Saturday 24 January 2015

A Winter Warmer

Hello and thank you for calling in.  The north wind doth blow and we had a bit of snow on Tuesday night - not enough to do anything with but enough to get people excited.  It's been very cold and I have just the recipe for this situation: it's hot, hearty, filling and frugal.  Here are the ingredients you need to feed 2 hungry adults and have a small amount left over for one lunch tomorrow -  

4 sausages
1 onion
2 medium potatoes
small handful (approx. 4oz) red lentils
I tin of value-brand chopped tomatoes
stock (made from a cube or powder)
spoonful of cooking oil

This what you do: cut each sausage into 4 chunks and peel the onion, cut it in half and thinly slice into half-moons.  Now heat the oil in a pan and brown the sausages and the onion.  While that's happening, peel the potatoes and dice into pieces about the same size as the sausage chunks.  When the sausage has browned, add the potatoes and the lentils to the pan and mix everything together so that the potatoes are coated in the fat.  Then add the tin of tomatoes and the stock.  Now, I never measure the lentils or the stock, I just add enough "so that it looks right", but this time I used a teacup and scales, so I know that I use about a teacupful of stock.

At this point, you can add other flavourings as you see fit.  I don't add any herbs or spices because I use tasty sausages, but I do often add a slug of alcohol and some tomato puree. 

So, bring it all up to the boil, put a lid on it, turn it down and simmer for 35 minutes - check it after 25 minutes because you might have to add more liquid.  THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT.  If you do, just tip a bit of hot water in from the kettle to loosen it up.


 That's all there is to it.  Dish it up and it looks like this -

We have this once a week during the autumn and winter.  It's a great way of extending sausages - if we have them "au naturel" the Best Beloved insists on having at least 3 and really he likes to have 4, which doesn't leave much for the rest of us if there are 6 in a pack!  But he is very happy with this.  I bought two packs of 6 sausages for £4 in Asda this week, which means I can make this three times - 67p per dinner for the protein for each person.  I don't like to spend more than £1 per person on the meat or fish for our dinner so this came in well under budget.
If I'm cooking it for three or four people I use an extra 2 sausages and 1 potato per person and increase the amount of stock, the rest stays the same.

And a one pot dinner means that there is only one pot to wash up, another benefit!

This wasn't intended to be a blog about recipes but they are proving to be popular.  I am looking forward to some warmer, sunnier weather so that I can get out and about and show you some more Shropshire delights.  In the meantime, wrap up well, make sure you wear a vest (I am my mother's daughter), keep warm and enjoy the weekend.
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x

Monday 19 January 2015

I bought the wool in Lidl

Hello and thank you for calling in.  Have you had a go at making the pie yet?  It's very cold here today but I don't care.  Why?  Because my feet are toasty and warm in my new socks, that's why.  Would you like to see them?  ...  Ta-dah!

They are a bit of an unexpected delight.  I bought four 50g balls of yarn for, I think, £3.99 in Lidl over a year ago, two were plain red and two looked like this -

I bought the pack because I wanted the plain red yarn and I didn't really fancy the other, but last year I was given some Lidl sock yarn and I knitted it up for myself, the first time I have had handknitted socks and I am completely converted, so I thought I would knit this up for myself as well.  Of course, you can't tell how the stripes will work out until the yarn is knitted up so you are taking a chance, but I am delighted.  Would you like to see my other pair? -

They are also deliciously warm and cosy.  The yarn is 75% wool (warmth) and 25% polyamide (durability) and, here is the best bit, the socks can be washed in the washing machine! I have found it lovely to knit with, soft and smooth and I haven't had any problems with unevenness or knots.  So if you are a knitter, you might want to keep your eye on Lidl.  I bought this pack last week, four 50g balls for £3.99, not sock yarn this time but double knit, 100% wool and the pack says that it can go in the washing machine at a low temperature. 
I haven't decided what to do with it yet but I couldn't resist the colours, these autumnal tones are my favourites.  Perhaps they will turn into a scarf, or maybe some handwarmers? 
I do hope you are keeping yourselves warm in this wintry weather.  I'll be back soon with another recipe to keep you cosy.
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x

