Saturday, 18 July 2009

Take time to smell the...not roses, but seaweed!

In the midst of the maelstrom that is the last week of term before the summer holiday, my youngest and I took time out. We went for a long walk over the sand dunes at Ynyslas, north of Aberystwyth. The beach at Ynyslas is often a good place to see particularly fine examples of gnarled and twisted driftwood, owing to the ancient petrified forest that lies just of the coast between here and Borth.

Dating back to the Ice Age, at low tide it is still possible to see the stumps and even branches of these trees that may have shared the earth with some of our earliest ancestors. Amazing. On our walk we enjoyed a little 'beachcombing', looking for what James rather charmingly called his 'beach treasure'. Fascinated by sea urchin cases, crab carapaces and oyster shells, he then became mesmerised by the sight of a jellyfish that had been washed ashore, though thankfully he soon moved on to other things.

Only a small thing; no money and no effort, really - but a precious and wonderful memory...

Saturday, 11 July 2009

In Praise of Slow

I honestly do not know how I'd cope without my slow-cooker. Especially on a day like today, one where I've been out since early this morning, at a study day for local BFN helpers. Being able to come home to a meal that's ready to serve is a huge help when trying to squeeze just one more thing into an already busy life.

That said, I have very little patience for the kind of 'help' one is offered by slow-cooker recipe books (whether those supplied by the manufacturer or written independently). How is it supposed to save time when you are basically expected to cook everything before even putting in in the sainted appliance? The most I ever do is boil the kettle for hot water, or bring some homemade stock to the boil in a saucepan while I'm chopping the other ingredients. If I'm cooking a chicken or a chilli con carne, I just bung stuff in and turn the switch to 'on'.

This, then is our version of having a takeaway because there's no time to cook an evening meal. In the evening, that is. Our nearest Chinese carry-out is 10 miles away, even the nearest chippy is a good 5 miles. So I have to be a little more prepared (dib dib dib) for these occasions.

Sweet & Sour-style Chicken

I don't claim that this is in any way authentic, but it does taste nice. Again, I include some (easily!) homemade Garlic Vinegar, a precious substance I can no longer live without...

6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, sliced
1 onion, diced
1 stick celery, diced
1 green pepper, quartered and sliced
425g can pineapple chunks, drained and juice reserved in a jug

Put all these ingredients into the dish of your slow-cooker. To the reserved pineapple juice, add:

4 tbsp garlic vinegar
2 tbsp dark soy sauce
60g sugar (brown for preference, but no sleep lost, eh?)
2 tbsp cornflour

Whisk together to dissolve the sugar and cornflour, then add a very little salt and some pepper and pour this mixture over the waiting ingredients. Turn your slow cooker to whatever setting is suitable, depending on your model and how long you want to leave it for. Serve with rice or noodles (and a bowl of prawn crackers always goes down a treat).


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