the middle, folding the pancake in half, dipping in the egg and coating with polenta, then frying.  As the last time I did a crispy pancake was sometime in the 90’s, I thought it was about time I aired that recipe again.

 
 
A nice bit of balsamic to give that nice little edge.

It's sticky and it's toffee!


So, with my Father-In-Laws birthday, when prompted, Stuart came up with the suggestion of cheesecake for dessert.  Now, I love cheesecake and have a significant number of recipes for cheesecakes – actually a whole book dedicated to them, whether baked, uncooked, frozen, biscuit or pasty based. Years ago Stuart and I, while holidaying in Blair Atholl, had the urge for cheesecake and though there was nothing more to do than go to a local shop and getting one. Foolish people – we finally managed to buy the last two slices of two different cheesecakes in a small bakery in Braemar, which we shared between us. We still talk about that grand quest for cheesecake!  Anyway, I digress, the Birthday tea.  I was still undecided by the Friday night – Stuart had suggested lasagne, so I thought I would run with that one – the starter was dependent on whether I could get ripe avocadoes on Saturday morning.  So, the starter was a guacamole from “The Vegeterrean: Italian Vegetarian Cooking” by Malu Simoes and Alberto Musacchio – a few extra ingredients to the basic guacamole, with a bean salad. I made the pasta for the lasagne – guesswork with the amount of flour, two eggs, salt – and layered it with a basic tomato sauce, alternated with some green beans, cubed courgette and asparagus in a béchamel sauce, a little sprinkle of grated parmesan on the last layer of pasta and some reserved asparagus dotted over the top, then baked 180C for 25 – 30 minutes.  The cheesecake was one with soft fruits through the mixture and more soft fruits piled on top to serve – taken from the Hummingbird “Cake Days” book.  It all seemed to go down quite well, as did the remainder of the cheesecake the following day, with a coffee, after I’d had a pleasant run with Dr Jones and Harry (sorry Harry, no cheesecake for you).
Need to perfect the tomato roses........maybe life's too short!

 
I did forget two things with the lasagne – one was a photograph (and it looked pretty good too), the other was the pesto I’d made to drizzle over the top!  That’s what happens when old age is catching up!  It didn’t get wasted though, I used it in a twisted loaf the next day and tasty it was too!
 

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Spring

It’s nice to have a change in the weather again - I even managed to sit outside today, albeit briefly, in between lugging rather large stones about in an attempt to clear the run-in.  A neighbour had expressed an interest in having some of the stones from the building works and, as so often happens, hasn't come back to us about actually taking them away.  Every time I reverse the car into the parking space, I get paranoid that I'm going to hit them, so almost end up reversing into the fence on the opposite side to compensate, hence the task today! It meant getting no actual gardening done, which I have been getting into recently and I can’t believe how much I’ve enjoyed it – even the weeding!  What finally gave the push about three weeks ago was realising how many things were starting to come into bud and just how many daffodils were springing up. Last week, I was back to laying some gravel in the back garden and was glad I was cautious when clearing leaves - scooping them up by hand, rather than using the rake, otherwise I could have mangled a certain sort of garden visitor. 


The previous weekend I put a bench together  - breeze blocks left over from the building work and a marble slab which had served as a hearth in the living room of no. 11.  I managed to do that on my own, but need to enlist Stuarts help to move the mini greenhouse, so that it is nearer the kitchen – as ever, I’m planning for it to be full of pots of basil by the summer.  Plus I moved the herb planter, so that it too is nearer the kitchen.  I still hanker after a full-sized greenhouse – I feel like a child with a dolls house wanting a Wendy house – it might happen one day (though I never managed to get the Wendy house as a child.....).  Still, the mini one is pretty good for seedlings and for growing a few things which are better under cover.  I love that heady smell of lots of lush basil plants when I lift the lid on a summers day……

Another project which kept me occupied over two or three weekends (between the running and the kitchen activity of course) was giving a bit of a treat to three chairs we inherited when we bought no.11.  We knew we would use them, but they looked a bit battered and unloved, so they got a light sanding, undercoat, a gloss top coat, with the seats covered.  Stuart, being a lover of things Italian, had the idea that the chairs would look good in the colours of the Italian flag, an idea I quite liked, so went with that one.  I like that Stuart is getting inspired now and again, though it would be nice if it translated lending a hand more often - he is getting better at the painting although I’m not sure about his upholstery skills!

