Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Lakes weekend, 2010

Before moving into the new place in Newcastle, we decided to have a day's walking in the lakes. I'd not been since I was a child and after this am wondering why. We started off in Ambleside, a little town which acts as a tourist gateway.

After a long drive, we walked down to the lakehead of Windermere for a beer and to watch the sun go down. The sky was amazing.

We sat there til the sun went down.

The view from the lake was really something. After a night on the town (well, insofar as Ambleside does nights out on the town), we set out for a day hike up Cat Bells, across Blea Crag, up to High Spy and then down the slate mined-slopes of the far hill towards Grange.

Thankfully someone had left us some encouragement along the way before we finally reached the top.

That and the views helped.

As did the sense of achievement when we finally made it.

And of course the message :)


This is at the foot of Castle Crag - I sat here with the bag for a while til J romped up and back down again (secretly I think mine was the better plan).

We were finally rewarded by the serene sight of Derwent Water just as the sun was setting, 9 miles and 2,500 ft of elevation later. There was a lovely interactive sculpture park by the lake.

But I think the best part of the whole day was the drive back to Ambleside down one of the steepest hills I've ever seen, flanked by Aberdeen Angus bulls on both sides. See if you can spot the hot air balloons in the distance - there were three.

A beautiful end to a lovely day.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010


After a lovely roast chicken last night (thank you Waitrose and Nigel Slater), there was tons of meat left. I picked off most of it and then boiled the carcass for chicken stock, to freeze and form the basis for some tasty autumn soups. The best thing about a free range chicken is the amount of meat on it - I ended up throwing away some of the bits left on the bones from the stock, mainly as I didn't have time to turn it into soup straight away. It still seems like a waste (which of course it is) but for under a tenner we've had today and yesterday, two fantastic main meals for two, some roast chicken for sandwiches and it'll be the basis for at least another couple of meals in stock form over the next few weeks.

So I was left with a large bowl of roast chicken, and I thought I'd make the most of it and turn it into curry. BBC Recipes came good with an excellent and easy Jalfrezi recipe, which didn't take too long to make. It's also a good store cupboard stand by, as I've usually got most of these ingredients in apart from fresh chillis and coriander, which the local corner shop always has on hand. It's really cheap too.

The sauce:

1/2 a large onion, chopped (you'll use the other half in a minute)
2 - 3 cloves of garlic
1 green chilli, chopped
1 tin plum tomatoes
1/2 pint of water
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp turmeric

The meat and veg:

2 or 3 chicken breasts (or the remains of last night's roast, yum yum)
1 red pepper
The other half of the large onion, chopped
2 red chillis (I used a large thin one)
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp turmeric
2 tsps garam masala
Handful of fresh chopped coriander leaves

1. Chop the chicken and coat in the smaller quantities of cumin, coriander and turmeric from the meat ingredient section. Leave to marinade whilst you're doing everything else.
2. Fry half the onion, the garlic and green chilli til softened and browned. Add 1/2 pint of water and simmer for 20 minutes.
3. Whilst that's cooking, whizz the tomatoes in a food processor til smooth. Chop the rest of the onion, red pepper and chilli and sit to one side for a moment.

4. When the onions have been simmering for 10 mins, in a separate pan, heat a splosh of oil and fry the larger quantities of spices from the sauce ingredient section. Give them a minute to toast and add in the tomatoes. Leave both pans simmering on the stove for ten minutes.

5. Then, process the onions in the processor til smooth and add to the tomato mixture. These simmer together for 20 minutes (and smell lovely and curry-like). You can make this sauce up in batches and freeze ahead, meaning a quick home made curry on a cold night - something I'll be doing over the weekend, I think!
6. Fry the chicken in a frying pan, adding the reserved onion, chillis and pepper after a couple of minutes. Cook together until the chicken is cooked through and the onions are softened.

7. Add the chicken mixture to the sauce and simmer together for a further 20 minutes. Before serving, add the chopped coriander and garam masala. You can serve this with chapattis, rice or naan bread (I sent Jonno to the takeaway to buy proper naans - the ones you can home bake in the oven are horrible, and I don't have a tandoor, nor sadly the space and money to invest in one). So, ta da, the finished product:

It was lovely, pretty low in fat, and far nicer than almost all takeaway curries. It's just so easy to make. I'd like to say just like Mum made but she always swore by Patak's curry pastes, which to be fair are pretty good.

It certainly got eaten up! It's meant to be good for four people, but given the quantity of meat it did one portion for me and two and a half for Jonno. I think it's personally a little dry for much more meat than I added, so tweaking this for more people in future, I'd add more water to the onions earlier on, and maybe a couple of tins of tomatoes - if fussy, I'd make up a massive batch of the sauce, freeze in medium sized portions and then add the meat once I knew how the sauce would work out. It also wasn't quite hot enough for my tastes, so I'd probably either use a scotch bonnet instead of the red one, or use two long red chillis instead. Let me know if you try it! More curry recipes coming soon.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Home, sweet home

It's been quite some time since I've been able to blog, for a variety of reasons. The main one is that I now live in two cities, rather than one, and spend most of my contemplative downtime on trains between the two.

The new place is in Jesmond, Newcastle, right up in the North East of the country and about 300 miles from London. Thankfully the trains are swift and frequent, but it does mean that I don't get chance to cook much at the moment. Tonight is the first Monday night I've been home in nearly two months, so I decided to celebrate by roasting a chicken the old fashioned way - lemon, garlic, butter and seasoning with nothing else; roasted sweet potato, baby new potatoes, carrots and squash (although I'm now slightly concerned this meal is going to look a bit orange).

There's something extremely comforting about the prospect of a roast, especially on a weeknight, when it's getting dark just a little sooner and with that extra bite in the air. I'm taking some of my baking equipment up north, too - all the better to try out home baked bread on my new workmates. But the best comfort of all is just to be here.