Tomato & Lentil with Tarragon Soup

Nice relaxing morning today as the early birds went out to the local public tennis courts and I was left with the eldest.  His job this weekend was to make Sunday tea and he’d chosen Meatballs from Jamie’s Ministry of Food: Anyone Can Learn to Cook in 24 Hours.   Whilst he was busy doing his rolling and dividing I had a rummage around for lunch time ingredients.   A tired carrot, an onion and left over tarragon from Friday nights tea for my inspiration.   First time I used Tarragon was in a tomato soup recipe so my first thought is always to jump for soup when presented with left overs.

So armed with a couple of store cupboard items (red lentils and tinned tomatoes) this is a stress free soup in the making.

  • Onion diced
  • Carrot (doesn’t need to be tired!) diced
  • Slug Olive/Rapeseed Oil
  • 1 tsp Paprika (Optional)
  • 1 tblsp Bouillon 
  • 2 Tins of Tomato Soup
  • 2 tblsp Tomato Puree (Optional)
  • Tarragon Stalks removed and finely chopped (Optional)
  • 200g Red Lentils
  • 1.5l of boiling water from the kettle

After trying a spiced lentil recipe in Ottolenghi’s Plenty, if I have time I now pre soak red lentils for 30 mins before.  I find they don’t stick to the bottom of the pan when cooking and they are already full and plump so to my mind need less cooking!

  1. So if you have time….soak your lentils in 300ml of cold water before hand….otherwise you might need to add a little extra water to the soup.
  2. In a large stock pot soften the onion and carrot in the oil by gently frying
  3. Add the Bouillon and Paprika to coat
  4. Pour in the hot water
  5. Add the lentils and water, tinned tomatoes, Puree
  6. Stir and then cover
  7. Simmer for 20 mins and stir occasionally
  8. At the end add the chopped tarragon
  9. Depending on how you like your soup……blitz with a hand blender

Serve with a nice crusty loaf and I can thoroughly recommend Nigel’s soda bread (lazy loaf)

Whisky Fringe 2014

Whisky Fringe
Gathering of several ages

My 2nd year at the Whisky Fringe and this time I was prepared, rather than approach the event like a rabbit stuck between headlights I’d marked the program with the whiskies that appeared in 101 Whiskies to try before your die. A great little book that combines a little history, a little wit and some great tasting notes covering a great selection of what should be available whisky to the joe public.

My top recommendations:

The Balvenie Double Wood 17 (Which I’ve purchased for a Christmas treat with the help of the event voucher) - and having just finished the Double Wood  12 year old it must have suited my pallet. This takes everything that made the 12 year old Doublewood so iconic and giving it a bit more age and maturity Balvenie have chosen an excellent whisky to complete their new core range.

Balbair 99 - The second release of the 1999 vintage has been matured in both 2nd fill bourbon and 1st fill oloroso casks. These have imparted a complex mix spice and sweetness which work together perfectly

The Old Pulteney 17, which I thought had the edge over the Old Pulteney that was the event (spirit of the fringe) favourite.  I’ve only just found out it was  a past winner of The Spirit of Whisky Fringe Award (2011) an unchillfiltered 17 year old bottling of the top selling malt at Royal Mile Whiskies. Lots of pineapple and coconut, with a robust spine. A firm favourite.

Weekly Photo Challenge: THRESHOLD


Threshold of Warmer Days

Loving the theme of this weeks photo challenge of the daily post, Threshold.  I’ve taken full use of my artistic licence here as we are on the threshold of warmer days, getting out and this was one of the first shots I took with my new camera.  The magnolia bush just outside our house.   I think I’ve reduced the size too much and could do with looking into how other bloggers add Photo’s to there wordpress sites.  I need to get slicker!

Update: later in the day, had another stab at making the picture larger

Meandering 05-04-2014

Woke up at 6am bright as a button, the week whirling around in my head.  Isn’t that always the way, the one day I can have a lie and b-ding.  Whereas on the work days I’ve been a slave to alarm, the dream world interrupted by the clock radio.

I snuck round the house, made a cup of tea and enjoyed a few minutes peace as the house was sleeping. I was drawn back to #zerotohero knowing that the 30 days were well and truly over wondering where I’d left off. Alas they called time on there superheroes approach to blogging.

If my memory serves me right I found that I was struggling to embed a picture from Flickr. Eventually I cracked it and decided to tackle a YouTube video. A video my mum passed me at the start of the new year wishing me all the best for 2014.


