Clam Chowder

Ingredients

  • 400g cooked clam meat coarsely chopped
  • 4 rashers bacon finely chopped
  • 1 brown onion finely diced
  • 2 carrots finely diced
  • 4 large potatoes, peeled and cut into small dice
  • 2 cloves garlic crushed
  • 500ml chicken stock
  • 250ml dry white wine
  • 300ml cream
  • Handful of Italian parsley roughly chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil

Method

  • In a heavy based pan, fry the chopped bacon in a little olive oil until it is just starting to crisp and the bacon fat has all rendered out.
  • Remove with a slotted spoon leaving rendered bacon fat in the pan.
  • Add the onion and carrot and gently sautée stirring occasionally until starting to soften about 10 minutes.
  • Add the garlic and gently fry for about 1 minute
  • Add the diced potato, wine and enough stock to ensure the vegetables are totally covered by liquid.
  • Simmer for about 20 minutes or until the potatoes are starting to break up.
  • Stir everything vigorously to break up a lot of the potato – (you are looking for a slightly chunky potato soup type consistency). A potato masher also works well. It is ok if the carrot doesn’t break up as easily as the potato.
  • Add all the clam meat and most of the bacon leaving some for the final garnish
  • Add the cream and bring everything back to a simmer.
  • Stir through the chopped parsley
  • Adjust seasoning

Serve in bowls with chunks of crispy bread

Nice! and Tasty – Chris

Tuscan Chicken

This is a really tasty way to serve chicken breasts which can often be quite dry, if not cooked correctly. It is great served with steamed rice and serves 4

Ingredients

  • 4 Chicken breasts, halved and slightly flattened
  • 1 large onion finely chopped
  • Olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 5 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 250ml white wine
  • 300ml cream
  • 250ml chicken stock
  • 1 handful of grated parmesan
  • 2 handfuls chopped baby spinach
  • ½ cup sundried tomatoes, sliced
  • 1 Tablespoon mixed dried herbs
  • Salt and pepper

Method

  • Season the chicken with salt and pepper and then gently fry the chicken breast in a little olive oil until nicely browned and nearly cooked through. Remove from pan.
  • Gently fry the onion in the butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. When soft, add the crushed garlic and fry for about 1 minute taking care not to burn the garlic
  • Add the wine, and reduce to about half then add the mixed herbs
  • Add the chicken stock and reduce a bit
  • Add the cream and simmer for a few minutes until the cream has reduced slightly
  • Add spinach and sundried tomatoes and gently cook until the spinach has wilted
  • Add parmesan and stir through.
  • Taste and season as required
  • Add chicken breasts back to the pan and cook gently until they are cooked through

Nice! and Tasty – Chris

Portuguese Mussels

A great alternative to the classic French style mussels.

Ingredients

  • 2 – 3kg live mussels, (or frozen if you cannot get fresh) cleaned
  • 1 Chorizo, skin removed and finely diced
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 yellow pepper
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • 3 cloves garlic finely chopped
  • 3 – 4 Tablespoons good olive oil (not extra virgin)
  • 2 challots finely diced
  • 1 glass white wine (sauvignon blanc is best)
  • 1 bunch fresh coriander
  • Salt/pepper if needed

*Fish Stock if needed (see bottom)

Method

  •   Remove the skin from the peppers

      How to peel peppers
1) Cut the peppers in half and remove the stalk, seeds and white membrane.

2) Place the peppers under a hot grill, skin side up, turning as the skin blackens.
3) Seal in a plastic bag and leave to cool.

4) Remove the peppers from the bag. The skin should now peel away easily

  • Chop the peppers into small cubes
  • Heat the oil in a large heavy based pot and gently fry the onion until soft
  • Add the Chorizo and gently fry until golden and slightly crispy
  • Add the garlic and fry for a minute or so taking care not to burn
  • Add the white wine and boil for a few seconds
  • add the tomatoes and peppers and bring up to the boil
  • Toss in the mussels, cover with a tight fitting lid and steam until they shells open (approx 4-5-minutes)
  • As soon as the shells have opened, remove from the heat and add a large handful of freshly chopped coriander
  • discard any mussels that have not opened.
  • Serve in bowls with crispy bread to soak up the juices

*Live mussels contain their own seawater which becomes its own stock when cooking. If you are using frozen mussels you can add some fish stock to increase the sauce volume in need.

