Monthly Archives: November 2011

Lazy-day cooking: Simple chicken and wild rice soup

I have had a craving for hearty, simple food to fill my belly.  Warm, savoury, aromatic foods with steam rising from the bowl…I am pretty easy to please!

Since the weather has turned and I am in the midst of exams, the past few weeks have been full of throw-everything-into-the-pot cooking.  Some have been a bit hit-or-miss, but a few recipes I’ve concocted have just worked so well I have to share…

The beauty of my chicken stew is, with a few minor changes this could go from a hearty evening meal to a simple winter soup (perfect for the poorly and flu-ridden).  Also, this may be the simplest recipe I have ever come up with.

Ingredients

1 whole chicken, quartered

Water (enough to cover and then some)

Carrots (about 5 large, sliced)

Wild rice (a few handfuls)

1 large tin sweetcorn

Sea salt

Preheat oven to 180’C.

In a heavy-bottomed pot (make sure this is oven-safe), lay the chicken quarters and season.  Cover with water, then add an extra mug or so for good measure.  Pot roast in the oven for 2 hours.  During this time, just go away and do something else.

When the chicken is ready, lift from the cooking liquids and remove the skin and bone.  Roughly chop the meat and set aside.  Add carrots and wild rice to the liquid, return the chicken, and simmer until the rice is tender.  Throw in a large tin of sweetcorn to heat through.  Season to taste.

Eat.

** If you prefer something more to the tune of Chicken Soup, just add a tin of chicken broth to the stew.  So simple, so yummy.  So lazy, but that’s the beauty of it…

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Inky love – isn’t she pretty?

I have been craving another tattoo latey, and I have seen so many beautiful ones it’s just so hard to resist.  I have a few of my own (some big, some small, mostly meaningful and some downright quirky) and I have always been an admirer of the tattooed form.

I know my next big piece will be Alice in Wonderland themed, maybe with a smattering of Nine Inch Nails lyrics (Trent Reznor is a musical genius), but lately I have been pining after an origamiesque bit of art.  I think this was the piece that inspired this obsession.  Isn’t it beautiful?

This one I like as I really enjoy her sense of humour.  And how sweet is the patterned origami paper?  Ooh it’s all in the detail…I’d go in with a sheet of pretty Japanese printed paper and ask the tattoist to replicate it for me!

My love of foot tattoos has no bounds.  I wish I had more space!  Paper airplanes make me think of that song ‘Leaving on a Jet Plane’, and I always loved that song.  Perhaps it was because I travelled so much as a child?  My dad would have loved one of those baby backpacks everyone seems to have now.

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Wardrobe mess – before and during

My wardrobe is in a terrible state, I’ve let it slip into a state of chaos and it’s time to sort things out.

I’ve been inspired by all the beautiful organised havens out there in blogland, and though I’m nowhere near finished, at least everything is hung up or folded!  This is a mission and a half…

Before

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Before

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During

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Sloe gin

I made sloe gin for the first time today! It’s a drink that reminds me of summer, which is perfect as it shall be ready to drink (in 18 months time) in May 2013…

I have to say, this is the first time I’ve preserved without the instant gratification of jam. There’s something nice about having something lovely to look forward to in a year and a half, and I finally have something I can genuinely ‘save for later’. The recipe I used was a loose interpretation of Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s version, though as I had slightly more gin than his called for, I just used a bit more sugar and a few more sloes.

 

Sloe Edinburgh Gin

500g sloes

500g golden caster sugar

1 bottle (700ml) Edinburgh Gin

In a large bottle or jar, put sloes in and bash with a fork to release the juices. I used two sealable kilner jars as they were what I had to hand, but any large jar or demijohn will do. Add the sugar (if dividing the mixture between several jars, just make sure to divide the berries and sugar evenly). Finally, fill with gin. Shake, shake and shake some more.

That’s it. Now wait for 18 months until the sloe gin has matured for an appropriate length of time. Strain and bottle. Or cut out the middle-man and just strain and drink. Serve with a sprig of mint and a splash of sparkling elderflower.

 

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Make way for fruit!

This week has been hectic, and I have thoroughly berated mysefl for letting my best intentions to exercise fall by the wayside.  It was just one thing after another – I hurt my back a month ago at a gig, and the chiropracter advised me not to do anything too strenuous.  Well, as it turns out, even yoga and Pilates were too strenuous in his book, so I haven’t been to a single class in over a month.

