Friday, 24 October 2014

Lamb fillet in a soy sauce and honey glaze

Our whole family love lamb, so I decided to perk it up a little with a rich and sticky sauce.  A change from roasting it or making a curry!

Serves 4 to 6

8 pieces of fillet neck lamb
Bunch of spring onions, washed and finely chopped
Half a cucumber, washed and cut into large chunks
Olive oil
Baby tomatoes
Oregano....1 tablespoon
Kikkoman soy sauce......2 tablespoons  ( )
A splash of  good quality balsamic vinegar
A dessert spoon of  good quality honey
Salt and pepper to taste

To serve:  mashed potato with half of the spring onions, German mustard, cream and butter.......any dark green vegetable such as purple sprouting broccoli, asparagus, green beans.

In a large frying pan, heat some olive oil, just enough to seal the lamb.  Add the lamb and cook for about 2 minutes until the meat is sealed.  Remove with a slotted spoon on to a plate and set aside.  

Put half the spring onions in the oil and cook until translucent.  Add the cucumber, baby tomatoes, oregano, soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, honey, salt and pepper to taste.  Continue to cook for about 2 minutes to amalgamate the ingredients.

Transfer the meat to an oven proof dish with lid and pour over the ingredients from the frying pan.  Lay half the green vegetables in the tray.  Cook in an oven preheated to 180C for 20 minutes (rare) or 25 minutes (medium).

Serve with the creamy mashed potatoes and the other half of the green vegetables, gently steamed with a little salt.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Filenes in Boston, Selfridges in London, Keddies in Southend

If I was a television scriptwriter, I would follows in the footsteps of Andrew Wynford Davies involved with the popular "Mr. Selfridge," first televised in 2013.

Department stores have always been popular and often considered "a bit of a treat" for people who lunch or enjoy afternoon tea.

Names to remember in the UK are many.  Most of them started as drapers and expanded.  H. Binns Son and Co. Ltd. was incoporated in 1897 and went on to produce stores in Sunderland, Darlington, West Hartlepool, Middlesborough, Newcastle upon Tyne, South Shields, Grimsby, Carlisle and Hull in England.  In Scotland, stores appeared in Dumfries and Edinburgh.  House of Fraser took over Binns in 1953.

There was Featherstones of Rochester, Keddies in Southend which opened in 1892 and went into liquidation in 1996.  Most large towns had the department centre at the core of its shopping areas.

Do you remember Marshall and Snelgrove?  It is now part of the Debenhams Group.

John Lewis is 150 years old this year.  John Lewis himself a draper, found a job in Oxford Circus with another draper, Peter Robinson.  In 1864 John set up his own shop in Oxford Street selling ribbons and bows.  Around 1905 John purchased Peter Jones in Sloane Square, Chelsea.

Charles Harrod, aged 25, set up his business in Southwark back in 1824.  He too listed the business as a draper and haberdasher.  Customers using the escalator in 1898 at Brompton Road were offered a brandy at the top, to help with their "ordeal."

France boasts Galeries LaFayette and Printemps.
Spain has Corte Ingles

Think of New York and Macy's, Bloomingdale's and Barneys come to mind.

Cats' Vocal Chords and Purring

Cats have 10 times as many vocal chords as dogs.  Dogs have 10 and cats have 100.

Cats can vibrate the muscles underneath their vocal folds, very slowly, producing a purr.  Domestic cats purr at a rate of about 26 cycles per second, similar to the frequency of a diesel engine as it idles.  Purring doesn't always mean the cat is happy.  It can also be a sign that a cat is in pain or some distress.

Cats rarely meow at each other, reserving this sound for their interactions with humans.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Jacobson's Organ in Cats....What it does

Humans only have about 5 to 20 million olfactory smells, where as cats have around 60 to 80 million.  The Jacobson's organ is located on the roof of a cat's mouth.  It detects and analyses pheromones (scents), especially the ones found in urine.  The scent is collected in the mouth and the cat uses its tongue to flick it up to the vomeronasal organ.  During this process, the cat will curl its upper lips in what appears to be a grimace and this is called the flehmen response, facilitating the transfer of pheromones into this vomeronasal organ.

Saturday, 7 June 2014


"BEAUTY may fade and riches be lost, but a sense of humour ripens with the years, and cannot be stolen. It remains a very real solace, and a talisman against the ills of life."
The Lady. The Invaluable Possession 2nd May, 1912

Friday, 6 June 2014

Notting Hill (the 1999 film starring Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts) points of interest

Last week I joined our Walking Club for a change of scene.  Normally we walk in a London park but decided to follow the trail of the Notting Hill film.  We met at Notting Hill tube station.  Our first stop was the Coronet was drizzling, but we managed a few photographs.  Then we went to Bella and Max's house in Lansdowne is a long time since I saw the film, so I couldn't remember any of it (must get the DVD)..  We took photos at the Travel Book Co. and went on to The Blue Door (William's flat) which confused us as it is now painted white.  The house was owned by Richard Curtis, the screenplay writer and the original door was auctioned at Christie's.

