Sweet goodness, good sweetness and an absent dragon

What a shock to a tiddler’s system! The advent of storm Barbara seems to have stirred my Aga dragon into restlessness. Next thing I knew, he had gone out to meet the gathering gale, leaving my bed temperature dropping below comfortable bum-simmering  heat and me a cold kittle. I greeted at my owner, I fussed, I complained. Did she go looking for absent dragons? No indeed, she just started messing about with bits of stick and paper and the dreaded vacuum cleaner. She said that it must be a problem with the flues. Yes indeed, he flue away! She said she would have to take all the coal out and relight the Aga. Never mind how I felt about all this rubbish being stacked over my afternoon sleeping place, and midday coming fast.

The wind was increasing in its roar, hail was drumming on the windows and Mum said this was good (told you she was a funny woman) because it would help the dragon want to come home and the Aga be alight again. At least I think thats what she said. It may have included something about peat blocks and barbecue coals as bait too.

DSCN3445.JPG
Whats she done to my snoozing zone?

Anyway, despite all the grumbles about scorched jumper and grubby fingernails, she got the Aga going again in record time. She was so pleased with the 2 hour relight that she decided to do some baking again. I was too exhausted to care and sank into my vetbed for a snooze. Heres what she made:

Orange topped sweet potato tart

This tart is gluten free and vegan, healthy and very more-ish.

If you like chilli feel free to add more to the tart top. Green olives would be a good addition too.

1 large sweet potato, baked till soft

1 green chilli, finely sliced

300g pack silken tofu

1 orange, use 1/2 grated rind and all flesh, sliced

4 decent asparagus spears

1 avocado, sliced

1 tsp caraway seed

1 tsp fennel seed

1 tsp Lebanese 10 spice (or use cassia/cinnamon)

1 Tablespoon walnut oil

(optional green olives, sliced)

Mash the sweet potato into a 7″ pie dish as a base. Sprinkle on the orange rind, green chillies, then layer on the tofu like its a pie filling. Decorate with asparagus, avocado, then place orange slices on top. Sprinkle the seeds and spice over then a drizzle of oil. Bake in a moderate oven (350C gas 4) till orange is softened and slightly browned.

Since the house was now smelling all peat-smokey she made a smokey soup too.

Smokey pepper soup

This is a creamy tasting yet vegan gluten-free soup.

Ingredients:

1 onion, diced and 3 garlic cloves, peeled, fried in

1 dessertspoon olive oil

Add 1/2 aubergine, diced and sweated then

1  1/2 red peppers, chopped

Splash of white wine or sherry (optional)

Add 1 tin chopped tomatoes

1 tsp smoked paprika

1 tsp light miso

2 tsp bouillon powder

black pepper to taste, (touch of chilli if liked)

2 tsp sage

1 tsp thyme

+ 1 litre water.

Simmer till aubergine softens enough to blend easily with a stick blender. Thin to desired consistency with more water. Serve with oat soda bread and seasonal beetroot green salad.

 

 

 

 

 

Never mind Christmas, make bread

Mum says she is keeping her head down and it’ll all be over soon. I’m not entirely are what she means as I don’t go out much these days at my advanced age. Not when there’s important jobs to do like caring for Aga Dragons. I think it might be something to do with all the glittery stuff hanging in the office and the piles of paper she has been buried in, writing to all our customers. Its kept her mind off her flu and thats a GOOD THING, as she was hanging around my Aga looking miserable before that.Thats so not good for me as she forgot to give me all my 4 fresh meals a day plus raw mince and butter. She wasn’t even cooking, just shivering. Silly human. Any cat would have stayed in her bed curled up. I had to rely on the Man. He gave me selections of mashed cat food and melted cheese instead so I guess that was tolerable.

Now she is perkier she is back to baking again. Its a good barometer of her health (she says, I have no idea what a barrow-meter is). She has been completely obsessed recently by round green vegetables she calls avocados and has created a bread to go with them. She thought you might like to try it for yourself. I will scribe it for you, you will have to do the baking. My delicate paws can’t handle stirring and pouring.

Mum says this will be a healthy food to counteract all the seasonal excess. I wonder if she means the wind that makes my Aga dragon roar flames? I nearly had my whiskers scorched off this morning when she opened the coal port. And they say there’s a storm to come called Barbara. Dragon will like her. Mum however is ‘battening down the hatches’, whatever that means. Funny things humans. Enjoy your bread.

