Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Parsnip and Lemon Soup

It's Tuesday, so it must be recipe day.

(Yes, I know, I haven't done one for ages. Call me slack or something. But "Recipe Tuesday" is now back and raring to go.)

About 3 weeks ago, the farm shop started selling this year's parsnip crop. I bought a kilo (2lb), planning to make the Parsnip and Cashew Nut Roast from the Weight Watchers' cookbook, Cook, Eat, Enjoy. My flat refusal to pay £6/kilo for cashews at the supermarket and inability to organise myself to go for a wander "down Southall" to the Asian shops to buy cashews at half that price, meant that the parsnips grew old and wizened in the fridge. They were looking very ropey when I dug them out of the veggie draw yesterday and decided to make soup.

(It was either make soup or bin them. The Frugalista in me insisted on the former option. As it was, about half the quantity of leathery old parsnips ended up in the bin.)

I like vegetable based soups for all sorts of reasons: they're an easy way of getting some of my "five a day"; they're usually cheap; they are low in WW points; and, for a former vegetable hater (me), they offer a great way to disguise or alter the taste of a not-much-liked vegetable and make it appealing.

This is another Weight Watchers' recipe, this time from their Pure Points cookbook. The whole quantity of soup costs 8 WW points. The recipe originally said "serves 4", but the soup is rather thick - you could easily water it down a bit further. Also, don't be alarmed at the cumin; it adds something to the flavour, but you won't taste it in the final soup. The lemon isn't particularly noticeable either, what it does is neutralise the bitterness of the parsnips.


500g (1lb) Parsnips, peeled and sliced
1 onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Grated rind of 1 lemon*
750 ml vegetable stock (I use 2 teaspoons of Marigold brand stock powder for this)
300ml skimmed milk
Olive oil spray
salt and pepper


  1. Spray a large saucepan with the oil spray and heat. When the oil is hot, stir in the onion. Turn the flame under the pot to low, cover and leave for approximately 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. (I do this then prepare the parsnips and the lemon.)
  2. When the onion is soft, stir in the parsnips then sprinkle over the cumin. Fry for approximately one minute, stirring all the time, or until the aroma rises.
  3. Pour over the stock, stir and bring it to the boil. Cover and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes or until the parsnip is soft and mushable.
  4. Remove the pot from the heat and either transfer the contents to a blender/liquidizer/food processor or use a wand whisk to blend the contents until smooth.
  5. Return the soup to the pot. Stir in the milk and the lemon rind. Season with salt and pepper. Reheat but DO NOT boil (the milk may curdle due to the lemon).
If you don't eat it immediately, this will thicken on standing. It seems to freeze well (I haven't defrosted any yet, but it didn't split or anything when I froze it).

- Pam

* I store grated lemon rind in an ice cube tray in the freezer. Whenever we use lemons, I'll grate the rind and pack it into the tray. I think half a lemon gives one cube of rind. Stop grating when the yellow bit disappears - you don't want the bitter white pith.

Sunday, 23 September 2007

A nice dilema we have here....

OK, I have a problem with my latest sock and I need your input. To do the foot, I need to swap to a different yarn, since I only have 30 grams of the fancy stuff. (This is part of my using-up-the-leftovers program, designed to cut down the number of "I can't make anything with this" balls in my stash.)

The problem: I think this sock would look best with a white gusset and foot (I'll do the toes in the fancy stuff). Opal, who made this yarn, don't do white. These two balls are my closest options - the one on the left is honey-coloured and more orangey-beige in the flesh; the one on the right is more blue, not far off teal.

Have a closeup.

Neither of them work, do they?
On the Angel Yarns website from where I purchased them, both appear much paler. I've used the honey-coloured one on my "prom socks"; I have another half-used sock yarn that will go with the blue.
Can anyone suggest a suitable white I can use? It needs to knit to a tension of 36 stitches and 28 rows over 10cm/4 inches using 2.5mm needles.
- Pam (off to try other websites)

Saturday, 22 September 2007

Thanks everyone

Thanks everyone for the best wishes on my wedding anniversary. DH loved the card and loved what I wrote on the blog (yes, he reads it too).

