Monday 31 January 2011

Wasabi Slaw (Reprise)

Back when I had a blog that was called Lost Causes, there was a post about my addiction to coleslaw which made an appearance at the beginning of February 2008. I think it is time it made a come back. The first of February is, in my head at least, always the First of Spring. All the leaves have fallen from the trees, the snowdrops are out, it is my big brother Stephen's birthday and soon there will be lambs gamboling in the fields. The sun is shining at the end of the garden in Shipton today, and it feels quite warm if you stand in it. If you move into the shade by even an inch though, you freeze! Anyhow, this recipe makes me happy :) I like to make it when I have friends over and we can have lunch and a glass of wine. If you hang on until the 3rd February you could go a bit wild with the wasabi and get a bit of fire in your throat in honour of St. Blaise. (The blessing of the throats, traditional to 3rd February, always strikes me as a trust excersize. There are really very few people I would let anywhere near me with lit, crossed candles! ). Here is the post as it was on Lost Causes, back in the days of living in Bedford with Gemma :) 

This a new, but I think very addictive version of 'not quite junk food'. Gemma and I have long been fans of the coleslaw combo - coleslaw on toast, chips, roasties, baked potato, etc. However this has taken our 'slaw junkie habit' to a new, and if I may say so, dizzying height.
110g Red Cabbage 
110g White Cabbage
1 Carrot
3 Spring Onions
150g Mayonnaise
1tbsp Wasabi Paste
3tsp Maggi Vegetable Seasoning
Plenty of Salt and Black Pepper
Finely chop the cabbages, carrot and spring onions and mix them with the mayonnaise, wasabi and Maggi. Season with salt and pepper.
Truly, this is both addictive and divine. Wasabi has a taste that if fiery and morish - its wills you to eat more. If you have not come across Maggi before, it is time you found a home in you cupboard for this winner of an ingredient. You can use it in everything, and on everything - including cheese on toast!
We served our yummy concoction with salad, dressed with rapeseed oil and home made chips. If you need instructions to make chips, here they are: Get a big potato - chop into fat chip shape. Heat vegetable oil till it is very hot and then put the chipped potato in it till it goes brown. Do not burn yourself, or set the house on fire.

Saturday 29 January 2011

Inspirational Educators

Three saints this month caught my attention. That is not to say there was not a wealth of excellent folks from which to choose to take inspiration, but that my mind was focused on a particular theme. It won't surprise you to know that the theme was education and teaching. I can't help it. Anyhow, the inspirational folks and the food. Let's talk about those. Inspirational folks first, food later. The recipe for the brownies is below this post - scroll down if you must :)

First, the inspirational earthly saints I am actually living with, and for whom I made these brownies. I am lucky enough to have landed accommodation in central Oxford for a few weeks while I complete a temporary teaching post. It is thanks to the generosity of the RSCJ (Sacred Heart) sisters that I have a home close to my work and a beautiful kitchen to cook in. I am learning from those I live with, and so they must be recognized as my primary teachers. People you live with always are; and although who those people are changes (in my case quite often),  I always remember things that happened when I was living with so and so or X. At the moment, two of my housemates are ex-teachers, and philosophies of education infuse the building. I made what follows for the birthday of the good RSCJ friend who thought up the plan to let me stay for a while. So, to her, thanks :). The sisters have also been enthusiastic   about thinking up good food for saints - although they are mischievous. If I had more time on my hands there may well have been a recipe for roast pork for the Conversion of St. Paul!

Next, the heavenly saints who appeared this month and taught me something about teaching.

Angela Merici - 27th January - a hero for women this one. Angela looked around her hometown and saw that girls got no education and therefore, could have no hope of improving their lives from the poverty they were born in to. She knew this was wrong. In the 1500's women were not allowed to teach, and unmarried women were not supposed to go out alone, even to do good works. Nuns were the best educated women, but they were not allowed out of their cloisters. Angela recognised that things needed to change. She brought together a group of unmarried women, Franciscan tertiaries like herself and other friends. They went out into the street, gathered together the girls they met and began to teach them. These women had little money, no power and no social status, but they changed the status quo. Although Angela's Company of St. Ursula was never a formal religious order in her lifetime, the Ursuline Sisters later established themselves as the first order of religious sisters dedicated to the education of women. In Angela's time the thought of educating women was 'radical', her recognition that this was wrong began to change that. So, thanks to her.