DSCN3423.JPGHerb and courgette oat soda bread

Ingredients:

8oz oat flakes (use gluten free if you need to)

4oz oatmeal (for gluten free it may be easiest to use all flakes)

1 heaped teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

salt to taste

2 teaspoons dried mint

1 teaspoon dried thyme

500ml plain yoghurt

rind 1/2 organic lemon

juice 1 lemon

1/2 courgette, grated finely

6 tomato-stuffed black olives, sliced

1 tablespoon oil from olives

Method:

Pre-heat oven to medium hot 375C gas5.

Prepare baking tins or silicone moulds for the bread to cook in.

Weigh out dry ingredients.

In a large bowl mix yoghurt, rind and juice, courgette and olives.DSCN3424.JPG

Add dry ingredients and stir. The bicarb and yoghurt/lemon will start the raising process, so quickly spoon into moulds.

Bake in oven till browned. Approx. 35 mins for cupcake size moulds, up to an hour for a single tin loaf.

Turn out and spread with mashed/sliced avocado. Mum says thats delicious. I’ll stick to chopped minute steak thanks Mum.

Invasion!

Why oh why do humans always have to spoil things? Life here was comfortable, reasonably predictable and more peaceful since my sister departed this life in May. Food service is regular if  bit tardy. I have them tutored in supplying finest cheddar, butter, raw steak mince and diced chicken. The Aga is kept swaddled for my convenience- wouldn’t want me singeing my tail after all.

It started with the dog I suppose. They say its not his fault he is poorly. Well its him that smells strange so I think its his fault. I had to do some swift spraying to put my world to rights while his hormones wavered. She’s had him to a homeopath and he has bothered me less since.

Then HE decided they would go away for a weekend and leave my care to some small high-pitched child and his mother. I suppose she was alright. She fed me regularly anyway and kept my Aga dragon happy and stinky dogs bathed. I even let said child close to me now and then.

Then my family came back. With two furry interlopers. Jimi, my fellow house-feline shrugged his porky shoulders. “They are just kittens”, said he, “we can teach them”. He can if he likes. I am too busy guarding my dinner dishes and snoozing spaces. The one they call Spots is the worst. He had the cheek to snaffle my chicken breast breakfast today. Then came the last straw. The young blighter (I can’t say little because he is bigger than I am) started to walk across the Aga shelf. That did it. I have tried to be tolerant, if only because it gave me a coughing fit to hiss, but I could not let that one go. I launched myself at him, doing my best stiff-legged mini Aga dragon impersonation and cornered him under the table. I won’t tell you what I called him, you can guess. Let me say only that he dares not look at me now and slinks from my gorgeous emerald gaze. No-one gets to sleep on my Aga. I am Tiddler, the AGA dragon’s friend. The Aga is mine.

2 cats on a lap
Jimi says he can teach the kitten manners

Tasty Valentine’s hearts and roses

Thats another Valentine’s day past and now my life will be worth living again because She received her red rose, now plonked proudly on the kitchen table for us all to get prickles from. Honestly, as if you could eat roses? Oh, humans use them to flavour food? Well they just would. Now if he had brought her a platter of prawns or a side of salmon I could understand the celebration. animals 014She says its a miracle in itself since Dad is autistic and doesn’t really get the romance thing at all. I think it helped that his granddaughter was here to ensure something happened. It was because she was staying that the hearts and flowers came out from Mum too, only hers were of the edible variety so I thought I would share her recipe, seeing as I don’t miss much from my viewpoint on the Dragon’s hearth. I think she was also celebrating having the first saffron-yolked eggs of the year laid by our cackling crew of hens.

Valentine’s yoghurt cakes – to make 10 individual cakes

4 oz margarine or soft butter (3 1/2 oz for the cake, 1/2 for your cat), 4oz vanilla-scented sugar, 6 oz gluten free self raising flour, 2 free-range and from happy hen eggs, 2 Tbsp thick greek yoghurt, soy milk, 2 Tbsp fresh pomegranate seeds, 2 Tbsp sultanas, 1 Tbsp strawberry jelly sweets (Mum used ones made from real fruit juice). Optional: 2 dsspn cocoa powder to make some cakes darker and chocolatey.

Beat marg. sugar and yoghurt together till pale, add eggs with a little flour so they don’t curdle the mix. Whisk till mix is light and fluffy. Add soy milk till mix falls from spoon in dropping consistency. Thats dropping not dripping! Add fruits and sweets. To make some contrasting colour and flavour, add cocoa powder to up to half the mix. Place mixture in greased silicone moulds and bake in a moderate oven for about 30 mins till browned and puffed up.

Tip: after Valentine’s day, shops are full of things like heart-shaped moulds for very little cost. Mum has heart ones and rose-shaped ones as well as butterflies and other shapes for fun.

