Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Oh no

As the days are so hot here, I need to keep the windows closed during the day so that my apartment doesn't heat up too much. So I eagerly await nine or ten in the evening when the sun has set and temps dip a little bit so that I can open the windows up fully to let in a bit of fresh air.

Of course, spending longer than I intended online this evening means I have been sitting here with the light on and the windows open and that just encourages things to fly in. I've just seen the biggest mosquito I have ever seen (actually I heard it first, it's also the loudest mosquito I've ever seen). Great. I can't see where it's gone to now but I bet I know where it will be in half-an-hour when I'm trying to get to sleep! Not to mention being able to tell tomorrow morning exactly were it has been based on the number of bites I end up getting. I'm sure it's too much to hope for that it has flown away outside again!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Cooling down and hot air

It is nearly half-eleven and finally cooling down a bit. At least sometimes it is cooling down at night this summer. Last summer it didn't really get below 19 degrees or so I think. Actually, I don't think it's much cooler than that now but there is a bit of a breeze which makes it feel fresher.

I ate some salad for dinner with a small amount of cheese, some chutney and two slices of bread. It was after nine before I felt able to get up and do anything. I got home just before eight but the sun was blazing in. The thermometer I have was showing just over 40 degrees outside (I remembered to close all the windows before going to work this morning so it was 'only' 28 degrees inside).

I had to go for a massage and hot air treatment this morning. My right shoulder was a bit stiff one morning a couple of months ago and it never really went away. Didn't notice it most of the time although it has been a bit weak and hurting if I put weight on it. Last week however, I hit my hand against a whiteboard while walking past it and the reverberations up my arm really set off a horrible pain in my shoulder. As I needed to go back to the orthopadic doctor anyway (to give him the results from the neurologist that I should have given him nearly a year ago - at least it was a wait and see diagnosis so I wasn't doing myself any harm through this particular piece of procrastination) I phoned to make an appointment. They were able to give me a cancellation the following morning which was fantastic as there is often a two or three week wait for this doctor, especially if, like me, you are trying to get early morning or late afternoon appointments to cut down on the amount of time you have to miss work.

Anyway, he poked and prodded me a bit and then gave me a few injections (five I think but it might have only been four). They really, really hurt. To the point where I wasn't even able to think of asking him exactly what he had given me. I assume it was an anti-inflammatory of some kind. It was only later I realised that as I had started my period the day before of course I was going to feel the pain more acutely. Should try and remember that next time someone wants to give me an injection at that time of the month! I have a lovely bruise around one of the injection sites now. It made getting the massage that little bit weird as in order to get some relief into the muscle, the therapist had to press on that bruise quite a lot. Which hurt.

After about twenty minutes of intense massage (there is one knot in there that he found which I am pretty sure is the cause of all this - it hasn't fully released yet but maybe next time) I was given my twenty minutes of hot air treatment. That's a literal translation and I had been curious as to what it would involve. But it was just an infra-red lamp. It was hot though. Not too warm on my skin but since it was already more than 20 degrees at that stage, I was getting pretty hot by the time it was finished. It was a weird practice though. I went there because the orthopaedic doctor recommended them. They have a very professional looking website and make much of the fact that they speak six languages. English didn't seem to be one of them though. I had a Russian who barely said two words to me and obviously didn't seem to understand that I might come from a different culture. I have had enough massages in different places to know that the way things are done in Ireland is often not the way they are done elsewhere. And when it's for a sports/injury type massage that can be different as well. So I didn't really appreciate the strange look when I asked him if I should lie down or sit and whether I needed to undress or not. In fact, it unsettled me to the point (although it was only later I figured out that that was what had annoyed me) that even after he told me to strip on top, I forgot to take my bra off. Actually, I am partially blaming that on having an early morning appointment as I was still a bit sleepy but yes, a little bit of cultural understanding would have helped. In Ireland you would strip for a massage as well but be given a towel or something to drape over yourself, not to mention some privacy to undress. He did leave the room/cubicle all right but left the door open. I'm assuming he just doesn't/didn't want to speak much German because once he left me with the lamp on (told me it would switch off after twenty minutes and then I could just go) he went into the room/cubicle beside me with another patient and was quite happily yapping away in Russian. Too fast for me to understand much but it was nice to at least be able to pick up a word or two here and there.

