Friday, 27 April 2007

On Chicken Livers

In response to my post, Very Herodotus wrote: Sorry, but ... chicken livers? I mean, I'm sure they're nutritious, loaded with iron and all. I thought chicken liver was something people ate when there was nothing else to eat. You know, you ate all the white meat, then most of the dark, then the chicken neck for soup or something, and as a last resort you eat the liver.

But you've gone and bought the liver first, like saying "Look, I don't need the tender white meat of the breast, or the yummy goodness of the wing. I'll just take these chicken livers and be on my way."

Do they have medicinal value? Are they part of your secret beauty regimen? Please, do tell!

You raise an interesting point, which seems prevalent in Anglo-Saxon countries: equating offal with food for poor people. And yet the French, for example, don’t seem to have that attitude – think of foie gras. I’ve seen chicken livers appear in numerous guises in the menus of their restaurants, usually as a starter: chicken livers in a red wine sauce, devilled and served on toast, as pate.

Yes, they’re cheap (I think of it, greedily, as “all the more for me”.); in the supermarket, I see non-kosher chicken livers for about £1 a pound. They’re also good for you: rich in iron and B-vitamins, and very low in fat. However, the primary reason I cook with them is because they taste nice.

Here are a couple of recipes to get you started. (I have others but to put them all in would make this a mammoth post.) The first is the classic Jewish chopped liver, as taught to me by my mum. The second is based on a recipe from The Best of Oriental Cooking, published by Caxton, where it is listed as “Curry with Chicken Livers”. I prefer my name.

General Notes on Recipes

I’ve given the instructions to kosher the chicken livers in each recipe. If you don’t want kosher livers, then skip this stage, add the livers at the suggested step and cook them gently for a bit longer.

Liver must be cooked gently or it goes tough.

The Weight Watchers points calculations are my own.

Gehachte Liver
serves 8 – 2 WW points per serving

1 tablespoon schmaltz (rendered chicken fat) or use oil
2 medium onions chopped finely
2 hard boiled eggs, peeled
1 clove garlic, crushed
8 oz/250g chicken livers trimmed
Peppercorns in a grinder

1) Grill/broil the chicken livers for 2 minutes each side under a hot grill (broiler) to kosher. Do not over cook.
2) In a frying pan, melt the schmaltz over a medium heat. Gently fry the onion and garlic until the onion is soft and clear.
3) Add the chicken livers and fry gently for two minutes (longer if you omitted step 1).
4) In a food processor, combine the chicken liver mixture with the hard boiled eggs. Add 20 grinds of black pepper. Process until you have a smooth mixture. Spoon into ramekin dishes and allow to cool.
5) Serve with toast.

Thai Chicken Livers
Serves 4 – 4 WW points per serving excluding rice

1lb/500g chicken livers trimmed
1 onion, chunked
1 clove garlic
2 teaspoons lazy chilli/sambal ulek/red chilli paste
1 teaspoon grated ginger
1 teaspoon lemon/lime juice
6 oz/150g mushrooms
2 or 3 carrots cut into thin strips
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon curry powder
4 fl oz/100ml Low fat coconut milk
1 teasp oil (I use rapeseed oil or canola)
1 teasp soft dark brown sugar
1-2 head of pak choi, sliced lengthwise (optional)
Rice to serve

1) Grill/broil the chicken livers for 2 minutes each side under a hot grill (broiler) to kosher. Do not overcook.
2) Put the curry powder into a small dish and mix to a paste with some water (this stops it burning).
3) In a food processor, combine the onion, garlic, turmeric, sugar, chilli, ginger and lemon/lime juice. Puree to a paste.
4) Heat the oil in a large wok. Stir fry the onion paste until golden brown.
5) Add the mushrooms. Stir fry until they’ve made water and that water has evaporated.
6) Add the chicken livers. If you’ve skipped step 1, fry gently until the liver begins to colour. Add the curry paste, stir well and fry for 1-2 minutes.
7) Stir in the coconut milk, carrots and pak choi (if using). Bring to boiling point and simmer for 3-5 minutes.
8) Serve with rice.

