Sunshine on a Rainy Day

I think these sunflowers stand true to their name:  ‘Tall Yellow’.  They’re definitely tall – I’m 5′ 8″ and in the below picture my arm is at its full extension above my head, putting these stalks at over 8ft skyward!  The flowers, too, are massive – bigger than my hand, though foreshortening makes them seem a tad smaller in the picture and a very nice, bright, sunshine yellow.  Definitely doing what it sez on the tin seed packet.

I only planted three, but they’ve all come up and are a nice late-summer splash of colour in the garden – though only one is flowering so far.  I’m hoping, next year, to plant a row along the fence to break up the orange-red monotony ;)

Read More

Green Pea & Pesto Soup with Fish Finger Croutons

Peas.  I’ve not been that lucky with my peas this year in the garden, so I couldn’t pull off a pea soup from my own stocks, but I was determined to try this soup (courtesy of my usual go-to site for recipes, BBC GoodFood) anyway.  The topping of fish finger croutons is simply a wonderful extravagance that turns a lunch into dinner.

Unfortunately, this weekend Andy is away to London and has taken our camera with him.  I dragged out my old Kodak EasyShare which was a pretty decent camera for me, back in the days; simple and easy to use…. but slow.  I’m so used to my shiny little Casio Exilim which is pretty speedy, much smaller and less bulky, lighter and has a wider range of features (like decent shake correction for my wobbly hands).  Neither are super-amazing cameras compared to the big shiny DSLR’s that everyone and their auntie has these days, but they’ve both served me well over the years.

Anyway, the upshot of using my old camera was that something weird went on and I didn’t get pictures of the first bowl of soup so I had to have a second – which is why my Saturday Soup post is on a Sunday this week.  As much as I liked the soup, it was way too filling for seconds just to take more pictures!

The one thing I really loved about this soup was being introduced to the idea of part-blending.  I like chunky soups, but I also like ‘thick’, blended soups.  By blending two-thirds of the ingredients and keeping one third aside to add back later, I can have chunky pieces in a blended soup.  Souperb! (ba-dum tsh)

Pesto goes surprisingly well with peas, and gave the soup the necessary oomph.  I added, as the recipe suggested, a bit of fresh (well, frozen) parmesan to increase the flavour of the jarred pesto and was also pretty generous with the black pepper which I felt was needed to bring out some of the flavour of the soup.

This soup is really easy to make, and I think I could happily add it to my repertoire – it’s cheap, filling, makes a decent amount because you don’t need a tonne of it to fill you up, and it’s got a nice flavour which I think would do well in summer or winter.  Potatoes and frozen peas are something I always have around and there’s usually a jar of pesto in the cupboard or fridge – the fish fingers are nice, but totally not a necessity.  If I was making it for an actual dinner, I might serve a small bowl of soup beside a breaded fish fillet and some bread rather than fish fingers, or even do home-made fish fingers but either way it’s a damn nice dish.

Read More

Edinburgh Zoo

I love the Zoo, I really do.  I’ve always had an interest in animals – ever since I spent my 50p pocket money every week on a new small plastic model for my ‘farm’.  It was an exotic farm, with giraffes, lions, tigers, deer, ostriches and eventually even an okapi – an animal I’d never even heard of until I saw the unusual little model in the toy shop.  That toy shop (Blythe’s), and the little glass-fronted case of animals  is something I think helped usher me towards my love of all creatures great and small – I went to the library to look up what an okapi was!

Unfortunately I didn’t manage to see an okapi at Edinburgh zoo, or the giraffe’s which were there last time – but there were plenty other cool animals – especially the pallas cats which sort-of look like what would happen if you mixed a persian with a wildcat.

Probably the biggest highlight of the day was feeding the rainbow lorikeets  – such cheeky wee things!  The trip to the top on the safari bus thing was a bit dull – there wasn’t really time to see anything – but at least it got us to the top of the hill ;)  Even with mostly downhill walking, though, the day was scorching and our feet were killing us by the end of the day, but it was so much fun.

Read More

Random Kitten Visits

Last week certainly ended interestingly.  Going to the door after talking to a survey guy, Andy heard a mewing.  When he opened the door a small black and white streak of lightning shot up our hall.  When he called to me to check it out, his voice half laughing, half questioning, I wondered what in the world it could be.  I did not expect, a few moment later, to be holding this little guy:

We have no idea where he came from, none of the people on our street have lost him and chats with the SSPCA, CPL and local vets have been fruitless on the matter of anyone having lost a kitten like him (if full of good advice).  He’s the absolute opposite of Sam – playful, boisterous and into every single thing he can get his paws on.  He’s very obviously still kitteny – though we can’t place his exact age and so can’t figure out if he’s been neutered or is just too under-aged for showing his man-bits.  The toys we bought Sam, which our stoic gentleman has disdained, have been getting some use – as has the cat bed and scratching post which his dignified self also doesn’t bother with.

I’m loving having a cat who will sit on my lap and accepts being picked up and hugged – however, living with a kitten is hard work – especially because we can’t leave him with Sam, so we’re having to lock him in a room on his own (and the mewls are piteous, I assure you).   He loves his food; can’t get enough, actually, and I’ve managed to get him giving me mini-cat ‘hi-five’s’ to get a treat!

Sam is not entirely impressed with our little visitor (whom we’ve named Cai for now so we don’t need to call him ‘the kitten’) and at first was a little scared of him but, although they’re still a bit growly-hissy at times, they’ve sniffed at each other and will happily sit a few feet apart so long as neither makes any sudden moves.  I’m slightly amused that our big bundle of fluff is wary of a kitten one third his size, but he has been a tad skittish of anything ‘new’ since we got him.