Thursday 15 January 2015

A Pie But No Patty-Pan

Hello, thank you for dropping by.  The Mathematician has come home from university today, just for a few days so that we can all celebrate her birthday.  I wanted to cook something special, something to remind her that there's no place like home, something to let her know how much we love her.  I have wanted to make a Shropshire Fidget Pie for ages, it's probably our county dish, although you don't see it very often and I've never actually seen one, but it requires 250g of ham which is beyond our budget for one dinner.  However, last week I was given a significant piece of ham so this seemed like the perfect situation in which to use it.  Who wouldn't want to be welcomed home with a pie when it's cold, dark and raining?
I found a likely looking recipe here.  A scout around the kitchen revealed that I had the requisite potatoes, onions, apples and ham so I just needed to buy cream and cider for the sauce.  Oh yes, and there was the pastry.  The Pastry. Da, da, daaaaah!  You see, I don't make pastry.  In fact, what I usually say is, "I can't make pastry, my hands are too warm."  It's not that I don't know how to make it, but rather that I made it at school and it wasn't very good, so I haven't made it since.  That was 35 years ago.  And I don't have a food processor, so I can't do the almost-hands-free method.  However, today my determination has overcome my fears.  It was cold here, so that played in my favour - I know that everything has to be cool to make pastry.  And I had a secret weapon: Delia Smith.
I was given a copy of Delia Smith's Complete Cookery Course for my eighteenth birthday and have sworn by it ever since.  Truly, Delia taught me to cook.  So today I turned to the unthumbed chapter about pastry where Delia told me that there is "a sort of psychology involved" and that I should be "bold and assertive".  So I was very assertive with that flour and that butter as I gently rubbed it in.  I sang a little song to keep myself calm.  I took pauses when I needed to.  I maintained "a confident attitude".  And do you know what?  I MADE A PIE.  Now I know that plenty of other people make pies every day and that this is nothing to write home about but for me, this is a Very Big Deal.  Would you like to see it?
It's not a very glamorous pie, I know that it's very rustic, but I made it all by myself.  We ate it with steamed greens and it was absolutely scrummy.  The Best Beloved had seconds and he and The Mathematician both agreed that the pastry was excellent.  The next time a piece of ham comes my way I shall make it again.  Thanks to Kath and to Delia, a whole new world may be opening up to me...
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x

Friday 9 January 2015

“Soup is the song of the hearth... and the home.”

The title of this post comes from "The Soup Book", written by Louis P. De Gouy in 1949, and it sums up my attitude to soup.  I don't want soup in an elegant restaurant, I don't fancy consomm√© or Jane Austen's famous white soup.  I want soup when it's cold and the wind is howling, or when I'm feeling sad or miserable, or when the rain is battering the window panes, or when my family is gathered around the table, and it has to be home-made, the tinned stuff just doesn't cut it.  This is my go to, easy, everyday lunch soup, made from a recipe I cut out of a magazine over twenty years ago.  It's very simple and easy to make and there are only four ingredients:

for one generous serving

1 small onion, peeled and chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
2oz (56g) red lentils
15 fl oz (425ml) stock (I use vegetable stock powder and boiling water)

The original recipe included a stick of celery but we are not keen on it so I never have it in my fridge.  I don't add salt because there's enough for me in the stock powder, but I might add some ground black pepper after it's done.  You can add herbs or spices if you want to, but I don't bother.  I love the flavours just as they are.  So, put all the ingredients in a saucepan, bring it to the boil, turn down the heat and simmer for 25 minutes.  That's it.  Then I liquidise it, but you don't have to.
This is SO easy.  I always have these ingredients in so I can make it whenever I want to.  In the winter I often make it up every morning while I am getting ready to go out and put it in a flask to take with me for my lunch.  The Mathematician makes up a batch at the beginning of the week and heats up a portion every day.  

If you are cold, it will warm you up.  If you are feeling low, it will comfort you.  If you are feeling rather delicate after over-imbibing the night before, it will revive you.  I often say that it's like eating a bowlful of vitamins, you can feel the goodness in every spoonful.  If you are trying to heat healthily, the only fat, salt, sugar and additives present are in the teaspoonful of stock powder that I use.  If you are counting calories, the recipe says that it's 250, and it makes more than one bowlful so it's enough to fill you up.  If you are frugal, it's very cheap.  It's FABULOUS.
The Best Beloved isn't keen on soup.  The only one he really likes is...Heinz Cream of Tomato!  Grrr.
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x

Tuesday 6 January 2015

A Sunny January Day in Ironbridge


Hello and welcome to Ironbridge.  We love to walk along the pavement by the River Severn here as it flows along the bottom of Ironbridge Gorge and as the sun was shining, we took the camera with us.  Here are the shops, festooned for Christmas, and can you see the cooling towers of the power station?  I know that doesn't sound very picturesque, but the site was sensitively chosen and the towers, built in the 1960s, were built of concrete tinted with a red pigment so they almost look like bottle kilns.  I am fond of them, peeping out from behind the trees around a bend in the river. They are the full stop at the end of the industrial history of this area, which is often referred to as the cradle of the industrial revolution. 


