Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Vegetarian cookbooks - a love affair

I became vegetarian aged 19 at university, after about six months just eating fish, for reasons now which I cannot fathom.  I have only once eaten meat since then (that I know of), accidentally, at a restaurant.

My first vegetarian cookbook was bought for me by mum, and was Linda's Kitchen by Linda McCartney.  I still use this book now, and still absolutely love the recipes, the style and the warmth which radiates out of it.  That book definitely kept me as a vegetarian in those early days.  I remember making recipes out of it in our filthy, freezing flat in Edinburgh for all my meat eating friends - who, of course, greedily and enthusiastically gobbled the meals all up whilst de-crying the absence of meat!

Being veggie was a big deal for me then.  Firstly, it was nearly 20 years ago (yikes!), when veggies were considered exceptionally misguided at best, freakish at worst.  Secondly, my Dad's first job was a fully trained butcher.  Hmm.  On the menu at home was a LOT of meat.  So I think back to my Mum buying me Linda's Kitchen, when all she had ever known was how to cook meat and potatoes and veg.  Thank you, Mum.  I didn't realise how enlightened it was at the time, or how generous, and how very ... like a Mum's love.

Anyway, I guess this post has been a eulogy to Linda's Kitchen as well as a reflection on my love of veggie cookbooks, begun all those years ago by my Mum ... who doesn't even use recipes herself.  I am intending on posting a series of blogs all about my favourite veggie cookbooks, and I will probably start with Linda's Kitchen.

Until then, happy cooking, and happy reading!

Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry

Wow!  What an amazing read.  Meant as a Young Adult book, it's a shame it is categorised in this way as I loved it as a not so young adult!  Well written, interesting and compelling.

I got really involved in the plot, even though the story line is relatively simple.  Girl meets boy.  Boy meets girl.  Girl and boy meet the same counsellor to resolve issues.  Girl and boy help each other to work through their issues.  Girl and boy fall in love.

I won't tell you any more, in case you read it.  YOU SHOULD!

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Thursday, 10 January 2013

January days

Well, the least said about the amount of time since my last blog, the better!

And so.

Is anyone else feeling the January blues?  I just can't seem to get with it.  Things which normally engage and enthuse me are not doing it for me.  All I want to do is read books, eat cake and generally do very little in the way of interacting with others.

Which is difficult with three children.

Hoping I snap out of it soon.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Christmas Calm

Every year, at some time during Christmas time, a sense of calm descends upon me.  Often it is on Christmas Day, when all is done and dusted and I am sitting enjoying the fruits of my labour with the family.  Sometimes, it is in the few days before Christmas, knowing the presents are bought and wrapped, the food beginning to take shape, and the kids finished at school.

This year, it's happened today.  And it's the 12th December!!   Yes, I still have presents to buy.  Yes, I still have the food to buy, the menu to plan, and who is going where on Christmas Day to sort out.  But I seem to be able to cope and I feel CALM! What is happening?!

I am thinking perhaps it is a false dawn ... or else I am finally reaching a sense of inner peace?  That would be something.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Apple day

A friend of mine gave me a big bag of apples last week.  On my list every day since (I make one every day, but it usually isn't all ticked off!) it said 'APPLES'!  So today I am finally getting round to it.

I have apple chutney simmering at the minute - and just about to crack on with the apple cakes.  Think there'll still be some leftover so no doubt the word 'APPLES' will be on my list again tomorrow!

What do you have on your list that just keeps on making it to next day's list?!

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

In Memory of Grandmothers - and the importance of taste to our memories

A good friend of mine from the school run (who I don't chat to often enough!) shared some bad news with me today.  Sadly, her grandmother has died.  I really felt for her today and wanted to give her a big hug, but as it was the middle of the playground, and it was raining, I didn't - but maybe I should have anyway.

Coincidentally, I have been thinking a lot about one of my own grandmothers this last few days.  She died many years ago now, but I still think of her often and she is still a big part of my life, even though she isn't around.  I have been musing about how important matriarchs are in our families - but that's another post!

For today, I'll just share my latest recipe.  They say that the sense of taste is linked with memory - for me this is so true.  Anyone who has read Nigel Slater's book Toast will know how vividly he describes his childhood through food.  For me, I have certain foods which instantly take me to a feeling I had, an era I lived in, or a person I knew.

I have been searching in vain for the perfect recipe to recreate the cake I used to eat at my Nanna's house.  Just imagining the taste of Mr Kipling's Manor House cake, with its crunchy sugary topping and juicy sultanas, transports me instantly to my Nanna's living room and her china, her tea cups and the love I felt when I was around her.  So recently I have been on a quest to recreate this cake.

Here's my latest effort.  Very nice cake, but nothing like the exalted Mr Kipling Manor House.  Too dark, too dry in texture, and too much mixed spice! I will keep searching!!
Good Housekeeping Farmhouse Sultana Cake   
Does anyone else have a food they associate with a loved one?

Monday, 19 September 2011

Making Time Part 1: Courgette Pickles!

Well, further to my post yesterday about not fitting into my life the things that I need or want to do, last night I finally made the big batch of courgette bread and butter pickles that has been on my list for (big blush) three weeks!
Ready to make
 And it felt so good to finally make time to do them! (And all in the advert breaks during the (massive blush) X Factor!)
I am looking forward to a taste of sunshine and the summer during the winter when I open one of these jars with some home made bread, cheese and salads. Yummy!  

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Wise words: Time - there can always be enough

This last few days I have been musing on the nature of time.

Big, lofty subject I know.  But we are all preoccupied with it.  On how many occasions do you say that there aren't enough hours in the day, or that you don't have time to do x, y or z?  I know that I say it too, too often.

Golfie Pie asked me the other day why I hadn't made any pudding today, why it was just shop bought biscuits for pudding.  'I haven't had time,' I replied crossly.

'Why haven't you sewed my slipper socks, Mummy, when I asked you to yesterday?' asked Honey Pie the other day. 'Oh, I've just been too busy, honey' I replied, again crossly.

And then there are the courgette and cucumber pickles that need making, piled up in the fridge ready for over a fortnight now.  And the kitchen that needs cleaning, and the books that I want to read, and the loft to sort out, and the garage which is such a tip.  The brassicas which need planting at the allotment, the pruning in the back garden, the shearing in the front garden.  The recipes, neatly page tagged and logged at the back of my mind.  The car insurance to renew.  The conservatory to sort out and tidy up, the sofa to buy. Lists ad infinitum.

And most of all, the blog to write.

I so enjoy writing my blog - so why has it been so long since I last did so?

It's that myth again.  I don't have time.  There aren't enough hours in a day.

Well, I think it's time (!) I stopped using that excuse. the other week I was speaking to a very wise friend of mine and I said to her that she wouldn't have time to grow any vegetables, having four children and running a business.  Oh, she said.  I try not to use that excuse.  You can always make time for what needs to be done.

Well, you know those moments when a little bell rings in your head, and your vision clears, and it feels like a renaissance moment?  That was one of those times.  You can be anywhere when these moments strike, when the scales fall from your eyes, and a profound truth is uttered.  That's what it felt like, just for a moment.

Now, I have been thinking about this ever since.  She is so right.  How come I have time to sit on the sofa and look into space for ten minutes?  How is it I have time to lie in bed that extra half an hour on a morning, instead of getting up before everyone else and getting on with something?  And all the other things that I waste my time doing instead of something I actually want to get on with.

So these are my thoughts.  Will I actually act on them?  I always find that part a lot harder.  It's easy to know the truth, but much harder to act on it.