Also, thanks to Pachouly for the RSS feed details for Ravelry. I'll visit there later and try it out.

And finally, thanks everyone for the kind words about DH's uncle. We're now going to Canada in November, since I won't be able to fly for a month after my operation. (O-day is 9 days and counting.)

- Pam

Friday, 21 September 2007

Gone shopping

It's been quite a week. We were on holiday from Thursday to Tuesday and I'm just catching up.

Thursday and Friday nights, we spent at a friend's house in Kent. The three of us went to France on Friday for a shopping trip. (Doesn't that sound posey? "Oh, I'm just going to France to do my shopping!" But remember how small distances are in Europe. France is only 100 miles from our house.) Our main targets: wine, food and some clothes for me.

Friday, we took Le Shuttle through the Channel Tunnel: quick, cost-effective and efficient, and to my mind a damn sight better than taking the ferry. (No seasickness!) You drive into the train, park up, switch off, put your feet up and less than half an hour later, you're driving out of the train on the other side of the Channel. Our destination, the big shopping mall called Cite Europe, is a 5 minute drive from the Tunnel exit - you can see it as you drive out. Before we went there, though, we drove down the coast to Le Touquet for lunch.

Le Touquet is also known as Paris Plage, "Paris by the sea". It is an Edwardian resort town, which I think I first read about in an Agatha Christie novel. A very wealthy resort town with posh shops (I saw a Max Mara boutique and a Sonia Rykiel one) and probably the most stylish school uniforms I have ever seen. I seriously thought a group of school children were employees of one of the posh hotels until we got close to them. Their uniforms are gorgeous!

Anyway, after lunch we went back to Cite Europe and some serious shopping. Our local supermarket, Tesco, has a shop there that only sells wine, beers and spirits. You get the ease of shopping in English coupled with French prices (lets just say that most of the wine is 1/3 of the price it is in England). Plus they give you points, just as they do in the UK. So we stocked up. Rather a lot. 48 bottles of wine. Including 6 bottles of sparkling red. Plus 2 bottles of Rose Cordial (smells like roses tastes like roses, pretty pink, too). That'll keep us going for a long while.

A quick whiz through the bag shops - the French do handbags/purses that convert to back-packs but I couldn't find one this time - and on to one of my favourite boutiques, Un Jour Ailleurs. Maybe it's the clothes (very elegant, very French), maybe it's the customer service (they style you and accessorise your outfits), but I love shopping there. In four visits, I've purchased three outfits: two suits for me and the clothes my sister wore to give me away at my wedding. The link is to their latest catalogue.

This time, I purchased a suit (jacket, two pairs of trousers), a contrasting sweater (that picks out the colour from the stripe in the suit) and a silk scarf that ties it all together. It's this one, from pages 36/37 of their catalogue.

The sweater I purchased is the one the blond is wearing: cotton, fitted with the emphasis on the shoulders. It's the same pink as the sweater that was on the Summer 2007 cover of Interweave Knits.

Our final stop was Carrefour, the French supermarket chain which forms the second largest retailer in the world. Targets: olive oil, rapeseed oil (Canola), coffee, coffee filters, chestnut puree, cheese and charcouterie. Without considering the exchange rates, all of those things cost less than half the price in Euros than they do in GBP. Some day, in the depth of winter, I'm going to load up the car with cool bags, drive over and do an entire month's shop there just to compare. (OK, it'll only be worth it if I can get a cheap crossing on Le Shuttle.)

If you ever live in Europe, go to Carrefour to buy your cookware. You know the cast iron dutch oven that you've been eyeing up in Williams Sonoma? Current price $200. Well, I purchased an almost identical one, Carrefour own-brand for €35.

