Sunday, 30 December 2012

Exciting update!

As promised I have a very exciting new update for you all. In 2013 I will own a house for the very first time!

Yes the pass the caffeine household is a-moving! As you may be aware, this was never really our plan. We had grand schemes for buying a plot of land and building a house. Well after a few years of searching the self-build plan has been put on hold for now. It has not completely left the building, just postponed until the time is right. We have come to the conclusion that given our requirements (rural, large plot for growing veg) we need more money, whereas we can buy a house of the spec we like (rural, large plot for growing veg) right now!

Pretty much as soon as we starting looking at houses we fell in love! We have found a house, too far from work (an hours commute - a lot for me!), and far too big (4 bedrooms - oh yes we will need more cats), but we still fell for it. It is 3 miles from the main road, full of peace and quiet (if you ignore the birds), has only 4 neighbours anywhere nearby, and will be ours! I can't wait.

The move-in date has not been finalised as we only agreed a purchase price with the vendors just before Christmas and nothing has happened since, but it is likely to be the end of March to early April. We need to give 2 months notice on our current house, so this is perfect.

In the next few months I will be sharing with you updates on the move, but more exciting still a guide to moving house! Watch this space if you too are moving house in 2013! I'm also interested in knowing the pitfalls anyone has come across in moving house so I can compile as complete a list as possible of tasks, hints, tips and create a foolproof guide to getting one of the worst tasks you'll ever face completed as easily and calmly as possible!

In the meantime, enjoy your new year celebrations! I will be back in 2013 with lots of exciting ideas.

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Friday, 28 December 2012

Book review: Nigella Christmas

So I'm back!

Its been quiet around here recently hasn't it? Sorry folks - life just ran away with me there mid-Autumn!

Lets do a quick catch up - Merry Christmas, hope December was great (I had so many ideas that I didn't share with you), and hopefully the New Year is looking good rather than bad.

So here we are. It is nearly 2013, and while I have some exciting news to share with you in the coming weeks, I thought I would start my blog-rejuvenation with a simple book review. I hope you enjoy.

Nigella Christmas - RRP £25.00

I received this book, on request, as a Christmas gift. I'm a big reader of cookery books, and in my opinion Nigella doesn't just write a cookery book but a work of literary foodie heaven. I'm not a big fan of Nigella TV, she talks too much. OK that is a strange thing to say, but basically I don't have time to watch much television and as food programmes go, Nigella's are pretty low down my priority list. However, I can read her books over and over and over! I have 'How to eat' and 'How to be a domestic goddess', both of which I have read more as fiction than as cookery books, and Nigella Christmas sits in much the same category.

There is nothing spectacularly out of the ordinary in Nigella Christmas. The recipes are fairly standard, the prose takes Nigella's normal self-deprecating tone, and in general she uses a fairly good stab at common sense to suggest taking shortcuts where sensible and longcuts where necessary for flavour and good old fashioned eating pleasure. Better still her writing appeals to my sense of 'all out Christmas', even if her decor doesn't quite:

"The fresh snowfall of icing sugar on top might seem seasonal enough, but not for me. So I add some edible glitter in Disco Hologram White."
- Christmas Rocky Road

Yup. That's my kind of Christmas decorating. 

Another wonderful aspect of Nigella's approach to Christmas is summed up by the recipe 'Fully loaded potato skins'. Potato skins? Christmas? Not an obvious combination, but fully loaded, oh my, yes please! Recipes are quick(ish), given what they are producing, and  pretty much always sound appealing. There is a vast array, all the way from really simple party food (potato skins please!) to the full Christmas day roast. 

Nigella also sets out a Christmas day time-plan which is essential for any first-timer to the Christmas rush. It should help anyone trying to impress their mother-in-law for the first time, as the advice is simple and neatly laid out. The key ingredient is learning to write your own plan, which Nigella advocates time and again.

