Tuesday, 24 February 2015

weekend :: Mallen Streaks, and Persian Chicken with Walnut and Pomegranate Sauce.

If spring was a whisper, now it's almost a shout. The calendar may say that it's not, but tell that to the birds. They are in full nest-building mode. When I open the bedroom curtains in a morning, I see them shoot out of the eves dropping straw and feathers. At first I was worried that I may scare them away, but I don't seem to phase them at all. They were here when we came, and they'll probably be here long after we've gone. I don't think that I'll ever have straw free window ledges, what with the birds and the tractors towing hay bales and leaving showers in their wake. 

We've seen the first baby lambs...twin ones. Cute...or what? Everything is having babies, budding and blossoming. 

There were three whole days to ourselves at the weekend to catch up with decorating. Mostly bright, bright sunny days. I'd lost part of the kitchen again but it meant that the bathroom was getting completed, walls plastered and sink fitted. A couple of coats of paint, then half a day making the front room into a temporary workshop. I am determined the kitchen won't get eaten up again. 

We sanded and undercoated and painted, and things are moving on bit by bit. 

A friend popped around Sunday afternoon with a sweet gift of fragrant rose and pomegranate bath oil made with damask rose, patchouli leaf, cedar-wood and bergamot; with organic pomegranate and apricot oil, from this lovely shop. It proposes to restore a peaceful balance to mind and body. 

It certainly did something. Don't you think it sounds like the scent of a lake where Minnehaha might have bathed?  Stepping into the warm perfumed water for a soak with a Mallen streak of white paint in my dusty hair and the last few pages of a novel to read, I didn't notice the unfinished shower or tools piled in the corner. 

Ahmad has been putting me to shame, cooking much more than I have this week. He made Fesanjoon (or Fesanjan) which is Persian chicken cooked in a walnut and pomegranate sauce. It's probably one of the easiest Persian dishes to cook and yet somehow always seems one of the most luxurious. But you do really need to get traditional Pomegranate Molasses to get the authentic taste, a mildly sweet/sour flavour.There's a link below with information about where you may be able to find it. 

Here's his recipe...

To make generous servings of Fesanjan for four people you will need the following ingredients:
  • A small free-range chicken that has been skinned and jointed, or a chicken portion per person
  • 200-250g of finely ground walnuts
  • Pomegranate molasses. Lots of supermarkets now stock this or you can find it in most middle-eastern deli's or on-line. 
  • One large or two medium sized onions, chopped finely.
  • Mildly flavoured oil like groundnut for frying
  • Honey
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Fry the onion in a little oil until golden brown but not quite caramelised.
  2. Add the chicken portions and brown
  3. Add the ground walnuts and fry for a further couple of minutes, stirring all the time to ensure that the mixture doesn't stick and burn.
  4. Cover all the ingredients with boiling water, remembering that this will be cooking for at least and hour, so add enough.
  5. Season with salt and pepper
  6. Add a some of the pomegranate molasses to liquid and give it a good stir. It should look pale to mid golden brown at this stage.  Like in the image below.
  7. Cover the pan and simmer for a long time until the liquid has reduced and the sauce is much darker in colour. A heavy cast iron pan is ideal for making this. So that it can be left to leave simmering for at least an hour. Maybe two or more. Checking every so often to ensure that it doesn't stick.
  8. The sauce should be sweet/sour and dark brown once cooked. This will depend on the quality of the molasses syrup you use. You may like to add a little runny honey while it continues to cook if it's too sour. Some recipes ask for sugar but I think that you can taste the sugar in the food. Honey somehow melds in more easily and becomes part of the flavour. It's up to your own taste but it should have a lovely sweet/sour flavour but not overly so...delicious.

you can see step-by-step images here and I've written a bit here about where you can find pomegranate molasses. 

I wonder if there is a whisper of spring in your neck of the wood yet...

joining with Karen for weekends

Friday, 20 February 2015

This moment

{this moment}

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{this moment} ~ A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.
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linking here

Pyjamas, magical carpets and upside-down cars,

We went to London for a week, but you wouldn't  know it. You wouldn't have accidentally bumped into us if you'd been there. In fact even if you'd planned to meet us, you wouldn't have seen us. Except for the first evening. We arrived Friday suppertime, meeting up with Ahmad's sister in Ikea after work. Dinner and Scandinavian shopping all in one go. 

Don't you love Ikea?  Especially on dull winter evenings, like we were having two weeks ago. It's all those bright lights and lamps and colours. The cosy little room-settings and the knick-knacks in the market place. I stocked up with simple cotton fabric for cushions and blinds, brightly coloured packets of seeds, a mustard lampshade, coffee (always coffee) and chocolates.  I was excited to meet Sima, then catch up with friends and my sisters over the next few days in London and Sussex. But then the horrible virus that spoilt our New Years eve plans came back. So we missed everything. All over again. 

We were housebound and pyjama clad for the whole week. Good job I packed three pairs of pj's...A week of temperatures, coughing, sneezing and blurry tv watching of millions of episodes of Judge Judy ( I'm sure that Ahmad has a mini infatuation...actually correct that...major infatuation ) The Grand Budapest Hotel (again,) and The book Thief All whilst A's sweet sister, took time off work and made us hot chicken soup, lemon drinks, and cold compresses in true Florence Nightingale mode. Thank you so much Sima...

The only thing that raised us to our feet for more than a few minutes was the screeching of an out-of-control car speeding down the road in the middle of the night. It somehow ended up precariously balanced on it's side, on top of the little edging wall at the end of the grass verge; demolishing a whole length. We rushed to the window to see three young guys amazingly manage to get out alive, and escape down the road...Followed by the cacophony of sirens, as police and fire engines arrived.

When we finally went home a week later, wearily dragging our feet to stock up with food at a local deli on the way, we spotted a carpet shop where I'd once found a bargain rug. I wanted to show A what awesome carpets they have, and how cheap they are.  No buying, just looking. We didn't have the house dimensions or the energy for standing around. 

We ended up buying four carpets! Not because of aggressive salesmanship. There was a closing down sale with rock bottom price. A fraction of what we would pay elsewhere.  (I can give you the address if you're interested...)

Happy with our bargain finds, driving back through the Cotswolds I spotted a sign for Burford Garden Company. It made me think of Hannah...A mini version, with her grandparents, spending happy December days buying Christmas decorations. Admiring all the sparkly, fairytale things that appeal to little seven or eight year old girls (and their mums and dads and grandparents too). We had to go in.

It wasn't as sparkly as I remembered, but it wasn't Christmas either. It did have an amazing food section though, that reminded me of a Victorian pantry. Full of colourful packets and glass bottles of milk just like we used to have. And rugs, nice ones that were two or three, or even ten times the price of the ones we'd just bought...That made us even happier with our new bargain rugs...

...It was good to get back home, play with our magical carpets...Oh and to tip up the glass milk bottle, give it a shake then press my thumb in the little circle of foil covering the top. Feel it give way and make that sound of a baby's breath...Just like it used to do...  Then make a nice cup of tea...

peace and love