Sunday Thoughts

I’ve been doing some thinking about the blog and have made a few changes, including the theme which some may have noticed. I’ve also decided to add some more lifestyle and personal posts which I hope you will all like.

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One thing I’d like to do is to have a regular post to add some thoughts about how the week has gone, and interesting things that have caught my attention, such as great blog posts, progress in the garden, places I’ve been to or would like to visit or recipes I’ve tried. It will also help me to be able to look back on them all.

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We made two batches of scones this weekend, which the two younger children enjoyed helping with. I used the BBC Good Food recipe, which is reliable and straightforward.

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More crumbs ended up on the floor than in the bowl with this little one’s help, so he was dispatched to his dad after a little while!

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All three children love helping with baking, and it’s something we don’t do enough. Pancakes are made most weekends here but not quite as much cake as we’d all like!

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A bit wobbly round the edges, but delicious all the same.

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Good things this week:

Me Made May 2017 is underway, and I’ve managed to wear Me Made clothes most of the week! I realised I need more skirts and trousers to have a proper handmade wardrobe, as I haven’t made any of those so far.

My sister stayed with me for a few days as she’s come from abroad for a month or so. I got to babysit my adorable nephew while she went out to the theatre, he was a bit sad without his mum but at least let me give him some cuddles. We also went fabric shopping in Lewisham.

I had an article published on Amaliah.com on Fashion Revolution and making my own clothes. Please have a read and a look at the rest of the site which is full of great articles and fashion inspiration.

We did a bit more work on painting our fitted shelves and wardrobes, we might even finish one set by next week!

 

 

 

Ramadan Meal Planner

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I have planned for some time to try and get more organised this Ramadan, and make a meal planner to save the headache of not knowing what to cook on the day and then having to go to the shops on the day to get the one ingredient that’s missing! I’m aiming for a zen-like calm this year, which means thinking ahead. The reality may of course be different, but I can try!

I put out the idea of a meal planner on a fantastic Facebook group I belong to and the response was overwhelming! I am clearly not the only one who feels daunted by the task of preparing delicious food during Ramadan, as well as managing all the other requirements of additional prayers and the physical demands of the long fast.

Due to the ‘hype’ that was created, I have put some extra work into making this planner attractive and easy to use. I hope you find it useful – it is literally what we will be eating this Ramadan, so not everything will be to everyone’s taste – it is very easy to adapt by substituting your own recipes. I would love to hear your feedback and ideas for how to make it better. Please bear in mind this was done in two days so it will not be perfect, and some recipes are not specific on quantities.

Download the planner below and feel free to share:

Ramadan planner final

 

Live Below the Line

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Radish thinnings from the garden to add to our dinner!

 

I’m currently doing a 5 day challenge as part of Live Below the Line (sponsor me here!) – I am only allowed to eat £1 worth of food per day. As I’m doing it together with my husband, we pooled our £10 and bought the following: 

  • Pasta 39p
  • Oil 40p (1/3 bottle) 
  • Can of white beans 33p
  • Can of tinned tomatoes 33p
  • Plain yoghurt 45p 
  • Lentils 95p for 500g
  • Potatoes 80p for 1kg 
  • Lemon 29p 
  • Onions 50p
  • Garlic 16p
  • Sugar 20p 
  • Milk 55p 
  • Teabags 27p 
  • Fresh Turkish bread 70p
  • Pitta bread 39p
  • Eggs £1 for 6
  • Mayonnaise 45p
  • Rice 40p 
  • Baked beans 40p 
  • Bananas 3 for 28p 
  • Porridge 20p (1/3 pack) 
  • Salt/spices from cupboard 50p 

In total so far, that adds up to £9.35. 

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I wanted to prove that we could eat well even on this small amount of food, but we have found it difficult so far. I’ve learned a lot about our shopping and eating habits. I thought we’d be able to afford some fresh fruit and vegetables with our budget, as well as packets of dried beans/lentils etc. I’ve realised how expensive fresh food is relative to tinned/dried foods, with fruit in particular being a bit of a luxury on such a tight budget.The rules stated that you could buy whole packets of things only, however this was impossible as oil and porridge could not be bought in smaller quantities. On a practical point, it would be more realistic to buy large quantities of cheap staples to be eaten over a long period of time rather than only 5 days’ worth. 

I also realised that I barely notice the budget ranges in the supermarket usually, and had no idea it was possible to buy decent(ish) tea for only 27p for 80 teabags! Basics pasta and rice from Sainsburys are also perfectly edible, although the rice is much more gloopy than the basmati rice we usually eat. We also tend to buy too much each week and could easily cut back, saving some money and wasting less food in the process. I nearly burnt a pot of dhal and it would have been a disaster, whereas usually I’ll just make some more without worrying about it. 

So far, we’ve had Turkish lentil soup with the bread, potato curry (with a few baby radish leaves from the garden) dhal and rice, egg omelette and my favourite dish, which is pasta with yoghurt and chilli oil. Our main meals have been tasty, but we have had to ration ourselves as we only had six eggs in total and a limited amount of lentils. I’m partial to a biscuit with my tea which was not allowed and I haven’t eaten anything sweet (except for porridge) since the start of the challenge, which is hard when you have a freezer stocked with ice cream in this weather! I was contemplating making a creme caramel with an egg and the last of our milk but I’m not sure if this will be the wisest use of our resources. 