I have to go for six sessions altogether so I have another on Friday, two next week and then the final two two weeks later as I will be going home for a week on 9th July. And all for the not-so-princely sum of 18 euro. I do hate sometimes seeing how much money comes out of my salary each month for healthcare but it is worth it when you realise that when something is wrong, it gets fixed. At least, my mind is telling me I'm getting fixed. My back and shoulders currently just feel like I've had a major workout and they are not used to it at all!

If I hadn't had a prescription for this treatment they told me that the twenty minute massage session would cost 25 euro. That's really not a bad price at all and I think I might try and budget one session every couple of months going forward. Although whether I would do so at this particular centre remains to be seen. I'll wait and see if I get the same guy each time and whether the attitude remains the same or not.

Here's a couple of quick photos though.

First, my new cooker. Yes, I finally have a proper cooker although as it was turning out to be very complicated to contemplate a gas one, I settled for electric in the end.

And now my new copper pot, which I got while in France and used for the first time yesterday to make my first jam of 2010. I had heard that if you use a proper copper pot, you don't need to use special jam sugar and that ordinary sugar is enough and the jam will still set so I was very keen to give it a go. Copper pots are ridiculously expensive though (you can expect to pay hundreds for good ones) so when I saw this one for 40 euro in the supermarket it seemed to good to be true. It is quite flimsy so it's not the kind of pot that will be handed down for generations but so far I'm happy with it. I made strawberry jam using the recipe in the River Cottage Preserves book but rather than 450g granulated sugar and 500g jam sugar, I just used all raw cane sugar. It also calls for 150ml lemon juice but I only had two lemons, which yielded just about 100ml. I added the juice of a lime as well which got me up to nearly 130ml. It'll have to do. I didn't think to dig out the thermometer to check the temperature when I realised that it didn't seem to be setting very well and had just resigned myself to having more runny jam to use up by making more jam tarts. However, this morning, once the jars had cooled down, they seem to have also set quite well. So jam-making for 2010 is officially underway.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Bad dates

I just realised that the date on my camera is a month ahead of itself. I obviously set the incorrect date when I changed the batteries on holiday last month. That's what happens when I take a holiday at the end of one month/beginning of another - I lose track of what month it is entirely.

Summer greens and potato omelette but no salad

I came home from the garden yesterday with a fresh head of lettuce, a huge bag of broad beans and a generous helping of peas. Oh joy. Fresh peas. I also bought 2.5kg of strawberries, two smalle punnets of redcurrants and one of gooseberries at the market as well as six large apples - that worked out well as the guy who served me knows me by now and knows I buy a lot and was obviously feeling in a generous mood. I ended up getting the whole lot for ten euro which means I basically got the gooseberries and apples for free. That was nice of him.

As I was heading out to a midsummer night ritual yesterday evening I didn't have time to do anything with all this stuff as it was after three by the time I got home and I needed to leave again by five. I did hoover though, which made me feel heaps and heaps better about the apartment.

So today I had a lazy morning and afternoon, reading and surfing the internet. And obviously waited until it was the hottest part of the day (from about half-three the sun shines directly into my apartment) to start moving about. I did the washing up and decided to tackle the mountain of fresh veg. Which means I did the washing up and then spent twenty minutes curled up on the couch with a pile of books trying to decide what to do.

Finally decided on a mix between a Jamie's Home recipe and one from Good Housekeeping and tweaked it a bit to match what I had to use up anyway.

Quickly boiled about 750g new potatoes until just cooked, drained and left to one side. Put broad beans, peas and sliced courgette (400g in total) in a pan with 40g butter and 75ml water plus a pinch of sugar. Brought that to the boil for ten minutes and added the potatoes back in to simmer until the liquid was all gone.

