Sledging in the Abbey Fields.

Our snowy white landscape sparkles in the bright sunny day and calls me to the Abbey Fields to take a few photos of the people sledging down the hill. I’ve sledged that hill from when I was knee high to a grasshopper and it is great fun, although I would struggle to get back up a snowy icy hill these days.

The three girls taking a selfie as they screamed with laughter all the way down the hill looked like they were having an amazing time.  There were dogs barking and children laughing and the odd more senior person having a brilliant time,  along with the sound of the sledges on the crunchy well compacted snow as they flew down the hill at speed.

We are so lucky to have snow like this, especially in December, memories of childhood, refreshed.

 

Snow!!!

How good has this snow been. I mean to say I don’t remember it as deep as this in many a long year. In London I went for three winters without a frost, it was incredible. I am so loving this, Rupert has loved his sprints in the snow and hubby and I have loved the walking in the snow followed by the blissful warmth and glow of a coal fire. Apparently it might get a bit nippy on Tuesday night, predicted minus fifteen, I am not going to love that, I won’t be going out on that ice rink. But in the meantime, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow. 

Back to the birds.

Its been a while, but now the ravenous winged insects have died down I am once again trudging along the gravelly paths to sit in the hides of my local nature reserve.  And boy have I missed it.

So without further ado a few of my latest snaps. One of the most difficult of all of the birds to photograph at this reserve, a cetti’s warbler. It has taken on nearly a mythical status, mainly because it is so noisy and so you always know it is around and so quick. By the time one has focussed their camera onto the area it might be hidden in the reeds,  it has gone.  I think this is my best yet.  A reed bunting enjoying a wonderful feast of seeds.Along with a black bird gorging on the hawthorn berries.A water rail popped out just for a second.And I saw a heron lifting off.And two cormorants watching the low flying aircraft.

It was a wonderful day in bright winter sunshine, cold and bright, just the way I like it.

Going plant based.

I have flirted with vegetarianism since I was 15, having long spells, the longest was three years where I’ve stopped eating meat. It was only from bringing up two stocky lads and a hubby who were confirmed carnivores that has interrupted me drifting back into it full time.  In the meantime I have  been flirting with lots of meatless Mondays along with high carb, low fat plant based meals and many vegan dishes have all been consumed with gusto.

I am into week two of a completely vegan diet. I won’t ever say I’ll become completely vegan, (although never say never!) I love to knit with wool and wear leather shoes, I think both of those occupations would prevent one from wearing the vegan hat, let alone some vegans feel that pet ownership is the wrong way to go, but I can honestly say I love the plant based diet and feel very happy in that space at the moment.

Hubby is quite happy to trundle along with his omnivore diet and cherry pick my plant based delights, some how my coconut yoghurt, medjool dates and Vego chocolate and hazelnut bar (have you tried them, they are delicious!) have all happily disappeared into his tum.  It has got to the point that I know that I am going to have to share, so even though hubby was eating a beef sandwich for his lunch I made enough Sushi for two – we scoffed the lot it was delicious. I followed Yo Sushi’s recipe for dressing the rice, although I do tend to be a bit heavier handed on the vinegar than they are and made my sushi with cucumber, red pepper and spring onions, with the usual dipping sauce of wasabi, light soy and pickled ginger.  I can see it becoming a regular lunch time dish, bearing in mind its the second time I’ve made it in two weeks, so it must be good.

My plan is to keep to plant based for two months and then have a think about where I am, it will be interesting to find out.

 

Our New Baby.