OK, so there is nothing amazingly new, astonishing or just completely off the wall. This is not a book for a culinary genius to find new ideas. But with the name 'Nigella Christmas' I hope you knew that already. One downside to all of Nigella's cooking is that I think that anything she does not cook regularly herself could do with more kitchen testing. For example I made some of the cocktails and I have to admit, they didn't do much for me! The bread sauce however is simple to prepare and divine in texture and flavour. The layout is easy to understand, is peppered with 'Nigella prose', and lots of hints and tips on making ahead, freezing and time-saving tips. I think Christmas in the Nigella household would taste wonderful!

In summary - if you are a chef, don't bother. If you aspire to cook, fail completely but like a good read, then this is for you. If you are in the middle, take it if you are a cookery book addict (ahem, thats me then), or leave it if Nigella's style does not appeal.

I'll just leave you with the image of me drooling over the pages. 

Happy (belated) Christmas.

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Friday, 28 September 2012

What to do with old magazines

In my decluttering (that I'm still failing at, but desperately trying to progress in), I have come across literally hundreds of magazines that we no longer have a need for. Some Loads of them even moved house with us last autumn and have been sat in cupboards/under the bed looking lost and unloved. Certainly more than we could reasonably expect to use in lighting the fire anyway (have you noticed that magazine paper is not exactly wonderful for lighting things - total fail here as we don't read newspapers). 

So what do we do with them? Certainly they won't get chucked in the bin! In the PTC household throwing anything away that is at least recyclable, and quite possibly reusable is a deadly sin. The few magazines that have interesting items in have been torn up and the key pages kept in punched pouches (I'll do another post on this at some point), but the rest, well we just aren't interested in anymore. So in an attempt to find a use I've done a little bit of googling and come up with a list.

For some great quilling ideas visit Crafting Creatures.
1. Give the magazine away. See if you have a friend that is interested in the content, or perhaps a GP surgery/dentist/hairdresser. All are in need of a little it of paper to entertain their clients. We have the problem that our science and car (why do we have car magazines?) aren't really appropriate for that sort of audience. So we tried freecycle as well, what school-kid isn't interested in a bit of science?

2. Make quilling strips! Quilling paper is expensive, but nothing could be easier (or more tedious perhaps), than making your own quilling strips. Cut them up with a pair of scissors to the width you want and quill away. Alternatively, put them through a straight-cut shredder (not the fancy kind that cross shreds!). You won't have lovely neat edges but you will get strips really quickly.

Create paper decorations: paper star by House Revivals
More paper decorations - try magazine-origami
3. Make a scrap book. Cut up all your favourite pictures/tidbits from the magazine and scrap scrap away! That way you don't loose the content you are interested in, but you don't have to wade through an entire magazine, that to be honest you will never do, to find the one item that really interests you!

Make a paper star.
4. Make decorations. This couldn't be easier; cut strips/shapes in all the colours of the rainbow from your vast collection of magazines and be inspired. Pinterest of course is full of inspiration, just search for hand made paper decorations. The limit is endless. Try origami or just good old fashion play around!

5. Use to line envelopes - or indeed make envelopes! For an envelope tutorial visit frugalliving.

6. Decoupage - the options are endless. For a simple how-to visit

7. Wrap presents. Oh the options for this are endless. Black and white pages look classic, but the colourful just look fabulous! 

8. Cover boxes/canisters in old pages. These from trash2treasure look simply fabulous! I mean why wouldn't you want to do this?
Cover coffee canisters/boxes with scraps.

Rolled magazines into a reed box.
9. Roll up some pages and make a box or something similar! OK, so you could do this the easy-but-flimsy way, where you follow a tutorial meant for card and et voila! one flimsy box. But oh no. There is a better way; try making 'magazine boxes' with The Artful Crafter. These are truly beautiful. Then there is the stunning reed box, colour coorindated too (so you'd need to spend some time seraching the pages for the right look) with craft stylish.

Rolled magazines into boxes.
10. And finally, if in doubt, recycle! Everywhere now has paper recycling, so please if you run out of enthusiasm for crafting, then give a tree a bit of extra life by putting your paper in your recycling box.

There are tonnes of ideas out there, and these are just a few that appealed to me. 

