Monday, 26 August 2013

Almost vegetarian mixed bean chilli recipe

When I served up this chilli last night, Dave's first reaction was to call it a sneaky trick because it didn't contain any meat. He did admit that it tasted good though so hopefully I'll get to make it again sometime! I found the original recipe here on allrecipes.co.uk and amended it slightly to make two portions. In reality, this ended up being three portions though so the freezer got one as well.

Ingredients:
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 a large onion, diced
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 red pepper, diced 
2 tsp ground coriander 
1 tsp chilli powder 
2 tbsp tomato puree 
2 tsp ground cumin 
1/2 tsp paprika 
1x 400g can chopped tomatoes 
1x 400g can mixed beans 
250ml stock 
1 bay leaf 
salt to taste

Heat the oil in a large saucepan.

Fry the onion, garlic, red pepper, coriander and chilli powder until the vegetables are soft, stirring occasionally.

Stir in the tomato puree, cumin and paprika, and heat through.

Add the tomatoes, beans, stock and bay leaf. This step is why my chilli was only 'almost vegetarian'. I used a beef stock cube but the original recipe lists vegetable stock.

Bring to the boil then reduce the heat, cover and simmer gently for 30 minutes. Season with salt. It was a bit too runny at this point for our taste so I then kept the pot on a low simmer but uncovered for a further 30 minutes to thicken the sauce.

I served our chilli with steamed basmati rice. If I was serving this regularly and wanted to ring the changes, I could add minced meat but I think I would probably choose bacon bits or chopped smoked sausage instead. Smoked paprika would add a lovely flavour too but we only had regular.

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Foraging for food in the garden


Fruit growing has been disappointing for us this year. The apple tree has precisely three apples on it, the crab apple tree hasn't fared much better, the pear tree only has around half a dozen pears and there's not more than a couple of dozen plums. We ate plums ad nauseam last year! The strawberry patch did manage to give a respectable haul during its month of glory, but the rhubarb, while tasty, gave up far earlier than usual.

However, there's an area of wild brambles across the end of the garden and the first blackberries are just ripe so we've picked a couple of handfuls to add some nice colour to a blackberry and apple crumble. We nipped out this morning, taking advantage of a patch of blue sky in case it decides to rain again all afternoon. It IS a Bank Holiday weekend after all! I can't believe it was May when I last made crumble. This one will be similarly made to the rhubarb and apple crumble recipe I already posted. There's lots more blackberries on their way too which is good to see. It's just a shame that so many of them will be dangerously out of reach but the birds will get to enjoy those.

We also have a fantastic potential harvest of grapes on the vine we planted I think about five years ago now. The vine was originally in a pot but it got very upset by our cold, damp winters. It remained stubbornly tiny and eventually looked as thought it had given up altogether. But we gave it one more chance and re-planted it directly in the ground and now look at it! If it wasn't such a long process, I would be tempted to consider making our own wine. 

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Other new caravan toys we tried out this weekend

The cutest little travel kettle jumped into my trolley at +Sainsbury's last week. It was just over £20 so not particularly cheap but looked perfect for Bailey! We tried it out this weekend just gone and it is much better than the full-size one we had taken to Bosham. It hardly takes up any room and boils exactly enough water for two mugs of coffee. However, the automatic cut-out when it's boiling doesn't work so whoever is brewing up needs to stay close at hand.

We also took our Kindle which I tried out for the first time. Dave's already read Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn which he says is very good and he likes that the Kindle is bright enough to read outside when it's getting dark. I've resisted getting one for ages because I love actual books, but a few titles I've wanted to read recently that are only available in this format so I've been persuaded and we went halves! I downloaded an Eastbourne-based thriller, Devil's Chimney by Tin Larrick which I'm about half-way though at the time of writing. I'll review it on Theatrical Eastbourne soon.

Not so much a new toy as a new way of cooking because I tried out pasta in the caravan microwave for the first time. We conscious that Bailey only has a limited gas supply and the supplied cylinders are UK specific. If we were only ever going away for a week or so, or were staying in the UK, this probably would never be a problem, but as we're planning an extended jaunt in Europe, replenishing the gas supply is going to be an issue. One way of delaying the inevitable, especially as we'll nearly always be paying for an electric hookup anyway, is to use the microwave a lot more than we do at home. I tried out both pasta and rice at home. 6oz of pasta penne needed 680ml water and took 8 mins on full with 5 mins standing to be perfect. It wasn't quite cooked after this in the caravan so I think next time '7 mins full, 5 mins standing, 2 mins full' will do the trick. It's boiling over at around 8 mins so just going for 9 mins straight isn't really an option.