In the meantime I had put the rest of the broad beans into boiling water to blanch them before freezing. It was only when running the cold water over them afterwards that I remembered the bit I had read in all those books talking about having to peel the beans unless they were very young. The way they wrinkled up reminded me and so I started peeling them (I did blanch and freeze some broad beans last year but I just put them straight into the freezer after boiling I think and ended up throwing them out a short while ago - so this is actually the first time I have cooked and eaten broad beans). And while I was peeling them it occurred to me to wonder about the beans that were cooking with the other veg. Sure enough some of them were looking a bit wrinkly as well so instead of leaving them and seeing what it would be like, I fished them out as well I could and peeled them as well. Which made my hands a bit greasy so that when I tried to take the pot of water from the blanching and put it into the sink it slipped out of my hands and I got water all over the place. Sigh.

Anyway, potatoes, beans, peas and courgettes are well and truly cooked now so it was time for the bit of dinner that was inspired by Jamie Oliver. I took the veg out of the pan and put it to one side. Added thinly sliced chorizo (which I bought from the fancy mediterranean shop down the road a couple of weeks ago before realising it is much too hot these days for the lentil stew I planned to use it in) to the pan and left it sizzling to get some of the fat out. There was a lot of it. And I have to say, I'm very unimpressed with this chorizo - it's not spicy at all and mostly has just added a greasy not to the dish. I really should make a proper search for good chorizo here.

Anyway, added the chorizo to the veg. Next into the pan were seven eggs, beaten and with a good splash of milk added. And then I put all the veg back in, spread it all around evenly and put it into a very hot oven. Of course, the amount of veg I had meant that I would have needed to use about a dozen eggs to make it a proper omelette but it would be a semi-omelette I thought. Oh, salt, pepper and a mix of herbs did go in there as well. Unfortunately, my rosemary died and I haven't gotten around to replacing it yet and that would have made a big difference to the greasy taste from the chorizo I think. Finally, just for good measure (and to use it up) I sliced the mozzarella cheese that was getting very close to it's best before date and put the slices on top of the whole lot. Left it cooking under the hot top part of the oven for a few minutes until it was starting to bubble. So in the end I ended up with an omelette on the bottom and lots of cheese on the top. But mostly veg and potatoes.

Have to say that apart from the greasy chorizo, it's really very tasty.

In another hour or so the sun should be mostly gone and I will get back into the kitchen and make some jam and fruit leathers. I ended up dumping the lettuce I got from the garden because it was full of slugs (at least three full size ones and lots of little tiny ones) who had actually eaten so much of it overnight that there wasn't an awful lot left to rescue. Still, at least the lettuce I bought last week is still fine in it's tupperware so that will be salad for lunch tomorrow I think.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Food Waste Friday

The Frugal Girl runs a weekly show+tell of the food she has which has gone bad over the last seven days. I first came across her blog a couple of months ago, just as I was doing remarkably well again at using everything I bought and not throwing anything out. But I've had a bad week or two of it so I decided it was time to join in.

I haven't even looked properly in the fridge but as I've only been back from holidays for two and a half weeks I don't think anything has gotten lost in the back just yet. No photo because I might just use some of this stuff up yet but if I don't write this post now, I never will.

I cleared some of it out by finishing the strawberry and apple crumble (that I made last Sunday) for dinner. :-) Okay, okay. Sometimes clearing stuff out can be fun. I still haven't really adjusted to the heat of summer, which is now well underway and this week I have really been having trouble with having the energy to cook or prepare anything in the evenings. I've barely had the energy to eat some evenings.

Which is why there is still a full head of lettuce still in the fridge. It is in my Tupperware salad spinner with a small amount of water in the bottom so it might just be okay (or some of it anyway) but I won't actually check it until tomorrow. There are also six strawberries left, which were supposed to be for a smoothie but as I haven't been sleeping too well this week, I also haven't been doing too well on getting up early enough to do things like make a smoothie in the morning.

