A Mag A Month: Good Food magazine, February 2004

This month I've been using the Good Food magazine from February 2004, as well as more recent magazines for our meal inspiration.  It started promisingly with a pie on the front cover - who doesn't love pie? And although the pie looked good, it's a deep-filled beef, mushroom and bacon pie I didn't end up making it.  It was part of an article titled "One Recipe, 3 Midweek Meals."  The concept is a good one where you start off by making a steak with stout and onion stew and then use the base recipe for the pie and for a cheat's stroganoff with parsley noodles.  Maybe another time.

This month I'd ear-marked about five or six recipes, but only cooked two... Well, my excuse is February's a short month.

The first recipe I followed was this Broccoli Pesto Pasta.  It's a good everyday dish and particularly useful if you need to hide vegetables as the broccoli is mashed once it's cooked, hence the pesto label.  It had the usual pesto ingredients too - parmesan and pine nuts, with the addition of some chilli flakes but substitutes the basil for broccoli.  The mashed broccoli confused MOH as he asked where it was...

Broccoli pesto pasta

Broccoli pesto pasta

The other recipe I made was one I was keen to try - Baked Chicory with Chicken in a Sage and Mustard Sauce - mainly because I think chicory is a much underused vegetable, definitely in my house, possibly throughout the UK.

Two chicory heads were ample for this one pot dish; they're quartered and added to a dish with some olive oil and baked covered with foil for ten minutes so they soften.  In a frying pan I added sliced chicken breast and browned that, then added chopped shallots and garlic.  That was scattered over the chicory and then I made a mustard-flavoured white sauce with some added creme fraiche and poured that into the dish.  As everything tastes better with cheese, some grated cheddar cheese went on top of that and then it went into the oven for about thirty minutes until it was browned and bubbling.  This made a good Sunday night supper and would be great with some crusty bread to mop up the juices - there's a high chance I'll be making this again at some point.  And the chicory wasn't bitter, and it was nice to have a different vegetable for a change - I think that's a February thing too!

All in all I thought there were probably less recipes in this edition that I'd cook than normal, and I found the magazine pretty uninspiring - I'm not sure if I felt that back in 2004 though. However the two I did cook I'd cook again so it was a worthwhile exercise.  Next month I'm going to be using the Good Food Magazine from March 2005, so hopefully there'll be plenty in that one to tempt my taste buds!

Word of the week: Honk!

Well actually, Team Honk. It's back and this year I've signed up to be part of it. That's six hours of dancing at the #RNDDanceathon at Wembley on Sunday 8 March. It should be a blast, as well as raising money to help change lives here in the UK and across Africa. 

If you're not sure what Team Honk is then it's a group of bloggers, friends and family who are passionate about raising funds for Comic Relief who put a serious amount of fun into fundraising. There's more information over at teamhonk.org

If you're not sure what Team Honk is then it's a group of bloggers, friends and family who are passionate about raising funds for Comic Relief who put a serious amount of fun into fundraising. There's more information over at teamhonk.org

Although I'd spotted stuff on Twitter much earlier, it was only this week I signed up. I'd been mulling it over, not because I didn't fancy a boogie but because we're already going out the night before.  Wouldn't you know it, one thing in my diary at the start of the year and then the next one comes along for the very next day. Typical. Ah well - now I'm looking at the Saturday night as my final "training" session and a last chance to wave a sponsorship form under people's noses!

I decided to go for it after talking to MOH over dinner on Saturday. At the start of every Strictly series I say to him that we should get some dancing lessons, so he was more than happy for me to get my dancing fix somewhere else! His only concern was if he needed to come and watch it all...  I've told him no and booked him a spectator ticket, if he needs to be there all day I'll break it to him gently, much nearer the time! 

Infact the clincher for me was the midday start.  I'm not the best morning person I know and after a night partying I didn't fancy my chances of getting to Wembley for a 9am start. Unless I went straight there of course!  I know that to get there for midday I'll probably need to head off around ten, but that's do-able...

So with my place booked, fundraising page applied for and all that sorted I thought I'd better look for something to wear. Clearly that was next on my list - I've still no idea though as leg warmers were never a good look, but I am quite tempted by a black swan tutu... We'll see.  

So I thought I'd better find out what'll I be doing during those six hours, yes I know dancing.... As well as that small matter there'll be familiar faces there from the dance world to help us keep our spirits high and dance feet moving and the dance style and teacher will be changing every 30 minutes. I'm told they'll cover 50’s jive, 60’s swing, 70’s disco, 80’s anthems, Street dance, Latin, Hip-hop, Bollywood and West End Musicals, and me doing some of those will be an absolute hoot! I'm the girl at the aerobics class that is always going the other way to everyone else, so I expect there'll be lots of that, though I'll try not to disrupt the whole thing as that would be very bad! 