Nice! and Tasty – Chris

Food, Recipes, Restaurants

 

My first contributor is Nice! and Tasty – Chris”. 

I have had the privilege of sampling Chris’s food in the past  and it has always been exceptionally tasty and imaginative. Nice! and Tasty – Chris will be the main contributor in this section.

In his own words:

Originally from South Africa and now residing in Auckland, New Zealand, I have been cooking and experimenting with food for around 20 years. Being self-taught, I’m not constrained by any one style or cuisine, however over the years I’ve developed a real passion for creating desserts as well as slow cooking. My philosophy is straight forward really – look for and purchase the highest quality ingredients your wallet will allow. Don’t over-complicate food, and exercise discipline in cooking, realising that more often than not, fewer ingredients are better. Be mindful when cooking. I put as much concentration and feeling into frying an egg as I do when creating a complex dessert. Whilst presentation is important, ultimately it’s the depth of flavour and texture of food which determines a great dish.

Christmas Letter

Christmas letter to friends and family

Dear All

Well here we are once more at the end of yet another challenging year, and I find myself preparing the annual family letter. This job always seems to come my way, as I seem to be the only enthusiastic letter writer in the Robins family.

Looking back over the past twelve months, I think I’ll have to merely skim the surface of the events which have taken place in our family. If I go into too much detail, it will be next Christmas before I get this letter in the post.

January was a very sad month for us all as Jack’s aunt Agatha took a turn for the worse and had to stay in bed most of the time. She moved in with us as no-one else was prepared to look after her. Being confined indoors and not being allowed to wander around the neighbourhood as usual, the poor old dear became disorientated. It would appear that one morning she decided to go out into the garden, whilst I was out shopping. In her confused state she apparently opened the door leading down to the wine cellar instead of the front door. The coroner ruled that no foul play was suspected and once we had all recovered from the shock, and her estate had been wound up, we had a wonderful family holiday in Florida, USA.  Auntie had always regretted the fact that her late husband had never allowed her to go out to work during her entire lifetime, so we decided to pay our last respects to her, and had her ashes made into an egg-timer. She looks really smart in her bright red plastic casing, and she works very efficiently every breakfast time.

Our Labrador, Luke, mated with the sausage dog next door and we decided to take one of the litter as a playmate for Luke. What a cute puppy he turned out to be. We have called him Frankie (after his mother) and just hope that his little legs will continue to take the increasing weight of his rather large body. He looks just like his father, apart from those miniature legs. Still, he gets lots of love in this house, despite his unusual looks.

We had a bit of a shock around April this year. In fact, thinking back, the news was actually broken to us on the first of April, which was the reason that it took a while for us to take it seriously.  In the beginning we really believed it to be a practical joke. Arthur, who is 38 and still living at home with Jack and I, decided that it was time to let us in on his little secret. Well, you can imagine how we felt initially when he told us that he had decided to tour Europe as a drag artist. He always got home very late each night, long after Jack and I had gone to bed, and we just thought that this was normal for a guy working as a barman at a very upmarket pub in town. It turned out that he’s been the star attraction at the pub for the past few years, doing a Dolly Parton lookalike act. (Now I understand why I always seemed to be losing items of frilly underwear and other items of clothing never seemed to be where I had left them!) A talent scout had spotted him and signed him up for a two year contract touring all the major centres in Europe. When he told us how much he’d be earning, we could only wish him well, but it was difficult for us both watching our little boy packing those blonde wigs and lovely new undergarments and knowing he was finally spreading his wings.