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Thursday, 27 September 2012

Random wordings

I read this fascinating article this morning on the use of British English in America. Apparently it isn't going down well in some areas. Funnily enough the same thing erupted here a few years ago with the large amount of American sitcoms on British TV being blamed for the change in British English. I'm not entirely sure what all the fuss is about to be honest. Language is language. It evolves and changes with the times. If it doesn't, it turns into the dreaded Latin lessons at school - a language you are taught but will never speak. What is the point of that?

So instead of complaining bitterly about the change in our use of language (whichever part of the world you are in - after all Ching-lish is supposedly spoken by more people now than English, or at least according to QI, the source of all knowledge!), I thought I'd share with you some of the words that I love and hate.

Words I love

  • Train station - an American term, that is oh so much shorter and sweetie than railway station.
  • Ginger - to indicate someone who has red hair. Often used in a derogatory sense, but often not. I just love it. I love gingers too (living in Scotland and having a family half-full of red heads might have something to do with that). I think I have ginger envy.
  • Bi-weekly - ok so not right up there on my 'love-list' but what is so wrong with this? Much more descriptive than fortnightly. I'm not saying fortnightly should be abandoned, but what is wrong with a new and highly descriptive phrase?
  • Closet - I've been using this a lot recently to describe any cupboard/wardrobe or such in our house which needs decluttering or some sort of attention. Mr PTC hates it! I love it because it is all-encompassing (hmmm maybe I should embrace more words that I don't like because they are all-encompassing too).
... and the words I loathe
  • Pleb - seriously? this is just derogatory and unnecessary. Especially when used by politicians to refer to anybody they believe isn't on the same payscale as them.
  • Ned - used in Scotland to refer to people who are from Glasgow and just a bit, erm, uneducated. Pleeeeeeaaaaassssssseeeeee. Just because you have a Glaswegian accent doesn't make you uneducated.
  • Brummie - used in the posh parts of middle England to refer to anyone with a Birmingham accent, in a not very nice way. This was one of the things I really hated about where I grew up - everyone was so stuck up about not being from Birmingham. I mean does where you grow up really make you a better human being? I think not!
  • Eaterie - now come on. What is wrong with restaurant, takeaway or pub? 
  • Math. I'm sorry, but as a Mathematical Physicist I cannot understand the word math. It is MATHS plain and simple. Maybe this makes me grumpy; I don't know why but it really sets my teeth on edge.
OK, and one more thing, that while not really getting upset about I just don't understand. Why do American's refer to themselves as American-English, or American-Swedish or whatever? I mean I'm Scottish or British no Scottish-Irish-Welsh-English-Norwegian-Danish which is probably more accurate if you take into account the previous 10 generations which is what I believe American's do. I really don't understand! I'd love to be enlightened.

Phrases and words that are British and American, but all just quite fascinating.
Feel free to disagree or (strangely) agree with me. I think one of the most wonderful things about language is its ability to change, evolve and grow. The fact we can be so diverse in our choice of how we explain something is wonderful. So maybe I sound grumpy by having things that I don't like, but this just makes life more exciting surely?

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Friday, 21 September 2012

To crochet or not to crochet?

I've been sick and off work the last two days. I hate being sick (OK thats a really stupid thing to say). It is so boring! I end up checking my work emails anyway (then feeling guilty because I haven't done anything and falling asleep because I'm so tired). What I have done though in between my sleeping and email sessions is crochet! 

I've been wanting to learn to crochet for a while. I tried my hand at knitting a few years ago, but I never created anything I deemed exciting enough to be worth the effort. Oh and I wasn't good at it, in fact I was pretty terrible at knitting (obviously the housewife gene didn't get passed on). But crochet seems simpler and more fun. Plus I have a theory that I can do it while watching TV on cold winter evenings, although I'm a long way from that at the moment. Mr PTC thinks its a passing phase - we will see.

So between being ill, and completely useless at self learning I have eventually gotten around to finishing my first crochet project. Small, simple and rather cute:

A crochet rose.

A small simple crochet rose-type flower. I'm actually quite impressed by myself. I swear it TOTALLY looks better in real life than in the photo. Ahem.

