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Saturday, 31 December 2011

Good-bye 2011 - Happy New Year 2012

Tonight another year comes to a close and a new one starts.  But it's more than just another night of Auld Lang Syne. Tonight we take another step away from a path that so many years ago promised so much, but for some delivered so little.

Over the years I  faced many crossroads - crossroads that gave me a choice of destination or just a different route. But what I didn't realise was that I could never retrace my steps and start again no matter which option I chose. The path of life is a perpetual journey forward where we wander along taking detours and crossing intersections and picking up the proverbial baggage along the way. Sadly, if we're not careful, we lose sight of where we started and who we met along the way.

Which  is why tonight my thoughts are of each and everyone I met on my way.  No matter who you are or how fleeting our meeting, you all have left an impression.  I know that I don't know where most of you are or how you have fared on your journey, but I want you to know that you meant something.

The reason I say this is that I took some of you for granted. Naively I thought you would be around for ever and you're not.  Your journey with me ended, some prematurely, some sooner than I had hoped.

So, as I toast a new beginning, I'd like to raise a glass to you all.  Each and every one of you have left me memories of who I was and who I have become.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart and until we meet again.  Hope everyone has a happy and most healthy New Year.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Christmas Letter

Christmas 2011

Dear Family and Friends,

We knew last Christmas was going to be difficult as it was our first without George and Tiny. So we arranged to take our Christmas dinner up to share with Dad. However, as with 2009, it wasn’t meant to be. Dad called Christmas morning to tell us that he had to cancel as he was off to the hospital again.  We spent Christmas afternoon at the Whittington, where Dad, just as he had done the previous year, opened his gifts laying in a hospital bed. Only this time there was no George.

Boxing Day didn’t get any better. We awoke to see several missed calls on our cell phones from my niece. She had tried to reach us because my brother Dave was in hospital receiving the last rites. He had been rushed to hospital with breathing difficulties. Thankfully, by the time I called Denise back, he had seen off the worse and looked like he would be ok.

These two events would cast a dark shadow over 2011.  Dave spent the best part of six months to and fro the hospital, including several stays following relapses of his condition. But thankfully, despite the severity of his condition Christmas night, he has been fighting back and was able to enjoy a vacation on Cyprus for the first time in years.

In Dad’s case, we weren’t so fortunate.  His condition deteriorated considerably and on January 14th he passed away peacefully at Marie Curie’s Hampstead Hospice. Thankfully his granddaughter Hayley was able to visit with him the night before we lost him, and I was able to spend his last night by his side at home and was by his side when he left us to be with Mum the following morning.  As at George’s funeral, it meant so much that I was able to do the eulogy, as did my brother Phil.  And I’ll never forget the sound of You Were Always On My Mind as we followed Dad’s casket out of the small chapel at the cemetery to lay him to rest, before having a celebratory meal in his honour at his favourite haunt, The Gatehouse, with Phil and Jean, Denise and young David, Donnaghda and Hayley. 

Sadly Dad wouldn’t be the only loss the family would suffer this year – Rita and Jean both lost a brother each too.

The next few weeks the family focused on emptying Dad’s flat. Dad had lived there for 49 years, so clearing it out before handing back the flat to Islington Council proved to be extremely emotional and brought an end to the White family’s link to Holloway that went back over a hundred years.  Then I had to sort Dad’s estate.  As much as we would trade it for having him and George back healthy and happy, what they left behind would certainly make a difference in our lives.

With no Tiny or Dad, we decided to get away to Dublin at the end of March so we could spend some time with my brother Dave, his wife Rita, and niece Denise.  Unfortunately we missed out on seeing my nephew, as young David caught a plane to Australia minutes before we arrived to spend 12 months living Down Under.  We had a great time there visiting around O’Connell Street in town, and spending time with our family – the highlight being a magical mystery tour to Johnnie Fox’s in the mountains where we got lost, were given directions and re-directions from the strangest of locals, and ended up roaring with laughter with tears streaming down our cheeks.

By the time we headed back to Hertford, and following months of deliberation, we decided to become vegetarians, with both of us eating meat for the last time in Dublin before returning home. The result was better than we had expected – both of us now free of stomach problems. Better still was that I also lost over 30 pounds in the first six months.

