No Forks Needed


I’m pleased to say we are having a mini heatwave here in Wales; it happens so rarely I feel completely justified in revelling in it. It is also the week of the Royal Welsh Show, last year both exhibitors and visitors were up to their armpits in mud, slush and mire, so I am really pleased they can enjoy the sunshine too.

Glad to be able to submit an FF story this week and my thanks to our top chef Rochelle for selecting such an unusual photograph to tempt us with.  Thanks also to Marie Gail Stratford for taking it.

25 July 2014

No Forks Needed

Genre: Crime

Word Count: 100

Mary sat at her usual table, her laptop open and ready. The story she was writing was going well, but now she was stuck. Did she kill off the character giving her problems, or try to rework the plot? She was watching the street, waiting for her muse to return, when two strangers came in.

One man went to the kitchen. She heard a blood curdling scream and saw Wu Tan stagger out, clutching the knife embedded in his chest. The men ran into the street and disappeared.

Mary stared at Wu and flexed her fingers, her muse was back.

 

 for more stories from the other Fictioneers

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Inside – weekly photo challenge


Inside – looking out

We rented a house on Ile de Re.  We were there out of season and had a lovely holiday recharging our batteries. Our house was charming and this is a view from our room which overlooked the square.  The trees were just coming into leaf, it was quite cool so no-one sat outside the little cafe; the locals huddled inside dipping warm croissants into steaming bowls of hot chocolate.  Most mornings we joined them.

 

Indulge – Weekly Photo Challenge


My first thoughts were of chocolate or a long laze in a bath full of soft scented bubbles……

Then I looked through my photographs to see what indulgences I could find there and it’s not always what you have in mind that jumps out at you from the screen. So, here are my photos for this week:

I love Sushi and I have never seen so much in one place at one time…….

 

I had dreamed of going to Egypt ever since my first history lesson and in 2008 my dream came true. After spending days in the baking sun, taking in the wonderful sights and sounds of temples, the bustle of the soukhs and markets, we stared in awe at the pyramids…….

and ended our stay here, almost a shame to cause a ripple….

But I couldn’t end without some chocolate…………..

 

Go on, have a piece, I have……………yum

PS. If you want the recipe, let me know 🙂

Dieting, baby Beckham and Twitter…


I have always been a fan of actress Pauline Quirke and so was delighted to see her new look in the paper the other day.  Losing weight is not easy.  I have tried various diets at different times of my life and, like everyone else who has ever dieted, find that some work, some don’t. I have never been a fan of the cabbage soup diet – very anti social, or the banana diet, very binding.  Likewise shakes and snacks, they don’t do it for me either. Pauline followed the LighterLife plan and lost 6 stone in weight, the results speak for themselves.  I think she looks amazing.

                                                                  

The Dukan Diet has also been in the press lately and it does looks interesting; and although health experts say we should eat from each food group each day in moderation, I don’t think foregoing carbs for a few days can do much harm.  As you get older any excess weight becomes difficult to shift, so while I’m not sure about following the programme long-term, for a kick-start it should be ideal.

 I was intrigued by the names of baby Beckham.  Harper, although very different I can at least understand, but Seven…….  It has been explained in different ways but seemingly the baby was born just after 7 in the 7th month of the year and David played at number 7 …… if this catches on then my eldest son will have to change his name to Four, following the same reasoning as above.

 Lastly Twitter – a while ago I wrote a post about Twitter and whether to tweet or not.  Since then I have to say I have become quite hooked.  I exchange tweets with some great people and have found that if you strip away the celebrity chit-chat, underneath there is a seriously free marketing and PR tool.  I have watched as businesses have attracted more and more followers by selective tweeting about what they, grow, sell, produce, make, let, buy etc.  And it has also become a sort of advice directory, just post a tweet asking for help or advice on almost anything and before you know it, replies come flooding in. Charities seem to have benefited too and there are people on twitter who work tirelessly to retweet appeals for help with raising money or to publicise new campaigns.

Amongst other things it has renewed my faith in human nature. People still want to help people.

 

 

How to cheat……. and get away with it


 

Roast Beef

With some friends, who are acknowledged “foodies” coming for Sunday lunch, I decided to stay safe and cook my signature Sunday lunch dish – roast beef with Yorkshire puddings and all the trimmings. My butcher carefully selected a lovely piece of beef for me, a large piece as I think that the larger the joint, the better it cooks and tastes. He also put some fat on top “makes the gravy taste better”. He always does this and I always throw it away, thinking heart attack, cholesterol levels etc., see, I do pay attention to medical information.

Having completed my shopping the previous day or so I thought, straight after breakfast I started to prepare the vegetables. I got the beef ready for the oven, nicely sprinkled with freshly ground black pepper, in it went. I then had a coffee and a quick scan of the Sunday papers, before deciding it was time to make the Yorkshire pudding batter. In my store cupboard are quite a few types of flour, but horror of horrors, there was no plain flour in sight.

