Lamb Biriani

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Whilst not exactly sunny, the sky did brighten somewhat this morning, whilst I wandered around the garden, particularly pleased to see that all the camellias and daffodils had survived the recent inclement weather.

Aaron cleaning decking

Among other tasks today, using his pressure washer, Aaron cleaned much of the winter’s mould from the decking and garden chairs. As usual, I gave him an A4 print of this photograph.

Jackie spent much of the morning preparing her first ever lamb biriani. This was made with four lumps of neck fillet and two leg steaks totalling 800 grams in weight.

With her sharp knife close enough to her fingers to frighten the life out of me, she cut the meat into manageable pieces.

Biriani ingredients

Next she laid out basmati rice, ground almonds, ground ginger, Knorr lamb stock cube, tikka paste, mushrooms, garlic, onions, Greek yoghurt, salt, pepper, milk, and olive oil.

Lamb precooked

While pre-cooking the lamb in a pressure cooker,

Slicing onions and mushrooms

the onions, mushrooms, and garlic were all sliced quite small.

Garlic crushing

Jackie crushes the garlic with the flat of a knife before

Garlic slicing

chopping it up.

Frying onions , mushrooms, and garlic

Onions, mushrooms, and garlic are fried together.

Cooking meat, spices, stock

The pre-cooked meat, ground almonds and ginger, and tikka paste with a little oil             are mixed with stock from the pre-cooked lamb,

Biriani fragrant mixture

and stirred over the heat.

Yoghurt addition

Any natural yoghurt is then added.

Saffron rice

Meanwhile, basmati rice is boiled before adding pinches of saffron and a little milk.

Boiled egg,rice, onions, meat biriani mixes

An egg is boiled hard. This; the saffron rice; the meat; and the onions, mushrooms and garlic are all set aside until the final stages.

The Culinary Queen took the bare bones of this from a magazine in the waiting room outside the x-ray department of Lymington Hospital whilst I was being twisted about and photographed. She wrote them on a Feedback form. Naturally she added her own stamp.

Here is her list of ingredients

and a description of the method.

Lamb biriani

Finally, having blended the rice with the onion mixture and the meat, and garnished the whole with boiled egg, cucumber, and tomato, this is what Jackie served up for dinner this evening. Mixed fruit crumble and custard was our dessert. The creator drank Hoegaarden, and I drank 16 Little Pigs 2016.

 

 

The Stave

It all began with the lack of a shower screen in the guest bathroom.

Regular readers may remember that the shower above the bath hung flaccidly off the wall when we arrived at the house. The Lady Plumber fixed it proudly in place, but there was nothing to keep the water from ricocheting off bodies and splashing into the room. Last week we ordered a screen from City Plumbing Supplies and went to collect it today. This was after we had first paid a visit to Gallo Ceramics to order replacement tiles. Mike, who was to fit the screen, advised retiling to ensure adequate waterproofing. He had also suggested a panel to replace the dodgy DIY wooden strips that were currently in place.

David, at City Plumbing, helpfully carried the screen to our Modus. It rapidly became apparent that with both Elizabeth and me in the car there was no way the screen was going in too. This meant Jackie had to take us home first, then return to collect the package. David carried the screen back inside.

We had chosen the side and end panels that we required. Then I had a thought. Suppose we bought a new bath to go with the panels? How much more would that cost? I left the ladies in the car and returned to discuss this with David. Eventually it seemed worth opting for a new bath with its own panels. But we weren’t sure that the standard fittings would fit into our available space.

Back at home I double-checked our measurements, and gave Jackie my card, so that, if the bath would fit, she could pay for it.

Off she went back to City Plumbers. It was still difficult to fit the shower screen into the car, but David did manage it.

Soon afterwards I received a call from Jackie. They didn’t have a bath that would fit. Except for one known as a Pee bath (named I assume for its shape, rather than its potential use) This was especially designed to carry a shower, and came with its own, shaped, screen. It was more expensive, but I would receive a full refund on the screen I had already bought. ‘Go for it’, I advised, and thought that would be that.

