Christmas dinner day 2014

Yesterday, I made a proper Christmas dinner for my friends, just like I do every year.

First, there was this:

Curried butternut squash and carrot soup
Curried butternut squash and carrot soup

Then there was this (with apologies for the horrible blurriness of the photo… my camera has given up the ghost and apparently I cannot use Jan’s AT ALL!)

Round 1!
Round 1!

Here, you see mashed potato, mashed sweet potato (courtesy of the lovely K), salsify in a Bechamel sauce (thnaks to my neighbour!), roast potatoes, bread sauce, turkey, pigs in blankets, spicy sausage meat stuffing and carrots roasted in cider vinegar and honey with a few chilli flakes. Aaand of course, gravy (real English Bisto!). Not pictured (because I don’t eat it!): broccoli.

Finally, there was this, made by my friend P:

Some kind of dessert made using black bread and rum (it was very nice!) and tri-coloured jelly, which I didn’t eat any of because I was just tooooo full!

Delicious! And, as usual, there are enough leftovers for Jan and I to have Christmas dinner all over again. Score!
I shall leave you with a photo of the turkey, which came out pretty well even if I do say so myself.

Christmas dinner 2014

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Carrot and ginger soup with coconut milk

soupAs regular readers will know, I have recently been having some problems with my stomach. For over a week, the only foods I could eat without immediately being in pain were plain porridge made with water (yuk!) and plain couscous with a bit of spinach stirred in. Exciting, no? Towards the middle of week two, I started to feel able to introduce slightly more flavourful foods to my diet, so I decided to make some soup. Being already blended, I thought it would be easy enough to digest while allowing my taste buds to get some action again! I enjoyed the soup so much that I knew I would have to make it again. So  when my stomach started playing up again yesterday (apparantly greasy fish and chips at the Irish pub weren’t its friend), I did, and this time remembered to record it for my blog. So here is my recipe for Carrot and Ginger Soup with Coconut Milk (completely made up by me – if there are similar soups already on the internet it’s entirely coincidence!). I apologise in advance for the crappy photos (even more crappy than usual that is). My camera is in the process of dying a slow and painful death…

Carrot and Ginger Soup with Coconut Milk

Step 1: Gather your ingredients
Step 1: Gather your ingredients

Ingredients (serves 2 as a main meal with bread)
5 or 6 carrots (750g)
1 medium potato (200g)
Fresh ginger
1 tin of coconut milk
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

1. Put some water in a pan and set it on to boil (or boil some water in the kettle and pour it into a pan)
2. Peel the potato and all but one carrot (two if they’re small ones) and dice them into small pieces, then place them in the boiling water and cook until soft.

Dicing

3. Drain out the water then place the potatoes and carrots in a blender (or back in the pan if using a hand blender) and blend to a purree.

Blending

4. Return the purree to the pan and grate in about a teaspoon of fresh ginger – sorry I can’t be more precise with the measurement. I just chopped a chunk off and grated it! – (or stir in some powdered ginger if that’s all you’ve got – I won’t tell anyone), then season with salt and freshly ground black pepper
5. Place the pan back on the hob on a low heat and stir in the tin of coconut milk
6. While the mixture is heating, peel the remaining carrots then grate them into the pan. Once all the carrot is grated, stir it in and immediately remove the pan from the heat.

Grate in the remaining carrot

7. Check the seasoning, add more if required, then serve the soup along with some bread.

The step with the grated carrot is optional – if you prefer, you can purree all the carrots. Personally, I like the texture the grated carrot adds and I like to kid myself that it makes the soup more healthy because it ends up practically raw so none of the vitamins can have been cooked out yet 😉

This soup is gluten free, dairy free and both vegetarian and vegan, so basically perfect for almost everyone.

