Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Russian Salad

I grew up in a socialist country, with non-religious parents, which meant that, when I was growing up, we did not celebrate Christmas.  The big festivity of the year, for us, was New Year.  As my parents - and the majority of people that were not church goers - did not do the whole presents thing, what that meant was staying up till after midnight, watching Superman on telly (well, I'm sure it was not always Superman, must have been some other film some years, although the tricky memory and the passage of time refuse to throw up anything else), fireworks, and of course, Russian salad.

Really not sure why - perhaps it was a frugal and easy option to feed even the biggest party of revellers - and it wasn't just the Russian salad - there were always hours of cooking, and baking, and whatnot - but whatever else was served up, nice though it doubtless was, changed from year to year, whilst Russian salad was, and as far as I'm aware, remains, a tradition.

So that is what I made today, in order to scoff tonight.  As is often the case with these things, there are no hard and fast quantities - it depends on what you have in and how many you're catering for, as well as personal taste, but what you will need is

mayo (homemade is best)

First I made mayo - I used Elaine's 10 second method - an egg, a spoonful of mustard, a splash of cider vinegar, a sprinkle of salt, 250ml oil and a stick blender.  It doesn't get much easier than this !

Potatoes - this is about four medium ones, boiled in their skins, allowed to cool slightly then peeled, cubed and seasoned.

Gherkins - three of 'em


Peas and carrots cooked for 6-7 minutes (you don't want too much of a crunch for this) - three carrots and a handful of peas. I didn't use the lot for salad - a couple of handfuls went into a tub in the fridge for when DD next wants a quick dish of rice and veg.

Mix all together with mayo, stick in the fridge. 

A perfect party side-dish, although I have been known to just eat it on its own. Many times.
Happy New Year xxx

Monday, 30 December 2013


Today was a day for pottering around and doing admin - y'know, things like updating the storecupboard and freezer lists, doing the next year's budget, transferring dates into a spanking brand new diary.... And looking over the last year while I was  at it.
And what came to me as a bit of a shock was the reminder of how dreadful the start of the year was, and how it wasn't until after DD's GCSE exams that things started looking up.  Frankly, if you asked me before I checked out the diary, I'd have said that we have had a great year, only slightly marred by the fact that now it seems to be my turn to be really poorly.
I think I will hold on to that thought, if you don't mind ;o)  Next year we will have twice as long of happy positivity and smooth sailing, and that is a promise.
Anyway - I still can't really promise that I will write - here or anywhere else - with any sort of regularity, as sitting down in one position for any length of time is rather painful, and typing isn't going that great, either - but I will try.  In the meantime, some photos of what's been keeping me amused lately:
Next door's cat determined to come and live with us, if only we weren't so mean, what with shutting all the doors and windows on him the moment he tries to climb in:
Approved Food bargains:
Camping in the lounge at Christmas:

More random sunsets: 

Trying out what, according to Tim Moore's You Are Awful (But I Like You), is one of the worst dishes available in Britain (he fails to finish his) - the Parmo.  Well, I've no idea really what the typical take-away version is like, but what I made at home following this recipe  was actually rather nice. 

So, has anyone else ever had a Parmo ?  And if so, what did you think ?

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Happy Christmas....

....to everyone that's been kind enough to read this blog, and big thanks to all of you, especially those of you who have taken time to leave a comment.  I have been somewhat under the weather recently, hence the decided lack of posts - but I will be back very soon.

Back to the kitchen now - it might be just a big roast dinner, but it's a really big roast dinner, and I am rather looking forward to the point when we're all full to bursting, the bulk of the washing up has been done, and it's 7.30 and the last adventure of the 11th Doctor is under way.

Happy Christmas, everyone !  x

Friday, 22 November 2013

My Kind of Shopping

Our recent grocery shopping has been mostly happening at Morrison's.  Normally I prefer shopping around and changing the supermarket each week, depending on offers - but shopping at Morrison's in order to take advantage of their Christmas Bonus offer has been OK, especially as the £40 required weekly spend is not our whole grocery budget, leaving a bit available for any fresh produce top-ups, or Lidl's half price weekend meat offers ;o) 
But then we got a £10 off a £50 spend voucher for Sainsbury's.... And as we only need 9 vouchers over a 10 week period to qualify for Morrison's Christmas bonus, we thought, well.... It'd be rude not to.
So here it is - £50.99 worth of groceries.
And here is what we actually paid for it:

Yup, a whole 49 pence.  £17.50 worth of Nectar points (gathered mostly through credit card use - credit card paid in full each month - and AdPoints);  £23 worth of Luncheon Vouchers (earned by answering surveys)..... And all that shopping up there ours for 49p.
I must shop like that again some time soon !

Monday, 18 November 2013

Coconut Loaf

1 cup self-raising flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup dessicated coconut
1 cup milk
Mix all together, pour into a greased loaf tin, bake on 180 C for 40-45 minutes. 
Try to take a picture before it's all gone.
I did it.  Just ;o)

Sunday, 17 November 2013

I'm Still Standing

Well, just about.

