Monday 28 March 2011

A reflection of me

I love the cartoons of Exploding Dog. I have followed him for a long time. Today I saw this and it made me laugh. It is a reflection of me.

Saturday 26 March 2011

Truth (re-post)

Wisdom to learn
Knowledge to reason
Judgement to listen
Courage to speak
Understanding to love
Reverence to worship
Wonder to live

Simple Supper in Lent 3 - Parsley Pesto Pasta

I didn't get this recipe out on time. Sorry about that folks, but you know, yesterday was the Feast of the Annunciation, and so technically not a fast day. This recipe is full of joy for me. I love it. I love the spring too. This week I have basked in the sunshine, rejoiced watching bouncing lambs play in the fields here about and laughed at the summer games of the school kids I teach. The world expects. That is what this food is about. Expectation. That is why I chose it for yesterday, even if I didn't publish it on time. :)

The truth be told, I have also been really busy and blatantly failing at my pledge to steer clear of alcohol during Lent (except on Sundays, and yes, I do count that from Saturday night). There is always a chilled bottle of Chardonnay in the fridge in this house, and it is just so tempting, when you crawl through the door at 7pm to pour a little glass while you cook the dinner. Anyhow, I wrote this week off early on and am going to try again next week. *swigs chilled Pinot Grigio*

So, the simple supper this week is truly simple, but it has an edge of luxury to it. A taste of spring, and a sense of joy in all things. It really is best eaten with a cool glass of your finest crisp white wine, I promise. But, if you are virtuous, buy a really really really posh juice instead and mix it with sparking water. :)

Garden Pasta Pesto

The flat leaf parsley has sprung!

2oz of fresh flat leave parsley
2 - 3 garlic cloves crushed
2oz pine nuts (or, if they are going to break the bank, and they can, go for walnuts instead)
150ml extra virgin olive oil (about, see how it goes)
3oz freshly grated parmesan

Mix together the above ingredients in a large bowl, and then blend them with a hand held blender. This will make a load of pesto, but seriously, what is left over can go in sandwiches or be used as a cooking sauce for chicken or fish, or anything. It is great.

100g+ of fresh Pappardelle for each person you are cooking for. You know who the hungry people are.

Big, wide flat strips of pasta are the best for this dish. You can make your own, and if you fancy it, check out the method for Tagliatelli here, but cut the pasta into wider strips, 2cms at least. Bring a huge pan of salted water to the boil, plenty of space for the pasta to cook, and add for 3 - 4 minutes, or according to the cooking instructions on your packet.

Mix your pasta with your pesto, and serve generously into wide flat bowls, with a shake of parmesan and a sprig of parsley to go. Yum.

You know, if you think this recipe is a bit too simple, there are lots of things that can be added, finely cut lengthways strips of courgette, for example? Asparagus and tiger prawns, if you want to go all out.  Do with it as you will, but once you have made one version of homemade pesto, life in the kitchen will never be the same again. Every herb, you see, can be mixed with every nut, so the combinations are endless. :)

Friday 18 March 2011

Simple Supper in Lent 2 - Carrot soup and bread

Gosh, is it Friday again already? Time goes by so quickly these days. Anyway, a little simple supper will not go down badly in any home of after a long days activities. This, by my Da, is an excellent recipe for tired people. It does not take too long to prepare, and when it is cooked it is yummy. It keeps well, so leftovers make a good lunch too. Have a big loaf of the yummiest bread handy, and lots of butter and cheese. Those sorts of things are important when you are fasting :)

Carrot Soup

You need:

1lb Carrots
2 pints Vegetable Stock, made from good quality Vegetable Stock Powder
1 large Potato
2 Onions
A large tablespoon of butter
Zest of 1/2 and Orange and a little juice
Salt and Pepper
Coriander or Parsley (optional)

Chop the onion and fry it gently in the butter, adding finely sliced potato and carrots as it cooks. Make 2 pints of stock using good quality vegetable stock powder. You know your stock powders, use just 3 teaspoons, or 4, to keep the whole soup from being too salty. Once the vegetables have softened together, add the stock and allow the soup to simmer for about 30 mins, until everything is soft to the touch. Grate the zest of half an orange into the pan, with a little of the juice - to taste. Blend the soup using a hand held blender. Add salt and pepper to taste. Even a little splash of cream if you are feeling extravagant. A handful of coriander or parsley doesn't go amiss either.

Serve with hunks of bread and good quality cheese. Yum.

Thursday 10 March 2011

Simple Supper in Lent 1 - Dal and Naan, Mint Tea

This is one of my favourite comfort foods. I eat it when I need a hug from a sofa, or when I just need to be still and do nothing. At the moment, the poor people who live with me would probably describe me as 'very tired'. I am up and out of the house before they stir, and when I get home in the evening, I eat, wash up, shower and go to bed. Chitter chatter and sociality are not my strong suit at the moment. So, something like this for tea is really a healer. The chilli is warming, the dal soothing, the naan like a warm hug and the tea just makes me ready to drift to the land of nod. The whole thing is a happy sleepy sigh from the knowledge you are home.

