July 2008


This is a recipe i’ve been fine tuning over the last few weeks. Its not completely original; i’m sure there are quite a few recipes that have inspired this in one way or another. However, this is how i do it, and its not too bad in the health stakes (could be made more healthily, very easily), and isn’t too bad in the financial stakes either.

I should add that if you don’t like french or italian foods very much then you probably won’t like this, i also put a lot of garlic and chilli in, as we both like garlic and heat. If you’re used to very obvious sauces then this won’t look like much: rest assured, though, that when you dump the cooked pasta in the pan and swirl it through the juices that are there, it soaks up all that lovely flavour and then its just a case of finding the bits of prawn to add to each mouthful of pasta twirled onto the fork. I also only put prawns and chopped crabstick into this, in the interests of saving money. If you had other seafood you wanted to add, say, mussels or lobster pieces, then the recipe could be very easily adapted.

Seafood pasta

Ingredients:
1 onion, finely sliced / quarter red bell pepper, finely sliced / quarter green red bell pepper, finely sliced / quarter yellow or orange bell pepper, finely sliced / handful or so of cooked peeled (i.e. pink) prawns / 6 crabsticks, unrolled and finely sliced / finely chopped flat leaf parsley or shredded rocket / handful or so of peas / half teaspoon dried chilli flakes (less if you don’t like heat) /  2 garlic cloves (less if you don’t like garlic), finely chopped / wodge of butter / sludge of olive oil / slug of white wine / wholewheat spaghetti pasta / seasoning / 1tsp cornflour in a quarter cup or so of cold water / lemon juice

Method:

  1. prepare all the veg and seafood. Put the wodge of butter and slug of olive oil into a pan – just enough butter/oil to cover the base of the pan, at this point (the oil is to stop the butter from burning). You could use frylight or some other low fat equivalent if you wished, i like the extra taste butter gives. melt the butter, and when its foaming, tip the finely sliced onions into the pan.
  2. let the onions cook until translucent, then add the garlic, stirring, and leave for a few minutes, watching like a hawk to make sure the garlic doesn’t burn (can’t tell you how many times i’ve done that.. and i hate it – burnt garlic is dreadfully bitter). Then tip in your bell pepper slices and stir, letting them cook through for another few minutes.
  3. Add the prawns and crabsticks, stir well, then add the dried chilli flakes. At this point, you can, if you wish, add another wodge of butter for flavour, or just go straight to the wine, or even just go for a little water. you don’t want the stuff swimming in water though. once the prawns have heated through (not very long, although this will depend if you’ve added them frozen or defrosted, obviously if frozen, allow the few extra minutes) add the peas, then add a good slug or two of wine – just enough to almost cover the veg/prawns/crabsticks – and put the lid on, leave to cook for a few minutes.
  4. Check, taste for seasoning.. you may, if using water (instead of butter/wine) choose to add a teaspoon of a suitable stock powder like marigold’s boullion, just to up the flavour stakes a little. add pepper if you like it peppery, i do, but bear in mind if you’re using parsley that parsley has a peppery flavour all its own. At this point, fill and turn on the kettle to boil water for the spaghetti. make sure to turn the heat down to the lowest possible on the seafood sauce and put the lid on!

    before the spaghetti is added

    before the spaghetti is added

  5. cook the spaghetti. Once the spaghetti has been cooking for 10 minutes or so, if you need a little extra liquid in your seafood sauce, you can take a little of the cooking water from the pasta – this is an old trick, as the water will have starch in it from the pasta and will help to thicken the sauce a lil. Do watch out if you’ve salted the pasta cooking water – taste before you add salt!
  6. right before the spaghetti is done cooking, evaluate the liquid remaining in your seafood sauce, and if necessary, add a little extra. You don’t need a lot of liquid though, just enough that its coming about half way up the prawns/veg mix – if you have too much liquid, then the flavour will be diluted. Stir your cornflour/coldwater mix, and pour half into the seafood sauce, and stir, till its thickened. Assess whether its thickened enough for your taste. you want it thick enough that its not a very watery liquid, but not so thick that its wallpaper paste. find a medium you like, that will coat spaghetti. if you go too thick, add more wine/water.
  7. taste, add some lemon juice to cut through the richness of the wine/butter and to add a little pizzazz to the seafood (seafood and lemon is one of those marriages made in heaven). add 70% of the chopped parsley – you don’t need a lot, about half a handful – and stir in. turn the heat out at this point, but as soon as you’re done stirring, pop the lid back on to keep the sauce warm.
  8. The pasta probably needs to cook for around 12-15 minutes. Although pasta is a personal taste, i think al dente is best for this recipe. you certainly don’t want it cooked so much that its rubbery and sticks together. drain your pasta. as soon as the majority of the water has been shaken off, dump the spaghetti straight into the pan with the sauce in and swirl the spaghetti in the sauce. i find a pair of BBQ tongs is ideal for this, you can pick wodges of spaghetti up and flip them, or scoop up the prawns/veg and stir them into the spaghetti. Also useful for getting long strands into a bowl! Anyway. put the spaghetti into bowls, pour the remaining sauce/prawns/veg ontop, then sprinkle the top with a little more finely chopped parsley. serve and enjoy 🙂

