Friday, May 31, 2013

May roundup

Here's what I cooked (or others cooked) for dinner this month - it was a busy month, with us all away at the start of the month and Geoff away a number of times on business, so there was a lot higher proportion of meals where we all sorted our own things, or ate out or ate pre-prepared food.  (Ok, it may not look that way to you, but it looks like that when I look back!)


  • 31st: Light suppers (out at lunchtime)
  • 30th: Everyone fend for yourself
  • 29th: Eggs, Asparagus, Toast
  • 28th: Leek and Broccoli Bake
  • 27th: Sausages, Asparagus, New Potatoes
  • 26th: MIddle Easter Lamb with Figs and Honey
  • 25th: Bacon and Asparagus Flan, Salad
  • 24th: Spicy Pineapple Pork
  • 23rd: Tomato and Mascarpone Pasta Bake (Sarah)
  • 22nd: Tarragon Chicken with Haricot Beans and Sauteed Courgettes
  • 21st: Beef Stroganoff
  • 20th: Vegetable Soup with Cheesy Toasts
  • 19th: Vegan Lancashire Hotpot
  • 18th: Country Pork and Vegetable Bake
  • 17th: Tex Mex (eating out!)
  • 16th: Ready-made pizzas
  • 15th: Spaghetti Bolognese (from freezer)
  • 14th: Sweet and Sour Chicken
  • 13th: Vegetable Frittata
  • 12th: Beef and Aubergine Tagine
  • 11th: Chicken Jalfrezi
  • 10th: Stir Fried Veg and Tofu with Noodles
  • 9th: Mince and New Potato Curry (Sarah)
  • 8th: Pasta with Artichoke Sauce
  • 7th: Courgette and Tarragon Soup
  • 6th: Bacon, Potato and Broad Bean Supper
  • 5th: Lamb and Butternut Squash Tagine
  • 4th: Southern Style Jambalaya
  • 3rd: Spaghetti with Lemon and Olives
  • 2nd: Bacon sandwiches
  • 1st: Courgette & Mushroom Tart

Are you [meerkat] experienced?

Today we went down to Drusilla's Park, a zoo/park/playground down near Eastbourne, so that Alex could have his "Meerkat Experience" which was a belated birthday treat, bought using nectar points (we originally had something else in mind, but for various reasons it didn't work out, so this was the substitute excursion). 

His experience included learning about the animals' feeding routines [this wasn't for the meerkats, necessarily, though they are mainly carnivores - but the sign amused me], 

a behind-the-scenes tour, preparing the food for the meerkats' snack - which included catching a number of locusts and crickets - 

somewhat easier said than done, as the locusts and crickets liked to hop around and didn't much enjoy being picked up and popped in a plastic bottle - 

and filling some baskets with hay and hiding some grapes inside. This was much easier to accomplish, as the grapes were far less interested in jumping out of the plastic bottle than the locusts had been...

Alex then took the snacks to the meerkat enclosure and was able to feed them to the meerkats. The meerkats were very keen on having their snacks - in fact, Alex wasn't quick enough giving out the crickets and locusts, so one of them decided to have a nibble of Alex...

So Alex's meerkat experience included a bonus meerkat bite and an extra tour of the staff first aid cabin.  Luckily, it was a small bite and only hurt for a little while. And his tetanus is up to date, so there should be no problems...

The meerkats enjoyed the grapes - here they are trying to figure out how many meerkats can fit into a single hanging plant basket at one time - I think the answer was about five...

The experience itself only lasted about 45 minutes, so we had the rest of the day in the park, with plenty of time to 

play on all the (rather impressive) playground climbing equipment,

ride on Thomas trains

and eat hot dogs.

Oh yeah, and see some animals!

The zoo had mostly small and/or domestic animals - farm animals, llamas and so on, then mammals such as raccoons, coatis, small monkeys like tamarins and squirrel monkeys, gibbons, macaques, beavers, otters, meerkats and prairie dogs, and birds like flamingoes, lorikeets, owls, a few penguins. And a selection of reptiles, amphibians, insects, etc. The sort of animals it's fairly practical to have in a space which is large but not huge.

We enjoyed watching all these ring-tailed lemurs sleeping in a pile. The zoo had a lovely lemur enclosure (the walk-in kind) with lots of climbing equipment and playing & hiding areas for the lemurs, but all they wanted to do was sleep in a big pile.  Admittedly, it was midday or thereabouts and actually warm and sunny for once...

There were a couple of red pandas - new this year, apparently - who were sleeping the first time we went past their enclosure, but were a bit more active the second time around. 

I enjoyed this Emperor tamarin  and his (her?) fantastic moustache. 

And after quite a wait, I manage to get the owl to actually look at the camera!