Back at work

The wisdom tooth pain was much better by yesterday afternoon, so I went to watch Jan’s choir perform. It was part of a festival that was taking place in Karlsruhe’s Weststadt (literally West Town – such creative naming!) and they were singing three times. The first, and best, performance was in a bar where I managed to drink a whole orange juice without wincing too much.

♪ ♫ ♪ ♫ ♪

English: Sable short-haired Syrian Hamster.
I looked just like him.. except less furry. And with an ice cream cone. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The second performance was outdoors and the members of the choir couldn’t hear one another properly. They also sang some harder songs this time, and not all of them sounded as good as they could have. I don’t think the audience noticed though. After the performance, the choir members were offered food and drinks. There was bread with soft cheese on top (the same texture as cheese triangles, but actual cheese) so Jan give me a piece of his, which I was able to let melt in my mouth. The first time in four days that I’d eaten something other than soup or ice cream! It was delicious, let me tell you! Later, I had an ice cream and even managed to eat most of the cone (by nibbling off the bits that had been softened by ice cream then letting them dissolve in my mouth… yes, nibbling! I literally was a hamster!)

♪ ♫ ♪ ♫ ♪

Performance three was outdoors again, at a massage practice. The program consisted of a mixture of songs from the first two performances and was a mixture of good and not-so-good. Some people had never sung outdoors before, which explains a lot. The indoor performance at the start was definitely the best of the three… even non-musical me noticed that!

♪ ♫ ♪ ♫ ♪

By the time we got home, I was starting to feel pain again but nowhere near as bad as previously! It was annoying, but bearable. I still took a painkiller before tea though. Jan made me some Heinz Mulligatawny soup with a slice of bread in (minus the crusts) and I ate all the bread plus about two thirds of the soup. Last night, I slept all the way from 11 pm to 4:30 am – my longest sleep in about two weeks! I woke up in some pain at 4:30, but rinsing my mouth with cold water was enough to make it die down enough to get back to sleep.

*Warning: Squeamish people, skip to the next paragraph!* As yesterday went on, I found I was able to open my mouth more and more. The last few days I’ve been convinced I could feel the end of my stitches scraping on my tongue (at one point I was worrying that the stitches were coming loose!). Last night, I was able to open my mouth wide enough to actually see the stitches. The ends were indeed quite long, so they probably really are scratching my tongue! The stitches on the right are nice and neat – just one or two visible and neatly tied off. On the left, where I originally had toothache and where my tooth was almost sideways, the stitches look like a spide sitting inside my gum! No wonder the swelling on that side hasn’t completely gone down yet… The wounds looked pretty healthy though (as far as I can tell anyway, not being a dentist or anything…). they’re not red or diseased looking and there were no bits of food hanging around. No bleeding any more either, so obviously the feeling that my wound was coming open every time I swallowed was just paranoia…

This morning both the pain and the swelling were almost gone, so I decided to come to work. I took a painkiller just to get rid of the nagging pain, and so far I haven’t felt a thing. Swallowing is still uncomfortable and weird, but no longer horribly painful, and this morning I managed to eat a Milch-Schnitte.* I still can’t chew, but I was able to mush it up enough to swallow using my tongue and top front teeth. Tonight, I shall try some carrots and potatoes mashed together… if I can be bothered to peel, chop and mash them!

* For those who don’t know, Milch-Schnitte consists of two thin slices of chocolate cake with a smooth honey/milk filling between the slices. Those who speak German may be interested in this Chefkoch recipe for home-made Milchschnitte: http://www.chefkoch.de/rezepte/2027691328706900/Milchschnitte-fast-wie-original.html

The wisdom tooth story so far

**Warning: If you have a problem with reading about blood and pain, now would be a good time to stop! You can come back another day when I write about less gory topics. Also, this is going to be a summary of 3.5 days, so it may get rather long. Now no saying I didn’t warn you!**

Day 1 (surgery day)

I got up bright and early to eat a bowl of Fruit & Nut Weetabix… who knew when I would feel like eating again? I wasn’t sure whether I would actually be able to finish the bowl, but at this point I wasn’t too nervous (surprisingly) and I actually managed to eat them all. I also drank two glasses of water – I was thirsty! Jan had taken the morning off so I wouldn’t have to come home from my appointment alone, so we set off together. The waiting room was much less full than it had been when I went for the consultation (probably because it was so early!) and my turn came fairly soon.