This amount serves 2. If you choose to use rocket instead of finely chopped parsley, shred the rocket leaves – you want them long and thin – and put into the pan ontop of the spaghetti right after you’ve dumped it into the seafood sauce. Just allow the heat of the spaghetti to wilt the rocket.

Note on Finances for those in the UK:
Iceland do packs of cooked peeled small prawns for £2, or most supermarkets will do bags of frozen prawns for between £3-4, which will do about three lots of this recipe. spaghetti is still, at the time of writing, one of the cheaper forms of pasta, and wholewheat pasta is healthier than white pasta. I buy a pack (500g) of it from tescos for 64p; it does about 3 meals worth as well.

I buy a pack of crabsticks from Aldi for 89p; this contains 15 crabsticks. I use 6 for this; the other 9 i either use in another night of this dish or i make up a seafood mayo for sandwiches: mayo mixed with tomato ketchup, lots of pepper, lemon juice, some chopped hard boiled egg, defrosted prawns and chopped crabstick – this is lovely in sandwiches with iceberg lettuce, and is very similar to the seafood sandwiches you can buy in supermarkets.

This dish probably costs somewhere around £3, making it £1.50 a portion. Its not the cheapest ever dish, but given that it has seafood and wine in.. it could be much more expensive, and its certainly worth it. It also doesn’t need a lot of wine, nor terribly good wine – i tend to buy the cheapest plonk i can find and keep that in the fridge purely for cooking with. Additionally, if you grow your own rocket or parsley then that makes this dish even cheaper 🙂

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I promised wendy i would post photos of the mending i did yesterday. I’ve been out this afternoon, food shopping (with a side trip to Matalan) so this has had to wait until this evening.

The pile wasn’t that huge after all – I’ll put the photos behind the cut. Still, its something that’s now done and expanded my wardrobe that little bit. the rest of the stuff in the basket is things i think i might be able to make something of, and that may take a little longer, for example, an old pair of leather jeans that just don’t fit me any more, so it’d be nice to see if i can make something else from them instead.

In the meantime however, before the cut, I’m pleased to say Catz of Catz’s Corner saw fit to give me an award today! Its the Brilliant Weblog award, given to a weblog that the giver feels is especially noteworthy for some reason 🙂 The rules are simple: post a link back to the person who gave it to you, and pass it on to 7 people you feel are similarly noteworthy – and make sure you tell em! Its a good way to encourage blogsurfing, so for that reason i’m pleased to accept it – thankyou, Catz!!

Now to pass it on to seven people.. ooh. this is a toughie, especially as i just did the 6 random facts thing that also got passed onto six people….

