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August 2011

I Think That I Shall Never See A Poem As Lovely As No Tree

Today is National Tree Day and to un-celebrate Auntie and Uncle Dutch came yesterday, unexpectedly, to cut down the horrid oak tree* outside the back door. It had grown accidentally and then continued to grow like Topsy. It dropped huge amounts of slippery leaves in Autumn and blocked the Sun in Winter because the branches were so thick and reached right out over the roof.

It was also a day of Gilly being extremely brave. First she saved us from a new box in the hall with high hackles and barking, and then she saved us from The Dutches, especially Uncle Dutch who was wearing his hard hat and ear protection. Sadly, I was asleep and so missed the chance to snap a picture of Lorelai Gilmore's Bravery!!

Picnik collage4 Picnik collage2
Peri and Gilly has such a wonderful time. They love The Dutches and had so many pats and so many people to annoy. When the chain saw was operating they were shut inside, well away from harm.

Picnik collage1
Branch by branch the tree came down.

Picnik collage
All that was left was the trunk. Auntie Dutch wants to use the trunk as part of Toddler Electric's new cubby house, but down it came too.


And now our garage is full of tree branches, waiting to go to the tip. I am not sure what the Council does with the green waste, but I think there are special places to drop it off.

Peri and Gilly played rowdy chasing games about a plastic cup and when Peri called Gilly's bluff, Gilly tried to whack her on the head!!

The day was quite warm and bright, Peri squinted, and there were more noses being curious too. As the tree lopping came to an end it started to rain, so we were very lucky. I was going to say we were lucky to fit all the hard work in, but I just sat about and directed dogs in and out. At one stage I was overwhelmed by it all, but we are so lucky to have The Dutch's help with jobs like this.

Squinting and noses

We are going to plant something new along the fence, a grass or approved bamboo maybe. As long as it doesn't need pruning or make a mess. I might try a few flowers too, though I have no idea what to plant. I am a horticultural dunce!! Auntie Dutch and MrsDrWho are much more plant savvy.

This week has been so full of busy-ness that I am quite tired and I think I am getting a cold. We are off to bed with some peppermint tea and a hot water bottle. I am hoping for a good night's sleep. Also I hope to track down the source of the strange smell here at the computer desk. I am wondering if someone has 'buried' something under the desk............

*I am sure that in an appropriate place oak trees are lovely. NIMBY.

I Wandered Lonely As A Crowd

I think the jonquils are flowering, well, flowers are blooming and I think they are jonquils. I thought I would take a nice landscapey picture of the flowers/daffodils/jonquils.

Not a chance. Everywhere I go there is a rent-a-crowd of Labradors. It is nice to know I am so popular with them they're like my own personal puparazzi!!

Labradors and flowers Flowers and labradors
It is very early for the bulbs to be out. I think they are confused by the weather, which is either fairly warm for the time of year, or forty-three year record low temperatures.

Ahh, pretty flowers
I have been very tired, so we had a day at home today where we all lounged in bed, or on the couch, and napped. I went to the car to fetch something and no, I could not go by myself.

Labrador noses are so cute

There have been a lot of cute noses today. Noses I love, noses that investigate everything that's going on, noses that can smell a treat at 500m and noses that nuzzle my hand so I will pat them.

More noses

I went to the car fetch two bags of fabric samples and offcuts. Auntie and Uncle Dutch are back from their overseas holiday and they brought back the greenest chopsticks they could find, a beautiful aqua pendant and another Terracotta Warrior. I have two now: almost an army.......

Chinese treasures
Auntie Dutch had spotted some bargain fabric bits and bobs and so she invited me along on her next fabric foray. This is a tiny selection of what Auntie Dutch bought for me as a gift, I am so lucky. Apart from two pieces, everything we chose was French, so we have good taste the owner told us. Here are two panels, one with a pale green scene on a cream background and the other a lush tropical bird scene. I am thinking of using one, or both, as a panel for a skirt. The fabric feels beautiful too.


I made a small selection of some of the fabric with embroidery on the left, and then the beautiful velvet fabrics on the right. They have a plain fabric background and then the velvet is raised up and very thick and luscious. My favourites are the hot pink flowers on the lime, the tiny chocolate stripes on pale aqua silk, the green leaves and the big red ovals. I love them all!! The lady in charge at Joan Horwood Interiors, I think, gave us a generous discount. Some of the fabrics were originally $250 per metre, but they are utterly gorgeous.

