Ups & Downs

Well, it’s been a roller coaster start to the year, a week of ups and downs. In no discernable order…

1. Picked up Bebel Gilberto’s 2nd album in the library for only £1. A real bargain! I’m well chuffed.

2. I discovered that Robert Rankin writes drivel. I got about a third of the way through The Da-Da-De-Da-Da Code and gave up; it was shit!

hairy - before & after

3. Finally had time to get me a new haircut. I needed it! I was getting right wooly.

4. Got a flat tyre on my car, had to get the train to work for 2 days, then had to fork out loads to get it fixed. What a pain.

chocolate swiss roll no. 1

5. Set my mind to making a good vegan swiss roll. The sponge tends to crack as it has no egg in it. The results so far are quite… average.

So y’see, there it is, up down up down trundle along the middle. Just an average week in the life of me. Next week tree planting, ice skating, and a possible trip to Portsmouth. Let’s see how that goes eh? 😉

Report 9 – Many new things, some failures, and a new haircut (Roast Vegetable and Quinoa Salad & Spicy Tomato Pasta Sauce)

Ok, I’m playing catch-up (again) with this damn blogging stuff, so let’s get to it!

First the recipes:

Roast Vegetable and Quinoa Salad

This came about as a result of my going gluten free (see below for more of that). It’s nice and simple to make, and really tasty too.

100g quinoa

1 red bell pepper, chopped

1 courgette, chopped

1 onion, chopped

5 mushrooms, quartered

1 tbsp cashews, chopped

1 tbsp sun-blush tomatoes, chopped

1 tbsp sultanas

1 bunch of water cress, roughly chopped

juic of 1 lemon

olive oil

Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees. Put the pepper, courgette, onion and mushrooms in a roasting tray, drizzle with olive oil (toss if needed to coat the veggies), then put in oven for 25 minutes. 5 minutes from end sprinkle cashews over vegetables and return to oven to brown.

Meanwhile, wash quinoa quickly in cold water, cover with plenty of boiling water, and simmer for 10 minutes until cooked through. Drain excess water. Toss in sultanas, stir in, and put to one side.

Chop watercress and tomatoes whilst vegetables and quinoa cool a little, then in a large bowl combine everything, including lemon juice, and stir thoroughly. Can be served warm, but is also excellent as a cold salad the next day.

I’m considering a way to incorporate some harissa paste somewhere, to give it a little extra zing, but that’s something I’m going to have to work on. Maybe with a little olive oil or in with the lemon juice. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Spicy Tomato Pasta Sauce

This is a reprint of an old recipe of mine, because I didn’t manage to try the stew I’ve invented (that’s for tomorrow instead). It’s actually the first ever recipe I did where I didn’t reference anything; just went in the kitchen and made it up… and it worked. It’s simple, tasty, and quick to make.

Kiki’s Special Simple Tomato Sauce

2 small onions (chopped)
2 cloves of garlic (to be crushed)
1/3 of a dried red chilli (chopped finely)
splash of olive oil
4 plum tomatoes (chopped)
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1-2 tsp dried ‘italian’ herb mix (*)
salt & pepper (to taste)

a handful of dried pasta

Heat some olive oil in a medium sized pan. Add onions, garlic and chilli and fry until onions are soft.
Add chopped plum tomatoes, and tin of tomatoes, season with herbs (1-2 tsp depending on taste) and salt & pepper, cover and simmer for 10 minutes or so (ie: until it’s warm through, plus another 5 minutes).

Cook as per instructions on pack, but add a splash of olive oil before serving. Tastes great.

(*The Italian Herb Mix contains oregano, basil, bay leaves, sage and thyme. Next time I try it with real herbs :o)

Now the report proper:

New Things Done: A veritable cornucopia of stuff this week. Firstly I went gluten-free for a week, after my friend Sabera gave it a go with some interesting results. And it wasn’t too bad, I have to say. Giving up beer and bread were the big things, but I have to say even that was ok after a while. I learnt to cook other things to take to work (like the quinoa salad above) and I’ve gotten into my wine (I’ll get round to not drinking some other time) all of which means I’ve been less bloated and lethargic this week. Honestly, I was quite surprised at the results. I slipped up a few times, once with some noodles, once with some cous cous, and once with a Nana’s cookie, but apart from that I did the best I could. It was a pain having to go back to reading labels again (they do like to slip wheat into all sorts of stuff y’know) but in the end it was perfectly doable… for a while. I mean, I don’t think I’m going to do it forever – it’s hard enough finding stuff to eat out and about when you’re vegan, never mind adding gluten-free to that list – but I will be staying off the bread and the beer as much as I can (I tried gluten free beer, and though it wasn’t bad, the fact that it smelt a bit of vinegar and had a weird after taste really didn’t sell me on the idea). I just feel lighter and a bit more energised without them, and that’s a good thing in my book.

I also went for a bike ride round Richmond Deer Park which, despite being not that far away at all, I’ve never been to before. It’s a really pleasant ride. Even getting there is nice for me (once I get to Kew) as I can go most the way along the river. And we saw some deer! though we did have to go most the way round the park before we did. All in all a great day out (check out the pics below). I’ll be doing it again come the summer. Most gratifying.

And finally I went to a new barbers and got my hair cut but by this comedy Polish dude with a thick accent, a crazy mohawk mullet, and who spent all the time I was there telling me how this wasn’t cold compared to where he was from (though he did admit he’d gone soft being in the UK for so long). Most amusing haircut I’ve had for a while anyway, so I’ll be going there again.

Recipes Done: Roast Vegetable and Quinoa Salad & Spicy Tomato Pasta Sauce

Writing Done: Not much… technically. I sat down and worked out a proper outline for the script I’m working on. I know it doesn’t sound like much, but a good outline is the bones of a script. Without that you’ve nothing to hang the meat on. And a bad one ends up looking all lumpy and mis-shapen. It really is vital to get it right, and I have this time. Kinks smoothed out, wrinkles ironed, and major flaws removed (hopefully).

I also wrote the opening lines for what could be the first bit of proper writing I’ve done in years. Check it out:

“I was glad when society collapsed. Seriously. I’d spent so long trying to live by it’s rules and failing miserably it was actually a relief to see it all go tits up.”

Trust me, it’s gonna be great! 😉