Thanks to all who have left comments in my absence - Barbara, I suspect that part of our energy savings with the stove top kettle is the fact that gas is still cheaper than electricity - but on the other hand, a stove top kettle still does not heat up as rapidly as plug-in electric kettle would (those are the energy guzzlers, the things that heat up really rapidly), so I would imagine that you'd still save money by switching.  Don't just take my word for it though, do a bit more research first..... Or try taking an electric metre reading before and after boiling a kettle, and then before and after boiling the same amount of water in a saucepan with a lid - the energy use of a stove top kettle will be similar to the latter.

As for the kettle itself - I just had to get a new one I'm afraid (after a couple of years, the lid on the old one fell apart - I held it together with superglue for a while, but a replacement was needed asap) - it's this one.

Right, now I'm done trying to sound like I know what I'm talking about, here's a bit of what I've been up to over the last week or so:

                                              Blankets on the sofa to help keep warm:

Stocking up on half-price pork in Lidl and a beer kit in Tesco (down to the last three bottles of the last batch):

Couponing - free stuff  (not something I'd have bought otherwise)

....and heavily discounted stuff:

Baking bread. The cheese and onion loaf was a hit - why does it always happen with the stuff I create to use up random imgredients that have been hanging around for yonks ?  In this case, dried onions - all gone now. 

Dealing with the last of the pumpkin flesh - cubed, roasted, frozen.

Marvelling at the garden mid-November - I've never seen it look so - well, floral - this late in the year. Not to mention the sunshine.  It does mean that windows need to be kept clean though..... Not usually an issue this time of year !

Taking random photos of the sky at different points in the day:


Watching this fella play Richard II
Making Christmas cards.

Laters, 'gators.....

Friday, 8 November 2013

It's Friday !

Woo-hoo !

So, after a week of colleagues being off sick (meaning mucho work for those of us who remained standing); a week of fighting their bug off myself (that elderberry syrup I made the other day rocks), and the general time-of-year overwhelmingness of it all....

....I am just so pleased and happy it is Friday at last and I get a couple of days where I at least do not have to go to work, even if the rest of my life is unlikely to step it down a notch just because it's the weekend.

You never know though :)

But hey, I did clean my windows this week, and now we can see through them, which is definitely a bonus when it comes to windows.  I made and ate lunchtime bean salads


                             We sparkled sparklers and ate jackets and bangers on Bonfire Night


And I gutted Jack and got another 1.8 kg of pumpkin to play with


We ate Tarka Dal with our cous cous (only 20 packets left, wey-hey !)

Half a cup of red lentils
3 cups of water
1 flat tsp if salt

Bung it all into a pot, bring to a boil, then simmer for 20-30 min until you are left with a thick soup.

1 onion
3 cloves of garlic
1/4 tsp turmeric
1 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp chili powder (or to taste)
Oil or ghee, for frying
Dice and fry the onion; add crushed garlic and the spices, give it a good stir.  Add to the lentils.
As ever, it doesn't look pretty.....

But it tastes like heaven.
And then there was the free stuff....


                                                        .... and the heavily discounted stuff.

And finally, there was a copy of Terry Pratchett's   Raising Steam.  I might be behind on pretty much everything..... But I am keeping up with my reading.  Some things are just too important.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Elderberry Syrup

Take some elderberries and stick them into a pot, with just enough water to cover ('scuse the steam, they wuz boiling).  Bring to the boil, simmer for 20 minutes.
Strain into a measuring jug.  For every pint of juice, add a pound of sugar and 12 cloves.  As you can see, I barely managed a quarter of a pint, which is a shame.  I might have to go out and see if the late onset of winter means there are still elderberries knocking about on trees anywhere.
Bring back to the boil, then simmer for 10  minutes.  Allow to cool, pour into a sterilised bottle. If you have loads of syrup, requiring numerous bottles, try to divide up the cloves equally between bottles.
Take a spoonful when needed to combat colds and flu.  In fact, if you have plenty, feel free to take a spoonful every day and prevent, rather than cure.  I shall have to hoard mine carefully to use only in dire emergencies though. 
And if you are stuck for something to do whilst the syrup is simmering away, feel free to attend to your drains, as I did.  Of course, once I've done that, I went to catch up with my blog reading (been saving them up for a lazy afternoon), and found that I could have used salt for the same purpose, which would have been a more frugal option.
My way is more spectacular though - feel free to invite small children to watch and charge them admission to offset the cost of ingredients. 
You will need soda crystals, citric acid, and a kettle full of water. 

A tbsp. of soda, a tbsp. of acid, and hey presto - fizz and hiss and foam like there's no tomorrow.  As the stuff is doing its, well, stuff, to your drains, put the kettle on and once it's boiled, tip it down the drain.

All done.
As for dinner, well, a Sunday with OH home means roast potatoes, which tonight were accompanied by a chicken pie.
Here's the filling - chicken and sweetcorn in white sauce -

- and here's the pie. 
I helpfully labelled in case I forgot what it was before dinner.  It worked - as I took it out the oven, I read the crust and immediately knew it was a pie.


And I am still writing, and that makes me happy, even if it is a contributing cause of suddenly existing in a state of utter overwhelm.  Still, one day at a time.... Sometimes that's all we can do.