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Portion control-Iranian style

Diet saboteur technique number 2

I don’t think that Feri has quite got the hang of the portion control concept. 

Here is tonight’s evening meal prepared lovingly for 2 (TWO) persons.

Oh, and that’s not including the dill rice and Iranian flatbread.

Little fast, little feast

I have been looking back to see what I was writing about this time last year, and surprise surprise, Advent and Christmas were the topics of the day. Again, it’s hard to believe that it is exactly a year since I wrote the post whilst we were in the midst of the big freeze. I remember driving to the station one morning when it was -10 degrees. Today it is +10 degrees. 

In Iran 1 December marks the beginning if the “Little Fast” followed by some Christians during the 25 days leading up to Christmas Day known as “Little Feast”.   Although Iran is predominantly an Islamic nation, there are also some Moslems who celebrate Christmas as a non-religious festival. Christmas trees and decorations are bought, turkeys ordered and sometimes gifts are exchanged in the same way as we do here in the UK.

During the 25 day “Little Fast” which is meant to purify body and mind, Orthodox Christians follow a diet free of meat and dairy products only breaking their fast when Communion is received early on Christmas morning. To break their fast, the traditional dish of Harissa is eaten and here is a recipe for the chicken and barley stew.

Enjoy!

Armenian Harissa
Ingredients:
  • 1 whole chicken
  • 8 cups water
  • 2 cups whole wheat kernels, rinsed and drained
  • 2 tsp. salt, or to taste
  • cumin
  • paprika
  • butter
How to cook it
Rinse chicken and place in large pot with 8 cups water and salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium. Cook for about 45 minutes to 1 hour, with the pot partially covered until chicken is cooked.
Remove chicken from liquid; place on platter and allow to cool enough to handle. Discard skin, bones and fat. Shred chicken; cut into smaller pieces, if necessary.
Strain broth. Measure broth, and add enough water to make a total of 8 cups
Place broth in large pot. Add wheat, shredded chicken, and salt if necessary. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low. Remove any foam which rises to the surface.
Simmer on a very low heat, without stirring, covered, for about 4 hours
Beat vigorously with a sturdy, long-handled, wooden spoon, mashing the wheat and chicken until they resemble thick oatmeal. Adjust salt, if needed.
To serve: place in bowls. Add a pat of butter, if desired. Sprinkle with a dash of cumin or paprika to taste.
 
ArmenianHarissa.jpg

Contrasting fortunes-the cycle of depression

Yesterday I spent time with two of my colleagues and the difference in their moods could not have been more marked. I had lunch with the lovely “K” who was bubbly, brimming over with newly found confidence and self-approval, smiley, chatty, shoulders back and eyes glinting full of mischief. A woman on a mission to make the most of the moment. Only “K” could come to the table with a glorious salad piled high only then to reach into her bag to find the cheese, salad dressing and croutons/sprinkles/crispy bits (whatever they’re called) to complete the spread! She kept me entertained for a good hour and it was great to see her so full of life and energy after so many tearful and difficult times.

This is the wonderful side of the human mind. With the right encouragement, treatments, inspiration and motivation, the support of friends, family and colleagues it has an amazing ability to recuperate and regenerate positivity from the pit of despair and despondency.

 Simply amazing and long may it last!

Unfortunately, “A” isn’t in such a good place right now. Overwhelmed and under pressure, tears welled as she spoke of her current low mood. Each problem individually manageable but collectively insurmountable and with little energy left over from fighting the depression she faces a constant stream of routine daily battles just to get through the day. All those things that people take for granted; having a shower, cleaning your teeth, eating breakfast, driving to work, facing the crowds on the train. Struggling in vain to concentrate with a mind that wanders and flits unproductively from task to task. Tired and worried. A vicious circle and a negative downward spiral awaits unless the self-critical behaviour is arrested.

Hopefully, “A” will find the strength and courage to face the battles with hope and belief that all will be well in the end given time and gets the support she deserves from her friends, family and colleagues. “A” is usually the strong one. The carer and nurturer. I just hope that she takes some time out for herself and gives herself a chance to regain her positive and capable self soon.

She’s taken the first, and often most difficult step in talking about it. It’s onwards and upwards from here “A”.

You go girl. We’re with you all the way. 🙂

Single malt

What are friends for if not to pass on their recommendations for quality whisky and whisky from the Speyside region at that-my favourite. So when my brother-across-the-water Phoenix commented on my amber nectar post and mentioned a single malt called Balvenie what’s a girl to do?

This girl calls in to the Whisky Shop on her way to Edinburgh Waverley Station and purchases a bottle that’s what. So armed with a bottle of new whisky to try and a special Talisker Whisky glass given to me by the wonderful Anne on Tuesday evening I was perfectly kitted out for a testing session on my return home.

There is nothing quite like getting home after a long week away and pouring out a glass of honeyed malt. Heaven in a glass.

Even the words used to describe the nosing and tasting of whisky are wonderfully evocative; fragrant, pungent, malty, smoky, mellow, honey, balanced, mature, well-rounded. In fact, perhaps I should start distilling my very own malt. I know which characteristics would identify it as mine; mature and well-rounded with a sharp smoothness, a fruity complexity, pale and interesting!

