Sunday, 17 October 2010

• Kedgeree


Kedgeree, originally uploaded by Lisa Fagg.
Sunday Brunch. I just love Sunday brunch. Today I was feeling particularly industrious; not surprising given I've not cooked a proper meal since sometime last week! Once again, I roped Steve into being my 'sous chef' and we whipped up our first kedgeree. I'm surprised we haven't made this together before...

As usual, I looked up a recipe on the web and went with the top 'hit' in my search; it happened to be JamieOliver.com but it could have been anyone... right??

What follows is Jamie's recipe for Kedgeree; my interpretation was a little different as it turned out to be more a 'Smoked Haddock Biryani'
than 'Kedgeree'. The difference being I left out the curry powder and used my own spices (cumin seed, mustard seed, turmeric, chilli powder and asafoetida) as well as green chillis and my own homemade garam masala. Yum.

But I'm feeling too lazy to try and reconstruct my concoction here so...

Hereeeeee's Jamie:

"This is a traditional British breakfast from colonial India and it’s a lovely little dish, with a nice balance of spicy and smoky flavours. It makes a tasty lunch or supper too – so get stuck in!

Ingredients

• 2 large free-range or organic eggs
• 680g undyed smoked haddock fillets, pinboned
• 2 fresh bay leaves
• 170g long grain or basmati rice
• sea salt
• 110 pure butterghee
• a thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
• 1 medium onion or 1 bunch of spring onions, finely chopped
• 1 clove of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
• 2 heaped tablespoons curry powder
• 1 tablespoon mustard seeds
• 2 tomatoes, deseeded and chopped
• juice of 2 lemons
• 2 good handfuls of fresh coriander, leaves picked and chopped
• 1 fresh red chilli, finely chopped
• a small pot of natural yoghurt

"Boil the eggs for 10 minutes, then hold under cold running water. Put the fish and bay leaves in a shallow pan with enough water to cover. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for about 5 minutes, until cooked through. Remove from pan and leave to cool. Remove the skin from fish, flake into chunks and set aside.

"Cook the rice in salted water for about 10 minutes and drain. Refresh in cold water, drain again, and leave in the fridge until needed. Melt the butterghee in a pan over a low heat. Add the ginger, onion and garlic. Soften for about 5 minutes, then add the curry powder and mustard seeds. Cook for a further few minutes, then add the chopped tomatoes and lemon juice.

"Quarter the eggs. Add the fish and rice to a pan and gently heat through. Add the eggs, most of the coriander and the chilli and stir gently. Place in a warm serving dish. Mix the rest of the coriander into the yoghurt and serve with the kedgeree."

Sunday, 3 October 2010

• Chicken

Pot Roast Chicken
Pot Roast Chicken, originally uploaded by Lisa Fagg.
Ah... Cooking! Tonight's dinner (about to sit down and enjoy this)
...

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's Chicken Pot-Roast

Ingredients

1 chicken, weighing 4 to 6 pounds
2 onions
3 large carrots
3 leeks
3 potatoes
2 bay leaves
2 to 3 sprigs of thyme
1 tablespoon soft butter
A glass of white wine
A glass of water
2 teaspoons salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Method

1. Place the chicken in a large casserole, a clay pot, or a deep roasting pan with a lid. Slice the onions and cut all the other vegetables into chunks. Arrange the vegetables and herbs around the bird. Rub the butter over the breast of the bird and pour over the wine and water, then season well with the salt and some pepper.

2. Place the lid on the dish and put it in a preheated 375°F oven. Remove the lid after about 50 minutes and give the vegetables a good stir. Baste the chicken with the fat on top of the juices in the dish. Leave the lid off and return to the oven for 25 to 35 minutes, until the breast is nicely browned and the juices run clear when the thigh is pierced with a skewer.

3. To serve, transfer the chicken to a large warmed plate and carve it up fairly chunkily. Spoon vegetables from the roasting pot and plenty of buttery juices onto each plate beside the meat.

Note: If using a stewing chicken, turn the oven down to 300°F after the first half an hour, then cook for 1 1/2 to 2 hours without removing the lid. Turn the bird over on its back halfway through cooking and give the vegetables a good stir at the same time.

• Cook Books


Cook Books, originally uploaded by Lisa Fagg.


Hello, Friends!  I'm back after a break from just about everything!  We're doing some re-thinking and re-organising here at the Fagg household.  Books have not escaped my culling knife this time...

I have too many cook books.  Even after this cull, I STILL have too many cookbooks. These books are going to make their way over to one of the charity shops on Mill Road sometime soon.  I thought, though, that I might give my friends and acquaintances first dibs on the books.

Look over the list below and just drop me an email (LAF42) and let me know which ones you want.  I can bring them into work and you can collect them from there.


Hope you find something you like - I hope I manage to include links to their Amazon (UK) pages so that you can read about them....
  1. Indian Food Made Easy by Anjum Anand
  2. Ken Hom Travels with a Hot Wok by Ken Hom (Hardcover - 18 Dec 1997)
  3. River Cafe Cook Book Green by Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers (Hardcover - 4 May 2000)
  4. Glynn Christian Tastes Royal Thailand [Paperback]
  5. Soup by Nick Sandler and Johnny Acton (Paperback - 30 Oct 2003)
  6. Ben and Jerry's Homemade Ice Cream and Dessert Book by Ben R. Cohen and Jerry Greenfield (Paperback - 28 Oct 1994)
  7. Ken Hom's Simple Thai Cookery by Ken Hom (Paperback - 2 Feb 2006)
  8. River Cafe Cookbook: Bk.2 by Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers (Paperback - 7 May 1998)
  9. Antonio Carluccio's Southern Italian Feast: More Than 100 Recipes Inspired by the Flavour of Southern Italy by Antonio Carluccio (Hardcover - 26 Mar 1998)
  10. Thai Cooking from the Siam Cuisine Restaurant by Diana Hiranaga, Somcha Aksomboom, and Somchai Aksenboon (Paperback - 1 Mar 1990
  11. Sensational Salads: Delicious Recipes from Around the World by Christine Ingram (Hardcover - 1 Jun 1999)
  12. Rick Stein's Food Heroes by Rick Stein, James Murphy, and Craig Easton (Hardcover - 5 Sep 2002)
  13. The Classic Barbecue and Grill Cookbook (Classic Cookbook) by Marlena Spieler (Hardcover - 25 Apr 1996)
  14. Food from Fire: The Real Barbecue Book by Charles Campion and Jason Lowe (Hardcover - 15 Jun 2006
  15. Ainsley's Ultimate Barbecue Bible by Ainsley Harriott (Paperback - 7 Apr 2005)
  16. Wagamama: Way of the Noodle by Russell Cronin and Michael Freeman (Paperback - 31 Oct 1994)
  17. Rick Stein's Seafood Odyssey by Rick Stein (Hardcover - 7 Jan 1999)
  18. Ainsley Harriott's Gourmet Express by Ainsley Harriott (Paperback - 9 May 2002
  19. Ainsley Harriott's Meals in Minutes by Ainsley Harriott (Hardcover - 12 Feb 1998
  20. Cooking with My Indian Mother-in-law: Mastering the Art of Authentic Indian Home Cooking by Simon Daley and Roshan Hirani (Hardcover - 18 Aug 2008)

