30 April 2013

Foodie Penpals - April Edition

This month I was matched to send to Sue in Bavaria (Southern Germany) who blogs at Sue in Training, charting her progress from her first 5k and beyond. I in turn was sent a lovely box by Louise blogging at Lone Gourmet (check out her delicious recipes!)

There are always lovely treats inside. Manchester based Louise had a bit of a 'duff hand' this month as we're on a fat burning crusade so our diets are pretty limited which gave her a handicap, but she's surprised me with a few delicious treats.

I know a good person eats their dinner first, and then their dessert, but I couldn't wait.

Chorley cakes, where have you been all my life? Their outside is a short pastry which encases a raisin filling. Om nom - well worth breaking the diet, they were calling my name from the cupboard, I'm not really even kidding!

She also included another regional delicacy, creamy Lancashire cheese, and feeling guilty I gave this to a pregnant workmate of mine to enjoy who was having a cheese craving, and she said it's delicious.

The Harissa I have scheduled in the next few days for a version of Katsu Chicken and the Vermicelli is just awaiting my next stir fry, or maybe I might make an asian style soup. The only problem is deciding just which!

I was also sent some very nice Rooibos tea that I've been enjoying as a mid-morning cuppa, and vegetable stock. It's funny, vegetable stock is something that I've always uncertainly eyed up, normally going for a more meaty version, but I tried this the other day in a Mushroom and Asparagus Shepherds Pie, and it was really nice. I almost didn't miss the meat!

Thank you Louise, it was a lovely box!

29 April 2013

Canalboating, a room with a view - leg 1

I think I've recently experienced one of the best ways to see England at it's finest - green, leafy, calm, loads of wildlife and close to several pubs. What more can you wish for - a part from good weather which we were exceedingly lucky to have?

(Sorry, a this is a fairly photo heavy post so I've split the selection of photos (from the millions I took) over two days to really show off England at it's best - hopefully this is a nice distraction from work!)

The English canals system played a vital role in providing a quick and efficient transport system for goods and commodities such as coal around most of the UK since the 16th Century, and helped drive the Industrial Revolution. By the end of the Second World War, the rail and road links had improved by such an extent that the canals fell into disuse and ruin.
Thanks to volunteers, the leisure market has started to utilise these waterways, and boy I am glad that they did (history lesson over, I promise). Talk about a room with (ever changing) views.

This was our home for the long weekend, and did it do us well - they are compact, but we happily fit eight adults (and all of our many accoutrements) in the 10 man boat (though if you had two more, they would be sleeping on fold down bunk beds which would have you a little closer than comfort would call for.

(spotted, culture on the high seas placid waters)

I found out that I was a pretty rubbish steersman, (though with assistance got us out of some shallow tricky weeds)...

but did alright operating the locks & floating bridges. The locks are basically staircases for water - you float into them, close them behind you and lower or raise the level of the water to match where you are travelling onwards to.

We got up close and personal to a variety of wildlife, including a very interested swan,

A plethora of house(boat) cats including a very friendly black & white cat I almost nicked, nesting swans, ducks galore, and a photobombing Czech.

Our picked route took us from Trowbridge in Wiltshire,

 ...12 miles to the glorious honey-stoned Georgian town of Bath.


We hired the boat privately, and so we did all of the navigating, planning, catering and driving of the boat, but I've since discovered that you can book a single berth in a boat (so basically a floating hostel) or hire boats with a bloke who will take care of everything. What a lovely job!


Further adventure to follow...

27 April 2013

Goals & Winning

Ok, so two of my good friends have reminded me that I'm getting a bit slack. I start with super gusto on new projects, which kind of peter out after awhile. This is absoloutely true of my 101 in 1001.

Please do kick my butt.

My lovely ladies have done so, guilting me into running a progress update. I have completed/started 33% of the goals in nearly 33% of the time. Well, I've completed a few fairly recently;

Time to get a plan in action.

While talking about goals, a winner (nice segueway, huh?) has been drawn for A Months' The Collective yoghurt & personalised foodie package.

Congratulations, and commisserations - thank you for dropping by the blog. The giveaway is a thank you for all my awesome readers, thank you again.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

26 April 2013

(Mostly) Wordless Friday

It has been quite a week of contrasts - human complexities (war (ANZAC day), compassion, bravery) and nature (spring, animals and blooms.)