On April 29th, the world watched William and Kate get married.  But my son Paul had bigger news of his own.  With Lisa, they became proud parents on April 30th of a baby boy they named Jamie. A week or so later, my daughter Hayley also had news of her own – she was moving out of the family home to live on her own.

May brought a memorable 14th wedding anniversary vacation in Cornwall where we ate fish for the last time.  In fact, I had fried fish and chips several times, with the last from Loggans Fish Bar in Hayle, the evening we celebrated my 50th birthday following a return light plane flight from Lands End to the Scilly Isles where we enjoyed a memorable day never to be forgotten.

One other major event this year is that incredibly Dawn swore allegiance to Queen Elizabeth II at Hatfied Town Hall on May 9th to become a British Citizen and now has a UK passport. By the way (in case you wondered), Dawn still has her little blue American passport. She never gave up her American citizenship; she has dual.

This summer also saw me re-ignite a friendship with Denis and Tracy after thirty years.  I had even been asked to be his best man at their wedding 30 years ago; however the 80s took our lives in different directions and we lost contact.  

On the work front, Dawn has continued her environmental efforts at City University, and thankfully didn’t have to stay away as much as in previous years. In my case, I continued my rear guard action where I worked. We lost the environmental certification I had worked so hard for us to get and following many redundancies, including my assistant, I have been left to do everything accounts related on my own. Oh yea, there was even a month when I was three weeks late in receiving my monthly pay.

This year we also became Apple fans.  Dawn received an iPad for Christmas last year and I picked up a new iPad2; then when our cell phone contracts ran out, we replaced our Blackberrys with a couple of iPhone 3GSs.  I also got more into baking and now bake all our own bread. 

In October we saw Vanessa Redgrave, James Earl Jones and Boyd Gaines in the London stage production of Driving Miss Daisy.  What a treat that was!

Best of all was a celebratory week in New York to celebrate the 15th anniversary of meeting at the top of the Empire State Building. We visited Ground Zero, Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, The High Line, Top of the Rock and the Empire State Building again.  We got a recording of us doing the news and weather during an NBC studio tour and saw The Jersey Boys on stage.  And the vegetarian food we ate in New York was excellent. We ate at the famous vegan restaurant, Candle 79; Katz’s Deli (made famous by Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally); the Boathouse in Central Park (recommended to me by Jo Wheatley, this year’s winner of the Great British Bake Off); and The River Café, in the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge, where we had a special anniversary meal while watching the sunset over Manhattan.

On returning from New York, we had the kitchen renovated and spent 4 weeks climbing over boxes, flat packs and appliances while it was transformed into beautiful new fitted kitchen. We’ve also had the patio doors in the living room ripped out to be replaced by a door and window.

So, as you can see, it’s been a pretty eventful year for us, one filled with laughter and tears.  We hope yours has been happy and healthy and we hope you and your family have a very Merry Christmas.

Love, Paul & Dawn                                 

Monday, 19 December 2011

English Mum's Big Christmas Bakeoff

Over the last month or two I have been getting more and more into baking.  Admittedly, I was chomping at the bit for about six weeks of this time while we went to New York and had our kitchen renovated.  But since I got access to the oven, I have been baking at weekends.  A couple of weekends ago I made a Mississippi Mud Pie for the first time.  Didn't turn out to bad, even if I do say so myself.  But with Christmas around the corner, I couldn't resist to enter the above Bakeoff run by The English Mum.  As I'd planned to bake some goodies for my colleagues at work, I was able to save time by entering my gifts as my entry. It proved a total success, in my opinion, as everyone at work loved my baking.  As for the competition, just entering was enough for me.

Here is the entry I submitted.  The chocolate cup cakes were from a recipe from Holly Bell , the Christmas Fairy Cakes were from a recipe from The Baking Mad Kitchen , and the mince pies were from Edd Kimber.  The cheese biscuits at the front were a tweaked version of one of Dawn's family recipes. They are so simple.  In fact, I'll probably post the recipe later.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Decorating the Christmas Tree

This year Dawn and I will be celebrating our sixteenth Christmas together and our Christmas tree reminds us how far we have come and how much we have done since meeting that fateful day at the top of the Empire State Building in November 1996.  We also have some particularly important ornaments to commemorate those no longer with us, but who will be with us in spirit this Christmas, and for all future Christmases too. 
This ornament with a photo of Dad has adorned our tree for a couple of years now.  But this year it brought a little tear in the corner of my eye.  Last year we spent Christmas Day with him opening his presents at the Whittington Hospital.  We feared that it may be his last, but little did we expect that he would be gone three weeks later. Love you Dad.  You can enjoy Christmas this year up there with Mum and George.