(theres an image of cake to come, once computer and software talk nicely to each other)

 

Burns Night reds and blues

The Aga and myself have spent most of our lives in a land called Ayrshire or Land o’ Burns. This, title, I am told, is not so much because of all the scorch marks made on neglected washing left on Agas, nor roast potatoes left for 3 days too long to wails from Mum when she remembered, but to the birth hereabouts some 256 years ago of an iconic poet called Robert Burnt, sorry, Burns. From what I see from my elevated position on the dragon’s hearth, this individual is responsible for the excessive consumption of some pretty weird fare. Why boil stomachs full of grain and spice and offal in a pot when they can just roast a leg of lamb and share it with me? Then they go all silly with stinky whisky stuff and chanting outbursts.

burns cottage ayrshire
Mum as Agnes Broun outside Burns’ Cottage

Yesterday was that notorious poets’ birthday and Mum was dressed up to the nines, tripping over her hemline and asking Dad to strap her into an over-tight dress so she could look like she was younger, slimmer and lither. Personally I think being able to breathe does more for a girl. She even painted her head fur (and my kitchen) a rusty colour she calls henna before donning a white cap which completely covered her efforts. She said she was playing the part of Robert’s mum Agnes in the cottage he was born, as if that explained everything, before rushing off with a wicker basket of fresh hot bannocks and soup, determined to have the Burns’ Cottage smell as good as our home. Well of course it won’t, their stove went out years ago and the fire is pretend, and the cottage cat only comes out at Halloween, but thats another tale.

Mum says haggis is awfae rich reekin fare, then blames the bard for her lingo. She claims it tastes pretty good mixed with chopped tomatoes and stuffed into baked potatoes. I told her some white fish would be preferable thank you, so she obliged me. I have her well trained now. All I have to do is threaten to be sick, generate a fur-ball, and she is putty in my hands.

alert cat

Love from Tiddler x

Thank you to Janet Renouf-Miller for the piccy of Mum, who was far too tired after all her yapping to hundreds and hundreds of visitors to manage a selfie, and so was very pleased with the souvenir.

Babylon’s burning or oh to live in a normal household

Mums still on her “eat the freezer” post-Christmas clear-out. She seems to think that she needs to declutter everywhere and the food stores are to be “turned over” She is pretty good at finding bargains and freezing them so the big cold store is always full of weird stuff. By that I mean Not Duck and Not Haddock. Those are my idea of good stores. The summer before last, friends and keen fishermen kept turning up at the door proffering their catches. Unfortunately for me, no haddocks and not a duck in sight. Instead there were strange creatures which clacked claws at me, goggled their eyes and looked far too crunchy for my old teeth. Mum said they were crustaceans called common crabs. She likes to pretend she knows about animals. The youngest member of the house decided she would “deal” with them. She looked up Youtube videos covering humane dispatching of crabs, and soon discovered that it wasn’t an easy job at all. Soon there was shell and stink everywhere and after 2 were shelled, the enthusiasm waned and the remainder were stuffed straight into the freezer. That’s where they stayed until the clear-out.

Since Dad was away seeing his grandkids, Mum decided it was a good time to cook smelly fish and meat stuff. I quite enjoyed helping her out with her Paella, but then she cooked the crab and started to smash it to bits with a nut cracker. I tried putting my head down to ignore the stink but had to leave the Aga in the end and occupy the distant end of the sofa. What right-minded critter  could be close to that smell? You are right, the dogs, they adored the pong: they are so disgusting. Mum gave them some of the meat and they actually enjoyed it.

2 dogs resting
stinky dogs await their smelly supper

In the end she gave them the whole lot and burnt the shell and innards in the Aga’s fire. I don’t know why she didn’t just give it a decent funeral in the first place, seeing as she wasn’t going to eat it. Would have saved her, the work surface and mutts smelling quite so bad. She is away now to scrub up with mint soap for the third time. I hope she changes her clothes too. Bet the neighbours at the pub next door are loving that stench. One of the special things with Agas is the way they vent all the cooking or incinerating smells to outside. So the neighbours probably also smelt the oatcakes over-toasting long before Mum remembered she had stuffed them in the top (hot) oven. Then she heard her radio playing ‘Babylon’s burning’ and recalled her cooking. Yup, Babylon sure was burnt tonight.

Since she did a better job with the Paella, here’s what she did:

Start with 2 dessert spoons olive oil, 3 cloves garlic, 2 small red onions finely chopped, soften in a large frying/paella/saute pan.

Add  oz  arborio/risotto/short grain rice, 1 tsp saffron threads (crushed), good grinding black pepper, 2 tsp oregano, 1 tsp bayleaf powder, stir to coat the grains with oil. Add 200ml canned tomatoes, 1/2 sweet potato diced, 1 stick celery, 1/2 leek finely sliced, enough stock to double the volume and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring so it doesn’t stick.