The 12 year old Balvenie Signature which I selected is described as follows;

Nose: Rich and complex with honey and citrus fruits and vanilla oak notes.

Taste: Rich and honeyed with a hint of sherry fruitiness. A spiciness of cinnamon and nutmeg and a subtle oakiness develop with time.

The finish is warm and lingering.

Thank you Phoenix-a perfect choice. You know me well.

Children in Need 2011

Children in Need 2011 will be celebrated on Friday 18 November.

Every year I have made special Pudsey Bear cakes which Will and I used to take round to our neighbours. It is a tradition he may have grown out of but I haven’t and each year sees me disappear into Lakeland to stock up on Pudsey Bear goodies. Muffin and fairy-cake cases, Pudsey cake toppers and biscuit cutters all ready to make yummy cakes and biscuits. 

My favourite Pudsey Bear recipe is for chocolate and vanilla sponge fairy cakes which also hide a chunk of chocolate in the middle!  Here are the instructions. Have fun and enjoy!

Pudsey Bear Cakes-makes 12

For the cakes you will need;

12 fairy-cake cases (Pudsey Bear ones available from Lakeland)
115g butter
115g caster sugar
2 large eggs, beaten
150g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tbsp milk
12 squares plain chocolate

For the topping (If not using Pudsey Bear cake toppers, again available from Lakeland)
150g icing sugar
2-3 tbsp warm water
Red icing tube

Method

Pre-heat oven to 180c. Cream butter & sugar until light & fluffy. Add egg, little at a time and beat until smooth. Add vanilla extract, flour & baking powder. Mix well. Place a generous amount in one side of each cake case. Add cocoa powder & milk to the remaining mixture and mix well. Place some chocolate mixture next to the original mixture in each case and place a square of chocolate in the centre of each cake. (Yum). Bake for 15-20 mins.

When cool, make up the icing for the topping and smooth over the cake. Add red icing dots to look like Pudsey’s bandage.

Otherwise, decorate with Pudsey Bear cake toppers

Delicious!

Amber nectar-Balvenie

What are friends for if not to pass on their recommendations for quality whisky and whisky from the Speyside region at that-my favourite. So when my brother-across-the-water Phoenix commented on my amber nectar post and mentioned a single malt called Balvenie what’s a girl to do?

This girl calls in to the Whisky Shop on her way to Edinburgh Waverley Station and purchases a bottle that’s what. So armed with a bottle of new whisky to try and a special Talisker Whisky glass given to me by the wonderful Anne on Tuesday evening I was perfectly kitted out for a testing session on my return home.

There is nothing quite like getting home after a long week away and pouring out a glass of honeyed malt. Heaven in a glass.

Even the words used to describe the nosing and tasting of whisky are wonderfully evocative; fragrant, pungent, malty, smoky, mellow, honey, balanced, mature, well-rounded. In fact, perhaps I should start distilling my very own malt. I know which characteristics would identify it as mine; mature and well-rounded with a sharp smoothness, a fruity complexity, pale and interesting!

The 12 year old Balvenie Signature which I selected is described as follows;

Nose: Rich and complex with honey and citrus fruits and vanilla oak notes.

Taste: Rich and honeyed with a hint of sherry fruitiness. A spiciness of cinnamon and nutmeg and a subtle oakiness develop with time.

The finish is warm and lingering.

Thank you Phoenix-a perfect choice. You know me well.

Amber nectar

The combination of working in Scotland and my McGregor Scottish roots leads me instinctively to seek out a wee dram of the “ould” amber nectar every time I travel north of the border. It is most noticeable when in Edinburgh where I sniff out the whisky shops and spend hours looking at the wonderful different shaped bottles and coloured labels which evoke a sense of highland mystery and intrigue. I don’t know a lot about whisky, but I know enough and have certainly sampled sufficient varieties to know what I do and do not like. At first I worried that by being so selective it would limit my experience of this warm and comforting spirit but each type of whisky has so many different labels in its collection that I need not fear that I am missing out. I still have plenty of Lowland and Speyside whiskies to go at but I leave the harsher and more peaty Highland and Island varieties to those with more discerning tastes.

Drinking whisky is a very personal experience and you should treat it with respect. For me, whisky needs to be unadulterated by water, ice or mixers of any kind. I also prefer mine served at room temperature in a glass I can hold in my hands until warm. The smooth liquor always slides down effortlessly and generates a warm and cosy feeling. Lovely!

The gentleman in the Whisky Shop (we are not quite on first name terms yet) always has a new whisky for me to try and he is a mine of information. He also makes sure that I travel back home on the train at the end of the week with a bottle under each arm; the only slight embarrassment is boarding the train at lunchtime smelling of whisky but needs must.

In addition to enjoying the drinking experience, whisky is also the topic of my all time favourite joke. “The White Horse”. I’m sure you know it already but here it is anyway. It never ever fails to make me laugh I hope it at least raises a smile for you too.

 A white horse goes into a bar, leans up against the counter and asks for a tot of whisky. The barman says “Of course Sir, we have several varieties of whisky available. Which whisky would you like? We have Glenlivet, Glenfiddich, Glenfarclas, Highland Park, Talisker, Bells and, Famous Grouse. We even have one named after you”

The white horse says “What Eric?”

Ha! Ha!