- Pam

Thursday, 26 April 2007

Support your local yarn store

I had a couple of hours to kill on Wednesday afternoon, waiting for my car to get new tyres and a wheel alignment. The garage was 500 yards from the shop that qualifies as my LYS, Bunty's.

I wandered into Bunty's to look for inspiration, fondle the yarn and buy some buttons. Bunty's is really a consession inside a local department store, Daniels' of West Ealing. Currently, they're crammed into the corner of Daniels' temporary shop (the main one is being redeveloped). They have half the space they did in the old store and none of the glamourous additions new-fangled yarn shops offer (no couches, no lessons, hell there is barely enough room for the cash-register). This is a shop that has been there through thick and thin - the lean times in yarn sales are still with us in Britain - and yet it holds on. They are the only LYS for miles. They do advertise in one of the British knitting magazines, but otherwise you'd only know they existed if someone told you.

I found this gorgeous yarn, tucked into a corner: Rowan's Tapestry, 70% wool 30% Soysilk, in Lead Mine.

It's soft and beautiful to the touch; I haven't knitted with it yet, though. (This
link shows the other colourways. I really like the Rustic, too, but I can't wear the colour.) 8 balls should be enough for this sweater from Knitting In Vogue (see sidebar), which dates from 1961. It's called "Soft Sweater with Patterned Yoke" and should show off the variegations beautifully.

(Thank heaven for scanners. I clipped this from the book.)

I got talking to the manager. (I think she is the wife of the owner or his business partner - he's in Pakistan visiting doctors. But either way, she's been there so long the shop is as much hers as his.) Both of them are in their sixties. She confided that she didn't know what would happen if he became too unwell to work - the shop is his life but "the children aren't interested in it". "Once we're gone, it will have to close," she said.

It took all my willpower not to volunteer "I'll take over the shop for you!". I bit back the words, but I would do it in a heart beat.

- Pam

Tuesday, 24 April 2007

quick update

1) Very Herodotus: re your comment about chicken livers, I'm writing you a proper response with recipes.

2) No response yet from the on-line shop re the broken needle. I'm a bit dissappointed.

3) To the powers that be (PTBs), thank you for making £1=$2. It means I can go shopping at American yarn shops. So far, I've purchased some blocking tools from Webs (, extra t-pins and a blocking board ( I originally ordered the smaller version, but have just emailed them and asked them to swap it for the larger (they haven't processed my order yet). I know I'll regret not buying the bigger one.

4) The Yarn Barn of Kansas has really good customer service. I've purchased a couple of things from them, most notably this pattern and the yarn to go with it: .

- Pam

Blogging Pros & Cons

Especially for Imp.


1) I own the content.

2) The ability to show pictures with my text. Getting them in place requires cutting and pasting the HTML, but it isn't too difficult.

3) It's my space and I can say what I want.

4) Comments - getting feedback from others is nice. I'm a sociable creature.

5) I like the social history aspect of blogging. It's a bit like the "Mass Observation Project" that was carried out in Britain in the 1930s-1950s, where thousands of people wrote diaries to record the lives of everyday people. (see Imagine surfing the blogsphere in a hundred years time and reading about all those lives.


1) After the message boards at TMF, it's a bit flat. You can't hold a conversation with your readers since you can't really send them a reply to their comments and they can't directly reply to each other. You have to initiate a new post to answer their questions where they can see them because they don't receive a flag saying that there is a response to their comment and often people don't go back to review comments. (Yes, I know I can email people, but only if I already have their email address.)

2) Yet another place to log in. I know the log-in screen says "remember my log in", but it never seems to.

3) Several people have commented to me that they don't want to leave a comment because their real life identities will become known. This is a fallacy, but it does mean they need to create another log-in.


Thursday, 19 April 2007


I was knitting away last night at this:

Using a 3mm Addi bamboo circular needle, when this happened:

Disaster! The needle snapped off at the point where it joins the cable. All I was doing was sliding some stitches up to knit and I felt it give. Only had it since March.

- Pam (I’ll be sending it back to the shop and asking for a replacement.)