The flamingos, on the other hand, weren't bothered about having their photos taken - unlike Sarah, who will probably be annoyed that I posted a photo of her eating a hotdog, so to make up for it, here's another photo of her, this time, taking a photo of flamingos...

Alex and Olivia were far happy to pose for photos, especially if they could be shown with Ferenc Fox ears...

In all, a fun day despite the injuiry, and so nice to be outside in the sunshine!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Dinner, 29/5/13: Eggs, Asparagus, Toast

We still have lots of asparagus in the house from our recent trip to the PYO, so we decided to make a feature of it - tonight's supper mainly asparagus, along with eggs (several different cooking methods) and stacks and stacks of toast. I actually had more of everything than this, but it looks nice on the plate like this...  More asparagus on Friday, but that will be the end of it (unless we pick again) and will be soup - I've saved the smallest, stubbiest spears for the soup night. I'm glad we live in a world where you can get a wide variety of produce most of the year, but some of the short-season fruit and veg are quite special precisely because of their short seasons - asparagus, strawberries, fresh apricots, figs, and so on.

Phone convention

There is probably a little corner of your home somewhere that looks a lot like this...

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Dinner, 28/5/13: Cheesy Leek, Broccoli & Bacon Bake

Proof of the old add cheese sauce and or bacon to something and YUM! I also had some leftover new potatoes which I threw in. And I put in a few more tomatoes than the recipe called for. Cheesy goodness ensued...  No idea how long I've had this recipe and not tried it - it's from a Somerfield magazine. I'm not sure Somerfield even exists anymore - it certainly doesn't around's been years!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Dinner, 27/5/13: Sausages, Asparagus, New Potatoes

To go with our freshly picked asparagus, we went to the Farm Shop at Garson's and got some of their excellent sausages - two different types: the traditional and the Gloucester Old Spot. Yum.

Fresh Asparagus!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Dinner, 26/5/13: Middle Eastern Lamb with Figs and Honey

Another slow cooker recipe from the I Love My Slow Cooker cookbook by Beverly LeBlanc. (Couldn't find the recipe online, but let me know if anyone wants it.) This used two types of figs - dried, in the slow cooker from the beginning, and fresh, put in just before the end. It also had fennel in it, which I love, but which is not universally popular due to the aniseedy flavour. However, in this dish, all the flavours just mellowed gently into one another - the way your results should be in a slow cooker - and it was lovely. It also had preserved lemons in it, which was useful, as I have half a jar of preserved lemons in my fridge still.  I'm thinking chicken with preserved lemons and almonds might make an appearance soon, too!

Watermelon fingers

Olivia's latest creation!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Dinner, 25/5/13: Bacon and Asparagus Flan

Another Hairy Dieters recipe - the flan uses filo pastry rather that shortcrust, so it's a much lighter pastry crust. And only a sprinkling of cheese on the top. I changed the recipe a tiny bit - used 4 eggs instead of three so we'd have a bit left over and there's probably  more cheese on top than in the recipe, but I had some grated cheese in the freezer I wanted to use up...  Served with a salad and some bread. Very nice!  The recipe is online on the Good Food website... (oh, and I used a larger tin than specified as I didn't think the ingredients would all fit in the size they suggested!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Dinner, 24/5/13: Spicy Pineapple Pork

Despite the fact that one of my kids complains about any meat dish with fruit in it, this was quite popular at dinner - it was a nice way to have the pork, with a good sauce and the chili and 5 spice powder combo was very tasty. It was also dead simple. A matter of moments.  Recipe conveniently online here on Good Food's website.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Dinner, 23/5/13: Tomato and Mascarpone Bake

Sarah made this one (Thursday again!) which was fairly simple, except it involved roasting a load of tomatoes first, before blitzing them into a sauce. I had some when I came home from yoga - it was nice.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Dinner, 22/5/13: Tarragon Chicken with Haricot Beans (and sauted courgettes)

The chicken is an adaptation of a Nigel Slater recipe from Real Fast Food - I used half fat creme fraiche instead of double cream, and also, skinless chicken breasts. But I liked the idea to serve this with beans instead of potatoes or noodles (though noodles would be nice, too), so heated some up with a little shallot, garlic & chicken stock. Very nice.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Dinner, 21/5/13: Beef Stroganoff

From a low-fat cookbook Top 200 Low Fat Recipes, Judith Wills. It uses greek yogurt in the sauce instead of sour cream (or whatever is traditional). Still tastes great though of course I get complaints about mushrooms from children... (one likes them, one hates them and complains, one doesn't really like them but doesn't complain). 

Monday, May 20, 2013

Dinner, 20/5/13: Vegetable Soup with Cheesy Toasts

Another easy mid-week supper - the veg soup is just leeks, carrots, celery, chickpeas, tinned tomatoes (blended smooth) and some stock - some herbs and seasoning, but very simple.  The cheesy toasts are even easier - just garlic bread slices with a bit of grated cheese on the top. Indulgent, I know, but I do by the lower-fat garlic bread to start with...