We have many ornaments that remind us of Tiny.  Many have her name etched on with our names and a date, and some have a photo of her.  But this one of her in my arms is my favourite.  We took her with us on a trip to the Smoky Mountains and she just loved being in the car with us and, even more, racing around the hotel room and hiding in any cubby hole she could find.

As I mentioned, many of  our ornaments remind us of our time together.  This photo has captured a Scottish cushion we bought last year in Edinburgh, a wooden carving we picked up when we went to York to celebrate Dawn's 50th, an ornament with our three names on (the last we had with Tiny), and one we picked up this year when we were in New York - a cup with 'Dad' on it. 

This one doesn't do the tree justice.  The lights are a lot brighter than they appear and you can't see the countless ornaments around the back and on the inside branches.  However, I think it gives you an example of how our Christmas tree looks.  Each and every ornament has sentimental value, and each and every ornament reminds us how lucky have been and are to have each other.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Spinach and Ricotta Spaghetti

If you love pasta and spaghetti, you need to give this recipe a try.  It's quick, easy and good for you with the spinach and garlic.  The nuts and raisins give this dish a whole different dimension and the pesto adds a little kick.  The creamy ricotta cheese just pulls all the flavours together.  Best of all is that this meal doesn't make you feel bloated like spaghetti bolognese.

150g Wholemeal pasta
140g Fresh spinach
125g Ricotta cheese
2 cloves of garlic – thinly sliced
20g pine nuts
20g raisins
2 Tbs of Pesto from a jar (or home made)
1 Tbs Olive Oil
Tbs Butter

1. Boil the pasta according to the packet's recommendations
2. Heat a frying pan over a medium heat
3. Add the garlic and pine nuts and heat for a minute
4. Add the raisins to the garlic and nuts
5. Add the spinach and cook until it wilts (turning a few times in the pan)
6. Take the spinach mixture off the heat
7. Drain the pasta when al dente
8. Pour the pasta back into the saucepan
9. Add the butter and stir
10. Add the pesto and stir
11. Add the spinach mixture and stir
12. Pour the pasta and spinach mixture onto two plates
13. Crumble the ricotta over the pasta and spinach mixture.

Serves 2

Vegetable Tikka Masala

During the winter months, there is nothing better than a wholesome bowl of veggies in a rich sauce over some warm fluffy basmati rice.  I've already posted my chili recipe which (after years of tampering with) I am happy with.  At the weekend I found this recipe in  Christmas Vegetarian and gave it a go. I added the chilies to give it a little kick, but it didn't really add much spice.  You can replace the veggies here with alternative root veggies. And reduce the pasta and increase the water to change the consistency.  But give this recipe a go and take it from there.

1 Large potato - diced
1 Small Butternut Squash - peeled, de-seeded and diced
1 Aubergine – diced
2 Onions  - sliced
2 Red Peppers - sliced
2 Courgettes – diced
2 Red Chilies - chopped
1kg Tomato Passata (sieved tomatoes)
6 Tbs Tikka Masala Paste
3 Tbs Vegetable Oil (used rapeseed)
400g can of Coconut milk
100 ml of water

1. Heat oven to 200c degrees
2. Toss potato, squash and aubergine in a roasting tin
3. Add 2 Tbs of oil and 2 Tbs of curry paste, then stir veggies
4. Place the roasting tin in oven for and bake for 30 minutes (stirring occasionally)
5. Fry onions and chilies in a deep pot with the remaining oil until onions are golden brown
6. Add the remaining paste to the onions and chilies then stir together and cook for another 3 minutes
7. Add the tomato passata to the onions and stir together
7. Add the coconut milk to the onions and passata mixture and stir together
8. Add 100 ml of water to the onions, passata and coconut mixture and stir together
9. Simmer for 5 minutes
10. Once the veggies have been baking for 30 minutes, add them to the pot with the onion/passata mixture
11. Place lid on pan and simmer for 15 minutes.