Now, I have been foolish enough to attempt to make Yorkshire puddings with self raising flour in the past, the results have been something entirely inedible and could be used for Frisbee practice! So I asked my son if he would be my saviour, pop down to the village shop and get me some plain flour so I could make the Yorkshires.

I was out in the garden when he got back, he shouted that Mrs Williams hadn’t any plain flour in the shop, but had given him some of Aunt Bessie’s. With that he was off to his rugby match, I heard the front door slam as I rushed into the kitchen.

What I feared was there, on the kitchen table, two packets of frozen Yorkshire puddings courtesy of Aunt Bessie, whoever she may be! There was no time to go anywhere for plain flour, indeed, there wasn’t anywhere to go to, well not and be back in time for lunch. With the smell of roast beef wafting through the kitchen, I stared at the frozen offerings. I couldn’t serve these to the foodies, could I?

 I opened one packet and took out the frozen puddings. Hmm they seemed the same diameter as my small bun tins. I carefully took one pudding out of its’ tinfoil, there was a small amount of grease in the bottom but not much. So I took some fat from the roasting tin, put a very small amount in the bottom of each of the twelve spaces of the bun tin and put the tin in the oven. When the fat was hot, I placed a frozen pudding in each one. Then, with fingers crossed, into the hot oven they went.

They were perfect; the foodies showered me with compliments on the lunch and asked how on earth I managed to make such tasty Yorkshire puddings? As my son had not yet got back from his rugby match, I just smiled and said nothing.

Aunt Bessie's Yorkshire Puddings

Delicious Rocky Road ice cream ♥


The Recipe

7oz tin of condensed milk

1oz cocoa powder

8fl oz double cream

4 fl ozs milk

1tsp vanilla extract

1 oz mini marshmallows

Put the condensed milk and cocoa powder into a medium saucepan and cook stirring, over a low heat, till the mixture is smooth and slightly thickened. Remove from the heat and allow to cool down a little. Stir in the cream, milk and vanilla and stir well.  Put mixture into the fridge until quite cold.

If you have an ice cream maker, pour mixture in, then freeze/churn according to the manufacturer’s instructions.  Add the marshmallows halfway through the freezing process

If you don’t  have an ice cream maker, pour the mixture into a  metal bowl (this helps to speed up the freezing process). Place in the freezer for 30 mins, remove and beat with an electric mixer until smooth, making sure any ice crystals that have formed are broken up; return to freezer for 40 mins, then remove and beat again with mixer, repeat the “40 minute freeze & beat cycle” three times, this should give you a total of 2½ hours freezing time.  Add the marshamallows after about 2 hours so that they don’t all fall to the bottom of the mixure.

This recipe makes enough for four servings.

If you prefer a Rockier Road add 1oz of either chopped walnuts or pecans with the marshmallows.

Top with melted chocolate or your favourite chocolate sauce

Enjoy! ♥

A busy weekend in Spain


We spent a lovely weekend in Estepona, an unusual choice perhaps,but we were looking for somewhere a bit different and off the tourist radar.  The hotel Kempinski backs onto the beach and was a lovey place to stay. After a day out and about, it was great to come back to a relaxing spa treatment before leaving later in search of some local food.

The local people were very friendly and welcoming, the food in the local restaurants was amazing.  We had seafood platters ladened down with everything you could wish for, fresh bread and olives, delicious tapas dishes and some very drinkable local wine.

On Saturday we  had decided to visit Gibraltar and whether you agree or disagree with its’ownership, it is well worth a visit.  We joined the long queue of traffic snaking out of Spain waiting to cross into Great Britain (weird) and once we found a car park we set off to epxlore.

The main shopping street was crowded, bustling with people looking for duty free bargains and there were loads to choose from,  Cameras, wine, spirits, makeup, tobacco, electrical goods, practically everything you could think of.

We decided to leave the crowds and head off up the rock.  Before we had gone too far, we found the Barbary Apes, or rather they found us! Stealing crisps and chocolate and running off with their prizes was quite good fun it seemed. The views from the rock were stunning and well worth the climb. If you don’t feel up to the long walk, you can take the cable car to the summit.

On Sunday, we were up early to go up to Ronda. It is short drive north of Marbella and we were last there about 15 years ago. I am glad to say that it was still as beautiful as I remembered it. The drive up to Ronda and view looking back down into the gorge, is incredibly hard to explain to anyone who hasn’t been there.

Ronda was one of the last Moorish cities to fall during the re-conquest of Spain by the Catholic Monarchs.  In 1485, the Crusaders took one look up the cliffs and decided it would be impossible to attack, so they cut off the water supply instead.  Once the garrison guarding the water was taken, the city fell in 7 days. The town is now a must on the tourist trail, but it is so worth the effort to go there.  A truly wonderful place.

