Tuesday 29 March 2016

Dad's Tomato Soup ... in the Soup Maker!

We had this Morphy Richards soup maker from some good friends as a Christmas gift.

If I'm totally honest, our initial reaction was ... "Why would anyone need a soup maker? After all, what's wrong with a big pan?" This thought was swiftly followed by ... "Oh no! Another kitchen gadget to find a home for."

We couldn't see ourselves using it and imagined it would languish at the back of the cupboard with the steamer, the ice cream maker and the bread maker.

Being given it as a gift did spur us to clear out all of the kitchen cupboards in order to at least find a home for it and we decided to just give it a try to see what it was like.

One of our favourite soups and the first we tried was Dad's tomato soup. I'm not sure where he originally had the recipe from but it's our 'go to' recipe for tomato soup.

It's dead simple to make, uses lots of lovely veggies and turns out perfect every time. And what's more, it has no syns in it all if you're following the Slimming World way of eating.

1 red pepper
1 sweet potato
2 sticks of celery
1 onion
Pinch of chilli flakes
600g ripe tomatoes
1 pint vegetable stock
Worcestershire sauce

Start by chopping the red pepper, sweet potato, celery and onion.

Switch the soup maker on to the sauté setting and spray with Frylight. It only takes a few seconds to heat up. Throw in the chopped veg with the pinch of chilli flakes and sauté for a maximum if 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In the meantime chop the tomatoes and prepare your stock.

Throw the tomatoes into the soup maker add the stock, basil and as much Worcestershire sauce as you fancy and add the lid.

We like our soup smooth and creamy so we set the programme to smooth, but there is the option to set for a chunkier soup if you prefer it this way.

That is basically it. The timer shows how long it will take to make the soup and you can see it counting down. I think it starts at just over 20 minutes. Just enough time to put the kitchen back together and load the dish washer.

The first time we made the soup we got the fright of our lives as part way through the programme the motor started up to blend the soup.

When the programme is finished, all you need to do is turn off the soup maker and remove the lid. So far we have had a perfectly smooth and creamy soup every time. We've made quite a variety and each one has turned out really well.

At maximum capacity the soup maker makes enough soup for 4 decent sized portions, which surprised us as it didn't seem very big and the fill level is quite low, to account for the space that the blender part takes up.

I pour mine into takeaway containers ready for freezing, have a quick taste and adjust the seasoning if needed. At this point you need to make sure you have a plate or something to rest the lid and motor part on as, if you don't, soup will drip everywhere which could be a bit of a pain.

All that is then left to do is to clean the soup maker, which can be a bit of a faff but is fairly straightforward. I just tend to swill out the jug straight away with hot water and then just run the blender part under the tap. Give both parts a quick wipe over and it's ready to go away for next time.

I do believe you can get soup makers with a self cleaning function, which would be good.

So ... Our verdict on the soup maker, now that we've given it a good test run ...

We like ...

  • how easy it is to use
  • the sauté function
  • the quantity it makes
  • the fact that once it's started off you can just leave it
  • the consistency of quality of the soups we've made so far

It would be even better if ...

  • it had a self clean function
  • it made an even greater quantity

Overall, I think we can safely say it was a pretty decent pressie and we will get lots of use from it, so thank you Jo, Steve, Hannah and Megan!

Monday 21 March 2016

Beef Strogonoff ... with Quark

As mentioned in my post last week ... on our foray into the world of slimming we have discovered a new ingredient .... Quark.

Now Quark is something that neither Martin or I would have even contemplated trying before. We would have written it off as some new age hippy kind of stuff that wasn't really for us.

However, on our new super duper 'healthy' eating plan it seems we can have as much Quark as we like, sadly the same can't be said of my old favourite .... creme fraiche.

I managed to find a recipe for a Quark Beef Strogonoff here and I've adapted it to slim it down just a little bit more and would recommend giving it a go.

1 onion, finely chopped
350g rump steak, fat removed
2 cloves garlic, chopped
250g chestnut mushrooms, sliced
1 tbsp sherry
1 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp tomato puree
2 tsp Dijon mustard
250g Quark
salt and ground black pepper
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

Spray a non-stick pan with Frylight, add the onion and garlic and saute until golden.

Whilst the onions and garlic cook, slice the steak into thin strips and set aside.

