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Ghormeh sabzi recipe

Literally meaning "Braised/fried Greens" this is one of my all time favourite Persian dishes. Sabzi means "greens" referring to the herbs in the dish. My brother used to call it "compost heap" when he was younger but it is now one of his favourites too.  It isn't the most photogenic dish though I will try to get better photos the next time I make it. 



Sadly I never learnt to make it when my mum was alive but my amazing auntie taught me to make it since. It is still quite a rarity for me to make it as it involves a LOT of fresh herbs - I can never seem to grow enough of my own so then it can add up buying loads of herbs from the supermarket.

This dish would traditionally have beef in it but I make mine vegetarian by either omitting the meat altogether (it still tastes amazing) or using vegetarian mince to make meatballs to go in it. It is possible to also use tofu by using firm tofu and frying it lightly in a little oil. Mushrooms are another alternative to meat - I had that once in an Iranian restaurant. 

Ingredients: 

1 tin (400g) kidney beans

Either 1 large or 2 small onions (you can also include 2 cloves of garlic too if you wish)

100g fresh flat leaf parsley

100g fresh coriander

200g kale

300g spinach

optional other greens: spring onions / leeks

400g vegetarian mince 

1 tsp fenugreek

1 tsp turmeric

salt and pepper

Dried "limoo amani" limes which are dried white limes (these are more widely available these days but when I can't get hold of them, I tend to use dried lime slices or add preserved lemons to the dish at the end).

Optional: 

juice of half a lemon

pinch saffron

pinch of dried cardamom

1 tsp rosewater

Method

1. Prepare your greens by washing and roughly chopping the parsley, coriander, kale, spinach and any other greens you are using. 

2. Dice and fry the onion in some oil or ghee (and garlic if using). Add the fenugreek and tumeric.

3. If you are making this with meat, this is the stage to add it. But instead I make meatballs using vegetarian mince and fry them separately, adding them to this dish at the end of cooking so that they don't fall apart.

4. Add the kidney beans (rinsed and drained)

5. Add the greens and continue to fry a little longer. 

6. Add some water, pierce the dried limes then simmer for a while until the limes are softened and the stew thickens again. The herbs really become thick and mushy rather than watery. If you are not using meat then I guess the cooking time can be reduced. 

7. Add seasoning to taste. The finishing touches, which are optional but which my auntie recommends are adding the juice of half a lemon at the end, a pinch of ground saffron, a pinch of ground cardamom and 1 tsp of rose water. 

Serve with plain rice, saffron rice or zereshk (barberry) rice. I have also made quinoa to serve with it in the past as an alternative to rice. 

This photo is with the zereshk quinoa. I can't take credit for the tofu ghormeh sabzi here though as it is one we ordered from Modern Persian Kitchen who do the most wonderful Persian meals as frozen meals which are quick and easy to heat up and serve. 

The zereshk quinoa is made by cooking the quinoa according to pack instructions. Frying some zereshk (barberries) and grated carrot in some butter or ghee and mixing into the quinoa with a little ground saffron and water mixed together and stirred into the quinoa too. 



It was actually well over a decade ago that my auntie taught me this dish but I keep losing the piece of paper I wrote it on so now I found it again, I thought I would type it up to avoid losing the recipe again! 


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Vegetable and Chickpea Coconut traybake

Not the best photos for this recipe, but I needed to do a quick write up to remember the ingredients as I managed to get the flavour I was aiming for. After seeing the Caribbean coconut and banana curry on Sneaky Veg blog's Instagram feed the other day, I wanted to make something similar but with more of a Thai flavour to it rather than Caribbean. 

In my typical style, I didn't use precise measurements for cooking ingredients so it was a bit of guesswork going into it but it turned out great. 



Ingredients:
1 sweet potato (chopped into large cubes)
Handful of frozen butternut squash
1 onion - chopped
6-7 cloves of garlic (skin on)
2 x small green peppers - chopped into largish pieces
2 x carrots - roughly chopped into chunks
Generous amount of root ginger - finely grated 
Rapeseed oil
1 tin coconut milk (400g)
1 tin chickpeas (400g)
Kaffir lime leaves
Lemongrass (I made the mistake of using lemongrass tea and so it left little bits I needed to pick out of the dish afterwards)
Half tsp cinnamon
Half tsp turmeric
Half tsp ground cumin
Fresh coriander to garnish

I also happened to have a few slices of dried lime so I threw those in as well for the second stage of cooking. 

Method: 
1. Pre-heat oven to 195C (fan) and drizzle some oil in a large baking tray.
2. Add the chopped sweet potato, butternut squash, chopped carrot, chopped onion, garlic, green peppers and grated ginger to the pan and toss until covered in oil. I tend to keep a piece of root ginger in the freezer so I grated it straight from that. 
3. Roast in the oven for around 25 minutes until the vegetables look roasted. You may need to stir occasionally to stop them sticking to the baking tray. 
4. Remove from the oven, reduced the temperature to 185C. 
5. Add the coconut milk, the rinsed and drained chickpeas, the kaffir lime leaves, the lemongrass, and the spices (half a tsp each of cinnamon, turmeric and cumin) and mix. 
6. Place back in the oven and roast for another 10-15 minutes or so. 
7. Remove from the oven, garnish with fresh coriander and serve with rice or couscous or quinoa. 

