Roasted Peppers

Roasted peppers are one of my favourite foods. Here’s how I prepare them:

Roasted Peppers
(Side for 2, with leftovers)

5 heavy, deep red peppers
1 small clove of garlic, crushed
Juice of one lemon
15 ml extra virgin olive oil
2 tblspn fresh chopped parsley

  • Roast peppers over flame or under hot grill until blackened on all sides. Place in plastic bag for 15 minutes then remove skin and seeds.
  • Tear or slice peppers into thick strips and place in shallow dish. Add crushed garlic and mix gently with fingers.
  • Squeeze lemon juice over peppers.
  • Pour olive oil onto peppers.
  • Sprinkle with chopped parsley.

Really good with parma ham and crispbread!

If I Look Scared…


Originally uploaded by wjharrison77.

I was going to post a cute picture of my brother’s new dog this evening. Then my neighbour rang the doorbell. He was back from diving on the west coast and had some fresh scallops for me. The crab in the picture was he and his partner’s dinner. When I asked for a photo of the monster I had noooooooo intention of holding it. I mean look how big its claws are! Felt like a big girl’s blouse refusing to do so though. So there I am frozen in fear, smiling inanely, holding the biggest crab I have ever seen.

Crabs have faces. I didn’t know that.

The scallops were delicious.

Back to school this week. Feel like the crab experience has prepared me for it! Easing into the new term with an inservice day tomorrow. The morning session is on SMART marking. Am I right in thinking SMART is an acronym for Short Measureable Achievable Realistic Targets? It can’t be “short”, surely. Well, I’ll be reminded tomorrow.

As an English teacher I am never short of marking. I incorporate lots of self and peer assessment into my lessons but it never seems to lessen the amount of evenings I spend with a pile of essays in front of me. Hopefully tomorrow will help.

Chicken Noodle Soup

findlay 012
Originally uploaded by wjharrison77.

We went for a drive to Fort Augustus via Foyers yesterday. I have only ever driven on the Drumnadrochit side of Loch Ness before. No more. Far prefer the quieter road on the south/east side of the loch. Stopped off at Foyers to see the falls. So pretty you could film a Timotei advert there.  Managed to resist the temptation of home baking in Fort Augustus. Succumbed to a different kind of temptation in an tiny art gallery on the way home though. Bought a painting from a lovely woman called Ria McIntosh (I think) and her husband. Highly recommend a visit to their gallery on the B862, near Gorthleck.

Another recipe… David was recently complaining that you just can’t get decent chicken noodle soup any more. As children we both remember being fed a light clear soup with short noodles that sank to the bottom of our bowls. Was it from a packet? I don’t remember. It doesn’t seem to exist anymore though. The ready-made alternative on offer in the shops today has an odd gelatinous texture which screams MSG! MSG! MSG! Not pleasant. Can’t say I’m hugely bothered by the disappearance of the soup, but he is.

So last night I tried making chicken noodle soup for him. Though it didn’t resemble the soothing, salty broth of his childhood it was a resounding success. A ten out of ten, in fact! Hooray!

The stock and the soup are adapted from Kylie Kwong’s recipes. Though making stock may seem like a lot of hassle it does make 4 litres and it freezes exceptionally well. Worth it, I think.

Chicken Noodle Soup

For the Chinese Chicken Stock

1 whole chicken, cut into 8 parts
12 garlic cloves, squashed with the side of a knife
10 slices of fresh ginger, 5mm thick
1 leek, sliced
1 red onion, chopped roughly
4 spring onions, trimmed & cut in half
4 litres of water

• Throw everything in a pot and bring to the boil.
• Reduce the heat and skim off any scum.
• Simmer for 2 hours.
• Strain & discard vegetables. Shred chicken and keep for use in noodle soup (see below) or sandwiches.
• Chill strained liquid. Remove solidified fat from the surface.
• Freeze in batches of 500ml for 1 person 1 litre for 2 persons.