Jan came in with me for the initial “do you have any questions?” to make sure I understood everything, then left while they did the actual surgery. I had taken my earphones along so I could listen to music while the teeth were being removed, but I totally forgot to get my BlackBerry out of my bag. However, to be honest I don’t think I’d even have been able to hear the music over the sound of the implements. One tooth was almost completely sideways ad the other was slightly angled so this was not a case of simple pulling. There was cutting and loud, loud drilling. Not pleasant! It was over fairly quickly though.

Once the operation was done, the dentist shoved a piece of gauze on each wound and told me to bite down on them… except I couldn’t because my mouth was completely numb and I had no idea whether I was biting down or not! My bottom lip felt like it was huge and possibly made of rubber! Totally bizarre. I was given two cold gel packs and taken for an x-ray, then sent to wait for a bit while my prescription and things were prepared. After a few minutes, my name was called and I was given a sick note for two days (after that was the weekend), a prescription for Ibuprofen and a follow-up appointment so the surgeon could check the wounds. Then we were on our way. Even though I’d only had a local anaesthetic and no sedatives or anything, I felt kind of out of it (I guess not being able to feel half your face will do that?) so I was very glad Jan was with me. I also couldn’t talk at all… partly because my mouth was full of gauze, but also because I had no control over my numb tongue.

I had been told I could take the gauze out when I got home, so I did. It turned out I was still bleeding though (my top became a victim of the great wisdom tooth removal of 2012 when I drooled blood all over it without realizing), so Jan went to the chemist and bought me more gauze. I spent the next few hours biting down on that without the bleeding stopping then half an hour without any gauze to see if the bleeding would stop by itself. I then tried more gauze, leaving it in for about 2 hours then finally gave up and decided to let it bleed. The sheet I was given told me to contact the surgery if the bleeding didn’t stop or was very strong (which it wasn’t) but didn’t say at which point it would be considered “not stopping”, so I turned to Dr. Google, which seemed to think I should contact my dentist if I was still bleeding after 24 hours. Since I had my follow-up appointment the next day, I decidednot to worry too much. The bleeding seemed to have pretty much stopped by 10 p.m.

I was told not to eat or drink anything until the anaesthetic had worn off, but the sides of my mouth started to hurt a lot before the feeling was totally back in my lips, so I decided to ignore that and have a painkiller – which involved drinking water. Swallowing hurt!! Between that and the yukky taste of blood, I really didn’t feel like eating or drinking that day. I tried to take the occasionally mouthful of water (accompanied by cries of ow, ow, ow!) and basically spent the entire day wrapped in a blanket in front of the TV with either a cool gel pad or an ice pack wrapped in a t-shirt shoved on the side of my face. After Jan came home, I wanted to take another pain killer but decided I’d better at least try to get something in my stomach first. I sipped a smoothie and managed to drink the equivalent of about a mouthful… in 20 minutes! Then I took my painkiller. The instructions from the surgery said to resume oral hygiene as soon as possible, so before bed I tried to brush my teeth… very difficult considering I could barely open my mouth! I also wasn’t supposed to spit, so I had to kind of let stuff trickle out into the sink. Rinsing the extraction sites was off the cards for 24 hours too, so I made sure my rinsing water only hit the teeth. Not easy! Between my painkiller and an icepack, I was able to sleep for about half an hour, then Jan came in with two gel pads and a teatowel, which he proceeded to use to strap the gel pads to my face. I then fell alseep for 2 hours, until a mixture of pain and the teatowel falling off woke me at 5 a.m. I went and fetched a cold ice pack and after a while drifted off again.

