Monthly Archives: August 2009

Portuguese Joe

Posting this for Chere’s Saturday Snapshots – which makes no sense, I know, (since I’ve just done ‘Sunday in my City), but trust me, Chere won’t mind.

This is the 10th photo from my 6th folder and is from our holiday to New England in 2007. This was from a memorial plaque on the seafront at Gloucester, Mass. commemorating fishermen lost at sea. What caught my eye was the name just under the ‘1887’ date. It simply says ‘Portuguese Joe’ and I found that particularly poignant. Joe needed no surname in the fishing community of Gloucester he was just ‘Portuguese Joe’ to them and he lost his life thousands of miles away from home.

Portuguese Joe

An added extra (same folder)…The famous ‘Man at the Wheel’ statue, Gloucester, which stands by the above memorial.

Helm

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Baked lemon and garlic chicken with pilaf rice

Lemon and garlicThis recipe apparently has a silly amount of garlic in it but don’t be put off and don’t be tempted to reduce the quantity.  When garlic is roasted it loses its pungency and instead takes on a mellow sweetness that works well with the lemon flavour.

Ingredients

2 tbsp olive oil

1 chicken (approx 2.25 kg / 5 lbs) cut into pieces: breasts, thighs, drumsticks etc

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

125ml (4 fl. oz) white wine

20 garlic cloves, unpeeled

Finely grated zest of 2 lemons and the juice of 1 lemon

1 large sprig of thyme

1 bay leaf

300ml (1/2 pint) chicken stock

For the rice

25g (1 oz) butter

1 small onion (about 125g / 4 1/2 oz), peeled and chopped

300g (11 oz) basmati rice

750 ml (1-1/4 pints) chicken or vegetable stock

To serve

2 tbsp chopped parsley

Method

Preheat the oven to 170C (325F), gas mark 3.

Heat a large casserole or saucepan over a medium heat.  Add the olive oil and chicken pieces, skin side down and cook on both sides until golden brown.  Season with salt and pepper.  Pour off and discard any excess fat.

Add the wine and garlic cloves and boil for 2 minutes.  Next add the lemon zest and juice, the herbs and the stock.  Bring to the boil, cover and bake in the oven for about 30-40 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked.

To cook the rice: melt the butter in a casserole or saucepan that is large enough to accommodate all the rice (bearing in mind that it will swell).  Add the onion and season.  Cover and cook over a low heat for approximately 10 minutes, or until the onion is soft.  Add the rice and stir for about 2 minutes until it crackles, then add the stock and some salt and pepper.  Bring to the boil then transfer to the oven and cook for about 10 minutes or until the rice is just cooked so that it is slightly al dente and all the liquid absorbed.

Cover and keep warm until ready to serve.

Serve the chicken with the rice in shallow bowls and sprinkled with chopped parsley.

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Adapted from a Rachel Allen Recipe

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Free

For the first time in months, this weekend my husband and I have nothing that we have to be doing.  This morning we did our usual weekend recce over breakfast, discussing what must be done over the next two days and both felt as if we’re somehow forgetting something vital.  We’re not.  Our time is our own.  In my head the tumbleweed is rolling across the open prairies and you know what?  It’s a nice feeling.

I have this theory that constantly being idle is actually bad for the spirit.  On the other hand I can confirm that constantly having something to do is equally bad.   I’m glad that we can get back to the happy medium.  Today will be the normality of a trip to the pet supply shop for cat bics and blob, followed by, who knows?  Maybe a trip to the beach for a ‘Mr Whippy’ from the ice cream van.  Ah…normality.  I like normality.

0232, Bike Ride

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Women – Know your limits!

A Friday giggle from the brilliantly funny Harry Enfield.  I laugh at this but, rather spookily, I’m pretty sure I did actually see a ‘public information film’ not far off this when I was a very young child!  My how times have changed (I hope).

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Mama’s Minestrone

Minestrone1Minestrone is such a wonderful soup.  It’s low calorie yet jam-packed with flavour and vitamin goodness and is so easy to make.  Below is my recipe – not authentic but utterly delicious.  The use of Spanish chorizo gives a delicious, rich smokey undertone that I personally love.  (This would make a good vegetarian supper – just leave out the chorizo – the beans, of course, providing a good source of protein).  That’s the beauty of this soup – make it your own with your own combination of favourite Summertime herbs and vegetables and don’t get too strung out on amounts.  If you over enthusiastically end up with a little too much veg in the pot, just add more stock to compensate.

One word of advice before we begin – try to chop the veg consistently quite small (cm cubes should do it).  It’s not a deal breaker but the finished product will look so much prettier.