Although we’re not too hungry (except at breakfast time – I can’t stomach the porridge so have been skipping it) it does take the joy out of shopping for food and eating when you can only eat the basics. I have noticed feeling much more tired than usual which is probably due to cutting all the snacks out. It’s still been very worthwhile though, I have definitely thought a lot about how we spend money in the past few days. 

Baking :: Lemon Bars

These lemon bars are from Leon Baking and Puddings : Book 3. I do enjoy lemon desserts but reduced the amount of sugar in the lemon filling by 50g as I thought 350g sounded an awful lot! I’m glad I did, because they were still fairly sweet. The recipe itself is very easy, although making shortbread by hand is a bit time consuming. With a food processor, you could get the preparation done quite easily in 15 minutes or so.

A Lebanese Feast

I bought Arabesque by Claudia Roden about 6 years ago, and have cooked many dishes from it over the years. It is a one stop shop for Turkish, Moroccan and Lebanese cuisine, all presented with beautiful photography.

I recently finished some exams (i.e. no cooking for 3 weeks!) and have started to get over a series of colds, so felt up to the challenge of cooking something completely different. I had guests for Sunday lunch, so decided to plan a Lebanese style meal, to try out all those dishes I’d wanted to make from the book. I especially wanted to try Konafa, a cream filled vermicelli pastry I enjoyed in Egypt last year.

The full spread consisted of:

Stuffed aubergines with yoghurt sauce and pitta bread

Borek – filo pastry with lamb mince and pine nut filling

Filo pastry pie with chicken filling

Baba Ghannoush – aubergine and tahini dip

Tabbouleh – bulgur wheat salad

Hummus …

and Konafa for dessert.

The aubergine dish and filo pastry meat pies had the same filling – minced lamb with fried onions and pine nuts, seasoned with cinnamon and all spice. The tomato sauce is very easy to make – just chopped tomatoes with pomegranate molasses and salt and pepper. I added some passata which I had at home to give it a richer flavour.

The filo meat pies looked pretty with the yoghurt sauce sprinkled with dried mint, but were a little bland in flavour. Claudia Roden advises that the meat needs to be very well seasoned for the dish to hold its own, but I can imagine that an Indian version (with plenty of chilli!) would work better for my family’s palate.  The pastries themselves were quick to make, as the filling is simply rolled up in half a filo sheet and then coiled up.

Olives in an Anthropologie bowl 

Homemade hummus – the technique for this is very simple – a recipe is given below. The Aubergine dip is made in a similar way.

Baba Ghannoush – this is one of my favourite dips and one I thought would be difficult to make. In fact its very simple and looks impressive.

A close up of the filo meat pies 

There isn’t a decent shot of the chicken pie, which was the most unassuming dish, yet  the one enjoyed the most by my guests. The chicken filling took a long time to make, as it required 600g of onions to be fried slowly until caramelised, before adding the chicken, cinnamon, cardamom and sumac, a powder made from dried berries used in Middle Eastern cooking. The chicken would make  a good dish on its own to eat with rice or pitta bread as an accompaniment. The pie was assembled by layering filo pastry sheets brushed with butter to cover the base of the dish, then adding the filling, before covering with more layers of filo.

Hummus

Juice of 2 lemons 

4 tablespoons of tahini paste

1 large tin of chickpeas (400g) 

1 clove of garlic (crushed)

extra virgin olive oil

salt

Mix together the lemon juice and tahini in a large bowl, the tahini will seize and then soften again. Add chickpeas and garlic and blend. Add water if necessary to make a thinner paste. Season with salt, and pour into serving bowl. Drizzle with olive oil.

Baba Ghannoush 

3 aubergines instead of chickpeas, otherwise ingredients as above. 

Prick aubergines with a fork all over, place under a hot grill until skins are blackened and the flesh is soft underneath. Cool and then peel. Leave the flesh in a colander to drain any excess liquid. Mix together the lemon juice and tahini in a large bowl, the tahini will seize and then soften again. Add aubergine flesh and garlic and blend. Season with salt, and pour into serving bowl. Drizzle with olive oil.

NB The Konafa will be posted separately, if I can find a picture of it! I forgot to take one in the rush but my sister has promised to send me one.

Brick Lane Farmer’s Market

A new farmer’s market has just opened a stone’s throw from the house.

It’s at St Matthias School, just off the Bethnal Green Road end of Brick Lane.

The vegetables looked splendid, and were surprisingly inexpensive. And it feels so much better if the money goes straight to the supplier rather than a faceless supermarket chain.

There were lots of tasters there too – delicious bread, cheeses and cakes galore. We bought some goats cheese rolled in garlic and sweet red pepper, and multi seed bread which we had for lunch.

I also wandered back via Cheshire St, and discovered that Shelf were having a big clearout. I got a lovely red bus poster for S’s room, and the most amazing wooden magnetboard (marked down even more than on the site!). I love the twig magnets!