Bits and bobs

Back at The Dutch House we ate macaroons and drank Chinese tea that looked very strange. When the boiling water was poured in, the little pellets unwound into long green leaves. It was absolutely delicious to drink.

Strange tea
Leaves unfurled

Tomorrow evening MrsDrWho and I are off to see Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat at The Princess!! I am not as knowledgeable as she is and though I know most of the songs I have never seen it live. There will be more resting tomorrow afternoon in anticipation!!

Tuesday"s Letters Eat 25: 'O' is Oaten Rolls, Irish

Special flour My kind friend, the BionicKnitaWoman gifted me some lovely organic stone-ground flour from the Callington Mill in Oatlands. What a thoughtful gift!! She has been asking me when it will be O's Tuesday, and the day is here!! I also happened to have some oats from the Mill, so I searched for a recipe. All the bread recipes had yeast (my Nemesis) and all the oat recipes were flourless. And then I found it. Nigella's Irish Oaten Rolls. Perfect.

Apart from the stout/beer, you'll probably have everything in your pantry to make these. Obviously not my special flour and oats, but as long as they are proper oats and not the quick cook ones, they will be fine!! I tasted the stout as I waited for it to go flat and wow, I can really understand why Nigella uses it in her Chocolate Guinness Cake. The flavour is so rich and almost chocolatey, so dark, but not overpowering. I would never drink it, but I shall definitely be experimenting with stout in a cake soon.The stout, combined with the buttermilk and the bicarb soda makes the bread rise, not as much as yeast, but it definitely rises!!

This recipe is so easy, in 30 minutes you will have these rolls whipped up, baked and on the table ready to eat.  I shall definitely be making them again. Often. In some small way I have conquered baking bread!!

Thanks again BionicKnitaWoman!!


Oaten Rolls, Irish   makes 6

  • 1 1/3 cups plain flour, sifted - strong**
  • 1/2 cup whole rolled oats plus a tad more for sprinkling
  • 1 tspn salt
  • 1 tspn bicarbonate of soda
  • 150ml flat stout or beer
  • 75ml buttermilk or plain runny yoghurt
  • 1 1/2 tbspn vegetable oil (not Olive)
  • 1 1/2 tbspn honey

Please note,I use an Australian tablespoon which is 20ml, in the UK and USA it is only 15ml.

**The recipe says strong flour, which has lots of gluten, I am not sure how glutenous my flour was but it worked very well.

Preheat the oven to 220*C and line a tray.

If you have not has time to flatten the stout, pour it from a height into a container so a head forms, and the beer goes flat quickly.

Ready and set
Place all the dry ingredients into a bowl and mix well. Place all the wet ingredients into a jug and mix well. You may need to warm the honey to make it runny so it will combine.


Make a well in the dry ingredients, pour in the wet and combine until a batter forms. It is quite wet.

Rolls on a tray Flattened rolls
Take about 1/4 of a cup of mixture and form into a round roll shape, using floured hands helps. Place on the tray and flatten slightly and sprinkle a few oats over the top. Repeat until you have used all the mixture. I made 6.

Perfectly baked rolls
Bake in the oven for 15 minutes, turning the tray once if you like and then cool on a rack. They are delicious warm with butter, but for my money they're perfect with a little cream cheese, fresh lemon juice, smoked salmon and salt. I have read on The Internet these will keep for up to a week in an airtight container.

Perfectly delicious rolls

(Vitamin) D, You're My Darling and E, You're My Everything.

13 11 26.

If you live in Australia, this is the number you call if you suspect there may have been a possible poisoning incident: The Poisons Information Centre.

We had a possible incident at our house, involving Vitamin D. I thought the bag with my Vitamin D capsules and Magnesium supplement was safely out of reach at the back off the table. Not so. When I came home from an hour's visit to The GardyGardeners' I made a late lunch and then I heard a strange noise. Lorelai Gilmore had the glass bottle of Magmin. I then realised that the Vitamin D was nowhere to be seen. I searched for half an hour and found the empty and chewed plastic container outside. I rang the company producing the vitamins, but they were little help. I could have rung the 13 11 26 number, but I rang our Vet instead.

Home from the vet yesterday
First Gilly was driven to the Vet, and then home again to fetch Peri. There may have been some induced vomiting. There was. Which for a Labrador is not a bad thing. Apparently it is good and exciting and everyone pays you a lot of attention. There was no evidence of any capsules, and Dr Tim reassured me that The Labradors were probably fine, as I had brought them straight in within two hours.

