March – Recipe Book Challenge – Rick Stein’s Spain

Firstly, want to say that alongside this book having lovely, traditional, recipes. It’s also a great read. Some beautiful photos, great little histories and descriptions of dishes. I think this is the book I’ve enjoyed perusing the most.

March went fast! We got to the 18th of the month and had only made one recipe. A lot of this was down to the fact I’ve been working more which means my lovely mid week stops to the fishmonger haven’t been happening. But we got to a free (ish) weekend and decided to go for it. We then got really into it and ended up trying out six dishes!

Recipe One – Pan-Fried Trout with Crisp Ham

Trucha con jamón

Bit of a joint effort. I was planning on making but then Rich was home sooner so he started and I helped prep. Utterly delicious recipe – very easy and quick (to be honest the potatoes/sides took longer!) and with a great use of flavour by frying up the serrano/palma ham and using the oil as well.

Recipe Two – Beef in White Wine Oviedo-Style

Carne gobernada

Really liked the idea of this recipe – a casserole with white wine instead of red. A really simple recipe, with few ingredients. A good great ‘meat and three veg’ with a twist option. We made enough for 6 and stored portions in the freezer for future use.

Slow cooked beef in white wine (with a bit of white wine on the side!)

Recipe Three – Galician Hake on a Braise of Potatoes, Garlic, Tomato and Onion

Merluza a la gallega

No hake! Our lovely fishmongers hasn’t had hake in so far this year so we made this dish with cod instead. Again, a great, simple, dish, that looked and tasted great. I loved the braised potatoes as the base, it’s a different way to usual for me. I look forward to making with hake in the future.

Cod with braised potatoes

Recipe Four – Pot Roasted Chicken with Chorizo, Leeks and Cider

A friend was supposed to be coming for dinner for this dinner, last minute she wasn’t able to but, I’d bought the ingredients and, despite it being far too much food for two, I went for it! I’ve never made a pot roast chicken before! Really easy. Bonus points – we used the left over chorizo, leeks and cider as the base for a risotto followed by leftover chicken. Two completely different meals out of the same set of ingredients. Felt very clever!

Recipe Five – Pork in Almond Sauce

Carne en salsa de almendras

This was a joint effort. Again, fairly simple ingredients make for a tasty, simple meal. I really did like the use of almonds/fried bread to make the textured sauce. I’ve got to be honest, I think I would have cooked the pork longer than 90 minutes. It was yummy but still quite firm and the book describes it as ‘meltingly tender.’

Recipe Six – Chickpea, Salt Cod and Spinach Stew

Potaje de garbanzas, bacalao y espinacas

This was my hands down fav meal. Snuck in at the end! It was the most prep (making salted cod and remembering to prep the chickpeas) but the result was so good! A fab, light, aromatic dinner.

My fav dish this month

Conclusion

  • A great success! Simple clear dishes with a few ingredients.
  • There’s LOADS of garlic. I mean LOADS. I think we used 3-4 bulbs across all six dishes.
  • A good mix of recipes from meals for two to dinner party show offs.
  • A lot from here will make it to our more regular dishes.
  • First time we went beyond the four dishes – and I still don’t feel we’re done with this book!

Next month

Another Rich pick! Although Rich picked last month’s book, I still picked out and made/ or half made a lot of the dishes. In April I start my Yoga Teach Training with Mudra Edinburgh so I’m going to be *quite* a lot busier. Rich will be stepping up to the plate and cooking more – only seems fair that he pick the book and recipes!

He’s picked Claudia Roden Arabesque, A taste of Morocco, Turkey and Lebanon. I’m looking forward to the results!

Claudia Roden Arabesque – our April Recipe Challenge

 

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February – Recipe Book Challenge – Madhur Jaffrey’s Ultimate Curry Bible

February, February – where did you go?! I feel like I blinked and the month had passed.

Despite this – felt we had great success with Madhur Jaffrey’s Ultimate Curry Bible this month. It felt like we made a lot of recipes, but once I noted it down it was really only three meals across five different recipes.