Jack has spent most of this year growing vegetables and preserving them. He’s always been such a good help in the kitchen. It’s a wonderful thing when a woman is able to spend time out in the garage working on the car, knowing that her husband is keeping the home together. I can truly say that early retirement seems to be suiting both of us very well. There are days when I know that he misses his job at the newspaper office, but with all the housework and baking he does, he often wonders how he ever found the time for a full time job.

As for me – well the cosmetic surgery I underwent in September was worth all the pain and the expense.  I’d been saving secretly for 10 years to have the op. and I am absolutely thrilled with the result. My surgeon has assured me that I am the only one who is aware of the fact that my left eye is slightly lower than my right one. He says the scars add character to my face as well.  I know for a fact that the reason my friends don’t comment on my new look is because they are all sick with jealousy! The looks of shock on their faces when they saw me for the first time after I had recovered from the surgery reassured me that I had done the right thing. I feel so sorry for Dr. Chancey as some very ungrateful female has taken him to court, accusing him of malpractice just because she believes that her breast implants are two different shapes and size.  How can people be so cruel as to try to ruin his reputation!

Our daughter Magda wrote to us a while back giving us the good news. She’s expecting baby number 8 anytime now. She’s a wonderful wife and mother and just loves their life out on that farm. They are totally self- sufficient growing all their own fruit and vegetables and keeping pigs and rabbits as well as chickens, so there is no lack of fresh meat either. They even home school all those children which saves them a huge amount of school fees – no choice really as they are miles away from the nearest school.  You’d think that she would miss all the mod cons of city life but she doesn’t seem to. They don’t have a television as the reception is dreadful due to all the surrounding mountains and I often wonder how she and Ernie entertain themselves in the evenings.

Oh well, I hope this letter will give you an idea of how our lives are progressing. I’ll close now as it’s getting rather late and Dr. Chancey has told me that I must get as much beauty sleep as I can these days.

We wish you all a wonderful Christmas and a joyous New Year. If you are travelling and see posters advertising “Delightful Dolores – the Nightclub Queen”, do try to make the effort to say “hi” to our Arthur for us – we miss him so very much.

Trust this letter finds you all in good health, and until next year at the same time, very best wishes,

Hendrina and Jack (and Luke and Frankie)

xxx

Christmas

It seems that every year Christmas arrives earlier than the year before or is the earth spinning faster on its axis? I am not getting into astronomy as that really is one of my very weak points and I would fail miserably on a quiz show if I were given questions relating to the planets and the galaxies!

Back to Christmas. For many people it is a time for families to get together, but nowadays that is often virtually impossible. With people migrating to other parts of the world and regular airline flights a luxury for some, the festive season can bring with it feelings of sadness, and often loneliness. However, with the availability of social media, WhatsApp calls being available to most, and Facetime or video calls, all is not doom and gloom. One can at least chat to relatives and friends even if they are on the other side of the world. So much better than having to rely on the annual and often tedious catch up letters to find out how people have survived the past year.

There are so many facets to the Christmas season and some of the facts pertaining to this time of year make interesting reading – at least I hope you will find them interesting! Obviously, many of the statements which I make have been derived from various sources and some comments are from personal experience.

Why is Christmas celebrated on 25 December?

Long before the commemoration of the birth of Jesus, pre-Christian celebrations were held in various parts of the world around the time of the winter solstice by Pagan populations who were  apparently later converted to Christianity. As 25 December falls in the darkest days of winter, the celebration was in anticipation of longer and lighter days to come. However, there are those who believe that the angel giving Mary the news that she was to give birth to a son and name him Jesus, occurred on 25 March and therefore, 9 months ahead brings one to 25 December and thus Christmas Day.  Whatever the real reason for Christmas Day falling each year on 25 December, it certainly boosts the retail industry in more ways than one!

Nativity 1 515x280

What does the word Christmas mean?

Christmas means “mass on Christ’s Day”. The earlier term, “Yule” and the season being referred to as ”Yuletide” may have derived from the Germanic or Anglo-Saxon term which referred to the feast of the Winter Solstice.