Sunday, 22 August 2010

• Waterbeach - Madingley Route (34 miles)



"Today's route was a slight variation on our ride of three weeks ago. Again we headed north to Waterbeach and then struck out west. Just before Cottenham, we departed from our previous route and rode 3 miles north on "Long Drove" before turning south for a straight run through as far as Dry Drayton. At this point we cut through to Coton via Madingley before returning home via Grantchester and Newnham to complete our 34 mile circuit." - Steve

It all sounds so straightforward when put that way, doesn't it? This was no ordinary ride, though; I was testing my new handlebars!

Lately I've been suffering from a malady common to cyclists - I lean too heavily on my handlebars (probably because I need to strengthen my 'core' muscles...). With too much of my weight on my hands, my ulnar nerves are pinched and pressed on to the point that my hands first begin to tingle and then go "uncomfortably numb". All of this is very unpleasant (and, indeed, dangerous!) and, so far, shows no sign of letting up. I resolved to do something about it:

For a while now, I've noted that long-distance cyclists (I mean REALLY LONG distance cyclists; eg. people who set out one day and wind up back where they started - several years later, having circumnavigated the globe) have lately been seen using 'Butterfly' or 'trekking' handlebars. So, after much (much!) deliberation, I decided to swap my drops for one of these.

When I say "much deliberation" I mean that I thought about the change-over for at least a year and then made an appointment with my ever-faithful (and ever-patient!) cycle shop here in Cambridge, Howes Cycles, and then at the last moment I CANCELLED on them.  I just wasn't sure this radical move would do the trick.  Weeks later, however, I decided that I'd never know if I didn't take the plunge.  And so I did.

Weird.  The whole experience was slightly weird; I took my bike into the shop one morning and picked it up in the afternoon (NOT weird).  To my surprise, I was reminded of a time when I took my beloved Yorkshire Terrier, Charley (now deceased) for his first grooming.  I chatted with the groomer and then left Charley in her capable hands.  When I returned to the shop some hours later, I was greeted by an animal that recognised me but who looked nothing like my dog Charley!  He was shampooed and dried and clipped... he even sported a little blue ribbon, tied around a tuft of fur gathered between his (well-groomed!) ears! (Yep, weird)

Although my beloved Dawes Galaxy (c. 1997) didn't have a little blue ribbon like Charly did, this struck me as being nearly as radical a change in appearance as Charly's transformation was.  Moreover, the brakes and gear levers were in entirely different places to their former positons, which complicated matters. My well-honed reflexes for shifting and, importantly, BRAKING, needed to be re-trained... or else!

So we went for a short ride yesterday to get me used to the different positions and make adjustments to the handlebars and saddle.  Today we planned a longer jaunt...


... TBC ...

Monday, 2 August 2010

• Waterbeach-Hardwick loop (31mi)


Waterbeach-Hardwick loop 31mi, originally uploaded by Lisa Fagg.
"Our long weekend concluded with yet more changing plans. Originally conceived as a 50+ mile day trip to Ely, the inclement weather forced us to reconsider. Our revised route, of only 30 miles, headed North from Cambridge as far as Waterbeach. We then headed West through Landbeach to Cottenham before turning Southwest for a more-or-less straight run through to Hardwick. From there, we returned home on familiar roads, through Grantchester to complete our circuit of the city." -- Steve

• Norwich-to-Aylesham via Marriott's Way (I)

"Today's ride was intended to be the first leg of a long weekend cycling round the North and East coast of Norfolk. Our plan for the day was to take the train from Cambridge to Norwich and cycle from there to Cromer, on the North coast. After some initial difficulty finding our way out of Norfolk City Centre, we found our way onto the Marriott's Way cycle path which runs along the route of a disused railway line. We followed the path almost all the way to Reepham. Having learned that we would be unable to spend the night in Cromer, after all, we took to the roads and headed due East through Aylesham to North Walsham. At North Walsham we boarded a train on the Heron Line back to Norwich and returned home." -- Steve

Ah, well. We really planned this trip; this, our first ever attempt at doing the 'B&B Thing' (as opposed to the 'Camping Thing' which, although almost flawless in the dependability department, was heavy on the panniers)  In my view camping also lacked a certain breathy sense of risk and adventure...

So we packed carefully but kept our panniers rather light in weight; after all, we would be sleeping in a bed and eating in a pub (or so we thought!)

For a start, getting out of Norwich itself was a real hassle as we hadn't thought to bring (or find) a Norwich street plan! Navigating in a fairly substantial town/city with an Ordinance Survey map is not advisable. Neither was the offering from Google Maps (which was flawed only because Morrison's wasn't on it!)

Anyway, truth-be-told, we erred quite early on - taking a wrong turn and having to double back on ourselves to set on course. By the time we made the Marriott's Way we were nigh on knackered. But we carried on anyway deciding to take our first break just beyond Drayton. We cycled another hour or so before realising that our initial estimate of time of arrival at the B&B was (having started out 2 hrs late and lost 30 minutes in Norwich) more than somewhat inaccurate.  We would have to 'phone the B&B to advise them of our delay. This task fell to Steve - only because he had made the reservation (and because I wasn't in the mood to volunteer...). So, at our scheduled lunch stop, Steve did his duty...

What should have been a simple 'phone call to confirm our reservation and revise our time of arrival turned out to be a very different affair indeed! The B&B end of the 'phone was in crisis - there was a family emergency and the host at the end of the line to Steve was doing his best to funnel B&B guests like us to other guest houses - whilst maintaining his composure. In our case, he was not successful on either count - we needed to make 'other arrangements', which  - all things considered - meant that we were pretty screwed.

*sigh*

We decided to have a go and cycle on, in hopes that we might find a random place along the way which might have a vacancy...

--- ...To be Continued... ---

Sunday, 25 July 2010

• 42 Miles and... *BONK*!!


Newmarket Loop, originally uploaded by Lisa Fagg.

This was a ride that started out like a dream - and ended like a nightmare...