I think it would work well with so many types of veg - I can imagine cauliflower would be great or green beans or some spinach stirred through at the end of cooking. 




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Hip Replacement Surgery: 3 years on #MyChronicPain

This month is the 3rd anniversary of my hip replacement surgery. It seems a good time for a little update on how things are. 

As far as the operation went and as far as the doctors were concerned, the surgery was seen as a success. There were no complications and everything healed as it should.

The scar is still clearly visible but it doesn't bother me. The scar reminds me of what I've been through and I feel proud of myself for that. I feel proud of that 10 year old girl who went through so much without complaining. I feel amazed at how she coped with the pain she endured at the time. I feel proud of how she went onto university and worked hard to do so well in getting a first class honours degree, and how she went on to raise a family whilst coping with that deformed and damaged hip joint and all the pain it caused her.   

But if I think back to what drove me to having the surgery in the first place, it was the worsening of my back pain. Back pain that I believe had been caused by the arthritis that I had in my left hip since the age of 10. 

I remember the surgeon telling me that with my new hip I will be able to do so much more than I could before. With the new range of movement that a new hip joint would give me, he said I'd even be able to go skiing. So I was hopeful. I had no desire to go skiing but what I REALLY wanted to do was be able to do normal things like putting my socks on the normal way and not in the way I've have to adjust to doing. I was hopeful that I may be able to do some form of exercise again - perhaps something gentle like yoga or pilates; I was hopeful that the new range of movement would mean that I would finally be able to get into some basic yoga positions. I was hopeful that I'd be able to do the household chores without pain. I was hopeful that the daily chronic pain I had lived with for all these years might finally go if the source of the problem (i.e. my hip) was solved. 

Three years on, and I still live with daily back pain. It is a combination of back ache and back pain and to see what I mean by that, I previously wrote a post about it here

I haven't even thought about going skiing because I still cannot put my socks on normally, I still cannot do any real form of exercise without it causing pain. I have to pace myself and be very careful with household chores and there are some things that I know I cannot do because of the pain it causes me. 

The range of movement in my left hip IS better than it was before surgery but that is because it really couldn't have got much worse. But it is nowhere near what I hoped it would be and there is nothing that the doctors can do about that. The actual new hip joint itself is capable of that range of movement but it seems that everything else in my body that spent 30 years in pain is unable to adjust and strengthen enough to be able to move my hip as it should. I have tried various therapies and treatments to help and even those that do help (mctimony chiropractor, acupuncture, sports therapy massage and myo-facial release therapy) only seem to help for a short while. It seems when I go to bed at night, everything "re-sets" so that I wake up with a stiff and painful back again. 

From keeping diaries I've recognised that the weather does play a part in my pain - a cold snap often meaning that I will struggle from the moment I wake up. On those days I need to remind myself that there will be better days again as those are the days that I feel so helpless in many ways. I stumbled across this post I'd written back in 2015 and I still vividly remember the mum-guilt I felt at not being able to take my own child to school. 

I imagine that I am the exception and that for most people, a hip replacement operation would have a better outcome. I wrote some tips on what I'd wish I'd known before surgery in this post last year as I found very little out there before my own surgery. 

So January is a pretty rubbish time of year for me and even as I type this, I don't want it to sound like a needy sympathy post. Despite everything my body has been through, I stubbornly refuse to let arthritis dictate my whole life although I have to recognise that it has influenced so much of my life. I am also glad that the situation for children with JIA (Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis) now is very different to when I was first diagnosed. The treatments available these days are effective in reducing pain and inflammation for many children. This means that hopefully their joints will not become permanently damaged as mine was all those years ago. 

I feel there is a balance to be struck between speaking out about my experiences and without it sounding like a moan or pity-party. But if I don't speak out then I'm just adding to the lack of understanding that there is around invisible illness. And there is a huge amount of that. One example is when Miss T first had JIA and was constantly in pain and needing a wheelchair, someone felt it acceptable to have a go at us for parking at the end of the car park where the "elderly need to park because they can't walk so far" - She had simply looked at me and my daughter before we even got out of the car and made a judgement that we were both fit and healthy based on just looking at our faces. She hadn't even bothered to notice the wheelchair in the boot of the car before she spoke out at us like that. 

If you have a story to tell about living with chronic pain, join in the conversation on social media with the #MyChronicPain hashtag organised by @JoelVsArthritis

Joel's blog is a mine of thought-provoking blogposts and information that will resonate with anyone struggling with chronic illness and chronic pain and prove hugely educational and informative to anyone who is not. I find myself nodding along to so much of what he writes - especially the early days of his own diagnosis with JIA as I can relate to so much of what he's written. 


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Competition info: Children's Art Competition

We wanted to share info about a fabulous Children's Art competition currently running at JAR Project. It closes on Saturday 7th November so be sure to get your entries in before then. It's completely free to enter with great prizes to be won and is open to ALL children in the UK aged between 3 and 15.