Chicken Noodle Soup
(2 large bowls – a meal in itself)

1 litre Chinese chicken stock
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 tablespoon ginger, very finely sliced
1 tablespoon sugar
2 portions of dried egg noodles
A head of spring greens, rolled and finely sliced (a big bunch of spinach or Asian greens would be fine too)
½ red pepper, finely sliced
200g cooked shredded chicken
3 spring onions, chopped
1 red chili pepper, finely chopped

• Bring stock to the boil. Add ginger, sugar, soy sauce & oyster sauce.
• Add egg noodles and cook for two minutes. Stirring to separate.
• Add sliced greens, red pepper & chicken. Cook for 2 minutes.
• Ladle soup into bowls.
• Sprinkle with chili and spring onion.

Serve with sesame oil and soy sauce on the table.

Chinese Dumplings

Not much mention of teaching in this blog recently.  School is but a hazy memory.  I’m 100% in holiday mode.  You can see the tell-tale signs of my state of mind around the house: the marking I brought home hasn’t made it out of my car boot; last weeks’ TES is still in its wrapper; a half hearted attempt at term planning lies neglected under well-thumbed cook books.  Usually by this point in the holidays I have taken a day to think about school and prepare materials.  Haven’t even considered it this time…

The following recipe has been adapted from one published several years ago in a Sunday newspaper. The article was called “Chinese Revolution”. It explained how the re-education policy in china affected one man’s family. Wish I could remember the gentleman’s name.  This was his mother’s recipe.

There is no denying the fact that making jiaozi is fiddly and time consuming.  I find the process quite relaxing though.  And the outcome it definitely worth it.  Serve with sweet chilli sauce, plain soy sauce or a mixture of soy sauce, crushed garlic and sesame oil.

Chinese Dumplings (Jiaozi)
(makes 50+)

For the filling:
1 head of pak choi, finely chopped
225g minced pork
100g prawns, finely chopped
5 spring onions, finely chopped
15g ginger, finely chopped
150 ml ground nut oil
2 large eggs
2 tbs rich soy sauce
1 tbs rice wine
¾ tbs salt
1 tbs sesame oil

Wonton wrappers

· Salt the pak choi and leave for 30 mins then squeeze dry.
· Beat the eggs lightly then using 30 ml oil stir fry the eggs over a high heat until they are golden and crispy.
· Combine all the filling ingredients using your hands.
· Put one teaspoon of filling in the centre of each wonton wrapper. Wet the edge of the wrapper and fold over, pinching to seal.
· The dumplings can now either be boiled in water for 6 mins, steamed for 10 mins or deep fried for 4 mins (until golden).
Jiaozi freeze well and can be cooked from frozen.
To freeze: line up dumplings on a baking tray and put in freezer. Once frozen divide into portions and seal in plastic bags.
To cook from frozen: boil for 8-9 mins or deep fry for 5-6 mins (until golden).

Garbanzos a la Mexicana – Spicy Chickpeas

I went to a 60th birthday party last year where the hosts put on an amazingly eclectic buffet. Despite the tempting pieces of baclava, the baked cheese cake, the creme caramel and the mango sorbet I skipped dessert and kept going back to the chickpea side dish: Garbanzos a la Mexicana. I begged for the recipe the next day and every single time I’ve made this for company since, the company has begged the recipe from me!Garbanzos a la Mexicana

150g dried chickpeas (soaked overnight)
1 tsp salt
6 rashers steaky bacon (diced)
1 large onion (chopped)
1 garlic clove (finely chopped)
1 red pepper (chopped)
1 tsp dried chilli flakes
1 tsp dried oregano
150ml tomato passata   ·        Put chickpeas and salt into a large pan. Cover with water and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour or until chick peas are tender.·        Fry the bacon in a heavy pan over a medium heat until it has released all of its fat andis crisp.·        Add the onion, garlic and pepper and fry until soft. ·        Add the chilli, oregano and passata. Season well.·        Bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10 mins.Serve warm or cold. Flavour improves after a day in the fridge! 


copenhagen 007

Originally uploaded by wjharrison77.

