Basic Potato Salad

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Summer is the season for picnics and barbecues, therefore it is the season for potato salad.  Here is a very basic recipe, but I will publish more elaborate variations of in the near future.

Ingredients:

  • New Potatoes 400g/ 14 oz
  • Spring Onions 2
  • Mayonnaise 2 Tbs
  • Dijon Mustard 1 tsp rounded
  • Salt
  • Water to cover

Method:

Bring enough water to cover the potatoes to the boil in a medium pan.  Lightly salt and add the potatoes. Book for about 8 minutes, drain and allow to cool. When the potatoes are sufficiently cooled (room temp or lower). Halve each potato into a large bowl.  Dice the onions and add to the bowl.  Then stir in the mayo and mustard.  Cover and refrigerate for about an hour.

Potatoes can be peeled or skin on, and if in a hurry canned new potatoes can be used (500 -530 g tin drained).

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Peppers and Prawns

imageedit__7316297367 (1)This is an unusual fusion dish with prawns (shrimp), peppers, tomatoes, and Chinese spices. It has some strong flavours and is colourful, and well worth a try.

Ingredients:

  • Prawns 150 g
  • Bell Peppers 2 large
  • Spring Onions 6
  • Chopped Tomatoes 400 g (canned)
  • Garlic 1 to 2 cloves
  • Carrot 1
  • Fresh Ginger 1 inch piece shredded
  • Chinese Five Spice 1 tsp
  • Vegetable Stock Cube 1
  • Fish Sauce 1 Tbs
  • Soy Sauce 1 Tbs
  • Vegetable Oil 1 Tbs
  • Sesame Oil 1 tsp

Method:

Remove the stems and seeds from the peppers and cut pepper into slender strips. Cut the spring onions into 2 to 3 inch pieces. Use a vegetable peeler to make shreds of carrot.  Dice the garlic and ginger into very small pieces.

Heat the oils in a wok or large pan at high heat, and stir fry the carrot and peppers.  Next add the garlic, ginger, and onions. Stir fry until beginning to go limp, and then add the five spice, fish sauce, and crumbled stock cube. Stir well and then add the tomatoes (including juice), and soy.  Reduce heat and allow to simmer. The stock cube and heat should begin to thicken the sauce if not a little diluted arrowroot might be helpful.  After about 6 minutes stir in the prawns. Turn off heat, and allow residual heat of the pan finish the cooking.

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Daily Prayer

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It isn’t my custom to write many quick “thought for the day” pieces. That said there is one brief idea that was shared by Pastor Billy Onen that has sat with me since Sunday. He remarked that our prayers are like manna. Just as the God sent “bread from heaven” was found each morning by the Hebrews in the desert, so our prayers should be fresh each day as well.  The Israelites could not collect a double portion to keep for the next day as it would go off. So too, we should not rest on our “old” conversations with God.

Our relationship with anyone, including God, will wither if it is not nurtured by communication. We should be eager to start each day afresh with the building of our relationship.

Jesus, in His model prayer said “Give us THIS DAY, our daily bread.” Just like the children in the desert, it is a daily practice to be fed by God.  Let us pray this day, and every day.

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Cheese Pie

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Image: Hadley Reclaimed

Here is a recipe for a sweet, milk/cheese based pie.  While I know it is a bit hot these days for baking, the results are well worth it.  The pie is loosely based on old German and Pennsylvania Dutch recipes, and playing with the spices to fit to taste. A little more sugar can be used, but I find the balance as written really nice.

