Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Game sausage cassoulet

Regular readers will know that I  love cooking and am a collector of recipes. Not in a random, must have it way but with a degree of order. I give a long, hard look at the recipe and, however gorgeous it looks, there has to be a chance that I will cook it. We have a lovely neighbour who regularly turns up with pheasant and duck. Game is not an ingredient I'm used to, so I keep an eye out for suitable recipes. When our butcher made venison sausages I snaffled some up as I remembered a recipe in the file that would make good use of some of the duck in the freezer.

Although titled as a 'cassoulet' (loosely based on the fact it contains sausages and haricot beans) I would have preferred to call it something else but couldn't think of anything!

250g haricot beans
vegetable oil
500g game sausages (venison, pheasant or pigeon)
2 large duck breasts
2 small onions, chopped
3 bay leaves
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1tsp ground cloves
zest of one orange, grated
2 tbsps tomato paste
500ml chicken stock
150g cranberries
salt & pepper

Soak the beans overnight in cold water. Drain, cover with water, bring to the boil and then simmer for 30 minutes. Drain.

Heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the sausages until brown. Transfer to a plate and then fry the duck breasts. Skin side first for about 10 minutes until golden brown, then a couple of minutes on the other side. Remove the duck (retaining pan juice) and cut into 2cm slices.

Layer the ingredients in a casserole dish. Beans;sausages;duck;onions; bay leaves and pan juice.If you are using dried cranberries put these in now as well.
Mix the the garlic with the cloves, zest and tomato paste and stir into hot stock.  Add to the casserole and add a little water if necessary to make sure everything is covered.

Ready for the oven
Place in an oven, preheated to 160C/140C fan/GM3. Cook for about 2 hours (if using fresh or frozen cranberries add after 1 1/2 hours. Ready when the beans are soft. Season before serving.

I served it with a potato & celeriac mash but a crusty loaf would do. A great meal on a cold, wintry day.

Game sausage cassoulet
Oh! if anyone was concerned about me, the vegetarian, I had stuffed peppers.

Bean stuffed peppers

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Change of tack

I know a tenuous link to tacking! our old boat S.V.Paragon

Back in June I optimistically said that we would be working on two projects over the summer months, the 'orangery' and another guest room. Well it didn't quite work out like that. Although we saw the orangery as one project it really is two - external and internal. Andrew did incredibly well and finished all the externals and got the room watertight by the end of November and we felt as though we had reached the end. But of course we hadn't as there is still a huge amount to do internally. Christmas came and went and the weather was cold and wet and we couldn't get back into the swing of things so I suggested a diversion - move onto the guest room. At least it is a proper room and should be a shorter project and will see us through until it warms up a bit and the orangery will be a more pleasant place to work.

We then had a discussion about the use of the room. Although it is one of the smaller bedrooms our 6 feet wide bed works better here than anywhere so we've decided that this will be our room (again!).

Fortunately one wall has already been plasterboarded and another is internal so we only have to deal with two walls from scratch. Last weekend we spent a happy day knocking concrete off one wall.

One wall down
And plaster off the second.

And then the second
We have to do this to put insulation up, the disadvantage of not having cavity walls. Then it's the old routine of plasterboard, plastering, moving radiators and finally decorating. Still, at least this room's for us!

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Januarys past - Junkanoo

While I was editing the photographs for the last post, i-photo started playing up. I called our in house technical support a.k.a. Andrew who muttered and tutted, eventually saying that the hard drive was on its last legs and when did I last back up? Now the Mac I use is one of Andrew's cast offs, which I'm very happy withas he needs to have really good computers but I don't, but I benefit. Particularly in this case as apparently I have (or had) three hard drives. Who knew? So Andrew did a lot of techy things and I'm up and running, faster tha before. 

But even better were the photographs that we found on one of the drives I wasn't using - all from our cruising days. We did have copies but I didn't have easy access. So we spent a happy couple of hours reminiscing and a lot of "this time in 20.."