I’m using Flickr for the first time this morning. Not entirely sure what to do… For example, can I put more than one photo on this blog entry? I’d like to as I have a few nice photos from Copenhagen I’d like to share.
And what is Will investigate later today.

So, Copenhagen. Lovely. Not quite as lovely as Stockholm, I have to say (Sorry Danes), but lovely nonetheless. We stayed in the Admiral Hotel down by the water: an enormous converted warehouse with a nautical theme. The location was fantastic, only a few minutes walk from Nyhavn (literally “new harbour”) and the centre of Copenhagen. The hotel itself was fine though perhaps a little underwhelming for a 4* (don’t you just love

The sun galantly shone for us everyday keeping the temperature above 10oC and enabling us to comfortably explore the city by foot and boat. Think I even picked up a few more freckles.

Highly recommend the canal tour, drinking beer by the canal in Christianshavn, seeing the sparkling national library (the Black Diamond) in the sunshine and asking Danes for help – very friendly!

Beware of expensive food (read that Copenhagen was cheaper than Stockholm – found the opposite to be true) and going without a Lonely Planet or other guide book (restaurants tend to be well hidden).

Holidays! Chilli!

Hooray!  It’s the holidays!

As much as I love my job I am absolutely ecstatic that the holidays are finally here.  I’m tired and need to recharge.  My next door neighbour laughs at me when I tell him this.  He runs his own business and is very envious of my 12 weeks of holidays throughout the year.  We teachers are definitely very very lucky.  I’m not sure I’d be able to do this job if I didn’t have these regular lengthy breaks though.  Even if I could I doubt I’d be as effective a teacher.  The post holiday period is when I come up with my best ideas.  🙂

Why am I trying to justify myself?!  Enough of this flimsy attempt to excuse my multiple weeks off.  Teachers are lucky!  Let’s leave it at that. 

Plans for the next two weeks:

1)  I’m off to Copenhagen this week.  I love Scandinavia.  Denmark is the only Nordic country that I haven’t visited and I’m looking forward to exploring its capital.  The weather forecast is predicting temperatures in the teens and sunshine.  Perfect.

2) Gardening.  I’ve built a raised veggie patch and am going to start sowing next week.  I’ve been recommended to plant potatoes the first year as they will break up the soil enabling other veggies to grow more successfully next year.  But I don’t eat potatoes very often.  And I’m hugely excited about growing my favourite veg.  Hmmmmmm…

3) Mountain biking.  Joining a ladies group on the Black Isle next month.  Want to get fitter on the bike before I do so.

4) Cook.  Including a huge batch of the following.

Chili Con Carne

This is the best chili recipe I’ve come across, and I’ve tried many! It’s adapted from a Jo Pratt recipe as featured on The Nation’s Favourite Food. It freezes well and is perfect for feeding large numbers. Purists will balk at the inclusion of kidney beans but I love them. So there.
Perfect with plain rice and a green salad. If feeding I’m crowd I tend to make some quesadillas too.

Chili con Carne
(Serves 4)

2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
500g minced beef
200ml red wine
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
2 tsp dried chili flakes
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 stick cinnamon
Dash of Worcestershire sauce
1 beef stock cube
1 x 400g can red kidney beans
1 green pepper, chopped

  • Fry the onion and garlic in oil until softened.
  • Increase the heat and add the mince. Cook until browned.
  • Pour in the red wine and boil until harsh alcohol vapours disappear.
  • Stir in the tin of tomatoes, chili flakes, cumin, ground coriander, cinnamon, and Worcestershire sauce and stock cube. Season well.
  • Simmer for an hour.
  • Add the kidney beans and green pepper and simmer for 15 minutes
  • Serve with fresh coriander and sour cream.