 Cheese Pie

  • Cottage Cheese 1 1/4 cups
  • Mild Cheddar 1/4 cup shredded
  • Sugar 1/2 cup
  • White Flour 2 Tbs
  • Salt 1/4 tsp
  • Double Cream 2 cups
  • Eggs 2 separated
  • Cinnamon 1/2 tsp
  • Ground Ginger  pinch
  • Nutmeg pinch
  • Lemon Zest 1/2 tsp
  • Pie Crust (see recipe)

Method:

Mix the cottage cheese, shredded cheese, sugar, flour, salt, lemon zest and spices together in a bowl. Add beaten egg yolks and mix again thoroughly. Then add the milk a little at a time and stir until smooth. Beat the egg whites until stiff, then fold the whites into the mixture.  Lightly grease and flour a 8 or 9 inch pie pan, and then line with the pastry. Pour the cheese mixture into the pan. Bake in a preheated 175 C/ 350 F oven for about 1 hour (use a tooth pick check for a thorough cooking).

* This was a camera shy dessert, but I will try to add pics when I make it next time.

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Naaman: “Doing it My Way”

Picture189Do we seek the glory of God? Do we trust in His words, and promises? Or, do we want to work things out for ourselves? Whenever we attempt to do things by our own efforts, our faith is not in God – but in ourselves.  When ever we stick to “Plan A,” we are seeking our glory not His.

Naaman in 2 Kings 5 is a great example of this.  

“Now Naaman was commander of the army of the king of Aram. He was a great man in the sight of his master and highly regarded, because through him the Lord had given victory to Aram. He was a valiant soldier, but he had leprosy (verse 1).”

This was a man of reputation, skill, and of worldly importance. Yet, he also had a fatal problem – disease.

When he hears that there is a prophet and healer in Israel, he decides that this is his chance to overcome his illness.  Okay, some trust, but to what level?

“Naaman went to his master and told him what the girl from Israel had said. “By all means, go,” the king of Aram replied. “I will send a letter to the king of Israel.” So Naaman left, taking [a great amount of treasure and] The letter that he took to the king of Israel read: “With this letter I am sending my servant to you so that you may cure him of his leprosy (verses 4-6).”

This is an incredible problem for Israel. as is evident from the king’s response,

“As soon as the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his robes and said, “Am I God? Can I kill and bring back to life? Why does this fellow send someone to me to be cured of his leprosy? See how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me (verse 7)!”

Notice, the king looked at the situation with a human perspective. He felt put on the spot by an “impossible” request. But,

“When Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his robes, he sent him this message: “Why have you torn your robes? Have the man come to me and he will know that there is a prophet in Israel (verse 8).” 

The king may have been well aware of his own human limitations, but the man of God saw the bigger picture.

Fair enough, God was in control, not any man. Yet, even in his act of faith of coming to Samaria (Israel), Naaman in his self-importance and human resumptions was not ready for what came next

“So Naaman went with his horses and chariots and stopped at the door of Elisha’s house.  Elisha sent a messenger to say to him, “Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed. But Naaman went away angry and said, “I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy.  Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?” So he turned and went off in a rage (verses 9 – 12).”

Naaman wanted some “respect.” He didn’t want to be given a task by a servant.  He didn’t expect such a simple instruction.  He wanted “show.” He wanted something earth-shattering (as if healing leprosy is mundane). So,

“Naaman’s servants went to him and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!” So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy (vs 13- 14).”

God’s power came not in elaborate rituals, or shows of a “mighty man,” but in simple obedience. No human effort was shown by the prophet. Nor did the prophet show the doubt and fear of his king. He sought God’s way, and God’s glory. The result:

“Then Naaman and all his attendants went back to the man of God. He stood before him and said, “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel (verse 15).”

God’s glory was manifested. Naaman found humility as well as physical healing. The means may have defied human expectations (whether in the means [Naaman’s perception problem], or in the outcome [the king’s perception problem]. It was in the end simple faith and obedience that triumphed on the day.

Do we seek the glory of God? Do we trust in His words, and promises? Or, do we want to work things out for ourselves? Do we attempt to do things by our own efforts? Is our faith in God – or in ourselves?  Do we stick to “Plan A,” or Plan “Him?

