Wednesday 21 September 2011


Painting my nails red on a Saturday morning and still not having any chips by Tuesday.

Picking out six sausages at the butcher and being given an extra one to try for free.

A vase.

Feeling a project coming together.

A book on my bedside table.

Heading to the park to sit on a bench and climbing a big hill instead.

Picking out some recipes for the week from a new favourite.

Quinoa with courgettes and onions
(From River Cottage Veg Every Day!, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall)

800g courgettes
a knob of butter
2 tablespoons of rapeseed or olive oil
3 onions, halved and finely sliced
leaves from a few sprigs of thyme
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
200g quinoa
a good handful of flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
a squeeze of lemon juice
50g pine nuts, lightly toasted
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cut the courgettes on the diagonal into 5mm thick slices. Melt the butter with the oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Add the onions, courgettes, thyme and some salt and pepper. Cook for 20-25 minutes, stirring from time to time, until the courgettes are tender and starting to turn golden. Add the garlic and fry for another couple of minutes.

Meanwhile, rinse the quinoa well in several changes of cold water and put into a saucepan covered with plenty of cold water and a pinch of salt. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for about 12 minutes, or until the quinoa is tender and the long white kernels are coming away from the seeds. Tip into a sieve and leave to drain and steam a little to reduce the excess moisture.

Add the drained quinoa to the courgettes, along with the chopped parsley and lemon juice. Stir well, then taste and add more salt and pepper if needed. Serve topped with the toasted pine nuts.

Serves 4.

Friday 16 September 2011


We don't have dramatic shifts when the seasons change round here. No blazing summer sunshine to give way to bright reds and golds, no swimming in lakes and rivers, no endless days of sandals, skirts and suntan lotion. Instead there were a few glorious July days at the beach, daylight lingering until it was time for bed, an August of rain and sodden tourists and now September.

After weeks of trying to dress for summer with a side portion of 'and an umbrella and a jacket and a scarf just in case' it's almost welcome. I've bought new cardigans, a jumper dress and boots. We've fallen asleep on the couch under the blanket that we lugged back from Portland. I'm still trying to get by without socks but as I sit here typing my feet are cold and I'm about to admit defeat.

The food has changed. There are still the salads and pastas that we rely on almost every week but they've been joined by mince cooked slowly with grated root vegetables, poached chicken to keep us in broth and leftovers. I'm starting to think about shepherd's pie. It feels good, I'm ready to hibernate.

And this week, as the evenings started to get darker and the air cooler I wanted to bake, so, on Tuesday, while we pulled together dinner, I mashed and stirred and spooned into muffin cases and later, curled up under that blanket with a mug of tea and a muffin it felt like Autumn.

Chocolate Banana Muffins
From Kitchen: Recipes from the Heart of the Home, Nigella Lawson

3 very ripe or overripe bananas
125ml vegetable oil
2 eggs
100g soft light brown sugar
225g plain flour
3 x 15ml tablespoons best-quality cocoa powder, sifted
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 x 12-bun muffin tin

Preheat the oven to 200°C/gas mark 6 and line a muffin tin with papers. Mash the bananas and, still beating and mashing, add the oil followed by the eggs and sugar. Mix the flour, cocoa powder and bicarb together and add, beating gently, to the banana mixture, then spoon it into the prepared papers. Bake in the preheated oven for 15–20 minutes, by which time the muffins should be dark, rounded and peeking proudly out of their cases. Allow to cool slightly in their tin before removing to a wire rack.

Makes 12.