Today they went back to The Vet to have a blood test. Gilly went first, much to Peri's horror. She was very upset and cried all the time until Gilly came back.

When I watch this, Gilly runs to Peri and then to me to check everything is fine!! Gilly didn't care one tiny bit when Peri went to be tested.

Dr Tim said I could ring at 4pm for the results, but they know me well, and at 2-48pm he rang to say that both their calcium levels were perfectly normal and he was sure they were well. I am keeping an eye on them for a week or so, but I am not too worried. I took the doctors and nurses a batch and a half of rich chocolate cup cakes with chocolate ganache icing, to express my thanks for their wonderful work. As you can see, Peri and Gilly love going to The Vet. Gilly does her silly, goofy, happy face.

Happy Labs being Lab tested
All the drugs and vitamins and tablets in the house are now up high in the dining room dresser. I am lucky that they were not ill and it is a reminder to me to be very careful with my tablets.

I asked Dr Tim if I was feeding Gilly enough, if maybe that was why she was stealing things to eat? He said she is at the optimal weight and that she is a Labrador and would eat twice as much if I gave it to her and what she actually has is Naughty Puppy Disease!!!

Labrador food
Here's a nice basket of The Labradors' vegetables. They have boiled rice and kangaroo mince too. They are quite inexpensive to feed. It costs about $3 a day to feed them both.

I could pack 500 books
Here's the reason I was so exhausted on Tuesday when I was cooking. That's approximately 500 novels that I took of the bookshelves, dusted and then donated to City Mission. This is the boot of my car!!

Duster buster
This is my new duster for non-fragile things. It has many little appendages and a microfibre construction. You can remove the cover and wash it. I like it because it is very green. Gilly likes it because it looks like an interesting toy.

My next door neighbour carried the books to the car for me. I felt so well and I just wanted to get the job done. I know I could have completed it over a few days but MrsDrwho understood, she said: This is a good theory, but you would do half or a quarter and it would bother your for weeks and then a dog would lie/crash/open the bags and then you'd have a huge mess and then you would have to get rid of that too. My sentiments exactly. But I felt so unwell that night and the next day that it was almost, almost worth the sensible option. I think in some other countries you can claim your donations of goods to charities on your taxes. Not so here, but I do like to think that even at 50 cents a book they could make $250!!!

There has been no knitting or sewing, apart from hems for Mrs GardyGardener, but I do have some new wool: Wollemeise. I have no idea how to say it other than with my four years of German at High School accent.

It is a gorgeous green and feels so nice. I am not sure I want to sully the lovely wool by wearing it on my feet!!

Lorelai Gilmore has no qualms about sullying her beautiful pale coat. She rolled in something not very smelly, but really dirty and I had to wash her before she could go to The Vet. And the stains on her coat were very stubborn. Peri is inspecting her and pretending that she would never roll in anything at all!!!

Roly Poly Gilly and interested Peri

I hope that tomorrow is a nice boring day, when nothing much happens!!!

Tuesday"s Letters Eat 24: 'N' is for Neenish Tarts

Neenish Tarts are not for the faint hearted or the time poor!! But they are so wonderfully delicious, that when I tasted one I forgot how long it took to make them. They are worth the extra time and effort for a special occasion.

There are many variations, but I stuck more or less to the AWW version, but we always had jam in ours so I put jam in the base of mine. I also used Vanilla Essence and not a vanilla pod or extract, just to try and be true to the recipe.

The tin to use is called a dome patty tray, but I know it as a patty pan tray. It has 12 almost hemispherical indentations.

Do not be put off by anyone mentioning Mock Cream. Some recipes cleverly call it Vanilla Cream, but it is made of butter, milk, vanilla, sugar, water and gelatine: all very user friendly ingredients. My Cream refused to mix and was just two discrete parts, as it was too cold inside for the butter to properly assimilate the other liquid. I did not panic, I simply warmed the base of the bowl over hot water and whisked the mixture by hand till it started to come together. Then back into the mix master and it whipped up perfectly.

Icing the two halves proved easier when I drew a knife across the half way mark to use as a guide. I have seen some people use squeezy bottles to ice the tarts.  I have had both Pink/White and Chocolate/White icing, so I made both.