And a surprising breakfast in a builders cafe. As you do.

Have a lovely weekend!

25 April 2013

ANZAC Day - Dawn Parade

Australians and New Zealanders around the world are commemorating the 98th anniversary of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps landing at Gallipoli during World War 1.

What does ANZAC Day mean to New Zealanders? Well, I can't speak for anyone else but to me it stands for national pride, loss, celebration and co-operation.

Those men were all volunteers, and gave up everything to ensure that their country and the commonwealth was kept safe, and so we can have the lives we lead today, free from what could have been.

Over 10,000 servicemen died in the eight-month Gallipoli campaign. It's the least we can do to get out of bed early one day to attend a service in order to give thanks.

Each year the New Zealand and Australian memorials/high commissions take a turn to host the service, with a further wreath laying at the other memorial (which is diagonally opposite the green).

This year it was Australia's turn, and after a well-thought out and moving service, we moved to the New Zealand memorial for a wreath laying there.

I was never very nationalistic until I moved 12,000miles away - as a Girl Guide we were taught to go to the dawn services as a duty (and my 12 year old self was made to) and now I do it because I feel I should. One tiny way to show gratitude to the men and women who served their countries & are currently serving our countries.

I never knew this, but the 1915 landings in modern-day Turkey were the first time that Australia and New Zealand had fought as independent countries.

 And kindly provided by the Sallies, a cup of tea and ANZAC bikkies. 'On ya mate.

One of the most important goals in my 101 in 1001 completed.

24 April 2013

ANZAC Biscuits

With ANZAC day tomorrow, I couldn't not share the timeworn recipe of ANZAC biscuits. It has been claimed the biscuits were sent by wives to the ANZAC (Australia and New Zealand Army Corp) soldiers abroad because the ingredients do not spoil easily and the biscuits kept well during their naval transportation, due to the lack of eggs and preservative in the sugar.

We eat them at other times of the year as well, but they play a special significance in April. As a standalone biscuit they are delicious - they are a perfect accompaniment to Tea (and a lovely dunked). Their texture is unbeatable - crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. Their golden appearance owes much to the golden syrup which is a key ingredient but the texture is squarely down to my favourite combination of Oats and Coconut.

They are also very good for fuelling up for attending a Dawn Parade. I will see you there with rations!
 ANZAC Biscuits

1/2 cup Plain Flour
1/3 cup Sugar
2/3 cup Coconut (dessicated)
3/4 cup Rolled Oats
50g Butter
1 Tbsp Golden Syrup
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
2 Tbsp Boiling Water 
  • Mix together flour, sugar, coconut, and rolled oats.
  • Melt butter and golden syrup.
  • Dissolve baking soda in the boiling water and add to butter and golden syrup.
  • Stir butter mixture into the dry ingredients. Place level tablespoonful of mixture onto cold greased trays. Bake at 180'C for about 15min or until golden. 
Makes around 20.

But, if all else fails...

Ps. Apparently the recipe for Anzacs is legally protected by the Australian and New Zealand governments!

23 April 2013

ANZAC Day - London Diary Date

Happy St George's Day!! I always think it's a shame that St George's isn't celebrated as widely at St Patrick's day - maybe it's a mark of the reserved English character, or how much the Irish like a drink; but it's a shame that St George's day seems to be celebrated at a more seedy level here in the UK.

The  23rd of April is a popular day - it's also Shakespeare & Miguel de Cervantes' birthday. (I love the Man of La Mancha ... "To dream the impossible dream.." and coming over to London was definately this Kiwi tilting at windmills and succeeding.)

I've had a question from one of my blog readers (SJ, cheers for the comment & reading) asking what events are held on this side of the world for ANZAC day.

[For my non Kiwi & Australian readers;
Anzac Day is a national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand, originally commemorated by both countries on 25 April every year to honour the members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) who fought at Gallipoli in the Ottoman Empire during World War I.
Services are held at dawn, which is the same time the ANZACs landed in Turkey. Later in the day, men and women who served in different wars march throughout cities and towns and ceremonies are held at war memorials around the two countries.]