Jackie came home for lunch and informed me that I was going back with her this afternoon. This was because we would also require new taps and she wasn’t going to choose them on her own. I certainly wouldn’t have minded if she had. However, back we all travelled. We could all fit into the car because we were not needing to make room for the shower screen. We eventually placed the order for materials which will be delivered nest Tuesday.

After this we paid a visit to Molly’s Den where Jackie bought a metal owl for the garden and a hand-knitted jacket for Poppy. I was ready to leave before the others were, so took myself off to the car to wait for them. As I reached our vehicle I heard, high above, a melodious chorus.

Birds on crane

Looking up, I spotted a stave stretching across the sky. Crotchets and quavers were clustered upon it. Being unable to read music, I can only assume that the hidden voices were trilling the correct tune.

The garden has received a considerable amount of rain in recent weeks. This has had the benefit of promoting growth, but also giving it a battering and sending some buds mouldy.

Nevertheless

Japanese anemones 1Japanese anemones 2

the Japanese anemones are lending their usual autumnal radiance to the beds.

Roses are flourishing. Of those newly flowering are:

Rose Shropshire Lad

Shropshire Lad, presumably named after A.E. Houseman’s classic autobiographical poem,

Rose Crown Prince Margareta

and Crown Princess Margareta.

220px-Margaret_of_ConnaughtCrown Princess Margareta of Sweden, a granddaughter of Queen Victoria, was an accomplished landscape gardener who, together with the Crown Prince (later, King Gustavus VI Adolfus of Sweden), created the famous Swedish Summer Palace of Sofiero in Helsingborg.

During World War I in neutral Sweden, Margareta organized supply drives and acted as a go-between for her relatives whose Allied and Axis countries were divided by the war.

An infection following surgery whilst she was pregnant with her sixth child, who did not survive, sadly ended her life at the age of 38.

Perceptive readers will understand why Jackie termed her new dish this evening toddler tandoori. This was served with savoury rice, onion bahjis, parathas, and salad.

Preparation of toddler tandoori is as follows:

Take tender chicken breasts, which you marinade in the fridge overnight in low fat yoghurt and a mix of tandoori spices found in Lidl, at least. Skin and score the chicken; mix the yoghurt and spices together and plaster them over the chicken. Thighs work equally well.

Bake them in the oven with a little oil, gas mark 2 or 150 electric, for about an hour.

That’s it.

With this Jackie drank Pays d’Oc sauvignon blanc 2014, and Elizabeth and I consumed ValdeVista merlot 2012.

Painted Into A Corner

Jackie in back driveWhile we have been working on the main garden, the back drive has taken advantage of our negligence, and become rather out of hand. Jackie has decided that, far preferable to getting down on her hands and knees to weed it, she will apply a weedkiller. Since this area is the size of a large town back garden, the task will require goodness knows how many trips from the house to the undergrowth with a small can of diluted poison. In the photograph she is seen making her way to the far end. At least a start was made.

Front gardenCut brambleThe front garden has also rather burgeoned. After transporting a few more sets to finish yesterday’s border, I made a start on that.

After leaving off the poisoning, Jackie set those last few blocks of granite, and continued planting and watering.When she called me for lunch, I had not even finished clearing the brambles breaking through the trellis by the entrance, and clambering over any plants in their path. As the second picture shows, it became apparent that I had painted myself into a corner. I found another way out.

This afternoon I managed to clear the trellis area, and heavily to prune a sloe tree that was encroaching onto the footpath outside our property, and putting unnecessary pressure on the latticework of the trellis. I had to sacrifice nascent fruit of both the brambles and the tree, but I can live with that.

Before I could put my feet up at the end of the day I needed to clear the severed branches and uprooted blackberry bushes from the garden and the street outside. It was then my turn to make long treks down the garden path. The vast pile of cuttings that all the clearances are accumulating, lies at the far end of the main path, near the gate in today’s first photograph. Backwards and forwards, knackered, I tramped. Adding material to the heap is rather like tossing the caber.