Thomas Aquinas - 28th January - If I neglected to mention this chap as a great teacher there would be trouble. After all, the whole point of the Summa Theologica is that it is a textbook - a practical teaching document. However, it is not for all his intelligent, inspired, incisive and, lets face it, lengthy thought that I really love Thomas Aquinas. I really love Thomas because his teacher called him 'a dumb ox'. His teacher was wrong. That is a valuable lesson for all educators. You never know what the students in front of you are capable of. Also, Rosamundi notes Thomas' sage advice that 'sorrow can be alleivated by a good sleep, a bath and a glass of wine'. I tried to find out where the good Doctor wrote that, but I can't. You have to admit though, it is good. And after a long day at work, when nothing seems to have gone quite right, it is genius. 

John Bosco - 31st January - a man full of acrobatic tricks and skilled at juggling who used his talents to catch the attention of street urchins. John Bosco, who founded the Salesians, has got to be my Patron Saint of 'whatever you have to teach, for God's sake, make it interesting!' John  Bosco could do magic tricks, he was a musician and a skilled entertainer. He could keep the attention of his audience - draw them in -and once he had them hooked, teach them! An account of his life can be found here. He is great. He believed education was a 'matter of the heart', and said that students should not only be loved by their teachers, but that they should know that they are loved. Teachers, he said, should speak with nothing but kindness. That was pretty radical for the 19th Century, and I think, it is probably still radical now - a challenge!

I made Chocolate Brownies with Fresh Raspberries and Amaretti Biscuits to go with this post. Why chocolate brownies for the post about teaching? Simple. Teachers need chocolate. Chocolate helps.

Chocolate for Teachers - Chocolate Brownie Heaven

Here is the recipe I chose to celebrate being with good friends in a new house, a birthday and three inspirational educator saints (Angela Merici, Thomas Aquinas and John Bosco)  to help me get through my first month back in the classroom. Read about those who inspired it here. Enjoy :)

Raspberry and Amaretti Chocolate Brownies

250g finest chocolate (go Green and Black's or Divine, 70% min.)
300g golden caster sugar
250g butter
3 eggs, plus one extra egg yolk
60g plain flour
60g finest quality cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
about 5 or 6 Amaretti biscuits
two big handfuls of fresh raspberries

You need a baking tin, about 23cm square. I lined mine with greaseproof paper, and buttered it well before I started anything else.

Preheat the oven at 180C. In a big bowl mix together the butter and sugar with an electric whisk. You need to get it light and fluffy, so keep going until it changes to a nice light colour slightly, and becomes soft and creamy. Meanwhile, break 200g of the chocolate into a small bowl, and suspending it over a bowl of water, gradually melt it over a low heat. Alternatively use a microwave - very modern. Chop the remaining 50g of chocolate into small gravel sized pieces, and leave them to one side. Crush the Amaretti biscuits to about the same size too.

Break the 3 eggs into a bowl, and add the extra yolk. Mix them together a little. Add them slowly, bit by bit to the butter and sugar mixture. Whisk well. Sift together the flour and cocoa mixture, add the baking powder and pinch of salt. Once all the eggs are added and well mixed in, fold in the flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt. Do this with a large spoon, slowly, keeping the air in the mixture. Finally, add the small chocolate pieces, the fresh raspberries and Amaretti biscuits.

Scrape the mixture into the prepared tin, smooth the top, and bake in the oven for about 30 mins. The brownies will rise slightly, but will look soft in the middle. To test to see if the are done, pierce with a fork, if it comes out sticky, but not with raw mixture attached it is done. If there is still raw mixture, pop it back into the oven for a few more mins. The brownies will solidify as they cool, and this is worth thinking about as you do the test. Once completely cool, slice the brownies into 12 equal slices. Serve with ice cream, or cream or both!

You can make a cheats raspberry sauce to show off. Get a good quality raspberry jam, and in a little cup add a teaspoon of hot water to a tablespoon of the jam. Mix together until a decent dripping consistency and then make artistic designs on white plates before placing the brownies onto them! :)

Friday 21 January 2011

Teacher's Habits

This blog has been neglected! The shame! Well, I have a fairly decent excuse. I have been settling back in to the teaching routine. I love it! There is something truly brilliant about waking up everyday and heading off to the classroom. I learn more from those I teach than I will ever manage to impart to them, but such is life. All of a sudden I want to read again, and learn and write. My energy levels are back at super high and I wake up early, even if I go to bed late. There is a little robin in a tree outside my bedroom and he starts to sing at about 4.30am, I always hear him. He keeps it up until I am walking out the door near 7ish. I get up and start mooching around about 5.30am, taking my time over my cup of tea. I love to listen to his sing song. It makes a great start to the day.