Add the sliced mushrooms to the pan and season to taste.  Cook over a high heat until the mushrooms soften and any liquid has evaporated. Transfer mixture to a plate and set aside.

Add more Frylight to the pan, add the steak and fry over a high heat until just cooked through.

Return the mushroom mix to the pan, add the sherry and when the sizzling subsides, add the paprika and stir. Add the Worcestershire sauce, tomato puree and mustard and remove from the heat.

Add the Quark to the pan and stir well.  Gently reheat until the sauce is hot, do not boil.

Sprinkle with parsley to serve

We served ours with chips and green French beans, but I'm sure it would be just as nice with either rice or pasta.

We really enjoyed this and will definitely be having it again.

Monday 14 March 2016

Dipping our toes into the World of Slimming

I thought I'd have a bit of a break from Will Sidney this week and tell you a bit about our foray into the world of slimming.

It's just a personal view, so you may find it a bit different from my usual posts. It's not intended to be a formal review of any dieting plan, just a share of our experience so far.

Image result for free fat people clipartMartin and I are both over 50, know that we're probably classified as 'morbidly obese', suffer from creaking and aching joints, run out of energy quite quickly and can often find it hard to find nice clothes that fit comfortably.

Image result for free diet clipartMartin hates the thought of being on a 'diet', he doesn't want to not be able to eat anything he likes, hates weighing out quantities, counting calories, points or whatever, would never go to a slimming club and loves carbs.

I have no will power, don't want to cook two different sets of meals, would also not fancy a slimming club and love carbs.

It's something that has been a bit of a bone of contention between Martin and I for a while, but I think we've finally found something that we can both get to grips with.

Quite a lot of my friends have been raving about Slimming World, so I got on Google to see what I could find. I actually managed to find everything that I needed to know about this diet or 'eating plan' and it looked like something we would both be able to live with. After all you can eat as much pasta, rice and potatoes as you want.

Image result for men cooking from scratch clipart
We always cook from scratch, so could see that this new way of eating would fit in very nicely with how we currently eat.  I've found loads of recipes on the Internet, especially on Facebook and blogs and I've been saving them like crazy.

We've been doing it for two weeks so far and we've not had the same meal twice yet, so it is still holding our interest so far. There's also good news so far from a weight loss point of view.  Martin has lost 7lb and I've lost 5.5lb, so it seems to be going ok.

There are a few instant 'switches' in our food choices that we've made ...

  • Swapped Flora for Laughing Cow Extra Light Cheese Triangles
  • Swapped olive and other oils for Frylight
  • Swapped thick and creamy yoghurts for Muller Lights
  • Completely stopped eating chocolate, cake & crisps

We've also discovered and tried a new ingredient ... Quark! It's something we've never even contemplated trying but decided to give it a go. It tastes a bit like a combination between Philadelphia cheese spread, creme fraiche and soured cream, but is completely fat free.

Our first real cooking experience with it was a really tasty beef strogonoff, which I will post very soon.

One of my '50 Things to do before I'm 60' does involve weight and size, it's a bit too personal for me to share with the World just yet, but we'll see how we get on.

I promise not to be a 'diet bore' and start blogging about diets all the time, but if it's ok with you, I must just give you an update or share a recipe from time to time.

Bye for now!

Monday 7 March 2016

Will Sidney's War - April 1918 - Mountains & Trenches

It's April 1918 and Will and the 9th York & Lancs are still in Italy. April saw lots of marching up and back down the mountains in terrible weather. According to the official Battalion war diary, this was via mule tracks, so I can only imagine the effort involved.

Will continues to think of Ethel and even refers to her as his wife at times, even though they are not yet married.

"1 April - Monday - Rev 7, B 8, no Parade on account of raining. Very very cold. No letters from anyone. Thinking of Ethel. Raining."
"2 Tuesday - Rev 7, B 8, Parade 9. Writ to Ethel, Ma & Leeds. Very cold all day. Nothing much doing after dinner time. Staff parade 9.45."
"3 Wednesday - Rev 7, B 8, Parade 9 under OC Coys. Hill climbing on Villa Verla. 3 kilos from Granezza. Rotten work. Writ to Charlie."
"4 Thursday -  Rev 7, B 8, Parade 9 for mountain climbing. Finished @ 12.30pm. Very very cold. Weather snow & raining all day."
"5 Friday - Rev 7, B 8, Parade for rifle & ammunition inspection. Letter from darling Ethel."
"6 Saturday - Rev 6, B 7, Parade 8 for mountain climbing. Moved off to the front line, relieved the 8 Y&L. No letters. Very cold weekend. Thinking of darling wife Ethel. I wish I could write to her."
In 1918, 1 April was Easter Monday.  In Will's other memorabilia we have an embroidered Easter card that Will sent to Ethel. We have no way of knowing if this was sent this year, or earlier on in the war, but thought it was worth sharing.