Afterwards, I had a wander around with my camera. PoppyRose - pinkA new variety of poppy has revealed itself in the bed I weeded yesterday, and a pink climbing rose has taken off since we gave it more space and light.Verbena bonarensis, clematises, and geraniums

We have a number of varieties of verbena which are seemingly happy with life. The tall stemmed bonarensa blends beautifully with the clematises on the new arch, and the surrounding geraniums. Nutmeg geranium, diasca, verbena strawberries and creamIts shorter, scented, cousin, aptly named strawberries and cream, makes a welcome companion for diasca and pelargoniums, especially the nutmeg flavoured one. That is why Jackie has placed their pot alongside the bench.Petunias

Petunias, such as these in a hanging basket, come in a variety of colours, Mimulusas does the mimulus, nestling on the margin of the tiny pond.

For dinner, Jackie produced gammon baked in a nest of whole mushrooms; swede, carrot and potato mash; cauliflower; and a positively piquant melange of onions and tomatoes for    a sauce to provide juiciness. I didn’t drink any of her Hoegaarden, or anything else for that matter.Onion and tomato sauce

For the onion and tomato sauce:

Take four medium onions, finely chopped. Fry them with one clove of garlic in butter with a little oil to stop the butter burning.

When they are well done, add a can of chopped Italian tomatoes and gently fry until blended in well.

Try it. It’s delicious.

Owling With Attitude

The blackbird still sits on her nest. Peering through shrubs at a safe distance, sometimes her bright little eyes are visible to the viewer, sometimes her upturned tail.

Brambly bedToday’s task for me was to clear one bed of brambles and other unwelcome growth. Simple enough for a day’s work. I thought. In fact the wild blackberry bushes were the least of my problems.

As I began to feel my way into the undergrowth I came across a number of previously unseen plants. Passion flower chokedOne was a heavily-budded passion flower which had become entwined in a hebe, and, of course brambles. The necessary disentanglement was a most delicate operation.Passion flower support Having carried out the surgery I gave it a leg-up by means of netting attached to a metal post set in concrete that Jackie had found elsewhere in the garden. Another such climber had clung to the weeping branches of the birch tree, but had many stems trailing in and out of the bed grasping at anything in its path. Further similar treatment was required. This time the netting was strung between two wooden stakes.

Two types of tree that are abundantly self-seeded in this garden are hawthorn and bay. There was one of each in this bed, their roots, as always, taking shelter among those of  other plants; in this case the weeping birch and some lilies that have not yet flowered.Bed head screwed to birch I had no chance of reaching them unless I removed the wooden bed head nailed to the tree. No doubt this once had a decorative purpose of sorts.  I couldn’t prise it off. Once the rust had been scoured off the nailhead it turned out to be a screw, so dilapidated as to be bereft of a slot. I tried to make one with the trusty hacksaw. I couldn’t get it deep enough.

Then along came Superwoman, who saw that if we removed the rickety slats and the other end, we could leave the post where it was. D’oh!

That is what we did. I dug out the offending trees and replaced the rest of the bed head. Two of the joints had by now disintegrated, so nails will have to be used, when I have bought some of sufficient length. In order that it does have a decorative function, I optimistically fed a passion flower stem through the secure bit.

Jackie speaks of the June gap, which is that unproductive time between the finishing of the spring flowers and before the arrival of those of the summer. The planting here has been so well planned that there is no such hiatus. Water lilyPhiladelphusWhite bush roseRose - pink abundancePetuniasPetunias - magentaDiasca and pelargoniumBegoniaPoppiesVerbascumRodgersiaClematises Star of India and Rouge CardinalI took a break after lunch and photographed water lily, philadelphus, roses, petunias, diasca, pelargonium, begonia, poppies, verbascum, rodgersia, and clematises which are just a few of those we currently have flowering.

