Thursday, 26 April 2018

Shakshuka with falafel

vegan dinners, vegan meals

This morning my husband invited me to have a cup of coffee at the vegan cafe. I have passed it by many times, as it's in a very central location, but haven't visited it, since it was rebranded. It used to be a funny little place called Chomsky (loved that name. Having studied linguistics at Uni, I found that name endearing and quirky). Can't say I was a frequent visitor either, but I've been there a few times.
Now it's a cafe called Eden, which serves vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free meals.
We ordered a coconut latte and a slice of pistachio cake. Alas, we were't impressed with the coffee, it tasted bitter and even sour.
The pistachio cake was dry and insipid.

While waiting for our lattes, I was browsing the latest issue of PlantBased magazine. I haven't seen this magazine before, and was curious to have a look. There were quite a few recipes which caught my eye, including a shakshuka with falafel. I believe the recipe comes from Aine Carlin's new vegan cook book called Cook Share Eat Vegan.

Shakshuka (or shakshouka) recipes that I know of always have eggs as one of the main ingredients. Being vegan, this recipe swaps eggs for falafels.
I'm not vegan, and have no plans to go vegan, but I do enjoy trying new ideas. I was very curious to give it a go.
I love aubergines, so any new recipe with them is a big magnet for me.

I tried to google the exact recipe to add the link here, but I couldn't find it.

What I cooked is a simplified version of Aine's recipe. She served it beautifully with pomegranates and a tahini dip on the side, and also authentic flatbreads, while I bought a pack of mini pittas.

Shakshuka with falafel
4tbsp olive oil
1 red onion
1 red chilli, deseeded and chopped finely
1 aubergine
2 cloves of garlic
a pack of tomatoes (225g)
1tsp paprika
1/2tsp cinnamon
1/2tsp cumin seeds (optional)
1/2tsp caraway seeds (optional)
a pinch of sugar
400g passata (e.g. Mutti passata)
1tbsp pomegranate molasses (optional)
a pack of sweet potato falafel

vegan meals

Start by frying one finely chopped red onion in 1tbsp of olive oil. Cook, stirring for about 5 minutes, then add a deseeded and chopped chilli pepper (or use chilli paste instead).
Peel and cube the aubergine, add to the frying pan with more oil. Season with sea salt and all spices and add chopped garlic. Cook for about 5-6 minutes, stirring, until all the cubes are coated in onion oil mix.
Place tomatoes in a pan, pour hot boiling water over them and leave for half a minuted, then drain the water and pour cold water over them. The skins will be easy to remove then.
Chop the tomatoes and add to the aubergine, stir well. Cook for a couple of minutes, then pour in the contents of passata bottle and pomegranate molasses. Add a dash of water to the sauce and stir. Bring to boil, then lower the heat and cook simmering for about 25 minutes until the aubergine is soft.
Molasses add depth to the sauce, but could easily be omitted, or swapped for balsamic vinegar.

vegan dinners

Pour the sauce in a deep ceramic dish, insert the falafels in and cook altogether in the oven at 180C for about 10 minutes.
Serve hot with pitta bread (or flatbreads).

vegan meals

The sauce was very tasty, and I will be doing it again. I used Mutti Passata, which was delivered with the latest Degustabox. It has a velvety texture and sweet, intense tomato flavour.

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

A Colourful Death by Carola Dunn

books set in Cornwall, cozy mystery

Inconspicuous little ladies who like to poke their noses where they shouldn't and enjoy solving mysteries do hold a special place in the cozy mystery genre, from Miss Marple to Miss Maud Silver, from Tish Carberry to Jessica Fletcher (spin-off the TV series Murder, She Wrote).
An elderly widow Eleanor Trewyn appears in the Cornish mystery series by Carola Dunn.