From the note on the back it appears that Will may have sent it a bit late.
The second week in April Will spends time in Noman's Land and returns with two prisoners. This account is confirmed exactly in the Battalion's official war diary, as shown below.
"8th to 11th Battalion in the Line. Our patrols were very active nightly and on the night of 9 -10 a fighting patrol consisting of 2 Officers and 20 O.R. succeeded in capturing 2 prisoners - just outside the enemy's wire at MORAR. The patrol returned safely with the two prisoners without loss. 2/Lt F Flory was slightly wounded in the foot."

"7 Sunday - One night in support. Moved up to relieve the KOYLIs in the front line. Very cold. Asiago sector. Shelling."
"8 Monday - Stand to 5.30, B 8. Working in the trenches all day 9-12.30 & ¼ to 2-4. Stand to @ 8."  
"9 Tuesday - Stand to 5.30, B 8. In trenches all day. Letter from darling Ethel. Went into Noman’s land on support duty. Got 2 prisoners." 
"10 Wednesday - Raining all night & day. Wet through to skin. No fire to dry anything. Moved from front line to supports. Still raining." 
"11 Thursday -  Stand to 5.30, B 6.30. Got relieved @ 11.30. Marched back from supports to billets. Rotten journey. Snow & rain, rotten roads, no chance to write to anybody. God bless her (Ethel). As soon as I have a minute to spare."
"12 Friday - Rev 5.30, B 6.30. Moved from top of mountain to the bottom. 6 hours walk all down hill. No letters from anybody. Thinking of Ethel." 
"13 Saturday - Rev 6.30, B 7. Parade for baths. Very long walk. Got back @ 12.30. Very hot, enough to boil us. Writ to Ethel & Ma. Went out on patrol & outpost. Rain all night. Very cold. Worse night I have ever experienced. Walked through clouds."
April continued to see more rain and bad weather and more marching orders for 'up the mountain'. It seems that Will has now made an application for leave and his 'bounty'.  I wonder if his request will be approved.
"14 Sunday - Rev 7, B 8. Rain all day. Inspection 11 o’clock. Pay day. Thinking of darling Ethel. God bless her. I do wish I was with her." 
"15 Monday - Rev 5, B 6, Parade full marching order for the mountain. Took us 5 hrs to go up. Very wet & tired. Thinking of Ethel. Raining." 
"16 Tuesday - Rev 7, B 8, 9 o’c Parade. DO CO’s inspection 12 o’c. New boots & …………. but when I get out of the line. No letters from anybody."
"17 Wednesday - Rev    B    P. Made a further applic for my leave & bounty. Nothing much doing. Rain all the time."  
"18 Thursday - Rev 6, B 8, Parade 8.15 for a working party. Letter from Darling Ethel. Answered it. (God bless her). Nothing but rain. Letter from home. Answered it."  
"19 Friday - Rev   B   Parade. Fighting (?) order for moving down the mountain to Fara, 35 kilos. Went through cloud & it rained till we dropped on bottom. Set off @ 5pm same day & march to a place called VILLEVERLA, 18 kilos. Very tired. No rations. Landed @ 12pm." 
"20 Saturday - Battalion came in @ 2pm dinner time. Cleaned up for tomorrow’s march. Bed 7pm. Rained every day this week. 19th walked through cloud & rain. 3 days march. 20th built bivacs 200 & 12 bell tents. No letters."
The rest of the month saw more marching, up hill and down dale, more rain and inspection by the Hoi Polloi, including an Italian General, which is fully documented in the Battalion's own official war diary.