Well this Tuesday, for the first time in what feels like an age, I lost a significant amount of weight.  3.5lbs, thankyouverymuch!  If I’m totally honest, I still wasn’t particularly ‘good’,  and I did very little in the way of exercise.  But I think it was a result of some healthier choices, and most importantly, LESS MEAT.

Now I am a die-hard carnivore, and I will never give it up entirely.  I come from a long line of meat-munchers.  My dad still doesn’t consider a meal to be a meal without some form of animal on his plate, and my mum thinks veggie food can include chicken.  We weren’t built to be vegetarians.

Week before last I took it to excess; I went on a conservation trip doing volunteer work on a farm, and our group of volunteers had to cook our own meals in a very basic shared kitchen  in a bunkhouse.  I don’t know what it is about trips away, but I am terrible for staying on the right track when I am away.  The night we arrived it was too late to cook, so we stopped for a chippy on the way.  Now I very rarely eat fast food – I get the occasional Indian or Chinese takeaway, but friend foods like chips and battered fish are not on my agenda.  Not just because I’m worried about the grease and fat content…I just don’t like them.  I ordered what I thought would be the healthiest thing on the menu – a piece of roast chicken.  Well what do you know, they’d deep fried the damned thing!  I ate most of it, and yes it was crispy-skinned and delicious, but I did not sign up for that!

The first morning, we had bacon sandwiches for breakfast, made with that terrible half-and-half bread.  Now I rarely eat white bread, and when I do it’s usually something worthy, like a piece of wonderfully light olive oil focaccia, a buttery croissant, or a crisp baguette.  Not the most healthy of choices, but still worth it.  This stuff tastes like – nothing.  And they just chuck some wheatgerm into it to make it ‘half-and-half’, or ‘best-of-both’ as they call it.  The body doesn’t digest it or break it down like wholegran, it treats ths demi-white bread as plain white.  Pointless stuff.  But as it was all we had, that’s what I ate.

Dinner was spaghetti with a bolognese sauce, mostly just mince and some tinned tomatoes.  I think there may have been a whiff of a single onion, but other than the white pasta and mince, there was not even a hint of a vegetable to be seen.  Now the woman who did the food shopping for the trip has grown kids – is this what they eat at home?  Oh how I missed my vegetables.  The only fruit came in the form of an apple pie.  With tinned custard.  I got so desperate for some fruit and veg I bought some tinned peach slices from the local shop (the only option available).

We were working for full days in the fields, so we were eating loads to keep our energy levels up.  The only thing available was meat in all its processed forms.  Ham, bacon, sausages.  Oh what I would have done for even a paltry mushroom, a carrot, an apple!  By the time we left I was so bloated I felt someone could prick me with a pin and I would whizz off into the sunset like a deflated helium balloon.  Bliss.

I didn’t realise how much I missed my diet of mostly fish and vegetables until I was deprived of it for a few days.  And even a few days made such a difference, as I felt awful after it.  Next time, I shall be bringing my own supply of food – less clothes and more apples!

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Quickie Italian restaurant reviews: Asti (Broughton Street) and Strada (Castle Street)

Asti : Charming chilled out European vibe, polenta chips could be crunchier and calamari with chilli jam a bit of an odd combination. Lovely succulent king prawns in a tangy lemon garlic butter. Best macaroni cheese in town! We didn’t have time to stay for dessert, but I shall definitely be back. Amazingly, they’d just opened 5 days before our visit. Unsure about the scented candles in a restaurant (detracts from the food), but otherwise fabulous.

Strada:  Zuppa vongole e fregola a different soup option to the ubiquitous minestrone; my soup was lovely and delicate, lifted by the hint of chilli and fresh parsley. Linguine pescatora was light and fresh, and would have been a perfect summer dish but still delicious now the weather has turned. I did like the fact there was the perfect amount of fresh tomato sauce, not smothered or cloying. Haricots (french beans) with toasted crumbs, grana padano & lemon zest was tempting, but I went with the broccoli with chilli butter instead. Super-fresh, just a touch of butter to bring out the flavour and not a drop more. There was a plentiful selection of tempting sides, and the autumn menu had a few lovely sounding dishes.

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