Work lunch idea – Curried chickpeas

I’m trying to plan my work lunches ahead, preparing a week’s worth of lunches on Sunday ready to take to work. Last week my workmates and I had an away day with lunch on Monday, so I prepared this on Monday evening and it lasted for three lunches – however I was on a mission to use up my chickpeas, so I did use more chickpeas than the recipe stated.

The recipe is from the Made in Hackney cooking workshop I went to earlier this year.

Curried Chickpeas

1 onion, diced (could also be shallots)

1 can chickpeas (400g), drained

1/2 bunch flat leaf parsley, leaves picked

As much spinach as you like (I used about half a bag with each lunch)

Heat a frying pan on a medium heat. Add the coconut oil and cook onions until soft, about 10 minutes.

When the onion is soft, add the curry powder and stir for 15-20 seconds before adding the chickpeas. Continue to cook for another minute or until the chickpeas are warmed through.

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Season and remove from the heat.

Roast the nuts and add them at the end.

Then in bowl put the spinach, and add the chickpeas on top.

If you are taking this to the office, you will need to re-heat the chickpeas separately and add them on top of the spinach.

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Eating al desko

I’m still slowly working my way through the list, and also getting through some things not on the list – for example I used up some pomegranate molasses last week and finished some turmeric today (I still have two jars of that though!).  I have started going through my spice cupboard but I need to psych myself up to complete that task.  I’ve also used the soba noodles in a stir fry – pretty boring so not included here – and a tin of bamboo shoots that should have been on the list but was hiding at the back of the cupboard.

Also worth mentioning – I used some of the muscovado sugar to make a sugar scrub, as I noticed my legs were looking a bit, erm, scaly.  Not a good look when there’s still an outside chance of flashing my pins this summer, so I mixed it up with some sweet almond oil, and my favourite combination of rosemary, geranium and orange essential oils.  The bath turned a lovely shade of caramel as I rinsed off the scrub and a mud mask I also applied!  But my legs are now silky smooth.

 

Sponsor me?

On 26 May I will be doing the Race for Life with I Knit London. I’ll be walking it, partly because that’s what my friends are doing, and partly because I’m not much of a runner! But I think participation is the important thing.

I would really love it if anyone who can spare a few quid could sponsor my team, and help out with the incredible work Cancer Research does.

I’ll be sure to post some pictures after the event, including the very vibrant pink headband I’m knitting to wear for the race!

Safari!

We are nearly at the end of my Sri Lankan Odyssey. Driving through Yala National Park was an experience. We were surprised to see a huge military presence there. There were camouflaged bunkers every 200 metres or so, and lots of men with guns. Our driver explained that during the war, highwaymen operated here and the army were there to protect us. The danger had apparently passed but the army remained.

Then, we came across an entire herd of elephants. Females and alpha males (usually king elephants – the 7 in 100 males that have tusks) herd together, with their children. Teenage males are kicked out of the herd and go solo. It was usually these lone male elephants we saw. This time, there were about 15 elephants all together, right on the side of the road. We stopped and watched them for a while in the fading light until a man with a gun waved us on.

Compared to that the safari itself was a bit of an anticlimax. We had to get up at 5:30am, which was a little difficult for those in our group who had partied all night! This particular guest house was split into two areas: there were the hot water, nice rooms upstairs and the cold water, mosquito-ridden rooms downstairs. We were downstairs, but at least it was quiet! Maya dealt with the mosquitoes quite efficiently, and by the end of our stay we were the clear victors. I think I got one bite, but by using a mosquito net at night (and tucking it in), wearing long, pale-coloured clothing, and putting repellent on all exposed skin it’s not too difficult to keep the mossies off.

It was quite a long drive to the national park. We watched the sun rise over the salt marsh.

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The park was quite crowded with safari jeeps. Our group split up.

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Some of our group managed to see a leopard, but we didn’t. We saw a couple of elephants off in the distance, or hiding in the vegetation.

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(can you see it?)

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Our guide, Pusa (which means “cat”), was entertaining. There was a sobering moment though when we stopped at the tsunami memorial and he told us that many of his friends had died.