I can't tell you how long it took because there have been a large number of naps taken between miniature crochet session. Lots of cups of tea, and lots of snuffling. If you want to have a go yourself I used the following tutorial and I highly recommend it:

Happy crocheting to anyone who wants to give it a go.

I'm linking up to....
A Bowl Full of Lemons
Not just a housewife

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Monday, 17 September 2012

Travelling and packing check list

As you may have gathered from my previous post on the cat kit, the PTC household has just returned from a weekend away. Now I am sure I am not alone, but every time we travel I forget things. I spend far longer than I should packing, stick post-it notes around the house in the middle of the night, and I still manage to forget things. And really, seriously, I travel so much, how can I forget things so easily?

To reduce the probability of this happening I have created a PTC household packing check list. I have categorised items by person (or kitty cat). This means that should Mr PTC travel by himself (or heaven forbid I get to go continent hopping for a conference), we can ignore all the other categories and just focus on the individual that is relevant. Items that are irrelevant can be crossed off when the planning stage takes place, and there is space at the bottom for additional items (such as jam jars for my Mum next time we visit the parents!). I've even included space for a date, so that multiple up-coming trips can be dealt with in the same period.

As I know each trip requires different things I've included a cover-all for most situations. So for Mr PTC he has 'suit and tie'. Now he doesn't need a suit everytime we go away, but hopefully the times he does he will remember it, and a shirt and tie that match! Similarly cufflinks and a dress for me (I'm not really an every-day dress person). If it isn't needed, it gets scrubbed out. I try to plan each day of a trip, unless it is just a few days 'away'. So for a conference I know I will need smart-casual for N-days, with formal attire on the day I present and for the formal dinner. When we visit my parents I like to take one dress in case we go out somewhere fancy, but the rest of the time I make sure I have my walking boots and some old jeans I don't mind ruining because I tend to go walking (and pretty much everytime end up on my arse in the mud) with my Dad.

The sheet is saved as a PDF on my computer, and is printed many times, stored in our home management binder and used as required. I've even got a handy checklist of 'things to do when we go away' otherwise known as the 'exit check list' because three words fitted better than seven!

The checklist

So there is my travel check list. It has been used once so far, and was very useful. With more work-trips coming up I reckon it will become invaluable. Fingers crossed!

I'm linking up to....
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The Cat kit

Warning - if you aren't a cat person look away now. Cute pictures and poo-talk coming up. Sorry!

So I don't think I've ever shared any photos of my two little babies, so here we are. This is the cute one, where they are behaving themselves (i.e. comatose after destroying the house):
Don't you just love how they manage to take control of the remotes, even when asleep?
Anyway, one of the things that we do just a little differently to other cat owners is take our babies on holiday with us. Strange you may think. It is a bit odd (although Bramble would have you believe he is a dog, and dogs travel right?). We do this out of kindness - we reckon my parents are much better cat-sitters than anyone else! Certainly better than getting a neighbour to pop in while we are away. So the cats come along with us whenever we visit my parents, and also get to stay with grandma and grandpa when we go on holiday.  They have done it since they were tiny (the top photo shows the wee black-and-white Bramble at just 2 months old, he is now a scary 6 months old and travelling like a pro - well nearly). They now seem to take it in their stride complaining very little (though our oldest cat Lavender complains by giving us the silent treatment for a few hours when we get home because she prefers my parents house where she is allowed out at night and there is a cat flap).

Just in case you need some more cute-ness before we turn to the poop-ness, here's wee Bramble the day we brought him home back in May:

So cute and fluffy... you have NO IDEA how much of a terror he is!
So to move to the point of this piece.... going on holiday to the parents involves a 2-3 hour trip (depending on traffic) and a ferry journey. Unfortunately the ferry journey means that sometimes we get stranded. This happened last year (before Bramble, back when we had our beloved Smudge who sadly died over the winter). We got stuck, the ferries were cancelled and the thought of driving all the way back home just wasn't going to happen. Luckily for us we found a lovely B&B that would take us and the cats. A quick trip to Tesco for some essentials and we were sorted. However, we decided we should carry a 'Cat Kit' in the future, a bit like a First Aid kit, but cat-esque! No need to go out and buy a litter tray, litter, food and bowls each time we got stranded (we don't take everything with us because my parents also have cats and so have all the necessary supplies).