 
Take one Ikea chair...
Undercoat
Some colour
Wadding and a little fabric
Done!


Unsurprisingly I'm finding that I've ended up doing a few more quick recipes for our dinners as opportunities to do a bit of leisurely cooking aren't coming up as often as I would like, but it's not to say we're not eating well

Polenta with chilli, herbs, olives and a little cheese through it, served with courgettes, roasted tomatoes and French fig loaf was a reasonably quick one. Stuart doesn't like soft polenta, so I usually make it thicker so it can be cut and grill it or put it in a hot oven to brown.
 
 
 

 
The trusty stir-fry is an obvious one when time is short and the Napolitana lentil stew from Ross Dobsons 'Market Vegetarian' is another quick, tasty dish - green or brown lentils, onion, garlic, oregano, chilli flakes, tomatoes, capers, passata (or a generous amount of tomato puree), topped with olives and feta.  While I was looking out this recipe, I noticed one Ross had for a spaghetti with butternut squash and sage - I fried up the squash, added garlic and sage before I went out to the running club one night, then heated it back through when I got back home and the spaghetti was cooking - perfect!
 

 


An aubergine and coconut dahl was another relatively quick dish - not as quick as the pasta, but not massively time-consuming either - a favourite of Stuarts, I served that with, naan (Stuarts preference to rice), turmeric rice, salad and chutney.  A stuffed aubergine from 'New Vegetarian' by Celia Brooks Brown was interesting in that you flatten the whole aubergine with a rolling pin, being careful not to split it, then take off the top and stuff - here with a couscous mixture.  It was a bit of fun making it and again, was quick.


First, take a flattened aubergine...
Of course, when I have had more time, it's being nice to not have to rush things - can't hurry a caramelized onion and broccoli quiche - that was one for a Friday night.
 
 
And of course, I couldn't neglect Chetna - I made her Tomato and Paneer Loaf again - that was another Friday dinner where the cooking was accompanied by a nice glass of red wine, and the loaf by roasted spiced corn, the remaining paneer in a marinade, chutneys and popodoms.  Bliss!
 

 

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Food, Glorious Food....

After a few days off from the running last week after a fall, I'm getting back into it and trying to get the miles up again. Considering the law of averages, running as often as I do, with a certain amount of the said running been off-road, then the odd fall is to be expected.  More often than not, it's just a wee scrape or two, but this time I managed to crack a rib!  Oh, and had a couple of spectacular bruises on my knees to boot!  The race was a cross-country and on very familiar territory, but, on crossing a wooden bridge, I didn't lift my foot quite high enough, tripped and fell my length, which knocked the wind out of my sails a bit.  I did finish the race - as always with these things, the pain hits later on. So, a bit of a rest from the running for a change.

Another change is that Stuart has moved office - out to the Forth Road Bridge - which has meant us both leaving for work a little earlier in the morning, but means I am home a little sharper as I'm no longer picking Stuart up from Leith and having to sit in a queue of traffic on Seafield Road and then Sir Harry Lauder Road. Stuart, on the other hand, is home later as he is now getting off the train in Dunbar and running back to the house. It does mean, other than when we go out on a Saturday for our fruit and veg, I'm doing the food shopping - the upside of that is I might get one or two different ingredients as Stuart won't be there to have us practically dashing round the supermarket, missing anything new! Hmmm, I can see an opportunity here.