A Colourful Death by is the second book in the series.
The main protagonist and sleuth Eleanor is an oddball who enjoys Aikido and who has travelled the world before settling in a small Cornish town, working for LonStar (a variation of Oxfam) charity shop.
She is endearing and annoying in equal measure. Like most amateur sleuths in books, she accidentally happens to be in the right place when the crime has been committed (or should that be the wrong place?).
Eleanor loves her little dog and companion Teasle. She doesn't have children of her own, so she sort of adopts her neighbour next door, the local artist Nick Gresham.
He is in a big pickle this time, being accused of the murder of another local artist Geoffrey Monmouth. It so happens that Nick's paintings have been slashed in a pique by the resentful Geoffrey (who as an artist was less talented and successful).
Nick, and Eleanor who felt she had to tag along, of course, go to have it out with him, and arrive to the studio to find a stabbed body in a pool of red (hence the colourful death of the title).

The victim is so ridiculously horrid, it's a wonder he actually survived for so long. Hardly anyone can say anything nice about him, apart from his hysterical girlfriend who accused Nick of slaying Geoffrey.
As the story unfolds, you meet a colourful array of the arty commune, who all live on a farm.
All the arty characters are wonderfully stereotypical, one way or another. They all have a reason to dislike or even hate Geoffrey.

As in the first book, we meet Eleanour's best friend Jocelyn (she's the vicar's wife).
The grumpiest DI Scumble and DS Megan Pencarrow (the first female police officer in the area) who happens to be Eleanor's niece are assigned to investigate the murder.
But of course, it's Eleanor's sleuthing skills that help solve the murder.

The setting is quite amusing and entertaining, if you like cosy mysteries set in quaint little places.
Unfortunately, I guessed who-done-it very early in the book.

It's a quick and easy read, albeit predictable, with a rather obvious ending.
I will keep reading the books in the series, since I actually bought a whole set of four from The Book People. It's the Cornish setting and pretty covers that have enticed me yet again. Can't resist a book set in Cornwall.

cozy mystery, books set in Cornwall

If you enjoy reading books set in Cornwall and liked my review, may I bring your attention to the other reviews I wrote on books set in Cornwall:

The Cornish Guest House by Emma Burstall

Christmas at the Cornish Cafe by Phillipa Ashley

In a Cottage in a Wood by Cass Green

Meet Me At Wisteria Cottage by Teresa F.Morgan

The Cornish House by Liz Fenwick

I'd be happy if you could recommend me a good story set in Cornwall (apart from the usual suspects, like Jamaica Inn or the Poldark series).

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Roqberry tea

smokey tea

"Tea in a crisis," she said. "I wonder why we British always feel consoled by a cup of bloody tea".
Murderous Mayhem at Honeychurch Hall, Hannah Dennison

"Fenworth nodded. "Yes, yes. Urgent, deadly, insidious. The world is in peril and we must rise against evil". The old wizard released the general and patted him on the shoulder. "Tea and cake first, don't you think?"
DragonQuest, Donita K.Paul

Isn't it ironic how much we depend on tea in stressful situations?! Tea itself might not be the solution to all problems, but it surely helps to calm down and reassess, or revive and just soldier on. At least, that is true in my situation. Can't function without it.
Finding and exploring new tea brands and flavours is an exciting quest.

Roqberry tea is one of my latest tea discoveries. This new British brand has an extensive and varied collection of inspiring hand blended fusions and single source variety teas.

They set out their philosophy rather eloquently: "Each flavour invokes a sense of adventure experienced in its full-bodied and spine tingling aftertaste. Roqberry is set to blend the rules for foodies and tea drinkers alike".

Roqberry range starts with 17 varieties in total: nine tea blends, six infusions and two speciality tea legends. New flavours are promised to be added to the range throughout the year.

Nine tea blends are inspired by the world cuisines, which is an intriguing concept. Would you be tempted to try Sushi & Spice tea, which is hailed as "Tokyo in e teacup, with a moreish blend of savoury and spiky aromatic flavours"? And how about Rooibos S'mores, which invokes the images of the American marshmallow treats roasted in the bonfire?