Add 1 fillet white fish (mum used pollock because I had eaten all the haddock), 1 oz prawns, 2 oz mussels, 1/4 red pepper, some broccoli in 1″ florets, 1 teaspoon bouillon powder (or to taste-you humans seem to like salt) and a lid to cover and steam for 5 minutes or till the fish is done if its very frozen. Feeds 2 humans.

And remember to pay your cat her Butter Tax fee when you fetch things from your fridge box. Just because you are ‘healthily eating’ olive oil doesn’t mean your cat can’t indulge in proper butter. It keeps our coats glossy and furballs at bay. Make it Organic butter please.

Love from

Tiddler

 

over-ripe fruit and flaccid veg

pan of fruit cooking

My Mum says she hates waste. Of course I am the chief offender as far as she is concerned. I try and tell her I am just maintaining my trim figure. And the stinky house dogs love having my scraps as gravy anyhow so where is the waste?

She was on one of her bandwagon rants again, this time on the stuff left over after New Year. I hadn’t like to mention the strong fruity whiff emanating from the big table as the bananas became blackened. Dad says he likes black bananas so I thought he would have polished them off but it seems its not only me on a svelt-awareness kick.

The wind is blowing gale-force strongly from the west, and as I have already mentioned, thats when our dragon becomes very active. the Aga top was so hot my tail toasted and I was forced to retire to the sofa. Dad pulled the flue flap out to reduce the air pull while Mum gathered ingredients for a cook-fest. Such a hot stove could not be allowed to go to waste.

First up to be cooked was a plum conserve called Porwidl or plum butter.

pan of fruit cooking
plums bubbling into a rich preserve

This, I am informed is a yummy spread to use on bread, cake or ice cream. Why she can’t just keep to butter toppings beats me. Then I get to have lots of delicious butter (see the butter tax, mentioned with crumpets). Seemingly she had foraged many plums from a certain supermarket at 1p per 400g and intended to make the most of this bounty. She used:

6lb plums, 2 organic oranges (rind and juice of), 3 oz butter, 12 oz sugar

In a large pan, melt 2 oz butter. Add the stoned plums, rind and juice. Cook fruit till thick and dark coloured (no, not burnt), stirring frequently so it doesn’t stick. For total smoothness you can sieve the skins out. Mum hates fuss so didn’t. At this point find 10 small jam-jars, clean, dry and heat them in the bottom oven (if you have an Aga) or microwave if not- lids and indeed jars can be sterilised in a low oven. Add sugar, melt it in. Stir well. Pot the preserve into the hot jars, smoothing the top. Heat the remaining 1 oz butter and pour a little on the preserve surface to exclude air. You can add a waxed disc too for luck. Cover with the lids and tighten them. Label, with reminder you need to fridge this once opened and in any case to use within 6 months. When cool, keep in a cool dry preferably dark place.

Serve with your rye bread or crumpets as from the earlier blogs.


 

jars of chutney
lovely chutney made from spare veg and fruit

The consummate chutney

The Dragon’s hearth still being hot, Mum continued by making a chutney. She chopped up all sorts of veg and fruit and boiled it (funny idea she has of what she should eat i am sure). Here is her recipe. Her friend Pat came over while she made it and helped with the stirring and the tasting. She said she put lovely wishes and blessings in and that it tastes great. Its not tuna though, is it? Come on Mum, get that tin open.

She used: 12 oz = 2 large onions, chopped finely, 1 1/2 oz garlic, 2 Tbsp olive oil, 12 oz = 3 parsnips, 5 oz = 2 carrots, 12 oz = 2 cooking apples, 2lb ripe bananas, 3 oz sweet tamarind pulp (or 1 dsp paste), 750ml water, 1/2 red pepper in fine strips, 300ml cider vinegar, 4 oz sugar, 1 tsp salt, chilli to taste (she used 1 fresh sweet one, one hot dry one and 1 tsp chilli flakes as she likes heat), 1/2 tsp nutmeg, 1/2 tsp cloves, 1 tsp fennel seeds, 4 inches fresh ginger (minced), 1/2 stick cinnamon, 1 brown cardamon pod-seeded, 2 tsp coriander seed, 1 tsp allspice

The how to: In a big pan put oil, garlic and onion and sweat till soft. Add ginger, crushed spices, then water and all fruit and veg except red sweet pepper (=capsicum) add sugar and vinegar, salt to taste. Cook till thick. Add the pepper for colour. Sterilise medium sized jars as above in Porwidl recipe. Pour/spoon chutney into hot jars and screw lids on tightly. Label and store for 6 weeks before use. If you can resist it.