  1. Cynical chatter from the Underworld is a political writer and a friend of ours… I don’t always agree with what he says, but he usually at least makes me stop, and think about the subject matter, and sometimes change my mind, and that’s the hallmark of a good writer/debater.
  2. Diary of a Goldfish runs the “Blogging Against Disabilism” day every year, but that apart, she’s a damn good writer in her own right. Another one who’s thought provoking, with a very different take on life – she’s well worth a read.
  3. The Cottage Smallholder tagged me for the 6 random facts – its a pleasure to be able to tag her back! Seriously, if you haven’t ever read this blog, then you’re in for a treat. She writes about food, her garden, her life – her description of home cured bacon makes you want to lick the screen, and her recipe for veggie lasagne … well, lets say it would convert almost any meat eater.
  4. Daily Danny – I’m not sure that awards are really his style, but i’m gonna give him this anyway. He’s a green living expert/home designer from the US, and his pictures.. well.. they’re full of inspiration if you’re looking for ideas for revamping/decorating your home. His blog, for me, is like windowshopping – i can’t afford to actually do most of the things he suggests, but my eyes soak them all up in the hope that one day.. i might be able to.
  5. The Great Big Vegetable Challenge has been written (primarily) by Charlotte, the mum of vegetable-loathing seven year-old Freddie. Some time ago she started to work through the alphabet of vegetables, starting with Artichoke, trying several different recipes for each vegetable, and Freddie would score the recipe and the meal. Its not just a list of recipes, its a blog about the entire family as well, and a lovely blog it is, too. If you have a stubborn vegetable hating kid, you could do a lot worse than to do something similar!
  6. Suzanne Galante, aka Mother in Chief, is mom to TIC (Toddler in Chief) and BIC (Baby in Chief), writes about her life.. her struggles with childcare, writing, her children’s health and her own emotional health, about being a full rounded person and struggling to keep “Suzanne” as important and clearly defined as “Mommy”. She doesn’t write often, but again, what she does write is thought provoking, and i believe, should be read by just about any woman who’s intersted in children and the issues surrounding children. (I also couldn’t leave a comment for Suzanne, blogger wouldn’t let me, so i have to hope she notices the hits and comes to find this.)
  7. If you’re a foodie like me, then one blog you may want to read is Joanna’s Food. She started her blog after her husband’s health issues forced them to look anew at their diet. She doesn’t just write about food, but she writes in a gentle, warming style, that i enjoy.. well worth a read 🙂

And finally, one blog i would really really like to give the brilliante weblog award to.. but i’m not going to. If only because i know he simply doesn’t have the time to sit here and tell us seven weblogs that he thinks should get the award too, even if he had the inclination. If you’ve never come across Musings of a Stonehead before now, then you really should hightail over there and have a good read. Its written by the owner of a smallholding up in Scotland – he farms pigs, chickens, grows his own veg, cycles his two sons into school, and does the majority of stuff on the smallholding.. alone. If you have any romantic ideas about smallholding, this blog will soon put you straight!!

Now, onto the mending photos – behind the cut!

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[photo courtesy of that cheeseburger site…]

I have a denim skirt, a much loved (and well worn) denim skirt, that has a couple of bad rips in, close to the seam, fairly high on the leg, almost up by the hip. I’d love to rescue it, but there are complicating factors.

  1. there is embroidery very close to the seam, so its not as simple as just taking in the seam.
  2. there is a matching stripe of embroidery running down the other side of the skirt.

The photos below show what i mean, and the problems…. I know how to afix a basic patch or to do basic repairs, that isn’t what i’m asking. I guess i’m asking for ideas, really, because i don’t think its possible to repair this invisibly, so i’m going to have to go the opposite route and do something that’s very visible, like it’s meant to be there. but what? I’m truly stumped on this one…. Any ideas would truly be appreciated… most of the photos are behind the cut. Thanks!

the whole skirt. see the two bands of embroidery either side?

the whole skirt. see the two bands of embroidery either side?

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after the day out at Wagamama’s and Manchester City Center with Sez and Chris, i found myself feeling a bit flat yesterday, almost certainly not helped by the weather (which was hot, oppressive, and just allround uncomfortable). initially i thought the depression cycle was heading down again and i found that thought quite – excuse the pun – depressing in itself, Michiel soon pointed out that a) i’d had a heavy day yesterday, walking all over town, when i’m not used to it, i developed a blister on one foot, and my muscles were stiff and sore from all the walking (and my back was tender too) and b) that even without all my problems, it makes sense to give yourself an easy day after a day that was more difficult. So i tried NOT to think of it in terms of a downward spiral, but in the sense of “a day off”. and that really made the difference: I didn’t walk Jess, as i was worried that if she jerked hard on the leash and pulled me off centre, she could hurt my back (especially with it being tender), but i did do a little shopping and cooked dinner (more about that in a minute), and today i’m raring to go!

