~ One Year of Sparkles ~

After an initial flurry of activity, it has been an age since I last posted here! Work has been absolutely hectic lately, but I see light at the end of the tunnel now (and I don’t think it’s a train).

This Wednesday marked one year of me wearing my sparkley engagement ring from my lovely Mike. We celebrated with a sunny walk on Sola beach, followed by a home-made meal of breaded fish and potato wedges – the same meal we ate on the evening of our engagement (except that time, Mike had actually caught the fish himself)! Mike bought me some gorgeous flowers – stargazer lilies that are currently sweetly scenting our whole apartment – and Mum gifted us some beautiful table decorations to make our meal a little more special.

On the day Mike proposed, I was keeping a journal; we were on holiday in Norway and staying in a little place called Gjermundshavn, on the banks of Hardangerfjorden. This is my entry for 10/09/2014:

Safe to say that today has been the happiest day of my 24 years on this earth. This afternoon, as M and I sat on the palisade of our balcony, watching the herons fishing in the fjord and the water underneath the huge mountains on the far side of the inlet gently rippling in the breeze, M asked me to do the honour of becoming his wife. I said yes, of course! He had picked out an antique ring for me, just like I wanted; a platinum band with a princess-cut diamond in a beautifully classic setting.

We’d started our day with breakfast outside, but when I’d popped in to make some extra toast, I’d heard a commotion from where I’d left M. I ran back out to see my coffee spilled everywhere and M looking sheepish. He’d heard an animal of some description rattling through the undergrowth, making its way toward the cabin. Expecting a mountain lion, a bear or perhaps both, he’d leapt up onto the table (there goes my coffee) just as the tiniest, fluffiest, most unthreatening Pekinese dog you’ve seen in your life emerged from the brambles. How I laughed! Our new friend stayed until we’d finished breakfast and fed him the bacon rind, then made its way home to its owners.

After we’d eaten, we spent a while picking brambles on the waters’ edge. We filled a big ice cream tub, and later in the evening I turned our hard work into a rather delicious crumble. Nam nam! Later, we took a drive into Gjermundshavn for some groceries, then decided to take our wee boat across the fjord to Rosendal. We potentially set the bar a little high for our 6-horsepower-beast… It took 50 minutes and sounded like a hairdryer the whole way! It was a lovely journey, though, and we even spotted a pod of dolphins! When we arrived we had kaffe og kaker in a gorgeous bakery (Pedar Baker) before having a wander round the other 4 shops on the main street and deciding to head back home for a Hansa or two. I drove the boat some of the way home and gave myself a fright by crossing the wake of one of the ‘fast ferries’ that run between islands – it was much bigger than I expected and I hit it at full speed. I screamed and M laughed!

When we got home we sat outside and listened to the radio for a while, before M disappeared inside and came back with my new sparkely diamond ring and the Big Question! We decided the best way to celebrate would be with a can of beer in the sauna, swiftly followed by jumping into the sea from the end of the marina – although only I was brave enough to do that! We had M’s big cod from yesterday for tea, breadcrumbed with mashed potatoes and peas; it was the best ‘fish supper’ I’ve ever tasted!

Going to bed with excited butterflies in my tummy, a new diamond on my finger and a sets of happy parents back home getting stuck into the celebratory wine (they swear they wouldn’t have been opening it anyway)!

10/09/2014

A year on, and we are now happily living in Norway full time. We’re planning our wedding (317 days to go!) and I think all our guests have now received their Save the Date cards. My Dad did a fantastic job of designing them. I asked him to paint us a watercolour, but left him to choose the colours, layout and style… He incorporated a heron for us, as the cabin in which we spent our holiday in Gjermundshavn was populated with hundreds of them. The text was overlaid digitally, and the finished product was printed on thick card and sent out in a pearly golden envelope. The picture here doesn’t do it justice – it’s just an iPhone snap of the one we have stuck to our fridge – they are so beautiful in real life.

Will try to post a few more updates from the last couple of weeks…

K

~ Spanish Chicken ~

I’m a big fan of recipes that can be whipped up in 30 minutes or less for those days when you get home from work and just want to flop on the sofa with a bowl of something hot and tasty. I had a fairly rubbish day at the office yesterday, so Mike and I pulled out an old favourite: Spanish chicken. It was ready in 25 minutes and is spectacularly easy.