Up until the middle of the 1800’s, Christmas was often not celebrated because partying and merrymaking was seen as “un-Christian”.  From about 1840 celebrating Christmas became more widespread, although for the poor it must have just come and gone like any other day of hardship. One only has to read Charles’ Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” to get some idea of the gap between the haves and the have not’s  in those times.

It seems to be documented that December 25 was declared a federal holiday in the USA in 1870. The Americans are well known for their “Happy Holidays” messages at this time of the year which probably resulted in the “Put Christ back into Christmas”  lobbying,  which was evident several years ago by those who found it rather tasteless to disregard what they believe to be the true meaning of Christmas.  Regardless of one’s belief, Christmastime is a wonderful opportunity to become a child again. Ask any little person what the word Christmas means to them and the answers will surely include words such as presents, father Christmas (or Santa Claus) and holidays as well as Jesus’ birthday – all in all a time for lots of fun and the joy of giving as well as receiving!

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The Christmas Tree

Germany is credited with starting the Christmas tree tradition, as we now know it, in the 16th century when devout Christians brought decorated trees into their homes. It appears that when Queen Victoria married her German cousin, Albert, he was homesick and when Christmas came around, he imported a pine tree to Windsor Castle, possibly in 1841. No doubt the ever increasing royal family must have enjoyed having a large, decorated Christmas tree as an annual event.  As is customary with humans, if something is good enough for royalty, then surely it should be emulated, albeit on a less grand scale. Hence, most people in the U.K.  began to feel the need to have even a small, modest tree to decorate at Christmas time.  Even in hot climates where it would be more realistic to decorate one’s home in cool colours, Christmas often means reds, greens, golds – warm tones, despite the heat.

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Christmas Cards

Originally these were only affordable to the wealthy as the first ones cost a shilling each – a huge sum of money in 1843 when they were first produced. It was Sir Henry Cole and his friend, John Horsley, who was an artist, who came up with the idea of designing a Christmas greetings card. The first ones were divided into 3 sections. Two of them depicted people doing good deeds for the poor, whilst the middle section usually showed family groups gathered together for Christmas. Once the price of purchasing such cards became more affordable, they in turn became more popular. Postage costs were also reduced once the railway system was extended, as it was much cheaper to pay to send a card using the train service than the old horse and cart method.

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Father Christmas / Santa Claus

Santa Claus began life as Saint Nicholas, a Turkish bishop, born in 280 AD who was known for his charitable gift giving. Father Christmas has his origins in the Viking custom of feasting, where someone dressed up to represent Old Winter in the hope of favourably influencing the elements. In time the two characters became fused into one.

Apparently, in 1931 Haddon Sundblom was commissioned by the Coca-Cola Company to create the universal Santa Claus of today. Previous illustrations of the symbolic figure were of an elf-like creature. The Coca-Cola advertising concept was created by Archie Lee of the D’Arcy advertising agency and today children all over the world recognise the red bedecked old man with the big white beard as the bearer of wonderful gifts on Christmas morning. Why he has to squeeze down a chimney to deliver all the presents and fill all those stockings is still a mystery for children and parents alike! Plus, all that toy making, and the hours worked by all those totally disadvantaged elves and pixies, working with him day and night in very cold conditions doesn’t bear thinking about. Human rights – does that apply to elves?

I know families who have their own very personal pixie arriving on their rooftop every 1st December and he stays there, invisible to the naked eye, until l 24 December. Every day he gives feedback to Father Christmas on the behaviour of the children living in the house below. It’s amazing just how well behaved a family of kiddies can be when they know that all their naughtiness is being monitored and reported to the man in red!

There are many traditions which also tie in with the Christmas season such as the singing of traditional carols,  hanging up mistletoe, eating turkey, baking a fruit cake, munching on mince pies, going to a pantomime – the list goes on and on. Suffice to say that, wherever you may be spending the Christmas season / holidays, here’s hoping a good, safe and happy time will be had by all.