Sunday, 30 September 2012

Recipe: Laksa

I first had this dish a few years ago from a street food stall in London. I couldn't for the life of me remember its name and only had a vague recollection of it. 32 hours in London with little sleep and I could just about recall the deep fried tofu, creamy coconut and ginger sauce and citrusy hit of lime.

I began hunting for it, looking for a dish that best matched the one I'd enjoyed to no avail. In the end I merged two very easy recipes and came up with my own version of this laksa - a spicy Malaysian noodle soup.

laksa, photo taken by yuri
here's how to make it :

Spice paste

1 onion
2 cloves of garlic
1 chili - I use a mild red chili
2 inch piece of fresh, peeled ginger sliced thinly
1tsp tumeric
4 kaffir lime leaves
1 lemongrass stalk, sliced and crushed or 1tsp of lemongrass paste
1tsp ground coriander


1 pint of stock - vegetable or chicken are best
1 can of coconut milk
noodles - either egg or rice noodles will work.
firm tofu - dipped in well seasoned flour and fried.
vegetables - I add vegetables depending what I have at home or whats in season. sweetcorn, mange tout, cherry tomatoes, courgette and mushrooms all work well.
Fresh, chopped coriander
Fresh lime juice
handful of chopped mint leaves


First prepare the tofu for frying.  Drain the liquid and set it on a cloth to let the last of the liquid drain.

Gently fry the onion in a little oil until softened adding the garlic, ginger and other spices to create an aromatic paste.

Add the mushrooms and other vegetables and cook for a few minutes before adding the stock and coconut milk.

I bring this to the boil. turn the heat down until its just simmering. then add the noodles (prepared to instructions!) chopped coriander and a squeeze of lime. Take it off the heat, with the lid on.

While waiting for the noodles, coat the drained tofu slices in well seasoned flour and fry in oil until a crispy golden colour. about 3-4 minutes each side.

ladle noodles and sauce into bowls with a fried tofu and chopped mint on top. serve.

Saturday, 22 September 2012


Yes, I'm uttering that dreaded word. The one that has slowly been creeping into hushed conversations and dark corners of the supermarkets since early September.

As a single parent of one and tight budget I have to think about these things early. Im grateful the boy is still young enough to not want the expensive gadgets his friends seem to want. He has no obsessions the other boys in his class do and I can get away with so much! This year has been easier. hand knitted hat, a new scarf and some DVDs. I plan to buy him a new scooter and a helmet. His current ones are getting too small and he does use it on the way to school everyday.

I've put aside a box and started adding food, jars of chutney and jam I've made specifically for that month! Chocolates and biscuits were added last week when finding them on offer and Ive replenished the store cupboard with a lot of extras should the weather get bad enough or I get too sick to go out. last year I fell ill with 3 chest infections and barely had the energy to take the boy to school. this year im going to be prepared!

The usual autumn preserving is carrying on with jars collected from friends and neighbours. Blackberry vodka has been bottled and labeled ready for winter celebrations (i'll post the recipe as soon as i get a spare moment) sloe gin is still in the cupboard I hope to bottle it soon.

We are picking the last of the blackberries, making use of haws, rowan and sloes for a fantastic hedgerow jelly and already putting plans in place for next spring. With new, deeper raised beds and a new patch for the strawberries.

I'll be making a start on christmas cards soon getting the boy on board to help. Thankfully this year I dont have many to send! Then new decorations - last year a lot were damaged when the loft had to be quickly emptied in early spring.

fun with a bird table!

Another Saturday and finally autumn seems to have kicked into gear. It has been one of those slow, productive days. The boy and I erected a temporary feeding station for the birds. Sadly the bird table I bought just isnt up to standard! it needs some minor work to make it usable.

I weighed up sending it back and asking for a refund - I ordered online and I guess this is one of the risks you take when ordering goods over the internet. Instead of sending it back, at a cost to me with postage I've decided to make the repair myself. The stand just isn't wide enough to sustain it in any kind of breeze. A minor job to get it 'functioning'. It has however made me wonder just how many faulty goods are sent back and what on earth do they do with them? not everyone has the skills or the tools to do these kind  of repairs. A little disappointing to think they might end up in landfill.

