A straight out of camera shot of the Miami skyline in the early morning sun. I love the light in this city. This shot was taken last December when they were experiencing very chilly weather, with low temps that had not been matched for 50 years. Maybe because of that, the light around sunrise and sunset was very unusual and quite spectacular.
A sure sign of summer – bunting. (Is it just me, or does ‘bunting’ sound like a bit of a cheeky word to you)?
Photos with their colour altered to make them look retro, funky, vintage or just plain weird abound. I like them …when other people do them, but can’t get used to seeing it on my own images. This, below, is another of mine. I liked it. At first. Now I’m not so sure! Anyway, I did it, so here it is.
The Boat Race. Ooh, bad news. My team were beaten yesterday.
Yes, the light blues of Cambridge beat the dark blues of Oxford. By the laws of statistics it was obviously going to happen sooner or later but I was disappointed for all those guys who had worked so very hard and foregone and sacrificed so much in the way of student fun and even personal relationships in order to compete. But then the same could be said of the Cambridge team for the last two years. Basically, it’s a pity that anyone has to lose.
Which ties in with my second thought on this boat race: Why are there an increasing number of foreign nationals appearing on the teams in recent years? (There were, for instance, a fair number of American/Canadian voices to be heard yesterday). I wonder this every year and the conclusion I inevitably come to is that it’s partly down to the fact we simply don’t place any emphasis at all on sport in this country. Crumbs, it’s such a non-issue that we’ve even sold off many school sports playing fields. I know from my girls that sports days had been reduced down to ridiculous events like rolling a soft (yes, soft, of course) ball down a long length of plastic guttering. (!??!) It was a silly ‘It’s a Knockout’ styled day that was designed purely for fun and with that ridiculous modern sports ethic of ‘there should be no winners or losers – it’s the taking part that counts’. Yeah. Right. And when the Olympics come around? And Wimbledon? And the World Cup? Are we going to be happy just to run around aimlessly like a bunch of “big girls’ blouses” because, really, it’s the taking part that matters? I think not.
I was crushed for ‘my’ team but then that is the essence and nature of competitive sport. We cheer on those who we want to win – sometimes our cheers turn to the joy of victory and sometimes we are silenced by defeat. That’s just life isn’t it?. Like it or lump it, there are winners and losers in every aspect of what we do in life and I just wonder how we ever thought it OK to start telling children the nonsense that taking part was all that mattered. That’s an out-and-out lie.
Never mind Oxford. You can console yourselves that you have still earned your place in history as team members and to be team members indicates your dedication and sports prowess …even if your name won’t have that coveted three-letter word ‘win’ beside it.
Interesting fact: In looking up blurb on the boat race today I found that Wikipedia is saying that actor Hugh Laurie was a member of the 1980 Cambridge rowing team, although he doesn’t have ‘win’ beside his name. Oxford triumphed that year. Still, he hasn’t done too badly for himself otherwise. ;)
All photos from Wikipedia
In late Summer/early Autumn shops here are full of peppers, herbs, onions, tomatoes, aubergines (eggplants) and courgettes (zucchini). They’re just crying out to be put together for a lovely fresh bowl of Ratatouille. This would make a lovely light meal on its own, maybe with some crusty French bread on the side to mop up the juices. If you’re vegetarian and want to add some extra protein then I have occasionally added a tin of ready cooked white haricot or borlotti beans in the last 10 minutes, just to heat through. Alternatively take the original Ratatouille mix and put it in a shallow, oven proof dish. Sprinkle with cheese and flash under a hot grill until the cheese starts to brown (very satisfying on a chilly evening). This dish is absolutely bursting with Mediterranean flavour and goodness – olive oil, brightly coloured veg and garlic – just what the doctor ordered.
Before we begin, let me just say that you should keep the vegetable chunks quite large and stir very gently, otherwise the mix can all too easily lose all texture.