"Following through on last week's promise to make our way to Newmarket, we set out in warm sunshine on the familiar route through Bottisham as far as Burwell. The wonderful cycling conditions and familiarity of the route led us to ride this opening section at a brisk pace. Continuing after a comfort break, we made our way through the town and out to the east on Heath Road to Exning. From there we rode into Newmarket where we stopped to eat our picnic. The following section of the ride can only be described as 'epic'. Between Newmarket and Six Mile Bottom we were confronted by a constant sequence of rolling hills and, the last half, a strong westerly headwind. Once we'd made our way through all this, we returned home on familiar roads through the Wilburhams and Fulbourn." --Steve

I was excited about this ride - we'd be cycling on familiar roads to begin with then moving into unfamiliar territory once we left Burwell. All went well on this stretch of the route; it was a lovely day for cycling and there were quite a few cyclists out making the most of the day. At one point we found ourselves sandwiched between two 'elderly' (that word becomes more and more ominous with each passing year!) cyclists and felt we were part of a cyclist version of the 'Gray Panthers'!

It was exciting, too, because we would be foregoing our usual stops (Bottinsham & Reach) to make Burwell our first real stop of the ride. I can't recall riding 15 miles without a break. After a brief stop to powder our noses and check the map, the next stop was Exning.

The route between Exning and Newmarket was completely residential. We noted, with some concern, the large number of houses up for sale; in places it seemed that 1-in-3 houses had a 'For Sale' sign in the front garden. We passed through in silence, both of us wondering what was happening in the town and surrounding area to cause people to move away.

Our first impressions of Newmarket were not much better. The town looked depressed (not at all helped by the weather, which by this time, had turned grey and overcast.) The town itself appeared, for the most part, to be deserted. Because of this the shared cycle/pedestrian way seemed wider, perhaps, than it actually was. We rode past the desolate and neglected looking rail station and stopped by the roadside to eat on the southern outskirts of the town.

I'm still too shell-shocked to adequately describe what befell us on the road towards home. Hills. That's all I can say. They seemed to come from nowhere each one looking daunting-but-not-TOO-bad!  I fell into the drops of my handlebars, hoping these would offer me the leverage and relatively 'streamlined' form I'd need to get over and through these hills. *Sigh*

I started out well enough, keeping up with Steve - to the surprise of both of us. I struggled at times but was always able to find the energy when necessary. I felt pretty good. So up-and-down we went, riding into the wind, mile after mile. At each map check, Steve asked me how I was doing and I replied, in all honesty, "Pretty Good".

And then, it happened: I started the final climb before Six Mile Bottom and suddenly ran out of everything. I slowed to a crawl and grovelled up the hill, completely out of energy. It all happened so quickly that when I stopped I was in the middle of the road (albeit almost traffic-free) towards the end of a gentle rise. I remember looking up the road and thinking, angrily, "Whatever next?" I grit my teeth and jumped on the pedals anticipating the burst of acceleration, present during the the earlier parts of the ride, to carry me over the rise.  But this had deserted me.  I remember whimpering 'Oh nooo' and coming to a complete stop. I drooped over the handlebars and waited for Steve, my knight.  I'd 'bonked'! I can't remember the last time I did that (and it certainly hasn't happened in recent years!) Yikes!

Steve carefully assessed me and then waited while I did my best to regain my composure. I'd hit 'the wall' - and Steve knew what I was in for on the final run-in to home!  And so he nursed me home, slowly, coaxing me along. My head was spinning and I was confused but he knew this and gently guided me and my bike all the way home.

Once home, I allowed myself the luxury of dropping onto the sofa like a leaden lump. I didn't move for several minutes. Steve covered me with a blanket as I was feeling very cold. In time, I found my way to the shower and afterwards ran a hot bath and soaked in that for a while. While I was bathing, Steve prepared dinner - pasta with sundried tomato pesto. (Thanks, Hon!)

Now, bathed, fed, rested (and blogged!) - I'm turning in..... zzzzz

'Night!
xx

Monday, 19 July 2010

• The BRCA2 Cycle Path Ride 18 July 2010

"Inspired by tales of previous rides, we were joined this time by Lisa's lab mate Ihsene. So, along with Rupak and Kinnary, we were five as we set out from central Cambridge, heading towards Shelford. Our route led down Trumpington Road to Addenbrooke's and from there via the "DNA Cyclepath" to Great Shelford. After a lunch break there, we rode on to Whittlesford and returned to Shelford via Newton. We retraced out steps back to Cambridge and the group broke up at Newnham. " - Steve

This was a long-anticipated ride. Since the beginning of Summer (and good weather!), I've been answering the query, 'What did you get up to this weekend?' with the same answer: "We had a great day out on our bikes cycling around the villages surrounding Cambridge." Finally, it was all too much for my lab mates and we arranged to do the "DNA Cyclepath" from Addenbrooke's to Shelford (with the option to go on further if we felt up to it!). We planned to have a small picnic in Shelford and then decide whether to go on or not. The path commemorates the National Cycle Network reaching 10,000 miles and was completed in September 2005. The path is about a mile long and is patterned with 10,257 stripes representing the human gene BRCA2, which codes for a DNA repair protein.

Originally we were to be 6 with Steve & me, Rupak & Kinnary and two 'newbies' - Ihsene and Yvonne, the senior-most and junior-most members of the lab, respectively. Unfortunately, this was not to be as Yvonne had problems with the bike she was planning to ride and opted out at the last moment. (We missed you, Yvonne!) So depleted, we set out.

The cycle path turned out to be a hit with everyone and we spent a good time there photographing each other copping various 'attitudes' on the 'Double Helix' sculpture at the beginning of the path. Eventually, though, thoughts turned to lunch and we cycled on to Shelford. There we spread out on the green (a slightly more busy green than that at Bottisham!) and had our lunch. We decided to go on a bit and cycled to Whittlesford, returning to Shelford via Newton.

r i k l

Everyone seemed to enjoy the ride as much as we did. Ihsene was rapturous - declaring, at one point, that she had "found her sport". I think she was finding the beautiful countryside and villages and the pace (cycling as opposed to driving or walking) exhilarating. Whatever it was, I think we might have a real 'convert' in Ihsene!

After dropping folks off, Steve and I wended our way home, stopping off on Mill Road for meat for dinner and beer (for me). Once home we showered and prepared dinner on the BBQ. (Ihsene: I made lamb mince skewers, Algerian style!) We had minced lamb koftas with couscous and lettuce, tomato and onion salad with yoghurt and tahini dressing. Yum...

After dinner, which we ate by candlelight on the grass in the garden, we lay back to on our blanket and gazed at the stars (I saw a "shooting star") for a while. The evening was so pleasant and we were so content that we decided to bring our pillows and duvet outside and sleep under the stars! Wonderful!

