Tag Archives: winter

Hungarian Goulash

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This is a really satisfying and flavour-packed meal which I cooked last night in my recently acquired pressure cooker, a piece of kitchen equipment that I’m rapidly falling in love with. (NB: You can get perfectly good and very much cheaper PCs than mine – I just opted for what looked like a  ‘foolproof version’ because I was nervous about the whole idea of pressure cooking)!  In this recipe, cooking time is reduced to 25 minutes in the PC.

If you want to try this recipe using another method of cooking, it takes about 2 hours in the oven at 180°C / 350°F / Gas Mark 4, OR 5-6 hours in a slow cooker.

(My version) Hungarian Goulash

Ingredients:

  • A small quantity of sour cream (about 75ml or 4 to 5 tablespoons)
  • 200g (about 6 oz) peas or sliced green beans (optional)
  • 2 carrots, (75g / 3 to 4 oz), sliced
  • 1 green pepper, sliced
  • 1 stick of celery, sliced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • ½ teaspoon caraway seeds (optional) or 1/4 tsp.ground mixed spice or cinnamon (optional)
  • 1 x 400g (14 oz.) can chopped tomatoes in juice (+ 1 tin of water)
  • 350 ml (12 fl. oz.) liquid beef stock
  • 100 ml (3 to 4fl. oz.) red wine
  • 400g (14 oz.) potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 1 onion, peeled and diced
  • 200g (7 oz) bacon or spicy sausage, diced
  • 600g (21 oz) stewing beef, diced
  • 2 oz (about 50g) flour
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil

Method:

Oven on (if using a traditional oven).

Toss the beef in the flour to coat. I do this by putting the meat and flour in a zip lock bag an tossing it around.

Heat the oil in the open pan and brown off the beef in small batches, setting it aside when done.

Add the onions, bacon / spicy sausage and garlic to the pan and cook until the onions have softened (3-4 minutes).

Add back the beef +  potatoes, tomatoes in juice, carrots, stock, wine, paprika, bay leaf and caraway seeds if using.

*Put the lid on the pressure cooker and lock it in place.  Set the pressure to high (‘meat’ setting on my PC),  bring to pressure and cook for 25 minutes.

When done, release the pressure slowly (take the pan off the heat and let it stand for 10-15 mins – this allows the flavour-infused steam to meld back into the cooked dish).

If using, add the peas or beans to the opened pan and cook through for 4 to 5 minutes.

To serve: top with a little sour cream.  Can be had with crusty bread or rice, although we found this to be a satisfying ‘one-bowl’ meal on its own.

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*If using a traditional oven, cover the casserole and cook for the required time (2 hours or until the meat is tender).

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Filed under Cookery, Recipes

Cold apprenticeship

TropicalI read yesterday that 1st October is ‘Central Heating Day’ because it’s the day when many turn their central heating back on.  Now I must say, if that’s true, I don’t understand that kind of pedantic thinking.  Yesterday was glorious and I had the windows and doors open all day, (clearly no point in sticking the heating on just because of a calendar date then) but I’m only too aware that tomorrow may bring eskimo chills, with winds whipping down from the north.  Then I’ll have no hesitation in flipping the switch for a bit of warmth blasting throughout the house.

There is a trend to make people like me feel a little guilty about seemingly unthinkingly flipping the central heating switch.  I have to say, however, you’re not going to easily persuade me to go around in ever increasing layers of woolly pullies as the winter sets in, rather than basking in a generally gloriously warm and welcoming atmosphere.  My home is insulated, doubled glazed and I’ve just gone and ordered some new thickly interlined curtains for the cold months ahead.  I feel I’m being a pretty good citizen therefore and, more to the point, I’m old enough to remember the days pre-central heating and dearly hope never to have to live like that again.

Cold, 2Sure, you can sit around with extra layers on and even blankets over your knees, but when the atmosphere of the whole house chills down things start to become damp and inhospitable.  Getting ready for bed becomes a question of superquick timing to get under the covers as quickly as possible and then curling up like a pill bug until the bed warms up.  On top of that, those bed covers can, in themselves, be slightly damp if you are unlucky enough to live in something like an old granite building (as I once did).  Going to the loo in the night has to be done at speed, so as to not lose too much body heat and getting up in the morning?  Well, there is the real killer.  You’re all toasty under the covers but the almost numbing cold on your nose tells you that ‘out there’ is a different matter.  If you think it’s bad getting up to a 6.30 alarm on a cold winter’s morning now, trust me, that is pure luxury compared to hauling yourself out of the warmth of bed, into the the cold and then stripping off for a wash in an even colder bathroom.  As a child I developed a technique for blasting through to the bathroom for as quick a wash as I could reasonably manage, positioning myself as much as possible under the small electric ceiling heater, and then hopping back into my hopefully still warm bed to put on my school uniform.  Yes, that’s right.  In the very coldest months I actually dressed for the day in bed.

Worst memory of cold winters gone?  That’s a toss up between the damp sheets on the damp bed in the damp granite property I just mentioned and a mercifully short stint in a big empty guest house during the bleak winter months where it was so cold that my breath steamed just standing in the bedroom.