Ingredients (for 4 people)
2 large aubergines (eggplants), roughly chopped
4 courgettes (zucchini), roughly chopped
150ml / 1/4 pint / 2/3 cup olive oil
2 onions, sliced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 large red pepper, seeded and roughly chopped
2 large yellow peppers, seeded and roughly chopped
sprig of fresh rosemary
sprig of fresh thyme
5ml / 1 tsp coriander seeds, crushed
3 plum tomatoes, skinned, seeded and chopped
8 basil leaves, torn
salt and freshly ground black pepper
sprigs of parsley or basil, to garnish
Aubergines (eggplants) nowadays shouldn’t need salting but if you know you are using an old-fashioned variety: place in a colander, sprinkle with salt, pop a plate and then a weight on top and leave for 30 minutes for the bitter juice to run out.
Otherwise, begin by heating the olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the onions and fry gently for 6-7 minutes, until just softened. Add the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes.
If you had salted the aubergine (eggplant) rinse it and pat dry with a clean dish towel. Add the aubergine to the pan with the red and yellow peppers, increase the heat and saute until the peppers are just turning brown.
Add the rosemary, thyme and coriander seeds, then cover the pan and cook very gently for 40 minutes.
Add the tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Cook gently for a further 10 minutes, until the vegetables are soft but not too mushy. Remove the sprigs of rosemary and thyme. Stir in the torn basil leaves and check seasoning. Leave to cool slightly and serve warm or cold, garnished with sprigs of parsley.
Here I am posting for Chere’s ‘Saturday Snapshots Carnival’. On time. Yay! Go me!
This is following the prompt: ‘April 2009, 28th picture’. (Please join in and post your own photo…won’t you? Instructions are over at the above link).
Actually it’s lucky it was the 28th picture really because shortly before this was a series of photos of our patio being built. (‘How exciting’ I hear you say).
This photo was taken in the early morning when I noticed that there was an incredible golden light illuminating the branches of the trees at the bottom of our garden. It highlighted the moss-covered limbs of a big old oak and made the twigs of a prunus tree shine red and bronze.
Green and Bronze, April 2009
Someone asked me for this recipe recently so I thought I’d post it here.
Tried and trusted, it gives the most delicious result, making for a light but nutritious vegetarian meal, rich and full of flavour (although mild, rather than mind-blowingly hot).
Serve it with some warm naan bread and maybe some cool, refreshing natural yoghurt.
Tomato and Lentil Dahl with Toasted Almonds
*As usual, my suggested substitutes for the ingredients have been included and have worked well when the original are unavailable (or you can’t be bothered with peeling and de-seeding tomatoes!).
30ml / 2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 carrot, diced
10ml / 2 tsp yellow mustard seeds (*sub: same quantity of grainy mustard)
2.5 cm / 1 inch piece root ginger, grated
10 ml / 2 tsp ground turmeric
5 ml / 1 tsp mild chilli powder
5 ml / 1 tsp garam masala
225g / 8 oz / 1 cup split red lentils
400 ml / 14 fl oz / 1-2/3 cups water
400 ml / 14 fl oz / 1-2/3 coconut milk
5 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped (*sub: 400g tin chopped tomatoes, drained)
Juice of 2 limes
60 ml / 4 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
25g / 1 oz / 1/4 cup flaked almonds, toasted, to serve
Heat the oil in a large heavy-based saucepan. Sauté the onion for 5 minutes until softened, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic, carrot, cumin, mustard seeds and ginger. Cook for 5 minutes until the seeds begin to pop and the carrot softens slightly.
Stir in the ground turmeric, chilli powder and garam masala, and cook for 1 minute or until the flavours begin to mingle, stirring to prevent the spices burning.
Add the lentils, water, coconut milk and tomatoes and season well. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, covered for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent the lentils sticking.
Stir in the lime juice and 45 ml / 3 tbsp of the fresh coriander, then check the seasoning. Cook for a further 15 minutes until the lentils soften and become tender.
To serve: Sprinkle with the remaining coriander and the flaked almonds.
From: ‘Vegetarian’ The Greatest Ever Vegetarian Cookbook, publisher LORENZ BOOKS, ISBN 0 7548 0090 3
Spices have long been recognised for their medicinal qualities, from curing flatulence (useful when added to a pulse dish) to warding off colds and flu.