And so ended a really fun, long weekend. More to come... soon!

Sleeping out-1

Saturday, 17 July 2010

• Newmarket - the 'hard' way - 33 miles


Waterbeach-Reach-Bottisham, originally uploaded by Lisa Fagg.
(I can claim no credit for this post - other than the fact that I can vouch for every word that Steve has written!)

"So. This cycle route. It's a joke, right? Or maybe this 'Happy' that submitted it never rode it but just drew it up by looking at a map? If it's a joke, the joke's on me - because I fell for it!

"I've often looked at the Explorer map for the area and wished there was a way to continue north from Waterbeach, without riding on the A10, and join up with rides to the east of the river. From my reading of the map it looked impossible. So up pops this route on Cycleroutes.com that maintains there is a cyclable way from the north end of Long Drove to the A1123 bridge over the river west of Wicken. Great! I thought, certainly there is a path shown on the map but I'd discounted it. Perhaps I'd been too conservative in my evaluation of the possibilities.

"Always on the lookout for something new to ride in the area we decided to couple this route from Cambridge to Newmarket with a return journey via the Wilbrahams to make a nice 40-mile-plus loop. We even included a stop off in Newmarket to take a look at the National Horseracing Museum. Plans made, maps prepared and a picnic lunch put together we took an early night to ensure we could make a day of it.

"The next day we loaded up the bikes and set off. No alarm bells rang at the route's suggestion of riding along the river Cam all the way to the bridge at Waterbeach. Knowing full well that it's unreasonable to attempt to keep to the river beyond Fen Ditton, I merely took us up the parallel road through the delightful village of Hornsea and on into Waterbeach. There we negotiated what seemed from the map to be an entirely gratuitous off-road section of the route and set off with high hopes down the long straight road of Long Drove.

"As Long Drove petered out we were advised to turn right down a track to the river. This was a bit tricky. In between the deep ruts, the fine, dry black fenland soil was like riding through sand. I managed to ride it with some difficulty but Lisa had to walk several sections for fear of falling. At the river we turned north and the track became an overgrown path. From here on things descended into farce.

"Shod in stout walking shoes or boots and clad in long corduroy trousers the ensuing 2.5 miles would be an entirely reasonable hike. In cycling shoes and shorts and pushing a loaded bike, the narrow, undulating path, almost completely overgrown with thistles and nettles, was all but impassable, took almost an hour to cover and left us almost hysterical at the insane absurdity of the situation.

"If 'Happy'
has cycled this section he or she must either be a young, fit, very keen mountain biker with a fully suspended machine and terrific bike handling skills or some kind of demented hard-nut old-school 'rough stuff' rider with a strong Yorkshire accent and a three-speed Sturmey-Archer. Not fitting into either of those categories you won't find Lisa or me attempting this path on wheeled transport again in a million years!

"Once we emerged at the A1123, scratched, stung, and all but worn out from the combined effort of keeping our feet and forcing our mounts through the undergrowth, we were at least back on known roads. We'd ridden through Wicken and down through Upland to Reach some years before and so knew that this section at least would be a pleasure to ride. At Reach we stopped and ate but having lost an hour and a great deal of energy following this insane route we turned south for home rather than continue east to Newmarket.

"Now rather better informed, if not wiser, we shall try a revised route to Newmarket next weekend. We'll be keeping resolutely to the east of the river and, in future, I shall certainly be rather slower to doubt my own assessment of what a map is telling me about viable routes to cycle!"

--Steve Fagg

(Amen, to that last bit, Steve! ;) )

Sunday, 20 June 2010

• Cycle Route - 35 miles





"Today's ride was planned meticulously before we even got out of bed. For the first time this year we set off to the southwest of Cambridge, initially heading for Shelford via the amazing DNA Cycle Way. From there we went from village to village out as far as Shepreth and then climbed the hill between Barrington and Haslingfield on our way to Toft. By this time, the nagging wind and cool weather had left us feeling rather drained. The return to Cambridge via Coton and Grantchester left us feeling very tired but the day's total distance of 35 miles was the most we've done this year, so far." - Steve

We were able to plan today's ride in so much detail because we found a cycle route-planning website that allows users to plot routes using Google Maps. This website, Cycle Routes UK, is a goldmine of resources and information for cyclists. The route-planning side of this site lets you plan routes which you can then share with the Cycle Routes community. The site also calculates the mileages of the routes and organises users' routes by area so that you can choose a route near where you live (or want to cycle) to use. Route planners are encouraged to rank their routes in terms of difficulty and to provide useful information on the route such as points of interest, warnings about obstructions or detours and reasons to try the route out. It's a fantastic resource - indeed it is exactly the sort of thing that we were wishing we had last Summer!

This was an ambitious ride and to our credit, we set out in spite of the fact that conditions were not perfect. The weather was uneven - it wasn't particularly warm and, as we were to discover, it was windy. Not the blustery destabilising sort of wind but the kind of wind that seems to know where you want to go and adjusts its force and direction so that you are faced with wind the whole way 'round! We rarely were able to freewheel and we had to peddle against either the wind or gravity, most of the way. Not my favourite sort of ride. There were not very many leisure riders out today - perhaps on account of the doubtful weather.

On the bright side, it was mostly sunny and the landscape was lovely; the villages were as beautiful as we remembered them from last years' rides. At Toft we met an older man walking his dog. We recognised each other as we'd met in the same spot last year! We chatted a bit (mostly about the weather!) before moving onto Hardwick, then Coton, Grantchester and, finally, home.

Once home, we rested while busying ourselves gathering our ride data from various heart rate monitors, cycle computers and GPS mapping iPhone Apps. A meal of pizzas and a blog post later we are ready to retire for the night! zzzzzzzzzzz...

Saturday, 12 June 2010

• Cycle Route - 33 miles





"After a leisurely morning, it was 4:30pm before we set out for our ride today. Conditions were perfect and the forecast was good so we were unconcerned that we'd be returning home quite late in the evening. We reprised last week's route out through Bottisham to Burwell and back to Bottisham. But we diverged to return home via the Wilbrahams and Fulbourn clocking up 33 miles on the day and over 60 for the two rides so far this year." - Steve

After last Sunday's ride (27 mi) I was keen to get over the 30 mile hump which would make this year's debut really stand out above previous years' starting mileage. While not an amazing distance, I feel that starting off fairly strongly predicts a good Summer total. It's really encouraging for me to think back to my beginnings over a decade ago and see (and feel!) my improvement over time.

We prepared our stomachs for the ride with a brunch consisting of plenty of tasty biryani (with grated paneer and hard boiled egg added for protein!) and salad. Unlike last week, our preparation was leisurely and focussed with none of the 'jitters' of the first ride of the season.