Ingredients (serves 6 – 8 )

50g Spanish chorizo, cubed

2-3 tbsps olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

3 medium carrots (about 170g or 6 oz), chopped

2 sticks of celery, chopped

4 new potatoes (about 170g or 6 oz), chopped

85g / 3 oz  petit pois (baby peas)

85g / 3 oz French green beans, cut into 1-2 inch pieces

1 x 400g tin (14 oz) chopped tomatoes

1 x 400g tin (14 oz) cannellini or white haricot beans

1 tsp fresh thyme

1.5 litres (6 cups) good vegetable stock

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

To serve (optional): fresh, grated Parmesan cheese and maybe a drizzle of olive oil

Method

Heat the oil in a large saucepan and toss in the chorizo and then the onion.  Allow to fry gently for 2-3 minutes and then add the carrots, potatoes, celery, peas and beans.  Stir and continue to fry gently for another 2-3 mins, just to let the vegetables begin to ‘sweat’.  Add the chopped tomatoes, beans, thyme, vegetable stock and black pepper.  (I would only add extra salt, if needed, at the end of cooking because most commercially prepared stocks already contain a lot of salt).  Bring to the boil and then reduce the heat right down, partially cover the pan and allow the soup to simmer gently for 30 minutes.  At the end of this time check how the hardest vegetables are doing – they should be yielding but not mushy – and taste to check the seasoning.  If needed, leave to simmer for a further 10 minutes.

To serve, you can sprinkle this soup with a little fresh, grated parmesan cheese and/or a drizzle of extra virgin olive  oil.  This soup is very nice served with warm, crusty French bread.

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Ratatouille

Ratatouille VegIn late Summer/early Autumn shops here are full of peppers, herbs, onions, tomatoes, aubergines (eggplants) and courgettes (zucchini).  They’re just crying out to be put together for a lovely fresh bowl of Ratatouille.  This would make a lovely light meal on its own, maybe with some crusty French bread on the side to mop up the juices.  If you’re vegetarian and want to add some extra protein then I have occasionally added a tin of ready cooked white haricot or borlotti beans in the last 10 minutes, just to heat through.  Alternatively take the original Ratatouille mix and put it in a shallow, oven proof dish.  Sprinkle with cheese and flash under a hot grill until the cheese starts to brown (very satisfying on a chilly evening).  This dish is absolutely bursting with Mediterranean flavour and goodness – olive oil, brightly coloured veg and garlic – just what the doctor ordered.

Before we begin, let me just say that you should keep the vegetable chunks quite large and stir very gently, otherwise the mix can all too easily lose all texture.

Ingredients (for 4 people)

2 large aubergines (eggplants), roughly chopped

4 courgettes (zucchini), roughly chopped

150ml / 1/4 pint / 2/3 cup olive oil

2 onions, sliced

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1 large red pepper, seeded and roughly chopped

2 large yellow peppers, seeded and roughly chopped

sprig of fresh rosemary

sprig of fresh thyme

5ml / 1 tsp coriander seeds, crushed

3 plum tomatoes, skinned, seeded and chopped

8 basil leaves, torn

salt and freshly ground black pepper

sprigs of parsley or basil, to garnish

Method

Aubergines (eggplants) nowadays shouldn’t need salting but if you know you are using an old-fashioned variety: place in a colander, sprinkle with salt, pop a plate and then a weight on top and leave for 30 minutes for the bitter juice to run out.

Otherwise, begin by heating the olive oil in a large saucepan.  Add the onions and fry gently for 6-7 minutes, until just softened.  Add the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes.

If you had salted the aubergine (eggplant) rinse it and pat dry with a clean dish towel.  Add the aubergine to the pan with the red and yellow peppers, increase the heat and saute until the peppers are just turning brown.

Add the rosemary, thyme and coriander seeds, then cover the pan and cook very gently for 40 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and season with salt and pepper.  Cook gently for a further 10 minutes, until the vegetables are soft but not too mushy.  Remove the sprigs of rosemary and thyme.  Stir in the torn basil leaves and check seasoning.  Leave to cool slightly and serve warm or cold, garnished with sprigs of parsley.

Ratatouille

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Dolphins at play

The photo below appears in today’s Daily Mail.  Temporarily banish any question (as I have) over whether it’s right or wrong to keep these beautiful creatures in captivity.  The fact remains that they are a joy for us to see close up. It’s believed that they are exhibiting play behaviour by blowing bubbles which they then break into smaller bubbles by biting them.  The smaller bubbles rise rapidly to the surface and the dolphins occasionally like to swim through them.  Although I may not think it’s right to keep dolphins in captivity, it’s nonetheless a photo that makes me smile.  They look like a bunch of pals, happily posing for the camera.

Bottle_nose_dolphins

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