So here we are in April, and again I’m feeling guilty about the lack of posts, its not that haven’t had things to tell or that I’ve forgotten about wordpress. It’s come down to priorities….and work has been like a non-stop roller coaster thats gone faster and faster since that first week in January and outside of that we’ve been getting on with things.

So from my last post I posted my Q1 resolutions, and having had a quick scan I managed 6 out of the 14!

So thinking of Q2 as a new year, which is quite hard without the rasamataz of fireworks….. whats on the block for tackling this year.

  1. Get to grips with my camera
  2. Finish Fork in the Road
  3. Read Ruby Wax Sane New World
  4. Climb a Munro
  5. Visit a distillery
  6. Open the camping season
  7. Visit an old piece of Piano Music and stick to it
  8. 3 Mile Run – managed 2.6 last week…..I hate running!
  9. Get back to my How to Cook Challenge
  10. Visit the top of Scotland
  11. Start my Black Box Challenge!

Meandering 01-14

20140105-113950.jpgSo I come to start of 2014 inspired and ready for a new year. I find myself trying to assess why I don’t manage to blog through the year, why I didn’t achieve some of the goals that I wanted to and how can I do better this time. Like a lot of people it comes down to time and priority. Bringing up two boys takes a lot of it and there are the achievements that are taken for granted. We did buy that camper van and we did get out there! Then there is the day job….a constant in my life and the achievements that go with it along with the demands on headspace.

I’ve been looking for inspiration and like the idea of 12 week years rather than a 52 week as presented by Oliver Burkeman, Must a Year last 52 weeks. I’ve found myself thinking what do I want to achieve in a smaller bite sized manageable chunk of time.

I also came across the #zerotohero challenge. I think this could be the daily ticket to get me in some kind of ritual. I’m not sure it takes account of the daily grind, but it’s definitely food for thought and the only person who is going to make it happen is myself.

The challenge for day three to think about why I started this blog, what was the idea that was running through my head. I was looking to become a better writer which had some purpose, understand social media, grow my web development skills and share some of my experiences as a way of putting back in……and to become a better blogger you need to blog!

Last up is a post from Wild About Scotland, a blog I follow due to the fact we both have the same style of camper van, he has a great WordPress blog and introduces the 14 for 2014 challenge!

So do I break my year down into 13 week chunks (what would I do with the remainder if it were 12?), and think about 14 things I want to achieve this year which will take us roughly to the end of March.

  1. Trip to London
  2. Ski Holiday
  3. Finally get to the bottom of the knocking on the steering on the Van
  4. Take part in the #zerotohero challenge
  5. Help my mum
  6. Visit a distillery
  7. Visit the Snowzone
  8. Camp in the van at least once
  9. Public Speaking Course
  10. Choose a new piece of Piano Music and stick to it
  11. 3 Mile Run
  12. Keep up my How to Cook Challenge
  13. Finish the Inheritance Cycle
  14. Read Goodnight Mister Tom to my eldest

Challenge 2014 – How to Cook

For those of us who are lucky to be able to take some time off during the Christmas period there is that moment between the two annual foodie events of the year where there is a quiet patch. The build-up to Christmas and the big roast has passed and the lull before the preparation for the next final evening of the year. For me a moment of reflection and a few snatched hours where I try to carve out some prep time to get organised for the year ahead. I like to think about what I’m going to achieve for the new year and throughout, we think about holidays, we think about the trips and we think about the New Years resolutions or the challenges as I like to refer to them!
Challenge 1
This years cookery book and challenge is going to be Leiths mighty tomb of a book ‘How to cook‘ weighing in at 661 pages, 672 if you count the index! I’m planning to go on a journey with this new book from Leiths cookery school from my own home and in my own time. On paper 2 pages a day should cover it, but cooking slots don’t work like that. So I’m not sure I’ll be able to tackle it with a scientific approach and on first glance it’s not broken down into lessons. It’s likely I’ll be picking out things to suit the ebb and flow of family life to suit the needs of two growing boys….but that’s the challenge!

Challenge 2
A few years ago I discovered Blipfoto, a great one photo per day website created in Scotland.  Like most new things I set out with great gusto, then events conspire against me and I wonder if there is any point given the daily demands no my time.  This Blipfoto 365 Challenge popped into my inbox this week and seems to embrace the spirit of my new years challenges:

At the start of every year, resolutions are made and personal challenges set! And one challenge that’s growing in popularity is the 365 Project – taking one photo a day, every day, for a full year

You can see my progress at Blipfoto Tattiehash feed.

Challenge 3
The unoriginal live more healthily, and I’m keeping this short as I’m sure the web doesn’t need another set of resolutions on health and fitness! If I crack that 2 inches I’ll let you know how I managed it!

