Wednesday, September 30, 2009

October Menu

In getting down with the weight loss groove, I've picked meals for the next two weeks which are as friendly as I can make them without crying myself to sleep every night; some meals are low in fat, some will be served without the usual accompaniments or without the use of butter, some will simply be small in quantity as well as, on the whole, suitable for all the family. The proof of course is in the pudding who said pudding?!, that's just rude, considering so we shall see if weight loss, a la Helen works. Without further ado, the menu of choice:

Pan-fried salmon with sesame seeds and a Chinese style dressing, lightly crushed baby potatoes and stir fried vegetables. Salmon fishcakes for the little 'uns and broccoli for all.

Beef olives stuffed with savoury rice and served with roasted root vegetables with thyme.
Extra mash for the kids.

Free-range chicken roulade stuffed with savoury onion and mushroom and boiled rice.

Wiltshire ham served with poached eggs and sweet potato/potato oven wedges.

Honey roast salmon salad topped with linseeds.

Lahmacun (using leftover minced lamb sauce from freezer) and homemade bread.

Vegetable curry, boiled rice and raita (with puffy bread for kids).

Spaghetti with homemade tomato sauce, Parmesan and basil.
Carbonara for kids and Brian.

Tomato, garlic and thyme hearthbread with Italian meats & baked tomatoes.

Honey roast salmon, stir fried with peppers, onions and rice (me).
Macaroni cheese (them...!).

Fritatta with salad.

Baked Potatoes, tuna mayo, cheese, salad.

Chicken stew with whole new baby potatoes

Omelette with cous cous and green salad

Cinnamon buns (The only breakfast treat I shall have and since the last batch were frozen, I will have one per week as a treat with toast the rest of the time)
Toast with Jam/Marmalade
French Toast
Nutella Bread

Homemade bread
Italian Meats

Kelly's birthday is this weekend so there will be cakes and party food and I will allow myself a sliver only. The shopping bill this week came to £88.22 so £44.11 per week. This leaves just under £12 for sundries. The party food is separate to this; I always allow an extra budget for these although some items already appear on this shopping list, e.g. bread, chicken, cucumber and crisps. The extra food will be no more than £10.

There are some items which should never be scrimped on, in my opinion, meat and coffee being two of them. As you can see from the receipt above, I saved £1.35 on the coffee. I bought my favourite brand 'illy' and a strong, fairtrade packet to try. I also purchased three cartons of Tropicana orange juice, breadsticks because the kids like them, they last for ages and they were on sale, some store cupboard items like stock cubes, handwash, wine on sale to take to Anne's on Thursday night; let's face it, I'd have paid full price for it but hey, who am I to argue with a cheaper price.

Lucy and I went to see 'Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs' at the cinema after school. We shared a bag of cinema popcorn bought from Asda of didn't think I'd pay full price didcha? and then went to the restuarant on the boat afterwards for good old fish and chips. Yes, I know I'm looking to say au revoir to 14 pounds but this had been planned and, although it sounds like an excuse, I start tomorrow. I heartily enjoyed my half of salt and vinegar drenched, bone achingly good fish and chips with ne'ery a scowl. The pickled onions were good too. T'was lovely and all the more so for knowing it was a treat. We sat outside as the sun, incredibly, was shining and drank it down with a gallon or in reality, the tiniest, totiest, weeist can of diet coke you ever did see.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Forgive me, bloggers, for I have sinned, it's been five days since my last blog post and I have little or no excuse except that it was a holiday weekend and when not cooking, painting, cleaning, hanging out with the kids or exercising ha! when I say exercising, I mean the contemplation of starting a new routine, donning the gear and looking at the size of my butt in the mirror; I'm gonna stand at the back of my yoga class from now on, I was drawing, yoga-ing and shopping.

Kelly's Room, almost complete. She asked for a dove in that painting!

We're getting there....


I had a lovely, spur of the moment drink in the Burnbrae on Thursday night with Anne and we put the world to rights. Friday was spent Ikea shopping for kids stuff, coorying in with the little 'uns, playing games and doing more cleaning, sorting and painting in the children's bedrooms. I made no plans for the evening as I had a yoga session booked in, courtesy of Jo, at the Chi Yoga Centre in Glasgow as Manju Jois the son of Sri Krishna Pattabhi Jois, who sadly died this year, both world renowned ashtanga teachers was in Glasgow, teaching. It was excellent.