Time for a raise

I'm contemplating giving myself a pay rise, a whole £50 extra a month. At the moment, I give myself a £400/month allowance: my money to live off. Out of that comes the diesel I put in the car, my "sanity fund", Weight Watchers, clothes, books, entertainment, meals out, tube tickets, and my fun money - basically all the money I spend on myself. If I want to spend £60 on wool, it comes out of my money to live off. I track it using the personal finance pages of my planner.

Every payday, my money to live off gets split into 3: £120 becomes my "Petrol Accrual", to be offset during the month; £80 becomes my Sanity Fund (a.k.a. "the boot fund" where I save for clothes, crafts, expensive toys for myself, etc,) and the rest becomes my allowance for the month.

The thing is, I'm finding it harder and harder to stay within my self-imposed budgetary limits. When oil prices went up, I found myself spending £150/month on diesel, far higher than my £120 Petrol Accrual. They've dropped a little now, but I've only got £22.41 left of the accrual for April, with 10 days to go. That's a little more than 3/4 of a tank (I use at least a tank a week), and this is a typical driving month. Throw in my yarn habit, golf on a Thursday night (100 balls on the driving range plus a round of drinks), 2 quiz nights a month, the RPG club, 6-weekly hair cuts, the odd meal out and the rest doesn't go far. Recent months have ended up overspent.

So I think I'll give myself a pay rise. My money to live off has been £400 for at least 2 years, if not 3. I'll struggle through to the end of the month and on payday, I'll give myself a raise.

- Pam

Monday, 16 April 2007

Apologies, but the meat fumes have got to me!

DH and I went a bit mad yesterday on our quarterly visit to the kosher butcher's shop. We spent £167. Since our monthly contributions to the meat "kitty" totals £30, I'm claiming steak intoxication. We normally spend between £70 and £90.

We bought:-

1 roasting chicken - cost £8
1 rolled turkey roast - cost £12
1 ball-of-rib beef roast for £20 (should feed 4 with leftovers)
4 big chicken breast fillets - they cost over £6 each but will make 4 meals
4lb of minced/ground beef ("hamburger" for the Americans) - that'll become 8 meals
3lb stewing steak (3 meals)
2 huge lamb steak
6 large lamb chops (destined to become 2 lamb stews)
6 large ball of rib steak costing £28! Gasp!!! (In my defence, they became 4 meals because I get half a steak each time due to Weight Watchers)
1 packet of chicken livers
1 packet of breaded turkey schnitzels for DH (for when I'm away)
1 tub of babaganush (eggplant dip. Mine! All mine!)

I'm working from memory, but I don't think I've left anything out. (I'm at work, the receipt's at home, or I'd give you all the prices, too.) Doesn't sound like much, does it?

Of course, the cost of kosher meat is legendary. You pay at least twice if not three-times as much as for non-kosher meat. When DH teases me for hypocrisy (we also have squid, haggis, black pudding and Lorne sausage in the freezer - all very unkosher), I remind him that if we didn't buy kosher we'd be buying organic, which costs about the same.

But this little lot will last us until at least July. I know it doesn't look like it on first perusal. And yet, we eat meat or fish virtually every night of the week; most meals feed at least four because I make "set-a-sides" for both of us to take to lunch for work, and DH is a big eater. Oh, and I entertain regularly ("Never knowingly under catered" is my motto, borrowed from Nigella Lawson).

- Pam (the steak is lovely, too! Yummmmm.... Dinner last night....Mmm)

Friday, 13 April 2007


Who was it? And where is it from?

Who wrote the song with the cheery refrain:-

"Just pick yourself up,
dust yourself off,
And start all over again!"

Because I'd like to kick him and the movie producers and anyone else connected with it.

- Pam (I'm feeling low; I've done my last round of Clomid and my period's turned up. 'Nuff said.)

Thursday, 12 April 2007

Crazy drivers

To the drivers of the two cars who tried to drive straight through mine last night, why??? It’s not as if I was invisible or giving conflicting signals!