We always find it even more interesting to find that Will's own personal accounts are totally backed up by the official record of events.  
22nd to 30th Battn in billets in ARZIGNANO. Training in every branch carried out with the greatest energy. Two rehearsal parades prior to the Inspection of the Brigade by GENERAL MANTOURI, commanding the 6th ITALIAN ARMY one carried out at TRISSINO under the Brigadier, the second under the Divisional General. On the 28th the 70thBrigade -less L.T.M.B. and transport - was inspected by GENERAL MANTOURI at the Flying Ground CASTEL GOMBERTO. 2nd/Lt F FLORY received the ITALIAN Silver medal 'for valour.'

 "21 Sunday - Rev 6, B 7, Parade full marching order for a 20 kilo march up hills and down dales. Rain all day. Wet through. No change. Letter from Ethel. In bed by 6.30pm." 
"22 Monday - Rev 6.30, B 8, Parade 9 full marching orders for Arzignano, 14 kilos. Very tired, sore feet, in bed by 5.30pm." 
"23 Tuesday - Rev 6, B 8, Parade 11am for clothing inspection etc.  New suit for me. Very busy. No chance to finish Ethel’s letter. God bless her." 
"24 Wednesday - Rev 6.30, B 7, Parade 9. Drill order till 12.30. COs leave 2.30. No time for anything. If I get a chance I will finish Ethel’s letter." 
"25 Thursday - Rev 5, B 5.30, Parade, Drill order for Brigade drill by the Brigadier from C Coy from 9o’c till 5pm. Writ to Ethel, Rosie, Elsie, Da & Ma, Charlie, Lily. No letters from anybody. Thinking of darling Ethel, bless her." 
"26 Friday - Rev 3.45am, B 4, Parade for Battalion inspection then marched 12 kilos for inspection & march passed by the Divisional General Babington. Got back @ 4pm. Very tired & footsore." 
"27 Saturday - Rev 7, B 8, Parade 9 for CO’s inspection of boots & cap. Parade @ 2.30 for CO’s inspection of drill order.  Letter from Eddie."  
In the last week of April, Will writes that the inspection by the Italian General went well.  It seems there was no mountain marching this week. This is backed up by the Battalion war diary which states:
"1-12 Battalion in billets at ARZIGNANO from 1st to the 12th. During this period training in hill fighting was carried on assiduously. A large field opposite the H.Q. mess of the 9th York & Lancaster Regt. was leased. Col D S Rumbolt of the 9th and Col Watford of the 8th York & Lancaster Regt defraying the expense. The companies were able to drill and exercise, and during their stay, a highly successful inter Battalion Sports Meeting was held. All the men were bathed and supplied with complete 'changes' at the Brigade Baths on two occasions. rifle ranges were constructed and all men practised in MUSKETRY. A special programme of work for scouts was drawn up including five nights for week night operations. A Recreation Room was established, games , concerts provided."

"28 Sunday - Rev 3.45, B 4, P 5, Drill O for inspection by an Italian General. Said our Battalion were the best in the Brigade. Writ to Ma. Rained all day. No letters from anyone." 
"29 Monday - Rev 6.30, Parade, running drill 7, B 8. Took a working party to dig public latrines @ 9 o’c. Parcel of cigs from darling Ethel. God bless her."
"30 Tuesday - Rev 6, Parade 7.15, B 8. Parade DO 9 o’c till 12. Communication drill 2 till 3. Letter from Jim & Ma. Answered them." 
1 May - Wednesday - Rev 6.30, P 7.15, B 8. Parade 9 o’c for training, retirement & attacking defending. No letters from anyone. Thinking of Ethel. Bless her."
"2 Thursday - Rev 6.30, P 7.15, B 8. 9 o’c Parade, drill order till 10.15. Then went for a bath. Tres Bein. Section drill, slooping arms by numbers. Finished @ 2. NCOs & P @ 4 for …….. Letter from darling Ethel. God bless her. Sent her a card." 
"3 Friday - Rev 6.30, P 7, B 8. Parade 9 for drill order & musketry & RTBF. NCOs parade @ 4 o’c." 
"4 Saturday - Rev 6.30, P 7.15, B 8, P 9 until … NCOs parade @ 4pm. Writ to Ethel, Ma, …… & Elsie. Very tired. Thinking of all @ home." 
On 2 May Will writes of sending Ethel a card. Could this be the Easter card that is shown earlier in this post? Or could it have been one of the numerous other embroidered cards that Will sent home whilst he was abroad?

For the rest of May Will spends more time with the Battalion on the front line and starts to feel not quite so well.  Read more about Will's time in Italy in my next post.