The way my cooking has gone over the last few weeks makes me think I have a crush on Chetna - I can't get enough of her book The Cardamom Trail - I've loved what I've made out of it so far. I wasn't sure how the Auberine and Onion Tart would work out - not a great number of ingredients to put together, plus I had made a big block of flaky pastry which was languishing, portioned up, in the freezer, so seemed one to try on a Sunday when I didn't have a lot of time to spare. It was simple to make and tasty. The Chickpea Curry, from the recipe for a Chickpea Curry Pie, was a good one to serve with the remaining Tomato and Paneer Loaf, which had frozen successfully. The Onion and Fennel Bread was a revelation with Stuarts pasta one Saturday night - he suggested what was left of that would work toasted with some spiced beans or chickpeas - a sort of Indian inspired beans on toast as a quick mid-week tea. I did alter the shape of the loaf from the recipe, making it in a loaf tin rather than the couronne shape in the recipe. The Dal Kachori were good, as was the Paneer Pie, which I served with a sort of lightly spiced ratatouille and salad one Friday evening. I did finally get round to actually baking a cake from the book - the reason I bought it in the first place! The Almond and Coffee Cake didn't disappoint.  No small wonder that I'm following Chetna on Facebook (or is it called stalking?)
Chickpea curry

 
Onion and fennel bread

Beans on toast - nothing like Heinz!
 
Dal Kachori
Paneer pie
A lovely cake (and a new toy - a light box)
Stuart spent some of the money he was given at Christmas on a light box, which he though would be good for some of the photos - I tried it for the picture of the cake, but it's not practical to set it up when trying to serve something hot.  Stuart has taken a few more photos, experimenting with a different background. It does seem quite good for food pictures though.
 
I have being trying out some different breads, in between a couple of the old favourites, such as Ruby Tandoh's Tiger Bread and her Swedish Rye and Caraway Bread - both from "Crumb".  The tiger bread has a batter made with yeast, salt, rice flour, sesame oil brushed over it when it's rising, which gives a nice crust on it.  The rye bread was a good one - more robust flavours from the rye flour.
 


Stuart has a book "Bread" by Eric Treuille and Ursula Ferrigno, bought when we first moved to Woodhall, when Stuart was rather more enthusiastic about getting into baking.  It's a while since Stuart has made any bread, but I've got some firm favourites out of the book, such as the Cheese Hearth Bread - flat breads which are great for freezing just after the final proving, so they're on hand when time is short - and Mantovana, an olive oil bread, with a slightly more delicate crumb. When I picked up the book last weekend, I thought I would give the Broa (Portuguese corn bread) a go as well as the Prune and Chocolate Bread.  I was out of prunes so swapped them for dates - a great bread toasted, but should only be eaten in small quantities as it's a pretty packed loaf - certainly not a low-calorie option.

 
 

I do wonder, if I made something different every day, out of all the books I have, how long it would take to get through them all.  I did hear of someone whose mother never repeated a recipe in over 45 years! I understand she wrote down everything that she had made, but how did the rest of the family know they hadn't eaten a particular something before?  To be honest, I like to have some of the same things again - it would seem crazy to really enjoy a dish and then say "well, I'm never going to eat that again".  I really enjoy pizzas and risotto - I think Stuart would never forgive me if I never made those again.  The last pizza I made was inspired by one Stuart had in Tutto Matto on Nicholson Street before Christmas - the base was made with a couple of different flours for extra crunch and the topping was pesto and pine nuts.  Funnily enough, a recent risotto was finished off with a rocket and walnut pesto - something else I would make again.


 
I have tried some other new recipes recently -Indian-style falafels from Kaushy Patel's "Prashad at Home", also an Aloo Gobi from "Prashad".  Denis Cotter's Squash with Cannellini Beans, Sage and Lemon and his Gingered Kale, Walnut and Pumpkin Gratin, both from Café Paradiso. This was the book that I bought as I really liked the fact so many of the recipes looked a little different, then thought I would never make any of them as there seem to be so many components to them.  True to form, appearances can be deceptive as most of the recipes are easier, and quicker, than they first appear. 

Falafels with a difference!

Aloo Gobi

Pumpkin gratin with aubergine rolls
Of course, I couldn't let Burns Night pass without haggis..........

(Veggie) haggis in filo with salsa


Tuesday, 3 January 2017

If I'd Known You Were Coming, I'd have Baked A Cake

It's hard to believe that's another Christmas come and gone and we're now into a new year! Really, where does the time go? 