[American/Canadian readers, please remember that we drive on the opposite side of the road, so substitute left for right and vice-versa in the rest of this post.]

It’s a major intersection: a tributary road crossing a dual carriageway at a traffic light controlled roundabout (“traffic circle”?) near the motorway. I stopped at a red light, in the left hand lane. Cars can turn left from there or go straight across. My intention was to drive straight across the roundabout and up to the supermarket petrol station 400 yards away. It’s 9.30 at night, my lights are on full and I’m not indicating.

A car pulls up on my right side, with another behind it. Its bonnet is projecting about a foot ahead of mine. The lights change. I drive off, but it pulls away faster. I’m following the road markings, staying firmly in my lane. But I’m watching that car, half expecting it to nip into my lane on the far side of the roundabout so that it can pull into the supermarket.

It cuts straight across me, tires squealing, turning left onto the main road from the wrong lane! My hand hits the horn, my foot hits the brake, then out of the corner of my right eye I see an amber light. It’s the left indicator of the second car, about a foot from my driver’s door! They flinch to the right and brake, before turning behind me. It was as if they hadn’t seen me until I hit the horn!

I pulled into the petrol station with my hands shaking.

- Pam

Friday, 6 April 2007

The Cash Diet

Mentioning my cash diet earlier brought up some memories I thought I’d share. The term “cash diet” comes from a post on the Motley Fool by eakina , but I’ve been living the diet for a lot longer than that.

It started when I was about 20 and a student nurse living on $232 a fortnight (2 weeks). Naturally, I was in debt. I had a car loan for my beloved Mini, “Charlie” ($1,000 over 2 years = $60 a month) and a credit card that bumped along at the exorbitant credit limit of $500. I remember that, when I started nursing, the card was $200 above the limit and I struggled to get it down. These were the days before computerised verification of transactions. I remember phoning the bank and apologising, and agreeing a repayment plan. Oh, the humiliation!

When I turned 21, I got a massive raise of $150 a fortnight. Having been burnt by credit cards, I set up a credit union account to save for my first big adventure: a trip to China. The $150 went straight in there via direct deposit. I think it was about then that I started to track my expenditure and give myself $150/fortnight “money to live off”.

I’d spent the first year scraping by like all the other student nurses, broke by the end of the last weekend before payday (we got paid every second Wednesday). With my notebook tracking my “money to live off”, I was still broke but I managed to save enough to spend 10 days in Beijing and, later, to fund my trip to Europe. I also funded several thousand dollars of car repairs to keep Charlie going; season tickets to the Australian Opera, State Opera of Victoria and Melbourne Symphony Orchestra; trips to Intervarsity Choral Festivals and, later on, carried my quarter share of a house in Fitzroy, one of Melbourne’s trendiest districts. I paid my own way, sometimes using credit cards but mainly cash.

I don’t remember when I stopped tracking my money to live off. It wasn’t a conscious decision. I think it was when I came to Britain and lived hand-to-mouth for several months before drifting into a debt lifestyle. The cost of living in London had come as a shock; forget whatever my salary translated into in dollars, my “real” salary had halved whilst prices had effectively doubled. $0.50 bought more in Australia than £1 in Britain.

Also forget “real time banking”, a concept that existed in Australia but seemed unheard of in the UK. I was banking with Barclays and it could take up to 10 days before my pay cheques cleared and were available to withdraw from my deposit account.

I buried my head in the monetary sand for about the next year and half, until I had to face the fact that I had been burned, again, by credit cards and an overdraft. By that stage, I was living with Dumbo, my now ex-husband – not the world’s best money manager – and pretty soon I was supporting him. I clawed my way back into solvency, changed banks (yay TSB!) and started to track deposits and withdrawals from my new current account.

For the next 5 or 6 years, I religiously wrote down every deposit and withdrawal in the money pages of my planner; every cheque and debit card payment was recorded. Every time I went near my bank, I’d get a statement printed off from the cashpoint and reconcile my bank account. I wasn’t always solvent, but I knew how much was in my bank account. For at least 3 years, I didn’t even have a credit card.