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Dinner, 19/5/13: Vegan Lancashire Hotpot

We've had this many times before as we really like it. It's a Simon Rimmer recipe and I've not made many adjustments - I usually add mushrooms, and I use less olive oil than he does on the potatoes. Othwerise, yum.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Dinner, 18/5/13: Country Pork with Vegetables (and Asparagus)

I meant to cook new potatoes to go with this, and forgot, but it was still fine - from a Slimming World cookbook, this pork and veg dish is lowfat, but the pork is still relatively moist, as it's all cooked in the oven together, covered in foil.  I couldn't find a recipe online, but essentially it's pork steaks or loin cut into small pieces, with leeks, celery, red pepper and tomatoes, and some dried sage, a bit of chicken stock and covered in foil and cooked for about 45 minutes, or until it's done.  Easy peasy, lemon squeezy as we say. Which reminds me, there's a squeeze of lemon juice in it, as well. 

And some asparagus (first of the season - thanks to my friend Lana for going along and picking it - we tried last weekend, but they weren't open yet) along the side. Yum.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Dinner out, 17/5/13

Poor Sharon, who follows my dinners, has accused me of starving my family as I haven't posted much about food lately.  Well, there were good reasons - I haven't been cooking much. Which doesn't mean we haven't been eating! Friday night, we tried a new Tex-Mex place near Wimbledon Theatre, as we were going out to the theatre anyway.  Verdict: good!  I had a chimichanga - not the healthiest, but it's not a type of Mexican food I make at home (as opposed to fajitas, enchiladas and burritos, which I might) so it was a nice restaurant choice. 

And of course, there was a Margarita. Or two.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Dinner, 14/5/13: Sweet and Sour Chicken

This was lovely - tasted like a very good takeaway sweet and sour chicken - not so flurorescent orange, either. Another hit from the Hairy Bikers' cookbook (Hairy Dieters).  I found the recipe on the BBC website.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Dinner, 13/5/13: Vegetable Frittata

I can't find a recipe for this particular frittata online, but I'm sure there are lots of others - this one has onion, spinach, potatoes and cherry tomatoes as its non-egg content, and a bit of dijon mustard, which we thought was a nice touch. Tasty!  And some left for lunch tomorrow (though not much).  I made biscuits to go with it as well, added some grated cheddar (to the biscuits). 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Dinner, 12/5/13: Beef and Aubergine Tagine

This was very nice. We all liked it, although we had some ideas for how to make it even better next time - for one thing, the ratio of veg to meat could be increased, and we thought some of the veg could be added towards the end of the cooking time to give a little more variety of texture. Also, it could easily have had a third salted lemon, or even two more. And I thought it wanted just a little more cooking liquid, as the sauce was very thick. But the taste was lovely and the flavours rich and deep. The pomegranates were a nice touch and besides looking pretty, tasted fresh and light with the tagine. Certainly a winner.

From the book I Love My Slow Cooker by Beverly LeBlanc. I found an American version of the recipe online in google books, here.

Feelgood Flapjacks

Whipped up a batch of these today - almost a flapjack, though not quite as sweet and with a chewier texture - these are made with almost no added sugar (lots of fruit, e.g. mashed banana and grated apple and just a little honey or maple syrup) and very little fat. Still pretty tasty, though. The recipe is from Good Food, but I couldn't find it online.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Dinner, 11/5/13: Chicken Jalfrezi

It's the Hairy Bikers' diet version of Chicken Jalfrezi again, as we liked it so much last time. This time Olivia helped me do the cooking - I used different chilis this time and we thought it wasn't quite as good (though still very tasty) - back to the small, thin, green ones next time...

Friday, May 10, 2013

Dinner, 10/5/13: Stir-fried veg and tofu with noodles

Not really a recipe, per se, just some veg and marinated tofu stir fried, along with some egg noodles. A bit of hoisin sauce and soy sauce and hey presto - instant dinner. Ok, not quite instant, but not time-consuming either.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Dinner, 9/5/13: Mince and new potato curry (Sarah cooking)

Usually on a Thursday night I go to yoga, so Sarah cooks dinner - this time, I didn't go as I am still trying to kick a cold and am really tired and finding breathing deeply a bit of a struggle - lots of coughing.  Decided to give it a miss, but still had Sarah cook (should definitely do that more often!). This is a recipe we've had many times before and always enjoy. 

This time, we had some nice bread from our local shop (Middle Eastern, though it has most English things you could want as well). They have a bread oven and do lots of great naan style bread, these ones, which are puffier (no idea what they are called) and some lovely Middle Eastern flatbreads with spicy meat topping. Mmmm.  These were so hot out of the oven that I couldn't hold the bag at the bottom where it touched the bread. Now that's fresh!