My final new toy that I didn't start using is a posh moleskine journal courtesy of Glenfiddich Explorers. I signed up for their mailing list ages ago in the hope of winning one of the 500 they were giving away, but then totally forgot about it. The unexpected parcel arrived in the same week as I had finally confirmed to work that I wanted to take a sabbatical break. It is such a big decision that I was feeling quite nervous and wondering if we had made the right decision. Seeing your own job advertised is a weird experience! But then the blank journal arrived, ready to record our adventure and I took this as a sign that the fates were with us and we'd made the right decision. (Superstitious? me?) Perhaps there'll be a book in it by the time we get back!

Monday, 19 August 2013

Back to Golden Cross to try out a porch awning

Our new awning - Panama Weekender by Towsure 
So as you have probably guessed from the photo, our indecision about the best porch awning has been resolved and this is the one with which we ended up. We bought from Riversway Leisure and chose their 260 model but I am very glad that we chose to buy through +eBay because getting them to send a complete awning turned into a bit of a nightmare. I'm not planning to ever buy from them again! In the end, we have got a Panama Weekender 260 made by +Towsure 

We went back to Golden Cross, to the site of our first caravan stay, this time to stay for three nights making a long weekend of it. The Old Mill site was much busier this time with all eight touring pitches occupied but it was still peaceful. We saw a few planes on their way to Airborne and took advantage of the proximity to have a lovely roast lamb lunch at the Golden Cross Inn

Back to the awning! Initially a disappointing purchase due to poor customer service - advertised 24 hour delivery took three days, then incomplete item sent so further delivery required - so we were somewhat apprehensive about putting up the awning wondering what else would go wrong. However, it was pretty straightforward and we managed to get everything done in about half an hour which we were pleased with for a first attempt. The printed instructions are not good - for example 4 guy ropes are mentioned when the awning has 6 - so we applied our knowledge of putting up tents instead. One of the bendy poles 'bit' Dave requiring a swift first aid break, otherwise all good. In order to have easy clearance to open the door, one awning pole stands just behind the red light towards the front of Bailey and the other is half-way across the 'bedroom' window. This does mean that two windows cannot be opened while the awning is up, although they still admit plenty of light, but there are another three windows, two skylights and the door so we didn't miss any ventilation! 

The awning is easily big enough for two sun loungers and we also cooked out there with a camping stove on a table. Both the front panels and both side doors open up to give a gazebo effect, or any can be closed to provide wind breaks. There are four windows with blinds for shade or privacy and both the doors can be just fly screens. Negatives are that we're not yet sure about the pale top because this might not provide shade in sunnier climes and the stays on the guy ropes are weak. One already snapped during the first night so we swapped it with its unused neighbour and I'll probably replace all the ropes with the sturdier ones from our old tent in time. Overall though, the awning does what we wanted it too, it feels larger inside than we expected and we're very pleased with it.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Two inspirational biographies that everyone should hear (or read)

Since the fantastic Neverwhere which I blogged about several weeks ago, I've listened to several other audiobooks, some of which were good and two of which were particularly memorable. The two brilliant ones have similarities in that they are both autobiographies of strong women, both from East Africa, and both tremendously inspirational. However, the women have endured very different lives.

Slave by Mende Nazer with Damian Lewis, read by Adjoa Andoh, tells of her childhood in Sudan, a mostly idyllic life until, aged twelve, she was torn from her family in the middle of the night by Arab raiders who kidnapped many children to sell them into slavery. Mende was sent to a wealthy household in Khartoum where she was subject to cruelty, psychological abuse and regular beatings. This is a recent story which makes it all the more shocking. Mende was twelve in 1993 but managed to retain enough hope and courage to make her dramatic escape to a semblance of freedom in London seven years later.

Keeping Hope Alive by Dr Hawa Abdi with Sarah Robbins, read by Robin Miles, is the life story of a Somalian woman of amazing determination, strength of mind and self-belief. Dr Hawa Abdi managed to go  to Ukraine to train as her country's first female doctor. Returning to her beloved Somalia as soon as she qualified, she stood against traditional misogyny to found a clinic for women which became a hospital and, as civil war swept through Somalia, a home for up to 90,000 displaced people. Her story is an almost unbelievable struggle to keep her hospital, her refugee camp and her own family safe through decades of civil war in Somalia. I loved this book!

If you like similar books to the ones I read, please feel welcome to swap follows on Shelfari. I keep a record of all the books I read there and am always on the lookout for new recommendations! 