Saturday evening, we donned a dress or two check out my new dodgy hairdo and headed to Lyn's for Chinese food, home cooked by her husband Ken and some beverages or two of the alcoholic kind. It was a lovely evening although my thinking was, that as it was so close, we could all just walk home at midnight; not my finest hour or the best laid plan. Two out of the three children were fast asleep when we decided to go and carrying them, although an option to be considered as a last resort, didn't bode well with four inch heels. They clung to me, walking like the waking dead and collapsed into their beds in wee heaps. I've learnt that particular lesson.

We took Kelly's friend Ellie with us on Sunday to meet up with Ann and Eric and Ruiradh for bowling and a late lunch. Cooking was certainly attempted over the weekend but for some reason, my memory is vague. I did bake some lovely bread on Monday, alongside cinnamon buns. I used my hearthbread recipe but changed the toppings; I made two large rectangle bread sheets and cut a line in the middle of each. One hearthbread was drizzled with olive oil and sea salt with one half sprinkled with Parmesan and a little basil. The other hearthbread was topped with a mixture of baked garlic see hearthbread recipe, blended with rosemary, salt and olive oil. One half was dotted with cherry tomatoes.

We had the breads with chicken, egg salad, pickles, sauteed potatoes baked with cheese and a little butter. I think we sat at the table for at least two hours, eating, chatting and getting our faces stuck into the lovely cinnamon, iced buns, Kelly's, of course, laced with Nutella.

I had a dodgy hair experience on Saturday; it was actually a nice place, very friendly, lots of mugs of steaming coffee and tea and a wonderful head massage alongside a shower but that's just typical wee lassie hair washing experience but the resulting damage was not. The muted lighting of the place made my hair look like Jennifer Anniston's and, despite being severely overcharged don't get it, this always seems to happen to me, even if I object...don't think I look like the rich sort...I was happy with the do but once into the light, the donning of glasses by my family waiting in the car and the sniggering of those that passed me by made me realise that, in actual fact, I looked more like I'd been painting with a nice magnolia and dropped the paintbrush on my head. So tonight, I shall be colouring it myself. A very expensive mistake.

The next few weeks, I shall be focusing on some low fat but still tasty dinners on a budget. I have 14 pounds who would like to leave me for pastures new and, never being one to stand in the way of progress or adventure, I've accepted the need for those pounds to leave and at least they've given me some notice. I shall spend however long it takes four weeks would be nice, however, since that is a ridiculous goal and with my penchant for baked goods, curries and stews, it's doubtful really,therefore I'd be happy if it took 10 weeks and, not being one to diet, it will have to be by cutting down a little, changing some meals to low fat and plenty of exercise. Tasty and low fat? Watch this space.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Thank goodness it's Thursday

The kids are on holiday from today which is great news; I desperately need to sleep in tomorrow. I'm also glad that I get to spend five whole days with them but all I can focus on at the moment is sleeping in. Of course, sleeping in for a mum means getting up at 8am rather than 7am but during that crucial hour, the kids will wake me up and ask me a 1000 questions, all starting with the word 'mummy...?'.

I remember desperately waiting to hear that wee word spoken by my little bitty babies and the first time they all said it, I cried with happiness. These days, I have moments when the word 'mummy' is like hearing a knife dragged across a metal pan. I think that comes with the territory of having three children all saying it at the one time. Motherhood has taught me however that you should be careful what you wish for and, loving my children as I do and also being entirely aware that our time together as mum and little 'un is extremely limited, then an abundance of patience has been gifted to me and I usually..hah.. react with a "yes, sweetheart?".

We had roast lamb last night. Tis not the season but I was in the mood and the kids usually like a nice roast however last night, as last time, it led to a discussion on vegetarianism and the pros and cons of eating animals. I am very forthright with the kids about meat, where it comes from and the importance of eating that only from animals who have been well treated however, recently I have felt myself increasingly questioning my staunch carnivore status.

Kelly would like to be a vegetarian and I already explained to her the merits of eating meat, albeit limited in our diet. She gets to choose at the age of 11 but methinks we might try a little experiment before then. But then, the thought of not having my bacon roll at the weekend brings me out in a cold sweat. And I make a mean lamb bhoona.