Serve with a few sprigs of coriander over basmati rice or with some warm pita bread.

Makes 8-10 portions.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Dad's Christmas Fruitcake Cookies

I have been making these fruitcake cookies at Christmas for many years.  In fact Dawn's been eating these every Christmas for more years than she can remember.  I started with her mum's recipe and tweaked it a little, in particular changing the brandy to cherry brandy.  The reason these are called Dad's now is because two years ago Dad was in hospital at Christmas and we sneaked a few up to him while he was there.  He loved them. Especially the alcohol.  Sadly Dad was also in hospital last year too.  Our last with him.  Needless to say, when I bake these now I will always think of him.

60g “Stork” Margarine (softened)
225g Dark Brown Soft Sugar
300g Plain White Flour
300g Glazed Cherries
100g Glazed Dried Mixed Fruit
200g Raisins
200g Sultanas
300g Pecans nuts
30ml Crème Fraiche
75ml Cherry Brandy
1½ Tsp of Baking Soda
½ Tsp of Mixed Spices
½ Tsp of Ground Cloves
½ Tsp of Fresh grated nutmeg or grated ½ fresh nutmeg)
2 Medium Free Range Eggs
Makes approximately 60 cookies

1. Set oven to 150 degrees
2. Measure flour into small bowl
3. Add baking soda to the flour
4. Add mixed spices to flour
5. Add ground cloves to flour
6. Add nutmeg to the flour
7. Sieve the dry mixture into a large mixing bowl
8. Place the margarine into the small bowl
9. Add the sugar to the margarine
10. Blend the sugar and margarine together (this won’t cream)
11. Add the cherry brandy to the sugar mixture
12. Add the Crème Fraiche to the sugar mixture
12. Add the eggs to the sugar mixture
13. Blend the ingredients in the small bowl together
14. Pour the wet ingredients from the small bowl into the large mixing bowl
15. Fold all the ingredients together
16. Add the glazed cherries and fold into the batter
17. Add the mixed fruit and fold into the batter
18. Add the sultanas and fold into the batter
19. Add the raisins and fold into the batter
20. Add the chopped pecan nuts and fold into the batter
21. Keep folding the ingredients until well mixed
22. Lay a greaseproof sheet onto a large baking tray
23. Scoop dessert spoonfuls of the mixture and space evenly on the baking tray
24. Place the tray into the oven on the middle shelf
25. Remove the tray after 15 minutes or when the edges start turning brown
26. Slide the cookies on the greaseproof paper to the counter and allow the cookies to cool for 4/5 minutes and then carefully remove and place onto a wire rack to cool
27. Repeat steps 22 through 26 until all the mixture has been used up

Before taking out each subsequent batch, remove the batch of cookies from the wire rack to a plate to free up the wire rack for the next batch.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

My Spicy Cornbread

Dawn has spent her whole life eating cornbread and it is definately her favourite form of bread.  When we met 15 years ago, I had never tasted it; now I have perfected it.  This is my normal recipe.  However occasionally I add some cheese. It's great with a bowl of my meat-free bean and lentil chili.  Best of all is that I use Dawn's Granny's cast iron skillet, which has been around for donkey's years and is so well-seasoned.

284 ml Buttermilk (one carton)
150g “Dunn Rivers” Cornmeal
150g Plain white Flour
4 chilli peppers, seeds removed and chopped
Tsp of Bicarbonate soda
Tsp of Salt
3 Medium Free Range Eggs
30 ml Groundnut oil
15g “Splenda”Sugar (or 1 Tbs of sugar)

1. Set the oven to 200 degrees.
2. Pour 15ml of groundnut oil into a 9 inch cast iron skillet.
3. Place the skillet in the oven to heat the oil.
4. Measure the cornmeal into a medium bowl.
5. Measure the flour into the same bowl.
6. Add the bicarbonate soda to the same bowl.
7. Add the Splenda/Sugar to the same bowl.
8. Add the salt to the same bowl.
9. Break eggs into a second bowl and gently beat.
10. Add the buttermilk to the eggs and gently beat.
11. Add 15ml of groundnut oil to the wet mixture.
12. Gently beat the mixture until light cream colour and smooth.
13. Sieve the dry ingredients into a large bowl.
14. Create a well in the middle of the dry ingredients.
15. Pour the creamed mixture into the well of dry ingredients.
16. Gently fold the wet and dry ingredients until completely combined.
17. Stir in the chilli peppers.
18. Carefully remove the skillet from the oven and swirl the oil around to coat the pan.
19. Carefully pour and spoon the wet cornbread mixture into the skillet using a spatula to get it all out of the bowl.
20. Swirl the skillet to even out the mixture.
21. Place the skillet in the middle of the oven and bake for approx. 18 minutes.
22. Remove the skillet when the top has turned a golden brown.
23. Turn the cooked cornbread onto a cutting board and then turn over again onto a wire rack to cool.

