Sunday, 30 October 2011

After the last rather long winded entry, I have more to add.

As I said before, Yvonne has not been well, it’s a long story but I hope we are coming to the end of it, we managed to go to see Blakemore’s Night at Salisbury last month, as we both like the music, I first saw Ritchie Blackmore in 1972 when he was in Deep Purple, that made me feel old, as he looked just the same. (Mind you I was right at the back and wearing my varifocals this time) It was a fantastic evening and I hope it all helped.

Also we started a new variation of meals on wheels, which we call meals on foot, after our local Indian takeaway had driver problems, so they had to walk around to deliver our meal. But it was delicious.

Now on to the food, these items are also on the Down to Earth Forum, which I would recommend for all serious downsizers.

Two dishes today, firstly and in no particular order, the dessert.

I had some short-crust pastry left over from another project

Line a sandwich tin with foil and roll out the pastry, push into the lined tin and trim.

Spread a layer of peanut butter over the pastry.

Add a layer of Chocolate Spread, and some chunks of Chocolate.

Bake at 180 degrees for about 20 minutes.

Let it cool and top with fresh Raspberries.

Next the soup

Its soup time again, I do love this time of year, warm and cosy with a good bowl of home-made soup, and a hunk of bread.

And as it’s the end of the month, there are lots of good things lying around to make a nice soup, bits and pieces in cupboards and the refrigerator.

Here’s what we are having today. Chorizo and Vegetable Soup

I boiled potatoes for roasting, but did a few extra. When they were soft I mashed them into the water, to make a paste.

Meanwhile I fried up the half Chorizo left from last week, together with chopped peppers, onion and garlic.

When these are starting to brown add some sweet paprika, then stir into the potato mixture. Add a veg stock cube and season.

Warm through and serve with bread (This is Tomato and Garlic Focaccia)

Stop Press, Naomi and Eamon have announced their engagement, many congratulations to them; I’ll leave you with a mugshot.

One Year On

When I started this blog, the reasons were twofold, firstly to document my downsizing experience and secondly to practice my creative writing, as I had started a course but was struggling. I read in a magazine that the best way to get into the habit of writing was to keep a blog, or write a journal. Well a journal is Ok but my handwriting is pretty bad (I should have been a Doctor it’s that bad) and although my life is not that interesting I think its worth more than a notebook that no-one else will read, and that I’d have to type out if I wanted to do anything with anyway


However what has happened is that all I blog about is food related, and there is very little about downsizing, or my life in Devon. And even less about creative writing.

So as I have been properly downsized for a year, its time to re-vamp the blog and try to steer it back to its original aim.

Firstly I guess a bit of History is in order.

Ever since I moved away from Devon, when I was 13, I wanted to go back, all through my working life, fortunately my wife is crazy about the place as well, and we have often gone to Totnes for the day (500 mile round trip) people think we are mad, but it draws us, and after saying that we will retire down there it always seemed like a distant dream. Well in September 2009 with the slow down in work, my boss asked if anyone was interested in part time working, and as a couple of people had already job shared of course I was interested. So we sat down and worked it out, our children had all left and we were rattling around in a huge house, with a huge garden, working like crazy to pay the bills. A little calculation showed that job share wages could pay everything if we didn't have a mortgage, and the way the shifts worked meant an average of three duties a month, so we could live in Devon and I could commute. Now all we had to do was sell the house and find a retreat in the country.

The house went on the market, and initially the response was good, we had decided that it would be easier to sell and rent over winter in Devon, then buy in spring without the burden of a chain and all its possibilities. Unfortunately the market had other ideas, although we quickly got a buyer, they couldn’t sell and time dragged on, finally they gave up and we were on our own. In the meantime I had been looking for work, as a backup in case job share was off the agenda, driving up and down for interviews and keeping an eye on the houses for sale in Brixham, our preferred location.

Then it all seemed to happen at once, I went for an interview, and got some house details, unfortunately the job wasn't suitable but one house caught our eyes. The next weekend we had an offer on our house, which we accepted, and in a 4 O’clock dash, went to Devon, arrived at half past 8, saw the house at 10, fell in love with it, made an offer and came home.

My boss agreed to me job sharing from October and everyone wanted to move in June, now the fun started. They say that moving house is one of the most stressful things you can do, and in the 17 years that we lived here we had forgotten just how right that was, there seems to be nothing that is straightforward, and I honestly don’t know how some businesses carry on, considering the approach that they have to doing business, its easy to forget that the original intention was to have a simpler life.

We exchanged contracts on May25th, with a moving date of June 10th, and started the most stressful two weeks ever. In the middle of it all, my wife and daughter were involved in a car crash, which, while my wife was not seriously injured, left me with a fair amount to do single handed.

My Wife walked away from this, Naomi was cut out.

So that’s why we are here, but since arriving, I had to work my full time notice, which meant renting a room in Gravesend for three months, a bit inconvenient, and I had to leave Yvonne here, but we survived.

