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Week 13: Sweet potato gratin

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I decided to do this recipe after finding the remaining sweet potatoes from a pack I'd bought a couple of weeks ago. After assembling the gratin and putting it in the oven, I found one lonely sweet potato on the kitchen floor. It must have fallen out of the bag without me noticing. So I still have one sweet potato which needs eating.

Take two sweet potatoes and two small onions. Slice them and fry for a few minutes. Add some stock and boil until all the stock has evaporated and the slices have started to soften. Grate 100g of cheese.

Meanwhile a small amount of thick cheese sauce, using flour to thicken the milk and a small amount of the grated cheese.

Put half of the slices in the bottom of an oven proof bowl. Sprinkle half of the cheese and then add the rest of the slices. Pour over the cheese sauce and top with the remaining cheese.

Cook at gas mark 6 for 25 minutes until the cheese has melted and the sauce is bubbling. Serves 2 as a side dish.

Dunham Massey

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Hardwick Hall

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Some photos from Hardwick Hall, including the nearby Stainsby Mill. The National Trust seem to have relaxed their rules on taking photographs inside some properties. Previously it was banned in most of their houses but at Harwick it was allowed but the use of flash was banned.


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Bolsover Castle

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Week 12: Refried bean Pakcakes

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This weeks recipe was another 'quick cheat' meal, based on packet food. The pancakes were made using a spicy batter mix bought from Morrisons. The pancakes didn't hold together very well, possibly due to the chilli and herbs in the batter, but they tasted good and were surprisingly fiery.

The filling contained a tin of refried beans mixed with chopped and fried veg (onions, peppers, garlic) and sliced chicken.

It was quick and simple but full of flavour. The main downside is the appearance - the refried bean/vegetable/chicken mixture was an unappetising brown colour.


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Sabai-Sabai is a Thai restaurant in Leamington Spa. The food was good but a little on the expensive side. When we saw the deep fried ice cream on the dessert menu, we knew we had to try it otherwise we would be forever wondering what it was like.

The ice cream was encased in a thick doughnut style batter and covered in a kind of crispy breadcrumb. The ice cream inside was still quite frozen. It was unusual but definitely worth trying. The photo below was taken shortly after we'd started eating. The yellow ice cream inside make it look a bit like a scotch egg.

Deep Fried Ice Cream

Ne're cast a clout til May's out

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It looks like I picked the wrong day to turn down the central heating. The colder-than-normal winter meant we had the heating on for longer but after the recent warm weather, I decided to turn the heating down.

Almost as soon as I did, the weather turned colder and wetter. I'm sure the same thing happened the last time I tried to turn the heating down.

Week 11: Chicken roasted in hay

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This week's recipe was inspired by a lamb cooked in hay recipe I saw on Come Dine With Me on Channel 4.

I put a layer of hay in the bottom of a roasting tray and added a few sprigs of rosemary. I loosely wrapped the chicken legs in greaseproof paper and put them in the tray, then covered with more hay.

The first attempt at cooking it in the oven was a bit scary. There was a bit of a burning smell and when I opened the oven to check, one of the sprigs of rosemary was hanging over the edge of the tray and had started to singe. I didn't have any foil to cover the tray but I did have a second tray which I put upside down on top of the first. I then felt it was safe to put back in the oven.

The cooking instructions for the chicken legs suggested 30-35 minutes at gas mark 7. After 40 minutes I checked the chicken but it was still raw. I hadn't accounted for the insulating nature of the hay. I removed the chicken from the hay and let it finish cooking 'au naturel' for a further 30 minutes.

The end result was ok but it didn't pick up much flavour from the hay or herbs. I guess if I try it again, I would let it cook for longer.

Chilli Sauce revisited

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A few weeks ago I mentioned my attempt at making chilli sauce. We had a turkey curry tonight so in addition to a heaped teaspoon of curry powder, I added half a teaspoon of the chilli sauce.

The sauce had separated a bit so I gave it a good stir first. It was quite spicy but seemed to add heat rather than flavour to the curry.

I intend to plant more chilli seeds soon. If I get a good harvest then I might try making the sauce again but this time use my home grown chillies.

Week 10: Quinoa and Butternut Squash recipes

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This week we tried two different butternut squash and quinoa recipes. The first was a variant on a standard butternut squash risotto:

Ingredients (per person):

  • 50g Quinoa, rinsed.

  • 1 clove of garlic

  • ½ onion.

  • ½ courgette.

  • 100g butternut squash.

  • 1 tbs cream cheese.

Chop and fry the vegetables. Add the quinoa and boiling water or stock. Simmer gently for 15 minutes. When the quinoa is soft, stir in the cream cheese.

The second recipe came from the BBC Good Food website.

I followed their recipe fairly closely - the only changes were: I fried the squash for a few minutes before adding the spices, and I used passata instead of tinned tomatoes. Oh and I threw in some cooked mince which I had in the fridge. I left out the coriander - I'm not a big fan because I find it sometimes leaves a bit of a strong aftertaste.


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A couple of weeks ago I started planting some seeds in pots. I sterilised some of the home-made compost first. I filled some foil trays (the sort used for oven-ready meals) with compost, covered the trays with foil and 'cooked' them in the oven for ½-1 hour at gas mark 1. I left the compost to cool before putting it into pots. I don't want the same problem I had last year when the compost must have been contaminated with 'weed' seeds.

The pepper plants started to germinate after a week or so. Some of the salad veg which I planted on sunday have started to germinate already. Looking back at last year, by mid-march I had planted chilli, herbs and tomatoes. I must remember to sterilise more compost at the weekend and get the tomatoes started.

Coventry Beer Festival

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The Coventry Beer Festival started last night but we didn't go until the saturday afternoon session. We were a bit disappointed to find that some of the beers had sold out already, such as the elderflower beer, which we would have been interested in trying.

The range of beers was impressive, especially when we realised that we hadn't seem many of them before. A lot of previous beer festivals have had a lot of beers in common but this year the selection of new beers was impressive.

There was also a good selection of ciders and perries and also fruit wines. We finished off with a glass of the sloe wine and the rosehip wine.

Week 9: Chicken with vegetable curry sauce

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Normally when I make a curry, I usually fry the meat and vegetables and add the curry spices. I then add stock and sometimes tomato puree to make the sauce. Tonight I made a slight variation on the above recipe:

  • Dice and fry the vegetables (eg. onion, pepper, courgette, leek, garlic)

  • Remove half the veg. Place in a food processor with a splash of stock and mix to a smooth purée.

  • Add the meat to the pan and fry for a few minutes.

  • Add the curry spices and cook for a few more minutes before stirring in the puréed vegetables and some tomato purée.

  • Simmer until the meat is tender.

  • Serve with rice or naan bread.

The flavour and texture of the sauce was much better than our usual curries. It was similar to a Dopiaza recipe where half of the onion is puréed and the other half is chopped and fried with the meat.