This can be cut into pieces when it has cooled, wrapped in foil and frozen for later use. If frozen, defrost in fridge and then reheat in a preheated 200 degree oven for five or so minutes.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Boat Ride to Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island

Fifteen years ago we took a boat ride to the Statue of Liberty and enjoyed the memorable site of Lower Manhattan receding into the distance.  So we wanted to repeat the trip this time and also pop over to Ellis Island, too.  However, as the ferry pulled away from Battery Park, the physical loss became more and more apparent.  The World Trade Centre twin towers were gone.  The landscape that had been ingrained into our memories was gone for good.

However, this was New York.  Not only was it the city that never sleeps (and so good they named it twice), but it was full of tourists, school kids and, so it seemed, couples like we had been a decade and a half ago, capturing moments that in years to come they may look back fondly and say, "Do you remember this?"

The day we arrived in New York City was the 125th anniversary of Lady Liberty's dedication.   I am sure she has had many touch ups since then. But she looked as proud and welcoming that day as am I sure she did that October day in 1886.   Sadly we weren't able to visit to crown like we had 15 years before as the interior had been closed for the start of eleven months' renovation work. 

After a wander around the Statue and visit to the gift shop, where we bought loads of souvenirs, we boarded the ferry again for the short ride to Ellis Island.  Neither of us had visited the small island that had been the first port of call for millions of Europeans arriving in the US and was the nation's busiest immigration station between 1892 and 1954 went it was closed.  Incredibly, 450,000 passed through its doors before the short journey to Manhattan in that first year.  And that was at a time before transatlantic jets.

The ferry ride back to Manhattan gave us a prime view of One World Trade Centre with a few of the old World Trade Centre buildings visible in the foreground with their distinctive green-domed tops.  I don't know how long it will be before we make a trip back.  I just can't wait until we can take this same ferry ride for a third time together and see the majestic building creating a new skyline that will be loved by generations to come.

If you want to see more photos from our trip click on the link below.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Dinner at Blossom: 187 Ninth Avenue, NYC

After a long flight from London, we didn't fancy traipsing around New York looking for somewhere to eat, but we were more than happy to walk ten blocks to 187 Ninth Avenue to Blossom.  Dawn had done a huge amount of research back home and this organic vegan restaurant had appeared in several books full of recommendations.  Especially as it been voted Best Vegetarian Restaurant in 2008 and 2009 in the New York Time Out.  Turning up without a reservation, we were pleased to be shown to a table for two.  Being asked whether we could free up the table within 90 minutes is never a problem for us.
As usual, we both looked through the menu and then came to an agreement as to what we would like to share.  We both agreed on the an appetiser called Cape Cod Cake, which (as you guess) did not contain any cod. Instead, the fish flavour came from hiziki seaweed, and was made with tofu, a crispy coating and vegan tartar sauce.  It tasted pretty good.

Dawn felt like she was spoilt for choice, but the Hickory Basted Tempeh was too much for her to resist.  Coming from the South, Dawn had an affiliation with hickory, and since becoming a vegetarian, it was the closest she would get to BBQ pork.  The tempeh was served on some collard greens (another of Dawn's favourites) and some roasted fingerling potatoes with a horseradish crème fraiche.  Tempeh, like bean curd/tofu, absorbs all the flavours of the spices, but unlike bean curd/tofu, has a firm texture, which makes it ideal for simulating meat. Best of all is that it's not tough, fatty, or gristly like meat.

I, on the other hand, went for the lasagna.  To give the impression of meat this time, the chef used ground seitan with a tofu marinara.  Seiten, like tempeh, is firmer than tofu and perfect for this meal.  Sitting on a bed of sautéed broccoli rabe and topped with tapioca cheese, this was the lightest lasagna I had ever eaten.  The portions may have been  a little on the small size, but we had sufficient. 

