This is not Fish Pie!

I was watching a fish pie being made on a cookery program recently and had an idea.

As a vegetarian, I don’t eat fish, but something about a lovely creamy sauce topped with smooth mashed potato started me thinking. I decided I would make a none-fish pie. The question was what would I put in it?

I dusted off my thinking cap, and thought that a nice selection of vegetables such as mushrooms, peas, broccoli and red peppers would work quite well.

A shopping trip later, I fried off some onion, peppers, mushrooms, courgettes and peas and popped them into a dish. A lovely cheese sauce was poured on top and then the whole thing was covered with a smooth, creamy mashed potato.

The dish was set aside until I was ready to eat, and then popped into a pre-heated oven for 30 minutes or so. Then scoff! Very yummy it was too and something I would make again.

Memories of Welsh Summers.

The viewIt is funny how a smell, a sight or a sound can elicit a memory.

A couple of days ago, I was walking a couple of clients’ dogs along the beach road. It was a gloriously sunny day and as we walked, I glanced across the water. The tide was out, the Welsh hills clear and you could see as far as the Clwydian Range. Proud amongs the peaks, Moel Famau was visible and it reminded me of all the days we spent walking in Wales.

Both sides of my family were Welsh, and my maternal Great Grandmother lived in Connah’s Quay until I was about 16, when she came to live with us. At various times during the year, our family, dog included, would go and stay for a weekend, and my brother and I would stay with her for a week during the school summer holidays.

Not far from my where my Great Grandmother lived is a road bordered by woods. Drive up that road and you smell the wild garlic that has seeded itself. I used to wind down the window and inhale deeply. I loved the smell and still do. It is probably the predominant fragrance of my childhood. That and wet dog.

The dog used to paddle in any puddle she came across, and by puddle I mean any body of water – rivers, puddles, lakes and I swear to you she couldn’t pass a pub. She used to get as wet as she could which of course meant we drove home enveloped in eau de chien mouillé. Lovely.

One of the places we would visit regularly was the Ceriog Valley. It was here Dad was evacuated as a tiny boy during World War II. His family would visit Glyn Ceriog for holidays, and his grandfather considered buying a house there at one point, so they knew it well. When war was declared, Dad was sent to live with an elderly lady they knew. He had a ball. One of his childhood friends was also sent to Glyn and the two built a little dam over the Ceriog River using stones. This survived, albeit shrinking every year, until the 1980s and Dad loved to go back and check on it.

One of the things I remember most is going for lunch at the Golden Pheasant. They had a Mynah Bird which fascinated me and I would always go and say hello. Lunch was always a simple sandwich affair before we went off for our afternoon exploration.

Dad hated to follow the crowds and liked to follow the path less travelled. That often meant taking detours just to see where a road would take you. It has rubbed off and I love the wander along a road I have never been down before just to see what is there.

The start of a new year

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

We have arrived in 2016, a year that is starting in the same soggy fashion as 2015 finished. For the last month or so, northern Britain has been coping with a deluge which has flooded homes and businesses and made life miserable for many and there seems to be no end in sight.

We are lucky here. Apart from a few fields in which ducks are enjoying a swim and a few major puddles on local roads, we have escaped serious flooding issues.

I am starting the new year full or lurgy – sort of a cold with added extras I will not bore you with. The furry overlords naturally care nothing about the fact that I am not feeling well. They cats are still causing mayhem and the dog is still shouting at me. I suppose the time to worry is if this stopped, because then I would know something was afoot.

It is hard to believe that this time last year I was looking forward to a fabulous Australian holiday. Stopping in Singapore for a few days on the way, I was going to visit friends who live in Canberra. We had a fabulous week in Melbourne, a week in Sydney, and a week at the beach.

Australia is such a vast country, but I don’t think I realised just how big until I flew from Singapore to Sydney. The flight was about 8 hours, and 5 hours of that was across Australia.

The year has gone so quickly, and last year had highs and lows. It will be interesting to see what this year brings .  One thing is certain, the furry overlords will continue to rule the roost and the dog will continue to shout at me.

I hope that 2016 brings good things to all of you.

First Harvest

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The bucket experiment is producing some mixed results.

The peas that were doing so well have been munched by snails; the tomato plant has a few very small fruit on; the leeks look like spring onions; the garlic looks great but I need to work out when to harvest it and I am not sure what the kholrabi is doing.

I went out to check on the buckets this afternoon, and although they are small there are beetroot ready to harvest.

beetrootI am going to cook them this afternoon, and the leaves may just end up in my salad this evening. I am happy with this first harvest, and at least I know that beetroot grows happily in the bucket.

Freedom is Bliss

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I am approaching middle age (apparently), but don’t feel much different to the day I left school, bar the odd creak in my knees.

I don’t know where the time went. It seems like only yesterday, I felt a sense of anticipation as I walked out of the school gates for the last time. A big adventure lay ahead of me, life loomed large, and whereas some of my classmates were intent on getting married and having children, that was something that was not even on my radar.

In the words of William Wallace “freedom” awaited.

Roll forward more years than I want to count, and I am still trying to work out what I want to be when I am a grown up, and things have not gone to plan – assuming that there was ever a plan in the first place.

That fleeting sense of freedom was squashed under the weight of jobs I hated, but had to do because I got on the property ladder. My parents, particularly my father, were old school and of the opinion that you got a job, any job, regardless of what it is because you have bills to pay.  I can’t say that I disagree with that, but it does mean that the rat race awaits the unsuspecting, and you spend the rest of your life pedalling for all you are worth just to try to stand still. There have been many days when I have sat at my desk, feeling like I was walking up a hill in a force 10 gale, with a plastic bag over my face, struggling for breath. I hated every second of every day.

