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.