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Water buffalo. One of my favourite foods in Sri Lanka was buffalo curd with kitul treacle. The curd is like yoghurt, but with a really zingy flavour to it. It almost fizzes on your tongue. Kitul treacle is the sap of a type of palm tree, like maple syrup in consistency but with a different flavour. You can have it for breakfast or dessert. On my first morning back in London I woke up craving it.

We also saw a crocodile, two different types of deer, lots of different kinds of birds and an iguana. My wildlife photography skills leave much to be desired though!

More tea, vicar?

We spent the next day driving through tea country, which was breathtakingly beautiful when we could keep our eyes open for long enough to look at it. Some preferred to keep their eyes closed anyway – the roads were small and winding, and difficult even for our small mini-buses to negotiate. Eventually we reached Haputale.

Creon, who my journal says describes himself as an “anarcho-feminist post-structuralist” (that was a particularly raucus moment on the “cool bus”), entertained us with the following ditty:

After a stay of less than a day
the party moved on to Haputale;
they watched tea production
(or tea leaf destruction),
sampled the product and went on their way
But that diuretic venture
with the queen’s own thirst quencher
carried agonies extended
with bladders distended
the drive thus amended
by many a pit stop throughout the day.

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As the rhyme suggests, we visited a tea factory, where we watched lovely green juicy tea leaves being turned into dust in the name of Lipton.

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We had a taste test at the end and I’m sorry to say, it tasted awful!

Afterwards, we stopped off at a proper colonial tea bungalow for proper colonial tea, sandwiches with the crusts cut off, cake and bananas.

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Later on, we stopped for the best – and cheapest – meal of the whole trip. Vegetable rice and curry, a huge spread including red rice and several different curry accompaniments. My favourite was the okra – it was the first time I’d eaten crunchy green vegetables in some time. This feast cost us the princely sum of 70 rupees each – about 30p.

Vanilla Black

Vanilla Black is a posh vegetarian restaurant near Chancery Lane. I went there with friends a couple of weeks ago. I don’t like to do restaurant reviews, but I wanted to write about it and writing about it without reviewing it is quite difficult!

There were separate vegetarian and vegan menus. The vegan menu mainly contained modified dishes from the vegetarian menu but there was a dessert on it that didn’t feature on the vegetarian menu – I thought this was strange. The words “foam”, “dust”, and “deconstructed” all feature on the menu, which is not always a good sign… but we all enjoyed the food we ate. The wine list deserves special mention. There wasn’t a huge amount of wine available by the glass but we tried three different wines that were all excellent. We assumed that if that was the starting point, then the wines available by the bottle (there is a wide selection) ought to be very good indeed.

Bread rolls were served with two little pats of butter, one peppered and one sea salted. We really couldn’t get enough of the salted butter. Cakemix went for the vegan option and got to dip her bread roll in olive oil.

Vanilla Black

Amuse of tomato juice and cucumber I think… it had a kick to it, like a Bloody Mary without the alcohol.

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Beetroot terrine with horseradish cream and fennel salad – this was very tasty, the flavours went together very well.

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Amy ordered the feta cheesecake, which was delicious with the pear and vanilla chutney on the side.

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Cakemix had the deconstructed puy lentil dhal (there’s that dreaded word). I think it’s “deconstructed” because it has the spices sprinkled on top. She liked the firm texture of the puy lentils rather than the mushy red lentils usually found in dhal.

Vanilla Black

We all opted for the same main, the Baked Mushroom Duxelle and Burgundy Sauce with Butter Onions, Creamed Salsify and Jerusalem Artichoke Crisps. The mushroom duxelle was very tasty, and I loved the onions and the Jerusalem artichoke crisps. I found the creamed salsify delicious at first, but then slightly overpowering as I kept eating. I felt there was a little too much on the plate. Too many different things, and too much of each thing. It was still good, just not brilliant. In the end it defeated me and I was forced to admit I had no room for dessert. Cakemix had the vegan version, sans salsify, and managed quite well.

I would eat here again, the service was lovely and at £24 for two courses (£30 for three) it was quite good value.