I found I was multi-tasking, and moving from one part of the recipe to another while waiting, so I have written the process I followed, which seemed logical to me at least. Some of my pictures are a bit fuzzy today because I was tired when I was making these, so please excuse, and point out, any errors!!

NB Our Australian tablespoon is 4 teaspoons, while the UK and USA decided upon 3 teaspoons.


 Neenish Tarts   makes 24


  • 1 1/2 cups plain flour
  • 100g butter, cubed
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2-3 tbspn lemon juice

Vanilla Cream

  • 1 1/2 tbspn milk
  • 1/4 cup caster sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 tspn powdered gelatine
  • 1 1/2 tbspn water, extra
  • 180g unsalted butter
  • 1 tspn vanilla essence
  • 1/2 cup raspberry jam

Glace Icing

  • 1 1/2 cups pure icing sugar, sifted
  • 2 tbspn milk
  • 1/2 tspn vanilla essence
  • 1/1/2 tbspn cocoa
  • 1 1/2 tspn milk, extra
  • pink food colouring, one drop

1 2
Step 1: Start the Vanilla Cream but putting the milk, sugar and 1/4 cup of water in a saucepan over a low heat and stir without boiling until the sugar is dissolved. Meanwhile sprinkle the gelatine over the extra water and stir. When all the sugar is dissolved, tip the gelatine mixture into the pan, stir till well combined and pour into a bowl and cool on the bench.

3 4
Step 2: Begin making the pastry. Rub the butter into the flour until there are no lumps at all, make a well in the centre and add the egg yolk and about half the lemon juice. Mix with a fork, adding more lemon juice if needed, then bring together by hand. Knead till smooth on a floured board and then wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

5 6
Step 3: Back to the Vanilla Cream - cream the butter and vanilla until it is as pale and white as possible. Gradually pour in the cooled gelatine mixture and continue to whip until it is light and fluffy and looks like whipped cream. Cover and refrigerate.

Step 4: Grease the trays, if necessary, and preheat the oven to 180*C. Roll out the dough to be quite thin. The recipe says 3mm, but I found a little thinner was better. Dock the pastry all over with a fork and then cut out 7cm diameter circles.

Press into the tin to fit the shape and bake for 12 minutes turning the tray half way through,  or until the base of the pastries is golden brown. Mine took 16 minutes. Cool on a rack.

Step 5: Make the icing by mixing the sifted icing sugar with the milk and vanilla essence. Beat till smooth, then divide between 2 or 3 heatproof containers. I used my measuring cups and left half of the icing plain white. To another quarter I added the cocoa and the extra milk, and then a drop of pink food colouring to the other quarter. I put the little cups into a dish and poured some almost boiling water around them, to keep the icing nice and runny. If it does set on top, just mix well.

Step 6: Heat the jam for 30 seconds in the microwave, cool slightly and then spoon half a teaspoon or so into the base of each tart. Leave for 5 minutes to set.

10 11
Step 7: Fill each tart with the Vanilla Cream and level off the top with a spatula or knife. I found the best way to fill them was to use a dessert spoon to scoop up some of the Cream, and then turn the spoon upside down and scrape the Cream off into the tart case.

12 13

Step 8: Mark the half way line across each tart and then ice half with the white icing. I found it easiest to use a teaspoon and to run a line of icing beside the centre line, easing it right to the line, and then spreading the icing back towards the edge. It sets quite quickly. I used a hot knife to clean up the edges.  When it is set, ice the other half in the same way with the coloured icing. Again, use a hot knife to even out the edges and the centre.

FInally, your Neenish Tarts are ready to eat. They will benefit from an hour or so in the fridge. They will keep, in an airtight container, in the fridge for 2-3 days. If they last that long. Mine won't!!!

Neenish tarts

Shelley Fabric-ares

I loved The Brian Keith Show, Shelley Fabares played his daughter, and I just learned that Nurse Puni was his wife in real life!! MrsDrWho and I have recently been watching The Zoo Gang. It is fantastic!! Set in 1972, the fashions are hilarious, and the plots fantastical. It has guest stars like Ingrid Pitt, Peter Cushing, Roger Delgado (The Master from Doctor Who) and Jacqueline Pearce (Servalan from Blake's 7) There are only six episodes and we have one left to watch. Paul and Linda McCartney wrote the music which is very 1974!!

Special fantastical fabric landed here yesterday, from The Spoonflower. Yes, it's al ong bow I have drawn for my header today!!! They had a Free Postage day and I ordered some fabric. None of it green.

