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Boo-Hoo!

Ok, I have to admit it, I absolutely LOVE Halloween & so do our Kids.

It’s just the spookiness of it all & imaginations running riot at the thought of witches, ghosties, bogeymen (or in todays PC world should it now be ‘bogeypersons’?) & other ghouls & ghastlies scaring the pants off you for fun. I’d have the spooky stuff up all year round if I could.

Pumpkins Blog

I remember watching Scooby-Doo (the original ones not the new fangled ones) & being on the edge of my seat as Scooby & Co bungled through to discover the truth behind a mysterious apparition that was scaring everyone half to death. I was always disappointed when the mask was removed & it inevitably turned out to be the local Sheriff or some-other ‘real’ person.  Just once I wanted it to be a real restless soul who needed to be laid to rest.

Bat Mask Blog

So, Halloween…. A time for the un-dead (no, not me at 5.30am). Our Kids all get to choose what mask they want making. The decisions made (I always hope & pray none of them choose anything too taxing that will scramble my brain) I then get out the cereal boxes I’ve been saving all year, the glue, the pens & crayons, the scissors & get to work. MissT wants to be a Devil. Dj wants to be a Wizard. CurlyE wants to be Darth Vader (that’ll be the taxing one then!) & Lil’mrM wants to be ‘A sunshine!’…..

‘But it’s Halloween Lil’mrM! It has to be scary!’

‘Ok, a little bit scary sunshine then’ he replies.

Being a mother I do have a crystal ball that quite often goes on the blink where our Kids are concerned, but I’m peering into the sparkly fog right now & it’s showing me a not so far-away October 31st & it’s looking a little like this…..

Ghost Mask Blog

After an hour & a half of wrapping cardboard around heads, judging eyeholes, drawing, rubbing out, drawing again, rubbing out again, cutting & sticking the kids are now bored & starting to play up because they want to colour in their masks. I constantly point out to them that I can only work so fast & I only have one pair of hands. I do make a rod for my own back though as I want the masks to be perfect so I won’t let the Kids do the initial construction. Control Freak? Moi?

Finally my bit is finished! Now the Kids have to do their bit…..the colouring in!

‘Do I have to colour it all in?’ ‘This pen has run out!’ ‘I want to be something else now!’…..by now I am counting to 10 slowly whilst telling Dj that pumpkins aren’t pink…well that was the argument last year.

Jack Halloween Masks Blog

Now ‘Ome gets his evil head on. We don’t go Trick-or-Treating but we will answer the door to Trick-or-Treaters. So we’ll have a couple of bags of treats to hand out. Put it this way, if you’re 10yrs old or under & Trick-or-Treating with your parents you’ll get a treat from the ‘Nice’ goody bag.

If you’re just messing about or not even dressed up (yup, last year we had two 14yr old girls knocking on our door who were just dressed normally!!) you’ll get a treat from the ‘Bleeeuggh’ goody bag. To be warned it was chilli-chocolate coated sprouts last year. Nice one ‘Ome!

Pumpkin Mask Blog

So the goodies are ready, the baddies are ready, the potatoes are in the oven, the ‘Ome-Made chilli & baked-beenz are on the hob, the first mask is torn & taped back together & ‘Ome has his scary mask on…..well I’m presuming it’s a mask.

Jack Pumpkin Blog

By now the kids have spent the entire day scaring each other with stories & antics that they won’t even go to the toilet by themselves. They’re so worn out with the excitement & anticipation of the arrival of Trick-or-Treaters that the cracks begin to appear & I can guarantee it won’t be long before we have our first ‘Boo-Hoo!’

And it will probably be me!

Happy Halloween Everyone.

Kit x

halloween sparklers blog

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‘Ome Made Curry Secret II

I’ve already  done a post on making your own curry masala. I thought it was about time I did one on making a curry sauce.

If you’ve had a go at making your own curry masala that’s great but if not then this can be made with curry powder, paste or a basic mix of spices that I will put in the recipe.

One of the most important processes in making a good curry sauce is the cooking of the onions. The idea is to cook as much water out of the onions as possible.