The weather was just perfect today - the air was dry, visibility was excellent and the temperature was just a bit on the cool side. This time of year the farmland is verdant and scarlet poppies line the roadside in patches providing plenty of cheerful colour to the landscape. Bunnies are everywhere and they seem to be sticking fairly close to home, scampering in the grass verges. There are, as yet, no sad little flattened furry patches on the roads. Thank goodness!

We arrived home at around 8:30pm having stopped off at Sainsbury's for provisions and immediately busied ourselves with downloading the data from our various electronic bits into our computers. I was very disappointed to discover that my phone had lost my GPS signal after 13.5 miles but was relieved that Steve's had not. Something for me to keep and eye on in the future...

All-in-all it was a great day out. Now we can plan for next week...

Sunday, 6 June 2010

• Cycle Route - 27.5 miles



"Today we shook the dust off our touring bikes and set off for our first leisure ride of the year. After a nervous beginning, we headed out Northeast from Cambridge on a familiar route. Passing through the villages of Bottisham, Swaffham Bulbeck, Swaffham Prior we reached Reach where we frequently turn for home. Feeling unusually full of energy, this time we pressed on for the next village - Burwell. After a pause for a comfort break we re-traced our steps as far as Bottisham. As it was now starting to rain, we returned to Cambridge via Fen Ditton: 27.5 miles in 2.5 hours." --Steve

I wasn't sure how far we'd go, as usually our inaugural ride of the year is characterised by false starts (forgot something), numerous stops (instigated by me) to adjust my bicycle (the pedals, the handlebars, the saddle). The weather didn't look brilliant, either as it was overcast. But off we went.

I'd brought along my new toy - my iPhone - enhanced by an App I just bought called Cyclemeter which would engage the GPS function of my phone and feedback ride data. Not having an easy way to record and analyse our rides last year was frustrating as we were discovering new routes that I wanted to post on my blog. This programme promised a lot - in fact, all I really wanted from a GPS device - and, amazingly, it delivered!  Cyclemeter records (and stores) your time, location, distance, elevation, and speed. The program lets you organise your rides by route and you can view your ride data on a Google map, on graphs and in a calendar. Cyclemeter even allows you to keep track of your progress by announcing distance, time, speed, elevation, climb, and more - at user defined time or distance intervals. You can even race against yourself!  Oh, and, of course it comes complete with all the usual social connections so you can share details of your rides, including maps and graphs, via Twitter and Facebook.  Here's the hoopiest bit -

"Use Facebook, Twitter, and email to share Google Maps of your rides, automatically updated every 5 minutes. Hear replies from family, coaches, and friends spoken using text-to-speech technology. Have emails automatically sent as you ride to keep family and friends notified of your progress and location."

Clearly, it's jam-packed with features.  All this, for less than the price of a Roast Beef sandwich from Marks and Spencer!

It was nice to be back on the bike and in the countryside. I felt more fit than I usually do on the first long-ish ride of the year - I hope this bodes well for the rest of the Summer!

Poppies

On the return leg of the ride, I spotted some poppies by the roadside and stopped for a photograph.

IMG_0420

Further along, on Coldham's Common, we were delayed at one of the gates by a rather large group of grazing cattle. At first it seemed that neither the cattle nor we knew exactly what the etiquette was in such situations - the cows were completely blocking the bridge but we were blocking their progress to the field they were headed for. We backed up a bit and they took their sweet time filing across. A few stopped to stare at me and one of them even licked my leg!

About five minutes after arriving home, the heavens opened up and a thunderstorm ensued. We only just avoided a soaking!

Saturday, 5 June 2010

• Greek Salad

Greek Salad, originally uploaded by Lisa Fagg.

I craved salad today. It might have been the weather; it was warm and sunny and the cricket was on in the kitchen. It felt like Summer - at last!

A rummage in the fridge turned up some lettuce, tomatoes, salted anchovies, Kalamata olives, cucumber and feta cheese. Always helpful, Robby, our youngest cat came in from the garden and offered a small, half-dead baby bird but I wasn't tempted!

I assembled the salad (the anchovies, brought back from Nice on our most recent trip, proved quite labour-intesive to gut and debone!) and dressed it with some good olive oil and vinegar. Steve boiled some eggs. It all went together very nicely - and we ate it out in the garden, in the sunshine while listening to Test Match Special.

Ah....... Summer!

Monday, 31 May 2010

• Dosa... fail!

I was going to begin this post with, "Honey, dinner's on the printer!" (which is how our dinner preparations usually begin...) but events conspired to make a mockery of my attempts at making dosa! Rita, how did you manage it?! I used the same mix, the same pan and the same utensils and look what happened! *Sigh* And things had been going so well, lately; almost everything I've tried cooking in my new-found favourite cuisine seems to work brilliantly. Buoyed by my recent spate of success, I thought I'd make Masala Dosa for dinner tonight.

That's where I went wrong:
Not expecting anything untoward, I perused the web for a nice recipe for the filling, settling on a Potato Bhaji recipe and added it to my recipe database. Then I printed it out and asked Steve to make it for us while I prepared the dosa. Next, I carefully added the correct amount of water to a packet of Gits Dosa mix, mixed the batter and let it sit for a few minutes while I gathered my utensils and put a plate in the oven for the finished dosas.

Then the games began; first I tried following the instructions with the relative astounding success you can just make out in the upper left-hand corner of the photo above. Then, all hell broke loose - I just couldn't get the things to come off of my pan! I tried and tried and tried again, until there was no more batter!

*Sigh*. Not having prepared any rice to go with the lovely potato masala which, by now Steve had made and was now sitting (covered) on the stove, smelling ridiculously wonderful, I had a flash of inspiration.

I got out another pan and whipped up a quick wheat flour batter I had been shown how to make by a friend (basically self-rising flour, salt and water mixed to the consistency of double cream) and produced a batch of thin, slightly elastic and very tasty pancake wraps. These "Cheat's Dosa" went perfectly with our potato bhaji and we were fed.

Savory wheat pancakes


The End.

Monday, 24 May 2010

In Great Yarmouth, a vagabond



We went to the British seaside for a weekend in May. 'We' being my lab buddies (and spouses and partners) and the 'weekend' being the third weekend in May. Originally, the idea was to have a 'Lab Outing' - kind of a weekend retreat together. We would all - me (and named spouse), Ihsene, Hannah, Yvonne (and named spouse) and Rupak (and named spouse) - go somewhere together with the idea of having fun - out of the laboratory. That was the idea. Bear in mind that this was a plan that was planned, conceived and hatched in February. February - you know the month - that '-ary' month, marooned right smack in the ass end of winter in the no man's land that lies just where Christmas joy has faded and Spring - though much hoped for and even more anticipated - is far too far away to ponder. It was in the grip of February's cold grasp that we conspired to go away together in Springtime and have fun.