Day 2

Hamster duitama
At least hamsters are cute! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If I hadn’t had my follow-up appointment, I probably wouldn’t have bothered getting dressed at all on Friday. But I did have the appointment, so I was up, showered and dressed bright and early (8 am appointment). By this stage, I looked like a hamster and it seemed something had started bleeding again overnight. Needless to say, I did not feel like eating! My appointment was at 8 and I was out of the surgery by 10 past! I told the doctor about the bleeding, and he said it was normally for some blood to seep through for the first few days. He then had a look in my mouth and said he could see it really was just seeping and not proper bleeding, so all was good. Also the wounds looked to be healing well. I was told to keep cooling, make an appointment for next Thursday to get the stitches out and sent on my way.

Back home I changed back into my pyjamas and went to lie down for a bit. I hadn’t picked up my prescription the day before because we had non-prescription Ibuprofen at home and had decided I should try with that first (Jan didn’t want even more medicines lying around), but now I decided I wanted the stronger one so I hopefully wouldn’t have to take pills as often (swallowing still hurt!). Once the chemist’s opened, Jan went and picked up my new painkillers for me then went to work. I managed to sleep for about half an hour then, during a roughly ten minute period where swallowing was merely uncomfortable, I ate two or three spoonfuls of icecream… my first food in over 4 hours! After the icecream, I took the advice of the Internet and my mother and did a warm salt water rinse. I wasn’t sure whether I was allowed to rinse properly yet, so I did it very gently, tilting my head to the sides to get water into the corners where it was needed. I’m still not sure how much salt water actually made it to the wounds, but I tried! Later, after lots more TV watching, I tried some more ice cream and when Jan came home he made pumpkin soup (from a packet). I had to request a teaspoon in place of the normal one he had given me and the wound on the left still killed with every swallow, but I managed half the bowl before given up. Shortly after, I went and brushed my teeth and went to bed – eating was exhausting!

Day 3

Curried carrot and bean soup (not from this week!)
Curried carrot and bean soup (not from this week!)

I was woken up by pain at around 8, so I took a painkiller and pressed an ice pack to my face while I waited for it to work. Jan had an extra choir practice in preparation for today’s concert, so he went out fairly early, after bringing me a fresh ice pack and a glass of water. I didn’t manage to fall back to sleep, but stayed in bed for a while reading. Eventually I found the energy to go to the kitchen and fecth some ice cream – the one bright side of this whole ordeal is that nobody can judge me for having ice cream for breakfast! By now the bleeding had stopped completely and I was able to enjoy my food without the taste of blood. Well, as much as one can enjoy food while swallowing still hurts! Today, it was the wound on the right that hurt when I swallowed. I was also convinced that every swallow pulled the wound apart again, which made me even more terrified to try. But I discovered that by holding either a gel pad or flannel to that cheek, I was able to ease the pain somewhat. I watched two episodes of How I Met Your Mother then read some of my book. Jan came home at around 12 and made more soup. This time I maanged to finish the bowl! Woo hoo! The afternoon was spent watching TV, following the live text for the Newcastle match (we won!) and reading – all while holding cold things to my cheeks. At 6 the pain was bad again, so I took another Ibuprofen. Later, Jan made more soup, this time cream of tomato from a tin. He put a few small pieces of bread in it, and I managed to eat both them and half the soup before giving up and letting Jan have the rest. It was just too painful! When it came to brushing my teeth, I realised the swelling must have gone down because getting the toothbrush in was much easier! I also had a bright idea… on the sheet from the dentist, it said I could brush with a soft toothbrush or use a “Q-Tip” (they actually wrote that… in a German sentence?!) with disifectant to clean my teeth. So I decided to soak a cotton bud (“Q-Tip”) in mouth wash and use that to rub those teeth I could reach. The bud came back with dried blood on it, so it must have worked at least somewhat. It hadn’t been enough hours since my last Ibuprofen to take another strong one, so before bed Jan gave me one of the 400 mg (non-prescription) ones that I had bought from the chemist when I originally had toothache. I managed four hours of sleep in a row for the first time since this whole ordeal started (including the toothache days before the op)!