Last night, on our way back from a weekend away the cat kit was once again priceless. We had an eventful trip to say the least. Leaving the island that my parents live on proved to be difficult because one of the ferries was out of order. So we had to wait at the pier for a looooong time! Then we nearly ran over a dog (OK we didn't but the car in front of us nearly did), so we stopped, and tried to get the SSPCA, followed by the police to come and pick up the dog. 45 minutes later, and no one would! I can't believe it! Apparently they "don't do that at this time on a Sunday". Righto then. So we ended up leaving the poor thing, I mean I don't know what else we could do, it was nowhere near where we lived, so I didn't think it would be right to take him to our home, and we had two cats in the car.

Anyway, moving on....

All this was too much for dear Bramble, and so, well, he pooped. He didn't make a fuss, we didn't hear a thing. No he just got on and did it and wrapped it all up neatly in his blanket.

Erm. Thanks for that Bramble.

So we stopped and the emergency cat kit came out. We had spare blankets (the others got chucked - they are just old jumpers and sometimes too much poop is just too much poop), wet wipes, poop bags and all was fine. Bramble got tidied up, we aired out the car (yes it was so bad my eyes stung), and eventually got home. Very late. 

So I thought I'd share with you the cat kit. Just in case any of you are crazy enough to travel with cats. This could be adopted for any travelling pet (or child!). I'm sure all the mother's out there will be thinking 'well that's not rocket science, I do that everytime I go to the shop'. Well I'm a novice, sorry.

Oh, and a word of warning if you do ever travel with cats: never let them out of their carriers unless all the doors are locked and you aren't driving!

And just in case you need another cute picture to get over the poop talk, here you are!

The calm before and after the storm. Lavender stole that jumper to sleep on (dragging it up the stairs) and Bramble has just finished devouring a box full of tissues. Not so cute now hey?
Just in case anyone is worried about the welfare of our kitties - I can promise no cats were harmed in the making of this blogpost (unless you consider being spoilt rotten and being the centre of our Universe as harming).

I'm linking up to....

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Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Autumn is here and the case of the mummified cat

So there have been some strange goings on in the PTC household recently, but I'll come to that shortly. I will start with the obvious statement.


OK, not so obvious. How about this:

Its Autumn!

And yes it is indeed! The wind is blowing, the leaves are turning, the scarves have come out of their summer boxes and I've got cold hands. More to the point we had the fire lit last night in the PTC household. Last week seemed so summery, it was like the summer we never had delayed until September. However, Sunday morning came around and the weather turned. Its cold wet and miserable. However, I love it because we get to light the fire. I don't think we will have to wait very long until the first frosts. And better yet, it reminds me of days like this:

Loch Fyne at its finest last Autumn. Love it!
That photo was taken on one of the most beautiful days I have ever seen in Scotland, and I think this Autumn might just produce more!

So this weekend coming I'm going to get out and about with my camera and get some nice shots (well weather dependent!). I'll be getting all my gloves, my winter boots and the snow shovel from storage. I'll be collecting kindling for lighting the fire, sweeping the leaves from the garden paths and stacking logs in the wood shed. And there will be copious quantities of hot chocolate topped with marshmallows. I love autumn. Summer's all well and good, but sometimes a bit of wind in the trees and a snuggle in front of the fire settle everyone's needs!

So on to the strangeness (I'm doing this one small, in case it creeps you out):

We found a mummified cat last week.

Yes you read that right. A mummified cat. That means all dried and nasty and just a little scary. I cried!