Going back has triggered some funny habits and accidents these last two weeks. Things that I haven't done for years have suddenly become 'the norm' again. Also, I have observed that the RE Office and Department I am working for now has many of the characteristics of the RE Office and Department I used to work for, and of the RE Office and Departments I have 'temp-ed' in over the years. This has led me to believe that all RE teachers are cut from the same cloth. There are distinct personality traits to an RE teacher. Observing them again has made me laugh. So far, I have concluded that RE Teachers:

1.) Cannot keep a hold of their keys
2.) Never have their glasses, whether they are short sighted or long sighted, to be able to see the thing they want to look at at the correct moment in time.
3.) Have either no pen, or a pencil case full of those belonging to others.
4.) Seem to wear purple - a lot.
5.) "File" by piling things precariously all around a room.
6.) Get flustered by computers, especially in front of a class (this includes me, and I KNOW I am computer literate)
7.) Always carry a cup of tea or coffee, which is usually cold.
8.) Will get distracted by the tiniest tangent in a discussion
9.) Can never find a Bible in a classroom which is full of them.
10.) Only have a vague grasp of what their timetable is, even if they have been teaching it since the beginning of term.

RE Offices contain

1.) A filing cabinet which is empty, except for biscuits and chocolate. The real filing is on the floor - see above.
2.) An irreligious calendar - usually filled with scribbles which say 'E's BIRTHDAY!' rather than anything work related. Important school dates will be in a pile of paper somewhere.
3.) Various holy pictures, but all under books and papers, very few on the wall.
4.) Boxes and boxes of tissues
5.) Tea, coffee, a kettle, mugs, but rarely milk and never spoons.
6.) Piles of paper that no one has moved in years
7.) Bizarre post it notes that say things like, 'Find Religious Experience'
8.) More bottles of perfume and scarves than the department could ever have use for.
9.) Vestments, altar cloths, etc in a cupboard or hanging in a corner -normally looking old.
10.) Very cosy chairs and the heating turned up to tropical.

Is this how you remember your RE teachers? Their offices? I am sure this strange breed of people has not changed in generations.......

Thursday 6 January 2011

Find your Patron for 2011

At Pure and Simple there is an excellent post about choosing a Patron Saint for the year. This used to be a custom amongst religious communities for New Year's Day, and perhaps, in places it still is. Pure and Simple notes that modernity has caught up with a Patron Saint Generator by Jennifer Fulweiler. This idea strikes me as charming! What a fab way to find out about new saints and their stories! Pure and Simple notes that the modern custom seems to come from an excerpt of St Faustina’s diary:

“There is a custom among us of drawing by lot, on New Year’s Day, special Patrons for ourselves for the whole year. In the morning, during meditation, there arose within me a secret desire that the Eucharistic Jesus be my special Patron for this year also, as in the past. But, hiding this desire from my Beloved, I spoke to Him about everything else but that. When we came to refectory for breakfast, we blessed ourselves and began drawing our patrons. When I approached the holy cards on which the names of the patrons were written, without hesitation I took one, but I didn’t read the name immediately as I wanted to mortify myself for a few minutes. Suddenly, I heard a voice in my soul: ‘I am your patron. Read.’ I looked at once at the inscription and read, ‘Patron for the Year 1935 – the Most Blessed Eucharist.’ My heart leapt with joy, and I slipped quietly away from the sisters and went for a short visit before the Blessed Sacrament,where I poured out my heart. But Jesus sweetly admonished me that I should be at that moment together with the sisters. I went immediately in obedience to the rule.”
Excerpt from “Divine Mercy in My Soul, the Diary of St. Faustina”
I tried it, and my Patron for 2011 is St. John of Damascus, which pleased me greatly because he is the Doctor of Christian Art, and the first topic I am going to be teaching this new year is the Christian Creed through Art -  one of my favourite themes to boot. Do you dare or care to find a Patron for 2011? :)

Tuesday 4 January 2011

Nought in

There has been a slight run out of supplies chez moi this evening. This was proved by the following conversation.

Da: Would you like your home made vegetable soup before or after your supermarket bread?
Me: I think I will have both together, please.
Da: You realize this will mean your dinner will only have one course? Mine will have two.
Me: Yes, but I have thought of dessert.
Da: Oh?
Me: We have Bird's Custard powder and milk. We can have custard.
Da: With what?
Me: With custard of course.....or maybe banana
Da: I hate banana.
Me: Me too.

I think this is a sign of things to come. On the plus side though, dinner was scrummy because the soup was yummy. It was made of carrots and parsnips, potatoes, onions and a swede. Nothing like the bottom of a veg bag to sort a dinner crisis. Now, I am off to watch the stars move around the sky, as they should do near Epiphany. :)