Spoonflower1 Spoonflower2

It was beautifully wrapped in tissue paper with a Spoonflower sticker and a fabric label too. I bought a metre of Cybermen from the other Universe, TARDISes, Daleks and some Star Wars Evilness. I am very happy with my purchases, and I keep unwrapping them, unfurling them and just looking at them. I can recommend The Spoonflower: excellent service and quality fabric.

Yesterday it was at least Minus 2 in the morning. Grass was icy, puddles were totally frozen (no water at all, so is a puddle with no water still a puddle??) and the little fences were icy too. The icy fence picture is not properly in focus because Peri is in the background rolling in something not very smelly!!!

No ice today, instead there was a big romp, and then a John Woo Stand Off.

Romp Stand Off
I have lost the knitting urge temporarily. It is too hard to start something new, and I don't even want to think about picking up my cardigan where I left off. I have some trousers to take up for Mrs GardyGardener, so I might do that. And maybe I will go to bed and read for a while. Peri and Gilly have already decided it is time for bed, on the couch, even though it is just after lunch.

Nap buddies

I went to see my psychologist yesterday, and though I have been a bit wobbly this fortnight, I am definitely making progress. I have been writing down some of my worries and then logically refuting them and seeing my worries in green and white makes them seem less real. And my reasons for not worrying are so eminently sensibly. It is nice not to have 9 out of 10 levels of worry all the time.

I had thought that Nut Toffee was the limit of my 'N' cooking, but I remembered I had thought of an excellent 'N' for baking, so I am excited to be cooking some Neenish Tarts for Tuesday!!! I remember Lassie Nan cooking these, ahh, happy childhood memories. I am not too sure about Mock Cream, but I suppose if it is home made Mock Cream it might be OK.

Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 2


It is three minutes from my house to the local cinema, full of patrons who don't always know how to behave and treat the cinema like their lounge room, really uncomfortable seats and unhelpful staff. In general. That is why MrsDrWho, her sister, niece and I made the long journey west, for 70 minutes, to first watch  HP#7, and then HP#8 in 3D on the big CMax screen. Believe me, that is a very long trip for islanders. My mum needs a cut lunch and a machete to drive over the bridge to the Eastern Shore!!

We had seats one row from the front, but the seats are nice and soft and contoured and have a curved headrest that focussed your eyes on the big screen. After watching HP#7, we were ready for the last film of the series. And we were not disappointed. It was in 3D, but not overly so. There weren't a lot of unnecessary items or people lunging out of the screen, it was very tastefully done. Do not be afraid.

For us, it all ended on 13.7(edited to fix the date) and 00.05am. The film was all I could have hoped for. I was not disappointed. There was laughter, lots of tears, sadness and joy. Even though I knew the story, the film swept me along and it ended on a high note. If you have been following the Harry Potter series since the very beginning in 1997, as I have, then when it all ends you will miss them, but it is a very fitting finale and respectful to all the characters.

Of course now I am all out of synch. The Labradors are confused. They were both outside and waiting for me at 3:45am and we were all still awake after at 5-30am. I slept all yesterday afternoon and till noon today, but I can tell it will take me a while to catch up. But it was worth the effort.

Goodbye Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, Ron Weasley and all. It's been good to know you.

(Can't make this space go way)

((Oh apparently I can!!))

Tuesday"s Letters Eat 23: 'N' is for Nutty Toffee Three Ways*

*Because they always do that on The Masterchef and I think it is so funny!! They are always having lamb, potato, tomato, rhubarb, whatever they are cooking, three ways: so I have nut toffee, praline and toffee dipped in chocolate. It's cheating a bit really.......

I am not a very good toffee maker, I try the 'proper' method of just caster sugar in pan over a medium heat. No stirring, and on the TV is just gently melts and makes toffee. Mine always boils at the edges and sets as hard as a rock, un-melted, in the centre.

So, here's a pretty fool proof method. It's not pure toffee, but it works for me every time!! I used a medium saucepan, over a high and then a bit less than high heat.

I toasted my almonds in the oven, but you can just as easily toast them in a pan on the stove. Use any nuts you like.

Nut Toffee

  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • pinch of salt
  • 3/4 cup of nuts - almonds(toasted and chopped if necessary)
  • chocolate, melted, if desired

To toast the nuts, preheat the oven to 160*C, and pour the nuts onto a tray lined with baking paper in a  single layer. Toast for 5-10 minutes. Stir a few times to turn them. Cool on the tray.