The lamb was pierced and slivers of garlic and shoots of rosemary were stuffed within. I drizzled over some olive oil and sea salt, covered it in foil and cooked at a high heat for 20 minutes. I then turned the heat down to 160 degrees Celsius and cooked for 5-6 hours until the meat practically melted away. Normally, I'd add some liquid, e.g. wine to this to create a tasty, steamy atmosphere within the foil and a delicious gravy but I didn't this time shh, don't tell anyone but I forgot.

I served it with roasted root vegetables drizzled with olive oil, honey, sea salt, all roasted at a high heat for 30 minutes until the edges start to go black. I also roasted potatoes by par boiling small, whole, peeled potatoes, draining and tossing in flour and a pinch of salt then placing into a dish with hot oil in it. The hot oil was placed in the oven at least 15 minutes before the potatoes are ready to be cooked. This leads to a lovely, crispy potato. Maris Piper is my tattie of choice!

I thinly sliced a parsnip and deep fried it to make parsnip crisps. Broccoli and green beans were steamed and tossed in a little butter; it was all served with the stock from the lamb, added with a little red wine and some gravy granules to thicken. I had to stop Lucy after her fourth helping of lamb....that girl must have hollow legs....and there was plenty of lamb leftover for tonight's curry.

I cut half of the remaining cooked lamb into cubes and added to some leftover curry sauce from last week's batch. I was planning on Moroccan lamb but there is enough left for that too. I then added a tin of plum tomatoes and four large, fresh tomatoes, quartered. I simmered for one hour and served it with plain boiled rice, cucumber and lime flavoured yoghurt and spiced pancakes made with gram flour. The curry was gorgeous but I wasn't too enthralled with the bread but then, my taste buds are odd at the moment as illness tries to consume me. I'm fighting the little bug-gers.

As I sit here typing, enjoying my cup of tea, I am aware that it is 7pm and I still have a wall to paint before heading out with Anne for a little glass of Viogner at the Burnbrae. She is picking me up just before 9pm and I'm really looking forward to it but here I sit, still except for the typing of course...duh.. and happy.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Gobby Wordless Wednesday

For those of you wondering what gobby means, it's a description of someone with a big mouth yes, me, go on, say were thinking it... (or gob) who can't refrain from talking, even if they happen to be participating in...oh, I don't know...a wordless day? I accept that title. I have snippets of information, messages to give, certain bits of information to relay so I have no choice but to make this Wordless Wednesday, only partial.

Anyone any idea why I can't see my list of followers? I also can't see anyone elses so therefore can't join any new blogs. Tis a tad frustratin'.

Vintage Kitty, we miss you. Please come back to blogland. Vintage had a wonderful blog full of vintage stuff oddly enough, witty quips and delightful repartee. Unfortunately, she got stalked by an evil troll and decided it just wasn't worth it. How sad do you have to be to actually come online, read a lovely blog and start spewing evilness. Blogland is a sadder place without Ms. Kitty and I hope she shall return one day.

A few of my delightful friends across the globe received their little Scottish goodies the other day there was a saga but it's too boring to go into. There were 8 sent out altogether so I'm hopeful that the rest of 'em have made their way safely since two have so far reached American shores, so let me know if you are one of the recipients!

The lovely Anna from the beautiful blog 'little reminders of love' had engaged me in a conversation about the Queen sometime ago. I told her I'd been to Buckingham Palace and had met her; we engaged in a chat along the lines of:
"No way"...
You can tell we have a high combined intelligence, can't you? So, this Gobby Worldess Wednesday sets out to show my day at the palace.

Arrival at the Palace

We had a picnic to begin with, served with champagne

My twin sis; a journalist gave us the hats I think; we were in the newspaper

Performers kept us entertained

The Queens Concerts: Party at the Palace

Tom Jones

A couple of swells

The Corrs

Rod Stewart

Annie Lennox; Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton etc.were also performing; so many singers and bands were there

Even Baby Spice...

The staff, watching quietly from the gardens below

The Royal family on stage

Ozzy got a rousing welcome

All the performers come on together

The palace from the back gardens at night

The Fireworks at the end were incredible

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Buns, pasta and randomness

The kids are sharing a room at the moment because of the painting and decorating. They are driving me round the bend. I've considered all manner of things to make them still but for the love of all that is holy, they just keep at it! They just can't stop chattering like monkeys, even with a two day ban on all electronic equipment. I've even gotten a bit of cheek; not usual in this house, I can tell ya! "I can't turn on the light for you mummy, it's electric!" with a smug grin.