And with that the email arrived to say my fundraising page was live - I'd be very grateful for any sponsorship you could manage, the money you donate really will help change lives:

 

 

There are still places on Team Honk if you want to join us, and you don't need to be a blogger to be in Team Honk. All you need to do is follow the sign up instructions , pay your £10 registration fee (which goes towards the staging of the event) and commit to raise a minimum of £150. 

Even if you can't make it on the day there's still things you can do to support me and Team Honk.

  1. The obvious one, is to sponsor me (I might have mentioned that already!)  
  2. Sign up for a Social Postcard from Kenya - it's easy to sign up and the idea is simple. To celebrate the launch of Red Nose Day 2015 receive a postcard to share on social media from Penny, Tanya and Annie who are travelling to Kenya with Comic Relief visiting projects that have been supported by Red Nose Day in the past. Each postcard will be from one of those projects, you'll receive it Sunday evening and all you need to do is share it on your social media or blog sometime on Monday 26th January, however and whenever you want. Again these "Social Postcards" aren't just for bloggers. 
  3. Like Team Honk on Facebook, follow @TeamHonk on Twitter or sign up for emails on teamhonk.org

Now, let's get this dancing started! 

The Reading Residence

Volunteering to plant the #TowerPoppies

Towards the end of the summer I received an email from Team London with volunteering opportunities and one of those was to plant poppies at the Tower of London. I'd already seen them once - see The Poppies at the Tower of London - and had seen how remarkable the installation already was, so I was keen to volunteer some time to be part of this and to get up close to the poppies too. 

So at the end of September we headed to the Tower of London for our four-hour volunteerng session starting at 9am on a misty Sunday morning.  And that's early for us to be in town on a Sunday morning! 

After queuing with the other volunteers to enter the moat, we picked up our volunteer t-shirt and commemorative badge and having been split into groups of around twenty to thirty we watched a short film explaining the story of the poppies and how to to assemble them. Then we picked up our protective gloves and headed out into the moat - somehow, I don't know how I managed to pick up a pair of left-handed gloves! Luckily I'd brought my gardening gloves so quickly swapped to using those. I'd also brought some foam pads to kneel on and our knees were soon very grateful for those too!

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Each group of volunteers split into two teams with half assembling the rods - small washer, large washer, spacer, end-cap which became our mantra - and the other half planting the poppies. We were assured the groups would swap over so everyone would be able to plant poppies (and we did) so we started assembling the rods. 

It wasn't quite as easy as it sounds. Some of the washers were quite hard to get onto the steel rods, which came in three lengths. Soon the gloves were abandoned as we knelt around the makeshift pallet tables and tubs of washers, spacers and end-caps.  

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There was a knack to assembling the rods and it did (mostly) get easier, although there were some that I passed over to MOH for expert attention! The atmosphere among the volunteers was friendly and amicable although we were aware of the significance of each poppy, and each poppy was planted with the respect it deserved. 

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We swapped to planting poppies, and clearly we needed the poppies which were stored in boxes at the edge of the moat to do that. To add the poppy to the assembled rod we needed to remove the end-cap and the spacer, add the poppy and then replace the spacer and end-cap. 

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Then wearing the safety glasses - by now over our sunglasses as the sun had seen off the mist and it was a lovely day - we planted the poppies. There's a method for the three differing heights too, every half a metre there's a mid-height poppy and every metre there's a tall poppy. The majority of poppies are on steel rods approximately 50cm tall and we were encouraged to plant these so the poppies were touching. They looked better planted closely together, but I imagine there was also the need to fit in all of the 888,246.

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The empty poppy boxes were returned to the workshops and used to deliver more poppies to the moat

The empty poppy boxes were returned to the workshops and used to deliver more poppies to the moat

We swapped back to assembling rods and if you saw my Black and White photo this Sunday - see Black & White photo 18: #TowerPoppies - you'll have seen that it was tough on our thumbs. We each had blisters and the cuticles on my index finger were split however this seemed a small inconvenience given the sacrifice that each of the poppies represented. 

There were plenty of opportunities for photos, including when one of the Beefeaters visited the moat

There were plenty of opportunities for photos, including when one of the Beefeaters visited the moat

In each four-hour volunteer session they anticipate planting between five and seven thousand poppies. Just before midday, so about three hours into our shift the team-leaders said we could start packing up as in that session the volunteers had already assembled and planted seven thousand poppies! There were a lot of volunteers there that morning - perhaps a hundred or so, but that's a still a lot of poppies planted.   

MOH and I among the #TowerPoppies

MOH and I among the #TowerPoppies

And so, I'll leave you with a few more shots of the poppies taken from within the moat:

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At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.