My method for doing this is to puree the onions, along with the garlic and Dj stirring blogginger, in a liquidizer or food processor before they are cooked. If you haven’t got a liquidizer or food processor the onions, garlic and ginger can be cooked and then a hand blender can be used to puree your sauce at a later stage. If you have none of the above appliances you can still make a good curry, it just won’t have that texture of an Indian restaurant cooked curry.

With the following recipe don’t worry about exact quantities, it’s more about the technique and I’m sure most people will customise the recipe to their own taste.

Once the sauce is made it’s up to you what you want to serve in it. I will also give some pointers on how to turn this basic curry sauce into your favourite Indian curry.

 

Basic Curry Sauce (enough to feed four people with about 1lb/500g of main ingredient)

 

1 large onion (or 2 medium) roughly chopped (finely chopped if you have no way of pureeing).

3 big fat cloves of garlic (or more if you’re a real garlic fan) chopped roughly

2oz fresh ginger (a piece as big as your thumb) chopped

1 teaspoon of cumin seeds

1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds

1 level tablespoon of curry masala/powder/paste (or 1 level teaspoon of ground cumin, coriander, paprika, cinnamon, turmeric, ground ginger and chilli powder)

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon tomato puree

1 240g tin chopped tomatoes

1lb/500g of main ingredient (chicken, lamb, beef, prawn or vegetables)

Chopped fresh coriander to finish the curry off (and some turmeric, allspice, dried mint and garam masala)

 

Method

 

In a liquidizer/food processor/blender puree your onion garlic and ginger (they can be mixed)

In a large pan put about 6 tablespoons of oil (not olive or anything else strong flavoured). If you have ghee that’s even better.

Gently heat the oil and add the whole spices. Fry for about 30 seconds.

Add the onion, garlic and ginger. Fry gently for about 10 minutes.

Add your masala/curry powder/paste and fry gently for a minute or so adding a splash of water if it’s catching.

Stir in the tomato puree and again cook for a minute.

Add the salt and sugar.

Now add some water to the pan (about 500ml). Bring to the simmer and cook for about 20 minutes until the mixture has reduced and quite thick again.

curry cooking blogIf you didn’t puree your mixture earlier then you can puree the sauce now using a hand blender.

The chopped tomatoes can now be added (if you want a really smooth sauce you can blend again).

The sauce should be a nice thick consistency, if it’s too thick add a bit more water or stock.

Bring the sauce to the simmer and add your main ingredient.

Diced chicken will take around 20 – 30 minutes to cook. Diced lamb wants to cook for a good 75 – 90 minutes. If you are doing a vegetable curry I would par-cook the vegetables and then finish them off in the sauce for the last 20 minutes.

 

20 minutes before your curry is ready add the chopped coriander and a pinch of all spice, turmeric and dried mint and a teaspoon of garam masala.

Check for seasoning and add a little more salt if needed.

If the sauce is a little runny finish the curry off on the hob without the lid on.

I have to mention at this point that as I am writing this Kit is preparing some onions for a curry tonight. I also have to mention that Kit has forgotten to put the lid on the blender when pureeing the onions… I don’t think I have to mention that the kitchen is now covered with onions!

Anyway, where was I… Yes cook for a further 20 minutes and your curry will be ready.

 

 

 

Variations

 

The above recipe makes a medium strength curry but it’s easy to adapt and add other ingredients to make different variations.

For a Madras add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice (fresh or bottled), 1 tablespoon of ground almonds and 2 teaspoons of chilli powder 20 minutes from the end of cooking.

For a Korma add 1 tablespoon ground almonds, 3 tablespoons of cream and 2 teaspoons of sugar 20 minutes from the end of cooking.

For a Dupiaza fry 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds, 1 roughly chopped onion until caramelised add to the curry 20 minutes before the end of cooking.

For a Rogan Josh toast some flaked almonds, roughly chop 4 large tomatoes and add to the curry 20 minutes before the end of cooking.

For a Jalfrezi add 4 roughly chopped tomatoes, 6 chillies roughly sliced and two teaspoons of turmeric 20 minutes before the end of cooking.

For a  Tikka Massala  add 1 tablespoon tomato ketchup, 2 tablespoons of cream and 1 teaspoon of sugar 20 minutes from the end of cooking.