JAR Project are a small UK charity focussing on finding a cure for juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) as well as raising awareness of the condition and providing support and information to newly diagnosed children and those further down the JIA journey. 

They receive no government or grant funding and so are reliant on fundraising and donations to support their vital work. When an organisation or individual arranges a fundraising activity, it's always nice to be able to say thank you. So when they needed new "thank you" cards printed, they thought it would be a great opportunity for them to be designed by a child through this competition. 

As well as a main prize bundle for each age category winner, there are 30 runners up prizes to be won! 

The runners up will be drawn at random and the main age category winners will be judged by celebrity judges artist Sarah Maycock and musician Tom Williams. Sarah's work includes pieces for the Natural History museum, BBC Wildlife magazine and the Rugby World Cup. 

Celebrity judge: Artist Sarah Maycock

Each of the main age category winners will also receive a copy of Sarah's beautifully illustrated book "Sometimes I feel..."


Find out more about the competition and the judges here. 










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Let's #ACEit when washing whites!

 

I've been sent a bottle of ACE Ultra for Whites to try out. 

In our household, the main culprits for getting that dull grey look and hard-to-remove stains are the kids school polo shirts, shirts and white school socks. 

Common culprits: White school socks often end up grey! 

School polo shirts soon lose their whiteness and brightness!

We also have some nearly white handtowels that I use in the kitchen for when I've washed my hands. It is recommended that ACE Ultra for Whites is ONLY used on completely white items but I knew that I wouldn't mind if the colour of these towels changed as they're rather old anyway. 

I have to confess that I didn't have any fresh stains to use the ACE on as the kids have been studying from home this term for medical reasons so we didn't get the usual "school dinner tomato sauce stains" that are usually a regular feature in our household! 

So the stains were older "baked in" ones like the yellowing around the collar and underarms. I realise that allowing stains to "bake in" is actually one of the worst things you can do. You can read some great tips for how to avoid this on the Britmums website.

But nonetheless, we put the ACE Ultra for Whites to the test. There are several ways of using it including for directly treating stains before washing and leaving to soak. However, my usual way of washing is as quick and straightforward as possible so I put it in the fabric conditioner drawer as we don't have a dedicated CL compartment as some washing machines do and I didn't need to use fabric conditioner. 

As I expected, the baked in stains proved stubborn but I was impressed with the improvement in the towels! I have some white bath mat towels that I'm planning to use this on now as I think it will help them stay bright and white when use in every wash of whites.  


For the shirts it was harder to notice the difference. But as I mentioned, these stains are old "baked in" ones so it wasn't really the fairest test. I'll definitely be using it straight away on any new fresh stains in future. Even with the shirts, I think there has been some improvement in reducing the yellowing neck stains. 

I was amazed at the fresh smell of the clothes. As ACE Ultra for Whites contains bleach, I have to admit that I was worried about being left with an unpleasant bleach smell but I was very happy to have a fresh clean smell wafting around my home as the clothes dried. 

In future, I'll definitely be taking note of the tips on the ACE website to help me #ACEit when it comes to keeping whites bright!


Gifted item: I received a bottle of ACE Ultra for Whites for the purposes of this post. All opinions are my own.

This post is an entry for the #ACEit Challenge, sponsored by ACE. Get ideas on how to wash whites, treat stains and laundry like a boss with tips from the ACE site

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Chocolate chip loaf cake



Another day, another loaf cake. This time our chocolate cravings took hold so we made a chocolate chip chocolate loaf cake. I suppose it could be called a double-chocolate loaf cake as it has cacao powder in the batter as well as chocolate chips in it. 

Once again I tried to keep the sugar content a little lower and switched some of the fat content for greek yogurt. I have found that oil seems to work better in chocolate cakes for keeping the cake more moist compared to butter. 

Ingredients:

100g self-raising flour

25g cocoa or cacao powder

1 tsp baking powder

100g caster sugar

2 eggs

50g olive oil

50g greek yogurt

20g chopped white chocolate (or chocolate chips)

30g chopped milk or dark chocolate (or chocolate chips)

Strawberries to garnish

Drizzle of melted white chocolate to decorate if desired. 

Method:

Once again, as with the Basil, Lemon and Poppy seed loaf cake, the method is really simple. Perhaps just a little tricker because I mixed the wet and dry ingredients separately first.

1. Pre-heat the oven to 160C and grease and line a loaf tin. I used a loaf-tin liner and found that I didn't need to grease it. 

2. Mix all of the wet ingredients together. In a separate bowl mix the dry ingredients together except for the chopped chunks of chocolate. 

3. Then mix around half of the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Add the chopped chocolate to the remaining dry ingredients. The idea being that if they are coated with the flour and cacao powder it should make them less likely to sink in the cake when cooking. Then add the last of the dry ingredients with the chocolate chunks in into the main mixture and fold in to combine. 

4. Pour into the loaf tin and bake for 35-40 minutes at 160C (fan). It took 37 minutes in our oven. 

If you wish to you can melt a little white chocolate to drizzle over the top and garnish with some chopped strawberries. 

 

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