I've had no choice but to pour a large glass of wine tonight what with the abuse and my sore bones....that was the legs have seized into a permanent lotus position....I've had to crawl round the house on my ar$£, pulling myself from place to place with my upper limbs...just as well my arms are like tree trunks, what with all the vinyasas.....

I know it's a pretty crappy picture but I stole it, edited it and all in two minutes....I have wine waiting after all.

I made Nutella buns last night; they sure don't look pretty but they tasted divine. The kids bounded down the stairs, two at a time, the smell tantalising their taste buds. When I told them it was Nutella Buns, they practically fainted with happiness. I allowed them a scant half a bun each for supper but that there would be plenty, ready and waiting for breakfast. Probably the sugar rush to the head which made them so wired last night....oh dear, they had cheese and pickles tonight. It's going to be nightmares, isn't it? Sigh.

I used the schneken pastry recipe but instead of slathering over egg and milk mix with the cinnamon filling, I layered on a great big dod of Nutella instead and rolled the dough, swiss roll like and cut into slices. I let it rest for another 15-12 minutes then baked at 180 degrees Celsius for 20 minutes. The smell alone is worth it. If you are selling your home, make these. You'd sell your home three times over and for twice the cost.

I made macaroni cheese for the kids and the spinach, feta, spicy tomato pasta for us. I've adapted this from a ricotta cheese recipe and the spinach didn't exactly enthrall's the smell but this is a really tasty little number. Like the Nutella buns, it doesn't look like much but totally tastes better than it looks.

Spinach & Feta Pasta

1 garlic clove, finely chopped
A pinch of dried chillies
A tablespoon of olive oil
1 tin (400g approx.) of plum tomatoes
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper
A good handful of fresh spinach leaves
Approx. 200g feta, cubed
A handful of pine nuts, dry toasted

Fry the garlic and chili over a medium heat in the olive oil until soft. Keep an eye on it, you don't want it to brown as it will go bitter. Add the tin of tomatoes. Do not stir yet. Leave the sauce to thicken and bubble then gently mash the tomatoes with a fork. Add the vinegar and salt and pepper and set aside.

Cook the linguine as per instructions. Steam the spinach for a few minutes above the pasta water. Drain the linguine and add to the tomato sauce, add the spinach and feta and mix. Place into serving bowl and sprinkle over pine nuts. Eat heartily.

And now for some randomness: Lucy wandered round taking odd photographs tonight so I thought I'd share them with you.

A photograph in a silver frame of my first graduation, in my early 20s.

A partial shot of my party invite, still to be distributed.

We were watching Friends.

Lucy's eyeball.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Shopping List and Menu.

This weeks menu for family of five:

Family of five
Garlic mozzarella pizza, potato wedges, tomato, basil & mozzarella salad, cucumber strips
Roast Lamb with mashed potatoes, sweet potato crisps, roasted parsnip & green vegetables
Chicken, Rice and Vegetable Soup with homemade Bread
Roast Chicken with vegetable couscous and gravy
Moroccan lamb with rice, couscous, roasted tomatoes, yogurt raita and pitta bread
Garlic and Rosemary hearthbreads with cold meats and salad

Kids only
Macaroni Cheese
Chicken noodle soup and baked potatoes with tuna mayonnaise and cheese salad
Fish fingers, chips and baked beans

Helen & Brian
Linguine with spicy tomato, feta, pine nuts and spinach
Linguine puttanesca
Fried spinach and potato curry with rice and paratha

Cereal, porridge, toast, homemade fruit loaf, chocolate and hazelnut buns (made with Nutella) and danish pastries.

Sandwiches, soup, cheese, biscuits, bread, bananas, apples, crackers.

Pickles, bread, French toast, mini chocolate muffins

There are nine main meals, some of which will use items already in the freezer. The leg of lamb will be roasted, the leftovers used for the Moroccan lamb and some frozen for later on, for curry.

The receipt came to £50.92.

Tonight's fayre is homemade garlic and mozzarella pizza with potato wedges, tomato, basil (grown in a pot) and mozzarella salad and cucumber strips.

The potato wedges are made by quartering and then halving Maris Piper potatoes with the skin on and covering with olive oil and sea salt. Use your hands to coat each potato wedge thoroughly. Place in an oven at 240 degrees Celsius, 10-15 minutes before the pizza goes in; they should cook in approx. 30 minutes, depending on your oven.

Garlic & Mozzarella Pizza
The pizza dough I normally use works well with this but I prefer to use 200g strong white bread flour and 50g plain flour when not using tomato sauce.