I am so sorry about the lack of posting on the blog, but truth be told, mostly we have been shattered – but in a good way.  It has been fifteen years since we have had a new baby in the house and although the memory comes back as to what needs doing, we are a bit older and stamina is not what it was, which all sounds rather grand doesn’t it, especially when it is only a puppy. But a puppy it is, may I introduce Rupert, our Whippet puppy who brings us much joy. This is Rupert, a week older than when he joined us and finding his feet in the business of running and sprinting. He is such a happy fellow, eats like a pig, sleeps as much as possible, possibly the best companion one could ever wish for, apart from that mad half hour a few times a day where you have to watch everything… its manic, but we do love him so., especially then. It is lovely to have a dog about the place again, it has been such a long time and hubby seems completely energised by it. And who wouldn’t be by such a pretty and loving dog. This time we are crate training, something I have always steered clear off, but as I said that was fifteen years ago, this time with Rupert, first night in his crate, with a big fluffy feather filled pillow, our new to us puppy fell fast asleep in his crate and didn’t wake until 8.30 a.m. and was clean, (our golden retriever eight week old  on the first night fifteen years ago seemed to poop out a whole puppies worth) we took this as a sign and I have to say he has been a dream boat. The only trouble I have had was when I moved his crate from the kitchen to the hall, the kitchen being an icebox in the winter and the hall being the cozy centre of the home, Rupert was a little bit distressed, it has to be said, so I sat with him, for an hour and chatted away, as you do, and then he stretched out and fell fast asleep until the next morning. We’ve just had November the fifth, he slept right through, so pleased he did, we know too well how distressed a dog can get.  Welcome to our new member of our family, we do love him so. (not sure the cats do! )

A simple shallot tarte tatin served with goats cheese.

I’ve had this idea in my head for a long time and never got around to it but finally having a handful of shallots languishing in my veg trolley I thought I would give it a go.

Firstly I peeled and halved my shallots and found I had just enough to cover the bottom of a cake tin, not having an oven proof handle on a small frying pan I thought it was the next best thing.  I put that on a low heat on my cooker and let the shallots slowly, oh so slowly colour and soften in a very generous amount of butter and the merest sprinkle of dried thyme,  turning them once and then once more so the cut side ended up on the bottom and then at the end sprinkling a little balsamic vinegar in to add a touch of piquancy.
In the meantime I made a rough approximation on a rough puff pastry, I can’t remember the exact recipe, it was half fat to flour in this case butter and the flour was half whole wheat  to give it a little bite and half plain white,  enough ice cold water to bind and I half rubbed so leaving big lumps and then folded it three times, turned, rolled it out again folded it in three again, turned and then again and left it to chill. I should have chilled it in between each rolling to get more layering and a better rough puff, but domestic kitchens who are hungry for lunch have been known to cut the odd corner.

Covered the shallots with the pastry which I had rolled out to be a fraction larger than the circle of the tin to allow me to tuck the pastry down the sides and then washed the pastry with a little milk and popped it in a hot 180 c oven for about 40 minutes.

When it came out, I slipped a knife around, turned it out, replaced the bits of shallot that had stuck to the bottom of the cake tin and allowed it to cool down a little while I cut up some goats cheese and called hubby for lunch.It was a gorgeous lunch, we quickly dived in for a second piece. The true art of the home cook, economy and comfort illustrated in a simple shallot tarte tatin.

Crown Prince and Pea Risotto.

Mr Betts from Coventry Market delivers a veg box to me, the price and freshness of Coventry Market without the heavy lugging of the vegetables home, its a wonderful idea and works well. Last week I asked for a good sized Crown Prince (as well as a marrow) and found this beauty arriving on my doorstep. Isn’t it splendid.  As I used the more delicate items first this sat in my veg trolly and I pondered the possibilities of which there were many, maybe a pasta dish, maybe ravioli, the base of a curry or a pastie or a pie?  But then I noticed a nub of parmesan that needed using up so the idea of a risotto was born. Cutting it open reveals a glorious orange flesh.  I love the flavour of Crown Prince and years ago  grew them on my allotment with them keeping well in storage all winter. Half of the pumpkin sliced up and drizzled with a little oil to go into a hot oven for three quarters of an hour until the slices were burnished with gold and sticky bits and tender in the centre. In the meantime I prepared the risotto. Slicing the shallots which were also in the box and sweating them gently until darkly golden, then adding the chopped garlic and rice and allowing the rice to toast for a few minutes. Next I added a small bottle of Babycham giving me a blast of an alcoholic perry sauna. I boiled the alcohol off and then started to add the stock one hot ladleful at a time whilst stirring the risotto almost continuously. By this time it was the moment to rescue the pumpkin from the oven. I continued with the risotto until it was almost done, adding the peas and parmesan – saving a little cheese for garnish and then removed the flesh from the skin by the spoonful and adding it to the pan, one big mix and it was done. Serving with purple sprouting another delicious vegetable from Mr Betts which had been boiled and then the colour set with cold water so was more of a salad vegetable and then spritzed with balsamic vinegar and a drizzle of sesame oil.   I must tell you it was the best risotto I have ever eaten, and one I will be making again and again.