- Pam (If I don't post this now, it'll never get up on the web)

Thursday, 13 September 2007

Four Years

Today is my wedding anniversary. Four years ago, I married the love of my life. How can I describe what he means to me without getting slushy and embarrassing the poor guy? Well, I probably can't. DH is wonderful. I love him more than I can say. He is my best friend, my Darling Lover, my life-mate.

We've been together nearly 9 years. I was in the process of leaving Dumbo, when DH's flatmate brought him along to our work Christmas Party. For the entire previous year, I'd wondered who this guy was. I'd never seen him, but I'd heard so much about him. Every time there was a work "do" (and we were a very social mob), I'd leave around 9.30 to get home, come in on Monday and hear "You should have stayed M... and G.... turned up just after you left." The only time I did stay, M... brought along his other flatmate instead!

The rest, as they say, is history. Our first date was the night before Christmas Eve, our second between Christmas and New Year. Within 3 weeks we were inseparable. Less than a month later, DH came with me to see a lawyer about my divorce (was that lawyer confused by us!). By the time the ink dried on my divorce decree, we were living together.

Happy anniversary Lover!

- Pam

PS: Here is the card I made him:

Wednesday, 12 September 2007


Yes, I'm finally on Ravelry. Joined last night. I'm PipneyJane over there, too.

One question for the more computer literate of you out there: how do I get the RSS Feed from my blog to appear on Ravelry? How do I find the link to upload?

(Yes, I know, it's a huge joke that my colleagues at work think I'm a geek - the office computer wizard. I am a self-taught amateur, who only knows the things she needs to use in certain programs. Sure, I can assemble a computer, upload software and write v-lookups in Excel, but only because I've had to.)

- Pam

Knitting Projects Update

I thought it was about time I showed off some knitting. Here is the back view of the Reynolds Lace Tee that I've been working on. It took about a week to knit the final version of the band (since I'd knitted it up once already) and another week to knit the back.

I'm a bit further done on the front now than is shown in this photo. Part of me wishes that I'd bitten the bullet, picked up all the stitches on the side of the band all at once, and knitted it in the round. I'm not sure why the pattern isn't written that way.

Here is a close up of the lace.

That picture really shows off the pearlescence of the yarn, too. It's Reynolds Saucy Sport and it's a pleasure to knit - soft yet with a slight texture.

I'm also onto my third "Prom Sock"; part of my use-up-the-leftovers program. I've got another 3 or 4 partial skeins of sock yarn plus 2 whole skeins of yarn, so I don't think I'll run out of socks to knit. And my birthday present from Mark and Peter finally arrived - gift vouchers from Angel Yarns (my main source of sock yarn), so I'll be buying more sock yarn soon! This time, it'll be a skein of white so that I can finish off the other partial skeins.

I've had to hide this one from my MIL, because it's made with leftovers from a pair of socks I gave her for her birthday. Number 4 is now on the needles.

- Pam (off now to knit her way through England's Euro 2008 qualifying match against Russia)

Friday, 7 September 2007


DH's uncle, Gienio died in Montreal a few minutes past noon on Sunday, 2nd September 2007. DH's mum phoned me at midnight, when she got the news and I broke the news to DH. One of the harder things I have had to do.

At the end, Gienio didn't suffer. He'd been through so much in the last three years since they'd diagnosed him with lung cancer: partial removal of a lung, triple coronary bypass grafts, a wound from a chest drain that had to heal from the bottom up. He was in hospital for something else, not related to his cancer, when I think he either had a respiratory or cardiac arrest (nobody has told me for sure). After 72 hours on a ventilator, he was allowed to pass away.

I'm sure he was greeted at the pearly gates by my FIL, his big brother. The two of them were very close, even though they lived a long way apart. There was nine years between them. They died nine months apart.