I’ve walked Jess this morning, and made a card – i can’t put a photo up yet, as its for one of my uncles who’s birthday it is on 31st July (and he has the URL to this blog, although i don’t know if he reads it, so i’m not about to ruin the surprise!), so i’ll post it when the big day has gone. Its a very masculine card, i’m quite pleased with it, and it used some bits i already had but also some bits that Sez found and gave to me, thinking she wouldn’t use them.

When i’ve had food (honey on toast, which i’m eating as i type) I’m going to work on sorting out the mound of repairs that need doing. Clothes repairs i mean. Things like Michiel’s shorts which got ripped, a pair of my trousers where the seam on the inside leg has come undone, a skirt where a side seam has come undone.. all little things but it means that once the repairs are done we can wear those items once more. that will almost certainly take me the rest of the afternoon, if not longer – there is a huge pile, its been mounting up for a while.

Dinner last night was spag bol, nothing special about that, really, but i got the mince from a butcher up in Droylsden, not far from Tescos. I’ve looked in their window before and i wasn’t sure about their meat, its a very traditional butchers (Halls Butchers), and what i could see looked fairly expensive. However, last time i was walking past there was a huge sign saying “We only stock local meat” and that was enough to draw me back in and start asking some questions about their prices. The prices are not actually as bad as i thought: where i’d gone wrong was in comparing them to Value prices, e.g. 500g of their mince is £2.35, i think i paid, compared to the £1.30 i pay in Tescos for the bog standard mince (the value mince is just too fatty for me). However, i’d been comparing to the wrong item – their mince is very very lean, and its more comparable to the leanest mince Tescos do – and when compared with THAT, it comes out better – i think the tescos lean mince was £2.90 for 500g. In addition, that butcher, being a proper butcher, also stocks the cheaper cuts of meat that you won’t find in places like Tescos, cuts that people like Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall have pointed out, like neck of lamb, which you can make a stew of, use relatively little and get a lovely meaty stew for your efforts. i think he said 500g of neck lamb would be around £3, which is doable for a meal. So i decided there to have some of their lean mince as a tester, and to do a spag bol with it, so that i could taste the quality of it in a dish i know well.

Anyway, that was what i made last night. The mince was very very lean, as a result, it didn’t break up well, so we had lumps of mince in amongst the vegetables in the sauce. This wasn’t unpleasant, it was lovely, kind of like meatballs in a tomato sauce, and the flavour was fantastic. I’ll definetly be getting it again (although i might ask if they do a “fattier” mince as well, for those times when i do want the mince to break up properly, e.g. if i was doing a lasagne). I’ll also be trying other cuts, such as their neck of lamb.

Dinner tonight is garlic chicken with new spuds from the garden, and baked beans. Not sure how i’m going to do the new spuds yet – I’m a bit tired of them boiled with butter on. I may make oven wedges with them.

One final thought about depression and mood awareness. I was doing some blogworks yesterday as well, and really looked at the figures to the right of the page, showing how many posts i’d made in a particular month, and i noticed a correlation between this year and last year: in around April/May/June, my posts start to tail off. I’ve checked old diary entries too (private ones) and there’s the same correlation. Quite why the downward cycle should hit around then, i have no idea. I’ll have to think on this some more, to try to get to the root of it.

However, what is clear from yesterday is that the key to staying ontop of this depressional cycle, as much as possible, is being aware of moods and thought, and being aware of the potential start of a cycle. If i can spot when the cycle is threatening to kick off on a downward spiral then i’m much better placed to try to take action about it, than if i’m trying to fight my way up from the bottom of the spiral, or even a little bit further down than the top of the slippery slope.

right. off to do the sewing: i may post some photos of the work later.. if there’s anything worth photographing!

creamed coconut is NOT the same thing as coconut cream. one comes in a block, the other comes in a tin. Do NOT attempt to make pina colada with creamed coconut….. *bleeeeeeargh*

One of the biggest problems for deaf people in terms of access to the internet is, with the proliferation of videos, how few of them are actually subtitled or provide any kind of access to the content. The BBC isn’t bad; they do at least make sure that the content of the video is written down beneath the video, or that the news its reporting is reported in text elsewhere on the site. Its not as good as a subtitled video however, which is why i was so impressed when i went to read David Cameron’s weblog.