Our blackbird is still awaiting the emergence of her chicks. Not so the owl in my friend Hari’s tree. Her two are about three weeks old, and able to reach the ground, but do need to be returned to their Mum. If I am able to photograph our fledglings I am confident that my pictures would not be as striking as the one Hari e-mailed me today.Owling by Harri She believes the creature was displaying a mind of its own when it stared back at its rescuer. I rather like her term for a baby owl, especially one with attitude, which has provided today’s title.

This evening’s meal was Jackie’s beef and mushroom pie with mashed carrots, swede, and potatoes; and crisp cauliflower and broccoli. Tiramisu ice cream was to follow. Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I finished the tempranillo.

If you have a shop that can sell you ready prepared pastry and have saved enough beef casserole (recipe) you, too could make the pie. Simply drain off the sauce from the casserole and use it as gravy; roll out the pastry, insert the filling into it, and bake it in the oven for about half an hour on 200. The chef, when pressed for her timing, said: ‘Oh, I don’t know, I didn’t time it, I just stood and looked at it until it was the right brownness’. I don’t expect she did this for the whole time, but I think that gives you the idea.

Let There Be Light

Squirrel baffleJackie may have defeated the crow, but my suggestion that the squirrel baffle could be surplus to requirements was premature. This morning one of these bushy-tailed rodents climbed the central pole of the bird feeder, failed to circumvent the large concave upturned bowl designed to prevent it from nicking the avian fodder, sat on the grass, scratched its head, and pondered the problem. Although fat enough to suggest it’s a pretty smart cookie, when it devised its solution it demonstrated considerable agility by scaling the chimney pot and leaping onto the top of the plastic would-be deterrent from where it could stretch out a long limb and help itself. Jackie has now moved the feeding station further from the chimney pot. Garden with squirrel cliumbing poleThere ensued a persistent effort by the squirrel, seeking to Squirrel on chimney potrival Greg Rutherford. So far the creature has failed. Squirrel climbing poleJackie photographed it on the petunias now doubling as a sand take-off pit; and, having conceded defeat on the jump, having a last attempt at driving itself up the pole. The sticks poked among the chimney pot flowers had deterred the crow. They didn’t trouble the furry invader who just elbowed them aside. No doubt this most intelligent animal will devise another method soon. Perhaps it will try the eucalyptus as a launchpad. Day lilies and geranium

In the centre left of the wide angle shot of the garden containing the view of the intruder climbing the pole, can be seen an interesting new day lily that contrasts rather well with the geraniums beneath it.

As I walked down to the post box, steady motor traffic plied to and from the Shorefield Country Park. Cyclists freewheeling down the slope whirred past me. Others on the return trip announced their presence with the clicking of gears.Jackie sieving beyond newly gravelled pathJackie digging out bricksNewly gravelled path

This morning I laid and raked the Dorset stone we Raised bricksbought yesterday, whilst Jackie sieved earth from the gravel, and raised a rows of bricks from sections of the old path to prevent overspill.

A foxglove appears on the left of the large vertical picture above.

In the heat of this day glorying in a cloudless blue sky, the tinkling of the water feature installed yesterday was most tantalising.

Jackie with Pittosporum treePittosporum prunedA Pittosporum is a small shrub with attractive curly leaves. Except when it is allowed to grow into a tree. Our head gardener states that ours would have taken about five years to reach its current height. This is why those shrubs around it have been deprived of air, space, and light. My task this afternoon was to reduce its impact on its neighbours and, accepting that it is now a tree, to give it shape. This was done with the aid of a sharp saw and long loppers; and Jackie to poke levelling stones under the legs of the stepladder and hold it steady as I ventured aloft. The sun, screened behind the high branches, streamed through those that were left at the end of the effort. Hopefully, the myrtle, and the pink rose, will reap the benefit.

There hasn’t been much time for a while for a journey over to Poulner to visit the delightful Donna-Marie’s hair salon, so, before dinner, Jackie took up her scissors where she had left them off more than forty years ago, and cut my hair. They weren’t actually the same scissors. Dressmaking ones had to suffice.

Beef casseroleDinner was a gorgeously coloured and tasting beef casserole with mashed potato, carrots, and parsnip, followed by Post House Pud. Jackie drank Tsing Tao, whilst I opened a bottle of Las Primas Gran Familia tempranillo 2013 and consumed some of its contents.