The reality (oh, there's always a reality!) was that, for one reason or another, one couldn't make it; another's spouse couldn't come; someone unexpected (but very welcome, indeed!) was substituted for - yet another and, well, you see how it goes... So we, the motley crew that we are, finally sorted ourselves out (kit, kaboodle and food enough for a starving army...) and headed for a caravan park in Great Yarmouth on the North Sea coast.

... To be continued . . .

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

• Dhokla

Tonight we made dhokla... from a packet, sure, but it was our first attempt at making it - and eating it, too!
I say "we"... I really mean, honestly, Steve. Yes, Steve made these. I helped (those are my sizzled mustard seeds, chopped green chillis and curry leaves sitting on top...) but the credit goes to him as always, venturing into the culinary 'unknown'.

They were delicious. We had them with the last of the sambar from Sunday, some coconut chutney and a greeny-minty-spicy chutney I made tonight. Yum! Everything was hot and spicy and the dhokla were soft, moist and delightful to eat.

Mmmm! Bravo, Steve!

Sunday, 16 May 2010

• Sambar


Saturday we had friends over for a South Indian 'cook-a-long' dinner. Rupak, Kinnary and Rita, Rupak's mother who is visiting from Kolkata, India, dropped by after a day of punting and sightseeing in the City Centre.


We were 5 cooks in the kitchen, busily cooking a sumptuous meal of idli (Kinnary), sambar (me), coconut chutney (Rita, with a little help from me) and dosa (Rita). We all had a terrific time, chatting and cooking. Rupak and Steve both managed to stay out of our way while somehow being instantly helpful when required to do so... Bravo, Gentlemen!

I made the sambar before our guests arrived so I was free to try and keep an eye on all that was going on so that I could reproduce the meal another time. The coconut chutney was the most 'mysterious' element as, before this day I didn't know very much about chutneys or how to make them. Poor Kinnary was suffering from hay fever but somehow was able to produce some 30+ idly for us (and two different kinds, too!)


The dosa were a challenge to make in my kitchen for, although I have a tava (which is useful for making rotis and parathas) it wasn't quite seasoned enough and the first 2 or 3 dosa stuck to the pan. Somehow Rita managed to rescue every one of them while keeping a steady flow of witty conversation going!


Needless to say, we were all ravenous by the time we sat down to eat! The food was delicious and could we be blamed for eating ourselves silly?

After polishing off as much as we could possibly eat, we retired to sofas to sleepily sip tea and nibble on cheese cake.

Here's my attempt at a sambar recipe. Although I reprised the dish this morning, I think it could stand a bit more revision:


Sambar

Ingredients:

1 cup (200 gms) toor dal
3 cups water (+ 1 cup as needed)
6 pieces tindora, halved lengthwise
1 carrot, cut into batons or uneven chunks
1/3 cup green beans
1/2 piece (6 pieces) courgette
6 pieces okra, sliced in half
salt

1-1.5 tbsp tamarind, soaked in 1/2 cup hot water then
mashed and squeezed to yield the juice.

1 whole drumstick (moringa oleifera) cut into 2 inch 'fingers'
2 'pinches' asafoetida
1/4 tsp tumeric powder
1/4 tsp red chilli powder
2 -3 tsp sambar powder

Seasoning:
1-2 tbsp oil
2 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seed
20 curry leaves
2 tsp garam masala
1-2 tsp sambar powder
a small handful chopped fresh coriander

Method:

1. Wash and soak the toor dal for 30 minutes then drain the water and put it in the pressure cooker and add in the carrots, green beans, tindora, water (3cups) and salt.

2. Cook the dal on medium heat, 1 whistle (3 minutes after the weight starts rocking) and allow the pressure to go down on its own.

3. When cool, remove the lid of the cooker, return the cooker to the heat and add the tumeric powder, tomatoes, asafoetida, chilli powder, drumstick pieces, courgette slices and 2-3 tsp sambar powder.

4. Mix and simmer the sambar while these ingredients cook.

5. Meanwhile, use a seive to add the tamarind to the sambar.

6. Add the balance of the water (1/2 cup or amount needed) to get the sambar to the desired consistency and boil till the raw tamarind smell has gone and the vegetables have softened.

For the seasoning:

1. Add some oil or ghee to a small skillet or saucepan and add mustard seeds and a further pinch of asefoetida and curry leaves. Turn off the heat when the seeds begin to pop.

2. While stirring, add in the chilli powder, sambar powder, coriander powder. Don't allow the powders to scorch or burn; add a little water if the pan seems to be too hot.

3. Add this mixture to the sambar and continue to simmer for another 2-3 minutes.

4. Taste and correct the seasonings, adding the juice of 1/2 lemon, if required (the sambar should be a little tart-tasting), garnish with chopped coriander leaves and serve.

Tips:
Use tamarind concentrate if regular tamarind is not available.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

• Chapatis!

I did it! I made chapatis! While I do make our bread and rolls every week, I'd never tried making them before now. Chapatis (or 'rotis' as they are also known) are an unleavened flat bread and a staple of the northern areas of South Asia and other parts of the world. Chapatis (or similar breads) are made every day in hundreds of millions of households across the globe. The ubiquity of the bread leads to it appearing in various shapes and sizes and its recipes varying from kitchen to kitchen.

Having said that, the basic ingredients of chapatis couldn't be simpler - flour, salt and water. In many cases a little oil is added after the dough has rested to facilitate rolling. I've now made them on three separate occasions (in as many days!) and, in my hands, they are simple AND difficult to make. Simple in the sense that all you do is make up the dough, roll it out and cook it on a hot griddle. But what consistency is best? Should the flour be stiff, medium or soft? How much oil should I use? When do you flip them over? Why do they sometimes puff up and other times they don't? In spite of my satisfactory but somewhat variable results, I think this bread is really fun to make and I'll be cooking them quite a lot in the near future!

• Today's batch

Today I blogged about my first experiences making chapati bread. While I was making the chapatis, I was working on a batch of 'everyday' bread too. This week, Steve wanted slicing bread and I am in the mood for rolls... so I made both! I'm trying a variation on my usual technique, inspired by French-born TV chef, Jacques Pepin - instead of doing my mixing and kneading in a bowl, I use a bucket!
"A bucket?" Yes, dear Henry, dear Henry - with a bucket!