So back to the title, One year on we are getting sorted out, we have had the usual new house issues, new garage roof, floods and various other dramas but order is slowly emerging, all the children have been down to stay, some more than others, Georgina has been back from Oz but is now back at Barkley, en route to New Zealand, Naomi is still recovering from her accident but looking more promising for a return to work (Midwife) and Amy-Rose is now Mrs Wright, and still jet-setting in her job in Oncology treatment.

Its been a successful year in the garden, Yvonne does all the Flower gardening, and has managed to put her mark on what was a very individual garden, so much so that, when the previous owner came to visit neighbours, she said that what Yvonne had done had “Given her ideas”.

Veg wise, I managed to grow Potatoes (in Bags), Broad and Runner Beans, Peas, Rhubarb, Tomatoes and various soft fruits. I also planted 6 fruit trees for the future.

I’ve made Wine, Rhubarb, Blackberry, Elderflower, Pea Pod and Rose Petal, and loads of Jams, Jellies and cordials. Also various liqueurs and flavoured vinegar.

It has never ceased to amaze me just how bountiful nature has been since I decided to embrace a more downsized and simpler life, I guess that it was all around me from the start, but until I actually got the motivation and the time, I had not got the benefit of it all. So now I must make up for lost time.

I’m taking the plunge in the New Year, and attending a “Posh and Exotic” Bread making Course, after a lot of angst and worry I’ve decided to have a go, the subjects include Peanut Butter Bread and Beetroot Plaits? It sounds more exciting than my Chocolate Loaf or Cheese and Chorizo rolls.

Of course no blog would be complete without the food entry; just Jason’s Mackerel this time, filleted and baked for 20 minutes with Oil and Herbs. Served with Broccoli and Potatoes.


Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Toad in the Hole


Firstly why? It’s sausages in batter, what’s the resemblance? Who cares? Our old neighbours used to call it sausage toad, well at least the sausages get a mention, so does batter equal toad?  And do Australians still call sausages “Snags”? Too many questions, I'll be asking "Why are we here" next!

Anyway cutting to the chase, as part of a buy-2-get-1-free offer at the butchers, I acquired 6 beef sausages, just perfect for this recipe.

First you need a batter, take 1 cup plain flour, 1 cup milk and 4 whole eggs. Whisk into a batter adding a little salt and pepper. Leave to stand. (Any lumps will float up and can be broken down)

Peel 4 medium potatoes and cut into chunks, boil for about 10 minutes and put into a baking dish with some peeled shallots

Add some beef stock to the potato water, and thicken with cornflour.

 A by product of the potatoes are the peelings. Fry in hot oil to make chips to garnish your lunchtime sandwich.

We still have glorious weather here in Devon, although it’s a bit colder overnight, we managed to get to the beach yesterday and had lunch sitting on the sea wall in Paignton.

Yvonne’s been looking out for some stone Gargoyles to guard the front door, the ones we had seen were expensive and had unsuitable expressions, but we found these two in a pound shop

Whilst I was preparing the toad, I made a Sour Rye loaf and some Focaccia

We were eating at 5, so at 4 I started by browning the sausages in a pan for 10 minutes. At the same time I put the oven on to warm up to 200 degrees, with an oiled deep baking dish on the middle shelf. I also put the potatoes and shallots in.

When the oven was up to temperature I transferred the sausages to the dish and poured the batter mix over, stirring it first. Keep the oven door shut for 20 minutes at this point, to give the batter time to rise and set. Meanwhile cook the veggies and warm the gravy.

After 20 minutes, you can open the oven and turn the potatoes, check the batter is not burning and that the bottom has cooked, I decided to give it all an extra 5 minutes, but its very oven dependant, we happen to like very crisp pudding.

When you’re happy, plate up.

There was a bit of batter left, a treat for Norma’s Chickens. The sausages will make a good sandwich tomorrow.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Not quite Millionaires Shortbread.

I went over to our local shop for supplies this morning and found chocolate  at half price, Cadburys Dairy Milk since you asked. I needed some for Naomi (post operation recovery prescription), so had? to get two 230g bars. This gave me an idea so I also brought a packet of digestive biscuits and a small bar of White Chocolate.

Heres my take on the titular cake bar.

Line a 7 inch square tin with foil and set up a bain-marie to melt the chocolate.

Reduce about 250g of biscuits to crumbs and add butter, mixing until you get a paste (about 200g).

Press this paste evenly into the foiled tray.

Spread the paste thinly with jam

Break half of the white chocolate bar into small chips and scatter over the jam. Put the rest into the melting chocolate.

When the chocolate has melted pour over the cake and spread well..

Put into the fridge to set, about 90 minutes.

When the chocolate has set, cut into squares and enjoy.     

Sunday, 2 October 2011

It's been a while since I posted, and the reason: there has been a lot going on, my wife is struggling with illness and obviously, this comes before anything else. Hopefully things will improve over the next few weeks, and when I can I will return to blogging.