Day 4 – today

I woke up at 8 am in pain and ended up getting up at 8:30 because it would not go away! Tried a saltwater rinse, which helped a little, but at 9 I resorted to painkillers. The good news is that today I’m back to toothache levels of pain instead of the post-op, death by wisdom teeth pain. Swallowing still hutst on the left and I still feel like the wound is going to reopen, but I’m probably just being paranoid. Three spoonfuls is still the most I can manage before I think “I need to stop eating right now before the entire left-hand side of my face splits open!), but it’s better than nothing. I’m still swollen, but nowhere near as much and I can open my mouth wider than I could last night. So now my plan is to have a shower and actually get out of my PJs while the painkillers are still doing their job! Officially, I’m back at work tomorrow. We’ll see how today goes.

And if you’ve actually read this far, you deserve a reward! So here are some photos of me looking like a hamster(/squirrel/chipmunk… feel free to insert your favourite big-cheeked animal). Please excuse the quality of the pictures – they were taken with my BlackBerry!

Day 2
Day 2
Day 3
Day 3

Friday letters – the “ouch” edition

Forgive me if most of today’s letters refer to the evil that is wisdom teeth. It’s kind of difficult to think of anything else when the pain is all you feel…

Wisdom Teeth
This may actually be my wisdom tooth! (Photo: tarale)

Dear wisdom teeth. According to every single source on the planet, you are supposed to come in between the ages of 14 and 24. This fact led me to believe I had escaped the horror… so why are you coming in now that I am thirty?!

Dear soup. Please forgive me if I go off you completely once this whole wisdom tooth saga is over. I imagine there’s going to be a lot of you in my future! (And my present come to think of it. It’s difficult to chew when your mouth won’t open fully!)

Dear sleep. I hope we get to meet again for more than two hours at a time soon!

Dear wine festival. I am still coming to visit you tomorrow! I don’t want to be stuck at home continuously until evil tooth is gone, and besides, if I can go to work I’m sure I can go to a wine festival!

I can’t think of any more (I told you I basically have a one-track mind right now!), so I’m going to stop now before I bore you all to tears 😉 Have a good weekend everyone!

Photobucket

Sooooup!

I bought myself a hand blender just after we came back from our New Year’s trip and I was dying to try it out, so yesterday I decided to make this Creamy curried carrot and butter bean soup from the BBC Good Food website.

I made a list of the ingredients I didn’t already have at home and headed to the shops directly from work. Once home, I logged on to the computer to print out the recipe only to find… no Internet! (I’ve since found it was a larger problem that affected 150,000 customers).  I was already planning to improvise as the place I went shopping didn’t sell butter beans so I bought a tin of something calling itself “white beans” instead (they looked like haricot beans to me). I still wanted my soup – and of course to use my new blender – so I decided to make my own version, based very loosely on what I could remember of the recipe. And so I bring you my own personal Curried Carrot and Bean Soup.

Curried carrot and bean soup
Curried carrot and bean soup, by me

For this recipe, you will need:
1 small onion, chopped
1 large or 2 small cloves of garlic, chopped or crushed
Some dried chilli flakes or a fresh chilli chopped small
400g of carrots, half of them sliced, the other half grated
1 large or a few small potatoes, diced
400g tin of white beans (haricot or cannellini)
About 200 ml vegetable stock
Curry powder
Ground turmeric
Ground cumin
200 ml tub of cream
(This amount served 2 of us as a main meal with plenty of bread. As a starter, it will probably do for 4-6 people)

