Farfalline Minestrone

Farfalline Minestrone

  • Servings: 12
  • Time: Prep: 20-30 mins chopping Cooking: 30 mins or so
  • Difficulty: easy
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Hearty soup, based on minestrone

A few minutes spare in the Sorrento supermarket allowed me to take a moment to explore all the different shapes and sizes on offer. This particular shape took my fancy and it’s only now that I Farfalline translates to butterflies.

Prep: Large Stock Pot with Lid, As ever don’t get precious over the veg you use, just pick a few good wholesome root veggies and the liquid ratio is yours to choose depending on how thick you like your soup

Ingredients

  • 150g Puy lentils
  • 50g Pearl Barley
  • 2 onions, peeled and diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled, crushed
  • 2 Celery Stalks, diced
  • 1 tbsp Bouillon
  • 1 tsp dried mixed herbs
  • 3 Carrots, diced
  • 1 Parsnip, diced
  • 4 slices Smoked Bacon, diced
  • 4 Potatoes diced (500g)
  • 1 tin of Borlotti beans drained and rinsed
  • Glug of Olive Oil or Rapeseed

Directions

  1. Start with soaking the lentils and barley, give them a thorough wash in plenty of running cold water, then soak in the 500ml of water
  2. Glug of oil in the pan, heat through and then add the bacon
  3. Dice the onions, and add to the pan
  4. When the onions start to soften add the crushed garlic, the celery, and turn over, soften for a minute or so
  5. Add the root veg, and turn over on low heat for 8 minutes or so
  6. Add the bouillon (I do this dry) and the mixed herbs…..stir through.
  7. Pour over the Puy lentils, plus barley and the 500ml water
  8. Top up with water from the kettle (1.5 litre). Cover the veg by 4-5 cm.
  9. Simmer gently for 15 mins
  10. Add in the pasta and simmer as per the length of time on the packet.  About 6 mins for the Farfalline
  11. Judge the water level as you stir through to stop things sticking to the bottom
  12. I briefly pulsed a hand blender to thicken a little…..but it doesn’t really need it
  13. Feel free to season to taste with salt/ground pepper

Coffee and the Storm before the Calm

Time for #coffee

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Just made myself a cup of steaming coffee.   The sun is shining, but don’t be fooled though. There’s a bitter wind howling around the place. Showers of icy cold rain come and go despite the brightness and the defiant Daffodil buds that are emerging. Winters last ditch attempt to hang on. I know spring is around the corner, I’ve smelt it in the air in a calm moment between winds.

The daily commute to work has been put to test. Managed to cycle in 4 out of the 5 days with only one bus journey and a walk home. A couple of morning runs trying to break through the muscle pains of the previous weeks skiing and an attempt at trying to remove the spare tyre around my waistline. Progress is slow.

Started reading the 8 Week Blood Sugar Diet purely out of interest and as a way to look at my health differently. As a guy who likes good food this has an interesting take on the science behind low fat meals vs low sugar.

With it being such a turbulent weather weekend, my weekend cooking exploits have been put to full use:

This weekends exploits in the kitchen #cooking

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The veggy box this week had a huge bounty of root veg.   So I thought I’d put the Farfalline we had left over in a Minestrone soup. Tonight’s tea a Nigel Slater Root veg curry (a couple of searches on google turned up a mention Two Hungry Boys and Four Cooking together).

I tried the chocolate pots from Anna Jones Guardian Recipe, The boys not too keen and a bit disappointed so definitely for adults! Not sure where they sit in the whole blood sugar diet scene! It was Saturday treat tea after all and was served with a Tuna and Orange Salad beforehand.

So as Storm Doris finally dwindles out, I’m hoping for warmer and longer days a chance to ride to wide to work without worrying about the wind speed and whether I’ll get blown off my bike.

Good luck with your week and thanks for joining me for coffee.

 

With thanks to the part time monster, the weekend coffee share used to be hosted by the Part Time Monster Blog, it’s now hosted by NerdInTheBrain.

Coffee and Blue Sky for the Soul

Too cold to be hanging about, couldn't resist getting my hands cold for this. #valthorens #skiing

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If we were having coffee it would be in the airport lounge, we’d be drinking out of need a shot of some caffeine to aid with the shock to the system of being up so early (A 3am start).  The coffee is rubbish (I’m sorry), it’s what’s on offer and I leave it half way through. Like wine life is too short to drink bad coffee!

It’s ski holiday time, our chosen resort this year is Val Thorens in the French alps, the highest ski resort in Europe.

We’ve not been skiing for two years, the boys are excited and armed with their new Pokémon games that I managed to get them to pay for themselves alongside getting them to wait for the next big journey since its release in November!