The method for cooking the casserole is as follows:

Take about 1 lb. of frying beef in assorted Supermarket packs picked up on special offer; 5 medium onions; 3 peppers (in this case red); lots of mushrooms, and garlic cloves to taste.

Cook the beef in a pressure cooker (15 minutes in our new induction hob friendly one) with a Knorr beef stock cube.

Meanwhile stir-fry the onions, garlic, peppers, and mushrooms.

Then put all the ingredients together in a saucepan or casserole dish with about half a pint of red wine and simmer on a low heat for about half an hour.

A Fatal Error

Whilst Jackie drove the well used route to Shelly and Ron’s this morning, I, like Wordsworth’s Lucy ‘dwelt among the untrodden ways’. Well, untrodden for a very long time. And, apart from lunch, I trod them all day. Cleared areaCamelliaYesterday’s clearances had revealed the presence of another hidden gravel path, which I determined to open up and refurbish. The camellia mentioned yesterday is now fully visible through the cleared area.

I began by planting the two forgotten items from yesterday – a lilac and a fern. The lilac was to be placed alongside this path, and required the usual clearance of weeds, brambles, and ivy. Sneaking up behind and to the right beneath Allium and galliumthe allium in this next photograph can be seen the tentacles of the ubiquitous grasping gallium aperine.

Poppy orangePoppy yellow and aquilegiaPoppies of various hues are cropping up all over the place.

I have not featured the deutzia before because I could not identify it, but, happily, Jackie has done so:Deutzia

RoseAlthough its leaves bear the dreaded black spot, that curse of pirates and rose-growers, the pink climbing rose at the front of the house is beautiful and abundant.

Well, that’s enough of wandering around the garden. I’ve done the planting and had a look at the flowers. Now I must get down to business.

A few yards into the rediscovered path, some quarry tiles had been laid as a point of interest. A few were broken. A little further on, and to the right of these, is a smaller, linking, and also overgrown stretch of lined gravel. This has a similar feature of four tiles. I therefore diverted from my main objective, cleared that route, and took up the tiles and used them to repair the other set on the longer, meandering pathway.Path revealed In this photograph of the first opened thoroughfare the rake at the far end lies on this arrangement. I have left a few little violets in situ.

Jackie had not, of course, been idle on her return. She continued with curtains, and has now made and hung curtains for the whole house, often fixing the rails as well.

After lunch, I allowed myself a little diversion to pull out two thistles like those of yesterday, and to plant a little round tree/bush in place of one of them. Jackie had unsuccessfully tried to persuade me to take it easy this afternoon. Whilst I was engaged in removing the second of the thistles she came out and asked, in that mock accusative tone that indicates that the speaker thinks you are overdoing it: ‘What are you doing now?’. When she saw what I was engaged in, she gasped, and her expression turned to horror. ‘You’ve pulled up the acanthus!’ she exclaimed.

The head gardener was very forgiving, and most encouraging. She estimated that what was left of it would reach maturity in about seven years. The fatality, in this case, was therefore not the plant, but the tool that I had broken in trying to uproot the very stubborn sections of the acanthus. The plant should revive. Not so the fork handle. I wonder if Ronnie Corbett has any in stock? (Anyone who doesn’t know this reference is highly recommended to look up the Fork Handles sketch on Youtube. It is The Two Ronnies at their very best).

To return to the main path. I will need a heavy duty axe to remove a holly stump from the far end of it. Holly stumpSomeone has cut it down in the past, and it had bushed up. I trimmed off the shoots but otherwise cannot shift it, even with the aforementioned fork when it was still intact.

Path to decking 2Path to decking 1Two photographs will not suffice for the finished article, so here are two:

We are promised rain this evening, to continue into tomorrow. This will be a welcome relief because I will be forced to take a break.

I do ache a bit.

