Monday, November 17, 2008


I love a real fire, don't you? There's nothing like it.

I can't lie to you...this is nothing like a real fire. It's actually gas...not bad though is it? I do prefer a real fire but in all honesty I had enough of cleaning out the grate and re-laying, not to mention bringing in the coal in all weathers when I was growing up to be bothered with all that palaver now. So it's the easy option for me, if not the cheapest! It's turned very chilly here in deepest Lincolnshire and the fire is certainly being pressed into service more often. It's lovely to pull the curtains, switch on the lamps and cosy up in front of the fire. It might not be solid fuel but it is a real flame. I can sit gazing at it and be mesmerized, just as if it was the real thing.

I lived with a very unattractive fireplace for eight years and was determined to get something that would stand the test of time when we finally replaced it. My apologies if you have something similar to it's defence, I have seen a lot worse and it was a very good fire. In fact, that was one of the reasons it took eight years to replace it...I didn't think it was possible to get something that threw out as much heat. And I was right. Inset fires never do apparently. So my feet suffer for the sake of looks! And in the end it broke so we didn't have much of a choice. Unfortunately, it wasn't a case of 'one out, one in'. An old, disconnected back boiler was lurking at the back of the fire which meant a much larger (and expensive) job. And a living room covered in soot. So much for dust sheets. Don't get me started on 'tradesmen' by the way...that's a whole other subject!

So, new fire meant new flooring (thank heavens..see pic!) and re-decorating. I'd had the room yellow since we'd first decorated it eight years before and thought a change was due. But now it's cream and I'm not sure I like it. It's been done since February and I'm already thinking of changing it back to yellow. Any comments welcome!

At least this Christmas my tree will have a better backdrop than half removed wallpaper.

As soon as the weather turns cold, I usually turn to comfort food! After a hard days shopping on Saturday in the throbbing metropolis that is...(ahem) Lincoln, I rushed home and made Savoury Grain Casserole. You're excited already...I can tell! Bear with me. This is the sort of comfort food that's good for you as well as being easy and cheap. And it's virtually a one-pot meal...even better. What's not to like?
These quantities feed 2 people as a complete meal or 4 people with something to accompany, such as steamed veg or a large green salad. Don't be scared by split peas...they don't need soaking for days and boiling for 8 hours. Soaking them for a few hours or as little as 30 minutes will do and then cook for about 20 minutes until tender, but not mushy. So, you'll need:

  • 3oz cooked brown rice

  • 3oz cooked split peas

  • 2 sticks celery, very finely chopped

  • I med onion, finely chopped

  • 4oz mushrooms, chopped

  • 14oz tin tomatoes, drained and chopped or 8oz tomatoes, peeled and chopped

  • 1/2 tsp dill seeds (optional)

  • 1/2 tsp thyme (dried is fine)

  • 2 tbsps shoyu (or soy sauce)

  • 1 egg, beaten

  • 4oz cheddar cheese, grated

While the rice and split peas are cooking, chop the veg and then combine the celery, onion, mushrooms, tomatoes, dill, thyme, shoyu in a large bowl.

I'm using homegrown tomatoes cooked down into a sauce, but tinned are fine or peeled and chopped fresh ones. Beat the egg and add to the bowl.

Mix well then stir in the rice and split peas. Turn into a greased casserole dish. I love my retro pyrex one my Mum bought me at a flea market! I haven't found anything better for casseroles.

Bake for 45 minutes at 180/350/gas4 .
Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the grated cheese.

Return to the oven for 10 minutes until the cheese has melted. And there you have it. I know it doesn't look much but it's really lovely and warming on a cold day and be's not difficult is it? Serve with lot's of crusty warm bread (my favourite way)

    Have a great week, good luck to everybody at the V & H fair and stay cosy! x