We stopped for lunch at The Kitchen and Pantry in Elgin Crescent mid walk, a nice place with leather sofas and some outside seating for sunnier days.  The rain had stopped when we reached there but chose to sit indoors as it was rather cool.

Monday, 19 May 2014

How reproductively prolific are cats?

Well, one pair of cats and their offspring can produce more than 400,000 kittens in under 10 years.

In 1970 a Burmese cat called Tarawood Antigone, in Oxfordshire, UK, gave birth to 19 kittens.  14 males and 1 female survived.  The Burmese have the highest average birthrate at around 5 kittens per litter.

Dusty, a tabby from Texas, gave birth to 420 kittens in the course of her lifetime.

Monday, 5 May 2014

Still in rainy Ankara

We didn't make it to Istanbul for various reasons, a long journey, the trains are undergoing repair and the bus must be a tiring 6 hours.  Sunday was a quiet day as most of the shops are closed.  Today is Monday and we planned to go to the pharmacy to buy medication for my slightly arthritic knees (the long walks in the damp weather is getting to them) as well as some clothes spotted in a shop which was closed yesterday.  However, we have been battening down the hatches in the hotel as it has drizzled all day long.  We ventured out a few yards to buy drinks for the fridge and my husband braved crossing the road, whilst I waited under shelter, feeling perfectly safe, until I walked on a broken pavement to find my trainers full of water and then nearly slipped and fell on the slippery marble floor outside most hotels....No harm done, went back to our hotel and used the hairdryer to dry out the trainers before going to the Yeni Bosna restaurant again for lunch as the restaurant is just a short stroll from our hotel.. 

I had a beef stew in oil, tomato sauce, hot green chillies and aubergine slices, served with a side salad, rice and sliced bread.  My husband had a lamb shank with potatoes in a tomato sauce. It was nicely sliced potato with the shank on top, tomatoes and aubergines held together with a toothpick. My sister-in-law had chicken in sauce and my husband's cousin had fassoulia beans which he said were tasty.  They don't serve alcohol so had water.  My companions all had Ayran (a yoghurt drink).

Hoping for better weather tomorrow but rain is forecast.  Spent the day catching up on computer work.  At least we have free wi-fi although it goes off every few minutes.

Stuffed Aubergines and Courgettes (Zucchini)


This is a typical Arabic dish.


1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
500g of minced lamb
6 aubergines
8 courgettes
A quarter of a coffee mug of basmati white rice, washed and dried
A bunch of flat leaf parsley
A few sprigs of coriander
Olive or sunflower oil for frying
A whole tube of tomato puree or a medium sized tin
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon of sumac spice if you can get it

Wash the aubergines and slice off the top.  Put aside the tops as they will be needed as lids later.  Scoop out the inside of the aubergines, chop into small pieces and set aside for later.
Wash the courgettes and slice off the top.  Put aside the tops as they will also be needed as lids later.
Scoop out the inside of the courgettes and discard as it is too watery to use.

Put some oil in a large pan or frying pan and fry the onions until golden, then add the minced lamb and cook through for 5 minutes before adding the inside of the aubergines, chopped parsley, chopped coriander and rice....the meat should have changed colour by now.  Add salt, pepper and sumac.  Stop cooking and leave to cool down.

When the mixture is cool, stuff the aubergines and courgettes but leave about an inch gap between the top of the vegetable, to give space for the rice to expand.  Pop the lids back on tightly.

In a large clean frying pan, fry the aubergines and courgettes gently for a couple of minutes.  In a very large deep pan, mix together some olive oil, salt, pepper, the tomato puree and half fill with hot water to make a tomato sauce.  Pop the aubergines and courgettes inside the tomato sauce, making sure it covers them completely.  Simmer for 30 to 40 minutes, to ensure the vegetables, meat and rice are all cooked through.

You may find you have some of the stuffing mixture leftover so can make a side dish with it.  Just cook it with a little of the tomato sauce to ensure the meat and rice are thoroughly cooked.

The next day you could serve any leftover Sheikh Mashi as Tashreeb, by breaking up some bread (pita is ideal but any will do) and pouring it on top.  See photo below.

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Turkish Angora - part of the A to Z of cat breeds

As I am currently in Ankara, I am planning to learn all about the Turkish Angora even though I haven't seen a single cat as yet.  More will come later.

Saw a cat near the cable car in Ankara on 7th May, a brown Angora?  No idea, but nice to see one at last, a cat I mean.

The Angora cat originates from Ankara, the capital of Turkey. Angora's are very affectionate, gentle cats, who like to be played with. There are many varieties of Angora, including pure white which are prone to deafness, black and blue.  There is also silver, red and brown tabby, calico (white, black and red patches) and bicolour (blue, black, red or cream with white). The white Angora may have blue eyes but the usual colour is orange or amber.  Cats with one blue eye and one amber eye will be deaf on the side of the blue eye. 

Their coat is fairly long, fine and smooth, although they do moult in the winter. Their tails are long and curled. The Angora have large ears which are far apart, their eyes are medium in size and their noses are long.