For now the bird table will sit indoors until i can get out to get some new screws and while I'm at it some wood preservative.

With that let down we decided it was time to get back out and forage. haws for ketchup and jam, sloes for yet more gin, blackberry, rowan and what ever else i can get my hands on to turn into jams and sauces!

First we tucked into good cheese and pickle sandwiches opening a jar of green tomato and courgette chutney I made last month. I had made this batch up with regular sugar rather than brown sugar and I have to admit, its pretty damn good for a light chutney. Im going to experiment using regular sugar as its cheaper especially if there is little difference in taste. The colour however did look interesting!

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

reflecting on the year

It has been a crazy, tumultuous year here at number 32. Illness, money worries amongst a whole host of other misfortunes and lost opportunities. It can be hard not to dwell on them, to find a positive spin on life when everything seems so miserable and depressing, especially when for a while things begin to look up and then crash back down around you.

Its finding those little sparks and flourishes, the smiles and quiet moments that make life a little bit more worthwhile. The things you've forgotten amongst the hardship that should be savoured.

This year there was so much I'd forgotten I had achieved and enjoyed.

I gained a qualification. Proof I'm good at what I do and honestly I need a massive kick up the backside when it comes to belief in myself.

There was the day spent roaming around an organic farm. Picking up hints and nifty tricks I've put in place here in my own makeshift organic garden. Theres still much work to be done but its in a far better state than this time last year! An achievement in itself.

The quiet days on the beach, the photography trips, foraging and jam making. They are all things that get drowned out in the haze at the back of your mind when you have so much else to think about.

I guess I need to slow down. take a few good days off and plan something just for me? forget about the projects building up or sons health and just.. be.

Monday, 3 September 2012


September is finally here and I always feel like its the start of a 'new year', the best time to start something fresh for the year ahead. i always stick to plans i put into place now than any other time of the year. The late few weeks of summer we always get in September, the start of the harvest, jam and chutney making amongst everything else have a lot to do with it. Keeping busy gives you less chance to fail it seems.

This month I'm on a mission to reduce the amount of stuff in my home. Over the years it seems to have grown exponentially. For years I lived such a minimalist life. I could cram all my possessions into just 6 boxes. Now, Id be hard pushed to fit it all into the back of lorry. Its one of the joys of having children. I often ask myself how much stuff do I really need?

With impending building works and a complete redesign of my home to fit with how I use it. It sounds extreme but something has to give. I cant possibly, nor do I need half the stuff I have in my house. There is just too much. Proper storage will go a long way to solving my problems *laughs* storage, yes that is a sign you have too much stuff! 

My problem is my work, I have a lot of stuff i need to work. I have boxes, stacked and filled with my art supplies. a decent way to store them would free up room, make it easier not only to get access to them and work faster but to also live in this house.

Im not after extreme minimalist living, I've read blogs by people who own just 100 items. My books alone would fill that and I'm far from ready to give up my entire collection for digital copies.

Today I made a decision. Some of the books had to go. I did make it easy on myself. kept it simple and sorted my fiction books into piles - read, read and will read again,  unread, unread and will never read. I now have a suitcase full of books by the front door awaiting a trip to the charity shop. I also have a self imposed ban, no new books until the unread pile has gone!

I didn't realise I had so many books, books behind books on the shelves  I had yet to read. I'm guessing they were all impulse buys somewhere along the lines. NO MORE!

Clothes too made it onto the cutting room floor. I had things in my wardrobe I'd never wear again. clothes that had memories tied into them and not always good ones. I filled a black sack and they too are awaiting a trip to the charity shop.

I finally sorted the carry tray that is supposed to hold all my cleaning supplies. These days it had become my 'junk drawer' filled with all manner of rubbish finally gone!

Its not much in the big battle against clutter but it is a hell of a start. I hope by the end of the month to finally get rid of everything I no longer use, need or want. Its a small victory. Now i just need to figure out how on earth to get it all to the charity shop!