Roqberry tea comes in high quality biodegradable silky teabags.

1 full box of 18 teabags costs £6, while a gift sleeve including a 3 box selection comes at £18.

modern tea flavours

The Big Smoke is described as "smoky and sophisticated with a malty swagger, this swingin' supergroup of black teas captures the lively London spirit. Wake up to the biggest baddest breakfast blend of them all".
This is a blend of Indian Assam Black tea, Chinese Yunnan Black tea and Lapsang Souchong Black tea.
I enjoy smoky teas, and The Big Smoke didn't disappoint. It's a beautiful refreshing brew, a good wake-me-up breakfast tea.

breakfast tea

Citrus Grey Black tea is a modern variation on a classic Earl Grey, described by Roqberry as "Natural bergamot meets gentle floral elegance and cheeky bursts of citrus for a smooth, sunny take on good old uncle Earl. Great taste runs in the family".
Its ingredients include Sri Lankan Black tea, lemon peel, lemongrass, lavender, calendula petals and natural bergamot flavouring.
Lavender in tea is not a novelty idea, and having tried many teas with lavender I admit I'm not a huge fan, as it often becomes the most prominent note. Citrus Grey balances all flavours well, but I'd still skip the lavender altogether.

Roqberry tea

Sweet Grapefruit Green tea is a fruity and zingy brew. "Notes of caramelised grapefruit marry beautifully with green tea for a light, refreshing blend".
Ingredients: Chinese Sencha green tea, liquorice, natural flavouring.

Roqberry tea

The colour is light straw. This tea would appeal to green tea fans.

Roqberry tea

Orange & Root Green tea promises "zingy bursts of orange [which] embrace the earthiness of beetroot for a green tea that'll lift your spirits yet keep you grounded. Fruit and veg in equal measure".
Ingredients include Chinese Sencha green tea, Japanese Sencha green tea, apple pieces, rosehip, hibiscus, beetroot, pomegranate flowers, orange peel, rose petals, natural flavouring;
It is off-red in colour, the flavour is quite mild.
The orange note is not as pronounced as I'd like it to be.
This tea didn't quite deliver its promise. The colour was somewhat insipid, and the taste rather unidentified.

Roqberry tea

Peppermint Cream Oolong is a delightful combination of cooling peppermint leaves with naturally creamy Chinese oolong, with cocoa shells and cocoa nibs, as well as liquorice.

Roqberry tea

Disclosure: I received several samples of Roqberry tea for the purposes of testing and reviewing. All opinions are my own.

Roqberry tea

Sunday, 22 April 2018

Avengers Infinity War XXL100-piece jigsaw puzzle from Ravensburger

best jigsaw puzzles

Avengers' fans are eagerly counting days and hours until Avengers: Infinity War is released later next week. Iron Man, Thor, the Hulk and the other Avengers will be united once again to fight their most powerful enemy - the evil Thanos.
If you are one of the Marvel fans and can't wait for the release of Avengers, you will enjoy a brand new product from Ravensburger - Avengers Infinity War XXL 100-piece jigsaw puzzle which is out just in time for the film release.

easy puzzles for 6-year-old+

Eddie is a big fan of all things Marvel, and he is not pleased that the film's rating is 12+ and he won't be able to watch it in the cinema. According to him, "it's not fair" (said in Horrid Henry's voice).
He was happy to work on the new puzzle though.
The puzzle - unlike the film - is suitable for ages 6+.

best jigsaw puzzles

We knew most of the characters on the finished puzzle (well, Eddie knew more than I did).

Avengers Infinity jigsaw puzzle

The puzzle consists of 100 XXL sized pieces, which are big and easy to find and connect.
Like all Ravensburger puzzles, it is made from strong premium grade recycled cardboard with a linen finish to minimise the glare on the puzzle image.

Avengers Infinity War merch

It took Eddie about 15 minutes from start to finish, and that, with pointing to the characters and discussing who is who and complaining that life is not fair because he won't be allowed to see the film in the cinema.
The puzzle measures 49x36cm when complete.