We think Cai must have a home out there, somewhere, despite not having a collar – he’s litter trained, for a start, and seems to have been handled.  He was also in pretty good condition when he ran into our house –  a wee bit skinny and dirty but not emaciated enough to have been out in the world for long.  Much as we’d both be happy to keep him, I am hoping that out there, somewhere, is an owner who loves him and is looking for him.  Even if there isn’t, Sam is our first priority and if they don’t chill around each other more, then we can’t keep him even if we want to.

I’ve already taken a tonne of pictures, though, so if his owners do show up, they’ll have a record of his ‘holiday’ ;)

Read More

Super Saturday Soups

I love soup – I have it about 2-3 times a week for lunch or sometimes a light dinner.  Until about a year or so ago, most soups I’d tried to make turned into a thick, often grey, gloop – edible enough, so long as you don’t actually look at it… Since those experimental days of University, I’ve learned to make a passable lentil soup based on a recipe from my mum – it’s very much a vague recipe, with nothing measured out – but makes a super-tasty soup every time.  Lentil gets boring though – especially when you can only make it in 8-10 person quantities!

I’ve especially become fond of the carton-soups Tesco makes as they do a wide range, they’re fresh, and some are seasonal.  Given the price of them, and the waste of packaging, as well as the urge to improve my kitchen skills, it seemed like learning to make more of my own soups would be totally worthwhile.  So, I’ve decided to set myself a mini challenge of sorts: a weekly soup!

The one recipe which really set me on this particular trail was parsley soup, from a site by the same name.  I had been looking for something to do with the rather large, and growing, pile of parsley from the garden which was taking up space in the freezer and this recipe fit the bill.  It was rather unusual to me as I’d never have thought of making a soup based on parsley!  It was surprisingly tasty, savoury but still light – a very nice summer soup.

The picture at the top of the post is of the soup I made yesterday: Sweetcorn and chilli soup from my usual recipe source – BBC GoodFood.  It was really light and creamy and tasty. The combination of green chilli and coriander was one which worked well with the sweetcorn and I was surprised by how much one small green chilli came through in the flavour – especially because ‘tesco green chillies’ are not exactly super-flavoursome chillies compared to home-grown or named variety chillies.  The recipe also uses a huge amount of coriander – I was beginning to wonder, whilst crushing seeds, chopping stems and leaf, if this wasn’t some sort of ruse to make a sneaky coriander soup by another name.  However, despite using cheap frozen sweetcorn (because I forgot to get actual corn when I was at the shops, d’oh!) the flavour of the corn really did come through – I can only imagine how it would have tasted with fresh kernels in it.  It was an amazingly tasty soup!

I did have a few gripes with the recipe, though: mostly the portions.  It’s a recipe which is supposed to feed four but I found that once it was blended (zhszed, as I call it) and strained to create the smooth soup the recipe intended there really was barely enough for two people.  Add to that the fact that there was so much ‘waste’  from straining and I’m not sure I could really bring myself to make it again.  Perhaps fresher kernels, with softer skins, would have left less waste – but given I re-blenderised it after straining the first time, I’m not sure how much that would change the proportions of ‘leftovers’.

So, super-tasty but wasteful.  It’s a shame, as I love sweetcorn and, despite the fact Andy doesn’t, he liked this soup!  I think I need to figure out how to minimise the waste and up the quantities.

Read More

Daring Cooks – Peirogi

Yet again, cutting it fine on actually posting, despite making this month’s challenge in plenty of time!

The August 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by LizG of Bits n’ Bites and Anula of Anula’s Kitchen. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make pierogi from scratch and an optional challenge to provide one filling that best represents their locale.

Pierogi are something I’d only tried once before I got my hands on these recipes.  Andy had insisted we should give them a go as he’d wanted to try them for awhile but  the supermarket ones we got were very bland to my taste and rubbery to boot.  Home made ones, though, are a totally different kettle of fish!

Since we were challenged to try local food variants for our pierogi, I went with haggis. I figured it would work well, with some added mash. Since fresh is a little expensive as a ‘filling’, I ended up using one of my comfort food easy-meal items:

Because I’d used haggis, I made a couple of my pierogi haggis-shaped, the rest ‘normal’ and folded up:

I noticed some people using wholemeal flour for theirs, and figured that would work for haggis filled ones (I went for 2/3 plain, to 1/3 wholemeal), and also added some ground black pepper to the dough. Served on a bed of lightly fried cabbage and onions, drizzled with garlic-chilli sauce and marigold petals from the garden.

The recipes and instructions for making your own are here.

Read More

The August Garden

I can’t help but feel the beginning of the end coming on for the garden – although some things, such as the late gladiolus and the sunflowers, are still to flower, much of the rest of the garden is beginning to die back, finish fruiting or flowering and look a bit tatty.  The marigolds, especially, are trailing petals and looking ragged, wit htheir petals falling all over the place – I have been cutting plenty for the house and deadheading them, but wanted to keep a few heads on them for seeds.  The last of the cabbages and cauliflowers have been dug up (though you can see the last cauliflower behind the purple petunias) and the purple sprouting broccoli is almost done with its short budding run

An oddity you can’t quite see in the above photo:

Not quite sure how one flower on a purple plant comes to be scarlet – I think the plant has actually produced three scarlet blooms so far.  It’s definitely one single plant

On the up side, my corn has started to flower!  I managed to forget to take pictures of the small, bright red silks the variety I’m growing has, though =(  Maybe next time I remember my camera on the way outside.

Read More