I’m excited but apprehensive I hate the airport piece, the stripping down of oneself to walk through an X-ray machine that you hope doesn’t go beep. This time my boots and belt had to come off. If I could persuade my wife to go by train all the way I would…although deep down I know this is the fastest route.

Val Thorens is a purpose built ski resort that’s grown and evolved since the 60’s, part of the Les Trois Vallées. We picked it because of the number of runs, the height, the glacier and the prospect of guaranteed snow. This can have its downside though. We’d been before, 10 years ago and it was brutal…6 days of solid snow!

This time though we arrived to winds and blue sky, chilling to the core, this time though we had our two boys with us and the adventure was out there. Our youngest typically up first, dressed and ready with all the gear. If he could skip breakfast I’m sure he would.

We know many families who put their children into ski school, for us though it’s time to bond as a unit. A break from the norm, no jobs and nothing but snow to occupy our minds. Skiing with children brings another dimension to a father though. One of safety, one of caution at the same time one of letting go. The giving of freedom, speed and the learning of a skill.   My heart is in my mouth as the youngest weaves in and out of the poles, taking jumps without fear. It’s amazing to watch.

For those who don’t Ski, it’s a strange thing to fathom. The strapping of planks to ones feet, pointing them down a hill for enjoyment. I myself whilst sat on a chairlift reflected on the number of ants partaking in this past time and wondered what it is that drives this sport.

For me it’s the colour of the sky against the contrast of the snow. The spectacle and majesty of the land before us, covered in a blanket of white. The fresh air and a feeling of high speed freedom as you forget about everything back home. The worries and the pressure of everyday life don’t exist as you shift the weight from one leg to the other concentrating on the hill, the trees, the ground and become one flowing movement.

We’ve returned in one piece, our muscles a little tired. We’ve had six solid days of fresh air and blue sky. My mind renewed for the next chapter.

With thanks to the part time monster, the weekend coffee share used to be hosted by the Part Time Monster Blog, it’s now moved and hosted by NerdInTheBrain.  Thanks to both as they inspire me to write.

 

Coffee and Porridge 

img_3273If we were having coffee , it would be alongside a steaming bowl of porridge, soaked the night before to aid with it’s unctuous creamy texture. For me porridge needs to be thick and hearty rather than a runny gruel.

We’ve been a man down this week, the passing of time now marks our youngest going off to school camp with tails of abseiling, rock climbing, canoeing and team building. We’ve been left wondering who might return.

The evening meal has been devoid of the usual bickering, taunting and the rising stress levels that accompanies the evening meal. It’s been quiet, the conversation considered without interruptions. Our eldest having to tune into the adult conversation, bringing his own topics. Tales of the subject choices he’s thinking of taking alongside his dreams and aspirations. The new world includes Modern Studies and Engineering Science alongside the classic sciences now known as STEM subjects, his knowledge already far superior to mine at his age…..along with more knowledge on the world than I have at this age, embarrassingly so.

I’ve managed three runs this week and boy have they been hard, getting up that 20 minutes earlier, still dark, still cold. No movement on the weight front. It doesn’t matter though the main benefit I’m looking for is mental health, a change in my well being and state of mind. Our house finds this time of year hard, work is frenetic as the final throws of what must be achieved on the technology front is completely out of step with the resource available. A mixture of regulatory must does versus the appetite for growth opportunities and process improvement. A run in the morning seems to take this demand, the stress of it all and spits it out and chews it up turning it into something different, development opportunity, skills utilisation and just work.

The porridge is eaten slowly, with blueberries and chopped banana, the time for reflection is over. Time to get to work.

The weekend coffee share is hosted by the Part Time Monster Blog.

Coffee: New Job that’s the Same Job?

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The coffee today is served with a huge sigh of relief as the reorganisation of the department that I work in has finally been announced. It’s been on the go for a good 6 months under the cover of secrecy and I hadn’t realised how the uncertainty had effected my demeanour.

The week has been a roller coaster of emotion. It started on the Monday with the tipoff that a meeting was going in my diary, not an ordinary one and it wasn’t until it appeared that I realised that it wasn’t a meeting it was a consultation, and if I wished I could have someone come in with me.

Needless to say sleep was a little light on the Monday evening.

Tuesday came and I kept myself busy until 10am. At which point I was given the news that the department was being reorganised, my role no longer would exist.

In the same breath I was right sized into a new role…..doing the same thing managing the same folks! The quirks of employment law and the need to be squeaky clean had put me through an emotional roller coaster.

Wednesday morning and a full night’s sleep in the bag…..I had a mind shift, it was like I’d been given a new badge, a chance to make a fresh start mentally. I’d been rebranded and joined the new department with a skip to my beat.

The weekend has set in and I have to say my heads playing a little game with me…..will my mojo be there in the morning or will I find myself falling back into old habits. The confident strides that I took Thursday and Friday, were they really me?