Restoration

During my time in Sri Lanka, two of my favourite things were lost:

1. My MAC Viva Glam IV lipstick. Instant glamour pick-me-up. Is it shallow that one of my favourite things is a lipstick? Perhaps it’s worth mentioning that the entire purchase price goes to the MAC Aids Fund. Marissa and her mum both used it at the wedding, and it was lost at some stage. Two good causes I suppose!

2. My Very Hungry Caterpillar mug. Slightly juvenile perhaps, but my tastes have always run to the nostalgic. This was missing from the kitchen cupboard on my return. It later transpired that my flatmate’s girlfriend had broken it.

One shopping trip to Oxford Street (the less said about that the better) and I managed to replace them both.

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Never doubt the restorative powers of a good cup of tea.

Christmas

I couldn’t sleep, I’m too excited. So I thought I’d post my Christmas photos after all. We were four – me, my brother, brother’s girlfriend, girlfriend’s brother (got that?).

Christmas 2009

The finished cake. Richard is a true appreciator of Christmas cake. I discovered this the last time we all spent Christmas together, in New York two years ago. I actually lugged a 4 kilo cake with me. So I had to make one this year.

Christmas 2009

It’s amazing how priorities change as you get older. Breakfast came first, then presents. We usually have croissants, but Cameron requested pancakes, and I made some French toast from some leftover brioche loaf as well.

Christmas 2009

I made stockings. Cameron is holding my attempt at wrapping without wrapping paper – I didn’t buy any this year. I had plenty of fabric scraps so I used those to wrap things that needed wrapping. A stocking is already wrapping anyway!

Christmas 2009

Christmas Dinner was at Richard’s place in Putney. The traditional Jacket Christmas dinner consists of beef curry! No one could tell my why or when this tradition started, but as we’re all good atheists (except for Cam who’s on the fence) I found it delightfully irreverent.

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I thought a nice vegetarian option would be Allegra McEvedy’s aubergine and tamarind stew, which is in the Leon cookbook or on the Guardian website. It was delicious. Definitely going into the repertoire.

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Were we all at the kids’ table or all at the adults’ table? Christmas dinner was surprisingly light on alcohol, as we all overdid it a bit at breakfast….

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Richard and Kate contemplating the sprouts. Unfortunately I failed to convert them.

Dessert came much, much later (about 11:30 pm) and I forgot to take pictures. Cheese and dessert were my responsibility. Cam is allergic to nuts so I didn’t bother with Christmas pudding. I did chocolate chip bread and butter pudding, which is something my aunt in New York always does (and I think I’ve spent more Christmasses there than anywhere else in the world). I also did some spiced baked fruit – figs, pears, peaches, nectarines – which everyone loved. It made for a perfect breakfast this morning too.

Beach time!

I’m off to Sri Lanka for three weeks! My friend Marissa is getting married and I’m a bridesmaid. I won’t be taking my laptop with me so I don’t think I’ll be posting until I get back. I am taking my camera though, so there will be lots of photos. I was going to post a sweet photo of my brother and his girlfriend with their hand knit Christmas stockings, but I already packed my camera so that will have to wait too.

I hope you all had a great Christmas yesterday and that you have a happy new year!

Kiva for Christmas

I’ve written about Kiva before but it bears repeating. I have been lending through Kiva.org for about a year and a half now, and it’s just amazing to know that my money is really helping people in far-flung parts of the world.

In case you don’t know how it works, you go on the Kiva website, where they have a list of people all over the world in need of loans to fund their businesses. You pick one and then decide how much to lend. As the loan is repaid, your money will appear back in your Kiva account and you can lend it to someone else. So the same money ends up helping more and more people. Of course you can put more money into your account and make more loans too. The thing is it’s not charity – these loans are helping people to build up their businesses and provide for their families. And the loans have to be repaid.

I tend to lend money to women who are involved in craft-related businesses. Today I lent to a couple of women who do sewing – bedspreads, clothing etc. I really hope it makes a difference to them.

If you’re strugging with what to give to the person who has everything this Christmas, or there’s a charity-minded individual on your gift list, consider giving them a Kiva gift voucher.