Challenge 4
More a statement, there are 52 weekends in the year…..I’m going to make the most of them.

Challenge 5
Blog more without worrying about blogging.

Brambles in September

BramblesAs months go this one has flown by. I’ve seen the brambles turn from a pale green, through to red and latterly black in the blink of an eye. The excitement of thinking I’m going to pick something this year through to, I’ve forgotten my tub, through to arrrgh its too late kicked in as it does every year. Except yesterday I stopped the van, got the boys out in the sunshine and we did 20 mins picking. In amongst the nettle stings I was taken back to a time when it seemed like the kids in the whole village I used to live in would make a mad scramble for the brambles as we ate more than we kept.

In the short time we met I managed to get enough to cover two batches of Waitrose’s Bramble Fizz recipe. Which I’ve frozen for Christmas….which scarily is only 14 weeks away.

This time of year is one of the hardest for me in terms of recipe books…….the big sell starts and I start drooling over this years latest and greatest…..I’ve already got my eye on Eat from Nigel Slater which I will put on my christmas list. The hardest part will be not taking a peek as I pass the numerous bookshops that I will come across between now and Christmas. Yesterday though, I picked up a retro book from Jamie. I noticed that Morrisons had a vast range of his catalogue rebranded and at half price….I managed to walk away. However didn’t manage yesterday as I was donating a few things to Oxfam, I came across the Naked Chef (I jumped in at Happy Days!) and was delighted to finding myself thinking this might be a good book to start way back at the beginning, at the cost of few pounds, a donation to charity and another book to add to my pile. The mantra one in, one out never seems to work!

Autumn in the air

Plum CakeSat with a nice glass of red wine as I squeeze in the last few minutes of the weekend (9.35pm). An album on the stereo (we’ve opted for no tv tonight) that we’ve not listened to for a while. It’s even a CD rather than from spotify and it sounds good, very chilled.

I’ve finally gotten around to reading some of Nigel Slaters Kitchen Diaries II. A habit I have where I read the chapter for the month that we are in. With maybe a sneak peak of the next month if I have time! I don’t think I did this with his first diary. It’s the simple things, and this little bit of pleasure delay allows me to think I’m getting value from my cookery books. Nigel more than earns his keep in my repertoire and I owe him a great deal of thanks!

Today I made two plum cakes from the original diary, one because it had to be done. The other to pass onto my friend from work who has just moved, in the throws of turmoil as every room in the house seems to be in some state of flux at the same time as discovering a Plum tree in the garden. 20 minutes gave me more plums than I know what to do with!

A couple of things that I have my eye on:

Cinnamon-Cardamon Kringel Bread

Chocolate Cardamon Cookies

From the Waitrose Autumn supplement

Cheese and Apple Scones

Spinach Cheese and Walnut Bread

Having a Blog – Discipline

Having a blog is perhaps one of those rights of passage type scenarios where you have at least one attempt and then you realise that it needs some kind of commitment to keep it going. I don’t know the stats but the web is full of blogs that get started with best intentions and wither and die. I’ve had about 4 goes with various domain names! I try different technologies and convince myself of various reasons for moving to the next platform in the vain hope of gaining more readers or for ease of use in my time strapped family led life as if the technology will create my content for me!

I have a running theme through my head around food and places which are aligned to my non working life. I also just want to make something where the politics are my own. Living in the world of IT there is on a daily basis a natural ebb and flow of politics, a struggle to get stuff done and a mountain of conflicting priorities that it’s just nice to do something that has no debate other than what is going on in my own head. Which believe me has its own ebb and flow of natural priorities….however they are my own.

So some words of wisdom about blog writing and cooking!

I don’t know if you struggle to find time to do both or one or the other. I know I struggle to blog, I struggle to do the cooking I want to do especially during the summer. During the winter something happens and my observation is routine! Sounds like common sense but it needs to be established with discipline.

The dark nights and the religion known as ‘strictly come dancing‘ kicks in on a Saturday night and a semi structure forms around giving the boys their team normal time and I willingly and lovingly crack on and make dinner for two (sometimes it makes a bargain school night left over). Through this routine, I’ve broadened my skills and knowledge and enjoyed every moment of it.

The summer and light nights plays havoc with this and life makes it’s merry in roads into doing more stuff that squeeze in on the creative cooking. We still eat though! I’ve carved out a niche in the freezer for mid week school night meals where a big slow cooked casserole is split between various boxes of different sizes and supplemented with rice, pasta or potatoes at a later date

I’ve gone slightly off topic….discipline, but find a slot, stick to it and enjoy it!