Yellow Split Pea Dal with Naan and some Fresh Mint Tea on the Side :)

You need: 

500g Yellow Split Peas or Toor Dal
1 large Onion
2 Garlic Cloves
Vegetable Oil
2 Bay Leaves
1 Red Chilli
3 Tomatoes
1 tsp Cumin
1/2 tsp Tumeric
1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 - 2 tsp good quality vegetable stock powder
1 pint + of water
A kettle of boiling water
Fresh Coriander

Yummy high quality Naan warmed in the oven, preferably in tin foil to keep it soft and moist.

In a deep saucepan add the yellow spilt peas, water, stock powder and bay leaves. It is good if you can do this about 30 mins before you are going to cook so as you can allow them to soak. But, if not, no worries. Bring the peas to the boil and keep them on a fast simmer, until they are tender, about 20 - 30 minutes. Meanwhile, in a deep bowl, pour a kettle of boiling water over your three tomatoes. Piece each of them with a knife. When their skins start to shed, drain them and peel them carefully. Chop them up small and leave to one side. Finely slice your onions and chilli, crush the garlic. Add a good glug of vegetable oil to a heavy bottomed pan you trust not to stick. Heat the pan, add the onions, chilli and garlic and soften them gently. When your split peas are soft, add the spices, including the grated ginger, to the onions, garlic and chilli and stir. After a minute or two add the chopped tomatoes. Finally, pour in the cooked yellow split peas. Simmer this mixture until it looks a great yummy consistency, soft, but not soup. You may need to add water to prevent it sticking, or you may need to simmer more quickly to reduce.

Warm your naan bread in the oven. I find if you have really high quality naan, wrapping it in foil with a sprinkle of water, makes it moist and beautiful.

Serve in deep bowls with plenty of bread and a topping of fresh coriander. You can make rice if you are very hungry. Some people have been known to eat this with mayo. Heathens. :)

For the Mint Tea

Spring has sprung! I make mint tea by going out into the garden, picking mint leaves, coming in, putting the leaves in the cup, boiling the kettle and adding the hot water. Simples. Sometimes I sweeten it with sugar. No mint? Make a herbal.

I have never priced the making of this meal, but it is cheap. You have just saved fortunes! Give it to a good cause, I double dare you :)

Tuesday 8 March 2011

Ash Wednesday - We are all made of stars

'From the earth you were taken; dust you are and to dust you will return'. (Gen 3:19). Everything in Christian moral theology begins here. I guess that is why I like Ash Wednesday so much.  Christian theology goes on, of course, to illustrate that we are a 'nothingness that is filled with eternity; death that that teems with life'. This is because God became dust. The dust with which we are marked soaked up his tears.    We are the dust that can live forever.

I have been reading Rahner. Again.  The Eternal Year. I recommend it.

During Lent I am planning to write beautiful vegetarian recipes on Fridays. Vegetarian food is simple, beautiful and joyful. It can be made cheaply and ethically. It is the sustainable way. I believe this, even though I have recently started to eat meat again.  So, much less meat for me in future, and especially during Lent. And some tasty recipes to look forward to :)

Also, I am going to read back over my thoughts about the Stations of the Cross, which I wrote a few years ago now. I might add a few comments here and there.

I think that will be it from here at Cloister.

Have a  happy Lent!

Monday 7 March 2011

Shrove Tuesday - Essential Easter Preparations....

One of my bestest bestest mates ever has been making great things recently. And I, being the nosey parker I am, have been sticking my nose in. Marisa has been making hard liquor. Ace. I try and give up booze for Lent. Marisa tells me that this stuff takes 40 days to brew up nicely. A recipe for Limoncello from a bonfide Bedford Italian is as good as it gets people. Take note. This is what lemons are for on Shrove Tuesday. Lent is all about preparation, right? Celebrate Easter in style...start now. Use all those lemons you bought on special offer because you imagined, in moment of super market madness, that pancakes needed a whole bag of the unwaxed fruits. 

Here is the recipe from Marisa herself:

A few people have asked for this easy-peasy recipe, so here it goes! Feel free to share.

zest of 5 lemons (peel them, avoid pith, then cut into small strips)
175g - 450g of granulated sugar (depending on how sweet you want it. I used 300g)
75ml of water
500ml of vodka

1. Dissolve the sugar in the water by heating in a pan gently.
2. Don't boil it!
3. Leave to cool
4. put zests in sterlised preserving jar.
5. pour in vodka
6. add the cool sugar syrup
7. seal container. store in cool dark place
8. shake twice a week for 30-40 days.
9. after 30-40 days, strain through nylon sieve or 2 layers of muslin. chuck away the lemon zest.
10. pour into sterilised screw cap bottle
11. quaff it over ice

There. That is easy. The waiting is part of Lent, and the excitement of opening and tasting is part of the new joy of the resurrection. Final religious instructions. Save it for Easter Sunday. Drink after long leisurely meal celebrating Easter with friends and family. If you have them, send the kids into the garden to hunt Easter eggs (previously hidden) whilst you enjoy this treat. Alternatively, and I hope to be joining this party in Bedford, invite all your mates round, make them make cake before they come, and quaff over ice :) Thanks Ris :) xxx

Sunday 6 March 2011

Vincent Cook OP

I am sad about the death of Vincent Cook OP - the brother who made his stories of religious life and faith so funny they made you cry, and so inspiring you never forgot them. Rest in peace Vince. I will miss you. Save a glass of wine for me.

Godzdogz has posted a notification of his passing, and will publish a full obituary later.