I should add at this point – I’m not a Conservative Party member, or a member of any political party for that matter, but David’s weblog was reported in the news when he first started writing it – a couple years ago, i think – and i went to have a read, found it interesting, and bookmarked it then. Personally i think weblogs or similar, written by the party leader, or other leading politicians (although named – i don’t hold truck with someone else writing a weblog for, say, Jack Straw or someone) are brilliant – its an opportunity for someone like David to speak directly to the electorate that simply doesn’t happen very often (the only other time i can think of that it happens is in party literature that may be handed out, or party political broadcasts) and bypass the press editing that occurs, even with the best of intentions on the part of the press, even if the press medium concerned tries its best to be politically neutral, some editing always occurs and in that process, the meaning of what the party leader *wanted* to say may have been missed. I also found David’s early weblogs very interesting – he was going on a tour of the country, talking to people, staying with people for a while to get a real feel for their problems and issues… maybe its spin, but it spoke to me of someone who really cares. So, I return every so often, once a month or something like that, have a catch up on stuff.

However, the last time i did this i noticed something new. In scrolling back through the archives for June, I noticed that there was a small line: “Hard of Hearing? a subtitled version of this video is available at Google Video”, and the link to the subtitled version. Impressed? Ohhh… you betcha. I hightailed it over to the Labour Party & Lib Dem websites to see if a) Gordon or Nick did their own weblogs (not that i could see) and b) if they did anything similar, giving equal access to the videos they put on their websites.. and nope, they didn’t.

I returned to webcameron and continued to surf, watching the videos and being more and more impressed. I couldn’t help but notice that William Hague was involved in one of the videos, a conversation with the Dalai Lama, and i have to wonder if the fact that the videos were subtitled was down to him (the more alert will recall that he was Minister for the Disabled from 1994 to 1995). Anyway, exactly who is responsible for it is almost irrelevant.. what’s important is that someone has made the effort to reach out to the one in seven people who have some kind of hearing difficulties in the UK. That’s a tremendous demographic, and while the more cynical may point out that Mr Cameron may just be trying to get the deaf onside, I’d point out that at least Mr Cameron is giving the deaf equal access in a way that none of his other political colleagues are.

Then, to my sadness, i go to the July archive and find that the links to the subtitled versions have gone. Whether it was something done just for June, i don’t know. Its a great shame though, and i’ve emailed them asking them to reinstall the subtitled versions. With luck, they will, and if they do, kudos to the Conservatives.

I have to wonder when the Labour Party and LibDems are going to do something about their websites…?

oh my lord. i am stuffed. totally full to the brim. with absolutely delicious food. i mean.. OMG-to-die-for-i’ve-gone-to-heaven food.

We’re just back from Wagamama‘s. We’ve had a lovely afternoon – although Sez and Chris got lost initially (the first time Chris had driven here) we had a quick drink, as it was so hot, then set off to Manchester city center in the car. We parked in one of the Manchester University carparks, on the other side of town from Wagamama’s (as its only £2 a day on saturday/sunday, other car parks are more expensive) and had a quick drink in a nearby pub before we headed across town to Wagamama’s.

Sez and Chris have now gone home – they have a 2 hour drive back, and both are at work in the morning, but Michiel and i are sat here, trying very hard not to move, just.. enjoying the afterglow of what was an almost perfect meal for us both, Michiel watching Top Gear (its the last episode of the series…. BOOO!)

We do both love asian food (well okay we love food period, but we both have an especial love of asian foods) so this was something very special for us. We’d downloaded the menu from the website last night, spent ages trying to decide what to have. Wagamama, according to wikipedia, can be translated from the japanese as meaning either naughty child or selfishness. Its not cheap, (well, its more expensive than say, Mcdonalds, probably on a par with your average pub chain) but its definetly worth it. its very casual – long sit down tables on benches, so they don’t encourage you to stay for hours – and there’s no concept of “starter then main” – you can order side dishes as a starter, but they won’t necessarily come before your main – food is cooked to order and delivered as soon as it hits the plate, so start eating when you get your food, don’t wait for your co-diners to get theirs.

Below the cut are photos of all the food we ate. I put it behind the cut because a) its image intensive and b) i don’t want to salivate every time i look at my blog. lol. oh, and i didn’t take these photos. I stupidly didn’t take the camera with me. (lesson learned: take the camera next time!). I found these from around the net – google images rock!

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