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Date and Nut Bar

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Here is a healthy (or at least healthy-ish) snack idea.  It is made with fruit without any additional sweetening, and is a great alternative to chocolate, or other sugar based treats.

Healthy version:

Ingredients:

  • Pitted Dates 2 cups
  • Nuts (Walnuts, Cashews, and/or Pecans, etc) 1/2 cup
  • Nut Butter 3 Tbs
  • Coconut Milk splash*

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Fruity version:

  • Pitted Dates 2 cups
  • Nuts (Almonds or Pistachios) 1/2 Cup
  • Figs about 6
  • Coconut Milk splash*

Decadent  version:

  • Pitted Dates 2 cups
  • Shredded Coconut 1/4 cup
  • Chocolate Chips 3 Tbs
  • Coconut Milk splash*

Method:

Place ingredients in a food processor and blitz until smooth**. Roll mixture into a ball and place onto a small baking tray.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes and cut into bars or wedges. That’s all there is to it.

* The milk is optional, but I found that the date mixture could be a bit crumbly after blitzing.  A splash or so of the milk made for a smoother, stickier mixture.

** If using slivered nuts reserve about half to add into the blended mixture when spreading it to tray.

*** The pictured batch is dates with slivered almonds and nut butter.

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Manchester Jewish Museum and a Couple of Places to Stay

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The Manchester Jewish Museum is housed in the Victorian era former Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue, which is the oldest surviving synagogue building in Manchester. It has beautiful stained glass windows, and elaborate fittings. The bimah is large, and and the upper galleries are equally impressive.

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Jewish Museum

The collections of the museum give a really good portrait of the life of the Jewish immigrants and traders that made Manchester their home.  There are also several Torah scrolls housed here from The Memorial Scrolls Trust.

 

There are exhibits that relate to the Holocaust, and to the resettlement of Jewish refugees from that sad era.

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Anne Frank Rose

This is an interesting and moving place to visit.

I stayed at the Townhouse Hotel for three nights while attending a conference. I found it clean, comfortable and very professional. The staff were welcoming, and helpful. The breakfast servers were particularly so. The room was of a good size and the decoration tasteful, but maybe a bit dated. The bed was very soft, but a bit high. The quality of sleep was very good. The shower had good pressure and plenty of hot water. The laptop safe provided was easy to use. The breakfast was good, with buffet continental items and hot items cooked to order. It was a very pleasant place to stay.

 

Another conference related stay was at the Crowne Plaza Manchester City Centre. This is a good business hotel, and very convenient to the conference centre and the city centre. The room was comfortable, and the staff attentive.  The Glasshouse, as far as hotel restaurants go, was otherwise average. The general atmosphere was pleasant, but had that “business” feeling with the tables a bit too close together. The vegetarian selections were rather constrained, and the risotto was overly runny, and for the price not a great value. I was really not impressed with it as a place for an evening meal, so only ate dinner there once. To be fair to the establishment and the Crowne Plaza more generally, the breakfast buffet for the three mornings I was there was abundant and well prepared, though once again the “veggy” offerings were limited.

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Museum Link

 

Tech and the Kitchen

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photo: John Lewis

I have seen a lot of blog traffic in recent times about the wonders of Instant Pots, and other electric pressure cookers. I have to admit that while I can see the great advantages of the time saving in the hectic world of the 21st Century of  such “time saving” devices, I am still reluctant to go that route.

First of all, I have memories of the bomb-looking, stove top pressure cookers of the 1960s, with their twist to lock lids, clamped handles, and top-mounted pressure gauges. These beasts were used to make corned beef and cabbage, stews, and the like.  They were efficient, but scary.

Speeding up the process may have merits, but will we ever be satisfied? There is an episode of the Simpsons in which Moe buys a surplus fryer from the Navy, which “can flash fry a buffalo in 40 seconds.” Homer responds, “Forty seconds, but I want it now.”