We called the SSPCA (RSPCA to people not in Scotland), because it was just, well, weird. I've never called out the SSPCA before, so I wasn't sure if I was doing the right thing,  but the poor creature had a hole in its stomach that just struck me as odd. Anyway, it gets stranger. The cat just 'appeared' on a lawn outside our village hall. No one seems to know where it came from. Even the SSPCA officer admitted it was unlikely that another animal had placed it there because it was smack bang in the middle of the lawn, like completely central, and all neat and tidy on the freshly mown grass. Very very odd. It had also been dead for somewhere between 2 years and hundreds of years, so it didn't get there by itself! (I should point out that I walk past there most days as the hall is right next to my house, and the lawn had been mown 3 days prior.)

It turns out that the SSPCA have recently found a 'number' (whatever that means!) of Egyptian mummified cats in the Edinburgh area, suggesting that they were stolen from a museum (or the museum just got rid of them!). Fortunately (or unfortunately) ours wasn't one of them. But it definitely piqued the curiosity of the SSPCA!

My neighbour took pity on the cat and buried it, providing a little vase of flowers as well. I just love my neighbour, she is so kind and thoughtful (I think she realised I was quite upset and somewhat beside myself because she get giving me sherry to drink). Luckily for me my kitties are on vacation with my parents (that's a whole other story), so I wasn't worried about them. But the first thing I think of when I see any cat remains, regardless of how long they have obviously been there is 'oh no, where are my babies?'.

Unfortunately for the owner, the cat had no chip (or at least none that the SSPCA officer could find), so the owner will never know that we found him. 

So there is the mystery of the mummified cat! I would put up a picture (I had to send some to the SSPCA), but I think it would creep all my dear readers out (whoever your are!).

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Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Drying lavender

One of the many tasks I completed in August but never had a chance to share was the simple, but very pleasurable task of drying some lavender. Summer came late, in fact it only arrived last week, so our lavender didn't produce flower heads until mid-August. I've never known lavender blossom so late. Luckily for me summers tardiness actually benefitted me this time as it meant I had time to collect some lavender.

I always try and get a few bunches of lavender every year to include in pot pourri or sew into a small cushion. This year I hope to make a small pillow as a sleep aid.

Drying lavender couldn't be simpler. The key thing is to collect it when it is dry (hmm perhaps not so easy given this summer), and not in the hottest weather (i.e. not the middle of the day). Ideally collect in the morning after the dew has risen, or in the evening before the sun sets and the dew falls. Only pick steps where the flowers haven't opened as this provides the best smell later on.

Once collected tie the lavender in bunches and leave somewhere dry to dry out. A month or so later and you will have lots of lavender to use around the home.

Oddly, the smell of the lavender is pretty timid when it is cut unopened and you might think you have done the wrong thing. Don't worry, it gets stronger as the flowers dry out. The smell in our kitchen (the only place I had to dry the lavender) is quite strong now even though when I first put them up I could only smell it when I brushed the flowers.

I realise this is too late for pretty much everybody interested in drying lavender this summer, but maybe some of you will come back next year to take a look.

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Tuesday, 4 September 2012

How to cook and store dried chickpeas

As part of my kitchen organisation and decluttering (and also because I am reading the interesting ideas over at The Year of Less - although this is not a new idea to me), I'm trying to use up various items that have been sat in my cupboards for a while. This takes commitment and often time. Time being the sticking point for me at the moment.

During my meal planning in August I frequently resulted to tinned produce simply because I just did not feel I had the time to cook dried produce. However, given the price of a tin of chickpeas at around 70p, cooking your own makes meals far cheaper and more sustainable as you are not paying the carbon cost of hauling the additional weight around the globe (weight == carbon needed to transport it).

So to use up some of my dried chickpeas and to encourage me to cook with chickpeas more often without resorting to a tin I thought I would cook a large quantity then bag and freeze them in batches. Seems so easy I wonder why I have never done it before.

Bag up your chickpeas in tin-sized portions and place in the freezer ready for use.

To cook chickpeas really could not be any easier. Firstly, put a large quantity into a pressure cooker, slow cooker (crockpot to anyone reading this outside the UK) or basic pan. Add water to double the depth of the chickpeas and cook away. In the pressure cooker it took about 2 hours on a fairly low heat to get lovely tender chickpeas (these were old though, and that increases the time to cook them). If you use a slow cooker (crockpot) except to leave them on a low setting for about 6 hours.