At the explicit instructions of his aunt, DH did not fly to Canada for the funeral. She told him to come later, when we both could go, so that she can have some happy memories of his visit instead of sad ones. We will go in the middle of October.

God bless you, Gienio.

- Pam

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

Farewell Jane

She was just an ordinary forty-something year-old woman, who was determined to live life to the full. Jane Tomlinson died yesterday, seven years after she'd been told that her breast cancer had returned, it was terminal and she had less than six months to live.

Jane refused to say die (literally) and raised hundreds of thousands of pounds for cancer research. She was a brave woman who deserves to be mourned by the nation.

The BBC says it much better than I can. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/2585103.stm

Fare thee well Jane. May you rest in peace.

- Pam

Book Review - Julie & Julia, My Year of Cooking Dangerously by Julie Powell

The second book I read whilst I was hiding from the world last weekend was Julie & Julia, My Year of Cooking Dangerously, by Julie Powell.

I first read about this book in a book review in the Sunday Times at least a year ago. The reviewer seemed over-awed that a blog on the Internet could be turned into a book and become a best seller. It took me about 10 minutes on Saturday to work out why - this book is compulsive reading. The quote on the cover, "Bridget Jones meets The French Chef" says it all. The only thing missing is Bridget's daily tally of calories, cigarettes and booze. Julie Powell is funny and chatty. She seems like someone you'd like to have as your friend.

To summarise the premise of the book and her blog, in a fit of depression/madness Julie accepts her husband's challenge to cook every recipe in Julia Child's, Mastering the Art of French Cooking and to blog about it. The blog is still up on the Internet, here. Although Julie has moved on and now blogs elsewhere.

The book is different to the blog - it both elaborates on some episodes and compresses others. Frankly, I'd recommend buying the book, reading it, and then reading the blog. You'd be missing out otherwise.

I'd give the book an 8.5 out of 10.

- Pam

My philosophy

I can't believe I've sent links for this cartoon to various people but never put it up on my blog!

My sentiments exactly!

- Pam


You signed up on June 29, 2007
You are #11574 on the list.
470 people are ahead of you in line.
19079 people are behind you in line. 36% of the list has been invited so far

That puts me ahead of Tama on Ravelry!

- Pam (counting down)

Saturday, 1 September 2007

A Review - "Nigella Lawson, a biography" by Gilly Smith

A couple of weeks ago, I stumbled across this book listed on Amazon. (I think my original search started with "I wonder if Nigella has published anything new".) I was intrigued. I'd never heard of it, though, so wondered if it was just a tabloid hatchet job. Did I want to feed the bank balance of a tabloid nasty? Curiosity warred with my ethics. My LBYM side kicked in and I bought a damaged copy (bent cover) from an Amazon subsidiary for £1.36 plus p&p (total cost £4.11).

Long before she became famous as a TV cook, Nigella Lawson was one of my favourite writers. When I first came to London, she wrote a column for the Evening Standard. I vividly remember buying an early edition of the paper at Faringdon Station so that I could read her column on my way home from work. It was the only reason to buy that paper, there is no real news in the Evening Standard.

One column sticks in my mind, possibly the first of hers I ever read: a rant about how unfair it is that a man can walk home late at night from an evening out with friends without getting hassled, but a good looking woman (her) cannot. She vividly described catcalls yelled from cars and drunken remarks shouted at her as she walked passed a pub on her way home. All written in beautiful, chatty prose as if she was sitting on your couch sharing a bottle of wine.

From that one column, she won a fan for life. I didn't stalk her writing around the British press, but whenever I saw her byline, I tried to read whatever she had to say. When her first cookbook,
How to Eat, came out I couldn't put it down until I'd read it cover to cover. It is one of the dozen or so cookbooks that actually live in my kitchen (unlike the rest of the ~100 which live in the study upstairs). It is one of my main references: need to roast a turkey? Check Nigella for the cooking times. Chocolate cake? Use Nigella's recipe.