 

Or of course you can experiment with your own ‘add ins’!

 

I can especially recommend a curry made with the leftover Christmas turkey, cranberry sauce and cream… to be honest I think it went down better than the Christmas dinner itself!

 

Speaking of Christmas… I still haven’t done the cake or pudding!

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Awww! Do I Have To??!!!!

Come wind, rain, hail, snow or shine, Flossie, Buttercup, Donkey, Matilda, Monsey & our 2 new additions (it’s amazing what you come home with when you’ve just been for a walk in the park!) Stuffin’ & Strudel all need feeding, watering & their eggs collecting.

chickens & ducks

We discussed all this with our Kids before we decided on getting chickens & ducks. We pointed out the up-sides & down-sides of having different animals.

 

 

 

We decided:

1.       No to a dog as they need walking at least 3 times a day whatever the weather, they need lots of human company & food & vet fees are very expensive. Plus the thought of pooper-scooping with a little thin plastic bag & nowhere to wash your hands just really does not float my boat (although my mind may be changed when doggie-nappies are invented).

2.       No to a rabbit because as well as feeding & watering it every day it would also have to be cleaned out most days. Plus we know people who get their kids a rabbit & after a few weeks the ‘novelty’ wears off because to be honest, a rabbit doesn’t really do much…..apart from settle down in your veg patch & eat the fruits of your labours.

3.       No to a hamster/other small rodents because of the ‘novelty’ factor again & largely being nocturnal it’s not a good match for kids who go to sleep at night. Also when we’re up with the first sparrow-pump everyday I don’t want to be laid in bed listening to a hamster going for a 40k run on its wheel at 3am.

 

So the decision was made for chickens & ducks because:

1.       They don’t need human company all the time.Chicken

2.       Feed is relatively cheap.

3.       They will help keep the slug & snail population down in the garden.

4.       They will be interesting to watch when they’re let out of their run to roam & peck around the garden.

5.       No vet fees! (If one gets poorly we’ll ‘Do the Deed’ of dispatching in a calm & relaxed manner).

6.       Eggs galore!

7.       When they’ve gone past their laying best we will ‘Do the Deed’ & use the chicken or duck to its full potential with no waste.

 

Yes! to those of you who are shocked.  We would kill & eat our chickens & ducks. They will have had a fantastic life, lots of space, a wide varied diet & top quality care from our Kids. We even sat MissT down & showed her a video on YouTube of a lady dispatching of one of her chickens in a calm & humane way to give MissT an idea of what would happen & she was totally fine with it. I think she even asked ‘Could it be used in a curry?’.

 

So every morning the care of our chickens & ducks is carried out by our Kids. Our Kids aren’t perfect. Every now & then one of them will come out with the protest ‘Do I Have To!?!’. We tell them firmly ‘Yes you do, otherwise when we next have eggs for tea you will not get anything’. This soon gets them in gear, getting their wellies on & trotting off down the garden.

    eggs

 

I have to admit it is easier with 4 kids. One does the food, one does the water, one releases the animals & they all check for eggs. Yup we’ve had a couple of dropped eggs but over-all it goes smoothly.

 

The chucks & ducks love seeing the Kids & will happily follow them around or be handled or stroked by them. In return our Kids have great respect for them & have learnt so much, such as, they love warm porridge when the weather is freezing, they’re a bit partial to left-over pasta, how to introduce new additions & ducks eat frogs (yup that was a bit traumatic)!

 

After over a year of keeping chucks & ducks the excitement of discovering a newly laid egg or actually seeing one laid has never lost its novelty…& I don’t think it ever will.

 

They all have their own personalities too. Matilda, Monsey & Strudel keep themselves to themselves & love it when it rains. Donkey & Buttercup are easy going & friendly. Stuffin’ is very loyal & will follow the kids all over & loves being fussed. Flossie….mmm…yes Flossie. She is a law unto herself.  I’ve never known an animal kick up such a fuss just because a sparrow has landed on a branch near the coop. Or because one of the others is perched where she now wants to perch.

 

Put it this way, if chickens had PMT then Flossie would really need to stock up on the evening primrose oil!

 

Kit x

feeding chickens