Northern Mummy

General thoughts and wittering about all sorts of things

Spring things

on May 3, 2013

Despite the fact that I dreamed last night that it had snowed (which for some could be a dream and for others a nightmare, and I am firmly in the nightmare camp), it seems that spring has finally arrived in the UK. Apparently we’ve experienced one of the driest Aprils for some time and are even in danger of facing a drought. (Those of us who remember what happened after they said this last year will now be starting to laugh, partly at the irony and partly with a certain amount of nervous hysteria).

But to look on the bright side, I was able yesterday to hang out my first load of washing this year (our garden is to the north of the house and gets very little sun so line-drying is a difficulty) and was out in town at 9pm after a rehearsal, wearing cropped jeans, Crocs and a sweatshirt. And as the temperature climbs, albeit slightly at the moment, we’re able to contemplate a different menu.

I love my slow cooker and throughout the winter it’s frequently pressed into service producing soups and stews to warm us after a busy day or coming in from church. But the rest of the year it doesn’t really see much action and I’ve been thinking recently what a waste that is. On Wednesday I experimented with a more spring-like recipe which went well, so I thought I’d share it with you.

Leek and Lemon Chicken with Tarragon Dumplings

Serves 2 adults and 2 children (approx – I was actually cooking for a small woman, a normal sized man and a tallish guy in his 20s for whom I’m always worried I’ve not made enough food!)

1 pack of chicken thighs and drumsticks (the ones I buy contain 2 of each so that’s what I’m assuming)

1 lemon, quartered

3 leeks

about half a head of celery (I was improvising this recipe so I didn’t take exact note – when it was chopped there was about the same amount of celery and leek)

For the dumplings (optional):
4 oz self raising flour

2 oz shredded suet (I always use vegetable)

A pinch of salt

1 tbsp dried tarragon

4ish tbsp water

Brown the chicken pieces and the quartered lemon quickly in a pan and then arrange at the bottom of the casserole dish.

Rinse the celery and chop into 2 inch lengths. Arrange in a layer on top of the chicken and lemon.

Trim the leeks and chop into 2 inch lengths, then halve them longways before washing thoroughly in a colander. Arrange these in a further layer on top of the celery.

Put on the lid and set the slow cooker to Auto. I cooked mine for about 8 hours but you could do it for longer.

About an hour before you want to eat, mix the flour, suet, salt and tarragon in a bowl and add water little by little until it all comes together, then shape it into 8 dumplings with your hands. If you add too much water and it’s too sticky, sprinkle in some more flour to make it manageable.

Arrange the dumplings on top of your casserole. At this point I like to scoop some of the liquid round them so it flavours them a little and the excess flour adds to the sauce (in this case the sauce is a thin broth but very tasty!). Replace the lid and turn up to High for 30-45 minutes.

Serve alone or with boiled rice, depending on how hungry you are!

You could no doubt make this in the oven too but you’d (obviously) need to reduce the cooking time and add some liquid – chicken stock would be fine, or a light white wine, or even just water – and keep an eye on it. After many years of making stews in the oven it took me a long time to accept that slow cookers do not need liquid as the ingredients produce enough themselves!

 

My other Spring Thing is a recommendation. Having lost a significant amount of weight before Christmas, I’ve realised recently that I’ve adopted a bit of an unhealthy mindset when it comes to diet and exercise. Obviously, I want to maintain my new weight, but the pressure always to do a little bit more, to lose a little bit more, to feel guilty if I’m not exercising (even when the exercise would be aggravating a medical problem) or if I’m having any kind of treat, had got a bit out of hand and I’ve been taking steps to get back to normal. One thing that’s helped is a feature in the June issue of Good Housekeeping magazine, called Be happy, not perfect and contains a list of tips for becoming more content with a slightly imperfect body. Amongst other things, it reassured me that my weight and shape is fine (a woman with a waist measurement of less than 31.5″ coupled with a BMI under 25 is a healthy size) and that it’s OK to use miracle swimwear if you’re not sure you have a “bikini body”, and advised the consumption of Greek yogurt and green tea to help trim the waist and belly (it’s the calcium and the catechins that do it, apparently).

I decided to try this and immediately added Greek yogurt to my weekly Tesco order. I intended to order some green tea bags too, but first checked my tea and coffee cupboard and found the samples I’d guessed might be there (whenever we receive sachets of tea, coffee, etc from supermarket promotions or as gifts with orders of something else, they go in the cupboard and get forgotten)! I spent the next couple of days trialling various different green tea brands and concluded that one was infinitely better.

Teapigs produce a variety of teas which are for sale online and in some stores. Their difference from other brands is that they use whole leaves, housed in a large, pyramid-shaped bag (sort of like putting leaf tea into one of those dangly metal ball things, but without the faff!) which they call a “tea temple”. The green tea sample I had (which I think came from Joules a while ago) tasted fresh and cleansing, unlike most of the others which were quite bitter. I lost no time in ordering a pack from their website, which is very easy to use. As I usually do when placing an online order, I googled round for any promotional codes which might be running, and found one for 15% off. On typing it in I noticed that it registered at the checkout as “15% off for bloggers”, so I decided the best thing to do in return for the discount was to share with you my enjoyment of the tea and my experience of ordering from them.

The order was placed on Sunday afternoon and by Wednesday lunchtime my tea had arrived. In the intervening time I had received plenty of contact on how my order was progressing, so I felt very up to date. The delivery charge of £3.50 seemed a lot for a packet of tea, but it was sent by Royal Mail Tracked which meant that they, too, contacted me about my delivery and I knew the exact date it was arriving.

The parcel included a sample of their peppermint tea and a couple of leaflets about their products. I was also glad to read extensively on their website about their ethical commitment, both to the environment and to the social development of the areas in which the tea is sourced. This reassures me and gives me confidence in the brand.

I’ll definitely be buying more tea from Teapigs (I’m investigating their local stockists to see what their ranges are like!) – I don’t know if anyone will ever tempt me away from Twining’s English Breakfast, but I’m certainly a fully-fledged fan of their Mao Feng green now!

Thankful for…

The continuing spring weather

Rehearsals for upcoming choral events

Time with good friends

A chance to rest and recharge today

A good laugh

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