Then the next fiscal storm struck. I bought a house, whilst still paying all the bills on Dumbo’s flat. For what seems like forever, Dumbo procrastinated about the flat and I paid the bills on two properties. He worked part time whilst doing a masters degree (of which I paid half) and I didn’t see a penny of his money. Eventually, I forced him to sign a standing order paying me £150/month towards the “housekeeping”. I stopped paying the bills on his flat – just refused to make the payments – but still he found ways to bleed me fiscally dry (taking my mobile phone and running up a £280 bill in ONE WEEK springs to mind – is it any wonder we divorced?).

I used credit cards to keep myself afloat, drowning slowly. At one stage, I was using one card to pay the bill on the other. Too ashamed to admit to myself the mess that I was in, I stopped tracking my money.

(Anyone see a pattern here? Fiscal probity = good money management. Poor spending decisions or difficult times = trying to hide the damage from myself.)

The crisis finally came when I started a new job (small but useful pay rise) and didn’t get paid for 6 weeks. I didn’t have enough cash or credit to buy my train ticket for all that period of time; somehow I managed to organise a “tax free season ticket loan” (the perk of the Londoner) with 2 days to spare before my existing ticket ran out. My employer bought me an annual train ticket and I was saved!

My ultimate saviour was an “away job” where I clocked up £150/week mileage allowance for six weeks. This was 3 months after I joined the new company. Until that point, I’d scraped along, no longer meeting the minimum payments on my credit cards but rationalising that if I paid them something, they wouldn’t hound me. (I think I paid both of them £100/month, when the minimums were closer to £200.) Late fees and partial payments put me well over the credit limits, but the away job meant that I could bring the accounts back into line.

Slowly I dug myself out of the mire: I rented out the spare room, climbed up the career ladder at work, and dumped Dumbo. And I started to track my money again. A couple of months after my divorce became final, I even reinstated my “money to live off” so that I could see where my cash was going.

- Pam

WonderWoman Project Update to the Update

Wednesday night weigh-in at Weight Watchers: I'm 7.5lb down!

- Pam

Tuesday, 3 April 2007

WonderWoman Project Revisited

(Writing this post will probably take me all day. I'm doing it between waiting for the finance system to calculate things.)

I've heard a few mutterings wondering what has happened to the WonderWoman Project, so thought I'd give you an update:-

1) Weight Watchers - Doing OK. It's more of a non-diet than a "diet", so has been easy to live with. Weight loss has been slow but, so long as I don't have anything salty in the next 36 hours, I should weigh in 7lb lighter tomorrow night than when I started, possibly more. As well as a sensitivity towards salt, I have noticed a distinct tendency to retain water if I drink any alcohol. It doesn't matter if I'm below points or not.

2) Exercise - I've succeeded in getting out of bed every (working) morning at 5.30am to work out! So far, though, it's just been weight training; I haven't started running yet. I'm procrastinating about the running because it means digging out my gear from the back of the bureau (literally. It'll have made a leap for freedom over the back of the drawer into the awkward space behind). In the meantime, I've noticed more definition in my arms, shoulders and back. It'll be a while before I get rid of the spare tyre around my middle, but the exercise is helping there, too.

3) Money - My bank account is almost reconciled to my cheque book but I have a £14 difference that I haven't been able to identify yet. I maintained my cheque book record throughout the month, although I did get a bit behind in the last week or so of March. My "money to live off" cash diet wasn't so successful. It only survived through to the 16th. Still, as Tamarian says "Onward". April is a new month and a fresh start.

4) Washing off my makeup and brushing/flossing my teeth before bedtime. I reckon this has a 70% success rate. I don't wash my face every night, although I'm getting better and it should become a habit soon.

5) Tidiness. Not quiet a non-starter. I'm not making any more mess, but I haven't conquered the mess that already exists. My desk is always clear when I go home at night and most things are filed carefully away.

6) The dishes thing. This is a big success, although I'm more likely to wash up first thing in the morning instead of after dinner. Still, when you come home to a clean kitchen, you don't seem to make as much mess. (Or, at least, I don't.)

- Pam (what else was in the project?????)