Credit: Clive James
London ANZAC Day events will be commemorated on Thursday 25 April 2013 with the following services:

05.00 : Dawn ServiceAustralian War Memorial, Hyde Park Corner
Service lasts approximately 45 minutes and is a non-ticketed event open to all members of the public. This service will be followed by a short wreath laying ceremony at the New Zealand Memorial.
11.00 : Wreath Laying ServiceThe Cenotaph, Whitehall
Service lasts approximately 30 minutes and will conclude to allow enough time for the short walk to Westminster Abbey for the Commemorative Service. Tickets are not required to observe the ceremony, however passes are required for those wishing to participate in the Parade (Service, ex-Service Personnel and relatives), and can be requested online in early 2013.
12.00 : Commemorative ServiceWestminster Abbey
Service lasts for approximately one hour. Complimentary tickets are required to attend this service and will be available at www.anzacdaylondon.com from early 2013.
Further UK services can be found here.

22 April 2013

The London Stone

I do love the quirky finds in London. From the oldest Gents Loos, to Hot Cross Bun traditions and the Great Christmas Pudding Race, you never quite know what to expect around the corners of London.

A lot of the time we find the item of interest by accident, but there are a few I seek out simply to wonder at.

London Stone is a block of oolitic limestone and measures approximately 53 x 43 x 30 cm (21 x 17 x 12 inches).[1] Study in the 1960s indicated that the stone is Clipsham Limestone, a good-quality stone from Rutland carried to London for building purposes in both the Roman and medieval periods.[2] The existing London Stone is only the upper portion of a once much larger object, described in the 16th century as "a great stone called London stone", "pitched upright... fixed in the ground verie deep".[3] Speculation in the 17th and 18th centuries suggested it was either a milliarium, marking the central spot from which all distances were measured in Roman Britain or an object of Druidic worship, suggestions that are now generally dismissed as lacking any evidence.[4]   (Thank you Wikipedia!)

Nestled in amongst traffic lights, an ugly building and ads for nearby businesses is a London's answer to the Blarney Stone.

As the BBC so pertinently phrases it "The only clouds of mystery billowing around it are the car exhaust fumes from the traffic crawling through the City of London." Except for those in the know...

Thousands of commuters using Bank or Cannon St tubes wander past it everyday, and I bet they don't even notice it. Thought it does have it's own namesake pub a few doors down .... only in London.

It's encased in a protective case making it hard to photograph, but goodness only knows the wanton destruction that could be caused to it otherwise.

It's thought to be about 3,000 years old, the best view is definitely from inside the shop.

Ps. for my lovely Oranges & Lemons fans the London Stone lives just around the road from St Martins; and I was finally able to get a decent image of the still standing tower with it's works completed.

20 April 2013

Light Summer Crustless Quiche

I love cooking. Choosing a recipe, organising all of the ingrediants, prepping them and the best part eating the delectable dish. This is fine, but once in awhile it's nice to kick back and make something utterly simple - this is also a great a 'use up fridge lurking vegetables' recipe, much like Fridge Soup.

This is a quick recipe, great for slimmers, summer picnics, gluten-free bods and, well, me. We love to slice it up and to take it to work for lunch - much to the envy of my colleagues eating their dry shop-made ham sandwiches.

I love it. It takes 3 mins to put together, 30mins to cook and not long to inhale.

Crustless Quiche

Ingredients (per serving)
2 whole eggs
1 egg white
150g Cottage Cheese
Pinch of salt & peppet (to own taste)
Vegetables on hand - any firm starchy veges I would par-boil. My usual suspects lurking are:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°
  2. Combine the eggs and the cottage cheese in either a jug or straight in your non-stick tin
  3. Chop your meat & vege finely
  4. Add the above to the egg mixture plus salt & pepper
  5. Bake for around 25-30mins until the quiche has 'set' and doesn't wobble. Maybe pop some grated cheese on top.
  6. Enjoy hot or equally delicious cold.
et voila!

19 April 2013

(Mostly) Wordless Friday

With the sun shining, it's been a back to nature, chilling and soaking up the much needed week of rays. 
This without doubt is my favourite season - cool sunny days, bliss.  


Do you have a favourite season?