Cooked chickpeas in the pressure cooker.

Once cooked, drained and cooled you can then bag up the chickpeas into freezer bags. I placed 200g of cooked weight per bag which I think is similar to the quantity you would get in a tin (once drained). These can then be kept in the freezer until you need some pre-cooked chickpeas!

The cost saving is quite dramatic. A 1kg bag of chickpeas in Sainsburys costs £1.98 (never mind that I can get it at about half this price in my local Indian supermarket). 50g dried provides 200g cooked, costing 9.9p for the tin-equivalent quantity (and about half that if you manage to get your chickpeas cheaper). Of course you need to factor in your electricity/gas costs for cooking, but I doubt that would come anywhere near the 69p for a tin of chickpeas.

The same process should work for other pulses. Given the number of dried beans I have in and a desire to eat more of them and keep the cost of cooking down I will be doing more of this over the coming weeks.

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Monday, 3 September 2012

Chickpea and spinach curry

Tonights meal was inspired by the idea of using up as many of the ingredients I have in my cupboards as possible (oh and I haven't been shopping since getting back from my weekend away, so I have no fresh produce except some spinach my Mum gave me). I have been making curries for years in many forms and guises. I've always enjoyed chickpeas in curry, but until today I've never made a vegan curry. 

Over on The Year of Less Kelly is encouraging everyone to use up all the pantry staples that never normally see the light of day. I tried to do this a year ago in the run up to us moving house, but I never managed to get rid of all the surplus. Since then I have bought lots of pulses and pastas that I never use. Well, today started a renewed attempt to eat our way through those supplies... in particular a tub of chickpeas that were moved house with us (in fact I think they probably moved house with me when I moved in with Mr PTC three years ago).  I also wanted a nice healthy meal this evening after a weekend of indulging, and I have the added motivation of wanting to cook and freeze some chickpeas to use as tin-ready alternatives (more on that in another post).

So here we are, a vegan, super-healthy and Mr PTC approved chickpea and spinach curry. I should point out that 1. Mr PTC does NOT really like pulses but he LOVES this (win win win!), and 2. despite my normal advice to adjust the spiciness to your liking, this does need to have a fair bit of kick to it. Most of my spicy recipes can cope with a huge variation in their 'hot-ness' level, but this recipe really does need a bit of bite!

Please do try this. Its fabulous!

Chickpea and spinach curry

Serves 2
Preparation:  5 minutes
Cooking time: 25 minutes (plus extra for cooking the chickpeas if these are dried)
Cost: £3.16 (£1.58 per serving); or £1.37 (69p per serving) using dried chickpeas

1 tbsp olive oil (or equivalent for frying)
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp cumin seeds (or 1/2 tsp ground cumin)
1 tsp turmeric
1 heaped tsp tandoori powder
1 tsp coriander
1 vegetable stock cube (if you aren't bothered about this being vegan feel free to substitute for chicken, or use fresh stock)
400g tin chickpeas, rinsed and drained (or 50g dried, cooked to packed instructions)
4 tomatoes, chopped
4 large handfuls fresh spinach, washed and drained
100g brown rice

First cook the brown rice according to packet instructions (generally 25 minutes in a microwave).

While the rice is cooking, fry the onion and garlic in the olive oil on a medium/high heat for 2 minutes. Add the cumin, turmeric, tandoori  and coriander and fry for 30 seconds with the onion. Then add a splash of water and the stock cube. Finally add the chickpeas. Simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

When the rice is nearly cooked (3 minutes away), add the spinach to the curry and place the lid on top allowing the steam from the curry to wilt the spinach. You might need to encourage the spinach a little by stirring occasionally. Once the spinach has wilted stir into the chickpea mixture.

Serve immediately with rice.

N.B. The cost of the meal is calculated on the day that this blog entry was published, using Sainsbury's online groceries as a reference for pricing. Each item is costed by weight used not by the total cost of a bottle/packet of that product.

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