Travelling Hopefully

I believe there is a saying which goes something like “To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive” – well I have to say that I can´t quite agree with Robert Louis Stevenson. But I expect he wasn´t heading to London for eight days to visit my family and friends, so I´ll just have to excuse him.

I arrived home late last night to be met by my wonderful Big Man bearing flowers.  Lilies…my favourite. It´s been a while since he bought me flowers, (impossible to get where we live) so the surprise romantic gesture was very much appreciated.

Being a canny packer of cases, I always go right to the limit on my baggage allowances.  20kg in the suitcase, 10kg in the hand luggage and the biggest hand bag possible.  No, I most definitely don´t travel light!  I went out loaded with Christmas presents (can´t tell you much about them though, as I don´t want to give any surprises away).  The case was also packed with packs of chorizo and morcilla to make Fabada Asturiana, plastic lid things to “flip” your tortilla, chillies from my garden, wine glass/tumblers, gifts from my recent holiday, chocolates for my niece and nephew, books to entertain young children on a long flight to the States to see their grandmother, Spanish fans for a friend´s mum, olives, biscuits….well, I think you get the picture.

The advantage of this is that once you´ve unpacked and “shared the love”, you have an almost empty suitcase waiting to be filled with gorgeous things to take back home with you.  Of course, I wasn´t about to go home empty handed.

I carefully packed some lovely pictures done by the wonderful children I got to spend time with.  A very flattering portrait of me done by my 10 year old niece, Lara.  Look at that fabulous waist and bust…if only! A lovely thank you card from 4 year old William and his 2 year old brother Matthew.

Chocolate.  And then some more chocolate.  If you haven´t tried Quality Street, track it down!  Lots of lovely chocolate toffee and caramel sweets in a tin.  They just take me back to childhood Christmases when these were a very special treat.  And then you get to use the tin to put your cakes in!

I had a bit of a mad fabric buying spree.  I´m laying some of the blame for this on my new blogging pal Evie, over at Pendle Stitches.  I was the very lucky winner of this beautiful shawl that she had made, and it was waiting for me at my parents´ house.  Very handy actually, as it was a little nippy last week in London.  Anwyay, Evie suggested some wonderful fabric shops for me to look at in London.  The fabrics were amazing.

"Weigh" too much fabric!

Eventually I bought a huge variety of fabrics in Tooting Broadway, my old neighbourhood in South London, plus an amazing discovery of some vintage fabrics, still neatly folded and never taken out of storage since about 1950.  They almost tipped me over the baggage allowance, but as there were only 31 people on the flight home (I felt like I was on my own private jet), the check in girl turned a very kind blind eye to my extra kilo…20 metres of cotton, linen, silk, jersey, viyella, crepe and who knows what else do weigh rather a lot.  I also bought a new magazine to inspire me.

I´ll make that one day.....

And finally, to food.  My mother stocked me up with all sorts of odd and bizarre things I find hard or expensive to buy out here.

All spice berries, Golden Syrup, Maldon Salt.

Sugar and spice and all things nice

Loaf tin liners and vanilla for my baking.

My mum made me a wonderful beef curry with lots of vegetable curries to accompany it.

Best friend Ria made a fantastic chicken and cannellini bean casserole (recipe another day) even though she was feeling poorly last week.

And talking of food, guess what?  I got to meet one of my new blogging pals face to face.  It was Mad Dog, who was not in the least bit mad and not remotely dog like!  We spent a happy and all too short hour in Bar Italia, in the heart of London´s Soho, drinking coffee and chatting about food, Spain, food, photography, food, ourselves.  What a great guy he is, and he gave me a fantastic gift of the film Tampopo, a comedy featuring…yes you´ve guessed…food!

So, now I´m home again and looking forward to getting back into my kitchen. Big Man has already started stocking up on autumn fruits and vegetables.

A neighbour gave us a crate of Membrillo, or quince, so we´ll be making quince jelly this weekend.

Another neighbour gave us some enormous pomegranates (or Granadas) from his tree.  I may just have to eat them as is, as I adore them served simply.

I also have a couple of kilos of broad beans, but I think you already know many of my recipes for this gorgeous little vegetable.

So, time to unpack, wash, cook and sew.  Sounds odd, but I can´t wait!

PS. Am looking forward to a few days of blog catching up – really looking forward to seeing what you have all been up to.

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Sort of Saag Aloo

Yummy curry...

I love Indian food.  If I had to choose a favourite cuisine, I think Indian would be it.  We do have a few Indian restaurants not too far away from us (i.e. about half an hour´s drive) but I usually get my curry fix when I go to London.  I was lucky enough to live in a neighbourhood that was predominantly Indian and African, so I was spoilt for choice in wonderful ethnic restaurants.

Sometimes, however, my cravings get the better of me and I have to make curry at home. Big Man hasn´t ever really “had” the full curry experience, so doesn´t really understand my need for curry, but on the occasions I´ve made something  “currified”, he´s enjoyed it.

We currently have a lot of chard growing and usually eat it wilted with oil and lemon juice but I decided to substitute the spinach in a Saag Aloo (that´s a Spinach and Potato curry) for chard, and see how it worked.  Fortunately it was a perfect substitution and Big Man adored it.  I think he´s starting to become a curry monster like me!

Freshly picked but not yet cleaned

I lay no claims to the authenticity of the spices I use in relation to a real Indian Saag Aloo, but the combination worked well and had good spicy (but not too hot) flavour.

Ingredients used:

Smells wonderful even before cooking

3 teaspoons of Garam Masala mix (you can buy ready made or make your own). I used a mix bought over by a friend which a chef friend of hers makes up and I then grind as I need it.  I don´t know the exact mix but I picked out coriander seeds, curry leaves, cumin seeds, black peppercorns, cinnamon and coriander.

1 or 2 teaspoons of hot chili powder (or use mild) according to taste

1 teaspoon of ground turmeric

Half a teaspoon of mustard seeds

Two medium potatoes (mine were ready cooked as it´s what I had in the fridge but you can use raw) cubed

About 3 cups of uncooked (or just wilted in its own steam), chopped spinach or chard, otherwise you can use frozen

About half a cup of chopped tomatoes

3 cloves of crushed garlic

Oil for frying (something with little flavour, not olive oil)

Salt

Lemon

Start by frying the potatoes until lightly browned then remove them from the pan and drain off most of the oil.

Fry your potatoes

Fry the spices until they start to release the most wonderful  smells and then add the garlic and fry until it softens.

Breathe deeply and enjoy the wonderful spicy scents

Add the tomatoes and simmer for about 5 minutes then add your spinach or chard.

Add your spinach or chard to the tomato

Put a lid on the pan and simmer for another 5 minutes or so then add the potatoes.

Add salt, Indian food can take (and usually needs) a heavy hand with the salt, but use low sodium if you can´t use regular.

Simmer, uncovered until most of the liquid has evaporated but all of the vegetables are coated in the tomato and spice sauce.

I like this served with a generous squeeze of lemon juice.

Can be served as a side dish or a main (vegetarian) dish with plain boiled basmati rice.  Now, where are my popadoms?!