Method
1. Fry the onions and garlic in some oil (I used olive oil) for about a minute
2. Add the chilli flakes (or fresh chilli if you have one – I didn’t) and fry for about another minute or 2
3. Add around 1-1.5 teaspoons each of curry powder, turmeric and cumin, depending on how spicy you like it, and stir well until everything’s mixed together

Onions, garlic and spices
Onions, garlic and spices

4. If the spices have soaked up all the oil, put a little more in the pan then add the chopped carrots and potato and fry for about 2-3 minutes, stirring once in a while
6. Add half of the tin of beans, stir in and fry for another minute or so

Vegetables
Vegetables

5. Boil the kettle and before making the vegetable stock pour a little boiling water onto any onion/spice mixture that’s stuck to the bottom of the pan. The stuck on stuff will come off and you can stir it in. Now make up around 200 ml of vegetable stock and leave everything to simmer for about 5-7 minutes until the vegetables have softened and most of the water has gone (I grated the remaining carrots while I was waiting)
6. Blend the vegetable and stock mixture to form a puree then return the pan to the heat (if you used a real blender, obviously return the mush to the pan first) and add just enough water to make it slightly runny again, although not completely liquid (about 30ml should do it)
7. Stir the grated carrots and the rest of the beans into the mixture then gradually add the cream until it reaches the consitency you want. I used all my cream, but you might not want to

Gradually add the cream...
Gradually add the cream…

8. Season to taste with freshly ground black pepper (and salt, if you like. I didn’t bother as I thought vegetable stock would be salty enough). At this point, you might want to add more of the spices (turmeric, cumin, curry powder) if the cream has taken away too much of the heat. Add some chilli powder too, if you like.
9. Heat the soup through completely, stirring frequently then serve with buttered crusty bread (or if, like me, you forgot to buy decent crusty bread, with toast…)

Ready to serve
Ready to serve

This ended up being a really tasty meal. I liked the way the grated carrots and non-pureed beans gave it some texture while the blended ingredients and the stock/cream gave it a soupy consistency in the background. Also, I was rather proud of myself for inventing my own soup recipe (albeit loosely based on someone else’s – looking at the Good Food recipe, it seems I didn’t actually remember much though…).

The month of tea and soup

I read recently that January is apparantly National Hot Tea Month. I’m assuming the “National” here must refer to America – I’ve certainly never heard of it! Mind you, being British I have no need for a tea month. A nice cup of tea, according to we Brits, is the answer to everything, therefore every month is tea month!

January is also supposedly National Soup Month. Again, I can only assume the nation in question is America. I think this is one I could get on board with though. What could be better to counteract the awfulness of January than some nice hot soup? (I know it’s an utter cliché, but I think January is my least favourite month of the year, closely followed by November.)

World soup month is the way forward, I feel. Admittedly it’s not exactly soup weather in Australia and New Zealand, but there’s always Gazpacho and… other cold soups. I’m sure there must be some.

Homemade soup!
Homemade soup!

Since tonight, for me, is quiz night (the first one of the year!) here are some random facts about January for you:

questionmarks
Question marks (Photo credit: makeitgreat)
  1. The birthstone for January is garnet.
  2. 8 January is the birth date of Elvis Presley, Dame Shirley Bassey (a Welsh singer) and David Bowie.
  3. The United Kingdom claimed sovereignty over the Falkland Islands on 1 January 1833.
  4. January is named after the Roman God Janus, God of beginnings and transitions
  5. Traditionally, the Roman calendar consisted of 10 months totalling 304 days, with winter as a “monthless” period. January and February were only added in around 713 BC, which explains the seeming weirdness of October, November and December – which mean eight, nine and ten respectively, despite, in fact, being the tenth, eleventh and twelfth months!
  6. The London Underground, the world’s oldest underground railway, opened in 10 January 1863. That means the oldest section, which went from Paddington Station to Farringdon Street via King’s Cross and is now incorporated into the Circle, Hammersmith & City and Metropolitan lines, will be celebrating 150 years this year!