There is something a little different in me though…….and I don’t think I can put it back in the box. A new job that’s the same job….. A new mind-set with the same head.

Thanks for joining me for coffee, I struggled to put this down this week I wasn’t sure who this would help or whether it’s self-indulgence on my part.   I was inspired by Discoverinsooz Overwhelmed post, which made me think on a few levels. I’d been battling my own demons and still do so just like other’s. Why not share this rather than another post about cucumber sandwiches!

My takeaway from this week. Is that you just don’t know what’s round the corner…..good or bad. Do what you need to do to get your head in the right space. You can’t beat getting out in the fresh air on a blue sky day…….it’s magical. If you build on that, define your own success not someone else’s.

Anyway this is Jiminy Cricket signing off with a new shiny badge!

The weekend coffee share is hosted by the Part Time Monster Blog.

Beef Curry – Granny’s Way

Beef Curry Granny Style

  • Servings: 12
  • Time: Prep: Less than 20 mins Cooking: 2 hours
  • Difficulty: easy
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Slow cook Beef curry, with apple and raisins

Sunday and a blue sky chilly day, a chance to walk with the sun in our faces.  We made it over the top of Blackford Hill and along the Hermitage to the Lodge for a cheeky scone.  At the back of my mind the desire to try Granny’s curry which would definitely fit the bill of a warming wintry slow cook allowing us to get on with watching a Boys film from the recorded Christmas TV.  

Credit: Granny’s Recipe File

Prep:  Large casserole dish hob and oven friendly

Oven: 180°c or 350°f

Ingredients

      • 650g Stewing Beef diced
      • Rapeseed/Olive Oil
      • 2 large onions diced
      • 1 cooking apple, peeled and chopped
      • 1 tbsp curry powder
      • 25g plain flour
      • 1 (400g) tin of chopped tomatoes
      • 500ml Water
      • 1 tbsp chutney
      • 50g sultanas or raisins
      • Juice of a lemon

Directions

      1. Heat a glug of olive oil in the casserole dish on a high heat
      2. Sear 1/2 or 1/3 of the beef until brown on each side
      3. Remove with a slotted spoon, and place in bowl to add back in later
      4. Add another glug of oil if needed and repeat until all the beef is seared
      5. Once all the beef is seared, add another glug and soften the onion and apple
      6. Add the curry powder, stir through and cook for a minute or so
      7. Add the flour and again stir through and cook for a minute or so
      8. Add in the tomatoes and stir through
      9. Add the dried fruit, the beef with it’s juices, the lemon juice and the water, stirring through
      10. Then place in the centre of the oven for 2 hours

Post-Recipe Notes: Granny loved to add raisins to everything.  This a glossy, sweet and sour curry the apple disappears and there is a hidden back note to the dish.  Curry powder feels cheatsy, quick and easy to rustle this up before banging in the oven. 

Lemon Drizzle Cake

Lemon Drizzle

  • Servings: 9-12
  • Time: Prep: Less than 20 mins Cooking: 20 mins
  • Difficulty: easy
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Granny's Lemon Crusty Cake, an infusion of citrus to a classic sponge

Pleased to find a classic easy cake recipe in Granny’s recipe file, hoping that one of the boys would help me as I start the journey of working through the box.   We’ll see though, there is another kind of box (starts with x) calling on this grey January day.  

An infusion of summer is introduced in this cake, a reminder to me of the lemons growing freely and openly in Sorrento……just the ticket for afternoon tea.

Credit: Granny’s Recipe File

Prep: Grease and line a 22cm x 22cm square cake tin

Ingredients

Cake:

  • 175g Butter
  • 125g Caster Sugar
  • 3 Eggs – beaten
  • 175g Self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp Baking Powder
  • 2 Lemons – the zest of

Topping:

  • 2 Lemons – the juice from the zested lemons
  • 125g Caster Sugar

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 180c
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar till pale and fluffy
  3. Whisk in the beaten eggs a little at a time
  4. Gently fold in the flour, baking powder and the zest
  5. Pour the mixture into the tin and bake for 20 minutes, the cake should shrink a little from the sides and spring back lightly when touched

Topping

  1. For the infusion, mix the lemon juice and granulated sugar to a runny consistency
  2. Pour/Brush over the cake while still hot in the tin, and leave to cool

Post-Recipe Notes:  I’ve been given the back story to this recipe, the recipe card mentions Verbier 88…which brought back tales of a family sharing a chalet on a skiing holiday.   This recipe came from the customary afternoon tea that that gets served up on return from the slopes.  This a take away recipe from the Chalet Girl.

This comes with a high sugar warning……..I didn’t quite manage the crunch, I was too scared to go for the full amount on the topping!  Just goes to show…..make your own cake so you know what goes into your food!   Aside from that…..it’s delicious.