Placebo brush and water
To make the toffee, first ready some cold water and a pastry brush, for brushing down the sides of the pan if any sugar crystallises there. This seems to help when I make toffee, even if it is placebo brushing. Also, just in case, a sink with some cold water, as you want to halt the cooking process of the toffee abruptly. Unless you are really co-ordinated at the end, the toffee can continue to cook and burn after it is taken off the stove. Just sit the pan in the cold water while you add the nuts. It does mean you don't have to panic, and toffee can make me panic a bit.

Start of the toffee
Puur the sugar into the pan, with a pinch of salt and the water. Stir to dissolve a little, then place on the stove over a high heat and bring to the boil, without stirring, for 2-3 minutes. Mine took 2 minutes.

Here comes the toffee
Continue to cook, and perhaps turn the heat down a little to medium-high, with the toffee bubbling quite furiously. Stir, or swirl the pan, frequently. The toffee will begin to turn golden, and then quite quickly a darker caramel brown colour, this change took 6 minutes for me.  I swirl the pan until it is the uniform shade of caramel I want.

Nuts and toffee
Here is where you may need to put the pan into the cold water: Quickly stir in the nuts and pour out onto the baking paper lined tray and smooth out with an oiled spoon, or a spatula woks well too. Leave to cool for 15-20 minutes. It was still pliable after 10 minutes.

Bendy toffee

For Toffee: break into shards and eat or use to decorate a cake or dessert.

For Praline: pop a few shards into a ziplock bag and hit them with something hard that will pound the toffee to a powdery consistence. Serve as a topping for cakes or deserts or just with ice-cream.

For Chocolate Dipped Toffee: melt some good quality chocolate and dip one end, or surface, of the toffee into the chocolate. Cool, and then eat!!!Toffee Three Ways

That's What Dalek About You, You Really Know How To Dance...

There may have been the reading, at last, of 200 posts and then commenting on almost all of them. I banned myself from 99% of blogs until I had finished MrsDrWho's extremely late birthday presents: wrapped and labelled and delivered.  Ta da!! At long last!!!

Remember this??

It has turned into this:

What dalek about you
An Eleventh Doctor New Paradigm Red Dalek (Rav link), complete with its own Kaled, zippered up inside. Kaled were a race of humanoids who were in a war with the Thals, according to one plot line in Doctor Who. They were genetically engineered after being affected by radiation and became the pink wriggly monster which controls the Dalek from within. That's my very own jigsaw puzzle being a prop.

Convertible David Tennant
Some Very Kind People, who I don't know at all, sent me this pattern from the UK so I could make the cross stitch of David Tennant, Doctor #10. He can be attached to a brown pinstriped cushion, made from an actual op-shop suit, or a blue and brown pinstriped tote. He looks better from a little way away.

I used a randomly purchased ball of Full'o'Sheep to make The Titicaca Hat (Rav Link). It's really the Tortora hat from the latest Knitty and I knitted it in one day!! I love and adore this pattern, but see all that purl fabric?? I knitted the hat inside out, with knits, and then turned it inside out!! I feel a bit clever!! I hope she likes, it, I might even knit myself a slouchier version. In green.

Three Little Kittens

Here are Three Little Kittens: Caramello, Cleo and Muppin I think. They are cushions. I put some firm plastic in the base before sewing them up to make them stable. They come with some matching kitten fabric.

Death Star Biscuits
Look at The Death Star, then back at me, now back to The Death Star. See the biscuits? They are Death Star Biscuits. I hope they don't leave the taste of ashes in MrsDrWho's mouth.

There has been a lot of rain and so Peri has been having enormous fun in the creek. It is so full I am sure she is standing on tiptoes now and then. It is eminently drinkable too. It was so cold that I have had ice on the inside of the Dog Car windscreen and lots of puddles were frozen over this morning.

Gilly and her toy
Lorelai Gilmore has been playing with her 'Kong', it's not a bona fide Kong, evidenced by her ability to nibble away the opening through which I pushed some crusts. It kept her amused and interested for a few minutes anyway.

I have been reading  books. I've lost my Library Card, so I am eking out my reading until the 20th when I have to pick up my new book. If I haven't found it by then I will have to ask for a new one and learn another new number. In 22 years I have had 10 new cards, that's one every two years: a poor record. My only defence is that  I use my card all the time. I do try and care for it but I am overcome with book excitement. The When Eight Bells Toll book was really exciting and I am enjoying the Lady Julia Grey series too.