One explanation for me is that work commenced on the house in October and we have gone from having to go through two front doors (or back doors) to do various bits and pieces, to now having what is shaping up to be quite a nice home. The first stage was to move my existing kitchen into the 'other' cottage, and from then on in the work progressed pretty well. The reason for the kitchen move was that a large portion of a hefty stone wall between what was our kitchen and the living room of the adjoining property was to be removed to join the ground floor of the two properties. It seems funny now that I went through a period of baking a number of cakes at a time when I wouldn't normally have baked so much, then the usual period of cake baking, the run up to Christmas, didn't happen.  The reason for more baking than usual was so that the guys doing the work could have more with their tea or coffee than a couple of Hobnobs - though the said biscuits did find their way on to a few plates along with the cake.  I made the Hummingbird Bakery coffee and chocolate loaf a couple of times, my trusty lemon drizzle cake from the first Great British Bake Off book, a banana loaf recipe also from the Hummingbird book, which I had never made before, likewise the honey and walnut loaf I ended up making twice along with their fabulous nutty apple loaf. So the two cottages are now connected on the ground floor and I have tried out a couple of new cake recipes while the work was going on!

Once the rubble had been removed and the dust settled
Looking a little different now.

Nutty apple loaf (also contains chocolate)

Honey and walnut loaf
Obviously we were in a state of upheaval for a few weeks then decorating took up our time in the lead up to Christmas - I felt really thankful for recipes which are quick to prepare so we could eat something more than pasta every night (although Stuart claims he could happily eat pasta every day, I like some variety).  There have been a couple of curries along the way, a great Yotam Ottolenghi recipe spotted in the Saturday supplement of a certain newspaper - aubergine/paneer rolls on a bed of lentils (surprisingly quick to make) - focaccia filled with roasted peppers and halloumi, chilli, but I was really missing being able to have a leisurely stint in the kitchen. Even doing some baking to take into work on my Birthday required a certain amount of forward preparation - arriving home from a cross-country on the Sunday afternoon, I set about doing as much as I could. I really wanted to make the marjolaine, which had been a technical challenge in the last series of the Great British Bake Off.  I was aware that there was a lot to it, but once I'd made the meringue and the praline for the buttercream, nothing was going to stop me.  I was taken out for a meal on the Monday night as a Birthday treat, thinking I would come home and decorate the marjolaine and a lemon cake I had made ready for the next day in around 15 minutes.  As with all the best laid plans, a freezing cold kitchen meant that the buttercream, the chocolate ganache and the limencello cream were practically solid, so 15 minutes stretched out to about an hour and I finally got to bed feeling shattered.  I was pleased with the marjolaine, but I could have done without the late night.

Rogan josh, pilau with coconut and cardamom pancakes

I couldn't eat a whole one!
Something a little healthier.
So, December ended up vanishing rapidly as Stuart and I pressed on with the decorating - I've lost count of the number of times I said "everything always takes longer than you think" as the anticipated weekend or two of painting stretched to very close to Christmas itself.  On top of the work on the house, we had both agreed to take part in Marcothon - meaning we were agreeing to run every day of December - as well as signing up to a couple of races along the way. We did the Water of Leith Half Marathon on the first Saturday in December, which I really enjoyed, especially as I have looked at a lot of the ownerships along it's banks in the course of my job.  It was brilliant to run along some scenic and interesting parts that I've only ever looked at on a map before!  Once we were home, we did some work on the house.  The following weekend we had a cross-country, followed by painting and me decorating the first of the Christmas cakes I'd made towards the end of October. The other two were decorated the following evening after some painting. The weekend before Christmas saw us doing a trail race in Binning Wood on the Saturday, painting before and after that, then our own club's Festive Half Marathon on the Sunday, followed by more painting. Small wonder we were both feeling exhausted.  We bought a beautiful Christmas tree, decorated it, but didn't get to appreciate it until Christmas day was almost on us.  I was trying to wrap presents, write cards, make curtains for the living room and make sure that the decorating was going to be finished so that we could use the new living room/dining room on Christmas Day.  Madness! I briefly wondered if I could get away with taking the curtains into work to finish sewing up at my desk, but that might have been a little too obvious, though no different from others who do their own thing in the office every working day, I don't think that would have been looked on too kindly!