One group of photographs that really stood out was of Junkanoo in The Abacos, Bahamas and I thought that they would add a splash of colour to this dreary January afternoon. Junkanoo takes place all over the Bahamas between Christmas and early January and is a street parade with music, dance and fabulous costumes. The origin of the name is obscure, possibly from the French 'L'inconnu" meaning the unknown, referencing the masks that are often worn. There may also be West African roots as many features are similar to the YorubaEgungun festivals. The festival began during the 17th century when slaves were given a special holiday at Christmas when they could leave the plantations and celebrate with their families.

We had spent Christmas anchored off Green Turtle Cay and stayed to enjoy the festivities in early January. The parades involve islanders of all ages and months of preparation. I hope the photographs brighten up your day!

I loved this little girl

It was hot & some of the costumes were very heavy

Sunday, 12 January 2014

The front garden

Yesterday was a rare break in the wet and windy weather of late with warmish sunshine, little breeze and a blue sky. So I took the opportunity of starting work on the front flower beds. You may remember that last summer I had a blitz on the back garden and the large shrubbery at the front but hadn't tackled the two beds by the front door. I wasn't happy with these, partly due to the choice of plants we'd inherited but also I've been fighting a losing battle against ground elder. Different ideas had been going through my head but I wasn't really happy with any of them. However during our trip to London last October we spent some time walking through the leafy streets of Wandsworth and Clapham looking at the Victorian and Edwardian townhouses and I realised that this was the answer, lose the flower beds and add formality to the scheme.

Although the house is on a country lane surronded by orchards it it quite formal in design as you can see from this photograph taken in last year's snow.

Nelson House

So the decision has been made to dig up the flower beds, extend the paving by the front door and have two planters. A bit like this...

Via Pinterest
 or this...

Via Pinterest  

or even this (although Andrew will kill me if I suggest more tiling!)

Via Pinterest

Like all projects I've a long way to go as this was taken yesterday but at least I've started.

First steps

Thursday, 9 January 2014

First cull

A week into the New Year and I have done my first round of clothes culling. I'm still not completely done but some items have a certain charm so I need a little more time. But with one box for Ebay and several bags to the charity shop, I'm certainly happier,

Much better

Ready to go

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Out with the old, out with the old

I'm not good at New Year's resolutions, if there is something that you want to achieve I'm not sure how a change of year will help. Maybe it's because I'm not target driven but task orientated. I do however like a good clear out at New Year, it's when I do my spring cleaning. Now I know that I've mentioned before that I don't like clutter and that when you see the following photographs you will yell 'hypocrite!' but things have got a little out of control and so the January de-cluttering will be more ruthless than normal.

I am not by any means a fashionista, I enjoy clothes but have far too many. Partly it was a confidence thing;if it's new I must look better which isn't true. Time and time again I stare at the bulging rails and it's the same clothes that come out, so if I don't wear half my wardrobe what's the point of owning so much? I did a bit of research (just for fun) on capsule wardrobes and quite frankly I don't have the lifestyle where I need a pair of trousers to take me through from the office to a winebar  - just swap the blouse for a YSL 'le smoking'. Nor do these people really visit the country in winter. Wellies, jeans and a warm,waterproof yet washable jacket are needed not expensive leather boots and a tweed jacket. So I'm on my own.

Anyway. Here are the before photographs of my two clothes rails (I WILL get a wardrobe this year).

The blue, red and purple rail

Greys and browns
It's not a pleasant sight is it? The reason that I'm telling you all this is that it will make me get rid of things as I'm now honour bound to post the 'after' shots. There are lots of clothes that I like but I don't wear so what's the point? At least the charity shops will benefit.

I think the hardest part will be editing accessories. My usual style is for plain colours and classic cuts but I do love accessories - shoes,scarves, gloves and hats. I tell myself you can't have too many. But as my overflowing scarf basket (winter colours only) shows, you can.

So messy
Wish me luck!

Meanwhile I realised that I haven't posted any photographs on the 'orangery' for a while. This is the biggest project on the house and Andrew has been working like a Trojan particularly on the roof. The room is now in the dry and I can finish planning the space - a utility area, replacement shower room and a dining area.

Open space

New roof

And finally on the last day of 2013 we were given a gorgeous sunset.  Best wishes for 2014.

Winter sunset