Avengers Infinity War

It is an excellent jigsaw puzzle and will make a fantastic gift for any Avengers Infinity fan.

Disclosure: We received the puzzle for the purposes of reviewing. All opinions are our own.

Saturday, 21 April 2018

Photo diary: week 16, project 365

It was another tough week for us. My dear husband was off gallivanting again for almost a week, and I was left to hold the fort. Sash was still quite unsettled, and didn't sleep well for several nights. He can function on a couple of hours of sleep a night, but I can't. I plod along like a zombie, hence blogging has been infrequent.

On Sunday we didn't go out at all. I baked some muffins, using Stork Ready to bake classic cupcakes. I spotted this new product, while doing grocery shopping from Tesco, and wanted to try it. Basically, you just cut the pouch and squeeze the dough into cupcake or muffin cases before baking. They were not bad at all for being ready-made, both boys enjoyed them. The decorations are Eddie's handiwork.

Monday morning was very hectic. After 17 days of no school, we found it hard to get ready in the morning. I haven't done any photos except a few shots for a tea review.

I love that magnolia tree by the Windrush river, it's in full bloom right now.

With so many days of rain, our garden is a kingdom of snails of all sizes. They might look cute, but these buggers have ruined so many of my plants, including potted lilies.

Market day on Thursday, and again running to meet a friend for coffee, I snapped this bread display.

On Wednesday my parrot tulips were all green monsters, then overnight several of them opened up in a riot of red colour. So beautiful! Thank you, Mum (she planted them last autumn around the garden).

Today is the National Tea Day, so of course, I had to celebrate. Out comes my favourite Russian porcelain teapot, which I had for over 22 years; and also Cornishware mugs. I have only 4 Cornishware mugs in my collection, two blue and two red.
In my "dream house" (one I'd love to have) I would have an open dresser with a big collection of Cornishware.

Friday, 20 April 2018

Fruity aubergine and chickpea curry

vegan dinners, vegetarian meals

It was the hottest day of the year yesterday (so far), and I was cooking a curry for dinner, rather than having a light salad and an iced tea. I had two aubergines in a bowl on the kitchen window, and quite a few tins in the pantry to choose from. This is a variation on a curry I cook quite often, changing and swapping some ingredients, like a dairy-free coconut yogurt (or just coconut-flavoured dairy yogurt) instead of coconut milk, adding flaked almonds or cashews, raisins or tinned peaches etc, so it's a very much flexible recipe, depending on what you have and like.
It could be either vegetarian (if you use milk-based yogurt) or vegan, or if you can't live without meat, chicken would be really nice in this curry too.

vegan meals, easy plant-based meals

Fruity aubergine and chickpea curry
2 red onions
6tbsp olive oil
1 red chilli
2 cloves of garlic
1tsp mustard seeds
2 aubergines
2tsp Sri Lankan masala
1tsp turmeric
a handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
about 100g soft dried peaches and mango
1 tin of chopped tomatoes (Polpa finely chopped tomatoes)
1 tin (400ml) light coconut milk
1 tin (400g) chickpeas, rinsed and drained

Start by frying finely chopped onions in 2 tbsp of olive oil for about 5 minutes. Add the mustard seeds, garlic and chilli, as well as aubergines. Slice aubergines in half, then in half again lengthways, and then chop into chunks. As these aubergines are young, I didn't peel the skin.
Add more oil, and season well with sea salt, then sprinkle with all spices. Cook stirring for another 5 minutes, until the aubergines chunks are coated with the spices, oil and onion mix.
Next add the halved cherry tomatoes and chopped dried peaches and mango slices. After cooking for another couple of minutes, pour in the contents of tinned tomatoes and coconut cream.
Drain and rinse the chickpeas before adding to the curry. Bring to boil, then lower the heat and cook, simmering, for about half an hour, stirring from time to time. The aubergine chunks should be very soft, but still hold the shape.

easy midweek dinners

Serve hot, with rice or without (I'm trying to cut down in carbs, so ate my curry without any rice).