I did hit a low ebb on the Wednesday before Christmas - tired and feeling that there was no end insight, but by that night, I felt fairly optimistic that everything would fall in place and on Friday evening I finally sat in the living room and got to appreciate what we had done.

Christmas Eve was all about preparing everything for the meal the next day, though I did finally get the curtains hung up in the early evening.  I hadn't given a huge amount of thought to Christmas dinner other than, when I made the marjolaine for my Birthday, deciding that it would be a good dessert to make, with white chocolate ganache rather than the dark...possibly fruit rather than the nuts on top.....oh and whipped fresh cream rather than the buttercream...so, not quite the same thing then!  The main course was another thing spotted in a weekend supplement - a butternut squash, chestnut, feta and filo pie.  The starter was still undecided until fairly near the day - a mushroom pate from The Food Aid Cookery Book from 1986 - a recipe I hadn't made for a number of years.  Stuart's contribution was to suggest ice-cream to go with the dessert - he thought that whisky and honey with bits of Crunchie through it would be a good one to try.  So, I had my work cut out on Christmas Eve, but loved it, just been able to focus on cooking and baking.  I even made some nibbles for when we opened the presents - cheesy bites and spiced nuts.  The nuts are pretty quick and simple, just use any selection of nuts and pop in a food bag with a little glug of olive oil, a little black pepper, a generous pinch of paprika, onion seeds and salt to taste.  Shake the bag and empty the contents on an oven tray, pop in the oven at 180C and bake for 10 to 15 minutes - keep an eye on them and remember, when they come out of the oven, the nuts will appear to be soft, but they do crisp up as they cool.  Quick and tasty!

I did completely forget to take pictures of what was made, but I would certainly do any of it again.  I forgot how much I like that mushroom pate, I also forgot how much I love homemade oatcakes - I made ones cut in the shape of Christmas trees - again, a long time since I've made oatcakes.  The pie looked and tasted great - that's one I would made again - and the dessert went down well, though I opted for cream with mine, while everyone else went for the ice-cream, which seemed to work - Stuart was quite proud to say that he had suggested it.

So, I have enjoyed the time off work over Christmas and New Year, and adopting a more leisurely pace of life.  I have still run every day, with a couple of races in the mix - by the time I have a rest day, I will have run every day for seven weeks, so a day off will seem very odd.  Time in the kitchen has been really enjoyable as everything has being pretty unhurried.  I had bought myself The Cardamom Trail by Chetna Makan - it's another cookbook worth having.  On Boxing Day, I adapted one of her recipes for a filled naan bread by way of using up potatoes left over from the day before.  The next day I made her beautiful cumin loaf, the following day her pine nut and onion rolls, a couple of which we had warm from the oven with an Italian bean soup. I have also cooked up a large amount of dried chickpeas, cannellini and kidney beans, bagged them and frozen them ready to use when I need such things to hand.

Cumin loaf - wonderfully aromatic


Pine nut and onion rolls


I also made Chetna's paneer and tomato loaf which we had with her smoked aubergine.  Gorgeous. I've also baked a couple of things from Ruby Tandoh's "Crumb" - a date malt loaf and chickpea and cumin seed buns.  Ruby says that these buns complement robust fillings, such as falafel, bean burgers, spiced lamb.  I was a little sceptical as to how these would work as I wondered if the inclusion of mashed chickpeas in the dough would make the buns heavy, but not in the least.  Two more great recipes to try again from Ruby.

Date malt loaf - great toasted
 I did think I would make a recipe from "Nopi" (Yotam Ottolenghi and Ramael Scully) - the spiced chickpea patties with coconut leaf paste - a recipe to do when you have a little more time than usual.  I really enjoyed it; Stuart less so as he found it a little too spicy for his taste.  I was amused to see that I made this round about the same time last year, though can't recall what Stuart's reaction was then!

Chickpea patties
Happy New Year.