What I did is this:
I went out and bought myself a food-grade 6 litre bucket from the local variety store. It's sorta square-ish and it has a hinged lid (the advantages of this lid will soon become apparent!). After washing it well in hot soapy water (always advisable before first use!) and drying it, I weighed out my (500 gms brown) flour and dumped it in the bucket. Then I mixed a tsp of quick yeast and a tsp of salt and a tsp of sugar into the flour. After that I added about 350 mls water to the bucket and mixed the flour and water together until the dough was formed. I didn't really knead it at this point. Then I added 2 tbsp of olive oil to the dough and oiled my hands (to help keep the dough from sticking to them) and mushed everything around vigorously for about 2 minutes. This is all done with one hand. I stopped when the dough seemed well-mixed and elastic. Then I gathered the dough into a ball (more or less, I wasn't too particular about it!), gave it a final mush with my fist and covered it with the lid. Then I picked up the bucket and put it in a corner in our pantry and left it overnight.

The next morning, after breakfast and when I remembered it (!), I fetched the bucket. The dough had risen nicely. (By the way, the slower the rise, the better the bread - and it lasts longer, too!) I floured my (clean) counter and scraped the dough out onto it, sprinkled a little additional flour on top of it and kneaded it for about 2 minutes, adding more flour when it got too sticky to handle. Then I shaped 3 (100 gms each) rolls and made a round loaf with the remaining dough. I put the bread onto a couple of floured baking sheets, sprinkled them liberally with flour and covered them with cling film. After they'd doubled in size, I baked them in a 200˚C oven for about 25 minutes.

And the advantage of the bucket? Only the bucket to clean up because the dough is not kneaded on a surface (until the next day); the bucket has its own lid so towels and/or oiled cling-film are 'history'; the bucket is so easy to position - it can be stowed anywhere so, no need to find an undisturbed surface for a bowl.

They seem like advantages to me! Hope you enjoyed this post!

Lisa x

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

• Celeriac Curry



I thought I'd post tonight's 'main event'. I'm excited about this recipe because Steve and I have been working on it together. It is an adaptation of a Kelara potato curry recipe (source tba...) I found while trawling the web for recipes. I mean, what does one do with celeriac - other than mash it or roast it?

Lately however, neither of those treatments seems attractive - we have been consumed with Indian food for several months now. Then this celeriac appears in our weekly veg box! Whoever heard of 'Celeriac Curry'???

You have! Look:

Kerala Easy Celeriac Curry

1 celeriac, peeled and cut into 2cm cubes
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp red chilli flakes
12 curry leaves
1 large onion, sliced
3 green chillis, deseeded and chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp tumeric
1 pinch asafoetida (hing)
1/2 can chopped tomatoes
1 handful coriander leaves, chopped

1. Place the celeriac chunks in a large pot of cold water and bring to the boil and cook until the celeriac is soft. Drain and set aside.

2. Heat oil in a sauté pan until it's very hot then add the mustard seeds, red chilli flakes and curry leaves. Allow to sputter for thirty seconds.

4. Add the onion and fry until starting to soften (about five minutes)

5. Add the green chilli and garlic and fry for a further five minutes, or until the onion is soft and translucent.

6. Stir in the powdered spices, mix well then add the tomatoes and stir well.

7. Simmer the mixture for five minutes then stir in half of the chopped coriander leaves.

8. After two minutes, add the cooked celeriac and stir well to coat evenly with.

9. Heat on a low flame until the celeriac is warmed through.

Serve garnished with the remainder of the chopped coriander leaves

Monday, 12 April 2010

• What's new?

Sometimes I get lucky and have a camera in my hand when a cute situation presents itself. This was one such occasion: There was Steve, sitting on the sofa reading the paper (the sports section, probably...) when something caught Sofie's eye. She sat there, staring (thinking about dinner and her chances of getting Steve to do her bidding!) and I took this picture.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

• Mauby



This is a REAL blast from the past - mauby syrup! Amazing stuff. When I was at university, I became close friends with several students from the U.S. Virgin Islands and the West Indies. As has always been the case with me (and with my good friends) food played a large part in our daily lives; we used to cook at home and bring in food for each other and we used to go to each other's houses to cook and eat together.

Wendy, a friend whom I've unfortunately lost touch with over the years, was from Trinidad and I often wound up at her family home where we'd study and talk. One of the many different foods she introduced me to was a drink called Mauby.

As well as being a drink mauby is the dried bark of the Caribbean Carob Tree (Colubrina Reclinata), a tree found in Haiti, Puerto Rico, northern parts of the Caribbean and southern parts of Florida (Wikipedia). The drink is an infusion of the bark mixed with sugar and, occasionally other flavours such as cinnamon, allspice, star anise and vanilla. I particularly remember mauby because it took me a while to get used to it! I'm not a great fan of flavours toward the bitter end of the palate so I swallowed a lot of the stuff before I understood what the fuss was all about! It's a very distinctive (and, to my palate, bitter) sweetened drink that is made much like iced tea. In my friend's family it was consumed in much the same way as iced tea was at my house.

Mauby
Many years on (30, in fact!) when Steve was looking for a non-fruity drink, I thought of mauby. Then I started searching the web for it and I found it here at the Afro Caribbean Food store. I ordered the syrup as well as the bark which I'd see made into a drink at Wendy's house.


Mauby bark

It arrived promptly (within 5 days!) and I immediately opened the package and unwrapped my goodies. Packaging now strewn about the house, I made my way to the kitchen and mixed up a cold drink using the syrup... sipped... yeah! Ah! Steve tried it and he likes it very much too. What a find that was!  While writing this I thought of another drink from college days... sorrel!  Think I'll get searching on that one next...

Saturday, 10 April 2010

• GuacammmmolĂ©!

Last night I was itching to have burritos for dinner - again! Well, since it was Friday night (and movie night) I decided it would be okay to indulge this urge. I'm so hard on myself! ;) It's always nice to end the week with a treat, though, and this seemed to be just the thing. So I stopped off at the green-grocer's on the way home and got a couple of perfectly ripe Haas avocados, a bunch of tomatoes and a couple of limes. Mmmmmmmm! I got some tortillas at the Co-op.

On the ride home, I thought about what movie to suggest we watch. As soon as I got in the door and made my proposal to Steve, I realised I'd forgotten the sour cream! Not to worry... it was a beautiful evening and Steve was happy to make the trip.

We watched 'Moon' - a very good film which reminded me of "2001: A Space Oddessy", more than once.

• Hershey Bars!


Hershey Bars!
Originally uploaded by Lisa Fagg
How could I have forgotten to mention that, buried deep within the surprise box were a couple of Hershey's Chocolate bars... with almonds???! I'm truly shocked at the omission. In the rush to get to press, I forgot to include this photo. Whew! I feel better now that I've set the record straight now!