We made our way back to The Carlton Hotel on Madison Avenue, contented and pleased with our choice of both restaurant and dishes.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Our Visit to the 9-11 Memorial on November 1st

November 1st was the fifteenth anniversary of the day Dawn and I met for the very first time on top of the Empire State Building.  But we wanted the special day to be more than just a repeat of that cold day in '96.  We wanted new memories we could look back on in the years to come and visiting the 9-11 Memorial at Ground Zero definitely would do that.

Walking around the memorial fountains was extremely moving and both of us were deeply moved as we passed the names of all those who perished in the Twin Towers whether in 1993 or 2001, in the field in Philadelphia or in Washington.  The overwhelming feeling we had was grief for the thousands of loved ones left behind or who witnessed first hand these tragic events.

The two fountains were also a fitting memorial with ever-flowing water falls, each one with a square hole in the centre of each fountain that gave the impression that the water fell into infinity. It was as if they both had the equivalent of an eternal flame making sure we never forget.

Adjacent to the 9-11 Memorial is 1 World Trade Centre, formally named Freedom Tower, a new office building gradually rising out of the rubble that was Ground Zero replacing one of the lost towers. When we visited the site, signs said that it was halfway complete.  When this 105 storey structure, which will stand 1776 feet high, is completed in 2013, it will be the tallest building in the USA and one of the tallest in the world.  We look forward to one day returning to New York and visiting the top just as we did the top of one of the Twin Towers when they stood proud and magnificent at the tip of Manhattan.

As we left the 9-11 Memorial we noticed at the base of 1 World Trade Centre the above. An image that seemed to prove that although many lives were cruelly taken from this world, America will carry on and will continue to stand tall.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Sweet Potato Soup

Saw a recipe for sweet potato soup on the Good Food web site and thought this would be good for cold evenings.  As usual I tweaked it a little when I started to make it.
2 medium size sweet potatoes (725g) peeled and grated
2 medium onions (320g) peeled and grated
1 large apple peeled, cored and grated
100g dried red lentils
3 cloves of garlic chopped
3 Tbls olive oil
5 cups (1.25l) vegetable stock using 3 veggie Oxo cubes
1 cup (250ml) of soya milk
Fresh coriander
4 tsps cumin
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp paprika

1.  Heat a deep heavy sauce pan over a medium heat
2.  Add the olive oil
3.  Add the onions, garlic and apple
4.  Add the cumin, ginger, turmeric and paprika and stir together
5.  Replace sauce pan lid and cook for 5 mins
6.  Add the stock, sweet potato and lentils and stir to combine all the ingredients
7.  Replace the lid and simmer for 15 minutes (stirring occasionally)
8.  Once all the vegetables are tender, add the milk
9.  Stir in the milk, replace lid, then remove from the heat. 

10. Let stand for 5 mins with lid on.
11. Using a hand blender or food processor, blend soup mixture until nice and smooth
12. Add a handful of chopped fresh coriander before serving

This made enough for six to seven large bowlfuls.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Anglesey Eggs

This is a simple dish but does require the use of three saucepans and a baking dish.  But it is worth it.  And best of all is that preparing the potatoes, leeks and eggs can be done at the same time before bringing the dish together. It’s a variation of an Irish Calcannon, but just as tasty.

450g (1 lb, approx 4 medium) potatoes, peeled and diced
250g (1/2 lb) leeks (approx 1 large leek), cut into one inch pieces
4 Medium Eggs
50g (approx 2 oz.) butter
25g (approx 1 oz.) plain flour
50g (approx 2 oz) grated vegetarian hard (cheddar) cheese
250ml (1 cup) soya milk (or milk of your choice)
Salt for seasoning potatoes
½ grated nutmeg (optional - use only if you like nutmeg)
1 Tbl Dijon mustard