Two of the delights of Indian food are the aromas and the colours. Roast pork & red cabbageJackie adheres to these in her presentation, which is why she produced a special variety of red cabbage as a suitable compliment to her succulent roast pork, crackling, and vegetable rice (recipe).

For cabbage with a suitable gentle piquancy for this meat:

Take 1/2 small red cabbage, 1 large red onion, 1/2 a cooking apple (this one was Bramley`) cored, but not peeled.

Thinly slice all ingredients. Stir fry with big nob of butter and splash of olive oil. When part cooked add a splash of white vinegar and a good glug of red wine.

Stir it all up, turn the heat down, whack the lid on and let it cook a little while longer until soft but not soggy.

Try it. It was perfect.

With it I drank Dino shiraz Terre Siciliane 2012 and Jackie didn’t. I would have given her some but she doesn’t like red wine, except in cooking.

 

Woman’s Mastery Over Machine

Grass needing cutting

When I intimated yesterday that I might cut the grass I didn’t imagine that was all I would do, nor that the task would take me all day.

I would like to tell the tale of this man’s mastery over a machine. Unfortunately, like George Washington, on this occasion, ‘I cannot tell a lie’. At least that fledgling U.S. President had successfully cut down a cherry tree. My job had to have been easier than that.

First I had to take the Bosch Strimmer out of its box. As I feared, there was a certain amount of assembly required. I managed, to a rather insecure extent, to do this , found the extension lead, plugged the machine’s cable into it and set sail. I cut a couple of blades of grass and the nylon cutting line broke. After rereading and following the instructions I was able  to extend another piece the required 9 centimetres and have another go. Same again. Except that this time there was no line visible and neither Jackie nor I was able to decipher how to undo the holder. Clearly the cutting device had difficulty coping with our macho grass nurtured on the soak away area from the septic tank. Apparently our excreta leaches through the walls of the tank into the soil at this particular point, producing a very healthy crop. There are lots of alliums in the garden. I wonder whether their rather pungent aroma serves a masking purpose.

Grass and shearsIt is not really a good idea to leave me to my own devices in such matters, but Jackie had no option because she was still trying to turn the terrible overlapping and chopped up tiling squares on the bathroom floor into a reasonably level and complete surface. Reflecting on the fact that she was grappling with a botch upstairs whilst I was doing the same with a Bosch in the garden, I gave up.

I conceded victory to the Strimmer, but I did not give up on the grass. I abandoned modern technology for a trusty, albeit rusty, pair of garden shears. It was down on my knees again. The kneeler was in service upstairs.

I had made considerable progress by lunchtime. Enough to give me confidence to continue afterwards.

My lady carried on upstairs until she had finished her job. She then came down and began to cook the dinner. Observing me snipping away outside, she thought: ‘I can’t leave him’. Thus taking pity on me she sat on the bench and put her mind to working out the problem with the machine. She realised I was using the wrong line and used more brute force than I had been confident to employ to remove the holder and replace the line. Jackie strimmingShe was soon on her feet strimming away. Naturally I got to my feet too.

Well how was I to know that when Herr Bosch says his product comes with extra strong line that that is not the one fitted in the holder, but one kept at the back of the handle?Jackie & grass cut

Jackie did allow me to have a go at strimming. I finished the job whilst she raked up the grass.

Geranium palmatumShe is delighted to see that we have numerous geranium palmatums in the garden. Many are clearly seedlings, and quite small, but some are huge shrub-like plants.

I t was quite beneficial that Jackie returned to cooking our dinner, for it was delicious.

Lemon chickenShe had taken chicken breasts marinaded in ginger, lemon and lime, added a Nando’s piri piri lemon marinade, topped the chicken with red and yellow peppers and baked the ensemble in olive oil for thirty minutes. This is her recipe for lemon and ginger chicken.

Mashed potato, crisp cauliflower and carrots, were accompanied by par-boiled parsnips stir fried with two sliced red onions and garlic. I call this a recipe for stir fried parsnips.

Jackie drank Hoegaarden with this, whilst I chose Marques de Montino rioja 2010. We finished our drinks on the garden bench.