Pizza Dough
250g flour, 200 strong white bread flour, 50g plain
1 heaped teaspoon easy-blend dried yeast (half 7g sachet)
Half teaspoon salt
150ml warm water
2 tablespoons olive oil
Pizza tray with holes, or baking sheet, oiled with olive oil

Combine flour, yeast and salt and mix. Pour in water and oil and mix to form a dough, adding more water if necessary. Knead for 5 minutes. Put into an oiled bowl, turning once to oil both sides of the dough, cover with clingfilm and leave in a warm place to rise for an hour.

After an hour or so or once dough has doubled in size, punch all the air out of it and knead for another minute. You can squeeze it to fit into your chosen tin but I tend to hold it in two hands firmly, shake it, moving it around from hand to hand quickly. As it starts to get larger, keep moving so that you don't end up with too many tears. Lay it on the pizza tin and then press out to fit. It's ok to have a thicker rim, this makes for a lovely crust.

Dimple the dough with your fingers and pour over some olive oil; enough to cover the dough lightly, not too much that it dribbles through any holes or falls over the sides. Sprinkle over crushed garlic...around 2 cloves or more if you prefer, a good pinch of sea salt and then lay thinly sliced mozzarella around the middle of the pizza. Drizzle over a little more olive oil. I like to place a basil leaf right in the middle, just for me and aesthetics!

Place in pre-heated should already be at 240 degrees c for the potato wedges and bake in the middle for approx. 15-20 minutes or until browned and bubbling.

Serve with the cucumber strips, which the kids love and the mozzarella, basil and tomato salad, which is my favourite.

The kids like to add a little melted butter to the crust which is lovely or you can add another little drizzle of olive oil, which I usually do. Bon Appétit!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Sunday morning, up with the lark...

Brian woke me at 8am, the morning after the night before. He seemed as fresh as a daisy, heading out to treasure hunt or dive or some such thing involving water. "You're off your head" I mumbles as he cheerily waved me goodbye and I reluctantly got up, I thudded downstairs, on the hunt for water and after aimlessly walking around for a few minutes, went back to bed for an hour or two.

The party was wonderful. I spent most of the day ferrying children to sleepovers, buying items required for all the different events of the day and night, picking up balloons, setting up cakes etc, etc. When it came down to it, I had approx. 30 minutes to get ready and it was a mad dash to get to the party in time.

The garden was filled with hundreds of candles and the tables and chairs set up on the lawn sparkled with the lights reflecting off water bowls filled with floating waxed balls, lit up like Christmas trees. The sound of happy chatter and the chink of ice came from every direction, and the light breeze with the smell of autumn and the rotisserie barbecue was in the air. The bar was set and lined up along it was rows and rows of mojitos and French martinis. The singer, resembling Dean Martin, started to perform his rat pack and swing numbers, belting out tune after tune as we sang along.

It was a cold, clear night but the outside heaters helped and I made sure I had a nice little cardigan to match my outfit whilst Brian, being much more sensible, had worn thermals under his suit and sat there, drinking and eating with a smile on his face all night.

My friends, Ricky and Irene really seemed to enjoy themselves and they had a dance and a cutting of the cake in memory of their previous wedding 25 years earlier. Near the end of the evening, we ventured back inside and were handed glasses of Amber, a liqueur made with my favourite malt whisky, Macallan. It tasted just like the Schneken cakes I made last month, what with the pecan and maple syrup flavour and I stopped after just one, which was difficult but I'd had my fair share of French Martinis and didn't want to be carried home.

We left sometime after 2am, even though there was still a good few folk partying into the wee hours. It was a great night and one that they will remember, I'm sure.

I unfortunately didn't take too many pictures but the food was rotisserie chicken and pork, stuffed and marinaded in, amongst other things, sweet chilli and olives, fresh salads with tomato and mozzarella, honey mustard glazed sausages, baby new jersey potatoes and lovely cheesecakes. Delicious.

This morning has been spent rounding up the kids, tea at every location, a few paracetamol...for the cold I have of course, what else......

It will be fish and chips for dinner tonight, despite it being Sunday and we shall all return to normal in the morning.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Fried Prawn Patties

I had a lovely lunch with Maureen today; well, when I say lovely, it was grand to see her but the Burnbrae has been bought over by some cost cutting, penny pinching morons who provided us with half the portion of food we were used to and decided on a 'half hot half cold' theme when providing grub. When asking for a latte, they informed us that it was instant coffee for now. Bill please. We headed to Costa for a proper cup of the black stuff.