Tomorrow at midnight I will be at the pictures watching 3D Harry Potter #8. I will be napping tomorrow afternoon in the hope of staying awake and enjoying the film. I think I shall be sleeping most of Wednesday as well, but I have to go to see the Specialist in the middle of the afternoon.

Here are Peri and Gilly playing together in the creek, with lots of splashing water and ears flying everywhere.

Peri and Gilly in the creek
Peri and Gilly have been having a wonderful time playing together as the days grow longer. In spite of the cold and the very frosty, icy mornings we usually have sun-shiny days and there has been quite a lot of sun-baking.

In light of the non-appearance of marmalade last Tuesday, I have not an inkling of what 'N' I will be cooking tomorrow!!

Tuesday"s Letters Eat 22: 'M' is for Moroccan Tagine

The road to Marmalade is paved with good intentions, and today I just wasn't up to making any. I shall definitely make some, a supplementary 'M', soon!!

Instead, I made something simple: Jamie Oliver's Moroccan Beef Tagine. And really the ingredients, bar one, were all things that I usually have or buy. The only thing that might have been tricky was the Ras El Hanout spice mix, but lo and behold, they had some at the deli at the corner, Herbie's Spices for Australians. It was $10, but I think there is enough to make 4 or 5 meals, so it is quite reasonable. Spice

I also fell into the Tablespoon trap, I used the Australian 20ml instead of the British 3 teaspoons or 15ml. In the end the spice rub was fine and there was not much left over. I used Gravy beef, and bought a little extra so I could trim off the fat. I swapped out the prunes for apricots, which I soaked in a little of the tomato juice to plum them up. I also swapped sweet potato for the squash. I think you can pretty much suit your own tastes here. I used 750ml of stock and I think I could have used a bit less, though I don't mind the extra saucinesss.

In truth, this is a dish that can be partially prepared the day before and the actual cooking time is about 3 1/2 - 4 hours, but you only really need to be personally involved for 20 of those minutes, so it is a good weekend meal. I am sure it would also be a good slow cooker meal, but I wanted to make it today.

The meat really did fall apart, it was incredible delicious and tender, and I served it with some couscous flavoured with chives, spring onions and lemon juice.

The list of ingredients looks long, but don't be deterred.


Jamie Oliver's Moroccan Beef Tagine   serves 4-6

  • 600g stewing beef, cut into 3cm cubes
  • olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 1 bunch of coriander, the stalks finely chopped separately
  • 1 400g tin of chick peas, drained
  •  1 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 800ml vegetable stock
  • 800g of squash or sweet potato cut into 5cm chunks
  • 100g prunes or dried apricots
  • 2 tbspns flaked almonds, toasted

For the Spice Rub:salt and pepper

3 teaspoons each of

  • Ras El-Hanout spice mix
  • ground ginger
  • ground cinnamon
  • cround cumin
  • sweet paprika

Complimentary parsley and beef
Cut the meat into chunks, trimming off any fat or sinew.

Spice rub
Mix all the Spice Rub ingredients together and then massage into the meat. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours, but overnight is much better. Heat a large pan on the stove over a medium heat andadd enough olive oil to cover the base. Brown the meat in two or three batches for 5 minutes, turning half way through. 

Parsley and onion
Return the meat to the pan and add the coriander stalks and onion and fry for a further 5 minutes. Then add the chick peas, tomato and 400ml of the stock. Stir well, bring to the boil and then cover and simmer on low for 1 1/2 hours. I checked every half hour and stirred to make sure it was not sticking, but I really needn't have bothered.

More ingredients
After 1 1/2 hours are up, add the squash/sweet potato, the prunes/apricots and as much of the remaining stock as you deem necessary. Bring to the boil once more, cover and then simmer over a low heat for another 1 1/2 hours.

When the cooking time has elapsed, remove the lid and simmer for another 5-15 minutes to slight thicken the liquid. Toast the flaked almonds in a pan till golden brown, and if you wish to serve some rice or couscous, now is the time to prepare it as well.

Almost there
Serve the tagine with some coucous, toasted almonds, coriander leaves and a squeeze of lemon juice. I am sure if you have preserved lemon, it would complement the tagine perfectly.

We'll always have Tagine