Which is also the reason I have five bananas just about to fall apart as well. I printed a recipe for banana bread off the internet today and as soon as I have finished this post I am heading into the kitchen and if they are at all edible still, I will make that.

I also have three beets in the fridge, a few scallions and a couple of radishes. I don't think they need to be actually thrown out quite yet but I definitely need to do something with them this weekend. I also ended up using almost no milk this week so I have half a litre that will need to be dumped. I hate, hate, hate not finishing the milk but part of the reason for that is that a friend stayed the night last Friday and I ended up buying a litre of milk in the supermarket on Friday evening so she could have some for her tea and her breakfast cereal the next morning so that I had more than I usually would have and making an effort to finish it off on Saturday and Sunday meant I had no desire left for more milk. So the fresh litre I got at the market on Saturday didn't get finished.

And the one thing I am really ashamed off is a portion of pasta and courgettes with tomato sauce. I was so excited to see courgettes at the market last Saturday I actually squealed (but very quietly and I don't think anyone was close enough to hear). I bought four small ones and used two on Monday evening to cook a really delicious sauce for some pasta. And then I planned to use the leftovers for lunch on Tuesday but forgot to bring them with me to work. On Tuesday evening I ate the leftover salad from the weekend and although it wasn't much I had no room left for anything else. I did bring the pasta to work on Wednesday but forgot that I was meeting people for lunch so didn't actually get to eat it then. Could have had it for dinner that evening but a colleague had a celebration in work and after drinking three glasses of sekt (not to mention handfuls of peanuts and salty sticks) and walking part of the way home in the hottest day this year, I wasn't able for any eating at all. And I should have eaten it for lunch yesterday but knowing it had been sitting in my bag for 24 hours (which would normally bother me far less than it would bother most people) just put me off. So it's gone into the bin. I wish I could at least compost but sometimes I think I used to use my compost pile as a bit of a cop-out. Must try to do better next week.

So, off to make a cake to bring to the garden tomorrow, possibly some banana bread and then another batch of pastry for the same cake, as I'm going to a gathering tomorrow evening and have to bring something for the meal afterwards. I was going to bring a chickpea salad but that feels like too much work now. Maybe I'll put some chickpeas on to soak anyway and if I'm feeling up to it tomorrow afternoon I can always make that as well.

Edited to add: and there's a half a tub of cream cheese that will need to go out as well - I want to use a very rude word now, in fact I just did but I'll try and not let my blog descend into the level of bad language I frequently employ at home. I had deliberately not used this lovely wild garlic cream cheese up because I wanted to use it to make a sauce for the courgette and potato gratin I was going to make with the other two courgettes I bought last week. They are still fine. The potatoes are presumably still fine. But the cream cheese will have to go. Aaaahhh.

Edited to add photo:

The radishes had to go but the strawberries were still edible so I had them while baking. I also had to get rid of a glass of wine left in the bottle I had opened when my friend was here last Friday. I really tried to finish it but just wasn't in the mood for drinking more than I glass any evening and drinking two or three evenings in a row (even just that much) is all I can do. There are times when I could easily finish an entire bottle by myself in one evening but really, I'm not a big drinker, which is why I would rarely bother opening a bottle unless there is someone else around to share it.

The bananas were even worse than I thought but three were still usable so I made banana bread using a recipe from Smitten Kitchen - except I left out the bourbon because putting alcohol in food isn't something I really like to do, it rarely seems to improve the taste (exceptions are amaretto in tiramisu and a drizzle of martini on lemon sorbet). And for whatever strange reason I don't have either nutmeg or cinnamon at the moment so I used ginger, allspice and then at the last minute found some mixed spice, which does have cinnamon in it and threw it a bit of that as well. And I also realised I don't actually have a loaf tin anymore so I cooked it in my tupperware (the one which I was convinced was called Princess but which the internet tells me is just called Flower).

But apart from all that it turned out perfectly. Really delicious, just the right amount of spice, just exactly right moistness. Will definitely be making this again.