So, hunger set in rather quickly on my return and on searching the freezer for some sustenance I uncovered frozen, raw prawns (shrimps) hidden at the back. What to do, what to do? I could stir fry, breadcrumb, curry or chop. Saute, flambe, souffle or plop. Hmmm. Skewered? Fried? Fried! I had a brainwave.

Fried Prawn blobs Patties! Just the thing.

First job was to defrost the prawns. Obviously, fresh prawns would be better but hey, when hungry and frugal, frozen will do.

I shelled the prawns, shoved them in a blender alongside a finely chopped clove of garlic and 2 finely chopped spring onions. I added half a teaspoon salt, a good grinding black pepper, a little cayenne and 60g plain flour. If using Nigella's recipe, you'd add 4 teaspoons of sherry as well but I prefer wine to the mix. I then added water and mixed to make a thick batter, covered with clingfilm and waited 1 hour.

During this hour, I continued painting; I have been decorating. I have one room half completed, five more to go. Why do I start these things? Kelly is moving into the big room so she was first; after some deliberation, she decided on lilac for one wall, magnolia for the rest. She then decided she wanted painted onto the wall, a girl holding a baby dove, looking over at a mummy dove on a branch........yes, this is what she decided. HUH?? Was my first response. What the freakin'......?? my second. "Ooooookay, Kelly" I said "I shall do my best". Well, it's finished, for better or worse....

So, the hour has passed and I heat some olive oil in a pan. I take teaspoons of the mix and fry in the oil, turning after a minute and cooking on the other side. When brown on both sides, place onto plate covered with paper towels.

I like to make homemade mayo for this but Hellmans will do the job just as well! Add some lime and fresh coriander though. If not partial to mayo, squeeze some lime juice over the tasty little blobs and eat immediately. Bleedin' luverly.

Tomorrow is the big silver wedding anniversary party. My friend Sam did the cake:

Isn't it wonderful? I know you can't see the whole thing, I was not averse to pulling it out and setting it up for your perusal but you just know what would happen, don't you? Especially with three wee acrobats around. I shall take some more pics at the event and report back on the deliciousness of this tasty baked lovely.

Have a freakin AWESOME weekend!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face...

...Great chieftain o' the Puddin-race! That's right; we had haggis for tea!

Haggis, neeps and tatties

Monday, September 14, 2009

Curry Fest

Saturday, I made enough curry, pakora and bread to choke a horse, if he were so inclined to eat Indian food.

The great thing about pakora which is basically any vegetable or meat dipped in a spicy batter and fried, is that it is almost as good reheated in the oven and it freezes beautifully. Any Glaswegian will tell you this; most of us have came back from the pub or club having picked up pakora as a scooby snack on the way home and fell asleep before being able to consume it. Being frugal, we'd then freeze it the next day for future imbibing. It's a right of passage.

Most of us have also participated in ordering enough Indian food...including pakora of course... to feed a small army when there are only two of you and end up reheating and living off the remains for weeks to come.

I shall be having a 40th birthday party soon no WAY I hear you all way are you 40! I know, I know, I'm some kind of baby faced freak...meh and whereas I'm still contemplating the venue, I know for a fact that the fayre will be Indian, the starter spicy and the drinks cold.

I used the spice mix that Pauline gave me but have sourced all the ingredients (except the dry mango...I'm attempting to dry some) to make my own mixes. The spice mix should be easy enough to find in one form or another although they may vary a little. The 'pakora masala' I uses is MDH which stands for Mahashian Di Hatti Ltd and is made in India.

The sauce was made by adding tomato sauce, lemon juice, coriander (cilantro) salt and pepper to some plain yogurt.

I made two batters, one for the basic mix with red onions and spinach, the other a bit thinner to coat thinly sliced potatoes and halved mushrooms. This worked really well and tasted delicious. I think we now have enough pakora for the next three months, if we wanted to eat some every week!

2 chopped red onions
1 packet spinach, blanched and drained, water removed by pressing firmly whilst sitting in a sieve
200g gram flour
50g plain flour
25g spices*
5g salt
half teaspoon baking soda

Mix all the dry ingredients together and then add water to make a thick batter. Add onions and spinach and mix thoroughly. Add an inch or two of oil to a pan and place spoonfuls of pakora into hot oil. Turn once brown and cook other side.