I have more freedom now, but no spare cash. I work two days a week in an office to pay the mortgage, while my pet sitting business takes care of the bills. I have more time to myself, and do not get up every day with a sense of foreboding.

I would dearly love to have the money to travel more. It is the one thing that fills me with a joie de vivre. I love just wandering, having no idea where I am going to end up or what I am going to see, or who I am going to meet. I was in Singapore for a few days earlier this year, and each morning I left the hotel, map and camera in hand, with only a vague idea of where I was heading. That is my idea of bliss.

The Three Queens

 

 

 

 

The Three QueensLiverpool is a maritime city. Perfectly sited for the Americas, built on trade and commerce and home to the White Star Line (Titanic, Olympic and Lusitania), the city is famed for its maritime connections.

175 years ago, the Cunard Line was started, initially to deliver mail across the Atlantic, but then transporting passengers emigrating to look for a better life in the new world.

Although the company is no longer based in the city, to celebrate the 175th Cunard Anniversary, the Queen Mary 2, the Queen Victoria and the Queen Elizabeth met in the Mersey and sailed in formation into the city where they performed a series of manoeuvres near the Cunard Building.

On a freezing morning, thousands of people lined the banks of the river to watch as the Victoria and Elizabeth sailed into the estuary to meet the Mary who had sailed from the city to meet them.

Queen Mary 2

It was a spectacular site. They were so close to the banks of the river, you felt like you could touch them. This was certainly a fitting celebration not just for the Cunard Line but for the city.

Herbs

I was cooking yesterday, and as I was popping some fresh thyme into the pot, realised that growing vegetables is all well and good, but they sometimes need a helping hand in the flavour department. What they need is herbs.

I have a bay tree in a pot that I rarely use, but I get through quite a bit of thyme, basil, chives and coriander and I can’t believe that I haven’t thought about growing them. Basil and coriander won’t last through the winter, and they may even struggle with the British Summer, or lack of, but thyme should be happy all year round as will some of the more hardy herbs like chives and lemon balm.

There is something so special about fresh herbs. The taste and vibrancy that they bring to a dish is unsurpassed. I hit the internet, and pretty quickly into my shopping basket popped, lemon balm, lemon grass, thyme, basil and chives. I need to get a bucket to grow them in at the weekend.

I have never used lemon balm, but I believe that it makes a wonderful ice-cream; lemongrass is just gorgeous; chives are great with soft cheese (something I want to have a go at making but no, I am not getting a goat); basil I throw into pasta sauce or eat on a salad of mozzerella and tomatoes; thyme is fabulous with mushrooms or in the veggie cottage pie I made this afternoon; coriander goes into anything vaguely Asian.

At this rate, they yard will be full, I can’t get out there

 

Thinking Aloud.

A horrible thought struck me yesterday as I stood and admired my garlic (yes, I have become one of those people who can’t stop looking at their handiwork). Should a miracle happen, and I actually get to harvest some of the veggies I am nurturing, I need to find something to do with them.

The kholrabi and dwarf beans were planted at the weekend, so it is only the cauliflower and turnips to sow and the tomato plant to put out. I had pretty much given up on the aubergines, there was no sign of life at all, so I thought I would probably use the pot for cut and come again salad leaves.

I went out to check on everything this morning, to find that the kholrabi is already showing, there are a couple of beans and shock, horror a single aubergine is popping a tiny green shoot above the soil.

Assuming that I get crops from all my pots, I am going to be very well fed. I have been hitting the cook books, and internet for ideas. I am not the most inventive cook, so quite honestly need all the help I can get. “Cream Cheese with Beetroot stack and Beetroot salsa” sounds good to me, as does “Kohlrabi, Apple and Creamy Mustard Salad” but hopefully two recipes won’t be enough.

One thing I do know, is that I need to put in some herbs. I do have a Rosemary and a Bay Tree, neither of which I use, but some lovely thyme (great with mushrooms, cheese and beetroot) would be fabulous, and perhaps some parsley. Some more research is required I think.

Peas, Garlic and other things

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The peas are continuing to do well. In fact, they are positively thriving. It won’t be long before I have to build them a wigwam as support.

PeasThere is sign of life in the leeks – just, and the Elephant garlic is doing fabulously.

Elephant Garlic

I am going to go tomorrow to get a couple more buckets and plant the kholrabi and cauliflower, but it will be a little while before the rest of the seeds can go in. I cheated slightly and bought a tomato plant. It is starting to get a bit leggy so probably needs a bigger pot.

The weather has taken a turn cooler, and this week we have had pretty much every weather condition known to man – sun, wind, rain, sleet and in parts of the country there has been snow. It is hard to think that it is now May and summer is supposed to be around the corner.

Back soon!

Signs of Life

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In the last week, signs of life have started to appear in my veggie pots. The peas are doing particularly well, the two garlic cloves are pushing their greenery above the soil and the beetroot is starting to appear.

I find this rather exciting. I am not known for the abilty to grow things, and to have got this far is a bit of a miracle. There are some other seeds I need to pop in, but have not had chance to, but will in the next couple of weeks.

My main problem, is keeping the cats out of the pots. For reasons I really do not understand they love to curl up in a plant pot and I am trying to work out how to stop this ….

IMG_1750I am so tempted to water it an see what happens!