So, it’s October now and very shortly I expect to see articles telling me that I rely too much on central heating.  Maybe so, but you know what?   I feel I’ve done my cold-damp-apprenticeship and I’d like to enjoy a few more winters in the welcoming warmth of my home … before my pension fails to cover my fuel bills and I’ll be full circle, freezing my buns off again.

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Filed under environment, Home

Saturday Snapshots – Dendrons

I’m late posting this.  It’s probably still Saturday night somewhere west of here though … isn’t it?    This is my 44th photo in my 6th folder of camera files, posted for Teasingly Diverse’s new ‘Saturday Snapshots’ carnival.

44/6 :  Boston Ivy during the Winter.  I took it because it reminded me of a medical drawing of nerves with the little dendrons feathering outwards toward one another…which now I think of it is ever so slightly creepy.

Boston Ivy2

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Midsummer's Day: a conundrum

AliceWhite_01Hey, here’s a question for you:  Why, in the northern hemisphere, do we call 21st June ‘Midsummer’s Day’ when 21st June actually marks ‘the start of Summer’?  Aha…

Did you know that in meteororololololgical terms Spring begins on 1st March, Summer on 1st June, Autumn – 1st September and Winter – 1st December?  Those dates make more sense to me in terms of what the weather is actually doing, certainly where I live, and in my own mind this is closer to how I think of the year. (That still doesn’t make ‘Midsummer’s‘ day on 21st June mind you).  Confusing, innit?

Well, just who went and confused things by willy nilly declaring the start of the seasons as the 21st of March, June, September and December?  I bet it was those pesky Christians (no hate mail please – to all intents and purposes I’m one of them …which doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m currently a fully paid-up member of the club).   If you know the answer, do tell.

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Happy Fathers’ Day to all the Dads out there.  If you haven’t already, check out the videos I posted yesterday:  A funny (and wincingly painful) clip from the brilliant Paul Merton’s trip to India, and maybe my favourite ad of all time (well…so far), the Guinness surfers and white horses ad.

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Filed under Home, modern life, Smile / Humour

No words necessary

One of the nice things about taking photos regularly is being able to look back on other years at any given time period. It’s a bit like a visual diary – no words necessary. Last year I became enamoured with Flickr and it gave me all the excuse I needed to start taking photos on a weekly basis. The legacy is many, many files that I’m still struggling to work my way through, deciding which to keep and which to dump – a pruning job that is proving very difficult because I’ve always had trouble throwing photos away. A distinct advantage, however, is the fact that I can look at a photo like the one below and even if today’s weather isn’t too terrific, images from past years will tell me that by now winter is receding. Another three weeks and I can go down to the little valley where I shot the photos below and the beautiful and very old magnolia trees should be in full bloom. As someone who sometimes struggles to stay cheerful during the winter months, this is just the news I need. When I see colourful blossom starting to appear, I know that I can come out of my virtual winter hibernation, better weather is just around the corner.

Pink Magnolia

 

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Please note: All my photos are watermarked and copyrighted and therefore should not to be downloaded, used, copied, reproduced or distributed in any way without my prior consent

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Hibernate

I woke up this morning to read that storms have wacked north and north western France, badly disrupting air and sea travel. I can believe it.  I was listening to the effects during the night.

When the wind blows hard around here a curious ghostly noise emanates from somewhere around our house, a sound like a sigh mixed up with a musical note.  It can be eerie and unsettling.

‘…wwOOOOOhh…   …wwOOOOOhh…’

As I lay curled up in bed last night, the ghostly groans began in the very early hours and continued over and over, repeating in a regular rhythm that made them sound animal in nature.  I snuggled down further, wrapping the quilt up around my head because the pulsing groans began to sound more like the sounds made by a great, slumbering beast that had slumped over and enveloped our house.  The winds increased and plant debris was hurled against our large windows, ticking and knocking for hours on end.  I can tell you that at that point I was curled up tight like a pill bug and burrowed deep down under cover, grateful to be cocooned in the warmth and safety of my bed.

I heard very recently that up until the 20th century Breton peasants would virtually hibernate during the winter months.  Not hibernate in the sense of a dormouse with physical bodily changes, but ‘hibernate’ as in staying in, all snuggled together, snoozing the cold winter months away and only awaking periodically to take vital sustenance. 

That strikes me as a very good idea.

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Filed under Home, People watching, Photography

The Limitations of Winter

I’ve always thought that the hardest time, for me at any rate, to take photographs is during the cold, dull Winter months.  Days are short, nothing is growing and the skies are too often a great blanket of steel grey.  It’s easy to find subjects to capture through the lens when the world is awake and growing but in Winter I have to look a lot harder. 

I was looking through my photos yesterday however and it suddenly struck me that some of the most interesting, and in fact some of the most striking, are taken at this time of year.  Last year I was fed up staying hunkered down at home during the bitterly cold spell that had swept over us and I headed down to the harbour, just to see what there was to see.  It was deserted because clearly only an idiot would be out on such a horrible day, but at the end of the pier several huge marker buoys had been hauled up onto dry land for maintenance.  Surprisingly, they provided some of my favourite Winter photos to date.  I love their colour, texture and the fact that these pieces of working equipment reflect the wear and tear of all those months in the salt water around our shores. 

Jersey Buoys, 1

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