This is a delicious, melt-in-the-mouth curry, not too hot, but very fragrant and flavourful.

vegan meals

I didn't specifically plan for this meal to be vegan, it just happened that the products I used were all vegetables and the cream is plant-based too.
I used the last of the Sri Lankan Masala curry mix from Steenbergs in this recipe, but any good masala mix will work. Next week I'm planning to go to the garden centre, where they have a lovely food shop, and I've seen Steenbergs' products there. If I can't find it there, then I'll have to order it online. Love the fruity flavours and aroma of this curry mix.

Mutti Polpa (Finely Chopped tomatoes) is one of the products from the latest Degustabox. This is a new Italian brand for me. Usually I buy Cirio tomato products. Mutti are winners of a prestigious Great Taste Award. Tinned chopped tomatoes were sweet and ripe, and worked beautifully in a vegetarian curry.

easy vegan dinners

As I've finished the delicious curry mix, I'm adding this recipe to #KitchenClearout at Madhouse Family Reviews, hosted by lovely Cheryl.

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Happy Days at Work - The Hairdresser, 500-pc jigsaw puzzle from Ravensburger

best jigsaw puzzles

"Pieces of jigsaw puzzle might all be different but when fit in, complete the story..." (Harrish Sairama).

This quote might well be a motto or a slogan for Ravensburger, since its jigsaw puzzles tell many a story.
Ravensburger Happy Days at Work series of jigsaw puzzles takes you on a trip down the memory lane.

Happy Days at Work - The Hairdresser is the 14th in a series of retro-style puzzles, created by the Yorkshire-based artist Trevor Mitchell.

The lady in the centre has the most elaborate hairdo, she is clearly getting ready for an evening out. Her make-up is amazingly "loud", and she looks very pleased with herself.
The hairdresser behind her seems to be delighted with the result. I can imagine it took hours to finish such an intricate hairdo.

best jigsaw puzzles

You see the other customers in the back, sitting under the dryers and reading magazines.
The posters on the walls show the glamorous images.
It is a cheerful scene from the days gone by.

best jigsaw puzzles

The 500-piece jigsaw puzzles measures 49x36 cm when complete. It is suitable for ages 10+.
Like all Ravensburger puzzles, it's made from strong premium grade cardboard, with linen finish print to minimise glare on the puzzle image. All the pieces are cut out, using Soft click technology, which ensures the precision and accuracy as well as the variety of shapes.

best jigsaw puzzles

The nostalgic image of the hair salon made me think of my Mum in her early 20s, when these hairstyles were en vogue.
There are a couple of photos in our family album which show my Mum and her friends with the glam and spectacular beehives and babettes.

best jigsaw puzzles

This lovely puzzle is an easy and entertaining one, and will make a great gift for any jigsaw puzzle fan.

amusing jigsaw puzzles

Disclosure: I received the jigsaw puzzle for the purposes of reviewing. All opinions are my own.

Saturday, 14 April 2018

Photo diary: week 15, project 365

16 days of Easter holidays, and counting. Not that we love school so much, but it's been two weeks of stress in our family. Sash has been very unsettled with a change in his routine, and I'm utterly exhausted. Roll on, Monday.
Last Sunday Eddie and I stopped in Gregg's for the weekly treat. Here's Eddie, rocking the Gregg's sausage roll.

It's been such a miserable week weather-wise too, raining every day. Still waiting for the parrot tulips which my Mum planted last autumn to reveal their colour.

More rain...

Experimental salmon fish cakes with kimchi on Wednesday for lunch.

It's the season of hyacinths and muscari in my garden at the moment. Such a beautiful blue colour.

Our local Waterstone's has very enthusiastic team, and we enjoy their book displays.

We start the week with Eddie's photo, and end it with yet another photo of Eddie. He is a big Ninjago fan, as you can see, and loves his new tshirt.