You know how older people always say they can remember where they were when President Kennedy was assassinated? Well, I remember where I was when I learned that Nigella's first husband, John Diamond died. I was on a plane, flying to Geneva for a skiing holiday. John was also a writer and his column in The Times was another of my regular reads.

Anyway, whilst all of this explains why I wanted to read this book, none of it reviews the actual book. So, onward....

In 250 pages, Gilly Smith attempts to capture the essence of Nigella's life and in my opinion, fails. Yes, you read an outline of Nigella's life, from her withdrawn childhood to her marriage to Charles Saatchi, and it is stuffed full of quotes liberated from articles written by Nigella or interviews conducted with her, but when Smith tries to analyse her - she fails.

Smith employs some of the conventional cliches in her attempt to understand Nigella and fails to understand that the cliches she has chosen do not apply. For instance, Nigella is Jewish so Smith's thought process must have been "lets throw in some Yiddish-isms and display what a sensitive author I am". There are several sections of the book where Smith is obviously showing off some new-found vocabulary in an attempt to look like a member of the in crowd. Problem: Nigella's family have been in Britain for about 200 years and are very assimilated - Yiddish is as alien to them as Swahili. Time and again, Smith tries to labour the "Jewish point" without reading her own words; Nigella is a non-practising Jew brought up in a non-observant household, who never even celebrated the festivals until after John was dying and requested a Seder (passover feast). She didn't set foot inside a synagogue until she was in her thirties. So you can't analyse this woman in the context of her family's religious/cultural heritage - because the one Smith is using isn't Nigella's.

The other theme that gets laboured is one of privilege and wealth. Sure, Nigella's mother was an heiress and her father a journalist turned politician. They had some well connected friends. However, there was no money left to squander on Nigella's generation. Nigella had to work her way through university waiting tables and, until she married Saatchi, needed a job to survive. She didn't get into Oxford by flashing the cash, either - you only get into Oxford by cold hard graft, which she did at a state-owned grammar school.

Another thing that annoys me: Nigella started out publishing before working on the literary section of the Sunday Times. We are told that she is extremely well read (and, I know there are literary references in the cookbooks), however there isn't one quote from one book review. What does she read? What type of fiction does she enjoy? Tell me!!! Apart from cookbooks, there is no mention of Nigella reading any type of book in the last 15 years. And this is the woman who spent her childhood buried in books.

I guess, when I read a biography or autobiography I want to know what the subject is like. I want to know what motivates them; what their hobbies are; how they relax; whether I have anything in common with them. The ultimate test: if they came to dinner, what would we talk about around the table? Smith fails to supply answers to those questions.

The quality of Smith's writing is uneven, particularly when it is juxtaposed with quotes taken from other sources. Even without the annoying Yiddishisms, etc, when Smith writes with her own voice it jars. She must have conducted hundreds of interviews and she uses them well, but the last two or three chapters are less about Nigella's life and more about Smith's opinion of her success and future as a food writer. They don't work.

To sum up, on a scale of 1 to 10, I'd give this book a 5.5. Buy it second hand.

- Pam

PS: If you want to check out Nigella's website, it's here: http://www.nigella.com/


In many respects, it's been a crappy weekend so far. We're waiting for news from Canada, where DH's uncle is dying. I was lunching with Rima when I got the call from DH's mum. My first urge (resisted) was to get stonking drunk - not another death and not now, please God! Instead, I eventually drove home sober and followed impulse number 3 - bury my head in a book and pretend the outside world isn't happening. Thanks Rima for putting up with me on an afternoon when I couldn't have been the most scintilating company.

DH is at a games convention until Monday morning. His best friend is with him. I hope he is partying as hard as he can, pushing away the veil of misery, enjoying the moment until the inevitable has happened.

In the meantime, I'm going to write a review of the book that I just finished, work on my knitting and perhaps add a few more lines to the novel that'll never get published.

- Pam