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Balsamic salmon recipe with new potatoes and cherry tomatoes

I thought I must have already blogged this recipe as it's a favourite summer meal of ours, but I was surprised to see that I haven't! It's really easy to cook, takes less than an hour and all goes in one dish which can be brought to the table to serve if you are entertaining. The original idea came from the +goodtoknow website a few years ago and I've adapted it since. The ingredients below serve two people

Ingredients:
2 tbsp olive oil
10 pieces new potato
1 tsp dried basil or mixed herbs
2 salmon fillets
12 cherry tomatoes
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

Preheat the oven to 190C.

Put 1 tbsp of the olive oil into a baking dish that is large enough for all the ingredients. Roll the potato pieces in the oil to thoroughly coat them and sprinkle with the 1 tsp dried herbs. Put the herby potatoes into the oven for 30 minutes.

Remove the dish from the oven and nestle the salmon fillets in the centre. You might need to move some of the potatoes to the edges. Put the tomatoes in the dish as well and drizzle the remaining tbsp of oil and the tbsp of balsamic vinegar over the salmon. Return the dish to the oven for 15 minutes or until the salmon is cooked through but not overcooked.

Serve immediately.

Any dried herbs will probably work well with this dish. I like dill or basil with salmon, and parsley goes nicely with the tomatoes. I haven't tried coriander yet but that might be nice too - experiment with whatever you've got in the cupboard. 
You can serve the meal with a green vegetable or a leafy salad. I like green beans or asparagus, but think that peas don't work as well. Not sure why.


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Friday, 2 August 2013

Indecision on porch awnings

Riversway 260
We've been thinking about getting a nice porch awning for Bailey. Not a full-size one because of the weight and, to a degree, the price. This caravanning as a cheap holiday alternative doesn't seem to take into account the sheer variety of shiny accessories out there and I have magpie tendencies!

Dave has been researching awnings online and we've been keeping an eye on +eBay. To be honest though, once the auctions get to their closing time, the difference in price between a second-hand and a new awning is so minimal that it's not worth the potential hassle so we'll probably buy new.

Rotonde 300
Originally we liked the look of the Riversway 260 (£119) but a couple of days ago I spotted a new arrival in the market, the +SunnCamp Rotonde 300 (£129). We think its octagonal shape will give us a little more usable space than the Riversway. The curves of the Riversway might be more in keeping with those of Bailey though. The Rotonde is fractionally bigger at 300cm across the back compared to the 260cm Riversway but this should fit fine. We measured up for 260 and I'm pretty sure the extra 40cm won't be a problem but Dave's going to pop up to Bailey and measure again - just to be sure!

It would be nice to hear from anyone who's already using either of these, especially if you've put your awning on a Bailey Orion!


Thursday, 1 August 2013

Honey mustard glazed gammon recipe

We don't usually eat gammon but were recently kindly given two joints so I tried out a couple of ideas. The first time, I glazed it with hoisin sauce which gave a nice tang but did make it very salty. Also, the first piece was kept whole with glaze just over the top so most of the meat didn't have the added flavour. The second piece got a honey mustard glaze instead and I glazed each slice. No oversalty taste and sweet glaze flavour in every bite - much better! 

Ingredients
800g gammon joint
2tbsp honey
1tsp English mustard

Cook gammon according to pack instructions. I had an 800g piece which I baked in a lidded pyrex dish at 190C for (ten minutes over) 1 ½ hours (yes, I forgot it was in the oven!).

Leave gammon to cool. I then refrigerated ours overnight. You could continue without this stage if you wanted to eat the gammon the same day, but it’s easier to slice when it’s cold.

Preheat oven to 190C.

Mix 2tbsp runny honey with 1tsp English Mustard to make a glaze. I used +Sainsbury's own-brand honey and Colman's English mustard.

Cut gammon into 1cm thick slices. Lay the first slice at one end of a shallow and brush with honey-mustard mixture. Lay a second slice partly over the first and brush visible surfaces with honey-mustard. Continue until all slices are in the dish and coated. I ended up with seven neat slices and a couple of smaller odd-shaped bits.

Bake for about 20 minutes until gammon is piping hot and there is still some glaze liquid in the dish. Serve immediately, trickling any remaining glaze over the gammon slices.

The accompanying photo is what we had left over because I couldn’t wait to take a picture of my plate before eating! I served the gammon with new potatoes fresh from our garden and with peas. The remaining glazed slices were excellent cold, cut into small cubes and mixed into my lunchbox salad.