Madhur Jaffrey’s Ultimate Curry Bible is a fantastic book. A gift from my mum, who works at an Oxfam Book Shop and can locate pretty much any book you desire for a small donation, and one we’ve had on the shelf for a while.

We’ve had this book a while and have always mean to cook from it.

A guilty pleasure of mine is grabbing a curry for dinner on off days – but I rarely make a curry by myself. I was a bit put off by a potentially large arsenal of ingredients. This book is not so, once you’ve made a few staple things, you’re set for quite a lot of the book.

Which segues nicely into what we made:

Recipe One – Garam Masala

This is a core blend of spices used often in Indian (and other) cuisine. Wikipedia says ‘The word garam refers to “heating the body” in the Ayurvedic sense of the word, as these spices are believed to elevate body temperature in Ayurvedic medicine‘. Just six ingredients and you end up with about half a spice jar which will work for many many recipes (a traditional garam masala is extremely potent and you’ll only use small quantities in each future dish).

NB: I learnt that black cumin seeds can also be called Nigella seeds?

I made my own Garam Masala

Recipe Two – Royal Chicken Korma (Shani Murgh Korma)

I will confess – this was rather a huge undertaking! It was pretty time consuming and a little overwhelming! But, oh my goodness, the results! Literally the tastiest, flavoursome curry that I’ve ever eaten. And, as it was a ‘party dish’ – we have a ridiculous amount in the freezer for lazy cooking days. Worth the effort. Just NOM.

Recipe Three – Saika’s Red Lentils from the Khyber Pass (Khyber Pass Ki Masoor Dal)

We’ve had lentils in the cupboard for I don’t know how long. So I was determined to make a Dal. This is a great, simple recipe – to use as a side, or for a light, cheap, supper. We made double portions and have frozen for future use as well.

Recipe Four (and technically Five) – Silken Chicken ‘Tikka Masala’ / Silken Chicken ‘Tikka’ Kebabs

In the recipe above as one, but in the book as two, this is an Indian meat dish with a UK inspired sauce. It takes a few hours prep, but is, again, totally worth it. It isn’t quite a taxing at the Korma recipe and I found it fun skewering and grilling the chicken. It’s a spicy, hearty, flavour – and very similar to the kind of dish you’d get from a takeaway (but you’ve made it yourself!).

Conclusion

  1. They are generally a little more effort, but I loved the recipes from this book!
  2. A great book for either a) dinner parties or b) freezer stocking
  3. I want to make more from this book (we did have a dinner party planned and this would have been perfect – perhaps for future planning?)
  4. Still a bit hokey at taking photos, it just doesn’t come naturally! Will continue to try to improve on this.

Next month…

Rich has selected the book for next month, Rick Stein’s Spain – so expect lots of seafood!

Rick Stein will be inspiring us in March

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Daughter of an immigrant, granddaughter of a refugee

My paternal grandmother was born and raised in Poland. During the Second World War she was displaced to Russian, then India, then Kenya and eventually she came to the UK for a holiday and told my grandfather she was staying put. She was a DETERMINED woman, I’m not sure even Theresa May could have kept her out of the country! Therefore, my father, who was born in Kenya (Nairobi), ending up emigrating to the UK when he was around ten. As a child, he moved frequently and found it unsettling. This resulted in him firmly setting his roots down when he arrived in Swansea for University. This static influence then had the opposite effect on me! I chose to read languages in University, purely for the year abroad, and then moving to Edinburgh once I graduated. I didn’t plan to settle in one place but, for various reasons, 12 years later, I’m still here. I fully intend to experience the world either by living or travelling abroad as much as possible.

My grandma, the most determined woman I’ve ever known

There have always been big ifs with our family – what if Grandma hadn’t ended up in Nairobi? What if she hadn’t gone on holiday to the UK and decided to stay? What if she wasn’t allowed to stay? When my father was in his early 20s he had to make a decision about his nationality and became a British citizen. Wales became his home and he firmly considered himself Welsh – for the rugby if nothing else! What if he hadn’t been allowed to stay in the UK? What if I had been born in Nairobi? (Mum always says she’s not sure she could have moved to be with him).