*spices-MDH spice mix or similar or else add the following: teaspoon each of ground coriander, cumin, salt. Half a teaspoon dried chili or chili powder...or to taste. A good pinch of fenugreek leaves, bishop's weed and mace, if you can get it. Half a teaspoon each of ginger powder, ground cinnamon and a good grating of nutmeg. One clove and a few cardamom seeds, ground with a pestle and mortar along with a grinding of black pepper. Finally, some dry mango, although this may not be easy to find and you could easily do without it.

Helen's Indian Curry (Basically a slightly different version than Pete's from Jamie Oliver's Book but Pete got it from me (I think). Pete is Scottish, he no doubt came to one of my parties. Rip off merchant. :O) Only joking Pete, don't sue!

I usually make this with lamb; to replace with chicken, use 16 chicken thighs, most of the skins removed. Keep some on for flavour. I browned the chicken(8 pieces) and then added half the sauce from the oven-see below.

Use the sauce as a base for any curry, with meat or veg.

2 tablespoons butter
2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes
285ml/1/2 pint chicken stock
1.5kg/3 1/2lb leg of lamb**if using, I prefer to roast it slowly with garlic and rosemary for 3-4 hours, let it cool and then chop meat into large chunks before adding to sauce to simmer for a further hour. Soooo tender.
1 handful of chopped mint and/or coriander
285ml/1/2 pint natural yoghurt
salt and freshly ground black pepper
lime juice from 1-2 limes

Hot and Fragrant Rub Mix – (taken from Jamie Oliver's book)

2 tablespoons fennel seeds
2 tablespoons cumin seeds
2 tablespoons coriander seeds
1/2 tablespoon fenugreek seeds
1/2 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 clove
1/2 a cinnamon stick
2 cardamom pods
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Curry Paste Ingredients -

3 inches fresh ginger, peeled
2 large red onions, peeled
10 cloves of garlic, peeled
2 fresh chillies, with seeds
1 bunch of fresh coriander

Preheat your oven to 170C/325F/Gas 3.

Lightly toast the fragrant rub mix; I place it all in a dry frying pan and shake every 30 seconds or so but you can place in the oven or under the grill. Grind with a pestle and mortar. Chop the curry paste ingredients roughly and, along with the ground rub mix, place into a food processor and puree.

In a large casserole pan (I use a pot and transfer this to an oven dish though), fry the curry paste mixture in the butter until it goes golden, stirring regularly. The smell is wonderful!

Add the tomatoes and the stock. Bring to the boil, cover with kitchen foil (if using a pot, remember and place it in an ovenproof container first) and place in the oven for one and a half hours to intensify the flavour. Remove the foil and continue to simmer on the stove until it thickens (put back into used pot, if that's the way you're doing it). This is your basic curry sauce.

Fry the lamb (or chicken etc) in a little olive oil until golden, then add to the curry sauce and simmer for around 1 hour or until tender. Sprinkle with chopped coriander and/or mint and stir in the yoghurt (if you want, to taste or serve raita instead). Season to taste and add a very good squeeze of lime juice and a handful of chopped coriander leaves. Enjoy!

This is a good curry, very easy and tasty. If you like your curry a little sweeter, add a teaspoon of sugar before putting into oven.

I split the sauce into two. One half was used for 8 pieces of browned thigh meat (with bones) and the other half had a good dollop or two of cream and a little sugar added. I covered the other 8 chicken thighs, skinned in a marinade of yoghurt, salt, pepper, curry powder, lime juice and coriander. I left them for at least an hour but if you were better prepared, then overnight. I baked them in the oven for approx. 15-20 minutes, until cooked through; I had to put them back after 15 so it depends on your oven. I then added these to the creamy curry sauce.

Instead of paratha, I made a basic chapati style bread but used gram flour with a little plain flour, salt and a spoonful of oil and butter. I made a batter with water and kneaded until soft, split into 8 and rolled out using a misshapen roller; I don't recommend this but couldn't find my proper rolling pin. How can you lose a rolling pin?? I placed the bread into a hot pan until bubbles starting to form, turned and cooked the other side. I then brushed a little oil on and turned, repeating this process another 3 times.

Rice was boiled and served alongside the rest of the meal. Raita is simply yogurt with a squeeze of lemon juice, a pinch of salt and pepper and a handful of chopped coriander leaves or chopped cucumber...both if you feel like it.