The village didn't exist when the first iron bridge in the world was built here in 1779 and as the crossing over the river became popular, the settlement grew.  The buildings along the riverside are a mixture of little shops, restaurants and cafes, offices and houses.  Every now and then you come across something like this, right by the pavement -
These are lime kilns, built in the mid-eighteenth century and used here for about a hundred years.  The buildings here fascinate me, showing signs of their previous lives.  Look at the "doors" on this pub -
This gift shop is charming -

 and behind it a path leads up to houses, this one being a very nice guest house -

Behind these buildings, houses cling to this side of the gorge, above and below St Luke's Church -
We strolled down a path which took us behind the restaurants and houses to the river itself, where we found this old shed -
Eustace Rogers died in 2003, aged 88, and was known as the last coracle maker on the River Severn, something of a local celebrity.  His father and grandfather before him made coracles here.  There is a coracle regatta here every August so you would have thought that Ironbridge would be keen to preserve this historical hut, especially as the area trades on its industrial heritage, but it seems not.  Just behind the shed in the first photo you can see the Iron Bridge itself.  Fancy a better look?

My favourite bridge in the world, for obvious reasons, opened on New Year's Day 1781 and closed to traffic in 1934, although it is open to pedestrians.  I was annoyed that the sun couldn't climb a bit higher here and clear the sides of the gorge.  I am always a bit nervous about being beside the River Severn here: it flows fast and the currents are strong, it doesn't feel at all friendly and I am full of admiration for the bravery of the kayakers we sometimes see here.
We had a lovely leisurely morning here, walking along the streets, lingering on the bridge to drink in the views, looking at the buildings and browsing in the shop windows.  Other than the £2.80 we paid for the car park, it was a free outing UNTIL we got to Eley's of Ironbridge, famous for its hand-raised pork pies for more than fifty years.  You can even order a pork pie wedding cake (prices start at £90 for two tiers)!  Well, it would be rude not to patronise an independent business, wouldn't it?  And no, we didn't order a wedding cake. 

We are getting back into the swing of things here now, the Best Beloved is back at work and The Mathematician has gone back to university.  The Christmas decorations have been packed away and I am feeling a little forlorn.  Still, there are some birthdays to look forward to soon around here...Take care.

Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle

Friday 2 January 2015

A Lost Season

Hello and thank you for being so patient.  I have been a bit rubbish, haven't I?  I suppose I was over-ambitious beginning a blog in December, there would be so much to write about and share, but I was completely overtaken by events and there was no time.  Lesson learned: next December I shall be better prepared.

So what has happened to the season of Advent?  I LOVE Advent, the countdown, the increasing sense of expectation and excitement.  I always have an advent calendar, not a chocolate one but an old-fashioned one with pictures behind the doors and lots of glitter.  It's not that I don't like chocolate, but that I do love those pictures and the plastic tray in the chocolate ones obscures them.  I like to have an advent candle, too.  But this year I decided that I couldn't justify the expense and thought I would do without.  I didn't realise how miserable that would make me!  So on 6th December when I saw advent calendars and candles reduced to half price, I bought one of each and harmony was restored.  Missing out on the first five days didn't matter as I saved £3.50 and every penny counts round here.

So, what HAS happened to the season of Advent?  I thought it was the time to prepare for the celebration of Christmas, mentally and physically, but while I was preparing and reflecting everyone else seemed to be out there celebrating already.  A friend commented that she had never known so many people to put their Christmas trees up at the beginning of December (we put ours up the weekend before Christmas).  Then when Christmas came I was ready to party for the full twelve days and as soon as Boxing Day was over, everyone else was taking down their decorations!  And although I really do enjoy those lazy, quiet days between Christmas and New Year, I still want to celebrate and kick up my heels a bit in the evenings.  So in this house, the decorations are still up and we are still watching Disney films and singing along with Michael Buble.

Of course, there is plenty of reading going on.  Mr March has come home to his wife and daughters and the whole family is together again, celebrating Christmas.  I enjoyed revisiting Little Women and, as I remembered, I am Jo, or at least, my younger self was Jo, but I had forgotten what a religious little book it is.  I have moved on to Good Wives now, Meg has married John Brooke and had the twins and Oh Dear!  I know what's coming. 

I'll report back soon.  In the meantime, have a good weekend and continue to celebrate Christmas - the twelfth day is 5th January so my decorations will be up for at least another three days.  Technically, tradition says that they can be left up until 1st February and then taken down for Candlemas, but although I would like that, the Best Beloved has put his foot down so I need to make the most of them before Tuesday.

Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x