In this rich tapestry that is the United Kingdom, my heritage story is not unusual at all – and I love it. That we’re made up of such diversity, can only enrich and enlighten us. You only need to think of a bowl of fruit to know that diversity is good. In my opinion, too much of the same is dull and stifling.

Diversity was my experience of my visits to America too. One holiday in the States, a friend (a Californian) and I played a game: we went up to strangers and asked them where they thought I came from. I was dressed 100% in clothes purchased on holiday and my friend was convinced I looked foreign anyway. The results were mixed (so we were both right!) but the thing I remember from that bit of youthful fun was that not what people thought about my nationality but that not one of the ‘Americans’ we talked to identified as American. They were Polish, Greek, Italian, African –everything! Not one single person said ‘I’m American’. Granted this was more than ten years ago but it stuck with me and I thought it was a fabulous, a land of opportunity made up of all nationalities.

I don’t know what’s going to happen in the UK or in America. I can’t help but think that leaving the EU is going to have a worse effect than the current “President” (because for one thing I’m closer to this EU thing, and hopefully America will only be four years – leaving the EU will affect a generation). All I can hope is that those who feel the same way as me – that diversity enhances and enriches us – can band together and ensure a future worth living in.

I’ve got refugenes

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Project Jasmine – arm strength

Some of you will know that I started practising yoga about two years ago and in about 2 months I’ll be embarking on 200 Hour Yoga Teacher Training with Mudra Edinburgh. I also dislocated my knee at the end of October (big ouch by the way) and so I’ve not been able to attend classes in the way I’d like (mostly because my transitions are so slow that I get behind quite quickly).

Everyone says, injury is really good for yoga, and it turns out – it’s totally true. Whilst it can be incredibly frustrating to lose the strength and flow that you’re used to – it teaches patience and empathy in a way that can only be learnt through experience. It’s also done wonders for my home practice.

Home practice

Right from the start of practising yoga I knew that home practice would be important but, I must admit, it was a bit of a chore. I did it, but I didn’t feel happy about it. Now, I look forward to my time on the mat. I enjoy researching, reading books about practice and deciding what I’m going to work on. I LOVE my savasana at the end and I really feel like I’ve accomplished something when I’m done. Now, I know I would have gotten to where I am now without my injury, but I do feel that having a forced vacation from regular classes has propelled me somewhat. And for that, I’m really grateful!

Having this time to myself, and doing a little bit of recording so I can look back on my practice (I hate a mirror as I feel it interrupts my flow) has helped me realise what areas I need to concentrate on. My two main areas at the moment (apart the obvious knee strength) are arm strength and backbends.

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Arm Strength

Here’s a sequence I’ve put together which I’m dropping in to my practice on a regular basis to strengthen my arms – it takes about 15 minutes of the practice and suits to being at the beginning on middle part of practice.

NB: I always start my practice with a couple of minutes of breathing (I change from practice to practice what type I start with) to ground myself and set an intention/focus for my practice.

  • Cat / Cow (1o breathes)
  • Downward Dog (10 br)
  • High Plank (5 br)
  • Child’s Pose (5 br)
  • Cobra (5 br)
  • Child’s Pose (5 br)
  • Dolpin Pose (10 br)
  • Low Plank (5 br)
  • Child’s Post (5 br)
  • Upward Dog (5 br)
  • Child’s Pose (5 br)
  • Downward Dog (10 br)
  • Side Plank – both sides (5 br each)
  • High Plank (5 br)
  • Downward Dog (5 br)
  • Child’s Post (10 br)
  • REPEAT x 3

When doing the poses, I try to keep mindful of my arms, shoulders, core etc so that my focus is on building my arm strength. (eg keeping my elbows up for Child’s Pose and shoulders back for Downward Dog). These are all fairly simple poses, but it’s good to maintain focus throughout.

This sequence was inspired by Andrea Rice in Mind Body Green. A video on how to do quite a few of the poses is below. Hope you find this useful!

If you’re ready for the next level – there’s also this video from Yoga with Adriene which has some good arm prep for chaturanga (my current nemisis!). I like Adriene’s simple and practical teaching – and I love that she reminds you that, first and foremost, yoga comes from within.

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