1.     Turn on the oven and set to 150 degrees F.
2.    Place the eggs into a saucepan of water, put a lid on the sauce pan.
3. Bring water to a boil and gently boil for three minutes. 
4. Turn off the heat under the eggs and allow them to continue to cook in the boiled water while you prepare the potatoes and leeks.
5.    Boil potatoes in salted water until they are tender.
6.    Drain the potatoes and mash with a potato masher.
7.    Add 25g of butter and continue to mash until they are creamed.
8.    Grate the nutmeg over the mash (if you are adding the nutmeg).
9.    Once the potatoes are on the boil, steam the leek (approximately 8 minutes) until they are tender.
10.  Spoon the leek into the mash and fold the mixture, making sure you don’t break up the leeks too much. 
11.  Spoon the mash/leek mixture into a buttered casserole dish.
12.  Using the back of a spoon, create three troughs so that you can place the hard boiled eggs in.
13.  Peel the hard boiled eggs and cut in half length wise and then them yoke side up in the troughs.
14.  Melt the remaining (25g) butter in a saucepan over a low heat before adding the flour and then whisk to make a roux.
15.  Add the milk a spoonful at a time and continue to whisk the mixture which will slowly become a creamy sauce.
16.  Add the grated cheese and mustard and continue to whisk until all combined.
17.  Pour the cheese sauce over the potato and leek mixture and level it out so that all the mash mixture is covered.
18.  Place the casserole dish in the oven and bake until the cheese has turned a golden brown (around 20-30 minutes). 

We had this served with a side of steamed Brussels sprouts.  However, there is so much flavour that you can eat this dish on its own.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Broccoli & Butternut Squash Salad

1 medium butternut squash (450g/1 lb), peeled, de-seeded and cut into bite size pieces
Basmati & wild rice (50g/2oz)
Dry puy lentils (50g/2oz)
Florets only from medium head of broccoli (250g/9oz)
Dried cranberries (50g/2oz)
Pumpkin seeds (25g/1oz)
Kernels from 1 corn of cob (175g/6oz, cut off cob
Red chili pepper (25g/1oz), de-seeded and diced
Juice from 1 lemon
1 Tbs olive oil (15ml)

1. Heat oven to 180C (350F).
2. Put butternut squash in a bowl, pour over the olive oil and shake bowl to cover squash.
3. Pour butternut squash into baking dish and bake in oven for 25-30 mins or until tender.
4. Bring saucepan of water to a boil.
4. Add rice and puy lentils to water and cook rice according to instructions on packet (usually takes about 25-30 mins).  The lentils will be cooked by the time the rice is ready.
5. Five minutes before rice is ready, add the corn kernels and broccoli to the rice and lentils.
6. Once the rice mixture is cooked, drain well and pour all ingredients into a large bowl.
7. Add the butternut squash to the rice mixture.
8. Add the pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries and chili pepper to the rice mixture.
9. Pour the juice from the lemon over the mixture.
9. Gentle combine the ingredients without squashing the broccoli and squash.
10. Season to taste.

This can be eaten as is or eaten cold the next day for lunch.

Caramelised Bananas with Chocolate

2 bananas (175g / 6oz)
Brown sugar (75g / 2.5oz)
Butter or olive spread (75g/ 2.5oz)
1 Tsp vanilla extract (5ml) 
1/4 cup of water (60ml)
Chocolate, broken into pieces - Preferably a mixture of dark and milk chocolate (25g /1oz)
1 Tbs soya cream or milk (15ml)

1. Cut bananas length wise and lay four pieces in baking dish.
2. Put the brown sugar, butter, vanilla extract and water into a saucepan and heat until the butter has melted.
3. Turn off the heat under the saucepan and then stir until well-combined.
4. Pour the butter mixture over the bananas.
5. Place the baking dish under a medium broiler/grill and heat for five minutes.
6. Wash the saucepan out and half fill with water and bring the water to a boil.
7. Place the chocolate and cream into a tall metal or strong glass dish and place the dish into the boiling water.
8. Stir the chocolate and cream together until the chocolate melts and becomes creamy.
9. Carefully spoon the bananas onto a plate to serve.
10. Spoon the caramelized syrup from the backing pan over the bananas.
11. Spoon the melted chocolate over the bananas.

Serve with ice cream or yogurt.