Angora's are clever and affectionate, but also sensitive and intuitive - tending to become devoted to their owners.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

More Mediterranean Travels

I find myself this week in Ankara, Turkey which is in Asia.  However, plans are happening for a trip to Istanbul this weekend, which has part of it in Europe.  We came here to meet up with relatives.  Turkish Airlines are to be recommend, the 8th best airline in the world currently.  The food was very good and the choice of films, excellent (with subtitles, but maybe I didn't get the hang of the system), comfortable seats, clean toilets etc.  Much better than I allowed to say that?

The transfer at Istanbul was chaotic as too many passengers in the transit lounge and the plane from London was delayed, meaning the onward flight to Ankara was very tight....we just made it, running through passport, visa and security at our age, 62 and late 50's.

The small plane to Ankara had leather seats and was unexpectedly full but they served lovely food for a 45 minute flight.  Ankara airport was very quiet and we got a taxi to our hotel in Ankara passing beautiful buildings, including mosques lit up at night.  We had takeaway kebab and went to bed.

The next day we went shopping locally with family and it started to rain in the evening so the outing we had planned was cancelled.

Today is Mayday so it seems to be a big thing here and we went innocently out and about to a park and shopping mall getting caught in the whole riot police thing.  So we got a cab home...not easy as many of the roads were closed, but he managed it and only charged £8.  Locally was quiet so we went to eat in a restaurant where men eat downstairs and families upstairs.  The bill for 5 came to £30 not bad I guess but some of the family didn't enjoy it.  I think I would like to recreate at home my main course which was lamb shank stewed in a light stock with potatoes and carrot, served with rice and salad.  I would add saffron, provence herbs, lemon and maybe some white wine to the stock.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014


Are you an ailurophile?  It means, according to various dictionaries, "a cat lover."  It comes from the Greek "ailuros + phile.  So if you are thinking to change your password, it could be good, if you can remember it!!

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Biggest cat - Smallest cat

The largest cat breed is the Maine Coon.... or is it the Ragdoll?

Mature Maine Coon males can weigh around 18lbs. and male Ragdolls anything from 15-20 lbs.  They are both domestic cat breeds, the Maine Coon breed being established for over 100 years and the Ragdoll being developed in the 1960's.

The smallest cat breed is the Singapura not usually weighing over 6lbs.  However, it is not a miniature cat.  Indeed teacup and miniature cats are not recognised cat breeds.  A teacup cat is just a miniature cat of a specific breed whereas a dwarf cat has short legs.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Cat Quotes 5

"The smallest feline is a masterpiece."  -  Leonardo da Vinci

Thursday, 13 March 2014


A cat's alignment of whiskers is as unique as a fingerprint is to humans.  They use their whiskers, all 24 of them, to measure the distance of a space, to see if it is wide enough for them to pass through.

An alert cat will have very erect whiskers.  However, more droopy whiskers will be seen on a cat when relaxing.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

American Shorthair Pedigree Cat


American Shorthair

Although they weren't listed on the manifest, American shorthairs are thought to have descended from the cats on the Mayflower which disembarked with the crew in 1620 at Plymouth, Massachusetts, U.S.A.

It is possible that they landed in the United States even earlier on ships carrying settlers to Virginia in the Jamestown colony and maybe with the Spanish explorers landing in Florida.  They might have accompanied the Vikings when landing in Newfoundland, Canada.

Farmers and storeholders needed to protect their food stores from mice and rats.  The Shorthairs were strong cats suited to the wild terrain back then.

They were recognised by The Cat Fanciers Association in 1906.  However, they were shown at the first U.S. cat show in 1895.  In 1896, one brown tabby American Shorthair was offered for sale for $2,500 at the Second Annual Cat Show at Madison Square Garden.  The pedigree cats were given the name American Shorthair in 1966.  Previously they were called Domestic Shorthair.

These cats have solid muscularly built bodies with a large head and chubby cheeks.  A true breed of a working cat with athletic looks, retaining its hunting ability.  They have a large assortment of colours and patterned fur, some of the most popular being silver.  The fur is short and thick, making it easy to groom.  Males, weighing 11 to 15 pounds, are generally larger than the females at 6 to 12 pounds.

Personality wise, the American Shorthair fits in OK with families who have children and cat friendly dogs.  It is a social cat and is unlikely to run away from strangers.

Their lifespan is 15+ years.

Monday, 10 March 2014


Bought a large roast chicken and there is plenty leftover?  What to do with it?

1 onion peeled and sliced in half and then into thin slices
The chicken taken off the bone and sliced into pieces
A little olive oil and spoon of butter to fry
Salt and black pepper
Half a tub of crème fraiche
3 tablespoons of green pesto sauce
A small glass of white wine and a splash or two of water

Fresh tagliatelle

Fry the onion in the olive oil and butter for about 5 minutes over a medium heat until golden and soft.  Add the cooked chicken, seasoning, crème fraiche, pesto sauce and stir thoroughly.  Add the white wine and a little water if the sauce is too thick.  Simmer for about 15 minutes to let the flavours combine.

Meanwhile fill a large pan with salted water for the tagliatelle....I add a little oil to the water and use fresh pasta, rather than dry, but it is a personal thing.  Cook according to the instructions on the packet and then drain.

The chicken carcass can be put in a pan with water, seasoning and herbs to make chicken stock.