Lentils are a useful source of low-fat protein. They contain good amounts of B vitamins and provide a rich source of zinc and iron.
You need to eat food rich in vitamin C at the same meal to improve absorption of iron. Limes are a good source, but you could also serve a fresh fruit dessert containing apples, kiwi fruit and oranges.
I don’t think anything compares to the taste of real butter in cooking. Butter-based spreads have come into existence to try to provide healthier alternatives but they are not always ideal for cooking. Here is a quick low-down on the basic versions of butter available, plus a few facts and hints:
Salted butter - Salt is a preservative so that the addition of salt to butter gives it a longer ‘shelf-life’. Salted butter will last about a month in the fridge, six months in the freezer.
Unsalted (or ‘sweet’) butter is the freshest butter available, with an accordingly fresher taste – largely because the natural sweetness of the product isn’t masked by salt. However, without that extra preservative it will not last as long.
Given the above, good traditional bakers usually opt for unsalted butter in recipes – the flavour is better, there is the option to decide just how much salt should be added, and too much salt tends to produce a tougher dough. At a pinch (no pun intended), ready salted butter can be substituted in baking recipes, but remember to reduce, or cut out entirely, any extra salt noted separately in the ingredients list. (If you have to use salted butter in a recipe because that’s all you have, the rule of thumb would be to cut salt by 1/4 tsp for every 4 ounces, or half a cup of butter that is in the recipe).
Light / reduced calorie butter is made with half the fat of regular butter and in order to approximate the consistency of the full fat version, water, skimmed milk and gelatin are added. As a consequence, it will give different results when used for baking and frying and is therefore not recommended.
In some countries whipped butter is also available. Its’ whipped texture makes it lighter and more spreadable but the process of whipping means that it is actually 30 – 45% air. For this reason it also is not generally recommended for baking.
When frying and sauteing, it is better to use unsalted butter. If you wish, the addition of just a teaspoon of oil will allow you to heat the oil to a slightly higher temperature before it begins to burn but both salted and unsalted butter have low smoke points (the point at which the butter burns).
Clarified butter is used widely in fine cuisine as the basis for sauces and, as most of the milk solids and water is removed during preparation, allows for cooking at higher temperatures without burning (useful for frying and sauteing) .
To clarify: gently melt a quantity of butter in a pan and, using a metal spoon, skim off the solids that begin to foam up on the surface. Be careful not to allow the butter to burn. When you feel you’ve removed as much as you can, pour the melted butter through a sieve which has been lined with cheesecloth or muslin, into a bowl beneath. (These solids can be thrown away but are also considered a delicacy in Northern Indian cuisine, being eaten with unleavened bread). The clarified butter in the bowl will last in the fridge for up to a month.
Ghee is very similar to clarified butter, the differences being that all the water content has been evaporated off, all the milk solids removed and the remaining butter has been allowed to brown slightly, giving the ghee a nutty flavour. Pure ghee will keep at room temperature for months and, as with clarified butter, can be heated to high temperatures. The process of preparation has removed casein, lactose protein (often a problem to those with allergies) and oxidised cholesterol, whilst still retaining valuable vitamins. Its’ more intense, nutty flavour also means that you will probably use less of it in cooking. Ghee is available in Indian and Middle Eastern grocery stores, as well as in some supermarkets.
Butter absorbs the flavours around it so is best stored in an airtight container or wrapped carefully in foil.
Store in the coolest part of the fridge (which is generally not the door)
To soften butter quickly for baking, cut into small cubes and leave at room temperature.
Frozen unsalted butter can be grated into pastry mix for a nice, light and flaky crust
Photographers understand that the light cast at differing times of day greatly alters the way colours look. Artists know that the best, consistent, light to paint by is that cast from a north facing window. Equally, crafters realise that in order to see ‘true’ colours they need to work by the light of a north facing window or to purchase special ‘blue light’ crafters’ bulbs.
In exactly the same way, you are the artist of your own face when you apply your make-up, so if you have the option, for best results work in natural light, facing a north aspect window.