Ingredients:

(Serves 3-4)

~ 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
~ 1 large onion, sliced
~ 1 red bell pepper, sliced
~ 8 chicken thighs, boned (or drumsticks – not chicken breast)
~ 1 1/2 tablespoons paprika (smoked or regular – I like smoked in this)
~ 1 teaspoon chilli flakes
~ 1 good-quality chorizo sausage
~ A handful of your favorite olives (I like green, Mike likes black – I won last night!)
~ A 400g tin of butter beans (the best ones are the fancy artisan ones in tomato sauce, but I can’t seem to find those readily in Norway. Plain is fine.)
~ 2 tablespoons chopped sundried tomatoes
~ 1 tablespoon tomato puree
~ 1-2 tins of chopped tomatoes (depending on how saucy you like it!)
~ 1 teaspoon oregano
~ Salt and pepper, to taste

For the quinoa:

~ 50 g quinoa per person
~ 100 ml (ish) of stock per person
~ A blob of butter

To serve: A good dollop of creme fraiche per person, some basil leaves.

1) Heat the oil in a heavy-based, deep frying pan with a lid. Fry off the onions and pepper until just starting to soften.

2) Bash out the chicken thighs and slice them in half. Rub in the paprika, chilli and a little salt, then add them to the frying pan. Don’t substitute chicken breast – it just goes dry. You can add a splash more oil at this stage to make sure the onions and peppers don’t catch and burn – but I usually add a bit of water instead to keep the fat content down.

3) Meanwhile, prepare your quinoa – remember to keep jiggling the chicken, onions and peppers about every now and again. Rinse 50g per person of quinoa thoroughly in a sieve. Pour into a saucepan and add water in a 2:1 ration (i.e. 100ml water for each 50g quinoa). You can use stock rather than water for extra taste. Cover and leave to simmer away for 15 minutes. If it runs out of water and looks dry, just add another splosh of liquid.

4) Slice the chorizo and add it to the large pan. We usually add a whole chorizo sausage, which is probably a bit much for some people – you can just put in as much as you fancy on the day. Wait until it goes a little bit crispy on the outside.

5) Add the rest of the ingredients and bubble away until the chicken is properly cooked and the sauce is reduced. 

6) When the quinoa is ready, it should have tripled in size and the grains will have a little spiral-tail. Add a blob of butter and stir through for extra richness.

7) Serve in a big bowl with a huge dollop of creme fraiche. Deeeee-lish.

Let me know if you give it a go…

K

~ Mango Chutney ~

The mangos in the supermarket at the moment are just beautiful – so ripe you have to be careful not to bruise them on your way home, dripping with juice, fragrant and sweet. I’d seen a recipe in Good Food magazine a few weeks back for mango chutney, so last night I gave it a go. I adjusted some amounts and cooking times for the recipe below, but the original is here.

Ingredients for Mango Chutney

Ingredients:

~ 3 large ripe mangoes
~ 2 tbsp sunflower oil
~ 2 onions, halved and thinly sliced
~ Thumb-sized piece fresh root ginger, peeled and cut into thin shreds
~ 10 green cardamom pods
~ 1 cinnamon stick
~ 1 tsp cumin seed
~ 1 tsp ground coriander
~ ½ tsp black onion seeds
~ ½ tsp ground turmeric
~ 2 apples, peeled, cored and chopped (they were meant to be Bramleys but I used pink ladies as it’s all the supermarket had!)
~ 1 large red chilli, finely sliced
~ 300ml white wine vinegar
~ 400g golden caster sugar
~ Juice of 1 lemon
~ 1 tsp salt

1) Heat the oil in a large, deep sauté pan – the wider the better for cooking the chutney down later – and fry off the onion for a few mins until it starts to turn translucent. Stir in the ginger and cook, stirring frequently, for about 8-10 mins until the onion is golden. Stir in all of the spices, except the turmeric, and fry until toasted.

2) While you’re waiting for your onions to soften, peel and chop your apples, discarding the core. To prepare your mangos, cut the flesh from around the stones of the mango, trim off the skin and chop any big lumps into chunks. I used very very ripe mangos, so half of my fruit was pulped by the time I’d peeled it – it doesn’t seem to matter for this recipe, though.

3) When your onion is golden and your spices toasted, add in the turmeric, apple and 300ml water, then cover the pan and let it boil vigorously for 10 mins. Stir in the mango and chilli, then cover and cook for 20 mins more until the apple is pulpy and the mango is tender.

4) Pour in the vinegar, stir in the sugar and salt, then leave to simmer uncovered for 60 mins, stirring very frequently (I have a few ‘caramelised’ bits in my chutney!) until the mixture is pulpy rather than watery. Spoon into sterilised jars.

Mango Chutney - Jarred

I have taken a lot of liquid out of the original recipe and increased the cooking time, as I was up until midnight trying to get my chutney to a good consistency! Also note: the Good Food magazine authors think you will get 4 x 500ml jars out of this – not likely, I got approximately 8-10 small jars out of my mix.

Now the big question… Can I wait for a week before opening the first jar to taste? I’ll make a follow-up post when I do!

K