Just saying………..


I feel that I should blog something, but some days it isn’t easy. It’s not that I don’t have anything to say or share but sometimes I wonder if anyone is going to find what I do blog remotely interesting.

We are just back from holiday, so I guess I am still missing the relaxing, warm sunny days spent in Sicily, where we had a terrace almost to ourselves. We sat there most days after breakfast just looking out to sea and the view along the coast to Giardini Naxos. We went there one day in search of the archeological site that the brochure said was on the headland. It wasn’t that simple. We used TomTom (so glad I took it with us, would have been lost without it) and got to most places, except the rather well hidden ancient ruins at Giardini Naxos.

We stopped near some policeman and I got out of the car to ask for directions, in my best night school Italian! It was only when I got back in the car, with full directions, that it hit me that they had been fairly heavily armed! They were just standing there, laughing and talking in the narrow street when we drove past them, perhaps it was their lunch break!

I really enjoyed the food while we were away, I think the mediterranean diet is fantastic. Olives, tomatoes, crusty bread, fish soup, red wine…….I’m not sure that it totally fits in with my healthy eating plan and it isn’t the same without the sunshine.

We came home and the election still hadn’t been resolved, much to my OH’s delight as he couldn’t watch any tv whilst away, we only had CNN and the coverage was awful. So I watched the show unfold from Westminster while everyone waited for Nick Clegg to make up his mind. I had to smile at some of the reports coming in of a Rainbow Alliance and a Celtic Revival; then Gordon Brown catching them all on the hop by going off to see the Queen to tender his resignation. “The Likely Lads” then had to rush to get their act together before David Cameron could go and “kiss hands” with the monarch and accept her invitation to form a new government.

I don’t envy them their task when they have to relay to us the horrors they find when George Osbourne turns the key and opens the Treasury’s equivalent of Pandora’s Box!

I leave you with a couple of photos from my holiday, some wonderful Sicilian lemons which I found in the hotel bar and a view across towards Mount Etna which still had quite a bit of snow on the top. Ciao!

Know your beans!!


I am trying to follow a health eating plan in an attempt to lower my cholesterol. I have swapped any meat with visible fat for a leaner meat such as chicken or turkey, which hasn’t been at all difficulty really. I have also included more oily fish in my diet, but have avoided mackerel as I find it too strong. I have coupled this with also being careful about how many carbs I eat as bread could be my downfall, especially as it cries out for butter! So my eating plan goes something like this:

Breakfast – either porridge oats with skimmed milk, topped with berries, or granola mixed with low fat yoghurt instead of milk, coffee with skimmed milk and no sugar

Mid morning – handful of almonds and walnuts which are good at lowering cholesterol                                     

Lunch – salad sandwich with no butter or tuna salad, using tuna canned in brine, followed by a low fat yoghurt and a large glass of water

Mid afternoon – apple and a handful of my own dried fruit and nut mixture                    

Dinner – salmon and steamed vegetables, or chicken with a huge salad (no dressing just black pepper and a sqeeze of lemon juice) low fat yoghurt and occasionally a glass of wine.

I am also trying to drink more water than I did previously and I also take a good multivitamin tablet at lunchtime to make sure I am not missing anything. I have also been making a few stews using beans and lentils which are a healthy source of fibre and a rich source of protein.  I was amazed when I started finding out about eating more healthily, just how many beans there are.

There are black beans a favourite in Caribbean food; creamy coloured borlotti beans, used in many Italian stews and soups; cannellini beans lovely in a tuna salad; butter beans flat whitish beans with a great buttery flavour; pinto beans a bit like borlotti beans but darker, they are used a lot in Mexican cooking; flageolet beans pale green beans used a lot in French regional cooking; haricot beans used mainly in slow cooking, one-pot type dishes and are great added to soups –  and I’m sure there are many more that I haven’t come across yet.

Loving Indian food


I like eating Indian food but as my OH was not too keen, the only time I would get to go out to an Indian restaurant was with my girlfriends which is about once every three months or so. 

I started to try a few recipes from various cookery books and found that, with the help of some very good  sauces I can make authentic tasting Indian meals at home!  I particularly like the Balti pastes and have developed my own chicken balti dish, which even the OH likes eating!

After watching several cookery programmes I wanted to buy a “masala dabba” or Indian spice box as they look so lovely full of the colourful spices used in Indian cookery. I eventually found one on amazon of all places. Then I wanted the spices to go in it and found them all  at spices of India. I expect I could get them in a supermarket, but I thought I would be authentic the first time round!

Whilst I still have the occasional problems cooking rice,  I love being able to eat Indian food at home and even my OH now has his own favourites.