Baked Irish Colcannon

Potatoes (450g / 1 lb), peeled & cut into quarters
Savoy cabbage (450g / 1 lb), chopped into strips
8 spring onions  (50g / 2oz), chopped
4 medium eggs
Grated strong cheddar cheese (50g / 2oz)
2 Tbs butter or olive spread (30ml)
Fresh grated nutmeg (OPTIONAL)
Oil for dish

1. Heat oven to 180C (350F).
2. Boil the potatoes until they are tender, drain and then mash.
3. Put the mashed potatoes into a large mixing bowl.
3. Steam the cabbage for five minutes (or boil in shallow water).
4. Drain the cabbage and add to the mashed potatoes.
5. Add the spring onions to the potatoes and cabbage.
6. Add the fresh nutmeg.
7. Add the butter.
8. Slowly stir mixture together.
9. Lightly oil a baking dish.
10. Pour the mixture into the baking dish.
11. Create four wells in the potato/cabbage mixture.
12. Break each egg and gentle pour an egg into each well.
13. Bake in the oven for around 12 minutes or until the egg whites are cooked.


Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Mushroom, Spinach and Potato Pie

New potatoes - 300g/11oz
Bag of fresh spinach - 400g/14oz
Mushrooms - 500g / 1Ib 2oz (preferably a mixture of chestnut/shitake/button)
1 cup (250ml) of vegetable stock (vegetable Oxo) 
2 cloves of crushed garlic
2 Tbls Soya cream (or crème fraîche or sour cream)
1 Tbls (15ml) olive oil
1 Tbls whole grain mustard
1 Tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 sheet of puff pastry

1. Heat oven to 200C/390F.
2. Empty spinach into a colander and pour some hot water over to wilt; then strain water and allow to drain.
3. Boil the potatoes until they are tender, then drain and cut into bite size pieces.
4. Cut the mushrooms into bite size pieces.
5. Heat half the oil in a pan and cook the garlic for one minute.
6. Add the mushrooms, mustard, nutmeg, stock and potatoes to the garlic.
7. Simmer the mixture until the stock reduces a little.
8. Remove from the heat and allow to cool a little before stirring in the cream. 
9. Season the mixture with salt and pepper and taste.
10. Add the spinach to the mixture and pour into a baking dish.
11. Roll out the sheet of puff pastry and lay over the baking tray and crimp the edges.
12. Brush the olive oil over the pastry.
13. Bake the pie in the oven for approximately 25 minutes or until the pastry is a golden brown.


This pie doesn't have a pastry base so is less fattening than regular pies. 

Serve with some steamed veggies of your choice.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

PJ's Vegetarian Chili

2 medium onions (diced)- 300g
2 celery stalks (diced)- 130g
1 carrot (diced)- 90g
50g soya mince
100g dry red lentils
3 cans chopped tomatoes (400g each)
2 cans drained kidney beans (400g / 240 drained)
1 can drained aduki beans (400g / 230 drained)
1 can rinsed Bijoux lentils (400g / 250 rinsed)
4 cloves of garlic chopped (14g)
1 tsp chipolte sauce
1 Tbls yeast extract
4 cups of vegetable stock (3 vegetable Oxo cubes)
2 Tbls olive oil
3 Tbls chili powder, 2 Tbls cumin, 1 Tbls Coriander, 1Tbls Cinnamon & 1 tsp cloves

1. Gently sauté the onions, celery and carrot in olive oil over a medium heat until they are soft and the onions translucent (about 5-8 mins).
2. Then pour the sautéed vegetables into a slow cooker or large saucepan over a low heat.
3. Add the soy mince, tomatoes, beans, lentils and stock.
4. Stir all the ingredients so that the mixture is well combined.
5. Add the chipotle sauce and yeast extract to the mixture and stir well.
6. Add the spices and stir well into the mixture.
7. Simmer or cook in a slow cooker for 2 hours stirring occasionally.
8. Taste after an hour and season with salt and pepper.

The recipe was enough for nine servings using two laddles per portion.  We had it with cornbread.


Finally it's here!  My food blog. Or should I say recipe blog. Five months ago Dawn and I became vegetarians and in doing so needed to look differently at the food on our plates. The usual mistake new vegetarians make is trying to replace the meat in our meat and two veg meals with a third veg. As we had read up on the subject, we didn't go down this road. Instead we saw a whole new world full of flavours and dishes we'd never dreamed off. Best of all was that I didn't need to be a professional chef to replicate the new recipes I came across. These recipes are so full of flavour, nutrients and goodness that you can now cook them too.