Saturday, 25 March 2017


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...
Some colour
Wadding and a little fabric

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!


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