Hubby and I have been talking intermittently for the last 25 years of getting a freshwater aquarium. I think there was even talk of setting up a salt water aquarium at one stage but after reading up about that particular adventure we both shuddered and closed that idea firmly away. Salt water aquariums are intense, a friend of my sons recently lost his extensive coral collection because his heater broke and the temperature of the water changed too quickly while he was getting a replacement. I think it was about two degrees, he was devastated.

So during the last lockdown we finally bit the bullet, chose a tank and started to set it up. It’s a slow process.

First set up tank on a firm base and strong floor, water is surprisingly heavy, this set up weighs well over 24 stone. Next put in substrate and slowly fill tank over 24 hours, you don’t want to fill a tank and find out it leaks like a sieve. Then leave to settle with pump going and start to dose with add water conditioner and dose with bacteria daily.

Dose with a few hardy fish, guppies are a good choice. Some people do fishless cycles, adding ammonia and bacteria to cycle their tank, but this is a big tank and we will have fair warning of any ammonia, nitrite, nitrate spikes. Note the tiny spry that accidentally came with the male guppies, we successfully grew her on, she turned out to be a female guppy ‘Quelle horreur” and was carefully returned last week, I do not want a tank full of babies.

Continue to add more plants, start adding C02 and plant food regime along with investing in lights for plants, add dragon stone and red moor root that has been soaking for weeks to remove the tannins. Test water daily and keep up with the water changes. One memorable day we did have a spike, we have since learned it was nothing to worry about, but we did a 50% water change twice, back to back. Nightmare! Took hours.

As tank begins to settle because the microbes are growing, this takes a couple of months. Slowly adding more fish.

Until eventually your dream starts to come true. I just have one more type of fish to add which I’m looking for and then it will be fairly complete. In my minds eye I wanted tiny fish shoaling through plants and natural structures along with a balanced eco system. I added shrimps the other day, Dad was most amused we had been shopping for three shrimps, loving the idea he couldn’t wait to come and see and yesterday sat transfixed by them.


As suspected the Balkan cheese bread makes excellent toast. This was perfect as a light lunch after such a sumptuous dinner. It hit a very savoury note and was lovely with just the merest scrapping of butter.

Balkan cheese bread recipe by Honey and Co.

Balkan Cheese Bread by Honey & Co.

My friend Noelle chose as our next bake Balkan Cheese bread by Honey & Co in The Baking Book. I must admit that I drooled a little bit at the idea and when Noelle presented her bake, I could almost smell its cheesy goodness, it looked so good. But then I went down with some lurgy and I’ve been out of action for over two weeks! But soon enough I felt better and after getting back into the swimming pool my appetite recovered and I felt a feast was in order to memoralise this lovely bread and also in memory of some of the loveliest lunches we have had in Turkish restaurants in London. They are such a great place to go for lunch with their piled high fresh salads and just baked and warm breads on every table, the pomegranate molasses salad dressings, the humous, the taramasalata, the freshly grilled meats. One always feels as though one has had the most decadent of feasts when one leaves their friendly restaurants. So in the spirit of feasting I got hubby to rummage in the deep freezer for some hogget lamb chops i’d seen recently, whilst I reread the recipe.

The dough having risen through the leeks and cheese just before basting with egg wash and more cheese!

And soon we had this beautiful bread fresh from the oven, it smelt so good.

Whilst I was prepping the lamb and covering them with some Harissa spices in the theme of Middle Eastern, hubby made a lovely humous with a paprika oil. Next he chopped salad whilst I put together a pomegranate molasses salad dressing and our lamb was ready to be cooked in a scorchingly hot oven.

What a feast!

The Balkan Cheese bread was so good. It was soft and cheesy with a lovely note from the leeks and spicing. I think it would go well with all manner of soups and salads, it would be perfection for a pack me up to take on days out and I’m really looking forward to the left overs as I think it will make the most amazing toast. It is definitely going to become part of my repertoire to enliven week day lunches and suppers.