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image: The Simpsons

On the other hand, I watched a documentary, Fannie’s Last Supper, in which modern chefs sought to replicate a banquet using Fannie Farmer’s 1896 cook book, using period equipment (including a cast iron wood burning range), this was slow food to the ultimate with some dishes taking days to prepare. Labour intensive? Yes. Time consuming? Most definitely. But the results were in the eating.

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image: Fannie’s Last Supper

Today we need to find balance.  Most if not all of us do not have the time to feed and regulate a wood burning stove. We don’t have the desire to hand grind meat, or to shred veg. A food processor has become more a “necessity” than a luxury.

And in the spirit of honesty, I seldom make soups in a pot. When I do, I still blitz it afterwards rather than potato mashing or whisking it to smooth. I fact, I am a great fan of my Morphy Richards soup maker. I generally run my ingredients through two cycles of cooking, to make sure they are ultra soft, and then use the internal blades to make a perfectly smooth soup. Timing is usually comparable to the pot method, but there is somewhat less slicing and dicing, and the final blitz is a “one stop” process.

Will I give in and go for a modern ultra quick pressure pot?  The jury is out on that one. But I do like the look of many of the recipes I see for them.  But like in Fannie’s kitchen, I will reserve judgement until I give it a taste. [I would really love comments and advice from those who use these devices as to merits/drawbacks – especially on the taste front].

For now, I have my electric cooker, my spiraliser, my food processor, mixer, blender, and a vast assortment of hind utensils for grating, squeezing, juicing, and grinding. I guess tech has been with us since the invention of pottery, but where will we find balance  between quality and “I want it now.”

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Grilled Garlic and Cumin Rubbed Chicken with Guacamole

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Here is a nice fusion of flavours for the BBQ. It has a nod to Mexican, and was really enjoyed by my wife as a barbecue sauce alternative.

Ingredients:

  • Chicken Breast 3 to 4 (boneless is ideal)
  • Cumin 1 tsp
  • Garlic Powder (not garlic salt) 1 tsp
  • Dried Coriander Leaf 1 tsp
  • Olive Oil splash
  • Cider Vinegar splash
  • Lime Juice 1 Tbs
  • Guacamole 3 – 4 Tbs per breast

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Method:

Mix the herbs and sprinkle onto each breast evenly. Pat in and then drizzle with oil, juice, and vinegar being careful not to wash off too much spice. Cover and rest for about 30 minutes (about enough time to prepare grill). Prepare grill in the usual manner, and when the coals are evenly lit place the chicken at a medium height above the heat. Allow to grill for about 10 to 12 minutes without interference.  When no pink is showing on the upper side flip the meat and repeat.   You might want to drizzle a little extra oil on the new top side. Flip again and move to the cooler edges of the grill for and additional 5 minutes. Remove from grill and let rest for 5 more minutes. Place each breast on a separate plate and pile dollops of guacamole on each. Serve with tomato and cucumber wedges.

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Guacamole

 

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One of the great tastes of summer is guacamole. This marvelous concoction makes a great vegetarian spread for sandwiches, a tasty dip for tortilla chips, and a wide ranging garnish or condiment.  I especially like it this time of year when tomatoes are fresh and it really livens up the recipe.

Ingredients:

  • Red Onion
  • Avocados 3 ripe
  • Chili Sauce to taste
  • Coriander dried 1 tbs
  • Garlic Powder 1/2 tsp
  • Red Bell Pepper 1
  • Tomato 1
  • Lime 1
  • Olive Oil splash

Method:

Remove the stem and seeds from a large red pepper and rub the flesh with a little olive oil. Place the pepper into a ceramic dish and place in a 200 C oven for 20 minutes.  While it is cooking, remove the stones from the avocados and scoop the flesh into a food processor.  Coarsely chop the onion and tomato, and add to the avocado. Add the coriander, garlic, chili sauce, and the juice of the lime.  When pepper is ready add this to the processor as well and blitz until smooth. Add another splash of oil and then refrigerate.

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