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

• Surprise!



Today we got a big surprise! My friend Pamela sent us a package - all the way from New York! Okay, it wasn't a complete surprise, because when you send a big package across the Atlantic you do tend to let the recipients know to expect it. But it was a surprise, anyway.

So here it is - just as it was before we opened it. Once I began to open it, I could smell ... chocolate! At least I thought it was chocolate... something sugary and chocolatey smelling, anyway.

It took a few minutes to get it open.

The first thing we saw once we'd got it open was... tissue paper! Bubble wrap! And... PEEPS!!!!

You know you're a loooong way from Kansas, when you don't see Peeps in your local supermarket!  Pamela sent two packs of Peeps one of the 'original' yellow chicks and one pack of pink bunnies (Peeps come in a variety of shapes and colours and sizes... check 'em out here.)
Mmmmm!
 Delving deeper into the tissue paper we found three boxes of Girl Scout Cookies!



Well, we had to try some, didn't we? Nom, Nom. Now we know why Americans are fat - we ate 5 small (absolutely deee-licios!!) cookies between us - and consumed a total of 375 calories, just like that! We later admitted that we could easily have eaten the whole box (of 15 cookies) had I not grabbed the box and put it in the pantry. Whew! Close call. Not for snacking on but for *serious* indulgence...


I can't begin to describe the next several packages - one package smelled (and looked!) like Oreo cookies; another like package of Saltine crackers and cheese; yet another like S'mores... but they were ...SOAP!

Yep, soap! Unbelievable.



 Also included in the package were a set of US commemorative stamps (for Steve, an avid stamp collector) and a pair of (photographic?) prints of telegraph poles and birds. (It's getting late and my feeble powers of description are fading fast!)

All in all, it was a wonderful surprise Christmas and Easter package - all the way from NY!

Thanks, Pamela...

And good night!

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

• Work



This is where I work. I don't work here all of the time - only some of the time. The other times, I work elsewhere. I like this arrangement very much. It has the advantage of keeping me interested in what I'm doing (which is, often, none too easy!). You can tell this is my bench, I just realised, because I have put a not-so-descrete label on the shelf above my bench. It reads "Lisa's Stuff". I put that sign there in the hopes that my labmates wouldn't use my stuff whilst I was working elsewhere. It might have worked. But how would I know... I wasn't there. Hmmm. Anyway, that's my bench.


Labmates
These are two of my labmates: That's Rupak in the foreground and Yvonne in the background with her back to the camera. They were working when I took this (and the other) photo(s). It looks like Rupak was talking. He probably was - but not to Yvonne, you see, because if that were true, Yvonne would be looking at him.





I think he might have been talking to Hannah...

He talks to everyone. Maybe he was asking me to put the camera away.


Yvonne talks to Hannah, too.  Hannah is a good listener.

Here Yvonne and Hannah seem to be sharing a joke but they are actually laughing because I'm taking a picture of them while they are working. That's Yvonne on the left.


There was another lab member at work today. That's Dan. He's the post doc in the lab. If you look carefully, you can just see his red backpack.  He's heading off after a long day.

Well, that's it for today. There are several others who work in our lab but, this being the first day back after the Easter break, not all of them made it into work today.

These are the ones who did.

Monday, 5 April 2010

• At Last...

This really must be the last post of the day!  I've been enjoying this new blog and the iPhone camera (and, of course, Hipstamatic!) so much that this must be my 3rd or 4th post today.

This is good night.  As you can see, Steve is fading fast
IMG_0117 and the cats are arranging themselves artfully on various proximal, soft and warm surfaces. I'm sure we'll wind up with at least one in bed with us.

It's been an interesting day full of pleasant (and unpleasant!) tasks to do. We're in the midst of a whirlwind Spring cleaning session and we never find this easy to do! It's really tough going through things (so many things!) and being ruthless about deciding what stays and what has to go. I find it exhausting because it's really only when doing this that I realise just how much time has elapsed and I feel so old.

Then there's the problem of how to dispose of it all. Clothes should go to the charity shop (but hardly ever do make it there), papers and magazines need to be recycled; electrical and electronic things (all broken) have their own special places they have to go.

Then there's the stuff that won't fit in the bin. Some of it has to wait for the next rubbish collection cycle.

Finally, the stuff we can't figure out what to do with goes in the Hippobag. Sigh. This is quite a task - not for the faint-of-heart! It's not as though we don't do it very often either - we make a point of going through things every 12 - 18 months and getting rid of stuff.  So where does all this stuff come from??  I wish I knew!

Anyhow, I'd better go referee the scuffle that's just got underway in front of the gas fireplace and start getting myself "up the wooden hill to Bedfordshire" - something that you have to be English to have made up!

Night-night

• Springing


I just stepped outside and - Lo - it seems as though Spring is springing! I'm now testing the camera and this blogging app called Blogpress. Seems pretty nifty. I'll try posting with it (for real) sometime soon...

-- Post From My iPhone

• Introducing...

This is me. At least this was me yesterday afternoon in the kitchen, as photographed by Steve. Notice that I am in the kitchen, not food blogging. I am cooking. After this photo was taken, I got back to work preparing dinner. Having said that, this is the archetypal post for the blog I plan to write.



This is my husband Steve. He might be smiling because he can smell dinner cooking... whatever the reason, I really like this photo of Steve - so much that it is my iPhone desktop photo!

Steve and I have 3 cats. Three cats is one cat too many - but we manage.



This is Tomas, our oldest cat
He's nearly 16 years old. He's in very good shape for his age. This is partly due to his very healthy diet and regular visits to the vet and partly due to the efforts of his 'personal trainer'...






This is Robby, our youngest cat. Robby is Tomas's self-appointed personal trainer.

He and Tomas run around the house together, all hours of the day and night. Tomas vocalises a lot during these sessions (read: screams like a stuck pig) but he manages to keep the game going for a good while. I wanted to get a photo of Robby looking less menacing, less... fierce. Alas, the camera never lies. You can see the 'killer' in his eyes, right?

 Anyway, one thing is for sure, our darling girlie cat Sofie, is never to blame for any of the ruckus that goes on in our house.

This is Sofie, our middlest and girliest cat
She's Tomas's best friend. She knows how to deal with Robby. When these these two go at it, the fur flies!


Sofie (l.) and Robby (r.)It all seems to be in good fun though because the three of them (or any two of them) can be found sleeping together in front of the gas fire
Most telling, perhaps, is Sunday mornings can find all FIVE of us crammed in bed together!

So this is the 'family'.



Lamb Stew with Algerian SpicesAnd this is what was for dinner...Lamb Stew with Algerian Spices.